SEC Semis – Game 1


LSU vs. Mississippi State

The worst thing that could have happened to a tournament that was in the wrong place at the wrong time was for both Kentucky and Florida to lose on Friday. As a result, we have a half-filled St. Pete Times Forum with very little crowd noise for the first game because most of the people here are Tennessee fans.

It should be embarrassing for Florida how few Gator fans were at the two games Florida played. Kentucky had the most here and Tennessee was second. It just goes to show that Florida basketball fans are a fickle bunch. If they had paraded this year’s football recruiting class around the arena at halftime they’d have sold the place out. Repeat after me – Florida is not a basketball school. Never will be. No matter how many national titles Billy wins.

It’s a very competitive first semifinal between two very athletic teams. I can’t get over how much Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado has improved as an offensive player. He’s still not great, but he might be next year if he’s back. He misses two free throws late in the half but has 13 points as MSU leads 31-29.

Maybe now that ESPN is taking over for Raycom with the TV package we can straighten out the dumb way the SEC handles the times of tournament games. Because the league office is in Birmingham, everything is based on Central Time. The Alabama TV stations want the news at 6 p.m., to lead into the night games so they start at 7:30 Eastern, which means the last game starts at 10 p.m. Then the team that plays late and leaves the arena after 1 a.m. has to come back for a 3:30 p.m. Saturday game. It’s just not right.

LSU’s Marcus Thornton is 0-for-5 on 3s, which is one reason Mississippi State is up seven with 11 minutes to go. The two teams are a combined 5-of-24 from 3-point land. Let me retract that statement about Varnado’s offense. He’s 3-of-10 shooting free throws.

LSU has serious foul trouble with four guys having four fouls. There have been 16 blocks in this game so far. Too many forced drives to the basket, especially by LSU.

This one’s over. MSU played smart down the stretch and LSU did not. Technical on Delwan Graham and Marcus Thornton has fouled out. Nice win for the Bulldogs who play Sunday for a trip to the NCAA Tournament.