With one tournament weekend in the books and many school folks headed back to class, we the Party wish to remind that the dance is still ongoing.
You're right. That was more than a little lame, particularly considering the two teams involved were Auburn and Georgia. However, it's the perfect lead-in for the early-week version of the links.
-- Wait ... perfect lead-in ... why? Well, it gives us the opportunity to cover the Gym Tide's SEC championship over the weekend. Ordinarily, this would be a relatively ho-hum affair -- 'Bama's gymnastics program is to the point where national championships are the goal, and not SEC titles (though they're nice, obviously). But this year's version has struggled with injuries all season -- it was about a month ago they were expected to lose at home to Auburn (they didn't). Now they have another title in the very tough SEC. Well-played, ladies.
-- Other things 'Bama: the Tide bats helped them salvage Game 3 in Oxford on Sunday, 19-6. They've got a "home-and-home" with UAB (in quotes because it's Tuesday in T-Town and Wednesday at the Met in Hoover) coming up this week before traveling to Florida for the weekend.
(Of note: usually you miss these, but on the weekends you can typically catch an SEC baseball game or two on FSN, SS and CSS from now until May. It's my own little cause celebre -- why college baseball can't catch on like football & basketball, I can't fathom.)
-- Some football: Luke Brietzke dissects the ways Guz Malzahn is not Tony Franklin. All good points, but the timing issue can't be stressed enough: Auburn fans should not expect -- just as they should not have expected with Franklin -- for their new offensive mind to be great overnight. He's a good coach, not a miracle-worker. That's just the way it is.
(The inverse of that, obviously is this: Malzahn will hopefully have a better understanding of his personnel and what they can do, something Franklin appeared to never grasp.)
-- Rapaport goes back out on the field with Nick Saban & Alabama. A lot of good storylines brewing there, and you can read all about the battles at every position at BSR.
-- More on Alabama's coaching search: Estes covers the upcoming tug-of-war over Anthony Grant, while Scarbo wonders if new coaches can inject some juice into the SEC scene.
I'll go this far: I don't anticipate the conference will be down a significant amount of time. Obviously, this season was a sad scene, but three of the conference's teams are still playing -- Auburn, Florida and Kentucky (albeit in the NIT). And if we learned nothing else from LSU this season -- the only conference team to win an NCAA tournament game -- we learned how much difference the right head coach can make. So ... we'll see, I suppose.
-- Finally, a disappointed Dan Shanoff labels this weekend the Stale 16. Which isn't entirely fair -- maybe it's sort of boring to watch all the higher seeds and larger programs advance the first weekend, but the matchups for the coming weekend -- Gonzaga-Carolina, OU-Syracuse, Missouri-Memphis -- are frankly outstanding (at least on paper).
The larger issue here: because of the NBA's age limit -- imposed a few years ago -- the number of quality players who would've jumped straight to the pros from high school are now instead playing for the traditional basketball powers. That means, simply, you're better off taking chalk in the tournament -- the disparity between the best and the worst is larger than it was a few seasons ago.
Hopefully, in the words of Jim Ross, business will pick up this weekend.