On Saturday I wrote at length about some inside stock information on some SEC basketball teams (well, it was inside to me). That article, though, had more to do with predicting the future success of teams rather than grading them on their relative performance thus far.
Well, now I’m going to grade everyone on their relative performance thus far! (The crowd goes wild, Ben bows his head)
Let’s start with the top:
Kentucky… B: The crowd of Kentucky fans that thought 40-0 was a possibility may disagree and want to give the Cats a ‘C,’ but all things considered the season has gone pretty well for Kentucky. They skated through the non-conference with no bad losses. All three of their losses came against teams that battled Kentucky on the glass better than any other team will this entire season (until tournament time). The Cats still need to improve their outside shooting a little bit, and quite frankly, with the Harrison twins and James Young on the perimeter, they should. The Cats have a huge week coming up as they take on Arkansas and Tennessee.
Florida… B: The Gators season got off to a weird start that was muddled with injuries and suspensions. Slowly but surely, though, the Gators have gotten back to near full strength (the final piece being Chris Walker). Casey Prather has surprised nearly everyone with his outstanding play, while Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young continue to supply experience and solid play for the Gators. Florida has sneaked their way back up to #7 in the nation (a little high, but no matter) and appear to be serious final four contenders in March.
Texas A&M… B: Elston Turner’s gone and the Aggies find themselves atop the SEC standings. Coincidence? I think… yeah, it is. Elston was really good. But it’s a new year for the Aggies, and one that has a really balanced scoring attack. I mean, like ridiculously balanced. They have nine guys averaging between 5.0 ppg and 10.9 ppg. Expectations were a bit low in the preseason for TAM, and after a shaky non-conference the expectations were still low. But if you told A&M fans that they’d start 11-4 overall and 2-0 in conference I think they would have been pretty happy.
Georgia… C: No one expected the Bulldogs to be good, and they aren’t. UGA was a very pedestrian 6-6 in the non-conference (against some pretty good teams, however), but hey, they are 2-0 in conference so they’ll take it. Also, remember Marcus Thornton? UK recruited him at the end of the 2010 class? Well, he’s on Georgia and he’s averaging 6.7 points and 4.9 rebounds as a 4th year junior. #KentuckyEffect
Missouri… A: The Tigers have started slow out of the gate in SEC play, but at the end of the day they are 13-2 with a couple of decent victories. Not many people expected much from this Mizzou bunch but Frank Haith has developed a nice little niche in Columbia. I think they are actually a little overrated at this point, but they are still a nice ball club and one that has made the fans in Columbia happy. Also, Jordan Clarkson is a baller.
Mississippi State… A: “Roar! How could you give Mississippi State a better grade than Kentucky when we just beat them by 22 points!” you might say. Well remember, this is based on fan/analyst expectation, and all things considered, this has been a good season for the Bulldogs thus far. Rick Ray has brought some energy to the program that had been lacking in years past, and has the Bulldogs tending upward in the future. Remember how bad they were last year?
LSU… D: If you had asked me two weeks ago, I would have probably given this team a B or maybe even an A. But after last week? Yuck. Who loses to Rhode Island at home and then follows it up by getting crushed at home against Tennessee and then follows that up by squeaking by awful South Carolina? There’s still plenty time for LSU to right the ship and get to the NCAA tournament, but I expected much better from this ball club.
Ole Miss…C: I think everyone expected this team to take a step back after last years run, and that’s what they’ve done. Everyone is finally realizing how important Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway were to that teams’ success. There won’t be a repeat bid for Marshall Henderson and company unless they get really hot here soon.
Tennessee… D: This team is weird, I tell ya. They crush Xavier, Wake Forest, Virginia and LSU, and then they lose to UTEP, NC State and Texas A&M. Right as I thought this team was turning a corner they lose to TAM. KenPom has them ranked #22, which is sign of good things to come. A 10-5 record, though, is simply unacceptable for a team of this talent level.
Alabama… D: A lot of people were expecting a trip to the NCAA tournament this season, but at this point, it’s just not going to happen. The Tide are 7-8 and continue to lose close games. In fact, all eight of their losses this season were by less than ten points. Sure, their schedule has been tough, but they should have double-digit wins.
Arkansas… C: Same old song and dance from the Hogs. Good at home, bad on the road. They can fool some more people if they win Tuesday against Kentucky.
Auburn… D: Other than that inexplicable 19-point home loss to Northwestern State, the Tigers haven’t actually been that bad. But then you remember that they lost by 19 points to Northwestern State.
Vanderbilt… Incomplete: Vandy’s season is a disaster, mainly because they are playing with like seven scholarship players. Their best player, Eric McClellan, was recently dismissed from the team, leaving this team in utter turmoil. They do play hard though.
South Carolina… Who Cares: They are 7-8 with home losses to Manhattan and South Carolina Upstate. They also have two wins over Akron. Who schedules two games against Akron? (I know, they played them in Diamond Head Classic, it’s still funny)