Our good buddy Belegcam dropped the first installment of this three month long series on Thursday, so you know the particulars, he takes the week day games and I've got weekends. Basically we are the divorced parents of the SEC doing our part to raise this kid right. Based on the play so far, exciting basketball with very little crazy, I'd say we've done a damn good job in year 2 so far, but that doesn't mean this can't all go off the rails in spectacular fashion in the coming weeks...and I kind of hope it does.
SEC BASKETBALL FEVER
Mizzou 74 - LSU 67 (OT)
The SEC kicked off the conference slate Wednesday night with 6 conference games between 12 conference teams, leaving just the Tigers of LSU and Mizzou hanging out wondering when it was going to be their turn. Well their turn came Thursday night in a half filled Mizzou Arena. In a game that was billed to be about the bigs of LSU, it was the bigs of Mizzou who stepped up and won the day for the Tigers, that is once they got to overtime.
Last night, Mizzou not only got big-time play from two sophomores (Johnathan Williams III, Wes Clark) and important contributions from two freshmen (Namon Wright, Tramaine Isabell), but its seniors also came through. Keanau Post grabbed five offensive rebounds, blocked three shots, and put on a miniature dunk fest. Keith Shamburger made four of five free throws down the stretch with four assists and a big, late-in-regulation 3-pointer. They are Mizzou's senior leadership, and in the first game of conference play, they came up huge.
However, let me be very clear that this is the kind of loss that brings harbingers that maybe this Tiger team isn't so different from the last 15 years or so of LSU basketball. This was a loss that stunted an 8-game winning streak, halting any momentum LSU had before conference play really could even get into the swing of things. More than that, it's the latest in a long line of games or runs that completely robs the program of fan support, belief and excitement.
This is not new. No, this is the norm for LSU basketball in the last decade or so. There was 2004, when LSU was riding a 5-game winning streak and had aspirations for a good NCAA Tournament run. Boom, spanked as a ranked team by Auburn in front of 11,000+ in the PMAC. That 2005-06 team that made the Final Four and won the SEC? Lost five non-conference games, meaning most of that title run was played in front of 7,000 people at home. How about the next season, fresh off a Final Four run? Lost 9 of 10 SEC games en route to a 5-11 league finish. You may (or may not, if you're lucky) remember that Trent Johnson's clubs followed up that 2009 SEC championship with two straight 11-win seasons.
Kentucky 70 - Texas A&M 64 (Double OT)
We're one week into the conference season and Kentucky is still undefeated, but not for a lack of trying. At this rate the Cats are going to play more minutes than any other team what with their propensity for giving the fans free basketball. In their second game of the season, after an over time thriller with Ole Miss, Kentucky headed down to former Big 12 outpost College Station to take on the Aggies. After a close game Kentucky would have their heads on straight right? Nope! It took two overtimes and a full roster to get this game in the bag for the Cats. Like Belegcam I took Kentucky to be undefeated at the end of the year and that's looking shaky...
The Wildcats have definitely gotten more than many people thought they would early in the SEC season, and I have no idea if that’s good or bad. I guess a good angle is that Kentucky has played a lot of competitive basketball in a short time. On the other hand, I wonder about their confidence after having to face down three overtimes in two games they were favored to win by huge margins.
This may sound like a broken record, but I absolutely cannot figure out Coach Kennedy's plan for subbing guys in and out of the game. House was on fire, so he got to sit down. Alex Robinson started getting on a roll, so he got to sit down. The combination of that strategy with "if they make one mistake we bench them" is really confusing, and a pretty big confidence killer. And hey, where in the world was Fitzgerald in this game? Did I miss something?
Alabama (56) - Tennessee (38)
This game was ugly, there's no other way to describe it. But in basketball as in most sports, someone has to win and Alabama got the job done. The score looks very B1G to me, and I guess that's what happens when a team goes 14 minutes without a made shot in the second half. Alabama on the other hand has won six in a row, gotten their first road win of the season, and are rolling...tide.
It may have been ugly, but the Crimson Tide finally won a game away from home, effectively removing the monkey that has been hanging on their back for the last couple of years. Tennessee's new head coach, Donnie Tyndall, did his best to get the Volunteer crowd rowdy for this game, even going as far as bribing the student section with free pizza. Anthony Grant and his team entered hostile territory and managed to fight through the crowd noise to pull out a win against a sub-par Tennessee basketball squad.
We knew Alabama made a living getting to the free throw line. But the Vols were not their normal foul-happy selves, drawing just 15 whistles all afternoon and putting Bama at the stripe just 12 times. We knew Alabama was not a very good three-point shooting team that loved to shoot them anyway. And the Vols played their zone and gave Bama the open looks it couldn't turn down. The Tide shot 6 of 22 from the arc, just 27.3%. Both of these things played right into Tennessee's hands; if you'd told me coming in Bama was going to shoot 12 free throws and 27.3% from the arc, I would've asked how much we won by.
Arkansas (82) - Vanderbilt (70)
I'm just gonna say it, Arkansas, you are scary good. It's the feel good time 'round the old Mike Anderson campfire, and everyone's got extra marshmallows.
This game felt like a blowout but it wasn't.
The Commodores led 2-1 early on, but then never again as this young team never quite found the momentum that could carry them to a big road win. Vandy's long-range shooting kept them alive, but sloppy ballhandling and their inability to stop Arkansas in the pain ultimately unraveled them. The 'Dores committed 22 turnovers in the loss.
Ole Miss (65) - South Carolina (49)
So either Ole Miss has got some swag at home following a close contest with Kentucky and is moving in some kind of way, or South Carolina may have been a bit of a mirage.
This week in Ole Miss hoops has been simultaneously encouraging and disappointing. On one hand, the Rebs frustratingly came up just four points and a few electrolytes short of upsetting No. 1 ranked Kentucky in overtime. On the other, they didn't lose by 30 like everyone expected and we all survived the drinking game.
Auburn (85) - Mizzou (79)
In a game of two halves Auburn used it's speed, tenacity and some girth to knock off the Tigers of Mizzou at home. Home is where the heart is after all...
Auburn never gave in and kept fighting back. Late in the second half the shots started dropping again, and Auburn pulled away to a six point victory on the backs of Canada's late free throws.
But Auburn's two strengths were too strong. Auburn more than doubled Mizzou up in the BCI department and nearly doubled the Tigers up in free throws attempted. And while the officiating was worthy of scorn, so was Mizzou attempting 27 3-pointers.
Florida (72) - Mississippi State (47)
The Gators had won 22 straight SEC games coming into this game, and made it 23 after a visit from Mississippi State.
It was such an easy, breezy win that there was really only one thing to worry about: Chris Walker picking up an injury to his left leg that forced him to limp off the court and pass up two free throws with just under two minutes to play. If Walker is seriously hurt — especially with Jon Horford still in proximity of Billy Donovan's doghouse — the Gators could find their next few games significantly more difficult than this one.
Mississippi State (7-8, 0-2) played significantly better than they did in the Tennessee game but Florida, on the road, was too much for the Bulldogs to handle. The Gators (9-6, 2-0) dominated the ballgame from the opening tip. Florida opened the game on a 22-7 run and never looked back. State came out flat for the second consecutive game as the Bulldogs failed to hit double digits until the 7:56 mark of the first half.
LSU (87) - Georgia (84) (Double OT)
The SEC day was bookended by two double overtime thrillers, LSU and Georgia did their part in the night cap to send the day off on the other foot that Kentucky and Texas A&M started us on.
It was best of times as Keith Hornsby showed off some smooth moves early in the game.Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson later showed off their 3-point shooting prowess with each scoring 18-points off the bench in the first half. The official timeout at the 3:05 mark of the first half saw LSU up 35-32. It was the worst of times in the second half as the Tigers as a team went on a cold streak missing on 10-of-11 shots. This allowed Marcus Thornton to tie it at 67 at the end of regulation. The worst of times continued in the first overtime period as Jarell Martin and Josh Gray fouled out the game.
Do you wonderful LSU fan, DO YOU!
Free throw problems would hurt Georgia down the stretch. Marcus Thornton converted one of two to push the lead back to six but Quarterman knocked down another long three-pointer to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 80-77 with 30 seconds remaining. LSU fouled Charles Mann who missed both free throws. Quarterman scored again on the drive and was fouled by Thornton with 19 seconds remaining. He knocked down the free throw to tie the game. Georgia got one last crack to win it but the possession failed to produce a good shot and Frazier's desperation attempt fell short sending the game to a second overtime period.
SEC Basketball Standings
|Team||Conference Record||Overall Record|
And there you have it, the weekend ('cause we can all agree the weekend starts on Thursday right?) that was in the SEC. I can say that I don't believe at any point during Belegcam and I's run of SECBasketballFever that I've seen such enjoyable basketball from this conference. Well done SEC, let's make this the norm and not the exception.