By Greg Dailey, KCOU Sports
If there were ever a Tale of Two Cities written about sports in college conferences, it would focus on football and basketball in the Southeastern Conference.
College football season has been filled to the brim with boasts about how dominant the SEC has been throughout this regular season, and for good reason. The same division in the same conference placed four teams in the top five for the first time in history. The state of Mississippi had the two of the top three teams in the country and its counterpart to the east had two in the top 10 as well. Now that the college football regular season is winding down though, some focus begins to turn from the gridiron to the hardwood. Unfortunately for those who do not live in Lexington, Ky., the glance to the basketball court will only be a quick one.
What do Virginia Commonwealth, Charleston Southern, Missouri-Kansas City and Georgia Tech all have in common? All four schools beat SEC teams the first game of the season, and Charleston Southern and UMKC both won on the road. As dominant as the SEC is in football, it is the complete other end of the spectrum when it comes to hoops. Last year, Kentucky and Florida were fantastic in the NCAA Tournament, but the separation between the “haves” and “have-nots” is enormous. New coaches at Missouri, Tennessee and Auburn plus the loss of key players at middle-of-the-pack programs (LSU and Ole Miss) will make the conference standings interesting after the top two spots are taken.
Kentucky is stacked. Two separate teams loaded with McDonald’s All-Americans make it almost a joke when they trot out on the floor. Coach John Calipari continues to recruit players at the highest level, give them the spotlight for NBA scouts, and then turnover and rebuild right back into am elite team. It is unfair to compare any other conference team to the Wildcats because Kentucky’s backups would still beat anyone’s starting five.
Florida has to replace four seniors that anchored the team to an unbelievable 2013-2014 season. The Gators return some talent (Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill and Michael Frazier II), but it could be a while before Billy Donovan gets his team to play like the Florida we are accustomed to watching. Still a top-10 team at the start of the season, the Gators experience will challenge Kentucky’s youth for the SEC title.
Arkansas is the team everyone is waiting to take the step forward into the relevancy now that Mike Anderson is entering his fourth season. Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley were highly recruited out of high school, but now the Razorback fan base might grow impatient if Anderson isn’t winning at the same level his mentor Nolan Richardson did.
So to the SEC fans out there, just beat your chests and focus on football as long as you can. Once the clock reads zeros after the football national championship, there won’t be anything to gloat at.