Tide Has Good History

The Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament gets underway Thursday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and history says that Alabama will do well. Although any game can be a tough game, the Crimson Tide did well to get the number one Western Division seed and avoid the bottom of the bracket where regular season SEC Champion Kentucky is the number one seed from the East.

Although Alabama and LSU tied for the SEC Western Division championship with 12-4 league records, Bama's victory over Mississippi State in Starkville Saturday provided the Crimson Tide with the tie-breaker advantage for the number one seed.

The top two teams in each division received byes. That means Florida and LSU will also be waiting for the results of Thursday games.

In Alabama's case, the Tide will play either Ole Miss or South Carolina at 1 p.m. EST (noon CST) Friday. All tournament games prior to the championship game will be televised regionally by Jefferson Pilot. The championship game, to be played Sunday at 1 p.m. EST (noon CST) will be telecast by CBS. The winner of the championship game receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

If Alabama wins its Friday game, its Saturday semifinal contest will also be at 1 p.m. EST (noon CST).

Also in the upper bracket with Bama, Florida will play the winner of Thursday's Georgia-Mississippi State battle of the Bulldogs. In the lower bracket, Kentucky will play the Tennessee-Arkansas winner and LSU will meet the Auburn-Vanderbilt winner.

It is projected that five SEC teams will be selected for the NCAA Tournament regardless of the SEC Tournament outcome. A sixth SEC team making the tournament is probably contingent on a team other than Kentucky, Alabama, Florida, LSU or Mississippi State reaching the championship game.

While the automatic bid goes only to the champion, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will make its announcement shortly ater the completion of the SEC Tournament and usually includes both championship game participants in the 65-team NCAA bracket. If the SEC Tournament goes as seeded, with Alabama and Kentucky in the championship game, that would almost certainly assure Bama of no worse than a four seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama goes into the SEC Tournament with a 23-6 record.

Kentucky has dominated every aspect of SEC basketball, including the SEC Tournament. The surprise is that Alabama ranks second in SEC Tournament play and in overall basketball excellence among SEC teams. While the Crimson Tide trails Kentucky at a distance, it is far closer than, say, Kentucky to Alabama in football.

SEC Tournament history is considered in two segments

•Overall, which includes 1933-52 and then after a long break 1979 to the presen, and

•"Since The Break."

In both categories, Bama is second to the Wildcats in all meaningful statistics.

Kentucky has a record of 105-17 (86.1 per cent) record in SEC Tournament games, followed by Bama at 54-38 (58.7 per cent). Since the renewal of the tournament, the Wildcats are 48-12 (80 per cent) and Alabama is 38-21 (64.4 per cent). Kentucky and Alabama rank one-two in semifinal game appearances and victories and in championship game appearances and victories both overall and since the renewal. Kentucky has 25 titles with the Tide second with six.

Alabama has a losing record against only two teams in SEC Tournament play. Bama is 2-9 against Kentucky and 3-4 against Vanderbilt. Against Arkansas and South Carolina the Tide is even in SEC Tournament games.

Alabama has played in SEC Tournament games in which the most points were scored (201 in a dramatic 101-100 Kentucky victory in 1979) and the fewest points (39 in a 21-18 Tide triumph over Tennessee in 1942).

Alabama success in the SEC Tournament should not be a surprise. In SEC competition, Bama ranks second all-time to Kentucky in overall wins and winning percentage. In head-to-head play, Alabama has a winning record against every SEC team except Kentucky (33-94) and Arkansas (19-21).

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