On Wednesday, the SEC Tournament will hold its opening round at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
You’re reading that correctly. With all the hubbub over the Big Ten moving its conference tournament up a week so that it could hold the event in Madison Square Garden, and the ACC playing at the Barclays Center, few have noticed the SEC going to St. Louis.
You’ll probably disagree with this, but this isn’t bad. I personally don’t think the SEC Tournament should be in Nashville every year — and I’m a Vanderbilt fan.
We’ll get the argument against out of the way first: St. Louis isn’t exactly centrally located. It’s within the conference’s footprint now that Missouri is in the conference, but it’s off in a corner away from a lot of the member schools.
But it’s also not that far-flung for some of the schools. Obviously Missouri is a two-hour drive away (and, of course, many Missouri fans live in St. Louis.) Arkansas is around five and a half hours from St. Louis — not that close, but they’re closer to St. Louis than to Nashville. It’s about a five-hour drive from Lexington, Kentucky, to St. Louis — not bad. Vanderbilt is a four-and-a-half-hour drive, Ole Miss is about five and a half hours.
Granted, there are some schools in the conference that are far from St. Louis — but as much of a haul as it is from Baton Rouge and College Station to St. Louis, those schools are actually closer to St. Louis than they are to Nashville. Florida is a 13-hour drive from St. Louis — but they’re an 8.5-hour drive from the normal tournament home in Nashville, so most of their fans who want to attend are probably flying in either case.
The broader point, though, is that as good as Nashville is for the SEC Tournament, there are multiple cities within the SEC footprint that have an arena large enough and enough hotel rooms to accommodate the SEC Tournament — namely, Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta, and even Little Rock. If you don’t mind getting into the corners of the SEC footprint, there’s also Houston and Louisville. And, of course, St. Louis.
I like Nashville, but I think the SEC could also benefit from some more inclusiveness of all of its member schools. Just keep it the hell away from football stadiums is all I ask.