I'm as rough on SEC men's basketball as anyone, but a quick look around the nation tells you that the league isn't alone in providing a sure-fire fix for insomnia. Bad basketball is being played in leagues from the Big Sky to the once-mighty Big East.
Trevor Lacey and the Crimson Tide travel to Starkville tonight.
Speaking of Big, did you happen to catch the Big Monday doubleheader of Louisville-Connecticut and Baylor-Kansas a few nights ago? If so, were you able to name more than one starter for each of the four teams? As someone who fashions himself as a serious observer of the college game, I'm not ashamed to admit that I couldn't.
There was a time when I could easily list five legitimate candidates for the Wooden Award, which annually goes to college basketball's top player. I can't give you three for 2013. Simply put, there are no stars on the court in the college game, which leaves us with the product we're left to watch before the Big Dance gets underway.
So far, I've caught one game that registered on the March Madness scale: Butler's overtime win over Indiana in December. That's it. Otherwise, it's been a bunch of games featuring faceless rosters playing mediocre basketball.
As for the SEC, the league needs Ole Miss (14-2, 3-0 in SEC) and Texas A&M (13-2, 2-0) to validate their impressive starts because Kentucky's latest collection of one-and-dones aren't on the same planet as its last two. This edition of Big Blue looks to be the college equivalent of the latest edition of the Los Angeles Lakers: good on paper; not so much on the court.
As for other SEC unbeatens through the first week of league play, no one is buying 2-0 league starts from Auburn and Mississippi State, a pair of clubs that had sub-.500 records prior to the start of conference action.
Florida and Missouri will be there in March. In beating Mizzou and UK, respectively, in impressive fashion last Saturday, the Rebels, who added a miraculous overtime win over host Vanderbilt last night to its ledger, and Aggies have unblemished SEC resumes through week one. We'll find out in the coming weeks if either or both can sustain early success.
Where does Alabama factor into the discussion at this point? With an RPI of 75 and eighth healthy scholarship players heading into tonight’s game at Mississippi State (8 p.m./CSS/ESPN3), projecting the Crimson Tide beyond this evening wouldn't make much sense.
*For the time being, at least, It appears as if the SEC's football kingpin has weathered the awakening of the league's sleeping giant. Back in the 1990's, when Steve Spurrier was stacking up SEC championships at Florida like cord wood, the Gators looked to be the program of the future. Twenty three years later, the national championship scoreboard since Spurrier's arrival in Gainesville reads Alabama 4. Florida 3.
*Biggest win of the Nick Saban era at UA? It's still the 2009 SEC Championship Game upset of the Gators. Think about it: Alabama's 32-13 win over UF snuffed out one potential dynasty (the Gators were looking to win three national crowns in four years) and served as the start for another that was realized (Alabama went on to win three out four).
*If guard Trevor Releford (ankle) can't go tonight against State an already anemic half court offense will be affected. The junior has the ability to create off the dribble, something that comes in handy when the shot clock nears zero. With neither team possessing much in the post, Alabama-Mississippi State will come down to guard play. Even with a limited-at-best Releford, the Crimson Tide has enough to get the job done on the road.
*Watching the NFL playoffs, one learns quickly the importance of coverage linebackers at the next level. For that reason, CJ Mosley will be on the field more on Sundays beginning in 2014 than he has been on Saturdays the past three seasons.
*Not a lot of buzz around the late decision of South Carolina wide receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders to turn pro but there should be. In addition to leading the Gamecocks in receptions (45) and touchdown receptions (nine), Sanders led the SEC in punt return average (15.3 ypr). The loss of Sanders is enough to make me rethink the early top 10 for 2013 that I published earlier the week. If I had it to do again, I'd probably push UGA ahead of the Gamecocks.
*Looking at some of the NFL mock drafts that have hit cyberspace in recent days two guys who will present great value to the teams that draft them are Florida safety Matt Elam and LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, both of whom look to be late first rounders. Elam's problem may be that he's too physical for today's NFL. With his love for laying the lumber, he'll draw more fines than Howard Stern pre-satellite radio. As for Minter, he's the player some people think Notre Dame's Manti Te'o is.
*We don't usually talk a lot of Auburn football in this column but in honor of Will May, the Tuscaloosa 13-year-old who lost his life in a hunting accident over the weekend, we offer up a big "War Eagle!" On Monday, Will's classmates at Rock Quarry Middle School donned Auburn gear as a tribute to their friend. His love for the Tigers was well known throughout the Lake Tuscaloosa community and his zest for life in general will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the May family.