Because I am the RBR-designee masochist, I will be covering the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament. (This is what happens when you're four martinis deep and make a silly suggestion on Twitter). Last night's games, featuring the four worst of the conference, can charitably be described as woeful, grisly, and inept -in short, everything we've come to expect from #SECbasketballfever.
South Carolina 74 - Auburn 56
This game was a steaming plate of putrescent butt. South Carolina, not exactly noted for lighting it up, came out hot from behind the arc, hitting 9-of-13 from long range early, en route to an 18-point lead against the pitiful Plainsmen. Auburn never seriously threatened to make a dent in that lead at any point in these painful two hours. And, remember, Auburn beat the Gamecocks twice in the regular season -both by double digits.
This could have been competitive had Auburn been able to get the league's second-leading scorer, Chris Denson, going. But credit USC's innovative "stand around in the paint with our arms up" defense. It was a strategy that Auburn could not counter. (And, I wish I were kidding with that last sentence: South Carolina did absolutely nothing defensively other than act as road cones...and Barbeeball had no answer.) The Gamecocks outscored Auburn 35-9 from the bench, outrebounded the Tigers 39-24, and shot 73% from deep. It was miserable.
Only two interesting things arose from this affair. First, within an hour after the 18-point Gamecock victory, paced by Duane Notice's 23 bench points, Tony Barbee was unsurprisingly canned with an unchristian haste that made Lane Kiffin's firing seem dignified. Thus begins what could be the Iron Bowl of Bruce Pearl in 2015 (with his show-cause not expiring until August, and with Anthony Grant likely to get another year, don't look for a bidding war just yet.) Second, at least one Auburn player took to the Twitter machine to whine about Auburn being an Under Armour school, hence their Linda Lovelace-levels of suck. The latter tells us more about the disturbingly-corrupt interference of AAU/shoe companies in men's basketball than about the awful state of Auburn hoops, though.
I can say this now... We'll struggle as long as we are under Under Armour.— Lucky Lefty (@AllenPayne2_) March 13, 2014
In any event, Sakerlina (13-19) moves on to get sacrificially destroyed by Arkansas (21-10). Gametime is 2:25 CDT on ESPN3/SEC Network. Auburn concludes an ignominious loss to finish 14-16. And, before we mock these guys further, Alabama lost to both of these awful squads. #OneBidLeague. This preview was delayed slightly by Frank Martin cursing at me, so I apologize.
Mississippi State 82 Vanderbilt 68
Kevin Stallings may not actually be a pudgy, whiny incarnation of Nosferatu, but he's the closest thing to it in the SEC. Therefore, it is with no small glee that I happily report the conclusion of Vanderbilt's basketball season.
Mississippi State, long despised for the dirty Stansbury era, has metamorphosed into a less-loathsome scrappy underdog --playing with lightly-regarded, very small guys, and having the likeable Rick Ray as your coach does that. Still, the Bulldogs came into this one facing a noticeable size and talent differential (even if Vandy is a triage and transfer squad at this point.) You sort of expected the 'Dores to work the ball inside, win the rebound war, and occasionally stymy Clanga's attempts at outside shooting. None of those came to fruition, as Bully outrebounded Vandy, outshot Vandy in every statistical category, and doubled up the 'Dores from the bench. Josh Swords paced the Bulldogs with 20 points, and MSU made just enough of an impact in the paint to keep Vandy honest.
This was, in many respects, an entertaining game, as MSU's hot shooting would be offset by Vandy's defense. Despite falling down by 16 points early, Vanderbilt clawed its way to within 5- and 6-point deficits several time late. However, lack of consistent scoring, poor rotational defense on MSU shooters, and ill-timed turnovers did in the Commodores. While I have no hate in my heart for kids getting an excellent education, we can all agree that less Kevin Stallings on television is a good thing.
Vandy looks to regroup after its 15-16 conclusion. Meanwhile, 13-19 State faces another Snidely Whiplash sort of villain as they play Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson tonight at 8:25 CDT on ESPN3/SEC Network, immediately following the Alabama/LSU game (6:20 CDT). The other tourney action today features 8-9 seed matchups between the newbies, as reeling Mizzou -who needs a win like Richard III needed a horse, should (should) hold on versus Texas A&M at 12:00 CDT.
Thanks to our friends over at And The Valley Shook for the inspirational photo perfectly summarizing SEC Basketball.