Preseason favorite Kentucky has had some growing pains but is rolling now. Entering Thursday night’s home game with Tennessee, the ‘Cats stood 9-3 in the league, 19-6 overall–the only conference team currently ranked. Point guard Tyler Ulis has made this team his, a spectacular 27 point, 12 assist game last Saturday propelling UK past South Carolina 89-62 on the road.
Kentucky lost as #1 at UCLA in the non-conference. Then came a shocking neutral court loss to Ohio State. The other out-of-conference blemish was hardly a blemish at all, with an overtime loss at Kansas. In the league was an 18-point loss at LSU, a bad loss at Auburn, and another bad loss at Tennessee in a game they had a 21-point first half lead in–the only SEC defeat in the last seven. Their schedule appears difficult down the stretch with road games at Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Florida, but the Wildcats are certainly on the prowl.
As for Vanderbilt, this season is rapidly becoming a lost one after yet another blown double-digit second half lead in a loss Tuesday night to Mississippi State at the buzzer. The Commodores sit 15-11, 7-6 in the league, and the bubble likely has burst.
On Tuesday, Vandy led 61-44 against the 3-9 Bulldogs. Then point Wade Baldwin started talking again, center Damian Jones forgot how to finish again, guard Matthew Fisher-Davis disappeared again, guard Riley LaChance missed open shots and free throws again, Stallings had no answers again–and State scooped up a loose ball and beat them on a corner three at the buzzer 75-74.
Eight times this season the Commodores have lost a game they had a double-digit lead in–eight. This from a team once thought to be a Final Four contender with two players some still see as first-round NBA picks in Baldwin and Jones. Not hardly. Vandy’s schedule is tough the final five, with home games against Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee; and road games at Florida and Texas A&M. Vandy needs at least four of those five for any hope of the NCAA Tournament. If this team fails to reach the tournament, it is time for a change after 17 years.
LSU entered mid-week tied with Kentucky at 9-3 and is a team with unlimited potential behind presumptive #1-overall NBA draft pick Ben Simmons. Simmons has lived up to his immense hype, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds and putting his stamp on every game. Texas A&M started conference play 7-0 before losing five straight. A Tuesday win over Ole Miss righted things for a team likely to be favored in all five remaining games. South Carolina was tied for first just last Saturday after the shattering loss to Kentucky. They fell at last-place Missouri to drop to 8-5. Florida won at Georgia 57-53 on Tuesday to pull them to 8-5. Georgia is 7-6 tied with Vanderbilt with their matchup at Memorial Gym on Saturday.
Alabama had won four straight going into Baton Rouge Wednesday, and at 6-6, 15-9 was garnering bubble talk with four quality wins. The rest are all teams playing out the string, with the possible exception of Ole Miss, at 6-7 and 16-10, featuring the league’s leading scorer in Stefan Moody. Arkansas and Tennessee stood at 5-7, with each dangerous at home but mostly lost away from cozy confines. Mississippi State is 4-9 after their comeback victory, with Missouri 3-10 but on a two-game winning streak. Auburn is at the bottom, playing only five scholarship players due to injury, eligibility, and suspension.