The 2012-13 Southeastern Conference regular season basketball season was anything but typical. After the class of the conference, the standings were a constantly jumbled and ever-changing free-for-all.
The constants in the SEC were the Florida Gators at the top and three teams at the bottom, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn. The 10 remaining teams in the middle jockeyed all season long for position and knocked each other around with regularity.
The Florida Gators (24-6, 14-4 SEC) were the only team that finished the regular season ranked in the Associated Press poll. The Gators featured a trio of top guards and stellar defense to start the season with 18 wins in their first 20 games.
Injuries started to hamper Florida’s play late in the season as the team lost four of its last 10 games, but the Gators showed they are a team that can beat anyone in the country when healthy.
Six teams shuffled around in the standings between No. 2 and No. 7.
The Ole Miss Rebels (23-8, 12-6 SEC), the Kentucky Wildcats (21-10, 12-6 SEC) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (20-11, 12-6 SEC) all finished with the same conference record and tied for second place in the SEC.
Ole Miss was led by the vocal guard Marshall Henderson, who also topped the SEC in scoring. But the Rebels dropped five games during a seven-game stretch in late January and February.
Kentucky lost its force on the floor, freshman Nerlens Noel, to a knee injury. The Wildcats weren’t gelling like the National Championship team from a year ago before the injury, but Noel’s absence led to four losses in Kentucky’s final eight games.
Two Trevor’s (Lacey and Releford) paced the Crimson Tide in minutes and points in 2012-13. While Alabama didn’t score a ton of points (the team finished 11th in the SEC in scoring), it was one of two teams that held opponents on defense to under 60 points per game.
The Missouri Tigers (22-9, 11-7 SEC), the Tennessee Volunteers (19-11, 11-7 SEC) and the Arkansas Razorbacks (19-12, 10-8 SEC) all had stretches where they looked unstoppable, but small portions of their schedule’s provided problematic.
Missouri’s first year in SEC play was far from as successful as expected. While the Tigers finished with an RPI in the top 30, they weren’t ranked at season’s end. Three losses in their final seven games pushed the Tigers into a tie for fifth place in the standings.
Tennessee lost four games in a row in January and seven of 10 during that stretch. As dismal as the season looked in January, Feb. 10 was a turnaround point. The Volunteers lost just once in their final nine games, and finished the regular season as one of the conference’s hottest teams.
Arkansas pushed teams to the brink of exhaustion with the incredibly fast-paced play, but the Razorbacks bogged down in late January and early March. Arkansas lost its two final games of January and a loss to Missouri on March 5 capped a four game stretch where the Razorbacks lost three games.
The Georgia Bulldogs (15-16, 9-9 SEC) on paper looked like an average team with the problem of only one major scoring threat. While true that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made up just under 30 percent of Georgia’s scoring, the fact that the Bulldogs were average was a fallacy.
Georgia knocked off Tennessee twice and Kentucky late in the season and three of Georgia’s five losses to end the season were by three points or less.
Not Quite Ready
While LSU (18-11, 9-9 SEC) had little trouble scoring, its 71.3 points per game ranked sixth in the SEC, the defense was brutal. The Tigers gave up 68.8 points per game and finished No. 12 in the conference in scoring defense. LSU enjoyed just one win all year against a team with an RPI of 50 or better.
Vanderbilt (14-16, 8-10 SEC) was definitely in rebuilding mode after losing all five starters from the 2011-12 season. Two sophomores in Kedren Johnson and Dai-Jon Parker and one freshman (Kevin Bright) led the youth movement this season. All six players who averaged 20 or more minutes per game should be back next season.
Texas A&M (17-14, 7-11) found SEC basketball a lot more difficult than SEC football in the first year in conference. Only one time did A&M string two conference wins together—January wins over Arkansas and Kentucky to start SEC play. Wins over Auburn and South Carolina last were the only highlights to the team’s final seven games.
Work to do
South Carolina (14-17, 4-14 SEC) enjoyed a bracket-buster kind of win on Feb. 20 with a one-point victory over Ole Miss, but wins of any kind came few and far between for the Gamecocks. Defense was an issue all season as teams shot better against South Carolina (45.1 percent) than any other SEC team.
Mississippi State’s (9-21, 4-14 SEC) first season under coach Rick Ray was one to forget. The Bulldogs won just twice away from home and dropped 13 SEC games in a row during the season. However, the team enjoyed a wait-until-next-year moment by winning two of its last three regular-season games.
With just three wins on the Auburn Tigers’ (9-22, 3-15 SEC) conference plate the 2012-13 season was rough, especially after starting SEC play 2-0. Senior Frankie Sullivan led the team with 14.4 points per game and now the Tigers are going to have to work hard to replace his top 10 scoring output.