Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In SEC Hoops, East Looks like the Beast; as Conference Portion of Schedule Opens, West Teams Try to Shake Slow Start

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

In SEC Hoops, East Looks like the Beast; as Conference Portion of Schedule Opens, West Teams Try to Shake Slow Start

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

OLE MISS AT FLORIDA

When: 8 p.m. today -- Where: O'Connell Center, Gainesville -- TV: CSS -- Records: Ole Miss is 12-3 (0-0 SEC); UF is 11-3 (0-0)

The Southeastern Conference's Western Division was by far the better of the two during football season.

It looks like East will be getting some payback during basketball season.

With SEC play beginning today, five of the division's six teams - Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt - have clearly established themselves as the class of the league and are a step ahead of their Western Division counterparts in the drive for the NCAA Tournament.

"The West five years ago was the dominant side, and then now it's shifted a little bit over to this side," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "When you're talking about wins over Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and Villanova and Kansas State, Washington, North Carolina, Louisville on the road, and Xavier on the road, you're talking about a lot of good wins. When you talk about our half [of the league], every game we play is going to be a hard game."

Every Eastern Division team except South Carolina has an RPI in the top 60, and four teams have a strength of schedule ranked in the top 50 on CollegeRPI.com. Kentucky (No. 5), Vanderbilt (No. 14) and Florida (No. 16) have the league's best RPIs, and the Gators (No. 6), Tennessee (No. 7) and the Wildcats (No. 14) have all played one of the nation's more demanding schedules.

The five teams have posted impressive victories over ranked teams Kansas State (Florida), Notre Dame (Kentucky), Villanova (Tennessee), Pittsburgh (Tennessee) and Memphis (Tennessee) and North Carolina (Vanderbilt). Aside from UF's loss to Jacksonville and Tennessee's losses to Oakland, Charlotte and College of Charleston, the group has avoided mistakes.

Compare that to the six Western Division teams, which are 0-4 against ranked teams. Auburn had embarrassing losses to UNC Asheville, Samford, Campbell and Presbyterian College. …

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