Lost in all the excitement around here has been the storyline we least expected: SEC Basketball actually does mean more. Five SEC teams made the tournament, and after the first two rounds, three are still standing: Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina. Additionally, the teams that were eliminated, Vandy and Arkansas, would have pulled off upsets if not for a stupid mistake and some terrible officiating. Everyone’s been giving SEC Basketball crap all season, so it’s only fair that we spend some time praising it today, starting with…
South Carolina’s stunning upset of Duke last night
South Carolina ruined 90% of the sportswriters’ nights when they knocked off Duke last night 88-81. Not only did the Gamecocks endear themselves to the entire nation by sending the Blue Devils home, they did it in convincing fashion, controlling the game in the second half. After an inconsistent regular season, Frank Martin’s squad has finally found its footing, and in front of a friendly crowd in Greenville, they did the unthinkable, scoring 65 points in the second half after shooting only 20% from the floor in the first. Their joy at the end of the game was infectious:
What a moment for South Carolina basketball. pic.twitter.com/jgtv0pgdVe
— Mike Wilson (@ByMikeWilson) March 20, 2017
Can they knock off Baylor?
And how about Florida whopping up on Virginia?
You don’t have to tell Kentucky fans how good Florida is. The Gators beat the Cats by 22 earlier this season in Gainesville. While Florida has ebbed and flowed this year, they looked every inch the team that whopped up on Kentucky during their 65-39 rout of Virginia on Saturday. Virginia’s not known for a thrilling offense, but the Gators still held them to 29.6% shooting and 1-15 from three-point land. The Gators looked convincing in every facet of their 26-point win.
And you better believe BBN will be cheering for their SEC brethren when they face Wisconsin on Thursday night.
Arkansas got hosed by the officials
Arkansas would have pulled off a monumental upset of their own if not for some questionable officiating vs. North Carolina last night. The Tar Heels jumped ahead by 17 in the first half, but the Razorbacks stormed back and took control of the game until the final minutes. With 49 seconds left, Joel Berry walked and committed a charge vs. Arkansas’ Adrio Bailey, but the refs didn’t call it, and when his erratic shot bounced off the backboard, Kennedy Meeks got a tip in. Here’s a GIF of the play from Yahoo Sports:
A minute earlier, Arkansas was called for a shot clock violation, but the footage showed Meeks blocked it. So, North Carolina survived.
Vandy: Screwed themselves
By now you’ve seen Matthew Fisher Davis’ mistake at the end of the Vandy/Northwestern game. No need to relive it, and even if I wanted to show it to you, I can’t because the NCAA won’t let us.
Kentucky: Wow, we really did get tougher thanks to the SEC
When it comes to Kentucky, you could argue the Cats learned to win in close games because of so many close calls in the SEC, a notion that used to embarrass us but now, bizarrely, we’re taking pride in. Frank Martin may have put it best when describing his team’s resiliency on “SportsCenter” last night.
“I just don’t like the fact that everyone always wants to pick on our league,” Martin said. “The only reason we won today is that our league got us ready for this moment. We play some unbelievable teams that unfortunately, they were young, and as the year went on, they got better and better. At the end of the season, I kept having to answer we weren’t playing well. We were playing good teams on their home courts…Our league, the SEC, got us ready for this moment.”