SEC Basketball Is By Far the Worst of the Power Conferences

It’s no secret that the SEC and it’s fan base is obsessed with football. And why not? Everyone loves winners and one thing SEC football does, is win and win big. SEC Basketball on the other hand isn’t quite as dominant. Despite having on of the most successful programs ever in Kentucky and another program which has been really good winning back to back titles and winning a lot of tournament games over the past 20 years in Florida. Let’s not also forget the consistency and competitiveness of Vanderbilt. Unlike in football, the high tide (no pun intended) hasn’t raised all ships.

SEC Logo

Right now it looks that only four teams are likely to make the big dance; Kentucky, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and South Carolina. With the Gamecocks really on the edge of the tournament, it’s possible we could see only three SEC teams in the tournament. Notice LSU, wasn’t mentioned. Unless they win the SEC Tournament, the Tigers will play in the NIT. The other aspect of the Tournament is seeding and it isn’t looking great right now for the SEC. It looks like both Kentucky and Texas A&M may only be as high as 4 seeds.

Now let’s compare this to other leagues. The ACC is probably going to get 7 teams in and maybe 8, and it would be 9 if Louisville didn’t self impose a ban. Within the ACC, you have three teams vying for a 1 seed in UNC, UVA and Miami. All three are probably locks for at least a 1 or a 2 seed. The Pac-12 is looking at 7 teams in though no #1 seeds right now. The Big Ten is looking at 7 teams as is the Big 12, with Kansas perhaps the only team locked in as a 1 seed. Even the Big East will get more teams in than the SEC, and they have two teams vying for 1 seeds in Villanova and Xavier.

Before I start getting hate mail for bashing the conference, let me be clear, the tournament is as wide open as it ever has been. Kentucky has probably the best back court in the country with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. They could very well make a deep run and we know Coach Cal has done it before. Texas A&M is another team with a make up to make a nice run. They are well disciplined on both ends of the court. They have some size, play physical, and smart. Ditto with Vanderbilt. It’s very possible that three SEC teams make it to the second weekend. So sure the conference lacks depth and consistency with the teams up and down the standings, however the teams that will make it, have the make up to make a run. And that’s what makes the NCAA Tournament the best sporting event in the country.

Welcome to March! Let the madness begin!

 

Who Will Win SEC Player of the Year?

We are officially on the stretch run of the SEC hoops season, so it’s a great time to talk about who will win the player of the year. There are a handful of players that first off deserve mention. Let’s begin with LSU freshman Ben Simmons who’s averaging 19.6 PPG, 5.0 APG, and 11.8 RBG. That’s a great stat line, but since he was so heralded coming in and the team hasn’t performed well, Simmons will likely not win player of the year.

SEC Logo

Alabama’s Retin Obasohan is worth mentioning because he’s having a great season. Averaging 17.3 PPG, 2.7 APG and 4.1RBG, he’s the best player on a team that was a tough out throughout the entire season. He won’t win player of the year, but it’s important to point out what he’s done.

Let’s head to Texas A&M, where swing man Jalen Jones leads a well balanced Aggie squad. Averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.0 RBG, doesn’t jump out at you, but he’s been a consistent player for a team that will be a tough out in not only the SEC tournament but the Big Dance as well. Jones probably won’t win player of the year, but he will probably get some votes.

In Lexington, freshman guard Jamal Murray, has been lighting it up for Kentucky. Averaging 19.9 PPG, 2.0 APG and 4.9RPG, this young man especially over the past six weeks has been an unstoppable force. It is going to be a showdown between Murray and Simmons for freshman of the year and the way it’s looking, Murray deserves the nod as it stands right now. I would say Murray deserves a lot of votes for player of the year, however there is someone else who deserves the hardware.

There hasn’t been a player more important, more consistent, in not only the SEC but the entire country than Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis. The Sophomore is averaging 16.6 PPG, 7.0 APG and 3.2RPG. He is the glue that keeps it all together for UK. He sets the tempo for the Wildcats. If Kentucky makes a deep run in the NCAAs, you better believe it’s going to be Ulis as the catalyst. He’s fun to watch, he’s unselfish, he’s tough, he has a very high basketball IQ and he’s the most important player in the conference, hands down. Tyler Ulis ought to be player of the year in the SEC.

New SmackCast: “Mayday, Mayday,” in Knoxville!

Dave Hart is named Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director at the University of Tennessee by UT's Chancellor Jimmy Cheek Monday evening at Neyland Stadium's Press Center. photo by Patrick Murphy-Racey/UTADPHOTO

 

So, it’s been an interesting last 48 hours in Knoxville and it’s cranked to “full volume,” now! So we decided to do a special SmackCast recapping the unprecedented Tennessee coach’s news conference from Tuesday, through more allegations Wednesday and Thursday involving Butch Jones, and now, Atheltic Director Dave Hart’s presser this afternoon.

Was what we saw with the coaches earlier this week staged? Can we go a day (or how bout 12 hours?) without more allegations of rape cover-up and retribution? Will Jones last?  If he goes, doesn’t Dave Hart have to go, too?

Ari Russell joins me to discuss it all on a Big Orange Panicked edition of SmackCast!

Click below:

 

Butch Jones May Have a Huge Problem

University of Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones has been mentioned in the federal lawsuit that has been filed by six women against the University. According to the Tennessean Butch Jones told a former player he “betrayed the team,” when he came to the aid of a woman who said she was raped by two of his teammates,

Knoxville, TN - December 7, 2012: Butch Jones portrait. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Sophomore Drae Bowles “broke down and cried” after speaking with his coach, the lawsuit said.

Jones later called Bowles back to apologize for calling him “a traitor to the team,” according to the suit.

The two calls with Jones came after Bowles was punched in the mouth and bloodied by teammate Curt Maggitt as retribution inside the UT locker room, according to the new filing.

For the full story click here.

It’s good that Jones apologized, but the initial reaction is a terrible look. There is also the issue of Bowles’ teammates going after him physically (there’s another alleged incident in the story) and yet the Vols HC  apparently did nothing to punish them or warn off others after incident #1. As the article indicates, Bowles transferred out of the program after the 2014 season.

These are the types of things that seem small, but speak to a larger narrative. Right now the University of Tennessee is under a ton of pressure. The spotlight is glaring in Knoxville and there will be heads that will likely roll in the aftermath. Could this particular instance cost Butch Jones his job? We won’t know, but we do know that Jones will not have much wiggle room moving forward.  He will have some explaining to do about this instance and anything else that may come out in public.

Players to Watch This Weekend

There’s a full slate of games this weekend in the SEC. Here are a few players to keep your eye on once the ball tips off:

SEC Logo

Georgia @Vanderbilt Noon ET:

Vandy G Wade Baldwin IV – 14.3 PPG 3.9 RPG 4.9 APG

This is a must win game for Vanderbilt

 

Mississippi State @ Alabama 2:30pm ET

Bama G Retin Obasohan 16.7 PPG 3.9 RPG 2.8 APG

The Tide are the hottest team south of Lexington in the SEC. Look out for Retin, he dropped 35 vs. LSU this week

 

LSU @ Tennessee 5:30pm ET

LSU F Ben Simmons – Duh!

This is a must win for the Tigers. There is no margin for error at all anymore.

 

Kentucky @ Texas A&M 6:30pm ET

Kentucky Guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray – not sure you will find a tandem playing as well as these two right now

 

A Rising Tide

Can you believe it, it’s February and we are talking about the Alabama Crimson Tide. And no, for once it isn’t the football team gearing up for Spring practice. Tide hoops right now has jumped on the national scene before you had the chance to blink. Winners of five straight games, all of a sudden Bama is making a strong case for making the NCAA Tournament.

tide
In his first season ever as a head basketball coach Avery Johnson is silencing those who criticized his lack of previous experience. If you watch Alabama play, they are very disciplined, especially in the half court.  Not a surprise considering Johnson was a great guard in the half court.

One of the reasons for their success has been the play of Retin Obasohan. On Wednesday night he scored a career high 35 points en route to a huge win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Right now Bama is 7-6 in a mediocre SEC, however their strong out of conference schedule will certainly help their case. With wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame and Clemson as well as their recent surge, Bama is moving in the right direction.

Go figure! It’s been a while since Alabama basketball was relevant, but right now in the SEC, no one is going to be excited to play them. Next up is a Saturday squabble at home vs. Mississippi State

SEC Bubble Watch

With Selection Sunday a little less than a month away, it’s time to take a look at the teams in the SEC and their NCAA Tournament chances.

SEC Logo

In:

Kentucky

South Carolina

Florida

Not locked, but has inside track:

Texas A&M– Sure they have an RPI of 25 and if the season ended today, they are in. However, they have lost five straight conference games. They need to get off the mat, otherwise, they wont make it in. A few more conference wins and the Aggies locked in.

Vanderbilt– They have an RPI of 53. They probably need at least two more wins against top 50 teams and they have three left on the schedule. @Florida, vs. Kentucky and @Texas A&M. Plus they are going to need to beat the teams they are supposed to beat down the stretch. Vandy has a narrow road.

LSU– This is the definition of a bubble team. Perhaps the most high profile of teams on the cusp of the tournament. The Tigers RPI is an ugly 69. They have match ups vs. Bama, Florida and Kentucky that will help their resume. A win against the Cats will lock in LSU. All that said there’s no doubt that Ben Simmons helps his team’s cause. But they still need to not have any bad losses in conference.

Has Work to do:

Alabama– Here comes the Tide! Four straight conference wins has Bama in the conversation. A win @LSU on Tuesday will certainly help their cause. They also have a game in Lexington as well. If Alabama keeps in the direction they have been the past few weeks, we may see them in the dance.

Georgia– They have the roughest road to make it. They probably need to go 5-1 in their last six to make it.

Ole Miss– See Georgia. Ole Miss doesn’t have many quality wins and their schedule doesn’t have enough quality opponents to make a difference. However if they win out and go deep into conference tournament, they could have an outside shot

Already Out:

Arkansas

Miss St

Auburn

Tennessee

Missouri

 

 

Could Ben Simmons Miss the Big Dance?

LSU Freshman phenom Ben Simmons is a sure shot top 5 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Most analysts have him being selected 1 or 2. There is no question he has tremendous potential at the next level. But right now LSU is a certified bubble team.  They are 15-9 and 8-3 in the mediocre SEC. On Saturday LSU will take on Texas A&M and it’s pretty much a must win for the Tigers, otherwise their road to the big dance narrows immensely.

ben simmons

We could have a real situation, where a sure shot NBA lottery pick misses the NCAA Tournament. For fans of college hoops, it’s not a good look. However it isn’t unprecedented. In 2013, Alex Len played for a Maryland Terrapin team that missed the NCAA Tournament. Len was picked 4th overall. However Len was not quite as high profile on the national level as Simmons is now.

The most recent instance of where a top college player and NBA prospect missed the NCAA Tournament happened in 2012. Damian Lillard at Weber State was having a heck of a season, being one of the nation’s leading scorers and earning third team All America honors, which is quite the rarity for a Big Sky Player. Lillard after deciding to return for his Sr. season in Ogden, Ut, was considered one of the top prospects for the 2012 draft. After winning the Big Sky regular season, Weber State lost on the conference tournament, and the Wildcats were left out of the Big Dance. Certainly a disappointment for Weber State fans, but also for general college hoops nuts, like myself.

Could Ben Simmons face the same fate as Lillard? If LSU isn’t careful, it’s possible. However when you have such a super star like Simmons on the roster, winning the conference tournament, could indeed be a possibility. So even if LSU suffers a bad loss or two more in the regular season, they can still make it to the dance. That said, it’s better to win now to remove as much doubt as possible. Saturday’s match up against the Aggies is key. Tip off is at 1pm ET.

New SmackCast talks UK vs SC + A &M vs LSU!

profile_pic_400x400

On this edition of the SmackCast, we talk about the huge match-ups this weekend in Columbia, SC and Baton Rouge, as Kentucky takes on the Gamecocks and A & M tries to snap a 3 game slide at LSU.

Analyst Mark Wise (above) joins me for the breakdown. How solid is the footing for the Aggies NCAA hopes and what must the Bayou Bengals do help their case for an at large bid? Plus, what does Mark think about Big Blue Nation rounding into form in time for a run in March?

Click below and hear it all on the SmackCast!