If I’m one of the SEC’s best, the Final Four will be a tough watch.

No, that’s not my way of criticizing the field or suggesting that a low-scoring game is a bummer simply because there aren’t any blue-bloods in Houston.

But in a year in which there isn’t a single top-3 seed in the Final Four for the first time ever, how can this not feel like a blown opportunity for the SEC’s elite? Shoot, even a team like Kentucky, which entered the NCAA Tournament as a 6-seed, probably could’ve looked at this remaining field and thought it would’ve had a legitimate chance at cutting down the nets.

Granted, it’s not like the SEC lacked chances. An NCAA-high 6 teams advanced to the Round of 32. Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee reached the Sweet 16 and all lost to teams who’ll be playing in the Final Four. Unless Miami wins it all — something that seems totally realistic with how battle-tested the Canes have looked facing second-half deficits — an SEC team will be able to say “we lost to the eventual champs.”

That’s hardly a consolation prize. The bigger bummer for the SEC is that in a year in which everyone said “there are no good teams,” it couldn’t benefit.

You can find a pretty clear reason for why this Final Four has to feel especially frustrating for the SEC teams that whiffed in the Sweet 16.

But wait. Didn’t Arkansas get throttled by a better UConn team in a game that was never particularly close? Yeah. UConn has been a buzzsaw this whole NCAA Tournament. It’s the only team that had 4 blowout wins en route to Houston.

That’s sort of my point. Arkansas, which showed it can play with almost anyone by beating defending champ and No. 1 seed Kansas, ran into perhaps the only team that has truly looked the part all tournament long.

(I should also note how crazy it is that the Final Four won’t have a single former McDonald’s All-American and Arkansas has 3 alone.)

San Diego State, FAU and Miami (FL) all had never been to a Final Four, and all had to overcome 3-possession deficits in the second half at least once to reach the Final Four. All 3 of those teams have had moments in which it seemed water was about to find its level and their shortcomings were about to be their undoing.

Of course, Alabama and Tennessee appeared to be in control in 2 of those games. With their opposite styles, Tennessee’s desired rock fight was going according to plan against FAU while Alabama eventually started to get cooking offensively after a slow start.

We know that basketball is a game of runs. It cannot be overstated. But the droughts that Tennessee and Alabama endured instead of putting their respective feet on the gas around the 12-minute mark — on both sides of the court — will be talked about for decades.

At the 12:52 mark, Tennessee led 39-33. At the 6:12 mark, it trailed 51-41. An 18-2 run in 6 minutes and 40 seconds isn’t the byproduct of any 1 thing. It was everything. Rick Barnes didn’t make the necessary adjustments. The Vols lost their composure — Uros Plavsic might want to see if Josh Heupel needs a defensive end/body guard — and settled for too many low-percentage shots. Most of all, though, FAU capitalized when Tennessee left the door open.

It might’ve made Tennessee fans feel better to see San Diego State knock off Alabama a night later, but at the same time, the Aztecs are just the West Coast Vols (I came up with that nickname after watching the Aztecs play in-person twice in Orlando). They want to slow the pace, play physical, hard-nosed defense and win low-scoring games. It had to be disheartening seeing SDSU reach the place that Tennessee never has playing virtually the same style.

And not to beat a dead horse too much here, but how did Barnes and Nate Oats fail so horribly with their timeouts?

During that aforementioned 18-2 run, Barnes didn’t call a timeout until the Vols were trailing by 7 at the 7:22 mark. That’s a 13-point swing in which outside of the media timeouts, Barnes never tried to cool down the red-hot Owls.

Oats’ lack of timeout usage was even more egregious. Alabama led 48-39 at the 11:23 mark of the second half. A 12-0 SDSU run to lose the lead didn’t yield an Alabama timeout. The only timeouts called during a 23-5 San Diego State run were media timeouts. Oats ending the night with 2 timeouts in his back pocket will forever be in the “how to blow it as a top seed in March” handbook.

Kentucky wasn’t a top seed, nor did it blow a 3-possession lead, but it blew a late 2-score lead thanks to 19 Kansas State points in the final 3:33 (the 11-2 KSU run in that 3-minute stretch made it so that UK had to foul … which resulted in 8 made KSU free throws in the final 37 seconds).

What Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee all have in common is that they were on the light side of the bracket, which opened up like the Red Sea. Again, San Diego State and FAU are playing for a national championship berth. One of those teams — neither of which was a lock to win a single NCAA Tournament game — will go to a place that an SEC team hasn’t been to since 2014.

That’s essentially a decade without an SEC team playing for all the marbles. It’s one thing when a loaded blue-blood or even a Jay Wright-led Villanova team is standing in the way of that. It’s another discussion when it’s 2 teams that had never even reached an Elite 8 until now, much less a Final Four.

If you had said at the start of the tournament that the Final Four would consist of 3 teams making their first such appearance, one would’ve figured at least 1 of those first-timers would’ve been Alabama or Tennessee. Shoot, if you had made that declaration going into the Sweet 16, it would’ve been a forgone conclusion that one of those would’ve been Alabama or Tennessee. Nope.

The SEC’s Final Four drought is now at 3 NCAA Tournaments. Couple that with the canceled 2020 NCAA Tournament and the SEC has still yet to put a team in the Final Four during the 2020s decade. The SEC had 20 teams make the field in those NCAA Tournaments and Arkansas (2021 and 2022) is responsible for the conference’s lone Elite 8 representation. I suppose that’s not quite as bad as the Big Ten having 26 teams make the field and boasting just 1 Elite 8 representative and 0 Final Four teams.

Still, though. A golden opportunity was missed by the SEC.

A wide-open field, the most teams in the Round of 32, the No. 1 overall seed, 3-possession second-half leads on 2 eventual Final Four teams, etc. This year was a missed chance for the conference’s hoops brand. There’s no other way to describe it.

A suggestion to the SEC elite? Find something less painful to watch than the festivities in Houston.