The SEC entered the week with six teams in the AP Top 25. There are the expected teams in the top 10 (Tennessee and Kentucky) and then you have some teams overachieving. Like Ole Miss. But, that train might be coming to a stop. The Rebels have lost two of their last three following wins over ranked in opponents such as Auburn and a road win at Mississippi State. The Rebels are coming off a 21-point embarrassment against Alabama. And to keep it on the topic of unexpected teams, South Carolina just keeps winning. Frank Martin’s squad is tied for third in the SEC with Kentucky. Chris Silva is a beast when he’s locked in. We’ll get to him later. But, if you’re a fan of the SEC, you have to like the way this is going to finish. It isn’t going to be a battle for the top spot between Tennessee and Kentucky. Don’t discount Tremont Waters and LSU, and at this point you also can’t discount South Carolina. After suffering losses to Wagner and Stony Brook Frank Martin has managed to figure it out in conference play. Let’s just hope these teams don’t beat each other up too badly.
Player of the Week
Grant Williams (Tennessee)
Outside of a major flop where it looked like Williams got shoved by Shaq in his prime, he could do no wrong. Yet, the flop worked for him either way. Listen to this line: 43 points, 8 boards, 4 blocks, 67% shooting percentage and a 23-for-23 performance from the charity stripe. 23 makes without a miss from the FT line is the most in a college game since Oklahoma State’s Arlen Clark went 24-for-24 on March 7, 1959. He played out of his mind. In a game where Rick Barnes needed every one of those points, as the game went to OT, Williams came up clutch. Admiral Schofield didn’t show up on the road when facing Vanderbilt, but Williams made up for it, and more. Williams pushed this game into overtime and from there it was over. If it wasn’t for Williams, Tennesee would’ve been blown out. But, this just goes to show the depth of the SEC. On a night where the No. 1 team in the country went into Vanderbilt on a 12-game winning streak, the Commodores didn’t back down and made Tennesee earn that victory. And Grant Williams put the team on his back despite the lack of help from the other star on the team and led them to victory. That’s what great teams come do. They can win in a variety of ways in hostile environments. And that’s why Tennesee is the No. 1 team in the country, and likely to make a deep run in the tournament come March. Maybe cutting down the nets in Minnesota. This team is that good.
Chris Silva (South Carolina)
If it wasn’t for the defensive phenomenon in Lexington, Ashton Hagans, Chris Silva could be a lock for SEC Defensive Player of the Year. When he is fully engaged, he is one of the best players in the country. But, that is a big if. Chris Silva had a Grant Williams type game, just a day earlier. Silva went for 32 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks in a must-win against Auburn. All games for South Carolina are must-win’s from here on out, but we’ll get back to that in a second. Silva put the team on his back just like Grant Williams did, and even sealed the game. Silva hit two free throws to give South Carolina a 3-point lead with a few ticks left. And the Basketball Gods must hate Auburn cause they can’t catch a break when it comes to last second game tying atttempts. Silva is a 75% free throw shooter and went 10-11 at the line and hit two clutch free throws to alter the Tigers shot. South Carolina put themselves in a hole entering SEC play. They either have to win out the rest of the regular season, or go on a run in the SEC tournament and secure the automatic bid. It might be all but too late for the Gamecocks, but you can’t count them out yet considering they’re tied for third in the SEC with some impressive wins. Also, that Chris Silva guy isn’t a bad option to have to lead you to the dance.
Plain and simple, the loss of Austin Wiley is taking a toll on the Tigers. Auburn has lost their last two games by a combined 5 points. Some of it was just unlucky, like Bryce Brown’s shot that went to the bottom of the hoop and rimmed out. Chris Silva wouldn’t have had the day he had if Wiley was patrolling the paint. Also, the Tigers will be without Wiley in their matchup with a ranked Mississippi State squad. Auburn and Bruce Pearl know what they are going to get out of Bryce Brown and Jared Harper and this is the time where they need others to step up. The rest of Auburn roster has not been able to prove that. Yes, they have help on the way in the form of Austin Wiley, but he is not going to single-handedly make Auburn a contender for the SEC crown. The production around those three needs to improve because Tennessee is a force and Kentucky seems to be figuring it out. Kentucky just went to Auburn and squeaked out a 2-point victory. Auburn is falling behind, and I don’t think they’ll be able make up the ground they lost for a second consecutive SEC regular season crown.
Top 5 Point Guards in the SEC
1.) Tremont Waters (LSU)
Waters is in discussion for SEC Player of the Year and if LSU keeps winning he could be in discussion for Naismith Player of the Year. He’s that good.
2.) Jared Harper (Auburn)
Harper leads the SEC in assists with about 8 dimes a game and is also top-10 in scoring. If only he could get some help outside of Bryce Brown.
3.) Ashton Hagans (Kentucky)
After the Duke debacle everybody wrote Kentucky off, now they’re right in the thick of things because of Ashton Hagans. He is a menace on the defensive side of the ball and he looks better and better each game.
4.) Jordan Bone (Tennesee)
Bone is second in the SEC in assists while averaging over 13 points a game. He’s the point guard for the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Doesn’t hurt that he has Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield to pass the ball to.
5.) Lamar Peters (Mississippi State)
This came down to Breein Tyree and Lamar Peters. I went with Peters because I think he does more for his team to win. He’s almost averaging 6 assists a game and is the floor general. Tyree is a scorer, where Peters can give you a little bit of both.