Some of the things we thought we knew about SEC basketball turned out to be wrong. Or at least shaky. But don’t blink, because if this past week has taught us anything, it’s that the league can tip over faster than luck at a blackjack table. Here’s a look around the SEC.
After a season in which the Aggies were essentially eliminated from the NCAA tournament through a backdoor, Buzz Williams’ team had some expectations going into the season. Then they lost to Colorado at 28, to Boise at 15, and to Wofford. But A&M opened the SEC game with a 4-0 clip. Granted, their biggest win yet was in Missouri, but if the Aggies go +20 and +30 on the glass like they’ve done in their last 2 games, then the Buzz Williams boys might just be making some March noise. Wade Taylor is averaging 16 points per game in league play and has been 7-on-14 in A&M’s last two games. Will it continue?
Would the real Kentucky please stand up…
Which UK is real? I’m not sure John Calipari even knows.
Kentucky 1) lost a soul-crushing home game to inferior South Carolina, then 2) won in Knoxville and then 3) let Georgia score at will in a home game in the first half on Tuesday, trailing 8 and eventually 4 at the break). Georgia knocked out in the second half in a 37-and-24 game by Oscar Tshiebwe.
Which UK is the real UK? All of them? None of them? Who knows. Sahvir Wheeler’s inconsistency at either end of the pitch has made it difficult for John Calipari to continue to lean on him and Britain could finally get their team behind Cason Wallace as point guard. Or something else bizarre and unexpected could happen.
Alabama is obviously dealing with some very serious off-court issues.
In court? Alabama is 6-0 in the league with an average winning margin of 21 points. Brandon Miller leads the league in scoring in conference play, shooting almost 58% overall, including a cool 22-for-44 from 3-point range. But defense might be the hidden key here – Bama kept SEC enemies at 33.4% shooting. That’s 1.5% better than second-place Tennessee and a whopping 4.2% better than third-place Florida. The Tide is also hitting 11 3-point shots per game in SEC play, which is miles ahead of UT in 2nd place with 7.5 treys per game. can it last It’s worth noting that Alabama has yet to lose a game in which it hasn’t had more than 19 turnovers. Protect the ball and the tide should be fine.
The fighting in Arkansas continues
On the other hand, Arkansas was not doing well. Nick Smith’s “will/will he not” situation does no one any favors and who knows when or if Smith will ever play for Arkansas again. And the Hogs opened the SEC game 1-4. A big problem, frankly, is shooting. Arkansas is 343rd in D1 basketball in 3-point percentage and shooting a sickly 29.1% from long range. And two of the better shooters were Smith and Trevon Brazile, who are out this year. Meanwhile, in their last 2 SEC games, Arkansas have allowed Alabama and Vandy to shoot a combined 19-on-38 from 3-point territory as the Hogs lost both games. Considering the schedule still includes trips to Alabama, Mizzou, Baylor and Tennessee, the 12-5 Hogs could well lose double-digit games. And could still be dangerous in March.
BracketMatrix’s most recent projections only have 5 SEC teams in the NCAA tournament field — and Joe Lunardi agrees. In the BM bracket (which is a combination of dozens of alleged expert bracket predictions), Alabama has earned a top seed and UT is a #2 seed. Auburn is scheduled for a 5 seed, Arkansas for a No. 6 seed and Missouri for a No. 9 seed. Kentucky and Mississippi State are teams Nos. 3 and 4 in BMs Bracket, while Lunardi UK is the last team from the NCAA field, with Texas A&M two spots below.
games to watch
A few highlights of the coming week:
Arkansas at Mizzou (Wednesday): This game probably wasn’t circled on preseason calendars, but the Tigers are an easy home favorite over the Hogs, who could use a win to avoid falling to 1-5 in the SEC game. Meanwhile, Mizzou has been stumbling a bit lately and will try to recover.
Texas A&M in Kentucky (Saturday): Are any of the teams real? Can either team score enough points to knock out the other? Feels like an old slugfest of 58-50 nature.
Tennessee at LSU (Saturday): The Vols lost to Kentucky, but it felt a little awkward, especially given the many open UT shots that just fell off the rim. The Vols recovered and want to keep going with an away win.
LSU in Arkansas (Tuesday): The Tigers have lost the momentum of the SEC, and especially if the Mizzou game doesn’t go Arkansas’ way, Arkansas could really use a win here.