Thursday, January 28, 2016

SEC Update

Most of the SEC will be taking a break from conference play this weekend, as ten SEC teams will take on Big XII competition.  I have no idea why this SEC/Big XII match-up was scheduled for the last weekend in January -- that makes no sense to me.

Anyway, Kentucky has looked good in its last three games.  The Wildcats pummeled Missouri 88-54 last night to run their record to 16-4 overall and 6-2 in the SEC.  The Cats fell all the way to 30th on Ken Pom's rankings after they lost to Auburn, but they have now worked their way back up to 20.  LSU is finally learning how to play with Ben Simmons, and they've moved up 33 spots in the Ken Pom rankings since conference play began.  Meanwhile, Texas A & M lost at Arkansas, meaning that their lead over UK and LSU is down to one game:

8.  Texas A & M:  7-1

20.  Kentucky:  6-2
62.  Louisiana St:  6-2

46.  S. Carolina:  5-2

26.  Florida:  5-3

32.  Vanderbilt:  4-4
55.  Arkansas:  4-4
81.  Georgia:  4-4

86.  Tennessee:  3-5
105.  Mississippi:  3-5
166.  Auburn:  3-5

87.  Alabama:  2-5

108.  Mississippi St:  1-6
185.  Missouri:  1-6

Those three schools down at the bottom are really interesting to me.  Alabama's new coach is Avery Johnson, who took the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals in the 2005-06 season, and who was named NBA Coach of the Year.  We don't see too many former NBA Coaches of the Year in the SEC.  Meanwhile, Mississippi St.'s new coach, Ben Howland, took UCLA to the Final Four three years in a row from 2006 to 2008.  We don't have a lot of coaches with three Final Four appearances in the SEC either.  I am very curious as to how these two guys will do.

Meanwhile, Missouri tried an experiment of its own.  After the 2014 season, the Tigers fired Frank Haith and replaced him with Kim Anderson, who had just taken Central Missouri to the D-II National Championship.  (This gives the SEC two coaches with D-II crowns -- Bruce Pearl won the D-II title with Southern Indiana in 1995.)  So far, the Anderson experiment has been a disaster.  Missouri was ranked 78th in the country by Ken Pom in 2014, and that was Mizzou's worst ranking since 2006.  But last year, Missouri finished with a ranking of 214, and they are currently at 185.  I like outside-the-box thinking with coaching hires.  But my guess is that Kim Anderson will need to show some rapid improvement in the near future.

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