Ridaught: Three SEC teams in Sweet 16

NCAA Tournament March Madness basketball

How does your bracket look? 

I had Purdue winning it all. Unfortunately, for just the second time in the history of the NCAA tournament, a No. 16 seed (Fairleigh Dickinson) knocked off a top seed (Purdue)

In the ESPN men’s Tournament Challenge, which began with 20,056,273 brackets, a total of 2.57 million brackets (7.8%) had the Boilermakers winning it all. 

Become A Member

Mainstreet does not have a paywall, but pavement-pounding journalism is not free. Join your neighbors who make this vital work possible.

Only two of my final four teams (Gonzaga and Alabama) are still intact after No. 5 seed Miami defeated No. 4 Indiana last night. The Hurricanes simply proved that great offense can crush good defense

There’s always a Cinderella or two in the Big Dance, but who had Princeton, a No. 15 seed, beating No. 2 seed Arizona? What about No. 13 Furman upsetting No. 4 Virginia

More than 1.8 million brackets (11.1%) had Arizona in the finals. Furman was picked to win in 18.2% of brackets, the second most among No. 13 seeds. 

However, only 2.6% of the brackets had both Furman and Princeton winning a game. 

Thanks to Jeremy Willis of ESPN.com for all of those nuggets. 

Defending national champion Kansas is gone, which means the University of Florida is still the last team to repeat (2006 and 2007). Thanks, Arkansas! 

Where are the blue bloods? No Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, or Indiana in the Sweet 16. 

Instead, we get San Diego State, FAU, Creighton, and Princeton. 

Yes, we still get No. 2 seed UCLA (West), and No. 7 seed Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo (East), plus two No. 1 seeds heading into the second weekend.

But with the transfer portal, talent is being spread around more, creating even more parity.

There are three SEC teams in the Sweet 16 – Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama.

There could have been four, as Auburn had No. 1 seed Houston on the ropes with a 41-31 lead at the half on Saturday, but the Cougars (33-3) outscored the Tigers (21-13), 50-23, in the second half to advance.

It’s only the third time since 2014 that the SEC has had three or more teams in the Sweet 16 (there were four in 2019).

Since the Gators won back-to-back, Kentucky (2012) was the last team from the SEC to win the NCAA Tournament.

Could this be Alabama’s year over a decade later?

Alabama and Houston are the only two No. 1 seeds remaining and they wouldn’t meet until the title game.

The Crimson Tide (31-5) seem to have an easy path, cruising past No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 96-75, in the round of 64 on Thursday, and having no problem with No. 8 seed Maryland, 73-51, on Saturday despite shooting just 39.7% from the floor. Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s win

Now they get No. 5 seed San Diego State (29-6) on Friday night (6:30 p.m., TBS).  

At least one Alabama Crimson Tide basketball player was hoping to not face San Diego State. 

The Aztecs, who haven’t given up more than 70 points in almost a month, are rated 14th overall on KenPom and fifth defensively in adjusted efficiency (Alabama is second). 

If ‘Bama does advance, they would play either Creighton or Princeton in the Elite 8. 

Meanwhile, Tennessee is hoping for a potential Final Four against the Crimson Tide. 

The No. 5 seed Vols edged No. 13 Louisiana, 58-55, on Thursday, and they eliminated No. 5 seed Duke, 65-52, on Saturday. 

They held the Blue Devils to a season-low in points, which also tied for the fewest in an NCAA Tournament game in program history, according to Ben Mckee of 247Sports. 

Next up? 

Florida Atlantic University, which is coached by former Mike White and Gator assistant Dusty May. The Owls had just one 20-win season in almost 30 years of Division-I play before this season. 

FAU (33-3), which made one NCAA Tournament appearance 20 years ago, opens as a 5.5-point underdog against the Vols on Thursday (9 p.m., TBS). 

Tennessee would match up against either Kansas State or Michigan State, which upset No. 2 seed Marquette, in this weekend’s Elite Eight. 

In the West Region, Arkansas is back in the Sweet 16 and will play UConn (27-8) on Thursday (7:15 p.m., CBS). 

It’s the third straight trip for the Razorbacks, following wins against No. 9 seed Illinois and defending national champion Kansas. 

Arkansas is now 8-2 in NCAA tournament games under fourth-year head coach Eric Musselman.

This will be the fourth meeting all-time against the Huskies, who lost to Arkansas, 102-67, in the last meeting in 2017. 

Arkansas senior forward Kamani Johnson said he thinks his team matches up well with them.

The SEC leads all conferences with nine wins.

The stakes are higher. Can the SEC keep it up?

Enjoying our local sports coverage? Get Mike Ridaught's twice weekly sports newsletter in your inbox.
Sports Newsletter Form
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments