SEC’s Six Losses: Will Any Of Them Haunt The League?Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 15th, 2013
Avoiding the bad loss. It’s as important right now as it is at the end of the season, and given the lower level of most non-conference opponents in November, the traps are ugly and plentiful. ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan writes that despite solid metrics and wins against Duke and North Carolina, Virginia found itself in the NIT last season because of early losses against George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion. Is the SEC already in trouble with six losses before the first week of the season is done? Alabama, Tennessee and LSU are trying to take the next step and make the NCAA Tournament but have they already stubbed their toes with a loss each on their resumes? No. Not yet. Despite the large number of early losses, it appears no SEC team has suffered a crippling loss that could haunt it on Selection Sunday. In fact, each of the six could be characterized as a “good” loss at this point. Here is the KenPom rating for each team that has beaten an SEC squad:
- Michigan State: #2
- Wisconsin: #12
- Baylor: #30
- UMass: #44
- Xavier: #48
- Oklahoma: #57
This loss was “A-OK”
It almost goes without saying that Kentucky’s loss falls into this category. Yes, there was talk of perfection before the season even began and that bubble burst early. But the Wildcats lost a game to a perennially-elite team, and were able to bring the game down to the final minute despite a sluggish start, a lot of turnovers and bad play from the Harrison twins. There’s no shame in that. Florida is in the same boat. Injuries and suspensions made the Gators short-handed in one of college basketball’s toughest road environments. South Carolina played a good team on the road too, and nearly won a game many thought would be a mismatch.
Slight alarm bells, but you’re fine
The worst of the bunch is Alabama’s loss to Oklahoma. Had that come at home and not on a neutral floor it would look worse. But losing an opener to a middle-tier Big 12 team, even in a likely down year for that league, isn’t embarrassing. Lon Kruger is a good coach, and there are wins to be had in the Big 12 outside of Kansas and Oklahoma State. UMass hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 1998 and LSU’s loss in Amherst could raise flags because it wasn’t to a “name” mid-major. But again, this wasn’t a home loss and UMass appears to be a solid team with two players — Chaz Williams and Cady Lalanne — who would start in any conference.
I’m not sure where to place Tennessee. On one hand, Xavier is a quality program and the Volunteers didn’t have a tune-up. But I’m expecting a lot of Tennessee this season, and Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae are at the level where a game like that shouldn’t phase them. McRae played well, Stokes did not. This loss certainly won’t come back to bite the Volunteers because Xavier carries significant cachet, but it still leaves a bad taste. In fact, last Tuesday in general leaves a bad taste for the league despite five understandable losses. It was a day for the SEC to make a statement, yet every team except for Vanderbilt and Missouri lost. Even in those games the Commodores only beat Georgia State by six and the Tigers needed 31 points from Jordan Clarkson to beat Southern Illinois. The day can be categorized as one big missed opportunity. But let’s get back to some positivity.
One week, six losses. None occurred at a SEC home venue, and each was to a team within KenPom’s top 57. There will inevitably be a few soul-crushing losses before conference play begins, but it appears the SEC is clear of them, for now.