Hello once again, I am coming to you live from somewhere people care a great deal about today's Super Bowl (North America) as opposed to somewhere where they don't (everywhere else)! When contemplating SECBASKETBALLFEVER and what it all means, it's origins, how to control it and what the long term affects are, I decided that for this week, it's better to just accept than question the fever. And that made me feel super! With today being Super Bowl Sunday, I figured when looking at the games of the half week, why not try and find a correlation between what our conference brothers did on the court with a previous Super Bowl. Sounds great right? Well it does to me. So as you peruse the work done by the SEC to itself and on itself, feel free to look back to a Super Bowl game that unless your team was playing in, you probably don't remember much about. Let's get to it!
Kentucky (69) - Mizzou (53)
We all know Kentucky is good, very good, supremely good. You know what's not good? College basketball officiating. Don't get me wrong, Mizzou lost this game because of everything they did and did not do on the court. But this game was something else to watch. It.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: Super Bowl XXXVIII between the Patriots and the Panthers of Carolina. Why this one? Well that's simple Super Bowl 38 was the match up that featured the most penalties in a Super Bowl ever. Both teams combined for 20 penalties, 20! The average for a typical game is 12, so both these teams clearly got a little handsy with each other. Just like Mizzou and Kentucky did.
Missouri did a good job with their man-to-man defense last night, although it produced an inordinate number of fouls which they simply could not absorb, and Kentucky could and did. By the middle of the second half, Mizzou was in genuine foul trouble and wound up having three of their best players disqualified. By that point, Kentucky was firmly in control, if not running away with the game, and the Wildcats toughed out another victory. Missouri deserves credit for their defense, and their offense was better than many have been against the Wildcats lately. Kudos to them for the effort.
Missouri still doesn't have enough offense to mount a challenge in a game like this, but for the third or fourth time this season, I'll say that last night we caught a lot of glimpses of what the next good Missouri team will look like. A team with all sorts of defensive intensity and offensive patience playing in front of an engaged, fun crowd? Yeah, I'll take that ... though maybe with a little less "patience"...
Tennessee (71) - Auburn (63)
This game marked the return of Bruce Pearl to Tennessee and while the Tigers did have a second half lead, they eventually fell to the Tyndall for what crowd. The reception however was warm and supportive so it's clear people still love him, and while he wouldn't admit it, I'm sure he would to have loved to have win this game. Auburn now has four straight losses and Tennessee continues to win keeping dance hopes alive.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: When thinking about this game, I decided to go the coaching route so the most reasonable comparison I could come up with was a coach who went to the Super Bowl, was successful and then came back with another team but wasn't. And if that doesn't scream Super Bowl XXXI between the Pats and Packers I don't know what does! In this case Bruce Pearl is Bill Parcells, just without all the off color comments and general lack of personality. In that game Parcells brought the Pats into their first Super Bowl since 1985 (and featured Mizzou Tiger, Otis Smith) and summarily lost to the Packers. Pearl, Parcells, see the connection? Of course you do!
This game was a stop-and-start affair, literally in the first half due to a faulty clock operator who was so happy to see Bruce Pearl back in TBA that time stood still for about 6 minutes, then in the second half thanks to what felt like fouls every 35 seconds. There were three techs in this game, 43 fouls in total, and 31 turnovers between both teams. This was anything but pretty, which at this point is less of a blip and more of a trend. It's left as an exercise to the reader if this is intentional from Donnie Tyndall or a product of a young team still struggling to find its legs.
To say that Thompson-Boling Arena was hostile would be the understatement of the year, but it wasn't coming from the stands. This game was characterized by fouls, ejections, and general contempt for the opponent as two shades of orange battled for a hard-fought W in the SEC. In the end, it was the Vols who were able to take control of momentum, solid free-throw shooting, and rebounding to prevent Auburn from its first road win of the season.
Florida (57) - Arkansas (56)
Arkansas went down to Florida and did that thing they sometimes do on the road, not really winning. This game came down to a couple of made free throws by Michael Frazier, II with seconds left to give the Gators a needed good win and for Arkansas merely a missed opportunity, because lets be real they're getting in the tourney.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: This game came down to a couple of free throws to win the game and let's be honest, free throws are the equivalent of a field goal. Think about it. Fans freak out more over a missed free throw or field goal, because one, they're free and two they look easy. Just kick it through the giant H or throw it through the big hoop. But alas it's not that easy. So when thinking about this game, the most reasonable comparison would be Super Bowl XXXVI, where the Patriots beat the Rams on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri and ended the greatest show on turf. So Michael Frazier you are a kicker, try to not get too pissed at me!
It went down to the wire again for the Gators, for the second time this week.
And for the second time this week, beleaguered Florida got big plays from key players in crunch time - and won a much-needed SEC game.
All the attention is going to come on that last play and whether the officials were correct in calling that a foul on Alandise Harris. I'm willing to concede that their may have been some body contact before Harris blocked the shot, but it wasn't significant, and wasn't more than on plays that happened on both sides throughout the game with no whistle. It's a frustrating way to end a game that was really entertaining to watch even though both teams played pretty poorly.
Mississippi State (73) - LSU (67)
Mississippi State and LSU saw that the SEC was getting just a little too predictable and decided let's bring back that fever, SECBASKETBALLFEVER that is! We're back baby! Mississippi State had started the season as a punching bag and a punchline and LSU was the big bad team on the block who were going to take the next step and then Saturday happened. The Dawgs beat the Bayou Bengals, crazy! The first half of this game was quite unpleasant to watch with both teams looking terrible, with plenty of missed shots and a closer than average rebounding numbers. In the second half, State pulled away with many, many made free throws and aside from Jordan Mickey, LSU couldn't do much from their end of things. In the end State was the winner and SECBASKETBALLFEVER was back with a vengeance.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: Thinking about this game, looking at what happened, it seems like the first half was slow and then in the second half blew up! And when you think of second half blow ups I think all the way back to Super Bowl XXI, back in 1987 when the Giants gave quite the spanking to the Denver Broncos...which would go onto become a trend in the late 80s and early 90s, man John Elway couldn't do a thing! But with regard to the second half after only scoring 19 combined in the first, the teams blew up for 40 in the second! Just like State and LSU did....this is spot on, isn't it?
Finish. Finally, after two games in which the Bulldogs failed to seal the deal, MSU found a way to finish an opponent. The 73-67 win over LSU is easily the biggest win of the season and could be a sign that the Bulldogs have truly turned a corner under Coach Rick Ray.
The Bulldogs have often played panicked this season when trailing in a ballgame but not today. MSU didn't panic when LSU opened up the second half with a quick run and they didn't panic when they fell behind late in the second half against LSU. Instead the Bulldogs made 13 of their final 14 free throw attempts and defensively held the Tigers below their season average in both points and field goal percentage. Mississippi State fans finally have a reason to be proud of their basketball team, not because of the number of wins but because of the determination of this squad to never give up.
The Tigers did not look like the team they are capable of being. The team only managed .29% shooting in the first half, but somehow trailed just 30-27. There were opportunities for The Tigers to win in the second half, but again they struggled to make free throws. With 10 minutes left in the game it was tied at 47, but The Tigers took the lead with 5 minutes remaining. Then Mississippi State went on a 6-0 run, took the lead, and did not give it up. Roquez Johnson gave The Bulldogs the lift they needed late in the second half.
South Carolina (67) - Georgia (50)
The Gamecocks got a big and much needed home victory over one of the SEC's better teams on Saturday beating Georgia by double digits in a game that was never truly that close. Georgia managed to cut a double digit lead down to singles but Mark Fox got all upset and walked onto the court receiving a tech and essentially derailing the Bulldogs chances at a big road victory.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: In thinking on this game, and a Super Bowl a potential comparison would be Super Bowl XII. Why 12? Well it's less so about the game and how it played out, aside from the score. See in this game the Dallas Cowboys managed to beat the Denver Broncos (hey, them again) ending the AFC's winning streak at five, just as South Carolina ended Georgia's winning streak. There was also a 13 game NFC winning streak, but we already mentioned that Pats win above and I'll be damned if I will repeat myself!
The Gamecocks forced Georgia into an incredibly blah shooting performance but it was extra blah in the second half. In that period of play the Bulldogs shot 4-of-24 from the field. Combing that stretch with their 7-of-26 first half performance, Georgia finished with an overall 11-of-50, 22 percent shooting performance which is the now the new school record for opponent field goal percentage in an SEC game for South Carolina. The previous record was set in 2004 when South Carolina forced Auburn to shoot 25.4 percent from the field.
Playing once again without forward Marcus Thornton, the Georgia Bulldogs couldn't survive some patches of anemic basketball, falling 67-50 to South Carolina Saturday night in Columbia.
Ole Miss (67) - Mizzou (47)
Ole Miss came in to Mizzou Arena and gave Mizzou a severe, severe beating. This game was close for about 4 minutes and then it all fell apart for the Tigers. Mizzou couldn't hit a shot to save their lives, weren't rebounding and the defense that Ole Miss was running (a 1-3-1 zone and press) that stifled the Tigers all afternoon long. For the Rebels they used their experience, fantastic free throw shooting and general calm to route the Tigers of Missouri. Ugly for a Tigers fan, great for a Rebs fan.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: In thinking on the Missouri - Ole Miss game, the comparison was easy. Super Bowl XXIV where the 49ers dismantled the Broncos in the most humiliating of fashions, 55-10. But for the first quarter of that game, it was still a game only leading 13 - 3, nothing crazy to that. And then for the Broncos the wheels completely came off and the floodgates opened. Joe Montana did whatever he wanted and the Broncos could do nothing to stop them. Much like Mizzou's complete and utter inability to do anything productive yesterday.
Three days after downing Clanga in Oxford, the Rebel hoopsters went to Columbia and gave Mizzou the business with a convincing 67-47 win. That Ole Miss plays well on the road has become something of a guiding principle this season and Saturday's dagger marks the Rebels' first ever roundball win in Columbia
I know this is where I'm supposed to write about the 'big picture' and 'where things are headed' and whatnot. But the big picture hasn't really changed, and where Mizzou is headed still depends wholly on off-season work, not on current results. This team is demoralized and sad. It fought hard for 10 minutes, then faded when the effort didn't produce results.
Texas A&M (69) - Vanderbilt (58)
Texas A&M just keeps on winning, that's six in a row now and surprisingly now sit at second place all alone in the SEC. This game was never in question and Vanderbilt just didn't have the horses to stay with A&M. In a day of weird and not always normal SEC play, this game felt right. The better team exerting itself over the weaker one and sometimes you need that as a writer and watcher of the SEC. Normalcy tends to feel nice. As long as A&M keeps playing this well, the dance is still real and all the better for the SEC.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: For you Broncos fans, I'm gonna do you a solid, you don't want to just read about your nightmares, so let's talk about something better. This game reminded me of Super Bowl XXXIII where the Broncos beat up on the Falcons in a game that was never really in doubt and pretty much went as most people expected, that is except the whole hooker thing. So you see, better team wins, no one is surprised and aside from fans of that team, mostly boring.
I may have been lying on the couch with a box of thin mints and getting my butt kicked by bronchitis, but Reed Arena looked and sounded awesome today. It looks so much better on TV when everyone is wearing white (the former students were slacking today). It was great hearing the crowd with big plays, and finally being able to hear the yells on TV during a basketball game. A tip of the hat to the Reed Rowdies, well done.
Vanderbilt looked as bad as they've looked this season, coming out flat in the first half and never catching up in a 69-58 defeat to Texas A&M. The loss was the Commodores' seventh straight after an 11-3 start to the season.
The Aggies made more than 53 percent of their shots from the field and outrebounded the 'Dores 32-23 in a decisive win. Vanderbilt looked disjointed all afternoon and never really threatened the home team.
Kentucky (70) - Alabama (55)
In the least shocking news of all time, Kentucky won again, at home over Alabama. Honestly, what is there to say? This is no indictment of Bama or Anthony Grant, it's just another step in a long procession of steps that leads to Big Blue winning the SEC in convincing fashion. Color me shocked! Kentucky didn't destroy the Tide, but they really didn't need to. Kentucky won, the sun rose and air is still what we breath.
Most Apt Super Bowl Comparison: After the 1979 season was over and the playoffs had completed, the Steelers came into Super Bowl XIV as an 11 point favorite over the LA Rams, the second largest line in Super Bowl history (don't want to double up on the Niners but they had the largest line ever in Super Bowl XXIX) and you just knew they would win, because it was obvious and that's exactly what happened. Just like Kentucky beat Alabama at home, everyone knew it was coming and no one is surprised it did.
This, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, is the kind of game we have been waiting for out of the Kentucky Wildcats offensively. Despite being undermanned with Trey Lyles out with an undisclosed illness, the Wildcats played efficiently on offense. Defensively, the were a bit below average. The intensity was there much of the time, but we saw too many mistakes that shouldn't be happening at this point. There's always going to be something to work on.
The game went exactly as expected, and Kentucky is now off to their program's second best start of all time at 21-0. Meanwhile, Alabama continues to revel in mediocrity, and Coach Grant has to be feeling more and more pressure. The talent seems to be there, but the team just can't come together offensively. An NCAA tournament bid is likely out of the question at this point though.
And there's your Sunday dose of SECBASKETBALLFEVER. Does that put you in the mood for some Super Bowl Action? I bet it does, and if it doesn't, it'll probably have you running for that first drink of the day just to cleanse your mind body and soul! Come back on Thursday for more SECBASKETBALLFEVER as we continue to try and make heads or tails of this wildly wonderful basketball conference, it is super after all!