Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss. Those were the three teams from the 14-team Southeastern Conference who reached the NCAA Tournament last year. That low number is indicative of the SEC’s total number of tourney bids in recent seasons.
From 1995 through 2008, the SEC sent either five or six teams to the Big Dance in 13 out of 14 seasons. The lone exception was a four-bid season in 1996.
Starting in 2009, however, the SEC has received three bids, four bids, five bids, four bids and once more those three invitations to UF, MU and UM sent last March. Respect for SEC basketball has waned.
For that reason, Mike Slive and the SEC created the position of “associate commission for men’s basketball” for Mark Whitworth this summer. Whitworth will serve as a sort of hoops overseer (we’d previously call for the SEC to create a “basketball czar” position). The league also brought in former NCAA Tournament official Greg Shaheen to help member schools put together better schedules to aid on the RPI front.
So how is the SEC’s tournament resume looking at this point? About the same as last year. The site RealTimeRPI.com shows the SEC as the 8th best hoops league in the land behind (in order) the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, new Big East, ACC, Mountain West and Atlantic 10. What that means is that SEC teams had better start rolling up the non-conference wins right now because the league won’t be good enough to provide much of an RPI boost in January, February and March. Florida’s win over Kansas last night was a step in the right direction, but there’s more to be done.
Below is a thumbnail breakdown of each SEC school’s resume to date…
|School||Record||RPI||Top 50 Ws||Sub 100 Ls||Schedule Strength|
Admittedly, it’s a bit early in the season to be studying the RPI numbers. They’ll change some (though we don’t think the league’s overall number will improve by much at all).
For a better look at why the SEC’s reputation is in the tank, let’s take a team-by-team look at losses and matchups with “name” schools…
* Missouri has beaten West Virginia (76) and UCLA (33).
* Arkansas has beaten Minnesota (66), but lost to California (117) and Gonzaga (20)
* LSU has beaten Butler (51), but lost to UMass (1) and Memphis (17)
* Florida has beaten Kansas (2), but lost to Wisconsin (3) and UConn (8)
* Ole Miss has beaten Georgia Tech (149) and Penn State (81), but lost to Kansas State (189) and Oregon (15)
* Kentucky has beaten Providence (88) and Boise State (32), but lost to Michigan State (23) and Baylor (4)
* South Carolina has lost to Baylor (4), Clemson (122) and Oklahoma State (14)
* Vanderbilt has lost to Butler (51), Providence (88) and Texas (28)
* Tennessee has beaten Wake Forest (84), but lost to Xavier (110) and UTEP (99)… the Vols did avenge their loss at Xavier with a win on a neutral court.
* Texas A&M has lost to Missouri State (71) and SMU (79)
* Alabama has beaten Texas Tech (127), but lost to Oklahoma (36), Duke (55), Drexel (39) and South Florida (169)
* Mississippi State has lost to Utah State (47) and TCU (143)
* Auburn has lost to Northwestern State (155), Iowa State (18) and Illinois (46)
* Georgia has lost to Georgia Tech (149), Davidson (93), Temple (82), and Nebraska (124)
There is still time for the SEC’s schools to turn things around and start playing well. But for many of them, they’ve already dug a hole so deep that even a good run in league play won’t be enough to earn them an NCAA Tournament bid.
Entering the season as many as seven SEC teams had legitimate hopes of experiencing March Madness. A month into the season the SEC is looking like a four- or five-bid league at best. That’s a slight improvement from last year, but it certainly isn’t the big turnaround for which the league office had hoped.