BOZICH | SEC Basketball Notebook: No home advantage; Monk vs. Fo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

  • Who is the early-season leader for SEC basketball player of the year?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky
    48%
    52 votes
    Malik Monk, Kentucky
    42%
    45 votes
    P. J. Dozier, South Carolina
    6%
    7 votes
    Yante Maten, Georgia
    4%
    4 votes

BOZICH | SEC Basketball Notebook: No home advantage; Monk vs. Fox

Posted: Updated:
Kentucky's Malik Monk (left) and De'Aaron Fox are the leading contenders for SEC Player of the Year. Kentucky's Malik Monk (left) and De'Aaron Fox are the leading contenders for SEC Player of the Year.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I enjoy searching for strange statistics. I found one that qualifies:

It’s safer playing on the road than at home in the Southeastern Conference this season.

Road teams are outperforming home teams in SEC play — and doing it at a significantly greater level than road teams are winning in the five other power leagues.

That statistic, which I am primed to share, qualifies as the lead item in Five Fun Facts About SEC Basketball.

1. There’s No Place Like The Road

As we reach the one-third pole in SEC play, an interesting trend has developed: Road teams are out-performing home teams in league games.

Consider this: Home teams have lost 21 of 37 games for a winning percentage of 43.2 percent.

How does this compare to five other power leagues, where road victories are treasured like fourth-generation china?

You decide. The numbers from those leagues:

Big East — 23-9, 71.9 percent.

ACC — 27-12, 69.2 percent.

Big 12 — 18-9, 66.7 percent.

Big Ten — 26-13, 66.7 percent.

Pac-12 — 19-13, 59.4 percent.

I found those numbers at Ken Pomeroy’s marvelous website, KenPom.com. In fact, I checked all 32 leagues. Road teams are out-performing home teams in six of 32 conferences:

The SEC; Ivy (3-4, 42.9); Patriot (12-18, 40.0); Big Sky (15-16, 48.4); Big South (14-16, 46.7) and Mid-Eastern Athletic (12-15, 44.4).

Those are the numbers. What is the explanation?

Great question. 

Officials are willing to make tough calls on the road?

Bottom tier teams like Missouri, LSU and Texas A&M unable to build and take advantage of home environments?

Upper-tier teams like Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama (combined 9-0 away from home) have separated themselves from the pack?

Statistical anomaly?

I’m open to suggestions.

2.  Which One of John Calipari’s Guys is SEC Player of the Year?

Moses Kingsley of Arkansas was the pick for SEC player of the year during the league’s media day in Birmingham three months ago.

Kingsley cannot be the pick today. Yes, he is second in rebounding. But Kingsley is not averaging double figures on the glass. (He’s at 8.1). Kingsley ranks 27th in scoring at 11.7 points per game.

Nice player. But he’s not Corliss Williamson nor Scotty Thurman nor Todd May nor Sidney Moncrief. He’s not even Joe Kleine.

Pomeroy’s analytics formula ranks these Kentucky guys one/two — guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox.

Monk is likely the leader because he has averaged 21.4 points per game, the only SEC player over 20. I’d vote for Fox because he’s a scorer who is also an elite playmaker who has shown he can get to the rim against anybody. Fox is ranked sixth, one spot ahead of Monk, in the 2017 mock NBA Draft at DraftExpress.com.

Can anybody challenge Calipari’s guards?

Maybe P.J. Dozier or Sindarius Thornwell of South Carolina if the Gamecocks do something crazy in league play. As long as Florida stays in the race, point guard Kasey Hill and forward Devin Robinson deserve consideration. Don't forget Georgia's Yante Maten, who ranks second in the SEC in scoring and third in Pomeroy's player efficiency ratings.

3. Waiting on the Legends Revival

SEC schools have money to spend. Credit the SEC Network for that. But the SEC Network also creates TV inventory to sell and incentive to upgrade the league’s basketball profile.

SEC athletic directors have aggressively pursued coaches with national profiles. Rick Barnes (Texas to Tennessee), Ben Howland (UCLA to Mississippi State), Bruce Pearl (Tennessee & ESPN to Auburn) and Frank Martin (Kansas State to South Carolina) have joined the SEC the last five seasons.

They’re making progress, but there’s still work to do.

Martin has South Carolina positioned to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. 

Pearl is one recruiting class from making a big move at Auburn. The talent at Mississippi State looked improved when the Bulldogs lost to Kentucky, 88-81, Tuesday.

Barnes inherited the biggest mess so it’s not surprising he has the most work to do. The Vols are parked at 2-4 in league play and have lost two league games in Knoxville.

Progress is apparent, even if it has not been as swift as SEC basketball fans expected.

4. Selection Sunday Forecast

The league has worked overtime trying to improve its national profile and squeeze more teams into the NCAA Tournament.

Only three SEC programs made the 68-team field last season. In 2015 the number was five. In 2014, it was three.

In his current 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket projections, Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com includes 10 teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and eight from the Big Ten.

What about Nick Saban’s league?

Only four — Kentucky with a number one seed, Florida (four seed), South Carolina (seven seed) and Arkansas (10 seed).

The team most likely to join the fab four is Georgia, although the Bulldogs lost their three toughest non-conference games to Clemson, Marquette and Kansas. 

5. Who Replaces Johnny Jones at LSU?

If Johnny Jones couldn't bump LSU into the NCAA Tournament last season with the top pick in the NBA Draft (Ben Simmons), what were the chances the Tigers would advance to the tournament this season?

Had to ask.

I also have to ask how long they’ll stick with Jones at a school that just dumped a football coach (Les Miles) who won a national title?

LSU was picked to finish 12th, ahead Tennessee and Missouri, in October. If you check the league standings, you’ll find LSU tied for 11th with Auburn. 

Each has lost four of its first five league games.

A closer look at LSU’s numbers shows how awful the Tigers have been. They’ve lost their last three games by an average of nearly 21 points — without playing a likely NCAA Tournament team.

Louisiana produces basketball players.

LSU is the place where Bob Pettit, Pete Maravich, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Jackson, Big Baby Davis and a string of other great players performed.

LSU can do better. The SEC needs LSU to do better.

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