The 2018 SEC basketball tournament will take place as it always does during the first full week of March, and for the first time in the event’s history it will be played in the state of Missouri. That’s right: not since the tournament’s inception in 1933 has the show-me state hosted an SEC tilt, perhaps in no small part due to the fact that Mizzou only joined the league in July 2012.
Nashville and Atlanta — and before them Louisville — have dominated hosting duties over the tournament’s history, and rightfully so. These fine metropoles are fairly centrally located relative to the conference’s member institutions, they don’t lack for reasonable accommodations, entertainment and cuisine, and they feature acceptable-to-impressive venues for the live consumption of college basketball.
Which brings us to St. Louis, the second largest city in Missouri, the flagship university of which state competes in the Southeastern Conference. Here’s the cartographical evidence of the above remarks:
Let’s pan out a bit and observe where St. Louis resides relative to the SEC’s other member institutions.
If one were to establish a geographical balancing point for the SEC, it’d probably sit somewhere near the center of the triangle formed by interstates 20, 75 and 59, perhaps equidistant from Birmingham, Atlanta and Chattanooga. Let’s call it in the neighborhood of, say, Coosa, Ga.
For real: an SEC basketball tournament in St. Louis?
The forgoing exercise is not meant to elevate geographical considerations as the requisite and preferred criteria for conference membership, irrespective of the fact that in broad strokes most major collegiate conferences do adhere to geographical contours. The forgoing exercise is meant to point out that, given the geographical clustering of the SEC’s 14 universities, St. Louis sits way the hell over there and, y’know, it’s freaking St. Louis. Geography aside, the prospective cultural clash with the likes of LSU or A&M fans alone is staggering on its face.
Having never stepped foot inside the Scottrade Center (capacity 22,000), which one assumes is perfectly reasonable as a sports venue, it’s difficult to criticize the actual space in which the 2018 basketball tilt will transpire. It hosts the St. Louis Blues’ home games, after all, and at one point it was the home of an indoor soccer club named — no joke — the St. Louis Steamers.
That being said, what if the SEC tourney were hosted in Mississippi?
We’re only halfway joking here.
Back in December 2014, Ole Miss faced off against Southeast Missouri State in Southaven’s Landers Center (capacity 8,400), a gym so irreparably decrepit that ESPN radio’s guy Erik Sean couldn’t stop bitching about how horrible the Verizon service was. Having listened to the game on ESPN radio — for it was not televised or streamed online and Jeff wanted one more Ole Miss-specific writing sample before hiring me here — I can attest to the fact that the broadcast indeed cut out for about five minutes right before halftime, and still to this day I have no idea what transpired in that time. Only the people in attendance know, and there couldn’t have been more than a few hundred present to witness the Rebs stomp SEMO, 82-51.
That sounds like a great spot to host the SEC basketball tournament. Better still, why not the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, an 11,500-person capacity trash heap down in Biloxi? With a capacity of just over 6,800, the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson may even be better. In short, it’d be nothing short of hilarious to force national sportswriters and John Calipari to 1) travel to Biloxi or whatever and 2) play actual basketball games in what amounts to little more than a high school gym, all for a conference title and trip to the big dance on the line.
Seriously, though, stick the SEC tournament in a major sports venue and be done with it.
We’re not saying that St. Louis isn’t necessarily a major sports town, it’s just that it has virtually no presence or cultural relevance in the basketball universe, collegiate or otherwise. And, as we’ve already said, it’s freaking St. Louis.
Instead, the SEC should simply rotate its conference tournament among Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis or Nashville. All four locales are within easy striking distance of all 14 fan-bases, and three of the four currently feature professional-grade basketball amenities. Further, and more to the point, these cities are desirable destinations for college hoops fans in the SEC because they freaking kick ass, unlike St. Louis.
If the league office wants to get really creative and jettison geographical considerations altogether — again, St. Louis? — it should even propose cities as far afield as San Antonio or Houston. Hell, have the SEC and Big 12 tournaments literally coincide with one another in the exact same building. As the premier CHAOS BLOG on the web, this would make for a highly enjoyable situation.
At the very least, let’s not host the SEC basketball tournament in St. Louis.