#SECTOURNAMENTFEVER rages on, but it didn't really bring the excitement yesterday. Nor would I expect it to bring the excitement today. But today is the last SEC game of the year, and you wouldn't want to miss that, would you?
#1 Florida (56) - #4 Tennessee (49)
This was looking like an upset special when the Volunteers held a 10-point lead just before halftime. And then Scottie Wilbekin drained a buzzer beater to cut the lead to 7, and then Florida once again clamped down in the second half. Remember how embarrassing it looked for Missouri to only score 20 in the second half against Florida? Tennessee (which I will remind you, was one of the hottest teams in the country coming into the game) only scored 14 in the second half. They made one shot in the last 12 minutes. If you weren't buying the idea that Florida is really good before, I would advise purchasing it now, before the price spikes again.
Great offenses are nice, and Florida fans have been weaned on them in both football and men's basketball over the last two decades; I, too, joined Gator Nation within the last two decades, so I know this well. Having a scorch-the-earth offense will be our preferred default condition for as long as we're watching the Gators.
But offense is, I think, easier to brew up at a moment's notice. And high-flying offenses can crash suddenly. Great defense requires more discipline, more effort, more dedication. Great defense is hard, but it is even harder to break the habits that lead to it, once they are second nature.
And it is defense, whether Muschamp's resolute but doomed defenses or Billy Donovan's suddenly relentless outfits, that Florida is trending toward.
Like it or not, Florida is a firefighters' academy now.
Look, the refs were bad. They made a bad call on Maymon's fourth and perhaps a really bad call on the technical. They missed a call on McRae that set up Barton's intentional foul on the other end, then didn't award us two free throws and the ball when Wilbekin elbowed Barton in the face.
But Tennessee still has to look in the mirror with one made basket in the final 12 minutes and 11 turnovers in the final 20. Consider how well the Vols were playing everywhere else to get through that and the officiating and still have a chance to win against the number one team in the nation on a neutral floor.
Despite the loss, Tennessee should still get into the tournament, thanks to their recent hot streak. They might have to visit Dayton, but they'll get their shot.
#2 Kentucky (70) - #3 Georgia (58)
The Bulldogs put up a game effort, but eventually Kentucky's size and talent was just too much for Georgia to overcome, which means we won't get to see a team playing for its tournament life today. Why do you hate fun, Kentucky?
Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, I give you your Kentucky Wildcats! Yes, you may applaud and high-five with yourselves now, as the Wildcats overcome the Georgia Bulldogs in convincing fashion. This game was unique in that we got to see all we loved yesterday, and all we feared the week before, all in the same game. It was somewhat uncomfortable, but I think most, if not quite all of you, are happy with the result.
Kenny Gaines pulled the Bulldogs to within two at 41-39 early on in the second half but the Wildcats' size started to have its effect on Georgia. Three straight offensive rebounds helped Kentucky push the lead back to 10 and every time the Bulldogs threatened to close the gap, Arnold or Aaron Harrison had an answer.
Georgia has had a fine season, but it looks like they are headed to the NIT. From January on, the Dawgs looked like a tournament team, but the hole they had dug was just too deep to overcome.
#1 Florida vs. #2 Kentucky (3:15 Eastern, ABC)
Chalk held up in the SEC, and we'll see the two best teams in the final. Both are safely in the tournament, and we might not even see much seeding movement regardless of result, so this is pretty much just for a trophy and pride. The big question here is whether anybody can beat Florida. Kentucky has already lost to the Gators twice this season, so they have that "it's hard to beat a team three times in one season" thing going for them. (Also, more importantly, they have great talent.) If Kentucky can play up to their full potential, they can get the W today, but we've seen precious little of that from the Wildcats. I'm going with Florida, but feel free to disagree with me.
Arrivederci, Bon Voyage, Goodbye
It's been a honor and a privilege to actually write for a site that I've loved so much for so many years, not to mention a whole lot of fun. Thanks to Fullback U for giving me the opportunity, Bill C. for doing everything he does to run this site (and putting me on the masthead! It's beautiful!) , Spencer Hall for providing the joke from which this spawned, and HHKB Chris, my partner in crime, for halving the workload and being the finest collaborator anyone could ask for. And finally, thank you if you're reading this. There's not much point to this without you.
Until next year, may you stay safe from imaginary diseases parodying widespread fan apathy. See you on the other side.