SEC Tournament Preview


Posted Mar 10, 2004


The SEC has 12 teams all of which can qualify for the NCAA Tournament by winning in Atlanta this weekend.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Record: 16-11 (8-8, 3rd-West)

Key players: Kennedy Winston, 6-7, So., SF (17.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Earnest Shelton, 6-3, Jr., SG (15.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Last 10 games: 5-5

Key game in stretch: A road win against Mississippi State (Feb. 21) gave them signature victory.

Outlook: Alabama is playing as well as most any team in the conference, having won four of its last five. The only loss in that stretch was by one point in overtime against Mississippi State. The Tide and Bulldogs could meet again in the semifinals this week.

What can do them in: The Crimson Tide relies heavily on 3-pointers, a risky strategy come tourney time.

Post-season prospects: RPI in 20s makes them almost a lock for NCAA tournament

Arkansas Razorbacks

Record: 12-15 (4-12, 6th-West)

Key players: Jonathon Modica, 6-4, So., SF (16.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Ronnie Brewer, 6-6, Fr., G (12.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.5 apg, 57 steals).

Last 10 games: 2-8

Key game in stretch: Beat 20-win South Carolina (Feb. 21)

Outlook: The Hogs could be the surprise of the tournament. In the first round, they play South Carolina, who they have beaten already this year. If they advance, they get an LSU team that is missing Jaime Lloreda. What can do them in: A hot-shooting team. The Hogs are next-to-last in the league in field goal percentage defense.

Post-season prospects: Must make SEC final to be NIT eligible

Auburn Tigers

Record: 14-13 (5-11, 4th-West)

Key players: Marco Killingsworth, 6-7, Jr., PF (13.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg); Brandon Robinson, 6-8, Jr., SF (12 ppg, 6.8 rpg).

Last 10 games: 3-7

Key game in stretch: Lost 72-71 to Alabama at home (Feb. 24) to end hopes of .500 conference finish

Outlook: The Tigers are hoping the hot play of Ian Young and Brandon Robinson can carry them on a tournament run. Auburn had a full complement of healthy players for only six games during the regular season, Coach Cliff Ellis said. Still, it was in most games until the final five minutes.

What can do them in: Themselves. Despite boasting an experienced junior class, the Tigers haven’t been able to close out games.

Post-season prospects: NIT bound barring SEC tourney title

Florida Gators

Record: 18-9 (9-7, 2nd-East)

Key players: Matt Walsh, 6-6, So., SG (16.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 45 steals); Anthony Roberson, 6-1, So., PG (17.3 ppg, 4 apg, 2.9 rpg).

Last 10 games: 5-5

Key game in stretch: Held off Georgia 63-55 (March 3) to avoid sweep and damaging home loss

Outlook: The Gators are coming off a 20-point loss to Kentucky and will play either a hot Alabama team or a dangerous Tennessee team in their first round game. Florida gets by with an offense that leads the league in field goal percentage, but it could be bound for an early exit if its shots aren’t falling.

What can do them in: Collapsing. Coach Billy Donovan has admitted his team lacks the experience to show poise crunch time this year.

Post-season prospects: NCAA lock

Georgia Bulldogs

Record: 15-12 (7-9, 5th-East)

Key players: Rashad Wright, 6-3, Sr., PG (14.3 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.9 apg, 50 steals); Damien Wilkins, 6-7, Sr., SF (12.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.9 apg)

Last 10 games: 6-4

Key game in stretch: Beat Kentucky 74-68 (Feb. 14) to complete season sweep of Wildcats.

Outlook: The Bulldogs have a winnable game in round one against Auburn but will have to face Kentucky if they advance to round two. To make the semifinals, Georgia would not only have to beat the Wildcats for the third time this season but have to do it in Atlanta, where Kentucky usually wins.

What can do them in: The Bulldogs struggle against teams with big, athletic players inside who can simply shoot over their aggressive defense.

Post-season prospects: Need two wins here to have hope of at-large NCAA bid.

Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 23-4 (13-3, 1st-East)

Key players: Erik Daniels,6-8, Sr., SF (14.7 ppg, 6 rpg, 2.7 apg); Gerald Fitch, 6-3, Sr., SG (15.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 32 steals).

Last 10 games: 9-1

Key game in stretch: Beat Florida by 20 points in regular-season finale to prove tournament readiness.

Outlook: The Wildcats are in an unfamiliar spot as co-favorites. Usually the ‘Cats are the runaway pick to win in Atlanta, but this year most will consider them a slight underdog if they face Mississippi State in the final game. Experience of three senior starters a key.

What can do them in: Georgia, the Bulldogs have beaten them twice with physical, interior defense.

Post-season prospects: NCAA lock, playing this week for No. 1 seed

LSU Tigers

Record: 18-9 (8-8, 2nd-West)

Key players: Brandon Bass, 6-8, Fr., SF (12.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 54 blocks), Darrel Mitchell, 5-11, So., G (12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg)

Last 10 games: 5-5

Key game in stretch: Beat Ole Miss 58-45 (March) to avoid losing last six of regular season.

Outlook: With best player, Jaime Lloreda, sidelined due to a bruised heel, the Tigers are in trouble. LSU lost five of its last six without Lloreda and hasn’t scored more than 66 points since.

What can do them in: The Tigers are last in the SEC in assist/turnover ratio at plus-.82

Post-season prospects: Needs a win this week to feel good about Selection Sunday

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Record: 25-2 (14-2, 1st-West)

Key players: Lawrence Roberts, 6-9, Jr., PF (17.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg); Timmy Bowers, 6-2, Sr., PG (15.4 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.9 rpg, 52 steals).

Last 10 games: 9-1

Key game in stretch: Held off Alabama 82-81 in overtime in last game of regular season to clinch overall SEC title.

Outlook: Anything less than a title this week will be a letdown for the Bulldogs. They can avenge both of their regular season conference losses this week if Alabama advances to the semifinals and Kentucky advances to finals. Mississippi State wins with its offense, averaging an SEC best 77.4 points per game this year.

What can do them in: Defense. The Bulldogs gave up 74.8 points per game in the last two weeks of the season, the second worst total in that span.

Post-season prospects: NCAA lock, playing for No. 1 seed

Ole Miss Rebels

Record: 13-14 (5-11, 5th-West)

Key players: Justin Reed, 6-8, Sr., PF (18.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg); Aaron Harper, 6-7, Sr., SF (16.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.2 apg).

Last 10 games: 3-7

Key game in stretch: Beat Arkansas in last game of regular season to avoid last-place finish in division.

Outlook: Ole Miss gets Vanderbilt in the opening round and has won three of its last five against the Commodores. If its wins that game, though, it has to play Mississippi State, which beat it by an average of 15.5 points in two meetings this year. Seniors Justin Reed and Aaron Harper give the Rebels a fighting chance.

What can do them in: The Rebels averaged fewer points this year (63.7) than any team in the league, and they were the only SEC team with a negative scoring margin (minus-1.5).

Post-season prospects: Need a run just to make NIT field

South Carolina Gamecocks

Record: 21-9 (8-8, 3rd-East)

Key players: Carlos Powell, 6-7, Jr., SF (12.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg); Josh Gonner, 6-1, Jr., G (11.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, 43 steals).

Last 10 games: 3-7

Key game in stretch: Beat Georgia 63-47 (Feb. 28) to avoid losing last five of regular season.

Outlook: South Carolina still has to prove it can win without Rolando Howell, who broke his left wrist during a Feb. 28 win over Georgia Coach Dave Odom fears his team is lacking confidence, but it could get that back quickly by avenging a regular season loss to Arkansas. The Gamecocks probably will try to run this week.

What can do them in: Howell’s absence leaves them with no inside presence so a big team could spell trouble.

Post-season prospects: Needs a win to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday

Tennessee Volunteers

Record: 15-12, (7-9, 6th-SEC)

Key players: Scooter McFadgon, 6-5, Jr., SG (18.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2 apg); C.J. Watson, 6-2, So., PG (11.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.3 apg).

Last 10 games: 4-6

Key game in stretch: Lost by three points to Vanderbilt (March 3) to fall into last place in division.

Outlook: The Volunteers are explosive offensively with the likes of Brandon Crump, Scooter McFadgon and C.J. Watson. McFadgon was the league’s third-leading scorer (18.1 ppg) this year. The problem for Tennessee is it has one of the hottest teams in the conference, Alabama, in round one.

What can do them in: The Volunteers play very little defense. Their opponents averaged 70.9 points per game this year, worst in the league.

Post-season prospects: A solid NIT team

Vanderbilt Commodores

Record: 19-8 (8-8, 4th-East)

Key players: Matt Freije, 6-9, Sr., SF (19.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Mario Moore, 5-11, So., PG (10.4 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.6 rpg, 35 steals).

Last 10 games: 6-4

Key game in stretch: Lost to Georgia in regular season finale to fall from third to fourth in division.

Outlook: The Commodores will go as far as All-SEC first-teamer Matt Freije will take them. He led the league in scoring this year with 19.1 points per game. Vanderbilt appears to have an easy win in round one against Ole Miss but powerhouse Mississippi State would be next.

What can do them in: Reliance on Freije. Georgia held him to eight points and routed the Commodores recently. When he doesn’t play well, the rest of the ‘Dores go in a shell.

Post-season prospects: Will feel better about NCAA bid with one win this week SEC


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