South Carolina defeats Florida, 77 to 70, and makes it to its first Final Four.
Kentucky loses to North Carolina and does not advance.
Great news for Georgia. Here's why:
1) The SEC is a pretty good league.
We got five teams in, and three advanced to the Elite Eight. If Georgia is competitive next year, we might get an invite, just because the SEC arguably over-achieved with results in March 2017.
2) Kentucky Loses
I would have loved for there to be two SEC teams in the Final Four-- as long as one of them wasn't Kentucky. Yeah, okay. Call it sour grapes if you want. At the same time, I really do have issues with their one and done strategy. It's legal, but at some point, churning guys through your squad and encouraging just about all your freshmen, some of whom aren't quite ready, to declare for the NBA, is bad for the kids, and bad for college basketball.
3) Hard-Nosed Defense Works
South Carolina got it done with defense. Don't know whether they will win the championship, but they are two games away, and they have made it thus far by being who they are.
The Florida game was an excellent example. Florida was hot in the first half, ripping three-pointers. For the game, South Carolina shot 10 three-pointers and only made 2. But they kept going to the hole, getting fouled and going to the line.
In the second half, the fool's gold corroded. Believe I saw that Florida went 0 for 15 from three-point range. Meanwhile, South Carolina marched again and again to the free throw line. Florida shot 30 three-pointers, and the Gamecocks shot 30 free throws. Frank Martin's strategy won.
4) Recruit the best you can
The Gamecocks don't have a bunch of five-stars. Sindarius Thornwell was a four-star recruit. Chris Silva was a three-star. Maik Kotsar, the guy from Estonia, was a three-star. Same for Duane Notice.
They don't have a bunch of seven-footers, either. But they recruit to their system, and have enough guys in that 6' 4" to 6' 10" range who are wired in to giving it their all on the court.
Now, Frank Martin churns players, too. I don't know if he intentionally pushes guys off the team, but he had a ton of players leave the program after a year or two. I think the truth is that not everyone thrives under Frank Martin's in-your-face coaching style, and guys sometimes would rather go elsewhere.
In any case, my point is that Frank Martin has not been getting top-ranked recruiting classes. He gets enough talented guys so that by the time they are juniors and seniors, they are very competitive.
So, there is hope for Georgia. Frank Martin is the same coach that UGA beat three times in a row last year. We knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament, it is widely believed.
This year, we lost by two at their place, and by six at ours.
If Maten stays and we get production from Mike Edwards, Derrick Ogbeide, and Rayshaun Hammonds, that front-court rotation, supported by Wilridge and Claxton, should be stout enough to make the NCAA's.
On the perimeter, we will have Turtle Jackson, Tyree Crump, and Jordan Harris, likely supported by Juwan Parker, Pape Diatta, and Teshaun Hightower.
Hopefully, we will bring in another contributor, a guy like Avery Wilson to play minutes at point guard, or Isaiah Miller (or even Isaiah Banks) on the perimeter.
We may actually be close to having the kind of team that we all want, one that can make it to the NCAA's, and even, advance.