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March 7, 2007

Tre' Kelley

Dave Odom

Brandon Wallace


DAVE ODOM: Well, we've obviously got a big challenge ahead of us with the Arkansas team. They're a team that, like all teams that achieve in the postseason, are playing their best right now. You look at their last two games, and a good example of that is a guy like Gary Ervin, who has had his career high point total in the last two games, and, you know, I was, somebody asked me out in the hall a while ago what I thought the difference in the Arkansas team now versus a team that we played back in January, and I think it's their perimeter. The post guys, everybody's always known about them, Steven Hill, Charles Thomas, Darian Townes, and the new guy on the block now Michael Washington, that was not on the radar at the time we played back in January, but certainly is one of the focal points now of our defense. We're certainly going to be aware of him when he comes in.
But the thing that's really made them a much better club, I think, is the consistency of their perimeter players. You know, Ervin, Patrick Beverley has had an All-Star first year there. And he's a terrific player. And of course, Sonny Weems now is more consistent than he was back in January, and Stefan Welsh now has come in and given them a fourth dependable player. So they're a really good team.
When you look at our team, you know, I think we're playing better as well we played well that night, but I think we're playing better now. Our team has held together in spite of a lot of things that have gone awry this year. Don't need to talk about that today, I think those things have been well-documented. But our team has held together. They've been a great group to work with. They really have. We've had great senior leadership, these two guys here beside me. In all my years of coaching, I don't know that I've had a more solid tandem to coach, you know, to have them extend down to the younger players.
So we're excited about it. Tournament basketball is where it's at. That's the thing that separates college basketball from every other sport and every other level's tournaments. I can tell you right now, South Carolina's excited to be part of the SEC Tournament here in Atlanta. And we're going to give it our best shot.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, Brandon, your thoughts on the tournament headed in, please?
BRANDON WALLACE: Like Coach said, it is another opportunity. Despite what happened in the regular season, the tournament is a single-game elimination. We're just going to try to make the best of it, and go out and play hard.
TRE' KELLEY: I think well said by Coach and Brandon. It's just the best time of the year, I think, is when your team, your teams are at their best during tournament time, right before you go into tournament time. That's when they're playing their best. Everybody has to lock down offensively and defensively. Everybody has to be mentally stable and be ready to play.

Q. Hey, Coach, how close to 100% is Tre', and also has how has game kind of evolved since he's been hampered with the injury? And then after that, Tre', you can tell me how you've had to adapt your game because of everything?
DAVE ODOM: Well, you know, he's not 100%, for sure. But, you know, I would say he's operating probably about 85, 90% of what he could do. I think the biggest change, I don't think there's any secret about this, the biggest concern that I have is when he's on the defensive end because offensively, you basically know what you're doing or what you want to do. And you can kind of control your body a little bit better. But when you're in a defensive stance, and you're reacting to what your opponent's doing, it becomes a little more tenuous.
You know, I think he's, whether he will admit it or not, and I know he's not afraid of anything, but I think that's been where he's been hampered the most is on the defensive end.
So, you know, my projection of 85, 90%, I mean that's probably a bit high, to be honest with you. But in terms of his speed and his quickness and straight-ahead ability to get from one end to the other, I think he's doing as well as he can possibly do with that. But the amazing thing about Tre's situation is he plays every day as if it were his last, every possession as if it were his last; doesn't hold anything back. You know, the reward for that is the teaching that's going on with the younger kids and showing them. There's much more to it than personal gain.
TRE' KELLEY: Percentage-wise, I think it's between 80 and 90%, like Coach said. When I'm out there you kind of tend to play more smarter, with your mind a little bit more, because some of the things you do physically is limited. Especially on the defensive end, like you said, because most of the time you're surprised by where you're going, because offensive players make different moves and know what you're going to do. So I say I'm pretty much limited in the defensive end because of the slide laterally and things like that, but I would definitely work with it as much as possible, and I'll do my best.

Q. Dave, the SEC has been regarded as one or second best conference in the country this year, yet all these projections are talking about four SEC teams, only four making the NCAA Tournament, what do you make of that?
DAVE ODOM: Well, you know the ACC a couple of years ago, or maybe last year, only had four. I'm not sure. So, you know, you're going to have years like that. I don't think that's an indication of the strength of our league. And I'm not going to get into we ought to have four, six, seven or eight.
You know, what's happened in our league is, you know, the eastern side this year, our records or the other teams' records on our side are much better. Are we better, stronger, is that a stronger division in the west? Probably so this year. Of course, that, you know, changes from year to year.
But what's happened in the west is you've got extreme high parity there. As many as three teams, four teams could have finished up there with an 8-8 record, or as it were I guess we had two there. Was that what we had, with 8-8 records?
You know, the way the tournament committee is looking at things now a team in a power conference like the SEC that is 8-8, assuming that you had a good overall record, is going to get you in. That's not necessarily true now. It is becoming much more difficult to get in the NCAA Tournament now than it ever was, simply because you've got more of the non-power conference teams deserving bids. And it takes away from the six power conferences.
So I don't think there's an indication -- if it turns out that we only get the four, and the four come off of the eastern side, I think it's an indication of two things: One, that the western side didn't quite measure up from a record standpoint this year. And the other is that teams like Butler and Oral Roberts and teams like that, some of those leagues that they're in, the Horizons and the other leagues, are now getting two, and sometimes three bids, which takes away from the power conferences.
And in all honesty, I'm not so sure that we'll only get four. I think when it's all said and done, we're playing a team tomorrow afternoon that I think has the best chance to get one out of the western side because of, well, one, they're playing the sixth place team on the east, which is, by anybody's estimation, is about as good as you can do. And the other is that you know, when you get -- if they were to get past us, they're going to play Vanderbilt, a team that they just beat handily in Nashville. Then that gives them two more wins within our league, and much more credibility, and then they'd run into somebody in that upper bracket up there. I don't know who that would be.
There are some formidable teams up there. But I don't know that we'll only get four. I think in the end somebody out of the west is going to play their way into it, and I wouldn't bet against Georgia. Georgia has been a team that has been very resilient. They've had a tough injury in Mike Mercer, and they've played through that and they've played very, very well. You know, they're in a situation there where if you're Georgia, you want tough opponents right now because that gives you an opportunity to make up some ground, whereas you otherwise can't do it. You don't want an easy opponent if you're Georgia right now. You want somebody that is difficult, so if you beat them it means something. They've got that in Auburn. Then if they can get past that, I guess you're looking at Florida there. Is that not right? You know as much as anybody would know, wouldn't you?
DAVE ODOM: So they've got a chance to make up some ground as well. So I would say we're going to get four for sure, I wouldn't bet against five, and possibly even six.

Q. Considering the east and the west this year, I know it may be a cyclical thing, but would you be against seeding 1 through 12, rather than doing it the way the SEC has done it for all these years?
DAVE ODOM: I think what we do is right. I like it the way it is. I like divisional play. 16 games I think is right for power conferences. I noticed the other day the ACC's thing about going to 18, but they go 1 through 12. And I do know this, it is a blocked vote, and their coaches do not like it, they do not like it, because it's just not good.
But for whatever reason the powers that be in that league have chosen to look in that direction. I think what we do is a perfect model for a 12-team league.

Q. Tre', Coach was obviously lobbying for you as Player of the Year for the last couple of weeks --
DAVE ODOM: Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, all did I was tell the truth. Lobbying is not part of what I do. I don't lobby. I just tell the truth. I tell exactly the way it is. You asked me a question, I told you. I thought he was the best player in this league. I thought he deserved to be Player of the Year, but I didn't lobby. I didn't bring it up every time, you guys did. "Lobby" means I brought it up. I didn't do it, you did it.

Q. With that being said, do you feel you had something to prove this weekend that you are the best player in the SEC?
TRE' KELLEY: I don't think I have anything to prove. I had a very good season. My teammates helped me a lot. We didn't win as much as I wanted to, but I think I had a pretty good year individually. I would just come out and play the same way. Be as focused as possible. Come out and try to help my team win.
DAVE ODOM: I supported his candidacy strongly. And that has nothing -- you know, as I said to our media yesterday in Columbia before I left, I have great admiration for Chris Lofton. He is a terrific, terrific player and well deserving. I have terrific, equal amount of respect for Derrick Byars, he's equally deserving. It has nothing to do against him. But you know, I saw this young man every single night, every day in practice and, you know, philosophically I disagree with the way those kind of decisions are made. All I said was that I don't think any player should be responsible for the inadequacies of his team or his deficiencies of the team, that's all.
To say that, you know, a player couldn't be an outstanding player because his team didn't measure up record-wise, I thought was inappropriate, that's all. That's just my opinion.
You know, I do understand coaches have the right to make that decision on their own. I don't criticize them for that. It's just a difference of opinion. And the best example I know is back a few years ago with Ernie Banks in Major League Baseball. He was on the "oh my gosh" Cubs, worst team in baseball, and he was MVP. Only a guy like Bob Spears would remember that. The rest of you are too young. But you would remember that, wouldn't you, Bob?

Q. Two years in a row.
DAVE ODOM: Thank you very much. That gives me twice the credibility that I had. Even I didn't remember that and I think I'm a year older than you anyway, that's all I was saying.
But I'm particularly proud of Tre' for his being nominated and elected as First Team All Conference, and I'm equally proud of Brandon Wallace for being mentioned on the AP team, and I think that was justifiable as well. We appreciate that.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, we'll end on that note. Thank you very much.

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