In 2009, SEC Basketball has looked very poor to say the least. The SEC has never been a dominant college basketball conference but they usually have a few high ranked teams and a few high seeds in the NCAA tournament as well as a few sleeper teams in the 7 seed to 12 seed range. This isn’t a down season for the SEC though, they are simply showing their true colors.
In the past when SEC basketball teams were ranked high or got high seeds in the NCAA Tournament they were doing it with smoke and mirrors. When small schools defeat SEC basketball teams it’s not really a story of David and Goliath, it’s more like Dorothy revealing the Wizard of Oz is a face on a big screen. Let’s take a walk down the golden bricks of memory lane and remember how awful the SEC is in the NCAA Tournament.
Truthfully the last three seasons have not been that bad. In 2008 the only bad loss by the SEC was #4 Vanderbilt losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to #13 Siena. In 2008 and 2006 Florida won the National Championship and other teams overachieved including #4 LSU going to the Final Four one season. But 2005 is where the havoc really begins.
Let’s not forget that before the back-to-back National Championships the Florida Gators were the worst offenders of being overrated in the NCAA Tournament and sent packing early. It wasn’t so bad in 2005 when they lost #5 Villanova in the second round but they did have a 20 point lead against Ohio in the first round and only managed to win by 2. Meanwhile #6 LSU was getting beat by #11 UAB and #12 UW-Milwaukee took out #5 Alabama.
The 2004 NCAA Tournament might have been Florida’s worst outing as they somehow managed to lose to #12 Manhattan. The Taylor twins in Birmingham make a spectacular half court behind the head pass to help upset #1 Kentucky in the second round and #2 Mississippi State lost in the second round to Xavier.
There were a pair of losses in 2003 where the team that beat an SEC basketball team wasn’t seeded much higher it was just the fashion that they won. Florida was the 2 seed and lost to Michigan State by 22 points while #8 lost to #9 Purdue by 24. Mississippi State was also getting upset by Butler in the treaded 5-12 match up.
During the 2002 NCAA Tournament three SEC basketball teams that were ranked in the top 5 seeds lost to teams in double digit seeds. Georgia, a 3 seed lost to #11 Southern Illinois, #5 Florida lost to #12 Creighton and #2 Alabama lost to #10 Kent State. In another mild upset #3 Mississippi State was also beaten by #6 Texas
Usually a #8 team losing to a #9 is no big deal but Tennessee probably should not have lost to UNC Charlotte in 2001. Florida had another early exit, this time to #11 Temple, while #2 Kentucky and #7 Arkansas were upset by #6 USC and #10 Georgetown.
The 2000 NCAA Tournament was not a complete loss since the Florida Gators made it to the Finals. The Gators should have been joined in the Final Four by Tennessee though. In Tennessee’s part of the bracket the last for teams were the 4, 6, 7 and 8 seeds with Tennessee being the 4 seed. All Tennessee needed to do in the Sweet Sixteen was knock off #8 North Carolina and they’d have an easy looking Elite Eight match against Tulsa, but the Vols blew it.
Two SEC teams lost in the Sweet Sixteen to lower ranked teams in 1999. #1 Auburn to #4 Ohio State and #6 Florida lost to #10 Gonzaga. #4 Tennessee was also upset by #12 Missouri State.
The hits keep coming in 1998. One of the most remembered SEC failures occurred in 1998. Not only did Ole Miss get upset but they lost to Valparaiso on one of the most famous last second shots in NCAA Tournament history. Tennessee was also defeated by Illinois State and #3 South Carolina was defeated by #14 Richmond.
The 1998 NCAA Tournament was not the first time that a high ranked South Carolina team got beat. In 1997 a South Carolina team seeded #2 lost to Coppin State. Georgia had a game that was nearly as embarrassing as they were a #3 seed that lost to #14 UT-Chattanooga. Ole Miss got beat by #9 Temple, which wasn’t a huge upset but they did lose by 22.