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 10, 2019.)
1. Kentucky and Tennessee Keep Rolling
To very little surprise, the Wildcats and Volunteers won both of their games this week in relatively convincing fashion. Kentucky demolished South Carolina on Tuesday and took care of business on the road against Miss. State on Saturday despite a great comeback from the Bulldogs.
P.J. Washington continued his streak of great performances this week in both matchups. He notched 20 points against the Gamecocks and 23 against the Bulldogs. Washington continues to build up his NBA Draft stock due to the big man shooting an impressive 45% from three-point range on the season.
PJ Washington now a perfect 3-3 from downtown. pic.twitter.com/A0R9Gabwbm
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 9, 2019
Tennessee had very similar results as they defeated both Missouri and Florida in convincing double-digit blowouts. Rick Barnes’ club remains undefeated in conference play and in first place.
The Volunteers keep succeeding due to consistent scoring from their top five scorers. In both games Tennessee had five players notch at least 9 points in scoring.
This is a mammoth week for both teams considering that not only do they play each other on Saturday, but Kentucky also plays LSU and Tennessee plays South Carolina on Tuesday. A lot is at stake this coming week due to the Wildcats needing a few more impressive wins to be ranked as a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Monstrous week ahead at Rupp Arena as Kentucky hosts both LSU and Tennessee. A sweep by the Wildcats and they'll officially be in position to be a one seed. #BBN
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 10, 2019
2. LSU Crashes the Party
Despite dominant showings from both the Wildcats and Volunteers, no team had a bigger week than LSU did. The Tigers earned two huge wins for their tournament resume by beating both Miss. State and Auburn in extremely close fashion.
Will Wade’s club managed to tough out a victory in overtime against the Bulldogs on Tuesday, and the Tigers managed to win an exciting game against a good Auburn team at home on Saturday.
One reason why the Tigers are having so much success is due to the incredibly unique talents of freshman forward Naz Reid. Not only is Reid an athletic rebounding and dunking machine, but the future pro is also leading LSU in 3-point field goal percentage.
“I tried to break the rim, to be honest.”
— InsideTheTigers.com (@InsideLSU) February 9, 2019
Not only do the Tigers have a great inside presence, but they also have two great outside shooters in Tremont Waters and Skylar Mays. The duo can get hot at anytime which gives LSU incredible balance on offense.
Athletic teams that also can hit the three often make it far come March, and I don’t think LSU will be an exception. The Tigers are for real, and they are ready for a big run in the tournament.
3. Florida Fades into Obscurity
It’s been one of those seasons for Mike White’s club. After a huge win against Ole Miss on Jan. 30, it seemed like the Gators might make a run to the tournament. Since then, Florida has dropped three straight SEC games.
Florida is officially among the worst teams in the conference as they are just one game above .500 (12-11), and they have a losing record in SEC play (4-6). Not only are the Gators going to miss the NCAA Tournament, but at this pace they are also going to miss the NIT.
This season was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Florida, but I’m not sure if anyone expected White’s team to be this bad 10 games into conference play.
Florida’s offense has been a relative disaster considering they are second-to-last in the SEC in points per game, and only two of their players are averaging double digits in scoring. If this keeps up, I would not be surprised to see the Gators have a losing season.
4. Alabama and Ole Miss Keep Their March Dreams Alive…
On a brighter note, the Crimson Tide and the Rebels both enjoyed very positive weeks. Both squads won both of their matchups to advance up to fifth and sixth in the conference rankings, respectively.
While it is true that neither team beat anyone that talented, both programs still took care of business and won games that they were expected to win. That’s the mark of bubble teams that play their way into the tournament.
Both Alabama and Ole Miss were successful due to the outstanding play of guards Kira Lewis Jr. and Breein Tyree. Lewis Jr. notched 24 and 18 points in the Crimson Tide’s victories this week. The freshman has been sensational for Alabama thus far on the season as he now leads his team in scoring.
Really nice floater in crunch time by Kira Lewis Jr. to take the lead vs Tennessee. Coming into this game, he was in the 83rd percentile on runners.
Kira Lewis Jr. probably won't declare this year but he's definitely someone to watch. He should be a legit prospect next year pic.twitter.com/fngVAafLB4
— Zach Milner (@ZachMilner13) January 19, 2019
Tyree has been nothing short of remarkable as well for Ole Miss. The star junior notched 22 and 31 points this week for the Rebels. His efforts even managed to put him into an exclusive club in the Rebels’ basketball program:
— Ole Miss Basketball (@OleMissMBB) February 10, 2019
The play of these two guards will be critical to watch as we move closer and closer to postseason play. They can will their teams to potentially huge postseason runs like what Collin Sexton did for Alabama last season. Opposing teams will be game planning for these two for the rest of the season.
5. While Arkansas Seems Destined for the NIT
On the flip side, the Razorbacks unfortunately seem destined for the NIT, and this week was a great example of why. Arkansas has a very capable and talented team, but they just can’t stop dropping games to lesser teams.
Despite taking care of business against Vanderbilt on Tuesday, they lost to an average South Carolina team on the road on Saturday. The Razorbacks now sit at 5-5 in SEC play and 14-9 overall. That’s just a body of work that is begging to miss the NCAA Tournament.
If Arkansas seriously wants to make the big dance, then they will have to defeat Auburn and Kentucky on the road in the coming weeks to secure their spot which is incredibly unlikely to happen.
However, they still have a fighter’s punch if Daniel Gafford is still healthy. The future first rounder as all the all talent in the world, but don’t take it from me. Coach Cal also sees the immense talent in Gafford’s game as well.
John Calipari: Daniel Gafford "can be special." pic.twitter.com/JlwoERnOgQ
— Kyle Deckelbaum (@KATVKyle) October 17, 2018
As things stand currently, the Razorbacks are most certainly on the outside looking in. That means that the SEC currently has seven teams likely in the big dance as of now. Only time will tell if Arkansas joins that group.