The March To March: How good is the SEC?

Philadelphia, PA ( - It's normally Kentucky, Florida and somebody else from the Southeastern Conference in the NCAA Tournament.

Not this season.

Kentucky is still undefeated, Florida isn't on the radar and countless others are shockingly jockeying for bubble position.

The last time college football's best conference sent as many as six teams to the Big Dance was in 2008. And that was only because Georgia, which went 4-12 in the conference during the regular season, won three games in two days to take the SEC Tournament title.

The tournament had to be moved to the home court of Georgia Tech after a tornado slammed into the Georgia Dome. The 17-16 Bulldogs took down Arkansas on their bitter rivals' home floor at McCamish Pavilion for the championship.

Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU and Texas A&M are currently in my projected bracket. Tennessee, Florida and Alabama can still play their way in, but all would need a red-hot stretch to close their seasons to go with a deep SEC Tournament run to even have a chance.

The league had just three teams in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, but each reached at least the Sweet 16, with Florida and Kentucky making it to the Final Four. The other squad in that trio was Tennessee and it needed a late- season hot streak to make it. The 11th-seeded Vols needed to get past Iowa in a first-round game, then beat No. 6 seed Massachusetts in the second round and took down 14th-seeded Mercer in the third.

Prior to last season, the conference sent three schools to the tourney in 2013, four in 2012, five in 2011, four in 2010 and three in 2009.

Although Kentucky and Arkansas are currently the only teams ranked in the top 25 of the polls, the SEC's depth from top to bottom is a lot stronger this year.

It showed during the non-conference portion of the season.

LSU went to Morgantown and beat West Virginia, Arkansas won at SMU, Georgia traveled to Manhattan and took down Kansas State, Tennessee prevailed over both Kansas State and Butler. Even South Carolina, which is 3-9 in the conference standings, defeated Iowa State on a neutral floor and Oklahoma State.

When conference play began, many assumed Kentucky was playing down to its competition in an overtime victory over Ole Miss and a double-OT triumph in College Station against Texas A&M in back-to-back games.

Turned out, maybe the Wildcats were truly tested by solid teams.

The Razorbacks are an intriguing under-the-radar squad that could sneak into the Sweet 16 due to their style of play.

Head coach Mike Anderson, an assistant coach for 17 years under Nolan Richardson during the apex of Razorback basketball, has used the same "40 Minutes of Hell" brand that Richardson implemented. His team plays at a blistering pace with tenacious defensive pressure.

It's a difficult style to prepare for. With Arkansas staring at a potential 4-to-6 seed, the Razorbacks could be at a huge advantage in their third-round game with their opponent having just two days to prepare for them.

Anderson has prior tourney success at UAB, leading the then ninth-seeded Blazers to the Sweet 16 in 2004 and a No. 11 seed UAB squad to an upset win in 2005 over LSU.

Many chalked up a potential Kentucky undefeated regular season prior to the year due to a weak SEC. So a possible unblemished mark heading into the NCAA Tournament continues to look more and more impressive.


MIDWEST (Cleveland)

1. Kentucky* vs. 16. UL Monroe*/Alabama State* winner

8. Iowa vs. 9. Colorado State

4. North Carolina vs. 13. Valparaiso*

5. Wichita State vs. 12. Xavier

6. VCU* vs. 11. Texas A&M

3. Louisville vs. 14. Eastern Washington*

7. SMU* vs. 10. Michigan State

2. Kansas* vs. 15. Florida Gulf Coast*

SOUTH (Houston)

1. Duke vs. 16. Albany*

8. Dayton vs. 9. Cincinnati

4. Oklahoma vs. 13. Murray State*

5. Butler vs. 12. Illinois/Tulsa winner

6. Oklahoma State vs. 11. Iona*

3. Utah vs. 14. Sam Houston State*

7. Ohio State vs. 10. Ole Miss

2. Villanova* vs. 15. William & Mary*

EAST (Syracuse)

1. Virginia* vs. 16. Saint Francis (NY)*/Bucknell* winner

8. Texas vs. 9. St. John's

4. Northern Iowa* vs. 13. Bowling Green*

5. Arkansas vs. 12. NC State/UCLA winner

6. Providence vs. 11. Wofford*

3. Iowa State vs. 14. South Dakota State*

7. Indiana vs. 10. Georgia

2. Arizona* vs. 15. High Point*

WEST (Los Angeles)

1. Gonzaga* vs. 16. New Mexico State*

8. San Diego State* vs. 9. LSU

4. Maryland vs. 13. Louisiana Tech*

5. Baylor vs. 12. Harvard*

6. West Virginia vs. 11. Temple

3. Notre Dame vs. 14. South Dakota State*

7. Georgetown vs. 10. Stanford

2. Wisconsin* vs. 15. North Carolina Central*




Boise State

Old Dominion


Rhode Island

Seton Hall


Green Bay

* - denotes conference leader. In a result of a tie atop the standings, the team with the higher RPI was chosen.