Player of the Week
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
The fortunes of the Vols season changed the moment Stokes stepped up on the floor on January 14th. Since that time they are 10-5 overall and winners of eight of their last nine games. In doing so, they have suddenly emerged in tournament conversation with eighteen wins and a 10-6 mark in the SEC (#2 seed). A once rebuilding campaign has now become a season of tremendous promise. Against the stout defenses of LSU and Vanderbilt, the 18-year old averaged 14.5 points on 76% shooting (13/17) this week. He also filled up the stat column with 10.5 boards, 3 blocks and 1.5 steals. Stokes has provided a legitimate interior presence on both sides of the ball, and his mental makeup and physical maturity have been extraordinary. He’s been a perfect compliment to the wing-heavy Tennessee roster. The Vols will have a first-round bye in New Orleans before taking on the Ole Miss/Auburn winner.
JaMychal Green, Alabama
With his unfortunate suspension now firmly in the rear view mirror, the senior closed the regular season with a bang. Green recorded two double-doubles, his first of such kind since February 4th. He went for 15 & 10 versus Auburn (1 block) and 11 & 13 in a losing effort at Mississippi (3 blocks). 8 of his 23 rebounds were of the offensive variety, which has been a major strength since ariving in Tuscaloosa. He’s averaged 3 offensive boards per game for his career, a figure good for 40% of his total rebounds. The Saturday loss at Mississippi cost the Tide a first-round bye, as they’ll face South Carolina in the 5/12 matchup.
Brian Bryant, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs ‘behind the box score’ stalwart took center stage when his team needed it most. Needing a W to keep their hopes of a tournament bid alive, Bryant hit a short banker as time expired to give MSU an overtime victory at SC. Not known as a scorer (7 PPG), the senior scored 16 points on 7/9 field goals, sprinkling in his usual defensive mastery with 2 blocks and a steal. In a 79-59 decimation of Arkansas in the regular season finale, he scored 15 points on 7/8 shooting, with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal and a block. Thoughts of team dissention have now been replaced by smiles, thanks to the glue guy.
The Tigers squandered a golden opportunity at a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament, dropping their final three games and dropping all the way to the #8 spot. During that stretch they shot a composite 36% from the field, 61% from the foul line sported a 34:45 assist:turnover ratio. Their backourt of Anthony Hickey, Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner was highly inconsistent down the stretch, with a handful of horrific shooting nights and limited distribution of the offense. A first round matchup with a defensively challenged Arkansas team that can’t win away from home should work in LSU’s favor.
Top 5 Juniors
1. Arnett Moultrie F/C, Mississippi State- Massive year has him once again skyrocketing up draft boards: 16 PPG, 56% FG and 11 RPG. Rare athletic ability and explosiveness at 6’11.
2. John Jenkins SG, Vanderbilt- When given an inch of space, he’s the best shooter in the country. Lightning quick release has produced 20 PPG on 46% shooting from deep. His all-around game has taken positive strides, but his role at the next level is already defined.
3. Renardo Sidney PF, Mississippi State- A thin list has Sidney slotted at #3 despite a relatively unimpressive season (10 PPG & 5 RPG). He’s been unable to sustain dominance from minute to minute, let alone from game to game.
4. Tony Mitchell SF, Alabama- Mitchell’s remainder of the season suspension put a damper on a strong campaign. He averaged 13 points, 7 boards, a steal and a block through 22 games. For all his offensive limitations (and character concerns), athleticism and defensive versatility are where his value lies.
5. Reginald Buckner PF, Mississippi- Outstanding leaper and shot blocker (2.3 BPG) at 6’9. His feel for the offensive side of the floor and overall basketball intelligence are still a work in progress, but the key word is PROGRESS. He looks the part.
– Kentucky freshman Kyle Wiltjer has made 17 field goals in the month of February; 11 have come from three (41% on the season).
– Mississippi guard Jelan Kendrick left the bench prior to Saturday’s game versus Alabama. Given his history, this is not entirely surprising. Decisions on his short-term and long-term future with the team have not yet been announced.
– Mississippi State G/F Rodney Hood has averaged 4 points (17 minutes) off the bench in two games since returning from a bone bruise in his knee.
The SEC Tournament begins March 8th at 1 PM ET. The Championship Game will be played on March 11th at 1 PM ET on ABC.