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 college basketball as the Big-12/SEC Challenge took place.
1. Kentucky Bounces Back in a Big Way
Just when everyone had the Wildcats figured out, they surprise everyone by earning a huge victory over a very talented West Virginia team on the road in a hostile environment.
To make things even more impressive, the youngest team in college basketball overcame a ridiculous 17-point deficit, and Kentucky also didn’t miss a free throw the entire second half (I’m not joking, I know it’s crazy).
However, this win is even more important because it couldn’t have come at a better time for the young Wildcats. Things seemed very bleak for Kentucky as they came into the matchup losing three out of their last six SEC games.
But for the time being, Calipari’s program silenced critics with a season-defining victory. In a season where there isn’t the usual handful of great teams, these young Cats are in a great position to make some noise once March comes around.
Now sit back and enjoy these highlights of future top-10 pick Kevin Knox doing his best Kevin Durant impression:
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) January 28, 2018
2. Alabama Makes a Statement
The week didn’t start off that great for the Crimson Tide when they lost on the road to Ole Miss on Tuesday, but Avery Johnson’s team certainly ended the week in a big way.
With their defeat against previously 12th ranked Oklahoma and Trae Young, Alabama proved to the college basketball world that they can compete with anyone.
Collin Sexton and company now sit at fifth place in a very talented SEC conference with a 14-7 overall record which includes three victories over ranked opponents.
We will see how for real the Crimson Tide really is as conference play wraps up next month. In its final 10 SEC games, Alabama plays Florida twice while also playing on the road at Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas A&M.
If the Crimson Tide can somehow get into the NCAA Tournament with only 9 or 10 losses, then this team could find its way to the second weekend of the tournament.
Trae Young had the headlines, but Collin Sexton and Bama stole the show. pic.twitter.com/9ULuE8sbKA
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 28, 2018
3. Vanderbilt Finally Gets a Big Win
Let’s be very clear here: The Commodores are not a good basketball team this season. However, that doesn’t mean they are a team without spirit.
Despite being ranked dead last in the SEC with their 8-13 record, Vanderbilt got a huge win over a TCU team that has been ranked most of the year. This was a crucial win for the conference in the challenge, but it’s also Bryce Drew’s first signature win of the season.
While it is true that the Horned Frogs were without one of their best players in the matchup (Jalen Fisher), the Commodores still earned this victory thanks to the play of Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson.
Vanderbilt’s two best players combined for 44 points in one of the few bright moments of the year for Drew’s team.
It will be interesting to see if the Commodores can use this win as momentum when they play Kentucky next at Rupp Arena. But something tells me that this win is just a flash in the pan in what will be a bad season in Nashville.
4. Auburn Keep Momentum Rolling
Something special is beginning to take place with the Auburn Tigers. After winning two conference games this week, the Tigers now sit atop the SEC. With a 19-2 overall record, Bruce Pearl has helped create one of the biggest surprises of the year in the sport.
This week they looked even better than usual as they crushed Missouri 91-73 and LSU 95-70. It is true that the Tigers have played a relatively weak schedule, but they have handled their opponents with ease.
The hype should continue for Auburn next week as they play Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in what are two very winnable games. If they take care of business next week, they will go into a huge matchup against Texas A&M with a 21-2 record.
We still need to see the Tigers in more challenging matchups before we declare them a top-tier team. However, at the end of the day this team is going to be at least a six seed in the tournament, and with that kind of positioning anything can happen.
In the meantime, enjoy this hilarious gif of Bruce Pearl from Saturday:
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 28, 2018
5. SEC Basketball is Back. Deal with It.
Anyone who has watched college basketball closely this year knew that the SEC had made a big step forward towards being truly respected once again in the sport.
However, Saturday proved that the conference is not only respected once again, but now the SEC is feared by all. It’s true that the SEC won the Big 12 Challenge for the first time ever which is huge, but what was most impressive is the way the conference did so.
No. 20 Florida beat Baylor.
Alabama beat No. 12 Oklahoma.
No. 22 Tennessee beat Iowa State.
Vanderbilt beat TCU.
Arkansas beat Oklahoma State.
Kentucky beat No. 7 West Virginia.
Challenge conquered. pic.twitter.com/GybfYQoGEs
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 28, 2018
Kentucky, Alabama, and Vanderbilt all won games that they quite frankly shouldn’t have won based off pregame predictions and rankings, but all three proved to be the better team yesterday. It should also be mentioned that Florida handled a Baylor team that had similar talent with absolute ease.
The point is this: The SEC has six teams in the form of Auburn, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama who can compete with anyone in college basketball.
Texas A&M will be included as well in that conversation once they get back on track, and Miss. State, Missouri, and South Carolina are teams who could still make the tournament.
That’s 10 quality basketball teams out of 14. You will be hard-pressed to find any other conference this season with as much depth as that. The SEC is officially back, and only March will prove if the conference is as better as ever.