Thanks to those that participated in the Round Table. Below are some of the more interesting answers from our esteemed electoral college.
1. What were the biggest surprises in the SEC over the first half of the season?
By far, the biggest surprise has been Tennessee’s failure to dominate the league. Sure, it’s easy for me to throw stones at one of my team’s big rivals (even if their non-dominance over the rest of the league comes the same season they’ve owned us, sigh) but their inconsistent form is the big news of the season. At the beginning of the year they were supposed to tower over an otherwise mediocre conference. Instead, we have the mediocrity without the one good team to carry the conference banner.
South Carolina fans had every reason to anticipate the arrival of Darrin Horn but I don’t think they dared to think they’d be this good in his first year. LSU was supposed to be good but I don’t think anyone expected them to be the best team in the league. Arkansas’ out of conference form was pretty unexpected, so their failure to continue it in SEC play could be considered a huge surprise relative to the expectations set by those Big XII wins.--Save the Shield
So far, South Carolina is the biggest surprise in the East as far as success goes. Darrin Horn has found a way to make what looks like a cobbled-together lineup very successful, and Devan Downey just keeps getting better.
From a negative standpoint in the East, it has to be Tennessee. Many (although I was not among them) thought UT would be serious national contenders this year, and they showed great promise in the early season. But lately, UT has looked more and more vulnerable, and their back court play has simply not been good enough.
In the West, Mississippi State is a big surprise. I thought the loss of Gordon and Charles Rhodes would be too much to overcome, but I think they have done so. The three-point shooting on that team, the way they use four guards, and the freakish shot blocking of Jarvis Varnado is just a matchup nightmare.
From a negative standpoint, I think you have to say Arkansas. Even though I figured the Razorbacks would have a down year this year, they started off like gangbusters and beat two highly ranked teams before tanking in SEC play. I expected them to be less good in SEC play, but no way did I see them 1-8 at this point.--A Sea of Blue
Yeah, it’s pretty down. I tend to look to “computer ratings” (which are really only as valid as the guy writing the algorithm) for questions like this because there are just too many OOC games for me to hold them all in my brain at the same time. But in this case Pomeroy and Sagarin are just confirming what the intuitive “sight test” tells us, that the SEC is the worst of the high-major conferences.
Really the SEC this year is like the ACC was in football: few really horrible teams, but a bunch of mediocre that are evenly matched. Parity is fun for the fans involved but generally underappreciated by outsiders, who focus on our lack of Top 25 contenders.
In the postseason, most likely we win a good number of NIT games and relatively few NCAA ones. However, the big problem holding league teams back is youth, so there’s some chance that one of our young teams might catch fire and make it to the Sweet Sixteen or maybe the Eight. Final Four seems a stretch without several huge upsets.
After this year, the conference improves, rapidly. Really a staggering number of teams can attribute their spotty play to inexperience. Ole Miss should be a lot better once they get their injured guys back. Vanderbilt has been treading water, barely, without a senior and with a ton of freshmen getting starts. Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina have all strugged through growing pains. Many of these young teams will be in a position to win big OOC games in the next year or two.--Save the Shield
4.Which teams will make the Big Dance?
Tennessee and Florida have high enough RPIs that I think 9 SEC wins will get them in, and I think both get there. LSU and South Carolina have plenty of wins but a somewhat weak RPI right now. Nine wins may not be good enough for either team depending on the committee’s mood, but I think LSU will probably exceed that at this point. South Carolina will need to continue playing well and go at least 5-3 down the stretch, and as of right now those prospects look good. So I’ll say those four look likely to be in. Kentucky is in a bad spot right now, sliding in the SEC standings and sitting on a very weak RPI ranking of 75 due to a weak schedule. They’ll need at least 10 wins, which is certainly doable but will have to be at the expense of some teams that are better than them right now. They’re at best a bubble team at the moment. The other seven SEC teams have an outside shot at best, with all resumes reflecting bad RPIs and too many losses. In the end, I think the SEC may only get four teams into the tourney, with either South Carolina or Kentucky fading out by March. Five is a real possibility but I’m not counting on it.--The Bruce Ball Blog
Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Florida and South Carolina all have good chances to get in. Ole Miss has been playing well enough that it could play its way in, but I see no more than six and more likely five teams from the league getting in, including the automatic berth.--A Sea of Blue