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By the slimmest of margins, Kentucky is once again the SEC Tournament champion after the 'Cats slid by a very game Mississippi State squad 75-74 in overtime.
It would be difficult to script a closer contest, as neither team ever had a lead of more than five. One of those five point leads came for State on a Ravern Johnson three with about two and a half minutes to go. Patrick Patterson and John Wall would answer with a bucket apiece, but two Barry Stewart free throws pushed the lead to three with eight seconds left.
MSU decided to foul Eric Bledsoe and not give the ‘Cats the chance to make a three to tie. He would make the first but miss the second, after which Wall got the rebound and hoisted a trey. It missed, but DeMarcus Cousins cleaned it up as time ran out to push the game into overtime. Wall would score seven in the extra period to help push the lead out to five for UK this time, and a triple at the buzzer by State's Riley Benock gave the game its one point margin.
Johnson was the high scorer of the game with 20 for the Bulldogs. Bledsoe and Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado were next in line with 18 each, and the Bulldog big man had nine boards and five blocks to go with them. Wall had 17 on the game, though just 10 in regulation, while Cousins had 10 points and 10 boards. State's Dee Bost contributed 16, while UK's Patrick Patterson had 15.
The thrilling finale ensures that Kentucky will be getting a top seed in the NCAA field. The loss prevented Mississippi State from being able to punch a dance ticket for sure, though sending it to overtime was about the next best thing.
The only thing left now is to wait to see if MSU or Florida will give the SEC more than three tournament bids and to wonder who exactly is going to give Kentucky another loss this year, if anyone.
GAME 9: Kentucky 74 - Tennessee 45
A Sea of Blue understandably came out of this contest feeling good about UK's chances in the Big Dance:
I am very pleased, and I know most Wildcat fans are just as pleased. This is the kind of game that makes me think we have a chance to go all the way this year. I'm still not there yet, but this was a step in that direction for me.
The folks at Rocky Top Talk though were not pleased with the Vols' effort, to say the least:
It can't be stressed enough: it takes a 40 minute effort to beat Kentucky. Even when both teams were sloppy for most of the first half (double digit turnovers in the first twenty minutes for both teams), the Vols should've known, and we should've learned this lesson when they erased a 19 point lead in Knoxville: you have to play with poise the entire game, and you absolutely cannot have gaps in scoring. And today, Tennessee flatlined on more than one occasion.
GAME 10: Mississippi State 62 - Vanderbilt 52
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls is optimistic about the Bulldogs' chances to go dancing after this one:
This win was crucial for Mississippi State to make it over the bubble and secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. A win tomorrow would definitely punch their ticket, but already the bracketologists are showing the Bulldogs as the last team in.
Anchor of Gold was pretty optimistic itself going in:
In the day's first semifinal, Kentucky put a whoopin' on Tennessee to the tune of 74-45. DeMarcus Cousins, after being practically nonexistent yesterday, led Kentucky with 19 points and 15 rebounds. The other big name freshmen were right there with him, as Eric Bledsoe had 17 and John Wall put up a modest (for him) 14 points along with nine assists. As a team, Kentucky shot a spirited 52.1 percent from the floor, though that's just two percentage points below its free throw rate.
It was a close game to start out with, but UK held Tennessee to just two points scored in the final six minutes of the first half. The Vols would never get closer than within six points the entire second half, and this game is the first time this year that UT has been held below 50 points. Scotty Hopson was the only one in orange to get into double figures, as he had 11. No one for Tennessee managed more than five rebounds as the 'Cats dominated the boards to the tune of 40-26.
In the later game, Mississippi State upset Vanderbilt 62-52 to secure a place in the finals. Barry Stewart led the Bulldogs in scoring for the second straight day, putting up 14 points to go along with eight rebounds. Jarvis Varnado had a line you'll only see from him with 11 points, nine boards, and six blocks, while Dee Bost chipped in 11 points of his own.
As the score would indicate, neither team broke 40 percent shooting from the field. The first half was close with State leading throughout, but the West top seed went on an 11-2 run to begin the second half. Vanderbilt would catch up, but scoring just a single point from the five minute mark to the one minute mark did the Commodores in. Just like Tennessee, Vanderbilt had only one player in double figures. That was Jermaine Beal with 11, though Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley came close with nine apiece.
This will be the first time since 2003 that the top seeds from each division face each other in the tournament final when, coincidentally, Kentucky played Mississippi State. MSU is still somewhat alive for an at-large bid to the Big Dance, but with all the bubble carnage of the day, the Bulldogs can only be safe by knocking off the Wildcats.
Saturday’s pair of semifinal games are schedule to go down like this:
Kentucky vs. Tennessee, 1 p.m. ET on ABC
Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State, 3:15 p.m. ET on ABC
GAME 5: Kentucky 73 - Alabama 67
A Sea of Blue came away most impressed by its opponent, which is appropriate since Alabama fought hard:
I can't say enough about the Alabama Crimson Tide. They were tough, they pretty much dominated UK on the glass, but what wound up getting them beat today, as so many times this year, was just the inability to shoot a high enough percentage from the field. It's a good thing they didn't, too, because Kentucky was ripe for the picking today.
The Tide fans at Roll Bama Roll took it well, making a wry joke in reference to football (of course) and looking ahead to the NIT field:
The effort and opportunities were there but with Colt McCoy hurt we just weren't able to rally there at the end. Looks like we'll be waiting and wondering 'til Sunday to see if we can get an NIT bid.
GAME 6: Tennessee 76 - Ole Miss 65
Rocky Top Talk liked what it saw from its Tennessee team, which fought off a team playing for its postseason life with... free throws?
Much of this is due to the fact that the Rebels started fouling with three minutes left, but Tennessee shot a staggering 32 free throws in the second half, giving them 37 attempts for the game. And while Tennessee was knocking down 70.3% of theirs, Ole Miss was going 12 of 25 at the line, just 48.0%. Those misses added up throughout the second half, and helped Tennessee stay in front.
Red Cup Rebellion has a thorough recap of things on the Ole Miss side, but the first and last lines sum it all up:
We lost. It wasn't good.
Tennessee deserved the game. They played disciplined basketball and made their free throws.
GAME 7: Mississippi State 75 - Florida 69
Alligator Army was understandably frustrated with how things turned out for Florida, especially given the Gators' stuggles in putting themselves into March Madness for sure:
Florida had four chances to win one game and clinch an NCAA bid, but were 0-4 in those games, finishing with tonight's 75-69 loss to Mississippi State in the SEC Quarterfinals. UF will have to sweat out Selection Sunday while Miss State gets a chance to steal the SEC's fourth and possibly final NCAA invite.
GAME 8: Vanderbilt 78 - Georgia 66
Vandy blog Anchor of Gold was at the late game in person, so it doesn't have postgame analysis up quite yet.
Dawg Sports meanwhile had an inspirational speech lined up to cap off the season:
...[W]e would have to characterize this not as a season that brought success but as the season that turned our hope into faith. This is not a good basketball team right now . . . but it will be. What was a question of "if" has become a matter of "when." It ain’t much, but it is something, which is better than nothing, and, in the due course of time, it may turn out to be everything.
In the first half of Friday’s late shift, Mississippi State kept its Big Dance hopes alive by defeating Florida 75-69. The Bulldogs controlled the game from the start, rolling up a 10-0 lead before the Gators managed to score a point. The lead expanded to as much as 19 in the second half before Florida staged a comeback. UF came up short though as MSU’s Barry Stewart made five three throws down the stretch to keep the game out of reach.
All five Bulldog starters ended up in double digits, led by Stewart’s 17. Jarvis Varnado contributed 15 points and 4 blocks to the cause. Florida’s guards carried much of the offensive load for a change, with Kenny Boynton’s 23 leading all scorers and Erving Walker putting in 19. The loss puts Florida in precarious position for the Big Dance, while Mississippi State still needs to beat Vanderbilt to be in serious discussions for inclusion.
Speaking of the Commodores, they had little real trouble in putting Georgia away 78-66. Vandy led for much of the game, though UGA staged a few rallies here and there. The better team began pulling away for good at about the 12 minute mark in the second half after Georgia had gotten to within four. Vandy pushed the lead as high as 14 before settling in on the 12 point final margin.
Georgia’s Travis Leslie did his best to keep the Bulldogs in the game, scoring 34 points in what is the high mark for the entire tournament so far. Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins countered with a career high 25, and Jermaine Beal supported him with 16 points and a game-high six assists.
Georgia’s season is over, while Vanderbilt continues on to fight for NCAA Tournament seeding.
Tennessee and Ole Miss engaged in a 30-minute dogfight before the Vols managed to pull away 76-65.
Each team had its share of runs for the first three fourths of the game, but neither was really able to put any distance on the other. Both squads ended up below 40 percent on the game, but it had more to do with good defense than anything else. Ole Miss got within three with about eight and a half minutes to go, but it ran out of gas from there and the Vols extended the lead from there.
Each team had a trio of guys in double figures. For UT, it was J.P. Prince (17), Wayne Chism (16), and Bobby Maze (13). For the Rebels, it was Chris Warren (16), Zach Graham (15), and Terrico White (13).
The loss for Ole Miss likely puts it out of the NCAA Tournament. The Rebels had a nice win over Kansas State, but the guys from Oxford had precious few notable wins beyond that.
Alabama put up a valiant fight, but SEC Tournament favorite Kentucky was able to take home the victory 73-67.
It was a bit of a sloppy first half, with both teams picking up fouls in bulk. Five different Bama players went into the break with a pair of fouls, while Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins (who somehow didn't score) and Daniel Orton had two and three, respectively. Both teams shot under 40 percent before intermission as well, with Alabama's 33.3 percent mark offset by an impressive 10 offensive rebounds.
Kentucky found its stride in the second half though. The 'Cats made a big run a few minutes in led by the endlessly talented and perpetually preening John Wall. Once UK finally took the lead with 13 and a half minutes to go, it would never give it up. Wall would make five free throws in the final minute to ice the game despite Bama's refusal to give up. The Tide kept fighting and never let the Wildcats push the lead to double digits.
Wall led all scorers with 23, and Patrick Patterson was right there with him with 20. Mikhail Torrance led Alabama in points with 20 of his own, and JaMychal Green had 14 and 11. Justin Knox and Tony Mitchell both got more than 10 rebounds for Alabama, who ended up outrebounding Kentucky 44-31.
Alabama is now off to the NIT while Kentucky marches on to the semifinals.
Friday’s slate of SEC Tournament games shakes out thusly:
— Follow the game live once it starts here.
— Follow the game live once it starts here.
— Follow the game live once it starts here.
— Follow the game live once it starts here.
We will have full recaps and analysis of both games after they finish.
GAME 1: Alabama 68 - South Carolina 63
For the Alabama partisans at Roll Bama Roll, this was a big win precisely because it flipped the normal script for what the team has done this year:
during the season bama lost at least three one-point heartbreakers against conference rivals. faltering in the second half was pretty much the MO for the squad until the final week of the season. this was a huge win on a lot of levels for the team.
As you can imagine, Garnet and Black Attack sees the game more as a full-fledged disaster. The fatalism is thick:
At the end of the day, though, this game pretty much sums up our season: good enough to put ourselves in position to have a chance to do something big, but not good enough to finish. That's your 2009-2010 South Carolina Gamecocks.
GAME 2: Tennessee 59 - LSU 49
Rocky Top Talk is glad to have won the game, and its very appreciative of the team's front court. Wayne Chism was a star in the game. Ultimately, though, proper perspective is required:
When the backcourt struggled, the men on the inside dominated. As a result, Scotty Hopson could go 0 of 8 from the field, and the Vols could still win.
Again...it's LSU. The Vols held them under 50, dominated the paint on both ends, and made the free throws they needed to down the stretch...but it's LSU.
It's hard to blame the LSU folks at And the Valley Shook for going right back to baseball last night. After what kind of hoops year it's been, you fellas go right ahead with that.
GAME 3: Florida 78 - Auburn 69
Alligator Army is not 100 percent happy with the game, but a win's a win and it got the Gators into good position for the NCAA tournament. Plus, there was something weird about Florida's top scorer...
Alex Tyus had one of the strangest 24 point, 11-16 shooting nights I can remember. His misses were awful left handed shots and his baby soft hands were stripped of the ball at least four times. But you take the good with the bad with Tyus. Just like his awesome dreads and hairline that starts at the top of his head.
Track 'Em Tigers had no immediate reaction to the game, but it's pretty sure that head coach Jeff Lebo should be on the way out.
GAME 4: Georgia 77 - Arkansas 64
If you know Dawg Sports, you know a torrent of words can come at any moment about any topic. That's what makes last night's reaction both unique and special for its brevity:
Well, I'll be danged.
Meanwhile, Arkansas Expats takes the opportunity to wish a fond farewell to long-time radio play-by-play man Mike Nail:
Thanks for the great calls, Mike. You will be missed. The 2010 season, on the other hand, not so much.
After losing five in a row to close out conference play, Arkansas' collapse is complete with a 77-64 defeat at the hands of SEC East 6-seed Georgia.
UGA took control of the game early, taking a 6-4 lead just two minutes in and never looking back. The Razorbacks were able to cut the lead to a single possession on two occasions in the first half, but each time Georgia pulled away. No second half lead ever dipped below three, and the Classic City Canines ran away with it over the final five minutes to make the game not look quite as close as it really was.
Trey Thompkins was a beast for Georgia (as usual) with 23 points and 14 boards, while Travis Leslie pitched in 21 as well. Michael Washington did his best for the Razorbacks, leading his team in scoring with 20 points. Courtney Fortson also had 16 in the losing effort. Georgia dominated the boards in this game to a great degree, out rebounding Arkansas 41 to 25.
For Georgia, this is a nice win to build momentum going into Mark Fox's second season. The Bulldogs have wins over Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida already this year, and they've now got at least one SEC Tournament win to go with them. For Arkansas, it will be a long off season after two disappointing seasons in a row capped off by a tough loss here in Nashville.
After losing three straight to end the regular season, the Florida Gators needed a win or two in the SEC Tournament to ensure a bid in March Madness. With their 78-69 victory over Auburn, UF may be dancing once again after two years in the NIT.
Florida was hot in the first half, leading comfortably throughout most of it. The Gators led by as many as 14, but the Tigers pulled within nine at the midway point. Auburn kept up its surge after intermission, as a Lucas Hargrove layup with 15:21 to go cut the UF lead to just a point. That was the best the Plainsmen could muster, however, as the SEC East's fourth seed extended the lead from there and never looked back.
The top scorer in the game was Auburn's Frankie Sullivan, who put in a career-high 27 points. DeWayne Reed backed him up with 18 points and five assists. The undersized Tigers had no answer for Florida's frontcourt though, as Alex Tyus scored 24 and Chandler Parsons contributed 21. Vernon Macklin also broke into double digits with 10 for the Gator cause.
Thanks to losses today by fellow bubble teams like Wake Forest, UAB, Memphis, and Arizona State, Florida appears to be in good shape for the Big Dance. A win tomorrow over Mississippi State would remove all doubt.
It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. Tennessee rallied after putting up a terrible first half to put away a fiesty LSU team 59-49.
The Tigers owned much of the first half, but it largely was a factor of being less inept than Tennessee was at the time. Ten minutes into the game it was just 10-7 with LSU leading, and the underdogs were able to pull out in front as far as 17-10. Wayne Chism was seemingly the only Volunteer awake for much of that span, as he either scored or assisted 11 of UT's first 12 points. Eventually the guys from Knoxville pulled even at 21 at the half despite going 25.4 percent from the floor, their worst shooting half of the season.
The Vols would end up leading the entire second half, though the margin was never more than nine until Bobby Maze's free throws with 13 seconds left gave the game its final score. LSU cut the lead to five with just over a minute to play, but the Tigers wouldn't score again as Maze iced the game at the charity stripe.
This was not a game for the ages as the two squads combined to shoot 39-107 (36.4 percent) from the field, including a ghastly 7-39 (17.9 percent) from downtown. They even managed to brick it up from the line to the tune of 23-36 (63.8 percent), and that percentage gets worse if you factor out Maze's 9-10 performance there. Chism was the star of the day with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Storm Warren was the best Tiger with 18 points. Maze chipped in 14 for Big Orange, while LSU's Tasmin Mitchell finished his career with 10 points and eight rebounds.
After a couple of low scoring games to kick this thing off, it'd be nice to see some points this evening.
In the first game of the SEC Tournament, Alabama staged a huge comeback to defeat South Carolina 68-63.
The Gamecocks finished the first half on a 13-5 run to take an 11 point lead at the half, and they eventually extended the lead to 54-36 with 11:40 to go in the game. For those doing the math at home, that was an 18 point lead. For those doing even more math at home (and good for you I say), it means the Crimson Tide finished the game with a 32-9
run surge to take the victory.
Mikhail Torrance and Justin Knox did most of the scoring down the stretch, and they led Bama with 17 and 16 points, respectively. JaMychal Green contributed 10 points off the bench for the Tide as well. Devan Downey concluded his career at South Carolina (barring any hot, hot CIBT action the Gamecocks might participate in) with 21 points, though it came on just 7-21 shooting. Sam Muldrow backed him up with 13 points, while Lakeem Jackson led everyone with 14 boards.
The win should solidify Alabama's spot in the NIT field, a good step forward for the team in Anthony Grant's first season as head coach. The loss knocks Carolina out of the running for the same.
After a definite down year in 2008-09, SEC basketball surged back in 2009-10.
Kentucky headlined the show, as it so often does, claiming a spot as one of this season’s top three teams that have separated themselves from the field. Vanderbilt had a banner year, claiming the second-best record in the conference. Tennessee overcame the adversity of four player arrests and the subsequent dismissal of Tyler Smith to become a great team, the only to have beaten two of this year's Big Three (Kansas and Kentucky).
But while the top of the conference matches up well against anyone else's best three teams, it gets a bit muddier from there. Florida, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss were the three bubble teams during conference play, with the Gators being out in front thanks to having defeated both Magnolia State teams. Each has a marquee win out of conference–Florida with Michigan State, Mississippi State with Old Dominion, and Ole Miss with Kansas State–but none could avoid bad losses enough to solidify themselves in the tournament field.
The bottom half of the conference did have its share of highlights, even if none of those teams are likely to go dancing. Arkansas led the SEC West for a time and was in the thick of the division race nearly to the end. South Carolina and Georgia both beat three of the top four teams in the tough East division, and each had outstanding players in Devan Downey and Trey Thompkins, respectively. Alabama and Auburn each beat West division co-champ and top seed Mississippi State. And LSU, well, it got a nice senior day win for Tasmin Mitchell.
The SEC has some work to do still to get back to the level it was earlier in the decade. With promising coaches in their first or second year at several member schools plus established greats at the flagship universities, the league appears on its way up there once again.
Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee are all easily in the NCAA tournament, and are all playing for seeding in the Big Dance. That's the easy part.
Florida is in the best shape of the rest, having scored good wins over Michigan State, Tennessee, and Florida State. The Gators likely need to beat Auburn in the first round to be safe. It's not so much because UF needs the win, but because it must avoid any more bad losses.
The Mississippi schools are in much more precarious positions. They each get first round byes as the top two seeds in the West division, but neither has much to brag about beyond their aforementioned big wins. Mississippi State will probably play Florida in its first game, and it would likely get Vanderbilt should it win that one. Ole Miss has a tougher road to hoe as it likely will get Tennessee in its first game and almost certainly Kentucky after that. They both will want to win those games if they want to go dancing.
Beyond that, no one has a shot at an at-large berth to March Madness. The South Carolina-Alabama game in the first round could end up an elimination game for NIT inclusion, but that's about it for the other six teams in the league.
F Patrick Patterson, G John Wall, F DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky -- It's hard to pick just one of these guys from UK, so I'm going to cheat and group them together. The junior Patterson and freshmen Wall and Cousins all take turns being the star, and all have an NBA future. They are largely the reason why the Wildcats are so much better than most teams in the country.
G Jermaine Beal, Vanderbilt -- A lot of preseason attention for the Commodores was on C A.J. Ogilvy, but Beal is Vandy's leading scorer. He’s capable of going for 20+ points on anyone, and when he's on, VU is very tough to beat. Enjoy him while you can, as he could be on to the pros after this.
G Scotty Hopson, Tennessee -- This sweet shooting sophomore is the piece that puts Tennessee over the top from really good to great. Wayne Chism anchors things around the basket, but Hopson's daggers have been known to put teams away. If his shots are falling, good luck at taking the Vols down.
F Chandler Parsons, Florida -- Parsons has emerged as the Gators best and most versatile player, and his game winning shots over South Carolina and NC State are the reason UF is projected in the field of 64 right now. Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl even called him one of the most improved players in the country. He is capable of doing it all, and his team often needs it due to a lack of depth.
F Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State -- There aren't many players like Varnado, who this year became the NCAA's all time leader in blocks. He's an intimidating inside presence and averages a double-double with 13.5 points and 10.6 boards on the season. If MSU is to fight its way into March Madness, Varnado will be leading the way.
G Chris Warren, Ole Miss -- Warren is the combustible guard at the center of the Rebels' offense. He has gone for 30+ points in multiple games this season, and he's averaged just under 23 a contest in Ole Miss' four-game winning streak to close the regular season. He must keep it up for his team to have a chance at the dance.
G Devan Downey, South Carolina -- Downey is the SEC's leading scorer and is in the top five nationally in points per game to boot. He almost single-handedly beat Kentucky in January, and his fingerprints were all over the Gamecocks' season-ending upset of Vanderbilt. If we're going to see a one-man wrecking crew carry his underdog team far in this tournament, Downey is likely the guy.
F Trey Thompkins, Georgia -- Like Downey, Thompkins is one of those players who could be able to carry his overmatched team farther than it should go. UGA has a relatively favorable draw, beginning with Arkansas and then (with a win) facing a Vanderbilt team that Georgia has already defeated this year. If the Bulldogs are to repeat their surprise run in the Tornado Tournament of a couple years back, Thompkins will be why.
As this year’s tournament is in Nashville, we won’t have to hear about the "Catlanta" phenomenon that occurs when Kentucky fans flood Georgia's largest city for this event. You can probably dub it "Catsville" or something similar because UK is the overwhelming favorite to take home the tournament title and its fans will overrun this city too.
The bracket sets itself up for a Kentucky-Vanderbilt championship game. If we don't end up with that, it'll likely either be because Tennessee takes down Kentucky for the second time this year, or one of the bubble guys in Vandy's half (Florida or Mississippi State) really didn't want to leave things up to chance. Regardless, the smart money is on the Wildcats taking home yet another SEC Tournament crown.
FIRST ROUND, THURSDAY MARCH 11 (All games on SEC Network)
Game 1: W4 Alabama vs. E5 South Carolina, 1:00 PM Eastern
Game 2: E3 Tennessee vs. W6 LSU, 3:15 PM
Game 3: E4 Florida vs. W5 Auburn, 7:30 PM
Game 4: W3 Arkansas vs. E6 Georgia, 9:45 PM
QUARTERFINALS, FRIDAY MARCH 12 (All games on SEC Network)
Game 5: E1 Kentucky vs. W4 Alabama, 1:00 PM Eastern
Game 6: W2 Ole Miss vs. E3 Tennessee, 3:15 PM
Game 7: W1 Mississippi State vs. E4 Florida, 7:30 PM
Game 8: E2 Vanderbilt vs. E6 Georgia, 9:45 PM
SEMIFINALS, SATURDAY MARCH 13 (All games on ABC)
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 1:00 PM Eastern
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 3:15 PM
CHAMPIONSHIP, SUNDAY MARCH 14 (ABC)
Game 11: Game 9 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 1 PM Eastern
Dave Wunderlich covers the SEC at Team Speed Kills.
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