SEC post-season basketball notes

The SEC tied its conference record for NCAA Tournament bids this season with six bids for the sixth straight season, tied with the ACC, Big East and Conference USA in number of bids for the 2004 NCAA Tournament. The league tied the record set in 1987 which was again accomplished in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.

SEC Tournament Champion Kentucky makes its 13th straight NCAA Tournament appearance this year. Florida is making its sixth straight NCAA tourney. Alabama and SEC Champion Mississippi State are making their third straight appearances. South Carolina rejoins the field of 65 for the first time since 1998 and Vanderbilt makes its first appearance since 1997.

SEC NCAA Tournament Schedule

ST. LOUIS REGION
19 (Friday) * Columbus, Ohio [CBS]
1 Kentucky vs. 16 Lehigh/Florida A&M 7:10 p.m. ET

EAST RUTHERFORD REGION
18 (Thursday) * Raleigh, N.C. [CBS]
5 Florida vs. 12 Manhattan 12:20 p.m. ET

19 (Friday) * Kansas City, Mo. [CBS]
10 South Carolina vs. 7 Memphis 11:30 a.m. CT

ATLANTA REGION
19 (Friday) * Orlando, Fla. [CBS]
2 Mississippi State vs. 15 Monmouth 7:10 p.m. ET

PHOENIX REGION
18 (Thursday) * Seattle, Wash. [CBS]
8 Alabama vs. 9 Southern Illinois 11:40 a.m. PT

19 (Friday) * Orlando, Fla. [CBS]
6 Vanderbilt vs. 11 Western Michigan TBA

SEC's NIT Schedule

17 (Wednesday) * Opening Round
Tennessee at George Mason 7:00 p.m. ET

17 (Wednesday) * First Round
Georgia at Iowa State 9:30 p.m. ET
LSU at Oklahoma [ESPN] 9:30 p.m. ET

NCAA Success Since 1990

The decade of the 1990s began a successful ride for the SEC in the NCAA Tournament. Since 1990, the SEC has emerged as the nation's toughest basketball conference from the top to the bottom.

The league has produced three national championships (Arkansas in 1994, Kentucky in 1996 and 1998) and nine Final Four appearances. Twice the SEC had two teams in the Final Four in the same year (Arkansas and Florida in 1994 and Kentucky and Mississippi State in 1996).

In a truly remarkable feat, the SEC held the title of "King and Queen of College Basketball" as the league won both men's and women's basketball NCAA titles in 1996 and 1998 when the Tennessee Lady Vols took home the women's crown as Kentucky captured the men's title.

The SEC boasted six straight Final Four appearances (1993-98) with five straight appearances in the national championship game (1994-98).

SEC Team-by-Team Notes

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
The Crimson Tide is making its third straight NCAA tournament appearance as Alabama was selected as the #8 seed in the Phoenix Regional. The Crimson Tide, which finished 17-12 overall, will play #9 seed Southern Illinois in Seattle's KeyArena on Thursday, March 18. Tipoff is set for 11:40 a.m. PT/1:40 p.m. CT. Alabama has now made the NCAA tournament field 17 times since 1975 and has an all-time tournament record of 16-16. It has advanced as far as the Sweet 16 seven times, the last time in 1991. Alabama has now advanced to the NCAA tournament three consecutive seasons. The last time it went to three in a row was a decade ago when it advanced in 1989-1992. Kennedy Winston was named 1st Team All-SEC by the league's coaches and 2nd Team All-SEC by AP. Jermareo Davidson made it five in a row for Tide freshmen who were voted by the league's coaches to their Freshman All-SEC team. Alabama's defense has held its opponents to shooting under 50% in 25 of its 29 games. In its last five games, Bama is averaging 78.8 points and holding opponents to 68.6 points and 38.5% from the field.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Arkansas' basketball season came to an end in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday with a 91-81 setback to South Carolina. Arkansas ended the season 12-16 overall. Michael Jones came off the bench and scored a team-high 15 points. UA shot 40.7 percent for the game, including 50 in the second half after a 23.8 percent performance in the first half (5-21), and made 26 of 31 free throws, 83.9 percent. Jonathon Modica had 14 points and eight rebounds, Eric Ferguson and Olu Famutimi 13 points, and Kendrick Davis and Vincent Hunter scored 10 each. Freshman Ronnie Brewer was the only player to start all 28 regular-season games for the Razorbacks this year. Brewer finished second on the squad in scoring (12.2 ppg.) and led the squad in rebounding (5.5 rpg.), assists (94) and steals (57). Arkansas was involved in 10 games this season with a five-point or less difference in the final minute of play. The Razorbacks were 3-7 in those contests. Arkansas had 14 assists and 11 turnovers against the Crimson Tide, the ninth time this year UA has finished on the plus side of that category. The Razorbacks didn't finish on the plus side of that stat a single time last year. The Razorbacks were 0-2 in overtime games this year.

AUBURN TIGERS
Georgia started the game with an 11-0 run and cruised to a 73-59 victory over Auburn in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. Auburn (14-14) did not receive an invite to the National Invitation Tournament after reaching the NCAA round of 16 in 2003. Auburn was out of this game right from the start. While Georgia was scoring the first 11 points, the Tigers were having trouble getting off a shot. On their first eight possessions, they turned the ball over seven times and managed only one shot. Guard Lewis Monroe hobbled off the court at half time. with an injured left foot. Monroe came back for the second half on crutches, watching the rest of the game from the bench. Marco Killingsworth scored 19 points, but the five Auburn starters combined for just 14. Three of them failed to score at all. Auburn junior forward Brandon Robinson ended his consecutive double-double streak at three. The Tigers are now 21-24 in the SEC Tournament since its renewal in 1979. Overall, Auburn has a 25-41 mark in the tournament. Auburn's only SEC Tournament crown came in 1985 when the Tigers won four games in four days, marking the first team to accomplish that feat. Auburn was the SEC Tournament runner-up twice (1984, 2000).

FLORIDA GATORS
Florida is making its 11th NCAA Tournament and its sixth straight under head coach Billy Donovan, a first in school history. Florida has a 16-10 all-time record in the event and has reached the Final Four on two occasions - in 1994 and most recently in 2000 when they advanced to the National Championship game. Florida owns a .615 all-time winning percentage in NCAA Tournament play, the second highest percentage of any school in the SEC. The Gators were the last team from the league to make the Final Four, doing so in 2000. Florida notched its sixth consecutive 20-win season, which is the longest streak in school history. For the second time in school history, Florida has been tabbed the No. 5 seed. UF was a No. 5 seed in 2000, the year it advanced to the National Championship game. Florida is squaring off against Manhattan and leads the series 2-0. Florida has won six of its last eight games. Anthony Roberson earned a spot on the SEC Tournament Team after scoring 22 points in the Gators' victory over Alabama on Friday night, then dropping a career-high 35 on Vanderbilt just 14 hours later.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Georgia will play Big 12 opponent Iowa State in the first round of the 2004 National Invitation Tournament. The two schools will square off in Ames, Iowa, this Wednesday night at approximately 9:30 p.m. (EST). The winner of the Wednesday night game will face the Florida State-at-Wichita State winner, at a site and on a date to be determined. This will be Georgia's 10th all-time appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. Bulldog teams have compiled a 10-9 record in NIT games, having reached the Final Four in New York City twice: in 1982 and in 1998. Georgia's most recent appearance came five years ago in a 1999 first-round loss at Clemson. Of Georgia's 19 NIT games, eight of them have come in Athens, including the first five it ever played. Just one of the past nine, however, have been played in Athens. Its past four first-round games have been played on the road. Senior guard Rashad Wright was recognized last week for his outstanding season, both by the league's head coaches and by the media that cover SEC basketball. He was voted SEC Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches, and both groups picked him to their All-SEC 2nd team. In addition, Levi Stukes was named to the SEC All-Freshman team by the 12 SEC coaches.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS
UK has appeared in 40 Sweet 16s, 27 Elite Eights and 13 Final Fours. Kentucky is 35-9 all-time in tournament openers and has won its last 12 first-round games. Since 1992, UK owns a 71-13 (84.5%) record in postseason play (SEC and NCAA). Kentucky is 11-2 against the 2004 NCAA Tournament field. The Wildcats earned the No. 1 seed for the second straight year and the ninth time since seeding began in 1979. Kentucky has won 25 SEC Tournament titles in 43 appearances. Gerald Fitch became UK's second consecutive SEC Tournament MVP. Keith Bogans earned the honor in 2003. Kentucky has won a season-best nine-straight games. Kentucky holds a 105-17 all-time record in SEC Tournament play and has won 31 of its last 34 games in league tourney play. UK is 9-0 this season when Gerald Fitch scores 20 or more points and 11-0 in Fitch's career when he scores 20 points. UK has won 52 of its last 57 games overall and 34 of its last 38 games away from home. Kentucky is 7-0 in games decided by five points or less. Four of UK's 13 SEC wins were by three points or fewer, including a trio of one-point victories. None of UK's 30 opponents this season have topped 50% shooting from the field. Kentucky has had 49 20-win seasons and 14 in a row.

LSU TIGERS
The Tigers are in the NIT for the second time in three years after winning at Iowa and losing at home to Ball State in the 2002 NIT. The Tigers open play Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN at Oklahoma in Norman. Oklahoma is 19-10 overall and 8-8 in the Big XII. LSU leads the series, 2-1. Teams first met in the NIT of 1970 when Pistol Pete Maravich scored 37 points to lead LSU to a 97-94 decision. Teams split a pair of games in 1987-88. Brandon Bass, the SEC Freshman of the Year, has been in double figures in all four games since Jaime Lloreda officially left the team with one double-double. Antonio Hudson had a career high 25 points in the SEC Tournament game with South Carolina. It was the third 20-plus point game he has had in the Georgia Dome. Since losing leading scorer Jaime Lloreda to an injured left foot for the remainder of the season in a Feb. 18 loss to Auburn, LSU (18-10) has dropped seven of eight. LSU had a 15-point lead midway through the first half against South Carolina in the SEC Tournament. LSU had reached the semifinals in three of the last four years.

OLE MISS REBELS
Justin Reed became the first Ole Miss player to earn All-SEC honors all four years, as he was named a first team forward by both the AP and the SEC coaches. Reed wrapped up his Rebel career fifth on the Ole Miss all-time points list and sixth in rebounds. Fellow senior Aaron Harper ended his tenure in the Red and Blue first in three-pointers, eighth in assists, 10th in points and 10th in steals. He also tied for sixth on the SEC's all-time list for threes. Harper was also one of only two players to rank top 10 in the SEC in points and assists this year. Reed and Harper formed the top scoring duo in the SEC this season at 18.5 and 16.5, respectively. Point guard Todd Abernethy was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team by the league coaches. He was the only Rebel to start every game this season and finished second among conference freshmen in assists at 2.89 per game. The Rebels were ousted in the SEC Tournament first round by Vanderbilt, 70-50. Ole Miss finished the 2003-04 campaign with a 13-15 record and a 5-11 league mark, tying for fourth in the Western Division. The Rebels have posted back-to-back below-.500 seasons for the first time since enduring two straight losing campaigns in 1994-95 and 1995-96.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Rewarded with their highest-ever NCAA Tournament seeding (No. 2), the SEC Champion Bulldogs will open postseason action by taking on Monmouth University Friday in Orlando, Fla. This will mark MSU's second appearance at the TD Waterhouse Centre. Friday's game in Orlando will mark the first-ever meeting between MSU and Monmouth. The winner will advance to take on the winner of the Louisville-Xavier on Sunday. Mississippi State sets new all-time school standards by making its fourth consecutive postseason tournament appearance and earning the program's third straight NCAA Tournament berth. The 25-3 Bulldogs enter NCAA Tournament needing two wins to equal the school's single-season record. SEC Player of the Year Lawrence Roberts has been named All-American First Team by SI.com and the National Association of Basketball Coaches. MSU has bounced back with an eight-game win streak and a four-game win string after its two prior losses this season. State has posted a collective 6-3 record against teams in this year's NCAA Tournament field, including non-conference home wins over UAB and Xavier.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
South Carolina will head west to play in the East Rutherford First and Second Rounds in Kansas City, Mo. A No. 10 seed, South Carolina will face No. 7 seed Memphis at 12:30 pm (EST) in Kemper Arena. The Gamecocks are 4-1 when playing at a neutral site this season. Memphis enters the game at 21-7 overall and finished 12-4 in Conference USA. They finished tied for the regular season title and bowed out of the Conference USA Tournament in the quarterfinals to St. Louis, 72-61. The NCAA Tournament appearance is USC's first since the 1998 season and the eighth time overall. The Gamecocks are 4-8 in tournament games and will be looking for their first tournament victory since 1973. The series history shows that USC is 5-17 vs. Memphis. Memphis defeated USC in the 2002 NIT championship game, 72-62, in Madison Square Garden. South Carolina and Memphis shared one opponent this year - Ole Miss. South Carolina fell at Ole Miss 68-79 on Jan. 31, while the Tigers defeated the Rebels 73-62 in Oxford on Dec. 6, 2003. Carolina is 5-6 against teams that are playing in the NCAA Tournament this season.

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Tennessee will be making its 24th post-season tournament appearance, including its sixth appearance in the last seven seasons, when the Vols travel to Fairfax, Va., to meet the George Mason Patriots in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament. The Vols and Patriots will tip-off at 7 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, March 17, at the Patriot Center. The Vols enter the NIT with a 15-13 overall record and a 7-9 mark in SEC action. Tennessee was eliminated in the first round from last week's SEC Tournament in Atlanta by Alabama. UT is led by second team All-SEC selection Scooter McFadgon's 17.9 points per game while Brandon Crump is contributing 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds. C.J. Watson adds 11.5 points. George Mason is 21-9 on the season after finishing Colonial Athletic Association play with a 12-6 mark. The Patriots narrowly missed the CAA's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 54-55 loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the championship game of the CAA Tournament. The winner of the UT-George Mason game will meet the winner of the Austin Peay-Belmont contest. Scooter McFadgon is making his third NIT appearance, his first for the Vols. At Memphis he helped lead the Tigers to two NIT Final Fours and a 9-1 record.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES
For the first time in seven years, the Commodores (21-9) are off to the Big Dance. Vanderbilt's last appearance was 1997. No. 6 seed Vanderbilt (21-9) will face the 11th-seed Western Michigan (26-4) at approximately 2:45 p.m. ET on Friday, March 19 at the T.D. Waterhouse Center in Orlando, Fla. The winner faces No. 14 UL-Lafayette or No. 3 NC State in the second round. Western Michigan, champions of the Mid-American Conference Tournament and regular season, returns to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. The Broncos claimed the league's automatic bid with a 77-66 victory over Kent State in the championship game of the MAC Tournament, the program's first-ever postseason tourney title. Vanderbilt and Western Michigan have never met on the basketball court. Anthony Roberson scored 35 points to help Florida end Vanderbilt's run in the SEC Tournament with a 91-69 semifinal victory. Vanderbilt (21-9) did enough to earn an NCAA bid, especially after knocking off regular-season champion Mississippi State on Friday night. Mario Moore scored 16 points to lead Vanderbilt, which shot only 37 percent.


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