For Kentucky Basketball fans, the SEC Tournament experience in Nashville is tough to beat. A sea of blue literally flooded the city’s liveliest street, creating an atmosphere that I have only experienced before at Mardi Gras in New Orleans and at South by Southwest in Austin.
I was fortunate enough to spend Friday-Sunday in Music City, taking in the “Catmosphere” on “Big Blue Broadway” the first two days and scoring tickets to the Championship game on Sunday. If you’ve never been before, I would highly recommend checking it out, although you’ll have to wait a couple years, as St. Louis will play host to the SEC Tournament in 2018.
As for the actual game on Sunday, Arkansas hung around for about the first 16 minutes of the first half, trailing Kentucky 33-30 with 3:21 left, but Kentucky buried three straight three’s to end the half on a 9-0 run. The fatigued Razorbacks were never able to get back into in the second half, and Kentucky ended up winning its third consecutive SEC Tournament title by a score of 82-65.
Here’s a look at what they’re saying...
A pretty ridiculous troll move from whoever runs Arkansas Athletics’ Twitter account.
This was absolutely absurd.
Disgraceful final few minutes for Arkansas & Mike Anderson. He's lost enough there, they should know how to do it.https://t.co/dPRk59nhHJ— Jeff Ermann (@Jeff_Ermann) March 12, 2017
Couldn’t agree more.
Arkansas players saying "Meet us in the back."— TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) March 12, 2017
Guys, Kentucky has to receive a trophy still.
30th SEC Tournament title.— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 12, 2017
56th NCAA Tournament appearance.
What a time to be a Kentucky Wildcat. pic.twitter.com/BIOswKwLQm
Cal: "I know they say there are more talented teams. I'll take mine."— Fletcher Page (@FletcherPage) March 12, 2017
Fox, Bam and Hawkins make the SEC All-Tournament team and this crowd exploded.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) March 12, 2017
Dominique Hawkins says he hasn't checked his phone yet and probably won't until tomorrow. Wants to enjoy the moment. pic.twitter.com/ql4x82R2Pz— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) March 12, 2017
Coach Cal on Hawkins: "One of the greatest people. ... This is what you want in a student-athlete."— CoachCal.com (@CoachCalDotCom) March 12, 2017
Loved how Hawkins played yesterday. So much heart and determination. Huge asset to Kentucky. Coming on strong at the right time.
Updated RPI Top 12 after Kentucky’s win over Arkansas for the SEC Tournament championship pic.twitter.com/2ocQ6ijN60— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) March 12, 2017
I don’t think people are ever going to make total sense out of the selection committee and the process it goes through to seed 68 teams. It’s a tough job and everyone always thinks they could do it better.
There you go....5 SEC Teams in the tournament. No play-in games. Congrats to Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsESPN) March 12, 2017
“I just think you’ve gotta look in terms of, ‘Hey, man, this is a young league that’s as good as we’ve been in years,” Calipari told SEC Country. “As good as we’ve been since I’ve been here. This is it. And we’re young. Our youngins are leaving, but that’s okay because I’ve got the cavalry coming in behind.”
So you have to be happy to see the improvement in the SEC, especially if you’re a Kentucky fan...because the Cats are still dominating.
I hate that the NCAA scheduled Northern Kentucky as the Wildcats’ first opponent. I’d say a decent amount of NKU students are also Kentucky fans...why pin the fan base against itself? Why couldn’t they have at least put NKU up against Louisville?
So Kentucky is three times more likely to win the region than UCLA? That’s a lot of confidence in the Cats, who lost at home to the Bruins earlier this season.
Toughest 2 regions to me are #1 South #2 East. Wow! UNC, UK & UCLA in the same region? Enough said. Ouch!— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 12, 2017
That South Region is a WHOA MAN REGION! 7 loss 1 seed, 5 loss 2 seed, 4 loss 3 seed, best 10 seed ever?, stealthy 12 seed & lots more.— Tony Reali (@TonyReali) March 12, 2017
South perhaps the most loaded region ever in the tournament?— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) March 12, 2017
Ken Pom rankings
Wichita State 8
Kentucky, UCLA & Carolina in the same region is comedy. All 3 could be 1's. Bullshit. But it's abt what I expect at this point. #ThxNCAA— Rex Chapman (@rexchapman) March 12, 2017
Yes, the South Region is the toughest bracket in this tournament. Kentucky may have gotten screwed, but you know what we can do about it? Nothing (besides complain on Twitter).
Here’s an excerpt by Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News titled, “Kentucky gets slapped with the bracket once again:”
What would an NCAA Tournament be without Kentucky getting slapped upside the head with a bracket?
I mean, really, when’s the last time you looked at where the Wildcats were placed in the field and said, “Cakewalk!” OK, maybe you’d never say “cakewalk” under any circumstance. It’s a pretty lame expression. If you’re a Kentucky fan, though, you don’t even need a preferable synonym handy. It never comes up.
Sunday evening, the 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed and Kentucky was placed as the No. 2 seed in the South Region, whose games will be played in Memphis. The Wildcats will start in Indianapolis against No. 15 seed Northern Kentucky. All good there, on a micro level. The NCAAs are a macro world, though. One game leads to the next, and then to the next.
The “next” for Kentucky? Possibly a second-round game against Wichita State, which is 30-4.
And next? Possibly UCLA, which beat the Wildcats at Rupp Arena in December and is 29-4.
And next? Possibly North Carolina, which the committee judged to be the third-strongest of the No. 1 seeds.
The Herald-Leader’s John Clay asks the question “Is Kentucky peaking?”
A week ago, John Calipari summed up Kentucky basketball’s regular season quite nicely.
“The good news is we haven’t peaked,” said the head coach. “The bad news is we haven’t peaked.”
Sunday, after the Cats’ initial postseason foray produced a SEC Tournament title with an 82-65 win over Arkansas, event MVP De’Aaron Fox advanced the narrative one step further.
“We don’t know what peaking is just yet,” said the freshman guard who scored 22 points to rock the Razorbacks, “but I think we’re playing our best brand of basketball this year.”
They’d better be.
Given the treacherous track the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee laid before Kentucky, the No. 2 seed in the South Region will need to play its best basketball to have a chance to succeed and proceed to the Final Four that first weekend in April in Glendale, Arizona.
First there’s UCLA, the South’s No. 3 seed. You remember UCLA. Behind standout freshman guard Lonzo Ball, the Bruins rolled into Rupp Arena on Dec. 3 and snapped Kentucky’s 42-game home-court winning streak with a 97-92 win.
If Kentucky can avenge the UCLA loss, there waiting could be another all-too-familiar foe in ACC regular season champ North Carolina, which Kentucky edged 103-100 at the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas on Dec. 17.
I like the fact that Kentucky has seen both UCLA and UNC earlier this season. It gives fans a sense that we know what we’re dealing with in these two squads. If Kentucky advances past the first weekend, as do UCLA and UNC, is it going to be a tough route to the Final Four? Of course. But the Cats played two entertaining and competitive games with UNC and UCLA, and I think Kentucky has enough talent to beat them both.
Either way, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for Kentucky Basketball fans. Get excited. And I’ll leave you with this...