There’s no way around it – the SEC is having one of its worst basketball seasons in recent history. If it holds up, the conference might get lapped by the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, and Mountain West Conferences in 2013. Only Florida has survived as a top 25 staple as talented but unproven teams like Kentucky and Missouri fell from the national rankings as the season wore on. The Wildcats have struggled to replace the game-altering defense and efficient offense of Nerlens Noel while Frank Haith’s Tigers have failed to gel as a unit despite boasting one of the country’s most talented rosters. Behind them, Ole Miss rose to the national consciousness thanks to Marshall Henderson and a 17-2 opening record. Then, they fell back to earth nearly as quickly while the cocksure guard struggled to make more than 35 percent of his shots in deflating losses. Even Alabama, with an 11-5 conference record and a top 50 RPI, has struggled to prove that their solid record passes the smell test in 2013.
Then, on March 2, with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee intently watching, all four teams lost. It started when Alabama, who needed a big win against Florida just to make it to the Tournament bubble, fell by a dozen points on the road. Then Tennessee, who was riding high after its own Gator upset, lost against a better-than-advertised Georgia team that was playing angry after an upset loss to Vanderbilt. Kentucky followed that up by allowing Arkansas to a 26-shot advantage in a 13-point defeat in Fayetteville. Then, most inexplicably of all, Ole Miss lost its Egg Bowl showdown with 7-20 Mississippi State, snapping the Bulldogs’ 13-game losing streak and completing the Rebels’ drop from potential NCAA Tournament #4-seed to NIT participant. There’s no sugar-coating how destructive this loss was – the Bulldogs had lost their previous two games by a combined 71 points. Marshall Henderson’s 3-of-18 performance from three-point range painted him less as a Chris Lofton-style savior and more as a late-era Antoine Walker chucker.