Big Ten vs. SEC

I’ve had a couple of people write asking about something I said on SportsTalk with Lachlan McLean tonight, and it’s a fair question.

I think we were talking about the difficulty of the rebuilding job that Tom Crean has at Indiana, and I was contrasting it with what John Calipari has done at Kentucky. My main point in the whole thing — and I even broke off my answer to digress on this at the time — was to point to the remarkable one-year turnaround Calipari has made at UK, and that the speed and effectiveness of it should not be lost regardless of what UK does in the tournament, good or bad.

I then went on to talk about how Crean’s job was more difficult — IU was hit with sanctions, recruiting restrictions, mass defections, and that the program was really, really down. And my last comment on that was to note that it’s not so easy to rebuild when you’re in the Big Ten, which I then called on the air, a “more legitimate” basketball league than the SEC.

That got Big Blue Nation on to the emails. (Nothing sends them to the email faster than an opinion they don’t like!) And I’m going to do something here that you won’t see many columnists or talk show hosts do. I’m going to second-guess myself.

It was bad phrasing. The fact of the matter is over a three- or four-year period, and I think that’s what we’re talking about when we’re talking about building a program, the Big Ten is generally going to be better.

The Big Ten sent seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, including the national finalist. The SEC was a three-bid league last year, and barring a tournament upset this year, will be a four-bid league at best this year.

So over the course of time, which is what Lach and I were discussing, I believe I was right. The Big Ten is more legitimate.

But in reality, and especially this year, there’s not much difference in the two conferences and, if you put them all in front of me, I’d say overall that the SEC might be a tad stronger, even if the Big Ten does send more teams to the NCAA Tournament.

The fact of the matter is that UK, I believe, would’ve won the Big Ten had it played in the Big Ten this season. But I don’t believe UK would’ve gotten through it with only two losses.

Still, the point of the Wildcat fans is taken. If they thought I was saying that the Big Ten was much better than the SEC this season, I can see why they were on me. They have a point.

But my point was that I think it’s a little tougher to rebuild in the Big Ten, where there tend to be a few more better teams at the top.

In general, I’m not one to bash SEC basketball. Since the field expanded to 64 teams, the SEC has nothing to apologize for in tournament play, and has produced more champions (5) than any league but the ACC. It has produced, in fact, one more champion than the Big East, and the same number of Final Four teams.

So it has produced some quality teams, it just hasn’t done it in big numbers. (The average seed of SEC teams has been 6. That’s worse than even Conference USA and the Pac-10).

Anyway, that’s my explanation, for the folks who wanted to know.

I’m not in radio for a reason! Occasionally I write something that I wish I hadn’t. It’s a whole lot easier to say smething extemporaneously and then look back and wish you’d said it better.


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