Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
SEC (9-0) making its postseason point
Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) drives past Arkansas center Moses Kingsley (33) during an NCAA college basketball game at Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. Florida defeated Arkansas 84-82 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Quinn)
FAYETTEVILLE - SEC basketball coaches have been saying all season the conference is better than its national perception.
It appears they have a point considering SEC teams were 9-0 in postseason games after Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament victory over Kansas State late Friday night.
“We’re proving people wrong,” Arkansas senior guard Mardracus Wade said. “We have teams that are winning, and hopefully we can continue to win and make the SEC look good.”
Tennessee, one of the last at-large teams into the NCAA Tournament’s 68-team field with a No. 11 seed, is leading the SEC’s postseason charge.The Volunteers, forced to have a play-in game against Iowa, beat the Hawkeyes 78-65 in overtime Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. Less than 48 hours later, they beat No. 6 seed Massachusetts 86-67 on Friday in Raleigh, N.C.
“It speaks to where our conference is,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said of the SEC’s postseason success. “It’s much better than everybody thinks it is. It’s a heck of a league.”
No. 1 Florida, 21-0 against SEC teams this season after winning the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles, opened the NCAA Tournament on Thursday by beating Albany 67-55.
Arkansas beat Indiana State 91-71 to help SEC teams go 4-0 in the first round of the NIT, which included Missouri winning 85-77 over Davidson, Georgia 63-56 over Vermont and LSU 71-64 at San Francisco. Texas A&M beat Wyoming 59-43 in the first round of the College Basketball Invitation Tournament.
“I think the proof will be in the pudding,” Anderson said. “We’ve just got to continue to win.”
Arkansas plays its second-round NIT game at California at 10 p.m. Central Monday on ESPN2.
“People talk about you as you get into postseason play,” Anderson said. “Now let’s see if we can take care of business. So far, so good.”
The 14-team SEC was limited to three NCAA Tournament bids, which ranked eighth among the conferences behind the Big 12 (7); the Atlantic Coast Conference (6), the Atlantic 10 (6), the Big Ten (6), the Pacific-12 (6), the American Athletic Conference (4) and the Big East (4).
“It shows people really don’t know what the SEC has to offer,” said Arkansas sophomore guard Anthlon Bell, who scored a career-high 28 points against Indiana State. “They just look at it as a football conference, but once we got the chance we’re showing that we have good basketball teams.”NIT
ARKANSAS AT CALIFORNIA
WHEN 10 p.m. Central Monday
WHERE Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.
SEEDS California: No. 2. Arkansas: No. 3. RECORDS Arkansas 22-11. California 20-13 HOW THEY ADVANCED Arkansas defeated Indiana State 91-71 in the opening round Tuesday in Fayetteville. California defeated Utah Valley 77-64 on Wednesday in Berkeley, Calif.
Sports, Pages 21 on 03/22/2014