SEC Tournament notes: Pelphrey says Arkansas building program 'the right way'

Ex-Cat emphasizes need for patience

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 10, 2011 

SPORTS BKC-GEORGIA 3 AT

Georgia players stretched during their SEC Tournament practice session at the Georgia Dome on Wednesday.

CURTIS COMPTON — MCT

  • 1 p.m. Saturday

  • E3 Vanderbilt (21-9)

  • 3:30 p.m. Thursday

  • Men's SEC Tournament

    Thursday-Sunday • Georgia Dome, Atlanta • All times EasternFirst two rounds on WKYT-27; semifinals and finals on ABC-36

  • Champion

  • E4 Georgia (20-10)

  • W2 Miss. St. (17-13)

  • 1 p.m. Sunday

  • W3 Mississippi (19-12)

  • W6 LSU (11-20)

  • 1 p.m. Friday

  • W4 Arkansas (18-12)

  • 7:30 p.m. Friday

  • E6 S. Carolina (14-15)

  • 3:30 p.m. Saturday

  • E5 Tennessee (18-13)

  • 1 p.m. Thursday

  • E1 Florida (24-6)

  • 10 p.m. Thursday

  • 3:30 p.m. Friday

  • W1 Alabama (20-10)

  • E2 Kentucky (22-8)

  • 10 p.m. Friday

  • W5 Auburn (11-19)

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday

ATLANTA — When asked how he pleasantly discussed the swirling rumors about his job status, Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey said, "Well, I'm confident that I know what I'm doing."

Pelphrey spoke to reporters Wednesday with his team set to play Tennessee in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday. Going into that game, the Razorbacks have a 16-34 record against league teams in the last three seasons with Pelphrey as coach.

Maybe worse, home attendance averaged only 8,591 in Bud Walton Arena, which has a listed capacity of 19,200.

Pelphrey noted his experience in building programs as a college player at Kentucky, assistant coach at Marshall and Florida and as head coach first at South Alabama and now Arkansas.

There are no easy fixes, he said. "You have to work very, very hard at it. It takes time.

"We're doing it the right way. We have tremendous kids in the program. ... We've got something we can build on."

UK: '3 to 5 seed'

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said that he sees Kentucky as no better than a No. 3 seed and no worse than a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Lunardi then asked what team faced UK in its first SEC Tournament game. The inference was a weak opponent could do serious damage to the Cats' profile by winning that game on Friday.

Told that Kentucky will play either South Carolina or Mississippi, Lunardi said, "Not like Auburn-LSU bad."

As Lunardi saw it, Kentucky has settled into a small range of seed possibilities.

"They have some wiggle room," he said, but not much wiggle room. As of Wednesday, Lunardi had Kentucky as a No. 4 seed.

Five bids for SEC?

Lunardi saw no more than five SEC teams getting bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Those five are Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and either Georgia or Alabama.

He called a potential SEC Tournament second-round game between Georgia and Alabama "maybe the truest elimination game of the week."

Lunardi had Florida as a No. 3 seed, Kentucky a No. 4, Vanderbilt a No. 6 and Tennessee a No. 10. He likened Tennessee's mercurial nature to "the little girl with the curl": When good, very good, but when bad ...

Dome-court advantage

South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn asked his players Tuesday how many had played in a dome.

"The only dudes that raised their hands were these two guys right next to me," he said, referring to senior Sam Muldrow and junior Malik Cooke.

Horn suggested the unfamiliarity could work to the Gamecocks' advantage.

"I think, if anything, it will lead to excitement for our young team," he said.

Donovan recognized

A smile crossed South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn's face when a reporter asked him about Billy Donovan winning his first SEC Coach of the Year award.

"I think it's more a testament to post-season awards, in general," Horn said. "... I think it's unbelievably well deserved."

Horn suggested that a coach of a veteran team expected to win can get overlooked. "As the year moved on, their team improved," Horn said.

Donovan's team won an SEC Eastern Division for the fifth time. His teams have finished second four times.

Pearl: No hangover

Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl dismissed the notion that a hangover from the Sunday loss to Kentucky will affect the Vols in Thursday's game against Arkansas.

"I think we're over that," he said.

Toward that end, Pearl said that center Brian Williams will be available for the game against Arkansas. Williams missed the Kentucky game because of a sore back.

Beware Auburn

Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said some SEC teams will come to Atlanta hoping to avoid his Tigers.

"The thing we have working for us is we're playing our best," he said. "You can't say that for a lot of teams."Auburn is riding its first two-game winning streak since beating Grambling on Dec. 31 and Florida State on Jan. 3.

No SEC team may be more resilient. The Tigers rallied from 15 down at LSU and 20 down against Ole Miss to win its final two regular-season games.

Auburn went 4-12 in SEC play this season. The program has had one winning league record since 2000.

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