LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach John Calipari had hoped winning another conference championship might boost his team’s NCAA tournament seeding.
Beating Texas A&M 82-77 in overtime for the Southeastern Conference Tournament title on Sunday apparently didn’t make a big difference for the Wildcats, who drew the No. 4 seed in the East Region. Calipari wasn’t happy that it was one seed lower than what the Aggies received.
“A&M got a 3-seed. Did we not play a basketball game today?” Calipari asked in an interview with ESPN’s Rece Davis after returning from the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. “I’m happy for A&M. They got a 3. I said, ‘What in the world? are we going to get a 3 or 2?’ I’m surprised we didn’t get a 5.”
Calipari, who has made it known he is not a fan of league tournaments, also questioned the selection process. He said the selection committee can use numbers and statistics to justify decisions and try to “convince you that emotions don’t play a part in it. OK, they don’t for me, either.”
“If this is what happens, why are we playing that game?” Calipari asked. “We won the game. A technical [foul] got them a game, and they get a 3-seed, and we got a 4.”
The Wildcats (26-8) will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to take on No. 13 seed Stony Brook, which will make its first NCAA tournament appearance. A possible second-round matchup against neighboring Indiana looms if both schools advance. That would renew a regional rivalry that has been dormant since the schools met twice in the 2011-12 season, including in the NCAA tournament.
As Calipari looked forward to that possible matchup, he said the priority is advancing past Stony Brook. He hasn’t seen much of the Seawolves (26-6), but he said he planned to learn more about them quickly with a short turnaround.
Being seeded lower than expected didn’t hurt the Wildcats two years ago, when they entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed. Kentucky then ran off a string of upsets en route to the Final Four before losing to Connecticut in the championship game.
Whether the seeding puts a chip on the Wildcats’ shoulders remains to be seen, but being a target for everybody to knock off is nothing new for Kentucky.
“I’ll ask them what do they think about it,” Calipari said of his players. “They’ll probably say, ‘I don’t care. Is there a sandwich anywhere?'”
Calipari’s assessment seemed to ring true when the announcement came. Players seemed more focused on decompressing from their overtime title victory, with SEC Tournament MVP Tyler Ulis quickly falling asleep after settling down on a couch in Calipari’s living room.
Senior forward Alex Poythress seemed unfazed and was looking forward to playing in this tournament after sitting out last spring because of a knee injury.
“I don’t know how all this stuff works, but it is what it is,” Poythress said. “We’ve got to play all these games, so let’s get them out of the way.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.