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 a crazy week of college basketball in the conference.
1. The Wildcats are Back in Business
One could argue that no team in the SEC needed a bigger week than Kentucky did. The Wildcats were 18-9 on the season and just 7-7 in conference play with two weeks left in the regular season.
Just one week later and these incredibly young cats have made a huge statement. With two huge wins over talented teams like Arkansas and Missouri, Kentucky has shot up to fourth place in the SEC while solidifying their place in the NCAA Tournament.
While those are the immediate takeaways from this week, what’s really exciting for Big Blue Nation is what the future may bring for a team playing its best basketball of the season right before March.
Next week should give the Wildcats two more victories despite a tough road test at an uneven Florida team, and then the SEC Tournament should give Kentucky 1-3 more wins.
This is a team that could wind up with anywhere from 23-25 wins before the big dance which is something I didn’t think was possible two weeks ago. But when Jarred Vanderbilt is playing the best basketball of his young career, the sky is the limit with this team.
Jarred Vanderbilt give and go slam gives him his first double-double at UK. pic.twitter.com/1ThQDnvNjL
— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) February 25, 2018
2. Tennessee Gears Up for Postseason Run
Kentucky wasn’t the only SEC team who would had a great week. The Volunteers also won both of their games, which included a big win over Florida, to improve to 21-7 overall on the year.
Tennessee now has a stranglehold on second place in the conference with games against Mississippi State and Georgia left to play. In just year three of the Rick Barnes era the Volunteers are heading back to the NCAA tournament where they could possibly be at least a 4 seed.
While Barnes has done an amazing job developing his players, Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams both need their fair share of praise as well.
These players are first and second in scoring, rebounding, and minutes played for the Volunteers this season. Tennessee is more than just two players, but without Schofield and Williams the Volunteers would not be having its best season under Barnes.
Schofield is playing his best basketball of later after a career day against Ole Miss on Saturday. This is an important player to watch in the postseason.
Tennessee beats Ole Miss 73-65! ? Admiral Schofield had a career high 25 points pic.twitter.com/rBPFogQRaD
— VFL Athletics (@VFL_Athletics) February 24, 2018
3. All Hail Howland
To keep the theme of this article going, Mississippi State also had an amazing week as well. The Bulldogs walked away with two wins over Texas A&M and South Carolina as they notched their 21st victory of the season.
To me, the Bulldogs have been the biggest surprise of the SEC thus far. Yes, what Auburn and Tennessee has accomplished is very surprising, but Mississippi State has been an afterthought for quite some time now.
I honestly cannot name a single player for the Bulldogs without looking up their roster first. But somehow, they are in third place in the one of the best conferences in college basketball this season.
Does that speak to my overall ignorance? Or does that speak to how under-the-radar Mississippi State has been? I think it’s a little bit of both, but the real story here is Ben Howland.
Howland is officially in my book one of the most underrated coach in the sport. He got UCLA to three straight Final Fours, now he has the Bulldogs headed in the right direction in just his third season there.
Watch out folks. Howland in Starkville could be dangerous in the future.
4. Maten Should be the SEC Player of the Year
Georgia is simply not a very good basketball team this year as their 16-12 record would indicate. However, they have been powered by Yante Maten all season long. Without him an NIT appearance would’ve been an impossibility.
Now it seems to be where the Bulldogs will be heading.
Maten leads the SEC in points per game (19.5) and is third in rebounds per game (8.7). His star shined bright this week as he notched another 20-point double-double against LSU.
??2nd leading scorer in @UGABasketball history
??15th 20-point game this season, most in the SEC
Yante Maten, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/Zhi53ElApw
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 24, 2018
Georgia’s matchup with Texas A&M should be fascinating to watch as Maten will take on the fearsome duo of Tyler Davis and Robert Williams. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Maten walked away with another double-double.
Pro Scouts and national media have been sleeping on this superstar all season long. Hopefully that will change down the stretch and Maten will get the recognition he deserves.
5. Who’s In, Who’s Out?
"The SEC remains on track to send a record 8? teams to the NCAA Tournament."
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 25, 2018
The most recent bracketology put out by Joe Lunardi had eight SEC teams making the NCAA Tournament with Mississippi State in the next four out group.
As we all should realize by now, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida are locks to make the tournament. That leaves Arkansas, Missouri, and Alabama to simply just take care of business and they will be in as well.
Texas A&M I think is the team that will fall out of the tournament but they did secure a win they desperately needed against Vanderbilt on Saturday. They are 18-11 on the season.
They will end the regular season with tough challenges against Georgia and Alabama. Win both and they will be in the big dance. Anything less than that and I don’t see how they deserve to be in over the likes of Mississippi State.
If Howland’s team can beat a ranked Tennessee team at home and put up a solid showing in the SEC Tournament they should have nothing to worry about.
Either way, the SEC should have eight teams making the big dance which would be an absolute statement to the college basketball world.