Ho-hum. Another week in which the Gators blew out their Southeastern Conference competition.
While Florida continued its winning ways, the Ole Miss Rebels were gunned down by a couple traditional SEC powers. Week 4 witnessed somewhat of a “return to normalcy,” as the Gators and Wildcats sit atop the standings, as well as these not-so-official rankings.
Nearly halfway through the schedule, some of the squads have effectively played themselves out of the conference race — and so too out of this weekly column. Let’s look at the SEC’s Top 5:
1) Florida (18-2, 8-0 SEC)
The Good: Following a 39-point thrashing of South Carolina, UF coach Billy Donovan expressed some surprise in the absurdly lopsided outcome. “You never expect that,” he told the IMG Sports Network. Well, actually we do. Blowouts have become routine for the Gators — so much so that a 14-point win over Ole Miss seemed far closer than it was. Perhaps most impressive in Week 3 was the Gators’ effort on the glass, outrebounding Ole Miss — the conference’s top rebounding squad — and tallying a plus-14 margin over the Gamecocks.
The Bad: Sure, it was a tad annoying to see Marshall Henderson shoot in 25 points, but it was certainly the most well-earned total of his career. Donovan accurately said that Scottie Wilbekin did a “terrific job keeping him under duress.”
Next: at Arkansas (2/5), Mississippi State (2/9)
2) Kentucky (15-6, 6-2)
The Good: It was a terrific week for UK, handing Ole Miss its first loss, and then avenging an earlier defeat to Texas A&M. Nerlens Noels was an absolute menace against the Rebels, swatting away 10 shots and any hope for an Ole Miss win. With three straight conference wins, many are suggesting that initial “reports of UK’s demise are greatly exaggerated.”
The Bad: Any reports of a Wildcats’ resurgence may be greatly exaggerated if Kentucky can’t figure out how to take care of the ball. Take a look at the lower half of the conference standings and one statistic will be consistent — a high number of turnovers. Kentucky bucks this trend, winning despite 14 giveaways per game. Against the Aggies, they turned it over a whopping 19 times.
Next: South Carolina (2/5), Auburn (2/9)
3) Ole Miss (17-3, 6-2)
The Good: It was a tough week for Ole Miss, facing the two squads perched above. Despite the losses and injuries, the Rebels could take away segments of each game and have a bit of optimism. They rallied from a huge deficit to climb back within a mere point of Kentucky and had a short spurt against Florida to keep the margin respectable. Even depleted, Ole Miss is a tough team to hold down. The 64 points the Rebels scored against Florida marked the highest total the Gators have allowed to a conference foe.
The Bad: Any game now, Murphy Holloway is going to do his best Jan Brady and erupt with, “It’s all about Marshall. Marshall! Marshall! Marshall!” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy needs to find a way to get others far more involved in the offense, particularly a skilled Holloway, whose shot opportunities are often relegated to put-backs. As Week 4 of conference play showed, Ole Miss will not beat the big boys on the lone efforts of Henderson.
Next: Mississippi State (2/6), at Missouri (2/9)
4) Alabama (14-7, 6-2)
The Good: Anthony Grant’s team has won three straight, and that figure could just as easily be seven if not for a controversial non-call against Tennessee. Alabama is playing terrific defense, limiting its last six opponents to a mere 51 points per game. The Crimson Tide are turning opponents over and protecting the rim — ranking third in both steals and blocks.
The Bad: Alabama is not only good at holding down the opposition’s scoring, but also its own. Despite ranking second in 3-point percentage, the Crimson Tide scores barely over 61 points per game. The reason? Alabama affords itself few opportunities. Whereas other top-scoring squads rank near the top in rebounding offense, Alabama is dead last in the category. One-and-done is far too often the scenario on the offensive end.
Next: at Auburn (2/6), LSU (2/9)
5) Missouri (16-5, 5-3)
The Good: Laurence Bowers has returned and has notched double-digit points in each outing. A healthy Tigers team showed its teeth on Saturday, dominating Auburn 91-77. It was a performance along the lines of what was consistently expected of Missouri — balanced, high-powered, up-tempo offense and frenetic defense.
The Bad: Missouri lost at LSU, tailing wire-to-wire to a seemingly inferior opponent. The travel woes for the Tigers are an increasingly desperate concern, as Frank Haith’s team has yet to win a true road contest. Missouri’s inconsistent defense is a primary culprit, often allowing far too many easy baskets and conceding open looks from the arc. The Tigers rank 11th in both conference points allowed and field goal percentage defense, as well as 12th in 3-point percentage defense.
Next: at Texas A&M (2/7), Ole Miss (2/9)