Didn’t you see this coming? Georgia defeats Tennessee on Thursday, which is always a big deal but … if you’ve followed the SEC even for a little while, you sensed trouble for the Dogs coming up. They had Mississippi up next, on Sunday, with the Rebs having won four in four and seven of their last eight.
So what happened? Ole Miss edged Georgia 66-65, and instead of consolidating the win over Tennessee, Georgia now has to go on the road against Mississippi State and Auburn coming off a disappointing loss.
This is life in the SEC, though. And even if people see the league is “down” because it doesn’t have some of the star-studded Final Four contenders of past years, it’s still chock-full of athletes and difficult matchups/trips.
If you want lots of offense, SEC games aren’t all that likely to provide it. In league play, the only SEC team that is averaging at least 70 points per game is Ole Miss (73.3). That’s fewer teams at 70-plus than all of the six “major” conferences except … oh, I know you’ll guess this … the just-as-grind-it-out Big Ten (only league-leading Ohio State, at 70.9, tops 70).
None of this is surprising … scoring averages always drop in conference play in every league with more evenly matched competition and familiarity among coaches/players. Still, the SEC has so many defense-oriented teams that it really takes a toll on teams’ shooting percentages.
The two teams atop the standings at 5-1 are Tennessee (64.8) and Mississippi, and they won Sunday by holding opponents LSU and Georgia to shooting percentages of 26.4 and 33.3, respectively.
In Tennessee’s 55-43 victory over LSU, the teams combined for 41 turnovers to 35 made shots from the field. Thursday, Tennessee and Georgia had 39 turnovers to 37 makes. And in Tennessee’s game before that, there were also more turnovers than made baskets, 43-41, although Vanderbilt was the bigger culprit there with 27 turnovers.
At any rate, if you tune in to see the SEC, don’t be expecting the Phoenix Mercury vs. the Indiana Fever in Game 1 of the WNBA finals … or even half that many points.
Especially not if you’re a Georgia fan … the Dogs, 5-2 in the SEC, are 11th in offense (58.4) but second in defense (57.3).
*-MAGNOLIA STATE MAYHEM: Actually, it’s really not “mayhem,” just used that to be alliterative … but Mississippi and Mississippi State are causing problems for us pollsters.
Look at my vote below: What a mess! How screwed up I am. Shouldn’t the Rebs and Bulldogs be in there instead of Vandy and LSU since they’re ahead of them in the SEC standings? Well, it’s complicated. The Rebs’ only loss in league play so far is to Vandy, by 14 point in Nashville on Jan. 3. Ole Miss won at home on Jan. 17 by nine points against LSU and still has a trip to Baton Rouge.
Mississippi State is 13-7 overall – drat that Paradise Jam trio of losses in November! _ but the Dogs have beaten Vanderbilt twice and haven’t faced LSU yet.
Anyway, in the morning after reflection on poll voting, I am regretting not getting Ole Miss in on this vote. But wins at South Carolina (Thursday) and at home against Florida (Sunday) should get the Rebs in next week. Mississippi State, meanwhile, has Georgia and Kentucky this week, both in Starkville.
*-BIG 12 WEIRDNESS: Anybody think going into the last week of January that we’d see Kansas State (2-3) ahead of both Baylor (1-3) and Kansas (1-4) in the league standings?
Not to be pessimistic, but how many more victories might the Wildcats – who have just eight players – expect to get in Big 12 play? It’s going to be tough for them, but the fact that they competed well at Nebraska on Saturday is a good indicator of the resolve of their youngsters like Brittany Chambers and Taelor Karr. On paper, that game projected to be a total blowout, but the Wildcats didn’t let that happen.
Still, you wonder how worn out senior Ashley Sweat is going to be as the league season continues, and there is always the danger of freshmen hitting the dreaded February wall.
Meanwhile, here’s a great example of the mental-toughness issues that Missouri has had for long time now. OK, this is a team that this past week should have (once again) beaten Oklahoma but let the Sooners escape 62-61 on Wednesday. But on Saturday, the Tigers did beat Baylor, 70-62, for their first Big 12 victory this season.
That ended a five-game losing streak that included a 15-point loss at home to Kansas State. And, yes, that one was just ridiculous. How can the same group of Tigers go belly-up to the visiting Wildcats – did we mention K-State has only eight players, five of them freshman or sophomores _ and then nearly beat the ranked Sooners and beat the ranked Bears?
If it seems like it makes no sense, that’s because it doesn’t make any sense. Yet it’s what we’ve seen a lot of from Mizzou in recent seasons. The team has never been bereft of talent. But the Tigers just don’t seem to be consistent in effort or focus. Of course, they do have the worst home-court atmosphere of any Big 12 team, and I would be remiss not to mention that as a factor.
Those MU fans who come are 100 percent committed, but there usually are not enough of them to create any kind of real advantage for the Tigers. Saturday, they drew 2,521 – which for them is a big gathering – and that no doubt helped.
Every other school in the Big 12 has had at least some sustained excitement about their women’s basketball program since the league formed in 1996. In some places, it’s still on-going, in others, it hasn’t lasted but might spark again. However, I have never felt that “something is happening here” feeling at Missouri.
Even in seasons where the Tigers ended up going to the NCAA tournament, there was never that “tipping-point” kind of game where the entire community was plugged in, even if just for one day. Heck, that even happened at Kansas – not the easiest place to get people to pay attention to women’s hoops _ last year for the WNIT final.
Missouri would have to win – and win a lot – to break through the level of indifference there is toward the program in Columbia and state-wide. Can it be done? Of course it can. Will it? I don’t know. It would have to become a priority for the athletic department.
*-MY VOTE: 1.Connecticut, 2. Stanford, 3. Nebraska, 4. Tennessee, 5. Notre Dame, 6. Ohio State, 7. Duke, 8. Texas A&M, 9. Georgia, 10. North Carolina, 11. Oklahoma, 12. Oklahoma State, 13. Florida State, 14. Xavier, 15. Baylor, 16. West Virginia, 17. Georgetown, 18. Virginia, 19. Penn State, 20. Iowa State, 21. Georgia Tech, 22. Southern Cal, 23, Vanderbilt, 24.Texas, 25. LSU