The Southeastern Conference has played four postseason games so far. Kentucky lost at tiny Robert Morris. Tennessee lost at home to tiny Mercer. Missouri was about as much challenge to Colorado State last night as a tiny mouse to a big cat.
Half the SEC teams invited into the NCAA Tournament or NIT have been booted in their tourney’s first round. (Sorry, NCAA, but we’re not going to call what’s really the first round the second just because you’ve stuck four play-in games in front of it.)
Ah, but Alabama knocked off Northeastern at home in its first NIT game. Hurrah! That’s the lone positive so far for the SEC.
Like it or not, unless Ole Miss and Florida both go on long, long tourney runs the rest of the nation will have its perception of the SEC — that it’s down — reinforced. I would throw Alabama onto that list, but upsets make more of an impression on fans’ minds than who actually wins the NIT. Can you even name last year’s champ? (Stanford.)
Granted, Kentucky and Tennessee clearly had no interest of playing in a secondary tourney once their NCAA bubbles burst. Unfortunately for them that point isn’t bolted to the box scores that have now been posted for all-time on hundreds of sports websites. No one cares why they lost… just that they lost… to Robert Morris and Mercer.
Mizzou, well, it had no excuse. The Tigers made the dance. They faced a team from the Mountain West, a league that many of us down South said wasn’t worthy of five bids. Well, as Charles Barkley said last night, the MWC was better at the top than the SEC this year. Hell, it was probably better at the bottom, too, but that’s beside the point. Missouri didn’t even bother to lead for 37 minutes and then choke the game away. The Tigers looked like the lesser team from first tip to final buzzer. So much for the SEC deserving one or two of the bids Mountain West teams received.
Amazingly, in our comment boxes have appeared this week suggestions that the NCAA selection committee chose to keep SEC teams out of the tourney because of a Northern bias. We’ve also seen it proposed that dissing the SEC is a way for the NCAA to send money to other conferences who don’t win in football. Riiiiiight.
Odd that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva — who was on this year’s committee — would help cover up such an anti-SEC conspiracy. It’s equally odd that the last time the SEC got only three NCAA bids was in 2009 when league commissioner Mike Slive actually chaired the selection panel. His response then: “We’ve got to schedule better.”
Clearly Slive must be a double-agent. Perhaps he’s even a double-naught. Probably got those Cuban cigars he loves from Castro his own self.
Hey, the SEC was shafted this season because it deserved the shaft. A fourth SEC team could have gotten into the tourney. Tennessee’s numbers made it bubble-worthy. But Tennessee and the SEC didn’t get that fourth bid. And Tennessee certainly didn’t set out to prove the committee wrong as it yawned its way through an embarrassing home loss in front of 5,000 people and a handful of crickets.
So let’s just stop all the whining and whimpering. The SEC’s lack of bids doesn’t trace to a Free Masons plot. It traces to a crummy non-conference schedule trumped only by a crummier non-conference record.
As for the NIT, sorry Arkansas fans, but the SEC’s overall suckitude in 2012-13 and so far in the postseason suggests once more that the Hogs shouldn’t be squealing about their omission from that tourney, either. You guys finished behind the three SEC squads who’ve already slipped on banana peels.
If SEC fans want the league’s bid odds to improve next year, you better be pulling hard for Ole Miss today at 12:40pm ET (against Wisconsin) and for Florida tonight at 7:27pm ET (against Northwestern State). So far the perception of a weak SEC has been reinforced in tournament play. There’s only one way to change that perception going into next season — win some games with America watching.
Rebels and Gators, the SEC banner is in your hands.