Southeastern Conference May Be the Best Basketball League in the Nation

Mark HancockContributor IIINovember 9, 2011

The newly-expanded Southeastern Conference May Be The Best Men's Basketball League in the Nation
The newly-expanded Southeastern Conference May Be The Best Men's Basketball League in the NationAaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images

Take a look at the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll for men's college basketball. Look at which conference is the only one in the nation with three teams in the Top 10 nationally.

Yes, it's the Southeastern Conference, with Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida all ranked among the nation's elite. All of them are also in the SEC's Eastern Division, making it very tough for the rest of that division, which includes Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, to have a chance to survive in the championship hunt. Each of those teams will have to face the Wildcats, Commodores and Gators twice in the regular season and maybe again in the SEC Tournament.

It's been rare for the SEC to have this many Top 10 teams at once. Alabama, ranked 17th in the country, isn't too far behind their other three league brethren, and Mississippi State may soon crack the national rankings as well. Mike Anderson will certainly restore the men's basketball fortunes of Arkansas in short order, too, and get them back in the national picture on a bigtime basis again.

There is no question that John Calipari keeps cranking out the talent in Lexington. Despite all the one-and-done players he keeps recruiting, he keeps the cupboard restocked well and is nipping at North Carolina's heels for the nation's top spot in all polls.

Additionally, Kevin Stallings may have his best Vanderbilt team ever. Playing without one of their best players in the pre-season exhibition games, they have been stream-rolling so far and are a consensus No. 7 in the country.

Meanwhile, Billy Donovan has gotten Florida back among the top teams nationally and appears ready to make a run for not only the SEC title, but the national title too. His team will be tough to beat at home or on the road.

The SEC Tournament, played in March in New Orleans, should draw sellout crowds. It may very well feature the best basketball in America by season's end.

When you get past the first five teams in the SEC, the competition seems to drop off significantly. However, both Texas A&M and Missouri, who will be joining the SEC next season, are nationally ranked as well.

The new 14-team SEC could very well have half its members as top men's college basketball teams when 2012 rolls around. For a league that's known more for football and women's basketball, and maybe even for baseball and softball, than it is for men's basketball, the roundball fortunes of the newly-expanded Southeastern Conference may be very bright indeed.