Sunday 3:09 pm
I refuse to let this loss cloud the SEC tournament experience this year. The LSU game was one of the more exciting in Kentucky post-season history. The fans in Atlanta were once again amazing, causing the GEorgia Dome to be covered in a sea of blue. And we had to watch out for an escaped killer in and around our hotel. What a week!
I hope you folks enjoyed reading the blog as much as I enjoyed doing it. Maybe we will be able to do something similar in the future, and hopefully we can make the experience even better for the readers. I will look back at this tournament with two lasting memories. One of course, was the continued unreasonable arrogance of Danny Ferry, but the other was the sight of Chuck Hayes getting ready for his radio interview after the LSU game. He stood in the center of the court, waving the crowd on and causing the building to explode with energy. To me, that type of sight typifies Kentucky basketball and it was great to see. See you at the NCAA!
Sunday 3:02 pm
You really have to give Florida a great deal of credit. They have showcased an amazing amount of toughness this entire tournament, and are right now playing as well as any team in the country. This is a huge win for the Florida program, as their odd streak of having never won an SEC tournament will finally come to an end.
Lots of things working against the Cats today, but the main thing is the fatigue. Florida's run at the end of the game came against tired legs after the LSU contest. Matt Walsh played wonderfully in the second half, and Kentucky could find no answer.
Patrick Sparks has played three of his worst games of the season against Florida, mainly because there is no one on the team that he can truly matchup with. He has no chance against Roberson's quickness, and Walsh's height bothers him. Luckily this is probably our last encounter with the Gators for the season.
Sunday 2:44 pm
I have said this throughout the tournament, but it bears repeating here. This is a new, mentally-tough Florida team, unlike any they have had in recent years. In past seasons, when Kentucky got a four point lead, they would have folded. This team goes on an 8-0 run to take a four point lead of their own. Very impressive.
Sunday 2:40 pm
Kentucky has done exactly what it needed to do. 12 minutes to go, and they are up 2. They really could not have asked for much better of a scenario.
Randolph Morris is showing more emotion than I have seen from him all year.....really coming into his own.HR>
Sunday 2:20 pm
When you hear a Florida fan try and say that it is only "a small handful" of the Florida student section who made chants at Azubuike, dont believe it. I am mere feet away from the Gator students here, and when Kaz was just at the line, they ALL changed "Where's your daddy" at him. I think chanting at players is fair game, but this one crosses the line in my opinion. Not outrageous, but also fairly classless.
Cats have a lot more energy here in the second half. However the officiating has been atrocious on both ends of the court. There are more blatant fouls going on by both teams than I have seen in a long time. The refs have not let the game get out of control....yet, but they also are not championship caliber at this point.
Sunday 2:01 pm
Kentucky really has no answer for Chris "J.R." Richard down low. He is bigger than our quick players and quicker than our bigs. We are trying to counter him with Sheray Thomas, which is probably our best option, but right now he is hurting us. It is a bit disconcerting that Florida has gotten virtually nothing out of Anthony Roberson, but are still leading by this margin at the half.
The first five minutes of the second half will tell the tail. This team just doesn tlook to have much in the way of energy, and we will find out if they can create some in the locker room. After sitting so long in the first, you have to assume we will see something from Hayes in the second.
Sunday 1:57 pm
I just saw Mark Curry of "Hangin With Mr Cooper" fame. I am really surprised he would have the time to be here, with his full plate of acting opportunities. The whole crew that was part of the TGIF lineup have not really kept up their success. But at least he is watching a good game.
Sunday 1:30 pm
Florida is destroying us on the offensive glass. This Kentucky team is flat out exhausted. You can really see that they are just a step slow on every possession. Cats need to hang around and not let this get out of hand, and then use emotion to come through in the second half.
Sunday 1:16 pm
It is clear early on that Florida has the fresher legs. They are quicker to the ball, getting more rebounds and have more spring to their step. It is also equally clear that Biff only brought three suits to the tournament. He is wearing the same one as he had on Thursday, and it looks sloppy. Very disappointing.
Sunday 1:05 pm
Two very different approaches by the two teams in the tunnel prior to the game. The Cats were very business-like, not showing a great deal of emotion, but seemingly ready to perform. Florida on the other hand was bouncing up and down and chanting "Ali-Bum-ah_Yay", the chant done by the fans toward Muhammad Ali before the "Rumble in the Jungle." It was meant to be very intimidating to George Foreman and some believe the chant had a negative influence on Big George. Of course, when Lee Humphrey and Matt Walsh chant it, the intimidation factor is lost a bit.
Sunday 12:44 pm
Yesterday was one of those days as a fan that comes along very rarely. There was a great game, played between two solid teams, both hitting their strides in an atmosphere where it was clear that the stakes were high. I truly do not want to hear announcers contend that conference tournament games have no meaning. If you were sitting here in the Georgia Dome and could see the despair on Kelenna Azubuike's face when he missed his free throw, the intensity of Brandon Bass on every possession, or the sheer unadulterated joy overcoming Chuck Hayes at the end of the contest, you would know that these tournaments are huge for the teams involved.
Yesterday I gave you some quotes from the locker room after the contest, but I actually do not think they told the whole story. Yesterday was my first experience in a sports locker room after a game, and I found it very interesting indeed. The scene is somehat strange, as grown men (and women) are jockeying for the best position they can find so as to ask a group of kids their opinion on a game. The reporters are very aggressive, due in large part to the limited time they are given. They interrupt each other and continually ask "just one last follow-up" for ten minutes at a time.
Of course as a reporter/fan, I found the experience utterly unbelievable. The players were ,to a man, very approachable and genuine. It is very clear that Ramel Bradley is going to be the star of the media, as he exudes infectious energy that makes people continually gravitate to him. Bobby Perry is the "good quote", an extremely intelligent, thoughtful kid who takes the time to answer every question (even the bad ones), in a way that suggests he truly wants to convey his thoughts to the masses. It was also clear that Joe Crawford was a bit overwhelmed by the experience, as he was surrounded by all the media folks, likely for the first time of his career. He handled it well, but looked very nervous. However his happiness at playing such a strong game did show through.
Of course from my perspective, the most interesting talk came with Woo. I actually caught Woo for a "one-on-one" exclusive, mainly because he was in the back away from everyone else. I told him about a Polish reader who wrote me asking for more Woo info, and his eyes truly lit up. He talked about how welcome Kentucky fans had made him and what an honor playing for the program is. His biggest thrill seemed to be when we talked about the "Woo" chants that the crowd gives him. He mentioned that he misses home at times, and the chants make him feel very comfortable. All in all, a great kid (who is only a year younger than me).
Now on to today's game. The team looks a bit exhausted to me, but there is good reason. They had an emotional war yesterday, and they (and for that matter the fan base) could be spent. I have no idea what to expect, but it is clear that Tubby will have to rely a great deal on the bench this afternoon. This game is hard to read, but with a number 1 seed possibly on the line, I think the CATS will show up strong.
It has been fun to watch the Rondo-Roberson interaction in the pre-game. It may disappoint fans to learn that they seem to be friends, needling each other as they stretch at mid-court. I know a lot of folks disagree with me, but I like Roberson. Very intense and almost Allen Iverson-like in his passion for the game. When he is not playing against Kentucky, I pull for him, and like Big Baby, I think he has a great NBA future.
Finally, it warmed my heart to see the great Bill Raferty here today. By far my favorite announcer, Raferty is always gracious when I bug him at this event every year. He said the LSU-Kentucky game yestreday was one of the most exciting of the year and thought this would be a barn-burner. I wish I could hear his announcing today, as I need a good "ONIONS" chant to get me through the day.
Saturday 6:42 pm
Well what an end to an absolutely amazing day at the Georgia Dome. My friends have all deserted me, and I am left sitting in an empty building, so I wil make this quick. I captured a series of quotes from the players in the locker room following the game and this is what they had to say.
"In practice we take it to the first team every day. So when coach called on us, we knew we would be ready. We are as deep as any team in the country and we love to show it."
"I could tell that when coach saw the first team was lackadaisical, it was only a matter of time until he called our number and we wanted to show them."
"My parents were in town and I was happy to see my family. My mom always tells me to be more aggressive, and tonight I listened."
"I am used to being more aggressive than I have been, and I just decided a few games ago that it was time to show it."
"Having these situations and close overtime games are key for tournament success and it was great to prevail."
"I have never seen a face like Tubby made when he pulled the first team. Effort was the reason for the change, but he was upset."
Ravi Moss on Chuck Hayes
"He is just a man. I am confident that we will have success whenever he is on the floor. Much of what he does doesn't show up on a stat sheet. But he is a winner, plain and simple. We just need to make sure we always match his passion.
"We came out as a team and did everything we were supposed to do and then were able to get a win."
"When the crowd is screaming my name, especially the Woo chants, it makes me happy. It is hard to come from Europe but the Kentucky fans support me and believe in me."
"I may be playing better because I am not thinking about trying to keep from making mistakes. I am just playing."
"I AM NOT leaving and will be with the team next year. Unless Coach Smith says I am leaving, I will be here.
Just an amazing night. There is a Fox Sports NEt guy out on the court, repeating his tagline for the newscast tonight (he continues to make mistakes) and otherwise they are playing "Closing Time" and trying to get us out of here. I will sign off for the night, and look forward to tomorrow!
Saturday 6:04 pm
There have been better games played over the years. There have been games that featured better individual performances, better moments and more talent. However for sheer, gut-wrenching emotion and excitement, give me this game any day. The Georgia Dome has not been louder in any SEC Tournament that I have ever attended.
Chuck Hayes literally willed that shot in at the end. You gotta love that for him, even if we do nothing else all year. I will be back later with more. Time to go see what is happening in the locker room.
Saturday 5:50 pm
Saturday 5:32 pm
Very poor execution down the stretch by the Cats. Missing the front end of two one and ones at the end is really unacceptable, especially when one is Sparks. In addition, I would not have had Morris in the game with 40 seconds left when he was fouled. All that LSU could do was foul and Morris is not a good shooter. Perry should have replaced him.
Chuck Hayes is not starting overtime!
Saturday 5:17 pm
After the last Sparks three pointer (at the three minute mark), Sparks exhibited more emotion than we have seen from him all season. This has been a great game and I think Sparks wanted to take the opportunity to remind some LSU players about that.
Saturday 5:07 pm
This has been an amazing second half of basketball. Kentucky is playing very well and Big Baby is an absolute beast. For a guy that size to move as well as he does and to have that type of leaping ability is really something. This LSU team has come a long way this season, and this game has been quite a show for them.
Saturday 4:46 pm
Well hello there Joe Crawford!!!! There are times where you realize you just saw an important moment in the makeup of a player's career or a team's success. We just witnessed the emergence of Crawford. This place went through the roof. Good for him He deserves it.
Saturday 4:36 pm
Tubby pulls all the starters in a minute. Key moment in the game, and maybe even the season.
Saturday 4:17 pm
I found that to be a very entertaining and relatively well-played first half. I do think that the success of Antonio Hudson is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want to stop Brandon Bass and Big Baby, and Kentucky did that relatively well. On the other, you cant lose an SEC Tournament game because of Antonio Hudson.
I think this is the best that Joe Crawford has looked in a Kentucky uniform. The confidence is the key within him. If he has that, he can do anything.
I have to say that Sheray Thomas just does not look completely comfortable right now. It may very well be the layoff, but he doesnt seem to be ready on a lot of possessions, has trouble executing some of the plays and just never looks fully in control. The kid has been through a lot, and will be a success at Kentucky. But he is struggling right now.
And thanks to Carolina's loss, Duke will win the ACC again. I hate them.
Saturday 4:08 pm
So how many of you thought that Antonio Hudson was the one that the Cats would need to focus on?
Saturday 3:42 pm
Am I the only one who holds his breath every time Sparks takes his opening three? It tends to have such an effect on how he will play all game.
Not used to seeing Rondo get beat off the dribble. Very odd.
Saturday 3:37 pm
Big Baby and Rondo already going at each other. Lots of jawing this early. Rondo sure isnt shy.
Saturday 3:32 pm
Crowd is not quite as vibrant as last night. I attribute that in part to the long wait that the fans had to deal with before Kentucky played its first game. However the energy is not quite the same in here, although there are still an astounding number of Kentucky fans in attendance.
Lots of people down here are picking LSU to pull off the upset. It may very well happen, but it continues to amaze me how quick people are to discount this Kentucky team. I for one do not like the tendency for teams to pull the "we are being disrespected" card so quickly, but this team has used this for motivation quite a bit. They believe the national media does not talk about the Cats enough and that people are always planning for their downfall. It does seem to me that they truly are using it for motivation.
I will haev a tough time getting over my continued respect and admiration for "Big Baby", but I will do it this evening. One quick thing to watch for. Because Big Baby is so slow, Shagari can guard him better than most big men he matches up with. We may see more minutes for Shag today.
Saturday 3:08 pm
It really disturbs me that my three least favorite teams, Duke, Louisville and Florida are all really hitting their stride coming into March. I must say that I am becoming very impressed with this Florida team. They are doing exactly what it takes to win, and for the first time in recent memory, are playing very smart. Walsh and Roberson look like different players, and they are FINALLY realizing that end of game situations should involve David Lee.
Kentucky must first get past LSU obviously, but I do worry about a Florida rematch. Either way however, it would be a great setup for March and good preparation for the NCAA.
Saturday 2:48 pm
Governor Ernie Fletcher has been walking back and forth for ten minutes, up and down the arena, praying for someone to recognize him. It had to be ego-deflating for him that he walked by a group of 500 Kentucky fans and no one said anything, and two minutes later, Woo walked by and got a standing ovation. Classic.
Saturday 2:37 pm
Just had a great moment here. The game is going back and forth up the court, and all of a sudden, a loud erruption of cheers occurs. I look up, and half the arena has spotted the Cats walking in to watch the game. The entire crowd then begins to chant and cheer, oblivious to the game on the floor. Brilliant!
Saturday 2:21 pm
Apparently Brandon Bass was quoted as saying that Chuck Hayes "may not be able to guard" him yesterday. That was a really silly thing for him to say. I am sure that wont pump up Hayes in the least.
Nice to see that Louisville has learned its lesson about fouling on three pointers at the end.
Just spoke with Bill Raferty backstage. Said he thought UK is a 1 seed if they win the tournament.
This Bama-Florida game is really getting interesting. Both teams are into it a great deal. I really likie how they are both playing right now. And while many dont like him or how he acts, Anthony Roberson is a tough SOB.
Saturday 2:08 pm
Three important observations ar half time from press row:
The cheerleader rankings have finally been completed. I would like to give a shout out to Dewayne Lawson, Corey Sayre, Chris Mosley and Sanchez who helped make this possible. The list as we see it:
LSU really came from no where to take the title last night. It could very well be that we were just very tired when they came on the court, but they did steal the show. We would like to thank everyone who participated and look forward to next year.
Does Dave Neal live in a cave 361 days out of the year, only to be brought out for the SEC tournament? I never see this guy at any other point during the season. He is sort of the Andy North of SEC basketball, being dug for his version of the US Open and then sent back to wherever he came.
There is a VIGOROUS debate going on in front of me between two ladies as to who is cuter, Azubuike or David Lee. While this may surprise ex-girlfriends of mine who accused me of having an opinion on everything, I have nostance on this issue, but leave it open for my female readers to discuss.
As always, if you have any comments or suggestions for the blog, let me know. And thanks to all who have already emailed. I will get back to all of you soon.
Saturday 1:33 pm
I have received two emails in the last day asking me why I have not commented extensively on the Matt Walsh hair situation. There is a strong reason for my reluctance to speak on the subject. Matt Walsh's hair is easy fodder. It is like a Micheal Jackson or OJ Simpson joke in that anyone can do it, and it is hard to come up wiht material that has not already been traversed extensively. However, I am here to give the fans what they want, so we will address the situation.
When someone has hair that is weird beyond belief, it usually means one of two different things. Either the guy is a quirky, fun person who likes to do things differently, or he is looking desperately for attention. I cant imagine that Walsh is really all that quirky and innovative, considering his best post-game quote is usually "both teams played with emotion." I also wonder if he really is looking for, or needs attention. I mean he plays on a visible basketball team and dates a former Playboy centerfold. He is not exactly then thirsting for attention.
So I have come up with this conclusion on Walsh's hair. He must not own a mirror. There really is no other explanation. For a man of his age and talent to have hair that is that curly and would look best-suited on a circus clown is completely inexcusable. Someone needs to conduct an intervention, and I may very well take it upon myself during the post-game interviews to do it. I care for my fellow man, and Walsh needs some serious help. If not me, maybe a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" intervention should be forthcoming.
Saturday 1:21 pm
Day 3 begins. I am exremely excited about the semifinals this afternoon, as the Florida-Alabama game should be extremely competitive, and of course the CATS are playing, which is always nice. Most importantly, Auburn is not being let anywhere near a basketball court, so there is a good chance that the games could be interesting.
As you may be reading or hearing on television, the city of Atlanta has been absolutely abuzz over the fugitive and his continued escape from the police. He apparently was caught this morning and we can now breathe a great deal easier. It has been utterly surreal to walk up and down the streets and see police officers everywhere, searching for the suspect. CNN did a live report from in front of the Georgia Dome, as it was suspected he could be in the area. I am not sure if you folks saw this, but as the report was going forward, a group of Kentucky fans stood behind the reporter chanting "GO CATS!" High comedy.
As Larry Vaught pointed out this morning, the freshman all spoke for the first time yesterday. It will be only moments before Ramel Bradley becomes the favorite UK player amongst the media, due to his infectious personality and his tendency to hold nothing back. I think Bradley is a wonderful emotional spark for this team, and now that he has the media to toy with.....watch out.
Finally, the crowd here today is fairly upbeat. Lots of Kentucky fans, but also a good contingent of Gators and Tide fans. Biff is in rare form with his outfit....charcoal suit, 70 butterfly collar shirt, open with two buttons undone. I saw him order around a contingent of the Florida band, whom he told to "keep it down." Yep, nothing like telling a group of people with powerful instruments that they are too loud. Sure to be successful.
Friday 10:31 pm
Many of you may remember that I wrote at the beginning of the Kentucky game that the Georgia Dome was electric. Well imageine whatever one thinks the opposite of electric is, substract all the energy and that is the current situation in the Georgia Dome.
I honestly cannot stay awake....LSU is up 30 points and there are approximately seven people in the building. I do what I can to entertain and inform, but no one should be forced to sit through this. I have decided that if a game involves Auburn, it does not involve me.
It was a GREAT night tonight (at least until Auburn got involved) and I will be back tomorrow for Super Saturday.
Friday 10:31 pm
Kenny Walker Interview
What are your thoughts on the current Kentucky team:
"I really love this team's talent level. The freshman are obviously strong, and sometimes with young guys you never know what to expect. However, I am been very impressed. The young guys are the key, because KAZ and Chuck Hayes and Sparks are known quantites.....the young guys will decide the postseason."
Who has the best NBA future amongst the bunch:
"I would say Rondo. He is a great defender, an amazing ball handler and has extraordinary athletic ability. He needs to improve his outside shot, but I believe he will. I like Morris, but he needs to work on his toughness. Azubuike will be there as well, but I think he needs to learn to play the 2 guard, which he doesnt play now."
What is your most memorable UK moment:
"That is easy. 1984 SEC Tournament final against Auburn and Charles Barkely. I hit the biggest and best shot of my life."
What are your thoughts on Tubby:
"He is as underrated as a coach as anyone I have ever seen. It is amazing to me that he doesnt get the respect he deserves so often. Like folks say about Chuck Hayes, all Tubby does is win."
What do you think of the Kentucky fan base
"They are the best part of playing for Kentucky. It is great to be in Rupp before the crowd, but when you come to the SEC and NCAA Tournament and see these crowds, it is unbelievable. There is absolutely nothing like it in basketball and it makes it so special to play here."
I thank Kenny for taking the time to talk to me.
Friday 10:21 pm
Two of the more memorable moments in my SEC history just occurred within two minutes of each other.
First, I walked back into the hallway towards the team locker rooms (the place to be this week for action), and found the Tennessee players consoling themselves in a slightly different manner than the South Carolina team. You may remember that USC spent their post-game time checking their cell phone messages, but Tennessee took a different approach. Four players (who will remain nameless) were engaging in what seemed to be a rap-off. I found that some had skills, some didnt....but all seemed to be handling the loss well.
Then came a moment that all Kentucky fans dream of. I found myself next to Tubby Smith (in the same hallway), and walked with him as he made his way back towards the playing court for his post-game radio show. As he walked by, a group of kids were leaning over the rail asking for his autograph. He said he did not have time, but he decided to shake all of their hands. The first kid reached out, and gave Tubby the biggest electric shock that I have seen. It made an audible sound and caused Tubby to recoil.
The kid was a bit shaken and Tubby said, "man you have energy!", making the kid's life I am sure. He then looked at me and said, "did you see that?" I told him I did and he began a thirty second conversation with me, asking me what I did and why I was covering the tournament. When told about the blog, he said, "that sounds interesting, maybe I will check it out." While he likely will never see it, no one will ever convince me that he is not reading every line in the future. I will live with the illusion that he is the blog's number 1 fan.
Sometimes you gotta pinch me folks.....this is a great gig.
Friday 10:04 pm
So I was told by a veteran reporter here yesterday that one of the things that we must really look forward to in the reporting business, is getting an exclusive. Apparently those dont come along all that often, and thus when it does, the opportunity should be seized. Well such a moment has occurred.
As I stood outside the walkway to the locker rooms after the game, the two teams came by, and a little situation occurred. As three Tennessee players began making their way to the locker room, Ramel Bradley came behind them, said something (it was not clear what was said) and then a near fight ensued. Bradley and the Tennessee players began jawing back and forth and Bradley looked to be on the verge of fighting. Rajon Rondo was in the vicinity, grabbed Bradley and stopped it from going further. However it was very nearly a bad scene.
As I am sure you know, I do not condone fighting in any form. However I must admit it that it was interesting to see this occur, and I was one of only three or four to actually witness the incident. Thus this may be rightly called a "KSR exclusive."
In other news, Glen "Big Baby" Davis is on the court. Thus, I am happy.
Friday 9:35 pm
Nice game for the Cats. Second half was a bit spotty, but they built the big lead in the first and were able to hold forth on the Vol onslaught. I find it pretty difficult to blog during the UK game as my attention is elsewhere, but it should pick up during the late game. Now heading back for the press conference.
Friday 9:14 pm
I am doing my best to contain my emotions, but it is very difficult. The culture of press row is meant to make sure that no one cheers or shows any emotion whatsoever. Since most Kentucky games find me pacing back and forth in my room, or chewing on my fingernails nervously, that ethic does not work out too well for me. I have had a couple of moments (KAZ dunk and Sparks pass) where I got some dirty looks, but I am doing the best I can.
Friday 8:57 pm
Three straight three pointers by Tennessee cuts the game to nine. It is sort of amazing that the way Kentucky is playing, the outcome of this game could still be in doubt. But it is.
Friday 8:54 pm
I am very interested in watching Bradley run with the first team here. I believe he has starter qualities but is just unfortunate to have a star in Rondo in front of him. The next few minutes will be interesting.
Friday 8:40 pm
Absolutely great first half for the Cats. Maybe the most efficient offensive performance they have had. Spoke with Kenny Walker at halftime, who said that if that team shows up in the tourney....watch out.
Friday 8:23 pm
Tape and save that Sparks pass. It goes up there with the Tayshaun UNC threes, the Kaz dunk vs Vandy and the Hawkins crossover vs Louisville on my highlight reel.
Friday 8:09 pm
No one in America (outside of his family) is a bigger Bobby Perry fan than me. But he sure does have a knack for getting blocked under the goal. By the way, biggest cheer of the night was for the Woo hook.
Friday 7:47 pm
Azubuike's dunk was SICK! I heard one NBA scout say he is one of the 5 best athletes in the NCAA. Rondo looks like he may have tweaked his ankle on the layup.
Friday 7:42 pm
This place is extremely loud. The Georgia Dome is usually the quietest of the SEC tournament gyms, but I cannot remember a more pumped up Kentucky crowd before a first round game. We shall see.
Friday 7:22 pm
This place is alive right now! THe arena is a sea of blue. Even the Tennessee section (where my boys have their seats) is colored with a great deal of blue. Couple of interesting things from the pregame warmups. As the team stood outside of the tunnel getting ready to come in, it was interesting to note who was leading the team in cheers. Ravi and Woo were doing the chanting while the other guys followed along. Not sure that I would have picked those two out as the leaders, but they certainly did the job. The team looked hype, including more emotion from Morris than I have seen all year.
Buzz Peterson got a haircut since last night. And you thought I didnt give hard-hitting journalism.
It was also very interesting to watch a pre-game embrace between Buzz Peterson and Bill Keightley. Peterson sought him out, gave him a hug and said that he was glad to see him. Bill wished him all the best in the coming weeks. Neat moment.
Friday 6:54 pm
Couple of important game time notes to point out. Rajon Rondo tweaked his ankle yesterday in practice and is considered a game time decision. In watching him warm up, I can see very little of concern, but it might be something to watch.
Shagari is warming up with the team and will be a go. Now that doesnt mean he will play, but he is dressed and warming up.
The Big Blue Nation has arrived in full force. The CNN center food court was once again alive with blue. The only thing more ubiquitous than the Chic-Fil-A wrappers was the C-A-T-S cheers that reverberated throughout the building. I noticed this year an abnormal amount of face painting. They were having a special on face painting in the Atlanta underground and it seems that many took them up on it. I have seen three bald men who have taken to having their entire head painted in UK colors.....great sight.
I would write more, but the press box has the Go-Gos blasting in my ear. I am going down to the floor.
Friday 4:53 pm
Well so much for this game being any good. Mississippi State is truly pathetic. I am not usually one to trash teams, but State has done nothing all season but disappoint. This is likely their biggest game of the year, and they are laying a complete egg. I am done with them.
In other news, we have had a third celebrity sighting, this time Isiah Thomas. Word is that he is here scouting to see if he can find terribly overrated players with horrendous attitudes, who he can give inflated contracts, and then trade for players with even less to offer. I actually feel bad for Isiah, because he is walking around the Georgia Dome with that "hey doesnt everyone know who I am. Come on, notice me. I was once the guy who would kiss Magic before games." What is said is that everyone does recognize him, and no one cares.
My buddies and I are heading out now. Check back during the Kentucky game, when this blog will change from irreverant stories and anecdotes to out and out worry and neuroticism. It should be fun!
Friday 4:12 pm
As the Gators ran off the court toward their locker room, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh could be heard screaming "Now they know dog....now they know." Truer words have never been spoken Anthony. Now I know.
Friday 4:12 pm
Matt Walsh is absolutely on fire. Regardless of what you think of his hair (and I dont think much of it at all), when he is on.....he is on. This truly is a different Florida team. I cannot put my finger on it, but they just play a completely different style of basketball than previous incarnations of the Gainsville crew. They could be a tough out for anyone.
In other news, Roy Kramer, former commissioner of the SEC, has been sitting directly in front of me for every moment of every game of the tournament. You can tell that this guy has a true passion for the game, which is one of the reasons that the league was so successful during his tenure. Similarly to CM Newton, Kramer is loved by everyone here and it truly feels like this is "his house." Watching him has really been a treat.
Does anyone besides me think that maybe Billy Donovan is using hair growth product? His Eddie Munster look used to be much farther back in my mind. Forget steroids, this should be the topic of a congressional investigation.
Friday 3:56 pm
I am really impressed with Florida's freshmen this year. Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Joakim Noah are a different type of player for Florida. They are a lot more gritty, get after it on the defensive end and hustle on every possession. When they are in, their energy seems contagious for everyone involved. Donovan built the Florida program on a type of player that is very exciting to watch, but usually not tough enough to succeed in the difficult end-of-game stretchs. He seems to have revised his strategy and when these freshman blossom, it could be very interesting to watch.
Friday 3:42 pm
I feel the need to report for all of you, the most important news. This qualifies. In the Ole Miss media guide, Brian Smith is asked why he chose his playing number. His answer was, "Because Marvin Moore had number 3, and number 1 was the closest number to number 3." Well played Brian, well played.
Friday 3:33 pm
Very eventful few minutes here. First the bad news. My source close to the team says that it is 95% that Shagari is gone at the end of the season, primarily because of academic reasons. Word is that the decision is close to mutual, and that it is all but inevitable. As always, take this with a grain of salt, but it is sort of adding a depressing air to my day today.
We are about to begin what I believe will be the best game of the tournament thus far, Florida-Miss St. It is amazing to see this Florida team in person, as they really do have an interesting appeal. Matt Walsh and David Lee take a TON of abuse from the male fans of opposing teams, but they are absolutely adored by women of all teams. All the SEC media girls who give out stats took the time to watch Florida's entrance and the court was surrounded by screaming college and high school aged women. It may very well be the case that both guys (especially Walsh) take too much abuse, but after seeing their reception by the opposite gender, I refuse to feel sorry for them.
I also heard what may be the worst taunting ever attempted by collegiate fans. While the Bulldogs were warming up, a group of Florida fans began tauting the Miss St team. Nothing irregular there. However the taunts were lame, and slowly became pitiful, culminating in one Florida fan looking at LAwrence Roberts and yelling, "Nice socks!" Roberts and I both looked down at his feet, noticed he was wearing normal socks, and got a perplexed look on our faces. Seeing this, the Florida fan yelled, "yeah I said it....Nice socks!" If Roberts plays badly today, this could very well be the explanation.
Friday 2:42 pm
Am I dreaming, or did Alabama's Jean Felix just do a cartwheel? After making the basket with a couple of minutes left, I could have sworn he did a cartwheel. This is truly a revolutionary moment in the history of the tournament. Can you imagine how awesome it would be if every player did (or at least attempted) a cartwheel after a basket? Think "Big Baby" or Woo, running down the court, doing cartwheels after scoring (or in Woo's case, not fouling....I kid because I love). Someone needs to immediately make this happen.
Friday 2:42 pm
The Alabama-Miss game is winding down now and the Rebels are hanging around (currently down 7). I was distressed to see that Clemson could not hold on to their potential upset of the Heels, but I never believe that such upsets will happen anyway. UNC and Duke have a firm pact with the devil that prevents them from ever being truly embarrassed. It is amazingly frustrating but is something we all must just accept.
The big news right now is that word on the street is that Buzz's job was saved by the performance last night. I heard from a fairly reliable source that the administration was pleased not only with the performance, but with the effort and energy shown by the players. You never know about these things, but the Buzz watch looks much brighter on Friday afternoon.
However the most important news of the day is the continued ridiculousness of the head of security for the Georgia Dome. Now I want to say up front that I know that an event such as this one necessitates a great deal of security. Lots of fans, plus conspicuous consumption of alcohol and a visible target leads to the need to be extra careful. I get this. However this does not require that the "head" of security be the biological twin of Biff from "Back to the Future."
I was first introduced to Biff last year, when he literally through a 5'6" man in a bow tie with bifocals on his face, into the wall because "Coach" Dave Odom needed more space. His overeagerness struck me as odd then, but it cannot hold a candle to his increased absurdity in 2004. Biff showed up yesterday wearing a suit (slightly too big for him) with a blue shirt, 1970s huge butterfly collar open, with two buttons undone to show his sparkling chest hair. All that was missing was a gold chain to suggest B movie director looking for work.
As the South Carolina team was making their entrance into halftime, he screamed at a group of reporters that they were "trying his last nerve" for having the audacity to try and eat a banana in the hallway. I have seen little actual talent in security showcased by Biff, and his main skill at this point seems to be his ability to keep massive amounts of hair gel on top of his head without it coming into his eyes.
Today he is wearing a brown suit, with a black shirt (no collar) and the biggest amount of fake gold jewelry ever seen this far outside the QVC studios. He has provided more comedy on this trip for my friends and I than any event, this side of making fun of Danny Ferry. I cannot promise it, but I feel that our interactions with Biff have only just begun.
Friday 1:52 pm
Ole Miss is a very difficult team to think of anything to write about them. I have been watching them at various points all season, and I cannot think of one moment that is of any interest to anyone. Watching their team today, the only thing that I can find at all appealing is that one of their players has the name "Eddie" on the back of his jersey. I have been told that is his last name, but I prefer to think that he just wanted to have his first name on there to be different. So good for Eddie.
As I think about it, there is little about Ole Miss that has ever been truly memorable. When I think back on recent teams, I have a difficult time naming any of their players. Ansu Seasy was a talent, and I vaguely remember a guy whose last name was Evans. There was the little short guy who used to kill Kentucky and a kid with floppy hair who hit a lot of threes. Thats it. That is the Ole Miss all star team of the past fifteen years. Am I wrong?
By the way, if you feel the urge, shoot me an email at Magloire52@hotmail.com.
Friday 1:36 pm
Sitting on press row around Alabama reporters is quite humorous. Here they are, covering a top team in the SEC and one of the co-favorites to win the conference title, but all they can talk about is football. I have heard about how former Tide players are looking for jobs, working out for pro teams and scalping tickets. However the game (in which Bama is involved in a struggle) is rarely mentioned. IT shows just what other SEC schools have to deal with in building their basketball programs.
I also recently spoke with a lot of people around the Ole Miss program. They all have nothing but the best to say about Brian Smith. While he doesnt get a lot of clock, most think he is a class act and a chip off the old block. Tubby just continues to impress.
In other news, Alabama has moved into a tie with South Carolina in our group's award for "best cheerleaders." It was a split decision, and one member is holding out his vote for further review. I will be sure to report on any new developments as they happen.
Hope to get up with big Sam Bowie this evening, but in the interim, I plan on going into the stands and interviewing a random Kentucky fan today. I have always found that they end up being the most interesting folks here anyway, especially if Danny Ferry continues his dogged resistance to my group's advances.
Friday 1:22 pm
Well it is normally the case that the time after the end of the last session is some of the more uneventful moments of the tourrnament....but not this year. First we must address the situation with the injury of referee Bruce Benedict last night. When he went down, it was very difficult to see from my perspective, and it looked as if he could be in serious condition. Thus everyone in the crowd became silent and one could feel the uneasiness take over.
Of course some people cannot be stopped from bad taste. A random Kentucky fan in the stands began chanting "BLUE!", hoping to start the Blue-White chant. He found no takers, but that did not deter him, as he chanted it repeatedly, while Benedict's future was uncertain. Finally a random fan yelled back, "SHUT UP!", leading to a hysterical moment where the KY fan would chant, "BLUE!" and the other fan would chant "SHUT UP." Once Benedict got up, and it was clear that he was ok, this became a truly funny moment.
My friends and I made an executive decision to take a cab back to our hotel, due to the sketchy nature of the area where we needed to walk. However, when we realized that the cab would be 10 dollars, we determined that this was WAY too much. So instead, we put our heads together and decided to make a much more reasonable decision. We took a horse-drawn carriage, through the 40 degree weather of Atlanta, and ended up paying 25 bucks. No one said we were very smart.
This morning was also truly ridiculous, as a local judge, court reporter and deputy sheriff were gunned down less than a block from our hotel. My comrade Corey was awoken by the shots, and the police blocked off the area surrounding our hotel, and thus our movement was restricted. I am all for doing as much as possible to see the CATS, but putting life and limb at risk is a bit much. However, I will do it for you, the readers.
Alabama and Ole Miss has begun, and the crowd is actually very strong. Based on their recent success, it looks as if Bama fans have taken Gottfried's challenge to heart and have come out in full force. Many here believe Bama is the tournament favorite, although I am not sold on the Tide. Whatever happens, I will be looking for the two old guys with the toilet paper rolls and the box of Tide laundry detergent. They are my two favorite fans, and the SEC Tournament is not complete without them.
Thursday 11:34 pm
I am very angry at Vandy for making a run. I wanted to go home. In other news, Danny Ferry fell asleep, but was awoken by the Vandy crowd yelling. He needs to be much more professional.
Thursday 11:03 pm
We are heading into the homestretch of Day 1 ladies and gentlemen and I am struggling. The Vanderbilt/Auburn game is struggling to hold my attention (watching the Commodores blow their chance for the NCAA bit by bit) and I can no longer harass Danny Ferry in good conscience.
Many thought that the Dores would take the lead of Buck Owens and "take a tiger by the tail," but they have produced another dreadful performance. The crowd is dwindling by the minute, leaving only the 22 or so Vandy fans here (13 of which are being distracted by their slide rules) and the contingent of Auburn fans, including one who is inexplicably dressed like Elvis. I love Elvis as much as the next guy (and occasionally listen to Sirius Satellite radio Channel 13...the all Elvis station), but there is a time and a place. "Auburn Elvis" just doesnt seem appropriate to me.
One of the more fascinating moments of the night just occurred, when the Vanderbilt dance team did by far the most risque dance of all the halftime performers. I would have thought that the "Ivy of the South" would have done a dance about nuclear fusion or something similar, but alas, they are just as overwhelmed by our cultural morass (to quote the sage Michael Powell) as everyone else. Truly disturbing, and it has caused my friend Chris Mosley to consider going back home.
As I close out for the night, I would like to leave everyone with a final thought. Whenever you are depressed, whenever you feel down and dont think you can go on.....think about SEC Tournament Day 1. There were thrills, chills and spills and it was truly heart warming......well ok it wasnt. But as I always say, a bad day of basketball beats a good day of almost anything else. See you tomorrow.
Thursday 10:02 pm
Well this has probably been the hour of the tournament that has provided us the most news, so lets get right to it:
I was sitting in the Tennessee section around a number of administrators during the Vols win, and there was a sense that it was a HUGE victory for Buzz's future. I expressed earlier how silly I believe it is that one game could determine whether a coach stays or goes, but if that is truly the case, the performance that Tennessee put forth would seem to speak well to the Buzz in Knoxville.
Along those lines, I am a bit concerned about the matchup tomorrow against the Cats. When Tennessee is rolling (which is not very often), they have a lot of firepower. Lofton, Crump, Mcfagdon, etc can truly fill up a scoresheet, and Kentucky must come ready to play. The Cats own the SEC, so I expect them to take care of business. But nevertheless, I do have an uneasy feeling.
Speaking of uneasy feelings, there is a truly negative feeling permeating the eight of my friends right now at the beginning of the Vanderbilt-Auburn game. There has always been a traditional pact between the group that we would sit through every game and try to experience the full SEC tournament. However the late game on Thursday always causes problems. WE had to get up early to get to the games, we are sleepy and it is usually a dreadful game.
This year, that sense of dread is even stronger. My friend Corey said that he was debating suicide if he had to stay until the end. Dewayne lectured him on the etiquette of SEC basketball (you stay until the end), but I am feeling like Corey has a point. I mean I can only watch Vandy's never-ending string of 7 footers who only shoot threes for so long. This could be a rough evening.
The other major moment of the evening was what I would like to refer to as the "Major Wingate affair." As we watched the closing moments of the Tennessee game, we saw a young lady with a bright pink hat. Feeling bold, one of my friends asked if he could wear the hat. She informed us that it belonged to the one and only Tennessee forward, Major Wingate. Immediately we all put it on, and took pictures on our cell phone of us touching the priceless property of Major, and those pictures will last a lifetime. Many years ago, Heshimu Evans dropped a paper clip outside of the Georgia Dome, and I thought I would never have such an amazing brush with greatness. This may have topped it.
Thursday 9:07 pm
Well so much for this being the best game of the first round. UT is up by 20 and it doesnt even really seem that close. The big story right now is that is that my friends are not sure whether they should approach Danny Ferry to talk to him. He is sitting directly below them in the stands, but he has a very unfriendly look on his face. I went up to him, introduced myself, and considered asking for an interview. I said, "Just wanted to say hello from a fellow Dukie." Now I never like to admit I went to Duke, but this was a desperate plea for attention. He said, "Great," and then went back to the game.
Now I dont like that kind of rejection. So my eight friends and I are trying to think of a way to engage him in conversation. We considered going up and asking him his favorite color, what time it is, what the weather is like "up there" (see he is tall) or if he is a bigger fan of Notorious BIG or 2 Pac. However nothing seems just right. I asked a couple of fans in the crowd, and being Kentucky fans, they heard his name and began cursing.
Thus I am left with no ability to talk to Danny Ferry. My credentials as a reporter seem to be compromised, but I am young. Maybe I can work past this. And who knows, maybe tomorrow someone like Cherokee Parks will be here to give me a second chance.
Thursday 8:51 pm>
In case you havent heard yet, Shagari Alleyne has arrived with the team. I suppose this means he will suit up tomorrow.
I just heard my first "Pig Sooey" chant of the night. I hate to admit this, but I miss the days when Arkansas was very good. They have the second best basketball fans in the conference, and they were a great program as a rival. I talked to Todd Day a couple of years ago, who said that enthusiasm for basketball in Arkansas is not 1/8 what is was in the mid 90s. That is a real shame, because the SEC was better when Arkansas was good.
Thursday 8:47 pm>
Lots of talk among media circles about the final call in the South Carolina-Ole Miss game. There is some controversy about how the referees came to review the call. The referees were fine letting the three stand, and leaving the game tied. However during the time out, Rod Barnes requested that the play be reviewed, and it was subsequently overturned. The interesting question is what would have happened had Ole Miss not thrown the ball away, and South Carolina not called time out. The clock may have expired, and it could have ended up in over time without any review.
I really am impressed with Tennessee right now. They are playing team basketball, and seem to be integrating all of their parts, a problem that has plagued them all year. If they are on their game, they present a tough matchup for any team.....including the Cats.
Can you imagine how much better this Arkansas team would be with Al Jefferson?
There are two fans sitting directly behind me having a debate that I believe we all should weigh in on. One of them insists that if Warren G Harding were running for president against George W Bush in 2000, Harding would have won. However in 2004, Bush would have taken the victory. What is surprising about this to me is not his analysis (seems fairly possible), but that his friend is VIGOROUSLY arguing the other side. How can two people have opinions on this? They both are Georgia fans, so I guess they dont have anything else on their mind.
Thursday 8:11 pm
Tennessee is really rolling right now. If they are playing for Buzz's job, they are really fighting while they do it. On a related note, I just ran into Tennessee's own Bob Kesling. His skin tone is much more orange in person than I would have thought. Must be all the Vol paraphanelia rubbing off on him
Thursday 8:03 pm
BARRY BOOKER INTERVIEW
I just caught up with Barry Booker during the first half of the Ark-Tenn game and got his thoughts on some UK-questions. Here were his responses:
What is your opinion of this year's Kentucky team?
"They are good, but not great. The key for them is to get a #1 seed so that they dont have to meet a truly strong team until the Elite 8 and they can avoid Carolina and Illinois. Then they have a Final 4 shot."
What about the other teams in the SEC? What are their tourney prospects?
"I really like Alabama. I think they are set up for an Elite 8 run. Florida is a bit of an unknown, but anything can happen with them. State and LSU wont last very long, simply because they aren't that good. LSU plays NO defense."
You have created a system called the Booker Ratings that seeks to rank teams based upon their offensive and defensive efficiency. I find the system fascinating. What are the current SEC Rankings?
"Well based on the last two games of the regular season, Kentucky did not execute quite as well as they needed to and Alabama passed them. Florida is third, followed by Vandy and LSU. "
What is your favorite memory of your playing days against Kentucky?
"My favorite game against Kentucky was 1988 in Nashville. We upset Kentucky when they were ranked number 3 and had Rex Chapman and Ed Davender. And I might add, that we scared them in Lexington as well, when a certain man named Booker hit 6 threes."
Who are the three best Kentucky players of the post-probation era?
"Easy answer. Mashburn is clearly first....an absolute star. Tayshaun is second and was consistently underrated while at Kentucky. I would put Antoine Walker third, but it is close between him and Delk>"
What are the NBA prospects of current UK players?
"Rondo will be in the NBA and be a great point guard. The real sleeper is Azubuike, who is an absolute beast. He is scary. I have no idea why he does not go to the basket more. When he does, he cannot be stopped."
Your thoughts on Tubby?
"Second best coach in the SEC.....next to Pat Summitt. Underrated nationally and Kentucky is very lucky to have him. Along with Coach K, Lute Olson and a couple of others, the class of the nation."
I thank Barry for taking the time to help us out.
Thursday 7:44 pm
Well we are back in the Georgia Dome for the night session and folks are getting very excited. We survived dinner at the Atlanta underground, an experience in itself, and even some taunting by the Florida faithful. Thus all is well.
The gym is much more full this evening, which is to be expected. I consider this Tennessee-Arkansas game to be the most promising of the first round, and I am very excited to finally see Ronnie Brewer in person. The media also seems a bit more attuned to the activities and are not gawking at the college girls who are handing out the box scores quite as much.
Buzz Peterson looks VERY nervous right now. I am pulling for him however. Great coach, and a guy who deserves another year.
Thursday 5:10 pm
State is beginning to pull away a bit, so the focus here at KSR is beginning to wander. Danny Ferry was just spotted in the crowd, admiring lustily Shane Power's head and taking notes about something or other. I would assume he is here watching Lawrence Roberts for some NBA team, but it is not clear. All of my comrades suggest that I need to interview him for the blog, but all the questions I can think to ask him would probably be inappropriate (and would involve the words, "NBA" and "bust"). Still, that brings the celebrity count to 2 for the opening session.....which is not too shabby.
Thursday 4:50 pm
The fact that this game is close is really a testament to what a disappointing season this has been for Mississippi State. At the beginning of the year, a Bulldogs fan could have legitimately believed that this team had Final 4 aspirations. With the return of Lawrence Roberts, they had as good a starting five as any in the conference and were blessed with one of the rarest of species, a strong college big man.
However they have done nothing this year but struggle, playing at a level that makes them succeptible to losing any game. Today's game is no exception. Georgia, a team that gets by almost solely on hustle and grit, is doubling up on Mississippi State in both categories, and if not for a few bad breaks, would be leading. Many believe that Rick Stansbury is one of the great, underrated coaches in America, and I tend to agree. To win consistently in Starkville is an accomplishment. Bu this team is showcasing today why the Bulldogs will join North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh as true disappointments this season.
Now on to something much more important, Joey Waldrop. Now Georgia has had the audacity to not put in the SEC Tournament Blog's favorite player the entire game, but this does not mean that I cannot focus on him. Joey, who combines the best in athleticism with a touch of grace and inner beauty, apparently is also a thespian as well. According to the team media guide, Joey has teamed with his mother Tammy to put on a mystery dinner theater production. In addition he played the "Village Watchmen" at the annual Georgia Renaissance festival last season. That kind of talent does not grow on trees ladies and gentleman. All hail the Waldrop.
Thursday 4:05 pm
Georgia is playing extremely well early. Many of us were worried that Shane Power's hair would distract the Bulldogs early on, but they have managed to overcome. Power's perfectly trimmed coif is truly astounding in this day and age. I thought that the "hairspray drenched weather man" look would have gone away in major college basketball with Dante Calabria. But it survives, and for that I am grateful.
I walked outside in between games and saw the entire South Carolina team, standing around, obviously distraught about their loss. Of the 12 players, eight were checking their cell phones, which I hear is what the young people now do when they are sad.
In Kentucky news, most of the media types around seem to agree that the Boston College loss paves the way for Kentucky to take a #1 seed. I do believe that many are discounting Kansas way too early, as the Jayhawks would have a strong claim if they take the Big 12 tournament. However ultimately, I think it will be of little importance, as if both Kansas and Kentucky win out, they will be in the same bracket either way. Whether kentucky is a 1 or 2 in such a scenario will have only minimal effect.
Thursday 3:34 pm
Well my first "scoop" of the tournament came just a few minutes ago. Word is that tonight's game with Arkansas is huge for the job security of one Buzz Peterson. The administration is supposedly looking at this game and then the potential encounter with the Cats as tests for Buzz. To me that seems absurd. Either keep the guy or fire him, but the notion that one game with Arkansas in the first round of the SEC should decide his fate is ridiculous
The Georgia team is now warming up, which means one thing....JOEY WALDROP. I must say that what Dennis Felton has done with this Georgia team is close to remarkable. When you watch these guys warm up, they look like a mid-level high school team. Yet they play hard and at times this year, they have been competitive. Five or six of the players on the roster came to college with no intention of playing basketball, something unheard of in the current college basketball world. The fact that they have won any games this year is staggering.
On another note, Dan Bonner is here, which means that he will likely be calling the final instead of Bill Raftery. That makes me sad.
Thursday 3:11 pm
The referees handled the end of this game extremely poorly. By making the wrong call at the time, it forced Ole Miss, thinking the game was tied, to throw a pass the length of the court, which was then intercepted. Had Ole Miss known it was a two (the correct call), they would have simply inbounded the ball under their basket, gotten fouled and moved forward.
It ended up being immaterial as South Carolina missed their last shot, but they should have never had an opportunity to take that shot. And by the way, how do you let yourself as a South Carolina player take a shot where your fit could even come close to touching the line? Very odd finish.
Most importantly, it seems that South Carolina Senior John Chappell's halftime speech in the walkway between the locker rooms where he said, "We have to do this for our school!," didnt work. Maybe that should have not been a surprise since it was greeted at the time with this response by one of his teammates....."Hush". Ah, teamwork!
Thursday 2:52 pm
The announcer just warned everyone that regardless of the outcome, no fans should storm the floor after the game. Was that really a worry that people had in this contest? Did anyone truly believe that the 12 South Carolina fans or the 6 Ole Miss fans were going to run onto the court after beating a fellow mediocre team?
In other news, Louisville is hitting its stride. That worries me.
Thursday 2:40 pm
If you are like me, you are struggling to get through this South Carolina-Ole Miss battle (even Rod Barnes or is it Rob Evans, looks uninterested). Thus I thought it would be good to change the subject a bit. Many of you have wondered over the years why I love Lukask Orbzut so much. This interview, found in the media guide I recieved, should answer all questions.
If you were on the Dream Team, which four players would you like to have join you: I can only play for the Polish team, not American.
Most people do not know this about me: I come from a big town in Poland.
The last time I was moved to tears: Five years ago.
The food I hated most but was forced to always eat: Dry steak.
If I could change places with Coach Smith for one day I would: Give the players the day off.
My favorite non-athletic hobby is: Reading Polish books.
If I could schedule any team for Kentucky to play I would schedule: My high school team.
You cannot buy that kind of comedy.
Thursday 1:53 p.m.
CM Newton just walked into the gym, reminding me of a phenomenon that I have seen for years at this tournament. During the course of the four days in Atlanta, one will see familiar media types, former players, current coaches and occasionally even a mini-celebrity. However no one consistently garners more respect in the room than CM Newton. When he walks by, even the most grizzled reporter, stops what he is doing and shakes Newton's hand. It really is an amazing thing to watch.
Halftime of the game, and even as first round SEC games go, this one is uninteresting. Most on press row are actually focusing on the scores from the West Virginia-BC encounter. However hopefully the halftime activities wont go completely unnoticed.
As part of the Chick-Fil-A SEC Basketball legend program, they just introduced former Ole Miss player, Coolidge Ball. Ball was the first African-American athlete at the University of Mississippi in 1972. Being Ball at that time must have taken an unbelievable amount of courage, and it is good to see him honored and given a standing ovation by the crowd.
Thursday, 1:30 p.m.
If JP truly wanted to liven up the first day of the SEC (which they should no doubt attempt to do), they should dedicate a camera on the top of the screen that only follows around Dave Odom. Odom looks like a cross between a middle-aged mouse and a Literature professor, but with the temper of Bobby Knight.
It takes absolutely nothing to get this guy going. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live with him. I can see him watching something like the Real World, seeing Landon say something idiotic, and then storming around flailing his hands and looking like someone had taken his puppy. Having said that however, he does wear a suit well....which is important
On another note, I saw my first Ole Miss fan. He didnt seem to be getting too comfortable.
We are now live from the Georgia Dome as the 2005 edition of the SEC Tournament gets under way with the game that absolutely no one cares about, South Carolina vs. Ole Miss. The crowd in here is, not surprisingly, sparce. However as usual, Kentucky fans rule the day, taking up more space than fans from any other team, and arguably more than all of the other teams combined. The only school with any sort of a presence is Mississippi State, but most of their fans have that giddy, "I just got out of Starkville" look.
Every year during the early round games of the tournament, my friends and I engage in a debate as to which team has the best cheerleaders and band. An exciting feature of this early game is that South Carolina and Ole Miss traditionally tangle with Arkansas for the "Best Cheerleader" award yearly, and it is good to get two of the heavy hitters out of the way first.
In addition, this is a chance to get to see one of my favorite SEC players up close, the absurd Renaldo Balkman. Balkman has the "Ron Slay, Jamal Magloire" ability to be loved by his own fans, but utterly detested by those of opposing teams. I am hoping to ask him in the post game press conference about his hair, as this is the most pressing issue facing the South Carolina team. Within my first thirty minutes here, I ran into Cameron Mills, and will have an interview with him this afternoon. As per usual, I would like to run some questions from the fans, so if you have a question for Mills, email me at Magloire52@hotmail.com.
Celebrity Sightings thus far:
If you count Cameron Mills....one.
Southeastern Conference Champion Kentucky earned two 2005 SEC coaches' postseason awards as Tubby Smith was unanimously chosen SEC Coach of the Year by his peers and senior forward Chuck Hayes was selected SEC Defensive Player of the Year by the league's coaches. Western Division Co-Champion LSU garnered three major awards. Brandon Bass earned both the SEC Player of the Year and SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards and teammate Glen Davis made it back-to-back SEC Freshman of the Year honors for the Fighting Tigers (Bass won the award in 2004). Ole Miss' Todd Abernethy won the SEC's Sixth Man of the Year award.
Smith led the Wildcats to their 43rd SEC Championship and second in the last three years. He also won the award in 2003. He guided his squad to a league-best 23-4 record (14-2 in SEC play) and what will be their 14th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. In eight seasons in Lexington, he has compiled a 214-56 (.793) record.
Brandon Bass garnered SEC Player of the Year honors in leading LSU to a share of the Western Division title for the first time since 2000. Bass and LSU's Seimone Augustus, the SEC Women's Player of the Year, are the first duo from the same school to be voted by the league coaches as SEC Player of the Year. The SEC Coaches award began in 1987 for both men and women's basketball. Bass also becomes the first LSU player to win the honor since Shaquille O'Neal won back-to-back honors in 1991 and 1992. Bass was also a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection.
Bass also earned the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, sporting a 3.45 grade-point average as a sophomore. He is 2004-05 CoSIDA Academic All-District Team selection and Academic All-America nominee.
LSU's Glen Davis was awarded the SEC Freshman of the Year award. Davis leads all SEC freshmen and is fourth in the league with 8.7 rebounds per game. He also ranks third among freshmen in scoring at 13.1 points per contest. Davis was one of five unanimous picks for the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Kentucky's Chuck Hayes earned the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. Hayes leads the Kentucky defense that currently leads the SEC in scoring defense (61.0), steals (9.22) and turnover margin (+5.37).
In many ways, this is my favorite weekend of the year. With all apologies to the more traditional picks of Christmas, Easter and the beginning of the new season of American Idol, no weekend gets my blood pumping more than that of the SEC Tournament. Throughout the country, March is the month where everyone focuses on college basketball, specifically the NCAA Tournament and the march to the Final Four. Don't get me wrong, I love that aspect of March Madness as well and fill out entirely too many brackets, but given the choice between the two, I would still stick with the SEC.
My love affair with the SEC Tournament began when my grandfather started taking me to the tournament on his annual trip with his buddies. Like so many Kentucky fans, the SEC Tournament provided me my one chance of the year to actually see the Big Blue play in person, and I looked forward to it throughout the season. After my grandfather passed away, I continued the tradition with my friends, making a yearly pilgrimage to the tournament with a group of buddies who use the adventure as a chance to do everything from see the teams play to get away from their wives.
Over the years, the tournament has provided me with a great deal of memories. There was the 1992 tournament which featured an Arkansas-Alabama duel between Todd Day and James "Hollywood" Robinson, that still stands as one of the three greatest games I have ever seen in person. Few can forget the 1995 classic in Memphis that saw Rhoderick Rhodes miss two free throws at the end of regulation that essentially spelled the end of his career in a Kentucky uniform. The 1996 tournament saw one of the more shocking results of my lifetime, with a Mississippi State team running over a Cats team that I believed was completely invincible. And then there was the 2003 version in Cat-lanta which cemented Kentucky's season-long undefeated SEC run, an accomplishment that becomes more and more remarkable each passing year.
However the greatness of the tournament usually lies in off the court moments. Whether it is my friends' constant harassment of Barry Booker, our attempt to make conversation with the Real World's Jon Brennan (much tougher than you might imagine) or the awkwardness that follows the sight of a former Kentucky great who has put on a bit too much weight since his playing days, the tournament provides one great story after another. And this is usually the case for all of the Kentucky faithful as the Big Blue Nation turns wherever the tournament happens to be located, into Lexington South. For four days, regional, political and economic differences are put aside and the focus is on winning another tournament title, something that has happened 11 out of the last 14 years.
This blog will focus on some of the on-the-court action, but will also try to relay in real time, the off-court happenings as well. Keep checking in throughout the week, and forgive me if I seem a bit giddy in the reports. I have ten of my best friends in tow (crammed into two hotel rooms), a media pass to sit on press row and my favorite team heading for another title. It doesn't get much better than this.