Posted by Brian Goodman on February 2nd, 2011
Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.
A Look Back
How the West Has Won: So I’ve been pretty rough on the SEC West, but after this week I think it’s time I let it go for a while. Let’s briefly look at the turnaround in the SEC West. Mississippi State, which I previously labeled as tied with Tennessee for biggest disappointment in the conference beat SEC East leader Florida. Arkansas beat Vanderbilt in a game that the Hogs controlled throughout. Auburn finally got a conference win this week when the Tigers beat South Carolina. Mississippi beat Kentucky in a close one in Oxford and Alabama now sits solely in first place in the league at 5-1 with a win over Kentucky to boot. Furthermore, Joe Lunardi has dropped Georgia from his latest Bracketology and replaced the Bulldogs with Alabama. What a difference a week makes.
- Kentucky (16-5, 4-3) Despite the three losses to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, all on the road, the resume is still good with wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville, but there are noticeable chinks in the armor here (depth) and an inability to win road games usually says something about the mental fortitude of a team.
- Florida (17-5, 6-2) Florida needed double-overtime to beat Georgia on the road and then lost to Mississippi State, and right now, it’s not good to be losing to Mississippi State. The win over Vanderbilt helps, but then again, Vanderbilt seems to be slipping right now.
- Alabama (13-7, 5-1) After a dismal preseason, the Tide seem to be rolling. Alabama has the best record in the league and is winning by increasingly greater margins. Alabama beat Kentucky by two, Auburn by 10 and LSU by 24. Coach Anthony Grant seems to have corrected his team’s problems, as he attributed early difficulties to players still learning their roles. Alabama has enough talent to win the West and possibly challenge for the conference if Grant is right.
- Vanderbilt (15-6, 3-4) Vanderbilt is having a rough go of it of late, sitting at 3-4 in conference. In a home game against Arkansas, Vanderbilt never looked good and the Commodores allowed Rotnei Clarke to make shots from everywhere, as he scored 36 points on 12-16 from the floor and 6-8 from three. That’s not going to work.
- Tennessee (14-7, 4-2) Now that Tennessee is at 4-2 in conference with wins over Vanderbilt and at Georgia, I want to say that things are back on track in Knoxville, but many were fooled once before when the Volunteers knocked off then-#21 Memphis after losing four of six, so I’ll give it another week before I make up my mind on this one.
- Arkansas (14-6, 4-3) After a disappointing week where the Razorbacks lost at Georgia and got pummeled at Florida, they turned around and got wins over lowly Auburn and at Vanderbilt where they outrebounded the ‘Dores 26-21 and shot 57% from the field including Michael Sanchez‘s 8-12 for a career high 20 points. He averages 4.1 a game.
- South Carolina (12-7, 2-2) Despite the fact that I don’t think we should compare Bruce Ellington to Devan Downey (he’s better than Downey), I will say that they do have one thing in common. They both have low shooting percentages. Ellington Is currently shooting 37 percent and shot only 4-12 in a loss to Auburn. But we shouldn’t single him out in this case. The entire team was abysmal shooting 37 percent from the field, 21 percent from three and 57 percent from the line. Time to work on squaring up to the basket.
- Georgia (14-6, 3-4) The Bulldogs have underperformed of late and their 3-4 SEC mark is an indicator of that. The Dawgs finished a ten-game winning streak when they beat Kentucky in their SEC opener, but have now lost four of six, including two this week – one at Florida and the other at Kentucky.
- Mississippi State (11-9 3-3) The other Bulldogs lost at Vanderbilt and won at Florida. I continually marvel that a team with Ravern Johnson, Kodi Augustus, Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney is still playing as poorly as they are. This team has lost seven of its last 11 games.
- Mississippi (14-8 2-5) Things still are not going well for the Rebels, but the win over Kentucky is huge. Maybe this will give this underperforming squad a little momentum against an improving Razorbacks squad in Fayetteville.
- LSU (10-11 2-4) With LSU’s four-game losing streak, the SEC now has two teams with overall losing records. The Tigers have not scored more than 53 points in any of their last five contests and are losing by an average of 28 points over their four-game losing streak.
- Auburn (8-13 1-6) Well look who got a nice little conference win over a decent team. As I mentioned above, the other Tigers held South Carolina to terrible shooting numbers but what’s more is they outrebounded the bigger Gamecocks 45-32. Nice work, boys.
A Look Ahead
Feb. 5 Kentucky @ Florida. Kentucky is in the NCAA Tournament. Now the Wildcats are playing for seeding. The selection committee really cares about road wins and Kentucky doesn’t have a whole lot of those. You see what I’m getting at here.
Feb. 10 Alabama @ Vanderbilt. If Alabama can get the win in Nashville on Vanderbilt’s weird court and get to 6-1 in conference, I don’t think anyone in the West can catch the Tide. And with a favorable schedule after that, an SEC championship is not out of the question. But this game is really big if that is to remain a possibility.