Auburn made the Final Four last season after winning the SEC Tournament, which earned the Tigers an “A” for their 2019 season. But not every team in the conference fared as well.
Here are Stadium’s postseason grades for every team in the SEC, which take into account the preseason media poll, conference and NCAA Tournament finishes and recent program trajectories.
The teams are listed alphabetically below.
The Crimson Tide were among the First Four Out after entering Selection Sunday with an 18-15 record, which led to Alabama getting a No. 1 seed in the NIT. The final game of the season, which was the final game of the Avery Johnson era, was an overtime loss to Norfolk State at home in the NIT.
It was a disappointing season for a team that was picked to finish seventh in the SEC in the preseason media poll. Alabama enrolled a top-25 recruiting class in 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, which was headlined by former top-40 recruit Kira Lewis. The Crimson Tide had four other former top-100 recruits, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, including Texas transfer Tevin Mack, so Alabama’s tied-for-ninth finish was disappointing.
The Razorbacks tied for ninth and they were projected to finish 10th in the preseason media poll, so Arkansas’ season generally went as expected. However, it may have been a surprise to some that Coach Mike Anderson would be fired after the season.
A non-conference win over Indiana in mid-November was fairly impressive at the time and a road win at LSU later in the season was certainly improbable given the trajectories of the two schools, but there were few notable victories for the Razorbacks. A four-game losing streak early in SEC play, followed shortly thereafter by a six-game losing streak doomed Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
The final season of sophomore forward Daniel Gafford’s college career ended without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Tigers took the scenic route to an A – they didn’t have a Quadrant 1 win until February and they only had one when March rolled around – but they caught fire, winning 12 games in a row on their way to an SEC Tournament title and a Final Four appearance. Despite losing forward Chuma Okeke to a knee injury in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina, Auburn persevered to hold off the Tar Heels and defeat SEC foe Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
Think about this: Auburn defeated blue bloods Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky in consecutive games en route to the first Final Four in school history and the first for Coach Bruce Pearl.
Despite losing Mustapha Heron and DeSean Murray as transfers last offseason after Auburn shared the SEC regular season title, the Tigers tied for fourth in 2019 – one place lower than where they were picked in the preseason media poll – and their 3-point heavy offense fueled their run to Minneapolis out of a challenging Midwest Region.
The Gators’ season was salvaged by two tournament victories – a 76-73 win over LSU in the SEC Tournament and a 70-61 win over No. 7 seed Nevada in the NCAA Tournament. The computers seemed to favor Florida more so than the public all season, which included a 5-4 start, 12-11 record through Feb. 9 and a 17-14 mark at the end of the regular season.
Florida was picked to finish fifth in the SEC preseason media poll and the Gators ended up in eighth with a 9-9 conference record. They never once cracked the AP Top 25 and ultimately lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 2 seed Michigan.
There were far too many losses than Florida fans would’ve liked and just two winning streaks longer than two games, but an NCAA Tournament appearance and an upset win can make up for an inconsistent regular season.
The Bulldogs finished right where they were projected to in the SEC preseason media poll – 13th.
The first year of the Tom Crean era in Athens ended with an 11-21 record (2-16 SEC). A road win at Florida in March was probably the best win of the season for Georgia, whose other wins over power conference opponents included Texas, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt.
Georgia was good at getting to the foul line, grabbing offensive rebounds and blocking shots, but little else from a statistical standpoint. A four-game stretch in which the Bulldogs lost to LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Auburn by a combined nine points showed that with an incoming top-10 recruiting class, headlined by the nation’s No. 2 recruit Anthony Edwards, Georgia could be competitive in the SEC in the future even if it wasn’t in 2019.
The Wildcats won 30 games, earned a No. 2 seed, advanced to the Elite Eight and they had three players declare for the 2019 NBA Draft – PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro – who could all be taken in the first round. For almost any program, that should be viewed as a successful season.
But we’re talking about Kentucky, so – right or wrong – expectations are higher.
The ‘Cats debuted at No. 2 in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll and they were picked to win the SEC in the preseason media poll. Kentucky was then shut out from winning the SEC regular season or tournament title, and it was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by conference foe Auburn, which advanced to the Final Four out of the Midwest Region.
Winning that overtime Elite Eight matchup against the Tigers would’ve sent the Wildcats to the Final Four for the fifth time in 10 seasons under Coach John Calipari, which would’ve been an incredible, and frankly, unsustainable pace. Kentucky doesn’t have any hardware to show for its 2019 season, but the Wildcats still had a very successful season, especially after losing to Duke by 34 points on the opening night of the season.
This is kind of awkward, isn’t it?
LSU Coach Will Wade was suspended for over a month by the university for not meeting with school officials after it was reported that Wade was heard on a wiretap discussing an offer to land a recruit.
He was suspended on March 8 and reinstated on April 14, meaning he missed the Tigers’ regular season finale, the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
Wade and his alleged – but since cleared (by the university) – transgressions on the recruiting trail are the biggest story of LSU’s season and arguably the biggest of the offseason.
But he’s still the team’s coach, and that team was pretty damn successful last season. LSU won the SEC regular season title after being picked to finish sixth in the preseason media poll. The Tigers earned a No. 3 seed and advanced to the Sweet 16, where they lost to eventual national semifinalist Michigan State.
They debuted at No. 23 in the AP Top 25, which ranked fifth among SEC schools, and they finished at No. 12.
Maybe more details are released in the near future regarding Wade’s innocence or reported guilt in how he brought highly regarded talent to Baton Rouge, but he has been reinstated, capping off a wildly successful season in which LSU made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four seasons, made its deepest run in the tournament since 2006, won its most games since 2000 and earned its highest seed since 1981.
Mississippi State was picked to finish fourth in the SEC preseason media poll and the Bulldogs tied for sixth, finishing the year outside of the AP Top 25 after starting at No. 18, and they were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by No. 12 seed Liberty.
After a productive non-conference slate that featured wins over Saint Mary’s, Dayton, Clemson, Cincinnati and Wofford, Mississippi State picked up just three wins over NCAA Tournament teams the rest of the season. The Bulldogs went just 2-7 against the teams that finished above them in the SEC standings.
Mississippi State had a fine season behind a 23-11 record and No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the Bulldogs’ play in the last two months left you wanting more.
Missouri’s season took a hit before it even started as sophomore Jontay Porter tore his ACL and MCL in October. He missed the entire season, then re-tore his ACL in March during his recovery process in a really unfortunate series of events.
His teammate Mark Smith underwent season-ending ankle surgery in February as a Missouri team that was picked to finish ninth in the SEC preseason media poll ended up finishing 12th. The Tigers’ overtime win over UCF in early December was their only win over an NCAA Tournament team all season.
Think about this: Ole Miss was picked to finish last in the SEC preseason media poll.
Instead, the Rebels tied for sixth, peaking at No. 18 in the AP Poll (their first time being ranked in six seasons), and they made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed.
Sure, Ole Miss lost to three of its four best non-conference opponents and it lost in its first game in both the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament, but for this team to win 20 games with the nation’s No. 33 most efficient offense in the first year of Kermit Davis’ tenure should be considered a strong season.
What a weird season for the Gamecocks. They were picked to finish 11th in the SEC preseason media poll and tied for fourth in the regular season.
Yet they finished just 16-16 overall due to a brutal non-conference record that included losses to Wyoming, Stony Brook and Oklahoma State.
South Carolina had the ninth-most efficient offense in SEC play and the seventh-most efficient defense, so the Gamecocks can thank a league schedule that included just one game against LSU, Kentucky and Auburn as the reason for their conference finish. Their conference-best 40.9 percent 3-point shooting and 31.5 percent 3-point defense certainly played a big role, too.
South Carolina didn’t make a postseason of any kind after losing to Auburn in the Gamecocks’ first game in the SEC Tournament, so it’s hard to be too high on their 2019 season, but they still overachieved in conference play against a friendly schedule.
Tennessee’s Sweet 16 exit was disappointing, if mostly because the 2018-19 Volunteers raised the bar so high by earning and maintaining the nation’s No. 1 ranking for four consecutive weeks during the season.
The Vols had only been ranked that high in one other season in the history of their program.
Tennessee fell a win shy of both the SEC regular season and tournament titles, finishing tied for second in the standings (one game behind LSU) and losing in the SEC Championship to Auburn. But the top of the SEC was very good last season and the Vols absolutely belonged there.
A 31-win season that featured an NCAA Tournament berth as a No. 2 seed and a second-weekend run is something Tennessee hadn’t experienced in a very long time.
Junior forward Grant Williams was a First Team All-American, teammate Admiral Schofield joined him on the SEC First Team and point guard Jordan Bone was a Second Team All-SEC honoree.
The Vols were picked to finish second in the SEC, which they did, and they finished at No. 6 in the AP Poll, which is where they started in the preseason.
The Aggies outperformed their preseason media poll selection of 12th place by one spot as they finished 11th in the SEC with a 6-12 conference record. But it’s hard to prop up Texas A&M’s season too much given its 14-18 record and mediocre offense (No. 120 on kenpom.com).
Its coach, Billy Kennedy, got fired, too — which has to be part of the equation.
Texas A&M lost some major contributors from its 2018 team that upset North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament and made the Sweet 16, and there was no repeat of NCAA Tournament success, let alone a tournament berth.
A 12-point win over Kansas State in the Big 12/SEC Challenge was the only victory of note for the Aggies.
Let’s be clear: If future NBA lottery pick Darius Garland didn’t tear his meniscus in late November, which ended his season and led to him withdrawing from school midseason, the Commodores’ season likely would’ve been much different. They won the first four games he played, then he played just two minutes against Kent State before suffering the injury. They lost the game, eventually finishing their miserable season at 9-23.
But a team picked to finish eighth in the preseason media poll that still featured former No. 11 recruit Simi Shittu, former top-70 recruit Aaron Nesmith, Syracuse transfer Matthew Moyer (No. 66 in the 2016 recruiting class) and Notre Dame transfer Matt Ryan didn’t win a game in 2019.
The team’s last win came on New Year’s Eve.
An 0-18 record in the SEC resulted in the firing of Vanderbilt Coach Bryce Drew after just three years at the school. Garland’s injury obviously played a significant role in Vanderbilt’s nosedive, but a season that ended with 20 consecutive losses and a new head coach is nothing but a failure.