TEAM OF THE WEEK: LSU
The Tigers have earned criticism for not being a consistent team, so sweeping its games this week is worthy of recognition. The more impressive win of their two was on Tuesday, when they went to Gainesville and walloped the Gators 79-61. They traveled to Vanderbilt on Saturday and eked out a 79-75 OT victory. Was the weekend win inspiring? No, but it's hard to complain about the team's first blemish-free week of the calendar year. Maybe the team just needed to get over this hump to start acting like a real tournament contender.
NOT TEAM OF THE WEEK: Florida
The Gators' standing for the postseason has been sagging for a while, but this week might have been the nail in the coffin. UF couldn't really get anything going except for a brief stretch in the second half of that loss to LSU, and it couldn't stop Ole Miss's Jarvis Summers from scoring four points in the final 30 seconds in a 72-71 loss to the Rebels on Saturday. After having finished the non-conference season without a notable win, Florida doesn't have a notable conference win either. A narrow victory over South Carolina is its best victory so far in league play. This year's squad just doesn't have it, and this week was full proof.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jordan Mickey, LSU
The Tigers' super sophomore rose to the occasion this week in helping power his team to its pair of victories. He earned a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds in Gainesville, and he put up another double-double in Nashville with a game-high 25 points and 11 boards (five of them offensive). He scored eight of LSU's first nine points and poured in 16 in the second half of the latter contest.
We've got two honorable mentions this week. One is to Texas A&M's Jalen Jones, who had 16 and nine in a Wednesday win over Missouri and 18 and nine in Saturday's upset of Tennessee. The other goes to Georgia's J.J. Frazier, who had a career day against Mississippi State on Saturday. He hit all seven of his three point shots on the way to 37 points against the other Bulldogs.
TOURNAMENT BID QUEST: Solid
I said on Friday that the six teams in varying levels of tournament contention needed simply to not screw anything up. None of them were going to play each other on Saturday, so they just needed to beat teams they should beat. Five of them did their part, with Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, and Alabama all winning. They weren't all convincing wins with Arkansas squeaking by Mizzou by a point, LSU needing overtime to beat Vandy, and Bama needing a last second tip-in to get past Auburn. Still though, what the league needed was for these teams to increment their win totals. They mostly did that. Only Tennessee fell short, losing to Texas A&M 67-61 at home.
In all, only two of the six teams took on losses: UT on Saturday and Alabama to Arkansas (one of the other contenders) in overtime on Thursday. It's hard to have a better week than that.
KENTUCKY UNDEFEATED WATCH: Cruisin'
In Week 1, UK had a pair of near death experiences. In Week 2, the Cats blew their opponents off the court. In Week 3, they were solid. Kentucky wasn't able to pull away from Vanderbilt in its 65-57 win on Tuesday, but the Commodores were never closer than six in the final two minutes either after Aaron Harrison drained a three with 2:11 to go. It took a while for the Wildcats to get it in gear on Saturday, but they scored the final 11 points of the first half and kept the Gamecocks under 20 points in the second half for a 58-43 win. Close scrapes and big blowouts are more memorable, but games like these typically comprise the majority of long win streaks.
This week, we have again only have two games among the contenders with Tennessee traveling to Arkansas on Tuesday and Alabama visiting Kentucky on Saturday. Just as it was last week, it'll be important for breaking the league's embarrassing two-year streak of only getting three teams in the Big Dance that the top teams continue to beat the middle and bottom teams. South Carolina is best positioned as a spoiler, with the Gamecocks facing LSU and Georgia.
If Florida can't get things going after a rough Week 3, we have a chance to see something we haven't seen in a long time. The Gators are certainly not locks to win either of their games, a road match at Alabama and a home game against Arkansas. Should UF drop them both, it'll be the first time since the 1997-98 season—Billy Donovan's second year—that the Gators will have been more than one game under .500 in SEC play at any point. It would also be the first time that the team was under .500 overall in the second half of a season since that same '97-98 team finished 14-15.
|at Missouri, Thurs.
|South Carolina, Weds.
|at Mississippi State
|at South Carolina
|at Auburn, Tues.
|at Arkansas, Tues.
|Mississippi State, Weds.
|at Alabama, Tues.
|Texas A&M, Tues.
|at Ole Miss, Weds.
|at Georgia, Weds.
|at Texas A&M
|at LSU, Weds.