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Why Does SEC Basketball Stink? The Best Southern Athletes Choose Football

gfx-by-the-numbersFor a while now we’ve speculated as to why the Southeastern Conference — so dominant in football — has fallen on hard times in basketball.  A league that was once a top-three league in conference-wide RPI season after season is now kicking around as the #6, #7 or #8 league each year.  It used to be a given that the SEC would put five or six teams into the NCAA Tournament.  Now the league hovers around the three-bid mark each year.

We’ve pointed out previously that the SEC’s basketball troubles began right about the time the league’s recent run of unparalleled football success began… which was also about the time that Mike Slive inked two game-changing television contracts with ESPN and SEC.  In our view, the money trail was key.  SEC schools chose to re-invest the cash they made from TV back into the product that the networks were paying big bucks for — football.

Look around the SEC, the stadiums and facilities for football are flat-out bigger, pricier, and nicer than those for hoops.  The SEC’s roster of football coaches is unmatched.  The roster of basketball coaches features a couple of “names” and a whole lotta guys hired as up-and-comers.

But in addition to cash, there seems to be another issue at play here.  And it too has to do with the fact that the South in general is football territory.

Looking at Rivals.com’s recent recruiting rankings for football and basketball, you’ll find that the SEC produces twice as many top football prospects as it does blue-chip hoopsters.  Yes, there are more athletes in the South, but the data suggests most of those athletes choose to pursue football over basketball.

Below are the state-by-state numbers from Rivals’ top 100 football and basketball prospects lists between 2012 and 2014, three classes.  Football is listed first, then basketball:

 

  SEC State (Football)   Rivals Top 100 2014   Rivals Top 100 2013   Rivals Top 100 2012
  Alabama   7   6   5
  Arkansas   1   1   0
  Florida   12   16   18
  Georgia   7   8   8
  Kentucky   0   1   0
  Louisiana   9   3   1
  Mississippi   0   2   1
  Missouri   1   1   3
  S. Carolina   1   0   1
  Tennessee   4   2   0
  Texas   12   12   12
  Totals   54   52   49

 

  SEC State (Basketball)   Rivals Top 100 2014   Rivals Top 100 2013   Rivals Top 100 2012
  Alabama   2   1   1
  Arkansas   0   1   1
  Florida   7   8   2
  Georgia   3   2   7
  Kentucky   1   0   0
  Louisiana   1   2   2
  Mississippi   1   0   1
  Missouri   0   0   1
  S. Carolina   2   0   1
  Tennessee   2   6   1
  Texas   7   7   11
  Totals   26   27   28

 

Eye-opening, no?  Basically half of America’s most sought-after football players come from states within the SEC footprint.  Just a quarter of the nation’s top basketball stars come from Dixie. (Even if there’s a typo in there somewhere, the numbers are pretty dadgum clear.)

Further, take Florida and Texas out of the basketball equation and the other nine SEC states have produced an average of just 13 total top 100 hoops prospects combined per season since 2012.  Take out Tennessee — meaning Memphis — and the number drops to 30 overall basketball stars from eight states or just 10 per year.

As SEC football has soared and become a brand second only in strength to the NFL, it seems that high school athletes have made the decision to put football ahead of basketball.  In areas like the Midwest and Northeast where basketball rules, the numbers are skewed the other way.

So why is the SEC struggling in basketball?  Money, we believe, plays a role.  Less overall talent in basketball than in football — as demonstrated above — also factors in in a large way.  But the overall issue can be summed pretty easily: From university administrators to high school athletes, the South is football country.

With that in mind, new SEC basketball czar Mark Whitworth will need to work on more than just scheduling to fix what ails the league.  He’ll need to work on the overall SEC basketball brand, improving it to the point that some high schoolers will start selecting the hardwood over the gridiron.  The SEC Network could aid on that front.  So, too, could the growing number of injuries — and media coverage of injuries — suffered on high school, college and pro football fields.

Either way, the SEC needs to start its basketball revolution at the grass roots level.

 


5 comments
Southern Gentleman
Southern Gentleman

Did Mississippi State get traded to the Big 8? WTF is texass doing in these stats? The SEC needs texass like Alabama needs a new head coach to replace Saban. Where is Auburn?

RazorPaul
RazorPaul

I have to wonder if a more relevant point isn't related to your comments excluding FL, TX, and Memphis.  Does high-end college basketball talent come from larger metro areas (increasingly) more than the less populated areas which constitute most of the Southeast?  Sure, Hamburg, AR will produce an occasional NBA HOF player, but I bet more come from places like Chicago, NYC, etc.  Kids from larger cities not only care less about football (or even baseball), but they have access to high end tournament play against other good kids year-round. If you live in Indianapolis you can play in a highly competitive tourney every weekend all year long starting in 2nd grade. If you live in rural AL, you can travel to some tournaments in spring and summer. Constantly playing the best competition matters more in basketball than any other major sport.  City kids have an advantage. The north has more cities.

the_voice
the_voice

"Either way, the SEC needs to start its basketball revolution at the grass roots level." Or not, if your thesis is correct. If 70% of revenue comes from football, why would the SEC want to draw away that talent to basketball? Maybe the better strategy is to use some of that 70% money and apply it to the things that basketball recruits from other parts of the country care about? (10,000 uniform combinations, hot tubs with waterfalls, sky high dollar coaches {Kentucky has modelled that}, becoming one-and-done meccas {Kentucky has modelled that}, play the SEC basketball tourney in Madison Square Garden in NYC or the United Center in Chicago, and maybe pay fans to sit in the seats and show some enthusiasm.) Can't the football money buy 3 good players a year per team from outside the SEC footprint? It is hard to imagine that 18 year olds from cooler climates wouldn't enjoy warmer weather.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

Uh, if you read what's written you'll see that this is a comparison of the recruits produced from each SEC state. Auburn and MSU aren't states unless there's been some secession I'm not aware of.

Love the folks who just look at the charts and pay no attention whatsoever to the explanation or any other written words.

Wow.

John

Southern Gentleman
Southern Gentleman

@John at MrSEC

A little slack here please John! Anytime anyone in Arkansas see the word texass written(or spoken) it causes us to get our hackles/dander/blood pressure up. I have been reading MrSEC. com for years and like many others, skim the articles when in a hurry to see the "meat" in the charts. Next time I'll spend time and utilize my edumacation better and actually read your articles when I am not in too much of a hurry. My apologies.

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