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When It Comes To SEC Basketball Jobs, Who’s Better And Who’s Best?

Who's_Better,_Who's_BestMick Cronin.  Ben Howland.  Chris Mack, Tim Miles, Archie Miller and Richard Pitino.  For kicks throw in Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart, too.

With the Tennessee and Missouri jobs now open, you can expect to see many of the same names on the Vols’ and Tigers’ lists of coaching candidates.  From our list above, expect Howland to push for both UT and MU, though there’s a reason he’s been passed over by Cal, Marquette, Boston College, Wake Forest, Tulsa, and everyone else he’s contacted this year.  (The reason is likely this.)  On the other side of the coin, Marshall and Smart aren’t likely to being going anywhere at all this offseason (but never say never).

That means Mike Alden and Dave Hart will be probably end up chasing those other guys.  Aware of that fact, Cronin, Mack, Miles, Miller and Pitino will be able to drive up their salary demands accordingly.  Two jobs in the same league open?  It’s called “leverage” and coaching candidates will have it.

But which school has the better basketball program?  Which school is the bigger draw?

Below we present you with our ranking of all 14 SEC jobs as if they were open right now.  We based our selections on facility size (fan support), stability (recent coaching turnover), and overall tradition (titles and tourneys).  We’re not just throwing out names from the top of our heads here.

 

Coaches would kill for…

1.  Kentucky

All-time:  53 NCAA tourneys, 16 Final Fours, 8 national titles

Last 15 years:  6 Conference titles, 3 head coaches

Arena capacity:  23,000

Upside:  Limitless

UK is clearly the top job in the SEC and it’s in a group of just four or five schools that could make a legitimate claim to being the best gig in the country.  We believe it probably is tops in America, but schools like North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, UCLA and Indiana are all terrific.

 

2.  Florida

All-time:  17 NCAA tourneys, 5 Final Fours, 2 national titles

Last 15 years:  6 Conference titles, 1 head coach

Arena capacity:  11,548

Upside:  Limitless

Billy Donovan has turned Florida into a national power.  Now, whoever replaces him will have to survive in a legend’s shadow.  But the UF athletic department has been incredibly stable, the recruiting base is large, and most of the heat in Gainesville gets directed toward the football coach.  If Donovan left today, Jeremy Foley could have a new coach by suppertime.

 

Coaches would be interested in…

3.  Arkansas

All-time:  29 NCAA tourneys, 6 Final Fours, 1 national title

Last 15 years:  0 Conference titles, 4 head coaches

Arena capacity:  19,200

Upside:  Strong

Arkansas eeks into the three-slot based mainly on what’s happened there in the past, just not in the recent past.  The arena is top-notch and the recruiting base includes Memphis (if a coach can tap into it).  When the Hogs are rolling, a good case can be made that UA becomes a basketball school.  It’s also hard to ignore a place with six Final Fours and a national crown.  There’s plenty of upside in Fayetteville and Jeff Long has shown that he’ll spend whatever cash the Razorbacks’ biggest boosters will give him.

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Report: Missouri’s Haith In Play For Tulsa Job

The coaching carousel seems to have gotten a late start in the SEC.  Well past the Final Four and the usual hiring time, one SEC job is already open and a new report suggests another one could be on the verge of opening soon.

Just days after Cuonzo Martin made a surprising move from Tennessee to California, Missouri’s Frank Haith is being mentioned in connection with another job.  And unlike Martin’s move, it wouldn’t be from one major conference school to another:

 

parrish tweet

 

 

According to Parrish, Haith is a “serious candidate” for the Tulsa job Danny Manning recently left for Wake Forest’s.  One source said, “Frank is looking for a way out of Missouri.”

Should Haith escape Columbia for Tulsa, we may soon see which SEC gig is most attractive to coaches — Missouri or Tennessee.

Update: Source tells ESPN.com that Haith has agreed to become the next coach at Tulsa.

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Slive: “I Live In Tomorrow” As Decision Over Scheduling Looms

the-future-signIn a speech at the University of Massachusetts’ Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management last night, Mike Slive described where his focus must be stay:

 

“Today doesn’t exist for me.  I live in tomorrow.  That’s my job.  Today is the job of 35 other people (on the SEC’s staff).  I am the trustee of a sacred public trust, and if you live in the South, you know exactly what I mean.”

 

ESPN.com’s Ivan Maisel points out that Slive also stated last night that the SEC will decide at next month’s spring meetings whether or not the league will switch from an eight-game football schedule to a nine-game conference schedule (beginning in 2016).

Slive’s views on today/tomorrow are shared by any good executive, any good leader.  During the recent conference expansion craze, for example, Slive had to consider how additions to the league would look in 20 years or 50 years, not just in the now.  The same goes for everything else the man does.  What are the long-term ramifications of his league’s actions?

At MrSEC.com, we’ve stated on many occasions that we believe the league should move to a nine-game  conference slate.  Such a move would protect the league’s oldest rivalries (Alabama/Tennessee, Auburn/Georgia, Mississippi/Vanderbilt).  And when it comes to protecting “a sacred public trust,” there is nothing more important than the traditions built over the past 81 years.

A nine-game schedule would also allow SEC schools to see teams from the opposite division more often.  Call us crazy, but if you’re in a conference you should probably see everyone else as often as you can.

But switching to a nine-game schedule would also aid the league moving into the future.

We suspect that the new College Football Playoff selection committee will do it’s best to pick teams from four different conferences when it comes selecting who’ll compete for the national crown.  Strength of schedule will be a important factor in that process.  The Big Ten has announced nine-game schedules beginning in 2016.  The Pac-12 is going with nine-games as is the Big 12.  ACC commissioner John Swofford said in February that there is “considerable support” for a move to nine games in his league as well.  If the SEC doesn’t move to nine, it will be the only major conference playing eight league games… which means SEC teams will likely play one more cupcake than teams in other conferences will.  If the selection panel is looking for reasons to keep a second SEC team out of its playoff, you can bet the cupcake issue would loom large.

Nick Saban is just about the only SEC football coach to date to publicly push for a nine-game schedule.  Most other coaches want to avoid anything that might make getting to six wins and a bowl game more difficult.  But if Slive’s job is to think about the future, he needs to convince a few more coaches, ADs and presidents that a move to nine games is most likely the wisest step.

Unfortunately, we don’t believe that will happen.

That means come 2016 and 2017, the SEC will be at a disadvantage in the new playoff landscape that was created immediately after the BCS featured an SEC versus SEC title game.  The playoff now exists to prevent such SEC dominance.  A decision to become the only eight-game league in the Big Five conferences would only aid those who are looking to “spread the wealth” among all the leagues.

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The SEC’s Most “Taxed” Fans

tax-dayHappy Tax Day, everyone.  From one coast to the other millions of Americans are making out checks to the government and dropping them in the mail today.  We know of no one who’s actually happy about that, of course.

In honor of this day of “giving,” we at MrSEC.com wanted to determine which SEC programs’ fans have been “taxed” the most.  What do we mean by that?  Losing is taxing on a fanbase.  It wears a person down as their favorite school suffers defeat after defeat.  So we’ve endeavored to determine which fans in the SEC have been dealing with defeats and losses most often.

As we normally do we’ll look only at the two revenue sports (which happen to be the two sports we cover around here).  Also, we’ll limit our time frame to two seasons since Missouri and Texas A&M have now completed two football and two men’s basketball seasons as SEC members.

Below you’ll find the number of losses piled up by each program.  There are four categories: Overall Football Losses, Overall Basketball Losses, SEC Football Losses and SEC Basketball Losses.  If you’re wondering why conference losses would be, in effect, counted twice each, it’s because losses to one’s neighbors are typically more painful.

 

Most Losses Since 2012

  School   Football Overall   Football SEC   Basketball Overall   Basketball SEC   Total Losses
  Miss. State   11   9   41   29   90
  Auburn   11   9   39   27   86
  S. Carolina   4   4   38   27   73
  Arkansas   17   14   25   16   72
  Kentucky   20   16   23   12   71
  Vanderbilt   8   7   33   21   69
  Tennessee   14   13   26   14   67
  Texas A&M   6   6   31   21   64
  Ole Miss   11   10   23   15   59
  Georgia   7   4   31   15   57
  LSU   6   5   26   18   55
  Missouri   9   7   23   16   55
  Alabama   3   2   32   17   54
  Florida   10   6   11   4   31

 

In terms of walking away from a stadium or arena in defeat, no SEC fanbase has had to that more than the folks down in Starkville over the last two years.  Bulldog backers have endured 90 losses (double-counting the SEC losses) since 2012.  The onus is on Dan Mullen and Rick Ray — especially Ray — to start recording a few more victories in the seasons ahead.

Surprisingly, Auburn fans wound up in second place on the list.  If not for the remarkable turnaround captained by Gus Malzahn last football season, Tiger fans might’ve ended up atop our “most taxed” list.  AU has lost 50 games overall and another 36 when the in-conference losses are added in again.

On the other end of the spectrum, fans of Ole Miss, Georgia, LSU, Missouri and Alabama have yet to experience the heartache of even 60 losses.  And Florida — with only 31 losses — has the “least taxed” fanbase in the SEC.  Gator fans have only had to deal with 21 losses over the last two years; ten more losses are added to their tally when their SEC losses are counted twice.

As you’ve probably figured out, the numbers are skewed in the direction of basketball.  More games played, more potential losses.  So be it.  This is simply a fun — depending on where your school ranks on the list — exercise to see which fans have a right to be the grumpiest in the Southeastern Conference.  That honor goes to MSU with Auburn, South Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky falling next in line.  Bulldog fans are the most taxed in the SEC.  But here’s guessing they needed no chart to tell them so.

 

 

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The SEC Needs A Rule Protecting Schools From Having To Face Players Booted For Disciplinary Reasons

gfx-honest-opinionLast week, Gary Pinkel surprised a lot of people — including many Missouri fans — when he jettisoned talented receiver Dorial Green-Beckham following his third run-in with police.  While the victims of the latest investigation into the player refused to file charges, the evidence suggests Green-Beckham busted into a girl’s apartment, shoved a friend of his girlfriend and then grabbed and dragged his girlfriend by her neck.

He earned his dismissal and Pinkel deserves credit for protecting the integrity of his football program.  Pinkel does not deserve to face Green-Beckham if/when the player purifies himself with a year of junior college ball.

We’ve stated this view on previous occasions.  Just last season, for example, Georgia had to face two starting quarterbacks  with the SEC who had previously been drummed out of Athens.  In the spring of 2009, freshman Zach Mettenberger was arrested.  Reportedly, he then failed to come clean to Mark Richt about the circumstances of that arrest and he was dismissed.  After a year at Butler Community College he transferred to LSU and almost knocked off Richt’s Bulldogs in a 44-41 thriller last year.

Later in the season, Georgia did fall 43-38 to an Auburn team quarterbacked by Nick Marshall.  Marshall began his career as a defensive back at Georgia, but he was dismissed from the team as a freshman in 2011 due to an unspecified violation of team rules.  After a year at Garden City Community College, Marshall landed on the Plains and came within one drive of leading the Tigers to a BCS championship.

Richt being Richt, he said he was happy that both young men had turned things around and found success.  We don’t doubt that.  But was it right for Richt to have to play two players that he had chosen to discipline?  The fact that a booted player could come back to haunt a coach down the road might lead some to hang onto players a bit longer even if they’ve proven to be bad news.

That wasn’t the case with Richt, nor was it the case with Pinkel.  They — among others over the years — made tough decisions to sever football ties with athletes who’d let down them and their programs.  One lost a game to a player he’d dismissed and might lose another to him this fall.  The other could wind up seeing Green-Beckham lined up against him somewhere down the road.  That’s not right.

The SEC should discuss at its spring meetings the possibility of taking a unified stance against players disciplined by member institutions.  There are 125 FBS programs in the nation.  Anyone thinking, “What about second chances?,” needs to remember that.  If a player errs so seriously or so repeatedly as to cost himself an opportunity to play for 14 of those schools — those in the Southeastern Conference — he would still have 111 other top-flight schools as possible landing spots.

(Interestingly, such a rule could have applied to an SEC coach in recent weeks.  If such a rule were put in place with regards to players — it won’t be — there would likely need to be a similar rule regarding coaches who lose their SEC job due to NCAA violations.  Now, would any school respect its leaguemates enough to back away from a proven coach who just happened to run afoul of the NCAA law at a conference rival?  No way.  Much to Bruce Pearl’s happiness.)

If maintaining discipline and protecting the reputations of schools is important in the SEC, the league’s schools should work in concert to make discipline a priority.  If a player is banished from one school for disciplinary reasons he should be barred from landing at one of that school’s conference rivals.  No coach doing the right thing should himself be punished for doing that very thing.

Pinkel has said that he wants what’s best for Green-Beckham.  ”I love that kid.  I want him to get some help.  He can go to another place and get a fresh start and he can still achieve his goals.”  Those are admirable comments from Mizzou’s coach.  But the Tigers shouldn’t be punished because they chose to punish a player who had brought negative attention to the University of Missouri and Tiger football.

We at MrSEC.com hope Green-Beckham does turn his life around and does earn himself a second-chance at another school.  But that school should be one of 111 schools across America.  That school should not be in the Southeastern Conference.

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Missouri And Texas A&M Worth $41 Million To The SEC In Year One

offering-cashAccording to the SEC’s federal tax return for 2012, the conference saw its revenue grow by $41 million dollars in its first year as a 14-school league.  USA Today requested the return which shows the SEC took in $314.5 million in 2012.  Missouri and Texas A&M were welcomed into the Southeastern Conference in the summer of 2012.

Interestingly, the SEC showed an overall deficit for its fiscal year which ended on August 31st, 2013.  While the league brought in $314.5 million, it spent $317.9 million.  Most of that money went back to the member institutions in the form of annual payments.  The league will hand out new checks next month during the SEC Meetings in Destin, Florida.

The SEC’s tax return also shows:

 

*  Missouri and Texas A&M each made about $19.5 million in their first year in the SEC.  The two schools made a little more than $12 million in their final year in the Big 12.

*  Mike Slive’s base pay increased to nearly $1.2.  His overall income was down from 2011 when he received more than half a million dollars in bonuses.

*  Slive’s base salary in 2012 was less than what fellow commissioners John Swofford (ACC), Jim Delany (Big Ten) and Larry Scott (Pac-12) made in 2011.

 

The Southeastern Conference fell $1 million shy of the Big Ten’s revenue total ($315.5 million) from the previous year.  When compared to all other conferences, the SEC and Big Ten are still dominant financially.  For example, the ACC ranked third in revenue in 2011, making $223.3 million.

The SEC’s revenue will continue to rise over the next few seasons as the new playoff system will debut, new bowl partnerships will kick off and the SEC Network will launch.

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Kentucky Falls Just Short Of National Crown & Other Basketball Notes (Part 2)

BioIBjOCEAABT9ZThe three SEC squads that did make this year’s NCAA Tournament each had a nice run.  Tennessee reached the Sweet Sixteen and was three missed free throws away from making the Midwest Regional final and SEC versus SEC showdown.  Kentucky went on to win that regional and advance all the way to the national title game before finally running out of steam.  And on the other side of the bracket, Florida cruised all the way to the Final Four before falling to eventual national champ, UConn.

Will that success lead next year’s NCAA Tournament selection committee to send the SEC a few more invitations to the Big Dance?  Probably not.

Hey, in theory, impressing in this year’s tourney could sway next year’s panel when it comes to SEC teams on the bubble.  But the committee doesn’t often take last year’s success/failure into account when doling out at-large bids.  First example: After winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, Florida’s bubble was popped two years in a row sending the Gators to the NIT.  In 2012, Kentucky won the national title.  In 2013, UK was given a thumbs-down on Selection Sunday, dropping them into the NIT.  One year’s success or failure doesn’t have much impact on who the committee picks and doesn’t pick for its tournament the following year.

On the flipside, perhaps the tournament runs by UF, UK and UT will have a positive impact on the SEC’s overall conference RPI ranking.  That might not guarantee more bids in 2015, but it couldn’t hurt.

 

Early top 25 rankings look awfully familiar

Will the SEC be better next season?  Not in the eyes of a couple of national hoops writers.  ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan posted an early top 25 preview for next season.  He has Kentucky — with a new batch of highly-touted freshmen — ranked #3 in the nation and Florida ranked #8.  That’s it.  Two ranked teams.  He does mention Tennessee among his group of 15 teams that “may crack the list at some point before November.”

Meanwhile, Rob Dauster of NBC and College Basketball Talk has posted his own early top 25 rankings.  Kentucky is ranked #5.  Florida is ranked #14.  And that’s it.  No other Southeastern Conference squad earns a mention from Dauster.

 

UConn’s basketball success doesn’t mean much in a football-crazed culture

Connecticut’s men’s basketball team has won four national championships in 16 seasons.  Over that same span the UConn women’s team has won seven national crowns and will be playing for their eighth tonight.  If there’s a D-I campus where basketball is king, it’s the one in Storrs, Connecticut.

And that fact hasn’t helped the Huskies one bit in terms of conference affiliation opportunities.

UConn has campaigned try and gain inclusion in the ACC.  No dice.  Boston College wants to be the New England team in John Swofford’s conference.  For that reason, Louisville — hardly a team located on the Atlantic Coast — got the nod to replace Maryland over UConn and others.

Connecticut hasn’t had much luck talking their way into the Big Ten, either.  UConn lacks the resume — meaning a membership in the Association of American Universities — for which Jim Delany’s league lusts.  Maryland and Rutgers received Big Ten invitations instead.

Conference expansion/realignment has been driven by just about every factor out there except basketball.  And that’s a shame for Connecticut because UConn is fast becoming Basketball U with both its men’s and women’s teams.

 

What would a big game be without a few couch fires

Pity the poor, innocent couches.  It’s become commonplace in recent years for college students to burn couches after big losses (Ohio State).  They also light ‘em up after big wins (West Virginia).  Mostly they just burn them when they’re feeling good and liquored up, regardless of a big game’s outcome.  Last night, Kentuckians got in on the act.

According to The Lexington Herald Leader, there were 19 couch fires, several small trash fires, 31 arrests, and 23 injuries after Connecticut topped Kentucky 60-54.  It was a disappointing, immature reaction that’s made news all across the web, the nation and the world.

There are worse things, however.  Like being stuck with a tattoo bearing the words “2014 National Champions” above the UK logo.  For the record, Tyler Austin Black says he’s going to keep the tattoo.

Betcha he has some work done to cover up the “2014″ at least.

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Next Hoops Season, Just Focus On Your Team’s RPI And Ignore The Game-To-Game Analysis

see_the_big_picture_260The big picture.

In college basketball the big picture is all that matters.  Is your favorite team’s resume good enough to earn it an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament?  The rest of it — the yo-yo, see-saw, roller-coaster, up and down, back and forth freak outs — is meaningless.

Don’t believe us?  OK, then how many Kentucky fans do you think are still sweating the Wildcats’ 72-67 March 1st road loss to South Carolina?  Anyone?

Kentucky began the 2013-14 season with dreams of an undefeated season.  As those dreams quickly disappeared thanks to November and December losses to Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina, Big Blue Nation had a Big Blue Conniption.  From messageboards to Twitter, John Calipari was taken to task for not getting the most out of what was basically the world’s best AAU team.  So what if Coach Cal’s players were young and green?  Many UK backers simply weren’t accepting excuses (even legitimate ones).

Things only got worse as the Cats proved themselves to be inconsistent throughout SEC play.  There were two losses to Arkansas.  There was the South Carolina disaster.  There was a 3-4 stretch to end the regular season.  There also was a tie for second place in the SEC with Georgia.

That’s not at all what Kentucky fans and most media members expected to see as the regular season transitioned into tourney season.

Yet here we are, once again reminded that tourney season is really the only season that matters when it comes to college basketball.  The regular season is nothing more than a means of selecting 68 teams for the NCAA Tournament.  The regular-season games themselves?  They mean zip.  Kentucky lost three times to Florida this year.  But who’s in the national title game?  Kentucky, not Florida.

Tennessee lost to a seven-man Vanderbilt squad and lost twice to Texas A&M.  But the Vols still got into the tournament, they reached the Sweet Sixteen and they were just three missed free throws from reaching the Elite Eight.  The regular season that so angered the “Bring Back Bruce” crowd in Knoxville really meant little by season’s end.  The Vols did what they had to do to get in the field and then they took advantage of matchups to keep playing long after Kansas, Ohio State, Duke and Syracuse went home (despite those schools having better regular seasons).

Florida had a magnificent regular season losing just twice.  They were undefeated in SEC play and then they took their in-league record to a sizzling 21-0 in the SEC Tournament.  They were given the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.  But the Gators drew a bad matchup in the national semifinal game and fell to UConn, one of the two teams that beat UF back in the regular season.  So for all those regular-season wins and that top overall seed, UF will still be watching tonight’s championship game along with 349 other D-I schools.

At MrSEC.com, we vow never to go too overboard over the seeding implications of regular-season wins and losses, either.  Once a team is in the field, it’s all a question of matchups.  Matchups mean more than seeds.  Kentucky and UConn were seeded eighth and seventh in their respective regions.  One 10 seed and two 11 seeds reached the Sweet Sixteen this year.  One 11 seed (Dayton) advanced all the way to the Elite Eight.  And obviously none of the 1 seeds made it to tonight’s title bout.

So next basketball season, follow our lead and focus only on three things from November to March:

 

1.  What is my team’s RPI?

2.  What is my team’s strength of schedule?

3.  How close to 20 wins are we and do we still have time to hit that mark?

 

It’s all about being good enough to earn one of the 36 at-large bids handed out by the selection committee.  And all things being equal, that means your favorite squad will probably need to win 20 games, have an RPI inside the top 40 and a SOS rank of 100 or better.  Follow that.  Pay attention to that.  And get off the roller-coaster.

A December loss to North Carolina?  A march loss to South Carolina?  Unless one or the other prevents your team from winning 20 or ranking in the top 40 of the RPI… those regular-season games should be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s time to just admit that fact and focus on the big picture instead.

That’s what we do on this site each year.  And you can bet we’re going to keep doing it moving forward.

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Bielema: Arkansas RB Collins Isn’t Transferring

alex-collinsArkansas running back Alex Collins isn’t going anywhere.  At least not according to head coach Bret Bielema who called social media “reports” that Collins would leave “completely clueless, baseless and senseless.”  

The sophomore-to-be finished seventh in the SEC last season in rushing yards per game with 85.5.  Overall he carried the ball 190 times for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns.  He earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors for his efforts.

But rumors have swirled that Collins might not be happy in Fayetteville, might be facing a multi-game suspension, and might be interested in transferring closer to his South Florida home.  You might recall that on Signing Day 2013 Collins’ mother raised a stink about her son going so far from home to attend college and play football.  Also, Collins was one of nine UA players suspended earlier this offseason, though no specific reason was given.

Bielema said Saturday — as he shot down those transfer rumors — that Collins has “really grown as a person.”  He added:

 

I think the thing about him is he’s had so much success in life, when he had a bump in the road he had a tendency to try to do things his own way.  And he had to learn how to do the things the way we are here.  I couldn’t be more pleased with where he’s at.  He had to grow a lot.  He had to earn respect from some of his teammates.  He’s doing that bit by bit now.”

 

Collins was part of a one-two punch at running back for the Razorbacks last season.  Junior-to-be Jonathan Williams finished with 150 carries, 900 yards and four touchdowns.

If Arkansas is to improve on it’s 3-9 (0-8 in the SEC) 2013 season, it will need Collins in the fold and on the field.

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Florida Vies To Pass Kentucky In Recent SEC Hoops Supremacy

florida-dunk-over-kentucky-2014Eighteen years ago, Kentucky basketball was sitting atop its traditional perch looking down the rest of the Southeastern Conference.  Rick Pitino would lead his final Wildcats team to the NCAA Tournament finals.  Tubby Smith would replace Pitino and win UK the national crown a season later.  The two combined for 70 wins in those crossover seasons.

But down in Gainesville, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley had just made a move that would alter the course of SEC basketball for nearly two decades.  He hired a young coach named Billy Donovan.  The former Pitino player and assistant had served just two years as head coach at Marshall before Foley tabbed him to replace Lon Kruger.  Donovan’s record at the West Virginia school was 35-20.  After struggling in his first two years in the Sunshine State, Donovan’s career mark stood at just 62-52.  At that point, few would have guessed that he would be the man to challenge Kentucky’s long-held dominance in the Southeastern Conference.

In many ways, this year’s Final Four — if won by UF or UK — could serve as a sort of rubber match between the two dominant hoops programs.  The numbers including Donovan’s first two rebuilding years also include the final heights of Pitino and Smith at Kentucky.  Take those first two rebuilding seasons out of the mix and Florida has arguably been the SEC’s best basketball program over the last 16 seasons.

Below is a comparison of the programs including the 1996-1997 and 1997-98 seasons:

 

1996-97 through 2013-14

  Category   Florida   Kentucky
  Seasons   18   18
  30-Win Seasons   3   4
  20-Win Seasons   16   17
  NCAA Trips   14   16
  NIT Trips   3   2
  NCAA Titles   2   2
  NCAA Final Fours   4   5
  NCAA Elite Eights   7   7
  NCAA Sweet Sixteens   8   9
  SEC Championships   6   7
  SEC Tourney Championships   4   8
  Overall Winning Pct.   .728   .757

 

While Florida has put up a nice challenge to the Wildcats over that span, UK still retains the crown when you include the end of Pitino and the start of Smith.  While Donovan was rebuilding (27-32 his first two years with the Gators), UK was going 35-5 and 35-4, reaching the NCAA title game twice, and claiming one championship banner.

But how does the story read since Donovan got his program up and running?  Below are the accomplishments of Florida and Kentucky from the 1998-99 season forward:

 

1998-99 through 2013-14

  Category   Florida   Kentucky
  Seasons   16   16
  30-Win Seasons   3   2
  20-Win Seasons   16   15
  NCAA Trips   14   14
  NIT Trips   2   2
  NCAA Titles   2   1
  NCAA Final Fours   4   3
  NCAA Elite Eights   7   7
  NCAA Sweet Sixteens   8   9
  SEC Championships   6   6
  SEC Tourney Championships   4   6
  Overall Winning Pct.   .757   .746

 

While not a complete flip-flop, Florida does hold what we consider to be a slight advantage over Kentucky since 1998-98.  Looking back 16 years instead of 18, Donovan’s two worst years are taken out of the mix.  Also gone are two of UK’s best years.

It also must be noted that while Donovan has been the only man in charge of the Gators during the past 18 seasons, the Wildcats have had four bosses: Pitino, Smith, Billy Gillespie and John Calipari.  Advantage: Florida on the stability front.  However, at his current pace, it appears Calipari is going to have Kentucky flying at high altitudes — right along with Florida — for as long as he remains in Lexington.

This year’s Final Four could result in a third national crown for Florida (over 16 or 18 seasons).  Looking at it only since Donovan built up UF, that would give the Gators a three-to-one advantage in NCAA hardware since 1998-99.  A national title for Kentucky would even the two schools with two crowns apiece since Donovan turned Florida into a national power.

It’s possible, of course, that neither Florida nor Kentucky will win this season’s national title.  Here’s hoping one or the other does cut down the nets in North Texas.  If for no other reason than to further spice up the debate as to whether or not the Gators have surpassed the Wildcats when it comes to recent SEC hoops supremacy.

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