Player of the Week
Yante Maten – Georgia
There is no doubt that this season has been somewhat of a disappointment in Athens for both the team, the fans and the Head Coach. But the Bulldogs seem to be peaking at the right time and have won three of their last four conference games and are right in the thick of things as we head into the home stretch of the season. One of the biggest reasons why the Dawgs are where they are at this point in the season has been the improved and continued play of Maten. The sophomore forward from Michigan has really started to come into his own this season after having a so-so freshman campaign. Last week, he averaged 21 points and 9 rebounds per game in the team’s loss at Kentucky and win at Mississippi State. Kentucky’s length bothered Maten on offense early last week, but he got to the free throw line and was effective on the glass in a game that UGA was never in. And on Saturday, he turned in his best game of the season with 25 points on 10-16 from the floor. He’s becoming a force down low for a team that is extremely guard oriented. His continued development should pay huge dividends as the team rounds out the rest of their conference schedule and into post season play.
Ben Simmons – LSU
There isn’t much you can say about Simmons that hasn’t already been said. He’s the best player in the country and any team that would pass on him in this June’s draft would be crazy. The freshman is averaging 19.3 points, 12 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2 steals and a block this season. Those numbers are crazy for a freshman and just show that his versatility is his biggest strength. LSU has had their ups and downs this season, but Simmons has had mostly ups with very few downs in the process. I really am at a loss for words because so much has been written about him that I would only be regurgitating what someone else wrote or copying and pasting what I’ve already written.
It wasn’t long ago that I considered A&M to be the only real contender in the SEC outside of Kentucky. With the way that the Aggies have been playing over the last two weeks, I couldn’t have been more wrong. At one point, A&M was ranked in the Top 5 in the country and was playing like a team possessed. They’ve now lost four straight and five of their last six during a stretch that has all but taken them out of contention for a regular season SEC Championship. The team’s only victory during that span? A win at home against Iowa State, the best team they’ve faced during this stretch. Jalen Jones has come back down to Earth during this stretch and was even asked to come off the bench this weekend vs. LSU, a move that was trying to ignite a spark in this team that is in a free fall. Neither Jones or Danuel House have been able to get on the same page lately with each player alternating poor games, while both seem to have lost confidence in their shots. Don’t get me wrong, I still like their roster as a whole, but I do believe that they were playing above their heads earlier in the season and that this team is the one that we will see for the rest of the season.
Bruce Pearl’s team has lost 7 straight games and hasn’t scored more than 68 points in any of them. Their last three outings have been even worst with 55, 45 and 57 points respectively. The team hasn’t shot over 30% from the floor since early this month and with the surprise suspension/dismissal/whatever it was of Kareem Kanty, this team is searching for answers. Kanty wasn’t the most efficient player and was somewhat of a "chucker", but he was their leading scorer at 18.3 points per game and for a team that was struggling to put the ball in the hoop with him on the floor, without him it has been a disaster. Tyler Harris is in a funk and Cinmeon Bowers is now the team’s new PG after playing both C, PF and SF during his first year and a half with the team. I was one who thought that the Tigers would compete for an NCAAT birth this season with the squad they had coming back, but it is looking more and more like this is a lost season for Coach Pearl and his squad.
Top 5 Long Range Shooters
1. Anthlon Bell – Arkansas
Bell is a knock down shooter and one of the bright spots for Arkansas this season. He’s shooting 46.3% on the season from long range (2nd in the league) and is one of the reasons that Arkansas has kept their head above water.
2. J.J. Frazier – Georgia
Frazier’s numbers are a bit off from where they were last season and he doesn’t rank in the top 10 in terms of percentage in the SEC, but he shoots more threes than a few other guys ahead of him on the list and I love his stroke. Kid has range for days.
3. Jamal Murray – Kentucky
Murray has really come on of late and is knocking down his outside jumpers at an extremely high rate. He’d likely be the leading scorer in the league if it weren’t for the team he plays on.
4. Keith Hornsby – LSU
Hornsby, who’s famous father Bruce’s band was called "the Range", is shooting a career best 41.2% from distance this season, good enough for 6th in the league. He has a little hitch in his shot and it isn’t the prettiest, but it is effective nonetheless.
5. Dorian Finney-Smith – Florida
Finney-Smith has always had the ability to step out and hit shots from beyond the arc, but these last two seasons, he has really stepped it up and become arguably the best shooting four man in the league.
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