UK Men's Basketball

UK notes: In SEC tourney, West isn't best

During the Southeastern Conference regular season, the Eastern Division won 27 of 36 games against the Western Division. Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida all swept their Western Division opponents.

Knowingly or not, SEC coaches relied on a scientific premise known as Occam's razor to explain this one-sidedness: the simplest solution is usually the correct one.

"Those were probably the (SEC's) four best teams," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said on the league's coaches' teleconference Monday.

Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury did not disagree.

"The facts are what they are," he said. "For the most part, I'd say they're better than everybody in the West. You can't hide the fact they were 24-0. Some years it may be that way."

No Western Division team won more than two of five games against the Eastern Division. Among Eastern Division teams, only South Carolina (2-4) and Georgia (1-5) had losing records in inter-division games.

That suggested that an Eastern Division team will win this week's SEC Tournament. But the coaches cautioned against ruling out a championship run by a Western Division team.

"Obviously, Kentucky was the very best in our league this year," Stallings said. "But you never know. That's why you play the games. But certainly Kentucky would have to be considered the favorite."

NCAA bids

South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn said he found it difficult to believe the SEC will receive no more than four bids to the NCAA Tournament. "That doesn't make sense," he said.

Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee seem securely in the NCAA Tournament field.

More than one SEC coach endorsed Florida as bid-worthy.

UK Coach John Calipari cited the Eastern Division's superiority as a reason to give Florida a bid. The Gators did have the worst record against Eastern Division teams at 3-7.

"I'll tell you who are good teams: Georgia," Calipari said, "(and) South Carolina, which beat us. We were all on the same side beating the crap out of each other. That's why I say Florida should be a shoe-in."

Since division play began in 1991-92, each of the SEC divisions has had at least one team receive a NCAA Tournament bid. That streak is in jeopardy.

Ole Miss bolstered its chances by winning the last four regular-season games. The Rebels have a quality non-conference victory over Kansas State, which the school noted was the SEC's best away-from-home non-conference victory.

Stansbury lamented State's loss to Tennessee on Saturday.

"We had a chance to take any of those questions out of anybody's mind," he said. "We weren't able to do it."

Now State goes into the SEC Tournament with its point guard, Dee Bost, hobbled by a hip pointer.

UK's No. 1 seed

Calipari said UK can remove any doubt about its No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament by winning two games in the SEC Tournament.

"If we lose the first game, we're not going to be a No. 1 seed," he said. "If we win the first and lose the second, I think we've done enough to get that one-seed."

Vandy in Nashville

Stallings scoffed at the notion that Vandy will have an advantage with the SEC Tournament in Nashville. He noted that in his time as Vandy coach, the Commodores have a 1-2 record in the two SEC tournaments played in Music City (2001 and 2006). Both were played in the downtown arena, not Vandy's Memorial Gym.

In the two SEC tournaments played in Memorial Gym (1984 and 1991), Vandy again had a 1-2 record.

So the Commodores failed to advance beyond the second round in any of the SEC tournaments played in Nashville.

"I'm glad not to have to leave town and I'm glad to sleep in my own bed," Stallings said. "I don't think it helps my team, but I like it."

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