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Column: Strength of the SEC shows in national rankings

The SEC is good at more than just football.

These are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of AllOnGeorgia.

The Southeastern Conference loves to pat itself on the back from time to time for its prowess in college athletics.

This mainly applies to football and last season the SEC had two big reasons to brag – Alabama and Georgia.

Those schools played for the national championship with the Crimson Tide winning yet another title.

But SEC dominance doesn’t end on the gridiron. It continues into other sports as well. Just yesterday, I examined the national rankings across several sports and found that the SEC is doing quite well for itself.

I wasn’t surprised, I might add. I figured to discover as much.

Still, I laughed a little, shook my head some and chuckled pretty much every time I went from one Top 25 poll to the next and saw SEC teams all over the landscape.

Before we spring forward, let’s fall back for a moment.

Rewind to basketball season.

The SEC didn’t come close to claiming the national championship in the men’s game, but the league did get a record eight teams into the NCAA tournament field. The previous high was six.

Too bad Georgia came up short once again or the SEC would have been nine teams dancing in March.

In the women’s game, seven teams made the national tourney and Mississippi State made the Final Four, losing a heart-breaker to Notre Dame in the championship game. The Bulldogs lost only twice all season and one of those losses was to South Carolina in the conference tournament finals.

Remember, the Bulldogs and Gamecocks played for the national title last season with South Carolina winning that one, also.

For the record, Georgia did make the NCAA women’s field, but suffered a second-round loss to Duke.

Now, let’s get to present time.

Women’s gymnastics is considered a winter sport, but this weekend the NCAA Championships are taking place in St. Louis with conference member Missouri serving as the event host.

A total of 12 teams were still in the running for the national crown going into the Friday semifinals, and guess what? Six were from the SEC – LSU, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and Arkansas.

The SEC has long been one of the top leagues in this sport. In fact, 10 of the last 13 national titles have been won by a league member and the SEC owns 19 all-time titles. Georgia alone has won 10 of those.

The league added another significant historical note to its gymnastics success by sending the six teams to this year’s championships. That’s a record number.

Spring sports obviously are now in full swing and men’s and women’s golf have moved into their championship seasons.

Golf is really what got me looking at all the polls to begin with as the SEC Men’s Golf Championships will visit the Sea Island Golf Club once again next week and again another strong field will be assembled for the tussle for the title along the banks of the Atlantic Ocean.

Count ’em. A total of eight SEC teams are in the latest Top 25 rankings and six of those are among the top 10 – No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 6 Alabama, No. 8 Auburn, No. 9 Florida and No. 10 LSU.

Also ranked are Arkansas (17) and Kentucky (21). South Carolina just recently fell out of the rankings and Ole Miss is receiving votes for the poll. Surprisingly, longtime powerhouse Georgia doesn’t even register as receiving votes.

The SEC women are battling for their league championship this week. Alabama entered the fray as the top-ranked team in the country. Also ranked are Arkansas (3), South Carolina (9), Florida (12) and Vanderbilt (25). Georgia isn’t ranked but the Lady Bulldogs should be in the final eight teams for match play on the weekend.

In tennis, half of the conference is represented in the men’s rankings. That means seven teams are presently in the Top 25 including No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 9 Mississippi State, No. 10 Florida, No. 19 Georgia, No. 20 Vanderbilt, No. 21 Tennessee and No. 24 Kentucky.

In women’s tennis, it’s the same. Seven SEC teams are ranked, but five are among the top 10. In order, it is No. 2 Vanderbilt, No. 6 Mississippi, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 8 Georgia, No. 9 Florida, No. 19 Auburn and No. 24 Kentucky.

The SEC has long flexed its muscles on the baseball diamond, and this spring is no different. Those hoping to be Omaha-bound include top-ranked Florida, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 10 Vanderbilt, No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 16 Texas A&M, No. 19 LSU and No. 23. Georgia.

If you’re counting that’s eight baseball squads inside the Top 25.

That’s good, but look at women’s softball in the SEC. The conference has 11 of its 14 teams in the rankings. The only ones who aren’t in the mix are Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

The pecking order looks like this: Florida (5), Georgia (6), Tennessee (7), Texas A&M (9), Auburn (11), South Carolina (12), LSU (15), Arkansas (16), Alabama (17), Mississippi State (19) and Kentucky (20).

If you’re not an SEC fan, you are probably sick to your stomach about now. Unfortunately for you, there is more.

Track and Field. On the men’s side, nine SEC schools appear in the rankings and many of them are at the top including No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 Georgia.

Behind them are No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Mississippi State, No. 10 LSU, No. 11 Arkansas, No. 16 South Carolina and No. 18 Auburn.

On the women’s side, the SEC is even more impressive with teams in the top three slots – No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Texas A&M.

The top 10 also features No. 5 Kentucky, No. 7 Georgia and No. 8 Florida. Also in the rankings are No. 15 Tennessee, No. 18 Alabama, No. 22 Missouri and No. 24 Ole Miss.

So yes, folks the SEC is good at more than football.

And though rankings don’t decide championships, it certainly can’t hurt to have a lot of teams who figure to be in the running for the titles in their respective sports.

The SEC definitely has that, and it also has some who are among the best of the best.

It will definitely be fun to see how the league fares going down the home stretch of the current athletic year.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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