Tennessee Heavy Favorite at SEC Tournament, Despite History

ATLANTA (AP) - Bruce Pearl already checked one big thing off his list: Tennessee is the Southeastern Conference champion for the first time in 41 years.

Now comes the SEC tournament, where the fourth-ranked Volunteers are a huge favorite but again find history working against them.

Tennessee hasn't won the event since 1979 - heck, it's been 17 years since the Vols made it as far as the semifinals.

One-and-done has been their motto, which casts a bit of doubt over what is expected to be another coronation for the SEC's best team, the next step in its inevitable march toward a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

The tournament opens today with four games involving teams that finished third or worse in their respective divisions: South Carolina vs. LSU, Auburn vs. No. 18 Vanderbilt, Alabama vs. two-time defending national champion Florida and Georgia vs. Mississippi.

Tennessee, Kentucky, SEC West champion Mississippi State and Arkansas will play their first games Friday.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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