Paul Finebaum: Alabama's Final Four run absolutely erases 'lackluster' NCAA Tournament from SEC

On3 imageby:Sam Gillenwater04/01/24


Nate Oats, Alabama Basketball players recap Elite Eight win over Clemson

Alabama reached their first-ever Final Four this weekend out of the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament. That performance and achievement has now saved March Madness for the Southeastern Conference in the opinion of Paul Finebaum.

Finebaum spoke about the Crimson Tide’s run in relation to the league’s struggles in the bracket on Monday. He say that it should now silence any critics of the conference who enjoyed the early exits from their programs in the opening weekend. They still tied for the second-most programs in the Elite Eight and managed to get one to Phoenix which, to him, is an accomplishment.

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“100%,” said Finebaum on ‘McElroy and Cubelic In The Morning’. “When we talked about this last week, I felt like it was a predictable, fake outrage by the media when they were lampooning Commissioner Sankey and others for another busted March. It wasn’t. You have two teams in the Elite Eight. That’s pretty remarkable.”

Alabama, a No. 4 seed, won 89-82 over No. 6 Clemson in LA on Saturday to make the Final Four. Then, on Sunday, No. 2 Tennessee had their chance against No. 1 Purdue to do the same. In the end, the Vols fell by six in Detroit to Zach Edey and the Boilermakers.

Still, in the past decade, ‘Bama is now the fourth program in the SEC to make a Final Four. That’s even more impressive since Kentucky, its biggest brand in basketball, has not done so in 10 years now.

“That’s why this debate about John Calipari a week ago seemed so difficult for him. He hasn’t been to a Final Four since 2015. Since then, within the league? You’ve seen Frank Martin and South Carolina, obviously Bruce Pearl, and, now, Nate Oats,” Finebaum said. “That’s how the game of college basketball is framed once we move on from next weekend.”

Now, regardless of what happens against Connecticut inside State Farm Stadium this weekend, Finebaum thinks we should applaud this effort alone by the Tide. It’s a moment that’s worthy celebrating even if they don’t cut down the final nets. They very well could too, though, considering they’ve come this far already.

“What we have tended to grade programs and conferences on in basketball is how they do in the tournament and, ultimately, do you get to the Final Four and or win a championship,” Finebaum said. “In many ways, for most programs, getting to the Final Four is the ultimate cherry on top of the cake. I think, in Alabama’s case, it will be too.”

“Listen, everyone knows what the line is going into Saturday night. Everyone will predict UConn and that’s fine. I probably would agree with that,” admitted Finebaum. “But a lot of people, if not almost everyone, predicted North Carolina too the other night and all the other upsets that did or didn’t happen.”

After having eight selections, it was pretty disappointing for the SEC to lose six of them in the first or second rounds, five of which came from seeding upsets, and to currently have an 8-7 record in the tournament, good for second to last in winning percentage by any conference in the field. However, with Alabama going to Glendale this weekend, the SEC is, if nothing else, present, which, to Finebaum, might be all that matters at the end of the season.

“I think, for the SEC, Tennessee getting there would have slammed the door but everybody has got one in there. The ACC made a terrific run and they got one. The SEC has one,” Finebaum noted. “If you’re represented? You matter.”