“Why we use the SEC Tournament (is to) prepare us, let us learn a little bit more about our team, put us in tough situations and see how we respond," Calipari said Monday during the SEC coaches weekly teleconference. "The Georgia and (Texas) A&M games were both high-level NCAA Tournament games. High level. So they weren’t opening-round games. Those were the third game, the fourth game. I mean, that’s what that was. Get down, the other teams were playing well, and we respond and we fight.
"Now, we’re able to show the tape and have a couple guys that needed to do more, but I was proud of our team."
Kentucky (26-8) rides the momentum of an 82-77 overtime win against Texas A&M into the NCAAs, but the Cats' performance against the Aggies didn't exactly help them in the seeding. UK landed a No. 4 seed in the East while A&M received a No. 3 seed in the West.
The Wildcats will face the No. 13 seed, Stony Brook (26-6), on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. The Sea Wolves won both the regular season and tournament championship of the America East Conference.
"Going into the tournament, other than we played Sunday and now have to play Thursday, I wish we had more days off," Calipari said. "But it is what it is.”
The UK staff began gathering information on Stony Brook on Sunday evening, but Calipari was already familiar with Sea Wolves coach Billy Herron.
“One, they’re well coached," he said. "Two, their strength is their big kid (America East Player of Year Jameel Warney). They run great stuff, and he understands angles as good as anybody we’ve played this year. Their guard (Carson) Puriefoy ... very fast, a lot like Tyler Ulis. He plays speedy with the ball from foul line to foul line. He’ll be as fast as anybody we’ve played.
"They have another big who plays off -- you know what’s funny, he played at the same high school as Isaiah Briscoe, Roselle -- so he’s a little bit older than Isaiah, but Isaiah said, ‘I played in pick-up games.’ I said, ‘How good is he?’ He said, ‘He’s a beast.’ And that’s coming from Isaiah Briscoe, so we know how hard the game is going to be. This will not be a typical 4-13 game.”
Warney, a burly 6-foot-8, 256-pound forward, scored a career-high 43 points in the America East championship game to lead Stony Brook to an 80-74 win over Vermont.