Scottie Wilbekin

2013 SEC Tournament Preview

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It hasn’t always been easy to watch the SEC this season. Florida has been the conference’s best team, but after that we see little differentiation and a whole bunch of bad losses by teams in the middle of the conference. So what does that mean for the SEC tournament in Nashville? It could mean a tournament full of upsets, or it could mean a tournament full of far-less-than-perfect high-major basketball.

We will have a good share of quality players and coaches, including the young cast from Kentucky, the always-entertaining personality of Marshall Henderson, the pure point guard skills of Phil Pressey, and the quotable postgame press conferences of South Carolina coach Frank Martin. But how will it all play out? Check out the preview below:

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Nashville, Tenn. (Bridgestone Arena)

When: March 13 – March 17

Final: March 17, 1 p.m. (ABC)

Favorite: Florida

The biggest concern for Florida in the SEC tournament and on into the NCAA tournament will be whether or not the Gators can close out close games and who, if anyone, can step up in crunch time and hit a big shot. Florida does not have a go-to guy like Michigan has or Ohio State has or Georgetown has. The Gators win with defense and shooting the three-point ball and it has gotten them this far. But as losses to Missouri and Kentucky on the road in SEC play point out, they need to have someone or a collection of reliable guys to go to offensively down the stretch. In the loss to Kentucky in the regular season finale, Florida didn’t score a point in the final 7:36 of that game, blowing a seven-point lead. Regardless of how well they play defensively, offensive droughts like that can spell an early exit.

And if they lose?: Missouri

Missouri has needed to come together this season after welcoming so many new players into key roles to start the season. There has been a good deal of progress in that regard, but the stakes are higher now it’s single elimination from here on out which pushes cohesiveness to the forefront. Missouri has more offensive firepower than nearly any team in the country, with six players averaging double figures in scoring. Having Laurence Bowers back and healthy puts Missouri on the right track, but big man Alex Oriakhi is equally as important on the interior. A beneficiary of many Pressey assists, Oriakhi is both a scoring and rebounding threat inside. If Missouri wants to make a run in this tournament, though, Pressey will need to limit turnovers and make better decisions down the stretch in close games.

Other contenders: After Florida and Missouri, the waters of the SEC get murky. Heck, Missouri could even be considered part of the murky middle of the conference. There is a lot of mediocrity in the SEC. Kentucky, Alabama, and Ole Miss have all had their runs this season and we’ll have to see which version of that teams shows up in the SEC tournament to know what we are dealing with. Kentucky is a different team without Nerlens Noel, but fellow freshman Willie Cauley-Stein has begun to step up on the defensive end and fill the hole left by Noel in his absence. Alabama is ranked 250th in the country or worse in points, rebounds, and assists per game this season, but still had a chance to take a share of the SEC lead late in the season before collapsing against Florida. Ole Miss was the talk of the country early in the SEC slate before bad losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State.

Sleeper: Tennessee

Jordan McRae was in the running for the SEC Player of the Year and for good reason. The Volunteers have won eight of their last nine games down the stretch in SEC play and his production has been central to that success. He has scored at least 14 points in eight of those nine games, and that includes a 34-point outburst in a win over LSU. The Volunteers are in a good position in the bracket, too. They will draw either South Carolina or Mississippi State in the second round, then advance to play Alabama in the quarterfinals if they win. The Volunteers played two close games against Alabama earlier in the season, one win and one loss in games that were decided by a total of four points.

Deeper sleeper: Arkansas

Yes, it is true. Arkansas can’t win basketball games on a consistent basis away from home. The Razorbacks were undefeated at home this conference season and were 1-8 on the road with that one win coming over cellar dweller Auburn. But how will they fare on a neutral floor? A high-energy, high-octane transition offense could speed some teams up unexpectedly and that’s when the game comes down to adjustments. If Arkansas catches a team off guard and sets the pace early, will the opponent be able to adjust and come back? It could end up being a wildcard factor in this tournament. But there is a downside. If that doesn’t work, the Razorbacks could lose their first game to Vanderbilt.

Studs:

– Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia

Caldwell-Pope was voted the SEC Player of the Year with his 18.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Some will discount his performance because the Bulldogs finished in the bottom half of the SEC, but there is another side to that coin. On a team with no other real weapons and the chance for defenses to key in on him, he still put up the numbers that he did. Credit granted where credit is due.

– Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

Perhaps Henderson’s personality has overshadowed his play, but he has continued his double-digit scoring production throughout the season (regardless of how many shots he had to take to get there). It typically follows that when Henderson struggles, Ole Miss struggles, partly because of the number of shots Henderson still takes when those shots are not falling. He was 4-of-19 in a loss to Mississippi State, 4-of-17 in a loss to South Carolina, and 4-of-15 in a loss to Missouri.

– Elston Turner, Texas A&M

Turner is questionable for the SEC tournament, but would be a huge boost to the Aggies if he is able to play after breaking a bone in his finger March 6 against LSU. He is likely remembered most for the 40 points he dropped on Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Jan. 12, but his production has continued even with A&M finishing toward the bottom of the league. He had 37 points in a win over Ole Miss on Feb. 13 and 38 in a four-overtime loss to Tennessee.

CBT Prediction: With Will Yeguete now fully assimilated back into the rotation and providing more depth on the front line, this is Florida’s tournament to win.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Alabama upsets No. 15 Texas A&M as Aggies continue recent freefall

Alabama guard Retin Obasohan (32) scores against Texas A&M during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Alabama played inspired ball on both ends of the floor and held on to upset No. 15 Texas A&M 63-62 in an SEC thriller on Wednesday night. Trailing by one point with less than three seconds left, Texas A&M had a chance to tie or take the lead with senior Anthony Collins at the line for two free throws. But Collins, one of the nation’s best free-throw shooters at 92 percent on the season, missed both free throws in a heartbreaking loss for the Aggies.

The Crimson Tide controlled the glass most of the game by outrebounding the Aggies 36-29 and also forced 13 Texas A&M turnovers. The loss for Texas A&M means they’ve lost four of their last five games and four straight games in the SEC.

Retin Obasahon led Alabama (14-9, 5-6) with 16 points as he made a lot of big plays in the second half to put the team on his back. The win means the Crimson Tide have won three consecutive games and defeated four ranked opponents during the season. Riley Norris added 11 points for the Crimson Tide while Shannon Hale was also in double-figures with 10 points.

Although Texas A&M (18-6, 7-4) did better with their recent shaky 3-point defense, holding Alabama to 8-for-25 (32 percent) from distance, they were outhustled on the glass for much of the game and couldn’t overcome a slow start. Senior Jalen Jones finished with 21 points and seven rebounds while Danuel House had 12 points and Collins finished with 11.

This loss is absolutely killer for Texas A&M, as they continue to slide down the SEC standings. The recent road woes for the Aggies also continued as they’ve lost three straight away from home. The schedule doesn’t get much easier for the Aggies the next few games, either, as they travel to LSU and then host Ole Miss and Kentucky. Texas A&M is in a potential freefall right now and they went from a major contender in the SEC to a team that just needs to get back on track.

As for Alabama, this is another solid win for head coach Avery Johnson in his first season. It’s hard to say if Johnson got some scouting advice from his son Avery Johnson Jr., a redshirt guard for the Crimson Tide who played for the Aggies last season, but they’ll certainly take this tight win. Alabama is now 5-1 in one-possession games this season and there’s something to be said for that mark.

BUBBLE BANTER: Key Atlantic 10, Big East bubble games

Kelan Martin, Kyle Alexander
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This post will be updated throughout the night.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This is the win that Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) needed.

Entering Wednesday night, the Hawks were a paper tiger, a team with terrific computers numbers despite the fact that they hadn’t actually accomplished much of anything this season.

Well, that’s not exactly true. They are now 20-4 on the season and 10-2 in the Atlantic 10. They haven’t lost to anyone ranked outside the RPI top 50, and while that seems like it should be a simple thing to do, upsets happen all the time in college basketball. Not losing to anyone that stinks is one of the marks of a good team.

The problem, however, is that prior to their trip to Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, the best win that St. Joe’s had on the season … Princeton? At Temple? They were without an RPI top 50 win and, if you factor in Buffalo, the Hawks and three top 100 wins on their résumé.

That’s not exactly the stuff of at-large bids.

And then Wednesday happened, and the Hawks went into the Smith Center and hammered a good George Washington team by 18 points, the same GW team that went into Richmond on Saturday and handed VCU their first loss of the conference season.

It looks like nothing more than a top 50 road win on their profile, but for at least one person that was in attendance (Hi!), it was something of a statement win. I had my doubts about the group, and while the eye-test is totally subjective and probably the worst way to gauge whether or not a team is a tournament team, they certainly passed my eye-test today.

WINNERS

  • Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67): The Bulldogs landed a critical win on Wednesday night, as they went into Newark and knocked off a Seton Hall team that is probably better than you realize. That’s an RPI top 50 win on the road that’s getting added to a résumé that, entering the night, had just a single top 50 win. Period. The Bulldogs still have plenty of work to do, but with their only two bad losses coming on the road against league competition and five wins against the top 100 with four coming away from Hinkle Fieldhouse, Chris Holtmann’s club has positioned themselves nicely to not only get a bid but get a solid seed as well.

LOSERS

  • Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37): Losing to Butler certainly doesn’t help Seton Hall’s cause, but this isn’t a bad loss. The Pirates are still without a sub-100 loss, although this does drop them to 6-7 against the RPI top 100 with a pair top 50 wins. They’re still in the tournament as of today, and probably with some room to spare.
  • George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34): There are two positives to take out of GW’s loss to Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday night: 1) The Hawks may end up being an RPI top 25 team once the numbers are crunched overnight, so this is anything but a bad loss, and 2) This 18-point drubbing will look exactly the same as a one-point loss at the buzzer in the eyes of the selection committee.

LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.