We’re nearly two-thirds of the way through the season, and while Kentucky may be running away with the Southeastern Conference’s regular-season title, there are plenty of great storylines across the league anyway. Chris Lee takes a look at those today, along with team, player and coach rankings.
- Kentucky set to make history. If the Wildcats can win on Saturday at South Carolina—and there’s no reason to think they won’t—they’ll tie the record for the best start to a season in the program’s illustrious history. Of course, UK fans are thinking of another kind of history, that being the first team to go undefeated throughout the course of the season since Bobby Knight’s Indiana team went 32-0 and won the national title. The scary thing is that the ‘Cats have a chance to get even better, so I’m not sure I’d want to bet against them.
- Florida’s floundering. Probably no team in the country has been more disappointing than Billy Donovan’s Gators, who limp into the last third of the season with a 12-12 overall record. Barring a major miracle—the Gators might have a chance at making the NCAAs if they could win their next six games, which would include three victories over probable NCAA Tournament teams, and then get to the finals of the SEC Tournament—but those are a ton of “ifs.” If you’re looking for culprits, blue-chip recruits Chris Walker and Kasey Hill have not developed as sophomores the way anyone expected, plus, the Gators are 4-9 in games by seven points or less.
- Marcus Thornton’s return to Georgia. It was a scary time for Georgia when Thornton, the team’s best inside player, missed time with a concussion. Indeed, the Bulldogs lost both games with him out, including a not-so-good loss to South Carolina. Thornton returned last Saturday and played 26 minutes in a win over Tennessee, and then played 29 in a road upset of Texas A&M. Thornton still hasn’t returned to his previous level of productivity, but just having him back is a great sign for a team that isn’t very deep and has been hampered with injury issues for well over a month.
Power rankings (SEC record follows, average of Sagarin, Pomeroy, RPI and BPI rankings in parenthesis)
- Kentucky, 11-0 (1)
- Georgia, 7-4 (26)
- Arkansas, 8-3 (24): Razorbacks have won six of last seven, but it’s a suspect streak as none of those seven are headed to the NCAAs.
- Ole Miss, 8-3 (34): Rebels have won six in a row, though with the exception of a win over A&M, it’s been against bottom-half-of-the-league teams.
- Texas A&M, 7-4 (47): Scoring has been a real struggle for the Aggies of late.
- LSU, 6-5 (46): Tigers had a real opportunity to beat Kentucky, but couldn’t execute in the clutch.
- Florida, 5-6 (47)
- Alabama, 5-6 (54): Anthony Grant’s club still has a snowball’s chance at the NCAAs, but it’ll need to close strong and beat some NCAA-bound teams.
- Tennessee, 6-5 (80): Vols had lost four of five until an improbable last-minute road comeback win over Vandy.
- Vanderbilt, 3-8 (71): Of VU’s 11 losses, only two have come by more than eight points.
- South Carolina, 3-8 (74): It’s been seven games since the Gamecocks scored more than 60 points.
- Auburn, 3-8 (146): Bad news for coach Bruce Pearl: the roughest stretch of the schedule is coming…
- Mississippi State, 4-7 (159) … and the same can be said for MSU as well.
- Missouri, 1-10 (178): There are many issues with the young Tigers, but the biggest one is that they just can’t shoot.
Player of the Year
- Bobby Portis, Arkansas: Averaging 19.3 points and 10 rebounds in SEC play, with 56 percent shooting.
- Jordan Mickey, LSU: Leads the league with 83 blocks.
- Josh Richardson, Tennessee: Vols’ do-it-all player was almost single-handedly responsible for the Vandy win.
- Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Leads all UK big men in minutes, which shows you how valuable coach John Calipari thinks he is.
- Levi Randolph, Alabama: One of the few men in the SEC to log over 800 minutes; still doing everything well.
- Michael Qualls, Arkansas: Has been in a bit of a shooting slump (39.4 percent) in SEC games, but still having a nice overall year.
- Jarell Martin, LSU: One of the league’s best scorers and rebounders.
- J. Frazier, Georgia: Has a 56.4 effective field goal percentage, an 84.3 field goal percentage, 2.5 assists per turnover, and averages 1.6 points per shot, all of which rank near the top of the SEC.
- Alex Caruso, Texas A&M: The heart and soul of the Aggies on both ends of the floor.
- Rashad Madden, Arkansas: Shooting over 88 percent from the line, 53.3 percent effectively from the field, has 2.2 assists per turnover and averages 1.6 point per shot. What else do you need your point guard to do?
Coach of the Year
- John Calipari, Kentucky
Mark Fox, Georgia; Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss; Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M and Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee: It was a four-way tie a week ago, and none have separated themselves from the pack since.