Recently, I was poring over some numbers, noting that about 50% of teams in the top seven men’s basketball conferences get into the NCAA Tournament every year. I’ve been thinking about why the SEC usually was a three-bid conference in the past eight seasons (and might be this year too).
Coaching tenure of SEC teams (number of seasons in current job), listed with previous job of current head coach:
11 – Mississippi – Cincinnati (where he was essentially interim coach for one season, first-time head coach)
8 – Georgia – Nevada
8 – Kentucky – Memphis
6 – Arkansas – Missouri
6 – Texas A&M – Murray State
5 – LSU – North Texas
5 – South Carolina – Kansas State
3 – Missouri – Central Missouri
2 – Alabama – Brooklyn Nets (NBA)
2 – Auburn – Tennessee (out of the game when hired)
2 – Florida – Louisiana Tech
2 – Mississippi State – UCLA (out of the game when hired)
2 – Tennessee – Texas (where he had been fired)
1 – Vanderbilt – Valparaiso
Do you see any correlation between longevity and performance on this list? Hardly. Half the conference changed coaches within the past three seasons. Florida’s the only one of those with more than a prayer of making the NCAAT. Among the “veterans” list, four of the top five probably won’t make it into the Big Dance.
Hired a proven, successful coach out of another high-major job: Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina
Hired a once-successful, last-fired coach: Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee
Hired a mid-major coach: Florida, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Oddballs: Alabama, Missouri, Ole Miss
Could it be that the SEC is underpowered on the head-coaching level?
I see a conference where many teams underemphasize guard skill, placing too much focus on recruiting big men and “athletic” power forwards.
Among 32 conferences, the SEC ranks second in free throw attempts as a % of field goal attempts. That’s an indictment of the style of play. Ranking No. 1 on that list? The SWAC. Number three? The Southland. Only awful conferences fall on that end of the spectrum. Awful leagues + SEC.
The SEC is well above average for pace of play, below average for shooting percentages especially 2-pt %. Below average for assist/field goal ratio. Below average for 3-pointers as a % of field goals. Below average for turnover percentage. Way too much emphasis on shotblocking and offensive rebounding.
In conference games, the SEC is well below average for the % of games decided by 3 or fewer points (or in overtime), way above average for the % of games that are blowouts.
I’m fully aware of the league’s poor performance in nonconference play this season (SEC-Big 12 challenge notwithstanding). What I’m trying to do is explain it.
What do you see as the SEC’s major problems? Does having Kentucky at the top keep good coaches out of the league? Are too many schools satisfied with too little performance? Is the goal for too many simply to keep basketball from messing up booster support for football? Is there a regional problem with the available talent (skill level of high school players, overemphasis of athletic ability)?