Yesterday we looked at the top half of the league, and I break the SEC down into a few different categories when it comes to their post-season play chances. Those categories are:
- Still thinking about the NCAA
- The NIT would be fine
- So tell me about the CIT
- Hahahahaha, nope
The top seven teams in the SEC this year (currently — and discussed yesterday) are teams who are still thinking about the NCAA at this point. I think Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida are essential locks at this stage so they’re in the “Dancing” tier. In the still thinking about the NCAA there’s some blurring but I feel good about Arkansas, Georgia and A&M as potential NCAA teams. Auburn’s loss to Boston College is ugly, but I guess they could make a run and still jump in. Past that, the rest of the SEC should be happy with a post-season birth of any kind. So let’s get to them!
8. Ole Miss 9 - 3
- Preseason #8 (~)
- Best Win: #81 Memphis
- Worst Loss: #67 Middle Tennessee State
- MVP: Deandre Burnett
The Rebels aren’t to be overlooked, but they probably haven’t done enough in the non-conference to be considered for a tourney bid, and their first five games of the conference slate are going to determine their season. Kentucky, at Florida, at Auburn, Georgia and at South Carolina. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them 0-5, but more important is for them to keep their head because the rest of their schedule is manageable. They can score, Deandre Burnett, Terrence Davis and Sebastian Saiz form a tough trio but the question will be whether they can get enough stops to stay with the meat of their schedule.
So far they: are what they are. They’re not bad, but Ole Miss doesn’t have any one guy who can put them over the top the way Stefan Moody could. They should be a tough out, and win their share of games but it’s hard to see this team being an NCAA contender.
9. Vanderbilt 6 - 6
- Preseason #5 (-4)
- Best Win: #70 UT-Chattanooga
- Worst Loss: #125 Bucknell
- MVP Luke Kornet
Maybe the disappointment of the season are the Commodores. What’s interesting is the Commodores don’t really have that many bad losses from a rankings standpoint, obviously Bucknell isn’t pretty but it’s the way they’ve lost a few of their games that has people raising eyebrows. Marquette beat them to open the season by 24 points, and they lost to Middle Tennessee State by 23. Both MTSU and Marquette are good, but they’re not THAT good. Right now Vandy looks a lot like a team in transition from a Kevin Stallings team to a Bryce Drew team, and Drew doesn’t have the personnel he wants yet to run the team his way. So he’s an inexperienced (at the Power Conference level) coach with another guys roster, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised they’re struggling a bit. I still think Drew was a great hire long term.
So far they: have been a little disappointing, but still have a chance to make enough of a run to sniff the NIT.
10. Tennessee 7 - 5
- Preseason #13 (+3)
- Best Win: #82 East Tennessee State
- Worst Loss: #70 UT-Chattanooga
- MVP: Robert Hubbs III
An opening season loss to Chattanooga seemed to sour many on the Vols chances this year, but Chatt is pretty good... and all UT has done since is fight. They’ve had a pretty tough schedule and have played North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oregon and Gonzaga all tough but not enough to win. So the record isn’t good, and they don’t really have a great win to point to. At this stage it’s still likely that the Vols aren’t good, but they’re better than I thought they’d be, which I’m giving them credit for. Rick Barnes is coaching with fire and has a young roster that will force a lot of teams to be ready when they walk into Thompson-Boling Arena.
So far they: been alright. Thumbs up to you UT, keep it up and a look at the CIT or something could be a nice finish to the season for a young squad.
11. Alabama 6 - 5
- Preseason #10 (-1)
- Best Win: #130 Arkansas State
- Worst Loss: #92 Valparaiso
- MVP: Dazon Ingram
Alabama hasn’t really lived up to the hope of many of their fans this season, but realistically they played a little above their heads last conference season, and seeing them go 6-5 while not really beating anyone of substance isn’t surprising. They’ve lost to Texas and Valpo, neither are very good. My biggest issue with Alabama is the construction of the roster, there’s talent but it’s a lot of guys who are similar players and not enough minutes to split up. They need more Dazon and Braxton Key and more from them. I still like the Avery Johnson hire, and they’ve got some fireballers coming in next season but this one is likely to be long and ugly, and I’d be surprised to see them in any kind of post season.
So far they: been a little bit of a disappointment, but Johnson’s rebuild is well under way.
12. LSU 8 - 3
- Preseason #9 (-3)
- Best Win: #52 Houston
- Worst Loss: #58 VCU
- MVP: Duop Reath
Oh Johnny Jones. LSU hasn’t been completely terrible, they just haven’t really been what you would call GOOD either. All of their losses are to pretty good teams, but they’ve won a lot of close games against some not great opponents. Texas Southern, North Carolina Central, North Florida... I mean, not exactly inspiring. Outside of Antonio Blakeney the Tigers don’t have much to go to, Duop Reath has been a surprise, but you wonder if he’ll be able to sustain that considering his Offensive Rating against the good teams was in the 80s. If the trends persist, it’s easy to see Jones not coming back to Baton Rouge because I can’t imagine a KenPom rating at 109 is exactly what LSU had in mind in year 5.
So far they: have been pretty ugly, and the Athletic Department may be lining up potential coaching hires.
13. Mississippi State 8 - 3
- Preseason #12 (-1)
- Best Win: #90 Boise State
- Worst Loss: #95 Lehigh
- MVP: Quinndary Weatherspoon
There is some talent on this roster but yeeeeesh are they young, and it’s completely showing up in a lot of ways. They haven’t played anyone. Their best opponent to date is the 81st ranked East Tennessee State, who they lost to. 86th ranked Central Florida: loss. 95th ranked Lehigh? Loss. They beat Boise, but that was the only game against an opponent higher than 140. So not a challenging schedule, and the Bulldogs haven’t exactly blasted people, but this is how you build. Particularly when you have as many young and talented guys as they have. It’ll be a process and things will get ugly at times this year, but they’ll be better off for it next year. Post season isn’t very likely, but this year was always gonna be the learning experience for a roster that welcomes a 5-star guard coming in next year. They’ll be fine.
So far they: stink mostly. Not sure we expected much better.
14. Missouri 5 - 6
- Preseason #14 (~)
- Best Win: #220 Western Kentucky
- Worst Loss: #218 Eastern Illinois
- MVP Kevin Puryear
**sigh** Missouri plays Lipscomb tonight and Kim Anderson is going to try to rescue this season with a new starting five. It likely won’t be enough once they get past Lipscomb, but the Tigers have been the worst team in the SEC and it’s not close. 165 in KenPom and a bleak outlook going into the conference slate has a lot of people speculating on the future of Kim Anderson and with good reason. Things don’t look good in Columbia. They’ll have a 50% chance to beat LSU in game one, so maybe they’ll start off well and catch an early win and find some momentum. It’s about the only hope the Tigers have to save their season.
So far they: ehhhh, yeah.
That’s that. The SEC season is upon us and it should be somewhat interesting to say the least. 11 or 12 teams could see the post season and I think 6-7 still have legitimate chances to see the NCAAs. Tonight the Missouri Tigers play Lipscomb, Alabama plays Stetson, and Mississippi State plays UMKC while 10 other teams start conference play. Now begins the best 3 month stretch in sports.