ATLANTA ” Outside Alexander Memorial Coliseum, hundreds of Kentucky fans found out that the SEC Tournament was over before it started for them.
Because of the tornado that forced Georgia Dome officials to declare their facility unplayable, the games were moved to the 9,000-seat Georgia Tech facility. Georgia and Kentucky played at noon with the semifinal games to follow at 6 p.m. and 30 minutes after the end of the first semifinal game.
Sunday’s final will be played at 3:30 p.m. to give the team that emerges from the second semifinal enough rest. But it also means the game won’t be televised by CBS, which has the Big Ten final in that time period. The final will air on ESPN2 instead.
SEC officials considered canceling the tournament as well as a number of different formats before settling on the decision at around 4 a.m.
Rather than pick and choose which fans would be allowed in, the SEC decided to allow only people with credentials, bands, cheerleaders and friends and families into the games. As a result, there were less than 1,000 people viewing Kentucky’s first game of the tournament.
“We also had the issue of game management,” said SEC spokesman Charles Bloom. “The police are working on cleaning up the city and couldn’t promise anything.”
This is the first time in Div. 1 history that a basketball team will be asked to play two games in one day. But all of the athletic directors from the five remaining schools agreed on this format.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s Mykal Riley has found celebrity in a loss. Riley hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Friday night’s game into overtime.
Had he missed, thousands of fans would have left the Georgia Dome and walked right into the tornado.