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Why Is The SEC Thriving In Football, Struggling In Basketball? Money

bag of moneyThe Southeastern Conference is known for football.  Seven BCS titles in row.  Five different schools with BCS crowns since the system’s inception in 1998.  Big name coaches, famous stadiums, dominant recruiting.

Mention the words “college football” and the letters S-E-C will pop into most people’s minds.

But utter the words “SEC basketball” and a different three letters come to mind: B-A-D.

Spin it any way you like, Mike Slive’s league is struggling through an abysmal season.  Florida has been dominant.  Kentucky finally appears to be rounding into shape.  Missouri has been a little worse than expected; Ole Miss a little better.  After that, it’s unlikely any of the conference’s 10 remaining teams will receive at-large invitations to the NCAA Tournament.  Saddled with a #8 RPI ranking among conferences, four bids might be generous.

In an age when the NCAA Tournament has been expanding, the number of SEC tourney berths has been declining.  This is more than a down year… it’s a trend:


  Tournament   # of Bids (League Rank)   Tourney Record   Best Finish
  2012   4 (5th among leagues)   10-3   National Champion
  2011   5 (3rd among leagues)   7-5   Final Four
  2010   4 (5th among leagues)   6-4   Two in Elite Eight
  2009   3 (6th among leagues)   1-3   Round of 32
  2008   6 (2nd among leagues)   4-6   Sweet Sixteen
  2007   5 (4th among leagues)   11-4   National Champion
  2006   6 (2nd among leagues)   13-5   National Champion
  2005   5 (3rd among leagues)   5-5   Elite Eight
  2004   6 (tied for 1st among leagues)   7-6   Elite Eight
  2003   6 (tied for 1st among leagues)   6-6   Elite Eight


From afar, the SEC has continued to have success — in most years — in the NCAA Tournament regardless of its dwindling number of bids.  But in many of those seasons, the SEC was dominated by just one or two teams.  That’s a far cry from the top-to-bottom toughness produced by the very same schools on the gridiron.

Using mathematician/hoops guru Ken Pomeroy’s computer rankings as a guide, here’s a look at the SEC teams that finished in his top 20 over the past decade:


2012:  #1 Kentucky, #12 Florida, #16 Vanderbilt

2011:  #6 Kentucky, #16 Florida

2010:  #3 Kentucky

2009:  None

2008:  #14 Tennessee

2007:  #2 Florida, #14 Kentucky

2006:  #1 Florida, #10 LSU, #15 South Carolina, #17 Arkansas, #20 Kentucky

2005:  #6 Florida, #10 Kentucky, #18 Alabama

2004:  #9 Kentucky, #17 Mississippi State

2003:  #2 Kentucky, #12 Mississippi State, #14 Florida, #17 LSU, #18 Georgia


As you can see, the number of top 20-caliber teams from the SEC has fallen drastically.  There were 17 SEC teams in the final top 20 of Pomeroy’s rankings from 2003 to 2007.  From 2008 to 2012, there have been just seven teams in his final top 20 rankings.

Worse, of the 24 top 20 slots filled by SEC squads in the last decade, 14 were filled by two schools: Florida and Kentucky.  Compare that to the SEC’s football success where in the last five years Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas and Texas A&M have all had top 10-type seasons.

(In case you’re wondering Pomeroy’s current hoops rankings have Florida #1 and Kentucky #18.  No other SEC schools rank in his top 20.  Same song, different verse.)

So why do 14 schools that recruit the same areas in both sports have such drastically different results when it comes to football and basketball?

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Tyler’s Take: The Next Wave Of Expansion

Tyler B.

As acting President of College Football here’s what NCAA football will look like in 2017.

FBS Teams: 80

Conferences: Five conferences with 16 teams; each with two divisions of eight.

Since we’re all things SEC, let’s use the SEC and Bama as examples.

SEC South: Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Miss. State

SEC North: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Virginia Tech

SEC East: Georgia, Florida, Florida State, South Carolina

SEC West:  Arkansas, Missouri, Texas A&M, LSU

Schedule: Nine conference games. Bama always plays the three teams in the SEC South division to determine a division champion. Six more SEC games against any of the other 13 SEC teams outside of the SEC South on a two-year home and home rotational basis. One or two of these games can be permanent to preserve rivalries. Of the two remaining regular season games on the schedule, one must be an FCS team to give them a guaranteed payment.

*If two teams in the SEC South end up with a 2-1 record the tiebreaker goes to the team with a better overall SEC record.

SEC Tournament: There will be an SEC Final Four. The South winner plays the North winner in one semifinal, and the West plays the East in the other. The two highest-ranked teams host the semifinal games and the title game remains in Atlanta.


National Champion:  

-          Winners of the five conferences play in the Final Four tournament.

-          Two lowest-ranked conference champions play to get into the NCAA Final Four as the #4 seed.

-          Seeds 1-3 get a week of rest while the game for the #4 seed is played.

-          In the Final Four #1 plays #4 in their home stadium and #2 plays #3 in their stadium; tickets are distributed evenly.

-          The national championship game is played in rotating venues, just like now.

Bowl Games: The number of bowl games is reduced to 15, and there is no longer a bowl/conference affiliation. Teams don’t have to have a certain amount of wins to be eligible and all teams can practice during the “bowl season.”

Are there a few mistakes and omissions? Of course, this is college football after all…

ACC South: Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia

ACC North: Boston College, Pittsburg, Syracuse, Rutgers

ACC East: UCONN, Army, Navy, Maryland

ACC West: North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke


Big-10 South: Notre Dame, Louisville, Indiana, Purdue

Big-10 North: Penn. State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State

Big-10 East: Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State

Big-10 West: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa, Iowa State


Big 12 South: UTEP, Central Florida, South Florida, Houston

Big North: Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska

Big 12 East: Cincy, East Carolina, Miami (OH), West Virginia

Big 12 West: Texas, Houston, TCU, Baylor


PAC-10 South: UCLA, USC, Stanford, Cal

PAC-10 North: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State

PAC-10 East: Colorado, Utah, BYU, Air Force

PAC-10 West: Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Fresno State

Tyler B. works as a communications specialist for a Louisville, Kentucky company.  A lifetime SEC fan – long before it became “acceptable” to cheer for every team in the conference – he plans on writing several books about college football that have a fantastic chance of never being written. 

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