#SECBASKETBALLFEVER

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC is SEC'ing it's way through the season, home teams winning, road teams looking not great and it seems most fanbases have started looking towards baseball, softball or spring football.

To start the week there were 7 (7!) teams tied for fourth in the SEC, and someone by god is going to get it by hook or by crook!

Florida (57) - Vanderbilt (54) - February 25, 2014

Alligator Army wants you all to relax just because the Gators only win close games...RELAX!

Yes, teams playing close games, especially repeatedly, is a recipe for fan dyspepsia. But Florida's also winning those games, and in a subjectively better style that may be objectively better, too. These Gators know better what to do late in games this year than they did last year, even if it's still very much possible for them to have cold stretches. There are go-tos that reliably work, like Scottie Wilbekin in isolation — I'm practically ready to deem him Florida's best isolation player everright now — and there are so many proven possibilities for big shots and big plays that watching Florida play these close games makes me wonder, just like SID extraordinaire Denver Parler did, which Gator will step up — not how Florida was going to blow it.

Anchor of Gold thinks about what could have been were it not for sloppy turnovers and an inability to rebound

Sloppy play and a lack of bulk around the rim cost Vanderbilt a chance to knock #1 Florida from its perch atop the NCAA on Tuesday night.

Dorian Finney-Smith had 19 points for the Gators as Florida notched their 20th straight victory with a 57-54 win. The Commodores made a run late in the second half to give UF a scare, but ultimately lacked the firepower to overtake a top-ranked Gator team.

A glut of offensive rebounds and Commodore turnovers led to a big shot disparity that the undermanned Commodores couldn't overcome. Florida pulled down 13 offensive boards and forced 16 turnovers to stymie most of the opportunities Vanderbilt had to keep this game close late in the second half. Despite these problems, the 'Dores still found a way to create an opportunity to win late.

02/25/2014 Florida vs Vanderbilt Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)

Mizzou (58) - Georgia (71) - February 25, 2014

Rock M Nation's Study Hall points out all the flaws we know, have known and how it all was on display like a fireworks show Tuesday night

Around this point in a given basketball season, we tend to start talking about fatal flaws, the aspects of your team you know will eventually be responsible for your demise. After 28 basketball games, they have become rather evident.

At the beginning of the season, we came to the conclusion that Missouri only having three major weapons (and sometimes a fourth in Johnathan Williams III on the glass) was going to be the Tigers' demise. Missouri has three players averaging over 14 points per game and nobody else averaging even 6.5.

By mid- or late-January, we had come to realize that, while the Big 3 Only thing was a problem, it was most likely defense that was going to do this team in. Mizzou has easily had the worst defense in SEC play -- worse than Mississippi State's -- and it has overshadowed and undone the effects of yet another top-20 offense (Frank Haith's third in three years at MU).

So basically, the team has had two fatal flaws in 2013-14. Two-flaw teams probably don't make the NCAA Tournament.

Regardless, last night, we saw flaws sneak up on this team in an unexpected way. You remember the 2012 football season, when the defense gave out late in November after supporting a shoddy offense as long as it could? Well, last night in Athens, Missouri rebounded well, and Georgia missed 3-pointers. Missouri got to the line as much as the Dawgs and, really, did the things I thought the Tigers would need to do to win. They also completely fell apart offensively, shooting 40% on 2-pointers and 17% on 3-pointers and averaging what I believe is a season-low 0.88 points per possession. The defense still wasn't good, mind you (Georgia on 2-pointers: 20-for-31), but the offense was absolutely horrendous. And two of Missouri's Big 3 (Brown and Ross) combined for just 7.4 Adj. GS points.

Sometimes the fatal flaws don't kill you directly; sometimes they just hold you at bay until your strengths fail.

Dawg Sports notes that it was defense, offense and of course, the ever elusive "grit" that propelled them to victory over Missouri

Georgia improves to 10-5 in conference play and strengthens its grip on third place with a 71-56 win over Missouri at Stegeman Coliseum.

The Bulldogs turned in a gritty defensive effort to go along with some nice execution at the offensive end of the floor. Georgia limited the Tigers to just 32 percent shooting for the game including 3-18 from beyond-the-arc. The Bulldogs on the other hand shot a sizzling 52 percent and win despite being out rebounded 38-31.

02/25/2014 Missouri vs Georgia Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)

Texas A&M (49) - LSU (68) - February 26, 2014

Good Bull Hunting put up a preview but they seem to be spending some time talking about potentially losing 12 seats to a memorial at the upgraded Kyle Field.  If you want to read their preview, go here.

And the Valley Shook points out that a home game against an overmatched opponent will bring out the good in your team, and use a nice "gig em" pun

What a difference the setting made for this one.

The 83 points A&M piled up on LSU two weeks back seems like a bad nightmare, but the Tigers eased that horror a little by rolling the Aggies on Wednesday. This was a perfect sandwich game for the Tigers after dropping the heartbreaker to UK and with a season-defining trip at No. 1 Florida on Saturday. LSU didn't get caught looking ahead, instead doing exactly what it was supposed to and getting some payback in the process.

Most importantly, LSU finally halted its defensive freefall, holding the Aggies below 50 points and looking like the active unit that was present up until February. Of course A&M and its 306th national scoring ranking is not a proper barometer for improvement, but after LSU recently allowed 80 points to Auburn, Mississippi State and A&M, any signs of defensive tenacity are welcome. This team is predicated on being a decent defensive group. LSU's defensive efficiency has plummeted in SEC play, and it's no surprise that the Tigers' record dipped with it. Whether it was Jordan Mickey's five blocks, holding A&M to 30 percent shooting or outrebounding the Aggies by 10, the effort was there again, even for a decidedly unsexy matchup.

Video Highlights are available here at the Geaux Zone

Tennessee (75) - Mississippi State (68) - February 26, 2014

Rocky Top Talk had a moderately attended game thread, which you can peruse here to your heart's content.

For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, as we've noted before has decided that the orange ball game is not for them, instead they're focusing on the white ball with the red stitches.

Video Highlights are not available, but you can rewatch this game if you like here.

Alabama (67) - Mississippi (79) - February 26, 2014

Roll Ball Roll notes that like pretty much every team in the SEC, winning on the road is hard, so damn hard...

The Alabama Crimson Tide remained winless away from Tuscaloosa this season, by dropping a 79-67 decision to the Ole Miss Rebels on Wednesday night.  The Tide trailed the Rebels 43-28 at half time. Hale had 17 points at the half, and Trevor Releford only had two. Levi Randolph, fresh off of his 33 point outburst against Missouri, had four at the half. Randolph did not start the game, and entered the game for the first time at the 14 minute mark. 'Bama now sits at 11-17,5-10 in the SEC. Ole Miss improved to 17-11, 8-7 in conference play.

Red Cup Rebellion rejoices in Marshall Henderson breaking the SEC's record for consecutive games with a three pointer made, hopefully they can find a new anit-hero to take over for him next year

Marshall Henderson has made a three-point basket in every Ole Miss game he has played in. That's 61 consecutive games with a trey, if you haven't been counting, a mark which is a new Southeastern Conference record after he made his first three in Ole Miss' 76-67 win over Alabama in Oxford. This streak breaks former Arkansas star Pat Bradley's record which he has held for nearly 13 years, and did it on #WHITEGIRLWEDNESDAY, no less.

With only 13 points on the night, however, Henderson didn't lead the Rebels in scoring. That went to Jarvis Summers, who scored 20 points on top of four rebounds, five assists and a steal. Summer's offensive prowess, coupled with serviceable defensive outings from Aaron Jones and Anthony Perez, made for an Ole Miss attack which was more than enough to dispatch the Tide.

Ole Miss vs. Alabama Highlights 2-26-14 (via OleMissSports)

South Carolina (67) - Auburn (83) - February 26, 2014

Garnet and Black Attack wonders how it all went so wrong and what will the Human Volcano Frank Martin do to fix things

South Carolina rebounds the ball well offensively.  If there's been one constant in the Frank Martin era, it's been that.  Everything else waxes and wanes at times, but we rebound our own misses well.

Last night, we did just that.  And pretty much nothing else went right.

College and Magnolia put up a game thread that was up during the game, not much else going on.

Auburn Basketball Highlights vs. South Carolina (via Auburn Tigers Athletics)

SEC Standings, where someone is going to finish in 4th even if they do so by accident

Team SEC Record Overall Record
Florida 15-0 26-2
Kentucky 11-3 21-6
Georgia 10-5 16-11
LSU 8-7 17-10
Tennessee 8-7 17-11
Ole Miss 8-7 17-11
Arkansas 7-7 18-9
Mizzou 7-8 19-9
A&M 7-8 16-12
Vandy 7-8 15-12
Auburn 5-10 13-13
Alabama 5-10 11-17
Mississippi State 3-12 13-15
South Carolina 3-12 10-18

Well, the SEC is what the SEC is going to be this season, a really good team in Florida, a good team in Kentucky, a surprisingly good Georgia team who wins with defense (and that's it) and then a bunch of teams in the soft middle that really can't win on the road, and then the absolute dregs who can't win anywhere.  How this translates come tournament time, I have no idea.  With the road/home disparity you have to think officiating has an influence on this and that could be a problem once the reffs are less inclined to give your team calls because of geography.

Bracketology

On Monday, before the unpleasantness that was Tuesday, Bill's Rock M Tology had Mizzou sitting in the field as a 12 playing Iowa, I don't think that will be the case come Monday.  Also in the mix was Florida as a 1, and Kentucky as a 6.  The first Rock M Tology of March should show us something a little different I imagine.

On the Monday edition of Bracketology, Lunardi had Mizzou as a non play in 11 seed taking on Texas, where all our good seasons are garbage to them.  Also in the field was Florida as 1 seed (potentially, THE 1 seed), Kentucky as a 5 and Tennessee as a play in 11.  On his Thursday edition, he has Mizzou as one of the first four out, probably about right all things considered.  And even with wins over the next week, barring other teams losing I assume this is where we'll stay.  For the SEC, Florida remains a 1 seed, Kentucky is a 5 seed and Tennessee is back as a play in 11.

Jerry Palm as of today has Mizzou as a last four in in lovely Dayton taking on Minnesota (who has a raised floor but not some stupid bench alignment) for an 11 seed.  Also in the field is Florida as a 1, Kentucky as a 5  and Tennessee as a first four out team.

Chris Dobbertean of SB Nation posted his bracket Tuesday and Mizzou was already out before the loss to Alabama, and the SEC only getting Florida (a 1 seed) and Kentucky (a 5 seed) the only teams representing the SEC.

Game of the Half Week: Tennessee vs Mississippi State

So to prep for Saturday's game against Mississippi State I watched Tennessee beat up on State.  First off, John Sundvold had to call this game and I felt so badly for him.  You could tell he wished he was somewhere else as "The Hump" seems to be a mostly depressing, dark and empty place.  If you think Mizzou can't get people to show up, watch a State game, and you'll get on your hands and knees thank something for the fans we do have.  This game really was a tale of two halves as State was not seemingly ready to play in the first half and by the time they were ready in the second half it was too little too late.

  • Tennessee was cleaning glass all game long.  State's bigs seemed a step slow and timid.  Imagine a bunch of Keanu Posts, but starting all game long.  At one point Jordan McCrae was taking what he wanted, when he wanted underneath, and dropping huge dunks on those that got in his way.
  • State did not get many points in the paint in the first half, but they did go after it a bit in the second half.  How this plays out Saturday could be a key to the game.  Can Mizzou's bigs keep focus and not foul all the live long day?  If so, this should increase Mizzou's chances exponentially as State is not the best shooting team.
  • Mizzou's guards should be able to penetrate the interior D from the wings and straight up if they focus on this.
  • Fred Thomas is a big guard for State and while he didn't shoot the three pointer particularly well (2-7) he was comfortable shooting.  So if you're looking to nominate someone that could go off on Mizzou and make a ton of 3 point shoots out of nowhere, he's probably the guy.
  • Roquez Johnson could also pose some problems for Mizzou if you don't body him up appropriately.  He's a forward who if he's going to the rim and Mizzou doesn't push him around a little or JW3 doesn't get blocks could get his points.
  • Multiple times in the second half State made a few runs to get the game close (within 4 - 6 points) but it was at that point that Tennessee would stop shooting longer jumpers and go back to the rim and re-establish the lead.
  • State does seem to move well off the ball which could pose problems if our shots aren't going down, or we're shooting like we did versus Georgia.
  • State has a guy named Sword, and I think that's pretty cool.

All in all this was not the most interesting game to watch. For a team like Tennessee that needs wins they didn't seem too pressed to put their foot on State's throat when they had the opportunities to do so.  If Mizzou takes State lightly and expect a win because it's Mizzou arena, this could be a dog fight.  I do think Mizzou has the better athletes between the two and should get back in the winning column as they head into the final week of the season.

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