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2014 Schedule Breakout – October

crystal-ball2With football season fast approaching — the first leagues games are 18 weeks from tomorrow — it’s time to start the summer schedule talk.  On Monday, we took a look at each football weekend in August and September.  Today, we grade the games on the SEC schedule for the month of October.  Which are can’t miss and which are mere flip-bys… if that?

We break things down below.  And, yes, we’re trying to be discriminating when it comes to picking “can’t miss” games.

 

October 4th Weekend

Can’t Miss:

LSU at Auburn

Ones To Watch:

Alabama at Ole Miss (If the Rebels take another step forward, this could become “can’t miss.”)

Florida at Tennessee

Vanderbilt at Georgia

South Carolina at Kentucky

Texas A&M at Mississippi State

What Else Is On:

None!  (Gotta love those few weekends when all of the SEC’s teams are playing one another.)

 

October 11th Weekend

Can’t Miss:  

LSU at Florida (One of the league’s best games, especially if Florida rebounds this season.)

Georgia at Missouri (This could be an East Division elimination game.)

Ones To Watch:

Alabama at Arkansas

Auburn at Mississippi State

Ole Miss at Texas A&M (Depending on whether Ole Miss rises and/or A&M falls this, too, could become “can’t miss.”)

What Else Is On:

LA-Monroe at Kentucky

UT-Chattanooga at Tennessee

Charleston Southern at Vanderbilt

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2014 Schedule Breakout – August/September

crystal-ball-fortune-teller2Over the next three days we’ll be breaking down the SEC’s schedule month by month.  Fans at Missouri and Tennessee still have an eye towards basketball, but elsewhere the beginning of summer means the beginning of serious football discussion.  And that means figuring out which games are the ones to watch each week.

Today, we start with the last weekend of August and roll right on through the final Saturday in September.

 

August 30th Weekend

Can’t Miss:

Alabama vs West Virginia in Atlanta

Clemson at Georgia

LSU vs Wisconsin in Houston (like a BCS bowl game in August)

Ole Miss vs Boise State in Atlanta (Thursday the 28th)

Texas A&M at South Carolina (Thursday the 28th and a biggie for the SEC Network)

Ones To Watch:  

Arkansas at Auburn

Idaho at Florida (to see the Gators’ new offense)

Southern Miss at Mississippi State (kudos to MSU for playing their in-state rival)

Utah State at Tennessee (Sunday the 31st and the Aggies will be a preseason Top 25 team)

Temple at Vanderbilt (to see Derek Mason’s debut)

What Else Is On:

TN-Martin at Kentucky

South Dakota at Missouri

 

September 6th Weekend

Can’t Miss:

None!

Ones To Watch:  

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

Missouri at Toledo (the Rockets aren’t bad and an SEC team is visiting their pad)

East Carolina at South Carolina (the Pirates were 10-3 last season)

Arkansas State at Tennessee (another solid team visits a young UT squad)

What Else Is On:

Florida Atlantic at Alabama

Nicholls State at Arkansas

San Jose State at Auburn

Eastern Michigan at Florida

Ohio at Kentucky

Sam Houston State at LSU

UAB at Mississippi State

Lamar at Texas A&M

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SEC Schools Have Averaged 3 Changes In Power Positions Over The Past Decade

gfx-by-the-numbersThe University of Tennessee is currently searching for it’s third new basketball coach since 2005.  The Vols have also had to hire three new football coaches in that span.  We believe such turnover suggests to outsiders that there’s some serious dysfunction that exists inside the walls at Tennessee.  And we stated yesterday that Vol AD Dave Hart will likely have to answer questions about all of UT’s changes when discussing his hoops job with candidates.

Our observations didn’t sit too well with a few folks who let us know about it via email.  The general gist was this: Every SEC school has turnover.

We decided to take a look and see just how much turnover should be considered normal.

We tallied the number of football coaches, basketball coaches and athletic directors for each athletic department from 2005 to now.  While we list them below, we did not count interim hires as changes (because a full-time hire could have been made instead).  We also did not count retirees who were allowed to walk away after lengthy careers (though they are listed below, as well).  We were simply looking for changes necessitated by firings, force-outs and unexpected departures.

Below is our look at stability in the power positions across the SEC:

 

Alabama 2005-2014

Football:  Mike Shula, Nick Saban

Basketball:  Mark Gottfried, Anthony Grant

AD:  Mal Moore (died), Bill Battle

Total:  3 changes… We count this as 2 changes as Moore left office due to illness shortly before his death.

 

Arkansas 2005-2014

Football:  Houston Nutt, Bobby Petrino, John L. Smith (Interim), Bret Bielema

Basketball:  Stan Heath, John Pelphrey, Mike Anderson

AD:  Frank Broyles (retired), Jeff Long

Total:  6 changes… We count this as 4 as Broyles retired and Smith was hired purely as an interim.

 

Auburn 2005-2014

Football:  Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn

Basketball:  Jeff Lebo, Tony Barbee, Bruce Pearl

AD:  Jay Jacobs

Total:  4 changes

 

Florida 2005-2014

Football:  Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp

Basketball:  Billy Donovan

AD:  Jeremy Foley

Total:  1 change

 

Georgia 2005-2014

Football:  Mark Richt

Basketball:  Dennis Felton, Mark Fox

AD:  Damon Evans, Greg McGarity

Total:  2 changes

 

Kentucky 2005-2014

Football:  Rich Brooks (retired), Joker Phillips, Mark Stoops

Basketball:  Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie, John Calipari

AD:  Mitch Barnhart

Total:  4 changes… We count 3 as Rich Brooks actually retired from coaching.

 

LSU 2005-2014

Football:  Les Miles

Basketball:  John Brady, Trent Johnson, Johnny Jones

AD:  Skip Bertman, Joe Alleva

Total:  3 changes

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SEC Headlines 4/15/2014

headlines-tueSEC Football

1. Tennessee assistant coaches getting a one-year contract extension. Rivals national recruiter of the year Tommy Thigpen getting a $25,000 raise.

2. South Carolina running back Mike Davis has a message for SEC defenses: “I’m going to run angry next season, and everybody’s going to know about it.”

3. Florida safety Marcell Harris made a game-high nine tackles at Saturday’s spring game. “I feel like I made a lot of plays.”

4. Academics forced Kentucky players J.D. Harmon and Rashad Cunningham to the sidelines last season: “It was a huge wake-up call for me.”

5. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel on linebacker Michael Scherer: “Wow, this guy’s going to be a heck of a player.”

6. Five players who could make an impact at Texas A&M this fall.  List is topped by quarterback Kyle Allen.

7. Ten players at Georgia who will leave spring practice in better shape than when they began.

8. Alabama coach Nick Saban on his defensive line: ”They’re improving but we’re still not striking up front…”

9. Want to pick a magazine cover, LSU fans?  Here’s your chance.

10. Auburn receiver Sammie Coates on backup quarterback Jonathan Wallace: ”He’s one of the best leaders on the team,”

SEC/NFL

11. Jeremy Hill, Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron – potential first-round surprises?

12. Quarterback Aaron Murray throwing at Georgia’s Pro Day.  Projected as a likely third or fourth-round pick.

SEC Basketball

13. Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein will return for his junior year. “I want to come back and have a chance to win a national championship…”

14. Kentucky coach John Calipari: “Make the media buy their tickets!”

15. ESPN’s Chad Ford breaks down Kentucky’s pro prospects – had Cauley-Stein rated as a certain first-round pick.

16. Cornell guard Nolan Cressler transferring to Vanderbilt. Led Cornell in scoring last season. Tracking all 2014 transfers.

17. Optimism at South Carolina.  Coach Frank MartinL “I get a completely different vibe right now in the community when I’m around than I have at any time in my two years here. Completely different vibe.”

18. Georgia coach Mark Fox on the impact a contract extension has on recruiting.   ”Every recruit’s parents, they want to send their child to a secure situation. Once you can establish that, it does make it easier (to recruit).”

19. Ole Miss resuming a series with Memphis in 2015.

Extra

20. 40 bowl games in 2015 means 61 percent of the FBS will be in the postseason.

21. With a gunshot wound to the stomach, former LSU linebacker Tahj Jones defies the odds.

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SEC Headlines 4/13/2014

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Spring Games

1. Expect a very different Florida offense this fall. “The Gators will come at opponents quickly, and also in waves.”

2. Florida coach Will Muschamp on the progress of his offense:  ”I think you can attribute all that to [new coordinator] Kurt Roper and the offensive staff and the job they’ve done.

3. Josh Dobbs impressive at quarterback for Tennessee but coach Butch Jones in no hurry to name a starter. ”No timetable.”

4. But what about the other side of the ball? “It was a tough day for the defense.”

5. Mark Bradley on Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason’s performance: “He missed on some deep throws, but he hit on enough of them to kindle hope…(that he could) lead the Bulldogs to an SEC title as a first-year starter.”

6. Safety Tray Matthews missed the game with hamstring issues. Coach Mark Richt: “We probably need to re-evaluate what we’re doing with him…And he’s probably gotta take some ownership of it too.”

7. Dan Mullen on Mississippi State’s spring game: “We got to see, which is what I wanted, a lot of young players put in situations that maybe they haven’t been in before in this stadium. Lingering question is inconsistent kicking game.

8. Freshman running back Ralph Webb a star of Vanderbilt’s spring game.

9. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier called a touchdown pass to women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley “the best play” of the scrimmage (around the 1:50 mark).

SEC Football

10. Missouri running back Marcus Murphy on Dorial Green-Beckham’s dismissal.   ”I just hope it helps people to realize the things they can and can’t do and just how to carry themselves.

11. Coach Gary Pinkel: “It’s not a real fun day to be a head football coach.”

12. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on A.J. Derby’s transition from quarterback to tight end. “I don’t think you could find a happier person on this earth right now than A.J. Derby. He’s loving it.”

13. At Alabama’s second scrimmage, quarterback Blake Sims continued to separate himself from the current competition ahead of Jacob Coker’s arrival.

14. Quarterbacks Drew Barker and Patrick Towles generate buzz at Kentucky’s scrimmage.

15 Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on next Saturday’s spring game“It’s going to be exactly like it was last spring game and we’re going to put the ball down and we’re going to get after it.”

16. Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason’s mural gets a makeover.

17. Paul Finebaum apologizes to Jadeveon Clowney for calling him the ”the biggest joke in college football” last season.

18. Former LSU player Tahj Jones participated in LSU’s Pro Day on Wednesday – he was  reportedly shot by former LSU player Brandon Winey on Friday night. Gunshot to the abdomen and in serious condition.

SEC Basketball

19. Glynn Cyprien  is no longer Billy Kennedy’s associate head coach at Texas A&M. “Sometimes it’s best for both parties to go their different ways.”

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Amadi Chooses Ole Miss

Ole Miss received good news this week when defensive back Ugo Amadi from John Overton High School in Nashville, Tenn., announced his commitment to Ole Miss.

 

The University of Ole Miss is starting to become one of the more prominent schools in recruiting – right up there with “the University of LSU.”

Amadi, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 20 cornerback by Rivals, chose Ole Miss over offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Purdue, among others.

“I chose Ole Miss just because I felt like it was a good fit,” he told Rivals. “Not just because of the coaches but because it’s close to home and I felt like I wanted to get out of Tennessee for a better situation. Now it’s a relief and I can just go out there and play ball keep my focus on getting better and getting ready for the next level.”

Amadi said Ole Miss has plans for him to help the Rebels immediately. He could make an impact on defense and specials teams.

“They said they’re going to let me play early,” Amadi said. “They want to give me a shot to earn the job as a punt returner and if I work for it I’ll be playing defense early, too. They told me they’re going to be playing five defensive backs and they’re only taking two in my class so that makes me feel comfortable knowing that they believe in me.”

Amadi is the fourth prospect and first defensive back to commit to Ole Miss’ 2015 class. He told Rivals he doesn’t anticipate any change with his decision.

“Right now my mind is made up about where I want to play the next four years,” Amadi said. “I don’t see that changing.”

 

Sheffield sticks with Vandy

Defensive back Donovan Sheffield from Ensworth High School in Nashville decided last weekend he wants to remain committed to Vanderbilt.

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The End Is Nigh (For College Sports As We Knew Them); What The NLRB’s Ruling Means For The SEC

repent-the-end-is-nigh-ye-must-be-cleansedA representative of the National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday that Northwestern football players are employees of that university, not student-athletes.  And they are employees who help the school bring in a large amount of money.

From NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to athletic directors’ offices across the nation, a long series of gulps and forehead slaps likely followed that announcement.

What does this mean to you, the fan?  It means that college football as you’ve always known it is one step closer to becoming a pay-for-play enterprise.  If that sounds good to you, just mull the possibilities (likelihoods?) over for a few minutes.

While yesterday’s ruling by the regional director of the NLRB’s Chicago office only opens the door for players at private schools to unionize, it won’t take long for attorneys to figure out some way to create something akin to a union at public schools.  (The National Labor Relations Board does not have jurisdiction when it comes to state-run institutions.)  And while the NLRB’s Northwestern ruling will be appealed, we’ve already seen that in at least one case — the first test case — at least one decision-maker has sided with the players and their attorney.  It’s likely then that there would be others at the NLRB who would agree with that decision.  Translation: Attorneys now have a battle plan.  And if one person views players as employees, it’s certainly possible that their will be likeminded individuals in the appellate courts or even the Supreme Court when this case winds its way through the justice system.

Attorneys are already feeling emboldened these days.  The Ed O’Bannon case has been cleared to go to trial this summer.  Another gauntlet was thrown down earlier this month when sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler announced he would sue the NCAA and the major conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) on antitrust grounds on behalf of another group of athletes.

That’s one case that’s already been given the initial okey-dokey, another that’s going to trial this summer and another that’s coming down the pike if Kessler is to be believed (and he is).

Eventually, college football players will be paid.  The goal of the initial Northwestern move to unionize was to create full-cost-of-tuition scholarships/stipends for players.  And while there are other issues at play — research into concussion- and health-related issues, medical insurance, licensing of players’ likenesses, etc — the bottom line is simple: Players want a piece of the pie.

So let’s say we do end up in a world where college football players are allowed to unionize.  How long will those athletes be satisfied with full-cost-of-tuition scholarships?  Here’s guessing they’ll be just as greedy as the presidents, ADs and conference commissioners have been when it comes to pocketing cash.

How long before college basketball players push for a cut of profits?  The smaller the revenue brought in by a sport the less likely something akin to a union will be OK’d.  Still, if an attorney believes he can help college basketball players grab some loose change here or there, you can bet he’ll have little trouble finding players to represent.

If players are paid and they are unionized, get ready for strikes and threats of strikes when athletes — or attorneys representing athletes — decide they have some new desire that isn’t being met by the NCAA’s system.  Get ready for agent involvement as well.  If players are paid, they will need someone to help them with their cash and their taxes.  That or get ready to lose a star tailback to IRS issues.

Worst-case scenario?  Your favorite college football team could start facing the same problems as your favorite pro football team: stars asking for more money, free agency, hold-outs, etc.

Sound promising?

For now, at least, we’re talking about one private school and one ruling that could be appealed for years, all the way up to the Supreme Court.  But yesterday’s ruling was a helluva start for college athletes and the lawyers and attorneys hoping to represent them.

So what does this mean for your SEC in the short-term?  Commissioner Mike Slive put out a statement yesterday saying, “Notwithstanding today’s decision, the SEC does not believe that full time students participating in intercollegiate athletics are employees of the universities they attend.”  No surprise there.  Representatives of the NCAA and other major conferences have all responded in kind.  Yesterday’s ruling was not a welcomed one as it’s literally the opening of Pandora’s box.

As a private institution, Vanderbilt will likely be the first SEC school to face a union challenge, a la Northwestern.  Will Commodore football players vote to follow in their Northwestern counterparts’ footsteps?  Hard to imagine why they wouldn’t.

Elsewhere, state labor laws will apply.  State schools are not covered by the NLRB.  Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas are all right-to-work states.  A college football players union would be a no-go in those states.  That does not mean, however, that some attorney won’t be able to coax some players into striking (or threatening to strike) if they see that athletes in other states are making money while they are not.

The power is with the players on this one.  If they don’t play, schools lose money.  Would a university stand it’s ground and lose revenue or would it rush to reach some sort of agreement with its football players?  We’d bet the latter.  (The major conferences have already been pushing the NCAA for the right to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships in the hopes of fending off such a battle.  It’s likely they’ll be granted that power by the end of the year.)

There were two states from the SEC footprint that were not mentioned in the list above; Kentucky and Missouri are not right-to-work states.  They could be the first SEC schools — aside from private Vanderbilt — face a union or union-like challenge.

But this is actually a moot point.  If one SEC school provides X for its football players — due to a court ruling, a union, or just an internal decision — the rest of the league’s schools will have to follow suit.  No SEC school will want to be a non-paying school recruiting against one or more paying schools.  So if the Northwestern decision holds up in the long run, you can expect every school — right-to-work states or not, unions or not — to match what the Northwestern administration is eventually forced to pay.

Again, this could all play out over years.  It will be appealed repeatedly.  But the die has been cast.  And the end is nigh for college sports as we know them.

UPDATE — Former Missouri receiver TJ Moe seems to view the prospect of college football unions much as we do.

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Some Records In Vandy Rape Case Should Be Made Public; Do Vandy Fans Have A Different View Now?

James-Franklin-contemplativeLast year right on up through this January, anytime we wrote of the Vanderbilt rape case we would receive several nasty emails from Commodore fans accusing us of trying to hurt James Franklin’s reputation.  That was nonsense then — we said we didn’t think he was involved in a cover-up — and it’s nonsense now.  But are Vandy fans still so worried about Franklin’s image?

Here’s guessing they’re not.

A judge ruled yesterday that some of the records from the case should now be released to the media as the public has a right to see them.  ”Some text messages, emails and other material collected by Vanderbilt University” should now be given to the press.  However, the judge put a stay on his own order — delaying the release of the information — pending an appeal from the Metro government which has tried to keep the documents hidden.

You might recall that a lawyer for one of the four ex-VU footballers accused of sexual assault said last year that the defense team should be allowed to see all records of cell phone and text communications between the players and their coaches after the attack allegedly took place.  Depending on which text message transcripts are released to the public — if they’re released — we may soon see for ourselves whether or not Franklin or any other assistants were in communication with the players as they attempted to cover their tracks.

One wonders at this point if some, many, or most Vanderbilt fans haven’t flip-flopped on this case altogether since Franklin up and skedaddled to Penn State just weeks before National Signing Day.  It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to learn that some of the same people who wanted the press to stop trying to find dirt on Franklin while he was at Vandy would now want the press to dig away and expose their ex-coach as a fraud.

Let’s just say we believe it’s probably a safe bet that The Tennessean — which led the charge to get the records released — is getting fewer angry emails today than they would have if Franklin were still coaching on Nashville’s West End.  So now it’s Penn State fans’ turn to sweat and fret the possibility that something negative about Franklin might come to light thanks to this potential records release.

Now, the DA’s office has made it very clear that they found zero evidence of any wrongdoing tied to Franklin.  We still have absolutely no reason to doubt them.  But if these records are released, we’ll all be able to finally see for ourselves what — if any — involvement Franklin had in the players’ attempted cover-up.

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SEC Hoops Roundup: Auburn Fires Coach Tony Barbee

gfx-hoops-round-up2South Carolina 74 – Auburn 56. Video Highlights

1. Tony Barbee coaches his last game for the Tigers.  Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs: “I feel this is best for the program.”

2. Here are nine potential candidates to replace Barbee - including former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury and former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.

3. Kevin Scarbinsky: “Pearl seems like a sucker for a challenge like Auburn.”

4. South Carolina wins its first SEC Tournament game since 2008. Gamecocks make 11-of-15 three-point shots.

Mississippi State 82 – Vanderbilt 68.Video Highlights

5. Mississippi State snaps 13-game losing streak.  Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy: “It would be their Super Bowl in that they could … put us out of our misery.”

6. Vanderbilt finishes at 15-16, the program’s first back-to-back losing campaigns since 1984-1986.

Thursday SEC Tournament Schedule

Texas A&M vs Missouri

South Carolina vs Arkansas

Alabama vs LSU

Mississippi State vs Ole Miss

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SEC Headlines 3/12/2014

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. Oklahoma assistant coach Cale Gundy tweets picture of Nick Saban: “Looks like someone came up short again.” Later removes and apologizes.

2. Vanderbilt hires Frank Maile to replace Vavae Tata as defensive line coach.  Spent last six years at Utah State.

3. Commodores opened spring practice on Tuesday with a quarterback battle between Johnny McCrary and Patton Robinette

4. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo getting one-year contract extension. More money for defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.

5. Minor scuffle breaks out as LSU puts the pads on for the first time this spring.

6. Coach Butch Jones message to his team in pads for the first time.  ”Your win-loss record starts today.”

7. Florida will start spring practice with nine injured players including three starters. Expect to see quarterback Jeff Driskel in the shotgun formation.

8. Gators running back Matt Jones won’t participate in spring practice but on schedule to return before summer.

9. The message from Auburn: “We’re only going to get faster.” What do the Tigers look like at defensive tackle heading in to the 2014 season?

10. Missouri releases a depth chart that shows some shuffling along the offensive line.

11. Alabama will have to replace both its starting kicker and starting punter this fall.

12. Linebacking corps expected to be a strength at Tennessee in 2014.

13. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury on coaching at Houston with Kevin Sumlin and thinking they were headed to UCLA but wound up at Texas A&M.  ”That was a tough day…”

14. Is Texas A&M’s expansion of Kyle Field a motivator for Texas?

SEC/NFL

15. First of two Alabama pro days today with 12 players expected to make an appearance.

SEC Basketball

16. All SEC basketball teams released.  Florida’s Billy Donovan earned SEC Coach of the Year honors while Florida senior Scottie Wilbekin selected the SEC Player of the Year.

17. SEC regular season basketball attendance averaged 10,380 fans – on pace to be lowest since 1984-1985. Should college basketball be a one-semester sport?

18. SEC Tournament gets underway tonight in Atlanta.  Can Auburn beat South Carolina for the third time this season?

19. Auburn players hear the chatter about coach Tony Barbee: “We hear it all the time but we can’t focus on that.”

20. South Carolina coach Frank Martin: “Postseason play is a completely different set of emotions than you have in the regular season.”

21. Mississippi State faces Vanderbilt in the nightcap.  MSU A.D. Scott Stricklin defends coach Rick Ray: “It’s my belief that the wins will come.”

22. Walk-on point guard Carter Josephs will make another start for Vanderbilt.

23. Texas A&M forward Jamal Jones doubtful for Missouri game on Thursday.  Had a 103 temperature on Monday.

24. Last year’s Ole Miss team won the SEC Tournament.  Coach Andy Kennedy: We hoped that was the standard by which we could continue to grow.”

25. One take on the tournament: “Other than Florida and Kentucky, isn’t everyone else a darkhorse?”

26. Would Florida be better off losing the tournament?

27. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson: “I think it’s going to be a wide-open tournament.”

28. Georgia reserve center  John Cannon is transferring – won’t be at the tournament

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