The Sec is Now the Top College Basketball Conference

By: Mo Johnson


As Yogi Berra would say: "This is like deja vu all over again."

The Florida Gators beat Ohio State for the NCAA Championship. Seems like we've heard that before somewhere. Oh, yea, less than three months ago the Gators beat the Buckeye's to win the College Football Crown. Now, the same thing happened in the college basketball championship.

But this win, the Gators basketball win, means a lot more.

Why?

Well, for one thing, this is the second straight college basketball championship for the Gators. They convincingly proved they are the best college basketball team this year.

But, more significantly, the win places the Gators in the same class as some of the best college basketball teams ever. No one has won back-to-back college basketball championships since the Duke Blue Devils did it fifteen years ago.

Before that, you have to go back to the UCLA teams of the late 60's and early 70's.

I won't argue that Florida is the best team ever. Maybe yes, maybe no. But, it should be acknowledged that winning consecutive championships is much tougher now then it was even 15 years ago.

Why?

There are two primary reasons. First, there is more parity in college basketball. Second, the best players are much more likely, today, to go pro before completing four years in college.

It's impossible and unfair to compare teams from different eras, but the Gators should be part of any conversation about the best team ever.

But, the most significant thing about the Gators' second basketball championship is it establishes the Southeastern (SEC) conference as the best college basketball conference.

Not only does the SEC have the best men's basketball team in Florida. They also have the best women's basketball team in the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

The Lady Vols won the Women's NCAA Championship in even more dominating fashion than the Gators won the men's. And the Lady Vols have an even stronger claim to the argument that they are the best women's basketball team ever.

In fact, truthfully, there is no argument about the Lady Vols. They are the dominant program in women's basketball. Not just this year, but all-time. Their legendary coach, Pat Summitt has led the Lady Vols to the most NCAA titles (7); and 26 consecutive appearances in the Sweet 16. She has won a record 948 games. Amazing!

You want history? The SEC has that too. Kentucky has had a couple down years, but they still lead the nation with the most all-time college basketball victories (1949), winning percentage, NCAA Tournament bids and fan attendance. See Best all-time NCAA Basketball Record.



Until this week, I still ranked the ACC as the best overall basketball conference. In fact, I still haven't updated my site to reflect the new realities. See SEC Basketball.

But the time has come to recognize the changing of the guard. College basketball is better and more competitive than ever. The ACC and Big East are both great basketball conferences with great histories. The Big Ten, Big-12 and Pac 10 are good too.

But history isn't enough. In the past two years, the ACC has had 0 teams in the Final Four. The SEC has had three. If you look at the past two NCAA tournaments, the SEC has clearly been the top conference.

We know about Florida and the Tennessee Lady Vols. But, the conference is much deeper than that. In fact, over the past two years, the SEC has had the best March Madness record of any conference. That is for both the men's and women's NCAA tournaments.

This year, the SEC went 11-4 in the men's tournament. And, two of the losses (Tennessee and Vanderbilt) were to higher ranked opponents (Ohio State and Georgetown) and the games were decided on last-minute, controversial, plays.

The SEC did even better in the women's tournament, going 15-4. They had the most teams in the Sweet 16 (4); Great 8 (3); and, Final Four (2).

The time has come for the college basketball world to recognize the obvious. The SEC is not just the top football conference. Florida and Tennessee's Championships have established the SEC as the top college basketball conference in America. And that is the big story to come out of March Madness 2007.

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