Friday's biggest story was Kentucky's 70-57 loss to South Carolina in the nightcap. The legions of Wildcat fans-- who, I believe, would pack the house if the tournament were to be staged in Hong Kong-- had packed their bags to stay through Sunday as usual.
But Kentucky, which in past years has taken on airs of invincibility in the SEC Tournament, looked very mortal Friday night in losing to Dave Odom's Gamecocks. South Carolina, which finished the regular season in a tie with Vanderbilt for the SEC East cellar, is left to carry the banner for the East.
Meanwhile Kentucky has now been eliminated on Friday in its last two trips to the Georgia Dome. Two years ago the Cats (who in happier times referred to Atlanta as "Catlanta") were ousted by eventual champion Arkansas. Once again thousands of blue-wearing fans were observed stumbling through the streets of Atlanta, muttering to themselves about Tubby Smith's future.
South Carolina advances to Saturday's semifinals to take on No. 7 Alabama, the regular-season SEC champion. The Crimson Tide advanced with an easy 92-71 whipping of Tennessee behind a sensational 33-point outburst from Rod Grizzard.
Buzz Peterson's Vols, notorious for their headbands, were absolutely torched by the headband-wearing Grizzard who scored from all over the floor. The Atlanta Constitution called him "the hottest Grizzard to hit Atlanta since Lewis first came to town."
In the day's most exciting game, Georgia, the top seed in the East, fell to LSU 78-76. LSU had not beaten a ranked opponent all year, but the Tigers kept themselves alive for the automatic bid with their second win in two days. John Brady's team eliminated Vanderbilt in the tournament opener on Thursday, 69-62.
LSU will meet a Mississippi State team that suddenly looks tournament-tough after winning its sixth game in a row. The Bulldogs from Starkville dispatched No. 11 Florida with surprising ease, 62-52.
The Gators, seeded third in the East, had been forced to play Auburn on Thursday. Sometimes playing that early game can work in a team's favor-- but not on this night. Udonis Haslem got into early foul trouble and was held to only seven points in 18 minutes.
Mississippi State (24-7) was not even ranked in the Associated Press poll last week, but certainly should be next week.
Former Vanderbilt coach Roy Skinner was honored at a breakfast at the Atlanta Hilton Friday morning. Skinner was honored at halftime of Thursday's game by the SEC as a "Living Legend."
A number of his former players, including Snake Grace, Bo Wyenandt, Wayne Calvert and Roger Schurig, showed up to pay tribute to Skinner, the winningest coach in Vanderbilt history with 278 wins.