SEC Basketball Heat Index: Top 5 showdown looms large, Mississippi State blows golden opportunity
You can’t take anything for granted during SEC play, as anyone can pull off an upset if the situations are right.
However, we could be heading for a Top 5 matchup on Saturday night in Lexington, where No. 1 Tennessee and No. 5 Kentucky will do battle. Both have tough home games earlier in the week (see below), but if they extend their long winning streaks, Saturday’s game could turn into a battle for pole position in the SEC standings and NCAA Tournament seedings.
On the other end of the spectrum are teams that haven’t fared so well, as it was a rough week for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
So, who’s hot and who’s not this week? We break it down for you here:
Team: Mississippi State
The Bulldogs had a great chance to pick up a quality win this week, with home games against ranked LSU and Kentucky teams. Instead, Ben Howland’s squad lost both, and though it was only by a combined 8 points, it was a big hit for a team with big-time aspirations.
Mississippi State clearly isn’t an elite squad, and while the Bulldogs might end up making the NCAA Tournament, don’t expect them to do much. This is a talented team that hasn’t quite figured out how to hang with the big boys yet.
Player: Lamar Peters, G, Mississippi State
Yes, Peters scored a team-high 16 points against Kentucky on Saturday, but he disappeared for long stretches of the game as the Bulldogs tried to mount their comeback. That came after a 0-point performance against LSU earlier in the week in which Peters played 33 minutes.
The Bulldogs need him to be elite in order to beat the better SEC teams, and he didn’t rise to the occasion this week. We’ll see if he bounces back in a big way moving forward or if his struggles last a little longer.
After losing a home game to Arkansas last weekend, the Tigers seem to have gotten the message. This week, they beat Mississippi State in Starkville and held on against Auburn at home.
The Tigers had been flirting with danger for a while, with several close calls before they finally lost to the Razorbacks. However, with a pair of big wins in their back pocket this week, they’ve bounced back nicely heading into road games against Kentucky and Georgia.
Player: A.J. Lawson, G, South Carolina
Lawson, a freshman, had a huge game against Arkansas on Saturday, scoring 24 points, grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. He also fared pretty well against Kentucky, though the Gamecocks were blown out.
He’s starting to come into his own, and the Gamecocks are a much more dangerous team when Chris Silva gets some help from the team’s guards. His progress will be something to monitor moving forward.
Teams: Kentucky and Tennessee
It’s impossible to praise one without praising the other these days, as the Vols have the nation’s longest winning streak at 18 games. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have won their past 10 games.
If the Wildcats can beat LSU in Lexington on Tuesday night, and if the Vols take care of business against South Carolina in Knoxville on Wednesday evening, it’ll set up an epic showdown at Rupp Arena on Saturday night. This is the game everyone wants to see, and we’ll learn a lot about both squads in a week’s time.
Player: Tremont Waters, G, LSU
Waters is eager to prove that he’s not only one of the best point guards in the SEC, but one of the best in the country, too. LSU is up to 9-1 in conference play, and this week, Waters combined for 45 points, 15 assists and 8 steals in wins over Mississippi State and Auburn.
With a game at Kentucky on Tuesday night, Waters will go up against star freshman Ashton Hagans in a battle that could prove who the best point guard in the conference is (though Tennessee’s Jordan Bone deserves to be part of that conversation, too).