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#SECBasketballFever: Stand Back, I'm Going To Try Science! Edition

SEC basketball We use science to find out why!

I don't care what Mike said to you, Donnie.  You're here to learn, so sit down and be quiet.
I don't care what Mike said to you, Donnie. You're here to learn, so sit down and be quiet.
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The small subset of SEC fans who didn't spend last week too dumbfounded by the conference's absence from the national championship game to notice saw something interesting as conference play got underway last week: the games were exciting!  Many games went down to the wire, with several even going into overtime.  Multiple overtimes, even!  Now, you might say: "Belegcam, as a writer who regularly satirizes the SEC's penchant for bad basketball, isn't this bad for you?  Good basketball that is fun to watch really undercuts the basis of your clever jokes, doesn't it?"  Well, dear reader, I am nothing if not adaptable.  If the SEC is going to insist on not giving me lemons, I'm just going to brew up a batch of not-lemonade!

While it is true that many SEC squads turned in fun games and great performances last week, there were three teams that didn't exactly bring the excitement: Alabama (Twice victorious, thanks to particularly ugly games by opponents Texas A&M and Tennessee), Tennessee (a clunker of a 61-47 win over Mississippi State to go with that loss to Alabama) and Mississippi State (they're real bad).  Everybody else participated in at least one reasonably exciting game last week.  It seems that these three teams might be the source of bad SEC basketball, perhaps caused by some sort of infectious disease.  Hmmmm...

Of course, it would be irresponsible to call for an immediate quarantine without some proof to back up this idea.  We here at #SECBasketballFever headquarters are big fans of science, what with our epidemiological focus and all, and this situation calls for an application of the scientific method.  We have a hypothesis:

Hypothesis: Poor-quality SEC basketball games are caused by the participation of one or more teams from the group of Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi State.

Now we must test it.  On to the experiment!

Okay, apparently Mike Slive has denied my request for a double-blind, randomized experiment (something about a "schedule" and "you want them to play blindfolded?  Are you insane?!?"), so we're going to have to settle for an observational study.  (Thanks a lot, Mike.  A lousy observational study isn't getting me published in Nature.)

Trial #1: Tennessee (74) - Arkansas (69)

Presence of Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi State: Positive

The Vols built up a big lead, with Mike Anderson's charges submitting a poor effort on the road (cough).  However, the Razorbacks mounted a late charge in the last quarter of the game, putting up 31 points in 10 minutes to pull within 3 with 5 seconds to go and a chance to tie it after Anton Beard was ruled to be fouled by Tennessee in the act of shooting a 3.  Unfortunately for Arkansas, he missed all three, Tennessee got the rebound, and the game was over.

Tennessee played "not to lose," but they're getting better, says Rocky Top Talk:

As I type this, Donnie Tyndall is on his postgame radio show talking about his team switching gears into "playing not to lose" mode toward the end of the game.  We saw the Vols almost blow a ten point lead in the final minute against Kansas State.  Tonight's run for Arkansas featured fewer Tennessee turnovers and more contested threes for the Hogs, so for some of that you have to tip your cap.  Hopefully as the Vols continue to mature, this problem will go away.

And if the Vols continue to mature, they could have more chances to hold a double digit lead in the final minutes.

Not devastating, but annoying, is the feeling over at Arkansas Fight:

Arkansas is not on the NCAA Tournament bubble right now, and it's going to take much more than one road loss to put them there. If the Hogs lose to Tennessee in Fayetteville in a couple of weeks, that would be really bad, but losing on the road to them isn't that detrimental to the season. The wins over SMU and Georgia have given the Hogs a great deal of credibility, and they'll still be favored in more road games this season.

That won't stop people from spitting out the same road game narrative that we've heard since well before Mike Anderson arrived at Arkansas, but since it's still a thing even after beating Kentucky, SMU, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State on the road to close last year and open this year, I'm not sure that storyline will ever die.

Oh, people won't drop an narrative they have linked to your team despite a pile of evidence to the contrary?  My heart bleeds for you, Arky fans.

Result: I'm tempted to put this one in the bad category due to Arkansas's lousy first 75% of the game, but they did have a chance to send it to overtime in the last 10 seconds, so I'm going to have to rule it a good game.  (Rats.)

Trial #2: South Carolina (68) - Alabama (66)

Presence of Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi State: Positive

Alabama went on the road looking to go 3-0 in SEC play, but Levi Randolph's 3 at the buzzer didn't fall, and the Gamecocks are now the proud owner of a conference win.

Garnet and Black Attack called Tuesday's game a must-win for Frank Martin's guys, and SC came through:

If there ever was a must-win game in mid-January, this was one of them for South Carolina. If they wanted any shot at the Big Dance, they could not start 0-3 in SEC play. Thanks to an all-around performance by this roster, the Gamecocks don't have to worry about that.

The next step will be getting to .500 in conference play, which South Carolina can do in their next game, Saturday at Auburn.

Alabama's shooting: good enough.  Free throws and rebounding: not so much. In other words: you got Frank Martin'd.  Roll Bama Roll:

The Tide shot well enough to win, 20-41 (48.8%) with 6-17 (35.3%) from three point range, but a poor 20-30 (66%) from the free throw line. South Carolina shot 22-53 (41%), only 3-14 (21%) from three point range, and 21-27(78%) from the free throw stripe. The Gamecocks dominated the board by a 33-23 margin, including a huge 13-4 advantage in offensive rebounds.

Result: Well, on one hand, the Tide had a shot at a buzzer-beating win.  On the other hand, both teams had extended scoring droughts and the second half was a foulfest.  I'm putting this one in the bad bin.

Trial #3: Kentucky (86) - Missouri (37)

Presence of Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi State: Negative

Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.  Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.  Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.  Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.  Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.  Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.  Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.

A Sea of Blue has some reassuring words for us Mizzou fans.  After all, Missouri isn't the first team to get crushed by-HEY WAIT A MINUTE:

Missouri is a young team, and it really showed tonight. The Tigers just ran into a focused group of Wildcats who had apparently had enough of getting challenged and dragged into overtime by less talented teams. There is no shame in getting thumped by Kentucky this year, as Missouri is in fairly good company with Kansas, Providence, and some other good basketball teams that came up on the short end of an encounter with the Wildcats. We wish Missouri the best, and Mizzou fans should be secure in the knowledge that their team’s best basketball lies ahead of them.


Result: Nothing about this game was good.

Trial #4: Texas A&M (74) - Mississippi State (70)

Presence of Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi State: Positive

The Aggies are not a great team.  The Bulldogs are worse.

(This victory in the teams' only regular season meeting allows Texas A&M to take home the basketball edition of the Maroon and White Cup.)

(This should be a thing.)

Good Bull Hunting: LOL WTF

I will not give this game actual basketball analysis. This game will take recaps in gif form, and it will like it.

For Whom the Cowbell Tolls didn't have a recap.  Perhaps this tidbit from their preview has something to do with that.

Dawg Facts: The Bulldogs have lost fifteen straight in SEC play which is the second longest streak in school history. MSU has lost sixteen straight in league play twice, 1946 & 1982.

*sad ding*


Result: An exemplary proof that close game =/= good game.  Bad.  Very, very bad.

Trial #5: LSU (75) - Ole Miss (71)

Presence of Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi State: Negative

LSU visited the Tad Pad , survived a late charge by the Rebels, and came away with a key road win.

The Tigers did the things you have to do to win basketball games, says And the Valley Shook:

After blowing late leads against Clemson, Missouri and Georgia, the Tigers nearly did it several times over Wednesday night. Instead, they came up with winning plays down the stretch - forgetting that strange and disjointed final sequence of turnovers. They got the stops down the stretch. They made 15 of their last 17 free throws. They stayed out of foul trouble and had their optimal lineups on the floor in crunch time.

Meanwhile, over at Red Cup Rebellion, they're putting out an APB for the team that took Kentucky to OT:

What do we take away from this herky-jerky game? On the one hand, the Rebel men held their own against a hard-nosed basketball team comprised of physical and anatomically large athletes; limbs and bodies flew around both nets as few fouls were called; the game was nothing short of a wrestling match. On the other hand, Ole Miss’s shots from the field seemed at times hasty and ill-advised. Slow down, boys. Enact the process you achieved in Lexington. And for God’s sake, re-calibrate those three-point scopes; they've served you well in the past.

Result: Yeah, this one was pretty good.  Can't complain.

Trial #6: Georgia (70) - Vanderbilt (67)

Presence of Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi State: Negative

Georgia nearly gave up a 13 point lead (seems like that's another interesting SEC trend worth looking into, but let's stick to one at a time), but good free throw shooting bailed them out in the end.

Georgia was the better team, but there were still plenty of anxious moments.  Dawg Sports:

Georgia jumped out to an early lead thanks to some hot shooting offensively and a stingy defense. However, like all of their conference games this season, a big lead slipped away late and provided some nervous moments for Mark Fox down the stretch.

Anchor of Gold hasn't published a recap at this time, but here's their game thread.

Result: Any game good enough to raise Mark Fox's blood pressure is good enough for me.

Conclusion: Our hypothesis went four for six, as Tennessee actually managed to play an (arguably) good game versus Arkansas, and, well, Kentucky did something to Mizzou.  However, while 67% gets you a passing grade, it's not quite good enough to provide the evidence necessary to elevate our hypothesis to the status of Grand Unified #SECBasketballTheory.  However, there's no need to bemoan this.  Science is all about learning that you were wrong, adjusting what you think you know, and trying again!  Perhaps we need to add some teams to our Typhoid Marys, or allow some to rejoin polite society.  Maybe there are some other factors, like ugliness and legality of court!  And what is going on with so many SEC teams blowing big leads?  The most important thing to remember is sample size.  The more trials you do, the more your results will tell you.  And the only way to get more trials (until Slive finally comes around to my way of thinking) is to check out more SEC basketball.  Preferably through our weekly reports.  The raw data's a bit confusing for the layman, you see.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to check on the distillation of Frank Martin's essence we've got going in the lab.  The MSDS says it's pretty volatile, but it's no fun without a little danger, amirite?