NCAA Tournament: What happened to the ‘strong’ SEC?


In recent seasons and again in the 2021-22 season, the stature of SEC Basketball has grown. This year’s NCAA Tournament actually had two SEC teams the national media valued more highly than Kentucky.

During the season, there were some claims, mostly coming out of SEC states, that the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 and the Big Ten were in close contention for the nation’s best basketball league.

In the first few days of March Madness, the SEC’s stature as an elite basketball conference plummeted. On Thursday, Tennesse beat Longwood 88-56, and later Arkansas gained a victory over Vermont, 75-71. In between those games, 2-seed Kentucky was beaten by 15-seed St. Peter’s (85-79).

On Friday, Auburn, in full strut, trounced hapless Jacksonville State, 80-61. Alabama Basketball then set the SEC decline in full motion, losing to Notre Dame 78-64. The Crimson Tide went into the game as a slight favorite, but as we published in our game report, the Tide loss was no upset. LSU closed out Friday’s SEC play with a 59-54 loss to Iowa State.

On Saturday, SEC Tournament Champion, Tennessee found a way to be another Rick Barnes team not getting past the first weekend. The Vols played ineffectively on offense and lost to Michigan, 76-68. Also on Saturday, Arkansas beat a stubborn New Mexico State team, 53-48.

Sunday had another SEC Big Dance debacle with Auburn losing to Miami, 79-61. Alabama fans might remember a game long ago (November 28) when the Crimson Tide beat Miami 96-64.

The SEC sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament. One, Arkansas, advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The SEC’s Big Dance record so far is four wins and five losses (44%). The Razorbacks draw No. 1 seed, Gonzaga on Thursday night.

Ten basketball conferences sent two or more teams to the NCAA Tournament. The most came from the Big Ten, with nine teams. The next most, with six teams each were the Big East, the SEC and the Big 12.

Ranking NCAA Tournament performance from the 10 conferences

Note: Teams having advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in bold.

  • Pac 12 (Arizona, UCLA and USC); four wins and one loss; 80% success
  • ACC (Virginia Tech, Duke, Miami, Notre Dame, North Carolina); seven wins and two losses; 78%
  • Big 12 (Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, TCU, Texas, Iowa State); nine wins and three losses; 75%
  • American (Houston, Memphis); three wins and one loss; 75%
  • West Coast (Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, San Francisco); three wins and two losses; 60%
  • Big East (Villanova, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, U Conn, Creighton); five wins and four losses; 56%
  • Big Ten (Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State); nine wins and seven losses; 56%
  •  SEC (Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU); four wins and five losses; 44%
  • Atlantic 10 (Richmond, Davidson); one win and two losses; 33%
  • Mountain West (Boise State, San Diego State, Wyoming, Colorado State); zero wins and four losses; 0%

Next. Thoughts on Tide Hoops going forward. dark

What are Alabama basketball fans and other SEC fans to make of the conference’s poor performance? One week of one Big Dance is too small a sample to draw sound conclusions. March Madness upsets happen. The results are temporary rather than lasting, but that makes them no less troubling. Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn and Alabama did not just lose – they looked bad doing it.