This is day seven of evaluating the upper-end talent in major conferences. So far we've covered the ACC, the AAC, the Big East, the Big Ten, the Big 12, and the PAC 12. Go to the first link (the ACC) to read up on methods and where the data comes from. There's also a graphic there that shows in very simple terms why landing top 100 recruits is probably more important than you think.
Today it is on to the most bizarre conference – the SEC. It's bizarre because of Kentucky. They do two things: 1) they completely skew the way talent is distributed across multiple teams, at least in comparison to the other major conferences, and 2) they obscure some fairly impressive recruiting from other members of the conference.
Here is how that talent looks:
To the surprise of no one, Kentucky and Florida have deep and talented teams. Last year, the Gators had as many top 100 players as any team in the country. This year, they've dropped to eight, but no major conference team in the nation had that many last year and failed to be 11-5 or better in conference play. [Note – these graphs include a player for UF and a player for LSU who have yet to qualify]
After those two, there's a block of eight teams which all have 3-5 top 100 recruits on their rosters. That middle ground in the SEC is going to be competitive. At the bottom, Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Georgia should bear in mind that there were 18 major conference teams in the nation last year which had one or zero consensus top 100 recruits, and one of those 18 teams finished with a winning conference record*. Good luck.
[* Ole Miss began 2012-13 with two, but lost Demarco Cox after 7 games, and went 12-6 in conference. H/T to @KoryKeys]
Drilling down to the top 50 recruits, and Kentucky's dominance really begins to show.
The Wildcats "only" have eight top 100 players, but of course all of them were in the top 50 (top 40 to be exact). The Gators have four, and Tennessee, LSU, and Arkansas each have three.
For the elite, 5* top 25 type players, it looks like this:
Again, Kentucky is elite. Arizona and Florida are the only other teams in the nation with more than three top 25 players, and Kentucky has seven. Kentucky alone has as many or more than most conferences, including the Big East, the AAC, the Big Ten, and the Big 12.
But this obscures what the rest of the SEC has done. Take Kentucky completely out of the equation, and the only conference that has more top 25 players than the rest of the SEC is the ACC. The SEC might not have the depth that a few other conferences have, but they have the top end talent. The problem is that Kentucky is the only SEC team to make a Final Four in the last six tournaments. If the SEC wants to make their name as anything other than a football conference, that has to change. But at least they have the elite players who can put a team on their back.