It's almost February and that means we have about a month before college basketball's regular season ends. It's the time of the year when fans can truly judge their favorite team's chances of extending their seasons a bit when the tournaments begin around the first of March. When I was working in the media, I was always a little bit antsy around this time of year, because believe it or not, there is a lot of work and planning that goes into covering college basketball's post season. First, there is conference tournament action to cover....both mens' and womens'.
We would always cover the Southern Conference Tournament, no matter where it was being played. Asheville, N.C. was always one of my favorites for the tournament and Greenville, S.C. was my least favorite. My all-time favorite place to go for the SoCon tournament however, was Charleston, S.C. Not only could you enjoy a lot of basketball being played, but there was always the ocean and wonderful seafood. There was always a lot of scenery to take in as Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
After the SoCon tournament was complete, we would cover the SEC tournament, especially when it was in Nashville. After the SEC tournament is over, the Big Dance chooses its participants. Years ago, mid-level teams would only get one team in the NCAA Tournament, while the power-five leagues would get as many as six or seven teams in. If you were a mid-major team with a record of 26-4 but you get upset in your conference tournament, at best you might get a bid to the NIT, but that is never guaranteed.
Here in Chattanooga, the Mocs are 12-11 on the year so the only way they're gonna get in the Big Dance is to sweep through the Southern Conference Tournament. For the women's chances, they're the same as the men, as they are 12-10 on the year.
Things are looking much better in Knoxville. The Lady Vols are 16-7 on the year which is a bit disappointing, but they will likely get in the NCAA Tournament because they're 8-0 in SEC play going into their big road game tonight at LSU. Then, there is the men's team. Tennessee is in the midst of perhaps its best season ever. The Volunteers are currently ranked 2nd in the country with an 18-3 record. There is no doubt this is the most talented Tennessee team ever, but it remains to be seen if they're a final four team or not. The only time this season that they underachieved was in their home court loss to rival Kentucky a few days ago.
This could be a really special year for the Volunteers. The 2nd ranked Big Orange squad is second only to once beaten Purdue in the polls and the Boilermakers are really good. They have a 7 foot 4 center who is totally dominant in Zach Edey, who had 38 points and 13 rebounds in Purdue's win over Michigan State on Sunday. Surprisingly, the Vols match up with the Boilermakers pretty well. 7 foot 1 inch tall center Uros Plavsic is big enough and strong enough to hang with Edey, so I'm really looking forward to seeing a game between the two teams, though it may never happen.
One month to go and there is still a lot of basketball left....but by now, we have a good idea where our teams will stack up for March Madness.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org