Around the SEC
By Drew Franklin on ©March 11th, 2019 @ 12:45pm
LSU interim head coach Tony Benford made an appearance on the SEC’s coaches teleconference on Monday, part of his new job as Will Wade’s temporary replacement. Benford was of course asked about the status of his team and the status of his role as head coach, to which he said he is planning to keep sitting in the big coach’s chair in Nashville.
“I haven’t been told otherwise,” said Benson, when asked if he will coach the Tigers in the SEC Tournament. “We’ll just prepare like we are, like we did going into the Vandy game, and just get prepared for the tournament.”
Benford added that he’s unsure if LSU will have two of its stars, Javonte Smart and Naz Reid, in the SEC Tournament. Smart sat out the regular season finale due to allegations of a pay-for-play agreement in his recruitment. Reid missed the regular season finale was out with an injury.
LSU is a mess right now.
By John Reecer on ©March 10th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
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 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.
LSU issues a statement on Javonte Smart. pic.twitter.com/vwb2wZ41ml
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 9, 2019
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.
"Can't thank our fan base and our students enough. They were treated to something special. I'm very grateful for the support. We don't win without the building being like it is." – @coachbrucepearl
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) March 9, 2019
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.
Tyler Herro left hander off the wrong foot. Yowza! pic.twitter.com/UUeyaQlpkL
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) March 9, 2019
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.
This. Is. ALABAMA BASKETBALL. pic.twitter.com/xo1Tor26lS
— Dorm Squad Sports (@DormSquadSports) March 10, 2019
Bubble winners thus far today … Seton Hall, TCU, Clemson, NC State, Georgetown. Bubble losers thus far: Texas, Florida
— Bracketville (@BracketguyDave) March 9, 2019
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.
Your full 2019 SEC Tournament field is set. pic.twitter.com/n7REzZj4gD
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 10, 2019
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.
Just days before the conclusion of the college basketball regular season, LSU announced it has indefinitely suspended head coach Will Wade.
On the brink of winning the SEC regular season title, the suspension comes a day after a Yahoo report revealed that Wade was caught on a wiretap discussing a deal to land shooting guard JaVonte Smart.
Tony Benford will serve as LSU’s interim head coach as the school investigates Wade.
The complete press release:
UPDATE: SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey just released this statement, praising LSU for taking the “appropriate action” in suspending Wade.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) March 8, 2019
By KSR on ©March 07th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
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.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 07th, 2019 @ 1:14pm
Welp, I hope LSU fans enjoyed this run because the crap’s about to hit the fan. Yahoo Sports is reporting that LSU coach Will Wade discussed a “strong-ass offer” for a recruit, almost assuredly freshman Javonte Smart, with Christian Dawkins, one of the men in the center of the college hoops scandal. The FBI has a wiretap of the conversation, which took place in 2017.
“I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just [expletive] sick of dealing with the [expletive]. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.”
“Dude,” Wade continued to Dawkins, referring to the third party involved in the recruitment. “I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong.
“The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit,” Wade continued. “It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”
On February 26, Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller were notified that they would be subpoenaed in the trial, which begins April 22 in New York. Smart is averaging 11.4 points per game and was recently named SEC Freshman of the Week.
Still time to self-impose that postseason ban, LSU. It’s the “Smart” thing to do.
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.
— Kent Taylor (@KentTaylorWAVE) February 28, 2019
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
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.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 25th, 2019 @ 5:30pm
Joe Rexrode of The Tennessean in Nashville reached out to the SEC for a comment on the recent discovery that one of its officials, Anthony Jordan, posted a picture of himself holding up an LSU t-shirt with a caption that included “Geaux Tigers.”
It just so happens that Jordan blew the whistle on the controversial foul call that decided the final outcome in LSU’s big win over Tennessee this past weekend, which seems awful fishy now that the old Facebook post has resurfaced.
SEC associate commissioner Herb Vincent told The Tennesseean by e-mail, “Anthony Jordan, the official in this social media post, has communicated to us that while traveling in Spain five years ago he saw the t-shirt from an SEC team for sale in a store. He took a picture and posted that picture to be seen by friends via his social media account. He said it was his intent to make a light-hearted social media post about having seen the t-shirt in another country and not to express affinity for a particular school.”
“We do not find this social media post to be acceptable with our expectations and will proceed accordingly, while also acknowledging Mr. Jordan has a lengthy track record as a fair and impartial basketball official,” Vincent added.
In that same story, we learn the SEC’s conflict-of-interest policy for officials:
— Any school the official attended (either as a student or faculty).
— Any school where immediate family (spouse or children) is currently enrolled.
— Any school where the official played for or with the current head coach.
— Any school where there is a relative on coaching staff.
— Any school where there is a business relationship with the head coach and/or institution.
— Any school where the official or an immediate family member is currently employed by the institution.
To me, the Jordan/LSU t-shirt drama is a little overblown; although, admittedly, we’d be pretty upset if we were Tennessee in this scandal. And what does “proceed accordingly” mean?
The SEC’s policy is a pretty interesting development to come out of it via The Tennesseean’s story, which, again, you can read right here.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 25th, 2019 @ 1:27pm
Will Wade’s happiness following LSU’s wins over Kentucky and Tennessee might be short lived, if Yahoo’s sources are correct in that Wade will soon be getting subpoenaed.
A new story on Yahoo.com cites multiple sources who say notifications have been sent out to both Wade and Arizona head coach Sean Miller that they will be subpoenaed for the federal trial regarding basketball corruption, set for this April.
Both coaches have long been known to be on federal wiretaps talking to Christian Dawkins, the former low-level agent runner who was found guilty of multiple felony fraud charges in the first basketball corruption trail in October. The impending subpoenas also increase the likelihood that those tapes would be played at trial, as defense attorneys are likely to want to walk the jury through the realities of recruiting in college basketball’s underworld. [Yahoo.com]
Wade’s name popped up in the first federal trial back in October when it came to light that he had a conversation with Christian Dawkins, a central figure in the whole scandal, about potentially landing Balsa Koprivica, a four-star recruit. Wade told Dawkins, “I can get you what you need but it’s got to work.”
The Yahoo story says, “There’s an expectation that Wade will appear on wiretaps talking about recruits other than Koprivica.”
If true, Wade better soak in this next month of basketball with LSU because he might not be around much longer.
Something called a Savion Flagg won the SEC’s Player of the Week award, not Kentucky’s PJ Washington.
According to the SEC’s release, Flagg averaged 20 points and nine rebounds in Texas A&M’s wins over Alabama and Arkansas. Washington, my pick for the award, averaged 21 points and seven rebounds while hitting seven of his 12 three-point tries in wins over Missouri and Auburn. Washington went 16-26 from the field; Flagg went 13-25 (not that I’m counting). This should’ve been a Co-Player of the Week situation.
Maybe next week.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 25th, 2019 @ 11:00am
LSU controls its own destiny in the Southeastern Conference, but it is not the favorite to win the league’s regular season crown, says ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.
The BPI names Kentucky the favorite to win the SEC with a 61 percent chance in its projections. LSU, fresh off its win over Tennessee, is actually third on the list with a 46.1 percent chance, just a couple digits shy of Tennessee’s 46.6 percent chance.
No other team has a shot.
|RK||TEAM||W-L||PROJ W-L||CONF W-L||PROJ CONF W-L||WIN CONF (REG)|
For Kentucky to pull it off, it will need LSU to drop at least one of its remaining four games; those games are against Texas A&M, at Alabama, at Florida and against Vanderbilt. It’s not a crazy difficult stretch, so we’ll need Alabama and Florida to lend a hand by holding court at home against the Tigers.
Kentucky probably needs to win out, including the tough one in Knoxville, to feel good about its chances. However, the BPI projects Kentucky will lose one more before the end of the year.
By John Reecer on ©February 24th, 2019 @ 5:53pm
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.
Will. Freaking. Wade. pic.twitter.com/qjHyzjLAi4
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) February 23, 2019
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.
PJ Washington's last 10 games:
21.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 spg, 19 of 36 3-pointers (53%).
Short list of guys playing better in all of college basketball.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 23, 2019
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.
Florida has now won four straight following tonight's win over Missouri. Gators trending towards their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance under Mike White.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 23, 2019
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.
Kentucky now up 25 with Reid Travis on the bench. If Auburn loses the Tigers will drop to 1-7 against Q1 teams, with the one win coming at home against Washington. Why are they not on the bubble @JonRothstein?
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 23, 2019
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.
This is going to be interesting pic.twitter.com/Eg8kSaJGSu
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) February 23, 2019
Shouts to Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork and coach Kermit Davis for supporting the Ole Miss basketball players who took a knee during the national anthem today to peacefully protest the hate group that gathered in Oxford. It was the right, and smart, thing to do. https://t.co/sGAIyx5eQO
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) February 24, 2019
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.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 21st, 2019 @ 11:30am
If the SEC Tournament started today, Kentucky would be the three-seed, playing the winner of Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M/Vanderbilt late Friday night. Tennessee and LSU would be the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.
Here’s the bracket after last night’s games:
…and the current standings:
As you can see, LSU and Kentucky have the same conference record right now, but because LSU beat the Cats last week, they own the tiebreaker. On Saturday, Tennessee plays the Tigers in Baton Rouge. If the Vols win — and Kentucky beats Auburn — LSU will fall to third place. If LSU wins (and Kentucky beats Auburn), they’ll move into first place and Kentucky moves into second and Tennessee falls to third because of the three-way tie-breaker procedures. Obviously, the game vs. the Vols in Knoxville will factor in as well.
So, basically, the SEC is a giant mess at the top and the basketball gods need to work with us so we can avoid the late Friday night game. No one wants that.
By John Reecer on ©February 17th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
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 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.
Biggest UK margin of victory against a No. 1-ranked team in school history.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 17, 2019
Kentucky vs Tennessee Recap pic.twitter.com/Ao5ukGvYpR
— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) February 17, 2019
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.
That boy @PJWashington up to something.
Seven 20-point games over his last eight.#DreamBIG
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 17, 2019
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.
Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield explains the No. 1 Volunteers’ 86-69 loss to No. 5 Kentucky: pic.twitter.com/8XvLxg9YpE
— Gary Graves (@GaryBGraves) February 17, 2019
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.
Naz Reid gives LSU the lead!!! pic.twitter.com/IcunqloxSE
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) February 13, 2019
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.
Arkansas fans avoiding the rest of the basketball season: pic.twitter.com/8l34QyIQZ6
— Andrew Hutchinson (@NWAHutch) February 17, 2019
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.
NCAAM Bracketology – ESPN. Happy Friday. Holding my nose on Oklahoma and Indiana. ? https://t.co/uL3N0o4hLF
— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) February 15, 2019
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.
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
WEDNESDAY, July 17
Alabama – Nick Saban
Arkansas – Chad Morris
Mississippi State – Joe Moorhead
South Carolina – Will Muschamp
THURSDAY, July 18
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.