While Kentucky has virtually locked up the SEC title and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the rest of the conference remains a puzzle with Arkansas as the only team that appears locked into the Big Dance. Georgia and Texas A&M are each carrying 4-game win streaks after starting conference play 0-2 while South Carolina has collapsed after showing promise prior to conference play. With multiple overtime games again this past week and legitimate NBA prospects in most games, the SEC has had a nice start in the debut season of the SEC Network. Here are snippets from the week behind and ahead:
Starting 5…The LSU Tigers went on the road twice and got two huge victories. The week began with the LSU bigs overwheming Florida in Gainesville and then surviving in Nashville in the most difficult road venue in the SEC. While NBA prospects Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey continue to carry the Tigers, turnover-prone junior guard Josh Gray is the key player for LSU. Making the NCAA Tournament rests on Gray safely getting the ball to his dominant big men.
FORE!…After a 3-0 start to SEC play, the Florida Gators are in their worst stretch of conference play in recent years. LSU overwhelmed Florida inside at home followed by a narrow loss in Oxford on Saturday. There is no shame in Florida being outrebounded by LSU, but the Rebels are an undersized club who matched Florida on the boards. Through 35 career games, former McDonald's All-American and one-time lottery prospect Chris Walker has never recorded more than 6 rebounds in a game. Coming off the bench has not helped him become more active and it is difficult to see Florida's season recovering without Walker stepping up.
3D...Alabama and Arkansas put on a show in Fayetteville this week that ended on a Bobby Portis tip-in to give the Hogs a win in overtime. This fan video captures the moment where the best player on the floor finishes the game off for Arkansas.
2 for the Show…This week may have the least attractive match-ups of the season as Tennessee traveling to Arkansas on Tuesday night (9 p.m. on ESPN U) is the only game that features teams in the top 6 of the conference standings. Arkansas travels to Florida on Saturday in a must-win game for the Gators' tournament hopes.
And 1…Texas A&M forward Jalen Jones is the best conference player that no one knows much about. The Aggies have won all 4 games in which Jones has played (missed opening of conference play due to sprained ankle). Jones can get easily lost in the depth of Billy Kennedy's team, but he has averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in 4 conference games. The SMU transfer needs to improve his handle and mostly passes by accident, but he is a solid defender who knows how to score from multiple places on the court.