NEW ORLEANS - It's too bad that my jaunts to this fair town are so spaced out. The last time I was here was 2007, and prior to that it was 2002 for the Sugar Bowl. But each time I'm here, I keep thinking the French must not have been so bad if they gave us such a great city.
I'm not sure I could live here full-time. The city and the area are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina, whose impact and aftermath will take at least a generation to overcome. But as a visitor, you really do have that Las Vegas feel of a place separate from the rest of the world. And you need that a couple times a year.
This week I'm here for the SEC tournament, where Georgia is likely to finish its 2011-12 season, barring a miracle run. I take stock of the program in today's papers, with a column opining that while the future isn't bleak, the Bulldogs need an infusion of talent.
Georgia will open up play Thursday night at around 10 p.m. ET, with a first-round matchup against Mississippi State. It's going to be a tough one for Georgia, even though it won in Starkville last month; MSU is playing for its NCAA tournament life, and because of Georgia's win there, it'll be easy for MSU head coach Rick Stansbury to get his team's attention and not look to Friday's quarterfinals.
But who knows with Georgia, which enters having won two of three, and appears to be playing its best basketball of the season. It came together too late, but at least it came together.
I was asked on the radio this morning if I thought anybody but Kentucky could win this tournament. After some perfunctory talk about Florida, Vanderbilt and perhaps even Mississippi State, I still came back to the favorites: Kentucky not only has the most talent here, and enters unbeaten, but as always it will basically be a home tournament. They don't call it the Kentucky Invitational for no reason:
Even last night, as I was walking along Bourbon Street - reading my Bible, of course - there were blue-clad Cat fans roaming around. And this was Tuesday night, with their team not playing until Friday.
The subject of SEC coach of the year also came up: It was posited that Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin should've gotten more consideration, after Kentucky's John Calipari won it convincingly. I do agree that Martin did a great job; Tennessee was ticketed for the bottom three in the league, but incredibly Martin got the Volunteers the second seed in this tourney.
But the Vols also struggled in the non-conference part of their season. It also matters that Kentucky not only won the league but swamped it. Yes, Calipari was coaching the best talent in the league, but a) he gets credit for recruiting it, and b) they went unbeaten, and only have one loss overall. I have no problem with Calipari winning the award handily.
I'll have more random thoughts during the week on the blog, as well as hopefully some news on future SEC scheduling. The commissioner and the A.D.'s are already here, and it looks like the Auburn-Georgia series is safe - but I'm not sure if there will be any official votes this week.
I am sure there will be a lot of gumbo consumed. I got it started last night, but I don't think you can have enough here. Or red beans and rice. Or jumbalaya. And now, off to Cafe du Monde for some breakfast. Yeah, gotta admit this week I have few complaints about my job.