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SEC Shaky On Day One Of The Tourney

TGIF.  And boy do we mean that today.  We are most definitely ready for the weekend here at Headquarters.

TGFF.  And that’s what folks at the SEC offices in Birmingham must have been thinking last night.  As in: Thank God For Florida.

In case you weren’t paying attention, Day One — the real Day One — of the NCAA Tournament wasn’t pretty for the Southeastern Conference.  Only Florida lived up to its billing, which might not be a good sign for Georgia and Tennessee today. 

#4 Kentucky 59, #13 Princeton 57

Survive and advance.  UK survived and advanced.  But they also were taken right down to the wire by the Ivy League champs.  Brandon Knight hit a driving layup with 2 seconds to play — his first bucket of the game — to push the Wildcats through to the next round.  (Up next: Bob Huggins and West Virginia.  Gulp.)  Hopefully the close call with Princeton will serve as a wake-up call for the 11th-ranked Cats.

John Calipari said of his team: “I think they had the jitters at their first NCAA Tournament game ever that they’ve been watching since they’re 12 and all of a sudden starting in the NCAA Tournament that’s on television.”  A run-on sentence, but we get his point.

For all the whining about UK’s slot as a #4 in the tourney, if the Wildcats need seeding protection from the likes of #13 Princeton, their run isn’t going to last very long.

#12 Richmond 69, #5 Vanderbilt 66

A #12 beats a #5.  Vandy falls in its first game to a mid-major.  No shock here.  Other than the fact the SEC almost started off its tournament push going oh-for-two. 

The Spiders’ Kevin Anderson hit a floater with 18.7 seconds to play to send the ‘Dores home to Nashville… again.  In 2010, VU lost to Murray State and in 2008 they lost to Siena.  Think Kevin Stallings might catch some flak from fans over that?

“These teams are very, very close in talent and very close in ability,” VU’s coach said of Richmond.  “They have very good players, a very good system.”  True enough.  But try telling that to Vandy fans today.

#2 Florida 79, #15 UC-Santa Barbara 51

Just when the SEC looked to be staggering, second-seeded Florida dropped the hammer on its opponent from the opening tip.  Billy Donovan’s squad made 11 of its first 15 shots and at one point held a 43-18 first-half lead. 

Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton combined for 31 points for the Gators.

“They’re awful good,” said UCSB coach Bob Williams.  “They have accumulated a great nucleus of talent that should have an opportunity to take them a long way.  I mean, anybody that thinks they’re — in my opinion — overrated as a 2-seed, I think they’re wrong.”

Tennessee and Georgia are up next for the SEC.  With any luck they’ll play more like Florida and less like Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  If not, maybe those RPI rankings showing the SEC as the fifth-best conference in the country had things right all along.


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