Player of the Week
Trevor Releford - Alabama
A loss at home to the Bulldogs would have been the end of the line for the Crimson Tide's tournament chances. Thanks to that last second heave by Releford, the Tide live to fight another day and have an outside shot at making it to the 'Big Dance" for the second straight season. The junior guard from Kansas City has been the Tide's go-to player all season and he hasn't disappointed down the stretch. He's scored in double figures in six straight games including a 36 point effort against LSU in late February. He has really heated up from behind the arc hitting 15 threes in his last five games which is an area that, coming into the season, was one of the weaker parts of his game. Releford has had to play a lot of minutes this season (over 33 per game) but if he and back court mate Trevor Lacey can keep up their play of late, a deep run in the SEC Tournament and potential NCAA selection isn't that farfetched.
Brenton Williams - South Carolina
Williams doesn't get much credit seeing as how the Gamecock's are three games below .500 overall and have only managed four conference wins all season but he has played really well throughout the year and especially so over the last week of the season. Williams is second on the team in scoring at 11.1 points per game, is shooting over 41% from distance and above 84% from the charity stripe. He dropped 38 points in a win against Mississippi State last week, a career high for Williams and a season high for any Gamecock player. Williams have proven to be a tough player as he suffered a neck injury and was carried off on a stretcher against St. John's in late November but didn't miss a game as he scored 16 points against Clemson three days later. Williams is only listed a 5'11 but shows no fear when attacking the basket. The team had a rough first season under Head Coach Frank Martin but the play of Williams at season's end should be encouraging heading into next season.
Kyle Wiltjer - Kentucky
Kentucky's season has been a lot like that of Wiltjer's. Up one minute and down the next. And while the Wildcats are up right now following a season saving win at home against Florida on Saturday, Wiltjer's play is down and has been for the last week or two. He's been held without a field goal in two of his last five games despite averaging over 20 minutes per contest. Wiltjer makes his calling by stretching defenses with his 3 point shooting but lately he can't seem to find any sort of rhythm. He's just 3 of 20 from behind the arc in his last five games and has seen his percentage drop below 40%. The Wildcats need to win at least one game in the SEC Tournament to feel comfortable about their chances to make the tournament. Wiltjer has to get it going from behind the arc for the team to be successful. A lot of what they do in the dribble drive offense is predicated on having players like Wiltjer that can stretch the floor. If defenses start sinking down toward the paint, then that takes away driving lanes for the likes of Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow.
Top 3 Players to Watch for in the SEC Tournament
1. Archie Goodwin - Kentucky
You could really tell how down Goodwin was after the Wildcats' loss to the Georgia last week. He knows that this team should be playing better at this point in the season. He also knew that Saturday's game at home against Florida was a must-win. He played like it too. He was intent on being aggressive on offense and driving the ball to the basket. He hounded the Gator's ball handlers and came up with four steals to go along with his 16 points. Goodwin is the most talented healthy player on the roster right know and he knows how important a good showing in the SECT is for Kentucky's NCAA chances and he will play like it from the opening tip.
2. Jarnell Stokes - Tennessee
Stokes has been one of the more consistent players in the SEC over the second half of the season. He is doing most of his work on the glass and has hauled in double figure rebounds in 13 of his last 15 games. With teammates Jordan McRae and Trae Golden picking up the scoring load, Stokes just knows it is his job to own the paint. Tennessee is squarely on the NCAAT bubble and a win in the SEC Tournament would solidify their spot among the nations best 68 teams. The Vols will need him on both ends of the floor as he is without question the most talented big man they have in their rotation. He will need to stay out of foul trouble and hit his free throws for Tennessee to be effective as teams' could institute their own version of "Hack a Shaq" late in games if it gets close.
3. Marshall Henderson - Ole Miss
Henderson is the type of player that can shoot a team into and out of games but in a win or go home type of setting like conference tournaments are, all it takes is for a guy like that to get hot and it could mean lights out for whoever the opponent is. The Rebels are already in the field of 68 but would like to make a deep run in the SECT to help with their seeding. If Henderson can get the swag back that he displayed early on, this Ole Miss team will be hard to beat.
Follow me on Twitter @CroweClayton
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