SEC Week That Was: Volume VIII

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 19th, 2016

There is suddenly uncertainty everywhere in the SEC, as league representation in this year’s NCAA Tournament is still very difficult to predict. At one end of the spectrum, the league could realistically see as few as three teams get the call on Selection Sunday. But on the other end, if a bubblelicious group of SEC teams finishes strong, the league could see as many as seven teams in the field of 68 if things break right. There’s a lot left to settle, but here’s what we learned over the past week.

A shorthanded Auburn picked an emotional win over Kentucky (

A shorthanded Auburn picked up an emotional win over Kentucky (

Team of the Week. It hasn’t been an easy year for Bruce Pearl and Auburn. His 2016 recruiting class generated buzz, but injuries and eligibility issues have kept it from transforming into production on the court. This, coupled with a string of injuries to the back court (including Tahj Shamsid-Deen being officially ruled out the rest of the way), have put Auburn in a tough spot. The lowest point of the trying season came in a blowout loss to Mizzou ten days ago, but what a difference a week makes. The Tigers beat Kentucky for the first time since 2000 in front of a rabid crowd at Auburn Arena. This was the first signature win for Pearl on the Plains, and for that, the Tigers have earned team of the week honors.

Player of the Week. Usually this section is reserved for a player whose team went 2-0, but we’ll break from form this week. Tyler Ulis is arguably the most important player to his team’s success in the SEC and he continued to carry the Wildcats over the past week (38 points, 13 assists, 13 rebounds in two games). Even though it’s not his natural inclination, the sophomore has taken on much more of a scoring role this year, with big increases in free throw rate and percentage of overall team shots taken. His efficiency has suffered a bit as a result, but he’s the main reason Kentucky has overcome underwhelming front court play to remain ranked, relevant and still very dangerous moving forward.

Had a Rough Week. This one is easy: Kim Anderson. Less than a full day after Mizzou’s worst home loss since Wilt Chamberlain’s name was in the box score, the school announced self-imposed sanctions resulting from NCAA violations during the Frank Haith era. The fact that the Tigers won’t be joining the fun in Nashville in mid-March is largely inconsequential, but the future in Columbia is as uncertain as ever.

Video of the Week. It’ll probably be the best airball of Antonio Blakeney‘s career. The miss fell into Craig Victor‘s lap, and he was able to put in the winner in what was the most exciting SEC game of the past week.

Power Poll.

  1. Texas A&M (15-2). A lot of attention has been paid to the the Aggies’ improved offense and big performances from Jalen Jones and Danuel House. But the defense has remained great, too. It was at its finest against Georgia, limiting the Dawgs to an insane 24.0% eFG. This was a season best mark for A&M.
  2. Kentucky (13-4). Derek Willis (12 points, 12 rebounds) might have had the best game of his career in the loss at Auburn. The junior figures to see a bigger role moving forward on a Kentucky frontcourt that continues to struggle.
  3. LSU (11-6). The stinker of a non-conference season seems further and further away every week. Blakeney has struggled from three this year (including that fortuitous airball), but was four for eight last week. His potential for continued — and rapid — development is a part of the reason the Tigers are a dangerous team going forward. A big, athletic Australian is obviously another.
  4. South Carolina (16-1). A home game against Mizzou was the perfect remedy after the Gamecocks got blasted in Coleman Coliseum. Despite the win, South Carolina remained cold from deep: Frank Martin‘s team went 6-for-39 from long-range over the course of the week. The he Gamecocks have not been dependent on the three this year, but that type of efficiency is still concerning.
  5. Florida (11-6). Mike White got an emotional win in his return to Oxford, and the Gators have a manageable week ahead with home games against Mississippi State and Auburn. After that, they draw back-to-back great opportunities to get on the committee’s radar. A visit to Vandy and Memorial Gym precedes a visit from West Virginia in a matchup of elite defenses.
  6. Arkansas (9-8). The Razorbacks lightning quick start to SEC play ended with a loss in Baton Rogue. But Arkansas was there at the end of a road game, and did so without turning the other team at a high rate or shooting the lights out. That’s progress. Now, the Hogs get Kentucky in Bud Walton Arena at a perfect time.
  7. Vanderbilt (10-7). The Commodores finally saw sunlight after losing three in a row to start SEC play. In sweeping the Alabama schools, Vanderbilt got big performances from Luke Kornet (triple-double against Auburn) and Jeff Roberson (16 points, 11 rebounds against Alabama). Their contributions were encouraging; the Vandy frontcourt is dangerous when Damian Jones isn’t the only big playing well.
  8. Ole Miss (12-5). It was a tough week for the Rebels, who missed chances for quality wins against Florida and LSU. Their best win to date is over Memphis, so they’ll need to get to work to have a serious chance at the tournament. Rasheed Brooks has scored in double figures in each of the last four games.
  9. Georgia (9-6). Mark Fox called the Bulldogs’ loss to Texas A&M an “old fashioned whoopin.” That pretty much sums it up. Georgia’s offense did not show up against the Aggies, and the Bulldogs will need to rip off a prolonged winning streak to get back in the NCAA discussion.
  10. Alabama (10-6). Every week, more space develops between Alabama’s great defensive numbers and underwhelming offensive numbers. Riley Norris was red-hot in the Tide’s blowout win over USC (27 points, 8-11 from three). When the defensive-minded Tide get a superhuman offensive effort like that, they can beat most teams in the country.
  11. Tennessee (9-8). Detrick Mostella has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games, including a career-high 24 points in the Vols’ win at Mississippi State. The sophomore has been a big part of a Tennessee offense that has been much better than even Rick Barnes could have expected it to be.
  12. Auburn (8-8). Kareem Canty (26 points) said he came to Auburn to be in the spotlight. That’s exactly where he was in leading the Tigers over Kentucky.
  13. Mississippi State (7-9). The Bulldogs missed out on a rare chance for an SEC win by losing a hard fought game at home against Tennessee. Quinndary Weatherspoon continued a strong run of play with 23 points and several late three’s that kept Mississippi State in the game.
  14. Mizzou (8-9). Wes Clark returned to the scene of his gruesome elbow injury last year to score a career-high 26 points, along with eight assists and six rebounds. That was the bright spot in a week that Tiger fans have to hope is the low point for their basketball program.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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