John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor
Conference play begins this week for the SEC. Here's everything (well, most everything) you need to know about the league as we head into the second half of the season.
You may have heard that the SEC struggled through its non-conference schedule. Such news is not exaggerated and Rush the Court has a pretty good summation of the league's struggles, especially compared to last year. Baring a surprise run through the conference tournament its hard to see anyone other than Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, and maybe Mississippi getting an NCAA bid this year.
Conference Rating by RPI (via TeamRankings.com) and KenPomeroy:
|1||Big Ten||0.591||1||Big Ten||0.8619|
|2||Big East||0.575||2||Big East||0.8315|
|6||Big 12||0.562||6||Pac 12||0.7698|
Individual Team Standing
As you might expect from the overall ratings, there are not a lot of opportunities for quality wins inside the conference. In a typical year we could expect most games to yield a Top 50 or at worst a Top 100 RPI win, but that won't be the case this year. This will make it difficult for teams to move into NCAA consideration and for Florida, UK, and Missouri to improve their seed.
Team Rating by RPI (via TeamRankings.com) and KenPomeroy:
|273||Mississippi St.||213||South Carolina|
Here's a brief run down of the teams, separated into tiers based on what they've accomplished thus far and how well we could expect them to do in conference. I've listed their record and what I think could be considered good wins and bad losses which are based on a combination of KenPom rank, game location, opponent's conference, and the ever-popular "gut feeling."
Tier 1: Should make the Dance
Good wins: Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee (N), Marquette, @Florida St.
Bad losses: None
Erik Murphy is an offensive stud, but he's out with a rib injury that sounds pretty bad. Florida is one of the few SEC teams with an offense ranked higher by KenPom than its defense, but both are Top 10. This team has talent, a good coach, and has played some good competition. They have to be considered the favorite to win the conference right now.
Good wins: Maryland (N)
Bad losses: None
The Cats are playing well, but missed their chances at getting some big non-conference wins.
Good wins: Stanford (N), VCU (N), Illinois (N), Bucknell
Bad losses: none (although losing by 23 to UL wasn't pretty)
Missouri was bolstered in December with addition of Oregon transfer Jabari Brown. Phil Pressey is a superb point guard who will likely be 1st Team All SEC at the position. Add them to Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi and you have a good team core.
Tier 2: Potentially Dangerous
Good wins: Rutgers
Bad Losses: none
Seems like Andy Kennedy and Ole Miss have been in this same position the last 5 years. The Rebels have quality players in Murphy Holloway, Reginald Buckner, and Utah transfer Marshall Henderson and they are probably the best bet for a 4th SEC team in the NCAA Tournament.
Good wins: Wichita St, Xavier
Bad losses: none (that 37-36 loss to Georgetown was ugly though)
Jeronne Maymon is officially shelved for the rest of the season which really hurts Tennessee. Still, Jarnell Stokes and Trae Golden are very good players and the Volunteers play good defense with an offense that isn't quite as awful as the point totals make it look.
Good wins: Oregon St (N), Villanova (N)
Bad losses: Mercer, Tulane
Alabama has been hurt by injuries, but still has a terrific coach and some talented players with Trevor Lacy and Devonta Pollard alongside Trevor Releford who is having a terrific year. All 5 losses came when Andrew Steele was out, but he returned for the win over Oakland. That's probably correlation more than causation, but Steele is a senior and was a solid offensive player last year.
Good wins: Oklahoma
Bad losses: Arizona St (N)
Seems like Arkansas should be better than this. B.J. Young is a future NBA player and Marshawn Powell is really good. Like Kentucky they've missed their chances at getting a big non-conference win, losing to Syracuse at home by 9 and at Michigan by 13.
Tier 3: Nice record but not much else
Good wins: Seton Hall
Bad losses: none
LSU shows some promise. They were blown out by 19 on the road by a good Boise St team but were competitive in a 4 point loss to Marquette. Johnny O'Bryant has talent and guards Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer are pretty good.
Texas A&M (10-3):
Good wins: Washington St.
Bad Losses: Southern
South Carolina (10-3):
Good wins: none
Bad Losses: Elon
The very definition of an empty record. South Carolina is the batter who hits .285 but gets nothing but singles. They've only beaten 1 team in Ken Pomeroy's Top 200: 190th ranked Rider. Truthfully they should probably be in the bottom tier of SEC teams.
Tier 4: Everyone else
Good wins: Southern Cal
Bad Losses:Youngstown St, Iona
Mark Fox's 4th year is not off to a great start thanks to a difficult opening schedule although they are on a 4 game winning streak. The Bulldogs struggle to score but can play defense fairly well. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope pretty much is the UGA offense taking almost 1/3 of their shots when on the floor.
Good wins: Florida St
Bad Losses: @Boston College, Rhode Island , DePaul, Winthrop
Auburn has some brutal losses, but they played Illinois tough on the road and knocked off Florida St so they might be on an upswing. In what is a recurrent trend in the SEC, the Tigers are terrible on offense and a bit above average on defense.
Good wins: Xavier
Bad Losses: Marist
A really young Vandy team has faced plenty of good teams but come away with losses. Offense is the biggest issue for the Commodores as they struggle in every one of the 4 Factors and don't have a regular rotation player with an Offensive Rating better than 102.
Mississippi St (5-7):
Good wins: none
Bad Losses: Troy, Loyola Chicago, Alabama A&M
It's going to be a long season for Rick Ray. Mississippi St is as young as Kentucky but without the talent to make up for it. They'll fit right in with the rest of the SEC with an offense that really struggles to score but a defense that is 100th best in the country by KenPom's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.