There are cold takes, there are freezing takes and there are ice-age takes so frigid they should be handled with gloves, tongs and safety goggles.
In the days leading into Selection Sunday, Kentucky coach John Calipari said the SEC was so good and so deep the conference shouldn’t get just six teams in the men’s NCAA Tournament, or even seven teams, or even eight.
Nine. The SEC should send nine teams into March, he said.
“Any team in the SEC that’s 9-9 should be in the NCAA Tournament,” Calipari tweeted.
Nine teams finished with at least nine conference wins, though three – South Carolina, Texas A&M and Florida – were left out of the tournament field.
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“The top four teams in our league went 35-1 at home,” he continued. “Crazy! We are the best league and our teams deserve that respect !!”
Well, six was the eventual number. And after just two rounds and four days, the number of SEC teams still standing is a paltry one: Arkansas alone will represent the most powerful conference in college sports in the Sweet 16.
This tournament has been a nightmare for a league that has made significant strides on the court since 2016, when the SEC sent just three teams into tournament play.
And the debacle of a postseason performance dismantles comments made by Calipari and Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams, who went on a nine-minute rant detailing the league’s overall depth after the Aggies were left out of the field.
Williams said he spent hours reviewing the numbers and couldn’t figure out how his team’s “12 SEC competition-only wins weren’t enough.”
He continued, “After studying all this nonstop the last two days and looking at it from every vantage point, it defies logic that we are not in the NCAA Tournament.”
Maybe it was for the best.
The No. 4 seed in the West Region, the Razorbacks escaped No. 13 Vermont (75-71) in the first round and then put the clamps on No. 12 New Mexico State (53-48) to reach the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row under coach Eric Musselman.
But the rest of the SEC has flopped.
- No. 6 Alabama lost 78-64 in the first round to No. 11 Notre Dame, which had to recover physically from a double-overtime win against Rutgers in the First Four just two days earlier.
- Playing without coach Will Wade, who was fired after the end of the conference tournament, No. 6 LSU lost 59-54 to No. 11 Iowa State.
- A trendy pick for a deep tournament run, No. 3 Tennessee lost 76-68 to No. 11 Michigan in the second round for yet another early exit for coach Rick Barnes.
- No. 2 Auburn was put in a headlock by No. 10 Miami (Fla.), Which topped the favored Tigers 79-61 in the second round.
- And in one of the biggest upsets in recent history, No. 2 Kentucky lost 85-79 to tournament darling Saint Peter’s and failed to get out of the first round for just the second time since 1987.
Even after his team’s postseason dud, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was still extolling the virtues of the SEC.
“The SEC is going to get crushed because of our tournament performance but I think we just beat each other up all year,” he said. “It’s just such a grind.”
The Razorbacks’ tournament push may not last. Arkansas will next take on top-overall seed Gonzaga; a win there could set up a matchup against either No. 2 Duke or No. 3 Texas Tech.
At least one SEC team has reached the Elite Eight in three of the past four tournaments, with two, South Carolina in 2017 and Auburn in 2019, advancing to the Final Four.
With just one team capable of advancing, the odds of another SEC team reaching the national semifinals have taken a major hit.
But there is some good news for the conference: football season starts in less than six months.
Follow Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg.