Today, the other four SEC teams in the NCAA tournament will play their first round games. Here’s a quick preview on each of their games.
1:45PM Tennessee(5) vs. Long Beach State(12)
This game is one of today’s upset picks by the CBS analysts. And, as everyone knows, that means the upset will not happen! Just look at yesterday, when Vandy was the upset special, and summarily dismissed George Washington by the largest margin of victory for the day. Long Beach State just doesn’t have any experience playing top teams, except for a 30 point defeat to UCLA at the begining of the season. UT should be too much for the 49ers, and Chris Lofton loves the big stage. 66-55 UT.
Update: Tennessee has scored 57 points in the first half, so my score may be off slightly…
8:40PM Kentucky(8) vs. Villanova(9)
Although Kentucky is my second-favorite team, they just haven’t been taking care of business this year. They have shown the ability to consistently lose close games, so unless Tubby has turned around the mental toughness of this team in the past week, they don’t have what is needed down the stretch. UK has lost 6 of its last 10 games. Conversely, ‘Nova has won 7 of 10, and two of their losses have come at the hands of 2 seed Georgetown (by a total of 8 points). Sadly, I think I will be saying goodbye to the Wildcats today, which could mean a goodbye to Tubby as their coach, also. 78-74 Villanova.
8:50PM Florida(1) vs. Jackson State(16)
What to say here, Florida is one of the nation’s elite; Jackson St. is not. In Jackson St.’s only game against an SEC opponent this season, they lost by 31 points to Alabama. For an upset here, it would really take a triple dose of March Magic. Florida has rebounded from their February slump, just like last year, and is storming into the tournament. Even the second and third string Gators should handle this Tiger team. 81-58 Florida.
8:55PM Arkansas(12) vs. USC(5)
This game should be an exciting matchup. Before losing to Florida in the SEC championship, Arkansas had won 5 in a row. USC has played the top members of their conference very close all season, but has also had some surprising losses, their last one being a blowout in the Pac-10 finals to Oregon. They seem similar to a Vanderbilt, who plays to the level of their competition so often. This game is being played in Spokane, so the Pac-10 crowd should give USC a loud group of supporters. One big question in this game is whether Charles Thomas will be available for the Razorbacks. He helped lead Arkansas into the SEC title game, but wasn’t available against Florida when they fell by 21. If he isn’t playing, I see about a 10 point victory for USC, but if he is healthy enough to contribute, this could become a tournament classic game. 74-71 USC.