I know what you're thinking:
Now that the conference accounts for half of the Final Four, isn't it time to retract all those comments about how lousy SEC basketball is this season?
What has happened in the NCAA Tournament over the past two weeks proves only that the very best teams in the SEC are as good as anybody in the country. It does nothing to elevate the bulk of the conference, where mediocre and downright bad basketball was played over a four-month period.
Yes, Florida and Kentucky are very, very good teams and deserve their positions in the Final Four. Judging from the way each has played over the past two weeks, we could have an all-SEC national championship game. While that has happened in football (Alabama-LSU in 2011) and women's basketball (Tennessee-Auburn in 1989; UT-Georgia in '96), it would be something new in men's hoops.
For those keeping score, Florida is 3-0 against the Big Blue, with victories at home, away and on neutral ground in the SEC Tournament. We hear that it's hard for one good team to beat another good team three times in one season, but what about four?
But even if we get a Florida-Kentucky final, it wouldn't obscure what happened in the regular season, when SEC basketball muddled along and was at times downright embarrassing.
Consider: The SEC had more teams — four — in the NIT than any other conference. When you've got more teams playing for college basketball's ultimate consolation prize than in the NCAA Tournament, it's a sign of mediocrity.
The strength — or lack of same — of SEC basketball accounts for why the bracket-pickers did not give either Kentucky or Tennessee the benefit of the doubt in seeding. The Vols were a No. 11 seed and relegated to a play-in game against Iowa in the First Four.
Meanwhile, Kentucky got a No. 8 seed and had to survive the Murderers' Row of Kansas State, top-seeded Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan on its way to the Final Four.
And it's not like this is a one-year swoon for SEC basketball. It's the second straight season the conference has been limited to three NCAA bids. Five times in the past six years, the SEC has sent four or fewer teams into the bracket.
The argument is that the SEC is a football conference. Always has been, always will be. Fine. But was it any less of a football conference in the period from 1997 to 2008? During that stretch, the SEC averaged 5.7 NCAA bids per season. And that was with a 12-school SEC.
Food for thought: Seven of the SEC's 14 men's basketball coaches have been in their current jobs three years or less. As a point of comparison, eight SEC football coaches have been in their current positions three seasons or less.
Yet, you don't hear about how many average or downright lousy football coaches there are in the SEC.
Could it be that athletics directors in the SEC put a little more time, effort and resources into hiring football coaches than basketball coaches?
Perish the thought.
As for Florida and Kentucky, they have followed different paths to the Final Four. The Gators have been consistently outstanding all season, going through an 18-game SEC schedule and conference tournament untouched. While you can quibble about the level of competition in the conference, the Gators' current 30-game winning streak also includes victories over Kansas, Memphis and Florida State.
And then there is Big Blue, which has saved its best for last. After losing at home to Arkansas and at South Carolina to slip to 21-8 after a 14-3 start, the 'Cats have found themselves. Their only two losses in the last four weeks were to Florida — in the last regular-season game and in the finals of the SEC Tournament.
Now Florida and Kentucky head to the Final Four, where they'll try to put a happy face on a sad season for SEC basketball.