When college football ends, most of the country is inundated with SEC fatigue. That sentiment couldn’t be more (in the words of Marisa Tomei) dead on balls accurate after this year’s National Championship game, between Alabama and Georgia, turned into an instant classic. Most seasons, fans from opposing conferences get their chance at “revenge” by bashing the mediocrity that is SEC basketball (and most years they have a strong case), but this year the conference is LOADED. OK, maybe loaded is a bit of a stretch Armstrong as I don’t think there is one elite (and by elite, I mean one with Final 4 potential) team; however, there are LOTS of good teams that with time, could develop and make a deep run into the Madness. I mean, who said South Carolina would make the Final 4 last January? That’s right NO ONE!
While I understand it’s still early, the numbers are pretty hard to ignore (NERD ALERT). SEC teams have won 76.1% of their non-conference games. “Big whoop, they probably schedule remedial schools like they do in football!” – oh yeah random Big 10 fan? You would be incorrect sir, because 10 SEC teams have a SOS (strength of schedule for you dumb dumbs) in the top 50 nationally and 13 in the top 100 (remember, like 350 schools play D1 basketball so these numbers are impressive, FOR ANYONE). Long story short, the SEC league office made it a priority for schools to improve scheduling, and that is paying off in spades (at least for this season). As a result of these big time out of conference wins, 8 teams have a RPI in the top 40 and 13 (of 14) in the top 100. Bottom line: THE LEAGUE IS DEEP Y’ALL, AND IT’S IMPROVING!
How will this translate into March you ask?! Who the hell knows, but based on their non-conference success, the league looks poised to have a breakout season. At this moment, Joey Bracketology (dude is a bigger loser than Kiper and McShay combined) has 8 SEC teams in the big dance (AU, KY, FL, TENN, ARK, MIZZOU, BAMA, A&M), plus he has UGA as one of the First 4 out! Now the rub to all this is the fact that no SEC team is projected higher than a 4 seed. No one truly believes any of these teams are elite, but at the same time, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see a couple of them make a late run in March. Below are my tournament picks as of today. I will update as I see fit:
|Kentucky||Texas A&M||Ole Miss|
The locks need no explanation, those teams (minus a disaster of EPIC proportions) are getting in. Texas A&M has been up and down as they have wins over West Virginia (top 10), USC (top 10), Oklahoma State, and Penn State, but they limped to a 0-5 start in SEC play (injuries/suspensions have plagued them). Lunardi still has them in the tournament, but if the Aggies don’t get it together quick, the NIT will be on the line instead of the NCAA. Ole Miss is another team to keep an eye on. The Rebels are stacked with talent, but have struggled in close games, losing 3 in overtime (AT HOME). I put South Carolina on the bubble simply because of their run last year, but the bubble team I see as the most likely to get in is Georgia. One more thing to keep in mind is the fact that ANY of these teams could go on a run in St. Louis (yes, the tournament is in St. Louis, I’m just as confused as you are. Did they consult a map?) and win the SEC Tournament. THE LEAGUE IS BALANCED Y’ALL!
Again, I understand the calendar hasn’t flipped to February quite yet, but the SEC is looking to have a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pleasant March. HATERS BE WARNED! This weekend will be a huge measuring stick for the conference with the SEC/Big 12 Challenge (for the record, the Big 12, which is actually 10 teams, has the #1 RPI as a conference) taking center stage. Teams don’t need to fret if they miss out on the W this weekend, because the opportunities for quality RPI wins are all over SEC schedules this year. Will the conference continue its meteoric rise to its rightful place atop college basketball?! Can the SEC repeat the success from a year ago when they pissed off every basketball snob in the country by sending 3 teams to the Elite 8? Or, will they beat up on themselves over the next 4 weeks, collapse like a black hole, only send 4 teams to the dance, and return to their place in the pecking order alongside the Ohio Valley? Only time will tell…