The Union Recorder

Local Sports

January 7, 2013

Poor start has SEC staggering into league play

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Southeastern Conference figured to take a step backward this season after being home of the national champions and having the most NBA draft picks of any league last year.

Still, few expected the SEC to get knocked around like it has during its nonconference schedule.

"I do think there are some teams going through some transitions just like we are," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "That's probably made for a little lesser performance in nonconference play."

That has translated into mounting losses.

SEC teams have gone 3-6 against the Atlantic Coast Conference, 2-5 against the Big 12, 2-4 against the Big Ten, 4-13 against the Big East and 4-5 against the Pac-12. SEC teams also are just 3-11 against the Top 25. Missouri's 82-73 victory over No. 10 Illinois on Dec. 22 is the SEC's lone win over a top-10 team in eight attempts.

The SEC's nonconference performance could mean that going slightly above .500 in conference play may not be enough to reach the NCAA tournament.

Alabama visits No. 10 Missouri on Tuesday in the season's first conference game.

SEC coaches say it's too early to panic — or to write the conference off.

Florida's Billy Donovan believes it's unfair to base a league's reputation solely on its November or December performance.

"I never really agreed with that," Donovan said. "I think teams get better. I think the one thing that's happened in our league is a lot of teams in our league have lost a lot of people. Kentucky's lost a lot. Vanderbilt's lost a lot. Mississippi State's got a new coach. South Carolina's got a new coach. There's been a lot of turnover in personnel of key guys."

Florida guard Kenny Boynton is the lone first-team or second-team all-SEC performer from last season who has played at all this year. The only other 2011-12 all-conference player to return to school was Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon, who is redshirting this season because of an injured left knee.

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