Sunday, March 23, 2014

SEC Basketball is Underrated

SEC basketball is underrated, and we all know it.

It's clear that Florida is the team to beat in this year's March Madness tournament, and two other SEC teams, Kentucky and Tennessee, have also made the sixty-four team frenzy. But that's it, only three. In a conference of fourteen teams, only three made the big dance. Now, I don't think SEC basketball had a great season on paper, but maybe the SEC teams were beating up on each other during conference play. Maybe the selection committee should have viewed Arkansas the way they did with Oklahoma State or Kansas State. Arkansas has a better record than both of those teams, but they didn't make the tourney because their schedule difficulty was perceived to be subordinate to that of Big 12 teams. There is no exact way to determine schedule difficulty, but I believe the selection committee made some miscalculations in picking seven (out of ten) Big 12 teams to make the tournament and only three (out of fourteen) SEC teams. Everybody (including me) thought the Big 12 was full of depth, which explained the lacking records, but judging by Kansas' loss to Stanford, Oklahoma's loss, and Oklahoma State's loss, it seems as though the Big 12 was not full of great teams, rather they were full of many equally decent teams. It's not that their competition was amazing, rather it was that most of these teams were not capable of winning consistently. Only two Big 12 teams remain.

And what about the ACC? Duke was upset by Mercer; NC State took an early exit against St. Louis; Syracuse lost to Dayton; Virginia struggled versus Coastal Carolina; and Pitt was embarrassed by Florida. The ACC has two teams left, whereas the SEC has three. The ACC has been overrated in exactly the same way the Big 12 has. The only difference is that some ACC teams finished with very strong records, but this could be attributed to lack of depth at the bottom of the league. (The second round isn't over yet, so this is subject to change)

Some might argue that the SEC has less depth than the ACC, and that the SEC is top heavy with three strong teams. That would explain why three SEC teams advanced to the second round, but it doesn't explain Arkansas' omission, and that argument would contradict the fact that Kentucky and Tennessee were given poor seeds. The fact is that SEC basketball was utterly underrated this year. The top of the SEC is stronger than believed to be, and the middle of the league was probably much more adept than most had assumed. I am not convinced that the SEC was superior to the ACC or Big 12 in basketball this year, but I am positive that the gap between these leagues is much smaller than even most SEC fans had thought.

Teams like LSU and Alabama also were not given their due credit this year.
In the SEC Tournament, both Tennessee and Kentucky almost defeated Florida in the semi-finals and finals, respectively. They proved that they can compete, yet the basketball world allowed this to all go unnoticed. The same Florida team that destroyed a 9 seed Pitt, struggled versus 11 seed Tennessee. It just doesn't add up. Did everybody fail to recognize that Tennessee annihilated UVA early in the season, and that they finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the nation? I guess so, because Tennessee was seeded much worse than a UMass team that they beat by nineteen points.

The SEC has dominated in March Madness thus far, and Arkansas and Mizzou won their first match ups in the NIT. The SEC has prevailed in each of their games in their tournaments, and have proved that the SEC can play basketball. No doubts about it, SEC basketball was underrated this year. Arkansas should have made the tourney, Mizzou and Georgia should have been bubble teams, and Tennessee and Kentucky deserved better seeds. Let's hope everybody learns a lesson from everything we have seen this week, and let's hope that everybody remembers March of 2014 before they try to insult or undervalue SEC basketball again.

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