What really is wrong with the SEC

In three of the past four seasons, the Southeastern Conference had three teams in the NCAAT. This year, the league might get five again. That’s a good development, but the SEC still has issues.

The most obvious one is on the offensive end of the court. The SEC is bad. Only four of 14 SEC teams rank in the top 50 for offensive efficiency. That’s the smallest number and lowest % of the six power hoop conferences.

Offensive efficiency is a good measure, because you can’t fake skill. Defensive efficiency is affected by the quality of opposition. Offensive efficiency is, too, but there’s some basic skill requirements for ballhandling, passing and shooting.

The Big 12, ACC and Big East stand out because of how many strong offensive teams they have + how few bad ones. To get up there, the SEC needs more skill on the offensive end.

SEC teams in the top 50 for…

3-pt shooting %: Vanderbilt (49th).
2-pt shooting %: Kentucky (28th).
Effective field goal %: none.
Turnover %: Kentucky (23rd), Arkansas (42nd).
Assist %: Texas A&M (21st).
Offensive efficiency: Kentucky (14th), Arkansas (19th), Florida (31st), Vanderbilt (43rd).

Add: I didn’t want to spend too much time digging into why even four teams could be in the top 50 for offensive efficiency when they have limited presence in the specific skill elements. Each case is different, but offensive boards help a lot + getting fouled/making FTs does too.

It’s a guard/frontline balance problem. Most of the SEC has athletic size on the frontline. So, lots of rim protection. Half the conference is in the top-52 in block percentage. That may explain the low 2-point percentage. Rim protection allows you to extend the defense. High guard skill is needed to defeat that. The standings are a decent, certainly not exact, proxy on the depth of guard skill.

Agreed on the guard situation.

Have you noticed how physical Big12 guards are and how that compares to SEC guards? I was not expecting it.

Augmenting the above…Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings employ an adjustment for strength of schedule.

In raw stats, here are the top four SEC teams as ranked for offensive efficiency:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Arkansas
  3. Florida
  4. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt’s adjusted efficiency number is inflated by its schedule strength. Their actual performance was much more ordinary. All but three SEC teams are ranked below the top 100, and eight teams are lower than 150th.

This year if you look at the youth of Auburn, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State They will be a lot better next year!
Look at TexasA&M’s non conference schedule and you ding how they were. The same can be said for Auburn and Mississippi State. The metrics of offense and defensive stats will improve as these youthful teams gain experience. Georgia has just been bitten by the back luck Big all year. They are a much better team than their record indicates.
Tennessee was a couple of turnovers or made freee throws away from beating North Carolina in the Nonconference! The Vols can beat anyone or get beat by anyone. The media has caused a negative image of the conference. Put Wichita State in the SEC and they would not finish 9-9.
There are 2 teams that are bad LSU and Missouri! At LSU Johnny Jones dismisses his team leader early in the season for violation of teams rules. Missouri has had players transfer that played on last years team that affected the team this year. Last year Arkansas MA dismissed D. Williams for his second incident and suspended 2 others for a semester.
I watch enough basketball to say that we are as good or better than any conference except the ACC which is highly overrated.
The SEC may end up with as many team in the sweet 16 as any other conference.
The refs are horrible in the SEC and give Kentucky free rein to abuse teams but let someone get close and it is handled by them!
Make your own judgements and look back a few years and you will find snubs by the NCAA selection Committee where SEC teams were left out of the Dance and this year teams under the same rules will get in again despite having worse overall circumstances than South Carolina last year and Arkansas 3 years ago. It’s all about money! And selling tickets.

Randy, makes me revisit my critique of the UA roster: no true center, no “back to the basket” scorer, no assist-first guard, no defense-first guard…but lots of “create points” guys and versatile 2-3-4 guys (2’s who can step down and play low, anyway, because we lack the full compliment of defensive pieces, and prefer score-first pieces it would seem).

The critique (can be parsed again by those who are smarter about this than I am) concludes that MA has his most complete roster yet but it is still incomplete, missing a couple of critical pieces that we are used to seeing in the “Nolan system.”

But, what Randy’s data suggests to me is that most teams are not able to even get as close as UA to having “one of each” part needed to be considered complete. We are much further along than all by KY and UF. Its not just the performance, aggregate, of scores, wins/losses, and star power. It is all the moving parts that make a roster go. Shallow rosters eventually are revealed for what they are, despite having moments of greatness along the way (USC-E, maybe?).

The SEC is way overrepresented in FTs per offensive play. There’s something screwy about the officiating. On D the SEC is light in defensive rebounding, which is consistent with being overrepresented in block%. FG percentages are low. That implies that the average SEC defense is athletic and emphasizes shot challenging, which encourages putting the ball on the floor. Drives are obviously being rewarded with FTAs.

I’m guessing SEC teams may see a very different type of defense in the postseason. It may be easier to get a shot off, but guards may need to be stronger with the ball. Likewise, the defense in general may be of higher quality than the rankings indicate because the officiating in the tournament may be less ticky tack.

All of that would bode well for Arkansas guards. Especially Barford.

I try to never mention officiating in what I write because there are always going to be bad/iffy calls both ways and it generally balances out evenly in the long run, but the amount of ticky tack fouls called by SEC crews is high on my list of biggest beefs with the conference. Muddies the game up and really sucks the fun out of it at times. Watching it has been an adjustment on my part the year after not necessarily watching a lot of college basketball in recent years.

Jimmy, I agree with you 1000%. In the past I have watched the same officials that work the SEC work other conferences and it is like night and day. Same level of contact but far fewer whistles in the other conference games. There is a change this year. Maybe it is the person brought in to the commissioners office to improve basketball in the conference.

Comments: No, what’s wrong with the SEC is it’s first a football conference and basketball is next after the long football Season is completely ended. The truth is this conference is content with Kentucky being the big dog of basketball in the SEC. Just make sure their football teams are competitive every season. I remembered back when the UofA first joined the SEC many thought the basketball program could hold their own and had some doubts regarding the football program. Sure enough CNR and his hawgballers came in and took care of business even spanking Kentucky one or two times on their home court. Winning a NCAA national title two finals appearances multiples final fours, etc. Then the dark times came CNR was fired. The Ark program of the nineties faded into the history books, and the conference reverted back to their old ways where Kentucky is the big dog in basketball and Florida replaced Ark with their own 2 NCAA National Titles. Ark’s AD makes a bold smart move and hired CNR mentee Mike Anderson and by 2014 the hawgs are back dancing but more importantly they finished 2nd behind Kentucky in conference standings. The rest of teams took noticed and said no we are not going to finish behind Ark, so they got busy by making coaching changes. In addition to adding an administrator to monitor each team’s non-conference strength of schedule. Mike’s 2016 team is headed to the big dance this time finishing 3rd behind Kentucky and Florida in teams standing. As the result there has been one coaching announcement Kim Anderson won’t be returning next season, who knows there may be another in the mill. Regardless, let the games begin the stakes are high now the teams/coaches that finish behind Ark/Mike are likely as tense as a cat stretched out in room filled with rocking chairs. An example of the competitiveness this season, the conference already has a lock on four teams getting in to the dance with one more possible addition.

Final thoughts stats are good but it doesn’t tell you the whole story plus it can be mis-interpreted. Lack of interest in the early pre-conference games by fans because they are still focus on football create complacency in the minds of these basketball players. Listen this conference does a real good job in beating each other up from top to bottom, we don’t play with the same intensity when we are playing outside of the conference. I blame that on the present of minimum fan support during the non-conference season. For example you go to a football game and the stadium is full, and the next week the basketball team is playing a game and arena is a third full.

Seven SEC teams are in the top 40 in FTAs per offensive play. Amazing.

Tonight I watched Gonzaga to see what they have and what makes them a one-seat. In addition to one guy who is 7-1 and as big as any NFL lineman, they had a guy (William-Goss) not only good size, but very skilled inside and out. The rest of the players (F’s) had size and skill. They all could drive and shoot. Numerous guards with size and skill. When I look at Moses with no footwork and post-up moves, and other three Forwards with no ability to put the ball down and drive into the heart of the defense, I can see how we have limited strength when it comes to big teams. At this time, we are only a guard oriented team. Others are clean-up players. We are in the right track if MA continue to recruit AR’s best.

Blocked shots change the numbers for the SEC, because so many of the blocks turn into offensive rebounds. That’s a great point about the fouls, too. SEC teams might see more turnovers in tournament play, not drawing fouls so easily.

Randy, look at how few FTAs they had in the Big 12 by comparison. That partly explains the great defensive numbers of West Virginia. They probably couldn’t have finished a game in the SEC with five players on the court. It’s interesting that they barely beat a guard-light A&M team at home. Gilder shredded them.

However, it seems contradictory that the Big 12 has such huge offensive numbers, and the SEC’s are so lousy. Shouldn’t a bunch of FTs aid the scoring? Is the Big 12 just that much more skilled at guard? The Big 12 is completely bipolar in pace, half in the top 100 and half #244+. What’s really wild is that the split is almost identical in the standings. The only tortoise team that finished in the top half of the Big 12 is Baylor. OU was the hare team in the cellar. Apparently half the Big 12 had the good sense to try to beat the defense down the court.

The NCAA never really has caught on to the fact that there was a lot more scoring and pace in the 90’s when they allowed all the hand-checking on the perimeter. That encouraged defenses to gamble and offenses to run. That all went away when the refs got hypersensitive on the perimeter and allowed muggings in the paint.

Unlike the NFL, I can’t think of any rule changes in college basketball that were intended to increase scoring. They thought the 3 point shot was too easy and moved the line back 1 foot. I think it’s useful to remember that the rules committee is mostly coaches. College basketball coaches are largely control freaks. They want to call every play and control tempo, and if its 65 - 60, or 45-44, that’s okay with them.

It’s the ying and yang to stats. I don’t think comparing stats from one league to the next is something that gets to the root of the problem. Maybe it does sometimes. The only thing that I think shows the differences in leagues is head-to-head, either on true neutral floor or home-and-home. Tournament time is important, too. You win games in the tournament, it eventually gets people to understand what you have or don’t have.

Huh? You don’t think reducing the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, emphasis on freedom of movement, and reducing physicality in the paint were attempts to create more offense? The goal has been quite clear the last several years that rule changes were being made to get away from the physical scrum that the game had devolved into during the naughts. Not every rule favored the offense. Some of the rules that favored the O had to be complemented with bones to the defense to prevent unwanted side effects. For instance, freedom of movement had to be balanced by allowing the defensive player verticality, lest the game be a free-throw shooting.

Basically they have been trying to copy the NBA’s evolution from the Bad Boy/Riley’s Knicks era to a game that looks more like the 70’s NBA than the late 80’s and 90’s. Average points in NBA games has increased by 10 points in the last 20 years. In college it’s not necessarily working. Scoring is still going down from the peak in 1990-91 of 77 points per game.

Pace had also been dropping for years. One motivation for moving the line back was to create more space for drivers and encourage mid-range development so that shots would go up quicker without endless passing on the perimeter. Nolan was averaging well into the 80’s and Pitino into the 90’s in possessions per game during the great UK-Hogs era. Calipari had averaged under 70 possessions per game at UK going into this season.

Getting away from the physical scrum does not necessarily equal increased scoring. I will agree that cutting the shot clock to 30 was a half hearted attempt to boost offense.