The SEC had a record low attendance for the opening round of its basketball tournament Wednesday and can't wait for UK fans to arrive
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Southeastern Conference has a message for any University of Kentucky fans who have not finalized their plans to attend the league tournament in Nashville:
PLEASE COME!!!! WE MISS YOU!!
The record for the smallest crowd for any Southeastern Conference Tournament session had been 8,047, set in 1996 in that basketball paradise known as New Orleans.
Step away from the front of the line, Louisiana.
There's a new leader in the clubhouse – Tennessee.
The reported crowd for Wednesday night's opening SEC session was 7,879. That's the lowest number since the SEC resumed its post-season party in 1979.
There were skeptics on Twitter wondering about the generosity of that number. In fact, Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader counted the crowd in the upper arena during the Auburn-Texas A&M game and came up with 70 people.
I'll never forget the scene from the SEC tournament in 2012 in New Orleans. Kentucky played Louisiana State in the Friday quarterfinal session, and the home-area Tigers were lucky if they had 100 people in the building. Next thing you knew Trent Johnson was out the door to coach TCU.
Without Kentucky fans, there is no SEC basketball tournament.
They cannot get to Nashville quickly enough.
*Of course, the SEC could fix its problem by adding the KFC Yum! Center to the rotation of arenas where the tournament is played. Comparing Louisville to Nashville, New Orleans or Atlanta as a basketball town is like comparing Nick Saban to any other college football coach.
I understood when the SEC did not bring the tournament to Freedom Hall. Organizers prefer to drop the tournament in a downtown area where fans can walk to the games – and restaurants and sports bars.
But there's no excuse now. The SEC is missing a grand opportunity to showcase its event by not including Louisville in the rotation.
I've heard the complaints that Kentucky fans would overwhelm the scene. Kentucky fans already overwhelm the scene in Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia.
Why not promote a basketball event in an area where people actually follow basketball?
*The Wildcats will open against either Vanderbilt or Arkansas on Friday. If the hometown Commodores are fortunate to defeat the Razorbacks on Thursday, Vandy coach Kevin Stallings is not expecting much love at a ‘neutral' site on Friday.
"I've got a feeling there's going to be more people in blue even than black and gold," Stallings said. "I'll still bet on more people in blue.
"You feel like you're playing them on a homecourt. You feel they've … a lot of times you feel like Rupp Arena transferred to a different city. You have to admire the way their fans support and travel and do those things."
*Interesting question delivered by Dan Dakich, the ESPN college basketball analyst, to me when I joined him on his radio show Wednesday:
If somebody gave you Louisville, Indiana and Duke against the field in the NCAA Tournament, would you take the three Top Five teams or ride with the other 65?
Dakich would take U of L, IU and Team Krzyzewski.
Considering that the story line in college basketball this season has been parity, parity, parity and wise tournament veterans such as Louisville coach Rick Pitino are on record predicting this is the year nobody should be stunned if a 16-seed topples a one-seed, taking three teams seems like a risky proposition.