Sports, Thrill of Victory

SEC football and basketball storylines of the week

We’ve still got bowl games and the College Football Playoff ahead, meanwhile, the Southeastern Conference basketball season has been underway for more than a month. Chris Lee brings us up to date with key happenings in both sports.

Henry wins the Heisman

 PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA ATHLETICS

Alabama’s Derek Henry is only the second Crimson Tide player to win the Heisman Trophy. PHOTO COURTESY ALABAMA ATHLETICS

Alabama is debatably the greatest college football program in history, but the Crimson Tide didn’t have a Heisman Trophy winner until Mark Ingram won it in 2009. Now, ‘Bama has two when running back Derrick Henry beat Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey for the award on Saturday. Henry’s 1,986 rushing yards set an all-time SEC single-season mark, as that mark also led the country. His 23 touchdowns from scrimmage also led the country.

Henry, of course, will now prepare to help Alabama face Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl, part of the College Football Playoff, on Dec. 31.

Taking on all comers in hoops

After years of seeing his teams compile weak out-of-conference schedules—something that didn’t help the league come NCAA Tournament time—former SEC commissioner Mike Slive said a couple of years ago that the league was going to do something about it.

A couple of years later, Slive’s impact can be seen across league schedules. Here’s a list of some of the notable teams that SEC squads have played this year, with a note of whether the team won or lost that game. I included every game against an opponent ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s top 100 as a “notable” game.

All these teams won’t be NCAA Tournament squads, but, for example, each team playing an NIT-bound team on the road or at a neutral site rather than scheduling a 300-plus RPI pushover a couple times a season goes a long way towards lifting the league’s overall RPI numbers, as well as the number of NCAA bids the league may eventually get. A game at a neutral site is listed in italics.

Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy scheduled a tough slate for his squad. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS A&M ATHLETICS

Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy scheduled a tough slate for his squad. PHOTO COURTESY TEXAS A&M ATHLETICS

Alabama: Wichita St. (W), Notre Dame (W), at Clemson (W), at Dayton (L), Xavier (L),

Arkansas: , Evansville (W), Akron (L), Georgia Tech (L), Stanford (L)

Florida: Richmond (W), St. Joe’s (W), at Michigan State (L), at Miami (L), Purdue (L)

Georgia: at Seton Hall (L), Kansas State (L), Chattanooga (L)

Kentucky: Albany (W), Duke (W), Arizona State (W), at UCLA (L)

LSU: North Carolina State (L), Marquette (L)

Mississippi State: Miami (L), Texas Tech (L)

Missouri: at Xavier (L), Kansas State (L), Northwestern (L), at Arizona (L)

Ole Miss: Seton Hall (L)

South Carolina: Tulsa (W)

Tennessee: at Georgia Tech (L), George Washington (L), at Butler (L)

Texas A&M: Gonzaga (W), Kansas State (W), Texas (W), Syracuse (L), at Arizona State (L)

Vanderbilt: Stony Brook (W), Wake Forest (W), Kansas (L), at Baylor (L), Dayton (L)

The bad news: the league didn’t fare that well, going 15-29 in those games.

The good news: win or lose, games against good teams generally help you in the eyes of the NCAA, which heavily weights RPI. You can see the effect below.

Commodore big man Luke Kornet is out 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

Commodore big man Luke Kornet is out 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL. PHOTO BY MATTHEW MAXEY

BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS (Overall record, ESPN RPI)

  1. Kentucky (9-1, 11)
  2. Vanderbilt (6-3, 32)
  3. Texas A&M (8-2, 29)
  4. Florida (6-3, 5)
  5. South Carolina (9-0, 34)
  6. Alabama (6-2, 22)
  7. Georgia (4-3, 42)
  8. Ole Miss (8-2, 92)
  9. Tennessee (404, 68)
  10. Arkansas (5-4, 119:
  11. LSU (4-4, 183)
  12. Auburn (5-2, 58)
  13. Mississippi State (4-4, 218)
  14. Missouri (5-4, 81)

BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

It’s ridiculously early to do this; most teams aren’t even 10 games into their schedules, and the disparity of competition faced varies considerably between teams. That said, it’s fun to do, so here’s my early top five:

  1. Ben Simmons, LSU
  2. Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt
  3. Kevin Punter, Tennessee
  4. Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
  5. Marcus Lee, Kentucky