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SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Regular Season Concludes

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 March 10, 2019.)

1. The Situation in Baton Rouge

Thanks to the actions of Head Coach Will Wade, the amazingly successful season for the LSU Tigers has been completely tainted. News broke on Thursday from Yahoo! Sports that Wade had been caught on an FBI wiretap discussing payments to potential recruits.

The school has since suspended their head coach indefinitely, and freshman guard Javonte Smart (who is also linked to FBI wiretaps) sat out Saturday night’s game against Vanderbilt. The Tigers just won their first SEC Regular Season Championship, but this season could not have ended any worse than it has for LSU.

Look, I have zero time nor patience for this situation. Quite frankly, every fan of college basketball is sick and tired of recruiting scandal after recruiting scandal. What’s even more aggravating is that schools are continuing to somehow mishandle these situations

LSU, your coach is on an FBI wiretap discussing a “strong-ass offer” to a recruit. HOW IS HE STILL EMPLOYED BY YOUR UNIVERSITY??? I get that Wade is a great coach and that you are having your best season in years, but at least have a little integrity about this.

I get that I’m writing for a pro-Kentucky site, and that I might look spiteful considering that LSU defeated the Wildcats earlier this season. But just imagine for one second that this was John Calipari instead of Will Wade. How would you feel about the situation then, LSU?

Cut the cord now while you still have time to recuperate in time for the NCAA Tournament. As a fan of college basketball, get rid of this cheater and let the players focus on the postseason. Those student athletes deserve better.

2. Auburn’s Big Win

Now, on to more positive things.

Auburn finally got that huge win they have been searching for all season long on Saturday. They managed to defeat the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers on Senior Day in an amazing college basketball environment.

The win is even more important considering that it gave the Tigers the fifth seed in the SEC Tournament where they will have to play the winner of Missouri-Georgia. We will get more into the bracket later, but obviously it seems like Auburn will be advancing past that round with ease.

This was previously a very disappointing season for the Tigers. On February 23rd, Auburn had just gotten embarrassed by Kentucky as they fell to 18-9 overall and 7-7 in SEC play. Since then, they have reeled have four straight conference victories which includes wins over Tennessee, Miss. State, and Alabama.

Don’t forget how dangerous the Tigers can be when they are hitting their jump shots. Plus, this is still a very talented basketball club that was picked as a top-10 team in the preseason. Keep an eye on Auburn in the SEC Tournament. They may be getting ready for a huge run.

3. Wildcats Overcome Adversity

Since the injury to Reid Travis, Kentucky has taken a small step back. Without his physical presence inside on both ends of the floor, the Wildcats are simply not as dangerous. But that not does not mean Kentucky is not still a good basketball team.

Despite an absolute no-show against Tennessee on March 2, the Wildcats managed to close out the regular season with gutsy wins over two teams (Ole Miss and Florida) who were badly in need of victories.

How did UK fill the void left by Travis? Well, Tyler Herro playing the best basketball of his life is a pretty solid start. The freshman notched 20 points against Ole Miss, and against the Gators he led the Wildcats in scoring with 16 points. Sorry to say this everyone, but I don’t think he is coming back for another season.

Overall, Kentucky closes out their regular season 26-5 overall and 15-3 in SEC Play. Remember when the Wildcats were 10-3 and still reeling off that national embarrassment to Duke? This has pretty much been the best possible season you could have asked for at that point. Now, UK goes into the SEC Tournament looking for three more wins and a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.

You could not possibly ask for any more than that.

4. Will Alabama and Florida Go Dancing?

The Crimson Tide and the Gators have been squarely on Bubble Watch for the past few weeks now, and this week featured some of their last chances to make an impression on the committee.

Sadly, they completely wasted some prime opportunities. Both Alabama and Georgia dropped each of their games this week as they fell to 17-14 on the season. On March 8th, Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s Bracketology had Florida just in the tournament as an 11 seed, and Alabama was among his “last four in” group.

I think it’s safe to say that both squad’s NCAA Tournament hopes are in serious jeopardy now. Their performance in the SEC Tournament will surely dictate if they make it into the big dance. Florida has a pretty easy draw against Arkansas in the 8 vs. 9 game. Then they will have to play LSU. Alabama on the other hand plays a talented Ole Miss team in the 7-10 matchup, and then the winner will play Kentucky.

Personally, neither team can afford to lose their first game. A loss would put them at 17-15 which is just plain bad. Its even worse once you consider that Belmont losing the OVC Championship means that the bubble is getting that much smaller.  My prediction is that Florida will make the tournament, and that there will be a lot of sad Alabama fans come selection Sunday.

5. SEC Tournament Preview

This year’s SEC Tournament is shaping up to be a classic. It’s a field that features three teams currently ranked in the top 10 and another 5-6 very talented ball clubs.

I believe that the best chance for upsets will be in the top half of the bracket. Considering that the Gators recently lost to LSU by one point, they for sure have the firepower to pull off an upset in the quarterfinals if they meet each other. Also, Auburn will be a pretty big favorite against South Carolina if the Tigers beat the winner of Missouri-Georgia (which they will).

I see all chalk in the bottom half of the bracket. A potential Mississippi State-Tennessee matchup in the quarterfinals would be interesting, but the Volunteers should take care of business. Also, I think that Kentucky should be fine against the winner of Ole Miss-Alabama.

That gives us the final four of Florida/LSU, Auburn, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Personally, I like how hot Auburn is right now, and I like their path to the championship. Then I think the winner of Kentucky-Tennessee will be defeat Auburn and be your SEC Tournament Champion.

But as we all know, nothing in college basketball is that predictable.

Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 128: LSU Bombshell + David Padgett

It’s a new episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, and oh what an episode it is, as Aaron is joined by former Louisville head coach David Padgett. He and Aaron discuss his one tumultuous year at Louisville, as well as what his future holds. But first, Aaron welcomes on his buddy Nick Coffey, as they discuss the bombshell report on LSU Thursday. Here is a rundown of today’s topics:
LSU could be in BIG trouble: Just minutes before taping, Yahoo put out a report in which LSU head coach Will Wade is alleged to have set up payment for a current player, believed to be freshman guard Javonte Smart. Aaron and Nick react in real time: Why this is such a bad look for LSU and what does the team do going forward? Will this impact the program? Will it impact the locker room? And why this hasn’t changed Aaron’s opinion that Wade has done an excellent “coaching” job this year, no matter how Wade got his players.
David Padgett joins the show: Next up, Aaron is joined by former Louisville coach David Padgett. He discusses his wild, one-year ride as Louisville head coach. What was the whirlwind like the day he got the job, what are his best memories and what does he wish he could do differently? Finally, how is he enjoying his new career in media? And does he plan on getting into coaching again?

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show on Instagram too.

Today on KSR: Admiral Schofield is the Worst

Getty Images

Wednesday night featured a heavyweight fight between Tennessee and Ole Miss.  In a three-way tie with UK and LSU atop the SEC standings, the Vols did not receive a warm welcome in Oxford.

A back and forth affair, the Rebels had Rick Barnes’ team on the ropes in the final minute.  Needing a bucket to retake the lead, Grant Williams fought through traffic to put the ball through the net with only 4.3 remaining.  Williams left just enough time for Ole Miss to get one last look at the basket.

Devontae Shuler quickly drove the length of the floor.  Before he could get a shot off near the three-point line, Admiral Schofield was waiting to take a charge.  When the call went Tennessee’s way, Kermit Davis earned a technical by throwing his sweaty sports coat, eliminating Ole Miss’ slim chances at a victory.

Taking a charge in the final seconds of a basketball game is a absolute bush league.  Upon further review, it was certainly the right call.  The experienced Schofield knew Shuler would be out of control as he tried to get up the court quickly.  Schofield made it to the spot in time and his feet were set.

Even though it was the good play and the right call, I hate it.  A great late-season game ends with a potential buzzer-beating shot, not a charge.

The consequences from last night’s result affect Kentucky.  If Ole Miss had hit a late game-winner, UK would have held the tiebreaker for the second-seed in the SEC Tournament, even with a loss in Knoxville Saturday (that is, if the Cats won out).  More importantly, a Tennessee loss to Ole Miss would have gone a long way to keep the Vols out of the Louisville Regional.

Late-game charges are the worst.

D-Wade’s Wild Game-Winner

We at least got one game-winning shot last night.  The old man’s still got it, miraculously.

Regional Tournaments Continue

Wade was not the only one hitting buzzer-beaters last night. The Bullitt East Chargers live to fight another day, thanks to this dagger from Thomas Wiseheart.

Most of the Boys Regional Tournaments will not resume until Friday, except for the seventh region.   There will be two games tonight at Valley High School.

  • 6:00: Ballard vs. Waggener
  • 7:30: Trinity vs. Eastern

If you prefer to stay in and watch some games from home, there are a few decent college basketball games on TV tonight.

  • 6:30: Xavier at St. John’s on FS1
  • 7:00: Nebraska at #9 Michigan on ESPN
  • 7:00: UConn at Wichita State on ESPN2
  • 9:00: USC at UCLA on ESPN
  • 9:00: Arizona at Oregon State on FS1
  • 11:00: #1 Gonzaga at Pacific on ESPN2
  • 11:00: #25 Washington at Cal on FS1

Walk-Off Win

The Bat Cats are 2-0 at Kentucky Proud Park, thanks to some late game heroics by Dalton Reed.

UK Hoops in Action

Matthew Mitchell’s team is playing their final regular game at Memorial Coliseum this evening.  Standing between the Cats and their seventh straight win is Texas A&M.  Tip-off is set for 7:00 pm.  If you can’t make it to campus, you can see all the action on Watch ESPN.

(Photo by Chuck Cook, Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Craziness at the Top

(Photo by Chuck Cook, Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

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 24, 2019.)

1. LSU Controls Their SEC Destiny

I have been impressed by the Tigers all season long as they have appeared in this weekly column on numerous occasions. The college basketball world saw a hint of their power against Kentucky, but that win was heavily debated due to a controversial call that ended the game.

On Saturday, the Tigers finally broke through and showed their true power by beating Tennessee at home. What’s even more impressive is that not only did their best player Tremont Waters not even play, but their second-best player Naz Reid was basically a no-show as well. The freshman star only notched one point in the contest.

Instead, freshman guard Ja’vonte Smart picked up the slack by scoring a career-high 29 points to lead LSU to victory over the Volunteers. The Tigers now find themselves in control of their SEC destiny. If they win the rest of their SEC games, they will be the regular season champions of the conference over Kentucky and Tennessee.

The good news for LSU is that their remaining schedule consists of Texas A&M, Alabama, Florida, and Vanderbilt. While ‘Bama and the Gators will not be easy games, that is certainly a manageable finish to conference play.

But that’s not what matters at the moment. What matters is that Saturday was an official revival of LSU’s basketball program. Under Head Coach Will Wade, the Tigers are more than relevant which helps the strength of the entire conference.

2. Kentucky Dominates….Again

While LSU took the top spot in the SEC rankings, Kentucky was securing their spot among the best teams in college basketball by demolishing a talented Auburn squad 80-53.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, P.J. Washington played great once again by scoring 24 points, grabbing six rebounds, and hitting five three-pointers. Look, I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about college basketball. But, I do know that Washington has been one of the sport’s best players over the last 10 games.

Even with the recent development of LSU’s win against Tennessee, the Wildcats are still in position to win the SEC regular season crown. However, the path will not be easy. Not only must the Tigers lose at least win one game, but Kentucky must also beat Tennessee and Ole Miss on the road which of course will not be easy.

The task is not impossible as long as Washington and company keep playing the way they are now. To crush Auburn like the Wildcats did on Saturday was a statement to the rest of the sport. Kentucky is on the war path for another title, and everyone else better be ready for the challenge.

3. Florida Plays Their Way into the Big Dance

The most surprising development of the week came in the form of Florida’s success. Not only were they successful on Saturday by defeating a hapless Missouri squad, but they also beat LSU on the road earlier in the week.

In my last article, I talked about how the Gators had played their way into consideration for the NCAA Tournament as a real bubble team. Now, Florida has successfully played their way into the Big Dance. Mike White’s team has reeled off four straight victories as they find themselves 16-11 overall, 8-6 in conference play, and seventh place in the SEC. That’s a tournament resume if I have ever seen one.

The Gators have been powered by inspired play from experienced guard KeVaughn Allen who leads Florida in scoring and steals. Allen may not be one of the most talented players in the conference, but lately he has been doing a pretty good impression of one.

Florida’s recent success will continue on into this week as they will most likely earn wins against Vanderbilt and Georgia. Even if the Gators drop their last two games to LSU and UK, 18 wins and a 10-8 finish in the SEC should be good enough for a ticket to the Big Dance.

4. Auburn Enters Panic Mode

What has happened to Auburn this season?? It was not too long ago that the Tigers were a top 10 team contending with the likes of Duke. The Tigers have had a massive fall from grace since then as they are just 7-7 in league play.

We don’t need to be asking if Auburn will ever be ranked again this season because that ship has sailed. Instead, we need to be asking if the Tigers deserve to make the tournament, and yes, I’m completely serious.

Bruce Pearl’s team hasn’t beaten a ranked team since….November 9th and that was Washington. Yikes. Add in the fact that the Tigers last three opponents are Miss. State, Alabama, and Tennessee and there is a chance that the Tigers could transform into a bubble team.

This is such a strange situation considering the talent on Auburn’s roster. They are a talented team, but they just can’t beat anyone good. Pearl will have to get his team to play with a sense of urgency down the stretch. If they do not, then they are just a few losses away from having a worse resume than Florida.

5. Drama at Ole Miss

I’ve never gotten close to talking about social or political issues in this column as I have had no reason to do so. But alas, the time has finally come unfortunately.

Saturday saw quite a dramatic scene at Ole Miss when several members of the basketball team took a knee during the National Anthem before their game against Georgia. The significance of the story is great considering that Head Coach Kermit Davis was formerly quoted saying that his players would stand for the anthem.

Personally, I agree with Parrish in that Ole Miss did a great job of supporting their student athletes. I’m not here to say whether or not I agree with their decision to kneel, but I am sympathetic to the unfortunate situation in Oxford. Hate groups cast a terrible shadow on this nation today, and how these athletes respond is their business.

The Rebels have been one of the best stories in college basketball this season, and how Davis and Bjork supported their students just adds to that narrative. Hopefully, the situation in Oxford dissolves and these terrific student athletes can have a positive end to their season.

SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Kentucky Wins Round One

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 17, 2019.)

1. Wildcats Showcase Their Championship Talent

Kentucky faced off with Tennessee on Saturday night in what was the most anticipated conference matchup of the season. The result was the best possible outcome for the Wildcats as they blew out the No. 1 team in the nation in front of a packed Rupp Arena crowd.

This win could not have come at a better time considering that Kentucky just suffered a demoralizing and controversial defeat to LSU on Tuesday night. What started out as a disastrous week has now turned into one of the best of the season for the Wildcats.

Like how that embarrassing loss to Duke at the start of the season changed the morale of the program, this huge win over Tennessee might once again change the morale of Kentucky. However, this change might just give Coach John Calipari’s team a huge momentum boost heading into March.

Once again, P.J. Washington came up huge for UK as the sophomore and future pro outplayed Tennessee’s Grant Williams by scoring a game-high 23 points. Williams was formerly the leader for SEC player of the year, however, Washington has now thoroughly entered that conversation.

If Washington can finish out conference play by playing like he has in the Wildcats’ last eight contests, then he will take home the conference’s highest award at season’s end.

2. Just How Good is Tennessee?

On the flip side, we saw a new side of Tennessee which we previously have not seen this season. Before Saturday night, Tennessee was thought of as one of the most physical teams in the nation. However, their physicality was put to test against Kentucky, and the Volunteers massively failed.

While Jordan Bone, Williams, and Admiral Schofield all notched double figures, no one else on Tennessee’s team scored more than four points. Three good performances may be good enough against other teams, but that will not get the job done against teams like Kentucky.

I think its very fair to now wonder just how good these Volunteers really are. Tennessee played 16 straight games against teams that were all unranked. While it is impressive that they won them all, it’s obvious that playing so many average squads did not adequately prepare Tennessee for the Wildcats.

Do not let last night fool you. The Volunteers are still in the upper-echelon of college basketball this season. Remember, they still have marquee victories over No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 16 Louisville.

But where do they fit in the big picture? They are still almost guaranteed a top-2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and they will still be in the Top 10 in the next rankings.

Personally, I see the Volunteers as a team that will struggle to make it out of the second weekend of the Big Dance unless they get a favorable bracket. A fourth player needs to step up outside of Tennessee’s big three in order for the Volunteers to make the Final Four.

3. LSU Starts Run for a No. 2 Seed

In what is undoubtedly the most underrated storyline of the week, LSU defeated both Kentucky and Georgia to move to 21-4 overall and 11-1 in SEC Play. The Tigers will surely shoot up the rankings and be on the cusp of the Top 10.

That means there is an outside chance that LSU might be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They still have to play Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida twice before the SEC Tournament which means they have plenty of chances to prove themselves worthy of such a seeding.

Because the top eight teams seemingly have such a tight hold on No. 1 and 2 seeds, the margin of error for the Tigers is very small. They will have to defeat Tennessee in the regular season, then beat either the Volunteers or Wildcats in the SEC Tournament.

While it seems unlikely, LSU still has a fighter’s chance due to their overall talent level which includes the likes of Naz Reid. Reid is one of the most unique players in the country, and one of the biggest reasons why the Tigers defeated Kentucky.

4. Arkansas Will Not Be Going Dancing

Folks, it’s officially time to jump ship on the Razorbacks. After losing three straight contests to teams they could have have easily beaten, Arkansas is now 14-11 on the season and 5-7 in SEC Play.

Unless the Razorbacks win out (which they won’t), then Head Coach Mike Anderson’s squad will certainly not be dancing in March. This is a huge disappointment due to Arkansas having one of the best players in the SEC in Daniel Gafford.

Now, this is where things get very interesting for the program. In Anderson’s eight years at the school the Razorbacks have only made the tournament three times, and they have never made it past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. With morale at an all-time low, fans are starting to turn away from the program.

Anderson’s time at Arkansas may be finished if this season gets much worse. A respectable run in the NIT may be enough to keep his job, but nothing is certain at this point. No matter what happens with Anderson’s future, the Razorbacks have been a massive disappointment.

5. ‘Bama and Florida Squarely on the Bubble

With just three weeks left in conference play, we have a pretty clear picture of which teams from the SEC will make the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee, Kentucky, and LSU are all locks while Ole Miss, Miss. State, and Auburn are all in the tournament for now. Unless any of those last three teams implode down the stretch, the SEC is virtually guaranteed to have six teams in the Tournament.

Missouri, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Vanderbilt have been out of NCAA Tournament contention for over a month, and after this week Arkansas has joined them. South Carolina is one game above .500 so they aren’t on the bubble as of now.

All that leaves are just two programs who will be the SEC’s bubble teams this season: Alabama and Florida. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Crimson Tide were in the Big Dance as a 10 seed, but that was before they were annihilated 71-53 by Florida on Saturday. Just three days ago the Gators were the first team out of the tournament in Lunardi’s projection.

There is a chance that Alabama is now on the outside looking in due to Florida taking their spot. The Crimson Tide are 15-10 overall and 6-6 in SEC play while the Gators are 14-11 and 6-6. Essentially, which ever team has the best wins on the season will make the tournament.

As it stands, Alabama has better wins even with Florida beating them yesterday. However, the Gators still have to play LSU twice and Kentucky one more time. It will be a race to a finish to see which of these two squads will be dancing in March.

The Schedule is set for SEC Media Days

© Dale Zanine | USATSI

It’s February 14, which means everybody is thinking about one thing: SEC Media Days.

The league announced this afternoon plans for this year’s unofficial kickoff to the 2019 SEC football season.  After one year at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, the event returns to its home at The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

After a ten-win season, Mark Stoops did not get rewarded with a primetime position.  UK’s head coach will speak on the final day of the event, after many reporters have already departed.  Instead of speaking on the same day as a headliner, Stoops will share the stage with Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, the driest coach in the SEC.  For those who prefer to drink out of half-full glasses, it’s an opportunity for Stoops to be the event’s exclamation point.

2019 SEC Media Days Schedule

MONDAY, July 15
Florida – Dan Mullen
LSU – Ed Orgeron
Missouri – Barry Odom

TUESDAY, July 16
Georgia – Kirby Smart
Ole Miss – Matt Luke
Tennessee – Jeremy Pruitt
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher

Alabama – Nick Saban
Arkansas – Chad Morris
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
South Carolina – Will Muschamp

Auburn – Gus Malzahn
Kentucky – Mark Stoops
Vanderbilt – Derek Mason

As always, KSR will be in the building for updates throughout the week.  We’re only 151 days away.