The SEC Week That Was: Volume III

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 20th, 2015

For the next nine weeks or so, we’ll run down a few weekly superlatives from league play, take a look at how conference teams look in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee, and anything else that merits discussion. Here is Volume III, including games from January 12-18.

Team of the week. It took three rounds of this column to get there, but the league Colossus finally gets the nod. Kentucky did in the second week of SEC play what so many predicted it would do in the first — thrash its opponents. The Wildcats beat Missouri by more points (49) than it allowed the Tigers to score (37), and, as Brian pointed out earlier this week, it was the best defensive (points per possession) performance in conference play in the Calipari era. The ‘Cats followed up that victory with an easy 22-point win against a good Alabama team. Its defense was again outstanding, but it was the Kentucky offense that caught my eye in Tuscaloosa. Just one week after a rough outing in College Station (28.1% FG, 32.1% 3FG, 25-of-35 FTs), the Wildcats were hyper-efficient in a slow-paced game (50% FG, 47% 3FG, 16-of-18 FTs). If that’s a sign of the Wildcats’ offense to come, it’s worth wondering whether this team may actually cut down the nets in early April sporting a goose egg in the loss column.

Tyler Ulis led an efficient Kentucky attack against Alabama with 11 points and two assists (AP Photo).

Tyler Ulis led an efficient Kentucky attack against Alabama with 11 points and two assists (AP Photo).

Player of the Week. Let’s follow the crowd and hand it to Tennessee’s Armani Moore. The junior wing won the SEC’s Player of the Week award and it was well-deserved. He contributed solid scoring totals in last week’s wins over Arkansas (14) and Missouri (15), but more importantly scored crucial points late in both games. His two free throws sealed the Vols’ victory over Arkansas, and he broke a tie-game in Columbia with under four minutes to go with a contested layup. The 6’5″ Moore also helped an undersized Tennessee front line win the rebounding battle in both games. Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones, who played well in returning from an ankle injury, and Georgia’s Kenny Gaines, who guided the Bulldogs through a crucial undefeated week, also deserve mention.

Tournament Chatter. Can you say mediocrity? The league currently has seven teams sitting at 2-2, and the only 3-1 teams (Tennessee and Florida) appear to be well behind several of those in the NCAA Tournament pecking order. None of the fringe NCAA contenders have yet played their way out of the picture but we could be headed toward the league’s nightmare scenario. A team or two separating from the pack would lock in a few bids, but if the soft middle continues to beat up on each other without rhyme or reason, it risks damaging everyone’s profile. Still, 10 (10!) teams are worth mentioning and that’s not too bad.

  • Kentucky (17-0; beat Missouri, beat Alabama) is bearing down on that #1 overall seed. No drama in Lexington this week.
  • Arkansas (13-4; lost to Tennessee, lost to Ole Miss) still looks like a safe bet to make its first tournament appearance under Mike Anderson. But the Razorbacks seed will continue to fall if they don’t halt the negative momentum.
  • Georgia (11-5; beat Vanderbilt, beat Florida) continues to be a solid team flying well under the radar. KenPom likes the Bulldogs (#29) and they made up for an 0-2 start with a clean sweep. Ending Florida’s 24-game SEC winning streak could be a sentimental lift. If they get to their January 31 matchup with Carolina at 5-2 they might finally be in the discussion.
  • LSU (13-4; beat Ole Miss, lost to Texas A&M) continues to be maddeningly inconsistent. Losing to the Aggies isn’t a sin, but you expect the Tigers to win that game at home. Two road games this week (Vanderbilt and Florida) will be telling. Win both and the Tigers should definitely be safe, but do you have any faith that they will.
  • Alabama (12-5; lost to South Carolina, lost to Kentucky) had a crack at a quality win and the quality win this week and missed both opportunities. The Tide get Arkansas, Florida and a Kentucky rematch in the next two weeks. Going 2-1 puts them in good shape, anything less and it starts to get tough.
  • South Carolina (10-6; beat Alabama, lost to Auburn) isn’t losing that Iowa State win, but the Gamecocks are 1-3 in conference and that can’t be ignored. Their next five games are against teams on this list, which puts them in serious risk of falling into a deep SEC hole. Frank Martin needs more consistency out of Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell.
  • Florida (10-7; beat Auburn, lost to Georgia) sits at 3-1 and beat Auburn by 20 points, which is the type of taking-care-of-business win the program is accustomed to. The dream isn’t dead, but the Gators need to post a gaudy SEC record (e.g., 14-4) to be in the mix. That’s a tall task for a team that seems in constant roster turmoil.
  • Ole Miss (11-6; lost to LSU, beat Arkansas) is hanging on the fringes record-wise, but the Rebels have looked good since SEC play began, and the win at Bud Walton was a sweet payoff. It’ll take a lot of work, but with Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers playing the way they are, the Rebels have the look of a team that can exploit this league’s mediocrity.
  • Texas A&M (11-5; beat Mississippi State, beat Texas A&M) is another team hanging on the fringes, and a bad week could knock them off this list. But they have a favorable schedule the next few weeks.
  • Tennessee (11-5; beat Arkansas, beat Missouri) got a quality win against Arkansas and is overachieving in Donnie Tyndall’s first year in Knoxville. The Vols need everything to go their way to truly get into the conversation, but they’ve put themselves in that position.

Had a rough week. There is a bad trend developing. For the second week in a row the previous week’s team of the week has landed in this spot the next week. Call it bad Rush the Court juju. Arkansas stubbed its toe over the last week with losses to Tennessee (road) and Ole Miss (home). Neither loss is a big deal in a vacuum since both the Vols and Rebels are playing well, but these are the games the Razorbacks should be winning if this truly is a step-up season for Anderson. It’s not the end of the world, but Arkansas can’t allow this to snowball. The Tennessee game was a hard fought game in which both teams played reasonably well, though the Razorbacks did struggle somewhat with the Vols’ matchup zone. Josh Richardson did his thing (20 points, 8-for-11 from the field). Road losses happen. The Ole Miss game was more concerning. Coming off a loss and heading home, you would’ve thought Arkansas wouldn’t have nearly given up 100 points. Dropping that game, and allowing the Rebels to shoot nearly 60 percent from the field in the process, temporarily punctures the aura of intimidation that comes with Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas lost a rare home game to Ole Miss and needs to rebound (

Arkansas lost a rare home game to Ole Miss and needs to rebound (

Looking ahead. The picks go to Florida at LSU (January 20, 7 ET), Ole Miss at Georgia (January 20, 7 ET) and Kentucky at South Carolina (January 24, 12 ET). It’ll be interesting to see how Florida responds now that its massive conference winning streak has been snapped, and how Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith respond to their benching in the second half of the Georgia loss. Plus, this is a game Florida generally wins and LSU generally loses. Will that script hold? If you want to watch good guard play, the Rebels (Moody, Summers, Snoop White) traveling to Georgia (Gaines, Charles Mann, JJ Frazier) will be chock full of it. Kentucky’s weekly trip into a frenzied arena takes them to Columbia, where Columbia Life Arena will almost certainly be at capacity. The Gamecocks beat the Wildcats last season in that building, and if they can do it again they’ll be in great shape.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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