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 27, 2019.)
1. Kentucky’s Huge Week
Few teams were as impressive as the Kentucky Wildcats were this week. Coach John Calipari’s team cruised to two victories over ranked teams as they easily defeated No. 22 Mississippi State by 21 points and manhandled No. 9 Kansas in the second half.
Despite having three losses, Kentucky now has a resume that few other teams in college basketball can match: wins on the road against No. 23 Louisville, No. 11 North Carolina, and No. 14 Auburn along with victories against Miss. State and Kansas at home.
Kentucky has more top 25 wins in the last week than they had all last year.
— Trey Huntsman (@TreyHuntsmanKSR) January 27, 2019
Kentucky played 3 Top 25 teams in 8 days
They won all three impressively. Gotta like the way we are trending…
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 27, 2019
It was just 10 games ago when Quade Green left the team and since then Kentucky has been a completely different squad. I am not suggesting a correlation exists between Green’s departure and UK’s recent success, however, its hard to ignore how different this team is now from early December.
P.J. Washington enjoyed the best week of any Wildcat after a stretch of very lethargic performances from the sophomore. He managed to notch 21 points and 6 rebounds against Miss. State along with 20 points and 13 rebounds Saturday night against Kansas. I wrote last week that Washington needed to step up, and its safe to say that he easily accomplished that this week.
Great sequence for PJ Washington. Deflects the lob pass on one end and finishes the lob on the other. pic.twitter.com/9s87NK8l4k
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) January 26, 2019
While things are going extremely well for Kentucky, there are still aspects of the team that need improvement. The Wildcats are next to last in the SEC in made three pointers, and they are 7th in assists per game at just 14.3 per contest (by comparison Tennessee is at 19.8 per game).
Once the Wildcats start getting more contributions from beyond the arc (hopefully from Quickley and Baker) I think that Calipari will have a team that’s perfectly build for a huge run in March.
2. Grant Williams Makes His Case for National Player of the Year
The biggest reason why No. 1 Tennessee has enjoyed so much success this season is because of the play of sophomore big man Grant Williams who happened to put on a huge show this week.
On Wednesday night Williams put together the best performance of the season so far in college basketball. Despite a great upset effort from Vanderbilt, Tennessee emerged victorious in overtime thanks to Williams’ 43 points. Even more impressive is that he managed to go a perfect 23/23 from the free throw line.
Career-high 43 pts ?
SEC record 23-23 from the line ?
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 24, 2019
His follow-up performance was not too shabby either as he scored 19 points in the Volunteers’ win against West Virginia on Saturday night. His season averages now sit at 20.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and an FG% of 57%. Zion Williamson may be getting all the love for player of the year, but I think that Williams has now entered the conversation after this week.
Unless something out of ordinary happens, Williams already has the SEC POTY locked up, and if he keeps playing like he is now then he will also have the biggest award in college basketball locked up as well.
3. Is the Big 12 Better than the SEC?
The Big 12 emerged victorious over the SEC in this year’s Big 12/SEC Challenge as the conference went 6-4 in 10 matchups. But what exactly does this mean? Before we rush to any rash conclusions, lets analyze the challenge in its entirety.
First off, there is no debate when it comes to which conference’s top teams are better. That’s the SEC. Kentucky handled Kansas and Tennessee embarrassed a bad West Virginia team. Plus, No. 14 Texas Tech only defeated an average Arkansas team by three points.
Where I think the Big 12 might have an edge on the SEC is that its middle and lower-tier teams might be better. TCU defeating Florida, Oklahoma State beating South Carolina (more on that later), and Baylor defeating Alabama were all instances where the Big 12 won matchups between comparable teams.
But we cannot forget the most important tidbit from this showcase: some of the SEC’s best teams did not even participate in the event.
A big thing to remember today: If the Big 12 wins the Big 12/SEC Challenge, it is not an accurate reflection of the strength of the SEC. Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi State are not in the event.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 26, 2019
After Kentucky and Tennessee, those are probably the next three best teams in the SEC. Its not a very accurate display of each conference’s talent when one has its five best teams participating and the other only has two out of its five best playing.
Overall, this is still a huge positive for the Big 12. They won the challenge fair and square, however, I just don’t think its wise to say that they are the better conference because of it. The month of March will determine which conference is better in 2019.
4. South Carolina Still Makes No Sense
The Gamecocks are officially the most annoying team that I’ve seen in recent memory. They make absolutely no sense and this past week was a perfect display of that.
First, they managed to score a big upset at home as they defeated No. 16 Auburn. That was the biggest win of the year so far for Frank Martin’s club, and it seemed like they were ready to turn a corner into being a consistently good team.
But then on Saturday they lost to a terrible 9-11 Oklahoma State team which only had seven scholarship players available. How they managed that bad of a turn around in such a short period of time is baffling.
I can only arrive at this conclusion: South Carolina is both a bad team on the road and a good team when they play SEC opponents. The Gamecocks are currently 2-4 in true road games, but they are 5-1 in conference play. Martin knows that the only way they get into the big dance is if they win the SEC Tournament, and to do that they need good seeding.
South Carolina sees their hot run end at Oklahoma State. Gamecocks are now 0-2 in their last two road games but are 3-0 in their last three at home with wins over Miss St and Auburn. Different team in Columbia vs everywhere else
— Brian Rauf (@brauf33) January 26, 2019
If they keep taking care of business at home against conference opponents they will have just that. They are currently fourth in the conference standings, and I think its safe to say that no one wants to play the Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament.
5. Missouri’s Disastrous Loss
The biggest loser out of the SEC this week was easily the Missouri Tigers. Not only did they drop both of their games and fall to 1-5 in conference play, but they also lost Saturday in one of the more horrific ways imaginable.
We got out of Columbia with a W ?
? 14 point comeback
? 6-0 in SEC play
? Nine game winning streak#BootUp ?
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) January 27, 2019
You read that right. With just 2:09 left in the game, Missouri had a 14-point lead and 99.7% chance of winning the basketball game….and LSU somehow won in overtime. That is without a doubt the worst meltdown of the season in college basketball so far, and it will be very hard to top.
Not only can we officially write off Missouri for this season, but now LSU is 6-0 in SEC play and 16-3 overall. Will Wade has his best team yet in Baton Rouge, and I think the Tigers will make serious noise in a tournament setting.