SEC Championship: First Look

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It won’t be so much about Scotty Hopson this time. At least, not to the degree it was prior to the Feb. 25 meeting between Mississippi State and Tennessee. Hopson, a 6-foot-7 freshman, was the biggest storyline around Starkville, having signed with UT after committing to MSU. To add injury to insult, he scored a game-high 21 points in the Volunteers’ 81-76 win in Knoxville.

Today, Hopson is just one part of the picture. State and Tennessee square off at noon in the SEC Tournament championship game (CBS). “I guess there was a little pressure on me, knowing it seemed I had to play well in the earlier situation, but now, it’s just going out and playing basketball, executing our game plan and just trying to get an SEC Tournament win,” Hopson said following his team’s 94-85 win over Auburn on Saturday.

MSU (22-12) is a different team than it was two-and-a-half weeks ago. It’s won five straight, owns three double-digit wins in the tourney, and is playing with an energy that no team has been able to match in Tampa – except for maybe Tennessee (21-11). The Vols are just as hot, winning five of their last six. “We’re just together as a team now,” junior forward Tyler Smith said. “That’s what we’ve been looking for all year.”

So what happens when two hot teams collide? Fireworks, we hope. “They’re playing with confidence and playing a lot better, so right now we’re going to have to step up to that and match their intensity and their confidence and keep playing well like we’ve been doing,” said Hopson.

Wayne Chism, who’ll match up with State center Jarvis Varnado, scored a career-high 27 points against Auburn. Varnado scored 19 with seven blocks in a 67-57 win over LSU on Saturday. UT coach Bruce Pearl has two main concerns, one strategic – “We struggled in ball-screen defense today, and they’ll spread us and ball-screen us.” – the other physical – “Small-bodied guys recover quickly.” Tennessee writer Mike Strange fleshes out that aspect.

This game could come down to desire. MSU has plenty to play for – an NCAA tournament berth. But so do the Vols. “They’re fighting for their NCAA life, and we’re fighting for a great seed,” Chism said. “It goes both ways.”

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7 Responses to “SEC Championship: First Look”

  1. leeearl Says:

    Okay, BL last time you hyped up Scotty he had the game of his life, let’s just drop his name 🙂 Go State!!!!!

  2. leeearl Says:

    For everyone’s sake on this board, I’ve worked during every SEC tourney game; thus watching the games via DVR, I will keep the tradition and skip the game even though I’m not working today 🙂

  3. coachsmith Says:

    Guys we will be ready and we will win this game. I saw the look in our guys eyes yesterday. I saw how they cheered and communicated with each other. Mark it down we will finish strong today!!

  4. Brad Locke Says:

    Hey, leeearl, between you and trainer Scotty Johnson going sockless, the Bulldogs can’t lose. 🙂

  5. leeearl Says:

    Hehe, it’s gonna kill me not watching it live, but I’m not taking any chances…I’m watching the LSU game again right now 🙂

  6. leeearl Says:

    http://espn.go.com/….JV on the front of ESPN!!!

  7. chrisfromcorinth Says:

    Kodi Augustus reminds me of Winsome Frazier. Seems to always forget to brush his hair before the game. Hopefully he plays with the heart of Winsome today.

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