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Ben Howland says Tennessee, not UK, is the team to beat in the SEC

When it was Ben Howland’s turn to speak at the SEC Media Day in Birmingham, Ala., I figured it would be a good time to work on some other stories why he talked. Mississippi State will likely be a tournament team, but there’s not too much sexy about the Bulldogs. I almost even forgot to set my recorder in the off chance that he said something newsworthy.

I’m happy I didn’t forget.

The way the SEC Media Day event works is usually you have different media members covering their respective teams asking the same questions to help drive home quotes for their stories. One guy from Arkansas asked nearly every coach about the Razorbacks’ Daniel Gafford. Another wanted to hear what folks thought about Chris Silva at South Carolina. There were more.

One media member is likely doing a story on Rick Barnes’ success at Tennessee, so he asked the Mississippi State head coach what he thought about Barnes’ time in Knoxville.

“Phenomenal,” Howland said. “To win the league in three years, to have the whole team returning for his fourth year is nothing short of phenomenal. They’re gonna be really, really tough.”

Fair enough. The Vols were picked to finish second in the SEC behind UK, but as Howland was finishing up his thoughts on Barnes he said something that will certainly rile up Kentucky fans.

They’re the best team in the league heading into the season in my opinion because they have all that experience returning,” Howland said. “There’s no doubt they’re the team to beat in our conference.

“… They’re gonna be the team to be reckoned with throughout the entire year for everybody that plays them.”

Most polls have Kentucky as the No. 1 team in the country, let alone the SEC, so it was interesting to hear Howland so matter-of-factly say that the Vols, not the Cats, were the team to beat heading into the season.

So, when asked about UK not being the favorite in his opinion, Howland doubled down.

“They return everybody from the team that won the championship last year in the regular season,” Howland said. “They have everybody back. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re the team to beat. No question that Kentucky is right there with them and so is Auburn, but when you talk about returning teams that returns everybody that won our conference a year ago. I think they beat Kentucky both times last year if I’m not mistaken, is that correct? How are they not the favorite?”

Oh, boy. I asked both Quinndary Weatherspoon and Aric Holman if they agreed with their coach. Weatherspoon thought MSU was the team to beat, and you can’t knock his confidence, but Holman did agree.

“I’d probably say Tennessee,” Holman said. “They’re bringing everybody back. They have the experience, they have the talent and they have the leadership, I guess from their inside guy. They’re the team to beat.”

Well, if UK needed any motivation heading into the season, they may have found it from an unlikely source. Ben frickin Howland.


Article written by TJ Walker

21 Comments for Ben Howland says Tennessee, not UK, is the team to beat in the SEC

  1. Capurnicus
    3:37 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    Does he not realize that Kentucky teams year to year are almost completely different?

    • ClutchCargo
      3:46 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

      Yeah, but UT won the league and has everybody back this year. lol

    • KYcats11
      4:14 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

      Living in Starkville must be taking a toll on his brain.

    • unbridled
      9:41 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

      Guy was clearly trolling

  2. Bigblue7982
    3:43 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink


  3. Kat4Life
    3:52 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    While I absolutely feel we are the team to beat, his point is valid. When a conference champion returns an entire team they probably deserve to be rated at the top before the season starts. We will have 18 games to show who we are in the SEC, we’ll let our playing do the talking.

    • Bluebloodtoo
      4:04 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

      I did agree with this, but my other comment was a lot more entertaining.

    • Kat4Life
      7:48 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

      I’m with you. But until we get a few games under our belt I’m going to resist comparing them to the 2015 team. But dear God the potential is off the charts. We will know a hell of a lot more on November 7

  4. runningunnin.454
    3:57 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    But we whipped UT when it counted…in the tournament for the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.

  5. Bluebloodtoo
    4:03 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    Ben is still sore about that beat beat down his UCLA team got at rupp. 😉

    • jahanc2uky
      5:25 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

      How much do you think he paid Westbrook and Love?

  6. serdi
    4:10 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    It’s the SEC boys…build up all except UK….been that way since 1933. Never gonna change. We have one goal…never changes.

  7. UKinIN
    4:11 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    Non-story. Everyone gets an opinion. His points are valid and coaches and media usually place high value on returning experience.

  8. Wade
    5:13 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    I’d say he’s right for now but we are not the team we were last yr. ut has experience has played together and experience struggles and triumphs and we haven’t. We are young so let’s play some games and see. I think we’re better and we haven’t played 1 game that’s saying something, but I think no one fears us. YET!!!! We’re gonna be really good!!!!

  9. “Well, if UK needed any motivation heading into the season, they may have found it from an unlikely source.”

    Pump the brakes a bit. He didn’t say THAT much, and it wasn’t even about his own team. If it motivates the Cats though, then good.

  10. Cattington
    7:54 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    Hard to argue with him really.

  11. antiquefurnitureandmidgets
    8:50 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    Hmmm…it would appear most fans here aren’t really reacting the way Walker anticipated and thankfully so. Our fan base is soooo annoying when it can’t just be satisfied with being the best but needs every single other human being on the planet to agree.

  12. KYJelly
    8:56 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    While you can disagree, you can’t act like he’s insane for that opinion.

  13. W1ldCats4Life
    9:54 pm October 17, 2018 Permalink

    I’d rather not be at the top now. Let’s throw the ball up and tear thru every opponent to #9 then talk about how great we are and how wrong they were.

    Until we play, it’s all BS hype anyway.