UK sits atop ESPN’s Power Rankings

Kentucky is this week’s new #1, followed by Kansas and Texas, with Villanova and Syracuse rounding out the top-five.  As a whole, the SEC is having a strong follow-up to last season’s debacle, and the improvement is reflected in ESPN’s rankings: Tennessee is the next Southeastern school on the list at #8, followed by Mississippi State (#21), Vanderbilt (#24), and Ole Miss (#25).  Even if three of them fall in the 20-25 range, having any five of the top 25 teams in the country qualifies as impressive. Especially when you consider the bashing the SEC’s taken over the past couple of seasons (our own denimjersey brilliantly chronicled the bogus bastardizations earlier this week) .

Also of note, ESPN’s Jay Bilas recently ran an hour-long chat session on the WWL and had several nice things to say about Calipari and Kentucky.  We’ve got the excerpts of the good (read: Kentucky related) stuff:

On the way Kentucky matches up with Texas and Kansas:

“Favorably, with equal talent. I am in awe of what Kentucky has accomplished to date. I was one that thought that the combination of youth, a new system, and a new coach would make for some inconsistency (like we saw against Miami and Louisville). But, Kentucky keeps getting better and better. And, this team works really hard, tries to do things right, and really gets after it. Can Kentucky win this whole thing? Yes, the Cats can. But, do I still have some concerns that youth will be a factor and perhaps make UK more likely to be upset along the way. Yes to that one, too. Kansas and Texas are far from perfect. KU has not played its best yet, and Texas is not great on the offensive end. Very good at times, but not great.”

On how the sudden discussion of Eric Bledsoe as a lottery pick will affect him and Kentucky:

“Will speculation (like Draft stock discussions and mock drafts) affect his decision? Of course it will. These kids want to be pros, and they want to be in the NBA as quickly as possible, ready or not. But, there is nothing we can do about it. There is no accountability for mock drafts or in quoting anonymous sources on a player, and if Bledsoe leaves, it will not be a big deal to UK. Calipari is planning for it, and he will just bring in another great talent behind the players in place now. It is just business.”

In response to whether or not the SEC is stronger this year than last:

“It is much better than last year. When Kentucky is really good, it lifts the whole profile of the league. The SEC was pretty pedestrian by its high standards last year. This year, UK, UT, Vandy, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State are all NCAA quality teams. I’m a little surprised that LSU isn’t more competitive this year, though. In time, Georgia and South Carolina will be back, too.”

On Dan Patrick’s remark that if Duke or UNC had held a fundraiser for Haiti, it would’ve led SportsCenter:

“UK’s response to the tragedy in Haiti was heartwarming and says a lot of good things about the great people of the Commonwealth and Big Blue Nation. But, please, did you do it to help those in need or to lead SportsCenter? My guess is that it is the former. That is what is important. And, thanks for doing that…you should be commended for your kindness and generosity.”

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