Let’s be fair, it was an off year for SEC football. While the conference eventually rebounded during bowl season, the league as a whole failed to meet its lofty expectations. Regardless, Friday was a reminder that the Southeastern Conference doesn’t take a backseat to anyone.
The SEC is sending three teams to the Elite Eight. No other conference has more than one representative — not even the vaunted ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten, the supposed basketball conferences. With South Carolina and Florida playing each other, at least one SEC team is guaranteed a spot in the Final Four.
Kentucky blasted past sentimental favorite UCLA and potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball, reminding the nation once again that John Calipari is a heck of a coach. South Carolina dominated Baylor and All-American big man Johnathan Motley. Late in the game, “S-E-C” chants rained down from the Madison Square Garden rafters. Afterwards, Florida shot past Wisconsin on a miraculous buzzer-beater in overtime.
When fans say the SEC is the best league in college athletics, it doesn’t just mean football. Basketball proved it deserves mention alongside the elites. It doesn’t stop there.
Seven SEC schools rank among D1Baseball.com’s top 25 college baseball programs. Six rank in the top 10 among men’s track programs, with five of the top 10 on the women’s side. An astounding 10 teams rank among the top 25 in college softball.
Football is the SEC’s calling card, but the entire conference exudes excellence. There’s a reason 10 of the top 17 top revenue producing athletic departments are in the SEC. Athletic directors have ensured that athletic departments invest comprehensively across sports. The league is extremely healthy.
And to be fair, in a football-crazed area of the country, basketball is one of the final mountains to climb. Most programs did not start making significant investments in basketball until recently.
But now, South Carolina is streaking with Frank Martin. Tennessee and Mississippi State both hired coaches who previously went to the Final Four. Missouri and LSU both poached young, talented coaches. SEC basketball is rising.
The SEC aims to be the best athletic conference in the country. Friday night was just the latest reminder — it just means more.