SEC basketball midseason update
Kentucky emerges while Vandy falters

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.