The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. The regular season is now over for SEC teams, and as we gear up for the SEC Tournament, here is a recap from conference play.
1. Auburn and Tennessee are the SEC Regular Season Champions
Not enough depth.
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) March 3, 2018
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 4, 2018
Well that’s certainly not who I thought would be the co-champions of the SEC in the regular season. It honestly would’ve been more predictable if both of these teams finished at the very bottom of the rankings, however, this is where we are.
Let us not forget that Tennessee was picked to finish next to last in the SEC in the preseason and Auburn was picked to finish 9th out of 14 teams. What does this tell us? It showcases to the college basketball world that Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes are great college basketball coaches. Period.
Consider this: there wasn’t a single player from either one of these teams selected to the Preseason All-SEC First OR Second Teams. Of course, guys like Bryce Brown, Mustapha Heron, Grant Williams, and Admiral Schofield will be heavily considered to end up on the final All-SEC Teams.
Pearl and Barnes have led these stars and their teammates to great seasons with their leadership from the bench. While Auburn does own the No. 1 overall seed in the SEC Tournament, it’s obvious to me that both of these teams are worthy co-champions despite not having the most talented squads.
The SEC Tournament will be just as wild as the regular season, but count on the Tigers and Volunteers to make plenty of noise in the Big Dance.
2. Biggest Surprise Team: Missouri Tigers
If you would’ve told me in the preseason that Michael Porter Jr. basically wouldn’t play at all for the Tigers this season and Missouri would be one seed behind Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, I would’ve laughed in your face.
But alas, the joke is on me because that’s the reality we live in now. Twenty wins later and we have a team that could make some actual noise in the postseason.
Yes, I know that Missouri was picked to finish fifth in the preseason rankings, but a ton of those votes were given due to the impact that people thought Porter Jr. would have on the Tigers. Don’t forget that Missouri finished dead last in the conference last season while just winning seven games overall.
I haven’t talked much about Cuonzo Martin this season, however he is right up there with Pearl and Barnes in the SEC Coach of the Year conversation. Remember this name as well: Kassius Robertson. He is seventh in the conference in scoring and has been the leader for the Tigers all season.
Missouri should be UK’s first opponent in the SEC Tournament, and Robertson should be a main point of focus for the Wildcats defensively. By the way, he is Canadian so you know he is a nice guy as well.
VERY cool moment here at Mizzou. In honor of Kassius Robertson’s senior night, they played O Canada pic.twitter.com/3iIRaW4bXn
— Benjamin Hochman (@hochman) March 3, 2018
3. Biggest Disappointment: Alabama Crimson Tide
Admittedly, this was hard to decide. The SEC was so deep this season that their wasn’t any team that truly stuck out as a huge disappointment. For me this was between Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Alabama. The Wildcats and Aggies get passes due to their 20-win seasons and their likely NCAA Tournament bids.
The Crimson Tide have easily been the biggest disappointments in comparison. Remember, they were picked to finish fourth in the SEC and earn a double bye in the Conference Tournament in the preseason. Fast forward to the present and they are the ninth seed in the SEC Tournament while holding a 17-14 record.
They must have a good showing next week just to make it into the Big Dance. What a disappointment that would be if Alabama misses the NCAA Tournament while having Collin Sexton on their team.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Crimson Tide were 17-9 and gearing up for a big postseason run. One 5-game losing streak later, and it’s obvious that Collin Sexton deserves better than this.
4. The Curious Cases of Florida and Kentucky
Lets call it what it is. Florida and Kentucky make absolutely no sense this season. One week these team’s look like Final Four squads, and the next week they look like they shouldn’t even be in the NCAA Tournament.
To me, these are still the most talented teams in the SEC, but they are easily the most inconsistent. Florida has wins over Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Texas A&M, Kentucky (twice), and Auburn. However, they have lost to the likes of Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Loyola-Chicago (??).
Kentucky went on a big four-game losing streak, then they answered that with a four-game winning streak. Just when everyone thought UK was back, they turn around and get embarrassed by Florida. None of this makes any sense.
I honestly can’t even tell if Mike White and John Calipari have accomplished good coaching seasons for uneven teams, or bad coaching seasons for very talented teams.
Overall, nothing made sense for these teams this season. However, the postseason will truly define how good these teams really are.
Florida could go to the Final Four or lose in the Round of 64. Live by the bomb, die by the bomb. Gators rout Kentucky in Gainesville.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 3, 2018
5. A Banner Year for the Conference
Even if Kentucky struggled through the regular season, the SEC had its best year in arguably this decade. In recent memory, I cannot remember a time when the conference was this deep.
The mere fact that a 17-9 Alabama team can lose five-straight conference games at the end of the season is all you need to know about this conference. From now on, there are no weeks that you can take off. Yes, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss were not good this season but they still had their fair amount of upsets.
It seems certain that the conference will get in either 7-9 teams into the Big Dance, depending on how well Alabama and Mississippi State play in the SEC Tournament, which would be its highest total of teams in years.
Just by looking at some of Joe Lunardi’s brackets in his now daily bracketology rundown on ESPN teams like Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, and Kentucky seem to consistently have favorable paths to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight.
That’s a testament to how their tough schedules have made every team in the conference that much stronger. Only the coming weeks will prove just how strong the SEC was this year, but if the regular season is any indication expect a big NCAA Tournament from the SEC.
Until then, sit back and enjoy an unpredictable SEC Tournament.
The SEC Basketball tournament is going to be like Game of Thrones.
I’m afraid to fall in love with any of the characters for fear they get knocked off out of nowhere.
This league is so deep this year.
— Peter Burns (@PeterBurnsESPN) February 28, 2018