The SEC’s collective indifference to college basketball is hardly a revelation, but with Kentucky back in the driver’s seat and the conference slate commencing this weekend, let’s take a look at what is shaping up to be another mediocre season around the SEC.
With the swift, albeit expected departure of Florida from national prominence and Kentucky’s half-a-decade-long experiment in futility, SEC basketball has been living couch to couch in the sub-standard slums of mediocrity sharing a bunk with ACC football. All signs pointed to an improved brand of ball from the conference that plays basketball because it has to. Even with the half empty, dimly-lit gyms and perennial underachievement, the league seemingly made a collective step forward in the past couple of years axing an albatross of goobers like John Brady, Mark Gottfried, Stan Heath, Dennis Felton, and Tex Gillispie. In stepped a seemingly solid batch of up-and-comers to go along with college basketball’s version of Nick Saban, John Calipari. Just like the Crimson Tide in football, Kentucky is the league’s kingpin and everyone benefits when it’s healthy, and healthy does not even begin to describe UK’s unprecedented one-year turnaround thus far.
Nevertheless, with the pre-conference slate now finished it’s pretty evident that this will not the year the league makes a leap back to relative prominence, something even a shamefully weak non-con schedule could not hide.
Take the Cats out of the mix and Georgia’s upset of Tech in Athens last night puts the SEC’s total number of wins vs. ranked opponents this season at a robust 2 (Fl. over Mich St.). And the Dawgs are one of three teams (LSU, Auburn) that you could safely say had no shot at making the Dance before the season began. Every team outside of Auburn has at least one future pro on the roster but injuries, cops, and an overall history of not giving a shit still takes its toll.
Arkansas lost a heap of its production amid allegations of wanton hanky-panky but as we saw in a hard fought loss to Texas last night, the Hogs are at least capable of making a run at the West with PG Courtney Fortson back in the lineup. Rotnei Clark is one of the best shooters in the nation and F Michael Washington is being projected as a 1st rounder but battles the occasional bout of not giving a f—.
South Carolina dismissed starting forward Mike Holmes and lost their 2nd best player when Dominique Archie blew out his knee. Devan Downey is a nice player who will miss Michael Porter dearly. NIT, here they come.
Who knows what will come from the mess in Knoxville, but you’d have to think Tyler Smith and Co. will be sitting for a while with plenty of time to reflect on what might have been over a bottle of hypnotiq and a freshly wound blunt. Scotty Hopson and Wayne Chism might be enough to get the Vols to the dance, but without Smith, its very doubtful. Bobby Maze, hah!
Miss State at 12-3 looks decent, but their pre-con. schedule was nothing short of a bakery. It’s pretty shameful really, and though we can throw out the bad loss to Rider to open the season, losing to Richmond and Western is alarming. Rick Stansbury seems intent on filling the void of underachieving left by Mark Gottfried.
At Vandy, A.J. Ogilvy continues his steady decline averaging just 12 and 5 so far. The junior is more like an Aussie version of Woo (sans the huggable qualities) than the 1st round lock he was projected to be after his freshman season. The Dores really only have one bad loss (WKU) and they have the back court to stay in thick of things.
Florida opened our eyes with the early season upset of the Spartans, but come on, if you think a frontline of Dan Werner and Chandler Parsons can hold up in this league then you must be a white supremacist. Pillow-y soft, inexperienced, and inconsistent from 3 is a killer recipe for the NIT.
Ole Miss has one of the nation’s top backcourts which makes the Rebs the favorites in the West, and although we know they’ll ultimately fail to meet expectations, they’re the only other SEC squad worthy of a ranking and can certainly pull an upset of just about anyone if the mood is right.
So, to recap: Kentucky will be favored in every league game this season, WKU and Richmond could go .500 in the SEC this year, Anthony Grant and Mark Fox were great hires, Arkansas should improve but finds itself in an immense hole, Florida, Ole Miss, Miss St, UT and Vandy will compete for 2nd place and the right to lose the 8/9 game in the 1st round of the tourney, and there will be no UGA/LSU improabable run in the SEC tournament this time around, and the over/under on total teams in the Dance is 4.
SEC Basketball, folks.
John W. has been a KSR contributor since its inception in 2005, formerly writing as the Intern. He recently moved back to his native Lexington simply for the chance to party on Euclid and Woodland. He can be reached at [email protected]