This week in SEC hoops: February 3, 2014

With a win against Missouri (16-5, 5-3 SEC) Tuesday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Billy Donovan will have won at least 20 games for 16 consecutive seasons, adding to his own Southeastern Conference record. Only Mike Kryzyzewski (Duke, 17 but will be 18 with three more wins) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse, 17) have longer streaks than Donovan.

To put it in further perspective, Florida only had five 20-win season prior to Donovan taking over as the head coach in the spring of 1995. His 448 career wins at Florida (he’s won 468 in his career counting the two seasons at Marshall) represent 34.1% of all the wins in Florida basketball history (1,313).

The Gators are on track to win between 25-30 games this season, which would bring Donovan’s average to more than 25 per year. Donovan will be 49 this season which means he could be challenging Adolph Rupp (876 wins at Kentucky) for the all-time SEC lead by the time he reaches 65 if he remains at Florida that long.

BRACKETOLOGY:  ESPN’s bracket guru Joe Lunardi has moved the Gators up to the #3 seed overall for the NCAA Tournament which begins in March. Lunardi has Syracuse as the #1 with Arizona at #2 and Wichita State at #4. Lunardi has Kentucky as the #13 overall seed, which would make the Wildcats a #4. Lunardi has Tennessee in at #39 overall, which would make the Vols a #10. He has Missouri at #47 and LSU at #49 in play-in games in Dayton, or as the NCAA prefers to call them, first round games.

Over at CBS, their bracket guru Jerry Palm has Florida as the #2 team in the South regional playing #15 Vermont in the opening (second by NCAA math) round in Orlando and facing the winner of Pitt and Providence in the next round.  Lunardi has Wichita State as the #1 in the South with Michigan at #3 and Texas at #4. Palm also has Tennessee in the South at #11.

Palm puts Kentucky and Missouri in the West with Kentucky at #5 and Missouri at #11. He has LSU as a #11 playing Florida State in a play-in game.

Palm’s four number ones are Syracuse, Arizona, San Diego State and Wichita State. It will be interesting to see if Arizona can maintain a #1 after losing its most versatile performer and third leading scorer Brandon Ashley for the season with a broken foot. Ashley is the top 3-point shooter and third leading rebounder on the team.



            FLORIDA (19-2, 8-0 SEC)

Coach: Billy Donovan (434-168 at Florida; 469-188 overall)

Through 21 games:  Since giving up 82 points in an overtime win at Arkansas, the Gators have given up only 301 points in their last six games combined, an average of 50.1 per game. In 21 games this season, the Gators are allowing 57.4 per game. The Gators have allowed 69 or fewer points in 19 games this season. In SEC play, only three teams have scored 60 or more.

Post season outlook: The Gators are one of two SEC locks to get into the NCAA Tournament. The way they are playing right now, they will be either a #1 or #2 seed. With the addition of Chris Walker, the Gators have the kind of front court depth they will need to make a deep run in the tournament.

Scoring leaders: Casey Prather (16.2); Michael Frazier (12.6)

Best rebounders: Dorian Finney-Smith (7.8); Patric Young (6.6)

Best freshman: Kasey Hill (6.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists)

RPI: 5

Strength of schedule: 41

Quality wins: Middle Tennessee State (#90 RPI); Florida State (39); Kansas (1); Memphis (29); Richmond (49); Arkansas (93); Alabama (89); Tennessee (40)

Bad losses: None.

This week’s schedule: Missouri (Tuesday); Alabama (Saturday)


ALABAMA (9-12, 3-5 SEC)

Coach: Anthony Grant (95-64 at Alabama; 171-89 overall)

Through 21 games: It’s obvious that Alabama doesn’t have the kind of front court it takes to win consistently in the SEC. Anthony Grant has a future star in Shannon Hale at power forward but isn’t getting nearly enough output from 7-1 Carl Engstrom, 6-10 Jimmie Taylor or 6-8 Nick Jacobs.

Post season outlook: Right now, the outlook is grim. The NIT is a pipe dream unless the Tide can get on a serious roll. With roadies to Arkansas and Florida this week, the Crimson Tide will dig into a deeper hole.

Scoring leaders: Trevor Releford (18.3); Retin Obasohan (11.7)

Best rebounders: Rodney Cooper (4.6); Levi Randolph (4.0)

Best freshman: Shannon Hale (7.5 points, 3.4 rebounds)

RPI: 89

Strength of schedule: 3

Quality wins: Georgia State (#82 RPI); Vanderbilt (68); LSU (52)

Bad losses: Drexel (#119 RPI); South Florida (148); Georgia (143)

This week’s schedule: at Arkansas (Wednesday); at Florida (Saturday)

ARKANSAS (13-8, 2-6 SEC)

Coach: Mike Anderson (50-35 at Arkansas; 250-133 overall)

Through 21 games: Arkansas is road kill in the SEC. The Razorbacks are 0-4 on the road. Coupled with a mediocre 2-2 home record in conference games, this is a team that was struggling even before Michael Qualls and Alandise Harris were suspended indefinitely.

Post season outlook: Unless the Razorbacks can figure out a way to win on the road, they won’t make the NIT much less have a shot at the NCAA. Right now, getting to 18 wins and one of the minor tournaments would be an accomplishment.

Scoring leaders: Rashad Madden (13.2); Bobby Portis (12.3)

Best rebounders: Bobby Portis (6.5); Coty Clarke (5.6)

Best freshman: Bobby Portis (12.3 points, 6.5 rebounds)

RPI: 93

Strength of schedule: 76

Quality wins: SMU (#45 RPI); Minnesota (37); Clemson (73); Kentucky (13)

Bad losses: Texas A&M (#146 RPI); Georgia (143)

This week’s game: Alabama (Wednesday); at Vanderbilt (Saturday)

AUBURN (10-9, 2-6 SEC)

Coach: Tony Barbee (45-68 at Auburn; 127-120 overall)

Through 19 games: The Tigers have played everyone tough this year in conference play. Now they have the momentum of two straight conference wins. Maybe the momentum will help because they’re 0-5 on the road and they have to play two games on the road this week.

Post season outlook: A lot of things will have to go right for Auburn to finish the season above .500. If the Tigers can get to 17-18 wins somehow, they probably will get a chance to play in one of the minor post season tournaments, which would be a serious accomplishment.

Scoring leaders: Chris Denson (19.5); K.T. Harrell (19.2)

Rebounding leaders: Asauhn Dixon-Tatum (6.3); Allen Payne (6.0)

Best freshman: Tahj Shamsid-Deen (8.9 points, 3.1 assists)

RPI: 194

Strength of schedule: 107

Quality wins: Clemson (#73 RPI)

Bad losses: Northwestern State (#227 RPI); Mississippi State (155)

This week’s schedule: at South Carolina (Wednesday); at LSU (Saturday)

GEORGIA (10-10, 4-4 SEC)

Coach: Mark Fox (75-73 at Georgia; 198-116 overall)

Through 20 games: The Bulldogs have lost three games in a row, the last two because they are offensively challenged. They play decent defense and rebound the ball fairly well, but without a knockdown shooter or a go to guy it’s always a struggle to put points on the board.

Post season outlook: To get into a post season tournament of any kind Georgia is going to have to hold serve in all five home games and come up with at least three wins on the road and maybe one or two in the SEC Tournament. They’re an improved team but it might not allow them to play beyond the SEC Tournament.

Scoring leaders: Charles Mann (13.5); Kenny Gaines (11.8)

Rebounding leaders: Marcus Thornton (5.8); Donte Williams (5.2)

Best freshman: Juwan Parker (4.5 points, 3.7 rebounds)

RPI: 143

Strength of schedule: 89

Quality wins: Missouri (#53 RPI); Alabama (89); Arkansas (93)

Bad losses: Georgia Tech (#141 RPI); Davidson (163); Temple (164); Auburn (194)

This week’s games: LSU (Thursday); Texas A&M (Saturday)

KENTUCKY (16-5, 6-2 SEC)

Coach: John Calipari (139-31 at Kentucky; 542-169 overall)

Through 21 games: Getting a win on the road at Missouri was critical for Kentucky, which hasn’t performed anywhere close to expectations this season. If the Harrison twins play well, Kentucky usually wins. If one or both of the twins have an off night, the Wildcats have a shot at losing.

Post season outlook: The Wildcats are a lock for the NCAA Tournament. The only question is seeding and right now they’re looking like they’ll be somewhere between a five and seven. That could change if they get hot down the stretch in the SEC.

Scoring leaders: Julius Randle (16.1); James Young (14.9)

Rebounding leaders: Julius Randle (10.1); Willie Cauley-Stein (6.4)

Best freshman: Julius Randle (16.1 points, 10.1 rebounds)

RPI: 13

Strength of schedule: 5

Quality wins: Eastern Michigan (#75 RPI); Providence (36); Boise State (61); Belmont (62); Louisville (35); Vanderbilt (68); Tennessee (40); Missouri (53)

Bad losses: None

This week’s schedule: Ole Miss (Tuesday); at Mississippi State (Saturday)

LSU (14-6, 5-3 SEC)

Coach: Johnny Jones (33-18 at LSU; 238-180 overall)

Through 20 games:  When Anthony Hickey plays the point at a high level like he did last week in wins over Kentucky and Arkansas, the Tigers are very difficult to beat. This is a team with NCAA Tournament potential but it will all depend on the play at the point.

Post season outlook: Two big wins last week have elevated the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament prospects. They probably get into the NCAA with 12 wins in conference play. If they only get 10-11 they will have to do damage in the SEC Tournament.

Scoring leaders: Johnny O’Bryant (15.8); Jordan Mickey (13.5)

Rebounding leaders: Johnny O’Bryant (7.5); Jordan Mickey (7.4)

Best freshman: Jordan Mickey (13.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.8 blocked shots)

RPI: 52

Strength of schedule: 51

Quality wins: St. Joseph’s (#54 RPI); Butler (94); Vanderbilt (68); Missouri (53); Kentucky (13); Arkansas (93)

Bad losses: Rhode Island (#142 RPI)

This week’s schedule: at Georgia (Thursday); Auburn (Saturday)


Coach: Rick Ray (23-30)

Through 21 games: The Bulldogs only have eight scholarship players and no depth at center beyond Gavin Ware. They’ve lost three in a row and desperately need to break even this week with games at Texas A&M and Kentucky at home.

Post season outlook: If they can get to 8-9 SEC wins then they’ll have a shot at one of the minor post season tournaments. To get to the NIT they will need to win at least eight. The NCAA would require Mississippi State winning the SEC Tournament and that just isn’t going to happen.

Scoring leaders: Craig Sword (13.4); Gavin Ware (10.7)

Rebounding leaders: Gavin Ware (7.9); Roquez Johnson (4.8)

Best freshman: I.J. Ready (6.5 points, 3.2 assists)

RPI: 155

Strength of schedule: 176

Quality wins: Ole Miss (#57 RPI)

Bad losses: Utah State (#128 RPI); TCU (195); UNLV (105)

This week’s schedule: at Texas A&M (Wednesday); Kentucky (Saturday)

MISSOURI (16-5, 4-4 SEC)

Coach: Frank Haith (69-21 at Missouri; 198-122 overall)

Through 21 games: t.

Post season outlook:

Scoring leaders: Jabari Brown (20.4); Jordan Clarkson (18.9)

Rebounding leaders: Johnathan Williams (7.4); Earnest Ross (6.6)

Best freshman: Johnathan Williams (6.5 points, 7.4 rebounds)

RPI: 53

Strength of schedule: 85

Quality wins: Northwestern (#86 RPI); West Virginia (#81); UCLA (19); North Carolina State (65); Alabama (89); Arkansas (93)

Bad losses: Georgia (#143 RPI)

This week’s schedule: at Florida (Tuesday); at Ole Miss (Saturday)

OLE MISS (15-6, 6-2 SEC)

Coach: Andy Kennedy (167-93 at Ole Miss; 187-106 overall)

Through 21 games:  The schedule gets tougher now that February is here. In their final 10 SEC games, the Rebels are home and home with Kentucky with Missouri and Florida at home and tough roadies at Alabama and Arkansas. To stay in the hunt for a first day bye in the SEC Tournament, the Rebels will need to go at least 6-4 the rest of the way.

Post season outlook: It’s going to take 21-22 regular season wins and maybe one in the SEC Tournament to get the Rebels in the NCAA Tournament. Right now they seem a lock for the NIT.

Scoring leaders: Marshall Henderson (19.2); Jarvis Summers (17.8)

Rebounding leaders: Aaron Jones (7.0); Sebastian Saiz (6.3)

Best freshman: Sebastian Saiz (5.0 points, 6.3 rebounds)

RPI: 57

Strength of schedule: 79

Quality wins: Penn State (#99 RPI); Middle Tennessee State (90); LSU (52); Vanderbilt (68)

Bad losses: Mississippi State (#155 RPI)

This week’s schedule: at Kentucky (Tuesday); Missouri (Saturday)


Coach: Frank Martin (22-31 at South Carolina; 139-85 overall)

Through 21 games: The Gamecocks blew a 15-point second half lead Saturday when they lost to Ole Miss, 75-71. Without Tyrone Johnson there is no pure point guard capable of handling pressure and there isn’t a big man on the roster capable of rebounding at a high level.

Post season outlook: Post season is pretty much out of the question. Right now it would be an accomplishment to go 5-5 the rest of the way in the SEC.

Leading scorers: Sindarius Thornwell (13.5); Brenton Williams (13.3)

Leading rebounders: Michael Carrera (5.1); Mindaugus Kacinas (4.5)

Best freshman: Sindarius Thornwell (10.7 points, 3.7 rebounds)

RPI: 147

Strength of schedule: 39

Quality wins: St. Mary’s (#51 RPI)

Bad losses: Manhattan (#103 RPI); South Carolina-Upstate (214); Texas A&M (146); Georgia (143)

This week’s games: Auburn (Wednesday); at Tennessee (Saturday)

TENNESSEE (14-7, 5-3 SEC)

Coach: Cuonzo Martin (53-35 at Tennessee; 114-76 overall)

Through 21 games: Since getting killed by Florida on the road, the Vols have won two in a row by impressive fashion. If they can get Jordan McRae going early they can beat anyone. They’ve got home and home with Missouri and the Gators at home so the schedule is favorable the rest of the way.

Post season outlook: The Vols should do no worse than 21 wins in the regular season. With their strength of schedule they should get into the NCAA Tournament with nothing worse than a #6 seed.

Leading scorers: Jordan McRae (19.2); Jarnell Stokes (14.0)

Leading rebounders: Jarnell Stokes (10.2); Jeronne Maymon (8.0)

Best freshman: Darius Thompson (3.2 points, 2.7 assists)

RPI: 40

Strength of schedule: 14

Quality wins: Xavier (#45 RPI); Wake Forest (83); Virginia (15); LSU (52); Arkansas (93); Alabama (89)

Bad losses: Texas A&M (#146 RPI)

This week’s  schedule: at Vanderbilt (Wednesday); South Carolina (Saturday)

TEXAS A&M (12-9, 3-5 SEC)

Coach: Billy Kennedy (44-42 at Texas A&M; 255-221 overall)

Through 21 games: The Aggies are reeling. After starting SEC play 3-0, they’ve lost five straight and in four of the five losses, they’ve scored no more than 55 points. Against Florida, they scored only 36. If they can’t score, they won’t win.

Post season outlook: They can’t be thinking about the post season. Right now they need to be figuring out how to beat Mississippi State. If they can’t beat the Bulldogs, they have no shot at making the post season.

Leading scorers: Jamal Jones (11.4); Kourtney Roberson (9.5)

Leading rebounders: Kourtney Roberson (7.0); Antwan Space (4.3)

Best freshman: Shawn Smith (5.7 points, 3.2 rebounds)

RPI: 146

Strength of schedule: 121

Quality wins: Arkansas (#93 RPI); Tennessee (40)

Bad losses: North Texas (#173 RPI); Mississippi State (155); South Carolina (147)

This week’s schedule: at Mississippi State (Wednesday); at Georgia (Saturday)

VANDERBILT (12-8, 4-4 SEC)

Coach: Kevin Stallings (289-184 at Vanderbilt; 412-247 overall)

Through 20 games: The Commodores are milking the clock every offensive possession and it has paid off with three straight wins. The schedule gets tougher the rest of the way with Tennessee twice, Arkansas, LSU and Florida at home and roadies at Missouri and Ole Miss.

Post season outlook:

Leading scorers: Rod Odom (14.3); Damian Jones (11.3)

Leading rebounders: Rod Odom (6.0); Damian Jones (5.4)

Best freshman: Damian Jones (11.3 points, 5.4 rebounds)

RPI: 68

Strength of schedule: 52

Quality wins: Georgia State (#82 RPI); Missouri (#53 RPI)

Bad losses: None

This week’s schedule: Tennessee (Wednesday); Arkansas (Saturday)

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.