It’s time to talk nice to the SEC as Mississippi State’s run boosts conference’s

If the SEC compiled a “talk to me nice” list of the people who counted their conference out, the papyrus scroll of names wouldn’t seem to end. In modern terms, it wouldn’t fit into a TikTok video.

South Carolina went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country and is the heavy favorite to win its second consecutive title. No one questioned that. But while they rattled off conference wins to a hum of 26.1 average points per victory, the chatter around the strength of the rest of the SEC was constant. It’s a down year for the SEC. The competition isn’t as high. How do you measure a group of teams having to play one that’s separated itself so much from the rest? Can they all really win in March?

Ball don’t lie and neither do the results. The SEC is a collective 7-1 through the first round, led by No. 11 seed Mississippi State becoming the first First Four team in tournament history to reach the second round. The Bulldogs were the first game of this NCAA tournament, starting a postseason that could open and close with an SEC team’s victory.

Mississippi State’s Sam Purcell, a first-year head coach who spent nine years building the Louisville program into a Final Four contender as Jeff Walz’s assistant, said his phone starting blowing up with messages after that first win.

“You know who it was? It was every SEC head coach,” Purcell said after ousting Illinois, an impressive Big Ten team on the rise. “We have a thread, and they’re all like, ‘Sam, you set the tone, man. Good luck.’ Which again, it’s a special conference because you’ve got special people.”

A day after the Bulldogs advanced, Purcell released his “talk to me nice” list of athletes and presidents (current and former) who didn’t choose his team to win. It was in jest, but rings as a parting shot for all those coaches on the thread.

We’re just as competitive in March as all of you. Maybe better.

Mississippi State (22-10, 9-7), which finished fifth in the SEC, was one of only four teams with a single-digit final margin against South Carolina this season. They rank top-50 in field-goal and 3-point percentage, assists and blocks per game. After finishing fifth in the regular season SEC standings, they slid into the tournament as the conference’s final of seven teams.

The Bulldogs pulled off an even bigger stunner by upsetting No. 6 Creighton, the reigning mid-major favorite, in the first round. They were 11-of-19 from 3-point range, tying their season high in 3s made. And their chances of reaching the second weekend are solid since No. 3 Notre Dame is without point guard Olivia Miles and working with a short bench in Greenville 1.

Ole Miss (24-8, 11-5) was the other SEC team to stay within striking distance of South Carolina, losing by 7 in overtime last month. The Rebels were seeded eighth in a matchup that should have, per seedings, gone either way. Instead, Ole Miss crushed Gonzaga by 23 to meet Stanford in Seattle…

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Read More: It’s time to talk nice to the SEC as Mississippi State’s run boosts conference’s 2023-03-19 04:52:00

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