Old Man Briscoe
SEC conference play started Thursday with a slate of five games, and we had some interesting outcomes. Nearing the end of non-conference play we started to get a feel of what the alignment of the SEC standings would be come tournament time. I know it was just one day of action, but the results of those games raised a few questions. Apparently homecourt advantage doesn’t matter. In every conference matchup, the road team left victorious. And that includes Tennessee going into College Station to beat the Aggies and Florida beating a 1-loss Arkansas team in Bud Walton Arena. Despite each team playing one game, we learned a lot over the past week. Florida finally found their leader and who they’re going to turn to when they need a bucket. The scoring had been distributed evenly all year and it seemed as if there was no star that was going to be able to take over games. Well, KeVaughn Allen has figured it out and scores in bunches. Also, we’ve been waiting for JJ Frazier and Yante Maten to get some help all season. That isn’t going to happen. These two are going to have to go Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in the finals type performances every night just to pull out victories. They combined for 57 points and just squeaked by Auburn due to J.J. Frazier’s clutch buckets. But, there are very few duos in the country I would take over Maten and Frazier, so don’t be surprised if Georgia is on the bubble come March.
Player of the Week
Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky)
Yup, another player out of the Kentucky backcourt. At least its someone different this time, right? Well, after an abysmal performance against archrival Louisville, Isaiah Briscoe channeled his inner Westbrook and came out with a triple-double. It seems as if every week there is someone in Kentucky’s backcourt who has a career game. This was the 3rd triple-double in Kentucky’s history with one other coming earlier this year from backcourt mate DeAaron Fox. Derek Willis deserves an assist for purposely missing a free throw just for it to land perfectly in Briscoe’s hands for him to get his 10th rebound. But, a triple-double is a triple-double and Briscoe had 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. The performance seemed effortless as almost everyone in Kentucky’s starting lineup went off, but Briscoe did a little bit of everything. Over Briscoe’s two seasons in Lexington he has been overshadowed by Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray and this year he came back to be the leader of Coach Cal’s squad and he has taken the backseat to two potential lottery picks in DeAaron Fox and Malik Monk. But, on a night where Monk still dropped 34 and Fox had his worst game of the season due to foul trouble, Briscoe proved he still has talent and was a former blue chipper himself. Most of Bam Adebayo’s 25 points came from lobs off of Briscoe penetrating the lane. While Monk’s open shots came from Briscoe’s ability to drive the lane and have the defense collapse due to his ability to finish around the rim and kick for the open 3. It has to be heartwarming for Coach Cal knowing that if Fox or Briscoe get in foul trouble he will still have a floor general to efficiently run Kentucky’s high-paced attack.
KeVaughn Allen (Florida)
I knew Florida had the talent to contend for an SEC title, but the lack of a star player, or a player who could take over a game when all the other pieces weren’t working worried me. But, Mike White might have found the answer to that question. KeVaughn Allen started the year as a lethal 3-point shooter, and not much else. It seemed as if he was playing the role of Michael Frazier II from a few years back. But, as the year progressed his game has developed and he is showing off his smooth jumper from midrange and showing he can finish around the rim. Most of his points still come from behind the arc, but he does not just sit out there and wait for a drive and kick from Kasey Hill. He is making it tough for defenses to account for him as he can score from all three levels of the half-court. In a game against Little Rock he shot lights out while going 5-7 from deep and 7-10 for the game and finishing with 19 points. In his homecoming in Bud Walton Arena, Allen showed out when he dropped 21 over a 1-loss Arkansas team. Florida is starting to learn how to play together with the multitude of talent they have in Kasey Hill, Devin Robinson, and now their go-to scorer KeVaughn Allen.
Dusty Hannahs (Arkansas)
For the lack of scoring from Moses Kingsley, Dusty Hannahs would make up for it. It seemed like they made a deal that Hannahs would run down Kingsley block and capitalize off of it in transition. Well, Kingsley is still holding up his part of the deal, but Hannahs on the other hand isn’t pulling his weight. Not only did Hannahs not show up against No. 25 Florida in his home stadium, he forgot to show up against North Dakota St. and Sam Houston also. Over the past 3 games he is only averaging 9.3 points per game, down from his typical average before those 3 games of 16.1. Hannahs needs to get out of his scoring slump because right now he acts as a decoy, he doesn’t affect the game in any other way besides lighting up the scoreboard. He averages sub-2 in both the assist and rebounding categories. Arkansas just suffered their second loss of the season against Florida, but if Hannahs cannot produce on the offensive end they’re going to struggle through conference play. Well, unless Kingsley just decides to do it on both ends of the court and do Hannahs job for him.
Top 5 Homecourt Advantages this Season
Since homecourt advantage failed on Thursday night, I might as well give some proof that homecourt advantage is still one of the biggest factors in sports, and has the biggest effect in college basketball. These are the stadiums you dread visiting.
1. Rupp Arena (Kentucky)
Coach Cal’s record at home as Kentucky’s head coach is 126-5 and that equates to a 96% winning percentage. Their fans set the record for attendance during a college gameday appearance and campout for a week to get tickets to a practice. Coach Cal rarely loses at home and the environment is hostile, there is nothing else that needs to be said.
2. Bud Walton Arena (Arkansas)
I know, they just dropped one to Florida but this is still one of the biggest homecourt advantages in college basketball yet alone the SEC. In the 22-year history of Bud Walton Arena, Arkansas only has 78 losses with a winning percentage of 79%. Arkansas has never been a major power in college basketball, they just protect their home court.
3. O’Connell Center (Florida)
Billy Donovan brought Florida to the peak of college basketball with back-to-back championships in 06-07, but the rowdy reptiles were there long before Donovan’s stretch of dominance. He just made them more crazy. Florida’s student section is basically on the court, in a similar style to Duke’s Cameron Crazies. I am not saying Florida has the same homecourt advantage that Duke does, but both fan bases do not touch their seats.
4. Memorial Gymnasium (Vanderbilt)
I have never been to Memorial Gymnasium, but I love watching opposing teams in that arena. For those who don’t know, teams do not sit on the sideline during games, they sit at the baseline. It changes the whole dynamic because the crowd gets so loud that coaches cannot be heard. The concept alone gets in the head of the opponents, let alone the crowd and the talent that Vanderbilt typically provides.
5. Thompson-Boling Arena (Tennessee)
If this were any other season and Tennessee had the talent to contend amongst the top of the SEC, teams would be petrified to visit the Volunteers and this arena would be near the top of the list. In Bruce Pearl’s stretch of dominance when they finished 1st in the SEC East 4 out of 5 years, no one really stood a chance. Calipari’s No. 1 Memphis Tigers led by Derrick Rose even left with an L. Let’s give Rick Barnes some time to recruit and build his team, but I have a feeling regardless of the talent level, Tennessee is going to be tough to knock off at home.