HOOVER, Ala. — Kentucky coach John Calipari sounds like an exasperated professor who just started teaching Chinese to a bunch of freshmen.
Smart and talented they might be, but it's still a whole new language.
That's why the Wildcats coach scoffs at anybody who would anoint the defending national champions the team to beat.
"Whoever did that needs to be drug-tested," Calipari said Thursday at Southeastern Conference media days. "We're not very good right now. I think we'll be a good team eventually, hopefully, but right now we're just average.
"Good players, good kids, they're trying. Just young. Don't play hard enough. Don't play full possessions. Out of control. Don't know each other, which isn't surprising. We have no roles right now. We're all trying to figure out who's who."
Of course, it's only October. Check back in March.
Calipari will get little sympathy in a league that figures to only get stronger with the additions of Texas A&M and Missouri. There are new coaches at South Carolina (Frank Martin), Mississippi State (Rich Ray) and LSU (Johnny Jones) and new stars like Tigers point guard Phil Pressey, the preseason SEC player of the year.
Teams will play 18 conference games this season instead of 16 with the expansion, and divisions are no more in hoops.
The most scrutinized change might be which blue-chip recruits are sporting the blue-and-white Kentucky jerseys. That's not so unusual, but Calipari insists this time it's different.
The Wildcats must replace six NBA draft picks, including the top two in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. This entirely new starting five won't have the same support from more seasoned players like, say, last year's sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones. Certainly not senior Darius Miller. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer is back after averaging 12 minutes a game.