Will Vols 'storm' to title?

Thanks to miserable weather, the Tennessee Vols will have a better chance to win the SEC Basketball Tournament this weekend ... but their fans will have no chance to see it.

How's that for irony?

Tornado-type weather slammed Atlanta Friday night, shredding part of the Georgia Dome roof. Fears of structural damage to the facility forced league officials to postpone a late-evening quarterfinal game and move the remaining games across town to Georgia Tech's Alexander Coliseum.

Because of the difference in arena capacities – The Dome holds 26,000, Alexander Coliseum just 9,100 – SEC brass decided there was no equitable way to divide the reduced number of seats among fans attending the tournament. As a result, only players' families, cheerleaders, bands and media will be allowed to attend today's games and Sunday's finals.

Tennessee may be happy to say goodbye to The Georgia Dome, where the Vols seem to be jinxed. Counting Friday's defeat of South Carolina, they are just 3-7 there since the site began hosting the SEC tournament on an annual basis in 1998. The storm damage and subsequent relocation of the tourney could benefit UT in another way, too.

Because Friday night's quarterfinal game between Kentucky and Georgia had to be postponed until noon today, UT's scheduled semifinal game against Arkansas has been moved from 1 to 6 p.m. Today's schedule will conclude with Mississippi State facing the UK-Georgia winner at 8:30.

If Tennessee beats Arkansas and the Kentucky-Georgia winner beats Mississippi State, the Vols will play Sunday's title game against a team that is taking the floor for the third time in 27 hours. Given the Vols' superior depth, that should be a major boost to Tennessee's championship hopes.

The key for the Vols, of course, is beating Arkansas to reach the title game. Tennessee hammered the Hogs 93-71 Feb. 13 in the regular-season meeting at Knoxville but that was one of UT's finest performances of the year.

The Vols shot 48.3 percent from the field and 44.4 from 3-point range that evening. They limited the Razorbacks to 39.0 percent shooting, forced 16 turnovers and even outrebounded the towering Hogs 38-36.

JaJuan Smith was the big story that particular night, hitting 9 of 13 shots (including a school-record 6 of 6 from 3) en route to a career-high 32 points. Tennessee's inside players came through, too. Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith posted 15 points each, while Duke Crews contributed a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) off the bench.

Sonny Weems paced Arkansas with 20 points in the earlier meeting and 6-10 Darian Townes added 12 for the Razorbacks, who were outscored 50-33 in the second half after trailing just 43-38 at the break.

Tennessee (29-3) advanced to today's semifinal round by edging South Carolina 89-87 in Friday's quarterfinals. Arkansas (21-10) earned its semifinal berth by beating Vanderbilt 81-75.


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