It’s no secret that this is a down year for Southeastern Conference basketball. The question is: How down?
There are many ways to judge the overall strength and weakness of a conference and none are foolproof. Ultimately, the strength of a conference comes down to the players.
Using that guideline . . . well, let’s just say I don’t have good news for SEC fans. Various lists of the NBA prospects now playing in the SEC reveal basically the same thing: The SEC lacks studs.
CBSSportsLine, for example, lists the top 101 prospects. Only 10 play in the SEC. Only four of the current SEC players are listed as potential 1st-round draft picks this year – and all four are freshmen at Kentucky, a team that might not make the NCAA tournament field. Of the four is the No. 1 overall prospect, Nerlens Noel, who is injured and done for the season. The others are forward Alex Poythress (13th), guard Archie Goodwin (14th) and center Willie Cauley-Stein (21st)
Only the three SEC players are projected 2nd-round picks, the highest-rated being Missouri junior guard Phil Pressey (34th). The other two are members of the SEC’s best team, the champion Florida Gators. Junior center/forward Patric Young (52nd overall) and senior forward Eric Murphy (57th) are considered late 2nd rounders.
Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton is ranked 83rd on the list, slightly below Georgia sophomore guard Kantavious Caldwell-Pope(72nd) and Missouri senior forward Alex Oriakhi (75th).
That means 10 of the SEC’s 14 schools don’t have one player rated among the top 101, much less an NBA prospect. Most surprising is there are no players from such traditionally-solid basketball programs are Arkansas, LSU, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
The biggest question becomes why is there such a void is basketball talent in the SEC?
Again, I don’t think there’s a foolproof answer, but it’s logical to think one of the reasons is the incredible overall strength of the conference in football. (I know most of you don’t have to be reminded, but the SEC has won the last SEVEN national football championships.)
Are the nation’s top high school basketball players avoiding the SEC because basketball plays a distant second to football except at Kentucky? Are they shying away from schools where the backup quarterback is a bigger man on campus than the all-world hoopster?
It has to be a sufficient recruiting handicap for the SEC’s basketball coaches, which, for the record, makes Billy Donovan’s success at Florida all the more impressive.
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