Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 7:00 AM
John Calipari has been in the news a lot this year, as various NBA teams launch trial balloons about luring the Kentucky head coach back to the NBA. That distraction may be part of what’s caused the Wildcats to be such disappointments this season! Ben Simmons of LSU is the consensus choice to go #1 in the NBA draft…which also has him on the media radar. Yet, LSU only borderline to make the Big Dance right now. How often do you say that about future NBA superstars? They’re supposed to lead their teams to greatness!
Amidst all the SEC clutter, relatively new member Texas A&M has risen to the top of the league rankings as a reminder that the Big 12 is better in basketball than the SEC. Even if the Aggies don’t particularly scare people…they’re on the short list of teams who have risen up to contender-status by playing smart, consistent basketball.
We start off our SEC summary with yesterday’s computer rankings as determined by Ken Pomeroy of kenpom.com and Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. JIM HURLEY’S personal rankings are proprietary. These publicly available numbers below serve the purpose of a preview…and should be part of the arsenal for any do-it-yourself handicappers.
SEC COMPUTER RANKINGS
Texas A&M: #7 in Pomeroy, #11 in Sagarin
Kentucky: #22 in Pomeroy, #21 in Sagarin
Florida: #26 in Pomeroy, #26 in Sagarin
Vanderbilt: #32 in Pomeroy, #25 in Sagarin
South Carolina: #47 in Pomeroy, #44 in Sagarin
Arkansas: #58 in Pomeroy, #59 in Sagarin
LSU: #65 in Pomeroy, #58 in Sagarin
Georgia: #82 in Pomeroy, #77in Sagarin
Alabama: #88 in Pomeroy, #90 in Sagarin
Tennessee: #84 in Pomeroy, #84 in Sagarin
Mississippi State: #106 in Pomeroy, #112 in Sagarin
Mississippi: #112 in Pomeroy, #108 in Sagarin
Auburn: #158 in Pomeroy, #124 in Sagarin
Missouri: #178 in Pomeroy, #149 in Sagarin
Must be odd for many of you to see Kentucky so far out of the National Championship discussion. It was just last year that media and market types were comparing them to NBA teams! This year’s group just isn’t as good, and isn’t doing a very good job of playing together. Still time to meld…but Calipari’s best teams have usually done that by now.
Texas A&M clearly has the best shot to go deep in March. LSU isn’t even seen as a Dance Caliber team (despite a blowout of Kentucky) because their very soft early schedule penalizes their ranking. And, you avid bettors may have noticed that LSU has failed to cover its next SIX games after the Kentucky win! Hype may get them in the Dance…and the need for opening round TV ratings. For now, Ben Simmons isn’t the type to carry a team on his shoulders to greatness.
SEC ADJUSTED EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
Texas A&M: #32 on offense, #7 on defense
Kentucky: #29 on offense, #32 on defense
Vanderbilt: #97 on offense, #15 on defense
Florida: #141 on offense, #5 on defense
South Carolina: #114 on offense, #26 on defense
Arkansas: #35 on offense, #118 on defense
LSU: #47 on offense, #103 on defense
Georgia: #168 on offense, #29 on defense
Alabama: #195 on offense, #22 on defense
Tennessee: #49 on offense, #143 on defense
Mississippi: #70 on offense, #185 on defense
Mississippi State: #63 on offense, #180 on defense
Auburn: #148 on offense, #191 on defense
Missouri: #213 on offense, #139 on defense
Kentucky is often top five nationally in defense. It’s one of Calipari’s trademarks. So, he’s having trouble getting his newcomers to defend with a passion. That ranking is adequate, of course, on the national scale…but not so much once you limit things down to the Dance card. Strong defensive marks for those surrounding Kentucky on the list. Maybe the SEC just has a bunch of poor shooters this season? Something to watch this weekend in the challenge series with the Big 12. (Note: a really bad sign for LSU that they let Georgia’s unimpressive offense score 85 points the other night!)
SEC BRACKETOLOGY (thru January 25)
Texas A&M: projected to be a #2 seed
Kentucky: projected to be a #4 seed
South Carolina: projected to be a #8 seed
Florida: projected to be a #9 seed
LSU: projected to be a #11 seed
Vanderbilt fell off Joe Lunardi’s bubble with a blowout loss at Kentucky this past Saturday. The computers have them safely in…but the team will have to impress pollsters and TV pundits to get back in the Dance discussion. Kentucky’s a #4 team according to Lunardi, though the computers have them a few spots worse. Are you ready to see Texas A&M as a #1 or #2 seed? Hey, somebody’s got to earn those spots. So many other contenders across the nation keep losing conference games.
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Back with you Friday to talk about the highest profile games in Saturday’s SEC/Big 12 challenge series…Kentucky at Kansas and Oklahoma at LSU. That may be the closest thing to March Madness hoop fans will experience until tourney time. Then, basketball coverage continues next week. We still have the Pac 12 lined up for a conference summary. Check the archives if you missed earlier reports on the Big 12, ACC, Big East, and Big 10.
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