Arkansas Saw Sole Success for SEC in March Madness
Going into the final stretch of March Madness, the SEC is officially out of the tournament with Arkansas, the only team from the conference to make it past the second round, falling to Duke in the Elite Eight.
The SEC ended up going 5-6 in the tournament, which was the worst record out of the Power 5 conferences. So that leaves one question left to be answered: Why was Arkansas the only team left in the first place?
The Conference Lost Its Intensity as the Season Progressed
This point sounds more like an excuse than anything but the fact still remains that no one looked like they wanted to claim a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament based on their play near the end of the season and into the SEC Tournament.
Auburn and Kentucky were both ranked inside the AP Top 10 for much of the season, but lost a lot of their intensity right near the end of their season, especially in the case of Auburn with them losing three of their last four road games. Still, both were in prime position to get a top seed if they won the SEC Tournament, especially since they were ranked No. 4 and No. 5 respectively in the AP Top 25 poll and Baylor lost in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. Instead, neither team even made it to the finals of the tournament and Baylor was given the last No. 1 seed despite not winning their conference tournament.
LSU and Alabama also fall under the veil of losing their intensity as the season went on. The Tigers started out 12-0, but ended the season 10-10 while the Crimson Tide, definitely the more disappointing of the two teams, started of their season 9-2 with wins against Gonzaga, Houston, and Miami, but much like LSU they ended their season 10-10, including losing their final two games going into the SEC Tournament, where they immediately lost in their first game.
Arkansas Went on a Run at the Right Time
Sometimes the best performances in March Madness comes as the result of a team going on a run near the end of the season and this rings true for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Arkansas started off the season 9-0, then immediately went 1-5, but ended the season 14-2, including beating the top three teams record wise in the SEC. Even though they eventually lost in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, Arkansas' strong end to the season proved to be helpful as they made it further than any SEC team in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year just after one weekend of play. The Razorbacks' tournament run included taking out No.1 overall seed Gonzaga 74-68 in the Sweet 16, before losing to Duke 78-69 in the Elite Eight.
It's March Madness
The simplest explanation for why the SEC performed so poorly (besides Arkansas) in the tournament is because it's March. March Madness is the time for upsets and underdogs to shine.
A prime example is No. 15 Saint Peter's, who knocked off Kentucky in the first round, making history as the first No. 15 seed to make it to the Elite Eight. The same thing goes for No. 11 Michigan, No. 11 Iowa State, and No. 10 Miami, who knocked out Tennessee, LSU, and Auburn respectively, and all made it to the Sweet 16 with Miami advancing to the Elite Eight. It's unfortunate that the SEC got the short end of the stick and there's prior evidence that this maybe would've happened anyways, but the fact remains that anything can happen in March.
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