This is to all the national sports prognosticating snobs that turned up their noses at the SEC basketball teams, three of which are going to the Sweet 16.
After Friday night’s games, how do you like them now? The SEC has just short of filling a quarter of the Sweet 16 teams. Oh, the horror.
There had been 59 tournament games played. Not one game went to overtime. Not one game was deemed a buzzer beater.
Not until the Florida Gators took care of both of those categories with a spine chilling 84-83 overtime upset over Wisconsin, a Big Ten team that lost on a buzzer beating 3-pointer by an off-balance Gator, Chris Chiozza.
Understand, the SEC has always been known as a football conference. Check the national championships. You’ll know why.
Despite being ignored by those outside the SEC, their basketball teams are not just there to fill space. Most fans believe SEC basketball teams are Kentucky and 13 no-bodies.
Florida’s been known to play a little hoop. Remember Billy Donovan winning back-to-back national championships while coaching the Gators?
I bet virtually no one reading this could tell me who hit the game winning shot against Wisconsin before I told you. The Gators were trailing 83-81 with four seconds remaining. They had to go the length of the floor. Chiozza took the in-bounds pass and raced down court, escaping a Badger who dared get in his way.
Chiozza was behind the top of the key when he launched the shot heard around the Sunshine State.
His name will go down in NCAA Tournament history alongside with former Valparaiso guard and current Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew. Drew drained a 3-pointer with the game clock was at 2.5 seconds when he took the inbounds pass at the sideline, turned and let fly. As the late Joe Dean Sr., would yell from his press row table, “Ah, Bryce Drew played String Music, and hey!!!!
Valpo was a 13-seed over 4-seed Ole Miss in a 1998 first round game that Drew won in overtime.
Chiozza’s name will go down beside former UCLA guard Tyus Edney, his No. 1 seed Bruins down by a point to 8-seed Missouri in a second round game in 1995. Edney had to go the length of the floor in 4.8 seconds where he banked a game winning shot at the buzzer. His team went on to claim a national championship.
So what chance do the remaining SEC teams have of cutting down the nets on the season-ending game?
South Carolina is the biggest surprise in the tournament. Coach Frank Martin has worked magic with the Gamecocks, a defensive-minded team that finished down in fourth place in the SEC regular season.
They beat Butler Friday, a former basketball mid-major that has proven worthy of playing with the big boys. Remember the name Sindarius Thornwell. You’ll see this South Carolina star in an NBA jersey down the road.
Florida may have used up all its chips against Wisconsin. The Gators lost three straight games against Vanderbilt. Someone tell me how that happened.
In the Elite 8 Sunday, South Carolina plays Florida in a 1 p.m. game. That’s one way to eliminate an SEC team. North Carolina will take on Kentucky at 3:55 p.m. The winner could take it all.
North Carolina is the only ACC team alive out of nine ACC teams making the bracket.
Despite the final outcome on April 3rd the SEC’s teams showed up, fought hard and represented.
They earned what they got.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.