Selection Sunday seemed like Rejection Sunday for Southeastern Conference basketball. The league got only three bids to the NCAA Tournament, the fewest since 1979.
Regular-season champion Louisiana State had the best seeding, a modest No. 8 in the South Region.
"We had guys in the locker room pretty upset," LSU Coach Trent Johnson said of the team watching the selection show. "I said, 'Guys, we put ourselves in that situation. We lost three of four. Do something about it.' "
Speaking on a league teleconference on Monday, the coaches singled out Auburn as a wronged SEC team. The Tigers won eight of their final nine regular-season games to finish second in the Western Division.
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Then Auburn became the first team to win 10 or more SEC games and not receive an NCAA Tournament bid.
After noting that Auburn beat the three league teams that received NCAA bids, Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl said, "It's really a shame they didn't get in."
Auburn's Jeff Lebo noted his players' disappointment.
"It was heartbreaking to look at the kids and see their disappointment," he said. "I told them you can be disappointed for the day, but when you come to practice on Monday, we have to put that behind us."
The coaches noted how the NCAA selections confirmed the SEC's modest standing throughout the season.
"When I saw Tennessee come in at 9 (seed), I was shocked, to be honest with you," Lebo said. "That's when I knew we could be in some trouble. Because that certainly made a statement of what the people think of our league."
South Carolina tied Tennessee for first place in the Eastern Division, but the Gamecocks didn't get an NCAA bid.
"When seeds for our teams came on the screen, hope disappeared pretty quickly," Coach Darrin Horn said. "... At the end of the day, you have to win the games you need to put yourself in position where it's not a major discussion and you know you're in. And we did not do that."
The coaches saw the SEC's dismal showing on Selection Sunday as no reason to panic.
"I don't think there is anything this league has to prove," Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie said. "Next year it'll be back where it's always been. Or maybe even more."
Jasper not here
NCAA rules prohibit redshirt players from traveling, so former Cat Derrick Jasper did not accompany UNLV to Kentucky. He transferred to UNLV after last season.
Jasper, who hobbled through 20 games for UK last season after undergoing microfracture knee surgery the previous June 16, still hasn't returned to a full practice load. UNLV Coach Lon Kruger said Jasper shoots and participates in some non-contact drills.
UK players had sounded eager to see Jasper.
When asked whether Jasper might relay secrets to the UNLV coaches, Jodie Meeks smiled and said, "Nah. I hope no. But he might."
UNLV: how good?
Gillispie likened UNLV to SEC teams that go small, spread the floor and penetrate-and-pitch. The Runnin' Rebels rank 57th nationally with an average of 7.5 three-pointers a game.
But Kruger lamented his team's inconsistency. When asked whether it merited Top 25 consideration, he said, "We just never did play at that level. We did occasionally. But we never did sustain it. Rebounding. Shooting. Defense. Just across the board.
"We just never could quite put a finger on what we needed to do to be more consistent."
A high-water mark came in a 56-55 victory at Louisville (the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament). The Runnin' Rebels won that game with leading scorer Wink Adams (14.3) sidelined.
The game's a sellout, but there's a possibility that UK would receive allotments back from UNLV and other sources. Any remaining tickets will go on sale at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office. UK will accept walk-up sales only. ... Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPN.