So far the SEC has delivered a mixed bag of results, with more positives than negatives – at least compared to what the preseason previews and polls predicted for the SEC.
While the SEC isn't likely to crash the NCAA Tournament with six or seven teams at this point, the SEC is 103-32 (.763) against non-conference opponents as of Dec. 31.
The SEC went 13-3 last week, with
those three losses coming to
That record against ranked teams might not seem impressive on paper, but the SEC went 1-13 record against ranked non-conference opponents (0-7 against top 10 teams) in 2004-05. Also, the SEC ranks fourth nationally among all Division I conferences in the latest Sagarin Ratings, so the SEC must be doing something right.
Still, the SEC schedule could be dangerous because of the parity or mediocrity (take your pick) in the middle and bottom of the conference. The final regular-season standings could be loaded with 9-7, 8-8 and 7-9 SEC records.
With that in mind, let's take a tour of the SEC's men's basketball landscape and see where it takes us, in order of our own unofficial "power" rankings.
When the season began, few, including coach Billy Donovan, would have predicted such an impressive transition for the Gators.
Instead, the Gators have built
their best start in the history of the program, with a 12-0 record, a No. 5
national ranking, the ninth spot in the latest collegerpi.com poll and wins over
The Gators' reconstruction is built on a foundation of chemistry, balance and unselfishness. That's not necessarily criticism of last season's stars, however.
Donovan said he is guilty of directing 70 percent of last season's offense toward Lee, Roberson and Walsh, so "If anyone is to blame for us not sharing the ball, it's me," Donovan said.
This season, "I'm more concerned with guys taking shots they can make," Donovan said.
The Gators appear to be doing an excellent job of building a sense of team, both on and off the court. They're also playing with a new sense of purpose.
"We're trying to put
OK, so the Wildcats lost to Iowa, North Carolina and Indiana in a three-week period, played three games without guard Joe Crawford because of knee and hip injuries and struggled when point guard Rajon Rondo missed one game and played below his usual performance against North Carolina because of strep throat.
The Wildcats also bounced back to
beat then-No. 4
"You don't make excuses,"
At 9-3, with a 2-2 record against ranked teams and a No. 18 national ranking, the Wildcats believe their best basketball is on the way, just in time for the SEC season.
"I think we took a bit of a step
forward," Ravi Moss told the Lexington Herald-Leader after the
The addition of Morris should be
big for a team that has struggled in the low post, but
"They've been much maligned by you all and everybody else out there," Smith said. "But we had a lot of confidence in those guys."
When the Vols beat then-No. 2
The Vols, however, knew they still had a lot to prove.
"People are probably still looking
at it as, 'We're undefeated, but we really haven't played any real competition
Or, it could make
Somewhere between the
"I told our team, 'This is what a
lot of SEC teams look like, and this is how they play,' "
Could the Razorbacks finally be
"back" after missing the NCAA Tournament the past four seasons? A 10-2 record
with wins over
The Hogs certainly appear to be more resilient, as they showed in their 78-65 victory over Texas Tech on Dec. 21. They forced 21 turnovers and held Texas Tech to its second-lowest point total of the season.
"The mark of a good team is they
may bend a little but they don't break," Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said.
The Commodores are exceeding
expectations with a 9-1 record, but it's hard to get a read on a team whose best
wins have come against
Friday's 63-60 win at
"Wow, it was a big win, an enormous win," Vanderbilt forward Derrick Byars told The Tennessean after the Commodores committed only three second-half turnovers and sank 18 of 23 free throws. "They have some big wins and are a perennial Atlantic 10 contender. It's a huge win for us on the road."
As they approach the SEC season the Commodores need to do a better job guarding the perimeter after allowing too many opposing guards to explode for big games so far this season.
"It's an issue, and it's something we have to address," coach Kevin Stallings said. "Mario (Moor) and Alex (Gordon) have to take a stand and say enough is enough. We've got to help them, too. It can't be just those two guys on an island. Our defense has to help them. We can't have any position on the floor that's consistently giving up nights where players are scoring 10 and 12 points above their averages."
Isn't this what the rest of Tiger
Rag is for? Seriously, the Tigers are 7-4 with the SEC's two top scorers,
sophomore post Glen Davis and senior guard Darrel Mitchell, but it's difficult
to get a read on a team that can win at
The loss to
LSU played the first semester without Minor running the point due to a university-imposed academic suspension. Now it appears Minor will miss most or all of the remaining the season with torn cartilage in his left knee.
The Tigers could go with senior Darrel Mitchell at the point, but he's more of a natural shooting guard spot. Or, they could use freshman Ben Voogd, who has shown significant progress in recent games but still has a lot to learn. Either way, the Tigers need to make up for Minor's loss by getting more help from several players, not just one.
On Dec. 22,
So what do they do? They lost 63-50
"We know what we can do. The confidence is already there," point guard Tre' Kelley said. "We haven't been as good as we are. We haven't shown our abilities. But we will."
That improvement was evident last
The Tide is struggling to create points from the perimeter with the lack of a true sharpshooter at the off guard, but the strength of the team – big men
Auburn is 7-3 and actually 45th in the RPI and 55th in the Sagarin thanks in part to an impressive 73-42 win over Temple on Dec. 18, but the Tigers remain among the youngest and smallest teams in the SEC, especially with the recent loss of backup point guard Michael Woodard, a juco transfer who left the team in mid-December over a lack of playing time. At this point, the Tigers will probably go only as far as freshmen Rasheem Barrett and Josh Dollard can take them.
The Bulldogs are a surprising 10-3
and earned third place in the San Juan Shootout with a 76-75 victory over Holy
Cross on Dec. 21, but this
Coach Rod Barnes hoped his team would be better than last season's 14-17 team. Even at 9-3, they're not significantly better. Barnes, now in his eighth season at Ole Miss, also hoped to save his job this season after three consecutive losing seasons. At this point, that doesn't appear likely.
Richard Scott is a featured
columnist and Tiger Rag's SEC expert. A longtime journalist in the