8 random facts I never knew about SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament
Who doesn’t like a good bar bet?
The NCAA Tournament is an annual opportunity to dive into the current field and learn a bit more about the event’s history.
Without an actual event this year, I’ve found myself more drawn to learning a bit more about every SEC team’s postseason history.
Here are 8 random facts I never knew … or at least needed to be reminded of.
1. Florida was the final SEC team to make the NCAA Tournament
Unbelievable, right? Makes you appreciate Billy Donovan’s back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 even more.
The Gators didn’t make the NCAA Tournament until 1987. They were the Northwestern of the SEC.
In order, this is when every current SEC team made its NCAA Tournament debut:
The kicker: The NCAA no longer recognizes Florida’s first trip because of sanctions incurred under Norm Sloan. That’s OK, because the NCAA certainly recognizes this …
2. Billy Donovan has the most NCAA Tournament wins as an SEC coach
Donovan won 35 NCAA Tournament games in 19 years as the Gators’ coach.
Sure, it helped that he coached in the 64-team expansion era, which means 6 wins to win it all. (Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats needed just 3 wins to capture the titles in 1948 and 1949; 4 in 1951 and 1958. Rupp finished with 30 NCAA Tournament wins.)
Donovan’s record might not have survived 2020, though. John Calipari has 31 NCAA Tournament wins at Kentucky. (Calipari has 56 overall, including 14 at Memphis and 11 at UMass.)
3. Georgia went to Final Four on 1st try in 1983 … and hasn’t been back
What a time to be in Athens, right?
Three months after Herschel Walker won the Heisman Trophy, Georgia’s basketball team not only make the NCAA Tournament for the 1st time, but the Dawgs won 3 games and advanced to the Final Four. As if that weren’t crazy enough, they did it in Year 1 after Dominique Wilkins.
Georgia has made 11 more trips to the NCAA Tournament but has only gotten back to the Sweet 16 once (1996).
4. Which SEC player scored the most points in an NCAA Tournament game?
In Kentucky’s 1970 NCAA Tournament opener, Dan Issel scored 44 points to lift the Cats past Notre Dame and into the Elite 8.
5. Who scored the most points against an SEC team in the NCAA Tournament?
As much as I’d love to give a shoutout to the Big O, in fairness, Oscar Robertson’s 56 points against Arkansas in 1958 came long before the Hogs joined the SEC. Still, it ranks No. 3 all-time in tourney history.
Austin Carr, on average the most prolific scorer in NCAA Tournament history, holds the record. Carr scored 52 against Kentucky in 1970 … yes, the same game that Issel had 44.
For those old enough to remember, the 1970 clash was like Bird vs. ‘Nique in Game 7 of 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals — NCAA style.
6. Which SEC player averaged the most points in the NCAA Tournament?
Carr set the overall pace, averaging 41.3 points per game in 6 career tournament games.
LSU’s Bob Pettit tops the SEC’s list. Pettit averaged 30.5 points in 6 games during the 1953 and 54 seasons. Issel is just a sweet jumper behind, at 29.3 in 6 games.
7. Which SEC player scored the most points in the NCAA Tournament?
Pettit averaged the most, but Arkansas’ “Big Nasty,” Corliss Williamson, leads this list with 303 points (in 15 games). He just made the cut, too. Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992.
8. Which SEC team has more wins than any team in the history of the NCAA Tournament?
You probably guessed Kentucky. You’re right. The NCAA credits the Wildcats with 129 tournament wins.
That leads the nation, but not by much. North Carolina is 2nd with 126 wins. Duke (114), Kansas (108) and UCLA (101) are the only other programs with more than 100.
Kentucky is the only SEC program with more than 50. Florida, the last SEC team to make the Big Dance, has the 2nd-most wins in the league with 44.