Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Five Storylines to Watch at Scottrade

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Five Storylines to Watch at Scottrade

Article excerpt

1. The Porter Effect

There's a chance Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. finally makes his return to the floor in St. Louis, an addition that could shift the entire landscape of the conference. The nation's top-ranked recruit hasn't played in a game since Nov. 10 and until Feb. 23 hadn't practiced with his teammates. But adding the preseason SEC player of the year to a team that's already won 20 games is like acquiring an All-Star at the trading deadline without sacrificing another player in return. "Normally what happens late is you're losing somebody and it's devastating in a normal case," said Kentucky's John Calipari, whose 2013 team lost star freshman Nerlens Noel with a February knee injury and settled for the NIT. "What Cuonzo is doing right now to get them to defend and play together, to get them to make the extra passes and all the stuff they're doing right now they're playing well. You add Porter to that, all of a sudden they become very, very dangerous."

Calipari could find out himself. If Mizzou survives Thursday's game against Georgia or Vanderbilt, the Wildcats are next in Friday's quarterfinal.

How much will Michael Porter Jr. impact Mizzou's tourney chances?

2. Pearl's last dance?

Auburn has the No. 1 seed in the field, will head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003 and has its most wins since 1999, but there's no guarantee coach Bruce Pearl will be back for a fifth season. His program was targeted in the FBI's investigation into college basketball's corruption scheme, costing Pearl assistant coach Chuck Person, who's been indicted on federal charges, and two key players who have missed the entire season. Under those circumstances, Pearl has pulled one of the year's greatest coaching jobs, taking an undersized team that plays without a brake pedal and beats teams with tempo, free throws and 3-pointers. New athletics director Allen Greene will decide Pearl's fate after the season, and until then perhaps watch the Tigers stroll through St. Louis and into the Big Dance.

3. Can Kentucky 4-peat?

It's been six whole years since Kentucky won its last national championship, but the Wildcats have no trouble collecting SEC hardware. …

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