ACC Vs. Big East? Well, at Least We Can Agree That the SEC Disappoints

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst IMarch 22, 2009

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 20:  Head coach Bruce Pearl of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts from the sidelines during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 20, 2009 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In the photo above, it looks like Bruce Pearl is trying (and failing) to take a large, steaming...well, drop some kids off at the pool. And who can blame him?

Tennessee's regular season was as disappointing as a tennis magazine with all the pictures of Maria Sharapova removed, and the Vols followed their SEC tourney loss with a stinker against Oklahoma State, bringing this painfully constipated season to an end.

Mississippi State may have been impressive in winning the SEC tournament, but consider that they beat other SEC teams, including Tennessee, in doing so. They should not have been expected to beat Washington, but they certainly weren't inspiring in a 13-point loss.

Only LSU looked up to par during the NCAA Tournament, a feature that is already over for the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers clawed their way past Butler in a struggle with a mid-major school that had collapsed at the end of the season, including a loss in their own conference tournament to the upstart Cleveland State Vikings.

LSU showed up to play in challenging No. 1 seed UNC for more than three-fourths of their second-round game, but the Tar Heels were just too much for the best that the SEC had to offer this year.

UNC point guard Ty Lawson may not have been 100 percent, but he had just enough gas in the tank, er, toe to put away the Tigers with about seven minutes remaining.

South Carolina, in the NIT, was a complete disappointment, getting manhandled by Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats in Columbia, SC. They did not look the part of an NCAA bubble team; they simply didn't play well.

Yes, Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn won some NIT games (mostly against lesser opponents), but this must be bittersweet, especially for one team that has won back-to-back NCAA Championships in this decade and another who is out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years.

It's a bit like kissing your sister.

Early in the season, I wrote an article suggesting that the SEC would land only three teams in the NCAA Tournament (it also incorrectly predicted three for the Pac-10), but it looks like I had actually made an overestimation, as MSU was only present due to their tournament upset.

This has been the worst year in recent memory for the SEC; perhaps the worst since the expansion in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, there are not many promising signs for 2009-'10.

LSU, though they have an outstanding coach, cannot be expected to play to the level of this season without the SEC Player of the Year, especially if Tasmin Mitchell opts for the NBA draft, as most expect.

Only Kentucky has significant recruits arriving, with lesser help coming to the aid of Florida and Tennessee. Some programs (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi) are in complete rebuilding mode.

South Carolina should basically have the same team they had this year (and the last) and another year of Darrin Horn will likely make them Tournament-worthy, but it's doubtful that the Gamecocks can be any type of powerhouse.

It's certainly too early to prognosticate the demise of anyone in 2009-'10, but there is little reason to believe that drastic improvements will be seen in the SEC next year.

Fortunately, spring football is just around the corner.