Well, folks, it's March, and y-
Wait a second.
/looks out window at several inches of snow
Anyway, supposedly it's March now, and you know what that means. It's the time of year when untreated cases of #SECBASKETBALLFEVER bloom into full-blown #SECMADNESS, and that was certainly on display all over the conference this weekend. We're here to catalog the symptoms, so let's get started.
Arkansas (71) - Kentucky (67) (OT) - 2/27/2014
Not only did Arkansas win on the road, they won in Rupp Arena. Remember when I told you a few weeks ago that we wouldn't be able to laugh at Arkansas for being incompetent on the road for much longer? That time has come.
I really don't know yet what this means. I know what it could mean. It could mean that Arkansas will be back in the NCAA Tournament if they win their two games at Bud Walton Arena in the next week (and that's not a given - Georgia and Ole Miss are no pushovers). I know this team has all the momentum in the world right now. I know this could be the proof that Arkansas is moving onward and upward. If they continue handling business these last few weeks, they can go far. The door is now wide open. They just have to go through it. Of course, as any Arkansas fan knows, that's kind of a scary place for Arkansas fans to be. But if there's anyone who knows how to run like hell through it, it's Mike Anderson. He's got that pedigree. Maybe all the stars from the Final Four ceremony rubbed some magic on the players. So I don't know. I'm too afraid to say they're there, but that road game albatross is certifiably dead. And that's something. This team should fear no one left on there schedule. Hell, they can win out into the NCAA Tournament, maybe. Wouldn't shock me right now.
Does this team really believe that running down the court and flinging the ball at the rim hoping somebody will put it in is a coherent offensive strategy? Calipari has clearly confused this bunch with facts. I know Kentucky can rebound, and I know they should drive the ball, but it would seem to be necessary to find open shots — and make them — if the Wildcats hope to win basketball games. That requires more than just random drives to the rim and wildly flinging up a shot or a lob.
02/27/2014 Arkansas vs Kentucky Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Tennessee (76) - Vanderbilt (38) - 3/1/2014
The Volunteers got revenge for a loss earlier in the season by doubling up the Commodores.
One of the strange similarities in these huge UT wins: Jordan McRae doesn't shoot much. He fouled out laughing today, scoring nine points on five shots. It mattered even less today because the Vols actually got 19 points from their bench (8 for Armani Moore, 6 for Darius Thompson, 5 for Derek Reese). That's also huge. It's simple to say but means a whole, whole lot to this team: Tennessee is at its best when everyone contributes. And when everyone contributes, Tennessee's best is good enough to beat anyone and embarrass many.
Anchor of Gold's game thread was pretty slow. Can't really blame them.
Tennessee Basketball Highlights vs. Vanderbilt (3/1/14) (via utsportstv)
Missouri (85) - Mississippi State (66)
Missouri bounced back and got a sorely-needed blowout win against a thoroughly outgunned MSU squad.
If the game is not played on a diamond with sticks, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls doesn't want to hear about it.
03/01/14 Mississippi State vs Missouri Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Alabama (73) - Auburn (57)
Alabama avenged a road loss to their in-state rival by laying a similar beatdown at home.
The Tide once again showed that if Releford gets some help they can be a dangerous team. Hitting 10-18 three point shots will help keep you win a lot of games. You have to feel Randolph getting completely healthy has allowed him to play with more aggressiveness and confidence. The three point shots he had been passing up early in the year, he is now taking, and making. Today he was 6-11 from the field, 4-6 from three point range. Releford hit 6-12, including 2-4 from behind the stripe.
Auburn Basketball Highlights at Alabama (via Auburn Tigers Athletics)
Florida (79) - LSU (61)
With the SEC regular-season title already in their grasp, the Gators didn't let up, blasting LSU in a game that was never particularly close.
I think Alligator Army might be putting a bit too much stock in the fact that the Gators declined a chance to cut down the nets after the game. But when your team is this much better than the rest of the conference, you've earned the right to crow a bit.
But this Florida team is extraordinarily good at wanting to win every possession, and breaking down a team by wanting it — the ball, the block, the position on the box-out, the closeout — now, and putting forth the effort to get it, whatever it is. Frazier was wrestling for loose balls up 25 today. Prather roofed a layup in transition, making up for his own terrible turnover. Chris Walker dove to the floor in the game's final two minutes, and played with the desperation and ferocity of his teammates — finally, he is seemingly caught up with his teammates, who have made desperation and ferocity their ethos.
Florida's starting five is a relentless band of failure-forged, heartbreak-steeled players — four seniors and one sophomore who has played plenty over his two years — and it had gotten its greatest laurel yet, the chance to cut down the nets at home as SEC champions after a blowout victory, by the end of today's game. They didn't. Both Prather and Wilbekin told reporters that Florida didn't want to cut down the nets. Not yet. There is more to do, more to earn.
03/01/14 LSU vs Florida Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Arkansas (87) - Georgia (75)
The Hogs dodged a potential letdown by picking up a big win over the Bulldogs.
This game was basically the exact opposite of the first Arkansas/Georgia game in January. That was a slopply, sludgy affair that went to overtime after both teams scored just 52 points in regulation. Arkansas scored over 40 points in each half today en route to an 87-75 victory, the Hogs' 20th of the season.
Georgia sees their slim tournament hopes take a hit with an 87-75 road loss to Arkansas. The Bulldogs remain alone in third place in the SEC Standings at 10-6 but are just one game ahead of the Razorbacks and Tennessee with two games left to play.
Highlights available here.
Texas A&M (71) - Ole Miss (60)
The Aggies took advantage of Marshall Henderson's cold night and cruised to a fairly comfortable victory.
Good Bull Hunting didn't have much to say about the game, but they did have this:
Find the highlights here.
South Carolina (72) - Kentucky (67)
Kentucky wrapped up a truly awful weekend by looking awful for the majority of the game and not having quite enough to come back.
Fans storm court after South Carolina upsets Kentucky (via Go Gamecocks)
For Kentucky, this is the dreaded losing streak. For the last two games, they have played terrible basketball in the DDFH (Dribble Drive Fling and Hope) offense that John Calipari constructed this season to try to take advantage of the new foul rules and the size of Kentucky inside. Whether or not you want to embrace conspiracy theories, the officials in the SEC would rather throw coaches out of the game than call 50 fouls. Calipari, and the team, need to embrace that fact, and find another style to play.
Highlights: South Carolina Men's Basketball Defeats No. 17 Kentucky, 72-67 (via GamecocksOnline)
SEC Standings through 16 games
Okay, here's what we know with two games to go:
- Florida will be the #1 seed.
- Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Auburn will be playing on Wednesday.
And that's about it. As far as byes go, not even Kentucky has clinched one, as they would (somehow) lose out in a potential three-way tie with Arkansas and Tennessee. There are still 9 teams with a shot at a top-4 seed, as Vanderbilt, by my calculations, can't get there anymore. (Their best-case scenario is losing out to Texas A&M in a 6-way tie for fourth at 9-9. See what I said about madness?) The teams that control their own destiny for one of those top 4 seeds are Kentucky (clinch with 1 win), Georgia (clinch by winning out), and Tennessee (clinch by winning out.) Everybody else needs differing degrees of help. Things are looking grimmer for Mizzou getting a double bye, as they are now a game behind Tennessee and Arkansas. They can get that game back from Tennessee, but need Arkansas to slip up against Ole Miss at home or on the road against Alabama (along with winning out, of course.)
On the other hand, there's a decent argument that Missouri would rather not get the #4 seed, despite having to play an extra game, because that would (with a win) lead to a semifinal matchup with (almost certainly) Florida. The Tigers might have a better chance of getting to the finals through the other side of the bracket, even with the extra game. But if you want to figure out the scenarios where Missouri gets a #6 seed, you'll have to do it yourself.
ESPN (Joe Lunardi) (Updated 2/27/14)
As usual, Florida gets a 1. Kentucky's at a 5 in this projection, although if I recall correctly, last night Lunardi had them falling to a 7 with a loss. Tennessee just slips in here with an 11 seed and a ticket to Dayton. Missouri sits in the last four out, which isn't particularly surprising given their last few games.
CBS Sports (Jerry Palm) (Updated 3/1/14)
Florida gets a 1 seed and Kentucky drops to a 6 here. Palm puts Missouri in the field (as a 12) over Tennessee, which is in the first four out.
SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean) (Updated 2/28/14)
Florida 1, Kentucky 5. And the SEC team in the First Four is....Arkansas! Tennessee and Missouri just miss out. Dobbertean gives the Razorbacks the nod due to fewer bad losses.
Game of the Half-Week: Ole Miss at oh, come on. Texas A&M again?!?
Yes, the Aggies show up yet again in the Game of the Half-Week, although they're the ones getting previewed this time. (Seriously, is the SEC doing a travel partners-except-not-at-all thing with A&M and Mizzou? Get less lazy with your schedules, guys.) Due to some questionable programming decisions by my Fox Sports affiliate, I missed the first 10 minutes of this game, which evidently featured a early scoring barrage by the Rebels, but A&M weathered the storm and the game was just about a dead heat when I started watching, staying that way until the end of the half. In the second half, the Aggies took advantage of Ole Miss's cold shooting to take a double-digit lead and held on to win despite some dodgy free-throw shooting.
- Texas A&M looks like a completely different team at home. My previous viewings of A&M games left me with an impression of a team that wasn't very good, but all of those were on the road. In Reed Arena, the Aggies look like a pretty solid basketball team. Fortunately for Missouri, this game will be played in Columbia.
- The Aggies win their games with defense. They are 12th in the league in offensive FG%, but regularly hold their opponents to the low 60s in scoring and about a 40% shooting clip. They aren't going to outscore you, but they might be able to shut you down.
- Hey, guess who's the SEC leader in assists? It's TAMU's Alex Caruso, which I, for one, was not expecting. Caruso is pretty skilled, making some passes yesterday that I haven't seen the likes of all season from Missouri, plus the highlight-reel dunk noted above. I don't know if I'd call him a NBA-quality talent, but he's certainly a great point guard in the SEC.
- Two of A&M's guards in their usual rotation sat this game out. Fabyon Harris felt ill during warmups, but is expected to be back for the Missouri game. Shawn Smith, on the other hand, is on an indefinite leave of absence for "personal issues."
If Missouri brings the same fire to this game as they brought against Mississippi State, I'm not too worried about their chances to beat the road Aggies. Let's try not to think about the alternative.
We've got one more week of #SECMadness to go, and it's looking like a wild one. HHKB Chris and I will keep you updated every step of the way.