Sometimes Execrable Conference Already Missing Football Season

The SEC is not a power conference in college basketball. Florida's two titles this decade are nice, but that was the only really great team the conference had. The rest is a mishmash of talented Kentucky teams that flamed out come tournament time, an LSU squad that couldn't quite get to the national championship game, an Alabama team that made one run to the Elite Eight, a Tennessee team without a Sweet Sixteen win, and Sweet Sixteen-less Mississippi State. And those are the good teams. This Saturday helped demonstrate why the SEC clings to football so dearly. 

Ranked teams Tennessee and Florida both lost, and badly. Tennessee was wiped off the boards by USC in a 77-55 defeat, the worst of the Bruce Pearl era, while Florida could not buy a bucket (38.2 percent from the field) against Richmond, losing 56-53. Two other out-of-conference defeats were disappointing: Alabama continued its rocky transition under Anthony Grant, falling behind early and never closing against Kansas State, and Wofford upended South Carolina.

Those losses are bad, but the wins, mostly underwhelming, might have been more indicative of the conference's quality. Mississippi State beat middling C-USA team Houston by six. LSU beat middling C-USA team Rice by four. Arkansas beat Stephen F. Austin by three. Mississippi State may still turn into a terror if Renardo Sidney ever sees the floor, but LSU and Arkansas are the middle tier teams that would be angling for NCAA Tournament berths in the ACC or Big East; in the SEC, they are NIT contenders.

Special commendation should go out to Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia, who recorded good wins on Saturday, but they cannot save this conference, and neither can excuses about exam week obligations. This conference is, as it was for much of the late '90s, Kentucky and everyone else. And everyone else is capable of producing real stinkers.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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