Welcome to Southeastern Conference college basketball season.
Yes, it’s here. The holidays are over, and your attention from football is moving like that weird fiery eyeball thing in Lord of the Rings to basketball.
You’re ready to ravenously consume all things basketball to catch up with the idiots like me who have been watching games in the middle of the night in Maui. So I’m here to prime the SEC schedule and get you up to date on what these teams have been up to - you’re welcome.
It’s likely you have seen the Rebels ascend to the meaty part of the conference bell curve with a 10-2 record and losses to Butler and Cincinnati. Not too shabby for a team picked to be last in the conference during pre-season media days, right?
But let’s focus in on the other 13 teams for now as conference play begins for the Rebels Saturday against Vanderbilt. We’re using the new NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings or NET, which is the standard going forward for tournament selection IF YOU BELIEVE THE FAKE NEWS GOSH DANG MEDIA.
Alabama (9-3), NET #76
The Crimson Tide are a mixed bag of results so far this season. They have a losses to Northeastern by 16 points, Central Florida and Georgia St. while topping Wichita St., Arizona and Penn State.
I felt strongly in the pre-season the loss of Collin Sexton would cause the Tide to take a step back this year. Nothing has changed that opinion - the Tide are allowing more than 71 points per game, good for 187th nationally. They’re led by Kira Lewis in scoring with 15 PPG, and F Donta Hall has had a decent senior season.
We’ll find out what to really expect this weekend as they tip off against Kentucky in Tuscaloosa.
Arkansas (9-3) NET #84
Death, taxes and people in Northwest Arkansas being insanely interested in basketball because of a championship 25 years ago.
Arkansas’ three losses are by a combined seven points to Texas, Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, its best win is probably a home win vs. Indiana.
I think the Hogs will be as usual tough to beat in Fayetteville, and their ranking will climb considerably during SEC play. Led by F Daniel Gafford who is a super talented big with 17.5 PPG, Arkansas is scoring nearly 82 PPG and allowing a mediocre 70 PPG.
Auburn (11-2) NET #22
Bruce Pearl’s hiring was met with some very high expectations for what he could potentially achieve with the Tigers and a new arena. Needless to say, he has taken this more recently moribund program to heights unseen since Charles Barkley.
One of their losses is to Duke by a meager four points, which is essentially like losing to an NBA D-League team. The Tigers will be near the top if not the top of the league this season with a top 50 scoring defense and average margin of victory of 20 points so far.
Florida (8-4) NET #31
Right now, it’s hard to say what Florida team we will have to face. The Gators played Butler twice, remember the Bulldogs beat Ole Miss, and lost by seven in one match, but then they floored Butler by 34 points this past weekend.
And yes, they nearly beat #10 Michigan St. losing by four points, but they also dropped their opening game to in-state rival Florida St. by 21 points.
Coach Mike White may have us all exactly where he wants us, but this team is either rapidly improving or will be uneven all season.
Georgia (8-4) NET #79
With some time, maybe Tom Crean can turn things around, but this year won’t garner a lot of attention for the Bulldogs if the non-conference is any indicator.
Losses to Georgia St., Arizona St., Clemson and Temple show the Bulldogs aren’t quite ready for the rigors of a more competitive SEC. Not to mention, they dropped the ASU game in Athens.
The most impressive win to date is an 11-point victory on the road against Georgia Tech. A SEC opener against #3 Tennessee will give us a look at what to expect this season.
Kentucky (10-2) NET #12
Can you imagine John Calipari on a beach in Seychelles sipping mai tai’s daily til he passes the hell out? Because I’m sure he can when he gets 25,349 texts, e-mails and phone calls every day they aren’t national champions.
UK is still very good, and they can absolutely win the SEC. However, something seems to be off this year. A blowout loss to Duke to open the season was surprising, but the upset by Seton Hall was dumbfounding.
Undoubtedly, the Rebels game against Kentucky on March 5 IN OXFORD will be one of the biggest home games of the year.
LSU (10-3) NET #27
Basketball season, AKA winter baseball workout season, is in full swing in Red Stick, but LSU is actually a pretty solid team this year.
The Tigers gave Furman its first loss of the season with an 18-point win. Their losses are all to power five conference teams, and they have wins against Saint Mary’s and Memphis as feathers in their hat.
LSU has four players averaging more than 10 PPG and have shot nearly 50 percent from the field as a team.
Mississippi State (12-1) NET #19
Well, well, well. Amazing what an Adidas school can accomplish in short order when the very clean and totally legal Ben Howland is at the helm.
MSU has played a fairly tough non-conference and made it through almost unscathed. This was supposed to be the season Howland finally paid off for State, and it looks to be coming to fruition.
I hate them and everything about them. Quinndary Weatherspoon is still there and is still good.
Missouri (9-3) NET #67
I haven’t seen a lot of Missouri this season, and their record is by no means impressive.
None of their losses are embarrassing by any means, and their most quality win is probably Xavier or Illinois. Kevin Puryear, a big who impressed me last year, is their fourth highest scorer, so I think the Tigers are potentially poised to surprise a few folks this year.
South Carolina (5-7) NET #226
No clue what you can expect here, but I try to not count out crazy eyed Frank Martin.
The challenge here is that the ‘Cocks open SEC play at Florida then host Mississippi St. How you motivate a team that is most likely going to be 5-9 is why Martin makes seven figures, but it also could be spelling out a long season in Columbia.
Tennessee (11-1) NET #7
They beat Gonzaga. Probably the best team in the SEC this season. Go ahead and lock down those tickets when they visit Oxford.
The final three games of the season for the Vols are against top 25 Kentucky, Auburn and Mississippi St. giving them the opportunity to solidify a 1-seed if they pile up SEC wins as expected.
Texas A&M (6-5) NET #117
The Aggies season started on a bad slide going 0-4 after an easy opener. Then it ripped off a five game win streak to calm the nervous of its fans.
Unfortunately, it just dropped a game to 5-8 Texas Southern in College Station. Cue the sad Gig ‘Em faces. Not to take anything away from Texas Southern as they sport wins over Baylor and Oregon as well.
This season will most likely not replicate last year’s Sweet 16 run, but Coach Billy Kennedy has taken the Aggies to the Sweet 16 twice in the last three years so everything’s fine I guess.
Vanderbilt (9-3) NET #42
Bryce Drew. The weird court layout. Ugh, I really have a deep disdain for this program.
This is one heck of a way for Ole Miss to open SEC play on Saturday. We’re about to find out if Vandy or Ole Miss is really as good as its record.
Vandy did lose its star freshman guard Darius Garland in non-conference play, but Saben Lee has in theory picked up the slack there.
So there you have it. Fourteen hundred words on SEC basketball to get you fully ingratiated into basketball season. As far as the Rebels are concerned, it is still very shaky ground for how Ole Miss will finish, but the Cup is more confident now that a last place finish is very unlikely.