The NCAA tournament is now over. And all we have left in this little series here is the conference that crowned this year’s national champion. The ACC was first followed by the Big East and the Big Ten and the Big 12 and Pac-12. So let’s go and finish strong with the SEC, maybe the easiest conference to do this with so far.
But before we finish this series, let’s go over the rules one more time.
Rule #1: For the basis of this, due to the vast differences between college and pro basketball, the modern phenomenon known as the “one-and-done” player gets no consideration here unless he had a truly transcendent season that outshines any other contender.
Rule #2: The conferences are organized as they were for the start of the regular season.
Rule #3: College & Pro performance are measured equally.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide is one of the truly underrated pro factories in the SEC. The human crash dummy, Gerald Wallace, went through ‘Bama. So did Robert Horry and Derrick McKey. But the all-time greatest member of the Crimson Tide is also, perhaps, one of the most interesting players of the 1990′s. He’s always, unfortunately, remembered for one horrible moment. But regardless of that moment, there was a time when this player was one of the best guards in the NBA. Latrell Sprewell is the all-time greatest member of the Crimson Tide.
Arkansas: And now we get to the program that produces top-shelf guards just as well as any other program in the entire conference. Alvin Robertson was a razorback. So was Joe Johnson. But the all-time greatest Razorback is perhaps one of the best examples of a player being screwed by circumstances completely outside of his control. Here’s what I mean.
1: He injured his knee during the period of time just before Dr. James Andrews rose to prominence. Back then, trust me, if you blew your knee out, your career was never the same. Ever. When he injured his knee, his career arc changed drastically in a way that no current NBA player would have to deal with.
2: His prime coincided, almost freakishly so, with three of the better NBA teams of recent memory. The Bird, McHale, Parish Celtics, the Bad Boy Pistons, and the Erving\Toney\Moses Sixers. Make no mistake, if this player and his team were in the current NBA, they’d be a serious title contender every year and might even make a finals or two. But because he played in the era that he did, he never got that chance.
Sidney Moncrief, one of the greatest guards of the 1980′s, is the all-time greatest Razorback.
Auburn: And here is one of those one-bid teams. With all due respect to Chuck Person the greatest Auburn Tiger is so easy I’m not going to waste time going through the reasons why. Charles Barkley is the all-time greatest Auburn Tiger.
Florida: The Gators are a nouveau-riche basketball power. Since Billy Donovan came aboard, this program has produced quite a few top-notch NBA players. David Lee. Mike Miller. Al Horford. But the best Gator of all-time isn’t a scorer. He’s a rebounder, defender, and an agitator in the mold of Bill Laimbeer. Make no mistake, if he’s on your team, you love him. If he’s not, you want him to be embarrassed as much as it is humanly possible for someone to be embarrassed. Joakim Noah is the all-time greatest Florida Gator.
Georgia: This is the epitome of a 1-bid program. Frankly, I don’t even know why I need to waste time trying to convince you of the relative merits of Shandon Anderson or Jumaine Jones. We all already know who the greatest Georgia Bulldog is, don’t we? So I did the only thing I could do. I added a 2nd video of his exploits. The Greatest all-time Bulldog is Dominique Wilkins.
Kentucky: It’s a funny thing. Kentucky is one of the truly great programs in the country, and yet despite all of that, they have not yet produced the kind of pro players that you would expect. It’s probably the only fly in the Wildcat ointment. But that doesn’t mean they’ve produced garbage. Antoine Walker, Jamal Mashburn, and Cliff Hagan are all alumni of the Wildcat programs. But the best-ever Kentucky Wildcat wasn’t slick scorers like the men I mentioned. He played with one. But what he did was impressive enough. He was an All-American in College, and a multi-time all-star in the Pros. That was mixed between the ABA and the NBA, where he played alongside the types of players that allowed him to do what he did best. Dan Issel is the greatest all-time Kentucky Wildcat.
LSU: And unlike Kentucky, LSU has dropped off a few Hall of Famers while having nowhere near the same program success as the Wildcats. Bob Pettit would be the envy of most programs for the success that he had during his college career, and later on in the pros with the Hawks. Same for Pete Maravich and what he was able to do with the Hawks, and then the hometown New Orleans Jazz. But the greatest all-time Bayou Bengal is, perhaps, the most dominant big man of recent history. And that dominance started in college. For the entirety of his career, he was always the most destructive force in the league. Maybe not always the best player in the league, but there was never a time when he wasn’t the guy you feared. Shaquille O’Neal is the all-time greatest Bayou Bengal.
Ole Miss: Look, with this one, I’m not going to waste your time. There’s nothing here. I mean, absolutely nothing here. Ole Miss is one of those programs that appears here largely because they are a solid football program, and also because no one appears to have the heart to tell them that in just about every other sport they have become a space-filler, the team equivalent of SD Jones (or Frankie Lancaster if you grew up on WCW.) But there was one guy who was better than the rest of them. Johnny Neumann was the 1971 SEC Player of the Year and a member of the ABA All-Rookie Team in 1972. That makes him the greatest Ole Miss Rebel.
Mississippi State: the Mississippi State Bulldogs don’t have the same problem as Ole Miss does. They have developed quite a few good NBA players. Jeff Malone went to Mississippi State, as did Erick Dampier. But the greatest all-time Bulldog is one of the rougher players in NBA history. This man actually led the league in personal fouls. If you played in his era, he was not a guy you wanted to mess around with. Bailey Howell is the all-time greatest Mississippi State Bulldog.
South Carolina: The thing about the Gamecocks is that they have developed a few good NBA players, but with one exception, those players are better known as coaches. Brian Winters is one, and so is Mike Dunleavy. But the all-time greatest Gamecock was never a coach. He was, instead, one of the game’s most underrated and most lethal scorers. If you didn’t defend him correctly, he was going to scald you. But it wasn’t going to be a explosion of points. It was rather going to be like a slow deliberate process. So with that in mind, Alex English is the all-time greatest South Carolina Gamecock.
Tennessee: The thing about the Volunteers basketball program is that they develop scorers. Allan Houston and Dale Ellis were this as dead-eye, sniper-perfect, you can’t leave them alone for a second outside shooters. But the greatest Vol of all-time was in a different class of scorer from just about anywhere on the court. When he was on and in rhythm you weren’t going to stop him. Worse than that, he had an undeniable gift for scoring in bunches, a fact proven by the fact that he was the MSG scoring leader from 1984 to 2008. Bernard King is the all-time greatest Vol.
Vanderbilt: And it’s only fitting that this program, and this entire 6-part series, ends with the most difficult program in perhaps all 6 conferences. This school has nothing. Will Perdue is about it. So will Perdue is the all-time greatest Vanderbilt Commodore.