SEC Morning Five: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 20th, 2012

  1. The Gators’ Achilles’ heel all season has been defense, and now it is that side of the ball that has Florida advancing deeper into the tournament. “A lot of people think we aren’t as good of a defensive team that we’re more of an offensive team that’s predicated on the 3-point shot,” center Patric Young said. “But we proved that the last two games against Virginia and tonight that we can play really great defense.” Perhaps with Florida, the issue on defense is more about effort and desire then skill or ability.
  2. Florida has battled illness and injuries all season, so why would March be any different? Forward Casey Prather battled the flu against Norfolk State on Sunday, just two days after a career game against Virginia. “It’s crazy,” Prather said. “I just wanted to provide energy for the team.” With a 101-degree fever, all Prather was able to muster was two points, one rebound, two blocks, and one assist. Luckily for the Gators, Billy Donovan’s club really didn’t need Prather in the 84-50 blowout. Now the question is can Florida finally get 100 percent healthy for this weekend?
  3. Kentucky was always the favorite to win the  NCAA Tournament, but with injuries limiting Syracuse and North Carolina, the Wildcats now must win the title to squelch the critics, according to ESPN’s Myron Medcalf. Many have argued that a team with a core of freshmen players will never win a title, but with the aforementioned powerhouses on the ropes which team can keep the Cats from cutting down the nets? The path to the championship has opened up for Kentucky to win its first title under John Calipari, and if Calipari and his young Cats can’t win the big one this year, then maybe the critics are right.
  4. Dick Vitale thinks Baylor could be a major issue for Kentucky in a potential Elite Eight matchup. “They’re better than Baylor,” Vitale said of the Cats. “I think they’ll beat Baylor. But Baylor has the athletes to match them athletically.” But what about Indiana, a team that already beat the Cats in December? “On a neutral floor in Round II, with a chip on (UK’s) shoulder and payback, Kentucky wins and advances,” Vitale said. One has to assume that Kentucky fans will do everything they can to aid in that process since the Cats struggled in the hostile environment in Bloomington. It should be a great atmosphere in Catlanta this weekend.
  5. Tennessee fell short in the NIT against Middle Tennessee State, leaving only Florida and Kentucky alive to represent the conference. The Vols struggled to explain what went wrong against the Blue Raiders. “I wish I knew,” point guard Trae Golden said. “We didn’t capitalize from the free-throw line, we didn’t defend well down the stretch; there’s a lot of things we could have done better.” There is a renewed sense of excitement around this program after the job done by first year coach Cuonzo Martin this season. After a season full of exceeding expectations, it is fun to think about what the Vols can do next season with Martin’s system and philosophy fully in place.
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