If LSU and Florida win in the semifinals, it would set up an all-SEC final for the first time. Only three other times have teams from the same conference played for the national championship.
LSU and Florida are young teams, starting a combined eight freshmen or sophomores. The Tigers and Gators aren't the only talented teams. Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky were led by gifted underclassmen.
``If everybody comes back, the SEC will probably be the preseason No. 1 rated conference in the country,'' Pearl said.
SEC HIT RECRUITING JACKPOT IN 2004
When you look at the SEC's talent, you realize what a fabulous recruiting year the SEC had in 2004.
Two years ago, Florida signed Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green and Corey Brewer. Kentucky signed Rajon Rondo, Raldolph Morris, Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley. LSU signed Glenn Davis, Tyrus Thomas and Garrett Temple. Arkansas signed big men Steven Hill, Charlie Thomas, Vincent Hunter and Darian Townes.
Tennessee signed Chris Lofton. Alabama got Ronald Steele. Mississippi State landed Charles Rhodes. Auburn signed Toney Douglas, who led SEC freshmen in scoring last year before transferring to Florida State. Channing Toney and Sundiata Gaines signed with Georgia. Vanderbilt got Shan Foster, DeMarre Carroll and Alex Gordon.
It's one of the most impressive classes ever signed by the SEC.
UT COULD GET AUBURN SIGNEES
Vol fans might recall that each committed to UT under Buzz Peterson but signed with Auburn in 2004. Hill, a guard, didn't qualify and played at a prep school in Maine this past season. Cameron, a forward, had a 13-rebound game but played sparingly and has asked for and been granted a release.
Tennessee is recruiting Hill.
The Vols might have an interest in Cameron because Pearl still needs another inside man. Next season, the Vols will have Major Wingate, and freshmen Duke Crews and Wayne Chism along with Damion Harris, who redshirted as a freshman last season.
If Pearl determines Cameron isn't as good as Crews and Chism, UT likely won't offer Cameron.
Pearl said he's glad Harris is on the roster. The goal for the 6-10, 260-pounder?
``The goal is to get him ready to play a little this year and to get him to be a major factor for the three years after that, when Major Wingate graduates,'' Pearl said. ``I can't really say which way it's going to go but I will say this: he's got the body, he's got the size -- he's got the stuff you can't teach.''
Meanwhile, Pearl's son Steve, who averaged over 20 points for West High School, has received an offer from Southern Indiana, a Division II school that Bruce led to a national championship.
Steve Pearl will play in AAU tournaments in Las Vegas and Houston in hopes of attracting a Division I offer. Walking on at UT is still a strong possibility.
TONY PASSLEY UPDATE
Pearl said he's hoping 6-5 forward Tony Passley, a signee forced to redshirt because of NCAA transfer rules, will play next season.
Passley and a walk-on were charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine.
``I'm very, very confident that the severity of the charges were a reflection on some other circumstances that don't involve Tony,'' Pearl said. ``I'm confident that the vast majority of what he's charged with, he's not responsible for. But just the fact he's out in that situation is a real concern to me.''
Pearl has suspended and dismissed players in an effort to ``establish the discipline in this program that's required. We're on our way.''
He said he will evaluate Passley's situation over the next couple of months, then make a determination. He reiterated that dismissal is possible for Passley.
SUMMITT'S SALARY HAS SOARED
Perhaps no coach in history has seen his or her salary multiply the way Pat Summitt's has.
Hired as the Lady Vols coach in 1974, Summitt made $8,900 her first year. In 1983, she was making only $24,000. Here is a sampling of her pay: $130,000 in 1993, $230,000 in 1995, $585,000 in 2000 and $824,500 in 2004. She will soon be making $1 million a year.
Those numbers were provided by women's athletic director Joan Cronan.
UT ATHLETIC FACILITIES UPDATE
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said he hopes to begin construction on a new practice facility in late summer or early fall.
Hamilton said UT will bid the facility in May and hope to get bids back in July. He said $9 million of the $14-15 million project has been raised.
He said luxury suites in Thompson-Boling Arena will ``hopefully'' be ready for the 2007-08 season.
Hamilton said construction on a new softball stadium will start in a couple of months. He hopes to have grass planted next spring for a new golf range.
Baseball renovation is contingent upon raising more funds.
``We need to find one or two heroes,'' Hamilton said of a person or two willing to donate $1-2.5 million for the $5-6 million renovation.