SEC Stock Watch: 01.23.15 Edition

Posted by David Changas on January 23rd, 2015

We are now nearly one-third of the way through SEC play, and it’s time to take our weekly look at which teams, players and trends are heading in the right direction, who isn’t going anywhere, and who needs to turn things around. This is the SEC Stock Watch.

Trending Up

  • Rick Ray. Last week, the Mississippi State coach looked to be well on his way to the unemployment line. A home win over Vanderbilt and a road win at Auburn — the Bulldogs’ first in their last 22 tries — have changed that momentum, however, and Ray’s program may finally have something cooking. Whether his squad can keep things heading in the right direction remains to be seen, as Mississippi State faces several of the league’s most capable teams over the next few weeks.
The emergence of Armani Moore is a big reason for Tennessee's success (sportsanimal99.com)

The emergence of Armani Moore is a big reason for Tennessee’s success (sportsanimal99.com)

  • Tennessee. Prior to the season, Donnie Tyndall’s squad was picked to finish 13th in the league by the media. The Tennessee coach guaranteed that would not happen, and so far, his prediction looks pretty good. The Volunteers have won their first three road games for the first time in six years, and play three of their next four contests at home. They sit alone in second place at 4-1 and could be 7-2 in league play before embarking upon a brutal second half of the SEC schedule.
  • Devin Booker’s shooting. The one real criticism leveled against Kentucky this season has been its relative inability to consistently knock down outside shots. Booker has silenced a lot of that yammering by shooting a robust 11-of-18 from beyond the arc in league play. The freshman’s keen ability to make long-range shots opens up the Wildcats’ dominant inside game, and makes John Calipari’s team even more lethal than it already was.
  • Georgia. The Bulldogs finally appear to be headed in the right direction, playing like a team many thought could make the NCAA Tournament. After an 0-2 start in which they blew large leads, Mark Fox’s team has now won three in a row and faces three more winnable games before a trip to Lexington on February 3. There is no good reason why Georgia can’t separate itself as the second-best team in the SEC in coming weeks.

  • Michael Qualls. The Arkansas junior guard is averaging just over 20 points per game in SEC play and was the biggest reason the Razorbacks ended a two-game losing streak with a home overtime win against Alabama last night. Qualls scored a career-high 30 points and punctuated his play, per his trademark, with a couple of spectacular dunks in the victory. For a team that has inexplicably struggled since winning its first two league games, Qualls needs to become a go-to guy every night. So far, he has been just that.
  • Justin Coleman. The Alabama freshman was highly regarded coming into the season but has struggled to adjust since the start of league play. Last night against Arkansas, Coleman exploded for a career-high 22 points, shooting a blistering 5-of-7 from three-point range. In his previous game, a home loss to Kentucky on Saturday, Coleman logged zero points and assists in six minutes of action. If he can continue to play the way he did on Thursday night, it will be a huge boost for Anthony Grant’s team heading into the heart of SEC play.

Flat

  • Donnie Tyndall. From an on-court perspective, it’s arguable that no SEC coach has done a better job than Tyndall With an extremely limited roster on hand, no one would have believed that the Volunteers would be 4-1 through their first five league games. But while his on-court accomplishments this season have been fantastic, the NCAA cloud that continues to linger over his head is keeping a Tennessee fan base still scarred from Bruce Pearl a bit nervous.
  • Arkansas. This team is tough to figure. After losing at Tennessee, the Razorbacks lost at home to Mississippi and nearly dropped another home contest to the Crimson Tide on Thursday night. While still a solid NCAA Tournament team, something appears to be missing. If Arkansas is going to have any chance of postseason success this March, it needs be find a way to become much more consistent.
  • Anthony Grant’s job status. Alabama is clearly an improved team, but the very difficult five-game stretch we referenced in last week’s Stock Watch has resulted in an 0-2 start, and Grant needs a couple wins in his next three contests to feel good about his NCAA Tournament chances. Practically speaking, the Crimson Tide need to take care of business at home against Auburn and Florida before a return trip to Lexington next weekend.

Trending Down.

  • Florida’s NCAA Tournament chances. The Gators are coming off their first two SEC losses in two years — the second of which was an 18-point defeat at the hands of LSU — and things do not look good for Billy Donovan’s squad. Although still 3-2 in league play, the Gators’ RPI is #78, and they do not currently have a resume that projects anywhere close to the Big Dance. Their upcoming schedule is no walk in the park, either, including those two big games against Kentucky.
Frank Martin is not happy about South Carolina's start to SEC play (SECInsider.com)

Frank Martin is not happy about South Carolina’s start to SEC play (SECInsider.com)

  • South Carolina. After the Gamecocks beat Iowa State in late December, it looked like Frank Martin’s team was turning the corner and had a group on hand that could challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid. Things have not gone according to that plan in league play, however, as South Carolina is 1-4 in SEC play after a loss to Tennessee at home Tuesday. At this point, meaningful postseason play seems like nothing more than a pipe dream for this year’s Gamecocks.
  • Teams playing Mississippi State. Vanderbilt inexplicably blew a big lead in a loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday, and Auburn was beaten handily by Mississippi State on Wednesday night. For Kevin Stallings and Bruce Pearl, those are the kinds of games that must result in wins, and both the Commodores, which may have harbored semi-realistic aspirations of making the NCAA Tournament, and Tigers, will have a hard time overcoming defeats to one of the league’s worst teams.
  • The Harrison Twins’ Draft Stock. Many were surprised when Kentucky guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison came back to school for their sophomore seasons. Now, NBA personnel are suggesting that they would be foolish to leave after this season. Pundits believe that Booker and fellow freshman Tyler Ulis have surpassed the twins, and it certainly is conceivable both will go undrafted if they leave school ear
David Changas (137 Posts)


Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *