It's time to contemplate the SEC Tournament

By By Austin Bishop
March 4, 2002
Hot dog, it's that time of the year.
Some smaller college conference tournaments are winding down while the big guys, like the Southeastern Conference, are tipping it off this week.
As far as covering media events go, the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament and The Masters golf event in Augusta, Ga., are by far the best.
But since the Masters is still a little ways off, I guess it is safe to focus on the SEC Tournament.
It should be a wild one.
You would have to be crazy to put more than $1 on who is going to win this thing.
Some would go with Alabama, but that is too obvious and if you will just glance over to the right you will see by the story detailing Ole Miss' dismantling of the Crimson Tide, that Bama is far from invincible.
Maybe it will be easier to decide who won't win the tournament, than who will.
While any of the teams can beat any of the others – and upsets are likely to occur on more than one occasion at the four-day event set for Atlanta beginning on Thursday it is a little tougher task to win three, and in some cases four, games in a row.
Auburn will not win the tourney. The Tigers could upset Florida, but picking up more than one or two wins is very unlikely.
In fact, Auburn could very well be one of just two SEC teams not to go to postseason this year. The only way they can make it is to win the SEC Tournament and advance to the NCAAs.
Consider Auburn's year over.
The other team that could be left out is Arkansas, which comes in with a 14-14 mark.
But if the Razorbacks can win two games which would mean beating Tennessee on Thursday and then Alabama on Friday Arkansas could receive an NIT bid. In fact, if the Razorbacks beat Tennessee and then lose and come out with a 15-15 record, they still might be invited to the NIT.
While Arkansas certainly has some motivation, you can go ahead and erase the Razorbacks from the list of SEC tourney title contenders.
Tennessee, with a 14-15 mark, is in need of two wins, including one over Alabama to get to the NIT.
So the Vols are probably done for the year as well.
You can also eliminated South Carolina, Vanderbilt and LSU from winning the SEC event and the NCAA's automatic bid.
That leaves six teams in the hunt to win the crown. And any of them could do it.
If we continue our elimination process, I'm going to knock out Alabama first.
I know that sounds crazy, but picking the Tide is just too obvious.
And to top that off, Alabama is coming into the tournament off a whipping that may be too tough to overcome.
Next to go is Georgia. No particular reason, I just don't think they can get it done.
Then I have to knock out Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Both clubs have the potential to get to the title game, but the road will be tough.
Ole Miss would have to win four games to win the title, and that might be too much to ask for a well-coached team that has to leave it all on the floor each night to win against top-flight competition.
MSU has a little easier route, thanks to a first-round bye.
That leaves Kentucky and Florida.
Both teams have certainly underachieved this year. Both have won big games and both have been handed stunning losses.
Since Florida would have to win four games to land the title, then I'm going to opt to Kentucky. But like I said, keep your dollar in your pocket. It's just too tough to call.

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