A lot has been made of the brand of SEC basketball and how much it has improved this season. And the first day of the 2018 NCAA Tournament offered a pretty definitive statement that the depth of the conference had clearly improved.
Sure, usual stalwarts Kentucky and Florida both won. And Tennessee, a program that has a basketball tradition and a Sweet 16 appearance in the past 5 years, got back to the tournament and dominated Wright State. But even Alabama, a program who hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2006, picked up an impressive win over Virginia Tech of the ACC. Collin Sexton, Alabama’s star, was 7 the last time the Crimson Tide won an NCAA Tournament game.
The SEC got 8 teams into the tournament this year, with only the ACC getting more. At least 4 SEC teams will be moving on to the second round, with the possibility of at least 4 more joining them on Friday. All 4 teams taking the court on Friday are the higher seed as Missouri takes on Florida State, Auburn plays the College of Charleston, Arkansas faces Butler and Texas A&M opens with Providence.
It’s not out of the question goes 8-0 in first round games, which would only further hammer home how improved the conference has become. And even the teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament have proven this week that they’re getting better at basketball. Mississippi State and LSU both won NIT games. And Ole Miss and Georgia both hired coaches on Friday with strong NCAA Tournament pedigrees in Kermit Davis at Ole Miss and Tom Crean at Georgia.
At the very least, the SEC isn’t the laughing stock of major college basketball anymore. That belongs to the PAC-12, which only got 3 teams into the NCAA Tournament and all 3 of them lost their first game. Arizona, the Kentucky of the PAC-12, got embarrassed by No. 13 seed Buffalo after a pretty embarrassing season for the program. Kentucky meanwhile didn’t make a 3-pointer and still beat a frisky Davidson team as the Wildcats continue to peak at the best possible time.
The SEC still has a long way to go to match the pedigree of the ACC teams, especially at the top with the likes of Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. But Thursday at the very least that the conference is deeper and better than it ever has been. And for the first time, fans can somewhat envision SEC basketball being similar to what SEC football was from 2006 to the present day.
The post 2018 NCAA Tournament recap: SEC goes unbeaten on first day appeared first on SEC Country.
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