SEC tourney notebook

Some thoughts put into words after a couple of days at the SEC Tournament.

The late game time slot is never that much fun. If you win it's a little easier to take. When you lose, it stinks.

But the Rebels have played lots of late games the past few years in both basketball and baseball at these tournaments. While fans can go home as soon as they are over, some of us get busier. Thursday it was back to the hotel at 2 a.m. after coaches and players interviews. Lights out at 4 a.m. after finishing and posting my story.

With the Rebels one and done, I left town by noon Friday and headed west. Certainly glad I did, all things considered.

Quite happy here that this event leaves Atlanta for three of the next four years. Next year it's in Tampa (sounds like a good time to leave a day or two early and catch some spring training) and the following year is in Nashville. After a year back in Atlanta in 2011, then it's in New Orleans in 2012.

I wish Memphis would return to the rotation. The FedEx Forum seats as many for basketball as the Nashville Arena and the New Orleans Arena.

The previous times the event was held in New Orleans, it was in the Louisiana Superdome. Not in 2012. It will be right next door in the 18,000-seat home of the NBA's Hornets.

Memphis hosted in 1994 and 1997, both times in The Pyramid. It's time the SEC men's basketball Tournament returns to the city an hour's drive from Oxford. There are plenty of hotels downtown now and much to do. It's an even better fit now than when The Pyramid was the host venue twice in the ‘90s.

Looks like Ole Miss got hold of the hottest surprise team of the tourney. Georgia was supposed to roll over and play dead dog. But it didn't happen – now three times. Dennis Felton admitted had his team's game against the Rebels gone another OT, that they'd likely have lost. Not much depth. But who knows now? Those SEC East Dogs are something.

Maybe the Bulldogs are playing as they are because they are trying to save their coach's job or something. Felton was asked if beating Ole Miss helped quiet his critics and perhaps put him back in some good favor with AD Damon Evans.

Felton said the latter part of that would be better served by asking Evans. And that he didn't know he had any critics.

After beating Kentucky and Mississippi State on Georgia Tech's home floor (how ironic is that?), Felton's critics – but according to him there are none – have likely gone into hiding even further.

I've thought since mid-Jaunary that Tennessee and Mississippi State were the league's best two teams this season. But they won't meet tomorrow as both are headed home.

I thought the Rebels were in that next group after UT and MSU, maybe three through five, and I still think top six. Oh, to have beaten Georgia Thursday night to see what would have happened today - and tomorrow on Selection Sunday.

It would have been nice to have had the Rebels playing at Tech today. Then Pete Boone and other UM officials could have seen what Tech's done with its roundhouse coliseum.

Alexander Memorial, which sat 7,000 until the 1996 Olympics when McDonald's renovated it for some events there, now seats 9,000. And while TCU's and Wichita State's arenas are more like Tad Smith, the Yellow Jackets play in one similar.

It's built mainly below ground (good for tornadic weather conditions), and the entrances are at the top of the arena with all seating below ground. It isn't a palace by any means, but what's been done to it has greatly improved it the past decade or more.

Someday maybe we'll see a major overhaul of Tad Smith. But for now, the BPF is the first priority for hoops – both for the men and the women.

Other than the loss to Georgia, the most disappointing aspect of Thursday evening to me was what happened when they announced Joe Harvell as the honoree from Ole Miss.

Hugh Durham, the former Georgia head coach, was announced and presented as the Bulldog's legendary figure. Harvell, the Rebels' second all-time leading scorer behind John Stroud, was announced to the crowd as well.

I looked up on the huge video board in the Georgia Dome and there it was:

Joe Harbell. Not Harvell. Harbell.

You'd think since they had weeks to prepare, the league could get the names of its honorees spelled correctly.

How embarrassing. How sad, really. For Joe and his family, for Ole Miss, and for the SEC, which should never have allowed something like that to happen.

On Sunday the NCAA will announce the teams for its tourney, and then the NCAA will pick the teams for its NIT field. The 21-10 Rebels will be in there somewhere. Wish it was the former, but it will probably be the latter.

Looking back, a win over Georgia might have just done it. Andy Kennedy said after the game he and his staff knew they had to win at least one.

They almost did. Almost.

And so we wait, as we have done since the wee hours of Friday morning, well before the storms hit downtown Atlanta and sent folks scurrying for cover, long before the tourney moved to another part of town on the campus of Georgia Tech.

Goodbye Atlanta. Hello Tampa.


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