SEC Week That Was: Volume V

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 30th, 2015

There were relatively slim pickings in terms of games over the holiday week, but there was still plenty of SEC action to digest. Let’s break down what went down in some of the final non-conference games of the season as we look ahead to the start of league play this weekend.

Tyler Ulis had it all going in Kentucky's win over Louisville (

Tyler Ulis had it all going in Kentucky’s win over Louisville. (USA TODAY Sports)

Team of the WeekKentucky stole the show on the lightest college basketball weekend of the year with its narrow win in the Battle of the Bluegrass. The Wildcats lost Isaiah Briscoe to a turned ankle in pregame warm-ups and got very little from Skal Labissiere (for the entire game) or Jamal Murray (for most of the game). Yet they were still able to beat a top-25 team without any freshmen playing a starring role. It took a superb effort from Tyler Ulis (21 points, 8 assists/1 turnover) and good games from Alex PoythressMarcus Lee and Dominique Hawkins. Who knew a Kentucky win led by a sophomore, two juniors and a senior was possible in the Calipari era? That the Wildcats have that kind of depth and experience is why despite ups and downs from the freshmen class, this team will not go the way the team did during Poythress’ freshman year.

Player of the Week. Ulis was the marquee player in the win over the Cardinals, and it wasn’t close. He’s becoming about as complete a player as a college point guard can be, and displayed it all against Louisville. He was masterful breaking the Cardinals’ press and controlled the game offensively, especially by delivering a number of passes to Poythress that put him in position to score near the basket. He also played a big role scoring the ball himself and seems to have shrugged off the elbow injury that had been clearly limiting him since the UCLA loss. The sophomore was an efficient 4-of-7 from distance and scored around the rim as well. Kentucky needed its star point guard to step up against Louisville, and he did just that.

Had a Rough Week. Giving this to Auburn may seem a little harsh since the Tigers traveled a long, long way to go 1-2 in the Diamond Head Classic. But they were blown out by Harvard after opening the tournament with a win over New Mexico, and were unable to salvage a final win against Hawaii. Both losses are not unforgivable (especially since Hawaii gave Oklahoma everything it could handle), but they feel like games you would’ve expected Auburn to win at this point in the program’s development under Bruce Pearl. Part of that is due to injury, since the Tigers were down to walk-on Patrick Keim as the backup point guard against the Rainbow Warriors with T.J. Dunans and Tahj Shamsid-Deen out. Nonetheless, despite several explosive performances from Kareem Canty and Tyler Harris, the Tigers wrapped up non-conference play without any top-1oo KenPom wins.

Video of the Week. Just like several teams in this league, we’ll let you down this week. There’s no video, but stone cold blocks by Poythress and Auburn‘s Horace Spencer are worth a mention. The pictures below may do the stuffs more justice than a video would anyway.

Alex Poythress wasn't having any of this shot attempt by Matz Stockman (courtesy @mattstonephotog).

Alex Poythress wasn’t having any of this shot attempt by Matz Stockman (courtesy @mattstonephotog).

Horace Spencer sent one back against Hawaii (courtesy @bmarcello).

Horace Spencer sent one back against Hawaii (courtesy @bmarcello).

Power Rankings

  1. Kentucky (10-2). The Wildcats regain the top spot after the big win over Louisville. Kentucky won’t go through conference play unscathed, but as discussed above, there’s a core in place that should help weather inconsistent play from the freshmen class.
  2. Texas A&M (10-2). The Aggies had an off week and close their non-conference slate against Cal Poly before a friendly start to league play with a home game against Arkansas, followed by road games at Mississippi State and Tennessee.
  3. South Carolina (11-0). The Gamecocks are one of five unbeaten teams left in the country. There isn’t much quality in those 11 wins, since the best of the bunch remains a November win over Tulsa, but being undefeated at this point is a great accomplishment nonetheless. Laimonas Chatkevicius had a nice offensive outing against St. John’s (11 points) after being quiet over the last few weeks.
  4. Florida (8-3). Beating Florida State at home would qualify as the Gators’ best win of the year. It should be an interesting match up between two similar teams that defend at an elite level but struggle to score. KeVaughn Allen had his best outing of the season in a win over Jacksonville, and could be relied on more heavily as the season progresses.

    This season hasn't gone quite as planned for Ben Howland and company. (

    This season hasn’t gone quite as planned for Ben Howland and company. (

  5.  Vanderbilt (7-4). Damian Jones struggled with foul trouble as the Commodores got whipped by Purdue in the second half of a 13-point loss. The peripherals still look good for Vanderbilt, but the Commodores have lost all four of their games against upper level competition. The good news? Jones won’t see a backcourt as good as the one the Boilermakers roll out in SEC play.
  6. Ole Miss (10-2). The Rebels skirted disaster by holding off Troy in overtime at home. Losing that game would’ve put a damper on what has been a quietly successful non-conference run. Tomasz Gielo exploded for 23 points (including five three pointers) and with an effort like that looks like the team’s best scoring option behind Stefan Moody.
  7. Georgia (6-3). The Bulldogs throttled Clemson’s offense in a blowout win in Athens. Mark Fox also got quality minutes from a trio of freshmen (William JacksonDerek Ogbeide and Mike Edwards) as he gradually lengthens his rotation. Georgia has played a solid schedule and looks ready to make an impact in SEC play.
  8. Alabama (7-3). The Tide have been a pleasant surprise in a league not accustomed to such things. Arthur Edwards tweaked an ankle in the close loss to Oregon, and his status is worth watching since Alabama can’t afford to lose perimeter players.
  9. LSU (7-4). Talk about making an instant impact. Craig Victor has immediately slotted into Johnny Jones‘ rotation (2o minutes per game in his first three games) and has averaged 12.3 points per game with an efficient 63.5 effective field goal percentage. It’ll still take a minor miracle for the Tigers to get Ben Simmons into the NCAA tournament, particularly because they’ve had a lackluster defense, but Victor’s addition has been a positive.
  10. Tennessee (6-5). After closing their non-conference schedule with Tennessee State, the Vols get a chance right away in SEC play to show that they’ve grown from all their close losses. A road game against Auburn is winnable, and that’s followed with two home games against quality teams: Florida and Texas A&M. Winning two out of three to start league play should be an indication that the Vols will be a tough out.
  11. Arkansas (6-5). Anton Beard had a good showing (13 points in 17 minutes) in his second game of the year in a win over North Florida in which the Razorbacks scored 97 points. Mike Anderson‘s team may not be great, but they’ve scored at least 83 points in each game at Bud Walton Arena, and are taking shape behind Moses Kingsley and Anthlon Bell. They should steal a few games at home in SEC play.
  12. Mississippi State (6-5). Blowing out Northern Colorado doesn’t move the needle. The Bulldogs best non-conference win is over Eastern Washington (KenPom #187). Malik Newman has gotten better as the season has progressed and there may be some potential for the team to win a few games it shouldn’t. But at this point it’s still looking like Ben Howland is headed for a disappointing first season, at least on the court, in Starkville.
  13. Auburn (6-5). It’s starting to look like Shamsid-Deen is indeed done for the season and that’s unfortunate for a player that has suffered a lot injury setbacks during his college career. It’s also a shame from a personnel standpoint, since Canty seems better suited playing off-the-ball but by necessity needs to play point guard.
  14. Mizzou (5-6). The Tigers have faced giant deficits against Kansas State, Northwestern, Arizona and North Carolina State and, most recently, Illinois. Mizzou fought back against the Illini but had dug too deep a hole. It’s hard to tell what the Tigers identity is at this point, and while they should get back above .500 with home games against Arkansas Pine Bluff and Savannah State, it’s hard to see an SEC run much different than the 3-15 mark from last season. On the positive side, Wes Clark was brilliant getting the Tigers back into the game against Illinois, and will need to keep developing into a go-to scorer as he gets further removed from the gruesome elbow injury he suffered last February.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

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