Mike Siroky's SEC Tourney: The League Battle Royal Defined
Everyone gets a do-over.
You can look at the Southeastern Conference tournament schedule and make an argument that any one of the top four, in descending order, could win the automatic bid and the secured NCAA entry.
Here are the 2017 seeds:
South Carolina 14-2 (1), Mississippi State 13-3 (2); Missouri 11-5 (3); Kentucky 11-5 (4); Tennessee 10-6 (5); A&M 9-7 (6); LSU 8-8 (7); Auburn 7-9 (8).
Missouri wins its tiebreaker by beating Kentucky at home. Auburn wins its tiebreaker by beating Georgia at home.
The rest: Georgia 7-9 (9); Alabama 5-11 (10); Ole Miss 5-11 (11); Florida 5-11 (12); Vanderbilt 4-12 (13); Arkansas 13-16 (14).
All the top seven are in, of course; the semifinalists could even be Sweet 16 qualifier hosts.
Auburn would win the league legend invitation with a losing league record. Tennessee got in at 8-8 last season.
If anyone but the co-champs of the regular season wins this next thing, the heads of the NCAA Selection Committee will explode as they have teased us that two of them might be top seeds.
That will never happen because you’d have to put a non Top Four team over another conference’s champion for the second No. 1.
A No. 2 still stays home for two games against inferior teams and would be seeded to play the No. 1 anyway.
Being a No. 1 just helps in recruiting and the top two really don’t need that.
It is unlikely an SEC No. 2 would be in the UConn bracket and that is all you want to avoid. The SEC No. 2 would be the best of that seeding line.
The rest just don’t matter, because they will be in – the second goal of the regular season -- and given an eventual opportunity to do what Tennessee did last season and pull an upset by winning a couple.
After this, it only takes five to win it all.
Someone will do it and that coach also gets an entry into the Women’s College basketball Hall of Fame, because all NCAA champion coaches do.
Of course, four conference lead coaches are already there and one is even in the real Basketball Hall of Fame.
14-15 Vanderbilt vs. 17-12 Alabama
14-15 Florida vs. 13-16 Arkansas
The teams with winning records are headed for the NIT. Vanderbilt needs to win two.
15-14 Georgia vs. 17-13 Auburn
19-10 Tennessee vs. Game 1 winner
19-10 LSU vs. 17-12 Ole Miss.
19-10 A&M vs. Game 2 winner
The Top 4 kick in against previous winners.
Two teams in the Southeastern Conference with losing overall records – Arkansas and Florida – have coaches who should be candidates for replacement if only those schools cared about women’s basketball.
It’s great one will eliminate the other in the first night.
The ’Gators basically forfeited creditability and a winning season by driving off their best player in an ego battle with the current coach. The player will resurface with a footprint on the international stage.
Arkansas has ended another dismal season with an affordable coach with no prior coaching experience they hired for the toughest league in America.
He is now leading his own recruits and it shows. He also lost his best recruit ever who, disillusioned in her home state, defected to league rival and top program Mississippi State at mid-season.
Both pay scales are in the middle of the league lineups, ahead of coaches with winning records.
Running off players and being paid while not winning usually sends shudders through proud athletic departments.
The always-pandering SEC and ESPN network broadcasters doomed both with the faintest of cheerleading praise: “This team never quits!”
So the answer for a losing season must be terrible coaching. They led us to that.
These programs are only spotlighted because fans around the country always want to know what programs in the SEC might offer a young coach a try.
Arkansas clearly doesn’t care, but Florida has provided institutional support in the past.
The coaches at Alabama, Ole Miss and Georgia will all be in the NIT. They all are two players shy of being competitive but still pull upsets in the regular season and basically decided the pecking order after the top four teams.
The ’Dawgs’ 15-14 overall is unimpressive. If they falter here, they become the team of a coaching opportunity next season as this is almost the end of former coach Andy Landers’ recruits.
Vanderbilt has rebuilt as well as can be expected in Year 1.
Ole Miss has a coach on deck with the brains – and now the experience – to lead a competitive team within or without the SEC.