SEC Rundown: Volume XI

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 9th, 2016

What a difference a few weeks can make. It wasn’t too long ago that the big mystery in the SEC was which team would finish second to Texas A&M. Instead, LSU now finds itself in sole possession of first place, and the Aggies’ defense has shown some cracks during a three-game conference losing streak. Here’s what happened last week in SEC hoops and what to look for in the week ahead.

Antonio Blakeney had the best game of his young college career against Mississippi State (

Antonio Blakeney had the best game of his young college career against Mississippi State (

  • Trending Up. Antonio Blakeney, LSU. Even when his shots weren’t falling early in the season, Blakeney was still playing hard and bringing value on defense. In SEC play, the shots have been falling more frequently (+5.5% eFG), however, and the freshman put together his best game to date (31 points on 4-of-8 from three) last week against Mississippi State. If he continues to cash in on his lofty potential, defenses will have one more dynamic playmaker to contend with along with Ben Simmons.
  • Trending Down. Confidence that the SEC will have many teams playing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Texas A&M, LSU, Kentucky and Florida all showed potential against high quality opponents in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Yet last week the Aggies dropped two games, Florida’s normally stout defense was lit up twice, and the Wildcats coughed up a 21-point lead in a loss to Tennessee. These teams’ potential is there, but there’s plenty of inconsistency right alongside it.

  • Storyline To Watch. It will have been a storybook week for LSU if the Tigers are still in first place this time next week, with games against South Carolina (road) and Texas A&M (home) coming in the next five days. With a pair of wins, the Tigers can create some space ahead of the two teams nipping at their heels while cementing themselves on the right side of the bubble.

Things We Like.

  1. Vanderbilt‘s NCAA chances!
  2. Jamal Murray on a roll.
  3. Regular season title race drama.

Things We Don’t Like.

  1. Vanderbilt’s NCAA chances.
  2. Bruce Pearl‘s backcourt options.
  3. Trying to figure out the top quarter of the power poll below.

Power Poll.

Jamal Murray was on fire against Florida (

Jamal Murray was on fire against Florida (

  1. LSU (15-8, 8-2) The Tigers had 25 assists against just eight turnovers in last weekend’s win over Mississippi State and looked crisp executing their offense. That’s a far cry from the disjointed, rely-heavily-on-athleticism-only offense that we’ve seen at times during this season. LSU is playing well heading into a week that will not be easy.
  2. Kentucky (17-6, 7-3). “Jamal Murray stole the show. I’ve never been a part of anything like that,” said Florida head coach Mike White after Murray dropped 35 points on his team. The Kentucky offense may struggle when Murray isn’t on one of his white hot tears, but if he does get toasty, is there a team the Wildcats can’t beat this year?
  3. South Carolina (20-3, 7-3). The Gamecocks’ pure athleticism gets a massive shot in the arm when both Chris Silva and Jamall Gregory are on the court. Frank Martin relied on Silva against Texas A&M’s talented frontcourt and was rewarded with seven points and six rebounds as a result. How Martin continues to develop these two potential March wildcards – along with P.J. Dozier – will be worth watching for the rest of the season.
  4. Texas A&M (18-5, 7-3). Over the past week, the Aggies let Vanderbilt (61.9% eFG) and South Carolina (63.2% eFG) enjoy the two best shooting nights against their defense all season. Defending the three-point line was especially a problem in the loss to the Gamecocks. Texas A&M has made hay on the defensive end of the floor this season, so it’ll be interesting to see if last week was a trend or an aberration.
  5. Florida (15-8, 6-4). The Gators let a tandem of guards get loose against them in both games last week. It was Anthlon Bell and Dusty Hannahs combining for 44 points against Arkansas, and then it was Kentucky’s Murray and Tyler Ulis combining for 53 points. Florida’s been good at defending the three this year, so perhaps last week was simply a few good offensive players doing their thing.
  6. Georgia (13-8, 6-4). The biggest development for the Bulldogs last week? Yante Maten played 65 minutes and committed just one foul. Tonight’s visit to Rupp Arena is Georgia’s best regular season chance to make a statement to the Selection Committee. The Bulldogs’ great perimeter defenders should be a good match for a Wildcats team that gets almost all of its firepower from its guards.
  7. Arkansas (12-11, 5-5). The Razorbacks have won three of their last four games, with each victory coming against a KenPom top-100 team. Their lone defeat was a four-point loss in Gainesville in which Arkansas won the rebounding battle and got its offense going. This certainly looks like a team heading toward an NIT bid, which would be a big success for this season.
  8. Vanderbilt (13-10, 5-5). The Commodores generated a lot of good will with last week’s win at home over Texas A&M. But right in line with how this season has gone, Kevin Stallings‘ team threw it away by following up with a foul-clogged game at Ole Miss. Vanderbilt should win its next three games and still has shots at Kentucky, Florida and Texas A&M (again), but the writing might be on the wall.
  9. Ole Miss (15-8, 5-5) Marcanvis Hymon has run with the opportunity Sebastian Saiz‘ injury created. When the sophomore has been able to stay out of foul trouble, he’s been a good contributor on the glass (19.7% DR) and is Andy Kennedy‘s rim-protector of the future. Saiz is a game-time decision for the Rebels’ upcoming game against Florida.
  10. Tennessee (11-12. 4-6). The Vols’ aggressiveness (60.7% FTrate, 34 FT attempts) against Kentucky helped Rick Barnes notch his biggest win yet in Knoxville. His team couldn’t recapture that magic in Fayetteville (26.1% FTrate, 17 FT attempts), however, over the weekend. Tennessee has a good chance to reach .500 in SEC play with games against Auburn and Missouri coming this week.
  11. Alabama (13-9, 4-6) Retin Obasohan is this week’s SEC Player of the Week, and he certainly deserved it. It has seemed that the Tide’s best and sometimes only plan on offense has been to isolate Obasohan and run him at the rim. He’s managed to score 20 points in eight of Alabama’s last 11 games and it is clear that Avery Johnson will sorely miss him next season.
  12. Auburn (9-13, 3-7). It doesn’t sound likely that Kareem Canty will be back again after he was suspended indefinitely last week. Losing your leading scorer is a big blow but this is right in line with how dreadfully this season has gone for the Tigers. Bruce Pearl has been under a roster crunch all year and probably deserves another pass, but hey, remember when the Tigers beat Kentucky?
  13. Mississippi State (9-13, 2-8) The Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-point lead on LSU without I.J. Ready but weren’t able to hang on for the victory. You wonder if Malik Newman was thinking about what could have been after watching Blakeney’s big game firsthand. Mississippi State should be able to put points on the board on what could be a fun, high-scoring upcoming game against Arkansas.
  14. Missouri (8-15, 1-9). The Tigers had a great night shooting the three but couldn’t hold on to a four-point lead with just over a minute left against Ole Miss. They then went to Tuscaloosa, couldn’t hit anything from outside and dropped their eighth straight game in the process. The best shot Mizzou has for another win this year is home at Tennessee, and even there KenPom gives the Tigers just a 39 percent chance of victory. These are indeed dark times in Columbia.
Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) (231 Posts)

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