OPINION — Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Meaning more hasn’t been enough for SEC

It didn't mean more for the SEC in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Of the eight teams playing, six were betting favorites, seven had the better seed and by the end of Friday five had lost, including No. 3 seed Kentucky and No. 4 Auburn.

Also going home after one game was No. 6 South Carolina, No. 7 Florida and No. 8 Mississippi State.

Maybe the SEC needed more invites.

On the positive side, a very small positive side. No. 4 Alabama beat No. 13 Charleston, No. 2 Tennessee beat No. 15 St. Peters and No. 9 Texas A&M downed No. 8 Nebraska.

Of the Big 6 conferences, which will go to 5 next year when the Pac-12 is absorbed by other conferences, only the SEC had a losing record at 3-5.

In alphabetical order, the ACC was 4-1 after Friday wrapped up the opening round, the Big 12 was 5-3, Big East 3-0, Big 10 4-2 and ironically the Pac 12 was 5-0 in its final tournament as a conference.

Maybe it shouldn't have been such a shocker when No. 14 seed Oakland beat Kentucky 78-76.

Oakland as in Rochester Hills, Mich., and not California.

Going home early has become too common for Kentucky, a program that once dominated the SEC and no one wanted to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Since making the Elite Eight in 2019, the last time the Wildcats won the SEC, the Big Blue sat out 2020 because of covid, was 9-16 in 2021 and didn't make the field, went 0-1 in 2022, 1-1 in 2023 and 0-1 this year.

Since winning the 2012 national championship, Kentucky was 18-6 in NCAA play until the past four seasons.

Some might consider that a negative trend, especially for a program that has one of the greatest fan bases in all of college basketball.

In 2019 John Calipari signed a 10-year contract worth $86 million. It was described as a lifetime contract because it was thought it would be Calipari's final job before retiring.

If the Blue Bloods want to make a change, Calipari would be owed almost $35 million.

The second biggest blister the SEC suffered was No. 4 Auburn losing to No. 13 Yale, which finished tied for second in the Ivy League, a conference known for genius IQs and mild success as underdogs in the NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs' story was enhanced when it was reported their band couldn't make the trip to Spokane so the University of Idaho's band showed up in Yale T-shirts playing the Yale fight song.

That's the kind of story that makes the NCAA Tournament so interesting.

South Carolina was taken down by No. 11 seed Oregon, which made the tournament after winning the Pac-12's final basketball tournament.

Mississippi State was dominated by No 9 Michigan State and No 7 Florida scored 100 but gave up 102 to No. 10 Colorado. The game did not go to overtime and the Buffs made 28 of 33 free throws but were called for 22 fouls, three more than the Gators.

It was not a great start for the SEC with four losses to teams with double-digit seeds, but it was a fairly typical opening round. In addition to the two biggest upsets suffered by the SEC, three No. 11s won as Oregon, North Carolina State and Duquesne advanced.

And a pair of 12 seeds, James Madison and Grand Canyon, survived and advanced.

Tennessee took on Texas on Saturday night as Rick Barnes faced his former team. Today, Texas A&M faces No. 1 Houston and Alabama gets Grand Canyon.

It was further illustrated the SEC was in a rebuilding season when the league went 1-1 in the opening round of the NIT, with Georgia getting a win and LSU going down.

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