SEC Wrap & Tourney PreviewPosted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011
Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC. With tournament action set to tip from Atlanta on Thursday, get set with RTC’s regular season recap and postseason outlook.
Hottest Teams Going Into The Postseason:
- Florida – Pasting Alabama to close out the season is a really good sign.
- Kentucky – Looking good on a lot of people’s brackets after winning two tough ones and they’ve been top 10 at KenPom.com all season.
Tournament Sleeper: Mississippi State – Too much talent here to not be dangerous when push comes to shove. The question is, will they play the way they’re capable or the way when they’ve fumbled?
Best First Round Matchup: Tennessee vs. Arkansas, Thursday – The South Carolina/Ole Miss game doesn’t carry much weight, and I don’t see Georgia having too much trouble with Auburn, nor Vanderbilt with LSU. Arkansas is the higher seeded team here due to the wackiness of the Southeastern Conference Tournament seeding (more on that later). Arkansas won the previous meeting 68-65 in Fayetteville.
Best Potential Matchups:
- Alabama vs. Georgia, Friday – Both of these teams need more wins to feel absolutely confident about their chances to make the NCAA’s in spite of whatever I may think. Unfortunately I am not on the selection committee. If Georgia wins, they’re in. If Alabama wins, they’re probably in.
- Kentucky vs. Alabama, Saturday – Kentucky fans would love to see a semifinal rematch with Alabama on a neutral court, as they believe Kentucky is stronger at neutral sites than in true road games. Pitting the league’s best defense against its best offense is certainly intriguing to me. Alabama won the previous meeting 68-66 in Tuscaloosa.
- Florida vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday – The first meeting in Gainesville went into overtime. The second wasn’t as close as Florida beat Vanderbilt by 10 in Nashville. I have a feeling Vanderbilt will be eager to avenge those losses and it’s always tough to beat a team three times in a season.
- SEC Championship Game – Regardless of who plays in the championship game, it’s the most important game of the week. Tune in at 1:00 pm to find out who gets the automatic bid and a little boost in their NCAA Tournament seeding.
Likely NCAA Tournament Seeding:
- Florida 3
- Kentucky 4
- Vanderbilt 6
- Tennessee 9
If They Make It:
- Georgia 10
- Alabama 10
- Mississippi State 12
Likely NIT Bound
- Mississippi State
Let’s look at the odd seeding of the SEC Tournament. Since the SEC seeds teams by division and not by overall record, I have put teams in order of where they are currently seeded and where they should be seeded in a conventional one through twelve tournament system with conference records in parentheses.
- E1 – Florida (13-3)
- W1 – Alabama (12-4)
- E2 – Kentucky (10-6)
- W2 – Mississippi St (9-7)
- E3 – Vanderbilt (9-7)
- W3 – Mississippi (7-9)
- E4 – Georgia (9-7)
- W4 – Arkansas (7-9)
- E5 – Tennessee (8-8)
- W5 – Auburn (4-12)
- E6 – South Carolina (5-11)
- W6 – LSU (3-13)
As you can see, an 8-8 Tennessee team essentially gets a nine seed in this system while 7-9 Mississippi and Arkansas are seeded higher at 6 and 8, respectively. What’s worse is that Mississippi and Arkansas both earned worse records than Tennessee in the weaker side of the conference. In an ideal world, the seeding would look like this:
- 1 Florida
- 2 Alabama
- 3 Kentucky
- 4 Vanderbilt
- 5 Georgia
- 6 Mississippi St
- 7 Tennessee
- 8 Mississippi
- 9 Arkansas
- 10 South Carolina
- 11 Auburn
- 12 LSU
Get it fixed, coaches.
Comparing Preseason Predictions (preseason predictions in bold)
- Florida 11-5 – Finished 13-3. Still surprised they got 13 wins.
- Kentucky 11-5 – Finished 10-6. To my credit, I said 11 wins would be tough if they didn’t get Enes Kanter eligible.
- Georgia 11-5 – Finished 9-7. A little disappointed in Georgia, but still a much stronger team than last year.
- Tennessee 10-6 – Finished 8-8. I thought Bruce Pearl’s troubles would be a problem, but I didn’t seem them losing eight home games.
- Vanderbilt 7-9 – Finished 9-7. Festus Ezeli came out of nowhere.
- South Carolina 4-12 – Finished 5-11. Close enough.
- Mississippi State 12-4 – Finished 9-7. No clairvoyant could have predicted this collapse.
- Mississippi 9-7 – Finished 7-9. Close enough.
- Alabama 7-9 – Finished 12-4. Really blew this one. I didn’t give coach Anthony Grant enough credit.
- Arkansas 7-9 – Finished 7-9. Right on.
- LSU 4-12 – Finished 3-13. Close enough.
- Auburn 3-13 – Finished 4-12. Close enough.
Let’s recognize the hard work of all of those that have made this season so special:
- Coach of the Year – Billy Donovan – Coach Donovan guided his team to a 13-3 mark in conference and successfully navigated close wins throughout a season that includes wins over OVC Tournament champion Morehead State, A-10 champion Xavier, Kansas State, Kentucky, a sweep of Vanderbilt and a pasting of Alabama. Not much debate here.
- Player of the Year – Chandler Parsons – Pretty much any list of leaders in any significant category will contain Mr. Parsons’ name; top 25 scorer, top 15 in 3-pointers made, top 15 in field goal percentage, top ten in assists, top 5 in 3-point field goal percentage, top 3 in assist/turnover and number 2 in rebounding. This is one efficient player. Can’t really argue with this one either.
All Conference Team:
- F Chandler Parsons, UF – 12.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists
- F Jamychal Green, UA – 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocked shots, 1.2 steals
- F Terrence Jones, UK – 17.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocked shots, 1.1 steals
- G Brandon Knight, UK – 17.2 points, 4.1 assists
- G Chris Warren, UM – 19.3 points, 3.4 assists, 92.8 free throw percentage, 1.8 assist to turnover ratio
Sixth Man of the Year:
- C Brian Williams UT 7.0 points, 7.5 rebounds in 23.2 minutes/game
Most Improved Player:
- Festus Ezeli: Last season: 3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.3 blocked shots, free throw percentage 37.3. this season: 12.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocked shots, free throw percentage 66.0
Newcomer of the Year:
- G Gerald Robinson UGA – 12.4 points, 3.9 assists, 2.7 rebounds
Single Game Performance of the Year: SC forward Sam Muldrow – In the history of the Southeastern Conference, there have been exactly 22 triple doubles. On January 8 against Vanderbilt, Sam Muldrow recorded the second triple-double in school history for South Carolina by scoring 16 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking ten shots.
Single Game Performance of the Year (Honorable Mention): Brad Tinsley – Vanderbilt: November 12, 2010 versus Presbyterian. 11 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists.
1. Florida (24-6, 13-3) I admit that I am amazed that Florida got to 13 wins in playing in the East. The Gators’ experience helped them pull out the close ones. This week, Florida turned it up and took the next step toward becoming a team that can make a deep run by crushing Alabama 78-51 in Gainesville and then beating Vanderbilt 86-76 in Nashville. By the way, you may recall the last time the Gators went 13-3 in the SEC, they won all of their remaining games.
2. Kentucky (22-8, 10-6) Kentucky got a couple of monkeys off its back this week. First, they won a close game at home against Vanderbilt, then got a road win over Tennessee in another close one. Kentucky has had a tough time winning close games, having lost five games by two points or less. Winning on the road has been difficult, too, as it finished the season at 2-6 in conference games away from Rupp. It looked like the Wildcats were headed for yet another road loss after an abysmal first half where they trailed by seven. Enter Brandon Knight, who scored 17 points in the second half to will the Wildcats to the win. The Wildcats got their first road win in conference since January 27 at South Carolina. They’re doing things right just in time for the tournament.
3. Alabama (20-10, 12-4) The Tide didn’t do themselves any favors by getting pummeled by Florida 78-51. Let’s not forget that win followed a 51-49 scare against Auburn and 68-63 loss to Mississippi. Getting the win over Georgia should solidify the Tide’s spot in the tournament. I know there has been some talk about Alabama being on the bubble due to a terrible preseason, but if the selection committee finds a way to leave out a 20-win Alabama team with 12 conference wins, then the apocalypse must be approaching because that’s an injustice that’s just inexcusable. Maybe the selection committee can cut Alabama a break now on that St Peter’s loss too as the Peacocks just locked up a tournament bid by beating Iona in the MAAC Tournament final. Oh yeah, since expanding to 12 teams, no SEC team with at least 11 wins has ever been left out of the NCAA Tournament.
4. Georgia (20-10, 9-7) Georgia started out slow against LSU but Dustin Ware scored 15 points all on three-pointers and Georgia embarrassed LSU 73-53. Even with the loss to Alabama this week, the Bulldogs should be in the NCAA tournament if they can win their first round tournament matchup with Auburn due to the soft bubble this year and the fact that so many other bubble teams lost this week.
5. Vanderbilt (21-9, 9-7) Two weeks ago, Vanderbilt was sitting comfortably at second in the East at 8-4, then the Commodores lost three of four including two in a row this week to Kentucky and Florida in what was their toughest week of the season. In the end, this was a good season for a team that lost leading scorer Jermaine Beal and center AJ Ogilvy and replaced him with Festus Ezeli, who averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds last year.
8. Tennessee (18-13, 8-8) After starting the season 7-0 with wins over Atlantic Sun Conference winner Belmont, Big East Champion Pittsburgh and Villanova, the Volunteers had a very mediocre season going 11-13 since that strong start, including losing 6 of their last 9. Tennessee also lost 8 games at home for the first time since 1995 and finished only .500 at home in conference. I think the Volunteers are safely in the NCAA Tournament, but a win over Kentucky this week after beating South Carolina would have been a nice momentum builder for a team that hasn’t won two in a row since beating Mississippi and Auburn over a month ago.
7. Mississippi State (17-13, 9-7) Ravern Johnson finished the season exactly where he started by scoring in bunches. He had 25 in an 88-78 win over Arkansas and 21 in a 60-58 close call over South Carolina. He was also named co-SEC Player of the Week for his efforts. While this team has been disappointing there is still a lot of talent here and this is probably the team that I would pick as the sleeper that could win the conference tournament and get to the NCAA’s.
8. Mississippi (19-12, 7-9) Chris Warren scored his lowest point total in 13 games getting 12 points on just 3 of 16 shooting in a 76-73 loss to Auburn. Putting that aside, Chris Warren has had a fantastic career at Mississippi and he followed that game with a 24-point performance in an 84-74 win over Arkansas. This team started out weak in conference play going 1-5 but they finished 6-4 and got wins over Kentucky and Alabama in the process. Then again, they did lose to Auburn this week, so this team really is one of those enigmas that could probably beat any team in America or lose to any team in America.
9. Arkansas (18-12, 7-9) I know people like to see monster dunks and alley-oops, and that’s fun, but for my money I love to watch a guy who can drain the threes and Arkansas’ Rotnei Clarke doesn’t disappoint. This week he went 9-16 from three, scoring 24 and 26 points in two games this week. Unfortunately, his team went 0-2. Arkansas just needed one win of two this week to finish the season at .500 in conference for the first time in four seasons. Oh well, next year looks promising with the number 6 recruiting class in the nation being added to a roster that likely returns Rotnei Clarke, Marshawn Powell, Julysses Nobles and Jeff Peterson. Let’s just hope their coach is back to enjoy the fruits of his recruiting labors as they probably enter next season as the favorites in the West.
10. South Carolina (14-15 5-11) The Gamecocks seem to have a tough time finding wins in the second half of conference play. Last year the Cocks finished the season losing 6 of 7 and this year by losing 8 of 9. A lot of the problem comes from youth. Freshman Bruce Ellington’s poor shooting in the second half of the season has been a major weakness. While some considered him the second coming of Devan Downey, he finished the season going 13 straight games without shooting 50 percent in a game. Of course Devan Downey wasn’t much for accuracy either. He finished he shot just 40 percent from the floor his senior season. Tough season for the Cocks, but then again we knew from the beginning it would be.
11. Auburn (11-19, 4-12) I don’t know how they did it, but despite so much adversity this season, the loss of so many players in the offseason, recruits that never showed up on campus, injuries and a new coach Auburn closed out the season on a two game win streak. And not only did they win two games but they overcame a 20 point first-half deficit to Mississippi and 15 point second-half deficit to LSU. That 20 point deficit to LSU is the biggest deficit Auburn has overcome since 1995 when they beat Louisville after being down by 22. I have previously complimented the heart of the Tigers players, but this week’s games really show that these guys are made of some tough stuff. This may seem a little funny, but I’m calling this season a success. And oh yeah, Kenny Gabriel earned co-SEC Player of the Week for averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds. Let’s hope Tony Barbee can build on this momentum next season.
12. LSU (11-20, 3-13) The Tigers started the conference season 2-0 and then proceeded to win exactly one more game. LSU began the week with a disappointing 73-53 loss in Athens. Not good. But then LSU came home and lost to Auburn. Really not good. LSU went 10:14 without a field goal against Auburn before Storm Warren made a basket bringing LSU to within two at 48-46, and despite an 11-0 run early in the second half, LSU still found a way to lose to the other Tigers.