Times Free Press columnist Mark Wiedmer started going to the SEC tournament in 1979. In all he's watched and covered 33 of those tournaments, and here are some of his best from the event:
Best team: 2007 Florida Gators. Three Kentucky teams have won the tourney by a greater average margin of victory (1993 Wildcats lead at 29.7 ppg), but only 2007's defending national champ Gators -- four of whom made the all-tourney team -- held all three opponents under 60 points, claiming the 2007 tourney in Atlanta by an average score of 77-57 on their way to a second straight NCAA crown.
Best surprise: 1985 Auburn Tigers. When the tourney began, no team had been able to win four games -- higher seeded teams needed to play but three -- to claim the crown. Making matters tougher for the Tigers, coach Sonny Smith was said to be on his way out. But after topping Ole Miss by eight on opening night, AU won its next three by a total of eight points -- including a 53-49 overtime victory over Alabama in the final -- to advance to the NCAA tourney and keep Smith around for four more years and three more NCAA bids.
Best player in a specific tournament: Mississippi State forward Dontae Jones. Jones scored a career-high 28 points on every shot imaginable and hauled in 11 rebounds to help shock No. 1 Kentucky, 84-73, in 1996 tourney final in New Orleans. Hitting 28 of 41 field goals for the tourney, Jones averaged 21.3 points. Though UK went on to win its sixth NCAA title, Jones guided the Bulldogs to their only Final Four berth.
Best coaching job: Georgia's Dennis Felton, 2008. In what will forever be remembered as the Tornado Tournament thanks to a Friday night twister that moved the event's final four games (one quarterfinal, two semis and the final) from a damaged Georgia Dome to Georgia Tech's Alexander Coliseum, Felton somehow coached the worst team in the SEC East to an improbable tourney title by winning three games in 30 hours, including two on Saturday. Alas, he was fired midway through the following season.
Best game (three-way tie): Kentucky 101, Alabama 100 (1979 quarterfinal, still the most combined points scored); Alabama 90, Arkansas 89 (1992 semifinal); Kentucky 95, Arkansas 93, OT (1995 title game).
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...