My 2014 SEC New Year’s ResolutionsPosted by Brian Joyce on January 4th, 2014
As 2013 was coming to a close, my wife and I made the decision to allow our nine-year-old son to stay up and participate in the annual tradition of Ryan Seacrest counting down until midnight as Miley Cyrus stuck her tongue out. Well, we could have done without Ryan Seacrest, but we brought in 2014 with a toast of sparkling cider, a riveting game of Monopoly, and a conversation about New Year’s resolutions. I won the game of Monopoly in decidedly dominating fashion, as my wife eloquently explained the meaning and purpose of resolutions. After taking it all in, our son declared that he would like to save his weekly allowance and donate it each month to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, better known as the ASPCA. I was too busy ruthlessly and strategically acquiring properties and constructing monstrosities of hotels to truly appreciate the sacrifice my son had just made.
Now that I have had a few days to reflect, I came to two conclusions. First, I’m amazed at the miracle that occurred. For those of you with kids you know that convincing your child to give you one lone and measly M&M from an entire wealth of stockpiled chocolates from their rich and bountiful Christmas stocking can be a chore, let alone having them complete a thoroughly selfless action like donating money that could be used for toys and video games to save animals from abuse. In all seriousness, I am genuinely thankful, proud, and inspired by the commitment he made. And second, I also realized I was too wrapped up in winning a completely meaningful and rewarding board game to make resolutions for myself, so I am going back a couple of days later to make some 2014 resolutions of my own. Here goes…
1. I resolve… to start believing in LSU as the SEC’s third best team. There’s Missouri. There’s Tennessee. Even Arkansas can make a case. But I think LSU will be the surprise team in the conference once the chips fall where they may. With a win over Rhode Island on Saturday, the Tigers can enter conference play at 10-2 with only road or neutral court losses to UMass and Memphis. Coach Johnny Jones currently lays claim to Ken Pomeroy’s second-ranked defense in the Southeastern Conference and I think that gives his team the identity it needs to succeed. If you need further proof, look at the Tigers’ interior defense trends over the last five years and you will see that Jones has this team looking very different from the past.
2. I resolve… not to listen to anyone telling me six SEC teams will make the NCAA Tournament. Just one year removed from being a three-bid league, Joe Lunardi has Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, LSU, Tennessee, and Arkansas in the field in his latest Bracketology update. I’m not buying it. Arkansas is traditionally strong at Bud Walton Arena where it hasn’t lost since November 30, 2012. Mike Anderson‘s squad hasn’t played a true road game all season, but the Razorbacks will when they travel to College Station on January 8. And they might not keep that home winning streak alive when they host Florida soon afterward, followed immediately by Kentucky. Look for the fastest 40 minutes of basketball to play its way off the bubble in quick fashion when it leaves the friendly confines of Fayetteville.
3. I resolve… not to let Marshall Henderson overshadow the other great backcourt players in the SEC. Henderson is the SEC player even the casual college basketball fan knows about. He was widely regarded as a no-brainer for the SEC 1st team, but sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the Marshall Henderson show that we forget about the rest of the talented backcourts in the conference. But no matter how many headlines he snags for off- (and on-) court antics, I won’t forget the outstanding play by other, quieter superstars that have snagged that 1st team spot away from him. Then again I only choose a traditional five players, unlike our overlords at the SEC, so unless I have a lapse in judgement and expand my selections to a 12-man roster, then maybe, just maybe, I may have room for him on the bench. Until then, his resume doesn’t stack up to the other exemplary guard play that can be found throughout the conference. Seven guards are currently high usage, high scoring backcourt players averaging over 18 points per game. You can see for yourself, using a mix of per game and advanced statistics, that Henderson’s profile isn’t bad, but isn’t quite 1st team material either.
Who did you select as your All SEC guards? Players A, B, and C? Maybe D? Not G, right? That’s right, Henderson is “Player G.”
For the record, my all-SEC 1st team through the end of 2013 is Julius Randle, Casey Prather, Jordan Clarkson, Jordan McRae and Trevor Releford. Not sure Henderson makes my 2nd team either, but I won’t count him out for a late season run.
My resolutions for 2014 aren’t nearly as impressive or significant as my son’s commitment, but let’s just hope we both have the willpower to stick with them. Oh, and after my embarrassing display of poor etiquette in Monopoly, I would like to add a resolution to play less Monopoly. Or maybe I will be a more gracious winner. Regardless, I don’t want to see how I handle defeat, and here’s to hoping your favorite team doesn’t have to in 2014 either. What are your New Year’s resolutions as we take in another conference slate of SEC basketball?