SEC basketball notebook

This week, two SEC teams are currently ranked in the AP poll with Mississippi State ranked fifth 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 (5) and Kentucky (9) both ranked. <br><br>Other SEC teams receiving votes in the AP poll include Florida 25, South Carolina 15, Vanderbilt 3, Alabama 2 and LSU 1.

Poll Worthy

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.

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, 16 weeks: 2003-04
LSU, 9 weeks: 1999-00
Ole Miss, 7 weeks: 2000-01
Mississippi State, 8 weeks: 2003-04
South Carolina, Entire season: 1997-98
Tennessee, 14 weeks: 2000-01
Vanderbilt, 1 week: 2003-04

Western Division

            SEC   Div.   ALL  Last 10  Streak

MSU*       12-2   7-1   23-2    9-1      W2
Alabama     7-7   5-3   15-10   4-6      W3
LSU         7-7   4-4   17-8    5-5      L4
Arkansas    4-10  2-6   12-13   3-7      L1
Auburn      4-10  3-5   13-12   3-7      L3
Ole Miss    4-10  3-5   12-13   3-7      L4

* Western Division Champion

Eastern Division

             SEC  Div.   ALL  Last 10  Streak

Kentucky#   11-3  5-3   21-4    8-2      W4
Florida      8-6  4-4   17-8    6-4      W3
S. Carolina  8-6  5-3   21-7    5-5      W1
Vanderbilt   7-7  3-5   18-7    5-5      L1
Georgia      6-8  4-4   14-11   5-5      L1
Tennessee    6-8  3-5   14-11   4-6      W1

# Eastern Division Champion

Upcoming SEC Schedule

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
Tennessee at Vanderbilt 7:00 CT
Alabama at Arkansas [JP] 7:05 CT

March 6 (Saturday)
South Carolina at Tennessee [JP] 1:00 ET
Mississippi State at Alabama [JP] 2:00 CT
Arkansas at Ole Miss 2:00 CT
LSU at Auburn 3:00 CT
Vanderbilt at Georgia 7:00 ET

March 7 (Sunday)
Florida at Kentucky [CBS] Noon ET

SEC Player of the Week: Kennedy Winston, Alabama

F * 6-6 * 205 * So. * Prichard, Alabama
  • Winston's play has been instrumental in keeping Alabama in NCAA postseason contention and his 27 points at Auburn powered Alabama's first win in Auburn since 1996.
  • In his last three games, he's averaging 26.7 points (31 at Mississippi State, 27 at Auburn and 22 against Ole Miss). He has now scored 20 or more points in eight games this season.
  • Winston has also averaged 8.3 rebounds per game over the Crimson Tide's three-game winning streak (11 at Mississippi State, 7 at Auburn and 7 against Ole Miss).
  • This marks the third Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honor for Alabama's Kennedy Winston.
  • Winston is the fourth Crimson Tide player to win SEC Player of the Week honors this season with teammate Earnest Shelton earning the award on December 8, 2003. Winston was tabbed SEC Player of the Week on December 22, 2003 and SEC co-Player of the Week on February 23, 2004.
  • This also marks the 13th time an Alabama player has received this honor since the 1994-95 season.

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 Eight Teams in the RPI Top 50

The SEC is tied with the Big East with eight teams ranked in CollegeRPI.com's Top 50, as of March first. Below are the SEC's recent RPI rankings as of March first.
      Team         Rating

3rd   Kentucky     .6582
4th   Miss. State  .6537
16th  Florida      .6249
22nd  Alabama      .6157
28th  Vanderbilt   .6106
29th  LSU          .6096
41st  S. Carolina  .5901
50th  Georgia      .5768
64th  Tennessee    .5625
73rd  Auburn       .5568
83rd  Ole Miss     .5504
88th  Arkansas     .5466

SEC in Strength of Schedule (as March 1)

The SEC has 11 of the 50 toughest schedules in the country, according to CollegeRPI.com.

Alabama 1st
Florida 6th
Kentucky 9th
LSU 13th
Georgia 20th
Vanderbilt 29th
Ole Miss 30th
Auburn 33rd
Arkansas 36th
Mississippi State 41st
Tennessee 42nd
South Carolina 81st

Team-by-Team Notes

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
The Crimson Tide spends its final week at Arkansas on Wednesday night and a home finale' on Saturday against Mississippi State. That Mississippi State game has been picked up for television as an SEC Wildcard selection by JP and will now tip at 2 p.m. CT. Kennedy Winston is averaging 22.6 points in his last five games, and Earnest Shelton scored 23 or more points in three of his last seven games. In his last three games, Winston scored 31 against Mississippi State, 27 against Auburn and 22 against Ole Miss. Earnest Shelton's 25 points and Kennedy Winston's 22 points against Ole Miss on Saturday marked the third time during SEC play this season Alabama has ended a game with two players scoring 20 or more points. Alabama has now won four of its last five games and is averaging 76.6 points. Its 84-69 win against Ole Miss marked the seventh time this season Alabama has scored 80 or more points and its second time in five games. Alabama has trailed at the half in four of its last five games but has won four of those five games. The Tide has made four or more 3-point shots in 24 of its 25 games.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Freshman Ronnie Brewer is finishing strong for the Razorbacks. In the last two games, against South Carolina and Florida, he's made 13 of 23 shots (.565) and 13 of 17 free throws (.765), and averaged 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 5.0 steals and 1.5 blocked shots. He had 17 points, five rebounds, and game highs of five assists, four steals and three blocked shots against USC, and a game and season-high 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a game and season-high six steals against Florida. Another freshman, Olu Famutimi, is averaging 9.4 points a game over the last five games. In Wednesday's game against Alabama, three UA seniors will be playing their final regular-season home game in Bud Walton Arena, two-time letterman Jamar Blackmon, first-year letterman Billy Pharis and four-time letterman Charles Tatum, who sat out last year to rehab a right knee after tearing three ligaments and one cartilage...Senior Billy Pharis was recently named to the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District VI team. He has a 3.86 grade point average in political science, and is averaging 6.0 points and 3.2 rebounds a game. With the victory over South Carolina, Arkansas picked up its second win over a ranked team this season.

AUBURN TIGERS
This is the 121st meeting between the Tigers and Bulldogs with Auburn holding a 65-55 advantage. The Bulldogs have a 33-24 series lead in Starkville, 17-11 in Humphrey Coliseum. Auburn has lost three straight in "The Hump," but has won four of the last seven games played there. Auburn won nine straight games against Mississippi State from 1997-2001, but has lost the last six series meetings since. The Tigers haven't defeated the Bulldogs since a 60-56 win in 2001 in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. This marks the second consecutive year Auburn is Mississippi State's Senior Night opponent. The Bulldogs crushed the Tigers 67-45 in the Western Division Championship game last year in Humphrey Coliseum. Junior Marco Killingsworth has to serve a one-game suspension and miss the Mississippi State game for being ejected for fighting at Tennessee Saturday. According to NCAA rules, a player ejected for fighting must sit out the entire next game. It marks the first contest in Killingsworth's 82-game career that he will miss. Auburn is 1-6 in SEC play in games decided by six points or less this season and 2-7 in all games. In league play, the Tigers defeated Georgia, but have lost to Mississippi State, Alabama, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Tennessee.

FLORIDA GATORS
The University of Florida won its third consecutive game, taking a 73-68 decision over Arkansas in Fayetteville. Florida got 18 points and nine rebounds from David Lee, 17 points from Matt Walsh and 12 from Anthony Roberson as all three scored in double figures for the eighth time in 14 SEC games. After grabbing an eight-point halftime lead behind 11 points from Lee, the Gators extended their lead to as many as 19 points before a furious comeback by Arkansas. Florida hit 58 percent from the floor on the night, including 42.1 percent from three-point range. Florida dished out 18 assists, its highest total since posting 21 against Tennessee on Jan. 10. Roberson led with a team-high seven assists, the third time in four games he's had seven. Over the past four games, Roberson has 25 assists to just eight turnovers, a better than 3:1 ratio. With the win, Florida finished the regular season 4-2 against the SEC West and is now 28-8 against the West over the past six seasons. Florida won in Fayetteville for just the second time. Over the last three-games, the Gators are shooting 53.4 pct. and holding opponents to just 41.0 pct.

GEORGIA BULLDOGS
Georgia completes its regular-season schedule against a pair of Eastern Division teams (Florida, Vanderbilt), neither of which the Bulldogs had faced at all until mid-February. Georgia ranks eighth in the SEC in scoring defense at 65.8 points per contest. The Bulldogs, however, have surrendered that many points just twice in their past 12 games, and they rank 1st in scoring defense in 14 SEC games. Rashad Wright begins the week needing just 12 points to reach 1,000 for his career. Teammate Chris Daniels is 37 points shy of the same milestone. There are 32 players in the history of UGA basketball to have scored 1,000 career points, most recently Jarvis Hayes and Ezra Williams last season. After giving up 89 and 84 points in its first two SEC games, Georgia has allowed an average of 59.0 points in the 12 games that followed. Georgia is 3-3 in six games against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 at game time: wins over Georgia Tech and Kentucky twice, and losses to Gonzaga, Pitt and Miss. State. All three Top 25 teams to have beaten Georgia have since risen to top-10 status. The Bulldogs fell to South Carolina, 63-47, on Saturday in Columbia. Rashad Wright led Georgia with 13 points and Levi Stukes was the only other Bulldog in double-figures with 12.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Kentucky has won or shared the SEC East title in 10 of the 13 seasons since the league split into divisions (1991-92). UK has won 47 of its last 52 games overall and 30 of its last 34 games away from Rupp Arena. The Cats shot an SEC-leading 48.6 percent from the field during the month of February, while holding opponents to 39.8 percent. None of Kentucky's 25 opponents this season have shot 50 percent from the field. LSU (43.5 percent) was the first Wildcat opponent in six games to shoot better than 40 percent. Only five of Kentucky's 25 opponents have scored over 68 points against the Wildcats. UK swept the SEC West portion of its schedule for the second-straight year. The Wildcats last loss to an SEC West school was against Alabama in January 2002. Gerald Fitch moved into the 29th spot on UK's all-time scoring list with a 23-point effort at LSU. Erik Daniels needs 42 more points to become the 51st player in UK history to score 1,000. After averaging a league-low 18.3 free throw attempts in their first six SEC games, the Wildcats attempted a league-leading 195 free throws (24.4 per game) during the month of February. The Wildcats have won 53 games over the last two seasons, tying Pittsburgh for most in the nation.

LSU TIGERS
LSU lost its fourth straight contest, 70-64, Sunday against Kentucky. At halftime of the game, a new banner was unveiled from the catwalk of the Maravich Center, honoring former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown, who will be the team's Living Legend at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. Darrel Mitchell continues on a pace that will continue to lead the SEC in three-point shooting in both overall and conference games, hitting 4-of-8 treys against both Mississippi State and Kentucky this past week. LSU played the Kentucky game without Jaime Lloreda, who pulled himself out of Saturday's practice because of injury. LSU closes out the regular season this week with games versus Ole Miss (Cox Sports Television, same day tape delay at 10:30 p.m. CST) and at Auburn. LSU lost to Ole Miss in Oxford in the first meeting, 53-49, and to Auburn, 68-50, earlier in Baton Rouge. Jaime Lloreda and Regis Koundjia both returned for the Tigers Wednesday against Mississippi State with Lloreda getting his 14th double double of the season. He remains second in the nation in rebounds and is the only SEC player averaging a double-double.

OLE MISS REBELS
Ole Miss plays Wednesday at LSU. The Rebels are 5-0 against Louisiana schools this year, including a 53-49 win over the Fighting Tigers on Jan. 21 in Oxford. Ole Miss will be looking to end a four-game skid and notch its first SEC road win of the year. The Rebels have already equaled their SEC win total of a year ago with four. Ole Miss fell at Alabama Saturday 84-69 despite another spectacular performance by the SEC's top tandem -- senior forwards Justin Reed and Aaron Harper. Reed led the way with 29 points and 11 rebounds, while Harper totaled 19 points and six boards. It marked Reed's fifth double-double of the year and the 14th game in which he has topped the team in both points and rebounds. He has poured in 20 or more points 12 times this season. Wednesday against Vanderbilt, Harper and Reed, former high school teammates, poured in 29 and 21, respectively. Harper finished three assists shy of a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and seven assists. He was second in the SEC in scoring during the month of February at 21.1 ppg in the seven games. Freshman Bam Doyne posted career highs in rebounds with seven and assists with three against the Commodores. Doyne also matched his career best in points vs. Alabama with six.

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
MSU opens the week with Senior Night festivities by playing host to Auburn in an ESPN Super Tuesday contest, prior to closing out the regular-season Saturday afternoon at Alabama in a 2 p.m. televised game which has been picked up by JP Sports as the second half of their wildcard doubleheader. Heading into the final week of regular-season play with 23 overall wins and 12 SEC victories, MSU will bid to break the school's current all-time, single-season standards for most wins achieved in regular-season play (24 in 1958-59 & 1961-62) as well as most regular-season league wins (13 set by five previous State teams; last time in 1990-91). The Bulldogs have prevailed in the last half-dozen State-Auburn hardwood meetings by an average margin of 16.5 points per game, while also having maintained a +13.2 rebounding margin over the Tigers during the past six contests of this series. The Bulldogs' 11 road wins overall and seven league victories away from home this year are both new all-time, single-season school records. The team's seven SEC road wins this season equal the composite total posted by MSU's four previous clubs combined (7-25 in SEC road games from 1999-00 through 2002-03).

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Rolando Howell is out for the season with a fractured left wrist suffered early in the second half of the Georgia game. This season Carolina is 5-3 when trailing at the half. The Gamecocks came into the season turning the ball over 10 or fewer times 13 times under Coach Odom. This season, USC has accomplished that feat seven times. Kentucky holds a 12-3 mark in Columbia and a 32-5 advantage overall. The Gamecocks last win against Kentucky came at the 2002 SEC Tournament in Atlanta. The last time the Gamecocks defeated the Wildcats in Columbia was in the 1996-97 season. Carolina took an 84-79 game in OT on February 4, 1997. The current losing streak to Kentucky in Columbia is at six games. Gonner came on strong in USC's Saturday night win against Georgia. Gonner was seven of nine from the field and seven of eight from the free throw line to lead USC with 22 points. The Gamecocks 14 wins at home this season is tied for the second most in USC history. The 1982-83 team has 17 which is the USC record. This season USC is 14-2 at the Colonial Center.

TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
Tennessee will travel west on I-40 to visit intrastate rivals Vanderbilt. UT will meet the Commodores at 7 p.m. (CST) Wednesday, March 3, at Memorial Gym in Nashville. The Vols improved to 14-11 on the season and 6-8 in the SEC with a 75-69 win over Auburn Saturday, Feb. 28. Scooter McFadgon led the Vols with 23 points, including UT's final nine points of the game. UT will complete its regular season schedule Saturday, March 6, at Thompson-Boling Arena when the Vols host South Carolina. Tip-off has been scheduled for 1 p.m. (EST). After attempting just five free throws in his previous three games, Scooter McFadgon tied his career-highs for attempts and makes by going 13-of-13 from the free throw line against Auburn (2/28/04). McFadgon needs two 3-pointers to tie Brandon Wharton (1996-97) for 10th on UT's single-season 3-pointers made lists with 58. McFadgon has made 56-of-142 3-point attempts this season. C.J. Watson needs seven assists for 300 in his career. He enters the Vanderbilt game with 293 career assists, including 133 this year. Brandon Crump leads the Vols with eight double-doubles on the season. His eight double-doubles tie for third-most in the SEC and are the most by a Vol since 1995-96.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES
Matt Freije scored a game-high 26 points and Mario Moore added 10 points in Vanderbilt's 72-69 setback to No. 7 Mississippi State. The loss marked only the second home defeat of the season for the Commodores, joining VU's 57-55 losing decision to South Carolina (1/28). Freije has scored 20 or more points in each of the last four games, 12 times this season and 35 times in his four-year career. His .795 career free throw percentage (414-of-521) ranks eighth all-time in SEC history (minimum 500 attempts). Freije became VU's all-time leading scorer when he netted 20 points in the Commodores' 77-65 win at Ole Miss. He moved past Phil Cox's mark of 1,724 career points and enters the Tennessee game at 1,765. Russell Lakey is one of only five Commodores in school history with more than 300 assists and 150 steals in a career. He enters the final week of the regular season with 329 assists and 153 steals. The Commodores can post their school-record 15th home win of the season with a victory over Tennessee in VU's home finale on Wednesday. Matt Freije led four Commodores in double figures with 20 points as Vanderbilt won at Ole Miss, 77-65, on last Wednesday.


BamaMag Top Stories