Grading the SEC in March Madness

Every year, March Madness captivates the national audience with Cinderella stories, wild upsets (looking at you Oral Roberts), and star players.  Lost in the madness is a plethora of other storylines, such as which conferences are performing the best.  Undoubtedly, the Pac-12 had performed the best of all the major conferences this year in the bracket, placing four teams in the Sweet Sixteen while compiling a 10-1 record so far in the tournament.  Of course, here in the South we concern ourselves with how the SEC performs, so continue to scroll down the page to find out just that.

The SEC placed six teams in the Big Dance this year:  Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, and Missouri.  Of these six teams, two - Alabama and Arkansas - were a top sixteen seed overall.  Theoretically, these top sixteen seeds should advance to the Sweet Sixteen, although this year, like most years, not all advanced.  To be exact, this year seven of these top sixteen seeded teams survived the first two rounds.  Both of the SEC's top seeded teams, Alabama and Arkansas, advanced to this weekend of the tournament.  However, none of the other four teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, so the SEC is one of the few conferences to advance the teams which were supposed to advance and none of the teams which were not.  Now, for a more in-depth look at exactly how each team performed.

Alabama (2 seed in the East Region)

First round:  Alabama 68 Iona 55

Second round:  Alabama 96 Maryland 77

Alabama picked up two wins on the opening weekend in two very different fashions.  They struggled offensively against Iona in the opening round win but still managed to pull away late for a double digit win.  Against the Terrapins, Alabama had no problem on offense dropping 96 on their Big 10 opponent.  So far, Alabama has handled business in the fashion they were supposed to and will look to make a deep tourney run under head coach Nate Oats.  In a strange twist, Alabama will play their third straight double digit seeded opponent when they take on UCLA on Sunday.  If they can make it past the Bruins, Alabama would take on either Michigan or Florida State with a spot in the Final Four on the line.  

Arkansas (3 seed in the South Region)

First round:  Arkansas 85 Colgate 68

Second round:  Arkansas 68 Texas Tech 66

Arkansas did not necessarily allow their fans an easy breath on the opening weekend; however, the Razorbacks were the lone three seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.  Colgate led Arkansas by as much as 14 in the first half before the Razorbacks came to life late in the first half and in the second half.  In the end, Arkansas picked up a comfortable 17 point win against the Raiders.  Then in the second round, Arkansas slipped by Texas Tech in a one score game.  Next up for the Razorbacks will be a matchup with Cinderella darling Oral Roberts on Saturday evening.  It will be a matchup of strength on strength in that one, as both teams are extremely capable of scoring points in bunches.  If Arkansas is able to end the Golden Eagles run, a date with either Baylor or Villanova looms.

Tennessee (5 seed in the Midwest Region)

First round:  Oregon State 70 Tennessee 56

The Volunteers were the only SEC team to lose in the first round as a higher seed.  However, I am not sure it is fair to call the Beavers win an upset because in the bracket pools I am in it seems like more people picked Oregon State as compared to Tennessee.  Tennessee also was stuck in the Midwest Region, which might be more applicably termed the Upset Region as an eight, eleven, and twelve seed all advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the region.  It was a disappointing end to the season for Tennessee who spent time in the AP top 10 earlier this season.

Florida (7 seed in the South Region)

First round:  Florida 75 Virginia Tech 70 (OT)

Second round:  Oral Roberts 81 Florida 78

Along with Tennessee, the Gators were one of only two SEC teams to lose to a lower seeded opponent.  For Florida, the loss occurred in the second round at the hands of Oral Roberts.  Both of Florida's tourney games were tight with a combined eight point margin of victory in them.  Florida and Virginia Tech served as the opening game, excluding the First Four matchups, and the game did not disappoint from a neutral fan's perspective.  Virginia Tech buried a late three pointer to send the game to overtime.  Then, Florida's Colin Castleton muscled his team to the win in the overtime period.  Florida then ran into the two-headed monster of Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor of Oral Roberts.  The Golden Eagles duo proved to be enough to end the Gators' season.

LSU (8 seed in the East Region)

First round:  LSU 76 St. Bonaventure's 61

Second round:  Michigan 86 LSU 78

LSU took care of business in the first round against ninth seeded St. Bonaventure's dispatching the Bonnies by 15.  In the second round, it seemed like the Tigers just might send a second top seeded Big 10 team to an early exit but ran out of gas late against Michigan.  LSU's offense played extremely well for most of their tournament stay, but the Tigers' lack of depth proved costly late against the Wolverines.  Also, as had been the case most of the season, LSU struggled to get stops on the defensive end.  However, LSU did want they were supposed to do, beating a lower seeded opponent before bowing out at the hands of a one seed.

Missouri (9 seed in the West Region)

First round:  Oklahoma 72 Missouri 68

Missouri was the only SEC team to enter their first round matchup as the lower seeded team, so perhaps unsurprisingly the Tigers stay in the tourney was short-lived.  Like Tennessee, it is a bitter end to the season for Missouri who spent time in the AP top 10 earlier this season.  Missouri hung tough with Oklahoma throughout the game but could never quite break through against the Sooners. 

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