The post-Signing Day hangover (or maybe now it's an Olympics hangover?) continues, and we wonder if any SEC bubble team wants to make the NCAA tournament.
Georgia (91) - LSU (78) - 2/6/2014
Just when LSU seemed to be putting together a decent case for being a NCAA Tournament team, they suffer a head-shaking loss.
After struggling of late, the Bulldogs' offense got back on track in a big way against the Tigers. LSU didn't turn in a sterling defensive performance but credit Mark Fox and Georgia for finding something that worked and sticking with it. The Bulldogs attacked the Tigers repeatedly in pick and roll situations and the result was a number of scoring opportunities at the rim.
That ability to win left-handed, by simply executing well enough on offense to beat a hot team on a day when the defense isn't able to do much, is a trait the 2012-13 Gators that dominated the SEC didn't quite have in their DNA — they developed the ability, but never fully internalized it. This team seems to have that trait, and the resilience and calm and, yes, heart, that come with it: I've called these Gators "the ones we've been waiting for" on Twitter at points in the last two games, wins against good SEC teams that required a little fortitude in tricky situations down the stretch to prevail.
Stop me if you have heard this before. 'Bama played tough, 'Bama played scrappy, 'Bama fell behind 8-0 right out of the gate. 'Bama mounted a comeback, even took a seven point lead, then allowed Florida to tie the game at half. Trevor Releford had to feel alone on the court again as 'Bama drops another one despite a valiant effort.
02/08/2014 Alabama vs Florida Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Kentucky (69) - Mississippi St. (59)
Continuing the theme of the SEC's best teams winning unimpressively, Kentucky escaped Starkville with a 10-point win.
All I can say about this game is that I'm glad it's over, and I'm glad it was a victory. It didn't really feel like one, because it was just an ugly game all around. The officiating, in my view, was poor for both teams, there were a lot of plays for both teams that should have been "play ons" instead of fouls and fouls instead of "play ons." Overall, it was a choppy mess featuring missed layups and dunks by both teams.
It's football season, as far as For Whom the Cowbell Tolls in concerned. Signing Day posts dominate the front page, and the game thread didn't garner a single comment.
02/08/2014 Kentucky vs Mississippi State Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Tennessee (72) - South Carolina (53)
Ah, now this is a bit more like it. Tennessee laid a beatdown on the SEC's worst team.
Home wins over bad teams do nothing for your RPI - the Vols came in and went out at 47 - but that can all change Tuesday night. Tennessee moves to 15-8 (6-4) with eight to go, but none will be bigger than #3 Florida in Knoxville in 72 hours. The Gators embarrassed Tennessee by 26 points in Gainesville, winners of 15 straight and in the hunt for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So many of Tennessee's narratives will weave together in one of the most important games of Cuonzo Martin's career.
Instead, the Gamecocks did exactly none of that. McRae and Stokes ran rampant (they outscored Carolina 33-22 just by themselves in the first half), the Gamecocks looked completely out of sync on offense, and Tennessee laughed its way to a 72-53 victory over Carolina on Saturday afternoon. The loss dropped the Gamecocks to 1-9 in the SEC on the season, and was their 12th-straight loss to the Volunteers, a streak that now dates back to 2007.
Tennessee Basketball vs. South Carolina Highlights (2/8/14) (via utsportstv)
LSU (87) - Auburn (80)
The Tigers (Louisiana version) avoided another resume-damaging loss with a home win over the Tigers (Alabama version).
And the Valley Shook put up a game thread, but it didn't draw any commenter interest.
College and Magnolia's game thread was a bit more active.
No highlights were available for this game. ESPN3 link.
Arkansas (77) - Vanderbilt (75)
Arkansas went to Nashville and came back with its first SEC road win against a team not named Auburn in Mike Anderson's tenure. Just a coincidence that this happened just before Missouri hosts Arkansas? You make the call.
MBB Highlights: Arkansas 77, Vanderbilt 75 (Feb. 8, 2014) (via vucommodores)
Ole Miss (91) - Missouri (88)
I'll just be upfront with you: you probably don't want to read Red Cup Rebellion's recap. But, if you wish to make an informed choice to do so, here it is. (Warning: contains high levels of Marshall Henderson.)
02/08/2014 Missouri vs Ole Miss Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Georgia (62) - Texas A&M (50)
Georgia won its second straight to go to 6-4 in conference. Do we have to start taking them seriously at some point?
If you have watched this team at all this season then its not unusual to watch them grind out games on the offensive end of the floor. They turned in one of their best offensive performances of the season in Thursday's win over LSU and the short turnaround certainly could have played a part in some of those struggles.
Good Bull Hunting doesn't even acknowledge that there was a basketball game last night. I can't say I blame them.
02/08/14 Texas A&M vs Georgia Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
We're officially past the midway point now, with 8 games left to go in the regular season. Florida continues to hold a 2 game lead over Kentucky and a 3 game lead over Ole Miss. At the other end of things, the combination of a Gator win and a Gamecock loss resulted in South Carolina being the first to be mathematically eliminated from the championship race.
We'll start with Chris Dobbertean's bracket for SB Nation (updated 2/7/2014), because it is now updating twice a week and gives #SECBASKETBALLFEVER a shoutout!
Uh, yeah. Tennessee and LSU's losses earlier this week have resulted in their eviction from the latest version of Dobbertean's bracket. With the rest of the conference's prospective bubble teams (including Missouri) already on the outside looking in, that leaves only Florida and Kentucky, along with the dire prediction that it would take a surprise SEC Tournament champion to get a third in. But hey, at least Florida is a #1!
Joe Lunardi's ESPN bracket (updated 2/6/2014) is more sanguine about the SEC's chances (although the timing is such that the aforementioned UT and LSU losses were not taken into account.) LSU (11), Tennessee (12), and Missouri (12) join Florida (1) and Kentucky (4).
CBS's Jerry Palm (updated 2/7/2014) says yes to Missouri and Tennessee (both ending up in play-in games), but no to LSU. He's also not ready to promote Florida to the #1 line yet, preferring San Diego State instead.
Game of the Half-Week
This would usually be a preview of Missouri's next opponent, but that opponent is Arkansas, just like it was two weeks ago. Frankly, I have nothing new to say about them. Take a look at my preview from the first time around, skip the parts about Arkansas being good at home, and add that they have been generally weak on the road (depending on whether you think that's still a thing).
That said, I still wanted to do a game write-up for this piece, and after gathering opinions (thank you, everyone who responded!), I decided to take the Game of the Half-Week on vacation from the SEC. I had originally planned to look at Gonzaga vs. Memphis, but as I watched that game, I didn't see much that I could write about to make it of interest to you. (Also, the sight of Mike Dixon was making me nauseous.) However, I found another game that, if I may humbly say so, you might be interested in. That game is yesterday's Iowa State-TCU matchup.
Bear with me here.
I chose this game because it might tell us something about a couple of issues of much recent debate on RMN: the effect of transfers, and having only one or two "go-to" guys on offense. This is because a) Iowa State has had (and is having) a lot of success with transfers under Fred Hoiberg and b) Melvin Ejim dropped a Big 12-record 48 points on TCU last night. So, let's see what we can see.
- First, a caveat. TCU is not a particularly great opponent. In fact, they haven't won a single conference game yet this year. I think these points are valid nevertheless, but it's worth keeping in mind.
- When you see that a player put up a ridiculous amount of points, the assumption is that he went full Kobe, demanding the ball and throwing it up every time he touched it. That wasn't the case at all in this game. Although Ejim started getting the ball a lot to exploit mismatches, those choices were happening because of the flow of the offense, not being forced.
- For that matter, Iowa State runs a very team-centered offense in general. They average 18 assists per game, and the majority of field goals result from assists. They spend very little time sitting on the ball and move it around a lot. No fewer than 5 different Cyclones have been named Big 12 player of the week this season.
- In short, what I'm getting at here is that ISU plays the style that I would like to see Missouri play a lot more often. I see this in fits and starts, but it needs to happen more often.
- Moving to the issue of transfers: Throughout his tenure in Ames, Hoiberg has employed transfers, most famously Royce White and currently DeAndre Kane.
- Hoiberg also hasn't been afraid to bring in talent with "character issues." Both White and Kane are examples of that.
- However, Hoiberg hasn't built his teams purely out of transfers. They have been combined with 4-year players.
- I think it's a bit of an oversimplification to say that Missouri's struggles happened because of transfers, but it might be going too far to have every team based around transfers. ISU has important transfers like Kane, but also important 4-year players like Ejim.
As I was watching this game, I was struck by how similar Iowa State and Missouri are. I think they have similar levels of talent (it's not too farfetched to compare Ejim to Brown, or Kane to Clarkson, although ISU does have a bit of an advantage in the frontcourt). If Missouri could get some issues worked out, this team has the talent to be in the top 25.
Thanks for reading! HHKB Chris will be back with the midweek post next Thursday.