The weakest power conference this year is far and away the Pac-10. Who is next though? The Big Twelve and Big East are clearly a cut above the rest, and the Big 10 is not far behind with Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State all looking good heading into the stretch run.
It remains to be seen what happens to Purdue with the loss of their best player, Robbie Hummel, but with a win last night they are still solidly positioned for a one or two seed.
The Atlantic Coast Conference is also down this year, but comes in fourth with a solid Duke team, and a Maryland team that should be a tough out for anyone in March.
The SEC is a level below the big four, but just how far behind? The conference has one powerhouse, Kentucky, but the talent level drops off quickly after that.
Vanderbilt, the team currently occupying the second spot in the SEC standings, struggled with their out-of-conference schedule losing to Illinois on the road and to Cincinnati and Western Kentucky on neutral courts. They have one signature win over Missouri, but not much beyond that.
Florida is playing better lately, but teams that rely upon the three point shot, while not shooting the three ball very well, rarely do much damage in March. Florida does have the conferences best out-of- conference victory though. They took down a strong Michigan State team in November before rattling off three straight losses to Syracuse, Richmond, and South Alabama.
Tennessee has been ranked most of the year, but hasn't fared much better out-of-conference with a loss to a terrible USC squad in December. That brings us to a rather disturbing trend with the SEC, they are the only power conference that seemed to struggle against the Pac-10.
While other major conference, and mid-majors, tore through the Pac-10 like a warm knife through butter teams like Tennessee and Kentucky struggled with the likes of USC and Stanford. LSU was demolished by Arizona State, and lost to Washington State as well. Mississippi State turned in perhaps the best performance in taking down a UCLA team that is currently 12-14.
What does it all mean? It means the SEC is in the midst of a down year and nobody seems to be noticing because of Kentucky's stranglehold on the top spot in the conference. Even Kentucky, clearly one of the more dominant teams in the country, lacks that one impressive victory that will leave anyone shaking come March.
They struggled with an awful North Carolina team at home after building a twenty point lead. They barely beat a UConn team that is only now starting to play like a tournament team. They struggled to beat Stanford, and they had trouble with Miami (OH).
When John Calipari left Memphis the perception was that he would be challenged in the SEC in a way that the members of Conference USA never could with a tough Memphis program. If anything, the competition has been just as pedestrian. Kentucky has ran through their in-conference schedule in an impressive manner, but they should have.
The SEC is just isn't on par with the other major conferences and I can think of at least 10 teams that would be well on their way to an undefeated season in the SEC. Well, upsets will happen from time to time, so let's say a one-loss season to be fair to Kentucky.
It will be interesting to see how the SEC does in March.
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