SEC Report:

12 in row put Vols at No. 1

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield (5) celebrates next to coach Rick Barnes during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)
Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield (5) celebrates next to coach Rick Barnes during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

(SEC Report for 1.22)

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

RANK;LAST WEEK;NET;TEAM (RECORDS);COMMENT

1;1;4;Tennessee (16-1, 5-0);No. 1 here and in nation

2;5;13;LSU (14-3, 4-0);Seven wins in a row with Georgia, Missouri up next

3;3;8;Kentucky (14-3, 4-1);Host Miss. State, Kansas this week

4;2;22;Auburn (13-4, 2-2);Road games at S. Carolina, Miss. State

5;4;25;Ole Miss (14-3, 4-1);Rebounded after 10-game winning streak snapped

6;8;27; Miss. State (14-3, 2-2);Heavyweights Kentucky, Auburn this week

7;12;50;Alabama (11-6, 2-3);Jekyll and Hyde Tide are up and down

8;6;113;South Carolina (9-8, 4-1);Coming off 21-point beatdown at LSU

9;7;35;Florida (10-7, 2-3);Gators have road wins at Arkansas, Georgia

10;9;84;Arkansas (10-7, 1-4);Riding worst skid of the Anderson era

11;13;76;Missouri (10-6, 1-3);At Arkansas, vs. LSU this week

12;10;103;Georgia (9-8, 1-4);Worst turnover margin in SEC (-4.8)

13;13;111; Texas A&M (7-9, 1-4);Aggies are 0-3 in SEC home games

14;14;91;Vanderbilt (9-8, 0-5);Big signing class joined a rebuild

The NCAA has instituted a new rating system, the NET Rankings, which has taken the place of the Ratings Percentage Index. An acronym for NCAA Evaluation Tool, the NET rankings factor in game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses.

Game of the week

Mississippi State at Kentucky, 6 p.m., today (ESPN)

The Bulldogs appear to have found their footing after an 0-2 start in league play with a road win at Vanderbilt. Kentucky has won four in a row since falling at Alabama to open conference play.

QUOTEBOOK

"As much as I hate to say it -- we were fortunate to win this game -- but we needed a game like this. We're going to see what you learn from it." -- Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes after a 71-68 win over Alabama

"They're better than last year. And I think they are going to have a really good year." Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl on Kentucky

"Sometimes they don't know what they don't know. Like, they do not know they're not supposed to come in here and win. They don't know they're not supposed to come in here and be up 17." -- Kentucky Coach John Calipari on his young team at Auburn

By the numbers

2

League teams with no conference road wins: Georgia and Vanderbilt

6

Number of ranked SEC teams as well as SEC teams with two conference road wins: Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee

9

SEC-best double-doubles for Alabama's Donta Hall, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds at Tennessee on Saturday

Tennessee will take 12 consecutive victories and a newly minted No. 1 ranking into Wednesday's showdown with in-state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville.

The Volunteers jumped to the top of The Associated Press poll after losses by No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Michigan last week to claim their first top ranking since the 2007-08 team -- starring Chris Lofton and coached by Bruce Pearl -- seized the spot by beating No. 1 Memphis on Feb. 23, 2008. That Tennessee team relinquished the No. 1 ranking one week later after a 72-69 loss at No. 18 Vanderbilt.

"It's all about keeping it here, letting it last," forward Grant Williams told reporters Saturday regarding the potential to move to No. 1. "For me, I've always thought my goal was to hang banners rather than worry about halfway through the season. If we get caught up in that, we're not going to meet what our goals are."

The current Volunteers had to work for their 12th consecutive victory after trailing Alabama down the stretch Saturday before pulling out a 71-68 decision.

That marked the tightest game for Tennessee since a 76-73 victory over then-No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 9 at the Jerry Colangelo Classic in Phoenix.

Tennessee's average margin of victory during the winning streak is 20.5 points per game, including back-to-back drubbings of Tennessee Tech (96-53) and Georgia (96-50) straddling the new year.

Fourth-year Coach Rick Barnes pointed out the Vols haven't been at their best lately.

"This is two games in a row now we've gotten beat in the second half," said Barnes, referencing Arkansas' 53-51 advantage in the second half last Tuesday and the Alabama game. "Defensively, I don't think we're as good a team as we were a year ago at this time."

Challenge up

The SEC will face a handicap of sorts while trying to defend its first title in the sixth annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which will take place Saturday.

The SEC will play the challenge without three of its ranked members, as No. 16 Auburn, No. 22 Mississippi State and No. 25 LSU will join Missouri as the nonparticipating teams this season.

ESPN'S College GameDay will originate from Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday in preparation for the Kansas at Kentucky game at 5 p.m.

The SEC got wins by Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt to post a 6-4 advantage last season.

The Big 12 maintains a 29-21 edge after winning the first three years of the challenge in convincing fashion at 20-10. However, the SEC forged a tie in 2017, then claimed the 6-4 edge last year, including road victories by Kentucky (at No. 7 West Virginia) and No. 22 Tennessee (at Iowa State).

Games featuring ranked teams this year are West Virginia at No. 1 Tennessee, No. 9 Kansas at No. 8 Kentucky, Arkansas at No. 14 Texas Tech, and No. 24 Iowa State at No. 20 Ole Miss.

Alabama, the lone remaining unbeaten team in the series at 2-0, plays on the road at Baylor, which had been 4-0 before falling 81-60 at Florida last year. Florida, Kansas and Baylor have the next-best records at 4-1.

Ole Miss (0-5) and Mississippi State (0-1) have yet to win in the challenge, while West Virginia (1-4), Auburn (1-3) and Texas A&M (1-3) also have struggled.

Arkansas (2-2) and Missouri (1-1) are the only teams from either conference with a .500 record.

Florida, Kentucky (2-3), Ole Miss and Vanderbilt (2-3) are the only SEC teams to participate in all five challenges, and all four are involved Saturday.

Sizzling line

Auburn guard Bryce Brown had one of the league's best performances in a losing effort against Kentucky on Saturday.

Brown scored 28 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6 of 7 from three-point range. Brown's hot shooting triggered Auburn's comeback from a 17-point, second-half deficit.

"We just tried to chip away at the lead, little by little, every chance we got and we ended up doing it," Brown said.

The Tigers took an 80-79 lead on Jared Harper's three-pointer with 32 seconds remaining, but the Wildcats closed the game with three consecutive free throws for an 82-80 victory.

Top players

LSU senior Kavell Bigby-Williams was named SEC Player of the Week by the conference office Monday.

Bigby-Williams, a native of London, England, averaged 13 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6 blocked shots in victories over No. 18 Ole Miss and South Carolina. He hit 10 of 14 shots (71.4 percent) and 6 of 8 free throws.

Kentucky guard Tyler Herro was named SEC Freshman of the Week. He averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in victories at Georgia and at Auburn.

Six in poll

LSU made a return to the AP Top 25 poll for the fourth time this season after improving to 4-0 in the SEC with wins over Ole Miss and South Carolina last week. The Tigers' reappearance gives the SEC a season-high six teams in the poll.

LSU and Tennessee are the lone SEC teams with unblemished conference records.

Walk this way?

Alabama Coach Avery Johnson was mystified by a traveling call against Tide guard John Petty, who had his back to the basket and was pivoting around a defender with three seconds left in the game.

Alabama trailed 69-68 at the time and was trying to set up a game-winning shot.

"It's a bang-bang play," Johnson said. "We can't really talk about officiating for obvious reasons. Those guys have a hard job and it's a tough job.

"Unfortunately, [Petty] just kind of got knocked off balance and it didn't go our way."

Johnson was demonstrative while protesting in the coach's box after the call by Brian Shey.

"Every day in practice we work on pivots," Petty said. "In my opinion, I felt like I didn't travel. But it was the call, and I guess we've got to live with it."

Petty had a huge game otherwise with 11-of-18 shooting, including 6 of 9 from three-point range, for 30 points.

On the play before Petty's traveling call, Tennessee's Grant Williams was called with a charging foul against Alabama's Donta Hall.

"It came down to on one end they call us for a charge and they call them with a travel," Tennessee Coach Rick Barnes said. "I thought [the Williams foul] was a cylinder, and I'm sure Avery thought [the Petty turnover] was a trip, a foul. That's how fine a line it is."

Blood sport

Auburn forward Horace Spencer got a gash over his left eye after hitting the court with his face Saturday. Spencer, driving for a dunk, was fouled by Kentucky's P.J. Washington and crashed to the court.

Within moments, Spencer had blood pouring down his left cheek all the way to his neck. Spencer had to be escorted off the court by an athletic trainer, and blood had to be wiped off the court before action resumed. Spencer, who needed six stitches to repair the cut, returned to action moments later wearing a nameless No. 55 jersey. He hit a hook shot in the closing minutes of the game.

Aggie angst

Texas A&M is 0-3 in SEC home games, and the Aggies have been outscored by a cumulative 224-180 by Arkansas, Auburn and Missouri in the home losses. That's an average score of 75-60.

Texas A&M's lone conference win came at Alabama on a buzzer-beater 81-80.

The Aggies are 5-5 in home games at Reed Arena, with losses to California-Irvine and Texas Southern.

'Does closed

Vanderbilt dropped to 0-5 in the SEC with Saturday's 71-55 loss to Mississippi State, and things aren't looking any easier for Coach Bryce Drew's club.

The Commodores host Tennessee on Wednesday, then go on the road to face Oklahoma in the annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Vanderbilt (9-8) would fall under .500 if it loses both of its games this week.

Wooden men

The Tennessee duo of senior Admiral Schofield and junior Grant Williams were joined by Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson as the SEC representatives on the Wooden Award midseason Top 25.

The Big Ten led all conferences with seven players on the list, while Tennessee, Duke and Nevada were the only schools with two players on it.

Players who are not on the midseason Top 25 are still eligible to win the award, given to the best basketball player in the country by Wendy's.

Extra points

• Florida guard Keith Stone will have season-ending knee surgery after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at Georgia, the Gators announced Sunday.

• Auburn center Austin Wiley is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a lower leg injury.

• Former Auburn star Charles Barkley greeted Kentucky Coach John Calipari during his postgame remarks Saturday at Auburn Arena.

Sports on 01/22/2019

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.