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SEC Hoops Midseason Check In - Tracking The 2019-20 #SECBasketballFever Outbreak

Checking in on the conference prior to league play starting

NCAA Basketball: Missouri State at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the excitement of the football team making its national championship run, college basketball has reached the heart of its season. League play has started across the nation, and the SEC will begin its slate of conference games Saturday.

The basketball landscape seems to be quieter than usual this year, at least from an LSU perspective. Maybe it’s because the LSU football team hasn’t played this late into the winter since 2011; maybe it’s that the men’s team hasn’t been terrible but not exactly the top-15 squad it was last season; or maybe it’s because there’s not a truly great team anywhere or a Zion Williamson-esque can’t miss future NBA prospect playing. But folks, this year the #SECBasketballFever sure has been out in full force this season.

Chris Schutte over at Mid-Major Madness has been tracking the upsets throughout the year. He calls them Brutalities and you can either be given a brutality (hand a major school a loss) or suffer one (catch a loss). Eight games involving an SEC school has resulted in a brutality, none more infamous than Kentucky losing to Evansville from the Missouri Valley Conference.

The SEC leads the Power 5 in most brutalities and is tied with the Atlantic 10 for most brutalties suffered by a major conference. But in the Atlantic 10’s defense, the eight losses have been suffered by four different teams; for the SEC, those eight losses have come from seven different schools.

SEC Basketball Fever

Winning Team, Score Losing Team, Score Winning Team's Conference
Winning Team, Score Losing Team, Score Winning Team's Conference
Penn, 81 Alabama, 80 Ivy
Evansville, 67 Kentucky, 64 Missouri Valley
Boston, 78 South Carolina, 70 Patriot
Charleston Southern, 68 Missouri, 60 Big South
La. Tech, 74 Mississippi State, 67 C-USA
Liberty, 61 Vanderbilt, 56 Atlantic Sun
ETSU, 74 LSU, 63 Southern Conference
Stetson, 63 South Carolina, 56 Atlantic Sun
SEC Brutal Losses Chris Schutte

To date, the league only has two teams ranked in the AP Top 25. In the preseason poll, the SEC had four ranked teams, including LSU, two of whom were in the top 10; Kentucky opened the year ranked second and is now No. 17, while Florida was sixth but is currently unranked.

The surprise of the season, however, are the Auburn Tigers. Auburn is 12-0 and one of the only two remaining undefeated teams in Division I, San Diego State being the other. Auburn opened year ranked preseason No. 24 and has worked its way up all the way to No. 8. Now, whether or not Auburn’s unbeaten record is a product of the schedule is yet to be seen. Auburn’s only beaten one team—North Carolina State— in KenPom’s most recent Top-50 rankings and has five wins over teams outside the Top 150. But hey, you can only play who’s in front of you and if it were that easy to beat lesser schools, well maybe seven SEC teams wouldn’t be on that table.

Last season, LSU won the SEC’s regular season crown in one of the more exciting races in recent years. It wound up being a three-horse race between LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee and the Tigers bested the Vols and Wildcats by a game. And there was an even tighter race for the fourth seed and a double bye in the conference tournament, as Auburn, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Mississippi State finished within a game of each other.

This year may prove to be as exciting but the quality of competition sure doesn’t compare. Auburn lost the two best players from its Final Four team; Tennessee lost the core of its Sweet 16 squad while LSU, though returning key pieces, lost arguably its three most impactful players Tremont Waters, Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams; and we know how Kentucky constantly fields a new team year to year.

For LSU, indeed the entire SEC, the real season begins Saturday. Yes LSU already has four losses, but it’s how they’ll fair over these next 18 games that will determine whether or not it goes back to the NCAA Tournament in March. There’s no great team out there and LSU brought back the most contributors from last season. Turnovers have been the Tigers’ biggest problem this season, but against a pretty good Liberty team it had a season-low six turnovers. If LSU has solved its turnover issue, expect to see the Tigers near the top of the SEC standings again.