SEC Basketball: Surprises and Disappointments So Far

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 12: Josh Harrellson #55 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the semifinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The SEC was expected to be significantly stronger this year than for the last several, and to some extent, we have seen that happen. But many, including me, expected the SEC to be among the top three conferences this year, maybe even among the top two. That hasn't happened.

At this point, Ken Pomeroy has the SEC at 4th among the Big Six Division I conferences, to wit:

Rnk Conference Rating Rnk Conference Rating
1 Big Ten Conference .8454 18 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference .4247
2 Big 12 Conference .8265 19 Atlantic Sun Conference .4136
3 Big East Conference .7957 20 Big West Conference .4109
4 Southeastern Conference .7739 21 Sun Belt Conference .3956
5 Atlantic Coast Conference .7665 22 Patriot League .3842
6 Pac 12 Conference .7028 23 Big Sky Conference .3571
7 Mountain West Conference .6936 24 Northeast Conference .3490
8 Atlantic 10 Conference .6728 25 Big South Conference .3472
9 Missouri Valley Conference .6495 26 Southern Conference .3448
10 Conference USA .6150 27 Ohio Valley Conference .3338
11 West Coast Conference .5966 28 Southland Conference .2979
12 Western Athletic Conference .5001 29 America East Conference .2864
13 Colonial Athletic Association .4870 30 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference .2307
14 Ivy League .4843 31 Independents .1936
15 Horizon League .4758 32 Great West Conference .1377
16 Mid American Conference .4724 33 Southwestern Athletic Conference .1094
17 Summit League .4523

This is kind of a mixed bag, overall. SEC teams have had some notable success, like the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators, and Mississippi St. Bulldogs. With that said, the Vanderbilt Commodores and Alabama Crimson Tide have been slight disappointments with Vanderbilt trending toward the "major disappointment" level.

Here's how the SEC teams stack up so far against each other in the early season:

Team Overall Conf Proj Pomeroy
Kentucky 9-1 0-0 14-2 0.9640
Florida 8-2 0-0 12-4 0.9209
Alabama 8-3 0-0 11-5 0.8699
Vanderbilt 6-4 0-0 8-8 0.7991
Mississippi St. 11-1 0-0 9-7 0.7897
Mississippi 9-2 0-0 7-9 0.7241
Arkansas 6-3 0-0 7-9 0.6929
Georgia 5-5 0-0 6-10 0.6593
Louisiana St. 7-3 0-0 6-10 0.6527
Tennessee 3-6 0-0 6-10 0.6394
South Carolina 4-6 0-0 5-11 0.5859
Auburn 6-1 0-0 5-11 0.5818

Let's take a look at some of the teams that are vying for the top tier of the SEC but have not quite established their bona fides so far:

Alabama

Alabama reprised its narrow defeat to the Georgetown Hoyas with a loss to a decent but hardly top 25 Dayton Flyers on the road, and a semi-road game to rising but still unranked Kansas St. Wildcats.

The Tide have two more opportunities versus the Oklahoma St. Cowboys and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to right the ship before stepping into conference play, but 'Bama needs to make that happen.

Vanderbilt

Vandy has been a significant disappointment, not so much for the close loss at Louisville, but for dropping two games to inexplicably weak opponents at home, namely the Cleveland St. Vikings and, just yesterday, the Indiana St. Sycamores in Memorial Gymnasium. Compound that with a solid whipping by the Xavier Musketeers in Nashville, and the start for the Commies has been anything but inspiring.

Vanderbilt still could right the ship a bit by finding a way to win in Milwaukee versus the Marquette Golden Eagles, but if they drop that one, they will have gone 0-fer versus top-flight non-conference comp and stagger into the conference season with a giant question mark by their name.

Mississippi

The Mississippi Rebels were not expected to be a top-tier SEC school this year, but they have been a bit of a pleasant surprise with a 9-2 record at this point. Unfortunately the Rebs have not played anyone of consequence so far, their toughest games to date being a blowout loss to Marquette at a neutral site and a close loss to the Southern Miss. Golden Eagles on the road.

Ole Miss has no ranked teams left in its non-conference schedule, but the Middle Tenn. St. Blue Raiders in a semi-home game and the Dayton Flyers on the road are both quality opponents against which the Rebels can prove their mettle.

LSU

The LSU Tigers have been a pleasant surprise so far with a quality non-conference win against Georgia Tech at a neutral site, but also with inexplicable losses to the South Alabama Jaguars at home and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers on the road.

The Tigers get a shot at Marquette at home tomorrow, and if they pull off that upset, you have to figure them as a team to be reckoned with in the West. But lose that one and the weakness of their wins relegates them to the lower tier of SEC teams so far.

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Overall, the SEC is better this year, but not as much as I and many other observers expected. Vanderbilt, and to a lesser extent, Alabama, have not really fulfilled their pre-season promise on the court. Ole Miss and LSU are showing signs of being teams that might make some noise this year, but are a long way from proving it. Kentucky, Mississippi St. and Florida are the only teams so far which have proven their chops against top non-conference competition.

But there are still a lot of games to go

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