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 December 18, 2003 Jonathan's Journal

By: Jonathan Editor
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Jonathan's Journal Much of the focus around the country is on the "bubble" teams. But don't forget about those battling for number one and two seeds...they've got something to prove as well. Also take a glance into the week in SEC hoops....

[ Updated March 4 ]


The regular season is nearly complete, the conference tournaments are only days away (well, actually....some have already begun), and the number of days until Selection Sunday can be counted on your own two hands. Which all means that while teams all across America are jockeying to just get into the Tournament, there's a select group of teams looking to grab hold of either a number one or two seed. There's still some time to jostle for position, but it's about to wind down. So who deserves these crucial seedings? Take a look...


  • ST. JOSEPH'S: The Hawks have won every game they've played and are ready to tip things off in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. But why have the Hawks been so good? Because of two players, both of which are in the top four in scoring in the Atlantic 10. Guards Jameer Nelson and Delonte West average 20 and 19 points per game, respectively. Some say they haven't played a strong schedule (even though they're RPI is ranked the nation's best), but how can you deny the success they've had? It takes focus to not slip up even just once.

  • STANFORD: The Cardinal are the only other team in the country without a loss and are the consensus number one team in America right now. Though their schedule hasn't been great, Stanford has picked up quality victories over Kansas, Gonzaga, and Arizona (twice). Unlike St. Joseph's, Mike Montgomery's team spreads the scoring around. Five players score between 10 and 15 points a game, while four others score at least four points a contest. Stanford's RPI is actually number five in the country, but these guys definitely get a number one.

  • DUKE: The Blue Devils lost another one this week, but it's likely that the NCAA will be looking to keep the Devils close to home for Tournament play. Coach K's team lost an early-season contest against Purdue out in Alaska and then went about two and a half months before losing another. Since mid-February, though, Duke has lost three of six games. Could the ACC schedule be wearing this team down, and if so, it's definitely at the wrong time of the season. At this point, though, a third-ranked RPI let's Duke slide in as a number one.

  • KENTUCKY: The Wildcats will at best be tied with Mississippi State for the SEC regular season crown, but the 'Cats did knock off MSU in early January. And if things go as expected in the SEC Tournament, the Dawgs and UK could be playing for this very spot on the final day of the conference tourney, which also happens to be Selection Sunday. Why UK? The Wildcats have been great since the return of guard Gerald Fitch. But the biggest difference is strength of schedule. Kentucky's ranks 10th in the country, State's just 53rd.


  • MISSISSIPPI STATE: As was just discussed, this spot and the final number one space UK holds could very easily be swapped. But as of now, the Bulldogs' RPI ranks a spot lower than Kentucky's, and that MSU home loss to the 'Cats is still there. State is just one win away from capturing the outright conference championship, which would help the Bulldogs' case. But it's likely that the last one standing in Atlanta will be the one who grabs the number one seed. It would be hard to bet against either of them, but the 'Cats have won the last three over MSU.

  • GONZAGA: Some feel the Zags deserve a number one seed, but playing in the West Coast Conference won't help their chance of grabbing that slot. Too many times have I seen it come across the ESPN ticker that Gonzaga has beaten Idaho or Portland or Montana. Sure, the 'Zags' only two losses came to the only two unbeatens. That's impressive. And sure, they went through the conference slate unblemished. But shouldn't they? And getting a number two might be a good thing for Mark Few's club. It might just fire up the team and give them something to prove.

  • OKLAHOMA STATE: The Cowboys looked at one time like they might grab a number one seed but saw that hope sink in an overtime loss at Missouri. But as you would expect, coach Eddie Sutton's team rebounded and is just a win over lowly Texas A&M away from claiming the outright Big XII regular season title, something that hasn't been done at OSU since the 1960's. A schedule strength rating of 81 doesn't look good, but a run to the finals of the Big XII Tournament should lock up this spot for the boys from Stillwater.

  • PITTSBURGH: This spot is going to a Big East team, whether it be the Panthers or Connecticut. As of now, I like Pitt, thanks to their huge victory over then tri-leader Providence on the road earlier in the week. That win means that if the Panthers knock off Villanova and UConn loses at Syracuse, Pitt is the regular season champion. A win for both teams, and they're co-champs. The Huskies' RPI is actually better (6 to 7), and so is their strength of schedule (34 to 68). But just three losses looks much better than five.


    Connecticut could work itself up to a number two with a win at Syracuse and a better showing in the Big East Tourney that Pittsburgh. Texas just missed the cut thanks to their loss at Oklahoma State earlier in the week. Teams like Providence and Wake Forest have been hurt by recent losses. Cincinnati could make a case if they beat Memphis and win CUSA this weekend, but they would need some help.


    SECMississippi State had already clinched the SEC Western Division title a week ago and had the opportunity to clinch no worse than a tie for the overall title on Tuesday night against Auburn. Behind the hot shooting of junior Winsome Frazier, the Bulldogs made it clear early in the game that the league championship was at least partially theirs.
    Kentucky 12-3 22-4
    Florida 9-6 18-8
    South Carolina 8-7 21-8
    Vanderbilt 8-7 19-7
    Georgia 6-9 14-12
    Tennessee 6-9 14-12
    Mississippi State 13-2 24-2
    Alabama 8-7 16-10
    LSU 8-7 18-8
    Arkansas 4-11 12-14
    Auburn 4-11 13-13
    Mississippi 4-11 12-14
    Alabama continued their hot streak with a road win at Arkansas Wednesday. The Tide was down by as many as 22 points but rallied back to force overtime. In the extra period, 'Bama outscored the Hawgs 9-5 to come away with a win. Florida avenged an earlier loss to Georgia as the Gators picked up an eight-point home victory over the Bulldogs. The Gators now appear to have assured themselves of an NCAA bid. LSU got off to a slow start Wednesday evening without star center Jaime Lloreda. The Tigers were down to Mississippi 21-10 at the half but roared back for 48 points in the second half on their way to a double-digit victory. Kentucky stayed in the race for the regular season SEC title with an easy road win at South Carolina. Vanderbilt got down early but rallied back to knock off Tennessee and grab their crucial eighth conference win of the season.

    All twelve SEC teams are in action this weekend in each team's final regular season contest of the year. South Carolina will visit Tennessee in the day's first game. The Gamecocks appear to have an NCAA bid wrapped up but could use a win to assure themselves of that fact before SEC Tourney play begins.
    South Carolina at Tennessee 12:00 JP*
    Mississippi State at Alabama 2:00 JP*
    Arkansas at Mississippi 2:00
    LSU at Auburn 3:00
    Vanderbilt at Georgia 6:00
    Florida at Kentucky 11:00am CBS*
    Times CDT     (*) Regional TV
    Two of the bottom three teams in the league, Arkansas and Mississippi, get together in Oxford Saturday. LSU still has something to prove to the NCAA committee. Minus star Jaime Lloreda, the Tigers struggled Wednesday but could use a big road win at Auburn. The Tigers were pounded by Mississippi State, but Marco Killingsworth (league suspension) will return to the lineup Saturday. Perhaps the biggest game of the weekend is in Tuscaloosa. That's where MSU will take on red-hot Alabama. A win gives the Dawgs the outright SEC title. Vanderbilt travels to Georgia Saturday evening. The 'Dores are still on the bubble but might move themselves into the Tourney with a road win in Athens.

  • The Mid-Week's Top Player: Winsome Frazier....The Mississippi State junior had 20 points at halftime and finished with 26 in a Bulldog victory over Auburn. The Miami, Florida native also pulled down 7 rebounds while grabbing a steal and dishing out a couple of assists. Honorable mention goes to MSU's Lawrence Roberts (12 pts, 15 reb) and Vandy's Matt Freije (28 pts, 4 reb).
  • On the Rise: Alabama....The Crimson Tide has really come to life in the last few weeks. UA has won four straight games, including four on the road. The Tide has likely played themselves back into the NCAA Tournament because of their strong RPI rating. A first-round bye in the SEC Tourney is still possible as well.
  • On the Slide: South Carolina....The Gamecocks have a rough go since late January. Coach Dave Odom's team has lost six of their last nine. It still appears USC is in the Tournament but cannot afford to lose Saturday and in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
  • NEW Tourney Time Projections:
    NCAA: Mississippi State, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, South Carolina, LSU
    NIT: Tennessee, Georgia
    HOME: Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi
  • Top to Bottom: (1) Mississippi State, (2) Kentucky, (3) Vanderbilt, (4) Florida, (5) South Carolina, (6) Alabama, (7) LSU, (8) Tennessee, (9) Georgia, (10) Auburn, (11) Arkansas, (12) Mississippi
  • Weekend Predictions: South Carolina over Tennessee, Mississippi State over Alabama, Arkansas over Mississippi, LSU over Auburn, Vanderbilt over Georgia
      -Last Week's Predictions: 6-0 (1.000)   |   SEC Season: 31-12 (.721)