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SEC Bubble Teams Don’t Need An Upset-Winner In Nashville (Or In Other Conference Tourneys)

fingers-crossedDepending on the source you study, the SEC still has as many as four teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble (we believe there are really only two, but we’ll explain that in greater detail later today.)  Fans of bubble hopefuls Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Tennessee should be pulling for a couple of different things to happen at the SEC tourney in Nashville this week — either for their own team to cut down the nets or for Florida or Missouri to capture the title.

A championship for UA, UK, UM, or UT will give that winning team the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and prevent any Selection Sunday sweating they might have to endure otherwise.  A win by Florida or Missouri would give the auto-bid to a team that’s already earned its ticket to the Big Dance.

What the SEC’s bubble teams don’t need is some underdog squad making a surprise run to capture the tournament crown.

Just as upsets in other league tourneys can take away at-large berths, so too can an upset-winner in Nashville.  If a Georgia, Arkansas, LSU, or some other team works its way onto the SEC’s trophy-presentation podium on Sunday, there will be one less NCAA at-large bid available to the Crimson Tide, Rebels, Volunteers, and Wildcats.

That’s just the state of things in Nashville.  The SEC’s bubble teams also need to be keeping an eye on the following key conference tournaments across the country this week:


Conference USA – SEC bubble hopefuls should be pulling for Memphis to win its league tournament.  The Tigers were regular-season champs and are currently 27-4 with an RPI of 16.  Southern Miss is 21-8 with an RPI of 35 and a seat squarely on the bubble.  It’s possible C-USA might just be a one-bid league if Memphis wins the title.  The Tigers went 16-0 in conference play and fans in Knoxville, Lexington, Oxford, and Tuscaloosa should be rooting for them to be just as successful in their league tourney this week.

Horizon League – It’s doubtful that regular-season champ Valparaiso (24-7, RPI 60) would earn an at-large bid if it’s upset in its league tournament, but better safe than sorry.  Fans of SEC bubble teams should be pulling for Valpo when they play Wright State in the finals on Tuesday.

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UF’s Boynton Picks UT As The SEC’s Toughest Team In 2012-13 posted a quick Q&A with Florida leading scorer Kenny Boynton.  During the session, the Gator guard warned folks not to underestimate Billy Donovan’s backcourt (despite the losses of Erving Walker and Brad Beal), said that he would be more vocal as a leader as a senior, and explained which players and which team will be the “toughest to go against in the SEC.”

And that’s where it got interesting:


“The toughest guy to guard, off the top of my head, is probably BJ Young at Arkansas.  Actually, I better go with two guys, because Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at Georgia is a tough matchup, too.  As far as a tough team, Tennessee returns just about everyone from last year, and they were coming on really strong there at the end.  They’re going to be really hard to beat.”


Not Kentucky, but Tennessee?

Cuonzo Martin did a tremendous job taking spare parts who hadn’t played much under Bruce Pearl, getting them to buy into his defense-first system, and then leading them to the #2 seed in last year’s SEC Tournament.  But the Vols also lost at home to Middle Tennessee State in Knoxville in the second round of the NIT.

Kentucky won the national championship.

There’s reason for optimism on Rocky Top, to be sure.  And John Calipari and UK are having to rebuild… again.

Still, it’s unusual to see an SEC player pick any team as being a tougher team to beat than whoever the Wildcats put on the floor.

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Kentucky Adds Quarterback To 2013 Class

Quarterback Reese Phillips from Signal Mountain (Tenn.) High School committed to Kentucky during a visit to Lexington on Wednesday.

“It’s pretty awesome up here,” Phillips told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “I was here 15 minutes and it was so home-like, so much like Chattanooga. It was just the people in Lexington in general. Everybody seems so nice and down to earth.”

Phillips chose Kentucky over offers from Memphis and Middle Tennessee State.

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UT-MTSU A Friday NIT Game?

Last night, it was reported that Tennessee’s second-round NIT matchup with Middle Tennessee State would be played either tomorrow night or — get this — Sunday morning at 11am ET.

Would not the buckle of the Bible Belt would blow completely off with such a start time?

For much of the day, the NCAA’s official website had listed the UT-MTSU game on its Thursday rundown of games with a time to be determined.  Now it’s listing the game as a Friday affair, but the tip time is still a mystery.

Whether the game remains a Friday game, moves back to Thursday — a little late for that it would seem — or is pushed to the weekend remains to be seen.  But a basketball game played at 11am on a Sunday morning?  Talk about March Madness.

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Stallings, VU Having To Take MTSU Seriously

When Kevin Stallings put nearby Middle Tennessee State on the Commodores’ 2012 basketball slate, you can bet he didn’t expect for the Blue Raiders to come in boasting a 19-2 record and a perfect 8-0 mark in the Sun Belt Conference:

“It certainly looks like a tough game right now.  You can expect all of them to be tough, but Middle’s having a great year.  They have a very, very good team.  (Belmont coach) Rick Byrd told me early in the year when he played them after the first times, he said, ‘I’m telling you, they’re not really good for Middle or really good for their league.  They’re really good.’  They’ve certainly proven him to be 100% correct.”

Vandy and MTSU battle at Memorial Gym tomorrow afternoon.  The Commodores have won nine of their last 10 games and crushed Tennessee on Tuesday.

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Lineman Swindle Commits To Kentucky

Kentucky has received a commitment from offensive lineman Jordan Swindle from Creekside High School in St. John’s, Fla.

The 6-foot-8, 310-pounder chose Kentucky over offers from Vanderbilt, Louisville, West Virginia, Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic.

Swindle is the 19th prospect to commit to Kentucky for 2012 and the sixth offensive lineman to do so.

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Early Looks Inside Chizik’s Book

The advanced copies of Gene Chizik’s new book — “All In: What it Takes to Be the Best” — have been mailed out and reviewers are starting to share the details.

The Opelika-Auburn News reveals the following:

* There is an emphasis on Chizik’s Christian faith in the book.  He writes that his father “defined who I am as a coach.”

* The coach writes that he knew his team could win the national crown after a last-second win at Kentucky.  “I firmly believed we had a chance to go undefeated the rest of the way and win the national championship.  When I said that to our coaches, I think every one of them nodded in agreement.”

* When he interviewed for the AU coaching job — fresh off back surgery — he thought he would never land the job and felt guilty just for talking with Auburn.  “Despite my dream of coaching at Auburn one day, when I heard that Tommy (Tuberville) had stepped down, the thought of going back didn’t last any longer than the snap of a finger.  I knew that with a 5-19 record (at Iowa State) I was not hirable at Auburn.”  He also writes: “As Jonna drove me to the hotel where I’d be interviewing, I could stop thinking about the people back at Iowa State.  I had pledged to help turn the program around, and we were doing that.  But now I was facing the possibility, as remote as it still appeared that I might have to go back to Ames to tell all those people I was leaving.  I don’t know what it’s like to cheat on a spouse, but on the ride over, I imagined the feeling had to be similar to what I was experiencing at that moment.  I felt awful, and it wasn’t just my back.”

* Chizik called AD Jay Jacobs after the interview — feeling it had gone badly — to withdraw his name from consideration.  Instead, Jacobs soon offered him the job.

* The title-winning coach also writes: “I feel like the same guy who was coaching defensive ends at Middle Tennessee State twenty years ago, and I am humbled that God has placed me in a position I really don’t deserve to be in.”

* All proceeds from the book will got to a ministry the coach and his wife have set up to help certain nonprofit organizations in the state of Alabama.

The Associated Press also got an advance copy and they report the following:

* Of his Auburn hiring Chizik writes: “Make no mistake, I was humbled by Auburn’s decision.  And I knew this had to be a God appointment because this whole thing just didn’t make sense otherwise.  I knew God had to be behind opening this door — there was no other way it would have been opened.”

* The coach also leveled some criticism at Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard for allowing the coach’s departure from Ames to turn nasty.  “Jamie is a quality athletic director, and I respect him for what he has done at Iowa State.  But I wish he had handled my departure differently.  It could have, and should have, gone so much better for all involved.”

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Troy at South Carolina Gameday Open Thread

South Carolina
Content provided by Garnet And Black Attack.


Dave Martin – AP

FILE – In this Oct. 6, 2009, file photo, Troy University coach Larry Blakeney patrols the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Middle Tennessee State at Veteran’s Stadium in Troy, Ala. Troy is picked to finish behind Middle Tennessee State in the Sun Belt Conference this year. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

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Time for the ‘Cocks to take on the Trojans. (I’m really surprised I haven’t heard more mascot jokes this week.) Chat here about the game. It would be un-American not to.

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