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Sea of blue to hit Nashville soon enough

By Wally Hall This article was published today at 2:52 a.m. Actress and Kentucky fan Ashley Judd watches play against the Florida during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarter final round of the Southeastern Conference tournament, Friday, March 13, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Steve Helber) a A Font Size
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Everyone knows this great city — home of country music — will become Lexington South this weekend.
Thousands of Kentucky Wildcats fans started arriving Wednesday with high hopes. Many come without tickets, without hotel reservations within 50 miles and not many changes of clothes.
This is the only chance of the year for some to see their team, the Big Blue, in person.
Many don’t make enough money to make a donation to UK and buy a season-ticket package, but the SEC Tournament — commonly known as the Kentucky Invitational — provides them an opportunity to buy a ticket from a fan whose team just lost and is hoping to recoup some of the money they paid for a package of tournament tickets.
So dressed in their blue — although some are smart enough to understand not everyone wants to help Kentucky dominate the arena — they come and stand outside the arena and wait for the first- second-, third- and even fourth-round games to be finished.
Yes, let Kentucky win its opening game and even more fans will pile in their cars and head this way. Some of those won’t have any hotel reservations or a change of clothes.
Just a hope to get a ticket to the championship game when most expect to see the Wildcats take on Florida in a rubber match. It is hard not to see the irony in the fact that Kentucky’s best player, Malik Monk, and Florida’s best player, KeVaughn Allen, are both from Arkansas.
Allen committed to Billy Donovan and then was wooed into keeping his commitment to Florida by Michael White. For some reason, it seems Allen never was overly interested in the Hogs.
Monk always was going to be a one-and-done, and the home of that route is Kentucky, although Duke is closing ground. The Razorbacks were Monk’s second choice.
Each player from Arkansas has a win against the other this season — the Gators won at home 88-66, and the Wildcats won at Rupp Arena 76-66 when Monk scored 30 second-half points.
But there is a lot of basketball to be played between now and Sunday. While this is a good Kentucky team, it isn’t one that strikes fear in the hearts of opponents, especially those who relish a challenge. Those with the best chance to come out of this with a first-place trophy other than the obvious contenders are Arkansas and Vanderbilt.
South Carolina appears to be repeating its belly flop of last season when the wheels came off before the season ended.
Tennessee seemed capable at one time but has lost six of its past nine games.
On the other hand, Vandy swept the Gators this season, which has kept the Commodores’ rating solid. They have won five of their past six.
The key for the academic giant is hitting threes. They bomb from all over the court. If they are hot, they are hard to beat.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville seems to be playing its best basketball of the season. The shocking loss to Missouri and then to Vanderbilt in Walton Arena seem to have served as a wake-up call for the Razorbacks. They have won six of their past seven and got within six points in the second half of the loss to Florida, but they couldn’t close the door.
There were some odd calls by the referees in that game, although it would be hard to say the outcome would have been any different.
Officiating in the SEC, as a whole, seems to anticipate fouls and has too many reviews.
On a final note — a good one for the Hogs — NBC Sports released its All-SEC team, and the Razorbacks’ leading scorer, Dusty Hannahs, made the second team.
Sports on 03/09/2017 Print Headline: Sea of blue to hit Nashville soon enough ADVERTISEMENT

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