At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.
This week's question:
How bad is the SEC?
Bob McClellan's answer:
It's not like watching Keanu Reeves act, but it's pretty bad. Already the league has seven teams with multiple losses. The only undefeated team is LSU (6-0), but it has beaten only one team with an RPI better than 200. Meanwhile, some of the losses by SEC teams have been of the embarrassing variety. How do you explain Kentucky's home loss to VMI and Vanderbilt's 19-point home loss to Illinois-Chicago? Visiting Mercer beat Alabama and Auburn. Honestly, there are about 10 Big East teams that would be favored to win the SEC West. I'm still a little worried about the East, too. Tennessee will turn out to be a quality club, but it still depends on a lot of young players. Gonzaga dismantled the Vols in the Old Spice Classic final, but the Zags are a Final Four-caliber team. I have questions about Florida and Kentucky, too, the other top teams in the East. I was at the SEC Preseason Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., and every coach scoffed when asked if the league was down. They all better get in gear if they want to prove otherwise.
Andrew Skwara's answer:
We all knew the SEC was headed for a down year, but nobody in his wildest imagination thought it would sink this low. More than half of the league has already suffered embarrassing losses. Mercer probably wishes it was in the SEC West and not the Atlantic Sun. Alabama, which was picked to win the SEC West, and Auburn both lost at home to Mercer. Alabama responded by suffering a 23-point loss to an Oregon team that will probably finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10. Auburn lost to a Northern Iowa team that was beaten by Marquette by 30. Over in the East, Georgia lost by 21 to Loyola of Chicago, which opened its season with a loss to a Division II school. As Bob mentioned, Vanderbilt lost by 19 to Illinois-Chicago. That makes South Carolina's loss in overtime to College of Charleston look respectable. Kentucky has won five in a row, but you can't be sold on the Wildcats yet because of their 111-103 loss to VMI. It was the most points the Wildcats had surrendered in 19 years. I know it's still very early, but it's obvious the SEC is the worst of the BCS conferences – by far.
Mike Huguenin's answer:
The SEC really wasn't that good last season, and it doesn't appear as if the league is that much better this season. Yes, Tennessee looks to be a legit Sweet 16 contender – and perhaps beyond – but even the Vols have some questions, most notably at point guard. No other team in the league is anything close to a lock to advance past the first weekend of the NCAA tourney. Heck, look at the SEC West: Is any team in this division even a lock to make the field of 65? Seven league teams already have two losses, and it's not as if SEC members are playing powerhouse non-conference schedules. LSU is the only unbeaten, but its schedule strength ranks 322nd. The SEC was down in football this season, so why should basketball be any different?
Greg Anthony's answer:
When you compare the SEC to the other Big Six conferences I think it's safe to say that it has been stronger in the past. I still think that you could see four teams make it to the NCAA tournament, though. If you focus on the top, Tennessee is a very good team, and I actually think Kentucky will continue to improve. The experience that Florida had last year should help mentally prepare the Gators for what to expect come the start of the conference season, and there are a few teams that have the potential to be there when the invitations are sent out – LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and possibly Vanderbilt. No, not one of these teams is a legit Final Four contender (although Kentucky – yes, Kentucky – and Tennessee have Final Four talent). The future is very bright for the conference as a whole. The sleeper in the bunch is LSU. The Tigers will be much improved defensively, and Trent Johnson is a perfect fit for a team that returns four starters. They won't lack intensity defensively or discipline on the offensive side of the floor with him at the helm. So I'd say the league is down, but it's far from out.