Sports Opinion: Is SEC Basketball on the rise?

From Issue 5

Sports Opinion: Is SEC Basketball on the rise?

It is no secret that the Southeastern Conference is not the most dominant conference in college basketball. The SEC has consistently put teams in the NCAA tournament, but the conference struggles to compete year in and year out with other conferences such as the ACC or Big Ten. The ACC, Big Ten and even the Big 12 have consistently put five, six and even seven teams in the tournament each year.

The SEC may not have the best overall resume in history, but the conference most definitely does not have the worst among power five conferences(ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12). The conference has put up 21 final four appearances, 6 national championships, and 3 national title runner-ups since the expansion of the NCAA tournament to 64 teams, and all of these accolades account for the fourth best resume out of all Division 1 conferences and the third best among power five conferences.

Although the conference isn’t always the most consistent in the country, one team in it is. The Kentucky Wildcats are the one team in the SEC that is almost always a lock for the big dance. Since the tournament expansion in 1985, the wildcats have won three national championships, two of which came in the mid 1990’s, and have been to the final four eight times. The Florida Gators also have had a solid tournament history having won two national championships(2006 and 2007) and have made five trips to the final four. The only other SEC team in history with a national title is Arkansas, who provided a title for the conference in 1994.

Though the SEC has many accolades for basketball, the league has yet to get back to its former glory of the 90s and early 2000s where national titles were coming in bunches.

The conference though has made strides under commissioner Greg Sankey, having had 11 NCAA tournament bids in his first three years. The conference also tied the Big 12 this year in the SEC/Big 12 challenge, which was a huge step forward for the conference being that the SEC had lost the previous three matchups.

The 2014-2015 SEC basketball season was the first sign that the conference was back to being a contender with other power five conferences. The SEC put five teams in the tournament that year one of which (Kentucky) made the final four. The conference did take a minor step backwards last year only sending three teams to the dance, but the conference did have four teams make the NIT.

This year the SEC seems to be back to its winning ways having three teams ranked in the week 14 Associated Press top-25 in #15 Kentucky, #17 Florida, and #19 South Carolina. The conference also has the three ranked teams plus Arkansas currently in ESPN’s Bracketology done by college basketball analyst Joe Lunardi. The Tennessee Volunteers are also involved in the bracketology but they are currently in the “First Four Out” of the tournament category. Teams like Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State also have the chance to finish their respective seasons strong to the point that they may have a case for the tournament.

The SEC does have the potential to send five, six or even seven to the big dance this year, but as stated by Jackson Prep head basketball coach Chris Moore, “Potential will get you beat”. What is meant by that is, many teams in this conference have the potential to do great things, but without them fighting to reach the potential and them just believing that they have it, they will get beat.