SEC Morning Five: 01.27.12 EditionPosted by Brian Joyce on January 27th, 2012
- Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele knows his role on the team, as do his teammates and coaches. “I’ve always said that Jalen (Steele) is the one guy that does something different on this basketball team,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He is capable of doing what he did, jump up and make shots. He’s the one guy, if you ask me what his role is — it is to make shots.” And that is exactly what Steele did on Wednesday night against LSU. While the Bulldogs were just five of 14 from beyond the arc, Steele contributed to more than half of MSU’s outside points going three of four from three-point land. The Bulldogs are solid in the frontcourt, but could use a consistent outside threat as they are fifth in the conference with a 35.3% three-point accuracy. Not bad, but not terribly threatening either. Steele becomes even more valuable for the Bulldogs if he can continue to knock shots down from long range.
- LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant was medically cleared to play on Tuesday for his first action since the beginning of January. O’Bryant suffered a fractured hand in practice on January 4, which kept him on the sidelines for five straight games. He saw playing time on Wednesday night against Mississippi State and its formidable frontline of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. And it looks like O’Bryant will need a few more games to get back in the swing of things. He played a solid 20 minutes, but finished with just six points and four rebounds. The key to the game was rebounds, and LSU wasn’t able to keep up with Mississippi State. The Tigers had a 51.4% defensive rebounding percentage and just 21.6% on the offensive end. LSU will need O’Bryant and the rest of the LSU frontcourt to shore up its rebounding to stay competitive in the conference.
- With Wednesday’s win over Alabama, South Carolina avoided an 0-5 start in SEC play. It would have been their worst start in the conference since an 0-6 start in 1998-99. Coach Darrin Horn admits his Gamecocks need the kind of atmosphere that was displayed in the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night. “We need our fans,” Horn said. “We need some atmosphere. I appreciate them finally getting up and doing that.” South Carolina also needed a little Bruce Ellington. The sophomore guard hit the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining. He finished with 12 points for the Gamecocks, but more importantly, appears to be getting into a solid groove as he becomes more comfortable on the basketball court (after playing football for Steve Spurrier through early January). Ellington has averaged 14.5 points and three assists over his last four games, and will need to continue to be a focal point for South Carolina to win another conference game (or two).
- After a four game losing streak, Alabama has gone from SEC title contender to no longer even a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide’s only win over an RPI top 25 opponent came against Wichita State in mid-November. For a team with an RPI of 40, the problem is that there aren’t too many more opportunities for that big victory. The Tide have Florida and Mississippi State at home, as well as two games against Ole Miss. Anthony Grant‘s squad was left out of last year’s Big Dance because of a low RPI and very few marquee wins. It would be a shame for a team that started out so strong in 2011-12 to meet the same fate. It is, of course, very early to be talking about which teams are in and which ones are out, but isn’t that part of what makes college basketball so fun? However. there won’t be anything fun about March for Grant and company unless Alabama is able to string together wins in the SEC.
- Florida freshman Bradley Beal played poorly over two consecutive games in early January shooting 6-27 without scoring in double figures. After three solid games in a row, Beal says his slump is over. “He’s got a better feel and understanding of when and where shots are coming for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know if he ever really felt comfortable with that. I think he’s getting better at that. I think he’s understanding when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, but he’s not allowing some missed shots or plays that maybe don’t go his way to affect him on the next play.” Even with a couple of difficult games mixed in, Beal has had a terrific first (and maybe only) year for the Gators. He has managed to score 14.1 points per game playing in a backcourt with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Mike Rosario coming off the bench. That is impressive for anyone, but especially a freshman.