And so it begins. Felton's Cardiac Canines will embark this evening on their longshot attempt to reach the NCAA Basketball Tournament via the last minute, circuitous route of the SEC tournament, having spit the bit in a series of late season games where they sorely missed the defensive prowess of guard Mike Mercer.
Previous Meeting: The Dawgs tamed the Tigers in Athens back on February 17 by a tally of 86-79. It was the first game post-Mercer, and the Dawgs got substantial help from Sundiata Gaines, who shot a rather pedestrian 4-12 from the field (more on that later), but hit 11-15 from the charity stripe to finish with 21 points in a game in which he played every single one of the 40 minutes (along with Billy Humphrey). The Dawgs also profited from a combined 24 points from the low post tandem of Dave Bliss and Takais Brown.
The WarPlainsTigerEagles shot the ball only slightly worse than the Dawgs from the field, but hit only 20 of 30 (66.7%) from the line. While a 7 point victory is not exactly cruising, this statistic kept the game from being a lot closer.
Since Then: We all know that with the exception of the Mississippi State win, the Dawgs have dropped a series of winnable SEC contests to play themselves onto, then off the wrong side of, the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Aubbies, in addition to taking several challenging correspondence sociology courses, have found time to win home contests against Arkansas and LSU, while winning on the road at No. 25 Alabama. They also dropped one on the road against the surging Ole Miss Rebels, who have emerged as the class of the SEC West (which is a lot like being the best downhill skier in Antigua, not that we're being judgmental or anything).
What to look for: The last time these teams played Sundiata Gaines absolutely eviscerated the Tigers in the lane. While his shooting percentage was terrible, that largely resulted from the fact that he was getting hacked incessantly and drew a ton of fouls. He also created a lot of quality looks for our big men. This will be critical in the tournament, where we'll be playing on an unfamiliar court and probably shooting at a low percentage. We will need Brown and Bliss (along with Newman and Singleton) to come up big again against an Auburn team that likes to bang around inside. Often tournament games are decided by which team establishes control early, and that will be critical tonight. I like to think that Felton's Dawgs are due one after some tough games. We were actually fairly close against Tennessee, and I think we take the Aubbies again, 70-64 on the neutral court.Go Dawgs!