The SEC Week That Was: Volume VII

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 17th, 2015

For the next five 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 VII, including games from February 9-15. 

Team of the Week. Kentucky tied a program record for the best start in school history (25-0) by overcoming a 21-2 second half run to sneak by LSU, and followed that up against South Carolina by running out to a 43-18 halftime lead before coasting home. So that’s why Arkansas is the team of the week. Like we say in this space in each rendition, there’s no fun in simply handing the award to the ultra-deserving Wildcats every week. That means the Razorbacks get the nod because Mike Anderson’s team has moved into rare air with a winning SEC road record. After hanging 101 points on Auburn and gutting out a one-point victory at Ole Miss last week, the Hawgs moved to 4-2 on the road in SEC play. Arkansas is finally playing well enough away from home to support its typically-impressive home record (15-1), and it’s showing up as a result in the national polls (#17 Coaches, #18 AP). The win in Oxford may have been Anderson’s best road victory since returning home, and the Razorbacks are doing the things that his best teams do: forcing turnovers and sharing the ball. Since league play began, Arkansas leads the SEC in both assists (179) and forcing turnovers (190), and while Bobby Portis deservedly receives the most praise, Rashad Madden and Jabril Durham have both been excellent facilitators in the team’s up-tempo motion offense.

Bobby Portis and Rashad Madden have had plenty to celebrate this past week (

Bobby Portis and Rashad Madden have had plenty to celebrate this past week (

Player of the Week. This one is easy: flight crews. Separate planes carrying Missouri’s Kim Anderson on a recruiting trip and the entire Mississippi State team had to make emergency landings this week near St. Louis after experiencing engine troubles. Thankfully no one was hurt in either incident, but full credit must go to the pilots and crews involved to keep everyone safe. On the hardwood, we’ll stay in Fayetteville and give it to Michael Qualls this week. The junior had an efficient offensive week (34 points on 12-of-20 shooting), grabbed 11 rebounds and hit two critical late jumpers in the win over Ole Miss. After Portis, no other Arkansas player will be more important in terms of Arkansas’ showing in March. Qualls is the Razorbacks’ second option when defenses focus on Portis, and he has the tools to be a big-time defensive difference-maker. Tennessee’s Josh Richardson deserves mention as well for single-handedly carrying the Vols to a road win over rival Vanderbilt (27 points, seven rebounds).

Tournament Chatter. For the third straight week the SEC is holding strong with six teams in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology: Kentucky (#1), Arkansas (#6), Georgia (#8), Ole Miss (#8), LSU (#11) and Texas A&M (#11). While Florida and Tennessee have effectively faded from view, the current three-week consistency from these six teams should help with familiarity down the stretch. It’s still very possible that one or two of these schools will fall out of the picture, but the worst case scenario appears to be four NCAA bids from the SEC, and if nothing else, that is a clear improvement over the last couple of years.

  • Kentucky (25-0; beat LSU, beat South Carolina) survived one of its toughest remaining tests last week in Baton Rouge. A sweep this week to get to 27-0 would not only represent the best start in program history, but it would also be the best start of any of Calipari’s teams at UMass, Memphis or Kentucky. Trey Lyles returned from his recent illness to play 39 total minutes, contributing a solid game against the Gamecocks (eight points, four rebounds).
  • Arkansas (20-5; beat Auburn, beat Ole Miss) appears to have finally reached lock status. It now becomes all about seeding for the Razorbacks, and outside of a late February trip to Kentucky, the rest of the schedule is manageable. Their next-toughest games are at home versus Texas A&M and LSU. That regular season finale against the Tiger in particular could be a good opportunity to add another quality win to the resume, and should favor the Hawgs considering LSU’s difficulty in handling the ball.
  • Georgia (16-8; beat Texas A&M, lost to Auburn) took a bad loss at home against Auburn and needs to regroup quickly. The Bulldogs’ solid but unspectacular resume can probably survive one more blip, but not two. Georgia welcomes South Carolina to Athens this evening and will be without J.J. Frazier — a loss in this game and suddenly Georgia will be trending in the wrong direction.
  • Texas A&M (17-7; lost to Georgia, beat Florida) is on thin ice according to Lunardi (the Aggies are among his last four in). The problem for Billy Kennedy’s team is that it doesn’t have any eye-popping resume wins and the only real chance left is at Arkansas on February 24. By the same token, the Aggies need to make sure they don’t sustain any more bad losses. Kourtney Roberson dominated inside against against Florida’s front line, and a strong final month from one of the most experienced SEC players would be huge for this team.
  • Ole Miss (17-8; beat Florida, lost to Arkansas) is two Jarvis Summers jumpers away from owning wins against Kentucky and Arkansas. Imagine how the Rebels’ NCAA Tournament prospects would look if one or both of those shots had found the bottom of the net. As things currently stand, however, Ole Miss is still in a pretty good spot. The Rebels should be favored in the rest of their regular season games except for a trip to LSU. Summers has not scored as much recently, but he has 28 assists against just 10 turnovers over his last five games. The senior has done a good job in adjusting to Stefan Moody as the team’s primary offensive option.
  • LSU (18-7; lost to Kentucky, beat Tennessee) let the golden goose slip through its fingers against Kentucky last week. But the Selection Committee members are human (or so we are told) and it’s hard to imagine that close call won’t stick in their heads and work in the Tigers’ favor, especially if the Wildcats end up running the table. Jordan Mickey (seven blocks against Tennessee) could be battling Bobby Portis for SEC Player of the Year honors. The Tigers aren’t entirely safe yet, though, and still have games left against Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Arkansas. It’s time to get to work.

Had a Rough Week. It’ll be hard to top the week that Missouri had. The Tigers ran their losing streak to 11 games by falling to South Carolina on the road and Mississippi State at home, which were two of the most winnable games remaining on their schedule. The story was familiar in both losses: Missouri competed but could not make enough plays to pull out a win. To further compound matters, the Tigers lost Wes Clark for the season after he dislocated his elbow in a gruesome fashion. Clark had been their most consistent source of offense during SEC play, and now it’s looking entirely possible that Missouri fails to win another game and finishes the year on an 18-game losing streak. To their credit, Kim Anderson’s team has continued to play hard and nearly caught Mississippi State napping on the strength of a great effort from Jonathan Williams (career-high 27 points). For its part, Florida continues to be snake-bitten at the ends of games. The Gators lost two one-point heart-breakers last week, and frustratingly couldn’t get a shot in the air against Texas A&M at the final buzzer. Florida now has five losses by two or fewer points on the season.

It's time to give Rick Ray and the Bulldogs their due.

It’s time to give Rick Ray and the Bulldogs their due.

Looking Ahead. The picks this week go to Kentucky at Tennessee (February 17, 7:00 PM ET), LSU at Texas A&M (February 17, 9:00 PM ET) and Ole Miss at Mississippi State (February 19, 9:00 PM ET). Tennessee struggled considerably with LSU’s length and size, and that will surely get ratcheted up against Calipari’s NBA front line tonight. Still, Josh Richardson leading his team to a storybook home win is too sentimental not to pull for — he certainly deserves it. LSU and Texas A&M both need separation from the rest of the SEC pack, and they will get an opportunity against one another in the nightcap. A&M has split games against Georgia and Florida to begin its three-game home stand and Billy Kennedy’s group would certainly like to come out the other end with a 2-1 mark. Finally, it’s time to give Mississippi State some love. The Bulldogs have now won three SEC road games after snapping a long 22-game conference road losing streak last month. Rick Ray’s team is playing generally well with a 5-7 SEC record and gets an opportunity for a statement win against bitter rival Ole Miss on Thursday night.

Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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