SEC coaches call: Mississippi State needs to win it all in Atlanta

Rick Stansbury
Rick Stansbury

Mississippi State basketball coach Rick Stansbury calls out to officials after beating South Carolina, 60-58, in an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, March 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Published: Monday, March 7, 2011 at 2:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 7, 2011 at 2:41 p.m.

Every Monday, all 12 SEC coaches talk to the media. Here are the highlights.

Rick Stansbury, Mississippi State

For the third consecutive year, Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury finds himself with a high seed in the SEC Tournament and a need to win it all to make it to the NCAA bracket.

While Stansbury says that it's been rough in past years, he says the field is wide open this season.

"There are a lot of big teams out there this year that everyone didn't expect to be big," he said. "Last year, everyone knew that Kentucky was going to be tough to beat and were the easy favorite.

There isn't a team like that this year. Florida has been the most consistent team all year, so I can understand why they'd be the favorite, but you can make an argument for just about anyone else."

Record:17-13 (9-7 SEC)

Last Game: Won vs. South Carolina 60-58, on Saturday

Next Game: SEC Tournament bye, TBA on Friday

Billy Donovan, Florida

After wrapping up the SEC regular-season title with a win Saturday at Vanderbilt, the team gets a day off before taking on the winner of Thursday's Tennessee and Arkansas first-round match.

A good bit of the reason Florida is in that position is due to the play of senior Chandler Parsons. The forward Parsons is on the ballot for SEC Player of the Year. Bringing home the trophy would make him the first player in program history to do so.

"There's a lot of good players in this league," coach Billy Donovan said. "Obviously, I'm biased because I've coached Chandler. There's a lot of competition for that award, but I think he needs strong consideration because of what he did to impact this team and its winning."

Record: 24-6 (13-3 SEC)

Last Game: Won at Vanderbilt, 86-76, on Saturday.

Next Game: SEC Tournament bye, Tennessee/Arkansas winner on Friday

Mark Fox, Georgia

The Bulldogs are the classic bubble team. Some experts have the club securely in the NCAA Tournament, others have them on the fringe.

What's sure is that this week's performance at the SEC Tournament will go a long way in deciding if the team makes the field of 65.

"The only thing we really can control is our effort and performance Thursday in the tournament," coach Mark Fox said. "I think our body of work is pretty strong, but we can't worry about that. We've been working all year at building a resume that's strong in the things the committee looks at, and I think we've done that."

After the tournament was held last year in Nashville during construction on the Georgia Dome following a tornado, this will be Fox's first year with the team playing its tournament games in nearby Atlanta.

"I don't think there's a big advantage of being just down the road," he said. "It's still a neutral court and it'll come down to who plays the best."

Record: 20-10 (9-7 SEC)

Last Game: Won vs. South Carolina, 64-48, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. Georgia at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network

Tony Barbee, Auburn

After losing 12 of 14 games, the Tigers won two straight to end the regular season with a 76-73 win over Ole Miss and a 60-51 victory at LSU on Saturday.

The win at LSU gave the team a 4-12 record in the SEC, but earned it the same amount of conference road wins (two) as powerhouse Kentucky.

"I think he's done wonders," Wildcats coach John Calipari said. "I think he should be considered for coach of the year."

Barbee deflected credit for his coaching job, opting instead to give the nod to his roster.

"No matter how big the deficit, these guys think they're in any ball game," Barbee said. "We're not trying to start out by digging ourselves into a big hole, but we've done that many times this year.

You probably can't tell it by our record, but this has been a really enjoyable year for me, mostly because of the mentality of the team."

Record: 11-19 (4-12 SEC)

Last Game: Won at LSU, 60-51, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. Georgia at 1 p.m. on SEC Network

Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt 

After hitting its stride in February, the Commodores lost two of three to finish the regular season. That includes a 68-66 loss to Kentucky on Tuesday and an 87-76 home loss to Florida on Saturday.

Coach Kevin Stallings said his disappointment falls mostly on the team's inability to rebound and "all-around" defend. He thinks it isn't too late to fix it before Thursday's start of the SEC Tournament against LSU in Atlanta.

"We're disappointed with how we finished the regular season, but we're excited about postseason play," Stallings said. "I hope we can be around for the weekend play and be contending for a championship."

Record: 21-9 (8-6 SEC)

Last Game: Lost at Ole Miss, 84-74, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. LSU at 10 p.m. on the SEC Network

Darrin Horn, South Carolina

There's no denying that the Gamecocks have a young team. After last year's SEC Tournament was held in Nashville, Tenn., following a tornado in Atlanta, South Carolina doesn't have a lot of roster experience for the return to the Georgia Dome.

"We only have one guy, and that's Sam Muldrow, that's even stepped foot in that gym before," coach Darrin Horn said. "It's going to be a big test of our maturity and where we're at as a team."

Record: 14-15 (5-11 SEC)

Last Game: Lost at Alabama, 65-57, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. Ole Miss at 3:30 p.m. on the SEC Network

John Calipari, Kentucky

The Wildcats enter the SEC Tournament as winners of five of their last six games, including a narrow 64-58 victory at Tennessee in Saturday's season finale. Coach John Calipari thinks he saw some maturity in his team at just the right time.

"I think we really grew up a bit yesterday," Calipari said. "It was a really roughhouse game and we had to change the way we played in the second half. That's the first time we've changed like that mid-game, so it's a good sign going forward."

Record: 22-8 (10-6 SEC)

Last Game: Won at Tennessee, 64-58, on Saturday

Next Game:SEC Tournament Bye

Bruce Pearl, Tennessee

Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl has a different sort of preparation for his team's latest meeting with Arkansas.

When the two squads first met up, it was Pearl's first of an SEC-imposed eight-game suspension from the bench. He watched the 68-65 defeat from a Fayettville, Ark., hotel room.

While he'll be on the bench for Thursday's first-round matchup, with the winner advancing to play top-seed Florida, Pearl is done looking back at the suspension and the teams' first meeting.

"Been there, done that and answered that question a thousand times," Pearl said. "Obviously the suspension was tough, but I did the best I could to prepare my team for the games I wasn't there for. That's behind us and we're going to try and win some games this week."

Record: 18-13 (8-8 SEC)

Last Game: Lost vs. Kentucky, 64-58, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network

John Pelphrey, Arkansas

After winning four-of-five games to get back to .500 in SEC play, the Razorbacks dropped their final two games of the regular season — at home against Mississippi State and on the road against Ole Miss.

"I think it was just our opponents," Pelphrey said. "Mississippi State just played better than we did and so did Ole Miss. … We only had 21 turnovers in our last two games, but they all seemed to come at bad times."

The losses dropped Arkansas in the SEC Tournament bracket, where the team will take on Tennessee on Thursday with hopes of advancing to a showdown with top-seeded Florida on Friday.

"We're going to try and pay a lot of attention to our defense here in the next couple of days and try to improve," Pelphrey said. "But I think we just ran into some teams that could shoot the ball really well. We could have played better defensively, but you've got to give credit to those teams for hitting those shots."

Record: 18-12 (7-9 SEC)

Last Game: Won at Auburn, 57-77, on Saturday

Next Game:Thursday vs. Tennessee at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network

Anthony Grant, Alabama

The Tide have an extra day off as SEC West champs despite losing two of their last three regular-season contests. The SEC Tournament bye lines the squad up with the winner of Thursday's Auburn and Georgia tilt.

"We've got a chance here to give our guys a couple of days to refresh themselves and get healthy," Grant said. "We know we're playing either Auburn or Georgia, two teams we've played in the last couple of weeks, so we don't have preparation issues."

Alabama defeated Georgia in the regular-season finale and needed a late bucket to sink Auburn two weeks prior.

"They're both very good teams and are playing good basketball," Grant said. "Either way you look at it, for the rest of the season you're going to be playing nothing but good teams."

Record: 20-10 (12-4 SEC)

Last Game: Won vs. Georgia, 65-57, on Saturday

Next Game: SEC Tournament bye, Auburn/Georgia winner Friday at noon.

Assistant coach Mike White, Ole Miss

Due to travel delays, coach Andy Kennedy was represented by assistant coach Mike White.

White touched on the team's first-round matchup with South Carolina on Thursday while reflecting on the team's 79-73 loss to the Gamecocks on Feb. 22.

"When you look at their roster, you're always impressed by their length," he said. "With the depth they have with that length, they can always throw a lot of guys at you in the paint and block shots and pull down tough rebounds."

Record: 19-12 (7-9 SEC)

Last Game: Won vs. Arkansas, 84-74, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. South Carolina at 3:30 p.m. on the SEC Network

Trent Johnson, LSU

Due to phone connection problems, Trent Johnson did not participate in the conference call.

Johnson's LSU team has dropped 13 of its final 14 regular season games, including giving up a 15-point lead to Auburn in the regular season finale to lose 60-51. The Tigers will take on Vanderbilt Thursday in the nightcap of day one in the SEC Tournament.

The Commodores defeated LSU on the road 90-69 on Feb. 26.

Record: 11-20 (3-13 SEC)

Last Game: Lost vs. Auburn, 60-51, on Saturday

Next Game: Thursday vs. Vanderbilt at 10:00 p.m. on the SEC Network

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