SEC: Vandy-Tennessee tonight shapes up as huge

SEC news and links:

ON TAP – Two SEC basketball games tonight, one a big one. Ole Miss is at South Carolina, 7 p.m. tipoff on ESPNU. Then Tennessee travels to Vanderbilt for a 9 p.m. tip on ESPN. Tennessee is desperate for a win after its home loss to Georgia. Kentucky would benefit from the Vols knocking off the Commodores, which holds second place in the SEC East. I don’t see it happening, however. I’m going with the host ‘Dores.

Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger says Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy is lamenting his team’s spotty play heading into tonight’s game in Columbia.

Darrin Horn says his South Carolina team just has to grow up, writes Travis Haney of the Post and Courier.

HUGE GAME FOR TENNESSEE – Mike Griffith of the News-Sentinel reports that Bruce Pearl thinks the Vols just have to play better tonight. Mike reports, “Pearl delivered that message to his players in fire-breathing fashion at the conclusion of Monday’s practice before the team boarded a bus for Nashville. The Vols are in dire need of a spark, having lost four of their past five games despite junior shooting guard Scotty Hopson enjoying some of the finest performances of his career.”

Meanwhile, Mike Strange of the Knoxville News-Sentinel columnizes that Vanderbilt has taken a headlining role in the state. He writes, “Pearl is 7-4 against Stallings. That’s counting the 67-64 win this year by Tony Jones when Pearl was suspended. But when the two old rivals meet tonight in Nashville, momentum will be sitting at the Commodores’ end of Memorial Gym. Tennessee has lost four of its past five games. Vanderbilt is riding a five-game winning streak. ‘We feel good about the way we’re playing right now,’ Stallings said Monday.

Vandy expects “urgent” Vols, writes Jeff Lockridge of the Tennessean.

Hopson needs some help, writes Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

THOSE ALABAMA HALFTIME SHOWS – Michael Casagrande of the Anniston Star writes on the halftime shows at Alabama home basketball games, “It also begs the question: Where do these bizarre performers come from? It’s not like football when the marching band plows through the intermission, so it’s up to assistant director of marketing Rick Burleson and his staff to find the best circus sideshows willing to perform in Tuscaloosa for a few thousand bucks, tops. Appearance fees typically run from $1,000 to $2,500 plus travel expenses. They come from all over the globe and talents run the gamut. Finding the performers and filling out the schedule starts in the summer.”

Alabama and other SEC schools apparently believe they need to go all-out for halftime shows to attract more fans to basketball games. Of course, Kentucky has the “UK Pep Band,” and the yearly appearance by the always-entertaining “Firecrackers,” the jump-rope group.

TIDE FOR THE TITLE – Alabama has clinched the No. 1 seed in the SEC West. But will the Crimson Tide make the NCAA Tournament. Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News writes fans should not be concerned with the Bama bubble, but with an SEC banner, “At the moment, don’t let the possibility that Alabama will return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 overshadow the probability that Alabama will win the SEC regular-season title for the first time since 2002.¬†Even with next week’s trip to Florida, Alabama has the remaining schedule in its favor. The Tide aside, the Gators have to finish with Georgia at home and both Kentucky and Vanderbilt on the road. Other than the Gators, the Tide closes with a visit from Auburn, a visit to Ole Miss and a visit from Georgia.”

John Zenor of the AP writes that Anthony Grant wants his Alabama players locked in.

MISSISSIPPI STATE MYSTERY -- Rick Cleveland of the Clarion-Ledger rightfully writes that Mississippi State has the talent, if the Bulldogs could only get their act together. As Rick points out, State needs to hold on to the No. 2 seed in the West. The chances of the Bulldogs winning four straight games in Atlanta appear slim. Can Renardo Sidney survive four straight games?

It will be interesting to see what happens with Rick Stansbury at season’s end. First-year AD Scott Stricklin, the former associate AD at Kentucky, will have some decisions to make at the end of the year, given the way Stansbury has handled his program.

Mr. SEC writes on how Mississippi State has protected Sidney.

LADY VOLS WRAP UP SEC – Surprise, surprise, Pat Summitt wins another conference crown. Dan Fleser of the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports on the spotless Vols’ 77-44 romp over second-place Georgia. Sort of shows the gap between Tennessee and the rest of the conference women.

John Adams of the News-Sentinel writes that a Tennessee title was a foregone conclusion.

FALSE ALARM AT GEORGIA – There were internet reports yesterday that Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had broken his ankle in two places. Turns out, Murry has a sprained ankle, reports Seth Emerson of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

It’s a little sprain, reports the AJC. And the worry ends in relief, writes the AJC’s Mark Bradley.

PARSONS QUESTIONABLE — Florida’s Chandler Parsons, probably the MVP of the first-place Gators, is questionable for Thursday’s game with visiting Georgia. Parsons suffered a thigh bruise against Tennessee on Feb. 12, and missed Florida’s win over LSU on Sunday.

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