AUBURN TIGERS (W5)
Opponent: Georgia (Thursday, 1:00 pm)
Beisner’s Take: What once looked like a legitimate challenger to Georgia Tech’s dubious distinction as the last SEC team to go winless in conference now appears to be just another averagely crappy SEC West team, thanks to two intradivisional victories to end the season. Junior forward Kenny Gabriel averaged 20 points per game in season-ending victories over Ole Miss and LSU. One day, someone on campus will notice. Thanks to putting a late little shine on the turd that is Charles Barkley’s alma mater, former Calipari assistant Tony Barbee earned some mild support for SEC Coach of the Year despite failing to win more games than the football team (though on a smaller budget than their quarterback). Billy Donovan ultimately won the prize, again proving the age-old axiom that losing to Presbyterian, Samford, UNC-Asheville, Campbell, Jacksonville and every team in the conference not named South Carolina makes it impossible to win SEC Coach of the Year. Though their stay in Atlanta will be shorter than Dan Wolken, you’ll probably hear the commentators call them “much improved”. A smart man would just call them garbage.
Drew’s Take: Garbage. Next…
GEORGIA BULLDOGS (E4)
Opponent: Auburn (Thursday, 1:00 pm)
Beisner’s Take: Mark Fox’ Georgia team is a lot like the hot chick from your high school class who showed up packing an extra 50 pounds at the 10-year high school reunion. It wasn’t all that long ago that they were the apple of everyone’s eye, coming off a surprising finish last season and starting out this year at 12-2, including a win over a hot Kentucky team. Now, they’re just chubbing around the gymnasium, trying to make it to the end of the night and hoping that someone will realize that there aren’t really a lot of options left and they’ll get a chance to dance. The Bulldogs are currently Joe Lunardi’s last team in the tournament and they’ll be wise to do more than just get past Auburn. They’ll probably have to impress the committee a little more than club-footed Alabama, Lunardi’s first team out, in their likely matchup in the second round of the tournament. The two teams will probably be battling for the SEC’s fifth and final team in the tournament.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (E6)
Opponent: Ole Miss (Thursday, 3:30 pm)
Beisner’s Take: Remember when Darrin Horn brought his team into Rupp Arena as the first place team in the SEC East? That was January 22. Since that time, they’ve won two games. Fortunately for them, one of them was against Ole Miss, their first round opponent. Should they be able to get something out of a roster led by Bruce Ellington and his 23% shooting in the last seven games, they might just beat the Rebels. If so, they’d get the pleasure of having the Cats end their season twice in six weeks. Just make sure you give Ramon Galloway some change on your way out of the Georgia Dome. Different rooting interests isn’t an excuse to be a jerk.
Drew’s Take: Forget the basketball team, the South Carolina Student Government hasn’t been responding to my letters. I can only hope that they’re sitting alone by a lamp post, trying to find a thought that’s escaped their minds. I only wanna be with you, SCSGA. You can call me your fool, I only wanna be with you.
OLE MISS (W3)
Opponent: South Carolina (Thursday, 3:30 pm)
Beisner’s Take: Coach Cal says this tournament is about improving seeding for the NCAAs. But Coach Cal also said that he likes revenge. That’s why you have to hope the Rebels advance. Chris Warren’s game-winning shot, which appears more and more s–thouse lucky every time you watch it, remains one of the more painful memories of Kentucky’s road struggles and, if you’re having to pick between crap teams to play, you have to side with the one that offers sweet revenge. The Rebels haven’t won a game away from the Tad Pad since February 5th and boast losses in such illustrious cities as Tuscaloosa, Starkville, Columbia and Auburn. Atlanta will be added shortly. Whether it’s Thursday or Friday is up to Chris Warren’s chin hairs.
Drew’s Take: Damn you, Chris Warren. I dare you to advance to the second round. DARE YOU. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Oh, and, out of respect for the Middle East and the Checker Cab company of Atlanta, please don’t let your coach take any taxis after 9:00 pm.
TENNESSEE VOLS (E5)
Opponent: Arkansas (Thursday, 7:30 pm)
Beisner’s Take: The team that once sat at #7 in the nation now makes one of the final stops of the Bruce Pearl farewell tour in Atlanta hoping to play their way into a nine-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Vols dropped to a #10 in ESPN’s Bracketology Tuesday after playing no games and being seeded as a #9 in Monday’s updated version. Obviously, Lunardi doesn’t think the committee takes too kindly to whining and excuse-making. The Vols’ first round date is with an Arkansas team that beat them back in January and their reward should they win is another showdown with a Florida team that has beaten them twice this year. If there’s a silver lining for Bruce Pearl, it’s that he won’t remember any of this in a year. Make sure you remember to tip him next year when he’s serving you beer at STATS. He has a lot of alimony to pay.
ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (W4)
Opponent: Tennessee (Thursday, 7:30 pm)
Beisner’s Take: Despite their conquest of our beloved Cats, Arkansas remains a team in trouble as personal issues still persist and LSU, Auburn and Florida A&M remain the only other teams they’ve beaten since February began. Even with a highly-rated class coming in next season, a nice run in the conference tournament behind the nubby legs of Rotnei Clarke might be the only thing that could keep John Pelphrey on the bench for next season. Unfortunately for him, the Vols stand in the way. Smart money says Turkey Hunter is the only one calling the hogs in Atlanta after Thursday.
Drew’s Take: I have good news and I have bad news for the Arkansas Razorbacks. The bad news is the last face they’ll see this season is Steven Pearl’s. The good news is John Pelphrey will be available to hang out and do podcasts with us all weekend and we might be able to help him land a job. Can he run a radio soundboard?
LSU TIGERS (W6)
Opponent: Vanderbilt (Thursday, 10:00 pm)
Beisner’s Take: LSU has won one game in two months. Vandy beat them by 21 just two weeks ago. If their non-conference schedule is any indicator, they couldn’t win the Southland, Big South, Missouri Valley, Sun Belt or Conference USA. When your coach’s voice is deeper than your roster, that’s generally not a good thing.
Drew’s Take: I know every team in the conference gets an invite to the SEC Tournament, but Mike Slive should’ve found a way to keep the Tigers back home in Louisiana.
VANDERBILT COMMODORES (E3)
Opponent: LSU (Thursday, 10:00 pm)
Beisner’s Take: Despite losing their final two games, Vanderbilt enters the tournament with probably the only legitimate chance to make a four-wins in four-days run through Atlanta. Their path to a championship would likely go LSU – Mississippi State – Florida – Kentucky, but they have the talent to at least make it conceivable. They’re sitting as Joe Lunardi’s third-best six-seed right now and could move to a five if they can make a trip to the title game. As long as everyone can figure out the benches aren’t under the baskets, it’s at least possible. In fact, I think anything is possible with John Jenkins. Except a book deal.
Drew’s Take: Vanderbilt is good. They have it all. They have guards who can shoot the lights out, athletic wing players, a token white guy, and a big man named Festus. What more could you ask for?
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (W1)
Opponent: Auburn/Georgia (Friday, 1:00 pm)
Beisner’s Take: The SEC’s most surprising team finished second-best in the conference after they seemed to blow any shot at the NCAA Tournament by falling to Seton Hall, Iowa, St. Peters, Providence and Oklahoma State in their non-conference schedule. Thanks losses proved to be wrinkles too deep for even Anthony Grant to iron out and they still sit outside of the projected tournament field. The Tide has to beat Georgia to even think about a tournament bid and, most likely, need to beat the Cats to feel good about getting one. Better luck next year.
KENTUCKY WILDCATS (E2)
Opponent: South Carolina/Ole Miss (Thursday, 3:30 pm)
Beisner’s Take: In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. Not too long after, he created his gift to the city of Atlanta and the SEC Tournament. If you don’t know the implications of this weekend for Kentucky, you’re not reading enough KSR. Let’s work on that.
FLORIDA GATORS (E1)
Opponent: Tennessee/Arkansas (Thursday, 7:30 pm)
Beisner’s Take: Much like they have all season, Billy Donovan’s team is flying under the radar coming into this tournament thanks to the expectations they’ve failed to meet in each of the last three disappointing seasons. After winning the SEC Tournament three straight seasons from 2005-2007, Donovan’s Gators have won only one game total in the last three versions of the event, which came last year in the first round against Auburn. They’re not as soft as they’ve been in year’s past, but Chandler Parsons’ hair is just as fluffy. Not sure what that projects.
Fake Gimel’s Take:This year, The Swamp doubles as a retirement home: Three crotchety seniors and one grizzled junior play the majority of the minutes. But Coach Billy Donovan’s charges are not content to lay around watching Law & Order reruns. In conference play, the Gators were the best at limiting their opponent’s rebounds, free throws and possessions taken. Before conference play Florida was quite irregular offensively; Erving Walker is still trying to prove to the world that he’s faster than John Wall, which is kinda silly at his age. The metaphorical Metamucil that got the Gators going was provided by Senior SEC Player of the Year Blanche Devereaux, who’s rebounding and play-making skills led the Gators to the SEC Conference Title. Perhaps the Gators can get more attention in the SEC Tourney and NCAAs; at their home court, like a real nursing home, hardly anybody came to visit.
MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (W2)
Opponent: LSU/Vanderbilt (Thursday, 10:00 pm)
Beisner’s Take: Bitches be crazy. But bitches be capable of a run.
Fake Gimel’s Take: Rick Stansbury felt a little short-stacked, so he went all-in this season with Dee Bost and Renaldo Sidney. Sidney was quite the card, electing to utilize Shaquille O’Neal’s “play myself into game shape” training method. Stansbury’s strongest set was Bost and Ravern Johnson, who’s relentless 3-point barrage fuels the Bulldogs’ offense. Stansbury’s poker face is cracking under the stress of the season, as he nearly cost the Bulldogs’ a win against South Carolina with a late technical foul. Stansbury’s gamble will reap big rewards if he can lay down a SEC Tournament Trophy and earn an NCAA Tournament appearance. Or Stansbury will end up with a position of honor at Notre Dame.