Assessing Some Positives Amid an SEC Meltdown

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on November 17th, 2014

Hard as it may be to believe, SEC teams did do some good things on opening night (try not to fall out of your chair). Here are several positives that might have fallen through the cracks amid the conference’s Friday night meltdown.

Kentucky Bigs Own the Glass. The rebounding numbers that the Wildcats put on Grand Canyon Friday night were absurd. John Calipari’s gaggle of ultra-talented bigs grabbed 64.7 percent of the teams’ missed shots, which was good for 22 offensive rebounds. The Antelopes only had 20 total rebounds on their side, finishing the game -27 on the glass. Every Kentucky forward who played grabbed at least four boards, and while there are some open questions about the Wildcats’ outside shooting, that doesn’t really matter when they absolutely dominate on the glass. Opening night was a perfect example of this: Kentucky was just 3-of-14 from three-point land but still won the game by 40 points because Grand Canyon couldn’t take advantage of those misses.

Dakari Johnson led Kentucky's rebounding feast against Grand Canyon with 13 boards (

Dakari Johnson led Kentucky’s rebounding feast against Grand Canyon with 13 boards (

The Aggies Offense. Texas A&M burned up the nets in Reed Arena on Friday night against Northwestern State, averaging a whopping 1.30 points per possession in their 109-68 win against the Demons by shooting 57 percent from the field and 47 percent from three. Seven Aggies scored in double figures, led by Antwan Space and Jalen Jones with 16 apiece. Tavario Miller was the biggest opening night surprise for Billy Kennedy, as the sophomore who averaged just 1.8 points per game last season went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and scored 15 points. Texas A&M’s offense is a hot topic because it brings back a good defensive team from a year ago. Northwestern State wasn’t an ideal litmus test (#206 in KenPom’s rankings), but the offensive clinic the Aggies put on against them was still a very good way to start the season.

Bowers Power. Cinmeon Bowers is not Charles Barkley, but he surely did his best impression of the Auburn legend on Friday night. The JuCo transfer scored 18 points (6-of-12 shooting) and grabbed 17 rebounds in his Tigers’ debut against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. These weren’t garbage-time numbers either, as Auburn had to scratch and crawl its way back from a second half deficit before pulling away late. Bowers was instrumental in the comeback and kept the team afloat while Antoine Mason struggled to get anything going offensively. The reality for Bruce Pearl is that he’ll need big performances (albeit not 18/17 big) from Bowers all season with Matthew Atewe injured and Jordon Granger playing more on the perimeter than in the post. Even with Bowers’ big night, the Panthers were able to get way too many easy looks at the rim, particularly the duo of Akeem Springs and Justin Jordan.

Depth in Columbia. If you had told me that South Carolina would win its opener by 25 points and jump out to a 48-27 halftime lead I would’ve wagered quite a bit that it was because Sindarius Thornwell was going off. Instead, the Gamecocks dominated North Florida with their best player scoring only six points and handing out two assists. Yes, North Florida may not have been the stiffest of tests, but this is a Gamecocks team that lost to Manhattan and South Carolina Upstate at home last year, so nothing can be taken for granted. A question that South Carolina needed to answer was whether it had the scoring depth around Thornwell and Ty Johnson to make a leap forward in Frank Martin’s third year. Former top-100 recruit Demetrius Henry, at least on Friday, shook off a disappointing freshman campaign and scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting. The always-efficient Laimonas Chatkevicious also pitched in 11 points in 17 minutes on just six shot attempts. South Carolina was in full Martin mode too, forcing 15 turnovers and holding North Florida to a mere 0.76 points per possession. The Gamecocks are not at a point in their development where you can shrug off a great performance against a mid-major team and say, “well, that’s what you expect.” This was a nice debut for Martin, and all the more encouraging because Thornwell didn’t have to carry the team on his shoulders.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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