February 23 was celebrated in ancient Rome as Terminalia, a festival in honor of the god Terminus. Terminus presided over boundaries, endings, limitations, lines beyond which one could not go. Although this might seem insignificant in comparison to the more impressive portfolios of Jupiter and Mars, it's more important than you might think at first glance. Terminus sets the limits on what an individual can do, even if that individual is a deity. Food for thought.
Terminus was delineating the achievable in the SEC this week. For some, the NCAA Tournament falls on the near side of that line. For others, it lies in lands that cannot be reached. And for a few, perhaps Terminus hasn't made up his mind just yet. Maybe a timely sacrifice could sway him. Or maybe not. The gods are fickle that way.
Texas A&M (63) - Alabama (48) - 2/20/14
The Aggies and Crimson Tide were, let us say, "offensively challenged" in the first half Thursday night. But in the second half, things changed. Well, for A&M, at least.
Trevor Releford is great, but he's not getting much help, says Roll Bama Roll. (Until Saturday, that is, but I'll get to that in a bit.)
Trevor Releford is one of only three players in the country averaging 50% on field goals, 40% on three point attempts and 90% on free throws. There is just no way to adequately say how good this young man has been and if you haven't seen him with your own eyes, you should make every effort, as you only have five chances left.
02/20/14 Alabama vs Texas A&M_master.mp4 (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Florida (75) - Ole Miss (71) - 2/22/14
Florida escaped Oxford with a narrow win, clearing their last major road hurdle to an undefeated SEC season.
Florida survived on this day, to an extent, but the Gators also landed combinations and forced the Rebels to play awkward basketball late, and that was enough to preserve their winning streaks — 19 straight overall, seven straight on the road in the SEC, and six straight without the benefit of the lead at halftime — and distinctions — Florida's 14-0 start in SEC play is its best in school history, and the Gators' 25-2 record is the best any Florida team has ever had.
Not even yet another great Marshall Henderson performance could kindle much passion in the Red Cup Rebellion commentators. Here's their sparsely-attended game thread.
02/22/14 Florida vs Mississippi Men's (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Georgia (73) - South Carolina (56)
This one was competitive for a half, but Carolina's shooting touch abandoned them after halftime, and the Bulldogs pulled away for an easy win.
It's same old, same old for Dawg Sports (who, incidentally, are one of about 2.5 SEC blogs who actually like what their basketball team is doing. I miss that.)
It's become the theme of the 2014 season, such that it's no longer even really surprising to see the Hoop Hounds eventually get it together shooting, for their opponent to go cold, and for Fox's hounds to eventually collect their bonus at the foul line for all the calls they've drawn early in the game.
But oh, the shooting. The Gamecocks made just 15 field goals on the afternoon, shooting at a 26% clip. Sindarius Thornwell was 4-15 from the field (though 10-12 from the line), and Brenton Williams went just 5-16, as their teammates left it to them to take over half of Carolina's shots despite playing just 34% of their minutes (Thornwell played the entire game, with Brenton's only break coming during the 12 minutes he sat in the first half due to foul trouble). The third-leading shooter by field goal attempts and points for the Gamecocks was Brian Steele, who scored 8 on 2-7 shooting. Steele gives effort, but if he's your third-best option on the afternoon, you're in trouble.
Texas A&M (68) - Tennessee (65) (OT)
Missouri wasn't the only SEC bubble team to take a bad loss Saturday, as Tennessee went to College Station and came out with a potentially tournament-killing loss.
The only thing left at this point during the regular season needs to be wins. Whether or not that actually matters is an academic debate, and we're getting pretty good at those. From where I'm at, I see no way for this team to be competitive if only four people show up. Blame the guys on the squad if you'd like, but the trend over Martin's tenure has been to have one big signing and a bunch of - at this point, I think we can say it - questionable depth. That's part of why I wrote this. If Martin can't trust the guys he's bringing in (save one) in February to put together anything that looks like quality minutes, why are we to trust his ability to compose a team?
Good Bull Hunting seems a bit more concerned about Jake Matthews's combine numbers and their unsuccessful write-in campaign for student body president than this game, but they did schedule a blog meet-up at it, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Tennessee Men's Basketball at Texas A&M Highlights (via utsportstv)
Kentucky (77) - LSU (76) (OT)
LSU took their best shot at pulling off their second stunning upset of Kentucky in a month, but fell just short.
Congratulations, and lamentations, to LSU. Tough loss for them after an incredible effort, an effort very few teams have any chance of matching in Rupp Arena. LSU was flat-out heroic in this game, and I really hope they play well enough the rest of the season to get into the NCAA Tournament. I love their team (when they are playing somewhere else), but they have got to do more of this and quit putting up the head-scratchers. If all you can do is get inspired to beat Kentucky, your team is emotionally incomplete.
02/22/14 LSU vs Kentucky Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Arkansas (73) - Mississippi State (69)
Another road win for Arkansas! Of course, it was in Starkville, and by only 4 points, but still! A road win!
The big story of the game was Anthlon Bell's huge performance. He'd only scored in double figures once since Maui, but set a career high against the Bulldogs with 19 points. And only nine of them came from behind the three point line. He was 5-7 on two-point attempts. That's exactly what Arkansas needs from Bell. He came into the game shooting 45.5% on two-point shots, but had attempted about 60 more three point shots on the season. He can be an effective scorer from inside the arc. Hopefully, this will give his career a kickstart.
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls has been disclaiming the existence of a "Mississippi State men's basketball team" for some time now. That hasn't changed.
Vanderbilt (67) - Auburn (59)
Vanderbilt, trailing by 16 at one point, dug deep into their bench and got some surprising contributions from walk-ons in a comeback victory.
Anchor of Gold hasn't recapped this one, but their game thread was fairly active.
The same can't really be said for College and Magnolia, but there was some talk about firing Tony Barbee, so there's still some degree of caring in general, even if this season is a wash.
Auburn Basketball Highlights vs. Vanderbilt (via Auburn Tigers Athletics)
Alabama (80) - Missouri (73)
Hey, Releford got some help, and Alabama won. Roll Bama Roll:
The Tide played their most complete game of the year, and in doing so got their most impressive win. When Releford gets some help and doesn't feel he has to score on every possession this team is so much better. Releford was able to play more of a point guard role, and got his six assists. Releford was playing in much pain, and Coach Grant said after the game, "Trevor was in tremendous pain, and played on guts and was no where near 100%." Randolph simply played the game of his Alabama career, and many wonder where that player has been hiding. He played with so much more confidence and energy, but stayed within himself. Instead of passing up wide open shots as he has much of the season, he was firing away, and connecting. For the game Randolph was 11-15, including 5-7 from three point range. Just two games ago against South Carolina the 6'5" junior hit his first three pointer in a SEC game this year. In that game he hit one more, and added two more in the Texas A@M loss. He now has nine made threes in conference play, with five of those occurring tonight.
(And Randolph didn't even start, and only came in because Releford was hurt. Let this be a reminder to all of you: never celebrate the other team's star being injured. Terminus mislikes such things.)
02/22/14 Missouri vs Alabama Men's Basketball Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)
Florida has just about wrapped things up for the regular season, with only Kentucky having as much as a mathematical shot at the title, and that would require an impressive collapse by the Gators. Florida could clinch as soon as Thursday with a win at Vanderbilt and a Kentucky loss to Arkansas. Kentucky and Georgia (how did that happen again?) are looking increasingly solid for the 2 and 3 seeds in the conference tournament, There's one more double bye available, and no fewer than 7 teams, all standing at 7-7, are vying for it. I'm not going to even try unraveling the scenarios here. Maybe things will have cleared up a little by next week.
The will of Terminus is unclear. Let us consult the oracles.
The Oracle of Bristol (Consulted 2/20/14)
Florida is a 1, Kentucky a 5, Missouri a 10, and Tennessee an 11. Despite yesterday's results, a cryptic series of pronouncements made this morning seem to imply that has not changed.
The Oracle of Schererville (Consulted 2/23/14)
The palm'd one states: "Florida (1), Kentucky (5), and Missouri (11) are blessed. Tennessee has done ill in the sight of Terminus and shall be punished. Arkansas has won favor, but more is required."
The Oracle of Winter Haven (Consulted 2/21/14)
In an unusually detailed summary, this oracle named Florida as a 1 seed, Kentucky as a 4 seed, and Missouri as a 9 seed, with Tennessee's border just short of the promised land. I recommend that you read the whole scroll, as he breaks down each of the various levels of favor.
SEC Game of the Half-Week: Georgia at South Carolina
The last time Missouri played Georgia, the Bulldogs were a bad-looking 6-6 team. Now they are 3rd in the conference. What happened in the meantime?
Georgia isn't anything that will make you stand up and take notice, but they're an athletic team that will punish you if you have lapses in your own play. This game was a good illustration of that, as these two teams were evenly matched for the first half, taking a tie game into halftime. But when South Carolina went nearly 10 minutes without scoring from the floor, Georgia took full advantage, took a comfortable lead, and coasted to a win. The Bulldogs are a consistently decent team, and honestly, just being consistent is a virtue in the SEC this year.
- Georgia has two players to take special note of. The first is point guard Charles Mann. Mann's game is to drive, draw fouls, and get to the line. He's second in the conference in free throws attempted, having taken more than 200 already this year. Unfortunately for him, he's not great at converting the freebies into points, shooting less than 70% from the stripe this year. He had a pretty lousy game yesterday, scoring just 7 points on 1-for-10 shooting and 5-for-8 from the line, but if you let him drive and pick up 3-point plays, he can be trouble.
- The other is Kenny Gaines, who has really gotten hot of late. He led the team with 27 points on 9/14 shooting (5/9 from 3). Over the past few games, he's really found his 3-point stroke. Kind of a poor man's Jabari Brown, but more than capable of punishing you. (Note to Mizzou defense: If you absolutely must leave someone open, try not to let it be this guy, eh?)
- Georgia generally rebounds well, and it's very important to their game. The Bulldogs are 15-3 when they win the rebounding battle, and 0-8 when they lose it.
Final thoughts: Missouri has more talent than Georgia, and absolutely should win this game. But "should" hasn't counted for much in the SEC this year. This will come down to the mindset and effort put forth by the Tigers.
Let us hope that we will be happier next week. May Terminus smile upon you.