If the Florida Gators can beat a South Carolina Gamecocks team they have already defeated this year in the Elite Eight on this Sunday (2:20 p.m., CBS or March Madness Live), they will make the sixth Final Four in program history.
And if the Gamecocks can beat a Gators team they have already defeated this year in the Elite Eight on this Sunday, they will make the first Final Four in program history.
Such are the simple, enormous stakes for the biggest postseason coda to SEC play ever.
There are subplots for this game, certainly. South Carolina has hired two former Florida football coaches — one arguably the greatest coach in the history of both schools’ gridiron programs, the other, uh, not so esteemed — and has shadowed the Gators’ basketball dominance before, winning two consecutive NIT titles while Florida was winning two NCAA Tournament titles. Frank Martin and Mike White are both angling for Final Four appearances that would cement them as made men in college basketball. Sindarius Thornwell and Kasey Hill are trying to close out careers that have been by turns brilliant and baffling. Devin Robison and KeVaughn Allen might be red hot, or not; same with PJ Dozier and Duane Notice.
The game itself might be the sort of excruciating one that we saw in Columbia, when both teams went into the first media timeout scoreless, or the more exciting, less closely-contested one we saw in Gainesville, as Florida eased past a scuffling Carolina outfit. Or it might be something entirely different, as South Carolina has found a new level of play in this NCAA Tournament, and Florida established itself as unkillable by somehow escaping the Sweet Sixteen with an all-time buzzer-beater against Wisconsin on Friday.
More than anything, though, this game will be the last chance to play this season for one team, and the win will give one team the title of regional champions and passage to play on college basketball’s grandest stage.
If you’re not excited, you’re not alive.