Adams: SEC is in need of a rebound

The SEC put three teams in the NCAA tournament and fired three coaches. That tells you all you need to know about its basketball season.

As college basketball kicks off its Final Four weekend, the SEC is long gone. It didn't make the second-round cut. And it didn't even make the NIT semifinals (Where's Dave Odom when you need him?).

If you wanted to compare the best and worst of the BCS conferences, you might argue that the Big East was closer to the SEC in football than the SEC was to the Big East in basketball. By the time the SEC had been jettisoned from the NIT, the Big East still had five teams in the running for the national championship.

How bad was the SEC? It was so bad that it couldn't derive consolation from a consolation tournament.

But consolation is coming. I'm so sure of it that I won't wait until next year to announce this column's first Comeback Conference of the Year award.

Congratulations, SEC. The certificate is in the mail.

My prediction of a promising turnaround has nothing to do with new coaches, although they should help. It has more to do with the same old players.

This league has rarely been so young. Neither Arkansas nor Vanderbilt had a senior on its roster. UT, Florida and Kentucky had one apiece.

The statistics are more revealing.

Only five of the SEC's top 30 scorers are seniors. You also have only five seniors among the top 30 rebounders.

Sort through any statistical category and you will find a paucity of seniors.

Only two of the top-15 leaders in assists, free-throw shooting and blocked shots are seniors. Only three of the top-15 leaders in field-goal percentage are seniors.

A few of the conference's top non-seniors might leave early for the NBA. But the large majority should be back, and because of it, the conference should take a huge leap forward.

Walter Hodge is the only senior in Florida's starting lineup, and he was less productive than his replacement, freshman Erving Walker. Moreover, the Gators will add signee Kenny Boynton, a high-scoring high school All-American guard.

Guard Zam Fredrick is South Carolina's only senior starter. Tennessee doesn't have a senior starter, but junior Tyler Smith could turn pro.

SEC tournament champion Mississippi State is similar to UT. Although it doesn't have a senior starter, there has been speculation about Jarvis Varnado turning pro. If he can add 50 pounds and not lose a fraction of his vertical jump between now and draft day, he should go for it. Otherwise, he should return for his senior season.

Ole Miss could be the most improved team in the league. It will lose only one starter, sophomore forward Malcolm White, who decided to transfer. Plus, it will return two key players, guards Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice, who will return from season-ending injuries.

Regular-season league champion LSU will suffer heavy losses: Marcus Thornton (the SEC's second-leading scorer), Chris Johnson (the conference's second-leading shot blocker) and Garrett Temple (fifth in assists and steals). But the Tigers are an exception.

Most SEC teams will be better next season. And if you measure their improvement by how many teams they place in the NCAA tournament, they could be twice as good.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 11

ZR writes:

Pearl will win it all next year and then take the UMass job.

CoverOrange writes:

If doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each is a sign of insanity, why would returning all the same players mean better results? Just asking.

NoogaVol55 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

If doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each is a sign of insanity, why would returning all the same players mean better results? Just asking.

E-X-P-E-R-I-E-N-C-E....many of the contributors were Freshman.

vol_chaz writes:

Well, it can't get any worse. The SEC East is going to be fun to watch again this year in Bball. Hope Tyler comes back, and Goins is the real deal.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to NoogaVol55:

E-X-P-E-R-I-E-N-C-E....many of the contributors were Freshman.

I'll agree that experience helps in that progression from frosh to soph but talent counts for more in BB. IMHO.

DekanGator writes:

Just a bit of info you may not know,

In the final 4 starting teams
12 are seniors 8 Are Jr's

Intersting

OrangeMandM writes:

Other than LSU, just about everybody that played in the SEC was underclassmen.

chefjorge writes:

Why take the UMass job? What could he possibly gain from that? It's not a move up and probably isn't even lateral. Calipari was there succeeding a long time ago. What have they done lately?

CoverOrange writes:

in response to chefjorge:

Why take the UMass job? What could he possibly gain from that? It's not a move up and probably isn't even lateral. Calipari was there succeeding a long time ago. What have they done lately?

It's in the same state as his hometown?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DekanGator:

Just a bit of info you may not know,

In the final 4 starting teams
12 are seniors 8 Are Jr's

Intersting

Good point. No matter how good a young player may think he is, or even really is, there is rarely a substitute for experience at the highest levels of competition. It is not so much the case that an upperclassman actually DOES things better than an underclassman as it is that the older player DOESN'T do the stupid things that even the most talented freshmen do ALL THE TIME.

gmoneyvol writes:

John, I really liked your HBO series last year. It won many Emmys... well done.

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