March Madness

Conference Survival

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The SEC Men’s basketball tournament starts this week in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kentucky has dominated this conference since its inception. The Wildcats have won 51 regular season SEC Championships (including this year) and 31 Conference Tournament championships.

Kentucky (25-6) had the best record in conference play (15-3). They have the top seed in the tournament. The top four seeds in the tournament do not have to play until the third day of the tournament.

As good as Kentucky is, they are always led by freshmen since they embrace the one and done players. Because of this they do lack experience, which means they are more susceptible for an upset.

They have lost games to Evansville, Utah and South Carolina, who are not great teams. They are led by sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley who averages 16 points per game.

Auburn (25-6) is the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Bruce Pearl has turned the program around since he was hired in 2014. They have gotten to the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. Last year they advanced to the Final Four.

Three of their top four scorers are seniors so they have a lot of experience. Senior guard Samir Doughty leads the team with 17 PPG and 4 rebounds per game.

Auburn has beaten Kentucky during the regular season so they have already proven they can beat them.

LSU (21-10) is the third seed but they have the same conference record as Auburn, 12-6. This team confuses me because they play to the level of their competition. They have lost to VCU, Utah State, USC and East Tennessee State. For a Power 5 team going to the NCAA Tournament they should win those games.

The Tigers lost to Auburn on the road but only by one point. They also lost to Kentucky by three. I don’t believe in moral victories but they have shown they can compete with the best teams in the conference.

Senior guard and Baton Rouge native Skylar Mays is the team leader with 17 PPG. If they advance and face Kentucky or Auburn, they have a legitimate chance to win.

Mississippi State (20-11) is the fourth seed. They have the same conference record (11-7) as Florida but they won the tiebreaker by beating the Gators last month.

Despite this, they are on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament.

“They base so much off November,” said Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland. “There’s not enough emphasis based today on how you play at the end of the year, how you play in the last 12 games. That used to really be important. But we have to beat a Quad 1 team (Florida) to continue to make our case.”

They have non-conference losses to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. In conference play they have lost to lower level teams like Ole Miss (15-16), Alabama (16-15), Texas A&M (16-14) and South Carolina (18-13). The Bulldogs have to win their quarterfinal game to have a chance to get to March Madness.

Florida (19-12) is also on the bubble. The Gators need to win a couple of games to get to the tournament. Their first game is the second round against the winner of No. 12 Ole Miss or No. 13 Georgia. If they win, the next game is against Mississippi State. I think they can win those two games but time will tell.

Jason Bishop Show With Kipp Branch February 23

Jason Bishop Show With Kipp Branch February 23


Georgia Teams’ Road To March Madness


By: Drayton Hogarth news services

We are well into the college basketball conference schedule and that is when teams play their way into or out of March Madness.

At this point in time, there are a few schools who are virtually guaranteed a spot, but the interesting teams are the ones who are on the proverbial bubble.

The conferences of most interest in our area, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference have multiple teams involved in the tournament. Plus, the Sun Belt Conference will have at least one team with a chance to be the “Cinderella” of March.

There are a handful of teams in those conferences that are true blue bloods of the sport of college basketball, and several have played up to that reputation this season. Those would be North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky. Plus, we have schools in the state of Georgia vying for a spot among the field of 68.

The Tar Heels of North Carolina came up ever so close to a national championship last season, as they suffered a heartbreaker at the buzzer against the Villanova Wildcats.

North Carolina is positioning itself for yet another run to the Final Four. The Tar Heels may well have the deepest roster in the country, and legendary coach Roy Williams will rely on his team’s experience from last season to try and finish the deal this year.

A team that no one is really sure what kind of team they are right now, is the Duke Blue Devils. While there is no coach better, possibly ever, than Coach Mike Krzyzewski, his squad this season has appeared distracted, may be the best word to use.

This is a team that was predicted to win the ACC in the preseason, but has not been able to live up to such lofty expectations. Whether it is injuries, not only to players, but even to Coach Krzyzewski as he will be sidelined with back surgery; or the antics of hot tempered guard Grayson Allen, this season has been different for the Blue Devils.

Duke will be in the tournament, and have the talent as well as the pedigree to get things turned around. However, if they do not, it will be a quick out for them come March.

With Kentucky, the stalwart of the SEC, Coach John Calipari will yet again rely on a bevy of freshmen All-Americans to lead his Wildcats to a title. Kentucky likely has the highest ceiling of any team in the country, but when it comes to crunch time, can the freshmen handle that pressure? That has been the Cats downfall in previous years, great regular seasons, but fall short in the tournament.

In state, Georgia Southern may be the best shot for a tournament team from the Peach state. The Eagles of Coach Mark Byington have a great shot to win the Sun Belt. The difficulty comes in the conference tournament, it is an absolute must win situation. If the Eagles falter, then there will be no Cinderella opportunity.

Georgia and Georgia Tech may play in post season, but without SEC and ACC conference tournament wins it may prove a difficult task.

The Bulldogs have positioned themselves with the best chance for an at large bid with a solid resume, but they must keep winning. The Bulldogs do not really have a strong win, but the strength of their schedule is that they have “quality losses”, and that won’t get it done for March.

The Yellow Jackets, under first year coach Josh Pastner, need some big wins down the stretch to fortify their record. The Jackets most likely will receive an NIT bid to extend their season. However, that should be considered a solid season for what the Jackets had coming into the season.

As we just now are hitting the stretch run, college basketball will hold its share of upsets and buzzer beaters. The fun part is, we get to sit back and watch it all unfold!