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SEC Tournament Preview

By: Jonathan Editor
Contact Jonathan

SEC Basketball Tournament

March 11 - 14, 2004

Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia Dome

Tournament Bracket
Updated with Results

Tournament Favorite > Mississippi State
Mississippi State The Bulldogs snuck up on everyone this year and won the outright SEC regular season title. Coach Rick Stansbury's team has been the master of comeback wins, making up double-digit deficits on the road at Santa Clara, Auburn, South Carolina, and Alabama. The Bulldogs have proven they are tough and can get the job done. Atlanta, site of the SEC Hoops Tournament, has become known to many as "Cat-lanta," referring to Kentucky's tournament success. MSU and UK met in the title game last year with Tubby Smith's team coming out on top. A rematch this year might be for a number one seed.

Tournament Dark Horse > Alabama
Alabama The Crimson Tide is playing as good as anyone in the league right now. They battled back from early struggles to finish 8-8 in the league, highlighted by road wins at Mississippi State and Arkansas in the final weeks. 'Bama nearly knocked off MSU again last week but came up just short in overtime. Antoine Pettway and Kennedy Winston make the Tide click and will be a dangerous combo in Atlanta. A first-round victory over Tennessee shouldn't be too difficult. Florida would be next, and the Gators are unpredictable. Alabama has proven they can hang with Mississippi State, and after that would likely come Kentucky.

Matchup of Intrigue > South Carolina vs LSU
South Carolina vs LSU These two teams at one time looked like sure bets to make this season's NCAA field. But after the Tigers lost star center Jaime Lloreda and USC lost their forward Rolando Howell, both teams know exactly what the injury bug feels like. Both limped to the finish and are now NCAA question marks. The winner of this game (assuming the Gamecocks get by Arkansas in the first round) probably locks up a spot in the Dance; the loser will sit on pins and needles until Sunday evening.

NCAA Tournament Impact
NCAA Tournament Kentucky and Mississippi State are definitely in, with the two battling for number one seeds. Florida and Alabama look like solid bets as well. Both have finished relatively well and have strong RPIs. Next up would be Vanderbilt. The Commodores look as if they'll be making their first NCAA appearance since 1997 as the SEC's fifth team in. After that, there are only question marks. South Carolina and LSU have both been ranked in the top 25 at times this season, but both have also recently lost star players to injury for the rest of the season. It's also worth noting that both have limped to the finish, something the NCAA committee is not fond of. And you can't forget about Georgia. The Bulldogs have a good RPI rating and have beaten Kentucky twice. If UGA gets by Auburn in round one and knocks off UK again, the Bulldogs could threaten to burst the bubble.

Tournament Ramblings
Last year's SEC Tournament was held in New Orleans. Mississippi State has been to two straight title games, winning in 2002 over Alabama and losing last season against Kentucky. The championship game will be televised nationally by CBS on Sunday. All other games are slated to be part of Jefferson-Pilot's regional TV lineup. Several questions need answering in this year's Tournament: Can Georgia do it to Kentucky again? How will South Carolina and LSU fare minus star big men? Can Alabama continue the roll they are on? Will Mississippi State and/or Kentucky be able to work their way into a number one seed? Can anyone knock off the Bulldogs or 'Cats, who have clearly been the most dominant teams in the SEC this season?

Projected Winner > Mississippi State
Mississippi State The Bulldogs have been the SEC's best team all season long and have actually claimed they would like a rematch with Kentucky. Should that happen on Sunday, a number one seed would likely be on the line in the matchup of top five teams. MSU has been more consistent this year, though UK did beat MSU in January on a lay-up at the buzzer. This year's tournament title would make it two in three years for Rick Stansbury's team.