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The SEC's Presence on The Men's and Women's National Basketball Teams

What size is the SEC footprint on USA Basketball?

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Elsa

The FIFA World Cup isn't the only important international competition taking place this summer, so don't delete your patriotic Photoshops quite yet. At the end of August the FIBA Basketball World Cup will take place in Spain. Twenty four teams will be competing over the span of two weeks to see if anyone is capable of dethroning defending champion USA. The 2010 championship spearheaded by Kevin Durant was the US' first World Cup championship in sixteen years. The US is favored to win again this cycle along with host country Spain. After those two teams the betting odds increase exponentially.

USA Men's National Team

Team USA's training camp began Monday in Las Vegas with 18 invited players that will eventually get whittled down to 12. The men's roster has several familiar faces for SEC basketball fans: Bradley Beal of Florida, Demarcus Cousins of Kentucky, Anthony Davis of Kentucky, Chandler Parsons of Florida, and John Wall of Kentucky. David Lee of Florida is also considered a member of the 2014-16 USA basketball "team roster".  No big surprise that the SEC's make-up on the roster is comprised of former UK and UF players. The two schools comprise 25% of the current roster, and the next closest is the PAC-12 with 15% of the roster. These figures further reinforce the quality of player at the top of the SEC, as well as the yawning chasm between the league's elite basketball programs and the rest of the SEC.

USA Women's National Team

A specific roster isn't yet set for the women's team, but a team roster is available online. The SEC presence on the roster is overwhelming due to the University of Tennessee who has four former players listed. Auburn is the only other SEC team with one former player listed. In fact, only seven players of the thirty are from SEC states. The majority of the players are from the Midwest and the west coast regions.

The Future

In the near term, UK and UF will continue to have the most former players competing for spots on the men's national team, while Tennessee will dominate the women's side. The majority of the USA Men's basketball roster is comprised of former McDonald's All-Americans. In the SEC, those quality of basketball players typically only sign with Kentucky or Florida on the men's side (though LSU is getting a good one next year; maybe Georgia is too). In the long term, more balance could be achieved for at least two reasons.

First, the league has made a string of largely praised coaching hires at Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri. If these coaches can improve their recruiting or player development like they did at previous stops, it's possible more SEC alums will compete for roster spots on the national team. On the women's side, the recent success of Kentucky and South Carolina has added depth to a league previously dominated by Tennessee. The league already competes well outside of the conference indicating its level of play. Former SEC players on the women's national team will continue, and may increase from a wider variety of universities in the future.

Second, Team USA basketball's (so far successful) approach since 2006 has been to field a team rather than just a collection of mega-stars. This has opened the door for players with unique skills that complement the team's bigger stars.  The roster lists players who were relatively unheralded out of high school, and attended programs that aren't major names like Morehead State, Weber State, or Washington State. In other words, you don't have to been a superstar at a big school to make the national team anymore. A sharpshooter from Vanderbilt, or a lock-down defender from Arkansas, could just as easily make the team as UK's leading scorer and SEC MVP.

Placement of former SEC players on national teams isn't "the" measurement of the conference competitive health so much as "a" measure. Yet, in a system where W/NBA all-star voting is influenced by fans, and groupthink can corrupt merits awarded by media, it may be the best lagging indicator of the league's basketball health compared to alternatives.