SEC Basketball Roundup: 1.22.13

The second week conference play promised stiffer competition and far more difficult tests for the Gators.

Promise undelivered.

Florida pummeled both Texas A&M and Missouri — further distancing itself from an increasingly jumbled conference. Meanwhile, one other “rebellious” squad continued to its defiant winning ways, while a couple previous conference- unbeatens slipped back to the pack.

Here is a look at it all, along with the weekly ranking.

1. Florida (14-2, 4-0 SEC)
The Good: Week 2 was supposed to offer Florida its greatest test of the conference slate, a road trip to surging Texas A&M, followed by a quick turn-around game versus highly-ranked Missouri. Instead of being challenged, the Gators served national notice with two thumping victories. Within the SEC, the mighty Gators rank second in scoring offense, first in scoring defense, first in scoring margin, first in field goal percentage, first in field goal percentage defense, second in 3-point field goal percentage, second in 3-point field goal percentage defense, second in rebounding margin, first in assists, second in steals, first in turnover margin and first in 3-point field goals made. Whew!
The Bad: You know things are going well when the “bad news” is the amount of publicity received. But, if there is one thing Florida must be wary of, it is complacency, something that could creep into a psyche after 4 wins by an average of 25+ points.
Next: at UGA (1/23), at MSU (1/26)

2. Ole Miss (15-2, 4-0 SEC)
The Good: Who woulda thunk it? After two weeks the Rebels are undefeated in conference play, adding Arkansas and Vanderbilt to the resume. Speaking of resume, Ole Miss sits with 15 wins and has yet to lose a home game through 10 games in Oxford, Miss. The Rebels boast the conference’s highest scoring offense, as well as the highest individual scorer, Marshall Henderson.
The Bad: The Rebels have been a bit inconsistent defensively. After choking Missouri’s offense, Ole Miss conceded 79 points to an inept Vanderbilt team. Through the first four games, the Rebels have been able to play well either offensively or defensively, but have yet to do both in the same contest.
Next: Tennessee (1/24), at Auburn (1/26)

3. Missouri (13-4, 2-2 SEC)
The Good: Ummm … Missouri doesn’t play Florida again until Feb. 19. That is good. Actually, the good news for the Tigers is a schedule reprieve that may allow needed time to heal and lick their wounds. Leading scorer Laurence Bowers is likely to miss his fourth consecutive game Tuesday when Missouri hosts South Carolina. Not only are his near 17 points per game sorely missed but also his rebounding presence. The Tigers may be able to buy time without him, as South Carolina and Vanderbilt are on the horizon.
The Bad: No personnel loss can justify the beating Missouri endured at Florida. The Tigers were hoping to stake claim as the SEC’s best, but instead left Gainesville shaken and humbled. At one point, Frank Haith lost his cool and argued with a nearby fan. His team followed suit, collapsing under a swarming Florida defense. Phil Pressey contributed 10 of the team’s 21 turnovers. The emerging news of Haith’s role in the Miami scandal adds turmoil to a team struggling to regain its composure.
Next: USC (1/22), Vanderbilt (1/26)

4. Kentucky (12-5, 3-1 SEC)
The Good: It would not be hard to make a case for the Cats as being one slot higher. Kentucky responded to an embarrassing home loss to the Aggies by whipping both Tennessee and Auburn. Most encouraging for Cat fans was a defense that allowed only four 3-point baskets and provided an astounding 16 blocks over a two-game span. Offensively, Kyle Wiltjer is proving to be far more versatile than he was a season ago.
The Bad: Kentucky showed much needed improvement defensively, but then slipped a bit on the other side of the ball. The Wildcats averaged 14 turnovers in week two — against less than stellar defensive opposition. In fact, UT and AU rank as the conference’s two worst defenses thru the opening four games. Kentucky is 12th in turnover margin with a minus-2.5 per game average.
Next: at Alabama (1/22), LSU (1/26)

5. Alabama (11-6, 3-1 SEC)
The Good: Anthony Grant’s team was on a slippery slope, but may have finally found its footing in Week 2. Big second half performances keyed both a blowout win over Mississippi State, as well as a comeback squeaker over the Aggies. The Tide is riding solid defense, allowing less than 50 points in both wins. Offensively, Alabama has found the mark from long range — hitting on 14 of 24 during the two-game span.
The Bad: The Tide has struggled on the boards. After four conference games, Alabama ranks dead last in rebounds per game.
Next: Kentucky (1/22), at Tennessee (1/26)

6. Texas A&M (12-5, 2-2 SEC)
The Good: Although they were blitzed by Florida and lost late to Alabama, Texas A&M still finds itself bunched in the middle of a weakened conference. And the Aggies do just enough things right to perhaps win “just enough” games. Despite recent losses, they remain second in scoring defense and first in rebounding margin.
The Bad: Aside from Evan Turner’s inexplicable Rupp rout, this team struggles to score. The same was printed here a week ago, and the then-surging Aggies followed with two losses and an average point total of 48. A&M now ranks 10th in scoring offense within the SEC.
Next: at LSU (1/23), Georgia (1/26)

7. Arkansas (11-6, 2-2 SEC)
The Good: Thou shall giveth and taketh away. Arkansas did both this week, with the latter being “the good.” In a victory over Auburn, the Razorbacks capitalized on 19 Tigers turnovers. Arkansas is second only to Florida in turnover margin, with a plus-4 per game average.
The Bad: Remember the “giveth” part? Well, Arkansas did that too — turning it over a whopping 19 times versus Ole Miss. The loss kept the Razorbacks winless on the road versus conference opposition, and 0-5 overall away from home. Not good.
Next: Mississippi State (1/23), at South Carolina (1/26)

8. Tennessee (9-7, 1-3 SEC)
The Good: It took four games, but the Volunteers got off the proverbial schneid. And yes, that is how to spell “schneid.” Jarnell Stokes notched a double-double in the win over MSU, and kept Tennessee’s hopes flickering. The Volunteers still boasts a potent backcourt that includes the conference’s second-leading scorer, Jordan McRae, but . . .
The Bad: . . . they may need an even better “Jordan” to offset a defense that ranks next to last in conference points allowed. Tennessee concedes an average of 73 points per game, better only than Auburn’s average of 74 points. And the win over MSU may not point to sudden improvement. After all, the Bulldogs rank dead last in conference scoring offense.
Next: at Ole Miss (1/24), Alabama (1/26)

9. South Carolina (11-6, 1-3 SEC)
The Good: We are getting into the stretch where the “good” segment of this column becomes increasingly difficult. But GC pays me the big bucks, so here it is: The Gamecocks rank third in the conference in turnover margin, with plus-three average per game. In its lone conference win, USC was aided by 22 LSU turnovers.
The Bad: The Gamecocks do precious little with the turnovers they create. And if they are going to convert, it better be in transition. USC’s half court offense is anemic, ranking 12th in field goal percentage.
Next: at Missouri (1/22), Arkansas (1/26)

10. Auburn (8-9, 2-2 SEC)
The Good: Auburn is a double OT loss away from being 3-1. I guess that is good, but it is scary for the conference. By far, the best “good” AU can offer is Frankie Sullivan, who is averaging over 16 points per game.
The Bad: After a 2-0 start, the Tigers have crashed back to earth. They were edged by Arkansas and pounded by Kentucky. AU has allowed a league-worst 74 points per game to the opposition. With an offense that is mediocre at best, the defense has to be better than “worst.”
Next: at Vanderbilt (1/23), Ole Miss (1/26)

11. Vanderbilt (7-9, 1-3 SEC)
The Good: Vanderbilt notched its first win of the conference, and it did not happen in that whacky home venue. Considering the low talent level this year, a road win over USC is “good”. As mentioned a week ago, Stallings will have his team compete each and every game. Vanderbilt’s best formula for success — and I use the term loosely — is relying upon a defense that ranks fourth in the conference.
The Bad: Vanderbilt is the anti-Auburn — claiming a mediocre defense, but the league’s worst offense. Mark your calendar for Wednesday night when these two dynamos collide. Ugh.
Next: Auburn (1/23), at Missouri (1/26)

12. Georgia (7-10, 1-3 SEC)
The Good: The Bulldogs admirably showed some life on Saturday, and that included someone other than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Though the oft one-man-show again led the way in a victory over LSU, he finally received a bit of support. Donte Williams chipped in 14 points to help secure a much-needed victory.
The Bad: This is still a very one-dimensional team, and generally a rather poor one, too. The Bulldogs rank near the bottom in both scoring offense and scoring defense — a combination that has them dead last in scoring margin through the first four games.
Next: Florida (1/23), at Texas A&M (1/26)

13. Mississippi State (7-9, 2-2 SEC)
The Good: Rick Stansbury has perfect hair. Wait … he retired. Nevermind.
The Bad: Yeah, I know Mississippi State beat its knick-namesake above, but does it really matter? After winning its first two conference games, the wheels, the rims and the doors fell off in week two. The Bulldogs were smashed by Alabama and smacked by Tennessee. The 32-point defeat to the Tide marked the third 25-plus point loss on the season. MSU ranks dead last in conference scoring offense.
Next: at Arkansas (1/23), Florida (1/26)

14. LSU (9-6, 0-4 SEC)
The Good: Like UT a week ago, I do not think LSU is as bad as this ranking. It has won 8 of 10 games at home, with one of the losses coming to the mighty Gators.
The Bad: On second thought, maybe the Tigers are this bad. They offer the pitiful combination of the 11th ranked offense, and 12th ranked defense in the conference, and share with Vanderbilt the title of SEC’s worst field goal percentage squad. In addition to the Gators, LSU has lost to Auburn, USC and UGA. With the Aggies and Wildcats on deck — 0-6 is looking likely.
Next: Texas A&M (1/23), at Kentucky (1/26)