SEC basketball notebook

The SEC has had at least three teams ranked in 87 of the last 89 Associated Press Top 25 polls, dating back to the 1998-99 season. This season, only two SEC teams were ranked in the preseason AP poll with Florida leading the way at No. 8 followed by Kentucky (11).

  • The SEC is the only conference in the nation to have all of its teams ranked at least one week in the Associated Press top 20 (excluding preseason polls) since 1997-98. Simply stated, every SEC team has been a top 20 team nationally at one point in the last six-plus seasons.
  • With six wins in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, the SEC leads all conferences in wins in the "Big Dance" over the last 10 seasons.
  • Every team in the SEC has made at least one NCAA Tournament appearance in the last seven editions of the "Big Dance," which shows the balance in the league over the past few seasons.
  • At least two starters return for 11 of the 12 teams with five teams returning three or more.
  • Alabama returns only one starter. Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee return two each. Auburn, Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina return three starters. Vanderbilt returns four starters from last season.

SEC Games this Week

Friday, November 21st
Louisiana Tech at Alabama [WVUA#] 7:00 CT
Wofford at Tennessee 7:30 ET
Western Kentucky at Auburn [FoxSN/SUN] 7:00 CT
Vanderbilt at Belmont 7:00 CT Western Carolina at Georgia 8:00 ET
Winthrop at Kentucky [UKTV#] 8:00 ET
Southern at LSU 7:00 CT
Arkansas State at Ole Miss 7:00 CT
Navy at South Carolina 8:00 ET
Nicholls State at Arkansas [ARSN] 7:05 CT

Saturday, November 22nd
UT-Martin at Mississippi State 7:00 CT

Sunday, November 23rd
Maryland-Eastern Shore at Auburn 2:00 CT

Team-by-Team Notes

Carl Krauser, replacing four-year starter Brandin Knight at point guard, scored a career-high 21 points and the 22nd-ranked Panthers beat Alabama 71-62 in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Chuck Davis, one of Alabama's young players looking to claim one of the four starting spots left open from last season, had a career-high 20 points. He averaged 1.5 points last season as a freshman with a high of five points against North Carolina Greensboro. Antoine Pettway had 17 points for Alabama, which played in this event last season and upset then-No. 3 Oklahoma on the way to the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking. Alabama was 3-for-14 on 3s and 15-for-23 from the foul line. Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried begins his 6th season at UA. He needs one win to reach his 100th victory as Alabama's head coach (99-62). The Crimson Tide play one of the nation's best schedules this season. This year's schedule has Alabama facing champions from the Big East (Pittsburgh), Ohio Valley (Austin Peay), Pac-10 (Oregon), Atlantic Sun (Mercer), Atlantic 10 (Xavier), and Big Ten (Wisconsin). Alabama next plays hosts to Louisiana Tech on Friday, November 21 at 7 p.m. CT.

The EA Sports Midwest All-Stars used a couple of big runs and some hot shooting to hold off Arkansas, 76-71, in its final exhibition game of the season Friday at Bud Walton Arena. In Arkansas' first exhibition game, an 84-77 win over Northwest Sport Tours, sophomore Jonathon Modica scored a game-high 25 points on nine of 13 shooting. Modica was named the SEC "Player to Watch" this year in the college preview edition of The Sporting News...Freshman Olu Famutimi, a McDonald's and Parade high school All-American from Flint, Mich., was named the preseason SEC Newcomer of the Year by Basketball News. He averaged 25.0 points and 14.0 rebounds as a senior at Northwestern High School, but had his season cut short by a knee injury. He has fully recovered...The Razorbacks went 3-1 on a fall trip to Cancun, Mexico, over Labor Day weekend playing two games against a club pro team and two against a local university. Senior transfer Billy Pharis averaged 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds while freshman Vincent Hunter averaged 9.5 points and 8.5 rebounds...Guard Charles Tatum is back for his second senior season. He tore three ligaments and one cartilage in his right knee in a pickup game in April of 2002 and missed the 2003 season while rehabbing. He would have been UA's only experienced guard last year.

Auburn's Nov. 17 season opener against the College of Charleston in the NABC Classic is tied for the Tigers' fourth earliest start to a season. Auburn is making its second NABC Classic appearance when it plays host to the College of Charleston Nov. 17. The Tigers lost to #24 Temple 68-42 in The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M., on Nov. 11, 1997, in its first NABC Classic. Auburn has a 67-30 (.691) record in season openers, including a 47-8 mark at home, 11-16 on the road, 4-3 at neutral sites and 5-3 in non-recorded sites. The Tigers have won 21 of their last 25 openers. Auburn has a 68-21 (.764) record in home openers in the 97 previous seasons of Tiger basketball. Eight more games are at non-recorded sites and Auburn was 5-3 in those. Junior point guard Lewis Monroe fractured his left foot driving to the basket in practice Nov. 4. He had successful surgery Nov. 7 in Birmingham. He ranked 10th in the SEC averaging 3.3 assists to go along with 6.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 38 percent shooting from 3-point range. Senior Kyle Davis has moved into third-place on the SEC's career blocked-shot list with 288.

Florida is one of only two SEC teams to return three double-figure scorers, as the Gators return David Lee, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh who each scored in double figures a year ago. Despite the fact that 10 of the 13 players on the roster are in their first or second season, nine of the 13 players on the Gator roster have NCAA Tournament experience. The Gators hope to get back to more of a pressing style in 2003-04 but were surprisingly effective defensively a year ago, limiting the opposition to 64.5 points per game, the lowest by a Billy Donovan team and the lowest by a UF team in 38 years. The Gators have held 57 of the last 64 teams to 50 percent or less from the floor. The Gators return three starters from last year's squad, each of which will play in different positions from a year ago. David Lee will move from center to power forward, Matt Walsh will move from small forward to two guard and Anthony Roberson will run the point after playing the two-guard spot last season. Christian Drejer returns healthy after an injury-plagued season a year ago while Bonell Colas, Adrian Moss and Chris Richard will look to bolster a Gator frontcourt that finished ninth in the league in rebounding a year ago. The Gators will still be a strong team from the perimeter, led by Roberson, Walsh and Drejer. Roberson's 74 three-pointers a year ago are the most of any returnee in the league, while Walsh's .432 clip is the highest of any returnee. The Gators hit a league-high 287 threes a year ago and led the league with a .390 clip overall.

Georgia rolled over the Southeastern All-Stars 105-68 led by 20 points from senior Rashad Wright in the Bulldogs' final exhibition game Friday night at Stegeman Coliseum. Five other Georgia players tallied double figures in scoring including 19 from freshman Levi Stukes who shot eight of 12 from the field. Senior Damien Wilkins and freshman Marcus Sikes each added 14, while freshman Steve Newman and Buzz Wehunt both contributed 11. The Bulldogs open the regular season the following Friday night, Nov. 21, against Southern Conference foe Western Carolina. Georgia was extended beyond regulation time in its exhibition opener, a 79-78 win over Team Nike in Athens. The outcome wasn't decided until Buzz Wehunt made the first of two foul shots with eight-tenths of a second left in overtime. Wehunt missed the second try intentionally and the visitors were unable to get off a timely shot. The win came despite the Bulldogs' short-handed roster that was trimmed to eight players because of injuries.

Gerald Fitch had 22 points while Erik Daniels and Kelenna Azubuike chipped in 21 apiece as Kentucky ran away with a 94-61 win over EA Sports on Wednesday night to give the No. 11 Wildcats a perfect 2-0 record during the exhibition season. Daniels also had 13 rebounds. Cliff Hawkins had a game-high seven assists with two steals and no turnovers. Chuck Hayes had five assists and a game-high five steals. The Wildcats led 51-48 with 14:38 left before scoring the next 20 points. Fitch scored nine points during that run. Kentucky dominated the second half, outscoring EA Sports 56-24. UK shot 57 percent in the second half while EA Sports shot just 33 percent. Kentucky forced 19 turnovers while committing only eight miscues. UK dominated points off turnovers, 32-5. Former Iowa State player Paul Shirley led EA Sports with 14 points. Kentucky opens regular-season play on Fri. Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. against Winthrop. The game will be televised on a delayed basis on the UKTV Network.

Tigers open the season with four consecutive games at home -- Nov. 21 vs. Southern, Nov. 24 vs. McNeese State, Nov. 26 vs. Troy State and Nov. 29 vs. Louisiana-Monroe before taking a 17-day break between games for dead week and final exams on the campus, returning to play on Dec. 16 in a nationally-televised game against Utah. Freshman Brandon Bass in his exhibition debut on Nov. 6 had 14 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals against Global Sports. Tigers lost, 68-64, to Global Sports ... It was the seconds straight year to lose to Global in the opening exhibition game, although last year the Tigers went on to win 21 games and advance to the NCAA Tournament. Tigers will play the first seven games at home, hoping to add to the five-game home winning streak LSU ended the 2002-03 season with. LSU enters its first game against Southern with a 46-game home regular season non-conference winning streak on the line and a 43-game home winning streak against Louisiana schools up for grabs. The 43-game streak dates back to the an overtime loss to Louisiana Tech at the start of the 1988-89 season.

Ole Miss returns seven, including senior starters Justin Reed and Aaron Harper, and adds seven newcomers for the upcoming 2003-04 season. Reed, a three-time All-SEC forward, garnered Preseason All-SEC second team honors at this year's conference media day. Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes enters his sixth year at the helm, and has guided the Rebels to 100 win over the past five years, the most victories in a five-year span in school history. Despite a 14-15 record a year ago, Ole Miss remains the winningest SEC Western Division program since the 1996-97 campaign, leading the West in overall victories (142), conference wins (60), Division titles (3), postseason appearances (6) and NCAA Tournament berths (5).

A pair of Marcus Campbell baskets and three late steals by the Bulldogs proved critical as Mississippi State escaped the Columbus Riverdragons of the National Basketball Development League, 84-77, in overtime in a men's basketball exhibition game Saturday night. The Bulldogs completed a preseason sweep of two exhibition games against professional teams. Last Saturday, MSU opened preseason play with a 107-92 exhibition win over the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the CBA. Timmy Bowers led the Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points. Campbell had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs. Lawrence Roberts, who fouled out early in overtime, added 17 points and nine rebounds. Winsome Frazier added 13 points and had a game-high four steals. MSU opens regular-season play Saturday, Nov. 22 with a 7 p.m. home game against Tennessee-Martin of the Ohio Valley Conference. Minus Derrick Zimmerman, Mario Austin and Michal Ignerski, plus the preseason loss of junior forward Ontario Harper to a September knee injury, the Bulldogs will enter the season without 56 percent of their scoring output, 61 percent of their rebounding production, and 66 percent of their assist totals from last year's squad. Excluding Bowers and minus Harper, the remaining veteran State players have accounted for only 11 career MSU starts between them as the new season begins. Looking to avenge last year's season-opening home setback to Louisiana-Lafayette, MSU has prevailed in 35 of its last 37 home season openers dating back to 1966-67. The Bulldogs have won 14 of their last 17 season openers dating back to 1986-87 and are 3-2 during the Stansbury era.

South Carolina will open the 2003-04 with a first-ever meeting with Gardner-Webb University on Monday, Nov. 17 in the second game of the first round of the Guardians Classic. Gardner-Webb, located in Boiling Springs, N.C. is one of three teams that will to travel to USC for the first and second rounds of the Guardians Classic. Idaho and Elon complete the bracket. USC was 12-16 and 5-11 in the SEC last season. Opening its 96th season of college basketball, USC is 66-29 in season openers. Since joining the SEC in 1991, the Gamecocks are 7-5. Formerly known as The Carolina Center, the arena was renamed The Colonial Center at a ceremony in Colonial Supplemental Insurance Company's Columbia headquarters on October 7, 2003. USC is 0-1 against San Francisco, dropping a 72-71 (OT) loss on January 9, 1982 in Columbia. The following would be first-time meetings if USC were to meet them in Kansas City, Mo., during the semi-finals and finals of The Guardians Classic: Mississippi Valley State, Mount St. Mary's, New Hampshire, SMS, UT Martin and Western Illinois.

Tennessee is opening its 95th season of basketball when the Wofford Terriers visit Thompson-Boling Arena for a 7:30 p.m. (EST) game on Friday, Nov. 21. The game is the first of a three-game home stand to open the season for the Vols. UT will play Tennessee State (Nov. 28) and Texas A&M (Dec. 2) before hitting the road for the first time when the Vols visit Nebraska (Dec. 13). Tennessee is 16-2 in its last 18 season-openers, including a four-game winning streak in season-openers. The Vols have won 11 home-openers in a row. The Vols won both of their exhibition games, including a 114-71 win over the Southeastern All-Stars on Nov. 5. Tennessee averaged 112.0 points in the two games and won by an average of 35 points. Six Vols averaged double-figure scoring during the two exhibitions. Brandon Crump led the way with 19.0 points to go with 9,5 rebounds while Stanley Asumnu contributed 18.5 points. Jemere Hendrix averaged a double-double with 10.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in the two games. The Vols got an early start to the 2003-04 season with a trip to the Dominican Republic from Oct. 15-19. UT went 1-1 playing against teams that were made up of members of the Dominican Under-21 National Team. Scooter McFadgon led the Vols with 29.0 points per game while C.J. Watson and Brandon Crump each added 12.0 points Jemere Hendrix contributed 9.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the two contests. The Vol roster does not list any seniors. In fact, the only scholarship player who has been a part of the program for more than one season is junior forward Brandon Crump.

Vanderbilt helps christen Belmont's new 5,000-seat Curb Event Center when the Commodores open the 2003-04 season against the Bruins on Nov. 21. Preseason Southeastern Conference Player of the Year senior forward Matt Freije is the league's top returning scorer (17.9 points per game) and needs 441 points during his final collegiate campaign to become Vanderbilt's all-time leading point producer [Phil Cox (1982-85) - 1,725 points]. Freije ended the 2002-03 season by scoring at least 20 points in nine of the final 14 games. The Commodores won both of their exhibition games, dropping Northern State, 86-57, on Nov. 6 and Nike Team Elite, 80-48, on Nov. 10. Traditional power Indiana visits Memorial Gym for Vanderbilt's home opener Nov. 24.

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