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SMITH COLUMN: Kentucky puts another jewell in SEC crown

April 3, 2012

Smith

The Southeastern Conference continues to produce national champions.

In the three major sports, the SEC has three current title holders with the South Carolina Gamecocks in baseball, the Alabama Crimson Tide in football and the Kentucky Wildcats in basketball.

Kentucky just completed an amazing season Monday night by defeating a very good Kansas team 67-59.

In capping a 38-2 season, the only two losses for the Wildcats were to Indiana during the regular season and to Vanderbilt in the finals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Although many brackets were busted throughout the course of the NCAA Tournament, many people probably had the champion chosen correctly.

There wasn't much doubt when the tournament began that Kentucky had the best team and it was only a matter of the Wildcats not getting upset along the way.

Kentucky was on a mission and it was an impressive thing to watch what Anthony Davis and company were able to do. The Wildcats beat some pretty good teams along the way in Indiana, Baylor, Louisville and Kansas.

It was the eighth national championship for Kentucky and first for the school since 1998.

When Rick Ray was introduced as Mississippi State's 19th men's basketball coach on Monday, he talked about the tradition the SEC has in hoops and it's mainly because of what the Wildcats have been able to accomplish.

"Kentucky has made everyone up their game if they want to succeed in the SEC," Ray said. "At Clemson, South Carolina was our rival so I am familiar with them. I am a student of the game and I always watch other teams. The reputation of the SEC used to be that you go there to play football. People are realizing there are good basketball teams here too."
With college basketball in the rearview mirror now, it's time to turn attention to baseball.

There have been three SEC series played so far and once again the conference has gotten national attention for having not just one, but two teams at the top of the polls. The funny thing about that is that neither are the defending national champions.

Florida stands No. 1 in the Baseball America poll, while Kentucky (there's that school again) has found its way to the top of the Collegiate Baseball poll.

The Wildcats have been the surprise squad in the SEC to this point of the season. Not only have they played well out of conference, but have won seven of the nine games played within the league and top the Eastern Division standings with a 7-2 record.

As far as the Western Division goes, it looks as if it's going to be a wild chase to the finish.

LSU and Auburn have 6-3 marks after three series, while Arkansas and Ole Miss are next in line at 5-4. Mississippi State stands three games back at 3-6 and Alabama is struggling at 1-8.

The Bulldogs, who had Tuesday's midweek game against Mississippi Valley postponed due to weather concerns, host the Vanderbilt Commodores in a key SEC series Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

According to the latest forecast, any rain that comes into the area should be gone by Friday so it will be nice to see good crowds at Dudy Noble Field for the weekend.

In order to stay in contention for an SEC West title, it helps if MSU can take two out of three games from Vanderbilt, which stands 11-17 overall and 3-6 in the league.

It's going to be important however for the Bulldogs not to look at the Commodores' record and just focus on playing good baseball.

Whether you're talking baseball, men's or women's basketball, football or other sports, there's no such thing as taking a day off in the SEC.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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