We are entering the last week of the NCAA regular season, and its time for teams to hit their stride. For teams with aspirations of making a postseason run, now is the time to be playing their best.
SEC Hoops Weekly Report: Arkansas Streaking, Malik Monk Shines
Four SEC teams seem to be securely in the NCAA tournament field, barring a major letdown: Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, and Arkansas. Vanderbilt and Georgia still have a chance to get in if they can close out the season strong.
Team of the Week – Arkansas Razorbacks
The Hogs have now won five straight games, including victories last week over Texas A&M and Auburn. Junior guard Jaylen Barford has scored 15 or more points in four straight games, as the Razorbacks make their push towards March. After a stumble a few weeks ago, Arknsas is back on track and likely headed to the NCAA tournament.
Player of The Week – Malik Monk (Kentucky)
Monk struggled – like most of his teammates – in an uninspired victory at Missouri midweek. The freshman star also had a poor first half at home against the Gators in Saturday’s battle for first-place. How can Monk be player of the week when he played three subpar halves out of four? Well, he exploded for 30 of his 33 points in the second half at Rupp Arena this weekend to propel Kentucky past Florida and into sole possession of first place in the SEC. That’s how.
Top of the Class
1. Kentucky Wildcats – 24-5 (14-2)
Coach John Calipari‘s team is finally getting it. An elite team has to perform on both ends of the floor. The Wildcats seem to have figured out how to win games in which they don’t score 90 or more points. Saturday’s victory over Florida, without De’Aaron Fox, showed this team’s resolve. After a shaky stretch in late January, the Wildcats are back on course to make a run in March.
2. Florida Gators – 23-6 (13-3)
The Gators split their two games this week, with both contests playing out in similar fashion. After a close first half, Florida’s hot shooting allowed the team to pull away from South Carolina midweek. Kentucky then did the same thing to the Gators, getting hot and pulling away as the second half wore on. The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak, but Florida is still set up well for a good seed in the NCAA tournament.
3. Arkansas Razorbacks – 22-7 (11-5)
Coach Mike Anderson’s team is getting hot at the right time. They are now set up well to make March Madness. Their current win streak has pushed them to third in the SEC. The season appeared to be in jeopardy after losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt, but the Razorbacks haven’t lost since. Road wins were once very hard to come by for this program, but they currently have six victories away from home in the SEC this year.
4. South Carolina Gamecocks – 21-8 (11-5)
The Gamecocks were not able to get back in the SEC title race with a loss in Gainesville on Tuesday. They did, however, get back on track with a home win over Tennessee this weekend. Not only did they halt a three-game losing skid, but they were able to get their suffocating defense going again. Coach Frank Martin’s squad held the Volunteers to 55 points on just 33 percent shooting, and forced 20 turnovers. Sindarius Thornwell continues to make a strong case for SEC Player of the Year.
5. Vanderbilt Commodores – 16-13 (9-7)
No one saw this coming. After struggling to consistently put together good performances, Vanderbilt has now won four in a row. The ability to get hot from three makes the Commodores a team no one would want to face in March. Four players are scoring in double figures, and each of them shoots 35 percent or better from three. Vanderbilt’s season will be defined this week, with matchups against Kentucky and Florida.
6. Georgia Bulldogs – 17-12 (8-8)
J.J. Frazier has been on fire as of late, so it is not surprising that the Bulldogs have won four of their last five games. The senior point guard is averaging 27.8 points and just under five assists over his last five games. If one or two of the close losses to Kentucky, Florida, or South Carolina had gone the other way, we would be talking about Coach Mark Fox’s team was on the right side of the bubble. With a solid RPI, Georgia may still have a chance if it can win out and make some noise in the SEC tournament.
7. Ole Miss Rebels – 18-11 (9-7)
This team has flown under the radar for most of the season, but the Rebels have put together a solid year. There is still a chance that, with a strong finish and a good run in the SEC tournament, Coach Andy Kennedy’s group can get on the bubble. However, this is very likely to be an NIT team. It’s an explosive team that will be a handful for whichever teams they face, having averaged 86.6 points per game over their last five.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide – 16-12 (9-7)
The Tide slipped up in both games last week, and have all but sealed their fate for the season. Freshmen Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram are a good foundation for Alabama to build on. The NIT could be a good stepping stone into next year for this young team.
9. Tennessee Volunteers – 15-14 (7-9)
Poor guard play has sunk Tennessee’s ship in the last few ball games. After finding themselves in a pretty good position a few weeks ago, the Volunteers have lost four of five games down the stretch. Grant Williams continues to shine, but this young team seems to have hit a wall.
Fighting for a Winning Season
10. Texas A&M Aggies – 15-13 (7-9)
Just a season removed from being SEC Champions, the Aggies have struggled for consistency this year. Admon Gilder has been an ironman in SEC play, playing 35 or more minutes in 13 of 16 games.
11. Auburn Tigers – 17-12 (6-10)
Coach Bruce Pearl’s team has been through a roller coaster season. The Tigers have locked down their first winning season since 2008-09. Auburn is clearly taking steps in the right direction. Much like one might expect from a freshmen-laden team, the Tigers are fun and exciting on offense but lack the defensive prowess needed at this point.
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs – 14-14 (5-11)
The youngest team in America is has hit the wall hard. Coach Ben Howland’s youth movement has now lost eight of nine games after a solid start to league play. The future is bright in Starkville, but this team has appeared to run out of gas lately.
Season of Woe
13. Missouri Tigers – 7-21 (2-14)
The Tigers simply don’t have enough talent on the roster to compete right now. Despite their deficiencies, this team consistently shows admirable fight and toughness.
14. LSU Tigers – 9-19 (1-15)
LSU’s baseball team looks really good, right? 15 straight losses have the Tigers reeling. They fought hard in Athens on Saturday but still found a way to lose.