Around the SEC
By Drew Franklin on ©January 23rd, 2019 @ 3:00pm
Tennessee is the No. 1 team in college basketball for only the second time in the program’s history. The last time Tennessee held the top spot in the polls, almost 11 years ago, it lost at Vanderbilt in its very next game.
Tennessee will play at Vanderbilt tonight. Will history repeat itself?
This year’s Vanderbilt isn’t nearly as strong as the Vanderbilt that spoiled Tennessee’s top-ranked fun back in February of 2008, less than 48 hours into the new poll. That Vanderbilt had only four losses, was ranked 14th in the country, and included a senior Shan Foster averaging over 20 points per game, plus seniors Ross Neltner and Alex Gordon, and a young AJ Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal. Foster dropped a game-high 32 points on the Vols that night, finishing 9-of-13 from the field and 6-of-9 from outside. It was considered an upset, but not a big one by any means.
Tonight, however, Vanderbilt is a double-digit underdog on its home floor with its star player out for the whole season. It’s unlikely Tennessee will fall to 0-2 all-time as No. 1 overall, but wouldn’t it be nice for Kentucky’s SEC hopes (and maybe its tournament seeding) if it happened?
If Tennessee does get its first ever win as the top team, the Vols will need to hold off West Virginia at home on Saturday to keep the spot for another week. Then with a very manageable five-game SEC slate after that, maybe we see a No. 1 Tennessee in Rupp Arena on Saturday, February 16.
You can watch Tennessee-Vandy tonight at 7 pm on ESPN2.
I know you’re probably here for all things Kentucky-Mississippi State, but it’s worth noting Auburn dropped a second game in a row, this time at South Carolina. The Gamecocks won outright as an 8.5 point home underdog, 80-77.
Once considered a threat to win the SEC regular season crown, Bruce Pearl’s Tigers dropped to under .500 in conference play with a 2-3 record through five games. With six more games against teams currently ranked in the top 25, including a rematch with Kentucky in Rupp Arena, it’s hard to imagine Auburn will be in the hunt at the end of season.
LSU is actually the team to watch now, along with Tennessee, of course. LSU is undefeated in league play with maybe the easiest remaining schedule.
And do we worry about South Carolina too? South Carolina is tied with Kentucky at 5-1 in the SEC with wins over 14th-ranked Mississippi State, 16th-ranked Auburn and on the road at Florida.
SEC BASKETBALL IT JUST MEANS MORE
By John Reecer on ©January 20th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
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 20, 2019.)
1. The Wildcats Prove Their Toughness
Out of the 14 teams in the conference, I believe it’s easy to surmise that Kentucky won the week. Not only did the Wildcats take care of business in a thrashing of Georgia on the road, but they also went to Auburn and defeated a top-ranked SEC opponent on the road which is a rarity.
Bryce Brown was on fire, but it didn't matter. Kentucky Beat a Top 15 SEC team on the road for the first time in the Calipari era. https://t.co/73c9NRewxE
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) January 19, 2019
I know that Tennessee and LSU also won both of their games this week and that LSU also won on the road against a ranked team, but Auburn was the second-highest ranked team in the SEC so to me Kentucky wins the week.
It’s still early, but I saw something from the Wildcats that will prove to be paramount come Tournament time. Kentucky proved that it’s one of the most mentally and physically toughest teams in the SEC in both of their victories.
In the Georgia game Ashton Hagans was booed and mocked consistently by the crowd due to his decommitment from the Bulldogs in high school. Instead of letting it affect him negatively, Hagans dominated the entire contest as he notched a career high in points.
Against Auburn the Wildcats nearly blew a 15-point lead in the final nine minutes, yet they still managed to emerge victorious. They even got off to a rocky start, but Hagans again did his part in waking up the team.
Ashton Hagans would like Keldon Johnson to wake up pic.twitter.com/3VT7IIuXYv
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 19, 2019
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not sure just how good this year’s team is just yet. However, that toughness is something many teams do not have yet. The fact that they are already showing it proves to me that this team is more than likely going to make a run once March comes around.
2. LSU Figures Things Out
In last week’s article I said that the Tigers were severely underrated, they deserve more attention, and that they should beat Ole Miss on the road. LSU proved me right as they demolished both the Rebels and the Gamecocks in convincing victories this week.
Folks, the Tigers are officially a problem. This is an incredibly athletic team that can also knock down the long ball. Those are the types of teams that cause huge complications in March for opposing squads.
Make it seven straight wins for the Tigers!
LSU will be back home on Wednesday against Georgia ?
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) January 20, 2019
After their victories this week, LSU now sits at second in the SEC (behind UT) with a 4-0 record and 14-3 overall on the season. Personally, I expect AP voters to put the Tigers in the next Top 25 poll as they now have the record to match their impressive talent.
— Todd Politz (@tpolitz) January 20, 2019
Expect even more hype behind this team as their next four games come against four of the worst teams in the conference: Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Arkansas. It is very conceivable that the Tigers will be 18-3, 8-0 in the SEC, and on a 11-game win streak when they travel to Starkville on Feb. 6 to play Miss. State in what will probably be a ranked matchup.
It’s admittedly very startling, but this LSU team is for real.
3. Just How Good Is Auburn?
Let me be clear: I’m not downplaying Kentucky’s win on Saturday at all. I believe that Auburn is a good basketball team and that they will be at the very least a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
However, I think a real conversation needs to be on just how good the Tigers are right now. They currently have no wins over any team currently ranked in the Top 25. Instead, the most impressive aspect of their schedule is that they played Duke and Kentucky close. Let’s also not forget that they still have losses to N.C. State and Ole Miss.
So, what is with all the hype around this team? All that Auburn has showed so far is that they have the talent to play with some of the best teams in the country, but they cannot beat any of these teams.
I am not rushing to say that Auburn is overrated or even bad. However, they now have a lot to prove in my book after their disappointing 2-2 start in conference play.
What is certain, however, is that guard Bryce Brown may just be the best player in this conference after his nuclear explosion against Kentucky.
Bryce Brown has 23 points in the 2nd half, Charles Barkley approves. pic.twitter.com/js6O28rLUT
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) January 19, 2019
4. The Curious Case of the Gamecocks
I’ll be frank here, I have absolutely no feel on how good South Carolina is. The Gamecocks sit at a tie for fourth place in the SEC despite their very poor 9-8 record on the season.
This is the type of team that has losses to Stony Brook, Wofford, and Wyoming but yet has wins over Mississippi State, Florida, and Missouri. I think we can all agree that previous sentence makes zero sense.
The only conclusion that I can draw from this team is that Head Coach Frank Martin is getting the most out of a team that has below average talent at best. The fact they are out to a 4-1 start in conference play despite losing three games to teams from non-power 5 conferences speaks for itself.
I think the next three games will truly show the country what this team is really made of. They play Auburn at home on Tuesday, at Oklahoma State on Saturday, and Tennessee (gulp) at home next Tuesday. They should beat the Cowboys, but if they can manage to squeeze out a victory in one of those other games then I think the Gamecocks might have a good squad this year.
5. It’s Not Even February Yet, But…..
I know that it’s not even February yet, however, we already have a pretty good idea of how the SEC will most likely shape out through the rest of conference play.
SEC FLOYD STANDINGS thru Saturday January 19 2019 pic.twitter.com/WzThTNpZto
— Floyd Standings (@FloydStandings) January 20, 2019
It appears as if Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and Georgia are going to be the three bottom teams this year. They might all end up with losing records and will not place in any significant postseason tournament.
On the other hand, we can deduce that Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, and Auburn should end up being the top five teams in the SEC as they should all make the NCAA Tournament. I think one could possibly add Mississippi State into this group as well.
That leaves us with five teams that will be fighting for to make the NCAA Tournament: South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Arkansas. I know that the Razorbacks are 1-4 in SEC Play, but I’m not counting out any team that has Daniel Gafford on it.
Of course, a team may drop out of that group of six and not make the Tournament (Miss. State possibly), and someone from the middle of the pack could make a huge late run (I’m looking at you, Alabama). Nevertheless, separation has already occurred in the SEC, and it’s very reasonable to predict that this may be a seven-bid league.
A talented wide receiver with a close Kentucky connection has entered the fluctuating transfer market.
Last night La’Michael Pettway announced he is leaving the Arkansas football program. A 6’2″ 220-pound wide receiver, in 2018 Pettway caught four touchdown passes and led the Razorbacks in receiving yards (499) and receptions (30). Pettway plans to graduate, giving him immediate eligibility for the 2019 season.
As Kentucky searches for more options at wide receiver, Michael Smith could turn to one of his former players. The UK wide receivers coach was Pettway’s lead recruiter when he was a four-star prospect out of Nashville High School in Arkansas.
Kentucky is searching for wide receivers and defensive backs to fill out its class in the February National Signing Day. If the Cats cannot convince Devonta Lee to leave Louisiana, Pettway could be UK’s next best option for an impact wide receiver in 2019.
In other college football transfer news, Jalen Hurts will be an Oklahoma Sooner. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is blocking Austin Kendall’s transfer to West Virginia. I think it’s now safe to say if Neal Brown never left Kentucky, Kendall would be a Wildcat. Another quarterback is on the move, Florida State’s James Blackman. The other high-profile quarterback on the move to Florida, Miami’s Tate Martell, could potentially push Jarren Williams out the door. Prepare for part six of that epic saga to unfold in the coming weeks.
By John Reecer on ©January 13th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
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 13th.)
1. The Rebels Run Wild
Ole Miss has been in this column for the past two weeks now as their quick start previously caught my eye. The Rebels were easily one of the worst teams in the conference last year, but they won 11 of their first 13 games to start this season which almost surpassed their overall win total from 2018.
In my last article I mentioned that despite their great start, we would really see just how good Ole Miss is this week with matchups against two ranked teams in No. 11 Auburn and No. 14 Mississippi State. It’s safe to say that the entire SEC has now been put on notice as the Rebels defeated both squads to move to 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in conference play.
So how did this huge turnaround happen? How did Ole Miss go from literally worst to first in the SEC in less than a calendar year? While there are several answers to this question, the conversation begins with the firing of former head coach Andy Kennedy and the acquisition of new Head Coach Kermit Davis from Middle Tennessee State.
I was wrong.
Figured it would take several years to build it back up at Ole Miss, given how that team looked last season. Instead Kermit Davis got every returnee to turn into the best version of themselves. He’s doing a great job. Much respect.
— Hugh Kellenberger (@KellenbergerCBB) January 12, 2019
Middle Tennessee goes from dominating CUSA and winning NCAA tournament games to 3-13 — Ole Miss is now 13-2 and in 1st place in the SEC. There are other factors, but Kermit Davis the biggest factor
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) January 12, 2019
Davis has been one of the best hires of the offseason due to the unprecedented success the Rebels are experiencing now. Ole Miss is guaranteed to be ranked heading into the new week which is something that has not happened in quite a while.
Another huge reason for their success has been the shooting efficiency of their lead guards. Not only are Breein Tyree, Terence Davis, and Devontae Shuler the Rebels three leading scorers, but all three players are shooting at least 40% from the beyond the arc and 47% from the field overall.
The conference has officially been put on notice, and Ole Miss will not be sneaking up on anyone anymore. The Rebels are officially a force to be reckon with in the SEC.
2. Kentucky’s Slow Starts
After a bad loss to Alabama which ended last week, the Wildcats needed to dominate this week to get overall team morale back up. With Texas A&M and Vanderbilt being two of least talented teams in the SEC this was a perfect opportunity for Kentucky to flex its muscles and showoff to the rest of the SEC.
Kentucky did win both contests, and at the end of the day that’s all that matters. However, neither victory came in dominating fashion. In fact, the Wildcats started off both games terribly. The Aggies held two different 10-point leads in the first half, and the Commodores got off to a 10-0 run at the start of the game.
Unbelievable how poorly this team has started the last 3 games
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) January 13, 2019
Thankfully for Kentucky, Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans played some of their best basketball of the season against the Aggies, and Keldon Johnson stepped up in a big way against Vanderbilt. Johnson’s 15 points were very needed in what was easily one of most boring SEC games in recent memory.
At 56 possessions, Vanderbilt-Kentucky was the slowest-paced SEC game since the introduction of the 30-second shot clock before the 2015-16 season.
— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) January 13, 2019
Those three players were the best for the Wildcats this week which is a very positive sign. College Basketball is so incredibly guard-driven, and Kentucky’s guards are playing well. However, what’s happened to UK’s big guys?
Reid Travis, P.J. Washington, and Nick Richards all failed to reach double digits in scoring in both games this week. To convincingly be one of the best teams in the SEC this season the Wildcats have got to get better production from this trio. Washington for example was tabbed as a favorite to win SEC Player of the Year, but his scoring average has dipped below 12 ppg.
This was still a mostly positive week for Kentucky as they did what they needed to do, but there is still a lot of room for improvement as the incredibly hard stretch of Auburn, Mississippi State, and Kansas is on the horizon.
3. Mississippi State’s Terrible Start to Conference Play
The Bulldogs came into this week ranked No. 14 in the country and 12-1 overall on the season. However, it’s now very safe to say that Miss. State will no longer be in the AP Top 25 after dropping their first two SEC contests against unranked opponents.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 12, 2019
Not only did they lose to previously mentioned Ole Miss, but they also lost to a weird South Carolina team that is now 3-0 in conference play despite their 7-7 record on the season. Now the Bulldogs find their selves second-to-last place in the SEC with only Vanderbilt having a worse record (0-3).
It’s easy to predict that Mississippi State will bounce back and still find a way to 20 wins, but that doesn’t excuse this pathetic week for the Bulldogs. What’s even more frustrating is that both loses came by a combined nine total points.
Mississippi State was right there to easily take both games, but they couldn’t finish and are now at the bottom of the conference. This week will be huge for the program as they take on Florida and Vanderbilt which are two matchups they should win. If they don’t do so then it might be panic time for Ben Howland’s club.
4. Tennessee and LSU Keep Rolling
I’m combining both of these squads here because they were easily the most impressive this week outside of Ole Miss. The Volunteers took care of Missouri and Florida relatively easily while the Tigers handily defeated Alabama, and then won a thrilling overtime contest against Arkansas.
Despite a rough start to the game, Tennessee dominated the second half against the Gators despite being on the road which speaks to the overall toughness of the Volunteers. Star Grant Williams played well as he scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and successfully trolled the Florida student section which is a huge win in my book.
? Baby shark doo doo doo doo doo doo, baby shark doo doo doo doo doo doo ? pic.twitter.com/eJ5IDVUHY8
— Barstool Rocky Top (@BarstoolTenn) January 13, 2019
LSU also had a big guy play extremely well for them on Saturday in the form of freshman forward Naz Reid’s 27-point performance. Reid is one of the most interesting players in the SEC as he has the body to battle down low and the outside shot to knock down 30-footers with ease.
Despite playing much of the game in foul trouble, @NazReid had himself a game!
27 points, 7 rebounds and 4-for-4 from downtown, including this big time pick and pop overtime triple! pic.twitter.com/IAT97YrMkI
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) January 13, 2019
Everyone knows just how great Tennessee has looked this season, but I feel like the Tigers are very underappreciated. They have great overall team athleticism and talent with Reid and Tremont Waters leading the way. I think they will have a great shot at beating Ole Miss on Tuesday night in what should be one of the conference’s best games so far this year.
5. A Miracle Answered for the Aggies
Sometimes in college basketball you just get plain lucky, and that is exactly what happened to Texas A&M in their matchup with Alabama on Saturday.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 12, 2019
TJ Starks’ shot was incredibly contested and off-balanced, but yet it still managed to bank off the glass just right to give the Aggies their first SEC win of the season. Even more important is that the shot also got Texas A&M back to .500 on the season as they now sit at 7-7 overall.
Despite this being a rebuilding season for the Aggies they still play with a ton of heart. They managed to give Kentucky all they could handle in the first half and defeating a decent Alabama team on the road is no small task.
I still don’t see Texas A&M being all that successful in what is a rebuilding year for them, but if they keep playing with the heart that Starks (14.4 ppg) is playing with then the Aggies might just pull off a few more upsets.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©January 12th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Kentucky basketball has the late shift this evening, meaning the Big Blue Nation has had the opportunity to take in all of the impressive matchups in the lead-up to tip-off at 8:30 p.m. ET.
And goodness has it been a wild one.
We’ve seen upsets, game-winners, unexpected breakout performers, and everything in-between.
Let’s dive into the biggest games of the day.
Louisville defeats No. 12 North Carolina on the road
The biggest surprise of the day came in Chapel Hill when the Louisville Cardinals stormed into the Dean Dome and absolutely dominated against the Tar Heels.
In their third game in three days, Louisville came away with an 83-62 victory over the No. 12 team in the nation, giving head coach Roy Williams the largest home loss of his career.
Steven Enoch came off the bench to finish with 17 points on 7-13 shooting and 11 rebounds in the victory. Dwayne Sutton and Jordan Nwora also added 17 points in the victory for Louisville.
It was the battle of two evils, and the Cardinals came out on top.
Kansas State upsets No. 20 Iowa State
With 20 seconds remaining, Iowa State led Kansas State at home 57-54, and the game seemed all but set in the Cyclones’ favor.
And then Barry Brown Jr. had other ideas.
The star Wildcat got fouled and drilled two free throws to cut the lead to just one at the 16 seconds mark. Kansas State then fouled, Iowa State missed the free throw, and Brown led his team down the court for a game-winning layup with just four seconds remaining.
Take a look at the intense finish below:
INTENSE final sequence in Kansas State's win over No. 20 Iowa State ? pic.twitter.com/I41HhmEdc3
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 12, 2019
After defeating Kansas by 15 at home, Iowa State became a bit of a media darling. The Cyclones are now 0-2 since that win.
Ole Miss proves they are legit in a 81-77 victory over No. 14 Mississippi State
Before the season started, Ole Miss was predicted to finish dead last in the SEC.
After an upset victory over No. 14 Mississippi State this afternoon, the Rebels are now 13-2 with a pair of victories over top-15 opponents over the last week. And they should be ranked when the latest AP Poll is released on Monday.
Freshman guard Blake Hinson led the way with 26 points (8-16 shooting) and five rebounds, while junior guard Breein Tyree added 19 points and five assists in the victory.
Another day, another example of the SEC being ridiculous this season.
No. 1 Duke hits game-winner to avoid upset at No. 13 Florida State
In the only top-15 matchup of the day, college basketball fans were treated to an absolute gem… All the way up until the final seconds of the game.
After a back-and-forth for most of the way, Cam Reddish found himself wide open on the wing with just 2.8 seconds remaining, drilling a three with less than a second remaining to win the game 80-78.
CAM REDDISH! GAME-WINNER! pic.twitter.com/zNums3rKdK
— ESPN (@espn) January 12, 2019
Star freshman RJ Barrett led the way with 32 points (and zero assists) on 10-19 shooting, while Reddish added 23 points and five 3-pointers in the victory.
Zion Williamson was also poked in the eye and missed the majority of the second half, but it was still a slob fest from start to finish. And I hated every second of it
Let’s hope No. 18 Kentucky doesn’t join the madness when they take on 9-5 Vanderbilt this evening…
By Drew Franklin on ©January 10th, 2019 @ 2:10pm
Vanderbilt is Kentucky’s next opponent in the sport of men’s basketball and John Calipari’s Wildcats are catching Bryce Drew’s Commodores at a good time.
Vanderbilt was in Athens last night to take on the Georgia Bulldogs, which did not go well. At all. Georgia won that game by 19 points — the same Georgia team that lost by 46 at Tennessee last weekend.
After the game, Coach Drew was asked about playing Kentucky on Saturday and he said they won’t spend any time looking at Kentucky today; they will instead look back at all the things that went wrong against the Bulldogs.
“We’ll plant a seed,” Drew said. “And hopefully the harvests are coming soon.”
The problem there is Vandy’s seeds and harvests don’t have a lot of time before the Commodores make the trip to Lexington. Kentucky already has a one-day advantage by playing on Tuesday, plus the benefit of playing at home. So it’s the perfect opportunity for the Cats to get a dominant win with 40 minutes of good basketball, something we haven’t seen through the first two games of SEC play.
Vanderbilt is currently winless in the conference, having lost its first game to Ole Miss by 10 points at home. It’s just not the same team after the injury to star point guard Darius Garland, who is out for the entire season after leading the team in scoring through five games.
Let’s win big. It’ll really make BBN happy.
Maybe the old adage, Winning on the road in the SEC isn’t easy, is true after all.
Kentucky was reminded of that fun fact last Saturday when the Cats dropped a game at Alabama as a five-point favorite. Then last night, Auburn, another contender for the SEC crown, dropped a game as a four-point favorite at Ole Miss.
The Rebels actually whooped up on the 11th-ranked Tigers, 82-67, in a surprising upset. Ole Miss’s Terence Davis went for 27 points and 12 rebounds as his team moved to 12-2 on the season and 2-0 in conference play under new head coach Kermit Davis (no relation to Terence, as far as I know). The Rebels lost 20 games in 2017-18.
Now we just need Tennessee to drop one it’s not supposed to and the presumed top three teams in the conference are all square again. However, some other SEC teams, like Ole Miss, are making some noise of their own. It’s going to be a battle this year.
The College Football Season finally ended as the Clemson Tigers easily defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide on Monday by a score of 44-16. So how did each SEC team fair overall this season? Below are my final grades and analysis for every squad in the conference for 2018-19.
Final Grade: A-
The Crimson Tide were without question the best team in the SEC this season. That is not up for debate. What is up for debate is defining the success of this Alabama team. On one hand, the Crimson Tide were ranked No. 1 for basically the entire season, dominated all their opponents expect for Georgia, and were SEC Champions once again.
But on the other hand, Alabama was greatly embarrassed in front of a national audience on Monday as they were dominated in the National Championship Game. That simply does not happen to Nick Saban ever.
The last coach to beat Alabama by 16+ was Nick Saban at LSU.
— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) January 8, 2019
That’s why despite the Crimson Tide’s mostly dominate year, I cannot give Saban’s squad anything higher than an A-. While this one massive failure does not define this team, it is still a failure for a program that expects national titles with its incredible pool of talent.
What’s most concerning is the feeling that most people had in Santa Clara last night. Every time Alabama drops a game the public always asks, “Is Saban’s dynasty finally over?” And every time those people look like fools for asking that. However, last night was very, very different.
What happened tonight completely changes the story of this entire college football era. A year from now there may not be a changing of the guard so much as a realization we were witnessing the age of #ClemsonFootball the whole time. #ClemsonAlabama #NationalChampionshipGame
— Max Kellerman (@maxkellerman) January 8, 2019
Day after with Clemson: "I definitely think it was a changing of the guard tonight," per Austin Bryant. https://t.co/2mnuN9khEY
— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) January 8, 2019
Only time will tell if this title game was a changing of the guard in college football as you can never count out Alabama and Nick Saban. But for now, Clemson and Dabo Swinney unquestionably sit atop of the college football world.
Final Grade: A-
The first thing you are probably thinking to yourself is, “How can I give Texas A&M the same grade that I gave Alabama?” Well it has everything to do with expectations and what each team did with those expectations. The Crimson Tide had arguably the most talented team in the sport and failed to win a championship while the Aggies were supposed to be in a rebuilding year and placed second in the SEC West.
Yes, the Aggies lost four games on the season. However, that included three incredibly tough road games against Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State which are three teams that have more talent than Texas A&M had this season. Plus, they managed to give Clemson the best game the Tigers played in all year as the Aggies fell 28-26.
Jimbo Fisher led the Aggies to their best possible season given their absurdly tough schedule and the fact that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year in College Station. Add in their crushing 52-13 bowl victory over a talented NC State team, and you have a very successful season.
The momentum Fisher and the Aggies have going into the 2019 season is at an all-time high as most of their starters return and they add one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Buy stock now in Texas A&M. The Aggies are on the come-up.
Here's your Top 25 for next CFB season!
11 Texas A&M
21 Miss St
22 Where Jalen Hurts is
— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: B+
The Tigers are a very hard team to grade. They did win their first five games on the season and shot up the rankings. They were picked to finish on the lower side of the SEC West, but they managed to beat those expectations as they placed third in their Division. If you had told me before the season started, they would finish 10-3 with a New Year’s Bowl victory, I would have been surprised.
However, a deeper analysis of their season reveals some complex issues. A huge reason why they shot up the rankings is because they throttled a Miami team that everyone overrated before the season started.
They were very lucky to beat Auburn as they did so on a last-second field goal, they looked bad against a lesser Florida team, got utterly embarrassed by Alabama at home, and they only beat UCF by eight points with the Knights not having their best player in program history.
Nevertheless, LSU’s season is still a surprising success. However, they had some rough games, and if it wasn’t for some good luck they would have finished fourth or fifth in the West. As long as Ed Orgeron is still in Baton Rouge, the future is still looking good for the Tigers.
"He lived out his childhood dream. His dream was to be an LSU head football coach."
John Battle says Ed Orgeron isn't only coaching the Tigers, he's doing it at a high level. pic.twitter.com/lztMWEj1r5
— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) January 4, 2019
Final Grade C-
The Bulldogs were a very trendy pick in the preseason to finish second in the West. Many picked quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and company to be in a New Year’s Six Bowl. However, Miss. State finished fourth in their division and finished with a mediocre 8-5 record after losing to Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
That’s a pretty disappointing season despite some bright spots. The Bulldogs basically wasted Fitzgerald’s last season in Starkville and many of their NFL prospects on defense will probably be leaving for the Draft.
However, I can’t give Miss. State a failing grade considering their strong wins over Auburn and Texas A&M. This was a very talented team this season that was just too wildly inconsistent due to a new head coach in town and inconsistent quarterback play. Losing to Iowa also stalls all momentum going into next year. Watch out for Head Coach Joe Moorhead to possibly end up on the hot seat by 2020.
Final Grade: C
The Tigers are really in the same league as Mississippi State here. Auburn was the favorite to finish second in the West, but they instead finished fifth which is a *really* bad look. Add in the fact they lost five SEC games this season and man does Gus Malzahn have some questions to answer.
In fact, the only reason I gave them a higher grade than the Bulldogs is because of their legendary beatdown Purdue in the Music City Bowl. Winning the last game of the season 63-14 gives this program momentum heading into next season no matter how disappointing the year was.
Like Miss. State, the Tigers wasted their final season with their talented quarterback (Jarret Stidham) and now they will have to find someone to lead the program behind center in 2019.
Heading into next season, Malzahn will have a mountain of pressure on him. After an up-and-down year, boosters will be expecting a better finish, or he might be on his way out of Auburn. It’s one of the most interesting storylines in the SEC heading into next season.
Since 2015, 8 teams have started ranked in preseason Top 10 & finished year unranked. Of the 8, Mark Richt & Gus Malzahn are only coaches to do so twice. Richt (2015 at UGA & 2018 at UM), Malzahn (2015 & 2018 at Auburn)
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: D+
The Rebels were on a postseason ban this season, so this was mostly a year to give young players a lot of reps and valuable experience. Despite having a very talented quarterback, one of the best receiving cores in college football, and a running back who totaled over 1,000 yards from scrimmage Ole Miss still finished with a losing record (5-7).
It’s all because the Rebels’ defense might have been the worst in all of the SEC. Giving up 482 yards of offense per game speaks for itself. One has to wonder where exactly Ole Miss goes from here. Gone are stars Jordan Ta’amu and A.J. Brown. Who will step up offensively, and can the defense improve at all?
One decent starting point is the hiring of Rich Rodriguez has offensive coordinator and Mike MacIntyre as defensive coordinator. Both are former national head coaches of the year so who knows what next year will bring. It just needs to be better than this disappointing season.
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) January 3, 2019
Final Grade: F
It’s pretty easy to write about a team that went 0-8 in conference play and 2-10 overall. The Razorbacks stunk all over the field this season. Offensively they were pitiful, and their defense couldn’t stop anyone.
This was a disastrous season that deserves the bare minimum of words written about it. Teams that are this bad deserve to be forgotten forever. Hopefully something may go right next season for Arkansas, because there is no place to go but up from here.
Final Grade: B+
The Bulldogs were easily the most frustrating team to grade out of the 14 squads in the SEC. Except for a strange no-show against LSU, Georgia dominated their SEC opponents in the regular season.
Then we all know what happened next. They gave Alabama an amazing game in the SEC Championship, but they fell just short of a victory and a playoff bid. Considering that Clemson proved that the Crimson Tide were not all that great, I am giving exactly zero brownie points to the Bulldogs for giving them a close game. Throw in the fact that they were beaten because of one of the worst play calls ever and this defeat is unforgivable.
Georgia Athletics recent history:
– Lose SEC title game on a fake punt to keep 5 star QB
– 5 Star QB transfers as result
– Lose to UT jr, while their beloved mascot becomes national joke
– Lose half their roster to NFL Draft
– Lose by FOURTY-SIX in SEC opener
— Cody Conrad (@cody__conrad) January 6, 2019
Georgia then performed terribly and got blown out by a decent Texas team. Quite frankly, I do not accept the excuse that “their hearts were not in it.” I could write an entire article about why that excuse is not adequate for ANY team, but the fact that we are at that point speaks for itself.
The season ended so badly for the Bulldogs that their most talented overall player (Justin Fields) up and transferred to Ohio State. Look, I think Jake Fromm is a great college quarterback, but I truly think Fields is the more talented player. The fact that Kirby Smart couldn’t figure out how to make him happy is embarrassing to say the least.
Georgia was oh so very close to receiving an A+ on this season. But bad decisions and no-shows led to an abysmal ending of what should have been a great overall year. Take your B+ and do better next season.
Final Grade: A-
Yes, Georgia slaughtered Kentucky in the regular season which may make you wonder why I gave the Wildcats a better grade. It has everything to do with how each team performed with the talent they had at hand. The Bulldogs ended the season about as bad as they possibly could, while the Wildcats were the absolute best versions of their selves this year.
Seriously, if you had told me that the Wildcats would finish 10-3 after winning the Citrus Bowl over Penn State by only passing for an average of 161.5 passing yards per game, I would have laughed in your face.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened in Lexington. Every single week the Wildcats manage to prove me wrong. Josh Allen developed into a superstar before our very eyes and Benny Snell Jr. went down as the most loved player in recent memory for Kentucky fans.
The scary thing is that the Wildcats were just one incredibly strange defeat to Tennessee and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Texas A&M to being in the conversation for the playoff. That speaks for itself. This is the best Kentucky team I have seen in my lifetime, and they finally put some respect on the SEC East’s name. This was a season that will not be soon forgotten by Big Blue Nation.
After a historic 10-3 season, Kentucky is No. 11 in the final @AmwayUS Coaches Poll!
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) January 8, 2019
Final Grade: A-
Florida is back folks. I have been trying to tell people since I analyzed the Gators during the preseason all the way back in July. I told everyone that Florida would at the very least double their win total from last season and everyone mocked the idea to no surprise.
Well I think it’s safe to say that the Gators got the last laugh as they blew out Michigan in a New Year’s Six Bowl to finish 10-3 on the season. For a team that only won four contests in 2017, the lowest possible grade they could possibly receive is exactly what I gave them.
They lost to Kentucky mostly since Head Coach Dan Mullen was still trying to figure out what he had with this new team, they lost to Georgia because the Bulldogs were just the better team, and, like the Wildcats, they had a bizarre loss which was to Missouri.
Besides these hiccups, everything went right for the bounce-back team of the year. Because of their fantastic hiring of an all-around good head coach in Mullen, the Gators can finally get back to the days of Tebow and Chris Leak.
Mark my words now folks, Georgia and Kentucky will have their hands full with the Florida Gators next season.
It’s great to be a Florida Gator pic.twitter.com/ZuCTcTUhBq
— Dan Mullen (@CoachDanMullen) January 6, 2019
Final Grade: D+
I could care less that the Gamecocks finished with a winning record (7-6), this was a bad football this season and I stand by that opinion.
Besides a decent victory over Vanderbilt and a lucky win over Missouri, South Carolina defeated the following teams in 2018: Coastal Carolina, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Chattanooga, and Akron. In other words, the Gamecocks did not beat single team that finished the season ranked in the AP top-25 poll.
To make matters even worse, South Carolina was absolutely embarrassed by an incredibly average Virginia team in their bowl game. Losing 28-0 to an average ACC team is what it is. The Gamecocks will enter the 2019 season with absolutely no momentum. This year was so incredibly forgettable that it may end up hurting this team’s development.
With an absurdly hard schedule next season, look out for rumblings against Head Coach Will Muschamp. Things could get bad in a hurry, and we all know how quickly things can change for head coaches in the SEC.
South Carolina’s 2019 Schedule = BRUTAL
What will their record be? pic.twitter.com/Un7ZEsNMas
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) January 4, 2019
Final Grade: B-
This is another example of the transitive property not being a true indicator of overall program morale. Yes, South Carolina defeated the Tigers in the regular season, however the way Missouri ended its season was considerably better than how the Gamecocks did.
Even with a very close bowl game loss, the Tigers scored at least 30 points in their last five games which led to a 4-1 record. That stretch included a very impressive win on the road against Florida where Missouri won 38-17.
Despite a strange loss to South Carolina and a very unlucky defeat at the hands of Kentucky, the Tigers did everything right in Drew Lock’s last season. Now with the addition of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant by means of transfer, Missouri seems to be locked and loaded for another good year in 2019. Things did not go exactly right in 2018, but head coach Kevin Odom has solidified a program that can beat anyone on any given Saturday.
— College Football (@holidayhqteam) December 5, 2018
Final Grade: C+
For the third straight season the Commodores finished with seven losses. That fact alone prohibits this team from earning anything higher than a C+ in my book. Vanderbilt defeated every team that they should have beaten, but they also didn’t beat anyone they should not have beaten.
However, winning three out of their last four SEC games on the season is very noteworthy. Head Coach Derek Mason entered the year on the hot seat, and he will be entering 2019 still with his job. That’s a success within itself.
Besides a heart-breaking bowl defeat to Baylor, the Commodores ended their season on a very high note. Now with one of the program’s best all-time quarterbacks leaving in Kyle Shurmur, the pressure will be on Mason and the rest of the program to finally break through and lose less than seven games. While that may end up being a tall task, they had a decent enough season to have hope for 2019. Hope is sometimes all a program needs.
Final Grade: C+
I put the Volunteers right there with Vanderbilt. Tennessee just came off one of its worst seasons ever in 2017 after they failed to win a single SEC game. But with the hiring of Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt, the Volunteers were able to turn things around a bit in 2018. While they still had a losing season (5-7), Pruitt led Tennessee to huge upset victories over Auburn (on the road) and Kentucky.
These victories showcased that there is still talent in Knoxville, and Pruitt may just be the coach to revive this program once he gets a fair amount of time at Tennessee.
With a losing record and no bowl appearance I can’t give the Volunteers anything higher than an average grade. But considering how honestly terrible Tennessee was in 2017, blatantly average is something fans in Knoxville will gladly take. Also, the Volunteers managed to pull offensive coordinator Jim Chaney away from Georgia for the same position. This is a massive upgrade for Tennessee and step in the right direction to say the least.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) January 9, 2019
I’ve had a blast writing this weekly SEC column this college football season. This was another incredibly fun season to analyze and write about. Hopefully, you found some enjoyment in these articles as I know I had a blast writing them.
Overall, I think the SEC showed why it’s still one of the best conferences in college football this season despite a 6-6 bowl record and an embarrassing National Championship defeat. This conference still has the most overall talent and best storylines in the sport, and I think that’s something we can all agree on.
By John Reecer on ©January 06th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
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.
The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines from the conference’s performance through bowl season so far.
1. Alabama Solidifies Their Greatness
Everyone knows Nick Saban’s squad is a great team, but they still must take care of business in the playoff in order to go down as one of the best teams ever. As expected, the Crimson Tide did just that on Saturday night as they defeated Oklahoma with relative ease.
Just like every other game this season, Alabama got off to a fast start. In fact, their first quarter was so dominant that it immediately got the meme treatment from the internet.
— ESPN (@espn) December 30, 2018
BREAKING: OU has filed assault charges on Alabama RB Josh Jacobs for destroying this poor Sooners defender. pic.twitter.com/WWYvjHOSb5
— Auburn Jokes® (@TheAuburnJokes) December 30, 2018
The game did turn into a bit of a shootout in the second half which was expected considering the talent each team has a quarterback. But Tua Tagovailoa outdueled Kyler Murray as the Hawaiian threw for more touchdowns then incompletions.
Now the Crimson Tide have yet another date with the Clemson Tigers in the Championship Game. I’m expecting a much better game between these two teams than what we got last year as the defensive line for the Tigers could cause a lot of problems for Tua. Plus, if freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence plays like he did against Notre Dame, then Clemson should win.
That is of course easier said than done. No matter who wins the championship one thing is for certain: Alabama and Clemson dominate college football and everyone else is just a pretender.
Wins in the last 4 CFP
Everyone else: 0
— Jeff Fischel (@JeffFischel) December 30, 2018
2. Florida Is Back
Just about all of Big Blue Nation is upset that Florida is ranked higher than the Wildcats despite both teams having the same record and Kentucky won the head-to-head matchup. However, Florida proved their worth on Saturday by absolutely thrashing Michigan.
In two bowl games so far (Auburn-Purdue, Florida-Michigan) with two more to play (Mississippi State-Iowa, Kentucky-Penn State), the score is:
BIG TEN: 29 pic.twitter.com/UGRUCRjCu6
— Josh Vitale (@JoshVitale) December 29, 2018
Some context is key here. Arguably Michigan’s three best players all sat out this bowl game and another talented player was out with an injury. However, even with the Wolverines not being 100% a thrashing is still a thrashing.
The SEC has completely dominated the Big Ten so far this bowl season which isn’t the biggest surprise. All eyes will be on Kentucky on New Year’s Day to see if they can keep that trend going against Penn State.
Also, do not underestimate just how good of a coach Dan Mullen really is. Just look at the work he did with Feleipe Franks this year. It’s nothing short of amazing.
Florida QB Felipe Franks 1st 9 games: 16 TDs, 6 INTs
Last 4 games: 8 TDs, 0 INTs
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 29, 2018
Mullen has completely turned around Florida and I think they will be the favorite to challenge Georgia next year for the SEC East title.
3. Someone Might Need to Check on Purdue
.@AuburnFootball: 6?3? points vs Purdue
The most points by an SEC team in a bowl game … ever. pic.twitter.com/lcpHNmVaot
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 28, 2018
Yikes. What’s even scarier than getting beat 63-14 you may ask? How about losing at halftime by a score of 56-7? That’s exactly what happened in the Music City Bowl where Auburn absolutely annihilated the Boilermakers in the worst beat down of the year in college football.
I already covered just how bad the Big Ten has gotten stomped by the SEC so far, but it needs to be pointed out again considering this final score here really plays into it a lot.
While it is true that Auburn had an incredibly disappointing season, this ended their year on an extremely high note. Head Coach Gus Malzahn will enter 2019 on the hot seat, and with their first game coming against Oregon things could get ugly in a hurry especially considering that Jarrett Stidham is going to the NFL.
Auburn fans will undoubtedly mark this as a season to forget, but their performance against Purdue reminds us that the talent to be great is there. The Tigers just have to figure out a way to consistently be great.
4. South Carolina Forgets How to Play Football
Not everything has been sunshine and roses for the SEC so far this bowl season. South Carolina got embarrassed by Virginia of all teams as the Gamecocks were shutout in a 28-0 beatdown.
Does anyone else remember when South Carolina was the darling of the media in the preseason? I think it’s safe to say that besides Auburn, the Gamecocks were easily the most overrated team this year in the SEC.
The only decent team that South Carolina beat this season was Missouri. The rest of their victories were against bad mid-major squads, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee. Now add in this embarrassment at the hands of an incredibly mediocre ACC team and you get a football team that is simply not good.
South Carolina (7-6) beat one FBS team with a winning record this season.
— Brad Crawford (@BCrawford247) December 29, 2018
As for next season, I expect much of the same for the Gamecocks. They will probably be mediocre once again and somehow still get into a bowl game. This is just a really strange program that can’t get away from the painful state of being nowhere close to terrible and nowhere close to good.
5. What the SEC Needs to Do Next
The conference still has seven games left this bowl season so there is a lot of work to do. In order to maintain its position as the best conference in college football the SEC needs to go at worst 5-2 in these matchups with Alabama winning the championship.
That would have the conference’s bowl record at 8-4 with a National Championship. That would easily put the SEC as this season’s best conference without a close second in sight.
In my opinion, I think that will be a pretty easy finish for the SEC to achieve considering that the conference is favored in all their remaining bowl games with the exception of the Penn State-Kentucky matchup.
The only other slipups I can foresee would be Missouri against Oklahoma State and Alabama against Clemson. Even if the worst happens for the SEC and they lose all three of the previously mentioned games, the SEC still has a strong case for the best conference as everyone else has just been lacking this season. Either way, this should turn out to be another great bowl season for the SEC.
By John Reecer on ©December 23rd, 2018 @ 2:00pm
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 December 23.)
1. Kentucky’s Huge Win
On Saturday night the Wildcats got a mammoth win in the CBS Sports Classic over the 9th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. The victory is without a doubt the best of the season so far for Kentucky whose best win was previously over a 6-5 Utah team.
The Tar Heels are a massively talented basketball club as they previously defeated one of the top teams in the nation in Gonzaga just a few days before last night’s defeat.
What exactly made things so different for both ball clubs in Chicago on Saturday? It has everything to do with point guard play. Simply put, Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans played the best game of his career and UNC’s Coby White played his worst.
Despite Hagan’s only notching seven points in the affair, he managed to record eight steals as he completely changed the game with his defense.
This right here is the difference between Kentucky now and three weeks ago. https://t.co/FG3ccbsAsC
— John Wilmhoff (@JohnWilmhoff) December 23, 2018
Ashton Hagans steal and alley oop to PJ Washington for the slam. pic.twitter.com/qiqyw6lpGY
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 22, 2018
Through 11 games this season it appears that the Wildcats have finally found their rotation. Reid Travis and Keldon Johnson are the leaders on offense while P.J. Washington does everything on both sides of the floor. Herro is the team’s designated sharpshooter (once he improves his efficiency), and Hagans is the defense stalwart who also paces Kentucky.
Quickly, Richards, Montgomery and Baker will be asked to contribute crucial minutes throughout the season as all four are very talented in their own right. This is who the Wildcats are this season. If Herro can consistently hit three pointers (29% so far) and if Hagans can make a leap similar to what Gilgeous-Alexander made last year, then UK will be one of the best teams in the nation in 2019.
Great team win ?? https://t.co/O4Xq3jD1RH
— Reid Travis (@2ReidTravis2) December 23, 2018
2. Bone Powers Tennessee
Elsewhere in the SEC, the Volunteers manage to win both their games this week as they continue to look like the toast of the conference. They beat a poor Samford team by 13 and a decent Wake Forest squad by 19 points.
Of course, the duo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are two of the best players in the nation. The duo will be taking the spotlight as possibly the best duo in the entire country. However, it’s the emergence of a third Volunteer this week that I have my eye on.
Junior point guard Jordan Bone is Tennessee’s third leading scorer on the season at 14.1 points per game. He has caught fire in his last three games as he has notched 17, 24, and 18 points, respectively.
However, it’s not just his scoring that’s caught my attention. Bone is currently third in the SEC in assists per game with 6.2, and he only averages two turnovers a game which makes for one of the best assist/turnover ratios in the conference.
#Vols’ Jordan Bone: If anybody on our team isn’t in a groove, that’s my fault, too. I’m the point guard. That’s my job, to get everybody in a groove.
— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) December 22, 2018
Final: #3 Tennessee wins 83-70 over Samford in the first of three games to wrap up December.
Jordan Bone scores a career high 24 points with 11 assists for the double-double to lead the #Vols.
— FOX Sports Knoxville (@FOXSportsKnox) December 20, 2018
Williams and Schofield will consistently be great for Tennessee. But if Bone can emerge as that third star at point guard for the Volunteers, it will greatly improve the Volunteers’ chances to make a huge run in March.
3. Mississippi State Sits Atop the SEC
Many people don’t realize this but the team with the best record in the SEC is the No. 17 Mississippi State Bulldogs. Ben Howland’s team currently sits at 11-1 overall on the season with their one loss coming against a very talented Arizona State team.
While they haven’t beaten a ranked team just yet, they do have solid victories over Clemson and Cincinnati. Their success is dependent on all-around team play considering that their starting five all averages double figures in scoring per game.
Despite the Bulldogs being solid all-around, they are led by star Quinndary Weatherspoon who leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game (5th in the SEC).
Howland’s team will close out non-conference play against BYU before traveling to South Carolina to open SEC play. Their first game against a ranked opponent will be when they travel to Lexington to take on Kentucky on Jan. 22. The Bulldogs performance in that game will showcase to the country just how for real Mississippi State is.
4. Auburn Falls Back Down to Earth
Not everything was all good in the SEC this week. In one of the biggest upsets in college basketball this season NC State defeated Bruce Pearl’s Auburn squad 78-71 on Wednesday night. Star guard Bryce Brown only had three points in the contest which is the biggest reason why the Tigers lost.
At the time they were ranked No. 7 in the country but now after the defeat expect the Tigers to be ranked just a few spots ahead of Kentucky when the latest polls emerge.
The Wolfpack were not the only team to give Auburn fits this week as Murray State gave the Tigers all they could handle on Saturday. The Racers only lost to Auburn by a final score of 93-88. Head my words carefully folks: Murray State will be a dangerous team come March.
Why exactly are the Racers so good? Well, its because they quite possibly have the best basketball player in the entire state in star guard Ja Morant (ducks for cover). The electrifying guard is slated as a Top-10 pick in the next NBA Draft as he averages 23 points per game, 9.3 assists per game, and 7 rebounds per game.
This was such a sweet find by Ja Morant pic.twitter.com/vUHBsXVpwj
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) December 22, 2018
Oh yeah, back to Auburn. Anyways, I think the Tigers will be just fine. However, their loss to NC State showcased that they are very dependent on Brown to be a dominant scorer. If he can be neutralized then the Tigers are open to be beaten by any decent team in the conference.
5. Kermit Davis Beats His Old Team
One of the best stories from the SEC so far this season has been the start to the season by Ole Miss. After winning just 12 games last season, the Rebels are off to a 9-2 start already in 2018.
Sure, Ole Miss hasn’t earned a marquee win yet but that’s a drastic improvement from last season’s disaster. The big difference between seasons has been the departure of former head coach Andy Kennedy and the arrival of coach Kermit Davis.
Davis has been a breath of fresh air for the Rebels as he just recently defeated his old ball club in Middle Tennessee 74-56 this week. Sophomore guard Breein Tyree powers the Rebels as his 17.6 points per game is third in the SEC.
Tyree has been on fire recently as he has scored at least twenty points in four of his last five games (all wins for Ole Miss). You might remember Tyree from this memorable moment from last season:
The jury is still out on if the Rebels will be a consistently solid SEC team in conference play, but if Tyree keeps playing like he is now then things should be just fine in Oxford.
By John Reecer on ©December 16th, 2018 @ 2:30pm
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 so far from the first month of play.
1. Tennessee’s Dynamic Duo
No team in the SEC has looked as good as the Volunteers have so far. In the most up-to-date rankings Tennessee is ranked as the No. 3 team in the country. This comes in large part because of their huge win over previously No. 1 Gonzaga.
Their only loss on the year came in a crazy environment at Kansas by just six points (in a game that was terribly officiated). So how did the Volunteers turn into a college basketball powerhouse?
They have Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. That’s how.
— The Ringer (@ringer) December 13, 2018
Tennessee's Admiral Schofield big time balling against Gonzaga with 27 points pic.twitter.com/iiE7q4Qt7O
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) December 9, 2018
This duo is quite frankly the best in college basketball outside of Duke’s Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Both are skilled behemoths standing near 6’7 and weighing around 240 pounds. What makes them so dangerous is that they are completely different players.
Schofield is an excellent outside shooter and Williams chews opposing defenses up with an imposing inside game. They have gradually improved over the past few year and now they reached the peak of their abilities as they combine to average 37.8 points and 15.3 rebounds per game.
This duo will wreak havoc on the SEC once conference play starts. The only way to defeat Tennessee this season will be figuring out to guard these two excellent players. That is easier said than done.
2. Kentucky Tries to Regain its Swagger.
The Wildcats have had quite the disappointing start to the season after one month of play. Kentucky was picked by many to win it all, but now John Calipari’s team finds their selves at No. 19 in the latest AP ranking (at of time of publication).
Not only did an unranked Seton Hall team best the Wildcats in overtime, but they also suffered what has been the most embarrassing defeat of the year when Duke demolished UK in the Champions Classic.
Now with the announcement of Quade Green’s transfer many are saying that Kentucky has momentarily lost its famous swagger. The great news is that it is only December and there is plenty of time to regroup.
Thankfully for BBN, the Wildcats came out last night and actually hit numerous jump shots in their blowout win against Utah. Their woes from beyond the arc were very well-documented last season, and Kentucky hasn’t been much better this season.
That changed on Saturday night. Keldon Johnson caught fire and hit six three-pointers, Tyler Herro at times looked like his old Bahamas self, and most importantly THERE WAS A JEMARL BAKER SIGHTING!!!
Jemarl Baker with his first basket in a Kentucky uniform. pic.twitter.com/IaU8iY85yt
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 15, 2018
That jumper was so incredibly fluid and smooth. Who knows what exactly UK will get from Baker. But if he can be a reliable three-point shooter (think Doron Lamb) it would be HUGE for the Wildcats floor spacing. Plus, it would ease some pressure off of Herro. This might (emphasis on might) be something, folks.
3. Auburn’s Dominant Backcourt
Like Tennessee, Auburn has jumped out to a very strong start this season thanks in large part to a duo of their own. Different from the Volunteers, the Tigers’ duo is in the backcourt.
Guards Bryce Brown and Jared Harper have been stellar this season. Brown is a true go-to scorer and big-time shot maker while Harper is an electric point guard who is a talented passer (6.8 assists per game).
The two give Auburn what has been bar-none the best backcourt so far in the conference. This was on full display when the Tigers went up against Duke in the Maui Tournament and gave the Blue Devils all they could handle.
Auburn started with some fireworks! Gotta come hard at Duke
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) November 21, 2018
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Take whatever PG you want, I'll take Jared Harper seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Best PG in the SEC.
Auburn over UAB.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) December 16, 2018
Despite eventually falling to Duke, Auburn gave the Blue Devils a much better game than Kentucky did, and I do think that is meaningful. Come tournament time you need elite play from your guards if you need to go far, and luckily for Bruce Pearl’s squad they have that at the moment.
4. Gafford Powers the Razorbacks
In the running for best player in the SEC along with Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Bryce Brown is Arkansas big man Daniel Gafford. In case you did not know, Gafford is a borderline lottery pick who can at times look like a future all-star.
Of course, he is not as good as the comparison made in the title of that video, but don’t underestimate just how good Gafford is. He has the range and athleticism to change a game at the rim on offense and defense.
Thanks to Gafford’s strong start (18.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg) the Razorbacks are off to a 7-2 start which includes a big win over Indiana. Their defeats have been to two very capable teams in Texas and Western Kentucky so it’s safe to say at the moment that Arkansas is going to be a tough out for any team.
Also, freshman guard Isaiah Joe has had a fantastic start to the season as he is averaging a head-turning 16.5 ppg on 46% shooting from beyond the arc. If Gafford and Joe continue to improve throughout the year, then the Razorbacks could cause some havoc in the SEC.
5. A Very Strong Start for the Conference
Overall, the conference as a whole is off to a great start this season. Tennessee and Auburn look like legitimate final four contenders, Kentucky still has a ton of talent despite a less-than-desirable start, and Mississippi State 9-1 and ranked nationally.
Couple those four legitimately solid teams with really athletic squads like Arkansas, LSU, Alabama, and even Vanderbilt and you have a very good basketball conference.
At one time the SEC was the butt of a lot of jokes from the national media. It used to be just the conference that Kentucky dominated every year. While UK is still really talented, other programs have finally closed the gap.
There's a new No. 1 in the Power 36! ?
1. Michigan ??2??
2. Tennessee ??5??
3. Gonzaga ??2??
4. Virginia ??2??
7. Kansas ??3??
9. Michigan State
10. Texas Tech ??3??
11-36. ? https://t.co/w2h33elFIa pic.twitter.com/dOvJi811dt
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 10, 2018
What does this mean for Kentucky? Well it means that there is a real chance the Wildcats could struggle in January and into the start of February. Conference play will be tough at first, but the good news is that time and talent are both still on UK’s side. Just be prepared for some bumps along the road.
By KSR on ©December 13th, 2018 @ 11:30am
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