By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
Basketball is a tournament sport, and there is no better time for basketball fans than tournament time. That means March, and it is March. The first two days of the SEC Tournament had six games, and the “favorite” team lost three times. Alabama was a beneficiary of one of these so called upsets on Thursday and advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal to face their cross state arch rivals, Auburn. Georgia was a beneficiary of one of these so called upsets on Thursday and advanced to face Kentucky.
Alabama trailed the regular season co-champion Auburn Tigers by 10 points at halftime of their game, but in the second half, the Crimson Tide put on a show for the SEC faithful in St. Louis earlier this afternoon. Auburn could not score a basket in the second half until their 10 point halftime lead (41-31) transformed into a 42-55 deficit. Alabama outscored Auburn in that run 34-1. In the second game of the afternoon session of today’s quarterfinals, Kentucky faced Georgia. After Georgia eased into a 23-22 lead on 2 for 3 from the free throw line, the Cats scored the last 8 points of the first half to lead by 7 at the half, 30-23. The Cats opened the second half with a 3 pointer to move into a double digit lead for the first time, and Georgia would get no closer for the rest of the game except of a brief moment late in the game when the Bulldogs trimmed the lead to only 9 points for a few seconds. The Cats won by 13, 60-49.
The Tide move on to the SEC Tournament Semifinal round for the second consecutive year, and they will face the Kentucky Wildcats in the Semifinals for the second consecutive year.
The Cats and the Crimson Tide played once this season, three weeks ago at Rupp Arena with the Cats using a 10 point win (81-71) as their launching pad for a huge 4 game winning streak that seemed to turn an important corner for these Wildcats. However, the Crimson Tide left Lexington not just with a loss, but the first loss in a season ending five-game losing streak.
Yes, the Tide had its own way in the second half against Auburn today, but they were very fortunate to get a second round 1 point win over Texas A&M on Thursday, played a dismal first half today against Auburn, and both of these postseason performances occur on the heels of that five game losing streak.
Alabama’s 19-14 record has produced an ANE of 0..151 ppp (#46) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.1084 ppp (#12). The Cats’ 22-10 record has produced an ANE of 0.191 ppp (#26) by playing a schedule with a strength of 0.1093 ppp (#11).
The ANE analysis gives the edge to Kentucky by 4 points, 74-70, in a game played at a pace of 74 possessions. Pomeroy has Kentucky favored by 3, 72-69 with a pace of 69 possessions. Vegas opened today with Kentucky a 4 point favorite.
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