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Can Anyone Upset Florida In The SEC Tourney? Sure… But Will They?

crystal-ball2The SEC Tournament gets underway tonight in Atlanta.  If history is any indicator of who’ll win, put your money on Kentucky’s second-seeded Wildcats.  UK has snagged 15 of the 35 championship trophies since the tourney was resurrected in 1979.  Alabama has won five in that period which is good for second-best in the league.

Over the last 10 years, Kentucky (2004, 2010 and 2011) and Florida (2005, 2006 and 2007) have each won the SEC Tournament three times.  Georgia (through a tornado in 2008), Mississippi State (2009), Vanderbilt (2012) and Ole Miss (last year) have also cut down the nets.

But who’ll win the tourney this week?  Below is our game-by-game preview, sure to be completely, 100% incorrect…

 

Game One

12 Auburn vs 13 South Carolina:  The Tigers won by 16 over the Gamecocks at Auburn just a couple of weeks ago.  Both teams have won two of their last six games.  In what may well be the tournament’s least-interesting contest, we’ll take Auburn.

 

Game Two

11 Vanderbilt vs 14 Mississippi State:  MSU was the worst team in the league this year with a 3-15 conference mark.  While Vandy’s bench isn’t very long, Kevin Stallings has somehow managed to coax seven league wins out of his outmanned squad.  VU beat State by six in early-February in Nashville.  We’ll take Vanderbilt again.

 

Game Three

8 Missouri vs 9 Texas A&M:  Two old Big XII rivals square off for the right to face #1 seed Florida.  Missouri, as we noted earlier this week, still has an outside shot at an NCAA at-large bid.  But the Tigers have lost three of their last five and held off A&M by a lone point at home one week ago today.  The Aggies have lost three of their last four.  We’ll take Missouri to reach the quarterfinals.

 

Game Four

12 Auburn vs 5 Arkansas:  The Razorbacks, coming off a bye, will be fighting for their NCAA lives.  They whipped Auburn 86-67 in their regular-season matchup.  Take Arkansas into the quarterfinals as we see not reason to suspect a major Tiger upset.

 

Game Five

10 Alabama vs 7 LSU:  The Crimson Tide knocked off LSU by two points in Tuscaloosa back in late-January.  Both teams are up-and-down.  Bama’s last six games looked like this: L-W-L-W-L-W.  LSU’s last seven games looked like this: L-W-L-W-L-W-L.  This one’s a toss-up in our minds, but we’ll back Johnny O’Bryant and the Tigers.  Take LSU.

 

Game Six

11 Vanderbilt vs 6 Ole Miss:  The Rebels like to speed things up.  The Commodores are more deliberate.  In tourney play, the advantage often goes to the team that can force their foe out of their natural rhythm and tempo.  Vandy’s lack of depth could hurt it over a four- or five-day run, but we think they’ll have enough juice on Day Two of the tourney to pull the upset.  We’ll take Vanderbilt in a surprise, despite the fact that Ole Miss beat the Dores twice during the regular season.  For the record, UM has lost six of its last eight games and VU has lost seven of its last nine.  Neither team comes in hot.

 

Game Seven

8 Missouri vs 1 Florida:  Crazy things happen in tournament play, but Florida is just so darned experienced and tough on the defensive end that it’ll be very hard to pick against them.  Mizzou has lost five in a row away from home, including a 10-point loss at Gainesville in early-February.  Take Florida into the semifinals, leaving Missouri squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

 

Game Eight

5 Arkansas vs 4 Tennessee:  This one might be an NCAA Tournament play-in game.  UA won six of its last seven games.  UT has won four in a row including its last three by 27 points or more (against Vandy, Auburn and Missouri).  The host Volunteers knocked off Arkansas by seven back in January.  Once again, this matchup features one team that plays at a break-neck pace and one that’s slow and deliberate.  We’ll tab Tennessee to reach the league semis behind Jarnell Stokes’ big body.

 

Game Nine

7 LSU vs 2 Kentucky:  Now is the time for the Wildcats to make amends for a disappointing regular season, right?  Wrong.  LSU is clearly a bad matchup for John Calipari’s Cats.  The Tigers beat UK in Baton Rouge and then lost by one point in overtime in Lexington last month.  The Tigers had four players in double-figures in each game.  O’Bryant scored 29 and 20 versus Kentucky.  Unless the Wildcats have found a way to negate LSU’s big man, we’ll take LSU in an upset on the neutral court.  (OK, it’ll seem like Rupp South in “Catlanta,” but we’ll still take the Tigers.)

 

Game Ten

11 Vanderbilt vs 3 Georgia:  What an incredible job by Mark Fox inside the conference this season.  After a 6-6 start out of conference, the Bulldogs went 12-6 in league play, landed the #3 seed in the SEC tourney, and will enjoy a double-bye.  If our picks hold, Vandy’s thin roster will be playing its third game in as many days by this point.  UGA has won four of its last five.  VU handed Georgia one of only two home losses all season, but we’ll take the team that plays superior defense.  That means we’ll take Georgia to reach the semifinals.

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SEC Hoops Roundup: Florida Hits 18-0; UGA Wraps Up 3-Seed

gfx-hoops-round-up2Florida 84 – Kentucky 65. Video Highlights

1. Florida is the first SEC team to go 18-0 in the regular season. Billy Donovan: “For me as the coach it’s the greatest regular season I’ve ever been a part of.”

2. Florida said goodbye to a strong senior class. It’s a group that played as close to its potential as possible, Donovan said.

3. Kentucky had a brief run on Saturday when it showed what people thought it would be this year.

4. Kentucky hopes to find its “mojo” when it goes to the SEC tournament in Atlanta.

Ole Miss 65 – Vanderbilt 62. Video Highlights

5. Marshall Henderson after the game: “I want to thank everyone for everything.”

6. Andy Kennedy earned his 170th win as the head coach at Ole Miss.

7. Vanderbilt blew another second-half lead in its loss to Ole Miss.

Auburn 69 – Texas A&M 64. Video Highlights

8. It was a rare road win for Auburn, which only had one other road victory in the SEC before Saturday.

9. Texas A&M guard Alex Caruso: “We’re not winning enough games right now.”

Tennessee 72 – Missouri 45. Video Highlights

10. Is Tennessee an NCAA tournament team? Cuonzo Martin: “Yes, but you’ve got to keep going.”

11. Missouri guard Jordan Clarkson after the game: “They blew us out. There’s not much you could say, really.”

12. “Frustration” was the mood Missouri coach Frank Haith used to describe his team.

South Carolina 74 – Mississippi State 62.

13. South Carolina’s Brenton Williams scored a game-high 27 points to help lead the Gamecocks on the road.

14. Mississippi State coach Rick Ray after the game: “We’re not very good. I mean, it’s just as simple as that.”

Alabama 83 – Arkansas 58.

15. Alabama dominated from the very beginning. “We played hard for 40 minutes,” guard Trevor Releford said.

16. The big win on Senior Day felt like the start of something special for Alabama, writes Kevin Scarbinsky.

17. “Scoring was the issue” for Arkansas, coach Mike Anderson said.

Georgia 69 – LSU 61.

18. Georgia finished the regular season with its most SEC wins since 1990.

19. LSU forward Jarell Martin credited the physical play of Georgia for the Bulldogs’ win.

20. LSU hopes it can turn things around when it goes to the SEC tournament.

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Ole Miss 65 – Vanderbilt 62

Highlights of the Ole Miss 65-62 win over Vanderbilt Saturday in Oxford.

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SEC Headlines 3/8/2014

headlines-saturdaySEC Football

1. Report: Dan Mullen and Mississippi State in contract talk extensions.

2. Texas coach Charlie Strong wants to renew the rivalry with Texas A&M.  ”When there’s been so much tradition there, you’d like to see it continue on.”

3. No Johnny Manziel but still plenty of options at quarterback for the Texas A&M.

4. John Theus is moving from right tackle to left tackle for Georgia.

5. Tennessee coach Butch Jones on competition at the quarterback spot:  ”That competition, that’s how you get better, that’s how you grow.”

6. Plenty of options at running back for Ole Miss.

7. Early signing period for college football?

SEC/NFL

8. Couple of NFL draft analysts now have Johnny Manziel going fourth overall to the Cleveland Browns.

SEC Basketball

9. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive: “One of the primary focuses that we have is changing the perception of our basketball over the next several years.”

10. Andy Staples on Florida: “These Gators won’t overwhelm anyone with their athleticism, but they might overwhelm a team with their defensive stubbornness.”

11. Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs will sit down with coach Tony Barbee at the end of the season.  Is his job in jeopardy?

12. An argument to keep South Carolina coach Frank Martin suspended until he cleans up his “expletive act.”

13. If LSU beats Georgia today, Tigers will clinch the sixth seed in the SEC Tournament. And if Georgia loses and Tennesse wins, Vols claim third place in the SEC.

14. Missouri has received more points and rebounds from this freshmen class than any of the past four seasons.

15. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy on the future of his program: “I’m really high on some of our young guys.”

16. Jerry Palm on bubble teams and potential bid stealers.

Extra

17. Paul Finebaum’s book on the SEC goes on sale in August.  Here’s a look at the cover.

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SEC Hoops Roundup 3/8/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Kentucky at Florida

1. As the Gators go for perfection in conference play, this Florida senior class has racked up some amazing numbers.  Another major milestone awaits.

2. Kentucky coach John Calipari on the challenge facing his team: ”It’s not going to be easy. There is nothing that’s going to be easy about it.”

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss

3. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings can’t understand  why some of his players are hesitant to shoot the ball.  ”There is a reluctance and you’re not sure why it exists.”

4. The “Marshall Henderson Show” is almost over.  Last home game for the Ole Miss senior guard.

Auburn at Texas A&M

5. At one point the SEC’s leading scorer, Auburn guard Chris Denson has scored just nine points in his last two games.

6. Status of senior guard Fabyon Harris uncertain today.  Coach Billy Kennedy: ”He’s limited in what he can do, so we are still unsure what he will be able to do.”

Missouri at Tennessee

7. Sitting on the bubble, a victory at Tennessee would be huge for Missouri’s NCAA Tournament chances.  Coach Frank Haith: “They’re an NCAA Tournament team, so if you beat them twice it definitely helps you.”

8. Tennessee is playing some its best basketball of the year.  But is this a “play-out” game for both these teams?

South Carolina at Mississippi State

9. Suspended South Carolina coach Frank Martin apologized Friday afternoon. “I understand that I represent this university and I have a duty to conduct myself in a certain way.”

10. Mississippi State senior Colin Borchert on what he’s learned from coach Rick Ray: “The biggest thing I’m going to take from is how you can succeed when you come from nothing.”

Arkansas at Alabama

11. Streaking Arkansas trying to win its fourth straight SEC road game.  Best Razorbacks road team in 20 years?

12. Last home game for Alabama guard Trevor Releford.  Coach Anthony Grant: ”He’s 6-foot on the outside but he’s like 6-8 on the inside.”

Georgia at LSU

13. A win for Georgia locks down third place in the SEC and a double-bye in the conference tournament.

14. LSU senior guard Andre Stringer is “the final vestige of the Tigers’ failed resurrection plan four years ago under former coach Trent Johnson.”

Extra

15. The Antlers at Missouri and other student groups get attention from ESPN’s Outside The Lines this weekend.

 

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SEC Headlines 3/4/2014

headlines-tueSEC Football

1. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel reportedly has a new deal that will push his pay to or above $3 million.

2. Ole Miss begins spring practice today. Rebels need to find out who will backup quarterback Bo Wallace.

3. Texas A&M practices in full pads for two hours and 15 minutes.  Coach Kevin Sumlin: “All-in-all, I liked the energy.”

4. Gus Malzhahn doesn’t sound too worried about an upcoming vote that could impact tempo:  ”We’re going to put the ball down, we’re going to play fast and we’re going to flat get after it. You all OK if we play fast?”

5. “History hasn’t been terribly kind to the coaches that lost the national championship game in the BCS era.”

6. “The Saban Rule is not about protecting players. That is never the primary motive of the NCAA, no matter how its leaders spin it.”

7. Winning is contagious.  South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier: “I think it’s somewhat contagious when one sport does well, then another one does well, and it just keeps going through.” Connor Shaw will be honored at halftime of tonight’s South Carolina basketball game.

8. Here are six players crucial to Missouri’s defense this fall.

9. Here are five Alabama players who need to step up their game in 2014.

10. The blame Lane Kiffin era begins at Alabama?

11. It’s good to be a public official in Alabama – free tickets to football games.

12. Position battles this spring at LSU.

13. Did you know? LSU got its purple and gold colors from Mardi Gras.  (Will Rust Cohle start an investigation?)

SEC Basketball

14. South Carolina gets a $25,000 fine from the SEC after fans stormed the court after the win against Kentucky Saturday.

15 .Clearing up misconception about the one-and-done rule.  College basketball is at the mercy of the NBA.

16. Texas A&M guard Fabyon Harris checks out of a hospital two days after fainting in a pregame shootaround. Guard Shawn Smith still dealing with “personal issues.”

17. Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summers recognized as the best men’s college basketball player in the state of Mississippi.

18. Red-hot Razorbacks have won seven of their last eight games. Mike Anderson: “We’re playing some of our better basketball at the right time…”

19. Alabama at Kentucky.  Kentucky has lost two in a row for the first time this season but Alabama hasn’t won on the road since last year. Rare events at Kentucky these days - honoring four-year players at Senior Night.

20. Florida at South Carolina.  Gators developing potential nine-man rotation heading down the stretch. Florida two wins away from perfect SEC regular season.

21. Pat Dooley: . “I see so much me-first basketball in this league.”

22. Three of the 12 teams mentioned as bubble teams here are from the SEC.

Extras

23. Something big coming at Arkansas?

24. Ready for a possible 43-yard extra-point attempt from the NFL?

25. Peyton Manning passes $34 million neck exam.

26. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has a little fun with the proposed 10-second rule in college football.

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SEC Hoops Roundup 3/1/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Vanderbilt at Tennessee

1. Former Tennessee star Dale Ellis will have his number retired before today’s game.  Will join a group that includes Allan Houston, Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld.

2. Vanderbilt freshman Damian Jones was recruited by several blue-chip schools.  Why Vanderbilt? “I saw more opportunity here for me to improve, to get on the court sooner and get more experience.”

Mississippi State at Missouri

3. Are Missouri guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson feeling the pressure?  Coach Frank Haith: “It’s because they want it so badly, and they’re pressing.”

4. Mississippi State streaking in the wrong direction.  Lost 10 straight, haven’t won a game on the road all year, and have never won a game in February under coach Rick Ray.

Auburn at Alabama

5. Auburn won the first round of the Iron Bowl of basketball.  Alabama coach Anthony Grant: “We weren’t happy with the last time we played them.”

6. At 20.4 points per game, Auburn’s Chris Denson leads the SEC in scoring.  ”I’m definitely overlooked, but I think it’s due to our record.”

Georgia at Arkansas

7. Both these times have won six of their last seven games.  Arkansas coach Mike Anderson: “Georgia’s a good basketball team. They’re playing for the same thing we’re playing for…”

8. What’s coach Mark Fox’s future at Georgia?  A.D. Greg McGarity: “I’m really not going to talk about any of that stuff until the season’s over.”

LSU at Florida

9. The strong get stronger.  Having already clinched the SEC title, Florida expects to get point guard Kasey Hill back today.From a health standpoint, Gators “as good as they can be right now.”

10. LSU freshman Jordan Mickey on Florida: “They hustle. They’re physical. You can see it’s going to be a test out there for us.”

Kentucky at South Carolina

11. Does Kentucky have the necessary sense of urgency? Willie Cauley-Stein: It’s a scary thing if you let it go south.”

12. South Carolina coach Frank Martin: “Our program is starting to get kids playing with the same physicality as our teams played with at Kansas State.”

Ole Miss at Texas A&M
13. Ole Miss one of four teams tied for fourth place in SEC - important because of double-bye in conference tournament.

14. Texas A&M junior Jamal Jones started his career at Ole Miss but was dismissed from the team.  Rebels coach Andy Kennedy: “There’s a process that I don’t feel like is needed to get into, but you get to the point of no return.”

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SEC Headlines 2/27/2014

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. Poll results: Only 25 of the nation’s 128 FBS head coaches are in favor of a rule proposal that would slow down the game.

2. Most departing seniors of any SEC East roster?  Tennessee.  South Carolina has the fewest but the most early NFL draft departures.

3. Several changes at the coordinator position for SEC schools - what will the impact be this year?

4. Soaring expectations at Tennessee for this fall?

5. Florida and Florida State extend their annual football series through 2018.

5. Andre Debose – the “next Percy Harvin” - will be a senior at Florida this fall.

6. Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Park played high school football in South Carolina but was not offered a scholarship by the Gamecocks.

7. Ole Miss guard Aaron Morris and defensive end C.J. Johnson granted redshirt years.

SEC/NFL

8. Tell us how you really feel, Barry.  Switzer on Johnny Manziel:  ”I think he’s an arrogant little prick.” But he loves the way he plays the game.

9. “A fully engaged, fully motivated (Jadeveon) Clowney is the sort of beast that can out-and-out dominate any game in which he plays, even in the NFL. ”

10. Former Auburn tackle Greg Robinson’s mother couldn’t make the trip to the BCS Championship Game because she couldn’t afford it.  ”There’s something wrong with that picture.” Also see Fuzzy Math at the NCAA.

11. Latest USA Today mock draft has Jadeveon Clowney and Greg Robinson going first and second overall.

12. Zach Mettenberger a good fit for the Arizona Cardinals?

13. Defense end Kony Ealy’s profile matches up best with which current NFL players? Paula Deen like Michael Sam?

14. Is the pro future of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall at another position?  ”I know I can play quarterback.”

15. When you get booted from your team before the season, who hosts the pro day?  ”Agent Chris Turnage said (Chris) Boyd will be healthy enough to fully compete at his pro day workout next month.”

SEC Basketball

16. When it comes to NCAA Tournament chances, is Georgia “the tallest midget in the circus?” An assessment of Georgia’s chances.

17. Ole Miss point guard Derrick Millinghaus received an indefinite suspension before last night’s game against Alabama.

18. Arkansas at Kentucky tonight.  Last time Razorbacks won at Rupp – Nolan Richardson’s 1994 championship team.

19. Arkansas game part of the revenge tour for Kentucky?

20. A plea from Kentucky – bring back Bruce (Pearl).

21. Military family reunited in timeout of Alabama/Ole Miss game.

22. Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith best sixth man in the country?

23. One take on Missouri: “There is no evident or effective leadership on the floor. There is no apparent chemistry. Players don’t seem to trust one another. The team seems adrift.”

Extras

24. Georgia governor on Confederate battle flag license plates:  ”Hopefully, those who take offense at it will look at the fact that it is a part of a cultural heritage of our state.”

25. Richie Incognito smashes his own Ferrari with a baseball bat.

26. Why was St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny cleaning the clubhouse toilets?

27. Jeff Gordon and the Pepsi Max crew are at it again…

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SEC Hoops Roundup 2/27/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Tennessee 75 – Mississippi State 68. Video Highlights

1. After jumping out to 14-point first-half lead, Tennessee hangs on for the victory.  Second career double-double for Jordan McRae – 29 points and 10 rebounds.

2. Ten straight losses for Mississippi State. Coach Rick Ray now 0-16 at MSU in the month of February.

Ole Miss 79 – Alabama 67. Video Highlights

3. Ole Miss sophomore guard Martavious Newby sets career-highs with 15 points and 10 rebounds.  Marshall Henderson sets SEC record with 3-pointer in 61st straight game.

4. Alabama now 0-13 on the road this season.  Crimson Tide get a career-high 27 points from freshman Shannon Hale.

LSU 68 – Texas A&M 49

5. LSU goes on 21-0 first-half run.  Jarell Martin ties a career-high with 20 points.

6. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy:  ”LSU’s length and size really gave us problems.”

Auburn 83 – South Carolina 67. Video Highlights

7. Smallest crowd to ever watch SEC game at Auburn Arena sees the Tigers even their record at 13-13. Chris Denson led the Tigers with 22 points.

8. Auburn fan gets ejected after criticizing referee Ted Valentine.  Fifty-three fouls, including two technicals, were called against the two teams.

Thursday SEC Hoops

Arkansas at Kentucky

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Ole Miss 79 – Alabama 67

Video highlights of the Ole Miss 79 – 67 win over Alabama Wednesday night.

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