The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines from the previous week of conference play. (AP Rankings accurate up until February 3, 2019.)
1. Volunteers Maintain Their Dominance
The No. 1 team in the nation proved their worth once again this week. Tennessee not only won both of their conference matchups, but they did so in convincing fashion by notching at least 90 points in each contest.
The Volunteers are simply destroying SEC foes at an alarming rate as Saturday night’s victory over Texas A&M pushed Tennessee’s current win streak to 16 games.
Considering that stars Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams will both be NBA draft selections; the duo unsurprisingly grabs all the headlines. However, its been the play of point guard Jordan Bone that’s caught my attention.
Jordan Bone has just 11 turnovers in 8 SEC games this season.
— Nathanael Rutherford (@Mr_Rutherford) February 3, 2019
It was 60-58. College Station was rowdy. Jordan Bone's final 11:23?
8 points. 3-of-3 from the field. 6 assists. 0 turnovers.
He scored or assisted on 22 of Tennessee's final 33 points.
— Marc Whiteman (@MarcWhiteman) February 3, 2019
Bone put up 19 points and 9 assists against South Carolina on Tuesday and 18 points and 10 assists against Texas A&M on Saturday night – all while just committing 5 combined turnovers.
For me, there is no question that Bone has been the best point guard in the SEC thus far. What’s even scarier is that he isn’t even the best or second-best player on his own team. Do I think that Ashton Hagans is more talented than Bone? Certainly. But no point guard has been as consistent as Bone has been this season.
I for one can’t wait to watch Hagans defensively try to disrupt Bone when the Cats and Vols finally faceoff.
2. Kentucky Successfully Fights Through Adversity
The Wildcats are who we thought they were before the season started. For the fourth straight week, Kentucky won both of its contests. The Wildcats made short work of Vanderbilt on Tuesday night as they utterly embarrassed the Commodores in their own building.
No. 7 Kentucky 45
Commodores 1 point the final 8:04 of the half pic.twitter.com/te6gcehOEq
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) January 30, 2019
But Tuesday night’s victory was not the best moment of the week for the Wildcats. That came on Saturday when Kentucky came from behind and defeated Florida on the road. They simply did not have it at all when they took the court in the swamp, but they still found a way to win which is a trait of successful teams in March.
This was a heck of a win by Kentucky
Didn’t play well, weren’t hitting shots but kept fighting and Defending and got the win
Final Four level performance
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) February 2, 2019
P.J. Washington added yet another double-double performance to his recent hot streak, and Tyler Herro led Kentucky in scoring with 19 points on 75% shooting from the field. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: The Wildcats become an insanely tough team to defeat if Herro shoots efficiently from beyond the arc.
At the start of January, Kentucky was sitting at an incredibly disappointing 10-3 start which featured a national embarrassment to Duke. It seemed like Big Blue Nation was in for a long year, but my what a difference a month can make. Calipari’s team now sits at 18-3 on the season and 7-1 in SEC play. It seems like the Wildcats are a real contender to win the National Championship.
3. The Razorbacks Make Their Push
There was a very strong case to be made for Arkansas being one of the most disappointing teams in the SEC during the month of January. However, things have finally turned around for the Razorbacks as they won both of their conference games this week and are winners of three of their past four contests.
Their recent surge included their best win of the season on Saturday night when the Razorbacks defeated No. 19 LSU 90-89 on the road. While they have three players averaging at least 14.0 ppg, star forward Daniel Gafford was the biggest reason why they defeated the Tigers.
The future first rounder notched 23 points and eight rebounds along with two blocks to power the Razorbacks to victory. Gafford is an uber-talented, rim-running big man who has the special ability to change a game with his rim protection.
At some point, Yves Pons is going to throw down the dunk of the year. His dunk attempts are just so brazenly insane in the best way. Here’s his most recent try, where he went at Daniel Gafford and got swatted (they called a foul, but I think it was clean) pic.twitter.com/fLsxKFPmPR
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) January 16, 2019
Thanks in large part to Gafford, Arkansas easily has the talent to make the NCAA Tournament. They now sit at 13-8 on the season and 4-4 in conference play. Fortunately for the Razorbacks their next three games are against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Missouri. Don’t be surprised if Arkansas is suddenly 16-8 in the blink of an eye. If Gafford plays well, this Razorback team can play with anyone in the SEC.
4. Panic Time for Ole Miss
Just two weeks ago the Rebels were to toast of college basketball. They were 14-3 overall, 4-1 in conference play, and nationally ranked in the Top 25. Kermit Davis was also squarely in the conversation for coach of the year.
But my how the mighty have fallen. Ole Miss has now lost four straight contests in a disastrous two-week time span. Their losses this week came in heartbreaking fashion as they fell to Florida and Mississippi State by a combined 10 points.
The good news for the Rebels is that they are about to hit what might be their easiest stretch of the season. Ole Miss will not play a ranked opponent until February 27. This is the perfect opportunity for Davis and company to get things back on track.
If they can go into their matchup with the Volunteers on that date having won five of their last six games (which is very, very possible) then they will be at least 19-8 before the month of March. The time is now for the Rebels to pick their selves up and get their season back on track.
5. The Race for the Big Dance
Let’s take stock of the league at large. It’s relatively easy to surmise that Tennessee, Kentucky, and LSU have already played their way into the NCAA Tournament. We can also go ahead and count out Missouri, Georgia, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt’s postseason chances considering they are a combined 4-28 in SEC play.
That leaves us with seven SEC teams that will be fighting for a spot in the Big Dance. Out of those seven teams, six of them have a 4-4 record in conference play. With so many teams fighting for the postseason, expect the month of February to be utter madness in the SEC.
Your updated SEC basketball standings. Wild that South Carolina, up next for Kentucky, is just one game over .500 overall but also just one game out of second place in the league. pic.twitter.com/5vDhAQeRMG
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 3, 2019
Let’s go ahead and try to predict this out. I think it’s relatively easy to go ahead and put Mississippi State and Auburn in the NCAA Tournament considering their overall resumes and talent level. Also, we can probably put Florida out of the big dance. The Gators have a weak resume and a 12-8 record. Unless they catch fire, Florida is destined for the NIT in 2019.
The leaves us with South Carolina, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Arkansas. Don’t be surprised if the Rebels and Razorbacks go on impressive runs, and the Gamecocks and Crimson Tide start to fade. Either way, it seems to me as if the SEC will have either seven or eight teams overall in the big dance which is quite the improvement from the past few years. SEC Basketball is back and better than ever.