Finally, with Florida’s suprisingly ugly loss to Michigan yesterday, we can toss the last bit of dirt on the 2012-13 SEC basketball season. It seems the league’s disappointing season had one last disappointment to deliver before we could lower it into the ground.
For those who care about such things, the Southeastern Conference has now fallen to 9th in conference RPI rank behind the Big Ten, Big East, Mountain West, ACC, Big XII, Pac-12, Atlantic 10, and Missouri Valley. Ouch.
But despite a poor season on the whole, there were some solid coaching jobs turned in by a few of the league’s coaches. In our view, offseason attrition — not poor coaching — should be counted as the main reason for the conference’s woes this past season. That said, below are the final marks from MrSEC.com for all 14 of the conference’s head instructors.
Billy Donovan, Florida — A+
Record: 29-8 (14-4 in SEC)
RPI Rank: 9
Florida was picked to finish second in the SEC this year, but the Gators were in fact that cream of the conference. Donovan’s squad — for much of the season — featured one of the nation’s most suffocating defenses. At 6-5, the Gators were the only SEC team to finish with a plus-500 record against the RPI top 50. The team wobbled a bit while sixth-man Will Yeguete was sidelined, but the Gators did reach their third consecutive Elite Eight. UF fans are probably smarting today, but there’s no question Donovan still places among the top five or 10 coaches in all of college hoops. Make the Elite Eight, get an A+ on the report card.
Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss — A
Record: 27-9 (12-6 in SEC)
RPI Rank: 45
This one was a toughie. Kennedy took a chance on Marshall Henderson and, despite some bad pub, that worked out well. His two forwards — Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner — made up one of the league’s best frontcourts. The Rebels reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Kennedy and they guaranteed their slot in the field by getting hot in March and cutting down the nets at the SEC Tournament. That’s all good. But. It must be stated that the Rebels had a horrible non-conference schedule and they suffered a pair of what could have been bubble-bursting losses to sub-200 RPI teams. In the end, however, Kennedy managed the chemistry on his team well — no easy task with a lightning rod like Henderson present — and he led them past the opening round of the NCAA tourney. That’s pretty good work from a guy who might have been fired had his team missed the tourney altogether. Oh, and victory-wise it was Mississippi’s best record ever. A solid A grade for Kennedy is the result.
Johnny Jones, LSU — B+
Record: 19-12 (9-9 in SEC)
RPI Rank: 93
The Tigers’ first-year coach left many on the Bayou wondering what he might have been able to do with the team Trent Johnson had a year earlier. Jones’ team jumped out to a 9-2 start against so-so non-conference competition, but unlike so many other SEC squads, his team didn’t turn into a pumpkin when league play began. After an 0-4 start, LSU finished 9-5 in its last 14 conference games (10-6 if you count the tourney) to finish mid-table in the SEC standings. With a top recruiting class coming in, Tiger fans should be happy about what they’ve seen from their alumnus/coach in his first season.
Anthony Grant, Alabama — B
Record: 22-13 (12-6 in SEC)
RPI Rank: 64
Meh. Solid, but not special. Good, but not great. It’s likely that had senior guard Andrew Steele been healthy all season, the Tide might have been an NCAA Tournament team. But he was lost for the month of December and Alabama went 2-5 during that non-conference stretch. He then missed eight of Alabama’s last 12 games and he was less than 100% in at least four more contests. Despite Steele’s absence, Grant managed to work his team into the NIT where a one-point home loss to Maryland cost it a trip to Madison Square Garden. Again, good, not great.
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