SEC proves its worth in NCAA tourney

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2006

When the NCAA Tournament began, the national media had a field day bashing the teams from the Southeastern Conference that were in the tournament.

Tennessee was the first team to garner a big chuckle and a draw a number of questions when it was seeded No. 2 in the Washington, D.C. Region.

I, too, questioned if the Vols were worthy of the seeding, but it seems that the NCAA selection committee gave the SEC more credit than anyone else in the country.

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And now that we are a few weeks away from the Elite Eight, it seems that the selection committee was right on by selecting six schools from the SEC. It looks like two SEC teams will be in the Elite Eight after LSU knocked off top-seeded Duke in the Atlanta Region.

I'm guessing that Florida should have advanced to the Elite Eight Friday night although I'm writing this column before they tip off.

The SEC has always been considered the Goliath of college football, but in year's past is has been nothing more than a joke in men's basketball.

Sure Kentucky has had some success here and there, and then there was Arkansas' run at the national title.

But the SEC never has really been revered as a basketball conference.

All the talk this NCAA Tournament has been over the Big East.

Connecticut looks to be a shoe-in to advance to the Final Four now that tournament veterans North Carolina and Michigan State have been bounced early.

But I wouldn't count on Villanova to book its plane tickets for Indianapolis as long as Florida is still alive.

Billy Donovan's Gators are playing extremely well thanks to the improved play of their center Joakim Noah. Should Florida and Villanova meet in the regional final, I would give the Gators the upper hand right now.

The Wildcats are sure to have played in an epic battle against Boston College, so I would look for Villanova to be out of gas in the final.

Something just tells me that Florida is destined to return to the Final Four.

Then there is that the bracket-busting Bayou Bengals who are fresh off an inspired upset of Duke to consider.

LSU could join Florida in the Final Four should it be able to edge Texas in the regional final.

Should these two teams advance to the Final Four, I'll be interested to see how the national media eat crow after trashing the SEC when the tournament began.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. Call him at (334) 382-3111 ext. 122 or e-mail