Feb. 17, 2005
When you look at life in the SEC, it is wacky, man — it's been tough to figure out.
Think about these results:
Alabama beats Mississippi State by 49 but loses to Florida by 31.
Florida beats Alabama by 31 and loses to Mississippi State by 14.
Auburn beats Mississippi State by 14 and loses to Mississippi by 15.
LSU beats Mississippi State by eight and loses to Tennessee by 22.
South Carolina beats Kentucky by 12 and loses to LSU by 15.
Kentucky (19-3, 10-1 SEC) has been the most consistent team in the league — despite a 73-61 slip-up at South Carolina on Tuesday night.
Coach Dave Odom's Gamecocks made a statement versus Kentucky and could make a strong run at an NCAA berth. Remember, South Carolina has six league wins and lost December heartbreakers on the road at Kansas, 64-60, and at Pittsburgh, 72-68.
|Coach Dave Odom and South Carolina made a tourney statement with a 73-61 win over Kentucky, which had been unbeaten in the SEC.|
South Carolina (14-8, 6-5 SEC) might have an NCAA edge because of those close losses to quality teams. But the Gamecocks need a strong finish to enhance their chances. Odom has done a good job, and I've always felt he wasn't truly appreciated for what he did at Wake Forest.
I believe you will see four SEC teams, and perhaps a fifth, getting invited to the NCAA Tournament.
Right now, three SEC squads are locks for the Dance: Kentucky, Alabama and Florida. The Gators have improved because of the play of junior point guard Anthony Roberson, who is making a run for SEC Player of the Year honors. It will be a battle between Roberson and Mississippi State senior forward Lawrence Roberts.
Speaking of Mississippi State (18-7, 6-5 SEC), the Bulldogs have been up and down. Coach Rick Stansbury's squad will have a chance to prove itself Saturday night at Rupp Arena in Lexington against a hungry Kentucky team.
You know coach Tubby Smith's Wildcats will fight hard after the loss at South Carolina. Senior forward Chuck Hayes (10.6 ppg) scored just one point in that loss, and Patrick Sparks had a tough shooting night (2-of-9). Kentucky will be fired-up for Mississippi State.
Sophomore point guard Gary Ervin must handle the pressure of running the Bulldogs' offense vs. Kentucky's stifling D. The return of senior guard Winsome Frazier, a big 3-point threat, will be a major plus for the Bulldogs. Frazier hasn't played since breaking his left foot in a win at Mississippi on Jan. 8.
Two other SEC teams are also in the hunt for NCAA bids — LSU (14-8, 7-4 SEC) and Arkansas (17-8, 5-7 SEC). What they do over the next two or three weeks will help determine their RPIs and where they stand in the eyes of the tournament selection committee.
It's crunch time, baby!
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.