What an exciting finish to the NCAA tournament! UCONN held on to a slim margin of victory over Kentucky after the Wildcats bounced back from a 15 point deficit on Monday night. It was definitely a fitting end to an outstanding tournament, a tournament as good as any within the past 20 years. As has become custom for the major college sports in recent years an SEC team made it all the way to the championship game, and for basketball it was 8th seeded Kentucky.
What should be noted throughout the tournament: the continued dominance of the SEC in big games. SEC teams were 12-3 in the tournament, with all three making at least the Sweet Sixteen. However, although SEC teams dominated the playing field at times during the tournament, some startling statistics might show that the SEC isn’t as dominant as it once was.
First off, even though SEC teams had an overwhelming winning record in the tournament, all these wins were accumulated by three teams: Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Also, of the three Florida was the only one with a high ranking as the #1 overall favorite. Kentucky’s run was magical yes, but the fact remains that they entered the tournament as an 8 seed. The lower you’re seeded means the less successful you were in the regular season, where teams would be playing other teams outside of their conference a lot more. Tennessee was even worse; as an 11 seed they had to play in the newly established “first round” play-in game, where they had to beat an opponent in order to even play in the Round of 64 tournament.
There’s also the fact that both Florida and Kentucky looked completely defeated at times against eventual champion Connecticut. UConn won against Florida in the regular season by a buzzer beater at home, but defeating Florida a second time by a wide margin proved that the first win was no fluke. Florida was supposed to be the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament too. Kentucky got down by as much as 15 in the first half before making things interesting. Credit to Kentucky, but they were also favorites going into the title game. While the SEC did have a great record in the tournament their failures at the biggest stage cannot be ignored.
Maybe I’m being a little too hard on the SEC, and especially for basketball since the SEC’s always been a football conference. If you swing back over to football though their dominance in BCS title games came to an end in January, when Auburn lost to Florida State. That loss marked the first time that an SEC team has lost in the title game, while at the same time snapping a streak of seven consecutive SEC BCS champions. These trends have to beg the question: is the SEC still the dominant conference that it once was with just a few hiccups, or is the conference’s reign of dominance actually coming to an end?