Somewhere the members of the NCAA Tournament selection committee are cringing.
As if its job isn't hard enough, the Southeastern Conference is making things much more difficult this year.
With 10 teams in the RPI's top 50, including three in the top 10, the whole conference might get in.
Never before has one conference experienced so much parity (except the ACC, every other season).
Take last Saturday, which I appropriately have named, "It sucks to be ranked day," as an example.
Within five hours, Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida all fell to unranked opponents. Only 18-1 Mississippi State escaped, even then in a scare at Auburn.
UK's 16-0 SEC mark last year is as long gone as Jim Harrick.
The root of the problem is the resurgence of the Eastern Division doormats.
Vanderbilt was 11-18 last season, but apparently offseason moves pay dividends. Cutting the athletics department might have been the best move the Commodores have made in a while.
Obviously feeling incredible pressure from the intramural department, the Commodores are 14-4.
Even more amazing is the 68-point turnaround from last year's defeat at Kentucky. Kevin Stallings and his "sea-men" beat the Wildcats Saturday after a fun 106-44 defeat last year.
USC, meanwhile, who currently leads the Eastern Division by a mere half game, wasn't much better. The Gamecocks were 12-16 last year, and have already equaled their SEC win total.
On a lighter note, the 'Cocks beat the sea-men last Wednesday. Stallings commented that he, "just couldn't get his team up for the big game."
But while teams have certainly improved, powers Kentucky and Georgia are back on earth. Actually, the Bulldogs are probably at Best Buy checking out the "free" DVD selection (See Tony Cole).
The Wildcats are certainly not the indestructible force they were last year. The departure of Keith Bogans is to thank for that.
After Saturday's upsets, only three games separated first from last in the East. The West saw only two games between second and last.
Two teams in the nation's top 25 (RPI) sit under .500 in conference play. Two more (UT and Auburn) sit in the top 50 with a combined 5-9 conference record.
Actually, the Vols might be the best picture of this whacked-up conference.
The "mighty road warriors" followed a 38-point road defeat to Florida with a win over the Gators at home.
Winning on the road apparently is what will separate the contenders. Teams in the top half of their division are 14-8 away from home, while the bottom half sits at 1-20.
Arkansas coach Stan Heath said winning on the road is quite a feat in this conference.
"Anytime you can go on the road and win in the SEC, you have something to feel good about," he said.
Stan doesn't feel good. His Razorbacks haven't even been competitive away from Fayetteville, much less win a game. Sorry, Stan.
It's midway through conference time. At this pace the "Surprisingly Even Conference" will be just that come selection Sunday.
Maybe the committee won't pick anybody from the SEC (Okay, Mississippi State at least deserves a spot in the play-in game).
The Pac-9 (Stanford doesn't count because they are good) and Big Ten (Really 11, but Northwestern doesn't qualify as an athletic team) are both pretty bad, so maybe the SEC will get their bids and everyone gets in.
Either way, the SEC should be well represented in the field of 64.
Just don't expect any of them to win it all.
- Scott Simmons is the sports copy editor for The Daily Beacon and a junior in finance. He can be reached at email@example.com .
SECuring bids: League full of tourney teams
Published: Tue Feb 03, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:46 p.m.