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    • SEC "Fast Break": February 26

      Apparently, eight Southeastern Conference teams were having so much fun last Saturday they didn’t want it to end.
    • SEC Fast Break with Chris Dortch

      The first month of the season was largely forgettable for the Southeastern Conference by almost any barometer. Where to start?
    • November Offers Challenges for SEC Teams

      It seems like only yesterday Kentucky players were cutting down the nets in the New Orleans Superdome after winning the Southeastern Conference’s third national championship in a seven-year span. But that was more than seven months ago, and now it’s time for college basketball to crank up again.
    • One on One with Chris Dortch: Marquis Teague

      Was there ever a question Marquis Teague could take his place among the elite point guards coached the last four seasons by Kentucky’s John Calipari? We profile Teague, a likely first round pick in this week's NBA Draft.
    • Instant Reaction: Kentucky Claims Title

      About a month ago, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari asked a question of his team.

    One on One with Chris Dortch: ESPN’s Joe Lunardi

    Editor’s note: This week Chris Dortch speaks with ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi to get his take on the Southeastern Conference’s prospects for the NCAA Tournament. Dortch caught up with Joe after one of his daily bracketology update sessions.

    CD: First a general question or two. You duplicate the NCAA Tournament’s selection committee’s efforts on a daily basis. Based on your experience, how difficult a job does the committee have in framing as fair a tournament as possible?
    JL: It's a hard job because there is (and can't be) a single set of criteria for evaluation. Committee members must select (37) and seed (68) teams from every part of the country and from every level of Division I basketball. Many, if not most, of their comparisons are not "apples to apples," so there are unavoidable disputes about what are ultimately arbitrary decisions.

    CD: How do you rate the committee’s efforts, generally?
    JL: More logical and transparent over the past decade or so, although I would say there are individual years with more "head-scratchers" than others. Last year was one of those, although you'd have to rate the overall impact of the new 68-team field as very successful.

    CD: What’s the hardest aspect of doing what you do, which is essentially duplicating, by yourself, what takes an entire committee to complete?
    JL: The hardest part is in some ways the easiest part. I am trying to get inside the heads of 10 people and predict what consensus decisions they will reach. The fact that I don't have to consult with nine other "members" makes it a whole lot faster (albeit lonely at the very end!).

    CD: Can you take us into specifics on Kentucky and what makes the Wildcats your No. 1 overall seed (if the season ended today) over Syracuse?
    JL: I am on record as saying the overall "body of work" from Syracuse is slightly better. However, I believe the committee would not go against the consensus No. 1 team in the country when determining a No. 1 overall. It is also a distinction without a difference, as neither team will have its region affected by this decision nor be bracketed to face the other until a potential national championship game.

    CD: Did Mississippi State’s win at South Carolina on Wednesday night allow the Bulldogs, who had lost five straight, to breathe a little easier?
    JL: Just a little. It was a game that could do far more harm than good. The Bulldogs still have work to do and, in my view, need at least two more wins to feel comfortable about their NCAA prospects.

    CD: Can you talk about how injuries and suspensions influence the committee’s decisions? For example, given the personnel issues Alabama has dealt with — a late-summer ACL injury to 7-foot JUCO transfer Moussa Gueye, who would have started, the suspensions of four players, including Tony Mitchell for the season — does that influence how the committee selects teams and seeds them?
    JL: This seems to be more of a factor each year in the committee's deliberations. In Alabama's case, I'd estimate the Crimson Tide will gain about one seed line because of their various personnel issues throughout the season.

    CD: What do you think the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri will do for the SEC as a basketball league? Obviously, Missouri is having a great season, but Texas A&M has slipped from the success it’s had in recent seasons, in part because of injuries.
    JL: Generally a positive for the SEC overall, although each will have to upgrade its non-conference schedule to avoid being a "drag" on existing members. Ultimately, neither is going to challenge Kentucky for long-term superiority in basketball. Unlike most other conference expansions, however, this one at least doesn't hurt the hardwood side of things.

    Check out Joe Lunardi’s updated bracket projections daily on ESPN.com, and follow him on Twitter: @ESPN Lunardi.



     
     

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    Chris Dortch Bio

    Chris Dortch estimates he’s covered close to 1,500 college basketball games since he was sports editor of his college student newspaper back in the late ’70s. “And it never gets old,” he says. “I always get pumped up to watch college hoops.”

    Dortch came to love basketball growing up in the basketball crazy state of Illinois, watching Missouri Valley Conference and Big Ten games every Saturday and pouring over the sports section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think I learned how to read a box score before I learned how to read,” he says.

    In college, first at George Mason and later at East Tennessee State, he came under the influence of two coaches that gave him a behind-the-scenes look at basketball from a coaching perspective. “After that I was hooked,” he says. “I knew I wanted to cover college basketball for a living.”

    And so he did, focusing on the Southeastern Conference at four newspapers and then for Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the famed “bible” of college basketball which Dortch began editing in 1996.

    In a 30-year career, Dortch has written for numerous publications and websites, served as a college basketball correspondent for Sports Illustrated, appeared on more than 1,000 radio shows and written five books, including String Music: Inside the Rise of SEC Basketball.

    Dortch has provided commentary for CSS, Fox Sports South, NBA TV and the Big Ten Network and also taught sports writing at East Tennessee State and Tennessee-Chattanooga, where his students call him “Professor D.”