SEC basketball notebook

This week, two SEC teams are currently ranked in the AP poll with Mississippi State ranked seventh followed by Kentucky at No. 9. In the USA Today/ESPN poll, both teams carry the same rankings as the AP Poll with Mississippi State (7) and Kentucky (9) both ranked.

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.

SEC Ranks First with Seven Teams in RPI Top 40

The SEC is tied with the Big East with seven teams ranked in the CollegeRPI.com's Top 40, as of Feb. 23.
Rank  Team         Rating

 3.  Kentucky     .6580
 5.  Miss. State  .6451
17.  Florida      .6230
23.  Alabama      .6182
24.  Vanderbilt   .6159
25.  LSU          .6143
40.  S. Carolina  .5893

SEC in Strength of Schedules (as Feb. 23)

The SEC has 10 of the 50 toughest schedules in the country, according to CollegeRPI.com.
 Team        SOS

Alabama      1st
Florida      4th
Kentucky     8th
Georgia     20th
Auburn      25th
Vanderbilt  27th
Arkansas    30th
LSU         32nd
Ole Miss    34th
Tennessee   48th
Miss. State 55th
S. Carolina 94th

Upcoming SEC Schedule

February 24 (Tuesday)
Alabama at Auburn [ESPN] 8:00 CT

February 25 (Wednesday)
South Carolina at Florida [SUN#] 7:00 ET
Tennessee at Kentucky [JP] 8:00 ET
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss 7:00 CT
LSU at Mississippi State [JP] 7:00 CT

February 28 (Saturday)
Ole Miss at Alabama [JP] 3:00 CT
Florida at Arkansas [JP] 3:00 CT
Georgia at South Carolina 7:30 ET
Auburn at Tennessee [FoxSN/SUN] 7:00 ET
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt 7:00 CT

February 29 (Sunday)
Kentucky at LSU [CBS] 3:00 CT

March 2 (Tuesday)
Auburn at Mississippi State [ESPN] 8:00 CT

March 3 (Wednesday)
Georgia at Florida [SUN#] 7:00 ET
Ole Miss at LSU [CST#] 7:00 CT
Kentucky at South Carolina [JP] 8:00 ET
Alabama at Arkansas [JP] 7:05 CT

SEC Co-Player of the Week, Kennedy Winston

Alabama F * 6-6 * 205 * So. * Prichard, Alabama

Kennedy Winston, who was voted 2nd Team All-District 6 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, scored a career high 31 points and grabbed a career high 11 rebounds to lead Alabama's win at No. 4 Mississippi State on Saturday.

  • Winston is Alabama's scoring leader at 16.1 points per game.
  • He also made 13 of 15 free throws in the game.
  • It marked the eighth time he has scored 20 or more points and the third time he's scored 20 or more against a ranked opponent.
  • Winston totaled 17 points and six rebounds versus Vanderbilt.
  • The sophomore is averaging 19.2 points and 6.8 rebounds over his last five games. He has made 11-of-21 three-point attempts over the five-game span.

Team-by-Team Notes

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
The Crimson Tide has little time to celebrate its 77-73 road win at top-five ranked Mississippi State this past weekend as the Alabama plays Tuesday night at top-rival Auburn. ESPN will televise that game at 8 p.m. The matchup is definitely the fan-favorite in the state of Alabama as it could aptly be called the "Sellout Series." Tuesday night's sellout at Auburn marks the 12th straight sellout on both campus sites for this bi-annual matchup. Alabama hasn't won at Auburn since 1996. The teams have split the last five years, with Alabama winning in Tuscaloosa and Auburn winning in Auburn each time. Alabama hosted the first game and won in Tuscaloosa, 69-46, led by 12 points from Earnest Shelton. Kennedy Winston scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds to lead Alabama's win at Mississippi State on Saturday. Emmett Thomas jumped in off the bench and ended up playing 32 minutes. Among his 16 points were back-to-back 3-point shots to start the second half and put Alabama, who trailed 33-32 at the break, back in the lead for good with a 12-0 start of the second half run.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
With the 82-66 victory over No. 25 South Carolina on Saturday, Arkansas picked up its second win over a ranked team this season. UA beat then-No. 22 Vanderbilt, 70-62, on Jan. 24. Arkansas is now 2-4 against ranked teams this season. With the win over USC, the Razorbacks are now 3-0 against SEC teams coming off an open date in league play. Arkansas beat Ole Miss and Vanderbilt after each was off the previous conference playing date. In the win over the Gamecocks, sophomore guard Kendrick Davis scored a game-high 19 points, matching his season high, which came in the third game of the season. Davis had scored a total of 16 points in the previous eight games. Freshman Ronnie Brewer had 17 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals in the game. The point total is his highest since scoring 21 in the win over Vanderbilt. The rebound total is his best in four games and the steal total is his best in six games. Arkansas made 22 of 24 free throws against USC, 91.7 percent, UA's best single-game percentage of the year. Sophomore forward Wen Mukubu started against USC, just his second start of the year and the sixth of his career. He had six points and three rebounds.

AUBURN TIGERS
This is the 129th meeting between Auburn and Alabama with the Crimson Tide holding a 78-50 advantage. The Tigers have won seven of the last 12 games in the series and have defeated the Crimson Tide an Auburn record seven-straight times in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers hold a 22-21 lead in Auburn, including an 18-17 mark in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Marco Killingsworth is only seven points away from becoming the 28th Tiger in Auburn history to score 1,000 points. Killingsworth has 993 points and 490 rebounds in his three-year Tiger career and is closing in on the 1,000-500 mark. Killingsworth would be only the 10th Tiger in history to reach this highwater mark in only three seasons and the 19th in a career. Ian Young is averaging 14.5 points in the Tigers' last four games, including a career-high 21 points in 26 minutes off the bench in the 80-68 win at #24 LSU. The Auburn-Alabama game on ESPN is the first of two-straight appearances on the network's Super Tuesday. The Tigers play at SEC-leading Mississippi State Mar. 2 at 8 pm CT. All fans are encouraged to wear orange as part of a "Wear Orange, Get the Red Out" promotion for the Auburn-Alabama game.

FLORIDA GATORS
Florida snapped a two-game losing streak with an 81-66 victory at Ole Miss on Saturday night. The tandem of Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson continued to sizzle, combining for 48 points as each scored 24. Florida led by six at the half and then shot a blistering 66.7 percent over the final 20 minutes to break the game open. Florida hit 16-of-24 shots in the second half and had 11 assists to only four turnovers over the final 20 minutes. The Gators hit over 54 percent on the night, the ninth time they've hit over 50 percent on the season and the third time in SEC play they've done so. David Lee just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Lee added a team-high five assists and a career-best four blocked shots. The Gators blocked a season-high seven shots. Combined with his 24-point effort, Walsh has 101 points over his last four games (25.3 per game). It was Roberson's ninth 20-point game of the season and the 15th of his career and the sixth of the season for Walsh and the 11th of his career. The Gators hit 21-of-28 free throws, the fifth time in the last seven games they've gotten to the line 20+ times.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Georgia enters this week with the SEC's longest current winning streak at three games. After scoring at least 70 in just one of their first 10 conference games, the Bulldogs have done it three straight times. In those same three games, they've had a positive assist/turnover ratio each time after failing in every preceding SEC contest. After double-digit totals in steals for the past three games, Georgia leads the SEC in that category through the 13-game league schedule. Georgia ranks eight in the SEC in scoring defense at 65.8 points per game, but the Bulldogs have surrendered that many points just twice in their past 11 games. In each of the past seven years, Georgia has faced Kentucky and Florida consecutively at least once per season. Not until this season has a Bulldog squad swept those back-to-back games. Rashad Wright led the team in scoring in UGA's win over Tennessee. His 22 points vs. UT was his second-highest total of the season and his sixth time over 20 points this season, after never getting 20 through his first three years at Georgia. UF and UT point guards went a combined 1-for-19 shooting from the field last week, largely because of Wright. He's now 25 points shy of 1,000 for his career.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Kentucky has held SEC foes to a league-low 40 percent field goal percentage. None of Kentucky's 23 opponents this season have shot 50 percent from the field. Each of the Cats' last four opponents (Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas and Auburn) have shot less than 40 percent. Only one team (Tennessee Tech, .492) has shot better than 47 percent. The Cats' 174 assists in conference play also leads the SEC. Point guard Cliff Hawkins leads the team and is second in the SEC with 5.1 apg. However, forwards Erik Daniels (2.5 apg) and Chuck Hayes (2.4 apg) are second and third on the team, respectively. UK, 5-0 against SEC West teams this year, has won 15-straight against Western Division foes. The Wildcats last loss to an SEC West school was against Alabama in January 2002. Erik Daniels needs 68 more points to become the 51st player in UK history to score 1,000. UK has won 45 of its last 50 games overall and 29 of its last 33 games away from Rupp Arena. Only five of Kentucky's 23 opponents have scored over 68 points against the Wildcats. After averaging a league-low 18.3 free throw attempts in their first six SEC games, the Wildcats have attempted a league-leading 148 free throws (24.7 per game) during the month of February.

LSU TIGERS
The Tigers played Vanderbilt on Saturday without the services of both Jaime Lloreda and Regis Koundjia. LSU lost at Vanderbilt, 54-74. Koundjia also had missed Wednesday's game with Auburn. Koundjia has a sprain of the left MCL, while Lloreda is battling bursitis in the left Achilles, a sprained right ankle and the latest, occurring in the Auburn game last Wednesday, a heel bruise of the left foot. Both players status for Wednesday's game at Mississippi State is undecided. LSU's magic number to clinch a first round bye as the second place team in the SEC West is two over Alabama, Ole Miss and Auburn. LSU has the tiebreaker with Alabama in case of a tie between the two teams. Ole Miss and Auburn still have a second game with LSU remaining. LSU plays at Mississippi State Wednesday at 7 p.m. on JP Sports, while the Tigers will then play Kentucky in Baton Rouge at 3 p.m. on Sunday in a regional CBS game. LSU will honor former LSU Coach Dale Brown at halftime. Brown is one of the 2004 SEC Living Legends of College Basketball to be honored at the SEC Tournament.

OLE MISS REBELS
Ole Miss faces its third straight SEC East opponent Wednesday in Vanderbilt in Oxford. Although the Commodores lead the all-time series 64-38, the Rebels have won eight straight against Vanderbilt at home and enjoy a 27-18 edge in Oxford. The last Commodore win at Tad Smith Coliseum came in 1988. Overall, Ole Miss has won three of the last four meetings with the Dores. The Rebels have already equaled their SEC win total of a year ago with four. Ole Miss had its four-game home win streak snapped Saturday against Florida, 81-66. Justin Reed topped the team in both points (20) and rebounds (5) for the 13th time this season and posted his 10th game with 20 or more points. Reed also moved into the top five of Rebel career scorers with 1,695. On Wednesday, he was named to the NABC All-District first team, marking the third consecutive year to earn All-District honors. Aaron Harper poured in 19 points against the Gators for his 10th straight game in double-figures. Harper is averaging 20.0 over the last five games. Justin Johnson turned in his fourth double-digit performance of the season with 10 points and a pair of threes. Ole Miss loss at Tennessee, 83-66, on last Wednesday. Justin Reed posted 19 points and seven rebounds to lead the team.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
The 21-2 Bulldogs can clinch their second consecutive SEC Western Division title with a victory over LSU this Wednesday at home. MSU will then travel to Nashville to meet Vanderbilt Saturday evening. Mississippi State last won back-to-back SEC West crowns during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, when Richard Williams' Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 and Final Four, respectively. Looking for its first regular-season series sweep of LSU since 1997-98, State is 18-5 against the Tigers dating back the past decade to the 1993-94 campaign. Coach Rick Stansbury's next SEC win will mark his 50th career victory against regular-season conference competition. State drew a single-season, school-record fourth crowd in excess of 10,000 fans on Saturday (10,437). MSU is now averaging 10,193 fans per SEC home contest at 10,500-seat Humphrey Coliseum this season. Averaging 19.8 points per game over his last eight outings, Lawrence Roberts rates as a national finalist for the Wooden, Naismith and Rupp Player of the Year Awards. Senior Timmy Bowers has been named as one of 16 finalists for the inaugural Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
South Carolina is looking to stop Florida from sweeping the series for the third straight year. USC and UF will be fighting for second place in the SEC East with USC a game ahead going into Wednesday's game. The last time the two met in Columbia, UF squeezed out a 65-62 win. Tre' Kelley scored a career high 18 points on Saturday, including going 3 of 3 from the free throw line. Mike Boynton was the only other Gamecock in double figures with 11 points. Arkansas shot a season-high 65.4 % (for a half) against South Carolina in the second half. After two straight double-doubles, Rolando Howell was scoreless and totaled just three rebounds in 21 minutes vs. Arkansas. USC is hunting for its eighth SEC win this season, the most since 1998 when the Gamecocks won 11 conference games. Carlos Powell and Rolando Howell both have legitimate shots at scoring their 1000th career point this year with Powell having 927 and Howell having 938. Last Saturday, with an 82-75 win over Vanderbilt, USC collected its second 20-win season under USC Head Coach Dave Odom, after going 12-16 last year.

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
The Vols meet the Kentucky Wildcats at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. The Vols fell to 13-10 on the season and 5-7 in the SEC with a 60-71 loss at Georgia, Saturday. Brandon Crump led UT with 18 points while Scooter McFadgon had 13. This is the second meeting between Tennessee and Kentucky this season. UK's Cliff Hawkins hit a long 3-pointer with 16 seconds left to send the game into overtime and the Wildcats stole a 69-68 win in Knoxville on Jan. 20. UT will play two of its final three games at home following the Kentucky game. The Vols host Auburn Saturday before visiting Vanderbilt. McFadgon leads the Vols in free throws attempted, made and percentage but has only attempted one free throw in his last two games. He made his only attempt against Georgia (1/21/04). McFadgon needs one point to reach the 400 point mark this season. In 22 games he has scored 399 points. Jemere Hendrix is 6-of-6 from the field in UT's last two games. During that stretch he is averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Brandon Crump is averaging 20.7 points and 6.7 rebounds while shooting 65.7 percent (23-of-35) from the field in his last three games. Against Ole Miss (2/18) he tied his career-high with 25 points.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Matt Freije and Dawid Przybyszewski combined for 43 points as Vanderbilt tied the school record for home wins in a season at 14 with a 74-54 win over LSU on Saturday. Vanderbilt improved to 6-6 in the SEC, marking the first time since 2000 a Commodore team (7-5) was .500 or better in the league through 12 games. Freije made 9-of-20 field goals to pull within six points of becoming Vanderbilt's all-time leading scorer. He is currently tied for second with Ronnie McMahan (1992-95) with 1,719 points. He trails Phil Cox (1982-85) and his mark of 1,724 points. Freije leads the SEC, averaging 18.8 points a game. Przybyszewski made 7-of-9 field goals against LSU, including 5-of-5 three-point attempts for a season-high 21 points. It marked Przybyszewski's sixth consecutive double-figures scoring effort. The Commodores committed a season-low six turnovers against LSU. VU is 15-1 this season when it holds the opponent under 70 points. The Commodores have held their opponent to 60 or fewer points 12 times this season, including six occasions in league play. VU has nine players averaging 10 or more minutes a game, while eight average 15 or more minutes.


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