If you want to figure out which college basketball conference is the strongest, the NCAA tournament is not the place to do it. A conference’s record in the Big Dance means something, but it can also be quite deceiving. Case in point: the SEC, which has a record of 7-0 in the tournament, with all three of its entries reaching the Sweet 16. It might sound impressive, but that doesn’t make it a quality basketball conference.
Despite its success in the tournament, the SEC only put three teams into the NCAA tournament, with one of those teams being among the last four at-large teams selected. That shows a profound and almost embarrassing lack of depth in the SEC, as its three-team tournament output is pitiful next to the other major conferences; the ACC, Big 10, Pac-12 and Big 12, all put at least six teams into the tournament.
The three teams from the SEC that did make the tournament have played well and have earned their spots in the Sweet 16, although to be fair, Tennessee has lucked out in the opponents it played on the way to the tournament’s second weekend. However, having three good teams in one conference doesn’t negate the rest of the conference being awful.
Roughly half the conference was inept this season, which is why only three teams were invited to the NCAA tournament while no other teams were close. The three SEC teams in the Sweet 16 deserve to be there, but they reached the Sweet 16 because they are good individual teams, not because they are in a good conference. They do not make up for the other 11 teams in the conference being average or well below-average college basketball teams.
The SEC may be king in college football, but when it comes to basketball, it’s a glorified mid-major conference, and even some mid-major conferences have more depth and more quality teams than the SEC. Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee are all doing a good job carrying the torch for the conference by advancing to the Sweet 16, but don’t think for a second that the postseason success of those three teams makes the SEC a good basketball conference.