The SEC Week That Was: Volume IV

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 27th, 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 IV, including games from January 19-25.

Team of the Week. Welcome to the party, Texas A&M. The Aggies are riding a four-game winning streak after beating Missouri (home) and Tennessee (road) last week. It’s their longest conference winning streak since joining the SEC, and the win over the resurgent Vols in Thompson-Boling Arena was a nice exclamation mark. Tennessee’s match-up zone had frustrated Arkansas, Missouri and South Carolina, but the Aggies – which have generally struggled to score in the Billy Kennedy era – were able to shoot 48 percent from the field in the victory. That’s obviously a good sign. Texas A&M’s development potential is also something to keep an eye on. Five key rotation pieces are playing their first year in College Station: Jalen Jones (transfer), Danuel House (transfer), Alex Robinson (freshman), Peyton Allen (freshman) and Tony Trocha-Morelos (freshman). Alex Caruso is again leading the conference in assists per game (5.3) and assist rate (36.7%), and the Aggies’ offense should continue to improve as he gets more experience playing alongside primary scorers Jones and House.

JJ Frazier had the self-described best game of his career in scoring 37 points against Mississippi State (

JJ Frazier had the self-described best game of his career in scoring 37 points against Mississippi State (

Player of the Week. Quick, who is Georgia’s best player? If you didn’t say J.J. Frazier than you’re probably wrong, at least as far the previous week is concerned. The Bulldogs’ point guard gets the nod almost solely for what he did in staving off Mississippi State last Saturday. The sophomore scored 37 points, including a blistering seven-for-seven from three. He told the AP that it was the best game of his career, and it came at a big moment for surging Georgia. The Bulldogs got just 24 points combined from Kenny Gaines, Charles Mann, Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic. That kind of production, or lack thereof, from a team’s main horses almost always results in a loss. And a loss to Mississippi State would’ve been bad for Georgia’s tournament hopes. But Frazier didn’t let it happen, and he may be battling Armani Moore for the title of most improved player in the conference. He is second in the league in true shooting percentage (65.3%), and is taking care of the ball very well (1.4 turnover per game) despite seeing his role as primary ball handler drastically increased over what it was last season.

Tournament Chatter. It wasn’t pretty, but Arkansas seems like it is solidifying its hold on a second bid for the SEC. It pains me that I am celebrating this, but let’s look at the facts. The most likely scenario has the league getting three, maybe four teams into the tournament. But there is a not-so-hair-brained scenario out there in which you only hear two SEC teams get their names called on Selection Sunday. Teams like Georgia and LSU are not so well-positioned and well-regarded nationally that late season slip ups will be ignored. Without further ado, let’s look at the weekly congestion.

  • Kentucky (19-0; beat Vanderbilt, beat South Carolina) continues to march towards the undefeated season, despite a closer than expected game against the Commodores. Devin Booker was the least talked about Wildcat freshman, but his name is flying up mock drafts. Last week he scored 24 points and turned the ball over just once in 51 minutes.
  • Arkansas (15-4; beat Alabama, beat Missouri) needed double-overtime to beat Alabama at home and a pair of missed free throws with seconds left to hold off Missouri. That’s not the most encouraging way to get to 2-0, but it happened nonetheless. The Razorbacks need to get their defense straightened out at home, though; they’ve allowed 90+ points in consecutive games.
  • LSU (15-4; beat Florida, beat Vanderbilt) picked up two road wins and is finally showing a measure of consistency. Gutting out an overtime win in Memorial Gymnasium was impressive. Jordan Mickey was excellent as always, combining for  39 points and 25 rebounds. The Tigers are getting close to feeling very comfortable.
  • Georgia (13-5; beat Ole Miss, beat Mississippi State) swept the Magnolia State and is riding a four-game winning streak. Rick Ray said the Bulldogs are the league’s second-best team and he might be right. They took two tough, close losses to Arkansas and LSU in week one, and are 10-2 since the start of December. Kansas State’s sudden resurgence is an unexpected gift for the Bulldogs, who beat the Wildcats while they were struggling in late December.
  • Texas A&M (13-5; beat Missouri, beat Tennessee) seems like it took something from its near-win against Kentucky since the Aggies have not lost since. They don’t have the non-conference chops that Arkansas (SMU), LSU (West Virginia) and Georgia (Seton Hall) do, so they can’t afford to lose winnable games
  • Alabama (13-6; lost to Arkansas, beat Auburn), Tennessee (12-6; beat South Carolina, lost to Texas A&M) and Ole Miss (12-7; lost to Georgia, beat Florida) are probably a 2-0 week away from being in the same class as the teams above. They haven’t done anything wrong, but a 1-1 week in a lightly-regarded league is damaging when you don’t have a powerful non-conference resume to fall back on. Tennessee has the biggest opportunity with a visit to Fayetteville. Ole Miss, on the other hand, cannot afford slip ups against Mississippi State or Missouri
  • Off the list: Apologies to Florida (see below) and South Carolina. At this point their ships seem to have sailed. South Carolina didn’t get the magical win it needed over Kentucky and now sits at 1-5 in conference. That mark was unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

Had a Rough Week. When your coach says you are probably out of it, then you are probably out of it. Billy Donovan said he doesn’t see the Gators making a Tournament run at this point, and you can’t blame him. The Gators dropped games to LSU (home) and Ole Miss (road) last week and with an overall record of 10-9 it seems as if the writing is indeed on the wall. The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway made the point numerically: Florida sits at #82 in the RPI, is 0-7 against the RPI top 50, and 1-8 against the RPI top 100. It was going to take a magical SEC campaign to get the Gators into consideration and it looked mildly possible after a 3-0 league start. But three straight losses have erased that positive trend and the LSU game had to be especially disappointing. The game was competitive into the second half and in years past the Gators would’ve buried an inconsistent opponent. But instead LSU went on a 14-2 run and put the game, and likely the Gators’ NCAA Tournament hopes, out of reach. A positive was Michael Frazier’s 27 points in the Ole Miss loss, and Donovan said he sees the junior’s mindset improving. Florida is still a standard-bearer in the SEC, and if Frazier emerges as a dynamic scorer and reliable leader the Gators won’t be down for long.

Looking Ahead. The picks this week go to Tennessee at Arkansas (January 27, 9:00 ET), Arkansas at Florida (January 31, 1:00 ET) and Alabama at Kentucky (January 31, 7:00 ET). As you can see, this is not the most compelling week of SEC action. Tennessee heads to Arkansas and Kevin Punter should be chomping at the bit to get into Bud Walton Arena. The junior is coming off a five-for-seven outing from three, and now gets a defense that allowed opponents to shoot over 50 percent from deep in its last two home games. This is where it gets scarce. The O-Dome is still a big time venue and Arkansas struggles on the road. That could be fun. Kentucky generally has at least one notable game as the league takes it collective swing at the king, but this week has the Wildcats getting two teams (Missouri and Alabama) that they recently thumped. But Kentucky has thrown up lackluster outings at home, and it’ll be interesting to see if Ricky Tarrant or Levi Randolph can play the role of Stefan Moody/Riley LaChance, and make things close.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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