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Around The SEC East – 2/26/09

Here are the top stories from the SEC East this morning:

UF:  Following a close loss at LSU on Tuesday night, is Florida bound for the NCAA Tournament or a second straight year in the NIT?  Pat Dooley and Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun lay out the reasons UF will make the Big Dance… and why they won’t.

UF:  With everyone talking about Urban Meyer getting out of coaching in a decade, should the Gators lock up Charlie Strong as a head-coach-in-waiting right now?  (A lot can happen in a decade, so no, they should not.  Despite the fact that Strong is an excellent coach and deserves to be a head man somewhere.)

UF:  Defensive tackle Omar Hunter has apparently dropped some weight since the season ended.  One writer says, “He might be (Tim) Tebow’s size.”

UT:  Guess who’s starting to come around for Tennessee.  Former McDonald’s All-American Scotty Hopson, that’s who.  The freshman tallied 21 points, six rebounds and three assists to help push UT past Mississippi State in a must-win game.  Hopson also played well at Kentucky on Saturday.

UT:  Tennessee also got a good game out of point guard Bobby Maze.  “I’ve been down on myself.  I haven’t been playing up to my capabilities.”

UT:  Mike Strange of The Knoxville News-Sentinel points out that for the first time in Bruce Pearl’s four-year reign, Volunteer fans will need to pay attention to the scores of other bubble teams.

UT:  Watching a late lead start to slip away under a barrage of Bulldog threes, Tennessee finally handled some adversity.

UT:  The Vols neutralized the inside presence of Jarvis Vanardo by hitting some outside shots… a rarity for much of the year.

UT:  New quarterbacks coach David Reaves wants one of UT’s three quarterbacks to claim the starting job this spring.  Here’s one interesting note that a media buddy pointed out to me: bet on Jonathan Crompton (who struggled horribly last year) to get the nod when all’s said and done.  In desperate need of signing a top-flight quarterback next February, it would behoove the Vols to go with a senior quarterback this year… opening the door for a freshman in 2010.

UT:  Tennessee will begin spring practice on March 10th, with their Orange and White Game scheduled for April 18th.

Vandy:  Bobby Johnson has promoted defensive coordinator Bruce Fowler to the title of “assistant head coach in charge of defense.”  Jamie Bryant will take over as defensive coordinator.  What’s the difference between the two jobs?  No clue.

Vandy:  Assistant coaches Rick Logo (D-line) and Des Kitchings (running backs) have been named co-special teams coordinators.

Vandy:  The Commodores trailed big for much of the night and dropped a season-killer last night in Athens 61-57 to the two-SEC-win Bulldogs.

UGA:  Georgia withstood a late rally when walk-on Ricky McPhee nailed a three-pointer late.  This after the Bulldogs had built a 15-point lead.  “Our whole objective was to put a lot of pressure on them and ramp up the aggressiveness and push the ball early,” Pete Herrmann said.

UGA:  “It’s not going to help our seeding in the NCAA Tournament,” joked Corey Butler, “but it’s playing for pride.  You ask to play on this level because you want to play against world class athletes.  You don’t stop being a competitor just because you haven’t won as much as you’d like.”

UGA:  On the football front, Chip Towers of the AJC sat down for a Q&A session with rising sophomore receiver AJ Green… and found that he played all of last season with a groin injury that worsened as the season wore on.

UGA:  New quarterback Joe Cox wants the Bulldogs to change their attitude in 2009.  “Everything was just kind of flat last season.  I mean, not the whole season, just at times.  We’re trying to change that this year.  We’re trying to have everybody step up and have more vocal guys on the field.”

UGA:  Offensive tackle Josh Davis will shortly undergo his second shoulder surgery this off-season.  He injured the shoulder in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State.

UGA:  Vince Vance (who sounds like the lead-singer of a 50′s pop band) expects to play right tackle this fall… when he returns from an ACL injury.  He started three games at left tackle and three at left guard last season.

USC:  I’m not sure who saw a 77-59 butt-kicking coming, but you can bet Carolina players and fans sure are happy with the beatdown they delivered to Kentucky last night.  “You’re up 20 against Kentucky, who was legendary, supposedly everybody in the SEC is playing catch-up to that program,” Devan Downey said.  “So it’s always fun to get a game like this, in this fashion.”

USC:  Ron Morris of The State writes, “South Carolina basketball is back.  And how.”  Last night’s win puts the Cocks in the driver’s seat (or cock pit, if you like) for the SEC East championship with three games to go.  Not only are they one game up in the standings, but they’re also probably locked into an NCAA Tourament slot as well.

USC:  Downey gets most of the pub on this team, but it was the post players who once again came up big against the Cats last night.  Try 16 blocked shots big.  Sixteen.

USC:  Darrin Horn should be praised for not only improving Carolina basketball, but also for working to excite his fanbase and student section.  “I challenge anybody to say that we don’t have a homecourt advantage now.  Our fans were phenomenal.  That building was as loud as I’ve heard ever, and I’ve been in a lot of venues in my time.”

USC:  Patrick Patterson said some very nice things about Downey after the game.  “Any game he’s in, he’s always the X factor.  He’s able to penetrate to the basket and do so much for that team.  When the ball’s in his hand, magic happens.”

USC & UK:  Gene Sapakoff of The Charleston Post & Courier believes that Carolina is playing like an NCAA Tournament team while Kentucky is bound for the NIT.  Of course, it was Saturday that Kentucky was hammering Tennessee so things have a way of turning around pretty quickly.

UK:  Kentucky trailed by 28 points at one point last night, leaving Jodie Meeks’ 18 points just about meaningless.  In fact it was the other guard spot that was the difference in the game.  “You saw one (team) with one (a point guard), and you saw one without,” said Billy Gillispie.

UK:  Gillispie was happy with Patterson’s 28-point effort.  “Patrick had one of the best games I’ve ever seen a big man have.  To have absolutely zero help, it was one of the most courageous (performances) I’ve ever seen.  He never backed down.  He never quit posting.  He never ran from it.”  (Sidenote — Kevin Galloway did not make the trip to Carolina due to a “personal matter.”)

UK:  Patterson’s own performance failed to cheer him up.  “We came out sloppy, tentative and just soft.  I don’t think we played with that much heart out there.”

UK:  The coach wasn’t happy with his team’s effort, but he’s not ready to call the season over just yet.  “I’m not disheartened.  We lost tonight.  We’re going to be better on Saturday (against LSU).  The world is not going to end tonight.  No matter how bad I feel — as though the world may end for Billy Gillispie, for me, because that’s all I have and all I really care about — the reality is we have to get on the practice court tomorrow and we have to play a team that’s got 12 wins in conference already and we have to play much better.”

UK:  How ’bout the timing on this one: you can now order your copy of The Lexington Herald-Leader’s “Lifestyle Magazine” featuring a tour of Gillispie’s big, beautiful home.  Right about now you have to wonder if it’s built on sand.


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