Cats picked to win SEC

Published 4:11 pm Thursday, October 20, 2022

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Kentucky is favored as the team to beat in the Southeastern Conference.

The Wildcats, ranked No, 4 in the Associated Press preseason men’s basketball poll released earlier this week, received the nod to capture their 50th regular-season title during SEC Media Days in Birmingham on Tuesday.

“We have more veterans than I’ve had in a long time, and those veterans are speeding up practice,” UK coach John Calipari said. “Like we’re doing more than we normally would do in the first couple weeks because we’ve been there — plus the Bahamas, that trip helped us.”

Kentucky was first, followed by Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn, and Alabama.

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Oscar Tshiebwe was selected to retain his SEC Player of the Year honor, while teammate Sahvir Wheeler joined Tshiebwe on the preseason All-SEC first team.

“He’s a better passer — He’s a better dribbler. He has a better feel. He talks. Offensively he knows the plays better…. He’s authentic … He is who he is. Like I’m a sinner. I know I’m a sinner. But when I’m around him, I really feel like a sinner because this kid is who he is every day. Like it or don’t like it, this is him authentically.”

Injury Update

Calipari said junior Jacob Toppin “got hurt” in practice Tuesday but added it was nothing serious.

“(It) was nothing crazy,” Calipari said, adding that Toppin has been “living in the gym” lately.

“Every player that I’ve ever coached that lives in the gym had breakthroughs — they had breakthroughs,” Calipari said.

Tshiebwe is recovering from a procedure on his knee, and Calipari said, “he’s walking around, is not swelled already. But he’s not human; he’s a little different than the rest of us…I’ll keep him out longer than he probably should. But he’s pretty resilient. We’ll see. He won’t do anything this weekend when we’re in Pikeville (Saturday).”

The Kentucky coach added that Lance Ware pulled a muscle and has been out, and he’s had a limited cast during preseason workouts.

“Yesterday we had seven practice, so we had managers, walk-ons, and a coach on the floor with us,” he said. “(It’s) hard to get better that way, but sometimes that stuff happens.”

IU series back on

Calipari said the Wildcats and Indiana have “agreed in principle” to renew their rivalry. The two teams have not played a yearly contest since 2011 and have played each other twice in the NCAA Tournament over the pasts decade.
“It’ll start in (the) 2025-26 season,” Calipari said. “But it’s at the administrative level now, so all the details will be worked out. But it’s good for our season ticket holders to know, like next year is Gonzaga and Michigan, and the following year you’ve got Louisville and one of the challenges — then you’ve got the next year the game — so I kind of like that we’re going out so they’ll all know, here are the games we’re playing.”