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Writer: Bill Trocchi
Post time: 1:50 PM, Thursday
BIRMINGHAM -- The buzz here early is being caused by Georgia, not surprisingly. The Bulldogs have an 11-point lead early in the second half, and even the writers who covered Georgia's remarkable run through the Southeastern Conference tournament last week in Atlanta are shocked when looking at the TV posted just behind the scheduled press conferences for the eight teams that will take the floor tomorrow.
There has been a patriotic feel to the proceedings here thus far, with American and USA (South Alabama) taking the podium first. The American players fielded the inevitable "if George Mason can do it" question, and they handled it well, saying they just want to be American and do what they can do. They admitted to watching Tennesse on television this year, something the Vols will likely not say about the Patriot League's Eagles. The three players -- Garrison Carr, Derek Mercer and Brian Gilmore -- all smiled when asked about Bruce Pearl's coaching style, but said Tennessee appears to feed off it, and that it was a good thing.
South Alabama feels it is ready to challenge seventh-seeded Butler. Coach Ronnie Arrow proclaimed his backcourt of Daon Merritt and Demetric Bennett to be one of the best in the country, and referred to them as his "Bread and Butter" combo. Arrow listed off his team's deserving NCAA credentials -- a 4-1 record vs. NCAA teams -- while defending his at-large invitation, which he didn't necessarily have to do. You're in, coach, and it's pretty much unanimous that your Jags deserved it.