After a one week hiatus, I’m back and ready to update you on SEC basketball. For those of you who desperately missed my rundown last week (can’t imagine there’s too many of you out there), I apologize. Let’s get down to business.
Notable Results from the Week That Was
Xavier 65 Georgia 57
Every time I think SEC teams are done playing non-conference games, a match-up like this one pops up out of nowhere. The Bulldogs entered this game in pretty good shape for an NCAA Tournament berth, sitting in the top 50 of the RPI with an above .500 record in SEC play. However, Mark Fox’s bunch has just three RPI top 100 wins and a victory over an RPI top 20 team like Xavier would have put them over the top.
Alas, the Bulldogs fell short. Their collective fate was sealed when their best player, Trey Thompkins, fouled out with just under three minutes remaining on a tough call when they were down just 54-50. Georgia led by five with under 15 minutes left, but Xavier made a run and held the lead most of the rest of the game.
Vanderbilt 81 Alabama/Kentucky 77
Vandy faced two very stiff tests this week in Kentucky and Alabama, but fortunately for them, they had the benefit of their unique home court advantage, something that made a big difference in two very tightly contested games. They won both games by identical 81-77 scores, running their SEC record to 6-4.
Sophomore guard John Jenkins was the biggest reason for the wins, scoring 20 against Alabama and a career-high 32 against Kentucky. He was named SEC Player of the Week for his efforts and is making a case for SEC Player of the Year as well, leading the league in scoring.
Florida 61 Tennessee 60
People talk a lot about what it takes to win close games. Quite honestly, I think it comes down to luck more often than not, but with the way Florida just keeps winning these tight affairs, I think it would be short-sighted to say they aren’t doing something right. They’ve won six games by six points or fewer and always seem to make big plays down the stretch.
Erving Walker has often been in the middle of the plays that Florida makes to win these games and it was no different Saturday against Tennessee. Florida was down six at halftime, but Walker’s go-ahead layup with 14 seconds left propelled Florida into a half-game lead over Alabama overall in SEC play.
Kentucky 73 Tennessee 61 (Tuesday)
Mississippi State 67 Arkansas 56 (Wednesday)
Florida 79 South Carolina 60 (Wednesday)
Ole Miss 66 LSU 60 (Wednesday)
Arkansas 80 LSU 61 (Saturday)
Georgia 60 South Carolina 56 (Saturday)
Alabama 74 Ole Miss 64 (Saturday)
Auburn 65 Mississippi State 62 (Saturday)
Games of the Week That Will Be
Mississippi State @ Kentucky – Tuesday 7 PM, ESPN
Let’s be honest, Mississippi State isn’t going anywhere this year. Their team has been in turmoil all season, with fights, suspensions, transfers, and terrible losses like the one they dropped against Auburn on Saturday. This game against UK would help them forget their troubles. Rick Stansbury is a Kentucky native, so he knows what Rupp means. UK has also been a thorn in his side during his tenure, most recently in last year’s SEC title game.
The Bulldogs have been slow in bringing the previously suspended Ravern Johnson back from suspension, but they figure to start their leading scorer in Rupp. They’re going to be breaking out all the stops in an effort to get this win and UK can ill-afford to fall to 5-6 in SEC play.
Vanderbilt @ Georgia – Wednesday 7 PM, ESPNU
This one is all about positioning for the SEC and NCAA Tournament. The two teams are tied for second in the SEC East and will be looking to earn byes in the first round of the SEC Tournament. Vandy is a step ahead of Georgia in terms of their NCAA Tournament resume, but a Georgia win here would put the two teams on equal footing.
It’s a rematch of an earlier 73-66 Vandy win in Nashville, but this time UGA will have the home crowd on their side. A road win for Vandy would give them a ton of momentum and would really strengthen their case for a top four seed come March.
Georgia @ Tennessee – Saturday 1 PM, CBS
Even though they have all kinds of quality wins, the Vols are perched perilously on the bubble, needing desperately to win games to make their case. Georgia, on the other hand, has two games against the SEC’s Tennessee teams and two losses could send them onto the bubble as well. Two wins would probably turn them into locks, though. Tennessee won in Athens earlier this year, so UGA will have revenge on their minds.
South Carolina @ Tennessee – Wednesday 7 PM, CSS
Florida A&M @ Arkansas – Wednesday 8 PM
Auburn @ Ole Miss – Wednesday 8 PM, SEC Network
Alabama @ LSU – Thursday 9 PM, ESPN
Ole Miss @ Mississippi State – Saturday 1:30 PM, SEC Network
Vanderbilt @ Auburn – Saturday 4 PM, SEC Network
South Carolina @ Kentucky – Saturday 4 PM, SEC Network
Arkansas @ Alabama – Saturday 7 PM, FSN
Florida @ LSU – Sunday 1 PM, ESPN
1. Florida 20-5 (9-2) – I was skeptical of them as pre-season SEC champ picks, but I’m not a skeptic anymore
2. Vanderbilt 18-6 (6-4) – Can they have some road success now?
3. Kentucky 17-7 (5-5) – Four of last six at home should allow for strong finish
4. Alabama 16-8 (8-2) – They are causing fits for bracket projectors everywhere
5. Georgia 17-7 (6-4) – Still in good shape for March
6. Tennessee 15-10 (5-5) – Pearl’s return didn’t help them much
7. Ole Miss 16-9 (4-6) – Playing much better since knocking off UK
8. Arkansas 15-9 (5-6) – They are SO inconsistent
9. Mississippi State 13-11 (5-5) – When you lose to Auburn, you have to fall
10. South Carolina 13-10 (4-6) – How different would their record be in the SEC West?
11. Auburn 9-15 (2-8) – Win over MSU gets them out of cellar
12. LSU 10-15 (2-8) – Lost eight straight after 2-0 SEC start