Parity a rarity in SEC hoops

Sometimes things happen in sports that are utterly inexplicable: Appalachian State's upset of Michigan in football. The Miracle Mets. Buster Douglas' knockout of Mike Tyson. The U.S. Olympic hockey team's Miracle on Ice.

This year one of those inexplicable things is happening in Southeastern Conference basketball. Road teams are winning nearly 50 percent of the time. Even counting top-ranked Kentucky's upset loss to South Carolina last night in Columbia, SEC road teams have won 12 of 28 games to date. That's a 43-percent success rate, and that just doesn't happen in this league. Last year, for instance, SEC road teams prevailed in just 35 of 96 games, a mere 36-percent winning percentage.

Vanderbilt is 2-0 in league road games this season. Kentucky is 2-1. Ole Miss is 2-1 with the loss coming in overtime at Knoxville.

The obvious question: Why are so many road teams winning SEC games this year?

"That's probably parity," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said this week. "Obviously, Georgia was picked last in the East and they about beat Kentucky and Mississippi State on the road, teams that were picked first in their respective divisions. I think that sort of says it all."

Then again, maybe not. Despite the two near-misses, Georgia hasn't won an SEC road game yet. Nine of the other 11 teams have. Here's the rundown:

Alabama won 66-49 at LSU

Auburn won 84-80 at LSU

Florida won 71-66 at Arkansas

Kentucky won 89-77 at Florida and 72-67 at Auburn

Mississippi State won 80-75 at Ole Miss

Ole Miss won 80-76 at Georgia and 73-63 at LSU

South Carolina won 80-71 at Auburn

Tennessee won 63-56 at Alabama

Vanderbilt won 65-64 at Alabama and 89-78 at South Carolina

Obviously, one reason road teams are doing so well in SEC play this season is LSU's futility. The Tigers are 0-5 in conference action, including 0-3 at home. Simply put, they've suffered 25 percent of the league's home-court losses this winter.

Even if you take LSU out of the equation, however, SEC road teams still are having unprecedented success this year. When they don't win, they tend to give home teams fits. Georgia's last-minute losses at Lexington and Starkville are just a couple of examples.

Perhaps Pearl is right: Parity is no longer a rarity in SEC hoops. The 12 teams are so evenly matched this season that no win - home or away - can be taken for granted.

Tennessee's head man probably said it best:

"Night in and night out, SEC wins are going to be precious. You just don't want them to be precious and few."


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