Little known fact: A groundhog seeing his shadow on February 2 originally presaged six more weeks of SEC basketball. It was only changed to winter later on after noticing the propitious meteorological coincidence, in an attempt to to make the day more interesting to mainstream America. So, it looks like we've got six more weeks of this...even if it all seems strangely familiar....
Florida (62) - Mississippi State (51) - 1/30/2014
Florida continued its undefeated run through the conference with a road win in Starkville.
The Gators are going to be less bad than most SEC teams — because they're actually really, really good — and they've now gotten through the portion of their schedule dotted by trap road games, with just three home games standing between the Gators and a 10-0 SEC record heading into a a week that features road trips to Tennessee and Kentucky. None of those road games has produced an easy win, but easy wins are more helpful for fans and coaches with hypertensive tendencies than they are for teams that need to be challenged to really respond.
In the second half, the Bulldogs took an early lead on a Gavin Ware layup, but a Patric Young dunk two minutes into the second half put the Gators ahead for good. The game ended up stretching into a double digit Florida lead before the Bulldogs briefly cut it back to nine late in the game.
01/30/2014 Florida vs Mississippi State Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Auburn (74) - Alabama (55)
Delayed one day by inclement weather, the basketball Iron Bowl proved to be equal to its football equivalent, as for the second time in 3 months, Alabama traveled to Auburn, only to lose when a last-ditch buzzer-beating three ricocheted off the rim and all the way across the court to score the winning basket for Auburn.
...Okay, not really, but Auburn won its first SEC game in 17 tries, by 19 points, which might be even more bizarre and inexplicable.
THEM BARNERS MADE IT SNOW AND CHEATED THEIR WAY INTO A WIN, PAWWWWWWL. AUBURN 74, ALABAMA 55.
First of all, I have a confession. I didn't watch the game. I didn't participate in the game thread. Don't hate me. I kept up with it on Twitter, but I didn't even listen to Rod call it. Why? Because the last time I did that, Auburn beat Clemson. I was stuck on a plane with only Twitter, and you know what they say: It's only weird if it doesn't work. I always thought once the SEC win came -- the conference losing streak was up to 16 straight, dating back to the last home game against Alabama -- I would be able to wax on poetically about it. I am at a loss. I guess more than anything, I am so happy for our guys. They needed a win in the worst way, and they came out with guns blazing. I feel good, too, because my joy for a win greatly overshadows any negative feelings I have about the state of the program, and frankly, none of that matters right now. What matters is that Auburn beat Alabama. War Damn.
The win was just the second for Auburn in their last 23 SEC games, and both wins coming against the Tide in the Auburn Arena. Auburn is now 9-9 overall and 1-6 in the SEC. 'Bama dropped to to 9-11, 3-4 in the SEC. There are losses, then there are losses that resonate with fan bases. This one is the later, as Alabama people, whether they follow basketball or not, chime in, and the ones that have are not happy. Coach Anthony Grant's seat is getting steaming hot, and the faction that supports him is dwindling fast. By all accounts Grant is a good guy that does things the right way, but right now he is not getting it done. His players (that stay around) graduate, and other than a few minor issues, behave.Levi Randolph was just named to the First Team All-District Academic Team for the second year in a row. Randolph carries a 3.45 GPA in marketing, and has been on the Dean's List in three of the last four semesters. The Tide will need to finish strong to cool Grant's seat off.
Auburn Basketball Highlights vs. Alabama (via Auburn Tigers Athletics)
Kentucky (84) - Missouri (79) - 2/1/2014
Honestly, this game had more positives than negatives. Yes, the defense was poor, but the offense was very good and the team showed resilience, heart, and at times, intensity. That's progress when compared to the debacle that was the LSU game. It's easy to get down on this young team when they don't deliver their best performance, but they did a lot of good things out there. No, UK isn't ready to win the national championship right now, but the good news is, they still have time to get better before they attempt to climb that mountain.
Bill has the Study Hall here. To summarize: you don't win many games when you play 2 on 5.
02/01/2014 Kentucky vs Missouri Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Mississippi (75) - South Carolina (71)
Ole Miss trailed for much of the game at home, but managed to escape late.
The importance of winning this game can't be overstated. Well, let me rephrase: the importance of not losing this game can't be overstated. The Gamecocks came in with an RPI of 127, and losing to them on the Rebels' home court could have doomed any shot for the tournament.
Turnovers killed the Gamecocks yet again in Oxford, and it was the usual suspects handing the ball over to the other team. Duane Notice had an incredible first half. He was driving to the basket, finding open teammates down low, and playing great defense on the other end. When he was doing all of these things, it was easy to overlook the turnovers--he finished with eight of the team's total of 18. But in the second half the bad far outweighed the good and that, combined with the fact that USC's hot first-half shooting cooled off, doomed the Gamecocks to their seventh conference loss in eight tries.
Ole Miss vs. South Carolina Highlights 2-1-14 (via OleMissSports)
Auburn (74) - Georgia (67)
Auburn won (again!) to get out of the SEC cellar.
No recap as of yet from College and Magnolia (maybe all this winning has stunned them). Here's their game thread.
The feel good of that 4-1 start to conference play is officially over. Georgia drops its third straight game with a 74-67 loss Saturday at Auburn to fall to 4-4 in SEC play and 10-10 overall.
Auburn Basketball vs. Georgia Highlights (via Auburn Tigers Athletics)
Florida (69) - Texas A&M (36) (!)
This wasn't a basketball game, it was a snuff film. And I watched every minute of it. More analysis below.
Florida shouldn't have been this good on this day, either, not with its only five-star talents still figuring out the speed of the college game and yet to play, respectively, its most consistent player mostly sidelined, its fearsome frontcourt still struggling to finish inside, and with 11 missed free throws and 20 missed threes preventing a historic blowout. It wasthis good, though, and so thoroughly dominant on the defensive end that the Gators leapt from No. 11 in KenPom's efficiency rankings to No. 6 with the outcome.
I was wincing when I went to get Good Bull Hunting's reaction. It's not long, but it's still unpleasant.
1. Why you no score points?
2. Why you no rebound neither?
02/01/2014 Texas A&M vs Florida Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Vanderbilt (55) - Mississippi State (49)
Purdue was able to grind out a hard-fought win over Nebr...wait, what? This wasn't a Big Ten game?
The two teams heated up after a sloppy first half that made both teams look bad. Neither squad shot better than 37% from the field and the Bulldogs and Commodores combined for 24 turnovers as Vandy took a 25-21 halftime lead. The 'Dores found their stroke early in the second frame to take a 13-point lead, but State found their rhythm from long range to keep the pressure on as the game wore down.
A hot start and a strong finish wasn't quite enough to break MSU's road losing streak. For Whom the Cowbell Tolls:
The Mississippi State Bulldogs got of to a hot start behind the play of Fred Thomas at Memorial Gymnasium against the Vanderbilt Commodores, but they could not sustain the play, falling to Vandy 55-49 (Bulldogs vs Commodores coverage).
MBB Highlights: Vanderbilt 55, Miss. State 49 (Feb. 1, 2014) (via vucommodores)
LSU (88) - Arkansas (74)
A Mike Anderson team that can't win on the road? Surely you jest.
(This joke is ancient)
(Don't care, never letting it go AHAHAHAHAHAHAH)
The Tigers have figured it out.
It was the fourth time in the last five games LSU reached 80 points after doing it just once in the previous 10 outings. More impressive was how LSU did it. Even in the last two weeks, the offense largely relied on hot shooting or Johnny O'Bryant III's excellence to pile up points.
Not on Saturday. That was the best team offense LSU played all season, with seven players - including all five starters - tallying at least two assists. All told, 22 of LSU's 35 made shots came with assists. That's a sign ball movement has improved and LSU isn't content to just pass the ball around the wing. That lethargy has been the killer against the zone, but the Tigers showed it might be a non-issue going forward.
The Tigers dominated Arkansas in points in the paint 48-24. Part of that is because LSU's big men were making things difficult for Arkansas with nine blocks, and part of that is Arkansas wasn't doing a good job of moving the ball. The Hogs only had seven assists for the whole game (21 field goals).
No, that wasn't just because Arkansas didn't have Qualls or Harris. Arkansas wasn't hitting shots (only scored 25 points, 2-14 from three) in the opening 20 minutes. When you're playing shorthanded, you need other players to step up, and that didn't happen until the second half.
Couldn't dig up any highlights for this one. ESPN3 replay.
Tennessee (76) - Alabama (59)
Tennessee went on the road and picked up a solid win.
Despite the win, Rocky Top Talk didn't have a recap article at press time. Their game thread is here.
Sometimes it is hard to figure out this teams identity. When they came out in the second half and pressed, and pushed the tempo they were able to cut into the lead. Then they dialed back the pressure and the tempo and things quickly got out of hand. It would seem that full court pressure for 40 minutes would be the way to go with this group. With out much inside game,the team needs to lean on his length and athletic ability. There are several great athletes, just not very many great basketball players. Releford pours his heart and soul into every game, and continually gets no consistent help from anyone. I know the fan base is frustrated, just think how this kid must feel.
Tennessee MBB vs Alabama Highlights (via utsportstv)
Florida has extended its lead to 2 games over Kentucky and Ole Miss. LSU and Tennessee are 3 back, with Missouri, Georgia, and Vanderbilt at 4-4. On the other end of things, Auburn got off the schneid the day after South Carolina did the same, giving each SEC team at least one conference win. SC now occupies the basement alone at 1-7.
ESPN (Joe Lunardi) (Updated 1/30/2014):
No change since Chris's midweek update. Florida 2, Kentucky 4, Tennessee 10, and Missouri a non-play in 12. LSU and Arkansas in the first and next four out, respectively.
CBS Sports (Jerry Palm) (Updated 1/31/2014):
5 SEC teams make the cut: Florida as a 2, Kentucky as a 6, and Missouri, Tennessee and LSU join the bracket, oddly enough all as #11 seeds (LSU the play-in version). With most folks discounting Ole MIss's chances of making the field, this might be about as good as the conference could do.
SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean) (Updated 1/28/2014):
Again, no update since midweek. 3 SEC squads: Florida 2, Kentucky 5, Missouri play-in 12. Tennessee and Ole Miss just miss the cut.
General SEC Stories:
Year2 at Team Speed Kills had a couple of pieces up this weekend examining the SEC's basketball struggles. One is somewhat optimistic (although the SEC will probably never be a great basketball conference, the recent putrid showings should be more the exception than the norm) and the other is less so (SEC states don't produce a ton of talent, and SEC schools are bad at retaining what is there).
Game of the Half-Week: Texas A&M at Florida
(Note: your humble correspondent makes no claims to having insider knowledge, basketball-wonkness, or, indeed, any degree of basketball expertise at all. He's just a dude who sits on his couch and watches college basketball. Any opinions herein expressed should be taken with a grain of salt and used for entertainment purposes only.)
Florida's really good, guys. The Florida team that played Saturday looked substantially better than anyone else in the SEC (including Kentucky, which I thought played quite well against Missouri, but Florida put them in the shade). Obviously, some of that has to do with the opponent (a rapidly falling apart Texas A&M), but this is a very, very good team deserving of a top-5 ranking.
As for the game itself, there's not much to say. Florida started slow, missing its first 8 3-point attempts, but about midway through the first half the Gators went on a 21-5 run to end the half and never looked back. This was a 33 point win that could have been much worse, if not for Billy Donovan emptying his bench with 5 minutes to go. If Florida had kept the starters in, the Aggies might not have gotten to 30.
- Florida is the best defensive team in the SEC, and top 10 in the nation. The Gators run a full-court press (ironically, they do it even more than Arkansas does), but they are also solid in the halfcourt. First, they try to force a turnover that they can turn into quick points. If they can't pull that off, they try to force you into a bad shot and get the rebound. That said, it is possible to get easy transition baskets against them if you push the ball enough.
- Kentucky has a ton of talent, but it's tempered by inexperience. That's not the case with Florida, which is led by four skilled seniors: Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, and Will Yegute. Not that they don't have skilled young players, but you can't count on this team to wilt under the bright lights.
- Does this team have any weaknesses at all? Well, maybe. The Gators are solid offensively, but not spectacular. If a team can get their offense clicking on all cylinders, it's probable that they will outscore Florida. (It's the first part that's tricky there, of course.) They also don't shoot free throws particularly well (just over 60% against A&M). So, it's possible to beat the Gators. But you're going to have to bring your A+ game.
- About Chris Walker: he didn't play yesterday, of course, but the announcers talked some about him and his projected role. Apparently, Donovan is planning to ease Walker in, starting out as a role player. Additionally, he's not much of an offensive threat at this point in his development. (Defensively, on the other hand...) So, resist the temptation to rail at fate for getting "Mizzou'd" again: it's very unlikely that Florida will win this game because Chris Walker was eligible. It's much more likely that Florida will win because of the rest of their arsenal.
- Florida's home crowd is fond of the misleading shot clock chant. You will be sick of it within 5 minutes.
- Court rating: close to acceptable, but two-tone courts never make the grade with me. It's just never a good idea.
Let's face it: a win in Gainesville is very unlikely. But if the Tigers can pull it off, wins don't get much better than this.
That's all, folks. Enjoy whatever non-SEC basketball related plans you have for today. There's some kind of football game, I hear.