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 January 6th.)
1. Wildcats Suffer Crushing Defeat Against Alabama
Just when we thought Kentucky had things figured out, the Wildcats went to Tuscaloosa and lost to an unranked Crimson Tide team. UK did not necessarily play “bad,” but the Wildcats found a way to lose to an Alabama team that is by no means great.
And that’s what I think Kentucky is having problems with. The Wildcats are just not a great team yet either. Of course, anyone with a brain knows that this team will be considerably better come March. For the past decade this program has dealt with each season as a continual growing process until it’s time to go to the big dance.
The question that is now in front of Kentucky is who is going to step up and be “great?” Besides Ashton Hagans who is playing all-world defense right now and Keldon Johnson’s hot streak, no other player has been great yet for the Wildcats. Travis Reid, P.J. Washington, and Tyler Herro all have been pretty good, but they haven’t consistently broken through yet.
I think that it begins and ends with Herro. Reid and Washington are tough and experienced, but great guard play is what powers teams in March. Everyone knows he has the potential to light up a game from behind the arc, but his 32% shooting from three-point land this season tells a different story.
Remember the Louisville game? Herro absolutely lit it up against the Cards in a performance that many Wildcat fans won’t soon forget.
24 pts (10-13 FG) (4-6 3pt FG)
1 legendary performance pic.twitter.com/IJh2VO54pc
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 29, 2018
The Wildcats are the best version of their selves when Hagans plays NBA-level defense and Herro can drop 20+ efficiently. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Kentucky goes as Herro’s field goal percentage goes.
2. Tennessee Obliterates Georgia In Record Blowout
On Saturday the Georgia Bulldogs walked into Knoxville fully thinking they had a chance to beat the No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers.
Narrator: “They were wrong.”
Folks, the Volunteers beat the Bulldogs by a score of 96-50. Yup. You read that right. Tennessee beat a SEC team by 46 points. If you don’t believe that the Volunteers are one of the best teams in the nation, then you need to recognize that right now.
a win is a win pic.twitter.com/BgT38pzC0l
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) January 5, 2019
HIGHLIGHTS APLENTY ???
1-0 to start SEC play. pic.twitter.com/sRuhxxtyPW
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) January 6, 2019
Stars Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were both great in the contest as they combined for 36 points and 14 rebounds. However, it was guard Jordan Bowden who stole the show in Knoxville.
WATCH FULL: https://t.co/KTj0olLxHe
— APTV Mixes (@APTVmixes) June 22, 2018
The guard scored 20 points off the bench in just 23 minutes of action. If Tennessee starts getting that type of production from its bench, it will be a very long year for the rest of the conference. Don’t underestimate the program that Head Coach Rick Barnes has built.
Tennessee’s hiring of Rick Barnes is the most underrated hire in college basketball in the last five years.
— rickbozich (@rickbozich) January 5, 2019
3. Florida Gets Absolutely Robbed
To be clear, I am the LAST person to stick up for the Florida Gators, but here we are. On Saturday South Carolina defeated Florida on a miraculous last-second shot. However, to say that it was not without problems would be an understatement.
— Bart T?rvik (@totally_t_bomb) January 6, 2019
First things first: HOW DID THE REFS MISS THAT TRAVEL??? Chris Silva took four steps before he dunked the ball, and it was not even close. That’s an egregious miss by the refs who chose to sallow their whistles and “let them play.” I have always hated that saying because it makes zero sense. Yea, just ignore the rules of basketball and let them play. No team will lose because of it or anything, right?
Anyways, what is even worse is that Silva obviously pushed the Florida defender to create space to catch the ball. It’s the basketball equivalent of offensive pass interference in football and it should have been called.
(And yes, Florida’s defense was so terrible on this play that they deserved what happened but that’s beside the point)
But what’s done is done. The win was huge for the Gamecocks who were previously 5-7 on the year. Now South Carolina is undefeated in SEC play. There may not be a more perfect moment that showcases the craziness of college basketball than this one did.
4. Texas A&M Enters the Danger Zone
The Aggies have easily been the worst team in the SEC so far this season with South Carolina being a close second. After Saturday’s loss to Arkansas, Texas A&M’s record fell to a pathetic 6-6. Don’t forget, that’s just with one SEC game played.
Their six losses include defeats to UC Irvine and Texas Southern. Yikes. The SEC has put together quite a season so far, but the Aggies are a huge blemish on what the conference has done.
TSU President Dr. Austin Lane on @TXSOTigers shocking @aggiembk in College Station88-73: "For our university,for our basketball team this is tremendous. To have our guys come off of a tough road schedule & end it w/ a win over Texas A&M is good momentum going into the conference" pic.twitter.com/W9wqhfxC0j
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) December 29, 2018
Only three players on the team are averaging double figures, and their leading scorer TJ Starks is just averaging 14.3 points per contest. I am honestly concerned with how many SEC games Texas A&M will win in 2019. It will for sure be very little, but I would put the over/under at three.
The Aggies will travel to Lexington on Tuesday where they will take on UK. A road win would be huge for a program that is in rebuilding mode right now. There should be no way that Kentucky drops this game. If the Cats do, then it’s panic time.
5. How Good Is Ole Miss?
The Rebels are currently sitting with a 11-2 record after their road victory over Vanderbilt to open conference play. I’m not suggesting that Ole Miss is a threat in the SEC, at least not yet. However, I do think that it’s significant that the Rebels have just one less win than they had all last season (12).
Yes, Ole Miss has not beaten anyone great so far, but this is a different team than the one we saw on the court in 2018. It has everything to do with the arrival of Head Coach Kermit Davis from Middle Tennessee State.
Kermit Davis doing Kermit Davis things at Ole Miss. Rebels beat Vandy at Vandy. Now 11-2 overall.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 6, 2019
I think the Rebels are a very interesting team in the SEC in 2019. They can easily come out of nowhere and finish near the middle of the league. While the top half of the conference is incredibly talented, the bottom is bad enough to where Davis can lead the program to finish possibly 7th or 8th.
It would be a great story if Ole Miss could possibly make the NIT or maybe even the NCAA Tournament. But for now, let’s wait and see how well the Rebels play Auburn on Wednesday night before we make any rash judgments.