Parting the SEC

It has been an interesting week for Kentucky Wildcat fans. Last weekend they saw their former Cats dominate All-Star weekend as Jamal Murray won the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge, and Anthony Davis received MVP honors at the All-Star game in front of his home fans in New Orleans. Not only did Davis win MVP, break Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star scoring record, and earn a car in the process, he now gets to team up with Demarcus Cousins after Vlade Divac practically gave him up for free. The city of New Orleans is excited about the potential of these two big men, but once the Woj bomb was dropped, the city of Lexington instantly became the Pelicans second largest market. A John Wall and Demarcus Cousins reunion has been the dream since they entered the league, but I think Big Blue Nation will settle for two of the best big men in the NBA sharing the same frontcourt. This led to Colin Cowherd bashing the Kentucky players who have entered the NBA claiming that they have been underwhelming. Ask Dan Dakich, Big Blue Nation does not take kindly to criticism of their players. But, back to the current Cats who barely squeezed out a victory against the 7-20 Missouri Tigers. And the head coach of those Cats who walked off mid-interview after hearing the Missouri student section chanting, “Cal you suck!” Cal’s teams usually look primed for a run deep into March by now, but squeezing out close victories to far inferior teams has been the norm as of late. And look who Cal’s cats run into next: the Florida Gators who ran them off the court just 3 weeks earlier and currently hold the tiebreaker for the top spot in the SEC. After an up and down week in Lexington, UK fans better hope the experiment in New Orleans works out because if Cal’s squad continues to look the way it did on Tuesday, they’re going to see their season come to an end a lot quicker than they thought it would.

Player of the Week

Moses Kingsley (Arkansas)

Moses KingsleyMoses KingsleyAll year the talk of the SEC has been Florida, Kentucky, and South Carolina because those looked like the only teams who were going to claim spots in the NCAA Tournament. Arkansas has been overlooked all year due to their lack of quality wins. They now hold a record of 21-7 and are projected as a 10 seed in most brackets. Just last week it seemed as if everyone was ready to write off Arkansas and just settle that the SEC would not be well-represented in the dance following Arkansas’ loss to Vanderbilt. Well, for Moses Kingsley it must have clicked that this is going to be his last go-around because he has led his team to 4 straight W’s. He has two double-doubles in the past two games, but Mike Anderson isn’t looking for him to will his team to victory by having 20+ nights. Kingsley’s role is to make game winning plays such as hustle plays, blocks, clean the glass, and scoring in any variety is just a bonus. It might not have been his best statistical night of the year, but his performance against South Carolina might have been his best. He had 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 shots blocked. South Carolina had trouble scoring over his length, and their frontcourt had no answer for him down-low as he shot better than 50% from the field and going 6-7 from the line. That was Arkansas’ opportunity to earn a big win on the road against a ranked team, and despite not being the leader scorer that night, Kingsley set the tone for the Razorbacks. They have the opportunity to go steal a victory in Gainesville which would solidify them a spot in the tournament, but Kingsley will have to continue to set the tone defensively if he wants to make sure he gets the opportunity to improve his draft stock on the big stage.

Who’s Hot

KeVaughn Allen (Florida)

It has gotten to the point where every week you try to find something negative about Florida and try to exclude one of the players from receiving a weekly honor just to switch it up. Kind of like LeBron and the MVP trophy. Should he get it almost every year? Yes. But, will he? No, because the media likes to focus on the young stars and give them an opportunity to shine and create their own legacy. Obviously, on a much smaller scale Florida falls under that same category. They have reeled off 9 straight, the country still refuses to give them much spotlight, but every week a new player from their starting-5 steps up and wills their team to victory. This week it’s 3-point assassin KeVaughn Allen. Despite South Carolina having a successful year and competing in the SEC, Florida’s matchup against the Gamecocks almost seemed as if it was a trap game. They knew the real battle for the SEC crown would come Saturday in Rupp Arena. But, KeVaughn Allen made sure that his team would travel to Lexington coming off of their 9th straight victory and tied at the top of the SEC. Allen scored 26 points on 7 shots. He went 5-7 from the field including 3 treys. Talk about efficient. Allen also grabbed 7 rebounds in an 81-66 rout of South Carolina. Just when you think Florida may be exposed when they lost their leading rebounder John Egbunu for the season, the guards of Florida decide to crash the glass and refuse to be outrebounded. For Florida to go into Rupp Arena and earn the #1 spot in the SEC tournament it is going to take a complete team effort, but expect KeVaughn Allen to lead the way.

Who’s Not

South Carolina

South Carolina has lost 3 in a row and 4 of their last 5. All year I have argued that South Carolina is being undervalued after the first half of the season when they were undefeated with Sindarious Thornwell in the lineup. Apparently even Thornwell’s heroics can’t even help the Gamecocks. Over this 3-game losing streak Thornwell is still producing on the offensive end of the floor where he has scored 27, 21, and 23. He is just not getting any help around him, and that even includes his backcourt mate PJ Dozier who was excellent during Thornwell’s absence. South Carolina has lost their aggressive edge on the defensive end of the floor where they have given up a little over 78 points per game during the 3-game skid. I genuinely thought South Carolina would represent the SEC well in the NCAA tournament as Thornwell’s veteran leadership would guide them to at worst the Sweet 16. But, what it looks like now is that the SEC is was what we thought it would be at the beginning of the season, a two-team race for the top spot. South Carolina will make the tournament, but unless they figure out how to play lockdown defense again, you might as well pencil them in to be upset in your bracket predictions.

Top 5 Stats you need to know for Florida vs. Kentucky

1. A victory over Florida would be Kentucky’s 100th win all-time against the Gators.

2. During the Calipari Era, Florida has only gone into Rupp Arena and defeated the Wildcats one time. It was 2014 in a 10-point victory led by Scottie Wilbekin.

3. Ever since the Calipari-Donovan rivalry began, Florida or Kentucky has won the SEC regular season title every year but once. (2015-2016 Texas A&M)

4. Every team that has won the national championship over the past 10 years has been ranked in the top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency. Kentucky is among that group, but Florida sits 3 spots out from 20 on the offensive side of the ball.

5. Every time Florida has hosted College Gameday (7 times) they have played the Wildcats. Rupp Arena has been host to College Gameday against the Gators 3 times. Despite the SEC being a tough conference to follow, people tune in to see these SEC heavyweights battle it out for first place.

RSS: Syndicate content