SEC Non-Conference Schedule Round-Up: Part IPosted by Christian D'Andrea on January 3rd, 2014
New Year’s Eve has come and gone, and the only resolution that we’ll get in college basketball is the clarity that comes when cupcake schedules are abandoned and league rivalries begin. The replacing of the calendar means that conference play is just around the corner, and the teams of the Southeastern Conference are ready to tear each other up after a disappointing 2012-13 season. Currently, three SEC programs are ranked inside the Top 25, while five other programs have three losses or fewer with league play on the horizon.
To prep for the upcoming SEC season, let’s take a look back at how each team fared in their non-conference slate. We’ll break the programs down alphabetically, with five schools getting called up in the first installment of this three-part series. While Florida and Arkansas have made their case for the league this season, teams like Alabama and Georgia are proving that depth isn’t necessarily a priority in this football-first conference.
- Record: 5-7
- Best Win: A 12-point home win over 7-5 Texas Tech.
- Lowest Point: Losing 64-66 to give South Florida its only non-conference win over a power conference opponent.
The Crimson Tide are better than their 5-7 record indicates, but not by much. Their seven losses have all come against either ranked teams or power conference opponents, with the exception of a three-overtime loss to 8-4 Drexel in the Preseason NIT. If you’re in to silver linings, Alabama made things respectable in a 10-point loss to Duke, cutting the Blue Devils’ lead to six points with under three minutes to play. They also pushed #11 Wichita State into deep waters before falling in the final minute of a five-point home loss.
- Record: 10-2
- Best Win: A 14-point neutral-court win over 9-2 Minnesota.
- Lowest Point: A 77-85 loss to an average California team.
Arkansas has mostly taken care of business in its non-conference slate, building a resume filled with easy wins and a couple of quality ones. The Razorbacks dispatched a pair of potential NCAA Tournament teams when they beat Minnesota and SMU early in the season. Toppling Gonzaga in Maui would have given this team a big time win to show the bracket-makers in March, but Mike Anderson’s team is on the path to the postseason as-is. Their only real stumble came against the Golden Bears, but that won’t be enough to discount Arkansas’ chances in a relatively weak SEC this winter.
- Record: 7-3
- Best Win: A two-point home victory over 8-3 Clemson.
- Lowest Point: A baffling, very bad, absolutely no-good 111-92 loss to a Northwestern State team that has only beaten one other Division I program (Niagara) this season.
Auburn’s non-conference schedule is a hipster baker’s dream, because it’s loaded with cupcakes. Four of the Tigers’ first five opponents ranked outside of the top 250 in the RPI ratings, and the fifth (ranked #168) ended up beating them by 19 points. The team rallied as the season wore on to beat Clemson and Boston College, but there’s not a lot of meat stuck to the bones of Auburn’s non-conference schedule.
- Record: 10-2
- Best Win: A six-point home victory over #16 Kansas.
- Lowest Point: Injuries, discipline keep players like Scottie Wilbekin, Damontre Harris, Kasey Hill, and Chris Walker from contributing.
Florida has taken the mantle of the SEC’s highest-ranked program despite missing extended chunks of time from all the players listed above. Harris was dismissed from the program; Walker has yet to earn NCAA eligibility; Hill has been injured; and Wilbekin has faced both a team-mandated suspension and a high ankle sprain so far this season. Despite all that, the Gators are 10-2 and have knocked off a pair of ranked teams. Both of Florida’s losses have come to strong programs (UConn, Wisconsin), and it appears that Billy Donovan has his team primed for another Elite Eight appearance.
- Record: 6-5
- Best Win: A 20-point win over 4-7 Wofford(!).
- Lowest Point: Padding their schedule by bullying the helpless SoCon.
Like Auburn above them, the Bulldogs have filled up on soft non-conference opponents. Despite playing only two top-100 programs, Georgia is 6-5 and fixing to get Mark Fox fired in Athens. UGA has taken it to the Southern Conference, however, by beating up on Appalachian State, Wofford, Western Carolina, and Chattanooga. They’ll find the jump to the Southeastern Conference won’t be nearly as inviting.