By Garrett Jones
As far as star power in Division-I college basketball, the Southeastern Conference does not find itself lacking.
Some of the sport’s most recognizable leaders head SEC programs. Polarizing figures, young superstars, salty veterans- the conference boasts them all.
KCOU Sports’ Web Editor Garrett Jones took a look at each, and ranked them based on win-loss record and percentage, average recruiting ranking (according to 247 Sports), and success in the 2018-19 season. All statistics and records are accurate as of Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2019.
14. Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt | 2nd season- 40-44 W-L | 2018-19: 9-8, 0-5 SEC
Someone had to be last on this list. Drew is not a bad coach, by any means. Vanderbilt is a tough school to win at in any sport, save baseball. He secured the No. 3 recruiting class in 2018- highlighted by Darius Garland and Simi Shittu. The former Valpariso star will need a long leash and a lot of time, but many are confident he can get Vanderbilt contending in the conference.
13. Tom Crean, Georgia | 1st season- 9-8 W-L | 2018-19: 9-8, 1-4 SEC
It’s far too early to rank the former Indiana coach based on his sole season at UGA. Georgia is a football-first school, but Crean has the experience, charisma, and objective prowess to build the Bulldogs into a contender on the court and in the recruiting race.
12. Kermit Davis, Ole Miss | 1st season- 14-4 W-L | 2018-19: 14-4, 4-2 SEC
The same goes for Davis as does Crean- perhaps he can climb much higher on this list However, for just his first season- Davis has led the Rebels to unexpected heights. Under his leadership, this seasonRebels surpassed their win total from all of 2017-18 (12) by January. Culture= changed.
11. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M | 7th season- 143-108 W-L | 2018-19: 7-10, 1-5 SEC
Kennedy brought another football-first school to the precipice of an SEC title in 2016. The Aggies are undoubtedly rebuilding this season, but Kennedy has proven to be a competent on-court strategist, and a fine recruiter for the sporadic hoops hotbed state of Texas.
10. Avery Johnson, Alabama | 4th season- 69-44 W-L | 2018-19: 12-6, 3-3 SEC
Among the conference’s biggest names, Johnson has a significant challenge of trying to win at a school that prioritizes football- and has more success- more so than any other school in the conference. Johnson secured a prized recruiting class in 2017- albeit amid speculation of recruiting violations, and has Alabama playing above its potential this season.
9. Mike Anderson, Arkansas | 8th season- 161-80 W-L | 2018-19: 10-7, 1-4 SEC
The former head man at cross-conference rival Missouri’s seat isn’t exactly warm, but that’s a discussion that could gain momentum next season. Arkansas has made the tournament in consecutive seasons, but fizzed out in the first weekend on both times. He hasn’t consistently recruited superstars, but has coached up mid-level talent to play above its potential.
8. Cuonzo Martin, Missouri | 2nd season- 30-19 W-L | 2018-19: 10-6, 1-3 SEC
Martin certainly made a splash in his first season at Mizzou, securing a national top-five recruiting class, turning around one of the worst teams in the 2016-17 season, and leading an injury-plagued team chalked full of off-the-court drama to an impressive 20-14 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance. On-court strategy has always been his perceived weakness, but his long term success in the coming years will be the true indicator of his success in Columbia.
7. Will Wade, LSU | 2nd season- 32-18 W-L | 2018-19: 14-3, 4-0 SEC
Alike Martin, the former VCU wunderkind has caught national attention in his first two seasons at his school. The Tigers are playing extremely well this season, and have secured top-five conference recruiting rankings in both of his classes.
6. Mike White, Florida | 4th season- 80-44 W-L | 2018-19: 11-7, 3-3 SEC
Often considered the SEC’s consistent No. 2 program, White has done a good job keeping Florida afloat- and led the team to an Elite Eight appearance in 2017. White is another coach who doesn’t land superstar recruits, but molds the ones he gets into special, niche players that function well together.
5. Ben Howland, Mississippi St. | 4th season- 70-49 W-L | 2018-19: 14-4, 2-3 SEC
Talk about a hard place to win at- Mississippi State saw little men’s basketball noteriety prior to the former UCLA coach’s arrival. Howland has landed strong recruiting classses- and aside from notable exception Malik Newman- has been able to keep them around. The Bulldogs are dark horse contender in the SEC this season.
4. Bruce Pearl, Auburn | 5th season- 83-67 W-L | 2018-19: 13-5, 2-3 SEC
Pearl is often scrutinized for Auburn’s consistent alleged recruiting violations, but on the court, the former Tennessee coach has turned another football-first school into a national contender. His job security is routinely low, but he won’t land any shortage of headlines, and has undoubtedly increased Auburn’s national visibility.
3. Frank Martin, South Carolina | 7th season- 123-98 W-L | 2018-19: 10-8 , 5-1 SEC
This season, South Carolina lost to mid-major schools Stony Brook and Wyoming. In the same season, they’ve started conference play 5-1. That’s a testament to Frank Martin’s ability. The Gamecocks are routinely a dark-horse contender under his leadership- proven by the school’s unexpected run to its first Final Four in 2017.
2. Rick Barnes, Tennessee | 4th season- 73-45 W-L | 2018-19: 16-1, 5-0 SEC
Shaka Smart has found marginal success at Texas, but after seeing what Barnes has put together at Tennessee- has to be questioning his ouster in 2014. The Volunteers have risen to the No. 1 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll, and firmly established themselves as Kentucky’s biggest year-in-and-year out challenger to Kentucky.
1. John Calipari, Kentucky | 10th season- 273-64 W-L | 2018-19: 15-3, 5-1 SEC
Was there any question? Polarizing as he may be, Calipari wins. Scandal and scrutiny follows him wherever he goes- but so does success. Kentucky is historically and recently the most successful overall SEC program, and this is largely led by Calipari, despite only one national title to show for it.