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Hill: SEC should be embarrassed by NCAA showing, not Mountain West

Updated March 23, 2024 - 10:15 pm

A league with so much hype and so much promise has been a major disappointment in the NCAA Tournament.

After patting itself on the back and going over the top in trumpeting its success and telling everyone how great it was, an entire conference got together and laid a complete egg in the postseason.

This is not a column about the Mountain West. Sure, it has been a bit of a mess and the butt of many jokes after getting six teams in the field and seeing most of them dismissed unceremoniously.

All of the hope for the #SixBidMW that was displayed courtside during the league tournament in Las Vegas and granted by the committee has been eclipsed by the reality of only two teams surviving the first round.

But it’s the Southeastern Conference that should be truly ashamed. The big, bad, powerful league that is all but openly threatening to lead a revolt with the other superconferences to break away from the NCAA and do its own thing, has been a total flop.

And while it can certainly be argued the Mountain West had to play more difficult games because of poor seeding assignments, the SEC has no such argument.

S-E-C! S-E-C!

Third-seeded Kentucky stunned by Oakland with a ridiculous shooting display from a kid who came into the postseason averaging fewer than 12 points per game.

Fourth-seeded Auburn bounced by a Yale team that didn’t win its conference regular-season title.

Sixth-seeded South Carolina run out by an Oregon squad that was barely even on the bubble before stealing a bid with a run through the Pac-12 tournament.

In all, the SEC went 3-5 in the first round despite being favored in nearly all of its games.

If this sounds like a bit of gloating, well, it is. But the SEC did it to itself.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey made headlines before the tournament by insinuating there should be fewer automatic bids for smaller conferences in favor of finding ways to have more bids for power leagues.

Oof, the timing.

Look, everyone sees the writing on the wall. The SEC is holding the possibility of breaking away and completely changing the landscape of college sports over the head of the NCAA and is trying to leverage it for everything the conference can get.

The SEC is setting up the College Football Playoff the way it wants, and the NCAA Tournament isn’t too far behind. Heck, even though few were paying attention, the powers that be already squeezed the little guys out of the NIT for a system more favorable for diverting money to the power conferences.

Will the dreadful SEC performance in the NCAA Tournament change any of this? No. It may not even slow down the momentum pushing in that direction or make Sankey and the rest of the major power brokers feel any shame.

But it’s a small win for those who enjoy the tournament for what it has always been, the (somewhat) level playing field in which the little guy has his day to compete on the biggest stage on a neutral floor with the world watching.

And more often than not, beating an overrated SEC team.

Not perfect

While the NCAA Tournament remains the greatest sporting event on the planet, there are still some details that could be improved.

First, getting calls right is vital. Few fans are concerned about how long games take this time of year with other games going on at the same time, so all the delays for reviews actually aren’t that much of a problem.

But you can’t have a system in which there are 10 delays in the final minute for out-of-bounds calls and yet there is nothing that can be done about an egregious missed foul call that cost Samford the chance to upset Kansas.

That must be fixed.

Also, let’s fix the yearly scheduling blunder on the first Saturday and Sunday. After two days of nonstop action Thursday and Friday, viewers are stuck with two standalone games Saturday and Sunday morning, followed by oddly staggered starts late into the night.

There has to be a better way.

Growing the game?

Major League Baseball opened the season last week, though you can be forgiven for missing it.

The league made a cool choice to play a couple of games in South Korea, and it was awesome for those who stayed up or woke up for the 3 a.m. start times in Las Vegas.

Except for those who had cable systems or streaming services that blacked out the second game. Seriously.

Spreading the game is a smart and tremendous idea, but people should be able to see it happen.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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