TAMPA — Bubble teams hoping that a win or two in this week's SEC tournament will be enough to push them into the NCAA Tournament may be sorely disappointed.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who is chairman of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee, said Wednesday that a couple of wins won't hurt, but all teams will be judged on the complete season of work.
"It is a chance for teams to add meaningful wins to what they have already accomplished throughout the season," Slive said. "I emphasize the words 'throughout the season.' A couple of wins this week can't hurt, but it is certainly important that we look at the entire body of work for a team. Wins in November and December count. Losses in November and December count, just as they do in January, February and March."
Several SEC teams are considered on the bubble, including Florida, South Carolina and Auburn.
ADVANTAGE UF? The consensus among fans and coaches is that having the conference tournament in Tampa will give the Gators a homecourt advantage, but UF coach Billy Donovan isn't so sure about that.
"All the allotment of tickets are divided equally, so I don't know that I have this expectation that the arena is going to be filled with Gator fans," Donovan said.
After sluggish early ticket sales, tournament officials said only about 2,000 remain. The SEC on Monday took the unusual step of putting single-session tickets on sale to help boost sales.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said he'll be interested to see how the tournament fares, having been moved from Atlanta, where it was held eight times in the past 11 years.
"Atlanta's been kind of a central location for all the teams, where a lot of people can drive to," he said. Nine of the 12 SEC teams are within a five-hour drive of Atlanta.
"It will be interesting after this tournament's over when you do that final head count, how the ticket sales went. How the fan base was able to show up and support this tournament. … We'll have to wait and see. But it is a beautiful town and very warm weather."
DIFFERENT APPROACH: It seems every team has a different approach to the tournament. Donovan has told his players not to think in terms of winning the whole tournament, just focus on tonight's game against Arkansas. But Arkansas is looking at the tournament as a whole.
"We're going to have to go into this thing to win to get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament," freshman Rotnei Clarke said. "And, obviously, Florida's going to be a tremendous challenge. It's going to be tough for us, but we're looking forward to the opportunity."
For Kentucky, which most likely needs to win the tournament to keep its streak of 17 NCAA Tournament appearances alive, it's a combination of take it one game at a time with an eye on the title.
"I don't really feel it's desperate, but we need to win," UK center Patrick Patterson said. "We want to win, and it starts with Ole Miss."
DEFENDING THE TITLE: With a 3-13 league record, it seems odd that Georgia is the defending SEC tournament champion. But the Bulldogs, who have one fewer win this season than at this time last year, are feeling quite confident in their unusual role.
"The SEC tournament is definitely wide open because it's a new season," senior G Corey Butler said. "All you have to do is win four games, and we've played all those teams before. So it's just a matter of coming out, competing hard and playing hard."
MISSING: Florida will be without freshman F Allan Chaney, who has a sprained ligament in his arch. He missed seven games (Feb. 3 to March 4) with a stress fracture. The Gators' opponent, Arkansas, will be without freshman reserve G/F Jason Henry, suspended indefinitely due to a violation of team rules. He averaged 8 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]