Kentucky coach John Calipari has no doubts that Missouri and Texas A&M add strength to the Southeastern Conference basketball as well as other sports.
“They are two programs, both in football, basketball and their other sports, that are going to have a huge impact on what happens. Now, all of a sudden, the strength of our league schedule goes up. It affects how we schedule in our own conference,” said Calipari Monday on the SEC coaches teleconference.
“You’re talking two NCAA Tournaments in men’s basketball. If you want to put your team in jeopardy, over-schedule, have an injury. At the end of the day, it changes how we think a little bit here. You’ve got both (Missouri coach) Frank (Haith) and (Texas A&M coach) Billy (Kennedy), terrific coaches who have both proven themselves over the years. And then you’ve got two more hard games.
“I have not been in Texas A&M’s building. My wife is from Missouri so I’ve been on that campus. I have not been in the new building; I’ve been in the other building and coached there. The fans in both of those places, it’s nuts. It’s going to be a big-time environment.”
Calipari says strong league competition helps every team, including Kentucky.
“You want the league to be as strong as ever. 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. “They can say, ‘Well, you won them all (in conference play) so it couldn’t have been a good league.’ No, we were just really good. Our league was as good as (anyone).
“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 league is going to be in the NCAA Tournament. That’s what I believe. And I think that will be from here on in. We’re going to have half and maybe more some years of our league in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a tough league.”
Adding the two teams also could enhance recruiting.
“They add another market to us in St. Louis to recruit and other areas. You’re able to recruit nationally anyways, but now when you start talking about adding Texas (A&M), look, we’re recruiting in Texas. I’m able to say, ‘Hey, man, we’re coming in there to play at least every other year and it may be a couple years in a row, you don’t know,’” Calipari said.
“I’m excited about them being added, and if the league expanded again and added two more, I’d be fine with that. I think with what they’ve done with the football, the four-team playoff, I think it starts pointing us into a direction of where we’re going now as an athletic program. I think that’s all good for us.”