SEC Basketball Heat Index: Kentucky, LSU make statements, Alabama falls on hard times
This week in SEC basketball saw the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats take on two ranked teams — No. 19 LSU on Tuesday night and No. 1 Tennessee on Saturday night. The result? A split, with a controversial last-second loss to the Tigers and a dominant win over the Vols.
So, what did we learn? Not much. The SEC has three great teams, and we’ll see how they fare against each other down the stretch.
Next Saturday, Tennessee travels to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers, and on March 2, the Vols play host to the Wildcats in an important rematch of this weekend’s game.
Buckle up, folks. This stretch run is going to be a lot of fun to watch for these three squads. And we’re setting up for quite the SEC Tournament next month!
Here’s a look at who’s hot and who’s not as March quickly approaches:
The Crimson Tide had one of their worst weeks of the season when they could least afford it. Games at Mississippi State and at home against Florida provided two opportunities for big wins, but the Tide failed to pad their NCAA Tournament resume.
They weren’t even competitive in either game, and that’s the biggest problem. They lost to the Bulldogs and Gators by a combined 37 points, which is embarrassing for a team with March Madness hopes.
Now, fans are calling for Avery Johnson to be fired, so the Tide need to rebound quickly to keep this season from getting out of hand. Games at Texas A&M and at home vs. Vanderbilt this week should provide a chance to dig out of this hole. A loss in either game, though, and things could get ugly in Tuscaloosa.
Player: John Petty, G, Alabama
It was a rough week for the sophomore guard. Against Mississippi State, Petty had 0 points in 23 minutes of action as the Tide lost by 19. Then, against Florida on Saturday, he had 10 points, but didn’t do much else to help the Tide in an 18-point loss.
We’ve seen what Petty can do when he’s right, as he had 30 points in a narrow loss to Tennessee earlier this year. He’ll need to get back to that form moving forward to keep the Tide in the NCAA Tournament picture.
Don’t look now, but the Gators are adding some very respectable wins to their NCAA Tournament resume. This team hasn’t been able to get over the hump all year, but they may have started to find themselves this week.
After losing 3 consecutive games, the Gators beat Vanderbilt and then blew out Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon to improve to 14-11 overall and 6-6 in SEC play. They’re still a bubble team, but they’ll have a chance to add a signature victory this week when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on the red-hot LSU Tigers (see below).
Then, Mike White’s squad comes home to take on a struggling Mizzou team, which is a must-win game.
Player: Naz Reid, F/C, LSU
The talented freshman from New Jersey is showing why he’s a potential lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. In his past five games, he’s had two double-doubles, a 29-point night and has played some outstanding defense in addition to his stellar offense.
He’s a threat from 3-point range, he can dominate inside and he can defend big guys and smaller guards. Tremont Waters is the heart and soul of the Tigers, but if Reid continues playing the way he has lately, LSU will be a tough team for anyone to beat.
The Tigers are now tied for first in the SEC after No. 1 Tennessee lost at Kentucky on Saturday night. Considering the Tigers went into Lexington and won on Tuesday, that is a pretty strong statement as to where things stand.
The Tigers have won 4 consecutive games after a loss to Arkansas, and three of those wins were on the road. In fact, the Tigers are an impressive 7-0 on the road in conference play.
LSU hosts Tennessee on Saturday, so we’ll see if Will Wade’s crew is ready to take the leap from very good to elite. A win in that game (assuming they take care of business at home against Florida on Wednesday night) would vault the Tigers into the No. 1 spot in the SEC standings.
Player: PJ Washington, F, Kentucky
I’ve written a lot about Washington recently, but that’s because he continues to improve every time he takes the court. He has scored 15 or more points in his past 8 games, and topped 20 points in 7 of them. Oh, and he’s also had 3 double-doubles in that time.
If he finishes the season on a tear like this, you have to at least consider giving him the SEC Player of the Year award over Tennessee’s Grant Williams. We’ll see what Washington can do in the rematch against the Vols in Knoxville on March 2, but for now, he’s as dominant as any other player in the country, and yes, that includes Duke’s Zion Williamson.