Recapping the Good and Bad from the Big 12/SEC Challenge

Posted by David Changas on January 30th, 2018

Despite being underdogs in seven of the 10 games of the Big 12/SEC Challenge last weekend, the SEC pulled off its first overall win (6-4) in the fourth year of the battle between power conferences. It was yet another boost to a league that has undergone a revival of sorts this season. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad for the SEC from Saturday’s action.

The Good

John Calipari paid homage to Bob Huggins with his attire, then saw his team pull off a big upset against the Mountaineer coach (John Clay/Lexington Herald-Leader).

  • Kentucky’s Upset of West Virginia. How improbable was it that the previously struggling Wildcats would come back from a 17-point second half deficit in Morgantown on Saturday night? According to KenPom’s win probability metric, the Mountaineers had a 97.8 percent chance of emerging victorious with 17 minutes left in the game. And yet, Kentucky stormed back and notched the impressive victory. While an inspiring road win doesn’t fix all of the Wildcats’ ongoing woes, it will serve as a clear resume-enhancer for a club desperately in need of one and should boost the team’s confidence as it heads into February.

  • Collin Sexton. Not only did the Alabama freshman sensation outscore Oklahoma wunderkind Trae Young (18-17), he harassed the potential National Player of the Year into 2-of-8 shooting from two-point range and five turnovers. While the Alabama win over the Sooners was, at most, a mild upset, it was also a key catalyst in helping the SEC to win the challenge. Without an outstanding performance on both ends of the floor from Sexton, that certainly would not have happened.
  • Vanderbilt. It’s been a tough season for the Commodores so far, but Saturday’s home upset of a solid TCU squad was great for the challenge as well as the team’s psyche going forward. Seniors Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson were terrific last week, averaging 24.5 and 20.5 points per game, respectively, and they’ll need to keep up the good work for the Commodores to remain competitive down the stretch.
  • Tennessee’s Defense. It was no real surprise that Tennessee would beat an Iowa State team that struggles to score, but head coach Rick Barnes could not have expected his team to hold the Cyclones to their lowest point total in the 47-year history of Hilton Coliseum (45 points).

The Bad

Texas A&M Has Felt Like It’s Been on Its Back Since the New Year (USA Today Images)

  • Another Missed Opportunity for Georgia. In what is becoming an all-too-common theme for the Bulldogs, Georgia blew another opportunity for a quality road win at Kansas State. While it didn’t give up a large double-figure lead like the Bulldogs had in their previous two games, they still let a six-point lead with just over seven minutes left slip away. Performances like these could be what end up ultimately costing Mark Fox his job. Barring a significant run down the stretch against a difficult upcoming schedule, it appears that Georgia is going to have a very hard time qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
  • South Carolina. The Gamecocks led for a good portion of Saturday’s home game against #14 Texas Tech but the Red Raiders outscored them 17-5 over the game’s final six minutes and escaped with a win. South Carolina missed on a golden opportunity to back up Wednesday’s road upset of Florida with another high-quality win.
  • Texas A&M Continued Slide. While the Aggies are still within the Field of 68 according to most bracket projections, folks in College Station have to be worried. What seemed unthinkable even a few weeks ago – that Texas A&M would miss the Tournament – now seems like a realistic possibility. The Aggies were never particularly competitive in a 79-68 loss at Kansas, but a seventh defeat in nine games is cause for considerable alarm. Home games against Arkansas and South Carolina are almost must-wins this week before they go to Auburn and host Kentucky next week.
  • Auburn Getting Left Out. The SEC’s win in this year’s challenge came despite its best team (by record) being left out. The Tigers were one of the four SEC clubs that did not participate because of the imbalance in the number of teams between the two leagues, so Bruce Pearl‘s club took out its frustrations on LSU with a 95-70 dismantling. If Auburn continues to play the way so well, the Tigers will have plenty of opportunities for high-profile games in March.
David Changas (146 Posts)


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