NASHVILLE — Hello. Haven’t visited the Ernest Tubb Record Shop or the lights of Broadway yet — actually it’s still daylight — but I made it to the arena in time to catch the end of Bruce Pearl’s news conference. When it was over, I asked the Tennessee coach off-stage about Georgia and coach Mark Fox. Not surprisingly, his response was complimentary.
“He’s done a great job, and they’ve beaten some really good teams,” Pearl said. “They played great obviously in Athens [when the Bulldogs upset then eighth-ranked Tennessee, 78-63, in January]. They knocked on the door on the road. But I think what that indicated to me was, it’s almost like SEC football. Where do you go? Where do you turn? Where can you go to get a relatively easy game?
“Mark Fox did not come here to finish sixth in the SEC East. And he did a great job. He finished sixth — and he did a great job. That’s how tough it is.”
Pearl was guarded — in an amusing way – in a follow-up question when asked about what he believes is the potential of the Georgia basketball program.
Response: “Georgia’s a great university. It’s a great school. It’s a real competitive program.”
After a pause and laughter, he added: “What do I say? ‘Yeah! If I was a recruit, I’d go there!’”
The four teams with first-round byes in the SEC tournament — Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Mississippi — are not holding news conferences today. Fox and a couple of players will be up on stage a little bit later. Tim Tucker and I will be posting thereafter, so check back. And if you have any questions, I’m here.