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October 22, 2008

Media Days Notebook, Day 1

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The SEC announced its rule changes for 2008-09 during Day 1 of SEC Media Days, featuring an extended 3-point stripe, reworked definitions of technical fouls and new end line restrictions. The rest will be continued emphasis on palming the ball and bench behavior.

"Some of these you have over and over again, which in the minds of those who sit on the rules committee says we are not doing as well a job as we need to," SEC Supervisor of Officials Gerald Boudreaux said.

After a year of experimenting with a new 3-point stripe in exhibitions, the arc was moved back a foot for the coming season. The new distance is 20 feet, nine inches, but only for the men.

The women's stripe remains at 19-9.

"It is real, it is no experiment and we will have it for the entire season," Boudreaux said.

If the men's and women's teams play on the same floor -- true at every SEC school except Kentucky -- then two stripes are required on each end. If the school plays on a court also used by the NBA, there will be three stripes on the floor.

There will be an increased watch on the end lines, which isn't a new rule but is being re-emphasized after safety concerns. There will be a 6-foot gap between the end line and the end of the court that should be empty of all non-playing personnel.

How that affects Colonial Life Arena is how much room there will be between the first row of seats and the court. Normally, that area has been reserved for photographers and/or the cheerleading/dance team.

"It is something that the NCAA will be monitoring and we will have more on that as we go," Boudreaux said.

Technical fouls have been broken into two classes -- Class A and Class B. Class A fouls are the serious ones -- flagrant/intentional contact, disrespecting an official, usage of profanity, players leaving the bench, a coach inciting the crowd. Class B fouls are non-contact -- goaltending while a free throw is in flight, players coming onto the court without checking in, etc. They do not count toward a team's foul total, although Class A fouls do.

The penalties for each kind of foul remains two free throws. The ball will be given to the offending team at the point of interruption. Penalties for multiple fouls are the following.

Two Class A fouls means ejection. Three Class B fouls means ejection. One Class A foul and two Class B fouls means ejection.

A coach who leaves the coaching box will receive a warning and then a Class B foul on the second offense. A bench player who receives a Class B foul will also contribute a Class B foul to his coach's total.

Officials will try to re-enforce their rules of palming the ball and keep an eye on the new definition of goaltending, which is similar to the NBA rule. If a ball hits the rim, then hits the backboard and is then contacted by a player, that constitutes goaltending.

"You will see a lot of satisfaction from the officials with that because the judgment part is now gone," Boudreaux said.

FINALLY: Auburn coach (and former South Carolina assistant) Jeff Lebo is in a bit of a strange position. For the second straight season, he's returning four starters.

"Right now, we are pretty healthy, which is a big key for us after the disappointing injuries that we had last season," Lebo said. "We were not able to put our best players on the court last year towards the end of the season."

The Tigers return guards DeWayne Reed, Quantez Robertson, Rasheem Barrett and forward Korvotney Barber. After rampant turnover and injuries helped derail Lebo's first two seasons, he's finally got some consistency.

It couldn't come at a better time. Lebo has never qualified for postseason play on the Plains and his best SEC record was 7-9 two years ago.

The Tigers have been 4-12 in the league every other year he's been coaching.

"We have a lot of new faces and all the new guys are really coachable," said Barber, who averaged 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds last year. "I am going to do whatever it takes to get this team to the postseason."

MAN OF THE WORLD: Besides pontificating on every subject imaginable, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl spoke about how the country's economic crisis was affecting his school. Showing a knowledge of the inner workings of the administration, not just the athletic department, Pearl discussed how the financial crunch has forced UT to cut some majors.

"They've eliminated some offerings," Pearl said. "I know Health has been cut. Speech Pathology. If certain Management programs get cut, it'll hurt all students, and it'll certainly hurt student-athletes."

With football driving many schools' athletic budgets and contributing a lot to the university's funds, Pearl was asked about the Volunteers' team and how its lack of success in 2008 is hurting the school as a whole. Tennessee began charging students for tickets this year among other revenue-boosting measures and its record is a scant 3-4.

"We're one of those campuses that require people to travel," Pearl said. "Certainly for football weekends, they'll travel all over the Southeast. But for basketball, we don't have enough people right in Knoxville to be fourth in the nation, 21,000 average. So the economy, the gas prices, are a factor."

FASHION SHOW: Many of the SEC players seemed to be trying to out-do each other with their suits. Preseason Player of the Year Tyler Smith from Tennessee showed up in a cream suit with brown shirt while teammate Wayne Chism was in all black, save his white silk tie.

"Tyler Smith looking pretty sharp over there, but I think I'm the best-dressed in here," said USC's Devan Downey, who arrived in an all-white double-breasted suit.

Sure, but are you the best point guard, too?

"Everybody got their own opinion," the preseason All-SEC first-team pick said modestly.

THE RETURN: Alabama point guard Ronald Steele was at Media Days, a preseason selection to the All-SEC second team despite having to sit out all of last year. Steele had two surgeries on his left knee and one on his right and elected to redshirt, attempting to come back healthy for his senior year.

"I rehabbed so hard, my legs are stronger than they were," Steele said. "It's hard work, physically and mentally, but you have to learn to take little games and make them into big games when you're going through it."

Steele averaged 8.6 points in 2007, hobbled by his knees, after averaging 14.3 in 2006. He says he's ready to go this year.

REACHING ANOTHER SUMMITT: Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt is only 17 wins from 1,000 for her career. She's the winningest college basketball coach in history and has won eight national championships, including the past two.

Yet, she's still focusing on the ones she didn't win.

"How many losses I got?," she asked an assistant, before hearing the answer (182). "One eighty-two. That's a whole lot of losses."

Summitt was asked how long she wants to stay around. She's only 56 but has been coaching for 34 years.

"I want to do it until it's no longer fun to walk into a basketball court," she said. "I tell you, I love it, it's my classroom. I can't hardly wait to get there."

G'DAY: Vanderbilt sophomore A.J. Ogilvy was the Commodores' only player representative at Media Days. He averaged 17.0 points last year to lead all SEC freshmen and set a school freshman scoring record.

But the best thing about him is his accent. A native of Sydney, Australia, Ogilvy learned the game from Australian pros and boomerangs his words through his accent, making his interviews some of the most entertaining one can find.

Naturally, he was asked how his voice goes over in Nashville, where country music rules.

"It's a lot of fun living in Nashville," Ogilvy said. "It's fun being around campus and talking to people, and you can see they're not really listening to what you're saying, they're just listening to the accent."

Picked up any local expressions?

"I try not to speak any Nashville," he said. "My mom said she wouldn't let me come home if I picked up an American accent."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Bruce Pearl needs to be a preacher in his next life." -- Summitt, gazing in wonder at the crowd Pearl drew wherever he went.



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