Are Kentucky Freshmen Hurting SEC Basketball’s Overall Rankings?

In November and December, Big Blue Nation struggles more than other blue blood programs. 

Kentucky consistently starts more freshmen than any other program in the nation. It’s been this way since John Calipari arrived seven years ago and instituted a philosophy which embraces the “one and done” m.o. of so many of today’s high school prep stars who have designs on NBA riches and fame.

Playing this many Kentucky freshmen has, for the most part, panned out well on the backend of seasons. In the Calipari era, Kentucky has gone to four Four Finals and won a championship. But freshmen, no matter how gifted, take time to gell. And so, on the front end of seasons, Kentucky underperforms relative to nation’s other best programs.

That is, since 2011-12, Kentucky has “only” won 61.3% of its November/December matchups against non conference, Power 5 opponents. That’s at the bottom of the recent best of the best, as you can see below.

Duke: 20-6 (.769)

Villanova 15-5 (.750)

Kansas: 24-9 (.727)

North Carolina: 17-10 (.630)

Kentucky: 19-12 (0.613)

Below is a breakdown of each program’s season-by-season records. All data is taken from sports-reference.com.

Kentucky In Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-2

2015-16: 3-2

2014-15: 6-0

2013-14: 1-3

2012-13: 1-4

2011-12: 5-1

Kansas in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 4-1

2015-16: 3-1

2014-15: 5-1

2013-14: 3-3

2012-13: 4-1

2011-12: 5-2

North Carolina in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-2

2015-16: 4-1

2014-15: 3-3

2013-14: 2-1

2012-13: 1-2

2011-12: 4-1

Duke in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-1

2015-16: 2-2

2014-15: 3-0

2013-14: 3-2

2012-13: 4-0

2011-12: 5-1

Villanova in Non-Conference Early Season Games vs. Other Power 5 Conferences

2016-17: 3-0

2015-16: 3-2

2014-15: 4-0

2013-14: 3-1

2012-13: 2-1

2011-12: 0-1

Kentucky’s early-season struggles have hurt the SEC’s overall cachet as a basketball conference.  Consider Kentucky has been the league’s marquee program these last six years, while other SEC programs don’t play nearly as many high-profile early-season games. If Kentucky struggles to rack up significant wins pre-conference, because it more often loses head-to-head matchups with the titans of other conferences, then few other SEC teams have schedules which give them a chance to make up the difference.

So, the SEC’s strength of schedule ratings as a conference (relative to other conferences around the nation) suffers. This is one factor in the reason the SEC might have been underrated as a basketball conference until this March Madness, when three SEC teams broke into the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986.

Look for SEC programs to raise the number of their high-profile early-season games soon. The league office has mandated that in the coming years each program must play non conference opponents with a three-year RPI average of 150 or above.

History of Arkansas’ All-Black High School Sports Association

Below are the earliest known references to the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association, which was the governing body for sports between the state’s all-black high schools before the 1966 integration into what’s now the Arkansas Activities Association.

By that time the 1960s rolled around, the predominantly-black schools’  association was called the Arkansas State Athletics Association, while the predominantly-white schools belonged to the Arkansas Athletics Association.

Got questions, or something to add? Contact me at evindemirel[at]gmail.com for more details.

Arkansas Gazette September 25, 1938 – Page 13

The Dunbar High School (Negro) Bearcats will play Morrilton (Negro) High School eleven in their first home game of the season at Kavanaugh Field Friday afternoon. The Dunbar team defeated Texarkana (Tex.), 14 to 6, at Texarkana last week.

J.M. Sutton, Morrilton mentor [coach], is a former Dunbar athlete. Sutton is a graduate of the Tuskogee Institute.

A meeting of the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association was held at Dunbar High School yesterday. They were: Pine Street of Conway, Miller High of Helena, Corbin of Pine Bluff, Langston of Hot Springs and Morrilton.

Date: Sunday, March 19, 1939   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 35 

The first annual Arkansas Colored Athletic Association basketball tournament will be held at Arkansas AM and N College, Pine Bluff, March 24 and 25. The conference now in its third year, has nine of the outstanding high schools on its membership roll. Teams that will compete for the first conference crown are Camden, Corbin, Dunbar, Fargo, Merrill, Morrilton, Langston, Conway and Jonesboro.

Date: December 9, 1940 Paper: Hope Star Page 6

The Yerger football team, Hope and Corbin High of Pine Bluff dominated all-state negro selections of the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association announced Saturday. Yerger headed the list with four all-state placements:

O.W. Jackson of Dunbar was reelected president of the association for the first consecutive year. Other officers elected were: C.W. Dawson of Corbin High, vice president, and A. Logan of Langston High, secretary-treasurer.

Corbin High is recognized as the unofficial conference champions.

Date: Sunday, March 8, 1942   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 35  

The Arkansas Colored Athletic Association will hold its annual basket ball [sic] tournament at Cotton Plant Saturday. The first game will start at 10 a.m.

The association is composed of the 18 leading high schools of the state. The winner will be awarded the state championship trophy.

The schools participating are Augusta, Blevins, Childress, Camden, Corbin, Cotton Plant, Dunbar, Fargo, Jones, Langston, McRae, Merrill, Miller, Morrilton, Moton, El Dorado, Texarkana and Yerger.

Date: Saturday, February 19, 1944   Paper: Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas)   Page: 7  

First round play was completed in the Arkansas Colored Athletic Association basket ball tournament at Jones High, North Little Rock, yesterday. Results in the girls division:

Merrill High 13, Stuttgart 11

Dunbar 21, Fort Smith 12

Augusta 28, Cotton Plant Vocational 12

Jones 17, Morrilton 5

Menissee [Menifee] 12, Helena 5

Results in the Boys Division:

Carbin [Corbin] 23, Fort Smith 14

Jones 47, Augusta 18

Cotton Plant Academy 22, Cotton Plant Vocational 10

Menissee [Menifee] 24, Merrill 18

Stuttgart 20, Helena

10

The Fayetteville Police Department Talks Baker Mayfield’s Arrest

And, naturally, that discussion takes a turn toward the Razorbacks’ tackling woes.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma’s rising senior quarterback, has twice finished in the top five in Heisman Tropy voting. Last year, he broke  the FBS season passing efficiency record. When it comes to late-night shenanigans, however, this Sooner star hasn’t proven so successful. Around 2 a.m. on February 25, police found Mayfield in Fayetteville’s rowdiest district, doing what appeared to be his best Will Ferrell a la Old School impression. An arrest and charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and fleeing ensued.

The next Monday, the Fayetteville Police Department’s public information officer discussed the arrest with sports talk show host Bo Mattingly. Here’s a condensed excerpt from what became a pretty light-hearted talk:

Craig Stout: We had officers who were patrolling down Dickson Street area. They were driving down the road when they get flagged down about a disturbance that had happened there on Dickson Street. As they began their investigation, you had who they later found out to be Mr. Mayfield, they didn’t know who he was at the time.

He was there involved in some type of disturbance, but again, kind of kept using profanities and getting loud. He had been warned several times… [The officers] were dealing with the other subjects involved and as they go to talk to him he takes a few steps and tries to run off, and didn’t make it very far.

Mattingly: They didn’t know who they were tackling. They were tackling a top-five Heisman candidate quarterback.

Stout: No, didn’t have a clue who he was. I think that I can say at least most people around here, had it been a Razorback, we all know who most of those guys are. But I don’t know that we have a whole lot of OU fans on our department. I don’t think they even had his name at this point.

Mattingly: When they found out that they had tackled that kind of elusive quarterback, do you get an award if you pull something like that off with the police department?

Stout: No, no. No real awards or anything like that. Of course we’ve seen a lot of the little things going around on Twitter and Facebook and the humor that’s been attached to it, but no bonus in your check for anything like that.

Mattingly: Arkansas didn’t tackle very well last year, so the officer’s got eligibility left he might consider finishing school if he hasn’t already.

Stout: Well, again, surprisingly enough the officer who was really in on the tackle was a little older than what you would anticipate. He’s a more seasoned officer so I don’t know that he’s got a whole lot of college eligibility left.

Mattingly: Okay. I guess it makes it a little bit tougher to be elusive and play at a high level when you’re intoxicated as well.

Stout: … As anyone from around here knows, Dickson Street is an entertainment district. It’s a destination. You have a lot of people that are down there every night drinking, and a lot of times my officers will really look to find alternatives to arrest… We don’t really have a lot of high profile arrests like this. Again, most of the time it’s just kind of business as usual. I mean we’re down there week in and week out, and as you know, it gets very busy down there.

Had he chose to not yell profanities and try to do that and run off, I would say it’s very unlikely that we would even be talking right now. He probably would have been allowed to go on his way. There may have been a report generated, at best, but I just don’t see that had he been cooperative and all that that there would have been an arrest made on that.

Mr. Mayfield was intoxicated just by the officer’s description, but had that been the only incident that took place, that and the disturbance, it’s very likely officers would have completed a report and then made sure that Mr. Mayfield had a safe ride home, and that would have been the end of it. It’s kind of like your mama always told you to be polite, be respectful, and you usually get the same thing back. Now I can’t speak through every circumstance, but again at least my experience working down on Dickson Street as well that goes a long way.


Baker Mayfield has since issued a public apology for his actions.