Alabama's Jahvon Quinerly celebrates after a college basketball game against Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Monday, March 22, 2021. Alabama won 96-77. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Sweet 16 Set, Two SEC Teams Remain

The 2021 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament began with five representatives from the SEC. Now, with the Sweet 16 set, just two remain.  After two rounds, No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 3 seed Arkansas are still standing. In East Region, the Tide took care of a feisty Iona squad and dangerous Maryland.

Then, in the South Region, the Razorbacks defeated a veteran Colgate team and well-coached Texas Tech in route to their Sweet 16 birth.

Both Missouri and Tennessee lost during the opening round of the tournament. The Tigers lost a hard fought battle to the Sooners, while Tennessee fell victim to the often predictable 12-5 upset.

LSU and Florida’s seasons ended during the Round of 32. LSU was outmatched by a Michigan team that despite lacking Isaiah Livers, is playing at an extremely high level.  The Gators, fell at the hands of red hot shooting Oral Roberts.

Alabama Yet To Blink

Although they were crowned SEC regular season champions and won the SEC Tournament, many March Madness fans doubted Alabama prior to the tournament. According to ESPN’s Men’s Tournament Challenge, of all the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, the Tide were least frequently picked to cut down the nets at a rate of only three percent. Now, two rounds in, they still remain while Illinois, Ohio State and Iowa have all been bounced.

The reason many doubted Alabama when analyzing the tournament was their struggling offense. In round 1, the concerns were validated.  Although the Tide were able to get passed Iona, it was largely due to their defense. During the game, Alabama shot an underwhelming 31 percent from three and 56.5 percent at free throws.

During round 2, the Tides offense finally broke through. They rolled past Maryland 96-77 scoring 90+ points for the first time since Feb. 13.

Surprising to few, the key to their breakthrough was three-point shooting. Getting back to their roots, Alabama shot 16-33 from three against Maryland. Starting guards Jaden Shackelford and John Petty Jr. shot 5-8 and 4-9 from three, respectively. Both are key to the teams success and if they can stay hot, watch out for Alabama.

Arkansas Standing Tall

Arkansas began the 2020-2021 college basketball season unranked. Shocking many, they eventually climbed to 8th in the country. Coming into the NCAA Tournament, the Razorbacks had only lost one game during the months of January and February. As a result, they earned themselves a spot on the No. 3 seed line. Now, they are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 1995-1996 season.

Arkansas headed into their first round matchup against Colgate trying to earn their first tournament win since the 2008. Colgate entered the game winners of 13 straight and the Patriot League Tournament Championship. Even so, Arkansas was able to handle them and pull away to comfortably win a game that was often close.

In the second round of the tournament, Arkansas faced an extremely difficult challenge in the form of the Red Raiders. Led by Chris Beard, Texas Tech is always dangerous come March. That said, containing a late run by the Raiders, the Razorbacks again emerged victorious.

At the moment, Arkansas is arguable the hottest team in the country. To keep advancing, the Razorbacks need to continue doing exactly what they have been.

Early Exists

Aside from Alabama and Arkansas, the SEC had many teams that experienced early exists.

Similar to Arkansas, Missouri entered the season unranked and eventually, worked there way into the upper echelon of AP Top 25 poll.  Despite falling short against Oklahoma, their season was a success and the program is trending in the right direction.

Also coming up short in the first round, Tennessee lost to Oklahoma State. After starting the season strong, the Volunteers eventually started to lose steam. Contrarily, the beavers found their stride and won the Pac-12 Tournament. Considering the directions they were trending, the 12-5 upset seemed unlikely but as always, predictable.

The LSU Tigers took care of business in the first round against the St. Bonaventure Boonies. Although they ended the season strong, they couldn’t muster the fire power to take down the No. 1 seeded Michigan Wolverines.

After defeating Virginia Tech, the Florida Gators were fortunate to find themselves facing 15th seeded Oral Roberts in the second round.  Even so, the Gators did not have enough. Despite leading for most of the game, they eventually ran out of gas and fell at the hands of an Oral Roberts hot shooting fueled comeback.

Looking Ahead

SEC faithful have plenty to look forward to regarding the remainder of the tournament. Arkansas vs. Oral Roberts will take place on March 27 at 7:25 p.m,. and Alabama vs. UCLA will occur on March 28 at 7:15 p.m.

About William Silverman

William Silverman is a junior at the University of Florida from Philadelphia who is interested in pursuing a career in business, communications and journalism.

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