Hoops gone wild

Hoops gone wild

Last season Vanderbilt tied for fourth in the six-team SEC East at 8-8 and Ole Miss tied for fourth in the West at 7-9. So guess which teams are leading their respective divisions this year?

The Commodores sit atop the East at 5-0. Meanwhile, Tennessee (3-2) and South Carolina (3-3), who shared the East title last season, rank fourth and fifth this season, respectively.

The Rebels are tops in the West at 4-2, tied with Mississippi State. LSU, which won the West and the SEC overall titles at 13-3 last season, is dead last among the 12 league teams this season at 0-6.

Does the term "topsy-turvy" come to mind?

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl doesn't seem terribly surprised by the shakeup in the SEC standings, particularly in the Eastern Division.

"I've said with great consistency how strong the SEC East is," he noted. "There are five NCAA Tournament teams. There might be six if Georgia keeps playing well."

Here's another surprise: SEC road teams have won 14 times and home teams just 19 times this season. That means the visitors are prevailing a whopping 42.4 percent of the time. Two road teams won this week - Vanderbilt prevailing at Tennessee on Wednesday and Ole Miss prevailing at Auburn on Thursday.

"The formula for winning championships is to win 'em all at home and get some on the road," Pearl said. "We just lost one at home, which is going to make that tougher, but this league is going to beat each other up a little bit. There have been a lot of road wins already because there are so many good teams."

Tennessee lost three SEC home games last season but compensated by winning five SEC road games. How the Vols bounce back from their home loss to Vandy remains to be seen, of course. Dealing with good fortune, as well as adversity, is crucial over the course of a 16-game SEC schedule.

As Pearl put it: "Which teams will handle success? Which teams will handle the challenges? How will my team handle losing a couple of games in a row in the SEC?

"It's going to be a battle. It's going to be a struggle. We're going to have to continue to go game in and game out."

Probably no SEC team has had a more bizarre season to date than Tennessee. The Vols are winning the games they lost last season and losing the games they won last season.

"It's flip-flopped from last year," Pearl said. "We weren't able to beat Auburn, Ole Miss or Alabama in the regular season (last year), and we beat those three (this year). We won at Georgia (last year but lost this year) and we beat Vanderbilt at home (last year but lost this year)."

The Vol coach had better hope that trend ends quickly. Otherwise, last season's 10-6 league record will flip-flop to 6-10 this season.

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