SEC M5: 03.06.13 EditionPosted by Brian Joyce on March 6th, 2013
- Several SEC bubble teams on Saturday made it extremely difficult to make a case for their inclusion into the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, all bubble teams desperate for a win, couldn’t pull through when another victory would have really helped their resumes. The Rebels lost to Mississippi State, a team with just eight wins all year. Alabama had a golden opportunity for a quality win against Florida, but came up short in the last 10 minutes. Tennessee’s loss at Georgia stopped a six-game winning streak that had worked the Volunteers into the bubble conversation as one of the hottest teams in the nation. And Kentucky looked lost against the pressure of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Now, the SEC Tournament is becoming more and more important for teams on the bubble that are not feeling completely confident in their standing for an NCAA berth.
- Is Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy back on the hot seat after a loss to Mississippi State on Saturday? The defeat at the hands of the Rebels’ bitter rival has put Kennedy’s team in a situation where they need to win out in the SEC Tournament to feel comfortable with their standing on Selection Sunday. It also put Kennedy in a position where he could be watching the Big Dance from home, a spot he has been in for the previous seven seasons in Oxford. Kennedy admits he understands the frustration, but deferred any conversation about his job status to another point in time. “I understand the frustration of fans. I feel that same frustration. You’re talking about a guy who has blood, sweat and tears in this for seven years. I’ve been dancing on this fence for a long time. All I do, I control what I can control. All of those questions, all of that speculation, should be answered by the person that has the ability to make those decisions. Not by me.” It is clear that Kennedy’s seat is warming up after a loss to the Bulldogs.
- Billy Donovan praised the play of junior forward Casey Prather in the Gators’ comeback win over Alabama on Saturday. “He was the only guy that had a level of energy,” the head coach said of Prather. “If he didn’t play well, we probably would have had a hard time winning the game. I thought Alabama outplayed us. They were more prepared than us.” The Gators have struggled on the road of late, losing three of their last four away games. Donovan’s club has just one road game remaining, a Saturday showdown with rival Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Florida hasn’t won in Lexington since February 10, 2008, so rest assured that the Gators will see an opportunity to capitalize on a down year for the Wildcats.
- John Calipari is still troubled by the inconsistency of his young Wildcats. “I wake up every day and don’t know how the team will play,” said Calipari. “I hoped that (we were past this) but…” Kentucky had beaten Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Mississippi State in succession at home, but went on the road and showed very little fight in a loss to Arkansas. Calipari attributes some of the behavior he has noticed on his team’s youth. “We’ve got a couple of guys who are overwhelmed by stuff, and that’s typical freshmen,” Calipari said. “When you get overwhelmed, you get anxiety and you back up.” But with inconsistency, there are ups and downs, and Cal’s Cats may turn it on with two important games left in the regular season. Or they might not. We will have to wait and see.
- Kentucky assistant John Robic stressed the importance of finishing out the season on a positive note for Kentucky’s chances at an NCAA Tournament bid, considering UK is without freshman center Nerlens Noel. “We’ve been without Nerlens (Noel) for five games now. We took some lumps there without him and then played well with him,” Robic said. “I think there’s still a lot of teams out there that are still being evaluated. You look back at the Arkansas game and there’s only one team that’s gone in there and won this year, and that was Syracuse. There have been a lot of good teams that have not won on the road. We have won four league games on the road. I think it will come down to the remaining games on our schedule. I know the committee takes a lot of things into factor when they make decisions.” Noel’s absence will certainly be taken into account, and the Cats are 3-2 since losing him in a loss at Florida. Finishing the season on a strong note is crucial at this point to prove to the committee that UK can be successful without the super freshman in the middle.