1. Kentucky (19-0, 6-0)
2. Arkansas (15-4, 4-2)
3. LSU (15-4, 4-2)
4. Georgia (13-5, 4-2)
5. Texas A&M (13-5, 4-2)
6. Tennessee (12-6, 4-2)
7. Alabama (13-6, 3-3)
8. Ole Miss (12-7, 3-3)
9. Florida (10-9, 3-3)
10. Auburn (10-9, 2-4)
11. Mississippi State (9-10, 2-4)
12. Vanderbilt (11-8, 1-5)
13. South Carolina (10-8, 1-5)
14. Missouri (7-12, 1-5)
In one way last week was like any other in Southeastern Conference basketball – nine of the 14 games played were decided by six or less points. But, in very un-SEC fashion, road teams enjoyed considerable success in those nail-biters, as eight of the 14 contests were taken by visiting squads.
And, not surprisingly, the six teams that have floated to the top of the above standings – all of which have winning records in league play – went a combined 7-0 on the road this past week.
What’s it mean for the conference as a whole? A little respect and some legitimacy because the best teams in the SEC are taking care of business away from home.
That’s reflected in the latest RPI, which has eight teams from the conference of Dixie in its top 54. Undefeated Kentucky leads the way at No. 2 while Arkansas stands 22nd, Georgia 24th, Texas A&M 34th, LSU 39th, Ole Miss 45th, Alabama 46th and Tennessee 54th.
While two-thirds of the SEC schedule remains ahead, the league has made a nice statement thus far, and a number of teams with an eye on the postseason are well-positioned to make a run. Not among those teams currently, for the first time in years, is Florida, which has now dropped three in a row after the program had rattled off 24 straight against conference opposition.
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT
In this space a week ago was a section entitled “What’s with you three?” that turned a skeptical eye toward underperformers Arkansas, Georgia and LSU. All three responded last week to bounce off the mat, winning a pair of games to get to 4-2 in SEC play.
The Bulldogs have now claimed four straight victories after losing two razor-thin games in the opening week of league action. And the catalyst for Mark Fox hasn’t been the guy most would expect.
Sophomore guard J.J. Frazier has been white-hot, averaging 17.5 points during the winning streak and shooting a combined 14-of-19 (73.7%) from three during that stretch. He poured in a career-high 37 points in Saturday’s win at Mississippi State.
Sophomore forward Bobby Portis continues to be the team’s ringleader, but credit is due to junior guard Michael Qualls for rescuing Arkansas with 30 points and eight rebounds in the overtime win over the Tide.
As for LSU, a program which has been woeful on the road the last five years in SEC play, the Tigers managed to pull off consecutive wins at Florida, by 18, and at Vanderbilt, in overtime.
Johnny Jones’ crew has been paced by big man Jordan Mickey, who’s averaging a double-double for the season (16.1 points and 10.7 rebounds) and is second in the NCAA in blocked shots (3.6 rejections per game).
This trio stepped up, at least temporarily solidifying depth atop the league, but now is not the time of year to coast, particularly not with Texas A&M – which won both of its games this past week – and Tennessee close in the rearview mirror.
LEADING THE WAY
Next week’s edition of SEC Roundup will feature selections for midseason All-SEC players. So, in preparation for that and to examine who’s playing at the highest level, let’s take a peek at statistical heavyweights from around the conference.
*Statistics are from the entire season, not just SEC play
1. Bobby Portis, Arkansas – 17.5
2. K.T. Harrell, Auburn – 17.4
3. Jarell Martin – 17.0
4. Michael Qualls, Arkansas – 16.4
5. Jordan Mickey, LSU – 16.1
1. Cinmeon Bowers, Auburn – 11.4
2. Jordan Mickey, LSU – 10.7
3. Jarell Martin, LSU – 9.0
4. Bobby Portis, Arkansas – 8.5
5. Gavin Ware, Mississippi State – 7.4
1. Alex Caruso, Texas A&M – 5.3
2. Rashad Madden, Arkansas – 4.9
3. Josh Gray, LSU – 4.8
4. Kasey Hill, Florida – 4.5
5. Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt – 4.3
WHAT’S COMING NEXT
Kim Anderson and Missouri, one of two conference teams with an overall losing record, will host a pair of games in Columbia this week while Vanderbilt, losers of five straight, takes to the road twice, playing at top-half teams Georgia and Texas A&M. It’s one home and one away for the other 12 teams in the SEC. Perhaps the team with the most interesting schedule is Arkansas, which hosts the Vols in mid-week before traveling to Gainesville on Saturday to play a wounded Florida group.
Alabama: vs. Florida (Tues), at Kentucky (Sat)
Arkansas: vs. Tennessee (Tues), at Florida (Sat)
Auburn: vs. Texas A&M (Tues), at Tennessee (Sat)
Florida: at Alabama (Tues), vs. Arkansas (Sat)
Georgia: vs. Vanderbilt (Tues), at South Carolina (Sat)
Kentucky: at Missouri (Thurs), vs. Alabama (Sat)
LSU: vs. South Carolina (Wed), at Mississippi State (Sat)
Mississippi State: at Ole Miss (Wed), vs. LSU (Sat)
Missouri: vs. Kentucky (Thurs), vs. Ole Miss (Sat)
Ole Miss: vs. Mississippi State (Wed), at Missouri (Sat)
South Carolina: at LSU (Wed), vs. Georgia (Sat)
Tennessee: at Arkansas (Tues), vs. Auburn (Sat)
Texas A&M: at Auburn (Tues), vs. Vanderbilt (Sat)
Vanderbilt: at Georgia (Tues), at Texas A&M (Sat)