What’s really good over there? Or the better question might be: Who is really good?
Much has been made of the league-prompted investment in basketball. And eventually, hiring the likes of Avery Johnson at Alabama, Ben Howland at Mississippi State and Rick Barnes at Tennessee, not to mention the renovated coliseum at Mississippi, is more than likely going to yield big dividends.
But it’s looking more and more like they won't come this season.
Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology projects five SEC teams will receive NCAA bids, which would match last season’s total after sending just three teams in both 2013 and 2014. But what Lunardi doesn’t predict is how long those teams will last. For now, it appears the answer to that question is not very long.
Kentucky, normally the standard-bearer for the league, has used up its cache of good will from wins over Duke and Louisville in non-conference play and even a tough overtime loss at Kansas. The Wildcats play like world-beaters in Lexington but have looked like an entirely different team in their eight road losses. That includes Saturday’s 74-62 loss at Vanderbilt, where UK always enjoys its fan base buying enough tickets to tilt the Commodores’ home-court advantage into a mere inconvenience.
Texas A&M went 4-0 against its old Big 12 foes, including wins over Iowa State and Baylor. But its five-game conference losing streak after racing out to a 7-0 start rightfully tapered any expectations of a deep NCAA tournament run.
Vanderbilt was arguably the most disappointing team in the nation based on the experience and talent level the Commodores returned. When they play up to their potential with guard Wade Baldwin and center Damian Jones leading the way, they have a high upside. But it’s a little late in the season to still be talking potential over production.
Florida seemingly has done enough to warrant a bid, but its current three-game losing streak has it trending in the wrong direction even if it does get in.
It’s all setting up possibly the worst seeding the conference has received since 2009 when only three teams received bids and LSU’s No. 8 seed was the best the league could muster. The Tigers were the only team to win a game and they were promptly eliminated by eventual national champion North Carolina in the second round.
If SEC teams are again reduced to spectators after the NCAA tournament’s opening weekend, can’t say that anyone should be surprised.
Big man on campus
Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon followed a 28-point outing in Monday’s 64-61 loss to Miami with a 26-point performance in Saturday’s 79-74 win over North Carolina. The senior guard is known as much for his defensive abilities than anything else, but the past four games he’s carried even more of the Cavaliers’ offensive load. Brogdon has averaged 23.5 points during that span while shooting 58.7 percent from the floor. Brogdon’s game isn’t predicated on drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. He’s only attempted eight free throws over the past four games, including two games where he didn’t have any.
Coach of the week
Back on Feb. 7 after getting swept by Oregon, Utah was 6-5 in the Pac-12 and looking very much like a middle-of-the-pack team. The Utes haven’t lost since, and along the way coach Larry Krystkowiak has made them into a bit of an offensive juggernaut. Utah leads the Pac-12 in assists per field goals made according to Ken Pomeroy. Its 16 3-pointers in an 81-46 win over Arizona State was just one shy of tying the school record set in 2002. The Utes are also averaging 80.6 points per game over their six-game winning streak. In their previous 11 conference games that average was just 70.5 points per game. Utah also set a program record of seven straight games shooting 50 percent or more from the field that ended against Arizona State.
The place to be
Erwin Center. Austin, Texas. Kansas already wrapped up a share of at least its 12th straight Big 12 title. The question for the Jayhawks becomes: Do they keep pressing forward with two games left to extend their nine-game win streak or do they relax a bit with the postseason in mind? Texas, no question, has a lot to play for on Monday. The Longhorns are quickly meshing into that team no one wants to face, as evidenced by the way they ended their 76-63 win over Oklahoma on Saturday with a 25-5 run. Kansas is the only league opponent Texas hasn’t beaten so the Longhorns will be eager for another shot at it.
Number to know
26. Xavier is approaching a good omen and can possibly surpass it with wins at Seton Hall on Sunday and Creighton on Saturday. The Musketeers (25-3) are just one win short of tying their school record for regular-season wins. The team that set the record? That was the 2007-08 version under coach Sean Miller that won the Atlantic 10 en route to an Elite 8 appearance where they lost to UCLA. This year’s squad is arguably better considering it has a 6-1 record against top 25 teams, including a 90-83 win over No. 1 Villanova on Wednesday.