The SEC Gauntlet has begun. With four teams ranked in the top-20 and solid coaching top to bottom there will be no off-night in this league. Unless your Tennessee because they dismantled Georgia. But Kentucky learned that immediately during their trip to Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide had a losing streak of 21 games to ranked opponents prior to Johnson’s arrival. Avery Johnson is now 12-10 against such opponents during his tenure as Alabama’s head coach. The SEC is trending up and should make for interesting league play. That is if Tennessee doesn’t run away with the title. Either way, the quality of the top of the SEC is not in question, but the depth of it is. Especially with teams like Florida and Texas A&M (teams that are typically atop the standings) playing the way they are. The battle for the SEC crown will most likely come down to Tennessee, Auburn, and Kentucky but don’t count out Mississippi State or LSU to cause some chaos.

Player of the Week

Aric Holman, Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are on a roll. Mississippi State has won nine straight games, the longest streak in the SEC. The most impressive stat is that five players average in double-digits scoring, so they can attack you in array of different ways. Quinndary Weatherspoon is the leader of the bunch as he averages 17.2 PPG, but all five scorers have the opportunity go off any night. And against BYU it was Aric Holman’s opportunity. Holman dropped 28 points in a 103-81 win. Holman wasn’t just hitting shots as he filled the stat line. He also had 8 boards, 3 dimes, a block, and a steal. Not many teams can boast a 6’10 power forward who can step out and shoot 40% from beyond the arc. Holman is a matchup night mare, and if he and Quinndary Weatherspoon are both hitting the Bulldogs will be tough to beat. Mississippi State hasn’t opened up league play but will play South Carolina on Tuesday to kick off their conference schedule. They have coasted to a 12-1 record and are currently ranked 14th in the country. The road will only get tougher in conference play but expect them to keep this up if the balanced scoring continues, especially while shooting 38% from deep. Holman will play a crucial part in that recipe as he pulls bigs away from the hoop since he’s stroking it from three. It opens lanes for the Weatherspoon brothers, and makes Ben Howland’s job a lot easier. Quinndary Weatherspoon may be the star of this team, but Aric Holman will likely be the key to their success in league play.

Who’s Hot

Breein Tyree, Ole Miss

It definitely feels weird to write this piece and not include a Tennessee player in the Player of the Week or Who’s Hot category. But, have to give credit where credit is due. Breein Tyree is balling right now. He’s shooting 43% from deep this season, and just scored 31 points at Vandy. Looking at Ole Miss’ schedule, it’s hard to gauge how good this team really is. With losses to Butler and Cincinnati and no impressive wins after that, we’ll see where the Rebels stand amongst the best of the SEC soon. And by soon, I mean Wednesday. Ole Miss hosts No. 11 Auburn in a game that could prove that they are for real. Kermit Davis has his team playing some really good basketball while they are currently riding an eight-game winning streak. A lot of that is in part to the spark plug Breein Tyree who leads the Rebels by averaging 18.4 ppg. And he has the scoring repertoire to put up games like he did against Vandy. He’s lighting it up from downtown, but you can’t expect him to score the way he is every night. And that’s why Ole Miss needs as much production as possible from senior Terence Davis. He is the second leading scorer for the Rebels, but he has been inconsistent. Ole Miss does not have the talent of a Tennessee or Kentucky and needs their stars to step up. If Ole Miss is going to pull an upset this Wednesday, expect Davis to be shouldering the load alongside Tyree.

Who’s Not

Florida’s Defense

Well, to all the Miami Dolphins fans who happen to be Florida Basketball fans, it is only fair. The Dolphins pulled off the unbelievable against the New England Patriots. 7 seconds to go, down by 5 and two perfectly executed hook-and-lateral passes resulted in Kenyan Drake going 69 yards to the house to knock off the Pats. In basically the same situation in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, the improbable happened. Just this time, the team from Florida was the one who experienced heartbreak. Rick Pitino, I mean Mike White did not have anyone covering the inbounder. Felipe Haase launched a baseball pass to the SEC logo in the paint of the opposite half court. It just missed the outstretched hands of two Florida defenders and landed in the hands of Chris Silva. Silva threw it down and it was all but over. 71-69, The Gators dropped one to a rebuilding South Carolina team at home. The play is so similar the Mile High Miracle where Raheim Moore just whiffed on the Hail Mary pass from Joe Flacco. Both plays that this is compared to have something in common, they both were collapses more so than miracles. Florida has to get a hand on that ball, Raheim Moore has to get a hand on that ball, and Gronk has to take a better angle to the ball carrier. Result: Florida soul crushing loss.

Top Five Contenders for SEC Crown

1.) Tennessee Volunteers

No one has the combination of experience and talent that the Volunteers do. They also just want it more than anybody else and it shows in their play. They don’t take plays off, hence why they beat Georgia 96-50.

2.) Auburn Tigers

They have depth and can’t forget about scorers. Bryce Brown can light it up, Austin Wiley is settling into his role, and Chuma Okeke is a beast. If Brown’s play is consistent and he can start to affect the game in other areas, the Tigers are going to be tough to beat.

3.) Kentucky Wildcats

The team is too inconsistent. They have the talent, the experience, and shooters.. some nights. They should have never loss to Alabama and Seton Hall, but these are the growing pains of a young team. If they finally put it together like we thought they did after wins vs. UNC and Louisville, they have the talent to go toe-to-toe with Tennessee, but who knows if that will happen.

4.) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Simply put, the Weatherspoon brothers can ball. 5 players averaging double digit scoring, and Aric Holman playing the way he is? The Bulldogs are for real this year.

5.) LSU Tigers

LSU is here because of talent, and the point guard position. Tremont Waters is the best point guard in the SEC. Guard play can lead to runs and upsets, ask Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier. But there is talent around him with the likes of 5-star recruits Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams. A lot of young talent, but also a lot of time to put it all together.