Two Weeks Into Conference Play And The SEC Basketball Season Is Already Bringing The Heat

The football season has ended and now all eyes turn towards SEC hoops, with the conference schedule in full swing. After a wild game in Tuscaloosa this week, the Auburn Tigers are sitting atop the conference, but with five teams ranked in the top 25, the SEC is primed for another stellar year of in-conference games. 

Also, make sure to checkout FanDuel for all the latest betting lines for the SEC slate on Saturday. 

Let’s take a look at some of the top teams in the conference, just two weeks into January. 

No. 4 Auburn (14-1, 4-0)

The Tigers are playing like the No. 1 team in the SEC, and Bruce Pearl is getting the most out of this guard-heavy team. The depth of this group will be a key factor in them making a run in March. Jabari Smith, Wendell Green Jr. and Walker Kessler lead them statistically right now. This group has so much speed on the court and their ability to force turnovers has been key. Even a player like K.D. Johnson, who leads the team in steals, is making noise. The Tigers should win their next two games, against Ole Miss and Georgia, before hosting Kentucky. Loving the situation on the Plains. 

No. 12 LSU (15-1, 3-1)

Will Wade has another fine looking team in Baton Rouge this season. Even though he won’t be winning any awards for most popular coach in the conference, he continues to put together a solid roster. Coming off a nice win against Florida, the Tigers will host Arkansas on Saturday in what should be a fast paced affair, before heading to Tuscaloosa next week. Tari Eason is leading his team with more than 15 points per game, while Darius Days is hitting 35% of his three-point attempts. This team is long in the post, and with the help of Xavier Pinson, they are becoming a problem on defense. 

No. 18 Kentucky (13-3, 3-1)

Well, the Wildcats have looked pretty tough when they are getting the most out of players like Oscar Tshiebwe, who is leading the team with 17 points per game. Oscar is also leading the team in rebounds, and Keion Brooks Jr. and TyTy Washington Jr are making life miserable for opposing defenses. This team has the depth, but it will be interesting to see how this group plays together. A good number of guys want the show, but Calapari is still searching for this group’s identity. We will find out over the next three games what this team is made of, with games against Tennessee, Texas A&M and Auburn.

No. 22 Tennessee (11-4, 2-2)

It’s been a head scratching season so far for the Vols, who sit .500 in conference play. This Rick Barnes squad is playing fantastic on defense, one of the top groups in the country. But they’ve struggled to find the basket at times. Santiago Vescovi is leading the team with more than 13 points per game, while Josiah-Jordan James is coming off a double-double performance against South Carolina. If this team can fix its free throw shooting and some of their perimeter shots, they will keep things interesting in the conference. But not having John Fulkerson contributing much on the stat sheet at the moment is forcing others to take on his tough role. We will see how this team responds at Kentucky on Saturday. They are due for an offensive explosion. 

No. 24 Alabama (11-5, 2-2)

Nate Oats has a very talented squad of shooters and guys who can get to the basket. But we are still waiting to see the same team in conference play that knocked off Gonzaga earlier this season. The Tide are getting solid performances from guys like Jahvon Quinerly, Juwan Gary, Jaden Shackelford and Noah Gurley. But we watched this team struggle to stop Auburn from behind the perimeter and drive to the basket. If this team is going to make a run in SEC play, the defensive effort has to step up. We’ll see how they respond against Mississippi State on Saturday, followed by LSU. 

Outside Teams Making Early Noise.

Texas A&M 

How about Buzz Williams and Texas A&M? The Aggies have opened up SEC play with three straight wins over Georgia, Arkansas and Ole Miss. I know two of those wins aren’t impressive to the untrained eye, but this team currently sits 14-2 on the season, with Missouri and Kentucky coming up. 

Mississippi State

This Bulldogs team has some talent to work with this season. Sitting at 11-4 and 2-1 in conference play, Ben Howland has his team playing competitive basketball. Now, I am not saying this will be the case for the entire season, but Iverson Molinar is a baller and could help this team pull off a few upsets this season. Just keep an eye on them, not saying they are world-beaters. 

Teams still finding their way

I am not throwing in the towel on Arkansas this early, especially coming off a 44-point clubbing of Missouri on Wednesday night. The Razorbacks won their first SEC game of the season and sit 11-5 on the year. The true test for this team will come Saturday, on the road at LSU. We will find out on Saturday if this team is capable of causing problems in the conference, after an ugly start. 

If you like good point guard play, just watch Scottie Pippen Jr. try to lead this Vanderbilt squad. He’s about the only thing that makes me want to watch this squad led by Jerry Stackhouse. 

Teams making me throw up my hands 

I have no idea what Mike White is doing at Florida. This team has talent and can be good in transition, but none of that has showed up to start conference play. The Gators are 0-3 in the SEC, coming off a loss to LSU, in a game they could’ve won. They play South Carolina on Saturday, followed by Mississippi State, which could easily put them at 0-5 in the SEC if they don’t figure out their defensive problems. 

Georgia is just bad, there’s no better way for me to put it. The Bulldogs are lucky they won the National Championship in football, because it would’ve been a long offseason if not. Tom Crean is floundering and there’s no escape at the moment, as they sit 5-11 on the season. 

 

Another big weekend awaits in SEC play, with premier matchups like Tennessee vs. Kentucky, Arkansas vs. LSU and Alabama vs. Mississippi State. Other than those games, a few teams need to get back in the win column. 

Enjoy the weekend of SEC Basketball. 

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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