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The SEC is 7-0 in the NCAA tournament, but that shouldn’t change the perception of the league

Mar 25, 2014, 2:08 PM EST

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The SEC was the laughing stock of college basketball for much of the season.

They’re a power conference, one of the five left after the Big East broke up, yet they only managed to get three of their 14 members into the NCAA tournament. That’s half as many bid as the Atlantic 10 received.

And yet, as we enter the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, the SEC has yet to lose a game. They are 7-0 in the NCAA tournament, with No. 1 Florida, No. 8 Kentucky and No. 11 Tennessee all reaching the Sweet 16.

Good for them.

Seriously.

If reaching the Sweet 16 was an easy thing to do, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self and Jim Boeheim would not have been sent home already, and the fact that Cuonzo Martin was able to make it through from the First Four and John Calipari was able to hand Wichita State their first loss of the season only reinforces that notion.

But it does not change the fact that the SEC was not a good basketball league this season.

Florida is the No. 1 team in the country, the No. 1 seed in the South and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. They are supposed to be in the Sweet 16. In fact, they are supposed to be in the Final Four. Making it this far is not an accomplishment for the Gators, it’s a necessary step.

The same should have been said for Kentucky, but it took them more than four months to finally play like the team that entered the year as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. The fact that this is being lauded as an accomplishment for the Wildcats just goes to show you how underwhelming they were during the regular season.

The fact that Tennessee made it this far is the one impressive achievement the SEC has made to date in this tournament. You can critique who they beat if you’d like too — No. 11 Iowa, No. 6 UMass and No. 14 Mercer is not exactly a murderer’s row — but they won three games in five days against quality competition. No matter how you slice it, that’s commendable, and it should go down as proof that the SEC actually had a third good team in the league all along.

So let’s do the math.

The SEC had one national title contender that played like a national title contender. They had another national title contender that lost to South Carolina on March 1st. They had another good team that laid dormant until the month of March.

That’s three … of the 14 teams in the league.

It doesn’t change the fact that more SEC teams were ranked outside KenPom’s top 100 (five) than were ranked in his top 50 (three). It doesn’t change the fact that the team that finished tied for second in the conference (Georgia) lost to Davidson and Temple. LSU, who was supposed to be in contention for a tournament bid this season, lost to Rhode Island. Texas A&M got picked off by North Texas and Missouri State. South Carolina, who, again, beat Kentucky this month, lost to USC-Upstate. Auburn lost to Northwestern State. Alabama lost to Drexel and South Florida. Mississippi State lost to Utah State and TCU.

Should I keep going?

The bottom-line is this: entering the season, we expected the SEC to be a bit top-heavy. Florida and Kentucky were in the preseason top ten, Tennessee was in the preseason top 25, Missouri and LSU were expected to be tournament teams and everyone else was, well, everyone else.

What we have at the end of the season is Florida as a title contender, a disappointing Kentucky team as a sleeper Final Four pick, Tennessee in the Sweet 16 after playing in the First Four and four NIT teams from the conference losing in the second round of that tournament.

The SEC has some good teams at the top of the conference, and they’re playing well this month.

That doesn’t mean that the rest of league is better by association.

Only getting three teams into the Big Dance says a lot more than getting all three of those teams into the Sweet 16.

  1. gatorprof - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Re: “Only getting three teams into the Big Dance says a lot more than getting all three of those teams into the Sweet 16.”

    Really? Only if you are sneering at sour grapes. You are using the NIT as evidence? Do you get paid to write this stuff?

    Yes, not a deep conference, but then again, that is the case for many conferences. The Big Ten looks to be as advertised and they seem to be the only one.

    Was the ACC a good conference? Could it be that Syracuse and Duke were terribly overrated and Pitt, NC State and NC were just so-so teams? Do you think that the ACC folks would agree with something like,

    “Getting six teams into the Big Dance says a lot more than getting only one of those teams into the Sweet 16.”

    I am pretty sure that the UT, KU, and UF fans are a whole lot happier than the Syr, Duke, Pitt, NC and NC state fans.

  2. jaydm84 - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    I disagree. The fact that the ACC and Big 12 were overrated afforded then the opportunity to have more teams in. Kansas and Duke ended with 10 losses each and were somehow a 2 and 3 seed and they choked, because I guess they weren’t used to good competition. The SEC only had 3 teams in based on perception, not what’s actually happening. The good teams advance, not just get in.

    • antaresrex - Mar 25, 2014 at 6:55 PM

      Kansas’ schedule ranked as the most difficult in the country by most if not all measurements out there. How do you claim that they “weren’t used to good competition”?

      • jaydm84 - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:56 PM

        Well they lost to a SEC team, their strength of schedule is based on the fact the Big 12 is overrated and losing to good teams doesn’t mean you’re good.

      • antaresrex - Mar 26, 2014 at 1:57 PM

        Losing to good teams doesn’t make you good, no, but it doesn’t make you bad, either. They lost to Florida on the road by 6, which is pretty damn good considering Florida is probably the best team in the country (unless you think they’re overrated, too). And the Big 12 is overrated… by what standard exactly?

  3. ChrisLance.net - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:08 AM

    Glad to see the Vols doing some damage they barely missed out on getting in to the tournament the two previous years.

  4. musketmaniac - Mar 26, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Kansas had injury issues, Oklahoma state was the biggest disappointment. But the 12 have two teams left.

  5. hjt8610 - Mar 26, 2014 at 8:18 PM

    “Should I keep going?” No. Please stop.

  6. oruacat2 - Mar 29, 2014 at 10:21 PM

    You need to talk to your boy – he’s just penned an article on here proclaiming the Big Ten as “the premier conference” because it got three of its teams into the Sweet 16.

    You guys should make up your minds.

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