John Clay: Playing 20 questions with the SEC Tournament

UK on easy street in SEC; UT's draw a doozy

jclay@herald-leader.comMarch 10, 2011 

Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney held back Coach Rick Stansbury, who got a technical foul for yelling at the refs. Stansbury disagreed that Brandon Knight was shooting when fouled at the end of the first half.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

Twenty questions about the SEC Tournament.

1. The favorite? Has to be Florida. After all, the Gators did win the most conference games. They were also the best league road team at 6-2. Plus, Billy Donovan's club captured eight of its last nine. Lone loss? At Kentucky.

2. Dark horse? Georgia. The Bulldogs won the tourney the last time it was held in Atlanta. That was under tornadic conditions, however. Maybe a stiff breeze could carry Mark Fox's team to the crown.

3. Light horse? Too many are picking Mississippi State to call them a dark horse. And the Bulldogs have boffo talent, a three-game win streak and know the way having reached the finals each of the past two seasons.

4. Best draw? Kentucky. Beating Tennessee all but earned the Cats an E-Z pass. Not only do the Cats have a first-round bye, Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State are on the opposite side of the bracket.

5. Worst draw? Tennessee. You'd have thought Mike Slive laid out UT's schedule. To reach the finals, the Vols would have to beat Arkansas, Florida and either Vanderbilt or Mississippi State. Bruce Pearl's club was 2-4 against those four. Both wins were over Vandy. They can't beat the 'Dores three straight.

6. All eyes on? Rick Stansbury. If State could take the title, Stansbury will earn his merit badge for controversial moves he made this season. Plus, you just never know when Stansbury is going to lose it.

7. Most in need of a good run? John Pelphrey. Hogville is not happy with its coach. Even worse, few in Hogville even care enough to not be happy with their coach.

8. Most in need of a smile? Vandy's Kevin Stallings frowned as his team blew a shot at a No. 2 seed by losing to Florida and UK in the final week.

9. Player with the most to prove? So Chandler Parsons, you were named the league's Player of the Year. Now show us you deserved it.

10. Player with the most motivation? Vandy sharp-shooter John Jenkins led at the top of the stretch in the Player of the Year race before making just nine of 29 threes over his last four games.

11. Who owns Uncle Mo? Kentucky beat Florida, Vandy and Tennessee in Knoxville over the last nine days of the regular season. John Calipari might say the conference tournament doesn't matter, but that's momentum.

12. Who has No Mo? LSU has lost 13 of its last 14. Not even a Les Mileacle could win this.

13. Who will be in our face? Jimmy Dykes is doing color commentary on seven games. You either love Jimmy's enthusiasm and pet phrases or you want to introduce your temple to a nail gun.

14. Who has an outside shot at surprising? Ole Miss was on fire in an 84-74 season-closing win over Arkansas. The Rebels made 14 of 22 threes. If Andy Kennedy's team shoots like that in Hot-lanta, the Rebs could rise.

15. Overdue? Vanderbilt has not won the SEC Tournament since the event was re-instituted in 1979. (Neither has South Carolina, but the Gamecocks, losers of eight of their last nine, have no chance.)

16. Who are we forgetting? Alabama did win the West. Then again, it was the West. And the Tide lost by 27 at Florida.

17. What will be most fun to watch? Renardo Sidney trying to make it up and down the floor for three straight days.

18. Timely question? Has the Georgia Dome become too big for this affair? Next year's tourney is in New Orleans, but at the New Orleans Arena, not the Superdome.

19. What do we know for sure? Upsets happen in conference tournaments. Just ask Villanova.

20. Stat to remember? John Calipari has won 15 straight conference tournament games.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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