SEC Week That Was: Volume IX

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 26th, 2016

The regular season title is solidly Texas A&M‘s to lose at this point as the Aggies are two games clear of a trio of second place teams. But if college basketball has taught us anything this year it’s that the game can be fickle. Here’s what the Aggies and rest of the league were up to last week.

Dorian Finney-Smith and Florida are hanging around in the race for the regular season title (

Dorian Finney-Smith and Florida are hanging around in the race for the regular season title (

Team of the Week. For now the storm has passed in Lexington. Kentucky followed up the loss at Auburn with a good win over Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena and a dominant performance at home against Vanderbilt. Lost amid the hand-wringing over the front court has been another very good Wildcat defense. They were excellent in that regard on Saturday, making non-factors out of Wade Baldwin, Riley LaChance, and Mathew Fisher-Davis. “That’s the best defensive game we’ve had,” Tyler Ulis told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “That’s what we need to do every game because in order for us to win, we have to be a defensive team.”

Player of the Week. Lurking under the water in the SEC race like well, an alligator, is Florida. The Gators have taken advantage of a soft spot in their schedule to rip off three straight wins and position themselves nicely at 5-2. The past week once of their best offensive showings of the year, and Dorian Finney-Smith was a big part of it, scoring 44 points on an efficient 15-for-24 shooting. Florida’s defense will always give it a chance, and it needs Finney-Smith to continue carrying the load on offense to get solidly in the tournament picture.

Had a Rough Week. The injury bug bit Ole Miss hard last week. The Rebels lost Sebastian Saiz for at least two weeks with a torn retina before a loss to South Carolina, and to really compound things Stefan Moody pulled up late in the game with a leg injury. Moody then was held out against Mississippi State, and while the Rebels fought hard they ended up on the wrong end of their rivals’ first conference win. This looks like the week that Ole Miss’ unlikely NCAA tournament bubble burst.

Video of the Week. In honor of the Aggies’ 7-0 start to SEC play, here’s an inside look at their win over LSU in an increasingly-difficult-to-play-in Reed Arena.

Power Poll

  1. Texas A&M (17-2, 7-0). The Aggies unbeaten start to conference play continued with wins over LSU and Missouri. It’s worth keeping an eye on Tyler Davis, who was held out of the Missouri game with a foot injury. It was reportedly just a precautionary measure, but the Aggies were beaten on the boards without their big freshman by a Tiger team that has struggled in that department this season.
  2. Kentucky (15-4, 5-2). The Derek Willis tour continues as the junior has played at least 30 minutes in the past three games. This probably isn’t what Wildcat fans were expecting before the season, but John Calipari must be grateful he can turn to Willis, who has been rebounding well and chipping in the occasional three.
  3. Florida (13-6, 5-2). The Gators went 20-for-24 from the free throw line against Auburn, which is a nice sign for a team that came in as the league’s worst from the charity stripe (62.4 percent as a team).
  4. LSU (12-7, 5-2). The Tigers got a solid win at Alabama and are off to the kind of SEC start they needed to atone for their non-conference slip ups. If the really want to make everyone forget about the non-conference, LSU has a golden opportunity Saturday at home against Oklahoma in a game that’ll feature player of the year contenders Ben Simmons and Buddy Hield.
  5. South Carolina (17-2, 4-2). A loss in Knoxville isn’t unforgivable but the Gamecocks were a frantic comeback in Oxford away from an empty week. Sindarius Thornwell  had a terrible week shooting the ball (7 points, 2-for-23 from the field) and South Carolina needs him to get right if they want to build on the magical start to the season.
  6. Vanderbilt (11-8, 3-4). With the loss at Rupp Arena, the Commodores have still are without a top-50 KenPom win. Lucky for them, they play three such games in a row against Florida, Texas, and Texas A&M. A 2-1 record might be unlikely but is not improbable, and could put Vanderbilt back in the committee’s good graces.
  7. Georgia (11-6, 4-3). The Dawgs were likely playing for their NCAA tournament lives by holding off Arkansas in overtime. Splitting upcoming road games against LSU and Baylor will keep Georgia in the conversation. J.J. Frazier (26 points against Arkansas) should be a nice fit against the Bears’ zone in Waco.
  8. Arkansas (9-10, 3-4). The Razorbacks came oh-so-close against Georgia in Athens, just as they did against LSU in Baton Rogue. This is a team that no one in the league will be eager to play, especially those teams holding onto thin NCAA Tournament aspirations, which feels like a common theme.
  9. Alabama (11-8, 1-5). Retin Obasohan has become just as important to the Tide as Moody, Simmons, and Ulis are to their respective teams. He’s been the most reliable source of offense on a team that struggles to score (14.8 PPG, up from 6.2 PPG last season) and was literally sucking oxygen at the end of the Auburn game as he tried to keep Alabama close.
  10. Tennessee (10-9, 3-4). The Vols got blitzed at home by Vanderbilt but recovered nicely by beating the Gamecocks – which was a good match up for them considering USC doesn’t have overwhelming size. Kevin Punter continued his run on the SEC scoring title by putting up 62 points across both games.
  11. Ole Miss (12-7, 2-5). Rasheed Brooks and Donte Fitzpatrick-Dorsey combined for 36 points on 16 shots in the loss to the Bulldogs. This may be a silver lining since the duo will likely be the Rebels’ main source of offense on the perimeter next year with Moody gone.
  12. Auburn (9-9, 3-4). A blowout at the O-Dome doesn’t take the luster off what was one of the great weeks in Auburn basketball history. Cinmeon Bowers massive effort against Alabama (20 points, 15 rebounds) helped the Tigers beat the Tide and finish off an emotional two-game stretch at home.
  13. Mississippi State (8-10, 1-5). Something tells us the Bulldogs won’t feel bad about beating a depleted Rebels squad after all those close losses this year, which included tough defeat at Florida last week. Malik Newman looked every bit the 5-star prospect against Ole Miss as he was red-hot from outside with that high release that makes NBA scouts drool.
  14. Missouri (8-11, 1-5). The Tigers didn’t put themselves in immediate holes against Georgia or, surprisingly, Texas A&M and that’s progress. But you got the sense in both games that the opponent was sleepwalking, and all it took was the Bulldogs and Aggies waking up in the second half to coast to easy wins. Missouri has lost four straight and will try not to repeat the horrid 13-game losing streak it went on last year.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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