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SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Wildcats are Ready for March

The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines from the previous week of conference play. (AP Rankings accurate up until January 27, 2019.)

1. Kentucky’s Huge Week

Few teams were as impressive as the Kentucky Wildcats were this week. Coach John Calipari’s team cruised to two victories over ranked teams as they easily defeated No. 22 Mississippi State by 21 points and manhandled No. 9 Kansas in the second half.

Despite having three losses, Kentucky now has a resume that few other teams in college basketball can match: wins on the road against No. 23 Louisville, No. 11 North Carolina, and No. 14 Auburn along with victories against Miss. State and Kansas at home.

It was just 10 games ago when Quade Green left the team and since then Kentucky has been a completely different squad. I am not suggesting a correlation exists between Green’s departure and UK’s recent success, however, its hard to ignore how different this team is now from early December.

P.J. Washington enjoyed the best week of any Wildcat after a stretch of very lethargic performances from the sophomore. He managed to notch 21 points and 6 rebounds against Miss. State along with 20 points and 13 rebounds Saturday night against Kansas. I wrote last week that Washington needed to step up, and its safe to say that he easily accomplished that this week.

While things are going extremely well for Kentucky, there are still aspects of the team that need improvement. The Wildcats are next to last in the SEC in made three pointers, and they are 7th in assists per game at just 14.3 per contest (by comparison Tennessee is at 19.8 per game).

Once the Wildcats start getting more contributions from beyond the arc (hopefully from Quickley and Baker) I think that Calipari will have a team that’s perfectly build for a huge run in March.

2. Grant Williams Makes His Case for National Player of the Year

The biggest reason why No. 1 Tennessee has enjoyed so much success this season is because of the play of sophomore big man Grant Williams who happened to put on a huge show this week.

On Wednesday night Williams put together the best performance of the season so far in college basketball. Despite a great upset effort from Vanderbilt, Tennessee emerged victorious in overtime thanks to Williams’ 43 points. Even more impressive is that he managed to go a perfect 23/23 from the free throw line.

His follow-up performance was not too shabby either as he scored 19 points in the Volunteers’ win against West Virginia on Saturday night. His season averages now sit at 20.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and an FG% of 57%. Zion Williamson may be getting all the love for player of the year, but I think that Williams has now entered the conversation after this week.

Unless something out of ordinary happens, Williams already has the SEC POTY locked up, and if he keeps playing like he is now then he will also have the biggest award in college basketball locked up as well.

3. Is the Big 12 Better than the SEC?

The Big 12 emerged victorious over the SEC in this year’s Big 12/SEC Challenge as the conference went 6-4 in 10 matchups. But what exactly does this mean? Before we rush to any rash conclusions, lets analyze the challenge in its entirety.

First off, there is no debate when it comes to which conference’s top teams are better. That’s the SEC. Kentucky handled Kansas and Tennessee embarrassed a bad West Virginia team. Plus, No. 14 Texas Tech only defeated an average Arkansas team by three points.

Where I think the Big 12 might have an edge on the SEC is that its middle and lower-tier teams might be better. TCU defeating Florida, Oklahoma State beating South Carolina (more on that later), and Baylor defeating Alabama were all instances where the Big 12 won matchups between comparable teams.

But we cannot forget the most important tidbit from this showcase: some of the SEC’s best teams did not even participate in the event.

After Kentucky and Tennessee, those are probably the next three best teams in the SEC. Its not a very accurate display of each conference’s talent when one has its five best teams participating and the other only has two out of its five best playing.

Overall, this is still a huge positive for the Big 12. They won the challenge fair and square, however, I just don’t think its wise to say that they are the better conference because of it. The month of March will determine which conference is better in 2019.

4. South Carolina Still Makes No Sense

The Gamecocks are officially the most annoying team that I’ve seen in recent memory. They make absolutely no sense and this past week was a perfect display of that.

First, they managed to score a big upset at home as they defeated No. 16 Auburn. That was the biggest win of the year so far for Frank Martin’s club, and it seemed like they were ready to turn a corner into being a consistently good team.

But then on Saturday they lost to a terrible 9-11 Oklahoma State team which only had seven scholarship players available. How they managed that bad of a turn around in such a short period of time is baffling.

I can only arrive at this conclusion: South Carolina is both a bad team on the road and a good team when they play SEC opponents. The Gamecocks are currently 2-4 in true road games, but they are 5-1 in conference play. Martin knows that the only way they get into the big dance is if they win the SEC Tournament, and to do that they need good seeding.

If they keep taking care of business at home against conference opponents they will have just that. They are currently fourth in the conference standings, and I think its safe to say that no one wants to play the Gamecocks in the SEC Tournament.

5. Missouri’s Disastrous Loss

The biggest loser out of the SEC this week was easily the Missouri Tigers. Not only did they drop both of their games and fall to 1-5 in conference play, but they also lost Saturday in one of the more horrific ways imaginable.

You read that right. With just 2:09 left in the game, Missouri had a 14-point lead and 99.7% chance of winning the basketball game….and LSU somehow won in overtime. That is without a doubt the worst meltdown of the season in college basketball so far, and it will be very hard to top.

Not only can we officially write off Missouri for this season, but now LSU is 6-0 in SEC play and 16-3 overall. Will Wade has his best team yet in Baton Rouge, and I think the Tigers will make serious noise in a tournament setting.

Article written by John Reecer

8 Comments for SEC Basketball Weekly Roundup: Wildcats are Ready for March

  1. Smyrna_Cat
    4:05 pm January 27, 2019 Permalink

    Williams gets more calls than any other player in the SEC … and probably more than any other player not wearing Duke on their Jersey. The game against Vandy was embarrassing. He lowered his shoulder, bowled over players, floppy, and was given “and 1s” whenever he went up for ANY shot. If he gets 23 FTs, Reid should get 40. He is a good player, but make him follow the same rules as all other SEC players.

    • bigbluebanana
      4:35 pm January 27, 2019 Permalink

      I watched that game. I remember being blown away with the blatant charging calls he got away with! My 8 year old son, who is playing in his first ever season of organized b-ball, came into my room where I was watching the game for a sequence and even he commented “shouldn’t that be an offense foul daddy?”!

  2. Ridge Runner
    4:12 pm January 27, 2019 Permalink

    Yeah, gotta be rough being a Missouri fan right now. That loss tipped the scale over.

  3. kentuckybackupplayer
    4:53 pm January 27, 2019 Permalink

    if williams had a kentucky jersey on he would have five charging fouls in five minutes and be out of the game. i feel for travis when they play down in knoxville because he will not even break a sweat before the refs foul him out guarding williams.

  4. Aar
    5:13 pm January 27, 2019 Permalink

    So, after this big three game stretch and six game win streak, what ranking will the Cats get tomorrow? Now that they’re in the top 10, teams that are higher ranked generally need to lose in order to move up in the popularity contests. To that end, the Cats pretty easily get past VT in the coaches poll. Given the strength of schedule, I can see them legitimately getting past Nevada in both polls. So, 7th in both polls seems likely to me. They have more losses than any higher ranked team. So, while even the most unbiased version of myself thinks the Cats are are currently better than Gonzaga and Virginia, I suspect they’re stuck at a 7/7 ranking until those teams lose or the Cats win their next 6 games. Note that the next 3 games are traps then the @MSU, LSU & UT are a much tougher gauntlet than the most recent 3 games. I just want UT to win their next 5 so that UK gets to beat them as the #1 in Rupp! That’s too much crystal ball work. There are no cupcakes in the SEC. Go Cats, beat Vandy!

    • Skooms
      5:26 pm January 27, 2019 Permalink

      Don’t forget the Spartans lost today too!

  5. Luether
    5:23 pm January 27, 2019 Permalink

    My sources say that Missouri completely choked and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory…