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January 26, 2011

SEC Notebook

No, it isn't a major problem.

But seeing the terms "potential violation" and "Tennessee basketball" grouped together these days is quite unsettling to Volunteer Nation.

Forward Renaldo Woolridge was linked to an investigation of potential improper benefits last week after he allegedly used a private room of a Knoxville bar to shoot a rap video and wasn't charged for the use. Woolridge, who has a budding music career under the nickname "Swiperboy," has released several rap songs and videos during his time at Tennessee and apparently shot the latest one after he and the Vols returned from a loss at Connecticut.

Tennessee has said that it has completed its own investigation and that Woolridge did not shoot a video while he was at the bar, but was scouting a location for use in a future video shoot. The school also claimed that the owners of the bar have the room free for use by all Tennessee students.

Woolridge promoted his latest single on his personal website and mentioned it during a video blog recorded during the team's flight to Connecticut. While UT claims there was nothing improper about Woolridge's actions, which very well may be true, the incident is the latest in a string of hard hits for the Vols' program.

The bar in question is located near another bar that was caught allowing a number of athletes, including several men's basketball players, in without paying for admission last summer. Basketball coach Bruce Pearl, himself under suspension for the next four games, and football coach Derek Dooley later banned their players from going to that particular bar.

Woolridge's offense doesn't seem very problematic, but with the entire UT athletic department under investigation, it's another stain on the program's reputation. The NCAA is expected to release its findings of an ongoing investigation into men's basketball, football and baseball by the end of the month or next month, which could result in severe punishment.

The Vols are hurting, limping into tonight's game hosting LSU with a 12-7 (2-2 SEC) record. They lost at UConn despite Pearl being able to return for a one-game appearance, but will play the next four games against SEC West opponents.

They will also be playing without freshman forward Jordan McRae for the immediate future. McRae has been suspended indefinitely from the team for allegedly getting into a verbal altercation with a teammate, and using unacceptable language on the team bus when it was returning from a day trip to ESPN studios while in Connecticut.

BULLDOGS RISING: The job that second-year coach Mark Fox has done at Georgia is beginning to take notice with the Bulldogs' fan base.

Dreary Stegeman Coliseum had its fourth straight sellout on Tuesday when No. 24 Florida came to town for a showdown. The Gators (16-4, 5-1 SEC) won in double overtime and remained in first place in the SEC East, with a half-game lead on Alabama (12-7, 4-1) for the overall top spot in the SEC.

Despite the loss, the Bulldogs (14-5, 3-3) are considered an NCAA tournament team and are drawing their biggest crowds in eight years. Fox has Georgia flourishing behind the triple threat of preseason SEC Player of the Year Trey Thompkins, preseason first-team All-SEC selection Travis Leslie and Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson.

"I didn't know that, until you said that," Fox responded when asked about the sellouts. "One of the things that I felt important here was to re-establish the atmosphere in the building. What our fans have done for us is really create the college basketball environment."

CURED?: Arkansas (13-6, 3-3) got back into the win column when it edged league-worst Auburn (7-13, 0-6) on Tuesday, but wasn't celebrating too hard. The Razorbacks' next game is at No. 19 Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Arkansas is 0-4 on the road this season, and its last contest before Auburn was a 32-point thrashing at Florida, the lowest-scoring output of coach John Pelphrey's tenure.

The Hogs' inconsistency on the road has continually gashed the team all year. Part of the problem has been lousy shooting -- at Florida, six guards combined to shoot 3-of-24 from the field.

One of those, leading scorer Rotnei Clarke, was locked into a 4-of-19 slump over the past three games before Auburn. Against the Tigers, Clarke hit 5-of-9 shots for a team-high 16 points.

TIMEOUT: Vanderbilt (14-4, 2-2) got a big win over a then-ranked St. Mary's team last week, and began to re-assert itself after beginning the SEC schedule with two frittered-away wins. But the Commodores had to take a break to help heal one of their own early this week.

Curline Meriwether, mother of senior Chris Meriwether, unexpectedly died of a heart attack on Monday. A Nashville native, the younger Meriwether was publicly pledged support by coach Kevin Stallings and all of his teammates.

SEC STANDINGS
SEC East
Team SEC record Overall record
Florida 5-1 16-4
Kentucky 3-2 15-4
South Carolina 3-2 12-6
Georgia 3-3 14-5
Tennessee 2-2 12-7
Vanderbilt 2-2 14-4
SEC West
Alabama 4-1 12-7
LSU 2-2 10-9
Mississippi State 2-2 10-8
Arkansas 3-3 13-6
Ole Miss 1-4 13-7
Auburn 0-6 7-13

Tuesday's games
Florida 104, Georgia 91 (2OT)
Arkansas 73, Auburn 64
Today's game
LSU at Tennessee, 8 p.m.
Thursday's game
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State, 7 p.m.
Saturday's games
Florida at Mississippi State, 1 p.m.
Auburn at South Carolina, 1:30 p.m.
Georgia at Kentucky, 4 p.m.
Tennessee at Ole Miss, 4 p.m.
Arkansas at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m.
LSU at Alabama, 8 p.m.

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