All great things eventually come to an end, and Kentucky’s 42 game consecutive home winning streak did just that. Freshman phenoms Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf combined to take down the No. 1 ranked cats in Rupp. There is more devastating news that could potentially shake up the outcome of the SEC. Sindarious Thornwell, a candidate for SEC player of the year was suspended indefinitely for being arrested last spring while driving with a suspended license. It is too early to tell which teams are going to become a threat come March, but Frank Martin’s Gamecocks are the only undefeated team left in the SEC and losing their leading scorer and rebounder can be a huge blow. Especially with the emergence of teams like Auburn (6-1) and Arkansas (7-1), the SEC looks as if there is going to be various teams battling it out for a spot in the dance.
Player of the Week
PJ Dozier (South Carolina)
I previously criticized P.J. Dozier for not stepping up and taking the lead I expected him to take earlier on in the year. Dozier was struggling from the field and his scoring ability was not being utilized to the extent it could have been. Well, I don’t know if it is due to the suspension of lead guard Sindarious Thornwell, or Dozier was just struggling out of the gates, but he figured it out. Dozier’s defensive presence has never been questioned, he has always been a menace on the perimeter. But, he is turning his lockdown defensive prowess into points on the other end of the floor. Dozier is averaging 2.4 steals per game, and had 7 over the last two ball games. The part of his game that has really developed is his outside touch. Last year Dozier scored exclusively inside the paint as he shot an underwhelming 21% from beyond the arc. This year he is making them at a 45% clip which is one of the best in the SEC. With Thornwell out, Dozier is now the leader of his team and can’t have games where he just looks to produce on the defensive side of the court. He now has to be the focal part of the offense if this team wants to stay undefeated. Look for him to step up in South Carolina’s first challenge without Sindarius Thornwell against Seton Hall in Madison Square Garden.
Who’s Hot: Sebastian Saiz (Ole Miss)
Sebastian Saiz is leading the SEC in rebounding and is currently averaging a double double. Despite having the SEC’s leading rebounder and the conference’s leading scorer, the Rebels still have two losses. But, Saiz is not the one to complain about, most of the workload has been on his back and he has produced. Over the last three games Saiz has averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Saiz was most impressive against a scrappy Memphis frontline where he scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while also swatting 3 shots in an 85-77 victory. Ole Miss does not have much support outside of him and SEC leading scorer Deandre Burnett, so for Ole Miss stay on the right side of .500 Saiz is going to have to produce at the level he has been so far this season.
Who’s Not: Luke Kornet (Vanderbilt)
Vanderbilt has been underwhelming this year despite their talent level. With players like Luke Kornet and Matthew Fisher Davis, they should not currently be last in the SEC. This is the second year in a row Vanderbilt has underachieved, but most of that is due in part of the play of Luke Kornet. He has the potential to be one of the best players in the SEC because of his versatility. Kornet is a true 7-footer who can light it up from range. His sophomore he shot 40% from deep and to start this year he is shooting it at 25%. Not only is his shooting percentage down, his rebounding averages have also been lower than expected. Kornet’s knock from NBA scouts has always been his lack of aggressiveness down low where he struggled to rebound, but at his size he should be able to rebound more effectively. Last year he averaged 7.3 rebounds per game, now it is down to 5.4. He is averaging 13 points a game, but with his size and touch he needs to be the leader of this team and the focal point of the offense. Until Kornet figures that out, Vanderbilt (5-4) is going to struggle.
Top 5 Point Guards So Far
1. DeAaron Fox (Kentucky)
This is kind of a no-brainer. Fox is one of the most talented players in college basketball, yet alone the SEC. He notched the second triple-double in Kentucky history and outplayed a potential top 5 pick in Lonzo ball, despite it being in a losing effort. Fox leads the SEC in assists, expect it to remain that way the rest of the season.
2. Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina)
I know, you may be asking how he qualifies for the list because of his suspension, but Thornwell’s play is too hard to ignore up to this point. The rest of the SEC should be begging the committee to make sure he does not become reinstated because with him at the helm, South Carolina is a problem. He affects the game in so many ways by averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Frank Martin needs him back if they want to contend in March.
3. Deandre Burnett (Ole Miss)
It felt weird to place the leading scorer of the SEC in the 3 spot, but the two guards above him have affected the game in various ways where Burnett tends to just light up the scoreboard. But, when you drop 41, your coach will probably be content.
4. Admon Gilder (Texas A&M)
Billy Kennedy always seems to get the most out of his point guards despite the lack of talent. Everyone thought the ruling of Anthony Collins being ineligible would leave a major hole in Texas A&M’s offense. But, Gilder has stepped in and is currently 3rd in the SEC in assists per game. I guess your job becomes a lot easier when you have DJ Hogg and Tyler Davis on the court with you.
5. JJ Frazier (Georgia)
J.J. Frazier has not reached the expectations that we held him to in the preseason. But, that is reasonable when you have sky high expectations. Frazier is still averaging 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. He runs a two-man show over in Athens with beast Yante Maten. You can only expect so much of someone that only has one other person to pass it to, but nonetheless the explosive 5’10 guard is going to show off his range.