Charting SEC Basketball

As the Kentucky Wildcats gears up for their first SEC game against the Georgia Bulldogs, it's a good time to take a look at the SEC overall, and how things are going this season.

The SEC this season has not been quite as strong as most observers thought, largely due to injuries or suspensions to key players and also to some poor play by teams who were expected to do very well.  All in all, the league is doing better than last year at this point, but not much better.

Kentucky, at the moment, is much the best of all the SEC, which you would expect for an undefeated basketball team that has been ranked in the top five all year.  The Mississippi St. Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks, who were both expected to be well-placed for an NCAA bid, have been slightly disappointing.  The Alabama Crimson Tide so far has been the surprise of the league (a surprise, that is, to anyone not familiar with Anthony Grant's work coaching the Virginia Commonwealth Rams).

The first thing I always like to look at is Ken Pomeroy's page to see how the teams compare based on the statistics of the work they have done so far.  I've added a couple of other fields in there just for reference, and you can see that after the jump.

 

 

Team Overall Conf Pomeroy Rnk
AdjO rnk AdjD rnk AdjT rnk Next Game Probable result AP Coaches
East
Kentucky 15-0 0-0 0.9516 11 116.3 14 89.7 33 69.7 122 Sat, vs. Georgia (W, 78-60, 95%) 3 3
Tennessee 10-2 0-0 0.9397 16 111.1 40 87.5 19 73.6 23 Wed, vs. Charlotte (W, 87-70, 92%) 16 15
Vanderbilt 11-3 0-0 0.9272 21 111.1 38 89.1 29 70.9 77 Sat, vs. Florida (W, 71-64, 75%)

Florida 11-3 0-0 0.8918 42 105.2 109 87.6 21 68 194 Sat, vs. Vanderbilt (L, 71-64, 25%)

South Carolina 9-5 0-0 0.8039 81 105.9 100 93.7 69 73.7 22 Sat, vs. Auburn (W, 81-78, 59%)

Georgia 8-5 0-0 0.6654 112 104.6 117 98.6 145 64.8 301 Sat, vs. Kentucky (L, 78-60, 5%)

West
Mississippi St. 12-3 0-0 0.9397 15 110.3 49 86.9 15 68.8 164 Sat, vs. Mississippi (L, 74-72, 43%)

Mississippi 12-2 0-0 0.9157 28 116 15 94.2 75 71.2 66 Sat, vs. Mississippi St. (W, 74-72, 57%) 14 16
Alabama 10-4 0-0 0.8039 82 108.4 67 95.9 98 66.1 267 Sat, vs. Louisiana St. (W, 66-63, 63%)

Auburn 9-6 0-0 0.5994 134 102.8 146 99.2 159 73.5 28 Sat, vs. South Carolina (L, 81-78, 41%)

Louisiana St. 9-5 0-0 0.5621 149 102.5 149 100.3 172 64.4 309 Sat, vs. Alabama (L, 66-63, 37%)

Arkansas 7-8 0-0 0.5145 164 103.6 131 103.1 211 70.1 108 1/14, vs. Mississippi St. (L, 82-62, 3%)

Just some quick legend info here -- AdjO and AdjD are adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies respectively.  AdjT is adjusted tempo.

By looking at this, we see nothing particularly shocking.  The teams that were supposed to be at the top of their respective divisions largely are, with Kentucky leading the pack.  A quick side-note as to that observation, how nice is it for order to have been restored to the SEC?  The last time UK was at the top of this league other than briefly last year was 2004-05.  That was a long, long time ago by my lights.

To continue, 4 SEC teams currently reside in the Pomeroy top 25 and one just outside, and all things considered, that's about right.  My biggest disappointment comes with the bottom of the league, which currently has four teams ranked over 100.  Not good at all.

Moving on to the SEC RPI and strength of schedule, our chart looks like this (Via Statsheet.com):

Rank Team Wins Losses RPI SOS SOS Proj SOS Rnk SOS Proj Rnk
15 Kentucky 15 0 0.6253 0.5004 0.5723 174 65
38 Vanderbilt 11 3 0.5916 0.5439 0.6036 59 29
40 Mississippi 12 2 0.5912 0.5044 0.5701 162 70
42 Tennessee 10 2 0.5866 0.5044 0.6004 162 33
68 Mississippi Sta 12 3 0.5626 0.4915 0.5623 196 84
76 Alabama 10 4 0.5549 0.5355 0.5885 71 45
77 Florida 11 3 0.5540 0.4968 0.5820 184 53
84 South Carolina 9 5 0.5473 0.5311 0.6023 79 30
96 Georgia 8 5 0.5399 0.5273 0.6061 91 26
151 LSU 9 5 0.5061 0.5017 0.5766 172 61
191 Auburn 9 6 0.4871 0.4827 0.5723 221 65
222 Arkansas 7 8 0.4698 0.5249 0.5918 99 41

The darker the green, the better.  The more red, the worse.  The ranges for the colors are somewhat arbitrary.

Again, there are no major surprises here.  The teams expected to be near the top pre-season still are.  The biggest surprise is how low Mississippi State is and how high Alabama is.  Florida's RPI is actually worse than Alabama, which is a bit of a surprise.  Also, South Carolina seems to be underachieving a bit at this point.

Notice that the Vanderbilt Commodores have the best combination of RPI and SOS.  I think Vandy is undervalued overall, because they have played a tougher schedule, even though it has cost them three games, than anyone.  That should serve them very well going into the SEC.  Unfortunately, Vandy lost three of it's toughest non-conference games, and that will hurt them a bit at the end of the year.  Big wins against Missouri and at Arizona will help.

Kentucky, as you can see, has played a weak schedule and doesn't figure to wind up with a particularly strong one.  The good news for the 'Cats is that they have beaten all their tough opponents in the pre-season, and that will really serve them well going forward.  You would expect that UK would find a way to lose a game or two in the SEC, but the first real chance for that to happen comes at the Florida Gators in six days.  After the game this Saturday versus the Bulldogs, the 'Cats go on the road for three out of their next four.

Overall, Kentucky looks to be in a decent position to pull the unlikely and go undefeated in the regular season.  I don't think it's particularly likely (Pomeroy rates our chances of an unbeaten season at less than one half of one percent, or less than 1 in 200) because of away games at Vandy and Tennessee, but unless Tennessee gets their best player back, those odds probably increase significantly.

Here is how the SEC compares to other conferences right now (via Statsheet.com):


Non-Conf Team RPI
Conf RPI rnk avg rpi SOS rnk avg SOS W L pct avg median hi low
Big East 1 0.5825 1 0.5411 150 37 80.2 59 51 1 158
Big 12 2 0.5717 19 0.4947 137 28 83 72 52 6 226
ACC 3 0.5631 17 0.4964 129 30 81.1 76 66 5 188
SEC 4 0.5514 8 0.5121 123 46 72.7 91 76 15 222
A-10 5 0.5485 3 0.5318 117 69 62.9 102 112 2 313
Big Ten 6 0.5479 4 0.5228 94 38 71.2 104 84 3 262
Pac 10 7 0.5439 2 0.5379 76 43 63.8 106 90 17 227
Mountain West 8 0.5375 12 0.5064 89 38 70 121 132 9 253
Missouri Valley 9 0.5321 20 0.4946 75 32 70 119 85 24 272
CAA 10 0.5211 6 0.5178 69 60 53.4 110 107 19 273
WAC 11 0.5173 21 0.4912 74 43 63.2 138 127 53 203
Horizon 12 0.5157 7 0.5171 63 46 57.7 172 178 74 241
West Coast 13 0.5112 5 0.5227 66 57 53.6 155 176 21 314
C-USA 14 0.5111 14 0.4994 98 59 62.4 150 144 20 299
MAC 15 0.4981 11 0.5099 77 75 50.6 167 170 63 295

It is a bit surprising to see the ACC so low, and the SEC is within striking distance of them.  Thati is a little unusual.  But the Big East is far and away the toughest conference at the moment.

Finally, we'll look at the SEC's place in the college basketball universe (via Statsheet.com):

 

 

 

There you have it.  Going into the SEC season, UK is about to take on the fourth toughest conference in the country, a league which figures to get between four and six bids to the NCAA tournament.  Right now, the Wildcats are the heavy favorite to win the SEC, which I think is more than fair, and it looks to me like the SEC this year should be a great place for the Wildcats to sharpen their claws before heading into the post season.

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