Sidelines with John Clay

SEC basketball crashes the March Madness party

Hold on to your seats, but here’s the Sweet 16 scoreboard after the first two rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

The SEC has three teams remaining: Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina.

The ACC has one team remaining: North Carolina.

That’s not fake news.

That’s a true fact, Jack. The supposedly downtrodden SEC, where football matters more, will have nearly a quarter of the teams in action this week in regional semifinal rounds.

No. 4 seed Florida and No. 7 seed South Carolina will participate Friday in separate games of the East Region in New York. No. 2 seed Kentucky will play Friday in the South Region in Memphis.

Meanwhile, the mighty ACC, arguably the best basketball conference of all time, has just one team remaining: the South’s No. 1 seed, North Carolina, who also are scheduled to play Friday night.

How did this happen? It happened thanks to South Carolina pulling the biggest shocker of the tournament, knocking off Duke 88-81 in Greenville, S.C., on Sunday night. Sindarius Thornwell scored 24 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished five assists as the unranked Gamecocks overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to stun Mike Krzyzewski and company.

It was only Friday that South Carolina crushed Marquette 93-73 for its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1973. Sunday, the Gamecocks got 17 points and 10 rebounds from forward Chris Silva, 17 points from Duane Notice and 15 points off the bench from freshman Rakym Felder to beat the Blue Devils.

Now the Gamecocks will play No. 3 seed Baylor on Friday night in Madison Square Garden for a spot in the East final.

There, Frank Martin’s club could find another SEC team, thanks to Florida’s 65-39 blowout win over Virginia. The Gators held the Cavaliers to just 17 points in the first half as Tony Bennett’s team shot just 29.6 percent for the night.

Meanwhile, Florida’s Devon Robinson continued his impressive run. After scoring 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the win over East Tennessee State, Robinson scored 14 points and claimed 11 rebounds in the win over Virginia. Justin Leon added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Florida will play No. 8 seed Wisconsin, which eliminated defending champion Villanova on Saturday afternoon. In other words, Florida and South Carolina are one victory away from an All-SEC East Region final.

And don’t forget Kentucky, which beat Wichita State 65-62 in a Sunday thriller to earn a rematch with UCLA on Friday in Memphis. The winner of that game will meet the winner of North Carolina-Butler on Sunday.

It has been a disappointing tourney run for the deep ACC. The Duke loss only made things worse. No. 2 seed Louisville lost 73-69 to No. 7 seed Michigan on Sunday. No. 3 seed Florida State was routed by No. 11 seed Xavier 91-66 on Saturday. No. 5 seed Notre Dame lost to No. 4 seed West Virginia 81-73 on Saturday.

In all, the ACC has a 7-8 record in NCAA Tournament play.

Meanwhile, the SEC is a surprising 6-2 in the Big Dance. Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina each won its first two games. After a first-round win, Arkansas put a scare in North Carolina before losing 72-65. And Vanderbilt lost a heartbreaker to Northwestern in the first round.

NCAA Tournament television schedule


7:09 p.m. - Midwest: Michigan vs. Oregon (CBS)

7:39 p.m. - West: Gonzaga vs. West Virginia (TBS)

9:39 p.m. - Midwest: Purdue vs. Kansas (CBS)

10:09 p.m. - West: Arizona vs. Xavier (TBS)


7:00 p.m. - South: Butler vs. North Carolina (CBS)

7:29 p.m. - East: Baylor vs. South Carolina (TBS)

9:39 p.m. - South: Kentucky vs. UCLA (CBS)

9:59 p.m. - East: Florida vs. Wisconsin (TBS)

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