SEC Heat Index: Welcome back, Tennessee, and what is wrong in South Carolina?
We’re down to only one week left in the regular season, and it’s shaping up to be quite a finish in the SEC.
At the top of the standings, we have Tennessee and LSU, both 14-2 in conference play. Lurking at 13-3 is Kentucky, perhaps be the most dangerous team of all.
Then, with seeding in the SEC Tournament on the line, there’s a 5-way tie for fourth place. Whoever lands the No. 4 seed will get a double-bye in the tourney, which is a big deal.
Whatever happens over the next week, it’s sure to be a lot of fun, so buckle up, because we’re in for a wild finish.
Here’s a look at who’s hot and who’s not entering the final week of the regular season:
Team: South Carolina
Last week, I put South Carolina F Chris Silva in the “ice cold player” section of this article, and he remained cold this week. In losses to Alabama and at Mizzou, he struggled — particularly against the Tigers.
In only 15 minutes of play, he had 12 points and was held without a rebound for the first time in two years before fouling out. If he struggles, the Gamecocks struggle — it’s as simple as that.
However, not all is lost. South Carolina has a relatively easy final week, traveling to Texas A&M and hosting Georgia. If the Gamecocks win out, they’ll be in a great spot to land the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament and get a bye all the way into the quarterfinals.
Player: Jeremiah Tilmon, F/C, Mizzou
The talented sophomore has hit a rough patch. After fouling out in 15 minutes at Florida last weekend, he was spotted giving fans the finger.
That lost him his starting spot against Mississippi State, but he still managed to foul out in 22 minutes, drawing the frustration of coach Cuonzo Martin. Saturday, he stayed in the game, playing 20 minutes and finishing with only 4 fouls in a win over South Carolina, but he only had 8 points and 8 rebounds.
He has a lot of talent, but foul troubles are going to hurt him and the Tigers moving forward if he doesn’t get it sorted out.
The Tigers did exactly what they needed to, taking care of business at Georgia in the middle of the week and then beating Mississippi State at home Saturday. Now, the Tigers have played their way into the 5-way mess for the No. 4 seed, joining Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
Bryce Brown finally came alive after a bit of a slump, scoring 24 points and going 5-of-8 from behind the 3-point line. He’s not just a shooter, though — he can get to the rim with the best of them, too:
— Power of Dixieland (@PwrofDixieland) March 2, 2019
Auburn has a brutal final week, going to Alabama on Tuesday and hosting Tennessee on Saturday. If the Tigers can stay hot, though, they could get a double-bye in the SEC Tournament.
Player: Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
Big players play better when the lights are brightest, and Williams seems poised to do just that. After committing a last-second foul that cost his team a chance to beat LSU last weekend, Williams bounced back in a huge way this week.
In a controversial win at Ole Miss, Williams had 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. While blowing out Kentucky on Saturday, he had 24 points and 7 boards.
Many think Kentucky big man PJ Washington has surpassed Williams in the SEC Player of the Year race, but Williams could potentially win it for the second year in a row if he finishes strong, especially after a big performance vs. Washington this weekend.
There aren’t many winning streaks in the SEC after Florida lost to Georgia on Saturday night, so I’ll put the Vols here this week. Yes, I understand that their win at Ole Miss was wrought with controversy and ended with fans throwing trash on the court, but it got the Vols back on track.
Then, they got their revenge over Kentucky on Saturday, dominating the rematch 71-52 in Knoxville. Jordan Bone had a fantastic game, absolutely roasting Kentucky PG Ashton Hagans here after Hagans slapped the floor:
— Davey Hudson (@Davey_Hudson) March 2, 2019
The Vols don’t have an easy last week, hosting Mississippi State and traveling to Auburn. Both opponents are trying to get a double-bye in the SEC Tournament, so both will be dangerous for Tennessee. However, the Vols would claim at least share of the SEC regular-season title for the second year in a row if they win out, so they’ll have plenty of motivation, too.
Player: Naz Reid, F, LSU
Reid struggled a bit last weekend against Tennessee, scoring only 1 point in a win over the Vols. However, this week, he bounced back in a big way, recording double-doubles in both games.
Against Texas A&M, Reid had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Then, on Saturday, he had 12 points and 13 boards in a win over Alabama. Reid, above celebrating with guard Javonte Smart, was projected before the season to be a potential NBA lottery pick, but that hype has fallen off a bit.
If he continues to be a double-double machine, though, he may start to rise up draft boards once again. He’ll have a lot of eyes on him in March, so we’ll see how the talented freshman handles the spotlight.