A down year in the Southeastern Conference means a down year for Kentucky and its chances of making the NCAA Tournament. While the odds are still favorable that the Cats find their way in, with a better conference overall, Kentucky may not have been teetering so close to the edge for as long as they had.
The current perception of SEC basketball is not good. The Pac-12 was the mutt of the power-six conferences a year ago, but this season the boys in the south are taking all the flak for being the ugly duckling. It is understandable. With only one top-25 team currently in the AP poll, combined with several others — Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi — making appearances and dropping out hard, it is difficult to point to the SEC and call the basketball “good” overall.
But there is one thing SEC teams can hold their heads high about. It’s not win-loss record, or number of bids to the tournament, or any notable record-breaking performances. The SEC is the best conference when playing at home.
It means nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it is interesting at least. Kentucky and a handful of other SEC teams dancing on the bubble receive constant criticism from national media for “not having enough quality wins away from home,” which is a fair point. That is certainly a legitimate judge of NCAA tournament rÃ©sumÃ©s. But when you consider just how dominant SEC teams have been at home, you might want to reconsider just how harshly you judge a road loss.
I took the top eight teams from each power-six conference and plugged in their home win-loss record and away win-loss record, including neutral site games. This captures just how good teams are at home and how, ahem, bad teams are when the home crowd isn’t behind them. I also threw in strength of schedule as an added variable to simulate how tough a road win might be, or how difficult it is to earn that home win. It’s quick and dirty but allows added depth to the home and away win percentages.
Without further ado, here are the results…
The SEC has an astounding .903 home win percentage, by far the best of the power-six conferences. Boasting an average of 15.1 wins but only 1.6 losses, that is the top mark, beating out the Big East and Big Ten — the two most dominate conferences this season.
Naturally, the SEC is the worst conference away from home, with an abysmal .413 away win percentage. It looks even worse when you consider the Big East is second-best at home, and the best on the road with a .571 win percentage. The Big Ten is close behind with a .519 away win percentage.
When you start to consider strength of schedule though, is where things get really ugly. The SEC has only one team in the top-25 of SOS, and the next closest is distant 42nd. The top eight teams in the SEC have an average strength of schedule of just 74. Compare that to the Big Ten’s 24 and the Big East’s 29 and the bragging rights to the best home conference start to fall apart.
Furthermore, the average strength of schedule of the top eight teams in the five conferences sans the SEC is 38.
The one saving grace is the Pac-12. While the teams out on the west coast have certainly been improved over last season, and all things considered played better than most SEC teams, the conference isn’t too far ahead of where the SEC is right now. And when you consider the rebound their conference had after a bad season, the SEC could follow suit.
What does this all mean? Very little. But it is interesting to think that despite the SEC being so bad overall, the teams get it done at home — even if the competition is weak. Maybe this means the SEC’s home crowds care more? Maybe it means the other conferences care less? It’s a stretch, but it is the only thing I could think of to make sense of these bizarre numbers.