The SEC Conference has had more coaching turnovers in NCAA Basketball this offseason than most. What is the effect on the betting odds and how should you adjust your NCAA Basketball picks?
SEC Actually On Rise?
There can be no arguing that the SEC is the best conference in college basketball from top to bottom even though the SEC has now gone two straight seasons without winning a national title and -- gasp! -- didn't even play for it last year. I also don't think there can be much argument that the SEC from top to bottom is the weakest of the Power 5 Conferences. Kentucky is obviously a monster but after that? There's not much there, especially with Florida trending downward.
An optimist might say the SEC is coming off a very good season, probably its best since 2011 in terms of overall depth. The league put five teams in the NCAA Tournament; from 2009-14, the only other time the SEC got five bids was 2011. The 2015 class was led of course by Kentucky. The Cats entered the Big Dance unbeaten but were upset in the Final Four by Wisconsin. I actually think that might have been a good thing because an unbeaten season and national title might have meant Coach John Calipari would have nothing else to prove and might have left for an NBA job (I'm sure the Pelicans will call him but Coach Cal won't leave yet).
The other tournament teams this year in the SEC were: Arkansas, which lost in the second round to North Carolina; Georgia, which lost in the first round to Michigan State; LSU, which lost in the final seconds in the first round to NC State; and Ole Miss, which rallied by BYU in the First Four but then lost convincingly to Xavier.
Here's a look at your four new coaches and their team's NCAA Basketball odds to win the national title.
No school, without question, was hit harder by a coaching defection this offseason than the Gators, who lost two-time national champion Billy Donovan to the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder. You can't really blame Donovan for making the job to a championship-ready team with two superstars. Those jobs simply don't come open, like, ever. UF's replacement for Donovan left many fans asking: "Who?" That would be Louisiana Tech's Mike White. He coached Tech from 2011-15, winning a share or the outright regular-season conference title in each of the past three seasons. However, he was unable to land in the Big Dance. It should be noted that Donovan was an unknown at a small school (Marshall) when he was hired by UF. Unfortunately for Florida, two top recruits of the four-man class already have asked out of their commitment.
It's simply going to be hard to win in Tuscaloosa in the huge shadow of Nick Saban and the football program. The school fired Anthony Grant after an 18-14 season in 2014-15. Grant was with the Crimson Tide for six seasons, winning at least 20 games three times and making an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012. He also made three NIT berths. The Tide made an interesting hire: former NBA coach and player Avery Johnson. The Tide originally targeted Wichita State's Gregg Marshall but he decided to stay put. Johnson has zero college coaching experience but has some success in the NBA with Dallas and the Nets, winning the 2006 NBA Coach of the Year honors.
UT fired Coach Donnie Tyndall after just one season and the AD said the school never would have hired him if it knew about his unethical conduct at Southern Miss, where he had been previously. Um, didn't you do your homework? The Vols were 16-16 under Tyndall. Tennessee definitely upgraded with the hire of Rick Barnes, who was let go by Texas. At least Barnes is used to working at a football school. Barnes won 402 games at Texas, the most in school history, and three Big 12 regular-season titles. The Horns made the 2003 Final Four, but I think it's fair to say the program had underachieved of late with how good of a recruiter Barnes was.
Mississippi State (+50000)
Remember when this used to be a pretty good program under Rick Stansbury? It's not right now. Rick Ray was fired after this past season when the Bulldogs were 13-19 overall and 6-12 in the SEC. Ray was just 37-60 in his three seasons. It was Ray's first college head-coaching job after working as an assistant at Clemson, Purdue, Northern Illinois and Indiana State. I believe MSU hit a home run with its hire: former UCLA coach Ben Howland. He led the Bruins to three straight Final Fours from 2006-08. UCLA fired Howland after the 2012-13 season even though that team won 25 games, the Pac-10 regular season championship and earned an NCAA bid. Howland won 68.5 percent of his games there.
Ranking of hires: Howland, Barnes, White, Johnson.