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Post SEC Tournament – Day One

Friday March 9, 2007

The SEC Tournament’s first round saved its most interesting game for last. The first three games went as expected and were solid double-digit wins for the favorites. Things get more intense today as the top four seeds join the action. LSU’s upset win over Tennessee ensures that at least one SEC West team will advance to the semifinals, but will there be another?

  • Kentucky 79 – Alabama 67. The Cats had a pretty easy time with the Tide, and it didn’t help Alabama that Steele was limited. You just can’t overstate Kentucky’s comfort playing in the SEC Tournament. They’re not the best team here, but they are used to advancing. Their omnipresent fans give them a lift. Even in a down year, why shouldn’t they be expected to reach the semifinals? Alabama, on the other hand, put the finishing touches on a disappointing season. Last year’s NCAA Tournament run notwithstanding, they tend to be one of the league’s biggest paper tigers from year to year.
  • Arkansas 82 – South Carolina 52. The Hogs have been tough to figure out this year, but they too had few problems in their opener. South Carolina is a much lesser team away from home, and it showed in this game. They didn’t shoot well, got outrebounded, and couldn’t create turnovers. Arkansas hit 12 more shots and dominated the second half. Arkansas seems like a solid NIT team, but it’s looking less likely that the Gamecocks will get an opportunity to become a three-time repeat NIT champion.
  • Georgia 80 – Auburn 65. The Dawgs grabbed control of this one late in the first half and held the lead in double-digits during the second half. They overmatched Auburn at most every position and were effective inside and outside. Auburn has improved this year much like Georgia, and they had won three of their last four entering the tournament. But Georgia showed again that they have come further and are the better program.
  • LSU 76 – Tennessee 67 (OT). Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl recognized the trouble early. This game was played exactly to LSU’s pace – low-scoring and in the halfcourt. Tennessee had no answer for Big Baby Davis inside – he dominated on offense and affected what the Vols wanted to do on the other end of the court. Davis’s presence forced Tennessee to rely on their strength – the three-point shot, but it let them down in this game. They shot just 23% from outside, and guards Wayne Chism and JaJuan Smith combined for a dreadful 0-12 from outside. Even sharpshooting Chris Lofton only hit three from behind the arc. The Tigers had the game won in regulation, but poor rebounding and a horrible call actually gave Tennessee a chance to attempt the game-winning shot. LSU closed the door in overtime, and Davis ensured that there would be no second comeback. Though they struggled for much of the season, LSU showed how dangerous a team can be in the postseason with a single dominant player. Ole Miss should be a bit nervous. Wins at Arkansas and Georgia helped to limit concerns about Tennessee’s play away from home, but those same questions have to be asked again with their NCAA seeding at stake.

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