Poor start has SEC limping into league play
TribLIVE Sports Videos
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The SEC figured to take a step backward this season after being the home of the national champions and having the most NBA draft picks of any league last year.
Still, few expected the SEC to get knocked around like it has during its nonconference schedule.
“I do think there are some teams going through some transitions just like we are,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “That's probably made for a little lesser performance in nonconference play.”
SEC teams have gone 3-6 against the ACC, 2-5 against the Big 12, 2-4 against the Big Ten, 4-13 against the Big East and 4-5 against the Pac-12. SEC teams also are just 3-11 against the Top 25.
SEC coaches say it's too early to panic — or to write the conference off.
Florida's Billy Donovan believes it's unfair to base a league's reputation solely on its November or December performance.
“I never really agreed with that,” Donovan said. “I think teams get better. I think the one thing that's happened in our league is a lot of teams in our league have lost a lot of people. Kentucky's lost a lot. Vanderbilt's lost a lot. Mississippi State's got a new coach. South Carolina's got a new coach. There's been a lot of turnover in personnel of key guys.”
Florida guard Kenny Boynton is the lone first-team or second-team all-SEC performer from last season who has played at all this year. The only other 2011-12 all-conference player to return to school was Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon, who is redshirting this season because of an injured left knee.
The SEC had 12 players drafted in 2012. That figure moves up to 15 if you include Missouri teammates Kim English and Marcus Denmon and Texas A&M's Khris Middleton, who went to college while their schools still belonged to the Big 12.
All those departures have made an impact.
Only two SEC teams are ranked in the Top 25: Missouri and No. 11 Florida. Every school in the conference already has at least two losses. Vanderbilt (6-6), Auburn (6-7), Georgia (5-7) and Mississippi State (5-7) are all at .500 or below.
“If we're going to start judging teams on who we are in November or December ... let's have the tournament Jan. 1,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.
Donovan cited last year's Tennessee team as evidence of how a team can improve. After losing six of its first nine games last year in Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin's debut season, the Volunteers went 10-6 in conference play but still missed the NCAA tournament because of their subpar nonconference resume.
Maybe, but the league will likely have to overcome its unimpressive nonconference play. The SEC had three schools ranked among the nation's top 15 teams in the preseason: No. 3 Kentucky, No. 10 Florida and No. 15 Missouri.
And it's not just major-college schools. SEC teams have struggled against teams from traditional one-bid leagues.
Auburn lost to Winthrop. Mississippi State fell to Alabama A&M. Texas A&M couldn't handle Southern. Youngstown State defeated Georgia. Mercer beat Alabama.
Defending national champion Kentucky (9-4) already has doubled its loss total from last season as it attempts to replace six draft picks.
“We've lost some games, but those teams that we've lost to haven't lost many games,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “And we weren't ready — when you're playing four freshmen — to beat those kind of guys.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snow, freezing rain, bitter cold coming to Western Pa.
- Jerome Bettis to be enshrined in hall of fame
- Tennessee quarterback Peterman considers transfer to Pitt
- Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through
- Familiar Downtown Pittsburgh presence lost arm, leg to train
- Westmoreland museum spotlights artist John Kane’s late-in-life fame
- Voters opt for ‘Don’t Know’ in 2016 presidential race, poll finds
- As banking goes mobile, branch closures rip through local economy
- Gulls fleeing frozen Great Lakes fill skies over Pittsburgh’s Point
- Iraqi libraries ransacked
- Springdale trestle bridge deemed structurally sound