When most fans think of the Southeastern Conference football immediately comes to mind, and justifiably so. After all, the SEC did go on that seven consecutive year tear where they won seven straight BCS Championships from 2006-2012 . Also, it seems like the mighty SEC always leads the other FBS conferences with ranked teams at the end of every football season (they tied with the Pac-12 this year as both conferences had six teams to end the year in the AP Poll).
Yet, for some reason basketball has not had the same type of success (or at least it does not have the same perception) as football the past decade or so. One reason may be that the conference RPI has been down the past five years. According to CBSsports.com, the conference is fifth in RPI this year behind the Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, and ACC. That is the highest RPI the SEC has managed since 2011-2012 season when they finished third, and in the last five years 2011-2012 was the only season that the conference finished in the top three nationally in RPI.
Even though the confernce RPI is down, the SEC does fare well in postseason play. The conference has three National Championships and seven Final Four appearances in the last ten years. That is pretty good, especially when you consider that the Big Ten has 10 Final Four teams and no National Championships, the Pac-12 has just three Final Four teams and no championships, and the Big 12 has 2 Final Four teams with one championship in that span. Even the mighty ACC only has five Final Four teams and three championships in the last 10 years.
So why does basketball not garner the same type of reverence that football does in the Southeastern Conference? Probably because just two teams make up those seven Final Four appearances, Kentucky and Florida. Moreover, in the last ten years there are just two coaches, John Calipari and Billy Donovan, who account for the most (if not all) of the success the conference has.
Compare that to the four different BCS Championship teams (led by four different head coaches) that were a part of that historic seven year run, and you see that football has something that basketball does not have in the SEC. Depth.
Kentucky and Florida have been regular season champions eight times while winning the SEC Tournament seven times in the last ten years. In fact you have to go back six years to find a team other than the Gators and Wildcats that won the regular season crown, seven years to find a SEC Tournament Championship game that did not feature at least on of those two teams, and 19 years to find a SEC Final Four team that was not named Kentucky or Florida (Mississippi State in 1996 ironically Kentucky won the National Championship that year).
However, there will be some changes at the top of the conference real soon thanks to the additions of some high profile coaches the last couple of years. From Auburn’s Bruce Pearl to Frank Martin in South Carolina, the SEC is now full of exceptional coaches who are more than capable of taking down the Gators and Wildcats.
Now there is this report from Gary Parish about the Alabama coaching situation, and with Tennessee hiring Rick Barnes and Mississippi State snagging Ben Howland it is beginning to look like the conference will have some much needed parody soon.
CJ Hurt is the producer for Cerrito Live and he covers college basketball for MemphiSport. You can hear him on the Playing Hurt Podcast and follow him on twitter @Conradicalness for live tweets from games.