I think I see what Kevin Stallings is doing. He’s getting all the bad losses to mid-major programs out of the way in December so he doesn’t have them in March. For some reason I don’t think this is going to help Vandy make their way past the first week in the NCAA tournament, though. The overtime losses to Xavier and Louisville aren’t that bad, but the losses to Indiana State and Cleveland State at home are downright embarrassing for a team that started the season in the top ten.
Vanderbilt was picked by many to be the best team in the SEC. Their combination of talent and experience was supposed to make them a difficult match up for any opponent. However, Vandy has looked like an bad to very bad team this season. They averaged 56 points in the two mid-major losses and only 65 points in the two overtime losses. The talk has been that the absence of Festus Ezeli hurt the team early, but he’s back in action for the Commodores now and, while he had a good game against Davidson, only scored four points with four turnovers against Indiana State. The last chance for Vandy to prove themselves before SEC play will be against Marquette in a couple weeks. For the SEC’s sake, they better win that game. After the loss to the Sycamores, Vandy will drop out of the top 25.
Another SEC team dropping out of the top 25 will be Alabama after their loss to Kansas State. Bama started the season off strong climbing into the top 15, but after back to back losses to Georgetown and Dayton, the Tide dropped. Alabama is still a team that can make some noise in March, but Anthony Grant’s club faces the possibility of repeating last season’s disappointment of not making the NCAA tournament because of a lack of quality non-conference wins. The Tide is 1-3 in its last four and is averaging under 60 points per game in that stretch. Unlike Kevin Stallings, I like Grant and it’d be good to see him have some success. He’s got the personnel to win games, they’ll just have to prove it before the SEC slate gets underway.
The only teams left in the top 25 from the SEC are UK, Florida and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs went to Detroit and left with a win from Dick Vitale Court, but that win didn’t come easy. MSU has an opportunity against Baylor on December 28th to secure a big win for the conference. Stansbury’s team is one mind boggling loss to Akron away from being a top ten team.
It’s too early to lose any faith in Vanderbilt or Alabama, but early season struggles by two teams ranked highly in the preseason don’t look good for the conference as a whole. It’d be nice to see the SEC have some non-conference success in basketball. Maybe Missouri and Texas A&M will be able to help in coming years. Luckily, Kentucky will score a big win over a Big East team on December 31st to help make everybody look a little bit better.