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Underachievement is a tough cycle to buck. Just because you've got the hops to take on just about any opponent doesn't mean you've put in the work to develop the physical memory that gives you an edge. Physical memory equals an involuntary response to loose balls, empty space and slashing defenders — a pivotal tenth of a second developed over a season of hustle. The Hogs look to be crashing the big dance once again, but knowing their bad habits, I'm not sure how far they'll make it past the door.
If they can't repeat a win over Vandy, this time on a neutral floor, they might fritter away any post-season hopes before they make the bracket. Given the perilous status of our bid, the last thing we needed was a bye in the SEC tournament. One misstep, and we're liable to be NIT-bound.
In a move that I'm still not sure I understand, Stan Heath refused an NIT berth when three of these seniors were freshman. The tenor of that stunt rings through their entire careers. Ending their final season on such a bitter note would not be worthy of them, however circuitous the journey. Pel would likely force the humble pie down their throats. A few last wins, even in the NIT, will mean a lot to these young men.
But I'll cross my fingers along with the rest of the state and hope that Beverly stays hot from beyond the arc. Anywhere close to 6-6 will go along way toward muffling the all-but-irrepressible Shan Foster, who probably wants an SEC tourney championship in his final year every bit as much as our seniors want to claw their way into March. He'll still have Auburn's first-round blood on his hands when he steps on the court, and he won't be thinking about them being a lock for the NCAA Tournament. The Commodores won't look past us this time. They won't hit the court off a big win, overfed and cocky. They'll be playing us as if we could be the last game of their season.
The Diamond Hogs swept poor old Siena this weekend, swatting homers like they were tennis balls. Everyone's talking about Aaron Murphree, who has 12 round trips in 12 games, but look for his average to dip considerably with conference play and warmer weather around the bend. The curve balls will break a little bigger and come a little faster than he's been seeing versus the likes of South Dakota State.
Inclement weather has forced us to cancel a couple games, and I wish Coach Van Horn had a little more time to shuffle his cards. Our pitching still looks pretty spotty, though Shaun Seibert's elbow showed improvement on Sunday. Nobody, including Van Horn, knows who we're going to settle on in the middle infield — we've been playing musical chairs thus far. And we're an injury or two away from crisis in the outfield.
Our slugging percentage is a non-conference mirage, so I'm not putting a lot of stock in outscoring quality opponents, especially following the route at the hands of Texas A&M. Logan Forsyth's hamstring can't heal up fast enough to ease my troubled mind.