Storm forces SEC tournament move, unusual twinbill
The SEC will take the unprecedented step of having a team play twice in one day in order to conclude the storm-delayed conference tournament in Atlanta before the NCAA tournament selection announcement at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Early Saturday morning, SEC communications director DeWayne Peevy told ESPN.com by phone from Atlanta that Georgia and Kentucky will play their postponed quarterfinal at noon ET Saturday at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Georgia Tech, instead of at the storm-damaged Georgia Dome. The first semifinal, pitting Tennessee against Arkansas, will take place at 6 p.m., while the second semifinal, featuring the winner of Kentucky-Georgia and Mississippi State, will tip off at approximately 8:30 p.m. The final is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday on CBS, and all games will be at Georgia Tech.
Peevy said the league consulted NCAA selection committee chairman Tom O'Connor, who also is the athletic director of George Mason, before making the decision. SEC commissioner Mike Slive also is on the selection committee and was part of the decision process from Indianapolis.
Peevy said that because the SEC's automatic qualifier is the conference champion, which is determined by the conference tournament, the games have to be played prior to the selection announcement. He said O'Connor told the SEC that if it wants to preserve its automatic qualifier, one of 31 in the field of 65, the tournament must be completed.
Peevy also said the conference will have to limit attendance in the 9,100-seat arena to the players' families, cheerleaders, bands and other credentialed individuals. Announcements regarding ticket refunds were pending.
Peevy said the league looked at all possible scenarios, including crowning co-champions by playing one game Saturday and the semifinals Sunday. But again, the conference was told that if it wanted the automatic qualifier, the tourney had to be completed.
Kentucky's and Georgia's coaches and athletic directors signed off on this arrangement.
Meanwhile, all other weekend events at the Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center have been cancelled due to storm damage. Those include the Atlanta Home Show, the Hinman Dental Society of Atlanta's annual Hinman Dental Meeting, the Red Bull Illume exhibit of sports and action photography, and several private events.
Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com.