As the crazy winds of March Madness continue to blow, three SEC teams are still playing in the NCAA National Tournament. What should this mean for UGA Basketball?
As of Friday, there were three SEC teams still playing in the NCAA Tournament. As of Sunday, there are three SEC teams still playing, and there is a real possibility that, after Sunday’s action, there could be two SEC teams in the Final Four. After a disappointing season, what does this say about UGA Basketball?
The early game Sunday, March 26, pits SEC Conference foes South Carolina and Florida in the Elite 8. The winner gets a spot in the esteemed Final Four of College basketball. That is no small feat. In fact, in a region (East) where 16 teams started, and one that included #1 overall Villanova and #2 Duke, it is striking that two SEC teams are left playing.
In the South Region the story went more chalk, as they say, with #1 North Carolina set to face #2 Kentucky in their Elite 8 match-up, with the winner to play Oregon in the Final Four. Not much of a surprise, but still worth noting conference affiliation and membership.
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It’s worth noting for a few reasons. Mainly, because, and rightfully so, the SEC has been maligned and denigrated as a basketball conference. We all know football is what winds our watch, as my grandmother would say. But there is no disputing 3 of the final 8 teams in the nation are SEC basketball teams, with a possible 2 out of the Final Four. That speaks for itself. Only the ACC or Big-10 conferences are expected to do that.
There is another reason, though, that this is significant. Namely, how does this reflect on UGA’s basketball program? It is no secret that Georgia fans are a little disgruntled. In a state that produces prodigious basketball talent on yearly basis, fans wonder why that doesn’t translate.
There are two ways of looking at 2017 March Madness with relation to the Mark Fox led Dawgs. One school of thought says, “Hey. Yes, Georgia got swept by all of those teams still playing, but a couple of games were close, and those teams proved they are the best.”
The other is a very frank, and unforgiving, assessment of a state flagship program that can’t win, while two border states play for glory. This school gives Fox and company failing grades for poor performance and results.
The problem with a true value judgment, at present, is that both camps have a point. Reality is that the SEC was a far better conference than many “experts” gave credit for. That said, Georgia led with less than two minutes to go against all three teams at some point this year (SC, Fla, KY), and lost all three.
One of two things is true. Either this is a “one-off” and the SEC is just having a singular great tournament year, or the conference is getting better at the top. Either way Mark Fox needs to find a way to match it. He probably needs to do that sooner than later.