The Road Through Nashville

Arkansas has been dominant at home but the opposite of that on the road - which is what the SEC Tournament might seem like to the Razorbacks with a Thursday opening against Vanderbilt and a potential Friday battle with Kentucky.

For a team that has not exactly had a lot of road success, Arkansas likely could not have come up with a harder path to winning the SEC Tournament this week in Nashville.

The seventh-seeded Razorbacks (19-12, 10-8) – who have not won an SEC Tournament game in five years – open up against Nashville-based Vanderbilt (14-16, 8-10) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

A win there and Arkansas would then play Friday at 6:30 p.m. against second-seeded Kentucky, who has long had an overwhelming "home" advantage at SEC Tournaments because of its fans who descend on the event.

"We are playing against a Vanderbilt team that we split with and playing against them there in Nashville is going to be a task," Anderson said on Monday's SEC Teleconference, "but at the same time it is one that our guys are looking forward to.

…I am sure it will have some effect for them, but at the same time it is a one-and-done situation, survive and advance," Anderson added. "They get to sleep in their own beds and play in a facility that is just right down the street from Vandy."

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings doesn't necessarily think it is a home game for his squad.

"I don't really think it is," Stalling said. "We are happy the tournament is in Nashville, I think it's the best venue, personally. But it has not been an advantage for us in the years that it has been there. Maybe it will be more of an advantage this time but over the course of time it has not been that much of an advantage."

Kentucky head coach John Calipari knows the second-seeded Wildcats (21-10, 12-6) have the crowd advantage for any game his team plays.

"It's important to this young team," Calipari said." Obviously we engaged our fans and it really helped us. But at the end of the day you have got to play basketball and the second thing you have got to battle and fight. If they come at you, are you going to quit, let go of the rope or you fight. You can't have teams walking off the floor and their staffs are saying to each other, 'This team is soft.'

"We have got to battle," Calipari said. "And when we battle we are a good team. When we step back and don't want the contact or avoid the body check, we are not that good. That other team is as good as anybody in the country and I believe we can advance as far as they want to go, but you have got to fight and really sustain that kind of attitude and that kind of effort."

The Razorbacks and Commodores split the two-game season series with each playing arguably its worst game of the season in the contest it lost.

Arkansas won 56-33 in Fayetteville on Jan. 12, but then provided an epic road fail by losing at Vanderbilt 67-49 on Feb. 9.

"At this point, it is just about what you bring to the table now," Anderson said. "Tapes don't do any justice for those games. One was skewed one way and then the other skewed the other way. Both teams played on their home court and played particularly well.

"This game here, there is a lot at stake and I am sure that both teams will come out and compete," Anderson added.

Kentucky edged the Commodores twice this season while losing at Arkansas 73-60 on March 2.

"We had two games that could have gone either way with Vanderbilt and Arkansas smashed us," Calipari said. "So either team is going to be a hard game for us. It ain't going to be like OK, we win this game. Arkansas absolutely demolished us. And Vanderbilt had their chances to beat us twice."

The Commodores have won four of their last five games.

"We had two pretty interesting games with Arkansas so I don't know what this one will hold, but anyway we finished up the season strong which we were happy about," Stallings said. "And we feel like our team has continued to get better through the course of the season which is always our goal. So it should be a very interesting tournament."

This is the first time that the SEC Tournament will be a five-day event as the league expanded to 14 teams this season.

"Really any number of teams could win and I think it will be very interesting to see how it unfolds throughout the course of the week and over the weekend," Stallings said. " We are excited to play and looking forward to the opportunity and challenge of playing a very good Arkansas team on Thursday."

Stallings is just happy to not be playing on Wednesday, when the tournament opens with the four lowest seeds.

"I think it's easier to win four games in four days than five in five," Stallings said. "I think logic certainly suggests that. I think it has been done so is it probable? I wouldn't say sometimes that it is probable but I think the tournament is a little more wide open this year than it has been in other years.

"So I am certainly not going to sit here and say we can or cannot or Arkansas can or cannot," Stallings added. "I'm no prognosticator other than to think our tournament will be very interesting. A lot of teams are good enough to win it so we will just see what happens."

Calipari has never been a fan of the SEC Tournament and had not changed his mind on Monday.

"I wish none of us played in this tournament," Calipari said. "Let's go on to the next tournament (the NCAA). But we are in this tournament. Now some years we are playing for a seed. There is an importance to the game. It is not the tournament itself. That has not changed. Other years it's 'OK, you have got to get this one to make sure you are in or you may have to get two or you may have to win the tournament. So there is an importance to it. But as far as playing in a tournament at this time, three games in three days, I'm not a big fan."

O o o

2013 SEC Tournament

March 13-17

Bridgestone Arena

Nashville, Tennessee

Wednesday, March 13

• No. 12 South Carolina vs. No. 13 Mississippi State (Game 1), 6:30 p.m.

?• No. 11 Texas A&M vs. No. 14 Auburn (Game 2), 9 p.m.

Thursday, March 14

• No. 8 Georgia vs. No. 9 LSU (Game 3)?, noon

• No. 5 Tennessee vs. Winner of Game 1 (Game 4), 2:30 p.m.

?• No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Vanderbilt (Game 5), 6:30 p.m.

?• No. 6 Missouri vs. Winner of Game 2 (Game 6), 9 p.m.

Friday, March 15

Florida vs. Winner of Game 3 (Game 7)?, noon

Alabama vs. Winner of Game 4 (Game 8), 2:30 p.m.

?• Kentucky vs. Winner of Game 5 (Game 9 ), 6:30 p.m.

Ole Miss vs. Winner of Game 6 (Game 10), 9 p.m.

Saturday, March 16

• Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 8 (Game 11), noon

?• Winner of Game 9 vs. Winner of Game 10 (Game 12), 2:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 17

• Winner of Game 11 vs. Winner of Game 12 (Championship Game), noon





Michael Qualls slams one home in Arkansas' win over Vanderbilt back on Jan. 12.





Coty Clarke drives on Vanderbilt's Rod Odom.





Arkansas sophomore guard B.J. Young pressures the Commodores' Kyle Fuller.


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