Player of the Week
Michael Frazier II – Florida
The Gators have been known over the last few years for their three point shooting. That wasn’t the case coming into this season as that was the one question mark that Billy Donovan’s squad had coming into the season. Who would stretch the floor? Frazier answered the call and has been arguably the best three point shooter in the SEC this season. So far in the month of March, he’s shooting 18-31 (58%) from distance including just over a week ago against South Carolina where the 6’4 sophomore set a conference record for three pointers in a game with 11. He followed that performance with a less than stellar shooting night against Kentucky where he was a mere 3-8 from the field.
The Gators are a clear cut #1 seed in the NCAAT no matter what happens this week in Atlanta and it is guys like Frazier who can carry a team if he gets hot on any given night. The Gators are an unbelievable defensive unit and will hold teams in the high 50’s or low 60’s most nights but they have a tendency to go into scoring lull’s and let team’s back into games. If Frazier can continue to stretch the floor and give guys like Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather room to work inside the arc then the Gators have to be everyone’s favorite to make it to their fourth straight Elite 8 and the Final Four after that.
Kenny Gaines – Georgia
Outside of the aforementioned Frazier, Gaines has to get consideration for one of the SEC’s Most Improved Players. Last season, Gaines averaged barely over three points per game playing behind eventual lotto pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but this season, Gaines has been the Bulldog’s MVP and has given fans something to cheer about in Athens. The team finished #3 in the SEC this season due in large part to the play of the sophomore guard from Atlanta.
Gaines has gotten progressively better each month of the season and has really elevated his game to another level down the stretch with the Bulldogs scratching and clawing for every win they can get trying to boost their resume as much as possible for the committee come selection time. He’s had three career games in his last five scoring a career high 27 in a win on the road at South Carolina. Gaines seems to be a road warrior as some of his best games of late have come on the road. The Dawgs likely need at least two wins in the SEC Tournament to get any serious NCAAT considerations but it is a testament to Mark Fox, the coaching staff and the rest of the team along with Gaines that the team has come this far.
The Harrison Twins – Kentucky
As two of the "crown jewel’s" of Kentucky’s highly touted recruiting class, Aaron and Andrew Harrison have been extremely inconsistent all season long. The team hasn’t really come together like most fans had hoped they would and the only player on the squad that looks NBA ready at this point is forward Julius Randle. Neither of the twins have really established themselves as a player who can consistently be relied up to create for themselves or others. They turn the ball over too much, they aren’t as good defensively as anyone thought they would be and they just don’t look the part of NBA ready guards. This all sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Last season, so much of the blame of the team’s struggles was placed on guards Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin. Both players were wildly inconsistent and it eventually led to the Wildcats missing out on the NCAAT for the first time in the Calipari era. That won’t happen this year as the Wildcats are firmly in the field at this point but are they really a threat to make a run? If the Harrison twins continue to play like they have of late then that answer is definitively no.
Top 3 Questions Heading Into Tournament Play
1. How good is Florida?
In short, yes, the Gators are that good. In an era of college basketball where young teams are the "sexy" pick to win it all each year and being a senior is almost a criticism when used as an adjective, the Gators have gone quietly about their business and have one of the best squads in the country. Led almost completely by seniors, the Gators are one of the best defensive teams in the country and they do all of the little things that help win games. They are almost assuredly locked in as the #1 overall seed which means they should play most of their games in the South and have one of the easier roads to the Final Four. Billy Donovan has once again done a masterful job with his squad and has gotten the best out of each and every one of this players. My guess is that this team will be the last man standing on quite a few brackets.
2. Can Georgia get an at-large bid?
The Bulldogs will likely have to win two games in the SEC Tournament to have a chance a chance at an at large bid. That means they will likely have to take down a Marshall Henderson-led Ole Miss squad while also taking down Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats in the semi’s, a team that beat them by 25 points earlier this season. Those two wins give the team a chance based on the fact that they went 12-6 in conference but Mark Fox’s squad shouldn’t feel safe unless they secure that automatic bid that comes along with winning the entire thing. Nonetheless, what Georgia has done this season in the SEC has been remarkable considering where they were picked to finish before the season started.
3. What’s wrong with Kentucky?
As I mentioned above, the problem with Kentucky this season is largely the same problem that plagued the team last season. They lack cohesiveness, they lack an elite PG and they lack any sort of veteran leadership outside of rarely used guard Jarrod Polson. The Harrison twins have struggled mightily late in the season, especially in big games and sophomores Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress have shown very little growth from last season to this one. It might be time for Coach Cal to consider looking at players that might stay for more than one or two season and trying to actually build a "team" instead of a roster full of guys who don’t intend on staying for more than a few months. I don’t see this team going very far in the NCAAT based on the fact that they don’t respond well to adversity but if they get a good draw against teams that are sub-par defensively and that can’t defend without fouling then there’s always a chance.
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