SEC Basketball Is Reverting to Tradition
"There are three seasons in the Southeastern Conference: football recruiting, spring football, and football season itself."
"Have you heard they are going to rename the SEC? The new name will be 'Kentucky and the football schools.'"
For decades SEC basketball has not only been the butt of jokes, but largely a joke itself, a football conference that fielded basketball teams so Kentucky would have somebody to beat up on between their Louisville game and the NCAA tournament.
There was a period of time when the SEC did change this image in the '90s, when Nolan Richardson led Arkansas to two straight Championship games, and Mississippi State fielded some strong teams in the late '90s and early 2000s.
Florida's back-to-back Championship run two years ago put the conference in the national spotlight, and in one of those years LSU joined Billy Donovan's Gators in the Final Four.
However, Florida's dynasty is over, and the SEC is now appearing to be what it has spent most of his basketball history being—Kentucky and the football schools.
A look at the AP top 25 shows no SEC teams. The coaches' poll still has Tennessee at 24, but after their nonexistent defense on Tuesday night they will be gone. While Kentucky might sneak in, there is a good chance that on Monday, for the first time in my memory, the Southeastern Conference will not have a ranked team in either major poll.
If the human polls weren't bad enough, the computer rankings tell an even worse story for SEC fans.
The RPI (according to RealtimeRPI.com) has zero SEC teams in the top 25, and only two in the top 50, with Tennessee leading the pack at number 33, and the conference itself ranked as the seventh best in America.
Jeff Sagarin has zero SEC teams in the top 25, and three in the top 50, with Kentucky the top ranked team at 30. The conference is ranked sixth in his power index.
Against Sagarin top-25 teams, the conference is 4-14, and against top-50 teams posts a dismal 8-25 mark.
It's not simply an opinion that the SEC finds itself more on par with the Missouri Valley and Conference USA than the Big East and ACC; rather, the facts prove this to be the case.
Kentucky's recent surge since beginning SEC play is no surprise to anyone who follows the SEC objectively (sorry Tim Brando and Jimmy Dykes), because they play defense in a conference full of dismal offense and have two elite scorers in a conference that plays suspect defense.
The truly sad part of the story is that in terms of Kentucky fans' standards, this isn't even a very good Kentucky team. The Wildcats have only two offensive threats, no frontcourt depth, they turn over the ball far too much, and have only one solid win on their résumé (against West Virginia—a middle of the pack Big East team—in Vegas).
As many steps forward as the conference took to shed their old "Kentucky's Playground" image over the past two decades, it appears that in 2009 the SEC is going to be once again Kentucky and the football schools.
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