The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

October 16, 2013

SEC trying to rebound from poor NCAA showing

— BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — With Kentucky once again leading the way, the football powerhouse Southeastern Conference is trying to reclaim that status in hoops after a mostly desolate postseason.

The Wildcats — and 10 other SEC teams — were shut out of the NCAA tournament last season. Now, the coaches are predicting a resurgence, and John Calipari's newest crop of highly touted recruits appear to be at the forefront.

It can't get much worse for either the league or Kentucky, thanks to that program's unforgiving standards.

Florida was the only one of the three SEC participants to survive the NCAA tournament's first weekend. That poor performance came four years after SEC teams went 1-3 in the tournament but was still unusual.

Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings said history proves the league won't stay down.

"All conferences have ebbs and flows to them," Stallings said. "Last year might not have been our best year, but don't be surprised if this year is dramatically, dramatically different than that. If we get six or seven teams in the tournament this year, which will not surprise me in the least, nobody will be talking about that any more.

"Every league has years to where they get less teams in the tournament than they're accustomed to getting because every league tends to go through an adjustment year from time to time. Last year was it for us, but it won't stay that way and everybody knows it."

The SEC had at least five NCAA participants 12 years running starting in 1997, but has had three last year and in 2009. Florida has won two national titles and Kentucky one in the last eight years, though.

Missouri and Mississippi joined Florida in the NCAA field last season. The Gators made the regional finals for the third straight year.

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