Billy Donovan

It’s a good thing the SEC has football …

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The SEC had another awful, awful day on Sunday.

Alabama lost at home to Tulane 53-50. That’s the same Tulane that became the scapegoat for the breakup of the Big East after the Catholic 7 made it clear they weren’t happy about the addition of such a … “notable” basketball program.

But that wasn’t the worst loss the league suffered on Sunday. Mississippi State lost at home to Alabama A&M. That’s the same Alabama A&M that entered the game with an RPI of 326. The same Alabama A&M that entered the game with wins over Miles College, Oakwood and a Missouri State team that’s so bad this season that the Bulldogs actually have a higher RPI.

The SEC is now ninth in Conference RPI, according to, behind both the Atlantic 10 and the Missouri Valley and closer to Conference USA in 11th than they are to the Pac-12, which is currently sitting in sixth.

It begs the question: just how many at-large bids can the SEC earn? Florida and Missouri seem strong enough that they’ll be able to coast through the league with a good enough profile to earn an invite to the Big Dance.

But who else is?

Kentucky will enter league play with just one top 100 win, and if they beat Eastern Michigan on Wednesday, they’ll earn just their third top 200 win of the season. Tennessee has wins over Wichita State, Xavier and UMass, but they are playing without Jeronne Maymon and struggle to score 50 points in a game. Alabama has lost five of their last six games — losing to Dayton and Mercer in addition to Tulane — and is currently hanging their non-conference hat on a win over South Dakota State. Ole Miss is 10-2, but their best wins are McNeese State and Rutgers. LSU has beaten Seton Hall. Arkansas has beaten Oklahoma. Texas A&M beat Washington State and Stephen F. Austin, but also lost to Southern at home.

South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Auburn are all so bad that the league would be better off from an RPI if they simply didn’t play.

Even Florida looks weaker by the day, as wins over Marquette, Wisconsin and Florida State look less and less impressive with each mediocre performance.

It’s way too early to seriously be talking about NCAA tournament bids. We’re a third of the way through the season. Conference play is kicking off today.

That said, it’s worth noting now: the SEC’s non-conference profile is eerily reminiscent of the Pac-12’s from a season ago. And that’s not a good thing.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.