Monday, March 10, 2003

SEC: Kentucky is the team to beat


Wildcats 26-3 with 7 titles in past 10 years

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A preview of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which begins Thursday at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans:

TEAM TO BEAT

Kentucky. There's its 20-game winning streak and No. 2 national ranking, sure. But UK also all but owns this event, going 26-3 with seven titles over the past 10 tournaments.

DARK HORSE

Tennessee. The Volunteers (17-7) would have to win four games in four days, which has happened just once (Arkansas, 2000) since this league went to a divisional format in 1991. Yet they are 3-0 against the teams they'd likely meet in their bracket - Louisiana State, Florida and Mississippi State - and gave potential finals foe UK two tough games.

MOST TO PROVE

Alabama. The Crimson Tide (17-10) stood 33rd in the RPI on Sunday. That matches the RPI a 15-12 Oklahoma team had in 1994 - the highest-rated team ever to be snubbed by the NCAA Tournament. Alabama is 6-9 since Jan. 10 and finished fourth in the West Division. It might need two victories - including an upset over UK- to feel safe.

TOUGHEST DRAW

Auburn. The Tigers (19-10) have a shaky No. 37 RPI and are 4-8 since Jan. 21. They really need one more victory to feel safe about an NCAA bid, but even with a bye they still will likely wind up meeting a loaded Georgia team right away.

WEAKEST DRAW

UK. Alabama would seem to be a dangerous opponent should it get past South Carolina, but the Wildcats won 63-46 Jan. 25 in Tuscaloosa. Georgia would be the most dangerous potential semifinal foe, but the Bulldogs would be playing their third game in three days.

MOST LIKELY MVP

Keith Bogans. The MVP comes from the winning team, and since UK is such a strong favorite, this is a matter of projecting which Wildcat will have the best weekend.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT

Marquis Daniels, Auburn. The senior guard ranks second in the SEC in scoring (18.2 avg.), 11th in rebounding (6.2), first in steals (2.3) and fifth in field-goal shooting (52.6 percent). The Tigers need him to carry them through a very difficult draw.




BENGALS / NFL
James should give Bengals' 'D' a jolt
LeBeau joins Bills as assistant coach

REDS / BASEBALL
This change money in bank
Phillies 3, Reds 2
Kearns to have elbow surgery
Sullivan, Wilson healthy again
Selig isn't in a rush to issue Rose ruling
Reds spring training statistics
Weaver solidifying fifth spot for Yankees
Dessens off to strong start in Arizona

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
UC falls to TCU in thriller
Bearcats looking to add victories
Muskies won't sit on their laurels
Smith hearing cheers as Wildcats perfect in SEC
Top 25: Shorthanded 'Nova nearly pulls upset

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS
A-10: Musketeers may get third date with UD
C-USA: Marquette going for double
SEC: Kentucky is the team to beat
MAC: RedHawks have toughest road
Big 10: Wisconsin gets top seed for second straight year
Div. II: NKU's women open against Lakers

PREP SPORTS
Hamilton hopes for more magic
Regional opener matches powers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Q&A: Wright hopes to crack Hurricane lineup

GOLF
Hoch leaves Doral in the dark

HOCKEY
Ducks fall in overtime

PLAN YOUR DAY
Monday's sports on TV