College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, January 18, 2011
One look at the SEC standings is not enough to understand what's going on in this topsy-turvy conference. The only ranked team, #12 Kentucky, is a mere 2-2, having lost both of their road games - to Georgia on January 8, and Tuesday night at Alabama, 68-66.
The Wildcats, a team that usually has its way against less-basketball-minded SEC opponents, is very good, but also very youthful, depending largely on three freshmen to carry the scoring load.
Facing the Crimson Tide on Tuesday, the three kids - Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Brandon Knight - got their points (17, 16 and 14, respectively), but came up a field goal short against Alabama, the team that appears to be their chief rival in the conference.
Leading the wave for the Tide was junior JaMychal Green, the 6'8" forward who was unstoppable in the paint for much of the evening's festivities. Green led all scorers with 18 points and had 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. The Tide led by as many as 20 points in the second half and had to hold on for dear life as the Wildcats unleashed a furious comeback, ending with Jones launching a shot from 45 feet as the buzzer sounded.
The shot wasn't close and Alabama survived what may have been a "must win" kind of game for them, improving to 11-7 after early-season losses to Seton Hall, Iowa, Purdue and Providence, among others.
But that's what the roster of SEC teams looks like. Lots of 4, 5 , 6 and 7-loss records, spread evenly throughout the league. If Kentucky continues to flail about on the road, expect others, notably Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi State to pick up the slack and find their ways into the national rankings.
While the SEC may send only three to five teams to the NCAA tourney in March, those who do arrive will have been well-seasoned and through the grinder of one of the more overlooked, but most contentious conferences in the country.