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Tag:Southeastern Conference Tournament
Posted on: March 14, 2010 3:52 pm
 

Instant Classic in the SEC

MATT JONES

3:53 PM

Mississippi State may have just seen its bubble burst in the cruelest of ways, as the SEC Championship slipped out of their fingers, 75-74 in Overtime.  In regulation, the Bulldogs were up three with 5 seconds to go, but chose to foul.  Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe made the first free throw but then missed the second on purpose.  John Wall retreived the rebound, shot an air ball and Demarcus Cousins put in the putback, just .1 seconds before time expired.  The Cats then prevailed in overtime, after a circus three by John Wall that put the Cats up for good.

Now the waiting begins for the Bulldogs.  Rick Stansbury was as deflated as any coach I have ever seen after the game and seemed on the verge of tears in his press conference.  He said that the two OT losses to Kentucky should be considered by Tournament committee but acknowledged that the call was now out of his hands.

What a game.  I have been to SEC Tournament games for 20 years and there are only one or two that could come close to this one in terms of quality of play, raw emotion and excitement.  One for the books.
Posted on: March 14, 2010 12:10 pm
 

SEC Tournament Finals Just a Few Hours Away

MATT JONES

11:00 AM



The talk all week has been about the seeding for the SEC Tournament and how it needed to change because it wasn't a true reflection of the relative power of the league.  Critics said that the four best teams were all in the SEC East and that the SEC West had no talent and should not have received the benefit of the divisional seeding that characterizes the SEC Tournament.  Maybe so.  But today, the Mississippi State Bulldogs will be representing the West in the Finals, after defeating two of the top East teams convincingly.  Vanderbilt and Florida have gone down, but will MSU be able to repeat its magic against Kentucky?  An NCAA bid may be what is at stake.

Because of the wins by Houston and New Mexico State yesterday, there are two fewer bubble teams that will find their way into March Madness.  Mississippi State was all but forgotten as a Tournament team but now find themselves squarely on the bubble, potentially the last team in or out.  Win today and you take away any mystery...lose today and you are the team the analysts fight about during the endless preview shows from Monday to Wednesday.

As for Kentucky, the city is painted Blue and Calipari admitted he had changed his mind and wants to win this for the fans.  There will be a lot of them in Nashville today, where the crowd will give the Cats a huge homecourt edge.  MSU has played the Cats well over the last few years and Jarvis Varnado seems to have big games in every meeting.  How he plays may determine the winner.

Its raining Cats and Dogs in Nashville at 1 pm...or 2 pm, if you forgot to set your clocks forward,  Check it out, and dont forget to make fun of Jimmy Dykes' ridiculous "black on black" Johnny Cash look on the microphone.
Posted on: March 13, 2010 4:38 pm
 

Kentucky Gives it to the Vols, 74-45

MATT JONES

4:40 PM



There is no doubt that Kentucky is a contender to win the national title.  But when they are hitting threes with the authority they did in a 74-45 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, they may be very difficult to stop.  Kentucky made eight threes, including five by Freshman Eric Bledsoe in beating their biggest conference rival before a loud crowd of what John Calipari called "The Blue Mist."  The game was characterized by its emotion and chippiness, as two sets of double technicals were issued, one Vol player was ejected for a flagrant elbow and one Kentucky freshman (Daniel Orton) was sent by his coach to the locker room for a cool-down period after arguing with the staff on the bench.  All in all, just another Kentucky-Tennessee game.

For the Vols, the loss probably slots them as a 4 seed for the Tournament, a tremendous accomplishment for Bruce Pearl's team after the loss of their best player, Tyler Smith.  The Vols were frigid from the field, shooting just 30 percent and only 13 percent from behind the three point line.  They were led with 11 points from Scotty Hopson, who talked trash and gave effort all game, but ultimately fell victim to the Kentucky talent and the fact UT was on its third game in three days.

As for Kentucky, the players said that John Calipari told his team before the game, "dont let them punk you out" and the Cats jumped out early to a lead and never looked back.  Demarcus Cousins led all scorers with 15 points, despite missing ten free throws.  The Cats shot 52 percent for the game and afterwards admitted, in the words of Patrick Patterson, "we really like beating those guys."  They now have one more to win to get an SEC title, and their #1 seed in the tournament is all but assured.

The Cats move on to face the winner of Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, two teams now playing in front of a disinterested crowd of UK fans who feel obligated to stay at the game because they paid so much for their tickets.
Posted on: March 13, 2010 10:27 am
 

SEC Big Day Ahead

MATT JONES

10:30 AM



The toughest ticket in 20 years in the SEC occurs today, as the SEC Semifinals take place in Nashville, Tennessee.  The three best teams in the conference, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, are all in the final four and all are within a four-hour drive from Nashville.  Kentucky has approximately 25,000 fans who have travelled here, the vast majority of whom will not even find their way into the arena.  Combine that with the Tennessee and Vandy contingents and it will be as one ticket scalper told me, "a day to make some real money."

As for games themselves, each has distinct subplots that will make the games worth watching,  The Kentucky vs Tennessee matchup puts together two teams that play similar style, are equivalent athletically (a rarity amongst Kentucky opponents) and have a history of great games.  Patrick Patterson said yesterday that he loves playing against the Vols because "they get me focused unlike anyone else.  They talk trash before the game starts, while its going on and it doesnt even matter if they are winning or losing, no matter what."  Tennessee on the other hand loves to not only compete against Kentucky, but Bruce Pearl has been known to throw a few jabs the Big Blue's way such as his comment after the first round fo this tournament that they were shooting threes so bad that "we looked lke Kentucky."

At stake is a birth in the finals, but possibly more importantly for both teams, it is the rubber match of the season series, which is tied at one.  Both teams won on their homecourt and each can make a case they should win here.  Tennessee is playing in its home state but will be the decided underdog from a crowd perspective, as Kentucky fans will make up the significant majority of the crowd.  This game will be a wild scene and unlike anything the SEC has seen in years.

While the first game may be wilder, the Vanderbilt vs Mississippi State game may be more important.  While Vandy is playing for seeding, the Bulldogs still want to get in the NCAA Tournament and it might take a win today over the Commodores to make it happen.  The Bulldogs dominated Florida early and hung on late to get to this point, but this may be their true play-in game for the Tournament.  Vandy won the original meeting between these two teams and will have a crowd advantage on Saturday.  But desperate teams sometimes come up with desperate performances, and that may be just what it takes for the Bulldogs to get a win in their biggest game of the season.

It is going to be wild in Nashville today and elsewhere.  Kansas vs Kansas State in the Big 12, San Diego State trying to make the NCAA Tournament out West and Evan Turner becoming transcendant in the Big 12.  Great day of college basketball awaits:
Posted on: March 12, 2010 10:22 pm
 

Florida has a Dan Werner Moment

MATT JONES

10:20 PM



I hate to criticize a college kid, I really do.  But the fact of the matter is, whatever Florida's Dan Werner touches, turns to stone.  It certainly wasn't Werner's fault that Florida fell down by 19 points to Mississippi State in an important bubble battle in the SEC Tournament.  The Gators did that themselves.  And it isn't Werner's fault that Florida's collection of talent seems to drop every season, somehow negating the effect of back-to-back titles that seemed to have established the Gators as one of the nation's elite.  But it was his fault that after the Gators had cut the game to three, he had a pass hit his hands as he stood wide open, ready to cut the game to one.  For Werner it was another mistake on a career that has been haunted by such plays.  He has become the Saul Smith of Florida basketball and one has to feel bad for him.

As for the Gators, they are probably still in the Tournament after the 75-69 loss, but it isn't assured.  Their resume is ok, but ok sometimes leaves good teams out of the Tournament, as Florida itself can attest after back-to-back NIT bids.  As for Mississippi State, one more win is likely needed and a trip to the SEC Finals should have them dancing.  The most disappointing team in the conference has found ways to underachieve all year, but they can make up for a lot with one more win.  The fifteen people in Starkville who care about basketball are holding their collective breath.

 
 
 
 
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