LIKE IT IS:

It looks like just three for SEC in NCAA

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Florida coach Billy Donovan directs his players in a NCAA Basketball game against Missouri Tuesday, Feb. 19. The Gators have clinched at least a share of the regular season Southeastern Conference Championship and locked up the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament.
Photo by The Associated Press
Florida coach Billy Donovan directs his players in a NCAA Basketball game against Missouri Tuesday, Feb. 19. The Gators have clinched at least a share of the regular season Southeastern Conference Championship and locked up the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament.

— It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the SEC will get just three men’s basketball teams in the NCAA Tournament.

That has to be a big disappointment and an embarrassment for the league that dominates college football.

Commissioner Mike Slive saw the slide coming a few years ago and went to ESPN and hammered out a new deal to get his teams more exposure to help recruiting.

So far it hasn’t paid dividends.

Granted, there has been a lot of turnover in the head coaching ranks, and the guess here is that coaches from other conferences point at the SEC’s emphasis on football - look at the budgets and salaries - and lure some of the better players away.

Whatever it is, the SEC should never have fewer than five teams in the Big Dance.

Right now, Florida looks like a lock to be a big part of March Madness. The Gators are getting everyone healthy at the right time.

Missouri needed its victory Tuesday night, and the Tigers have a shot at being on the bubble.

The third spot seems to be up in the air and depends on how Kentucky, Tennessee and Ole Miss do this weekand next week in the SEC Tournament.

Ole Miss’ stock has dropped faster than penny stocks at a day-trader carnival, and note this was written before Tuesday night’s game.

The Rebels started the SEC season 6-0, but in the past 10 games have been only 4-6, including losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State. Yes, Mississippi State, which is down to six scholarship players and is 3-13 in SEC play.

It appeared Andy Kennedy was finally going to make the NCAA Tournament, something that has eluded him in his seven seasons at Ole Miss, even though he has won 20 or more games six times.

Don’t be surprised if the whispers to bring Michael White home become a roar if the Rebels don’t win fourout of their next five games.

White, who played at Ole Miss and was an assistant for Kennedy for five years, is in his second year as head coach at Louisiana Tech and has led the Bulldogs to a 26-3 record. Tech hasn’t lost a game since Dec. 12.

Ole Miss closes the regular season at LSU.

Kentucky is still Kentucky, and the defending national champion, and while the Wildcats took a pretty good whipping by the Arkansas Razorbacks last Saturday, John Calipari has not given up on this team.

The Wildcats are at Georgia on Thursday and then host Florida on the short turnaround, something that isn’t in their favor but it happens to all the teams because of the ESPN contract that was designed to get them more exposure.

Honestly, a victory against Florida and one in the SEC Tournament would almost assure the Wildcats of an NCAA Tournament berth, and not because of tradition or history. It would be because they have survived losing Nerlens Noel.

Tennessee appeared to be the hottest team in the SEC and on an all-out sprint into March Madness until it fell to Georgia last Saturday to end a six-game winning streak.

The Vols have to win out and get at least two victories in the SEC Tournament to make the field of 68. Their season finale against Missouri could be huge, and they get the Tigers at home.

Alabama is a bit of a long shot despite being 19-10 overall and 11-5 in SEC play. The Crimson Tide’s December losses to Mercer and Tulane have killed their strength of schedule. The Tide had Ole Miss on Tuesday night and close the regular season with Georgia at home.

If a long-shot team runs the table and wins the SEC Tournament, it doesn’t appear that would add another SEC team to the NCAA Tournament.

It seems a foregone conclusion the best football conference in America will have three dance cards for the Big Dance.

Sports, Pages 19 on 03/06/2013

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