Four on the Floor
1. Florida Gators - While Kentucky faced yet another struggle this past week, it was the Florida Gators who made the best of what was in front of them. They easily dismantled the Georgia Bulldogs, and despite a superb shooting performance from the Auburn Tigers, Coach Billy Donovan's club skirted out of Auburn Arena with a victory to go 2-0 during the week. The No. 6 team in the land was aided by 21-point performances from both Michael Frazier and Casey Prather against Georgia and Auburn respectively. There is no denying that as of this point, Florida is trending up.
2. Kentucky Wildcats - The Wildcats hit a bit of a speed bump last week, falling to the schizophrenic Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville. As we'll explain later, this was a game that the Wildcats should have won, but they did bounce back with a victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. With home matchups this week against Texas A&M and Georgia, Kentucky has a chance to continue to bounce back from a tough, last-second defeat at Bud Walton Arena.
3. Ole Miss Rebels - As it stands right now, the Southeastern Conference might only get two tournament bids with how weak it is compared to the rest of the country. It almost seems automatic that the bids are going to come from Kentucky and Florida. But, even with that said, the Ole Miss Rebels have been getting into a groove as of late. It certainly helped their cause that they were able to squeak by this past week against the LSU Tigers in an overtime victory at home in Oxford. They will have two upcoming games this week against Vanderbilt and Mississippi St., neither of which will truly be measuring sticks. But, perhaps, they can continue to make a push of their own as conference season continues on.
4. Texas A&M Aggies - Those same Aggies that we profiled here last week suffered an unlikely, untimely defeat against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs on Saturday. Perhaps most disappointing about the loss was that the Aggies had an opportunity to remain amongst the unbeaten in conference, but they were outpaced by the Bulldog sand nearly lost by double digits. With a road game looming against Kentucky, things might not be getting any easier.
The Wildcats might be kicking themselves later on in the season if their loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks comes back to bite them.
From a statistical standpoint, the Wildcats had the Razorbacks beaten. They had them bested in both Effective FG% and on their FT Rate as well. Further, they had a better FG%, outpaced them in rebounding and more blocks. But perhaps the most harrowing part was in the turnover rate. The Razorbacks feasted off turnovers throughout the game, and picked up 10 steals during the contest, to just three from Kentucky. This was a rare occurrence for the Wildcats, who are right around the Division 1 average for Turnover%. Unfortunately, the outlier bested them on Tuesday evening.
But the Wildcats were able to regain their composure at Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon. They took care of business against the Tennessee Volunteers, who had been playing well before entering the hallowed halls for the matinee showdown. They might have only forced six steals, but Kentucky only let up four steals and a Turnover% of 13.0 percent. Whle that too was on the other side of the extreme, it certainly represented a careful adjustment.
Gators Showing Their Strengths... and Their Weakness
There is no denying that the Florida Gators could be the class of the Southeastern Conference for the moment. Right now, the Gators are one of the best defensive teams in the country by most metrics. They boast a Top-20 defense in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, are halting teams from shooting well, forcing turnovers and creating opportunities, and keeping things contained in the paint and on the wings.
But there is a weakness on this team that is becoming more glaring as time passes.
The Gators cannot defend the perimeter well. Their 3-point defense is actually parallel to how the team itself is shooting the ball from the 3-point arc on offense. At 36.1 percent, the Gators are 91st on the offensive side of the ball. But, defensively, it is much worse. Florida is ranked 256th in the nation in 3-point defense at that 36.1 percent mark, and that weakness did show itself against Auburn. Although the Tigers had one of their best shooting performances in years, the fact is that they converted 53.8 percent of their 3-point opportunities.
Florida does not necessarily jump off the page offensively, and while their offensive numbers have been increasing as of late, if they run into a team that can get hot from the 3-point line with ease, they could be in some trouble later on in the season. For now though, they could very well be the best that the SEC has to offer.
The Native Flash(es)
Ole Miss' resident rabble rouser Marshall Henderson was awarded the SEC National Player of the Week award for his performances in the Rebel victories over LSU and on the road against South Carolina. The senior guard 22.0 points in those two games, including a 25-point performance against the LSU Tigers. Henderson was more than capable of leading the way against LSU, showing signs of efficiency as well, shooting 43.8 percent from the field, an even 50.0 percent from 3, and was a perfect 5-5 from the free throw line.
The Week Ahead
Non-Ranked Team to Watch: Missouri Tigers
The spotlight is on you, Mizzou. It has been written in these posts before that there is a cloud of skepticism around this club. Their loss at Vanderbilt did not help matters, and even though the Tigers bounced back against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, it should still be expected that Missouri fans might still not think the world of this club. With that said, there is no denying that this team is talented enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but they have to start collecting victories. They will certainly have a chance to erase those doubts with a road test against the LSU Tigers, and they will host the South Carolina Gamecocks this coming weekend.
Game of the Week: Texas A&M vs. Kentucky
In full, it is not exactly ripe for the pickings this week. But, Texas A&M versus Kentucky should provide the goods if the Aggies bring it on the road. It will not exactly be easy for them though, as the Wildcats will certainly be looking to not let another victory slip through the cracks like it did last Tuesday. Suffice it to say, this week's SEC hoops schedule features a somewhat barren cupboard, but Texas A&M against Kentucky should be your viewing of choice.
7 p.m. ET - Missouri vs. LSU (ESPNU)
9 p.m. ET - Texas A&M vs. No. 14 Kentucky (ESPN)
8 p.m. ET - Auburn vs. Mississippi St. (ESPN3)
8 p.m. ET - Arkansas vs. Tennessee (ESPN3)
8 p.m. ET - South Carolina vs. Georgia (ESPN3)
9 p.m. ET - Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt (ESPN3)
7 p.m. ET - No. 6 Florida vs. Alabama (ESPN2)
1 p.m. ET - Vanderbilt vs. Texas A&M (ESPNU)
1:30 p.m. ET - Georgia vs. No. 14 Kentucky (ESPN3)
4 p.m. ET - Tennessee vs. No. 6 Florida (ESPN)
4 p.m. ET - Mississippi St. vs. Ole Miss (ESPN3)
4 p.m. ET - South Carolina vs. Missouri (ESPN3)
6 p.m. ET - Auburn vs. Arkansas (ESPN3)
8 p.m. ET - LSU vs. Alabama (ESPN2)