2007 SEC Tournament Preview

2007 SEC Tournament Preview

2007 SEC Tournament Preview
by Jordan Adams - 03/06/2007

Two weeks ago the Florida Gators were perfect in conference play and were thought to be untouchable against SEC foes. Forget February. The real players make their names in March, and right now the defending champs are not looking like a lock in this one.

It's fine and dandy to hold up at home, and that's exactly what Florida did this past Sunday against Kentucky. Granted this is a neutral site, but let's see how these super juniors hold up when everyone else is scrambling for a locked bid for the tourney.

Yes, I know. Mississippi State and Ole Miss don't exactly yell 'danger, danger' when seeing both with byes in this year's postseason bracket. If I were the Gators I would be much more concerned with Tennessee, a team that took them out behind the woodshed last Tuesday, not to mention some off the snakes lying in the weeds such as LSU and Arkansas.

It seems all too easy for the Gators and betting on them could be a good idea, seeing that they should run right through these lesser teams. There is no doubt the SEC is down this year, but somehow I see a couple hurdles on Friday and Saturday. Everyone will be gunning for Florida, but who knows where the major challenge will come from?. Watch out Joahkim Noah, you certainly talk a good game but don't allow your squad to break falter once again.

THE FAVORITE:
Florida - On talent alone, this tournament has Florida written all over it. But because of the major underachievement of so many of this conference's teams, we'll see everyone come out of the woodwork to make a last gasp to find a way into the Big Dance. Florida's depth could come in to play, and with one or two of their stars in foul trouble, how will this team respond?

THE CONTENDERS:
Tennessee - The Vols have already shown they can play with Florida, and even went so far as to blow them out of the water. Tennessee has plenty of scoring guards in Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith and Ramar Smith, but they might have trouble down low if Florida or Kentucky establishes their big men throughout the game.

Vanderbilt - Just when the 'Dores seem to be picking up steam, they drop a game that makes you scratch your head. Derrick Byars, Shan Foster and Dan Cage are as good a trio as any in the league, while point guard Alex Gordon does well to feed these horses the ball. They are already in, but a run to the finals would do wonders to their seeding, likely jumping them up a couple off spots into a more favorable first round match-up.

THE SLEEPER:
LSU - Big Baby is back, and while the Tigers played better without him, he is a necessity to any chance their may have in taking the nets down. And that's the only way they dodge the NIT, because we all witnessed that disgusting run where they couldn't win a game to save their season in February. Well, here's their chance to save their season, so go out and win it.

OPENING MATCH-UPS:
East #4 Kentucky vs. West #5 Alabama - The Tide are pathetic. Seriously, not only should they never have been a top 10 team when the season started, but they also should have been dumped from consideration from the NCAA Tournament weeks ago. Stop giving this team outs, they are a joke. Kentucky will want this one more, and Tubby Smith's team will move on to play Mississippi State.

West #3 Arkansas vs. East #6 South Carolina - The Hogs opened up some eyes by winning in Vandy last Saturday. They need at least two wins to keep hope alive, while South Carolina looks to make a similar run like last season. They met Florida in the finals last year but had to settle for the NIT, thought they did win that for the second straight year.

West #4 Auburn vs. East #5 Georgia - Auburn seems to be motivated just at home, while the Bulldogs most likely need to find a spot in the finals. It's a shame Mike Mercer got hurt, because this Georgia team would have been ultra dangerous right about now.

East #3 Tennessee vs. West #6 LSU - The most intriguing of the first-round match-ups. Had these two teams met last postseason, it would have been a lights-out game. This year, not so much. But still LSU could certainly play spoiler for a lot of teams here and inch closer to making an automatic bid somewhat realistic.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
If these seedings were shown at the beginning of the season, most wouldn't believe what they were seeing. LSU and Alabama need major runs, while everyone else is looking for a game or two for a hopeful shot come Selection Sunday. Florida is the clear-cut favorite and while an early exit wouldn't be shocking based on how they are playing, anything short of the conference postseason title will be a major disappointment and give them no better than a No. 2 seed.

www.docsports.com

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Re: 2007 SEC Tournament Preview

Breaking it down: The SEC tournament
Wed, Mar 7, 2007
By Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Kentucky has won more Southeastern Conference titles than all the other schools combined. LSU made it to the Final Four a year ago. Alabama spent a good chunk of the season ranked in the Top 10.

So, why were these teams practicing at the Georgia Dome on Wednesday, getting ready to play in the opening round of the league tournament?

It's been that kind of year in the SEC, where the balance of power shifted from month to month, week to week, day to day.

When everything settled, defending national champion Florida was about the only team that followed the script. The Gators won the conference in a runaway and have a first-round bye in the tournament.

But no one could have forecast the other three teams that earned an extra day of rest: Vanderbilt, Mississippi and Mississippi State.

''Certainly, you don't want to be playing on the first day,'' said embattled Kentucky coach Tubby Smith, whose team will be trying to win its 26th tournament title.

LSU certainly didn't expect to go from Final Four to last in the SEC West. But the Tigers managed only five wins in the conference.

''I'm not one to throw out cream puffs and say everything is Pollyanna and everything's Christmas, because it's not,'' coach John Brady said. ''We know that unmet expectations is a terrible place to be. I take responsibility for that, and our team does to a degree. We've got a chance here to maybe get something back. That's how we're approaching this thing.''

Alabama got as high as No. 4 in The Associated Press rankings early in the season, but the Crimson Tide were plagued by injuries and struggled to a losing record in the SEC. Even with 20 wins overall, this team needs at least one and probably two victories in the tournament just to be considered for an NCAA bid.

It won't be easy with point guard Ronald Steele (knee) ailing and center Jermareo Davidson hampered by a sore back.

''It's a new season,'' coach Mark Gottfried said. ''Regardless of what's happened prior to now, everybody has a fresh start.''

It starts Thursday with four games: Alabama (20-10, 7-9) vs. Kentucky (20-10, 9-7); South Carolina (14-15, 4-12) vs. Arkansas (18-12, 7-9); Georgia (17-12, 8-8) vs. Auburn (17-14, 7-9); and LSU (16-14, 5-11) vs. No. 22 Tennessee (22-9, 10-6).

The other four teams will be waiting Friday in the quarterfinals. Sixth-ranked Florida (26-5, 13-3) and Vanderbilt (20-10, 10-6) finished 1-2 in the East, while Mississippi State (17-12, 8-8) and Ole Miss (19-11, 8-8) were the top two teams out West.

Georgia coach Dennis Felton said he's not surprised to be opening on the same day as Kentucky.

''There was a time when Kentucky was the only school in the conference that really invested in men's basketball,'' he said. ''Over the past 20 years, it's really evolved. The SEC has had so much success as a conference in raising revenue that we've been able to really invest in our entire athletic departments.

''The best programs have not fallen back. The others are catching up.''

Still, there's a sense that this conference is nothing more than Florida and Everyone Else. When the NCAA invitations are handed out Sunday, a few hours after the tournament champ is crowned, it will be interesting to see how many SEC teams wind up in the field of 65.

Florida, Vandy, Tennessee and Kentucky will definitely hear their names called, but no one else is a sure bet unless it wins the tournament and the automatic NCAA bid.

''You can't say that somebody is not good just because they lost eight games in our conference,'' said Felton, lobbying furiously for a couple of extra spots. ''It would be tragically wrong for the strongest conference in the country to be limited to four or five teams in the NCAA tournament.''

Several coaches arrived in Atlanta on the hot seat, with Smith at the top of the list.

Less than two weeks ago, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart released a statement that acknowledged all the discontent in the Bluegrass State, but also urged fans to wait until the end of the season before they decided if the program had met its lofty expectations.

Some viewed the statement as a sign that Smith's job will be jeopardy if the Wildcats don't finish strong. The coach said he took it as a sign of support, though he didn't sound all that convincing.

Smith's players certainly know what's on the line.

''This year has been a tough year for us, obviously, in the league,'' senior forward Bobby Perry said. Still, ''we feel very capable and I'm very confident that we can achieve what teams in the past have.''

Of course, the Wildcats - and everyone else - will have to go through Florida, the league's deepest, most talented team. The Gators have won 13 of their last 14 postseason games, which includes two straight SEC tournament titles and the first national championship in school history.

Even with everyone back from the title team, coach Billy Donovan urged his players to take nothing for granted - either this weekend or in the NCAAs.

''They can't let their guard down,'' he said. ''Just because of the last two years in the SEC tournament, winning it, or just because we went to the national championship game, they cannot think, 'Well, we've got this all figured out.'''

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Re: 2007 SEC Tournament Preview

SEC tournament preview
Jeff Goodman / FOXSports.com

Below is a look at the SEC Conference tournament.

Team to beat: Florida — The defending national champs are still the heavy favorite in the SEC tourney. They have been there, done that are will try and put together another winning streak entering the NCAA tournament.

Sleeper: Alabama — If Ron Steele is even 80 percent, the Crimson Tide have a chance to go deep into the SEC tourney. There's certainly enough talent with Richard Hendrix and Jermareo Davidson up front and Alonzo Gee and Steele in the backcourt.

Prediction: Florida

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