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May 27, 2013

Slive has work to do in basketball

The Southeastern Conference meetings will take place in Destin, Fla. following Memorial Day on Monday.

Much of the interest will center on football, in particular a league schedule going forward, and the new league television network. Of course, next Friday, each school will receive its pay check of more than $20 million.

However, there is one other issue which needs to be addressed by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive - the condition of his league in men's basketball.

With the start of the SEC Network in 2014, conference basketball games will provide a lot of the programming. Right now, SEC basketball is far from must-see TV. Kentucky and Florida are the only two schools who put on the court a continual good product.

Let's forget about championships. Any team which wins two-thirds of its games in a season has fashioned a very good year. Posting a .667 winning percentage is a proper benchmark for a good season.

In the past five years, two SEC schools have no such seasons - Arkansas and Georgia. Moreover, another six schools have put together just one .667 campaign - Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The basketball reputation of the SEC was enhanced with the addition of Missouri. The Tigers are one of five BCS conference schools who have won at least two-thirds of their games each of the past five seasons. The other BCS schools are Duke, Kansas, Ohio State and Syracuse.

Texas A&M had recorded at least a .667 winning percentage three times in the last five years. However, none of those came in coach Billy Kennedy's two seasons in College Station. Vanderbilt has been the one holdover team to join Florida and Kentucky as consistently good teams in the last five years.

But, having just four solid programs is not enough for a 14-team league, trying to get more television sets turned on to their games. It is time for Anthony Grant at Alabama to start delivering on the court. In four seasons, Grant has reached that magic .667 number one time.

Three SEC coaches - Georgia's Mark Fox, Auburn's Tony Barbee and the Aggies' Kennedy will be expected to make strides this season. None of those coaches have yet to deliver big numbers in a combined nine seasons.

Then, there are five coaches who have been at their schools fewer than three years - Mike Anderson at Arkansas, Johnny Jones at LSU, Rick Ray at Mississippi State, Frank Martin at South Carolina and Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee. For the good of the SEC, these coaches need to have quick turnarounds.

Slive needs to set a demanding tone in a meeting with the basketball coaches. Expectations need to be high. Non-conference schedules need to be improved. There is no reason for SEC basketball to find itself so far behind football. The time for excuses is over. The time for improvement is now.

Here are the current SEC basketball coaches with their number of seasons with .667 winning percentages and number of NCAA tournament appearances in the past five years.

Anthony Grant, Alabama: 4 years - one .667 winning percentage, one NCAA tournament
Mike Anderson, Arkansas: 2 years - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
Tony Barbee, Auburn: 3 years - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
Billy Donovan, Florida: 5 years - four .667 winning percentages, four NCAA tournaments
Mark Fox, Georgia: 4 years - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
John Calipari, Kentucky: 4 years - three .667 winning percentages, three NCAA tournaments
Johnny Jones, LSU: 1 year - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss: 5 years - two .667 winning percentages, one NCAA tournament
Rick Ray, Mississippi State: 1 year - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
Frank Haith, Missouri: 2 years - two .667 winning percentages, two NCAA tournaments
Frank Martin, South Carolina: 1 year - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee: 2 years - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M: 2 years - no .667 winning percentage, no NCAA tournament
Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt: 5 years - three .667 winning percentages, three NCAA tournaments

Here are the BCS conference basketball teams who have won at least two-thirds of their games in more than three of the past five seasons.

ACC

Duke 5 (Mike Krzyzewski coach)
Florida State 4 (Leonard Hamilton coach)
North Carolina 4 (Roy Williams coach)

Big Ten
Ohio State 5 (Thad Matta coach)
Michigan State 4 (Tom Izzo coach)

Big XII
Kansas 5 (Bill Self coach)
Kansas State 4 (Frank Martin/Bruce Weber coaches)

Big East
Syracuse 5 (Jim Boeheim coach)
Louisville 4 (Rick Pitino coach)
Pittsburgh 4 (Jamie Dixon coach)

Pac-12
None

SEC
Missouri 5 (Mike Anderson/Frank Haith coaches)
Florida 4 (Billy Donovan coach)



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