Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
John Calipari doesn’t think teams will opt-out of SEC Tournament, updates roster health and Oscar Tshiebwe’s status
By ADAM ZAGORIA
While there has been a great deal of talk about teams opting out of their conference tournaments during the pandemic to focus on the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky coach John Calipari doesn’t think that will happen in the SEC Tournament.
“First of all, I can promise you we won’t opt out, that’s not what I would do,” Calipari said Tuesday on a Zoom call with reporters. “And the second thing, if the best teams in conferences opt out, the NCAA probably would come back and say you’re winner is not going to be an automatic bid. And so why wouldn’t we do it every year, the top four or five teams in our league just say we’re opting out of the tournament so that we get one more team in.
“So I don’t think that will be the case. I think that either we’ll all play or there will be a reason — and the reason would be the safety of the coaches and the players — that we wouldn’t play.”
Calipari also said he “can’t imagine that we would have any fans [at the SEC] especially when you’re rolling into the NCAA Tournament.”
“Maybe there’s a way of doing it and keeping it safe,” he said.
TERRENCE CLARKE REMAINS OUT
Calipari said Kentucky (5-10) practiced Monday for the first time in five days since entering into a COVID pause on Jan. 29 and canceling Saturday’s game with No. 5 Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
The Wildcats visit No. 16 Missouri Wednesday in a game that was postponed from Tuesday.
Calipari was cryptic about his roster health for the game, but said Terrence Clarke (ankle) is still doubtful. Clarke hasn’t played since Dec. 26,
“With Terrence, we’re going by the doctors and what they’re telling us,” Calipari said.
He added that if anyone misses the Mizzou game it won’t be because of COVID.
“I think we’ll have most of the guy,” he said. “At this point, there’s nothing COVID-related.”
As for his team’s outlook going forward, he said, “We’re not that far away, we’re really not.”
OSCAR TSHIEBWE WILL PRACTICE SOON
Calipari likes what the West Virginia transfer brings in terms of energy and said he will begin practicing soon.
He will begin after he’s cleared medically to begin practicing. He is not eligible to play this season under current NCAA transfer rules.
“Oskar, the thing I loved about him was how hard he worked, how hard he played, everything was extra effort stuff and I want him to go against our guys and try to bring some of that out of our guys,” he said. “Even though they’ve been playing hard, let’s take it to another level….So I want him to add to that and help us.”
He added: “He’s gotta go through some other stuff, he won’t practice today. He’s not going to go to Missouri, but when we come back he’ll start and we’ll have some time to bump him in.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.