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SEC semis have the feel of high school event...

ATLANTA -- To say there are no fans here at Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum for the SEC Tournament semifinals would be inaccurate. There's about enough for a shrimp cocktail.

I'm sitting here at midcourt in a box seat with my feet propped up on a guardrail and wondering the best way to describe the bizarre environment of these SEC semifinal games. To call it surreal is too cliche. It's like a Class 1A high school state championship game. As if the only people in the whole world who care about these teams -- Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Georgia -- are right here in this arena.

When SEC officials were forced to move SEC Tournament to Georgia Tech's campus the league had to cancel the tickets of the general public. Only the players' families, cheerleaders, bands and credentialed lucky few were permitted into the Alexander Memorial Coliseum today. It has given the SEC Tournament -- a moneymaker and one of the league's signature events -- an unexpected down-home touch.

The bands have their own sections at opposite ends of the court and few fans that are here -- 1,200 tops? -- seem fanatically invested. And it appears that the "no general public" policy didn't stand up. There are enough students here to fill this place with passion and make it plenty exciting.

-Georgia upset Kentucky in the earlier game today and will play Mississippi State tonight. The best-case scenario for the Southeastern Conference to get the maximum teams into the NCAA Tournament would be Arkansas over Tennessee (in progress and in doubt) and Georgia winning SEC Tournament. Not likely, of course.

-jo-   

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