Three’s a Crowd: Three Observations Near the End of SEC PlayPosted by Brian Joyce on February 27th, 2014
Three is a popular number in the SEC these days. There was Kyle Fuller’s missed three in regulation to tie the game against Florida on Tuesday night. There is significant and realistic discussion about whether the SEC will get three teams into the NCAA Tournament. And to top it off, time is running out as there are just three regular season SEC games remaining for each team (following Thursday night’s game between Arkansas and Kentucky). So why not go for an old fashioned three-point play with three observations headed into the final week of regular season action?
The Third Best Team?
Georgia is nowhere near NCAA Tournament talk, but the Bulldogs may very well be the third best team in the conference this season. Mark Fox’s squad has won six of its last seven games, including home victories over LSU and Missouri. It also has four very bad losses (Temple, Davidson, Georgia Tech and Auburn) and lacks a true quality win, but I would not want to match up with the Bulldogs in a couple of weeks in Atlanta if I were an SEC head coach. In five of its last six games, Georgia’s defense has held opponents under 1.0 point per possession. Granted, those games were not against any offensive juggernauts, but the Bulldogs appear to be peaking at just the right time. The Bulldogs made a run to the SEC Tournament championship at the Georgia Dome in 2008, so perhaps the setting is right for them to do it again this season (hopefully without the tornado).
Can Florida Make It to Arlington?
Is NBA talent necessary to advance deep in the NCAA Tournament? It’s not. We’ve tackled this before — as recently as last year — with respect to Florida’s lack of future pros. Yet, three of the four teams playing in Atlanta last year had a player drafted in the first round of last summer’s NBA Draft. And here we are again, looking at a Florida starting lineup that likely lacks a legitimate first rounder. This is a very different team from Billy Donovan’s past several years, however, and Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather give the Gators an efficient if not professional-level one-two punch. But what happens when Wilbekin and Prather both have off nights? Each finished with an offensive rating under 100.0 in the same game just once this season, and it came two nights ago in the Gators’ showdown with Vanderbilt as Prather finished with just two points and Wilbekin squeezed out seven. Dorian Finney-Smith was the player who came to the rescue with 19 points and nine rebounds, using 33 percent of Florida’s possessions and compiling a 121.0 offensive rating. The Gators found a way to win on that night, but they will need at least one of Wilbekin or Prather to play well to advance in the Big Dance.
The Last Word
I started to look at NCAA Tournament sites to determine if I could attend a few nearby games this season only to find out that my home state of South Carolina isn’t hosting any. As I thought about recent history, I couldn’t remember the last time South Carolina hosting any Tournament games. Well, there’s a reason for that. The NCAA refuses to bring any postseason events to the Palmetto State because it continues to fly the confederate flag at the Capitol in Columbia. Supporters say that the flag only represents southern pride, but it’s just not that simple. Tradition is one thing, but it can’t be a justification for something that is for so many others rooted in hate. The flag is a shameful reminder of racial discrimination, and some politicians stand foolishly next to this symbol of segregation, racism, and slavery. I understand the flag isn’t going anywhere in this state, but it should. South Carolina shouldn’t remove it because of economic implications, but because it’s the right thing to do. By refusing to act, the message sent by South Carolina is heard loud and clear. And with that, kudos to the NCAA for standing its ground.