SEC Week That Was: Volume VI

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 5th, 2016

Conference play is off and running in the SEC as some teams finished up their non-conference schedules and several others opened league play. Here’s what happened in the final week before it’s all SEC, all the time.

Team of the WeekLSU has caught a lot of flak on this microsite with good reason. Despite boasting arguably the best player in the country, the Tigers have spent most of the season trending in the wrong direction. Still, Johnny Jones‘ team deserves accolades when things go well, and the Tigers’ surprise win over Vanderbilt in Memorial Gym on Saturday merits such a mention. Jones’ club still has a steep hill to climb if it is to enter NCAA Tournament discussion, but consider the following: Ben Simmons (36 points, 14 rebounds, four assists) seems comfortable playing the two-man game with Keith Hornsby (23 points) and Craig Victor (11 points). That pair was not around for the majority of the team’s losses this season, so there is now some reason to believe that the Tigers can surge with a complete roster. There’s also equal reason to believe that they’ll continue to underwhelm. Only time will tell in Baton Rouge.

LSU out-muscled Vanderbilt for a big win in Nashville (

LSU outmuscled Vanderbilt for a big win in Nashville. (

Player of the Week. Ben Simmons may have aleady numbed the college basketball world to his gaudy statistics, but we need to continue to take notice. The line he put up against Vanderbilt isn’t his best of the season, but it still needs to be appreciated. He also notched a double-double in last Tuesday’s loss to Wake Forest (21 points, 12 rebounds), giving him an SEC-leading 10 such games for the season. It also hasn’t taken the freshman long to exploit the heavy attention he is receiving, as he attempted 35 free throws over the past two games. Compare that with 36 attempts over his first six games and a total of 72 prior to last week. Opponents will keep putting him in a position to draw fouls, and since he’s making his free throws at a respectable 74.8 percent, this represents a great source of offense on a team that has struggled to shoot the ball. Honorable mention goes to Florida freshman guard KeVaughn Allen, who scored 32 points in a loss to Florida State (the highest total for a Gators’ freshman since 2002) and followed it up with 18 in a win over Georgia.

Had a Rough Week. Was the LSU win really such a surprise? Vanderbilt has at times looked like the deep, balanced team that many thought would have a great season, but the Commodores ultimately came up empty in their big non-conference tests (Kansas, Purdue, Dayton, Baylor) and opened SEC play by dropping a home game. Luke Kornet‘s absence cannot be overlooked since he’s such a unique player and a key part of Kevin Stallings‘ frontcourt. His return in a few weeks will help with the team’s offensive rebounding woes, but Damian Jones needs to give Vanderbilt a better inside presence in the meantime. It’s not yet time to panic in Nashville, but the Commodores need to get moving in conference play and avoid any more disappointing setbacks.

Video of the Week. Not a highlight, but a goodbye. Ole Miss plays its first game in their new basketball home, The Pavilion, this Thursday night against Alabama. So ends a 50-year run in Tad Smith Coliseum, which opened to the public way back in 1966. Take a look at a well-done, if not slightly cheesy, farewell to the Tad Pad.

Power Poll

  1. Kentucky (11-2). Tyler Ulis was great in controlling the Wildcats’ offense against Ole Miss even as he was chasing around Stefan Moody on the other end of the floor. It’s hard to believe that a nine-point outing from Skal Labissiere in January is encouraging, but that’s where we are in his development. And as Brian Joyce pointed out on Twitter, Labissiere’s ability to make jump shots should help clear some room for Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress to get easy points around the basket.
  2. Texas A&M (11-2). It’s looking like the SEC picked up a basketball asset when it added Texas A&M, as the Aggies built on a successful non-conference showing by throttling Arkansas to open conference play. There were plenty of good things that came from this game, such as Alex Caruso setting the program’s new steals record, the Aggies handling Arkansas’ press and Tonny Trocha-Morelos notching a double-double off the bench. But the home crowd also impressed, packing in over 11,000 people while students were still out on break. Reed Arena is looking like one of the tougher places to play in the league right now.
  3. South Carolina (13-0). The Gamecocks are one of only three teams nationally that are still undefeated. One reason South Carolina has been so successful has been Michael Carrera‘s epiphany of a season from distance (62.5 percent on 32 attempts). His proficiency from outside gives the Gamecocks a starting lineup where each player is a threat to step out and shoot. Their revamped offense and elite defense will be tested in SEC play, but for now they’re 13-0 and Gamecock fans should sit back and enjoy it.
  4. Florida (9-4). The Gators have been the worst shooting team from three-point range in the SEC, so their 6-of-13 performance in a win over Georgia must have really pleased head coach Mike White. If the shooting improves and KeVaughn Allen keeps developing, the Gators could be in good position to peak at the right time down the stretch. Allen has been especially good in taking care of the ball, and it’ll be interesting to see if that continues as he gets more touches. A lot of Florida’s long-term potential will hinge on the status of Devin Robinson, currently day-to-day with a chest injury he suffered in the Georgia game.
  5. LSU (8-5). It’s hard to know where to slot the Tigers since it’s so easy to get caught up in the aura of Simmons and forget about the body of this team’s work. But as mentioned above, Hornsby and Victor’s returns make the current team the best it has been all season. Tim Quarterman has not scored in double-figures in the last five games, and we might be seeing the result of only so many touches to go around there. It’s up to Jones to figure out how to best use Quarterman for the rest of the season, though, since he remains one of the league’s most exciting players.
  6. Vanderbilt (8-5). It’s not as if anyone is having a bad season, but you would’ve expected more out of Damian Jones, Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis by now. It’s easy to forget that LaChance and Fisher-Davis are just sophomores, so there is certainly potential for more production down the line. The Commodores have a sneakily tough week with games at Arkansas and South Carolina.

    With Yante Maten down low, the future is bright for the Bulldogs. (Photo by Joshua L. Jones, The Red & Black)

    With Yante Maten down low, the future is bright for the Bulldogs. (Joshua L. Jones/The Red & Black)

  7. Georgia (7-4). Beating Florida in the O-Dome when the Gators are making shots is a tall task, so we can’t get too down on the Bulldogs for dropping their SEC opener. Derek Ogbeide played an effective 28 minutes against an athletic frontcourt and considering how well Yante Maten has played this season (i.e., six 20+ point games), the future for the Bulldogs down low appears bright.
  8. Ole Miss (10-3). The Rebels weren’t able to replicate the success they had at Rupp Arena in last year’s SEC opener, as Kentucky held Stefan Moody to just eight points in the first half and no other Rebel had an answer for an early 23-3 Wildcats’ run. This is still a solid team that takes care of the ball and attacks the offensive glass so Ole Miss should eventually find its way into NCAA Tournament discussion. But beating a quality team on the road without a mammoth effort from Moody seems unrealistic.
  9. Alabama (9-3). The Tide threatened to undo a lot of the positivity they had generated by losing at home to Jacksonville State prior to beating Norfolk State. Retin Obasohan scored 23 points against the Spartans, breaking out of a three-game mini-slump. Alabama will never light up the scoreboard this year, making Obasohan’s slashing prowess a key for Avery Johnson‘s team to continue its surprising run.
  10. Auburn (7-5). Kareem Canty has found a backcourt running mate in Bryce Brown. The freshman has scored 20 points each in the last two games, including an 11-of-21 mark from three over that same stretch. This has been a huge development since the Tigers will be without T.J. Dunans for three to five weeks with a knee injury. Auburn’s guard corps has had been bitten by the injury bug this year so Tyler Harris may need to spend more time on the perimeter as a result.
  11. Tennessee (7-6). A 3-of-28 showing from three against Auburn isn’t going to cut it in Rick Barnes‘ up-tempo system. The Vols return home for a tough two-game stretch against Florida and Texas A&M this week.
  12. Mississippi State (7-5). Quinndary Weatherspoon played 24 good minutes against North Carolina Central (14 points, seven rebounds, four assists), and he may have jumped senior Fred Thomas in Ben Howland‘s rotation as a result.
  13. Arkansas (6-7). This was always going to be a rebuilding year for the Razorbacks, but Junior Moses Kingsley‘s (16.5 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.7 BPG) breakout season has been a nice feather in the cap since he’ll be back next year. Now the question becomes whether he can keep up those numbers in SEC play. He had a solid outing (11 points, seven rebounds) against one of the league’s most talented frontcourts in Texas A&M, and if Anton Beard and Jimmy Whitt show flashes of potential over the next two months, Mike Anderson will have the makings of a good foundation in Fayetteville.
  14. Missouri (7-6). The numbers from the Tigers’ recent romp over Arkansas-Pine Bluff are staggering. The Golden Lions scored just 25 points, shot 2-of-33 from inside the arc and generated only 0.37 points per possession. This was an anomaly of a night against team that hasn’t played a home game all season long, but it happened. Mizzou also got an easy win over Savannah State. The next couple months may determine whether Kim Anderson is back in Columbia for a third season.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

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