SEC basketball notebook

This season, four SEC teams are currently ranked in the AP poll with Mississippi State leading the way at No. 4 followed by Kentucky (9), LSU (24) and South Carolina (25). In the USA Today/ESPN poll, four SEC teams are currently ranked with Mississippi State (5), Kentucky (9) and South Carolina (22).

The SEC and the ACC are the only conferences in the nation to have all of its teams ranked at least one week in the Associated Press top 20 (excluding preseason polls) since 1997-98. Simply stated, every SEC and ACC team has been a top-20 team nationally at one point in the last six-plus seasons.

A look at SEC teams in the AP top 20 show the league's diversity since the 1998 season. Every team has been in the top 20.

Alabama 10 weeks: 2002-03
Arkansas 1 week: 2000-01
Auburn 17 weeks: 1999-00
Florida 10 weeks: 2003-04
Georgia 8 weeks: 2002-03
Kentucky 14 weeks: 2003-04
LSU 9 weeks: 1999-00
Ole Miss 7 weeks: 2000-01
Mississippi State 6 weeks: 2003-04
South Carolina Entire season: 1997-98
Tennessee 14 weeks: 2000-01
Vanderbilt 1 week: 2003-04

Is This the Year for Seven?

The SEC has had six teams in the NCAA Tournament field in each of the last five seasons. The Southeastern Conference led the nation in Overall RPI during the last four seasons and was first or second over the same span in Non-Conference RPI heading into the NCAA Tournament.


LSU and Mississippi State are the only teams with current road win streaks of two or more in SEC play. Seven SEC schools have home winning streaks of two or more in conference play. LSU and Mississippi State are the only teams with current overall win streaks of two or more in SEC games, dating back to last season.

Upcoming Schedule

February 17 (Tuesday)
Florida at Georgia [ESPN] 9:00 ET

February 18 (Wednesday)
Ole Miss at Tennessee 7:30 ET
Vanderbilt at Alabama [WVUA#] 7:00 CT
Arkansas at Kentucky [JP] 8:00 ET
Auburn at LSU [CST#] 7:00 CT

February 21 (Saturday)
Kentucky at Auburn [JP] 1:00 CT
Tennessee at Georgia [JP] 2:00 ET
South Carolina at Arkansas 2:05 CT
Alabama at Mississippi State [CBS] 3:00 CT
LSU at Vanderbilt [FoxSN/SUN] 5:00 CT
Florida at Ole Miss [ESPN2] 7:00 CT

Strength of Schedule

The SEC has 11 of the 50 toughest schedules in the country, according to
  • Alabama 1st
  • Florida 2nd
  • Kentucky 5th
  • Georgia 21st
  • LSU 25th
  • Vanderbilt 36th
  • Ole Miss 37th
  • Tennessee 38th
  • Auburn 41st
  • Arkansas 44th
  • Mississippi State 45th
  • South Carolina 87th

Close Calls (as of Feb. 16)

Winning conference games was not easy this season as evidenced by some tight games decided by the slimmest of margins. Of the 62 conference played so far this season, 23 were decided by six points or less, including four overtime games. Meaning 37.1 percent of league games were won in the final minutes.

Team-by-Team Notebook

The Crimson Tide broke its five-game losing streak on Saturday with its 83-70 home win against Tennessee on Saturday. Alabama remains at home this Wednesday when it plays Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. CT. After going 21 days without playing anyone from the Western Division, Alabama will finally return to divisional play on Saturday, February 21 at Mississippi State in a game that will be televised by CBS. Junior guard Earnest Shelton continues to nurse a knee sprain sustained January 21 at Georgia, but he's not letting it hold him down. He has scored 63 points in his last three games, two of those against the Top 25, including 23 points at South Carolina, 13 points at Kentucky and, in his latest effort, 27 points to lead Alabama's win against Tennessee. He's shooting 54% in these last three games and shot 66.7%, making 8 of 12 from the field against Tennessee. For the second time in three games, Alabama had two players score 20 or more points when Shelton scored 27 and Chuck Davis scored 20 in the win against Tennessee. Shelton scored 23 points and Kennedy Winston scored 20 in Alabama's game at South Carolina.

In Saturday's 77-70 loss to No. 6 Mississippi State, Arkansas drew a season-high attendance of 19,042. Arkansas is now 1-3 against ranked teams this year. Against the Bulldogs, sophomore forward Jonathon Modica scored a career-high 33 points, going 12-of-19 from the floor, including 3-of-7 on threes, and 6-of-11 at the line. Modica is the first Razorback to score 30 or more points in a game since Jannero Pargo had 35 against MSU on Feb. 27, 2002. Freshman Ronnie Brewer tied a season-high with eight assists in the game and just one turnover. Sophomore forward Matt Jones missed his second double-double in three games by just one point, finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds. He also had four assists and three steals. In last Wednesday's game at Tennessee, Arkansas freshman Olu Famutimi was eight of 15 from the field for a team-high 18 points, all season highs. He also had five rebounds and three steals. Matt Jones had a career-high seven assists with no turnovers along with seven points and seven rebounds. Senior Billy Pharis had 11 points and eight rebounds at UT, the most points he's had in eight games and the most rebounds in nine. Junior Michael Jones has scored in double figures in three of the last six games.

This is the 126th meeting between Auburn and LSU with LSU holding a 71-54 advantage. The teams have split the last four games in Baton Rouge. LSU has a 39-19 edge in Baton Rouge, including a 22-9 mark at the Maravich Assembly Center. Cliff Ellis is 8-9 vs. LSU, including a 2-6 mark in Baton Rouge. Auburn is already finished with Western Division opponents Arkansas and Ole Miss, but has yet to play LSU. However, both teams will play each other twice in 18 days, lastly in the regular season finale in Auburn on March 6. LSU has already completed its season series against Arkansas and Alabama. Auburn's game against LSU in Baton Rouge is the only one of the eight SEC road games that Auburn plays that is not televised. In Auburn's last four road games, opponents are shooting a torrid 52 percent (34-of-65) from 3-point range. On the other hand, Auburn is shooting a frigid 26 percent (24-of-93) from 3-point rage in these games. Auburn is 2-5 this season in games decided by six points or less. Junior Marco Killingsworth is only 35 points away from becoming the 28th Tiger in Auburn history to score 1,000 points. Killingsworth came out of the slump with season highs of 23 points (9-of-12 from the field) and 11 rebounds at Ole Miss on Feb. 14.

The Florida Gators fell to 5-5 in SEC play after a 73-70 loss to LSU in which they were unable to hold onto a 10-point second half lead. Matt Walsh scored 24, while Anthony Roberson added 18 points for the Gators. Combined with David Lee's 11, the trio accounted for 53 of Florida's 70 points on the night. Roberson and Walsh combined to hit 17-of-32 shots, however the remainder of the roster connected on only 11-of-31 attempts from the floor. Florida posted 15 assists and turned the ball over just seven times, however, was unable to contain a hot-shooting LSU team that hit 59.1 percent in the second half. Billy Donovan is now 20-4 at home against the SEC West with two of the four losses coming to LSU. Florida grabbed 12 offensive rebounds while Roberson led the Gators in rebounding for the second straight game, posting six. Florida will now play four of its final six SEC games on the road. Florida posted its third win against a ranked opponent, taking an 81-71 decision over Vanderbilt, last Saturday. Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson combined for 50 points, scoring 25 apiece to lead the offensive charge.

Five regular-season games remain for Georgia and two of them are against Florida, the first of which comes Tuesday night. The Bulldogs completed a regular-season sweep of Kentucky last Saturday for just the fifth time since 1922. In the Kentucky game, Georgia established season highs in blocked shots (7) and steals (13), and UK's 22 turnovers were the most by a Georgia opponent this season. Georgia also had its highest point total of the SEC schedule and its first SEC game with a positive assist/turnover ratio. Rashad Wright returned to active duty versus Kentucky after missing the Vanderbilt game, ending a 110-game streak of games played. It also ended a 98-game streak of consecutive starts. Georgia's 39 points against Vanderbilt last week were its fewest since the 1982 team scored 26 in a win at Mississippi State. With five regular-season games left, Chris Daniels needs 59 points to reach 1,000 for his career. Rashad Wright needs 65 to reach the same milestone. Thirty-two players in UGA history have scored 1,000 career points. Vanderbilt held Georgia without a field goal over a 14-minute stretch in a 61-39 victory last Wednesday night. Levi Stukes finished with a team-high nine points for Georgia.

Sophomore Kelenna Azubuike had a career day in the loss to Georgia, recording career highs for points (23), field goals (7), free throws made and attempted (7) and assists (4) while tying a career high with 36 minutes played. Azubuike is averaging 13.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in his last three games. Kentucky still has yet to allow any of its 21 opponents to shoot 50 percent from the field. Tennessee Tech shot an opponent-high 49.2 percent against the Cats in UK's second game of the season. Since early December, only South Carolina (46.4) and Mississippi State (46.3) have shot better than 44 percent against the Wildcats. The 74 points scored by Georgia were the most allowed by UK in over two months (74 by Michigan State on Dec. 13). The Cats' had held 13-straight opponents to 68 or fewer points. The game in Athens was also the first time the Cats had lost this season when scoring more than 60 points. UK has held a double-digit lead in 18 of its 21 games, including three of its four losses. The Wildcats are 6-1 this season against ranked opponents (4-0 in SEC play) and an impressive 18-3 in the last two years against ranked foes. Antwain Barbour scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting in UK's 66-55 win over Alabama, last Tuesday.

Tigers won its fifth straight conference game at Florida Saturday, 73-70, giving LSU a 3-2 record on the road this year in the league. Jaime Lloreda just missed a sixth straight double double with 18 points, 9 rebounds, while Darrel Mitchell continued his strong three-point shooting, hitting 4-of-6 in an 18-point effort. Brandon Bass had 13 points and 4 blocks, while Tack Minor got 10 off the bench. Lloreda became the 33rd player in LSU history to grab 500 rebounds in their LSU time now with 506 total .Tigers with win over Florida is now 1-2 this year against AP ranked teams .LSU's 7-3 record is tied for second best in the conference, behind Mississippi State and tied with Kentucky. LSU's 4-1 home record is tied for the best in the league at this point in the season. LSU faces Auburn Wednesday for the first of two meetings this season in a 7 p.m. game at the Maravich Center. LSU leads the series, 72-54, and 40-19 in games played in Baton Rouge. Tigers are on the road for Saturday for an SEC-TV/Fox Sports Net game against Vanderbilt, one of two remaining games for LSU against Eastern Division schools.

Ole Miss ran its home win streak to four games with a 72-68 win over Auburn Saturday. The Rebels have already equaled their SEC win total of a year ago with four. Senior forward Aaron Harper poured in a career-high 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting. It marked his fifth game of 20 or more points this year. Harper has scored in double-figures in eight straight games. Harper and fellow senior forward Justin Reed are currently the top scoring tandem in the SEC at 16.1 (8th) and 18.5 (1st), respectively. Junior guard Cavadas Nunnery matched his career high in points with six and rebounds with a team-high five. Nunnery also posted his fourth game with four or more steals, as the Rebels collected 11 steals as a team. Ole Miss shot a season-best 58.1 percent against the Tigers. The Rebels travel to Tennessee Wednesday in search of their first SEC road win of the season. Wednesday's matchup features the SEC's top two scorers in league-leader Reed for the Rebels and second-place Scooter McFadgon for the Vols. The Volunteers lead the all-time series 62-35 and 34-10 in Knoxville. UT has taken six straight at Thompson-Boling Arena. All four of the Rebels' conference wins have come at Tad Smith Coliseum this season.

The 21-1 Bulldogs will take the midweek off from competition before playing host to SEC West rival Alabama on Saturday afternoon at sold-out Humphrey Coliseum. With two more road wins last week, MSU remains undefeated in 10 road decisions this year to match the school's all-time, single-season standard for most road victories. MSU's six SEC road wins this year match the composite total of league road victories achieved by the Bulldogs over the past three seasons combined. The highest AP ranking achieved in school history is third in the season-ending poll in 1958-59. Bidding for their first overall SEC crown since the conference went to divisional play in 1991-92, this year's 10-1 State squad is also looking to challenge the school's current record of 13 SEC wins in a single season. The Bulldogs' best 16-game league mark since the SEC went to divisional play is currently 12-4 by the NCAA Sweet 16-bound 1994-95 MSU ballclub. Undefeated at home (5-0) against Alabama during the Rick Stansbury era (since 1998-99), the Bulldogs have prevailed in the last five State-Bama meetings in Starkville by an average margin of 16.6 points per contest.

USC has its second Wednesday off during SEC play this season. The seven wins by South Carolina are the most SEC wins since 1997-98 when USC won 11. USC has won at least seven games only four times since joining the SEC (1996, 1997, 1998, 2004). This ties the fastest the Gamecocks have reached 20 wins in school history. USC won its 20th game of the year in 1998 on Feb. 14 as well, a 74-63 win over MSU. Mike Boynton had five three-pointers in the Vanderbilt game. Previously, he had 12 different games in which he had four three's in a game. Boynton did this despite the effects of a spider bite he received on last Tuesday night. He played last Wednesday then underwent surgery on the bite Wednesday night. Boynton fouled out at 4:52 of the second half for the third time this season. Rolando Howell now has 938 points in his career at South Carolina. He is looking to become the 41st Gamecock to achieve 1,000 points. South Carolina's 80% shooting from the free throw line (20-for-25) was the second highest this season. Carlos Powell ended his 25-game streak of double-figure scoring with eight versus Vandy.

Tennessee will play its third SEC West opponent in a row when the Vols host the Mississippi Rebels at 7:30 p.m. (EST) Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee's last two games have been against Arkansas and Alabama. The Vols fell to 12-9 on the season and 4-6 in Southeastern Conference action with a 70-83 loss at Alabama Saturday. Brandon Crump led the Vols with 19 points while C.J. Watson and Scooter McFadgon each had 13 points. Watson also added nine rebounds. Buzz Peterson will be looking for his 150th career win Wednesday. He enters the Mississippi game with a 149-87 record. The Mississippi game is Tennessee's lone home contest over a four-game stretch. The Vols next travel to Georgia and then to Kentucky before playing at home again. Ten games into the SEC schedule the Vols are tied with Vanderbilt for fourth in the SEC East. They trail Florida by one game for third in the East and are just three games out of first place. Mississippi is tied for third in the SEC West with Alabama with 4-6 league records. With an 11-3 home record this season, the Vols have secured their eighth consecutive winning record at home and their 14th winning season at Thompson-Boling Arena. UT earned a 69-65 win over Arkansas last Wednesday in Knoxville.

Mario Moore tallied 19 points, six assists, and four steals and Matt Freije posted 16 points and seven rebounds in Vanderbilt's 82-75 loss at South Carolina on Saturday. Dawid Przybyszewski and Russell Lakey scored 12 points apiece. Lakey added five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Freije (1,665) needs 11 points Wednesday at Alabama to past former Commodore great Charles Davis (1,675) for sixth place on the Vanderbilt career scoring chart. Freije is 60 points away from passing Phil Cox's school-record mark of 1,724. Przybyszewski is averaging 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds during his last four games, scoring in double figures in each contest. VU plays host to LSU this Saturday. Former Commodore Perry Wallace (1968-70) will have his jersey retired prior to tip-off. Wallace was the first African-American scholarship athlete in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt posted a 61-39 win over visiting Georgia, last Wednesday. The Commodores limited the Bulldogs to 28.3 percent shooting from the field. Matt Freije and Dawid Przybyszewski led all scorers with 13 points apiece. Julian Terrell added 10 points. The 39 points allowed by VU were the fewest to a SEC opponent since 1993.

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