2003-04 — 19th
2004-05 — 19th
2005-06 — 24th
2006-07 — 19th
2007-08 — 18th
2008-09 — 20th
2009-10 — 17th
2010-11 — 19th
2011-12 — 23th
This year — 28th
The Southern Conference stinks — statistically.
The SoCon men's basketball teams muddled their way to the heart of head-to-head competition with a collective Ratings Percentage Index of 28 out of 32 leagues.
That's the lowest ranking for the SoCon since RealTimeRPI posted the data for the 2003-04 season. Only the Independents, the SWAC, the Big South and the Big Sky are rated lower in the RPI, which measures a team's or conference's strength based on wins, losses, location of games and strength of schedule.
"It is a problem," said SoCon special adviser Dave Odom. "When you're No. 28 out of 32, you have a lot of work to do and you can't mask that.
"We've got to schedule better, and I hate to be blunt, but you have to recruit better and play better in order to raise the level of the programs."
The RPI plays a factor in postseason seeding and overall conference prestige. The Big Ten can claim that it's the best conference in the country. The RPI is used by the NCAA tournament selection committee to determine at-large teams.
Not that the SoCon knows anything about having an at-large team. It has never been more than a one-bid league. Having two teams in The Dance is the dream of conference officials, school presidents and athletic directors.
Significant cash comes from playing in the NCAA tournament. Conferences earned $1.9 million per team and per victory in the tournament last March. An extra team and/or a better seed in the Big Dance could mean big cash.
"If you could be somewhere in the mid-to-high teens, I think that would be a good goal for the SoCon every year," Odom said. "We've had some good wins this year, but not enough."
The SoCon has been ranked in the teens in six of the last nine years. Its RPI peaked after the 2009-10 season at No. 17. The full season of Davidson's run to the Elite Eight in March of 2008 resulted in a No. 18 rating.
"Some years leagues are going to be up," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. "It depends on your wins. We've been riding Davidson as of late and they haven't pulled off a big nonconference win this year, so we'll blame it on them."
Shulman was joking about blaming Davidson, which has tried to carry the SoCon torch in games against New Mexico, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke this season.
The SoCon does not have a winning record against any conference it has played more than twice. SoCon schools have a combined losing record against the Atlantic Sun, the Horizon League, the Sun Belt and the Western Athletic Conference.
"We played all of our high opponents extremely well," Western Carolina coach Larry Hunter said. "In almost each one of those games, we had a seven- to double-digit lead but weren't able to hang on and finish. We were competitive in each one. We just couldn't win one."
The SoCon is 1-5 against the comparable Ohio Valley and 8-9 against similar Big South squads.
"I wish our RPI was higher," said Shulman, whose team led at Kansas, Louisiana State and Georgia Tech. "We're not used to being that low. We haven't pulled our weight."
It's too late this year for SoCon schools to get plowing.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...