Forward your crow recipe to naysayers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Who in Shelby County has the best recipe for preparing crow for the dinner table?

If such a recipe exists, it should be forwarded to Dick Vitale, plus plenty of others, for questioning why Auburn was invited to the NCAA tournament.

And perhaps a small side dish of crow to the naysayers for putting down Alabama’s inclusion.

Coach Cliff Ellis and his Tigers put the lie to the skeptics by advancing to the Sweet 16 with victories over No. 7 seeded St. Joseph, although that one took overtime, and over No. 2 seeded Wake Forest, by 6 points, in the East Regional at Tampa.

Alabama didn’t get past the first round, although the Tide made it fairly respectable until near the end before losing to No. 7 Indiana in the Midwest at Boston, and Alabama’s showing looks a little better considering that the team that defeated Indiana in the next round, Pittsburgh, is in the round of 16.

The Tide, in its latter games this year, gave the appearance of a salesman who made a good presentation early but couldn’t close the sale.

It is worth recalling that both Auburn and Alabama were seeded No. 10 in their regions, meaning that the selection committee didn’t think too poorly about them.

Conversely to Alabama, Auburn was able to close the sale in its victories, showing in overtime against St. Josephs and in the crunch against Wake Forest that the Tigers are not intimidated and are able to seal the deal.

Their next deal will be against No. 3 Syracuse in far-off Albany, N.Y., on Friday and, although Syracuse had fairly easy victories over Manhattan and Oklahoma State, Auburn doesn’t look to be cowed, whatever the outcome this time.

The Tigers showed against Wake Forest that they are far from one-dimensional. Marquis Daniels and Marco Killingsworth normally are the go-to guys but aren’t the only weapons at Auburn’s disposal.

Ellis, after reaching the Sweet 16 plateau, says he would like to have another chance against Kentucky, the Southeastern Conference’s premier team, at least at this point, but that is a wish not likely to be realized. Should the Tigers get past Syracuse, they still would have to face either No. 1 Oklahoma or another unlikely Sweet 16 team, Butler, in their region and then prevail against the champion of the South Region, probably No. 1 Texas.

Stranger things have happened, however, and that’s the reason for the term March Madness.

The SEC, hawked as the nation’s top conference, sent six teams to the NCAA and, with the exception of Kentucky and Auburn, hasn’t lived up to that billing.

The most disappointing showings were by Mississippi State, Louisiana State and Florida.

Mississippi State, a No. 5 seed, fell early to Butler, by 1 point. LSU was pounded early by Purdue and Florida, after trouncing lowly Sam Houston, hardly showed up in losing by 22 points to Michigan State, despite the Gators’ No. 2 seed.

So, it’s left to Auburn and Kentucky to carry the banner of the depreciated SEC.

The Wildcats must prevail against Wisconsin and then either Marquette or Pittsburgh to get to the Final Four in New Orleans.

Despite some mistakes in seeding, the selection committee so far has been correct on its No. 1 seeds, with Kentucky, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma still in the running.

I’m still sticking with Kentucky to win it all, although the Wildcats obviously would have to extend their remarkable winning streak to do so.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. E-Mail: