SEC Roundup: Week Eight

Four teams are out in front of the Southeastern Conference, in control of their postseason fates, while LSU and Georgia are in limbo. Scout's Ben Love refreshes the Big Dance picture and lauds a new player on the scene.

CONFERENCE STANDINGS


1. Kentucky (27-0, 14-0)
2. Arkansas (22-5, 11-3)
3. Texas A&M (19-7, 10-4)
4. Ole Miss (19-8, 10-4)
5. LSU (19-8, 8-6)
6. Georgia (17-9, 8-6)
7. Alabama (16-11, 6-8)
8. Tennessee (14-12, 6-8)
9. Florida (13-14, 6-8)
10. Vanderbilt (15-12, 5-9)
11. Mississippi State (12-15, 5-9)
12. South Carolina (13-13, 4-10)
13. Auburn (12-15, 4-10)
14. Missouri (7-20, 1-13)

For the second straight week there has been no change in the order of the top six in the standings. But, in a noteworthy development, there is now separation between the four teams at the top and those positioned fifth and sixth.

The league’s top four teams all won both of their games this past week while the Tigers and Dawgs split, leaving themselves in a precarious position with only four games left in the regular season.

Kentucky’s historical chase of perfection rolls on at 27-0 while Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks have strung together six straight and are now firmly in the nation’s top 20 teams. SEC basketball fans will be in for a treat this coming Saturday as Arkansas, the last team to win at Rupp Arena (71-67 in overtime on Feb. 27, 2014), travels to the land of bluegrass for a tasty matchup.

The other two games to monitor with big postseason implications both involve Ole Miss. Andy Kennedy’s Rebels, like Texas A&M firmly in control of their own destiny, will host Georgia on Wednesday before battling LSU on the bayou over the weekend.

How those contests between upper-half teams play out will go a long way to determining the number of conference teams that punch a ticket to the Big Dance (see below for an in-depth breakdown).

Tennessee, once 4-1 in the league, dropped two games last week to fall below .500 in the SEC and into a tie for seventh place with Alabama and Florida at 6-8.

The league’s bottom five went a combined 2-8 in the week that was with Missouri’s losing streak up to 13 games following a conference-opening home win over LSU on Jan. 8 in arguably the most head-scratching result of the SEC season to date.

FORGETTING THERE WAS Marshall


Stefan Moody, Ole Miss’ 5-foot-10 high-rising junior guard, has not only upped his game at the right time; he’s caused an entire fan base to move on, and quickly, from Marshall Henderson, one of the most prolific scorers in recent program history.



Moody has been a revelation
A junior college transfer who started his career at Florida Atlantic, Moody has been lethal lately, fueling the Rebels’ ride to 10-4 in the SEC, tied for third place.

He scored 29 points at rival Mississippi State Thursday night, canning 8-of-12 three balls, while grabbing six rebounds and collecting four steals. Less than 48 hours later, versus Tennessee, Moody connected on 6-of-11 from deep to total 22 points to go with four boards and six steals.

Kennedy’s spark plug has now made at least three triples in four of his last five outings.

Check out a comparison of Moody’s stats this season versus Henderson’s splits from his two years in Oxford.

Henderson (2012-13): 20.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.1 TOpg, 38.1% FGs, 35.0% 3s, 88.3% FTs

Henderson (2013-14): 19.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.8 TOpg, 35.3% FGs, 34.2% 3s, 81.7% FTs

Moody (2014-15): 16.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.9 TOpg, 41.4% FGs, 38.6% 3s, 90.2% FTs

Going inside the numbers brings light to Moody’s true value and illustrates his effectiveness compared to Henderson. Moody attempts just 12.0 field goals a game on average, with 6.1 three-point attempts, while Henderson, during his two years averaged 15.2 and 16.2 field goal attempts and 10.9 and 12.6 threes hoisted, respectively.

Andy Kennedy was fond of saying in the preseason that even with Henderson gone, he’s returning his best player. Kennedy meant Jarvis Summers. But Summers, averaging 12.2 points and shooting 35.2%, has struggled mightily on offense outside of his distribution (4.5 apg).

Moody has taken over as Ole Miss’ best and most important player. And, whether he’s shooting well or not, he doesn’t take too many shots as Henderson did in years past, something that can sink a team.

WHO’S GOING DANCING?


In: Kentucky, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Just Out: LSU, Georgia

In this space last week I had Georgia in and Texas A&M out. Well, after the Aggies completed a season sweep of LSU and the Bulldogs lost at home to South Carolina, they’re flip-flopped this week.

Johnny Jones’ Tigers are awfully close at the present moment. If the Bayou Bengals win three of their final four regular season games (and probably one in the SEC Tournament, for good measure), they’ll be in and the league will receive five bids.

A four-bid conference remains a possibility, however, if neither LSU nor Georgia distinguishes itself down the home stretch. Both teams get a crack at Ole Miss this week and, should one or both prevail, there will be plenty of upheaval in spots three through six in the standings, something that would certainly have an impact on the number of SEC teams dancing.

This section a week ago also included a “Not Dead” category that included Tennessee and Alabama. They lost three of their four collective games during the week and are now at the front of the NIT line in the conference, that is behind LSU and/or Georgia.

WHAT’S COMING NEXT


Week eight in the SEC features a home and away date for all 14 league members. Much of the focus will be on Arkansas’ trip to Lexington Saturday as well as a pair of battles Ole Miss will receive from two desperate teams. Also worth keeping an eye on: Texas A&M’s Tuesday night tussle in Fayetteville and Tennessee versus Florida in Gainesville Saturday in a matchup that could have second-tier postseason ramifications.

Alabama: vs. South Carolina (Tues), at Vanderbilt (Sat)
Arkansas: vs. Texas A&M (Tues), at Kentucky (Sat)
Auburn: vs. LSU (Tues), at Texas A&M (Sat)
Florida: at Missouri (Tues), vs. Tennessee (Sat)
Georgia: at Ole Miss (Wed), vs. Missouri (Sat)
Kentucky: at Mississippi State (Wed), vs. Arkansas (Sat)
LSU: at Auburn (Tues), vs. Ole Miss (Sat)
Mississippi State: vs. Kentucky (Wed), at South Carolina (Sat)
Missouri: vs. Florida (Tues), at Georgia (Sat)
Ole Miss: vs. Georgia (Wed), at LSU (Sat)
South Carolina: at Alabama (Tues), vs. Mississippi State (Sat)
Tennessee: vs. Vanderbilt (Thurs), at Florida (Sat)
Texas A&M: at Arkansas (Tues), vs. Auburn (Sat)
Vanderbilt: at Tennessee (Thurs), vs. Alabama (Sat)



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