It's over! The SEC Basketball Season that started in January has come to a close and we've seen both sides of the coin from perfection, the historically bad, the malaise of February and a little bit of the madness of March.
All in all, the SEC acquitted itself quite well truth be told, and if the SEC is on an uptick, all the better for the rest of us. Though it will make Belegcam's job a bit difficult if the SEC like Kramer falls ass backwards into competence.
To the games of the half week!
Arkansas (78) - South Carolina (74)
The Hogs were a bit helter skelter going up by 20, then down by 11 and then winning by four, you're crazy Mike Anderson. Bobby Portis was the man for the Hogs hitting for 24 points and grabbing 8 boards and Craig Johnson hit on 18 for the Cocks on his senior night, though was forced out due to cramping and that may have been the death knell for South Carolina in this game. Arkansas secured the second spot in the conference and the double bye, meanwhile South Carolina will play on Wednesday as the high seed of the low seeds.
Arkansas had a 20-point lead with 6 minutes left in the first half. With 6 minutes left in the game, Arkansas had an 11-point deficit. That's a 31-point swing in a 20-minute span. It was a 48-17 run. There was absolutely no reason to think the Hogs would come back to win at that point.
When it seemed like this year's episode of Senior Night would fall flat, the only active senior led the charge to make the last night of basketball in Colonial Life Arena this season an exhilarating evening. The ending was as dissappointing as the game was streaky but to even be in a situation with the game on the line tonight was the result of one heck of an effort from the home team.
Alabama (61) - Texas A&M (60)
The Tide owns A&M apparently, at least this season. Alabama took the road win and did some serious damage to A&M's NCAA tournament chances. A&M was without their best player in Danuel House who got hurt pregame and the damage was done. A&M, pretty much without a signature win on the season couldn't afford a bad loss and that's what today is. Losing at home on Senior Day is not the look you want going into the SEC tournament. If A&M is to get back into the tournament conversation and off the bubble will need to win a game Thursday and Friday at least.
The win was a nice relief from the heartbreaking losses the Tide has suffered over the last month, and was a sweet way to cap off the regular season. Next up will be the SEC tournament as the Tide fights for a spot in the NIT. We will have your preview and live coverage next week.
Oh, ouch. Shots fired. (I'm really just sad right now. I make jokes but it's really not working at all.) Aggie Men's Basketball just barely missed getting a final win from Alabama (61-60) and if you had Sherman flashbacks, you wouldn't be wrong. A&M gave up a substantial lead at the half only to see it turn into sand and run out of their hands. I could add more metaphors but it's not going to make this any easier. I'm putting all my eggs in the basket and say a miracle happens at the SEC Championship. Perhaps all the teams except for A&M mysteriously get mononucleosis and then they make a movie about our success. (Help me.)
Kentucky (67) - Florida (50)
Kentucky won every game this season. EVERY SINGLE GAME. I mean, that's amazing. Credit where credit is due, that's amazing. To keep your focus every day and night, with some slight hiccups (Ole Miss, A&M, LSU and Georgia) is to be praised. Now, they just wait for Friday and see who, if anyone can give them their best shot in the SEC tournament in Nashville. Florida's year ends and will have no NCAA tournament invite, barring a crazy SEC tournament run, which we've thought was possible earlier this season, and will look to next year.
This wasn't a great game as Kentucky games go, but it was good enough. The Wildcats were less efficient on offense than we'd like to see, but I thought the defense was very good overall.
Well, it's on to the NCAA Tournament, where the Wildcats will be the #1 seed. No matter what happens there, Kentucky will almost certainly be the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They are virtually certainly to be a #1 seed even if they lose their first SECT game by 50.
Trying was not the issue today, nor has effort been the issue for the Gators for much of this trying season. Kentucky was just better, capable of giving the ball to Karl-Anthony Towns (13 points, nine rebounds, seven blocks) and Trey Lyles (14 points and six boards) to make up for stagnant offense, capable of leaning on Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein (eight points, seven boards) to make a difference inside. Florida doesn't have a player like any of the three of them, not even one like Dakari Johnson, who can have four points and two blocks in near-silence off the bench for Kentucky. (It didn't hurt that Kentucky was whistled for nine fouls, and Florida awarded just seven free throws, while the 'Cats got 21 free throws from 15 Florida fouls, but that wasn't the primary reason the game went as it did.)
LSU (81) - Arkansas (78)
Raise your hand if you have any idea what the hell LSU is going to do from one minute to the next. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? After an embarrassing senior night loss to Tennessee this past week, they go into Walmart arena and get a buzzer beating three pointer from Keith Hornsby to get a signature win and keep their post season hopes alive. LSU was buoyed by strong three point shooting and were able to overcome the loss of Jordan Mickey. Arkansas meanwhile just couldn't get it done and have looked a little shaky of late. Does LSU need an SEC tourney game win, no idea, but they have a double bye so we'll wait to see on Friday.
That. That game is what I want. Because LSU had a sound game plan in as tough a road environment as there is. And stuck to it. They were playing without an elite-level player. And found production from other guys. They took another team's momentum swings in the final minutes. And came right back every time. They even overcame an overwhelming number of crucial 50-50 calls going against them.
Arkansas didn't play too badly. The fell behind in the first half when LSU went on a run when the score was tied at 15 and the Hogs soon found themselves down by 12. Bobby Portis had 21 points and 15 rebounds. Michael Qualls had 15 and 7. Ky Madden had 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Anthlon Bell had 12 points on 4-11 three point shooting and Alandise Harris had 10 points. They earned back the lead but couldn't hang on to it.
Georgia (64) - Auburn (61)
This was a game Georgia could not lose if they wanted to maintain a chance at the NCAA tournament, and through made free throws they were able to get a road win at Auburn ruining Senior Day for the Tigers as they bid farewell to KT Harrell, Malcolm Canada, and KC Ross Miller. Auburn was without Antoine Mason for another game since the loss of his father. This game was won and lost at the free throw line where Auburn was undone by many misses and Georgia hit theirs. For Georgia, the SEC tournament gives the Dogs a shot at another good win, and for Auburn it's more time to get some playing time.
In a back and forth game throughout, the Bulldogs' free throw shooting was the difference. Mann was fouled on a drive by Auburn's Cinmeon Bowers with 1:32 remaining and the score tied. He knocked down both free throws to put Georgia in front 62-60.
My memory of Auburn sports goes back over 30 years and never before have I seen a team that deserved more and better than they got than the 2013-14 Auburn basketball team. Tonight, the last game of the regular season epitomized the story of the year. Auburn hosted a larger, more athletic Georgia team that is likely going to be in the NCAA tournament. Despite Antoine Mason's absence, Auburn gave the Dawgs all they wanted and had a chance to take it to overtime on a last second shot by the great KT Harrell.
South Carolina (60) - Tennessee (49)
The Gamecoks finished their regular season on a high note getting their first win over Tennessee since 2007 and their first game at UT since 2002. Somehow, Tennessee is 5-4 on the road, but 2-7 at home, clearly they need to stop turning down for what, it's not helping them it seems. The Gamecocks did what many teams have done against Tennessee's defense and that's shoot lights out. Tennessee was never able to get the game any closer than 8 and go to Nashville looking to end the season with at least one win, while South Carolina plays on Wednesday.
South Carolina's 60-49 win over Tennessee this afternoon provided Gamecock faithful with another file of evidence leading to the program's progress. The win ends a 15-game losing streak to the Volunteers and marks the Gamecocks first win in Knoxville since 2002. The victory gave South Carolina it's 15th overall win and sixth SEC win of the season, the most in each category since the 2009-10 season.
Rocky Top Talk isn't talking about this yet.
Mississippi State (52) - Mizzou (43)
This is what happens when you have two of the worst teams in the league going head to head. This game was hideous, awful, terrible and set the sport back to the dark ages. Good lord this was miserable. If you watched this game you deserve a drink and a steak dinner (or tofurkey if you don't get down on meat). There is nothing good to say about this game so I won't.
I think I've more or less written this exact line already this season, but Missouri lost yesterday because Mississippi State wasn't scared of any of Missouri's offensive threats. Early on, I saw pretty crisp ball movement around the perimeter and occasionally inside. You could tell everybody was doing what they've been drilled to do. But the point of crisp ball movement is to force the defense to lose its shape. And it only loses its shape if it's scared of something you're trying to do.
For Whom the Cowbell Tolls is all baseball all the time.
Vanderbilt (86) - Ole Miss (77)
Well Ole Miss, meet A&M, you guys just went and barfed all over your tournament chances didn't you? Now, Vandy has been hot of late winning 5 games in a row and are playing the best basketball of their season and are looking hot. Vandy hit 13 three pointers in this game and shut down the Tad Pad for all involved. Ole Miss for their side put themselves squarely on the wrong side of the bubble and now have to make some hay in the SEC tournament, finishing in 5th place and knocking themselves out of the double bye. Vandy meanwhile is going to win a couple games and possibly ruin someone else's chance to dance.
Vanderbilt utilized a hot start to keep the home team at bay. They led the Rebels 13-5 early on and never looked back en route to their fifth straight win. After a 1-7 start to conference play - which included a seven game losing streak - Vanderbilt found their stroke in time to finish at 9-9 and lock down a spot in the top half of the conference. The win means that they'll avoid 31-0 Kentucky in the third round of the SEC Tournament - if they make it that far.
Ole Miss is still a virtual lock for the NCAA Tournament, but they're very much backing into it. Saturday night's ugly 86-77 loss at home to Vanderbilt was never really close, and the Rebs have now lost three of their last four. Not exactly the way we wanted to send Jarvis Summers, Snoop White and Aaron Jones off on Senior Night.
And that'll do it for the half week from the end of the SEC regular season, the SEC had looked good and then in the final weekend kind of made a mess of themselves.
Belegcam and I will be back here every day of the SEC tournament this week with posts Thursday - Sunday keeping you abreast of what went down in Nashville.
One more week left, then we're all out of the SECBASKETBALLFEVER induced bubble we've been quarantined in.
Let's finish strong!