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Calipari: SEC Could Send 7 Teams To Tourney

USA Today

The Southeastern Conference is growing, and much of the chatter about the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri has surrounded how they'll fit in as football programs.

But what about basketball?

Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari has an opinion about that -- and it's pretty much what you'd expect from a coach who has long been a champion for the conference.

"Last year's league was really strong and prepared us to do what we did, to win a national title. There's no question about it," Calipari said on Monday's SEC coaches teleconference. "You think about our league and the teams that we had, now you add Texas A&M and Missouri.

"Think about what happens now. Now we start moving up a notch in where everybody is. I think, again, seven teams in our league, half of our (now-14-team) league is going to be in the NCAA tournament. That's what I believe. And I think that will be from here on in."

Seven teams?!

Since 1985, when NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams, the SEC has never had more than six teams in the big dance. Last season, the league got four teams in.

But Calipari wasn't the only one on Monday's call already feeling good about next season's Selection Sunday.

"I'm excited about the future of the SEC," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "We've got some very good team. There's the potential for this year to be one of the best in quite awhile for our league.

"If you would poll the coaches across the league, I think you'd hear consistently that this could be a banner year for our league -- in terms of how many teams we can potentially get into the postseason."

Said Auburn coach Tony Barbee: "It's going to be a special year for the SEC, no question. ... It's as strong as any conference in the country. ... I think this year coming up could be a banner year, the best ever in the SEC where we're looking at getting six, seven, maybe even eight teams into the NCAA tournament."

There's nothing like coaches and preseason optimism, eh?


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