Troy State vs. Bama could have been a reality

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Kevin Pearcey

Sports Editor

My, my, my.

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How close we were.

Had the Troy State Trojans not faltered in the first game of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament against Jacksonville State and went on to win the crown, Coach Don Maestri’s team would be preparing for an NCAA first round match-up against No. 2 seed Alabama.

As it is, the Tide drew A-Sun rep, 15th-seeded Florida Atlantic, when pairings were announced on Sunday. The Owls denied Georgia State a second straight entry into the field of 64 by winning the tournament championship two week’s ago.

Can you imagine how much hype would have went into a TSU-Alabama opening round contest? The underdog Trojans making their first appearance ever. Bama, heavily favored, making its first appearance in the NCAA’s in six years.

Robert Rushing vs. Mo Williams.

Lemayn Wilson vs. Erwin Dudley.

Despite Alabama’s bombing of Troy State in last year’s season opener, I think this game would have been a bit closer and it would have been one of the more interesting first round contests to tip off March Madness on Thursday, if only for the fact that both teams hail from instate.

Sadly, we won’t ever have a chance to find out.

Thought I’d take a capsule look at some of the other SEC teams who made it in besides the Tide:

Mississippi State pulled off the three-point win over Alabama, which set the Bulldogs up as a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region. Although MSU was overlooked during the regular season, they equalled the Tide’s record (26-7) and were 2-1 over Gottfried’s regular season SEC champs. State should be a Sweet 16 lock, but second-seeded Oregon may stand in the way of an Elite Eight berth.

Florida (22-8) is at the top of the Midwest bracket as a fifth-seed, but without Teddy Dupay at point guard this season the Gators have been about as consistent as a telemarketer not wanting to make a phone call. Donovan’s crew has a hurdle to vault in Illinois (No. 4) and then top-seeded Kansas, perhaps the the most talented Jayhawk squad since 1997.

Georgia (21-9), at No. 3 in the East, should ace Murray State and get ready for a Sunday showdown with Bobby Knight’s revamped Texas Tech (23-8) team. Some how this Red Raider nickname just seems to fit the General and anyone who watched ESPN’s "A Season on the Brink" on Sunday night should know why. Knight has always done things his way, which has worked especially well this season as he’s turned a so-so Texas Tech squad into a contender.

Although Kentucky (20-9) is nowhere near the caliber of team that they’ve been in recent memory, the East’s fourth-seed still has the ability to catch fire come tournament time. It’s called tradition and the Wildcats have it. Unfortunately, so does top-seeded Maryland.

No. 9 Ole Miss (20-10) won’t make it out of the West alive. If , by chance, they get past a tough first round opponent in eighth-seeded UCLA, the Bearcats of Cincinnati will be waiting.