SEC Morning Five: 03.13.12 Edition
Posted by Brian Joyce on March 13th, 2012
- Mississippi State is disappointed with being on the outside of the bubble, but it must find the will to play against Massachusetts in the NIT Tournament on Tuesday. “It’ll be a huge challenge for us, as you well know, but there is no one to blame but us,” Rick Stansbury said. “We had our opportunities. Most of the time this time of the year you’re trying to play your way in and we basically played our way out. We had a bad two-and-a-half week stretch and lose five in a row, and, again, had plenty of opportunities in all those games to close it out. And then we don’t close it out against Georgia down there.” The Bulldogs have lost six of their last eight, obviously heading in the opposite direction from the team that cracked the top 25 and looked as though they would be a tough out in March.
- Vanderbilt was able to secure its second conference tournament title through defense and hot shooting, but its coach attributes a lot of their success to caring about each other. “When you invest a lot, you care a lot,” Kevin Stallings said. “What I’m most proud of is the investment that’s occurred by this group of young men in our program. To see those guys get to experience what they experienced, that was a great feeling for me.” While this sounds more like a Dove for Men commercial, the Commodores have had the same core together for three to four years and it’s starting to pay dividends after several disappointing years.
- Tennessee is excited to continue playing even if it fell short of the ultimate goal of making the NCAA Tournament. “As a coach, I can’t be upset because of the progress we made,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Our goal is to make the NCAA tournament every year, and barring injuries, we have the talent to do that every year. But this isn’t disappointing this season considering where we started from.” Former Tennessee coach and current NIT Selection Committee member Don Devoe believes that the NIT is a building block for next season. “I know a lot of people are disappointed they lost to Ole Miss, but this can be a really special thing for the team and a springboard into the future.” The Volunteers will bring their pesky defense to a first round matchup with Savannah State in the NIT on Tuesday night in Thompson Boling Arena.
- Kentucky coach John Calipari has faith in Tennessee’s success in the NIT — if it puts its mind to it. “I would suggest they will have a good run in the NIT — if they choose that,’’ Calipari said. “A lot of teams go in there and they’re mad about having to play in the NIT. I’ve had teams (at Memphis) that loved it, because of where we were at that time.” Was this a classic Calipari dig at an old rival or genuine belief in a team that gave Cal’s Wildcats a true test on the road? The Vols certainly have something to prove and will compete for much more than NIT titles once Martin replenishes the talent in Knoxville.
- Speaking of Kentucky’s outspoken coach, Calipari wasn’t exactly thrilled with his team’s draw in the South region. “The only thing I was happy about is I heard (the committee) was trying to get an exemption for the (Miami) Heat to be the second seed in our bracket, and they weren’t allowed to get that, so they couldn’t put them in there, too,” Calipari said. It certainly seems that for the #1 overall seed, the Wildcats drew an awfully tough bracket. However, there is not one team in Kentucky’s region that seems to be a true roadblock to UK’s fifteenth Final Four appearance.