Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.
A Look Back
Mississippi State’s Ravern Johnson was suspended indefinitely this week. Of course, at Mississippi State “indefinitely” generally means a game or two. In this case, two. This team was picked to win the SEC West, but talk about a team in turmoil. Let’s take a look at the timeline:
Nov. 12 Mississippi State begins the season without point guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sidney. The Bulldogs get a 75-65 win over Tennessee State. Record 1-0.
Dec. 18 Sidney plays in his first college basketball after a year and a half suspension. The Bulldogs lose 88-57 to Virginia Tech. Record 7-3.
Dec. 21 Sidney is suspended for a game after playing in just one game for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Dec. 23 Sidney returns and the Bulldogs defeat San Diego 69-52. Sidney and forward Elgin Bailey get in a fight in the stands after the game while watching Utah play Hawaii, because Elgin Bailey wouldn’t move his feet for Sidney to get through. Record 8-4.
Dec. 24 Sidney and Bailey are suspended indefinitely.
Jan. 3 Mississippi State announces that Elgin Bailey will seek a transfer and has been granted a release.
Jan. 8 Sidney and Bost return from suspension and open SEC play with a 75-57 home loss to Alabama. Record 8-7 (0-1).
Feb. 4 Following a 75-61 loss to Alabama, Ravern Johnson sends “inappropriate tweets” and violates a class attendance policy. He is suspended indefinitely. Record 11-10 (3-4).
Feb. 12 Johnson’s “indefinite” suspension ends after two games. He returns just in time for the low point in the Bulldogs’ season, a 65-62 loss to SEC last place team Auburn in a game that MSU led 51-32 with 11:25 to go.
The reality here is that coach Rick Stansbury has completely lost control of this team both on and off the court. This season is nothing short of a train wreck and I hope that this will be the last time that I write about the silliness that is Mississippi State basketball.
- In less ridiculous news, Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology has six SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament. If his prediction holds true and Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all make the tournament, that will be the best showing in the Big Dance for the SEC since 2008, when last place Georgia made a crazy run through the SEC tournament and became the sixth team to qualify along with Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas.
1. Florida (20-5, 9-2) At this point, there can be no question that Florida should be in the top spot here. While still having deficiencies, Florida by hook or by crook has managed to get to 20-5 overall and 9-2 in conference play by gutting out close ones whether at home or on the road. Florida has won nine games decided by six points or less. The Gators have also played in four overtime games this year, winning three of them. Two of those overtime wins came on the road. However, just when things are starting to look really good for the preseason SEC favorites, Chandler Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise and internal bleeding associated with it. He is likely to miss the Gators’ game against LSU on Sunday. If LSU were not on an eight-game losing streak, I might be a little concerned.
2. Alabama (16-8, 8-2) After a disappointing early season in which Alabama started 5-6, the Tide has become one of the best defensive teams in the nation holding teams to just 58.4 points per game. Because of that defense and an improved offense, Alabama is 11-2 in its last 13 games.
3. Kentucky (17-7, 5-5) Right now, you have to ask whether this team is just not as good as we thought, or is it simply a bad road team? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Kentucky still has good wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville, but that seems like a long time ago for a team that is 2-6 in true road games, with five of those losses coming in league play. Lucky for Kentucky, only two of the Wildcats’ last six games are away. The Wildcats should be safe this week as they don’t have to go on the road for their contests against Mississippi State and South Carolina.
4. Vanderbilt (18-6, 6-4) Vanderbilt had a great week after winning two close ones at home against Alabama and Kentucky. Like Kentucky, Vandy has been weak on the road, going just 1-3 in conference road games. Unlike Kentucky however, the Commodores must go on the road for four of their last six including games at Georgia, and Kentucky.
5. Georgia (17-7, 6-4) Georgia lost to Xavier early in the week in a game that was close throughout. This was the first game between the two teams since 2008 when they met in the NCAA Tournament following Georgia’s Cinderella run through the Southeastern Conference tournament, winning three games in two days after a tornado at the Georgia Dome forced the league to move the games to Georgia Tech. Xavier won that game in 2008, too. Following their loss to the Musketeers, the Bulldogs held South Carolina to just 30.5% shooting and 4-23 from the field.
6. Arkansas (15-9, 5-6) After losing three straight to Georgia, Mississippi and Mississippi State, Arkansas finally got a win at home against Louisiana State. Rotnei Clarke scored 25 points while going 5-6 from three. More importantly though, the Razorbacks have now won 15 games for the first time in three seasons, having won 14 games in each of the past two seasons.
7. Tennessee (15-10, 5-5) It’s been an up-and-down year for the Volunteers, mostly down of late. Coach Bruce Pearl made his return from suspension to face Kentucky in Lexington. The result? Tennessee was thoroughly outplayed in a game where Bruce Pearl said he didn’t help his team. The Vols followed that up with a tough 61-60 home loss to Florida.
8. Mississippi (16-9, 4-6) Chris Warren tied his season high of 26 points in a win over LSU. Speaking of Chris Warren, he’s made 29 of his last 31 free throws in Mississippi’s last three contests and leads the SEC in free throw shooting at 93.8 percent. Not only that, but Warren now has 1,821 career points, good for fourth place on Ole Miss’ all-time scoring list. It is all but a given that Warren will pass Carlos Clarke’s 1,822 points in the Rebels’ next game taking his place as Ole Miss’s third leading scorer. It remains unlikely that Warren passes number one Jon Stroud (2,328 points) and number two Joe Harvell (2,078 points).
9. South Carolina (13-10, 4-6) Things haven’t gone well for the Gamecocks of late. They started the conference season at 3-1 including wins over Vanderbilt and at Florida. Now the Cocks are losers of five of their last six. A terrible shooting night at home against Georgia this week only added to their woes. In that game, Bruce Ellington shot just 1-12 from the floor. But then again, he hasn’t shot at least 50 percent in a game since a January 12 loss at Alabama.
10. Mississippi State (13-11, 5-5) Look, it’s never good when you lose to Auburn, but when you blow a 19-point lead with 11:25 to go in the game, well that’s just completely unacceptable. At one point Auburn went on a 17-0 run. Really? Auburn? I don’t think Auburn’s gone on a 17-0 run in years. How did they possibly manage it this year with such and offensively challenged team? I’m sure Mississippi State’s utterly despicable play had a little something to do with it. Really Bulldogs, this is just getting embarrassing.
11. Auburn (9-15, 2-8) With all of the players, that Auburn lost from last year’s team including 73 percent of the Tigers’ scoring and 62 percent of their rebounding and then losing three freshman commits in Luke Cothron, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Josh Langford who were all expected to contribute right away, Auburn has more excuses than any other team in the league. Add to that the fact that leading returning scorer Frankie Sullivan has only played in six games and you have a team that just can’t get a break. So simply not being in last place for just one week is quite an accomplishment.
12. LSU (10-15, 2-8) Somehow, LSU has been able to wrest the bottom spot from Auburn and that is quite a feat. LSU has now lost eight straight games, including an 80-61 loss this week at Arkansas. LSU is one unusual team that seems to do really well or really bad. Let’s look at how LSU has finished in each of the past five seasons.
- 2006 – 27-.9 Won SEC, Final Four
- 2007 – 17-15 Last in SEC West. No tournament.
- 2008 – 13-18 Fourth in SEC West. No tournament.
- 2009 – 27-8 Won SEC. Lost to UNC in second round of NCAA Tournament.
- 2010 – 11-20 Last in SEC. No tournament.
The Week Ahead
Feb. 16 Vanderbilt @ Georgia I’m not convinced that Georgia is firmly entrenched in the NCAA Tournament just yet. A win over the Commodores could go a long way towards cementing that spot.
Feb. 19 Georgia @ Tennessee Same story as above, except substitute Tennessee for Georgia.