By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
The SEC basketball season begins this week. The question is will that make a ripple on the national scene?
While the quality of the league relative to other well-known basketball conferences is often a story line, there’s a widely held opinion that SEC is down.
The numbers support that theory, as do some of the early-season results.
For Ole Miss and Mississippi State the start includes a home game and a road game in Week 1, the Rebels at Tennessee on Wednesday and at home with SEC newcomer Missouri on Saturday night, the Bulldogs at home with South Carolina on Wednesday, then at Georgia on Saturday.
SEC coaches spent a portion of Monday’s conference call defending the league.
Florida coach Billy Donovan doesn’t agree teams should be judged early.
“Teams get better, Donovan said. “You get labeled in November and December, then vice versa, it’s also not fair when you get to March, a couple of teams go deep in the tournament, and all of a sudden a league’s better than it was. There has to be some balance.”
WarrenNolan.com has the SEC rated No. 8 in conference RPI, behind the Atlantic 10 and ahead of the Missouri Valley.
MSU’s 59-57 loss to a 4-8 Alabama A&M team that ranks 303 in the RPI is one of the losses SEC coaches must rebut in the quality of play discussion. So are Alabama losses to Dayton, Mercer and Tulane.
MSU begins league play at 5-7 with a 273 RPI.
Ole Miss (11-2) goes into the league season with a 63 RPI, while Tennessee (8-4) checks in with a 73 RPI.
Missouri (11-2) is the SEC’s highest-rated team in the AP Top 25 at No. 10. Florida is No. 11.
“With the coaches in this league, teams are going to get better,” Donovan said. “I saw it last year with Tennessee. You cannot argue the fact that Tennessee in February and March was a totally different team than in November and December. I think that’s what you’re going to see this year.”