Suggestions for Davidson; UT

Of all the "Beat Alabama Postseason? Here's A Job" guys of recent vintage, it looks like Bruce Pearl is destined to have the best staying power.

Of course that's a slam-dunk observation, as Buzz Peterson is long gone, replaced by Pearl at Tennessee four years after he came to Rocky Top with promise for his skill in leading Tulsa to the 2001 NIT championship over Alabama.

Stan Heath? He parlayed a one-hit wonder season at Kent State -- which had wonderful veteran talent that essentially needed Heath only to call timeouts and speak (very articulately) to the media -- into the lucrative job at Arkansas. His Razorbacks are the kings of close losses, as in five SEC road games by 11 points, but they still have time to pull out of their mediocrity. If the Hogs don't make the NCAAs, Heath is probably a goner.

Tennessee appears ready to shell out Tubby Smith-Billy Donovan money to hitch onto Pearl for a few more years. Pearl has been dynamic, no doubt, in leading the Volunteers from the pits of apathy to RPI royalty in one season. But Tennessee's knee-jerk willingness to vault Pearl into the salary stratosphere reeks of fiscal lunacy for a department already ailing due in part to budget busting in football recruiting.

Pearl's coaching style and personal magnetism have been a breath of fresh air in the SEC, and Alabama fans will get an up-close look at it Saturday in sold-out Coleman Coliseum. A win for the Crimson Tide would virtually sew up an NCAA at-large bid, while a loss would tighten up the race for the fourth and fifth spots out of the SEC.

Memo to Jermareo: Stay another year.

Alabama center Jermareo Davidson blew up on Kentucky for 28 points and 14 rebounds two games after Chuck Davis' season-ending injury. Davidson took the Tide on his shoulders in the second half, scoring one critical bucket after another as Bama nailed down a huge road win.

Since then, Davidson has not led Alabama in scoring once in eight games.

Sure he's faced some double teaming. Sure SEC referees allow notorious levels of contact to go uncalled in the paint during the heat of the season, which doesn't exactly play into the hands of the gangly Davidson.

The 6-10 junior needs to get stronger, needs to show more consistency with his 16- to 18-foot jumper and needs to prove he can dominate more than once over two months before he goes seeking professional pay.

Should Davidson return for his senior season, he could probably be a first-team preseason All-SEC player and a definite candidate for league player of the year on what would be a salty Tide team.

Davidson pulled his name out of the NBA Draft at the deadline last year, so he'll have to fight off a temptation to give the professional ranks a try.

SEC honors: Pearl's a slam dunk for SEC coach of the year honors, but what about league MVP?

Tennessee guard Chris Lofton has played his last three games like he's raring for that award. His numbers in the last three games, all UT wins, are simply stunning.

Lofton hit 7 of 10 3-pointers and scored 31 points in 32 minutes at Kentucky. He hit 9 of 12 3-pointers and scored 33 points in 33 minutes at Georgia. He hit 7 of 11 3-pointers and scored 25 points in 31 minutes against Auburn.

The combined 23-of-33 shooting (69.6 percent) from 3-point land looks like good free-throw numbers for most guys. Not for Lofton, who has made 39 of 42 throws (.929), a figure that would top Alabama's Ron Steele (.905) for the league lead if he had enough attempts to qualify.


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