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SEC commissioner Mike Slive hopes to have new television deals by the end of the year. (Associated Press)

SEC commissioner Mike Slive hopes to have new television deals by the end of the year. (Associated Press)

SEC hoops leaves a lot to be desired

Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 11:06 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Mike Slive must be one frustrated camper right now.

The Southeastern Conference commissioner is used to getting his way.

For instance, college football will have a four-team playoff this season, just as he “suggested” four years ago, waiting patiently over the objections of many colleagues in the upper echelon of the sport, knowing they’d eventually come around to his way of thinking.

When he speaks, people normally listen.

But it’s been several years now since Slive looked at all the hoopla in the basketball world and noticed that the SEC wasn’t much of a part of it.

He decreed, in stirring words that recalled JFK’s “send a man to the moon” speech, that SEC basketball must and would get better.

He’s still waiting.

He had better luck when he took over the commissioner’s job in 2002 and ordered his coaches to quit cheating — or at least to quit getting caught.

Hoops remains an even tougher nut to crack.

Slive must be throwing up his arms. Can anybody around here play this game?

The oddity in it is that the SEC actually has the No. 1 team in the country with Florida, and a dang fine team it is (because, some say, the 27-2 Gators get to play so many other SEC schools).

Otherwise, though, Kentucky is ranked No. 17, and that’s it.

That’s two teams in the 25-team poll.

No other SEC team is within sniffing distance.

The ACC has six ranked teams, the Big Ten has five.

Compare that to football. Even with the league’s streak of seven consecutive national championships being snapped (by mere seconds), seven SEC teams (half the league) were ranked in the final poll.

Yeah, yeah, it is and always will be a football conference.

But at least one of the current baseball polls has nine SEC teams ranked in it.

So the baseball teams aren’t hurting in football’s big shadow.

Shoot, South Carolina is a powerhouse in women’s equestrian, whatever that is, ranked No. 1 in the nation for 13 straight weeks now.

Basketball, though, just can’t seem to get its act together.

The Big Ten and ACC could use this opportunity to return fire on seven years of football taunts, but the volleys would fall on deaf ears and stifled yawns.

That’s part of the basketball problem. Nobody really seems to care. The sport remains a luxury item, fine if it happens (Florida fans are enjoying the season), but not a firing offense, easily ignored, if things go awry.

Heading into the this week, seven of the 14 teams were 7-7 in conference play.

Parity?

If it was football, it would be more worst-fears proof that the SEC beats up on each other.

In basketball, it’s quickly dismissed as acute mediocrity.

Florida and Kentucky — two vastly different teams — will make the NCAA tournament.

The rest aren’t all terrible basketball teams. They’re OK, sort of.

The SEC will probably, somehow, slip another team into March Madness, maybe even two more.

But right now it’s not a given that any others will make it.

Meanwhile, Florida and Kentucky don’t offer much in the way of a blueprint.

Florida has four senior starters, none of whom attract much attention from NBA scouts.

That’s one way to go.

Kentucky is the opposite.

The Wildcats wouldn’t know a senior if he won the Kentucky Derby.

Head coach John Calipari seemingly recruits nothing but kids who a few years ago would be going straight to the NBA and talks them into a doing a one-year toe-tap in Lexington — then complains that his team is forever young.

It’s hard to get four seniors good enough to contend and Kentucky is the only school that can recruit solely from the McDonald’s All-American team every year.

So the rest muddle on.

LSU (8-7 after beating Texas A&M Wednesday night) might be the poster child. The Tigers are talented enough to win at home, even play close and hard on the road, but haven’t cracked the code away from home yet. They’re 1-6 in SEC road games — with a date Saturday at Florida.

Georgia has pulled away from the .500 club to a degree, now at 10-5 and in third place in the standings.

But it’s almost an indictment of the SEC.

The Bulldogs, a mere 16-11 overall, opened the season 1-4 (out of conference, of course), losing to Georgia Tech, Davidson, Temple and Nebraska, none of them ranked.

But Slive is trying.

Two years ago the league went from a 16-game to an 18-game conference schedule, in part to accommodate the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri, more so to give the basketball coaches two fewer chances to schedule easy wins that would do nothing for the strength of schedule or anything for toughening them up for dicier chores ahead.

The results have been mixed, but it does bring up an interesting point.

Mainly, when does spring football start?

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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