Top-heavy SEC is down this season in hoops
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
Southeastern Conference football teams feed and embrace the perception that the SEC is the toughest league in all of college football. In the waning minutes of beatdowns over non-conference foes, fans chant “S-E-C! S-E-C!”
Basketball is a different story.
Sure, an SEC team – Kentucky – is the reigning national champion, and both Florida and Missouri are ranked in the latest USA TODAY Sports coaches poll. But that’s about it for positives.
Mercer, Winthrop, Elon and Southern are just some of the laundry list of teams that have beaten SEC teams so far this season. And through 13 games, Kentucky has piled up four losses – which is double last season’s loss total.
The effects of poor results during non-conference play can linger. According to bracketing guru Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com, the SEC is the eighth-best conference in the nation, behind the five other power conferences, the Mountain West and the Atlantic 10.
Beating fellow SEC teams won’t help a team’s RPI as much as it has in years past. There are fewer opportunities for resume-boosting wins if, for example, there are only two teams in the RPI’s top 50. That means other SEC teams have limited chances to help themselves.
“If (teams) don’t beat Florida or Missouri in the conference, who are they going to beat that’s really going to be what the committee views as a really good win?” Palm said Monday. “Unless someone emerges within the league, which could happen. Kentucky’s bound to come around.”
Weak RPI numbers could also hurt even top-tier SEC teams in terms of seeding. The best Big Ten teams, competing in the nation’s toughest and deepest league, will pick up RPI top-50 wins on a weekly basis. Not Florida. Not Missouri.
Though SEC coaches point out their teams will improve throughout the season, unfortunately their league’s value was essentially decided in November and December.
“Leagues earn their quality outside the conference,” Palm said. “It’ll be tough sledding for this league come March, especially if Florida and Missouri kind of run away with it and nobody else really steps up.
“It could end up being just a three- or four-bid league, and when … [For more on Top-heavy SEC is down this season in hoops, click here.]