By - Kory Kinslow
The SEC certainly showed up to play in the NCAA Tournament. Out of the 5 teams that got in, 4 teams won in the first round, with Vanderbilt being the only team to not win a game. Arkansas was the next to go down in the round of 32. They played 1 seed Carolina after beating Seton Hall. The Hogs played UNC very close and were up 5 late, but couldn’t hold onto the lead.
Both of these two teams have some talent coming back and have good recruits coming in next year. Don’t be surprised if they both make it 2 in a row for NCAA appearances next year. Vanderbilt will finally start looking like the team that Coach Drew would prefer to have and Arkansas continues to re-load with the fastest forty style of Mike Anderson.
All three of the SEC teams left in the sweet 16 that were left continued on to the elite eight. This was very impressive for what was deemed the weakest of the power 5 conferences. The SEC teams would all show up in the elite eight ready to win.
Kentucky, the perennial powerhouse of the SEC played UNC in the elite eight. It was a game that Kentucky did not necessarily play their best basketball. If they had played the entire game the way they did most of the second half, they would have easily won this game. Credit to UNC for rebounding and playing Kentucky physical. They both hit big shots toward the end with UNC getting the last one.
Kentucky will be back next year with a new group that Coach Cal will have ready by tournament time. South Carolina and Florida played each other in the elite eight. It was a great game that came down to a late run by South Carolina in the end to pull out the victory. Florida had a great season and is a well coached team. They will continue to be a power in the SEC. South Carolina played great throughout the tournament and have seemed to save their best for last.
South Carolina will play 1 seed Gonzaga in the Final Four. This will be a battle of two very physical teams. If South Carolina can impose their physical will on the defensive end, they can make this a close game. The SEC has had problems with physical teams in the tournament, but this South Carolina team is not like the other SEC teams. They play a different style and recruit a different style of player.
If South Carolina is close toward the end, Gonzaga should watch out. I believe that South Carolina could and should pull this game out if the guards show up on the offensive end as well as the defensive end. If they win, I believe that they will play North Carolina. They would not be the 3rd SEC team to fall to the Tar Heels in the tournament.
I believe that South Carolina matches up better than the teams that were beaten by UNC and could beat them in a close game. They will have to try to keep the pace slow and impose their will, but that’s nothing for a Frank Martin coached team to do. I think it’s better than a 50% chance that South Carolina wins this.
If I had to make a pick, I would say Gonzaga wins it, but I never put anything past South Carolina. The only reason I think Gonzaga will win is that they are seasoned and ready for the big stage. These are two teams that reflect and play hard for their coaches and I truly believe that the Gonzaga vs. South Carolina game is really going to determine the champion.
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