Sprints // 03.23.09

The Tournament is over. For the SEC, at least. LSU, the regular-season championship, got knocked out in the second round against North Carolina, a Final Four favorite. For LSU fans, this was not necessarily a disappointment.

It was a good way for this team to go out. They were playing a team that overmatched them in talent and size, but the heart and toughness we had seen from this team kept them in it. Even a 9-point halftime deficit was not a big obstacle. It was shrugged aside in the first couple minutes of the second half and then it was an outstanding game for about 10 minutes. LSU took a lead of up to 5 points, 54-49, before North Carolina's superior talent finally took over.

For Tennessee, which expected to be in the NCAA Tournament and maybe even make a deep run, the Friday loss to Oklahoma State was a bit harder to take.

The rest of the ongoing NCAA tournament was the farthest thing from the Tennessee's coach's mind.

"I can not watch it; it's too difficult, it's too painful," Pearl said. "I haven't lost a first-round NCAA tournament game since (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) lost to Notre Dame on a last-second shot (70-69, 2003).

"I wasn't ready for it to be over, and our guys felt that way, too."

Would unemployment be more painful? Because when your supporters are writing "A Hopefully Unnecessary Defense of Bruce Pearl" -- well, it's probably necessary. But a Rocky Top Talk community member says Vols fans should think twice before parting with Pearl -- or making him want to part with Tennessee.

And frankly, anyone there or anywhere else who uses the words "Bruce Pearl" and "fired" in the same sentence has lost the right to have an intelligent basketball conversation. [...]

I'm not worried that general idiocy from a percentage of the fanbase is going to lead to general unrest, and that Pearl is going to be run out of town. Not at all. [...]

I don't think Tennessee is going to get rid of Bruce Pearl. I'm terrified that Bruce Pearl is going to continue to draw interest from dozens of other teams, collegiate and professional...and one of these days, he's going to take a long look around this program, and then he's going to say yes.

The Tennessee women are also gone from the NCAA Tournament in the first round. That's the first time that's happened. Ever.

Over in the NIT, Florida and Auburn both won their second-round games Friday, while Kentucky takes on Creighton tonight at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Regardless of the outcome of the game against Creighton, though, Wildcats head coach Billy Gillispie's future is being openly discussed in the way that -- well, in the way that makes you think he's about to get canned.

Columnists are writing out both sides' talking points. MSM bloggers are trying to be the first to say he'll go. Supporters are urging the besieged coach to change.

What's different about this is that the performance of Gillispie's teams, though disappointing, doesn't seem to be the major reason for the unhappiness. Instead, it's something more difficult to describe and more visceral: He's not Kentucky's "kind" of basketball coach.

I think, regardless of how UK performs Monday night, and in any subsequent games this season, that Gillispie needs to assure Barnhart in their post-season pow-wow that he's capable of adapting to the culture of UK basketball.

This all has an effect, as Gattis points out, on the coaching searches underway at Georgia and Alabama, which become less attractive jobs if Kentucky is open.

Speaking of ... Georgia isn't waiting to see who might be its competitor. Instead, the Dawgs have zeroes on VCU's Anthony Grant and Minnesota's Tubby Smith. As for Grant, well, Paul Westerdawg sees him as a gamble worth taking.

Bottom line -- he could be Mark Richt, or he could be Brad Scott. We won't know until he gets here. If he's coming here. 

Florida and South Carolina fans -- and, to be fair, everyone else in the SEC East -- can only hope Grant is basketball's answer to Brad Scott. They're more worried about Smith.

Georgia-Florida The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Atlanta? Well, it's probably just a pipe dream, and besides -- the future of Georgia football depends on it not happening. Don't take my word for it; the Mayor said so.

Matthew Stafford > Chris Leak. At least according to his Wonderlic score. Aren't those things supposed to be, you know, confidential and stuff?

And by 'team reasons,' we mean buying dope. Ladi Ajiboye's suspension was, one would assume, related to his being charged with marijuana possession of the simple variety. Either that, or he's really in trouble now.

Pop quiz. If asked a week ago, which of these things would you have found least likely to happen?

(a) Blake Mitchell being paid to play football. (HT: LOHD)
(b) A United States congressman's rousing tribute to the Gators and Urban Meyers being made into a dance remix.
(c) The NCAA actually looking into something worth looking into.
(d) Steve Spurrier running the Wildcat.

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