For those teams that just can't be sure about their place in the tournament, the wait can be excruciating.
"No question, it will be nervous,"
Now that the final selections have been made and the SEC has placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament, with Alabama joining LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and Arkansas in the field of 65, it's time to put aside the nervousness and take a look at how much momentum and confidence each SEC team carries into the tournament.
Opponent: 13th-seeded Iona,
Where they stand: Yes, the
17th-ranked Tigers lost 81-65 to
"We accomplished what we needed to here,"
Brady said after the
Instead of worrying about Thomas,
Brady must be more concerned with the possibility that Iona (and either Syracuse
or Texas A&M in the second round) will play a 2-3 zone similar to the one
Florida used to hurt the Tigers and limit LSU center Glen Davis. One day after
scoring a career-high 28 points against Vanderbilt Davis scored only two points
in the first half against
"We were just trying to contain him the best we could, and I think we did a pretty good job even though he got a lot of our front court in foul trouble," Florida post Joakim Noah said.
The zone exposed some of LSU's uncertain offensive execution, but then again, with Thomas back a zone might not be nearly as effective as it was on Saturday.
"He cuts a lot of slack off me and
the rest of the team,"
"We just hope he gets well and we can get all the way to the top."
Where They Stand: No SEC team has
lost more momentum in the past three weeks than
"We're not playing our best
basketball right now and haven't been," first-year
"How do you fix that? You usually try to fix it in practice. I'm just not able to because of the body count."
"Our challenge all year long, as we
talk about trying to get better, has been our inability to be able to practice
because of our depth,"
In the meantime, the Vols must
learn to adjust their game and play better in the halfcourt, a necessity for
success in the NCAA Tournament. For example, Chris Lofton missed 10 of 14 shots
"Teams are playing a lot more physical and limiting my touches and trying to make me do stuff I don't want to do," Lofton said. "They did a real good job on me."
It also doesn't help that forward Dane Bradshaw is playing with an injured right wrist. Bradshaw has tried hard to fend off questions about the injury but South Carolina coach Dave Odom accidentally betrayed him last week during his post-game interview. Odom immediately realized his mistake and apologized, but it was too late.
For now, Bradshaw will continue to
put off surgery after the season and attempt to do the best he can in the
tournament, but it's a tough blow for a
It's time for the Vols to adjust – or else.
"More than anything else, our
personnel has been figured out,"
Opponent: 9th-seeded UAB,
Where They Stand: Of all the SEC
teams in the NCAA Tournament, none is more difficult to understand than
"To come back from 11 down in the final five or six minutes at a neutral site against a great team does show a lot about our toughness," Patrick Sparks insisted.
"This is the fight we're going to need going into the (NCAA) tournament," Joe Crawford added.
Or, is it the team that never could
get over the hump against
"We've been doing some things well.
That's how we got to the semifinals," Smith said. "I thought we matched
They also need to do a better job of taking care of the ball and keeping their pose against a UAB team that beat Kentucky in the second round of the tournament two years ago.
Opponent: 14th-seeded South
Where They Stand: The Gators have a
reputation for struggling late in the season, and whether that's perception or
reality it's still true that
It's also true that the Gators
bounced back to win five consecutive games, with wins over
"Someone made a comment to me,
‘Were you worried because it seemed like your team wasn't playing very well when
you lost three games in row?'"
Opponent: 9th-seeded Bucknell,
Where They Stand: One 74-71 loss to
The Razorbacks fell behind against
"We scrapped and we hustled and we
did everything we could to give ourselves a chance to win,"
The Razorbacks may benefit from the
extra time off, giving senior guards Jonathan Modica and Ronnie Brewer extra
time to heal physical problems and giving Heath more time to help his team learn
how to attack the zone
"We felt like if we didn't have to
If those shots go down in the NCAA Tournament, the Razorbacks could do some damage. If those shots don't go in ...
Where They Stand: Like
With consecutive losses to Mississippi State and Kentucky, three losses in the past five games and four in the past seven, the Crimson Tide appears to be weighing down under the weight of its own roster limitations.
"We are who we are," Gottfried said. "We don't have a lot of depth."
Gottfried said the Tide's
late-season struggles will have no effect on
"None. I don't think it has any bearing whatsoever on it," Gottfried said. "If we're fortunate enough to play (in the NCAA Tournament), it's a brand-new season. If you play in the NCAA Tournament, everything is wiped out," Gottfried said. "Your record is zero-zero."
While LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas and Alabama move on to the NCAA Tournament, the rest of the conference has to figure out how to get better.
The Auburn job has been one wrong turn after another since Lebo took over, between four players leaving soon after he took over in April 2004, his leading scorer, Toney Douglas, transferring to Florida State after the 2004-05 season, and NCAA penalties for rules violations under former coach Cliff Ellis.
As if struggling with inexperience as well as a lack of depth and size isn't enough, the Tigers also play in a gray, musty morgue known as Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.
Lebo didn't make his job any easier two weeks ago when he admitted, "I think it's probably been harder than I even thought it'd be. Had I known just how hard it was, I probably wouldn't have come."
Some media outlets printed the quotes out of context, but given a second chance to explain himself Lebo said, "if I had known all those players were going to leave, and if I had known the NCAA sanctions would be as severe as they were, maybe I wouldn't have taken it. People forget, I got here and all those players left and we had to sign eight players that spring, with only nine visits. But all of that happened after I took the job."
Auburn leaders will either have to be patient with Lebo or make a change, but he insists he's not going to compromise in his attempt to build a winning program.
"I'm not a quick-fix kind of guy," Lebo said, "but I've laid awake at nights wondering when we were going to get players, when our facilities would be upgraded, when we'd see an emphasis on basketball.
"The coaches knew we'd struggled, but kids tend to feel invincible. When reality sets in, it's hard. Hopefully, we've stopped the bleeding, but we're still probably two years away from being solid."
Between injuries and lack of
progress, the Bulldogs just weren't very good in the low post this season.
That's why Felton's first offseason priority will be signing big men. He can
only hope he'll get as lucky as he did when he stumbled on to Chris Marcus
during coaching days at
The Bulldogs did sign 6-9 Albert Jackson of
"We're still recruiting," Felton said. "We'd like to get another frontcourt player to add to our team. We're turning every stone, knocking on every door.
"This offseason is really, really important to us. We need to see a lot of improvement in all our players. Strength development is going to be very, very important. Skill development is going to be important. We have some guys who have a chance to make some big jumps from this year to next. We need them to."
QUOTE OT THE WEEK: If Alabama's impressive strength of schedule had not been enough to get the Crimson Tide in the NCAA Tournament, Gottfried already had his schedule plan set for the 2006-07 season: "Patsies. We'll play 13 straight next year against teams we can beat left-handed."
Richard Scott is a