We’ve all heard the narratives: The SEC is not a basketball league. Only one team really has a chance. The rest of the league is a joke.
The SEC had a significant opportunity to put those notions to rest this March, and it passed with flying colors. Perhaps no other league rehabilitated its image quite as much this month. However, the judgment was unfair to begin with.
Here are five facts that prove just how underrated SEC basketball has become.
Surprising success in 2017
The SEC sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament, behind the ACC (9), Big Ten (7), Big East (7) and Big 12 (6). However, the league finished with the most wins out of any conference in the nation: 11 and counting. In fact, four out of five teams won at least a game in the tournament. Had Vanderbilt not committed a dumb foul at the end of its game vs. Northwestern, the SEC might have seen all five teams win a game.
While other leagues sent more teams to the NCAA Tournament, the SEC made its imprint on the tourney. When the Sweet 16 was set, the SEC tied the Big 12 and Pac-12 with three representatives in the regional semifinal round. All three SEC teams won, giving the league the most Elite Eight entries. Had Florida and South Carolina not faced off in the East Region final, the league might have had three shots to reach the Final Four instead of just two.
Back to the Final Four
The SEC is no stranger to the Final Four. Since Florida’s first national championship team under Billy Donovan in 2006, the SEC is actually tied for the most Final Four appearances by any conference with the ACC. Both conferences — one supposedly not a power basketball conference — have sent nine teams to the Final Four since 2006. The vaunted Big Ten sent eight. The Big East is at seven. More impressively, the SEC is the only league to send multiple teams to the Final Four twice over that stretch. It would have been three had Kentucky found a way to beat North Carolina.
Success once they get there
Since that 2006 mark, the SEC has won three basketball championships: Florida in 2006, 2007 and Kentucky in 2012. That’s tied for the most in that span with the ACC and Big East. No other league has more than one. If South Carolina can finish the job, it will give the SEC the outright lead for most titles since 2006.
Big championship opportunity
Do you hate the narrative that the SEC is a one-team conference? South Carolina can firmly put that to bed this weekend. Since Arkansas won the title in 1994, the SEC has seen two of its other members win the top prize: Kentucky and Florida. Only the ACC (Maryland, Duke, North Carolina) has as many winners in the last 25 years. Breaking that tie would do wonders for the perception of the conference.