I have to confess this is my favorite week of the sports calendar.
By Sunday night, we will no longer have to guess which college basketball teams will be invited to the Big Dance, otherwise known as the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
No checking the Ratings Performance Index. No comparing teams’ strength of schedule rankings. No leaning on Joe Lunardi for his bracket projections.
We have conference tournaments to watch this week. The SEC Tournament promises to cure insomnia. Having covered the tournament for years, I always dreaded the first day when the four bottom feeders played each other.
With the SEC going through a down cycle this season and 14 teams involved, the first two days of play will be torture for even the hard core round-ball fans.
This season has turned into Florida and the 13 dwarfs. Sorry Kentucky fans. You are a distant second to the Gators and the coaching job that Billy Donovan has turned in this season. The tournament is in Atlanta, or Catlanta as it was called when Kentucky was running roughshod over all comers. It was truly a second home court advantage. When the Cats were eliminated, the Georgia Dome turned into a mausoleum.
Florida is playing to keep a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They enter the SEC Tournament ranked No. 1 in the polls. Because of the lack of competition in the SEC this season, I am not sure this Florida team will win the national championship. There is a lot of parity and there are probably a dozen teams that can win it if they get on a long enough roll needed to cut the nets down.
Kentucky has been too inconsistent this season and Coach John Calipari doesn’t have the roster he had when they were winning big with primarily one-and-done players.
The rest of the SEC is just playing to improve its resume in hopes of finding favor with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
There are more questions than answers going down the stretch. Can Coach Cuonzo Martin’s Tennessee team maintain a hot hand it has after a four-game win streak? The only thing consistent about the Vols this season is their inconsistency. You never know what you will get with them.
Point guard Antonio Barton comes and goes and you can’t have that from your floor leader. They will need more double-doubles from Jarnell Stokes (he has 18 for season) and offensive points from Jeronne Maymon.
“We have to go through Jarnell and Jeronne,’’ Martin said. “That’s how you set the tone. If you don’t double them, we are going to keep pounding the ball inside. I think that’s the way we will win or lose ballgames.’’
The Vols got the 4-seed and will play its first game in Friday’s quarterfinals. Wednesday’s Game 1 winner between Auburn and South Carolina meets Arkansas Thursday and the Vols get the winner of that game.
“It’s good because we will have fresh legs, but it doesn’t make it any easier,’’ Martin said. “Some say that the teams who play the night before get a feel for the gym and (basket rims).’’
The SEC should get two or three teams in the NCAA Tournament. Four tops. If Tennessee takes care of business, it will be one.
Contact Wilson Post Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.