Mike Strange: Just 11 games, four days of the old SEC tournament left

Mike Strange
Shaquille O'Neal, center, of LSU, puts Tennessee's Carlus Groves in a headlock during the second half of their SEC Tournament game in Birmingham, Ala., on March 13, 1992. At left is Tennessee's Jay Price. Players from both teams were ejected and the bench clearing brawl suspended play for 25 minutes.

Photo by Mark Humphrey, Associated Press

Shaquille O'Neal, center, of LSU, puts Tennessee's Carlus Groves in a headlock during the second half of their SEC Tournament game in Birmingham, Ala., on March 13, 1992. At left is Tennessee's Jay Price. Players from both teams were ejected and the bench clearing brawl suspended play for 25 minutes.

1992-2011 SEC Tournament (12-team era)

Overall Record

Kentucky 44-8

Florida 25-17

Mississippi State 20-17

Arkansas 20-19

Alabama 18-20

Georgia 16-18

South Carolina 16-20

LSU 13-20

Tennessee 13-20

Vanderbilt 13-20

Auburn 10-19

Ole Miss 10-20

Titles

Kentucky 12

Florida 3

Mississippi State 3

Georgia 1

Arkansas 1

Title Game Appearances

Kentucky 14

Florida 6

Mississippi State 5

Arkansas 5

Alabama 2

Georgia 2

South Carolina 2

Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee 1 each.

Vanderbilt 0

One and Done

Ole Miss 11

Auburn 10

LSU 10

Mississippi State 10

South Carolina 10

Tennessee 9

Vanderbilt 9

Georgia 8

Arkansas 8

Alabama 5

Florida 5

Kentucky 2

Host Cities

Atlanta 10

Nashville 3

Memphis 2

New Orleans 2

Tampa, Birmingham, Lexington 1 each.

NEW ORLEANS — We gather here in the Big Easy to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the expansion-era SEC basketball tournament — and the end of it.

A year from now the 2013 tournament will convene in Nashville with Missouri and Texas A&M fans wandering into Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. The 2017 event might convene in St. Louis.

Back in 1992, it was South Carolina and Arkansas fans introducing themselves at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.

But mostly Arkansas fans. Their considerable presence signaled a new era. The SEC tournament would no longer be Kentucky's private party.

At least not in the stands. On the court, nobody has seriously challenged the Big Blue's dominance.

Well, Florida did have a nice run with that three-peat from 2005-07. The Gators, at 25-17, take runner-up honors in the 12-team era.

But it's a distant runner-up. Kentucky is 44-8, hauling 12 of the 20 titles back to Lexington. From their return from probation in 1992, the Wildcats went 23-1 in the '90s, losing only to Mississippi State in the 1996 title game.

Florida and Mississippi state won three titles apiece. That leaves two unaccounted for. Georgia and Arkansas each won, doing the tireless underdog drill to win four games in four days.

In 2008, Georgia actually won two games in one day. After a tornado damaged the roof of the Georgia Dome on Friday night, the event scrambled into backup digs at Georgia Tech's Alexander Coliseum.

There also was a blizzard in 1993 that turned Lexington into Murmansk. Atlanta hosted 10 times in the 20 years. Six other cities got in on act, among them Memphis, where both Wade Houston and Kevin O'Neill coached their final Tennessee games in The Pyramid.

Many years, hardly anyone noticed the Vols were at the tournament. Their 13-20 record aces out only Auburn and Ole Miss (both 10-20).

Tennessee was still standing on Sunday only once, in 2009 in Tampa, losing to Mississippi State.

At least that's one more title-game appearance than Vanderbilt.

The most vivid Vol moment of the era was an infamous one, the 1992 brawl with LSU in Birmingham in which five players from each team were ejected.

A year later, there was another evening UT would rather forget: being routed 101-40 by Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Thirteen tournament records were set that night, most related in some way to Tennessee's futility.

On the other hand, UT 7-footer Steve Hamer produced arguably the best individual game of any player in the era. At least no one else has had 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game as Hamer did (31 and 21) in an upset of Alabama in 1996.

Hamer is one of but three players bestowed All-Tournament honors despite not playing in the semifinals or finals.

Eleven players have been named to two All-Tournament teams. The only player to win the MVP award twice is Kentucky's Travis Ford in 1993-94.

The most exciting game of the era is, of course, fodder for debate, perhaps over a drink or several at The Old Absinthe House. Overtime has been required 13 times, including twice in the championship game.

For my money, the best 40 minutes was Alabama's 90-89 semifinals win over Arkansas way back in '92. Both teams were stocked with future NBA players but unsung Elliot Washington won it for Bama with 3-pointer.

Others might vote for Kentucky's 95-93 overtime thriller over Arkansas to decide the 1995 title, played before a tournament-record crowd of 30,057 in the Georgia Dome.

Now we turn to the New Orleans Arena, a 18,000-seat newcomer to the event, and a welcome one for those of us who despise Dome basketball.

We've got 11 games over four days to make a few more memories before Mizzou and the Aggies join the party and launch a new era.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

1992: W: South Carolina, L: LSU. Comment: Brawl in Birmingham.

1993: W: Auburn, L: Kentucky. Comment: 61-point (101-40) loss to Kentucky is a tournament record margin.

1994: L: Mississippi State. Comment: Lame-duck Wade Houston's final game.

1995: L: Alabama. Comment: 55-43 score typical of Kevin O'Neill era.

1996: W: Alabama, L: Georgia. Comment: Steve Hamer (31 points, 21 rebounds vs. Alabama) makes All-Tournament; no other Vol makes it until 2009.

1997: L: Auburn. Comment: O'Neill bolts to Northwestern shortly thereafter.

1998: W: LSU, L: Arkansas. Comment: Arkansas' 102 points still a tournament record.

1999: L: Mississippi State. Comment: No. 1 seed squandered.

2000: L: South Carolina. Comment: No. 1 seed squandered again.

2001: W: Auburn, L: Ole Miss. Comment: Jerry Green had one game left to coach, NCAA tournament loss to Charlotte.

2002: W: Arkansas, L: Alabama. Comment: Rod Grizzard of Alabama scores 33, including 27 in first-half blitz.

2003: L: Auburn. Comment: Jon Higgins academically ineligible for postseason; Vols left hanging on NCAA bubble.

2004: L: Alabama. Comment: 85-49, ugly.

2005: W: Arkansas, L: Kentucky. Comment: Buzz Peterson fired when he gets back to Knoxville.

2006: L: South Carolina. Comment: Not even Bruce Pearl can break tournament malaise.

2007: L: LSU. Comment: See above.

2008: W: South Carolina, L: Arkansas. Comment: Vols lose to Razorbacks at the buzzer in semifinals.

2009: W: Alabama, W: Auburn, L: Mississippi State. Comment: first title-game appearance since 1992. Bulldogs eke out 64-61 win.

2010: W: LSU, W: Ole Miss, L: Kentucky. Comment: Wildcat fans take over Nashville, enjoy 74-45 romp.

2011: W: Arkansas, L: Florida. Comment: Pearl era on last legs.

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Comments » 12

FanNotSheep writes:

check your headline -- think that's a typo

wigmeister writes:

Our day is coming!

lomas98 writes:

Kentucky's record in this tournament is truly amazing. I remember that ark/bama game and it was awesome. Wimp Sanderson on the sidelines was grinning from ear to ear. I remember tn playing an up tempo game against Arkansas as well, probably around 97 or 98. We fought to the end but lost. Tn has had some decent runs and some duds in this tournament. Losing to Arkansas during the tornado year cost them a number one seed in the NCAA. Had a chance to finally win one but couldn't hang on against miss. St. I remember having a number one seed in sec in either 99 or 2000 and a terrible south Carolina team beat us. Will be interesting adding Missouri to the mix....how will they seed it then and will it add an extra day? I also wonder if they will continue the divisional schedule although there are no divisions for basketball any longer.

Stooley_Dinks writes:

It may be insignificant, but if Mike goes back 1 more year, the Vols scrapped their way to the final after winning only 9 regular season games. They played Bama hard early, but did not have the gas to finish.

It is time to win the SEC Tourney. It is just flat out time. We are peaking. We have a great seed. And, CCM has the Vols playing very consistently. And, we got dissed again today.

keepitreal4vols writes:

Why would we dare move the SEC tourney to St. Louis? Is that a joke? I can see it now...I walk into a St Louis sports bar to watch the SEC tourney late games and they have all tv's turned on to Kansas State v. Kansas game. Just a stupid idea.

VOLinATL writes:

This tournament is a bore...rarely does it produce a champion who, otherwise, would not have made the NCAA anyway. The only conference tourneys worth watching are the mid majors.

lomas98 writes:

in response to Stooley_Dinks:

It may be insignificant, but if Mike goes back 1 more year, the Vols scrapped their way to the final after winning only 9 regular season games. They played Bama hard early, but did not have the gas to finish.

It is time to win the SEC Tourney. It is just flat out time. We are peaking. We have a great seed. And, CCM has the Vols playing very consistently. And, we got dissed again today.

I think the article timeline started when SC and Ark entered the league. He was making a point that 2 new teams joined in 92 and now 2 more will join next year. But, I know what you mean. That was a great run by Allan Houston and that team. They were horrible but got hot for a weekend and rode Houston as far as they could. That is why I am surprised KY has dominated this tournament like they have....I would of thought one player or one team just gets hot for 3 or 4 days but it really hasn't been that way other than GA during the tornado tournament.

GONAVY writes:

I realize the tournament moves around based on bids and financial reasons. However, Nashville seems to be the most natural geographic location for the tornament's permanent base. Some may say that would give VU a natural advantage, but it doesn't. To understand that you need to understand the VU fan base. That's another story. Large airport for direct and/or chartered flights. Plenty of hotel rooms, any number of entertainment venues, bars and restaurants- many in downtown alone. Central location, great hospitality (Travel and Leisure named Nashville #1 friendliest city in US for 2011). Just a thought.

Bigger_Al writes:

You gotta hand it to UK fans when it comes to the SEC Tourney. They turn any venue into a rowdy home-court advantage for the Wildcats.

TkelynN writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

You gotta hand it to UK fans when it comes to the SEC Tourney. They turn any venue into a rowdy home-court advantage for the Wildcats.

What else is there to do in Kentucky, feed the hogs and horses? lol

brod writes:

one of these days it would be nice to actually win this thing.

CoverOrange writes:

I remember The Brawl. Carlus grabbing Shaq, Shaq swinging elbows, Dale Brown charging on to the court to protect his baby. An era of futility and frustration for the BB Vols.

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