Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 7, 2013

Oh Good Greif: Spring sports dodging bad weather to prepare for the season

By Ed Greif
Sports editor

CROSSVILLE — "It's beginning to look a lot like...."  You know the rest of it, but that came to my mind Wednesday as the snow fell, forcing schools to be closed for another day. This puts a damper on spring sports practices, as the regular seasons for baseball, softball, tennis, boys soccer and track and field begin next week.

I know the baseball and softball fields are in terrible shape because of all of the rain and snow that has hit the Plateau the last few days. The weekend looks good, but there is a chance of more rain and/or snow the first of next week.

The coaches at CCHS — Dave Prichard (baseball), Robert Akins and Samantha Donathan (softball), Ted McCaslin (track and field), Terri Jacobs (tennis) and Cub Whitson (soccer) and the SMHS coaches — James White (baseball), Brittany Bilbrey (softball), Mike Husbands (soccer), Ray Hawn (tennis) and Matt Bates (track and field) — are itching for the teams to get outside before their openers next week.

With the time change coming at 2 a.m. Sunday, the first day of spring is just 10 days later. Watch for the Spring Sports Preview on March 29.

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Who is going dancing in a couple of weeks..."big dancing," that is? "March madness" is now under way with conference tournaments, including the SEC women's tournament in Duluth, GA, and the Southern Conference men and women's tournaments in Asheville, NC. The women's conference tournaments are  this week, as their NCAA Tournament bids go out March 18.

Some of the men's conference tournaments started this week, with the biggies, i.e., SEC, ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, Conference USA, among others, getting under way next week, as "Selection Sunday" is St. Patrick's Day (March 17).

SEC Coach of the Year Holly Warlick,  co-Player of the Year Meighan Simmons, Freshman of the Year Bashara Graves and the rest of the Lady Vols open tournament play today at 11 a.m. CST against the Arkansas-Florida winner.

No. 13 Alabama defeated No. 12 Mississippi State 63-36 Wednesday night to advance into Thursday's second round against No. 5 seed South Carolina. Three other games were scheduled Thursday.

Tennessee, as the regular season champion and No. 1 seed, along with Kentucky, Georgia and Texas A&M, earned double-byes into the 13-team tournament. Mississippi is not playing due to some self-imposed sanctions.

Those four teams should receive bids to the "big dance" on March 18. The SEC Tournament winner gets the automatic bid to the national tournament.

Coach Wes Moore, Kayla Christopher and the UT-Chattanooga Lady Mocs (26-3) are the top seed in the SoCon Tournament, which opens today in Asheville, NC. They face the Georgia Southern-Western Carolina winner at noon EST Saturday. The tourney champion gets the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Moore was named SoCon Coach of the Year for winning the school's 18th SoCon title and 12th in the last 14 years. UTC has won 20 or more games for the 13th time.

Christopher and teammates Ashlen Dewart and Taylor Hall were named All-Conference.

The Lady Mocs, who have wins over Tennessee and Alabama this season, should get a bid to the "big dance" when selections are announced. A SoCon Tournament title will earn them an automatic bid.

Baylor is the defending champion and should get a No. 1-seed in one of the four regions. Notre Dame, which beat UConn in three overtimes earlier this week for the regular season Big East crown, should get a No. 1 seed. I think the other two No. 1 seeds are wide open.

Women's teams from Tennessee Tech, MTSU, UT-Martin and Belmont have shots at winning their conference tournaments for an automatic bid to the "big dance."

The seventh-seeded Mocs face UNC-Greensboro Friday at 6 p.m. EST. Former Cleveland player Drazen Zlovaric is a senior for the Mocs.

The SEC men's tournament begins next week in Nashville. Florida secured the top seed and one of the four double byes with their 66-40 victory over Vanderbilt Wednesday night, while the 'Dores remained tied with Texas A&M for 10th place with 7-10 marks.

Kentucky (11-5), Alabama (11-6), Missouri (11-6) and Ole Miss (11-6) are battling for the other three double byes into the tournament quarterfinals next weekend.

With their win at Auburn Wednesday night, Tennessee is 10-7 in sixth place, and hosts Missouri Saturday in the regular season finale. The win improved the Vols' stock for a NCAA Tournament bid.

Thursday night's Kentucky at Georgia game last night and Saturday's slate — Florida at Kentucky, Ole Miss at LSU, South Carolina at Vanderbilt, Texas A&M at Arkansas, Georgia at Alabama and Missouri at Tennessee — will determine the seedings for next week's tournament.

The remaining eight teams are going to bust someone's bubble on St. Patrick's Day/Selection Sunday party and to improve their positions for the SEC Tournament.

Brackatologist Joe Linardi had Tennessee as one of the last teams in the "big dance," with Alabama, Kentucky and Ole Miss among the last four teams out. Tennessee's status improved with the win over Auburn, but the Vols need to beat Missouri Saturday. Missouri has had troubles winning on the road in the SEC this year.

As they say, "On any given day anyone can beat anyone else." That saying is going to prevail from now until final four weekend (April 6-9). The men's championship game is April 8 and the women's on April 9.

Men's teams from Belmont, Tennessee State, MTSU and Memphis are also gunning for conference tournament championships for berths in the "big dance."

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The TSSAA girls state tournament is under way this week at MTSU.

Bradley Central (29-2), minus junior forward Rebecca Reuter, suspended two games for being assessed two technical fouls in the Bearettes' win over Blackman, lost night Wednesday in the Class AAA state division to Science Hill (33-3), who is coached by former Cumberland countian Darrell Barnwell.

Clarkrange opened the Class A Tournament Thursday against Summertown, while Jackson County defeated Hampton 58-39. Clarkrange and Jackson County are in opposite brackets, and wouldn't play each other until the championship game Saturday.

CAK played Cannon County Thursday night, while Livingston played CPA in AA action.

The boys state tournament is next week at MTSU.

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(Ed Greif is the Chronicle sports editior and his column appears periodically.)