The 2017 NCAA Tournament has been a huge statement for the SEC. And SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is pumped about it.
The conference got five teams into the 68-team field, less than the Big Ten, ACC and the Big East. But now as the teams have been chopped from 68 to 16, the SEC stands with 3 representatives. The ACC will send just one, North Carolina who need a furious late rally to knock off Arkansas.
Related: 2017 NCAA Tournament scores
Florida hammered Virginia on Saturday to become the first SEC team to make it to the Sweet 16. Then Kentucky squeezed past Wichita State. And finally, and perhaps most surprisingly the South Carolina Gamecocks upended the Duke Blue Devils.
Sankey tweeted his excitement after the South Carolina win.
I can definitely confirm that statement!!! https://t.co/AWlCb3eIcN
— Greg Sankey (@GregSankey) March 20, 2017
The Big Ten, Pac 12, Big 12 and SEC all have three teams in the Sweet 16. The Big East has two—Butler and Xavier— and the West Coast Conference has one in the form of Gonzaga.
Given that both South Carolina and Florida are in the East Regional, we could see the play each other in the Elite Eight for a spot in the Final Four. And Kentucky has a chance toctake down titans UCLA and UNC.
While it might not be what it is or was in football, the SEC has helped restore some of its respect in the national college basketball landscape. And with young teams like Alabama and Auburn on the rise, the future of the conference looks very bright.