SEC Tournament notebook

There is no question that the upcoming SEC Tournament, March 11-14 in the Georgia Dome, is going to be the most exciting tournament since the SEC renewed the conference tournament in 1979. <br><br>Entering this year's tournament, the conference boasts seven teams with .500 or above records in SEC play.

With two teams ranked in the Top 10 of both polls and seven teams ranked in the top 45 of the ratings, the SEC is looking to get seven or more teams in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Last season, the SEC placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year and just the sixth time in league history (1987 was the first occurrence). Of the SEC's six 2003 NCAA Tournament teams (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU and Mississippi State), Auburn went on to advance to the Sweet 16 and Kentucky advanced to the Elite 8.

SEC Second in Overall and Non-Conference RPI

The SEC ranks second in the nation in Overall and Non-Conference RPI, according to, as of Mar. 8. The ACC is percentage points ahead of the SEC in first, with the Big East third.

The SEC leads the nation with seven individual teams ranked in's Top 45, as of Mar. 8.

Is This the Year for Seven?

The SEC has had six teams in the NCAA Tournament field in each of the last five seasons. The Southeastern Conference led the nation in Overall RPI during the last four seasons and was first or second over the same span in Non-Conference RPI heading into the NCAA Tournament. The SEC has seven teams with .500 or above records in conference play and all seven teams have Top 45 RPIs. The SEC's Overall RPI is the highest in league history.

3rd: Kentucky .6609
4th: Mississippi State .6542
18th: Florida .6201
23rd: Alabama .6134
30th: Vanderbilt .6020
32nd: LSU .5986
44th: South Carolina .5802
51st: Georgia .5758
65th: Tennessee .5626
69th: Auburn .5620
89th: Ole Miss .5457
106th: Arkansas .5330

SEC in Strength of Schedules (as March 8)

The SEC has 11 of the 40 toughest schedules in the country, according to

Alabama 1st
Florida 6th
Kentucky 9th
Georgia 16th
Auburn 22nd
LSU 24th
Ole Miss 33rd
Vanderbilt 30th
Tennessee 37th
Mississippi State 38th
Arkansas 40th
South Carolina 73rd

2004 SEC Tournament Schedule

March 11-14 * Georgia Dome * Atlanta, Ga.

FIRST ROUND, March 11 (Thursday)
Game 1 [E5] Georgia vs. [W4] Auburn [JP] 1:00 ET
Game 2 [W6] Arkansas vs. [E3] South Carolina [JP] 3:15 ET
Game 3 [W5] Ole Miss vs. [E4] Vanderbilt [JP] 7:30 ET
Game 4 [E6] Tennessee vs. [W3] Alabama [JP] 9:45 ET

SECOND ROUND, March 12 (Friday)
Game 5 Game 1 Winner vs. [E1] Kentucky [JP] 1:00 ET
Game 6 Game 2 Winner vs. [W2] LSU [JP] 3:15 ET
Game 7 Game 3 Winner vs. [W1] Mississippi St. [JP] 7:30 ET
Game 8 Game 4 Winner vs. [E2] Florida [JP] 9:45 ET

SEMIFINALS, March 13 (Saturday)
Game 9 Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner [JP] 1:00 ET
Game 10 Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner [JP] 3:15 ET

FINALS, March 14 (Sunday)
Game 11 Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner [CBS] 1:00 ET

SEC Tournament Notes

The 2004 Southeastern Conference Men's Basketball Tournament will be held in a familiar setting as the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., again plays host to this event. The Georgia Dome, a world-class facility with basketball seating configuration of 26,000, serves as the site of the 12-team tournament for the fifth time in seven years and the sixth time overall in league history. The 2002 tournament amassed impressive crowds with the sixth highest total attendance (198,929) and the fourth highest Session 4 attendance (22,508) in SEC Tournament history.

The SEC Men's Basketball Tournament was first held at the Dome in 1995, establishing records in total attendance (250,031), single-game and championship game attendance (30,057). The 2004 event marks the ninth time Atlanta has hosted the tournament (1933, 1934, 1987, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002)

The winner of the 11-game tournament receives the SEC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The tournament seeds, conference championship and division titles are determined by the 16-game conference schedule during the regular season. Teams are seeded by their divisional finish and features Eastern Division-Western Division match-ups in every game should the higher seed win each contest. Atlanta served as host of the inaugural SEC Tournament played following the 1932-33 season and did so again after the 1933-34 season. The event was held every year through 1952, with the exception of 1935. After a 26-year layoff (1953-78), the tournament was renewed in 1979. The 2004 tournament will be the 45th in league history and the 26th since the renewal.

The SEC has shown extraordinary balance in the tournament, evidenced by the fact that a different school won the first seven titles after the renewal. The event has helped set the stage for SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament, as 19 of the last 24 tournament champions have advanced to at least the Sweet 16 with three of the last eight going on to win the national championship. Since the renewal in 1979, the SEC Tournament Champion has failed to win at least one NCAA Tournament game only three times.

Kentucky leads the league with 24 SEC Tournament titles. Alabama is second with six, while Tennessee ranks third with four, and Mississippi State has two championship trophies. Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and former league member Georgia Tech have each won one SEC Tournament championship.

A Year Ago...

Kentucky won its 24th Southeastern Conference tournament title and earned an automatic NCAA bid with a 64-57 victory over Western Division champion Mississippi State.

Setting the Stage

History has shown that the SEC Tournament championship trophy has been a good luck charm of sorts as past tournament champions have enjoyed great success in the NCAA Tournament.

Well, that luck did not prove well for Arkansas in 2000 as the Razorbacks lost in the NCAA Tournament first round, a first for the SEC Tournament Champion since Alabama did the same in 1989.

Of the past 25 SEC Tournament Champions (1979-2003), 19 have advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky reached the 1999 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Finals for its fifth straight trip to the Elite Eight. That marked the fifth consecutive year that the SEC Tournament Champion had advanced to the Sweet 16.

Only three times since the renewal has the SEC Tournament champion failed to win at least one NCAA Tournament game (1981, 1989 and 2000) and three times the conference tournament champion was eliminated in the second round (1979, 1994, 2002).

Since 1979, SEC Tournament Champions have compiled 11 Elite Eight showings and six Final Four appearances with Kentucky bringing home the national championship to the SEC in 1998. The Wildcats have four of the league's Final Four appearances in 1984, 1993, 1996 and 1998 while in Georgia made it to the Final Four in 1983 as the SEC Tournament Champion and Mississippi State mirrored that feat in 1996.

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