SEC NCAA and NIT Tournament Coverage: SEC Struggles in Opening Rounds

We've now got results from the first two rounds of both the NCAA and NIT tournaments, and they aren't pretty for the SEC. In the NIT, top-seeded Alabama survived its first-round matchup with Coastal Carolina, but Ole Miss didn't fare as well, losing its game against Cal. The Tide takes on New Mexico next with a spot in the Quarterfinals on the line.

In the NCAA Tournament, both Florida and Kentucky have had some success, reaching the Sweet 16 as second and fourth seeds, respectively. The Gators and 'Cats squared off recently in the SEC Tournament Finals, and although Alabama finished second in the regular-season standings, Florida and Kentucky are widely regarded as the conference's top teams. They'll now get the chance to prove whether or not the SEC's best can play with the nation's best by fighting to get to the Elite Eight.

The rest of the league, though, has not fared well in the Big Dance. Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Georgia each lost their opening games. Georgia acquitted itself fairly well, losing a close game to a talented Washington team that pushed UNC to the buzzer yesterday. The upstart Dawgs have nothing to be ashamed of in their first tourney berth of the Mark Fox era.

The same can't really be said for Vandy or Tennessee. Vandy has gained something of a reputation for being a poor tournament performer over the past few years, and they did nothing to help themselves shed that reputation this year, falling in a dreaded 5-12 game to Richmond. Richmond is a good basketball team, but you can't help but get the feeling that Vandy should have pummeled them. The Commodores are a complete, talented team that has no excuse for its continued failure to make it out of the first round. Tennessee did even worse, losing in a laugher to an unheralded Michigan team. If Bruce Pearl is about to be shown the door in Knoxville, this could hardly be the way he wanted to go out.

As I've said before, a likely depleted 2011-2012 SEC East presents a good opportunity for the Gamecocks, and the final results for some of the division's programs in the NCAA tournament continues to suggest that the SEC is ripe for the taking. I see little reason not to be believe that we shouldn't have a good chance to improve on our 2010-11 record next season, and nor do I see a good reason to believe that it won't make sense to hold Darrin Horn to a higher standard next year.

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