SEC Tournament review
Kentucky accomplished what it was supposed to accomplish this past week at the SEC Tournament in Nashville. The Wildcats easily won the championship, defeating Florida, Auburn and Arkansas along the way. The Wildcats are entering the NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed, and at 34-0, their quest to remain undefeated is still intact.
While Kentucky deservedly garnered most of the attention, Auburn’s tournament run was nearly improbable. The Tigers won their opening game against Mississippi State, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Over the next two days, however, Auburn knocked off Texas A&M and LSU behind brilliant performances from senior guard K.T. Harrell. Harrell made the All-Tournament Team for his efforts. Although the Tigers lost to Kentucky in the semifinals, it was an impressive ending to a difficult first year under Bruce Pearl.
Alabama lost its opening game to Florida, which turned out to be Anthony Grant’s last game as head coach. Although the Crimson Tide earned a berth to the NIT, Grant’s failure to reach the NCAA Tournament yet again ultimately was the deciding factor for UA Athletic Director Bill Battle. There is no timetable for hiring Grant’s replacement, but for recruiting purposes, Battle likely will act swiftly.
NCAA Tournament Preview
Five SEC teams made the NCAA Tournament, which is the most in several years. Kentucky is the top overall seed, SEC runner-up Arkansas earned a No. 5 seed, LSU a No. 9 seed and Georgia is a No. 10 seed. Ole Miss was one of the last four teams in the field as a No. 11 seed, and the Rebels squared off against BYU in a play-in game in Dayton on Tuesday.
Despite trailing at the half 49-32 to the Cougars, Ole Miss stormed back in the second half for a 94-90 victory. Behind Stefan Moody’s 26 points, the Re-bels scored 62 points in the second half and overcame their largest deficit of the season. Ole Miss earned a trip to Jacksonville to take on sixth seed Xavier. If the Rebels win, they take on the winner of Baylor and Georgia State.
Kentucky faces Hampton in the first round. If the Wildcats win, they will take on the winner of Cincinnati and Purdue.
LSU plays North Carolina State in its opening game. Tiger coach Johnny Jones was an assistant under Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried at Alabama. The winner of this matchup likely will face Villanova in the Round of 32.
Georgia takes on Michigan State in the Round of 64. If the Bulldogs win, they likely will play Virginia.