While sitting in Madison Square Garden on Friday night with about six minutes left in the South Carolina/Baylor match up, which was becoming a route, the fans started to chant “SEC! SEC!” The same chants heard for all those years when the SEC dominated the college football landscape during the BCS era. Same exact chants.
The SEC by far is the most prideful league. Obviously the vast majority of excitement comes from the gridiron, You only have to listen to about three minutes of the Paul Finebaum show to figure that out. But one thing SEC fans do is when their teams in any sport begin to shine, the pride comes out in full force. It probably felt real good for the South Carolina fans to chant that in New York City, in Madison Square Garden the Mecca of basketball.
When Chris Chiozza hit that buzzer beating three pointer in overtime to take the Florida Gators to the Elite Eight, the SEC will now be guaranteed at least one team in the Final Four.
The conference, which has been dominated by Kentucky over the past decade now has three teams in the Elite 8, with Kentucky shutting down Lonzo Ball and UCLA on Friday night. It’s not like the SEC can’t hoop. The last team to win back to back titles was the Florida Gators. Kentucky has won one since then too.
The point here is that football will over overshadow basketball when it comes to the SEC. I don’t think you will Gator fans vandalize Rupp arena after a regular season loss, like Harvey Updike poisoned the trees in Toomer’s Corner after Bama lost to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. It isn’t that deep.
With all that said, at least for this year the SEC is proving that it has some basketball chops beyond just Kentucky. On Sunday at Madison Square Garden the entire arena will be filled with SEC fans. Regardless who win, I expect to hear those “SEC! SEC!” chants. Will the Gators return to the Final Four? Or Will the Gamecocks shock the world and punch their ticket to Phoenix. It should be a fun one. Regardless of the result, it’s still kind of cool to be talking about SEC relevance in March and it not be about Spring practice. Sure I know that’s sacrilege, but so what! It’s major college sports and the intrigue is just awesome. If you can’t get pumped up for it, it’s time to check into a morgue.