Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer 288d

4OT South Carolina-Alabama battle proves SEC is the game's real wild child

In the final seconds of the fourth overtime, South Carolina could no longer chase the ball.

The exhausted Gamecocks gingerly feinted toward a solid Alabama team's remaining players -- three had fouled out -- who dribbled and passed to avoid the final uprising in a 90-86 quadruple-overtime road win for coach Avery Johnson's squad.

South Carolina star Sindarius Thornwell registered 44 points and 21 rebounds, but the Gamecocks still squandered their first-place slot the SEC, falling back into a three-way tie with Florida and Kentucky.

We could seek more detailed insight about this zany outcome. In the SEC, however, it's not recommended. You'll just hurt your brain.

The four-overtime affair between the SEC's best and a Bama squad that had lost three of its previous five games entering Tuesday's contest offered testimony about a league that's like college basketball's car in the ditch on a slippery road.

You can't turn away for all the wrong reasons.

Kentucky surrendered 85 points in a win over LSU at Rupp Arena on Tuesday after losing three of its previous four games. Following the win, a frustrated John Calipari said he would have made the Wildcats practice for three hours after the game if permitted by NCAA rules. He then promised to host a three-hour session on Wednesday. "Anybody says they can't go, you won't make the Bama trip [on Saturday]," Calipari told reporters.

Bam Adebayo's response? "If we puke, we puke."

And Vanderbilt won at Arkansas, a team fighting for NCAA tournament contention, by double digits on the same night South Carolina finished the first half of its four-overtime loss by missing 17 consecutive shots.

This. Is. The. SEC.

If college basketball was a family, the Big 12 and the ACC would be the overachieving siblings. The Big East would be the ambitious middle child demanding to be heard. The Pac-12 would be the smooth little brother who is so captivating on his best days, you forget about his worst.

And the SEC would be the kid who calls at 2 a.m. and starts every conversation like this: "Mom, I can explain ..."

The chaos at the top of the league overshadows some promising storylines. Ben Howland (Mississippi State), Bruce Pearl (Auburn) and Avery Johnson continue to solidify foundations for programs with intriguing futures. Yet, we grade leagues according to their best. And right now, the SEC is devouring itself.

In the Big 12 and the ACC, it's easier to dismiss losses to second-tier squads because they're both drenched with quality teams. In the SEC, however, each 'L' by a program with serious NCAA tournament aspirations complicates everything.

South Carolina is a team that's banking on wins against Syracuse, Florida and Michigan to support its resume. Kentucky continues to flirt with a dangerous first-round game. And a talented Florida team finishes SEC play with four of its final seven games on the road. The league's other potential NCAA tournament squads will encounter more opportunities to damage their resumes than enhance them in the final weeks of action in a conference ranked fifth by ESPN's BPI.

That's what South Carolina encountered on Tuesday. A projected win became a noticeable blemish.

Through four overtimes, Alabama-South Carolina told the SEC's story.

But this league is not some soap opera. It's the random reality show you flip to when you can't sleep at night.

You laugh at the nonsense. You shake your head. You cover your eyes. You yell at the TV.

And then, four hours later, you say to yourself, "What the heck did I just watch?"

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