The reality of a given situation does not always present itself immediately. Our sundry of senses do not automatically keep up with one another, and some of us simply lack any notion of sense altogether. Take a dead body, for instance. Sure, you can look at it and instantly process the grimness at hand, but it may not fully register until you feel the cold, stiff, lifeless figure. If not, the waft of decomposition will surely drive the point home.
Which brings us to SEC basketball, which for years has been rotting in a shallow grave but this season’s exhumation has produced particularly grotesque conclusions. Here, we have 14 large, cash-heavy universities, each with its own gymnasium complete with seats, a roof, a wooden floor, goals, uniforms both home and away…everything a basketball team would need to play basketball. They even have rosters of Division I scholarship athletes, some of which are good enough to play professionally! And yet, reality: 12 of these teams are not good enough to compete in the NCAA Tournament.
It’s not unusual for the SEC to be laden with bad basketball, hell, it’s almost like a celebrated nick-nack. Football is the religion here, basketball merely an offseason syndicate. Half empty arenas have become part of the charm but belies the fact that historically, the league is right there with the other big dogs in final fours, national champs and NBA talent.
Top heavy? Sure. We know Kentucky and Florida are always competitive while Georgia is always bad, Auburn worse, not to mention South Carolina and I guess Texas A&M. But now that the middling mainstays like Vandy, Tennessee, Arkansas, Miss. St., Alabama, even Missouri have all plunged to the depths of desolation, it’s fair to question if this thing can ever be revived.
“It’s a down year,” they say…and have said every year for the past decade. Looking ahead, is there any reason to think the level of play will improve next season? You think Anthony Grant is finally going to get over the hump and start reeling off wins with his patented ‘hoisted three at the end of the shot-clock offense’? Or Frank Haith is suddenly going to wake up with a clue? Or that Mike Anderson will actually recruit basketball players? You think Georgia is going to make a slam dunk hire, or even care to? Of course not, and that’s why the SEC will continue to be a bottom level mid-major league sans the crammed student sections and basketball skill. A sloppy rec-league with its own network and Joe Dean, Jr. on the mic. A bunch of flight attendants on Jimmy’s Jet.
Let’s do some inventory. Currently, there are two good teams in the league with two great/proven coaches: Donovan, Calipari.
After that, you have 3 pretty good coaches who have enjoyed some level of relative success: Andy Kennedy, Kevin Stallings, Frank Martin. (Stallings has proven capable of pulling in talent and winning regular season games. Martin won at K-State and willingly inherited a shit-show, but is also a lunatic and will never win anything of significance in Columbia. Kennedy has done admirable work at a dead end gig.)
The rest are either unproven or proven to be awful, and you’d have to expect several will get canned. Barbee for sure, Mark Fox likely, Grant and Cuanzo should but it’s probably 50/50, Haith and Anderson are both awful but somehow safe and whoever coaches Miss St, LSU and A&M, well I guess “they just need time to implement whatever it is they implement.”
Name the last time an SEC team not named UK or Florida won a game of significance?
The SEC needs action. It needs excitement. It needs bastards. It needs bombast. It needs Bruce Pearl.
[vomits blood into a Tervis]
How do you get people to look at you when you are a nobody? You yell really loudly and/or you con them. That’s what Pearl does better than anyone else in coaching, and that’s what this league needs. Just someone else to awaken a listless fanbase and make people care for a few months. Pearl should absolutely be at the top of the list for every SEC school making a hire.
Can this rotting corpse of a league be saved? I honestly don’t know. I hope so, and so should you, fellow Catfan. Not just for entertainment’s sake but for the opportunity to beat a quality opponent. Remember those from back in the day?
SEC fans—outside of Kentucky and Arkansas—have never cared about basketball but it hasn’t stopped Tennessee, Alabama, LSU and Florida from periods of success. A bombastic salesman who can nurture talent like Pearl will pay off for one school but that leaves about a dozen others still searching for an answer. Or, pretending to, anyway.
S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!