Homecourt advantage

The homecourt advantage is big in basketball. The question is: Who'll have it during the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville?

The simple answer would seem to be Vanderbilt, since its campus is located in Nashville. Despite rabid support at Memorial Gym, however, the Commodores don't attract big-time crowds when they play off-campus at Bridgestone.

Tennessee will have plenty of fans on hand, since the drive from Knoxville to Nashville is just 180 miles. The Vols have played eight games at Bridgestone Arena under Bruce Pearl, winning seven.

"It's been well documented that our team has responded well at home to the unbelievable passion and intensity of our fan base," Pearl said. "We've tried to play in Nashville historically for lots of reasons. It's Big Orange Country all over the great state of Tennessee.

"And, knowing the SEC Tournaments have been there, maybe there's some familiarity with the building. It didn't serve us very well a few years ago when we lost our opening-round game to South Carolina."

Oddly enough, Lexington, Ky., is one mile closer to Nashville than Knoxville is. That means Kentucky will be well represented at Bridgestone Arena. Then again, Kentucky is ALWAYS well represented at SEC Tournament time, no matter where it's held.

"The SEC Tournament has always been Kentucky's spring break," Pearl quipped. "It's amazing how much blue they put in any building at tournament time, so I can't imagine what it's going to be like in Nashville - so close to Lexington."

So who'll have the home-floor advantage this week?

"Whoever has the biggest crowd is going to have the biggest home-court advantage," Pearl said, subsequently adding: "I know we'll have plenty of orange in the house but we've got to do enough to give them something to cheer about."

No matter who has the most fan support, Pearl believes the SEC Tournament is going to be four days of spectacular basketball.

"It's a celebration of the regular season," he said. "It's an opportunity for fans from all different schools to be in one location and celebrate the quality of basketball that's being played. There are great matchups, even in the first day."

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