Finishing the SEC notebook

ATLANTA--Despite a tough loss in the SEC Tournament championship game, the University of Alabama basketball team of coach Mark Gottfried had already sown up an NCAA Tourney bid, and likely, the two seed it got in the South Region.

There is no disputing the prestige that comes with a trip to the "Big Dance," but the NCAA berth means a lot of dollars for UA Athletic Department coffers. "And making it next year, and the next," said a happy Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore just after the Tide broke its seven-year NCAA drought. "The more you play in it year after year, the stronger you are financially, (with) your cut of the money. (Gottfried) has got us in position with the program with a foundation that'll put us back here (in he tourney) many years."

Moore, who knows a thing or two about building programs, having assisted coaches Bryant and Stallings in doing so, likes what he sees in year four of the Mark Gottfried regime at Alabama. "He's made, I think, steady progress every year. Academically, his teams have performed exteremely well, and they play hard. They've continually gotten betters, (added) excitement for the crowds; its just done wonders for Alabama basketball."

A few more categories:

NAME GAME: In the mid 1970's, Ray Goff played quarterback at the University of Georgia. In the new millennium, Roy Goffer plays guard for the Mississippi State basketball team. Both are around 6-3, both were or are Bulldogs, but there's no relation. Ray Goff hailed from Moultrie, GA, and Roy Goffer came to Starkville from Nes-Ziona, Israel.

MOST INSPIRATIONAL: We feel the walkons who play significant minutes in the SEC are to be commended. Hats off to Antoine Pettway, Guy Gardner, and Donnie Calton. You all know of Pettway, and he's earned his scholarship though he had none when he arrrived in Tuscaloosa a year and a half ago. Gardner was on scholy in junior college, but pays his way at Mississippi State and gives Derrick Zimmerman a few minutes rest at the point per half for the Dogs. Calton is used as much by Auburn ,but when he gets in he does the dirty work. Good job, guys.

RUMORAMA: It was going around the Georgia Dome like the dreaded wave a few hours before Auburn's season was ended by Florida a week ago. Folks were whispering that Cliff Ellis was about to step down as coch at AU. As is the case with most rumors, it was much ado about nothing, as the press conference that had a few on pins and needles postgame turned out to be like any other. Had us media-types going, though. Here's hoping Uncle Cliffy stays put.

BEYOND THUNDERDOME: It rained, very hard mid-tourney. There is something rather eerie about a pelting rain hitting the roof of a domed stadium. Kind of like a plane landing, but it goes on, and on...Weird.

THE PROPHET ROD: No, not Mr Grizzard. Long-time Bama booster Rod Hovater of Atlanta told us prior to the UT game that hed "brought Rod Grizzard's three-point stroke back." Uh, ok. Maybe a lucky guess. Not so, as the next day, the Peach Bowl committee member told us, "Today, I've got Terrance Meade's shot back." Meade proceeded to hit a trio of threes against Carolina. Hovater did not make a prediction on when the Tide football squad might make its first ever trip to the Peach Bowl.

SUPERFANS: You can spot Birmingham brothers Gene and Russell Stutts at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the fall, Coleman Coliseum during the winter, and, when Spring has sprung, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The two follow the Tide year-round, and both businessmen are active members of the Birmingham UA Alumni Association as well as both the local Red Elephant and Bama Tipoff clubs. Like Golden Flake and Coca-Cola, they're a great pair of Tide fans.

HOW 'BOUT THAT....SHRIMP: A few weeks back we discussed the outstanding fried shrimp at Wintzell's in Mobile. This go-round, we ventured about five and a half hours north of the Port City where we discovered The Ridge, a restaurant/bar located off exit 15 on Georgia 400. The tea was servciceable and the house salad was just right, but the shrimp went above and beyond he call of duty, especially being nowhere near the sea! Butterflied, lightly breaded, and fried just right, every bite was a pleasure. We truly hated to see 'em go, and we WILL be back. The Ridge is owned by the same group that operates the Tavern at Phipps, a very well-known Atlanta hotspot for food and fun.


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