I'd been waiting for a good time to post some thoughts on the "Is SEC basketball underrated?" conversation that happened in wake of the SEC dominating the first weekend of tournament basketball. Unfortunately, I was out of town and sick that weekend, and then, one by one, all the NIT teams lost, then Tennessee lost, then Florida lost, and then Kentucky lost. And somewhere in between, Texas A&M lost in the CBI whenever that was.
In short, SEC basketball's reputation is the same as SEC football's non-conference scheduling. Sometimes it's a total joke, but most of the time it's about average. And occasionally it's really good. But nationwide groupthink being what nationwide groupthink is, the SEC's going to have to do a lot more winnin' before most people change their minds.
And I don't just mean Florida and Kentucky. It's important to understand, SEC football didn't earn its reputation just by winning the national championship for seven straight seasons. That was just the cherry on top. The SEC also dominates college football in things like draft picks and recruiting rankings, and always has a winning bowl record while putting lots of teams in bowls.
There are fourteen teams in the SEC. More than three teams have to do well in the postseason for us to declare the SEC a strong basketball conference. More teams have to do well in November and December too.
But that still doesn't mean the SEC was awful. The league was pretty good at certain things and laughable at others. The SEC led the nation in block%, and was in the top 10 out of 33 conferences in offensive rebounding% (even with Arkansas being as awful as Arkansas was in that category), and steal%. That tells you the league was athletic and physically tough.
But the league was terrible at making shots, which is important in basketball. The SEC was 28th in 3PT% and 31st in 2PT% (again, out of 33 leagues). You could argue this is why SEC teams have so much trouble winning on the road. The league won 69.8% of its home games this season, 2nd in the nation. If teams aren't able to make shots on the road while the home team can feed off whatever energy being at home might provide (and any home-cooking from the officials), it's very difficult to win those road games.
And will the SEC be any better next year? It's hard to say so based on who's expected back. Out of the top half of the league, you could argue only Arkansas and Georgia have their best players coming back. Lots of players will be leaving for graduation or the pros (although we're still waiting on decisions from some). And as per usual, only Kentucky appears to be restocking with a new slew of one-and-done hopefuls.
Is it important at all for the SEC to be better in basketball? Especially with the crazy success of football? It is, unless you think losing millions of dollars to other conferences is irrelevant. The NCAA distributes NCAA Tournament money to conferences based on the number of teams getting in and how many games they win/appear in. AL.com's Jon Solomon has a good breakdown of how the league is missing out.
On to more Arkansas-centric things:
- In USA Today's waaaaay too early Top 25 for next basketball season, they have Arkansas listed as a team "on the cusp" of the Top 25. They have Florida and Kentucky in the top 10, and no other SEC teams listed until Arkansas in that "on the cusp" list. I continue to believe that if the Hogs' roster remains as expected, the goal for next season is a top-4 SEC finish (and an NCAA Tournament berth along with it.
- Jim Harris wrote a good column about the importance of a quality backcourt in college basketball, and Hog fans are hoping the trio of new guards coming into the program next year will be a substantial improvement.
- As you may have heard, Nolan Richardson is being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Dan Wetzel has a great column about why Richardson's achievements are far beyond the 390 wins UA plans to put on Richardson's banner.
- Doug Gottlieb went on an embarrassing rant yesterday about why Eddie Sutton should get in before Richardson, but Barry Tramel says it shouldn't be a surprise that Sutton isn't getting in, at least not yet.
- Kikko Haydar has signed a three-year contract to play professional basketball in Lebanon for team Sagesse. Haydar was born in Lebanon, and will join the team after graduation. He'll be playing with fellow former Razorback Charles Thomas, who is currently leading the team in scoring at 19.3 points per game.
- Razorback Internet Chatter: April 7 - UNLV Preview, Football Position Battles, Alex Collins Update
- Nolan Richardson Officially Selected For Basketball Hall of Fame
- Arkansas Razorbacks Spring Practice Scrimmage Report - April 5th
- SEC Baseball Power Rankings: April 7
- Razorbacks 7, #2 Gamecocks 0: Series Upset