Sports, Thrill of Victory

Around the SEC: Top teams and officials both struggling

Our Chris Lee is back with this week’s look at major happenings within the Southeastern Conference in football and basketball. 

This time around, he discusses SEC players heading to the NFL Draft and the struggles of the top teams in hoops.

BIGGEST STORIES

The list of early NFL Draft entrees is set as of Monday’s deadline. The NFL won’t release an official list until Jan. 22, but here’s a list of the SEC players who’ve publicly declared:

Alabama's Derrick Henry and A'Shawn Robinson are among several SEC players leaving early for the NFL. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

Alabama’s Derrick Henry and A’Shawn Robinson are among several SEC players leaving early for the NFL. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

  • Peyton Barber, RB, Auburn
  • Beniquez Brown, LB, Mississippi St.
  • Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn
  • Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
  • Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
  • Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia
  • Jerald Hawkins, OL, LSU
  • Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
  • Derrick Henry, Alabama
  • Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
  • Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
  • Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi St.
  • Denver Kirkland, OL, Arkansas
  • Alex McCallister, DE, Florida
  • Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia +
  • Keanu Neal, S, Florida
  • Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
  • Marquez North, WR, Tennessee
  • A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
  • Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
  • Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU *
  • Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida
  • Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
  • Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
  • Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt
  • Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas
  • De’Runnya Wilson, WR, Mississippi St.
  • Avery Young, OL, Auburn

*Robinson didn’t play in 2015 due to a suspension due to a series of off-field incidents throughout his career.

+ Marshall technically isn’t an “early entree” since he’s a senior;  however, he could have sought an extra year of eligibility due to missing a year to injury, but decided not to pursue that. 

That’s a lot of players leaving early, but it could have been worse, especially for Alabama, LSU and Tennessee, though not for Arkansas

Oklahoma to the SEC… eventually?

We’re beginning to hear faint rumbles of conference realignment again, and the first dominoes could fall in the Big 12. This piece by GridironNow’s Chadd Scott, referencing an unusually-candid interview that OU president David Boren granted to the Tulsa World essentially: 

  1. calls into question the conference’s leadership; 
  2. reiterates the point that everyone in the Big 12 is sick of Texas running the show, and; 
  3. asks for a call-to-action on expanding to 12 teams.

But, to reiterate what Scott says, what if it doesn’t happen? It would seem that the Sooners would eventually bolt—most think to the Big Ten—but geographically- and football-speaking, the SEC would make a lot of sense.

Don’t expect anything to happen soon, but just file this one away in case things don’t change soon in the Big 12. 

Vanderbilt has struggled to a 10-7 record, despite stellar play from point guard Wade Baldwin. PHOTO COURTESY VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY

Vanderbilt has struggled to a 10-7 record, despite stellar play from point guard Wade Baldwin. PHOTO COURTESY VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY

Wilson named head coach at UTSA

LSU running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson, who’d been in Baton Rouge since 2010, leaves the Tigers to become the head coach at Texas-San Antonio. He’ll replace Larry Coker, who resigned with a mark of 26-32 there. 

That’ll leave a mark in Tigerland; Wilson was one of LSU’s best recruiters and had helped the Tigers assemble the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class, according to Rivals.

Heupel to Missouri

There are so many comings-and-goings with football assistants this time of year, I don’t have time to discuss them all. However, Missouri’s hire of Utah State offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is one to note.

Iif that name’s familiar, it’s because Heupel, the former quarterback, led Oklahoma to the 2000 national title and was the AP Player of the Year that same season. Heupel will also serve as the quarterbacks coach; between that and trying to resurrect one of college football’s most dismal offenses from 2015, he’s got his hands full.

Kentucky, LSU and Vanderbilt’s basketball struggles

Kentucky was No. 1 in the pre-season Coaches’ Poll and second in the AP’s, while the Commodores were 20th and 18th, and LSU, 21st and 19th, respectively. The Wildcats, however, nearly dropped out of the AP Poll (they were 23rd this week) while neither the ‘Dores or Tigers have even been close to being ranked in almost a month. 

Worse, neither VU or LSU would likely be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today

It would be hard to find a conference with a more disappointing threesome at this point of the year. 

Bad basketball officiating

I love the new officiating emphasis in which more fouls are being called in trying to bring about a cleaner game with more freedom of movement. I just don’t like other aspects of how games are being called. I can’t remember seeing so many blatantly poor calls as I’ve seen this year, and particularly, big men are being taken out of the game for touch fouls far too often. 

A controversial late-game call got a lot of attention following Alabama's loss at Auburn on Tuesday. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

A controversial late-game call got a lot of attention following Alabama’s loss at Auburn on Tuesday. PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA

Then there’s this. Witness what happened to Alabama at Auburn with 22.2 seconds left in Tuesday’s game, as a recent example; I watched this live and it was far worse than Avery Johnson described. 

Officiating seems to be too much at the focus of the conversation around SEC basketball at times, and in this case, that’s not a good thing. 

Michaels dies

One of Kentucky’s all-time gridiron greats, Lou Michaels, died this week of cancer at 80. Michaels was once an SEC Player of the Year, a rare talent who played offensive and defensive line and punted and kicked. A 13-year NFL career included All-Pro honors, and Michaels was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS (overall record, SEC record)

  1. Texas A&M (16-2, 6-0)
  2. South Carolina (17-1, 4-1)
  3. Kentucky (13-4, 3-2)
  4. Florida (12-6, 4-2)
  5. LSU (11-7, 4-2)
  6. Vanderbilt (10-7, 2-3)
  7. Alabama (10-7, 1-4)
  8. Arkansas (9-8, 3-2)
  9. Tennessee (9-8, 2-3)
  10. Georgia (9-6, 2-3)
  11. Ole Miss (12-6, 2-4)
  12. Auburn (9-8, 3-3)
  13. Mississippi State (7-10, 0-5)
  14. Missouri (8-9, 1-3)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  1. Ben Simmons, LSU
  2. Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
  3. Stefan Moody, Ole Miss
  4. Wade Baldwin, Vanderbilt
  5. Kevin Punter, Tennessee
  6. Gavin Ware, Mississippi State
  7. Alex Caruso, Texas A&M 
  8. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
  9. Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
  10. Jamal Murray, Kentucky