The SEC entered the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament with eight teams. Four days later, the conference now boasts just two. Such is life in this wacky and wild event, but it was certainly one of the crueler fates that the conference could’ve suffered.
It was certainly a positive that six of the eight teams won at least one game. The Missouri Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks were sent home after their first games, as Mizzou and Arkansas fell to the Florida State Seminoles and Butler Bulldogs. The fashion in which the other teams lost ranged from embarrassing to heartbreaking.
The Auburn Tigers had perhaps the longest and most grueling trip home. Auburn got steamrolled by the Clemson Tigers, who held a 40-point lead on the Tigers at one point. They nearly lost to the College of Charleston Cougars, and responded with one of the worse defeats we’ve seen in some time. While the Alabama Crimson Tide were rocked by the Villanova Wildcats, at least that was simply because ‘Nova couldn’t miss in the second half.
The Tennessee Volunteers and Florida Gators shared a common thread of playing in Dallas. They also shared the common thread of losing in the final seconds. The Vols lost to the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, as Clayton Custer hit a last-second shot to vault them into the Sweet 16. Jordan Bone threw up a prayer at the final second, but it went unanswered. Florida trapped the Texas Tech Red Raiders and forced a turnover, and had more than one chance to tie the game. Those chances went unfulfilled however, as the ball simply refused to go into the basket.
The Kentucky Wildcats and Texas A&M Aggies are the two teams left standing. The former is probably a lot less surprising than the latter, given the grand scheme of things. Kentucky was able to take down the Davidson Wildcats and Buffalo Bulls with relative ease. Texas A&M faced much stiffer tests down in Charlotte, meanwhile. But, the Aggies aced their exams with flying colors. They busted up the Providence Friars and then shellacked the North Carolina Tar Heels, the 2-seed in the region, in their own state. The Aggies won by 21 in one of the most impressive performances in the entire Tournament, so they have to be feeling great about their chances. Kentucky will likely dominate through Atlanta (or Cat-lanta, whichever you prefer) but keep your eye out on the Aggies in L.A. Stranger things have happened, you know. In this Tournament.
It’s not wise to make a sweeping generalization about a conference based on NCAA Tournament success or a lack thereof (Unless you’re the Pac-12, of course). This was still a great season for the conference on the whole, and this weekend won’t take away from that. And while it’s a bit disappointing, they still have two teams capable of getting to San Antonio, and one who could wind up winning the whole dang thing. Time will tell to see what comes next, but this was perhaps the craziest first weekend of the NCAA Tournament we’ve seen in a while. The SEC was able to withstand at least a lot of the brunt.