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SEC's Biggest Stories in 2011 No. 10: The East Rules the Court

2010-11 SEC Coach of the Year Billy Donovan led Florida to the top of the dominant East divisions last year.
2010-11 SEC Coach of the Year Billy Donovan led Florida to the top of the dominant East divisions last year.

The past couple of years have seen the SEC become quite unbalanced. It's kind of jarring to see one half of the conference dominate the other so much. The East certainly was the better of the divisions, no questions asked.

No, not in football obviously. In basketball.

In the 2010-11 season, the SEC had three teams win 10 or more conference games and five win at least 20 games by the end of the regular season. Only one of each of those—Alabama—was from the West division. Florida and Kentucky were the others who won 10+ league games, while those two plus Vandy and Georgia also won 20. Three of the teams in the final four of the conference tournament were from the East as well.

When March Madness rolled around, the SEC put five teams in the Big Dance: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Georgia. Notice a theme? While the other three fell in the first round, Florida made it to the Elite Eight and Kentucky made it all the way to the Final Four. It was the second consecutive season that the SEC East had put two teams in the Elite Eight. An SEC West team hasn't made it that far since LSU went on a Final Four run in 2006.

We're not done. Let's go to the postseason awards.

The player of the year was Florida's Chandler Parsons. Coach of the year was Florida's Billy Donovan. Defensive player of the year was South Carolina's Sam Muldrow (Gamecocks finally make an appearance!). Rookie of the year was Kentucky's Terrence Jones. The sixth man award went to Tennessee's Brian Williams. Only Mississippi State's Riley Benock represented the West with his scholar athlete of the year award. Only five of the 17 first and second team All-SEC selections came from the West, and only two of the eight players on the All-Rookie team came from the West.

The trend seems to be abating some in this new season, though the SEC doesn't do divisions anymore. Kentucky and Florida are the standard bearers still, but Alabama is building on its success from last year and Mississippi State has come on strong despite not getting a single vote in the preseason AP Poll. Plus Georgia has fallen off quite a bit from last year, Vanderbilt is acquiring puzzling losses, and Tennessee is having issues starting the post-Bruce Pearl era.

The divisional era of SEC basketball may be over, but the East closed it out in dominant fashion.