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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Reliving the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament's 40 years

59 days ago
SEC Staff
Photo: SEC Staff

The 2020 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament was interrupted and eventually cancelled due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Here is a look back at the 40 SEC Men's Basketball tournaments that took place beginning when the event was renewed in 1979.

On March 8, 1978, administrators from the Southeastern Conference's 10 members gathered in Savannah, Ga., for the league's semiannual meetings. One of the five proposals on the agenda was bringing back a postseason tournament that would determine the conference's representative in the NCAA Tournament.

Two years earlier the league's presidents had failed to pass a proposal to add a postseason tournament but feelings in the room probably changed a few days earlier when SEC runner-up Mississippi State did not receive an NCAA Tournament bid despite a 13-5 league record.

When the administrators emerged from their executive session, the league announced that the SEC would hold a conference tournament in 1979.

"I would not have predicted this would pass when I came here," SEC Commissioner Dr. H. Boyd McWhorter said shortly after the results of the vote were announced.

Although the details of the event still needed to be worked out, McWhorter was confident the tournament would be a success.

"I have no doubt the tournament will sell out wherever it is held," McWhorter said. "Over the years it will become very popular. It will give additional exposure to the high caliber of basketball played in our conference."

Hosting a postseason conference tournament wasn't an entirely new concept for the league. The SEC held a season-ending tournament from 1933 until the 1952 but it came to an end to allow the conference schedule to go to a double round robin format.

Less than a year after the administrators' decision to renew the tournament and more than a quarter century after the last SEC Tournament, Alabama opened up the 1979 event with an 81-64 win over Florida. That first tournament did not disappoint in terms of excitement and great performances.

The first round saw two of the best individual scoring performances when Ole Miss forward John Stroud poured in 39 points - a total that stands as the second-most in tournament history - and Kentucky guard Kyle Macy had 32 points in the Wildcats' 82-77 win over the Rebels.

The two second round games featured what still remains the highest scoring game and the longest game in SEC Tournament history. Kentucky opened the day needing every one of its 101 points to fight back Alabama in a 101-100 offensive bonanza, a score made even more impressive when one considers shot clocks weren't used until the 1986 season. In the nightcap, Auburn used four overtimes to overcome Georgia 95-91.

The semifinals saw second-seeded Tennessee advance with a 75-64 win over Auburn and Kentucky upset regular season champion and sixth-ranked LSU to advance to the championship game.

In a tournament where offense was clearly on display, the championship game featured a second half stall strategy typical of the pre-shot clock era. After Tennessee took a 55-53 lead, the two teams would combine to score just two points the final 8:56 of regulation.

The Vols jumped out to a six-point lead less than two minutes into the extra period and went on to a 75-69 win.

The overtime championship game capped off an exciting four days in Birmingham that served to highlight basketball in the Southeastern Conference. Now, on the 40th anniversary of its return, the Southeastern Conference Tournament continues to provide many memorable games, moments and performances while proving the SEC is one of the premier basketball leagues in the nation.

40 Years, 40 Notes

  • In the 40 tournaments played since 1979 there have been 170,300 minutes played in the 421 games. In those games, there have been 58,209 points scored and 29,270 rebounds gathered.
  • Twenty-five games have been decided by one point.
  • Twenty-eight games have gone to overtime, including three that needed two overtime periods, one that needed four overtimes.
  • From LSU's Patrick Aaron to Mississippi State's Johnny Zuppardo, 2,125 players have appeared in the SEC Tournament since 1979.
  • Alabama's Ken Johnson scored the first points in the SEC Tournament since the event was renewed.
  • Mississippi State's Anthony Blakley made the first 3-pointer in SEC Tournament history on March 5, 1987 against LSU.
  • Eight players have played in 12 SEC Tournament games during their career, most recently by Florida's Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard (2004-07).
  • Don Rutledge officiated more SEC Tournament games (71 games from 1980-2000) than any other referee.
  • John Clougherty officiated the most SEC Tournament championship games (15 from 1986-2004).
  • The regular season champion (includes ties) has won the tournament just 13 times (32.5 percent).
  • The largest crowd to witness an SEC Tournament game is 30,057 when Kentucky defeated Arkansas 95-93 in the championship game.
  • Kentucky has won the most games (57) and tournament titles (13).
  • Twenty-one of the 39 players who have been selected as SEC Tournament MVP have gone on to be first round NBA Draft picks.
  • Kentucky's Antoine Walker was the first freshman named tournament MVP in 1995. Since then, John Wall (2010), De'Aaron Fox (2017) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2018) are the only other freshmen to win the award.
  • Kentucky's Travis Ford is the only player to earn MVP honors twice (1993 and 1994).
  • LSU's John Williams (1986) is the only player to earn MVP honors without playing in the championship game. Williams averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds in two games but the Tigers were eliminated in the semifinals.
  • UK's Melvin Turpin owns the single-game scoring record with 42 points against Georgia in 1984. Tennessee's Allan Houston recorded the most points scored in a tournament (98 points in 1991) and in a career (187 from 1990-93).
  • The most points scored in the championship game is 21 by Texas A&M's Danuel House in 2016.
  • Tennessee's Steve Hamer owns the record for rebounds in a game, corralling 21 rebounds in the first round of the 1996 tournament. Alabama's Antonio McDyess has the tournament record for rebounds (45 over three games in 1995) and Buck Johnson has the career record (112 from 1983-86).
  • The most rebounds in the championship game is 17 by Florida's David Lee in 2005.
  • Alabama's Robert Scott made 94.4 percent (17-of-18) of his field goal attempts in the 1979 SEC Tournament.
  • There has never been an SEC Tournament game where a team did not make a 3-pointer (since the 3-point shot was added in 1987). There have been 23 times when a team made just one.
  • The longest winning streak since 1979 is 14 games by Kentucky (1992-1996).
  • Three of the last 13 SEC Tournament champions have gone on to win the national championship.
  • Twenty-five of the tournament champions have advanced to at least the Sweet 16.
  • The SEC Tournament Champion has failed to win at least one NCAA Tournament game only four times.
  • Thirteen of the 14 current league members have appeared in the championship game since 1979 with 11 different teams having won the tournament title. Kentucky leads the way with 26 championship game appearances and 18 tournament titles. Alabama is second with 10 championship game appearances, Florida has nine, Arkansas seven while Georgia and Mississippi State both have five.
  • Only four teams have won an SEC Tournament title after playing four games in as many days: 1985 Auburn, 2000 Arkansas, 2006 Georgia and 2009 Mississippi State.
  • Georgia is the only team to play two games in a single day, winning both of them no less. The Bulldogs were forced to play twice in a day due to a tornado striking the Georgia Dome in 2008.
  • Eleven teams have won their first three games to advance to the championship game.
  • The lowest seeds to win the tournament are No. 8 Auburn in 1985 (one-division seeding) and East No. 6 Georgia in 2008 (two-division seeding)
  • Florida's Billy Donovan owns the records for the most SEC Tournament games coached (42) and won (27).
  • LSU's Dale Brown (1979-97) and Florida's Billy Donovan (1997-2015) both coached in 19 SEC Tournaments.
  • John Calipari's six SEC Tournament championships are the most since 1979.
  • Kentucky's Rick Pitino won a record 94.4 percent (17-1) of his SEC Tournament games.
  • Seventy-four coaches have patrolled the sidelines in the SEC Tournament.
  • Since renewal, Atlanta has hosted the SEC Tournament more than any other city. Atlanta has seen three venues - The Omni, Georgia Dome and Alexander Memorial Coliseum - combine to host the event a total of 12 times. Nashville has hosted the event 10 times; Birmingham six times; Lexington and New Orleans three times and Memphis twice while Baton Rouge, Knoxville, Orlando, St, Louis and Orlando have each hosted once.
  • The last 25 tournaments have been played on neutral sites but prior to that, four campuses hosted the event - Lexington (1982, 1986, 1993), Nashville (1984, 1991), Baton Rouge (1988) and Knoxville (1989).
  • Nashville is hosting the tournament for the 10th time in 2019 and the eighth time at Bridgestone Arena. It has been held in Nashville every year since 2013 with the exception of the 2014 tournament which was held in Atlanta and the 2018 tournament held in St. Louis.
  • The 2008 SEC Tournament is the only one played a multiple locations. Due to a tornado causing damage to the Georgia Dome, the final game of the second round as well as the semifinals and championship game were played at Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum.