HYAMS: Is Bass SEC's best player?

LSU forward Brandon Bass was recently honored as the SEC Player of the Week after averaging 24 points in two games and hitting 15 of 21 field-goal attempts.

He might be honored as the SEC Player of the Year at season's end.

The 6-9 sophomore is second in the SEC in scoring (17.5 points), fourth in rebounding (8.6) and blocked shots, and first in field-goal shooting (58 percent). He's also seventh in free throw shooting (79 percent).

``He's a relentless competitor,'' said Florida coach Billy Donovan. ``That's the highest compliment I can pay him.''

Bass has helped LSU to second place in the West at 9-4 going into last weekend's Auburn game. With two more wins the Tigers are a lock to get a second NCAA Tournament bid in three years.



Kentucky players weren't upset when South Carolina fans stormed the court after a huge win for the Gamecocks, drawing a $5,000 fine from the SEC.

``I think that brings excitement to college basketball,'' said Kentucky senior forward Chuck Hayes.

However, Hayes doesn't want to see that from Wildcat fans, because Kentucky is EXPECTED to win.

``Never,'' Hayes said. ``They better not ever rush the court. I'd be very upset.''

As guard Ravi Moss said: ``We should win every game.''

Kentucky wins about every game at home. The Wildcats are 375-43 since moving to Rupp Arena in 1976. When Kentucky beat top-ranked Florida at Rupp two years ago, Moss recalled UK students chanting: ``We're not rushing.''

Hayes said if he thought UT students were about to rush the floor, he would go to the E-Rupption Zone, the student section, and ``tell everybody to go home.''



Tennessee men's athletic director Mike Hamilton said he will make a decision on Buzz Peterson's future just before or just after the SEC Tournament.

Among the factors: Attendance.

It's not good.

The Vols have averaged about 12,200 in tickets sold this year, the worst since UT moved into Thompson-Boling Arena in 1986-87. It's also the first time in the past 18 years that Tennessee's average has dipped below 13,000. The previous worst was 13,030 during Wade Houston's final season, 1994.

The turnstile attendance average is less than 9,000.

This also marks the third time the Lady Vols have outdrawn the men. Pat Summit's team has averaged 13,535 tickets sold.

Hamilton said the reaction he's had from UT fans has been 2-to-1 in support of keeping Peterson, a likeable coach who is barely over .500 in four years and has yet to get the Vols into the NCAA Tournament.

Hamilton said Peterson's plan for having success next season is of ``paramount importance,'' and carries about as much weight as how the Vols finish this season.

Hamilton said he expects the basketball program to make the NCAA Tournament two or three times in the next five years and seven times over 10 years.

Because of the poor season, Hamilton said sales for the skyboxes at Thompson-Boling Arena have ``slowed down a little it.'' He said UT has five or six solid commitments and four or five tentative commitments out of 26 skyboxes.



South Carolina sophomore point guard Tre Kelley has been mired in a slump the past few weeks.

He was benched after halftime of a game at Tennessee in favor of freshman Stephen McDowell, who had 10 points, four assists and three steals.

Kelley played minutes and didn't attempt a shot. In his past nine games, he has 28 turnovers and 23 assists.

Guard Tarence Kinsey has also been in a slump, but not as long as Kelley's tailspin. Kinsey, who scored 17 points on five 3-pointers against Kentucky recently, was 1-for-8 against Alabama and missed all four of his first-half shots against Tennessee. He was absent from the lineup when the second half started.

USC coach Dave Odom said part of Kinsey's problem has been the recent death of a cousin.



Suspended Florida linebacker Taurean Charles was placed on probation for a year and ordered to pay restitution to the victim after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence.

Charles is expected to be suspended from the university for another year by the office of Student Judicial Affairs.

Charles' attorney, Robert Rush, said he would appeal a university suspension because it is not consistent with punishment issued to other student-athletes and it's unfair to Charles, who was suspended last season and could have transferred but didn't.

Charles was sentenced to four days of jail – time he has already served – and must pay $897 in restitution to the victim and $263 in court costs. He must also be assessed for anger management.

Charles was charged July 20 with punching a Florida student in the head and throwing a hall-full keg of beer on his face, causing serious injury.

Charles said he would remain at Florida if he has a chance to play football, but would leave if not.



In his first four years, Georgia coach Mark Richt lost one assistant.

In a matter of weeks, he's lost three.

Defensive ends coach Jon Fabris, a part of Richt's original staff in 2001, has left to take a similar position at Oklahoma.

Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder left for the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars and running backs coach Ken Rucker took a similar position at Texas.




Weeks after Ole Miss fired David Cutcliffe, Archie Manning, the most famous Rebel of all, was still upset. But he said he wouldn't let his disappointment over the Cutcliffe situation ruin his relationship with his alma mater.

``David Cutcliffe has meant a lot to our family,'' Manning said. ``He did great for Ole Miss. What he did for Ole Miss was fantastic. He's such a class guy. I don't like the way it happened. I'm disappointed that he's gone after the great job he did at Ole Miss but he and Pete Boone just didn't get along. He didn't like Pete and Pete didn't want him there. It's unfortunate.

``I was upset. I'm still mad about it. He's over it so I need to get over it.'

Cutcliffe gave Ole Miss its first 10-win season since 1971 and first SEC championship of any sort in 40 years. Despite Cutcliffe's success, he was fired after his first losing season by athletic director Pete Boone, a former Ole Miss player. Boone and Cutcliffe clashed almost immediately after Boone was hired before the 2003 season.

``I don't know if I had concerns about my days being numbered,'' Cutcliffe said of when Boone was hired. ``But I think any head coach will tell you when you have a change in leadership and the guy who hired you is not in place, your antennae goes up.''

Boone wanted Cutcliffe to make changes on his staff. Cutcliffe refused.

"Loyalty is a part of that, but a part of it is doing what you think is the right thing,'' Cutcliffe said.

Despite the messy divorce, Cutcliffe said his Ole Miss experience was wonderful. He also said he enjoyed wearing the hat of a head coach.

``That was something I felt came fairly natural to me,'' he said. ``I enjoyed being the one to make the decisions, good or bad.''



FREE THROWS: Kentucky has won the SEC East Division six straight seasons and has finished no worse than second since the league expanded in 1992. The Wildcats have won 22 in a row over West teams and 19 straight after a defeat. … Florida's Anthony Roberson scored 23 points in a recent win over Vanderbilt, matching his career average against the Commodores. … Mississippi State, undefeated in SEC road games last year, ended a five-game league losing streak on the road with a win at Georgia. … Women's coach Rick Moody, Alabama's all-time winningest basketball coach (310 wins), is retiring at the end of the season after going five straight seasons without making the NCAA Tournament. …  Georgia's leading rebounder is 6-1 freshman guard Sundiata Gaines, who recently had 12 rebounds against Auburn and 11 against Kentucky. He averages 5.0 rebounds per game. … LSU has more home wins (41) than any SEC team over the past three seasons. LSU also won eight SEC games before the end of February for the first time since 2000. … Kentucky freshman guard Rajon Rondo had eight steals against Mississippi State to tie a school record and take over the SEC lead in steals. … State's Winsome Frazier averaged 11.3 points in the first three games since returning from a broken foot. … Tennessee senior Richie Gandy, expected to vie for the starting center job this fall, tore his ACL playing intramural basketball and his status for this season is uncertain. … South Carolina baseball coach Ray Tanner has withdrawn his name from consideration for the school's athletic director's job. … Kentucky defensive coordinator Mike Archer, a former LSU head coach, has withdrawn from consideration or a position on Nick Saban's Miami Dolphins' staff. .... The NCAA has granted a sixth-year of eligibility to two Georgia players: defensive end Will Thompson and defensive back Albert Hollis. 




Jimmy Hyams is a featured columnist in Tiger Rag and the program director for WNOX in Knoxville, Tenn. Hyams, one of the most respected sports personalities in the SEC, can be reached by e-mail at jimmy.hyams@citcomm.com.

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