SEC notebook

With an .847 winning percentage, the SEC is currently posting their best non-conference record since the league expanded to 12 teams for the 1991-92 season. SEC teams are 6-5 so far this season against national ranked non-conference opponents and 3-0 against teams in the Top 10 of both polls.

The SEC leads the nation with an 111-20 non-conference record and ranks second with 111 wins

Conference notes

  • SEC teams own a 90-3 (.968) record when leading at the half.
  • Southeastern Conference teams have a 79-9 (.898) record when out-rebounding their opponents.
  • Southeastern Conference teams have a 71-3 (.959) record when shooting 45 percent or better from the field.
  • SEC teams have a 83-8 (.912) record at home this season.
  • Only Georgia, Kentucky and LSU own current road win streaks of two or more in SEC play.
  • Four SEC schools have home winning streaks of two or more in conference play. Georgia, Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee own overall win streaks of two or more in SEC games, dating back to last season.
  • The SEC leads the nation with a 28-13 record against the Top 8 RPI basketball conferences.
  • The SEC ranks second in the nation in Non-Conference RPI, according to the latest poll by CollegeRPI.com.
  • The Southeastern Conference is tied with the ACC and Big East with six teams ranked in the CollegeRPI.com's Top 40.
  • The SEC ranks second in the Sagarin rankings by central mean and simple average.
  • The Southeastern Conference is tied with the ACC with six teams ranked in the Sagarin Rankings Top 40.

SEC Opens 72nd Season of Conference Play

This week's games begin the 72nd season of conference play in the SEC. Since the 1932-33 season, the SEC has had 12 different schools win the SEC title, including former conference member Georgia Tech.

Kentucky leads the way with 42 titles (43 including its vacated 1988 title) followed by LSU and Tennessee with eight, Alabama with seven, Mississippi State with five, and both Florida and Vanderbilt with three. Auburn and Arkansas have two each while Georgia, South Carolina and former member Georgia Tech have one each.

Kentucky looks to defend its 2003 SEC crown and win a share of the Eastern Division title for the fifth year in a row. The Western Division will try to prevent Mississippi State from defending its title in 2004.

Upcoming SEC Games

January 10 (Saturday)
Tennessee at Florida [JP] 1:00 ET
Alabama at LSU [JP] 2:00 CT
Arkansas at Mississippi State 2:00 CT
Ole Miss at Auburn 3:00 CT
South Carolina at Georgia [FoxSN/SUN] 5:00 ET
Vanderbilt at Kentucky [FoxSN/SUN] 7:00 ET

January 13 (Tuesday)
Kentucky at Mississippi State [ESPN] 8:00 CT

January 14 (Wednesday)
Arkansas at Alabama [WVUA#] 7:00 CT
South Carolina at Auburn [JP] 7:00 CT

January 17 (Saturday)
Georgia at Kentucky [JP] 1:00 ET
Mississippi State at LSU [JP] 2:00 CT
Tennessee at So. Carolina [FoxSN/SUN] 5:00 ET
Auburn at Alabama [FoxSN/SUN] 6:00 CT
Florida at Vanderbilt [SUN#] 7:00 CT

January 20 (Tuesday)
Kentucky at Tennessee [ESPN2] 8:00 ET

SEC in the Polls (as of Jan. 5)

The SEC has had at least three teams ranked in 90 of the last 97 Associated Press Top 25 polls and 90 of the last 98 USA Today/ESPN coaches' polls, dating back to the 1998-99 season.

This season, four SEC teams are currently ranked in the AP poll with Kentucky leading the way at No. 7 followed by Florida (14), Vanderbilt (20) and Mississippi State (22). In the USA Today/ESPN poll, three SEC teams are currently ranked with Kentucky (5), Florida (11) and Vanderbilt (21).

70 is the Magic Number

SEC teams own a 82-3 (.965) record when scoring 70 or more points in a game. When holding opponents to under 70 points in a game, SEC teams also have a 84-6 (.933) record.

SEC Team-by-Team Notes

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
The Crimson Tide and the Kentucky Wildcats share the longest wait in the league---neither team gets to open SEC play until Saturday. Alabama, ready to rebound from a loss at Xavier this past Saturday, doesn't play again until Saturday when it opens up conference play at LSU. The Alabama-LSU series is always a fan favorite. Alabama leads 90-60 all time and has won five out of the last six, though its last game against the Tigers was a 66-62 loss in Baton Rouge last season. Tide junior Earnest Shelton leads his team going into league play, averaging 16.9 points after 11 games. Shelton has stepped up his play three-fold from last season. He started in eight of Alabama's 29 games last year and averaged 5.1 points. He's scored in double digits in 10 of Alabama's 11 games this season, scoring 20 or more in five games. Chuck Davis scored a career high 21 points, including 15 in the second half, to lead Alabama to a 71-56 upset victory over the No.15/18 Wisconsin. The victory improves the Crimson Tide to 1-1 against ranked teams for the season and moves Alabama's home winning streak to nine games.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Saturday's win over North Texas (96-61) moved the Razorbacks within one victory of matching last year's win total for the season. In the UNT game, UA had highs for points in a game and in the first half (46) and matched the high for points in the second half (50) during the Stan Heath era. Football quarterback Matt Jones joined the team on Friday following Wednesday's 27-14 win over Missouri in the Independence Bowl and played 11 minutes against UNT, finishing with two points, two rebounds, two assists with no turnovers and one blocked shot. In Arkansas' 81-74 road win at Tulsa on Tuesday, sophomore Jonathon Modica scored a career-high 28 points and matched his personal-best of five threes while also adding seven rebounds. Also at Tulsa, freshman Ronnie Brewer recorded his second straight double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He had 15 and 10, respectively, against Western Carolina on Dec. 22. Freshman forward Vincent Hunter made his return after missing the last four games with a shoulder injury, but foul problems limited him to eight minutes. Sophomore Jonathon Modica was held to four points in Monday's game against Western Carolina and failed to lead the team in scoring for the first time this year.

AUBURN TIGERS
This is the 122nd meeting between the Tigers and Commodores with Vanderbilt holding a 72-49 series lead, but Auburn has won four of the last five meetings. Vandy leads 42-17 in Nashville and 29-13 in Memorial Gymnasium. The Tigers won last year's game in Auburn 62-59, but Vanderbilt claimed a 73-67 victory in the teams' last meeting in Nashville in 2002. Auburn has a 34-36 record in SEC openers since the league's first season in 1932-33. The Tigers defeated Vanderbilt 62-59 in last year's opener in Auburn. Auburn and Vandy open SEC play against each other for the eighth time with the Commodores holding a 6-1 edge. The Tigers open SEC play on the road for the first time in seven years, dating back to playing at South Carolina Jan. 4, 1997. Auburn has lost six of its last seven games played in Nashville against Vanderbilt with the lone win coming in when the No. 11 Tigers defeated the No. 24 Commodores 86-80 in 2000. Kyle Davis notched a season-high rebounds with 13 on the season and also recorded is first double-double this season against New Orleans. Junior point guard Lewis Monroe, who fractured his left foot in the pre-season, made his first appearance this season against New Orleans. Monroe played the final three minutes of regulation.

FLORIDA GATORS
Florida used a career-high 28 points from Anthony Roberson to defeat No. 25 Florida State, 87-73, at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday afternoon. Roberson scored 20 of his 28 in the first half, including his sixth three-pointer of the opening frame at the buzzer to give the Gators a 39-33 lead heading into the locker room. After turning the ball over nine times in the first half, the Gators turned it over only three times in the second half while dishing out 17 assists for the game. David Lee hit his first two shots of the game before finally missing a shot after making 19 straight between the 14:04 remaining mark against West Virginia on Dec. 20 through 17:38 of the first half of the FSU game. Lee finished by hitting 5-of-7 shots overall and finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds. Bonell Colas and Matt Walsh added 11 points each , as four of five Gator starters scored in double figures. It was the Gators fourth straight win overall, their sixth straight in the FSU series and their 23rd straight against teams from the state of Florida. Florida opens SEC play at South Carolina on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunshine.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Georgia has a 30-18 record in SEC games over the past three years, with winning records in all three seasons, just the second time the Bulldogs have ever had three straight winning SEC seasons. The Dogs start the SEC schedule on the road for the first time since 2001. From 1991 until 2001, Georgia began its league schedule on the road 10 of 11 times. Georgia's four-man senior class accounted for 73 of its 83 points in the win over Georgia Tech. Damien Wilkins played the entire 50-minute contest against the Yellow Jackets. Pitt's 62.3 percent shooting was the best by a Georgia opponent since 1991, 378 games before. Counting the Pitt game, Georgia's succession of five opponents had, as this week began, a combined record of 52-3. Freshman Corey Gibbs saw his first action of the season in both games last week. He had served a nine-game suspension for committing a secondary NCAA rules violation in October. The No. 15 Pittsburgh defeated Georgia, 76-55, last Tuesday night at Pittsburgh. Georgia grabbed an early Christmas present in their last game before the holiday with an easy 79-59 defeat of Charleston Southern on last Monday night (Dec. 22) at Stegeman Coliseum.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Kentucky will be the last SEC team to begin its league schedule when it hosts Vanderbilt Saturday night. The Cats enter conference play with a 19-game win streak against SEC opponents. The Wildcats have won 17-consecutive SEC regular-season contests. UK has won 35 of its last 37 games overall and 24 of its last 26 games away from Rupp Arena. Kentucky posted its fourth-straight win over North Carolina, a come-from-behind, 61-56 victory over the ninth-ranked Tar Heels. Gerald Fitch scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the second half against UNC. Kentucky and North Carolina have two years remaining on a six-year deal. UK plays at Chapel Hill next season. Forward Erik Daniels had 11 points and 10 rebounds against Austin Peay and 18 points and 10 boards against North Carolina. He now has three-double-doubles on the season. UK finished the 2003 calendar year with a 33-2 record. Tubby Smith, the eighth-winningest active coach with a .730 career percentage, needs just three more victories to reach 300 for his career. He is 218-67 (.765) overall at SEC schools (UK and Georgia), the fifth-best winning percentage in league history. Smith's 94-34 (.734) league mark is the fourth-best in SEC history.

LSU TIGERS
LSU Coach John Brady won his 200th career game with the Tigers 66-63 win over Centenary Saturday night at the Century Tel Center in Bossier City, La. LSU plays the first Southeastern Conference league game for the second straight year when it meets Arkansas Tuesday night at Fayetteville on ESPN. Arkansas leads the series, 24-12, and John Brady is 6-9 against the Razorbacks, having won four of the last five meetings. Arkansas leads in games in Fayetteville, 10-2. LSU is 1-5 in SEC openers in the John Brady era and this is the third straight year the Tigers open league play on the road. LSU plays Alabama at the Maravich Center on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in a regionally-televised game on JP Sports. Jaime Lloreda continues to lead the SEC in points per game (20.4) and rebound per game (11.6). LSU took their first loss of the season, 60-52, last Tuesday night at Houston. Freshman Brandon Bass led LSU with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman, and local high school star, Tack Minor scored 11 points. Jaime Lloreda added 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.

OLE MISS REBELS
Ole Miss opens SEC play Wednesday against Mississippi State. The Rebels are riding a six-game win streak, their longest streak since taking seven-in-a-row during the 2001-02 campaign. Ole Miss knocked out East Carolina 65-49 Saturday, and Justin Reed led the team in both points and rebounds for the seventh time this season, tallying 27 points and eight boards. The senior forward boasts six 20-point games this season. Reed also needs 12 more rebounds to become only the fifth Rebel to rank top 10 in both career points and rebounds. Aaron Harper posted 15 points against ECU, and has been the Rebels' top offensive weapon during the win streak, averaging 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and shooting 47.2 percent from the arc (17-of-36 threes) in the six wins. Ole Miss has been especially dominant over the last three games with a 21.7 average margin of victory. Defensively, the Rebels have held the opposition 33.8 percent shooting, and limited all three to under 50 points. Wednesday's game will the 228th meeting between the two schools, with the Bulldogs holding an all-time series lead of 126-101. However, Ole Miss holds a 74-38 lead in games played in Oxford, winning six of the last eight encounters in Tad Smith Coliseum.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
MSU's 11-game winning streak to open the current campaign matches the starts put together by State's 2001-02 and 1957-58 squads. The Bulldogs will open SEC play by meeting arch-rival Mississippi on the road and playing host to SEC West foe Arkansas this week. The Bulldogs' current 11-game win string also ties for third on the school's all-time, single-season list for most consecutive wins. The current State single-season standards are 15 and 14 consecutive victories established by the 1958-59 and 1961-62 MSU clubs. State capped an undefeated non-conference, regular-season slate this past Saturday at UALR by posting an 11th straight victory on the home floor of a non-SEC opponent in a streak that dates back to 2000-01. The last time State began the league slate against UM happened way back in 1938-39. Stansbury owns more victories over in-state rival Mississippi (8-3) than against any other team. Mississippi State has won the last four State-Ole Miss meetings, including last year's game in Oxford (58-57). The last 13 State-Ole Miss games have been decided by an average margin of only 5.8 points. The last four Oxford meetings have been decided by just 13 total points (3.3 ppg).

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
The Gamecocks are opening up the season against the Florida Gators at home for the second time since USC has been in the SEC and the third time overall. The last time USC opened up the conference slate with Florida at home was on Jan. 7, 2001. Carolina came away that day with a 69-68 thriller. USC has held six squads to 50 points or less this season while allowing opponents to score only 55 points a game. Under Odom, South Carolina has held 16 opponents to 50 points or less. USC is 14-1 in the games where they have held opponents to 50 or less. The only loss came against Auburn. USC in SEC season openers is 5-6 while they are also 5-6 in Home SEC openers. USC is 20-4 all-time at the Colonial Center. Last year, USC was 4-4 against SEC foes. So far this season Carolina is 9-0 at home and has compiled a 16-0 mark against non-conference opponents. Three of the four losses were separated by seven points or less. The only loss outside of that range was a 87-69 win by Kentucky. A win against Florida would tie for the third longest streak at any USC home court.

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
After posting an 8-1 record to start the season, Tennessee will begin SEC play on Wednesday, Jan. 7, when they host the Georgia Bulldogs at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols improved to 8-1 on the season with a 74-66 win at UMass Saturday, Jan. 3. Scooter McFadgon led the Vols with 22 points while point guard C.J. Watson had 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and a career-high four steals. UT has won its last five games, its longest winning streak since a six-game winning streak last season. Tennessee has shot 123 free throws (96-of-123 for 78.1 percent) over the last five games while its opponents have attempted just 49 (32-of-49 for 65.3 percent). UT's 8-1 start to the season is its best since starting the 2000-01 season with nine consecutive wins. The Vols have outscored their opponents by an average of 16.7 points per game. All but one of Tennessee's games have been decided by at least 10 points this season. The only game decided by less than 10 points was the Vols' 74-66 win at UMass (1/3/04). The Vols have outshot their opponents at the free throw line 246-120 in the first nine games. UT has made more free throws (181) than its opponents have attempted (120). Tennessee has outscored its last four opponents at the free throw line 96-33.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Vanderbilt completed its non-conference schedule and moved to 11-0 for only the second time in school history with a convincing 95-60 win at TCU, Saturday. Jason Holwerda led five Commodores in doubles figures with 15 points while tying a career-high with seven assists. Matt Freije totaled 19 points and a game-high nine rebounds. VU netted a season-high 12 three-pointers against the Horned Frogs led by Dan Cage's four treys. The 35-point win was Vanderbilt's largest margin of victory on the road since an 80-39 win at Mississippi State (2/27/93). The Commodores shot 51.1 percent (23-of-45) from behind the arc last week in wins against Lehigh (11-of-21) and at TCU (12-of-24). At 11-0, Vanderbilt has tied the school record for wins to start a season with the 1960-61 team. VU tallied 54 first-half points against TCU - the most since it posted 57 against Georgia Southern last year (11/26/02). Freije needs one three pointer for the school record by a forward. He is current tied with Dan Langhi (1997-2000) at 138. VU's average margin of victory is 22.5 points a contest. The Commodores open their SEC schedule by playing host to Auburn Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT.


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