NCAA Midwest notes: SEC tourney exploring St. Louis as future site

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 21, 2014 

ST. LOUIS — In addition to helping the process of crowning a national champion, the NCAA Tournament games here this weekend also may be a dress rehearsal.

Southeastern Conference Associate Commissioner Mark Whitworth is attending the event to help decide if the Scottrade Center might be a future site for the SEC Tournament.

The SEC is considering St. Louis and Tampa as possible homes for the SEC Tournament in 2018 and 2022, Whitworth said.

"Obviously, the University of Missouri encouraged us to extend the boundaries of our footprint," Whitworth said.

St. Louis has regularly played host to NCAA Tournament games and Missouri Valley Conference Tournaments.

"A great sports town," Whitworth said, "and a major metropolitan area for us to cultivate."

If the SEC Tournament comes to St. Louis, the league would want the event in the Scottrade Center rather than the domed stadium that is home for the NFL's Rams. An arena with a capacity of 18,750 creates greater demand for tickets than a domed stadium, Whitworth said.

Whitworth met with officials who run the Scottrade Center, which is home to the National Hockey League's St. Louis Blues, and the St. Louis Sports Commission. Those meetings were a follow-up to his coming in January to attend a high school tournament in the arena.

The SEC considers Nashville as a semi-permanent site for its league tournament. Nine of the next 12 SEC Tournaments will be played in the Music City. In the other three years, the SEC's women's tournament will be in Nashville.

Whitworth noted the success the SEC has enjoyed with permanent sites for other events such as the baseball tournament in Hoover, Ala., and the football championship game in Atlanta.

With the assurance of multiple events, host cities typically make a greater commitment and investment, Whitworth said.

Double-double

UK freshman Julius Randle went into the game against Kansas State with a chance to share the lead in double-doubles nationally. He had 20, which tied the school record shared by Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Senior Jerrelle Benimon of Towson was leading the nation this season with 21 double-doubles.

Jarnell Stokes tied Benimon on Friday when he scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to help Tennessee beat Massachusetts 86-67.

Stokes' 14 rebounds tied the school record for an NCAA Tournament game, equaling the mark set by Isiah Victor in 1999 and Reggie Johnson in 1980.

Time and score

Questionable shot selection contributed to New Mexico's loss to Stanford.

With Stanford making its first six shots (and eight of the first 10), New Mexico fell behind 20-4.

The long road back saw New Mexico close within 43-38. Then big man Alex Kirk, a 21.8-percent three-point shooter, inexplicably took a shot from beyond the arc. The miss made him 4-for-30 on threes since Dec. 14.

After New Mexico got within 48-45, Merv Lindsay, who had made one three-pointer all season, misfired from beyond the arc.

1,000 times two

Two Stanford players reached the 1,000-point mark during the victory over New Mexico.

The two were junior wing Anthony Brown and senior forward Josh Huestis.

Ratings success

NCAA Tournament games Thursday drew the highest television rating for that round in 23 years, CBS Sports and Turner Sports announced.

The telecast ratings (on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV) increased by 3 percent from last year. Counting the First Four games in Dayton, the ratings had increased by 8 percent.

The NCAA Tournament also got off to a good digital start. The 21 million live video streams marked a 42 percent increase from last year, and 4 million-plus hours of live video consumed had increased by 18 percent from last year.

Cup correctness

As is customary, media types were not permitted to bring cups other than those with the NCAA logo onto press row. Apparently, this requirement extended beyond liquids.

An NCAA staffer asked a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, the host entity here, to remove his trail mix snack from a clear plastic container and into one of the sanctioned cups.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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