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  • Scruff_McGruff_ 11:33 PM on March 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Georgia Dome, Kentucky, , , , , , , SEC Tournament, Southeastern Conference,   

    MSU SEC Tourney Preview 

    Mississippi State did exactly what it needed to do: survive the SEC schedule and earn a first-round bye in this week’s SEC Tournament. That result is not good enough for some as MSU was chosen in the preseason to win the SEC West. That prediction was made based on the potential of this year’s squad. Would Renardo Sidney play like the McDonald’s All-American he was in high school? How would the team perform when Dee Bost returned from suspension? When it was all said and done, MSU finished 9-7 in conference, three games behind division winner Alabama. MSU played to its potential at times but also underperformed at critical moments this year. Losses to SEC West cellar dwellers Auburn and LSU put a sour taste in the mouths of the Bulldog faithful. However, the Bulldogs responded with wins against SEC champion Florida and won at Thompson-Boling Arena against Tennessee in Jack Cristil’s last radio broadcast as the voice of Mississippi State athletics. A lot of people are critical of Rick Stansbury when it comes to coaching, but he seems to shine during the SEC Tournament. As head coach, he has two championship trophies and two more finals appearances since taking over from Richard Williams in 1998. If history happens to repeat itself, MSU won’t win its quarterfinal game against the LSU/Vanderbilt winner. In 2002, MSU won the tourney, lost in the finals in 2003 and was bounced in the quarterfinals (with a first-round bye) in 2004. MSU won the tourney in 2009 and lost in the finals last season. However, the field could not have shaped up any better for the Bulldogs.

    The Bulldogs play its first game Friday against the LSU/Vanderbilt winner. MSU split the season series with the Tigers, but one bounce here and there could have turned the two matchups into sweeps in either team’s favor. MSU lost its only meeting with the Commodores this year, but was very much in the game. They made some crucial mistakes in the final minutes and let a winnable game slip from their fingers. Last year MSU proved that they could lose to Vandy mid-season and beat them when it matters most: in the SEC Tourney. It seems like a possibility again this season.

    On the other half of MSU’s bracket sit three reams that MSU is a combined 4-0 this season. The Bulldogs swept the Razorbacks, defeated Tennessee on the road and upset the ranked Gators in Starkville. If the Bulldogs can play up to their full potential and get Sidney plenty of rest, MSU can cruise into the finals for a third straight year. Will it be that easy? Of course not, MSU has made the incredibly easy look impossible in athletics since 1878. But working in MSU’s favor is two seniors who have been on the wrong side of Stansbury. However, they have learned from the error of their ways and embraced their roles on the team. The result is Kodi Augustus averaging career-highs in points and rebounds and a rejuvenated Ravern Johnson after his suspension and benching. The national media (Andy Katz and Pat Forde in particular) may not like how Rick has handled this season, but he’s done wonders with the hand he was dealt and has his team in position to win two SEC Tourney titles in three years. The ride to this position has not been a smooth one, but the roads have settled. Stansbury and crew seem to make magic every SEC Tournament, and this year’s field is set for MSU to make more magic.

     
  • Scruff_McGruff_ 2:14 AM on March 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Kentucky, , , , , , ,   

    2010 SEC Tournament Preview 

    The 2010 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off in less than 12 hours. Will Kentucky add a tournament championship to its regular-season championship? Will Mississippi State repeat? Will another team make it four games in four days for the third year in a row?

    First Round

    (E5) South Carolina vs. (W4) Alabama – The eastern division utterly dominated the west this season. I expect that trend to continue in the tournament. This game could be the rare exception. South Carolina goes how Devan Downey goes. When he is on, the Gamecocks can hang with any team in the conference, as evident by their win over Kentucky. Alabama will bring that defensive toughness that can get you far in the tourney. Will the Tide be able to slow down Downey? Winner: Alabama

    (W6) LSU vs. (E3) Tennessee – LSU was the worst team in the SEC this season. Bruce Pearl will turn up the defense in an attempt to put the game out of reach early. Trent Johnson will work a slow, methodical pace to hide his lack of depth. In the end, Tennessee wins easily. Winner: Tennessee

    (W5) Auburn vs. (E4) Florida – Auburn’s play is a bit unpredictable at times. It is a mystery which team will show up. Florida is not quite on the bubble, but they can’t afford to give the selection committee a reason to not put the Gators in the field of 65. Winner: Florida

    (E6) Georgia vs. (W3) Arkansas – Arkansas got off to a slow start but came around when Courtney Fortson joined the team. Georgia is the best 6-seed in the history of the tournament, even better than the 2008 team that won it all. They’ve beaten Tennessee, Illinois, and Georgia Tech. Arkansas cannot afford to bring anything less than 100%. Winner: Arkansas

    Quarterfinals

    (W4) Alabama vs. (E1) Kentucky – Kentucky is head-and-shoulders better than everyone on its side of the bracket except for Tennessee. John Calipari is in unfamiliar territory. The SEC tournament is a different kind of beast. He was able to dominate the Conference USA tournaments. He will get Alabama’s best shot but should be able to win convincingly if he keeps his freshman-laden team focused. Winner: Kentucky

    (E3) Tennessee vs. (W2) Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy has proven he can put talented teams on the court. He has not proven he can win when it counts, in conference play and in the conference tournament. Ole Miss has the talent to knock off Tennessee, but the Rebels lack the clutch in the coaching department to make a run for the tournament crown. Winner: Tennessee

    (E4) Florida vs. (W1) Mississippi State – Mississippi State showed it can play with every team in the SEC until the debacle on Senior Day against Tennessee. The Bulldogs lost to Florida by 9 in Gainesville. On a neutral site, MSU should be able to close that scoring gap and come away with a win. Winner: Mississippi State

    (W3) Arkansas vs. (E2) Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings, 2010 SEC Coach of the Year, has done a masterful job with a Vanderbilt team that did not make the NCAA Tournament last season. He took the same squad, and in one year’s time, turned them into a true threat to make a deep run in the Big Dance. Arkansas can score, but will they be able to be as efficient as Vandy? Winner: Vanderbilt

    Semifinals

    (E3) Tennessee vs. (E1) Kentucky – Kentucky will be looking to get some revenge from their last meeting, which Tennessee won. Each team won on its home floor. In a neutral-site game, I go with the team with more talent. That team is Kentucky. In addition to having more talent, UK will only have one game of fatigue on them as compared to UT’s two games. Winner: Kentucky

    (E2) Vanderbilt vs. (W1) Mississippi State – In their previous meeting, Mississippi State shot the ball horrendously from three, but still found a way to be in the game and lose by only three points. Barring foul troule and another poor shooting night, MSU should be able to come out on the winning end. Winner: Mississippi State

    Finals

    (W1) Mississippi State vs. (E1) Kentucky – It took overtime and some very questionable officiating for Kentucky to leave the Humphrey Coliseum with a win February 16. Neither team played their absolute best on that evening, but Kentucky was able to utilize its height and length advantage to out-block MSU. Kentucky is the better team overall, but the winner will be the better team for those 40 minutes. Winner: Kentucky

     
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