The SEC Rundown: Spring Cleaning Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 24th, 2014

Conversations about which teams are on the bubble, what school needs a big win to improve its seeding, and the coaches who are on the hot seat are all signs that March is quickly approaching. But if you find yourself without one of those gadgets that allows you to play games, take phone calls, and view a calendar, another sure way to know March is coming is by the peculiar weather patterns that late February brings for most of the country. There’s six inches of snow on the ground one week and it’s 70 degrees the next — and it’s that kind of drastic turn of events that inevitably brings my wife into spring cleaning mode.

Scottie Wilbekin deserves the SEC player of the year, and other random thoughts.

Scottie Wilbekin deserves the SEC player of the year, and other random thoughts.

Needless to say, I had a lot of time to collect my thoughts this weekend as I scrubbed our patio furniture and deck within an inch of its life. I am confident we could eat on our outdoor deck right now, and I’m not talking about serving a meal, picnic style, on the patio furniture. No, I mean I could literally serve food on the deck and eat straight off the wood. It’s that clean. A broken hose nozzle, a minor slip and fall accident, and two trips to Home Depot later, I had a lot of time to collect my thoughts. And while this time wasn’t necessarily conducive to a full, well-considered post, it did lend itself well to a collection of random thoughts, questions, and SEC basketball predictions as we round the corner into tournament time.

My notes from a warm and sunny spring southeastern day:

  • Like it or not, the NCAA leans heavily on RPI rankings for NCAA Tournament selections. The SEC currently has just three teams in the top 50 of the RPI. I don’t exactly feel confident about the SEC’s chances on Selection Sunday. Neither does Greg Mitchell in Monday’s Morning Five.
  • The lowest RPI for an at-large berth in the NCAA was New Mexico at #74 in 1999. Among the SEC bubble teams, Ole Miss is at #76, Arkansas at #74, LSU at #69, and Tennessee at #51.
  • A reason to feel apprehensive about the Volunteers’ shot at hearing their name called in 20 days: two losses to Texas A&M. The Aggies are 132nd in the RPI. A reason to feel good: a dominant victory over Virginia (#19) earlier in the season.
  • Could a March 8 match-up between Tennessee and Missouri have an NCAA Tourney berth on the line? The Vols are trending downward, losers of three of their last four, and the Tigers looked to be on the rise with three wins in a row before an untimely weekend loss to Alabama.
  • After a mediocre game against Texas A&M on February 1, Scottie Wilbekin has been on a tear. In his last six games, the senior guard is averaging 18.7 points and 4.3 assists per game. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Wilbekin doesn’t lead his team deep into the NCAA Tournament this year. Wilbekin’s season stat line might not be as impressive as Tennessee’s Jordan McRae, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, or even his own teammate, Casey Prather. However, he has been the most important player on the league’s best team. By far.
  • Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are a must-read, but you already knew that. In his latest work, he looks at Florida’s lack of a pick-and-pop presence without the three-point shooting that Erik Murphy provided. If there is a reason Florida doesn’t play in this season’s Final Four, it is likely that poor three-point shooting will be the reason.
  • Could there be any other choice for SEC coach of the year other than Billy Donovan?
  • If you’re doing any kind of spring cleaning, you know you have to take out the trash. I wish the SEC would take its 8-t0-10 man all-SEC teams out to the curb. Pick five and be done with it.
  • John Solomon wrote about the SEC’s declining attendance numbers. Gimmicks won’t work here. Florida vs. Kentucky didn’t have any empty seats last weekend, because it was the sort of experience that fans expect. Marquee games fill seats, and the SEC lacks quality teams right now.
  • Was that a little bit of zone from Kentucky on Saturday? With UK’s length and athleticism, why doesn’t John Calipari try to utilize more zone from this team?
  • Speaking of Kentucky and LSU, Jimmy Dykes lambasted the Tigers for feeding Johnny O’Bryant in the post when he was immediately double-teamed by the Wildcat defense on Saturday. Isn’t this exactly what Kentucky has done with Randle to regularly draw the ire of Big Blue Nation? As I watched Syracuse and Duke play on Saturday night I wondered if the Cats could be successful putting Randle at the free throw line similar to Rodney Hood’s role for the Blue Devils against the zone.
  • The good folks over at GroupStats have plus/minus data for Kentucky that shows how important Alex Poythress is for his team’s offensive rebounding production. The Wildcats’ offense is dependent upon offensive rebounding and getting to the free throw line, and Poythress has been one of the most aggressive players on the roster. With Poythress in the lineup, the Cats grab 47.2 percent of their misses. However, while he’s on the bench, the Cats are snatching less than 40 percent. Hardly a bad number, but the Kentucky offense needs the extra opportunities Poythress creates.
  • This is your weekly reminder that Georgia, yes the Georgia Bulldogs, is third in the SEC standings at 9-5.
  • It looks as if Marshall Henderson has decided the Rebels will live or die by his three-point shooting this season. Henderson has only taken fewer than 10 three point shots in one SEC game, a February 1 match-up with South Carolina. How many attempts did he take from beyond the arc in that one? Nine.
  • The quality of play is down in the SEC. There’s no denying that. But I couldn’t help but think about how much young talent there is in the conference. There’s a lot to build upon, and Georgia, LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and even South Carolina and Mississippi State have the pieces in place to trend upward in the next couple of years. Here’s to hoping that the SEC can schedule strong non-conference games in the coming seasons and actually win a good number of them.
Brian Joyce (333 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.

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