If there was ever any doubt about the strength of the Southeastern Conference this season, it should now be officially dismissed.
Twenty-five percent of the NCAA tournament’s Sweet Sixteen hails from the SEC. This league is no fluke and it’s not just about football. Go ahead and flex those basketball muscles guys.
Kentucky and Tennessee may be the most talked about from the league but, remember, neither of them won the regular-season or tournament championship. Those titles belonged to LSU (regular season) and Auburn (tournament).
Go ahead and call me crazy but all four of them are still bouncing basketballs.
So, let’s dream a little more, shall we? There’s a chance – and it’s not that far-fetched really – that three fourths of the Final Four could come from the SEC.
After all the talk about the Atlantic Coast Conference, with three No. 1 seeds coming from that league, and all the talk about Zion Williamson that comes at us nonstop and from every CBS camera angle, wouldn’t the ACC being shut out be something to see?
So how could it possibly happen? These situations are based on wins by the top three seeds on Sunday and then Elite Eight matchups next weekend.
LSU would have to dispatch Duke in the East, Tennessee defeat Virginia in the South and either Kentucky or Auburn take out North Carolina in the Midwest.
So, of those four matchups, which seems the least likely to happen? In my opinion, it’s in the Midwest with North Carolina against Kentucky (if PJ Washington doesn’t play) or Auburn (which doesn’t have much size). Both of those teams have tough matchups against the Tar Heels.
Now, since we’re just dreaming anyway, what if Washington does come back and play? If that happens, the emotional boost alone may be enough to catapult the Wildcats past the Tar Heels. If Auburn plays like it did late Saturday against Kansas, then anything can happen.
How about this, too? If North Carolina is to reach for the Final Four, it would have to beat Auburn and Kentucky in back-to-back games. No small task.
LSU, the “Bad Boys” of the NCAA after their coach was suspended (fired), may be getting some “adversity love” from fans and they are as talented as anybody, including Duke. Coach K easily wins the chess match against LSU’s bench leadership, which couldn’t beat him in checkers either.
Tennessee vs. Virginia. Personally, I like the Volunteers in this one straight up. Tennessee has dodged a bullet with the win over Iowa, which erased a 25-point deficit to force overtime before falling.
But think about it, three teams from the SEC in the Final Four. Top-seeded Gonzaga is the favorite to join the party from the West.
Is it probable? Is it possible? Or am I just dreaming?
That kind of SEC news about basketball and not football may even make the few hairs on Paul Finebaum’s head stand up at attention and send his callers into a frenzy.
Roll the ball out there and let’s see what happens.
MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org