TOURNAMENT BID QUEST: Damaged
The teams in the best shape for the postseason had been doing well there for a while, but things got ugly on Saturday. Kentucky and Ole Miss made it through the week unscathed while Tennessee only lost to another contender (Arkansas on Tuesday), but that was it. Florida edged out Arkansas on a pair of free throws with under two seconds to go to win 57-56. South Carolina finally got back on track when it knocked off Georgia 67-50. Worst of all, LSU's road demons reemerged as the Tigers fell to Mississippi State 73-67.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Florida
After being down on the Gators last week, I don't have much of a choice to praise them this week. No team in the league got a better pair of wins than Florida did after it beat Alabama on the road 52-50 and took down Arkansas 57-56. Neither game was a work of art, but the team figured out a way to win again against two of the non-dreadful teams in the conference. I'm not ready to say UF is back in the March Madness hunt or anything, but it was a much needed bounce back showing for the team.
Honorable mention goes to Texas A&M, which beat Auburn and Vanderbilt this week. It's not so much that the Aggies impressed in those games specifically, but they now own a really nice six-game win streak.
NOT TEAM OF THE WEEK: LSU
This is the first time I've given this dubious distinction to a team that actually won a game in the week, but the Tigers' six-point win over South Carolina does nothing to ameliorate the loss to Mississippi State on Saturday. Sure the Bulldogs used an improbable stretch of going 13-of-14 from the free throw line during their decisive run, but LSU shouldn't have been in position to have that happen to them. With apologies to the Bulldogs, losing to MSU is arguably the worst loss an SEC team can take on. Either way, the Tigers now inarguably have both of the worst losses an SEC team can have (sorry to you too, Mizzou). This is not how you impress the selection committee.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Craig Sword, Mississippi State
A lot of our coverage around here is based on teams with a chance to make the tournament—because let's face it, that's what most people care about—but that's no reason to completely ignore the rest. MSU had a pretty good week, with a narrow loss to Ole Miss 79-73 and the upset win over LSU. Sword was a key player in both, putting up a 14-5-5 line against the Rebels and leading all scorers with 27 points against the Tigers. I call that good enough to be player of the week.
KENTUCKY UNDEFEATED WATCH: Lonely
Despite the fireworks elsewhere in the league, the Wildcats had a fairly simple week. They gutted out an eventually comfortable 69-53 win on the road at Missouri, and then the offense looked sharp in a 70-55 win over Alabama on Saturday. The team now sits at 21-0, and with Virginia finally taking on its first loss of the season, it's the only undefeated squad left in the country. Congratulations, Wildcats.
This week is a proving week with some pretty juicy matchups. Kentucky has its most difficult week in a while with a home match against Georgia followed by a trip to Florida. Georgia doesn't have any time to lick its wounds with that trip to Lexington next and Tennessee on deck. Texas A&M's win streak is in real jeopardy against Ole Miss, who quietly has been playing some consistently good ball for a month and a half.
As the six-team logjam and 5-3 unwinds, we'll have a better idea of what the middle of the conference looks like. The calendar says it's February, so it's high time the league sorted itself out. Days like Saturday muddle the picture, but it will begin to come into focus soon.
|Kentucky||21-0 (8-0)||Georgia, Tues.||at Florida|
|Texas A&M||15-5 (6-2)||at Ole Miss, Weds.||at Missouri|
|Arkansas||16-5 (5-3)||South Carolina, Tues.||Mississippi State|
|LSU||16-5 (5-3)||Auburn, Thurs.||Alabama|
|Georgia||14-6 (5-3)||at Kentucky, Tues.||Tennessee|
|Ole Miss||14-7 (5-3)||Texas A&M, Weds.||at Auburn|
|Tennessee||13-7 (5-3)||Mississippi State, Tues.||at Georgia|
|Florida||12-9 (5-3)||at Vanderbilt, Tues.||Kentucky|
|Alabama||13-8 (3-5)||Missouri, Weds.||at LSU|
|Mississippi State||10-11 (3-5)||at Tennessee, Tues.||at Arkansas|
|South Carolina||11-9 (2-6)||at Arkansas, Tues.||at Vanderbilt|
|Auburn||10-11 (2-6)||at LSU, Thurs.||Ole Miss|
|Vanderbilt||11-10 (1-7)||Florida, Tues.||South Carolina|
|Missouri||7-14 (1-7)||at Alabama, Weds.||Texas A&M|