Who is the SEC's Top Basketball School? Part I

First part of three in a season-long series analyzing SEC basketball standings from a different perspective.

Imagine yourself sitting in the airport waiting on a delayed flight with other stranded travelers. You are wearing a piece of Vanderbilt clothing, which is noticed by another person waiting for the flight. In order to start conversation, this person asks you, "So who do you think has the SEC's top basketball program?" What would you answer? On first thought, most of us would have to answer Kentucky, even though Florida has surged in recent years. Over the long haul Kentucky has established itself as the SEC's fat cat, if not the top program in college basketball history.

However, in the scenario there is a catch, because each SEC school has two programs, a men's and a women's. A very similar scenario caused me to consider the larger issue. Who has the SEC's top basketball program including both? After all, one would think a real basketball school would be good at simply basketball, not just one or the other. In light of this conversation, I decided to compile an "overall" composite standing.

Men's and Women's Combined Records as of January 23, 2002
(sorted by Overall %)

School

Conf.
Record
Total

(men / women)

Conf. %

Overall
Record
Total

(men / women)

Overall %

1 Alabama 5-5 (4-1 / 1-4) 0.500 30-7 (16-3 / 14-4) 0.811
2 Georgia 6-4 (4-1 / 2-3) 0.600 28-7 (15-3 / 13-4) 0.800
3 Florida 7-3 (4-1 / 3-2) 0.700 28-7 (15-2 / 13-5) 0.800
4 S. Carolina 6-4 (1-3 / 5-1) 0.600 28-8 (11-6 / 17-2) 0.778
5 Vanderbilt 6-4 (2-3 / 4-1) 0.600 30-9 (12-6 / 18-3) 0.769
6 Miss. State 5-5 (2-3 / 3-2) 0.500 27-10 (15-4 / 12-6) 0.730
7 Tennessee 6-3 (1-3 / 5-0) 0.667 24-10 (8-9 / 16-1) 0.706
8 LSU 5-4 (2-2 / 3-2) 0.556 22-11 (12-5 / 10-6) 0.667
9 Auburn 3-8 (1-5 / 2-3) 0.273 23-12 (9-8 / 14-4) 0.657
10 Ole Miss 4-6 (3-2 / 1-4) 0.400 23-13 (14-4 / 9-9) 0.639
11 Kentucky 4-7 (3-2 / 1-5) 0.364 21-14 (13-4 / 8-10) 0.600
12 Arkansas 3-7 (2-3 / 1-4) 0.300 20-14 (10-7 / 10-7) 0.588

At first glance, a couple of things jump out at you immediately. The top two men's programs of the 1990's, Arkansas and Kentucky, rank dead last in the conference when measuring the entire program. On the other end, it is even more shocking to see who holds the number one spot of these mythical rankings, Alabama. Vanderbilt and Alabama have notched the most wins thus far in the season.

The problem is, first glance probably does not paint the best picture, especially when we are really about one-third of the way through the season. For example, in the original sorting Alabama ranks first while winning 20% fewer conference games than Florida. Other factors such as teams play varying levels of non-conference competition and some have played tougher conference foes thus far than others, make this inequitable as well. So I decided to take another cut at it. Still sorting by the overall rankings, I decided to take the top half of those or the first place with a noticeable, natural statistical break. As it turned out, halfway was the perfect spot.

Top Half of Overall, Sorted by Conference %

School

Conf.
Record
Total

(men / women)

Conf. %

Overall
Record
Total

(men / women)

Overall %

1 Florida 7-3 (4-1 / 3-2) 0.700 28-7 (15-2 / 13-5) 0.800
2 Georgia 6-4 (4-1 / 2-3) 0.600 28-7 (15-3 / 13-4) 0.800
S. Carolina 6-4 (1-3 / 5-1) 0.600 28-8 (11-6 / 17-2) 0.778
Vanderbilt 6-4 (2-3 / 4-1) 0.600 30-9 (12-6 / 18-3) 0.769
5 Alabama 5-5 (4-1 / 1-4) 0.500 30-7 (16-3 / 14-4) 0.811
Miss. State 5-5 (2-3 / 3-2) 0.500 27-10 (15-4 / 12-6) 0.730

In the final analysis, it is pretty clear that Florida sports the SEC's top basketball program, which is not a surprise at this time with Florida flying high in several sports. However, many would be shocked to see South Carolina and Mississippi State listed in the upper half as well. Undoubtedly, these figures will change as we move through the season, and I will update these standings more concisely in my notes columns twice more as we move through the other two-thirds of the conference schedule.


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