Skip to content

Conference Catchups: A three-bid SEC this season?

Jan 7, 2013, 2:25 PM EST

Bucknell v Missouri Getty Images

Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our ACC Conference Catchup:

Favorite: Missouri

The Tigers have their issues, but given how weak the SEC is as a whole, there really isn’t much of an argument to make here. Phil Pressey has turned into one of the nation’s most dangerous playmakers at the point at the same time that Laurence Bowers has gone from a defensive presence into a terrific all-around player with a killer perimeter jumper.

There are three things that are going to determine whether or not the Tigers end up being something special this season:

  • Defensive playmaking. The Tigers don’t force turnovers and don’t block shots. That’s why their defense is mediocre.
  • Can Phil Pressey develop better shot selection? As good of a passer as he is, there are times where he gets into takeover mode. He’s not a good enough scorer to go into takeover mode as often as he does.
  • Can Missouri consistently hit threes? That’s where the loss of Mike Dixon hurts the most. Can Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross and Keion Bell consistently spread the floor?
  • Alex Oriakhi and Bowers got beat up by Mike Muscala on Saturday. What happens when they go up against Jarnell Stokes or Kentucky’s big men or Patric Young?

Contenders: Florida is the biggest threat to Missouri in the SEC thanks to their tough, versatile defense. And when Kenny Boynton is shooting well, they’re a potential Final Four team. That’s no guarantee, either. Through his first five games, Boynton was 13-29 from deep. The five after that? 4-32. In his last two games? 11-17. Go figure.

It would also be foolish to write off Kentucky. That’s a young team, but that’s a team with a ton of talent that looks better every game. Ryan Harrow appears to be filling the void at the point guard spot quite nicely, which was the biggest key. John Calipari’s new task? Getting Alex Poythress to consistently dominate and developing some kind of offensive game for Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Biggest Surprise: How bad the league has been

Texas A&M is third in the SEC in the RPI. They lost to Southern at home. Their last four wins — against Stephen F. Austin, Texas A&M-CC, Army and Houston Baptist — came by an average of 8.5 points. Ole Miss and LSU currently have the second and fourth best record in the conference, respectively. The best win between the two: Seton Hall? Hawaii? Missouri and Florida can play with anyone in the country. Kentucky will get there. Beyond that, there may not be another NCAA tournament team amongst them.

Biggest Disappointment: Alabama

The Crimson Tide looked very promising early in the season, as they beat South Dakota State, Villanova and Oregon State early in the season. Since then? They had a buzzer-beating loss at Cincinnati, which wasn’t a problem. They lost at home to Dayton, which was iffy but acceptable. The Tide then got embarrassed by VCU, nearly lost at Texas Tech and then dropped home games to Mercer and Tulane. They’ll visit Missouri on Tuesday. That could be ugly.

(I avoided listing Tennessee here because so much of their struggles can be pinpointed on the balky knees of Jeronne Maymon.)

Player of the Year: Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers, Missouri

Both have been terrific for the Tigers this season, as Pressey’s playmaking has provided a dynamic piece offensively while Bowers has been the only consistent perimeter shooter Frank Haith has had at his disposal.

Best Freshman: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

The problem with John Calipari landing dominant freshman is that it makes Noel’s 10.3 points, 9.2 boards, 3.5 blocks and 2.6 steals seem disappointing. While he’s not exactly putting up all-american numbers, Noel has been terrific on the defensive end and getting to the offensive glass. He’s lanky, athletic and very active.

Three Predictions

Kentucky enters the tournament as a six or seven seed and makes the Elite 8. They haven’t beaten anyone this season, save for a Maryland team that has an even less impressive collection of wins. They aren’t going to jack up their computer numbers by landing a handful of quality wins in league play, either. But as this team continues to gel and develop as the season goes along, they are only going to get better. Playing them in the Round of 32 will not be pleasant.

The SEC gets three teams into the tournament: Outside of the top three, there hasn’t been much about the SEC that’s impressive. That lack of quality non-conference wins means that conference play won’t generate a wealth of good wins for bubble teams.

LSU surprises people: I actually like the Tigers this season. I think they’ll do very well in conference play. I just don’t see them having a strong enough resume to make a legitimate case for an at-large bid.

Power Rankings (* = tourney team):

1. Missouri*
2. Florida*
3. Kentucky*
4. LSU
5. Ole Miss
6. Tennessee
7. Arkansas
8. Alabama
9. Texas A&M
10. Vanderbilt
11. Auburn
12. South Carolina
13. Georgia
14. Mississippi State

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Cody Doolin’s late-game heroics push UNLV past Portland (VIDEO)

    Dec 18, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Will Cummings, Cody Doolin AP

    Doolin finished the game with 15 points, three assists and no turnovers, and made two huge plays to get UNLV the two-point win over Portland.

  2. American’s struggles makes Cincinnati’s win over San Diego State enormous

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:04 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    This is the first win that the American has landed over a ranked team.

  3. Michigan State’s Branden Dawson suffers sprained left wrist in win over Eastern Michigan

    Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 AM EST

    Branden Dawson, Jalen Hayes, Matt Costello AP

    Dawson’s injury occurred on the same night that freshman Javon Bess made his regular season debut for the Spartans.

  4. Senior forward/center Erik Copes leaves George Mason program

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:33 PM EST

    Fordham v George Mason Fordham v George Mason

    Copes played in just four games this season due to injury.

  5. Green Bay with an off-the-glass alley-oop in a half court set (VIDEO)

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:07 PM EST

    AP AP

    The best part is that it was very much intentional

  6. Late Night Snacks: Ralston Turner, Trevor Lacey lead NC State past Tennessee

    Dec 17, 2014, 9:20 PM EST

    Ralston Turner AP

    Delaware State’s Amere May scored more points than anyone in college basketball has this season.

  7. Already lacking front court depth, Siena loses starting forward to ankle injury

    Dec 17, 2014, 8:19 PM EST

    Lavon Long,Karachi Edo Lavon Long,Karachi Edo

    With Lavon Long and Brett Bisping now sidelined, the Saints are without their two best rebounders.

  8. New Year’s Resolutions: Texas Longhorns

    Dec 17, 2014, 6:55 PM EST

    Rick Barnes Rick Barnes

    Defense and turnovers will be the keys for Texas when Big 12 play begins.

  9. Chase for 180: So far, so good for Virginia’s Justin Anderson

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:56 PM EST

    Justin Anderson, Jordan Price AP

    After shooting 40.7% from the field and 29.4% from three as a sophomore, Anderson’s off to a hot start for the sixth-ranked Cavaliers.

  10. Dayton dismisses big men Devon Scott, Jalen Robinson from program

    Dec 17, 2014, 4:26 PM EST

    Archie Miller Archie Miller

    With these dismissals Dayton has no eligible players taller than 6-foot-6.

  11. Pregame Shootaround: No. 19 SDSU gets a test at Cincinnati, Vols take on N.C. State

    Dec 17, 2014, 4:00 PM EST

    Winston Shepard (AP Photo) AP

    This may be the most interesting night of hoops this week.

  12. New Year’s Resolutions: Kansas Jayhawks

    Dec 17, 2014, 3:44 PM EST

    Cliff Alexander (AP Photo) Cliff Alexander (AP Photo)

    What changes will Kansas make to get better by March?

  13. Injury depleted New Mexico loses another player

    Dec 17, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    They are so short-handed that even the head coach is participating in practices.

  14. Report: Demetrius Treadwell no longer enrolled at Akron

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:53 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Treadwell was accused of assaulting a member of the women’s team.

  15. Illinois State loses leading scorer for 4-to-6 weeks

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    Illinois State athletics Illinois State athletics

    DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell broke his right hand in a win over DePaul.

  16. Wichita State’s offensive struggles highlighted by come-from-behind win vs. Alabama

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:16 AM EST

    Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo) Fred Van Vleet (AP Photo)

    The Shockers miss Cleanthony Early, but how much will this hurt them in the long-term?

  17. #POSTERIZED: Vandy’s Shelton Mitchell dunks all over defender (VIDEO)

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:33 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    This is one of the most surprising posterizeds we’ve seen this year.

  18. Michigan State’s efficient three-point shooting is key for 2014-15 success

    Dec 17, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Travis Trice (AP Photo) Travis Trice (AP Photo)

    Michigan State lost a lot of talent and experience from a title contender last season, but they’ve remained a top 25 team thanks to tremendous three-point shooting.

  19. La Salle use half-court buzzer-beater to force overtime (VIDEO)

    Dec 17, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

    Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 12.30.15 AM

    Who doesn’t love buzzer-beaters, especially when they’re from half court?