Brandon Miller, Nate Oats, Alabama Crimson Tide, SEC basketball

George Bagwell gives his SEC basketball power rankings for week 14 of the season.

 

Matchup of the week: Auburn vs. Alabama

Sneaky good matchup of the week: Tennessee vs. Missouri

All game times are in EST.

1) Alabama Crimson Tide

Last week’s ranking: 2 (+1)

Record: 20-3 (10-0)

Last week: Vanderbilt (W) 101-44, @ LSU (W) 79-69

Next week: Florida (Feb. 8 – 9 p.m.), @ Auburn (Feb. 11 – 2 p.m.)

Best wins: @ Houston, @ Missouri, @ Arkansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Memphis, Liberty

Worst losses: Oklahoma

Current Tournament Position: 1 seed (Making the Madness, Waldo’s Watchlist, Matty Brackets, ESPN, CBS Sports)

I feel bad for Vanderbilt, I really do. They didn’t choose to lose to Oklahoma by 24, but they were the ones getting punished for it. Alabama had multiple starters in the game until the five-minute mark in the second half, but that didn’t mean the game was close. (They were up 88-38 at that point.) In a game that ultimately ended 101-44 in Alabama’s favor, the Crimson Tide took out their frustration against the ‘Dores, leading 43-15 at half. Brandon Miller led the way with 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Nimari Burnett managed 16 points off the bench. As a team, the Crimson Tide recorded 29 assists to just 6 from Vanderbilt. 

Next game against LSU on the road, Alabama didn’t look nearly as impressive on offense, going almost 7 minutes without a basket in the second half against the Tigers, but still winning 79-69. Rylan Griffen and Noah Clowney both led the team with 14 points, and Brandon Miller recorded a double-double with an 11-point, 10-rebound performance. 

At the end of the day, it seems difficult to ascertain what type of team Alabama is. However, in reality, it’s somewhat simple. They use record-setting rebound numbers to mask an offense that is just middle-of-the-pack in efficiency and are benefitting from playing in a league that isn’t nearly as good as it was in recent years. Getting 50+ rebounds is enough to beat LSU and Missouri, but in losses to Gonzaga and Oklahoma, Alabama only averaged 36 while giving up an average of 96.5 PPG. Almost every quality win of Bama’s could have an asterisk by it, besides the win over Houston. Sure, they beat #1 UNC. But look at the ‘Heels now. Yeah, they beat Mizzou on the road. Without SEC Player of the Year candidate Kobe Brown, though. Another road win over Arkansas? The Hogs were without Nick Smith and Trevon Brazile. A win over then #12 Michigan State? The Spartans are currently 9th in the Big Ten. 

At the end of the day, however, the Crimson Tide are the league’s best chance to win the Big Dance, and they have the talent to win the necessary six games in a row to take home a title. They may not be perfect, but it’s not like any other team is deserving of such a title this year. 

This week, the Tide is to play Florida at home before traveling to Auburn to try and snap Auburn’s 1-game home winning streak. (Sorry, Tigers fans, y’all had fun while it lasted.)

2) Tennessee Volunteers

Last week’s ranking: 1 (-1)

Record: 19-4 (8-2)

Last week: @ Florida (L) 54-67, #25 Auburn (W) 46-43

Next week: @ Vanderbilt (Feb. 8 – 7 p.m.), Missouri (Feb. 11 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: Kansas, Texas, Maryland, Auburn, USC

Worst losses: Colorado

Current Tournament Position: 1 seed (Matty Brackets, Waldo’s Watchlist), 2 seed (Making the Madness, ESPN, CBS Sports)

Call it a curse, bad luck, whatever, but whenever a new team takes over the #1 spot in the SEC basketball power rankings, they apparently feel the need to give it up immediately by losing to an unranked opponent. Do not ask why Alabama decided to lose to Oklahoma by 24 or why Tennessee now decides to lose by 13 to Florida, because I do not know. Is it too much pressure to be at the top of these rankings? It’s certainly a possibility. Or perhaps Tennessee was just looking ahead to their ranked showdown with Auburn. Whatever happened, the Vols would be better off just forgetting it. 

Tennessee played just as poorly in their next game, though at least they managed to “win” that one, 46-43. Two of the worst offenses in the conference were no match for two of the best defenses in the conference, and the two teams combined for just 89 points. Alabama cleared that mark by themselves against Vanderbilt with 12 points to spare. Tennessee shot 27% from the field, and the Tigers managed just 23.7%. From beyond the arc, the two teams were even worse, with Tennessee shooting at a 9.5% clip and Auburn at 11.1%. Combined, the two teams were 5-48 from three. After playing extremely efficiently against Texas, Zakai Zeigler shot 0-for-10 from the field and 0-of-7 from three-point range. Same goes for Olivier Nkamhoua, who shot 4-for-16 in 23 minutes despite entering the game with a FG% of 57.6%. 

Scouring through the box score, there were a couple of positives to note. Josiah-Jordan James led the way for Tennessee with 15 points and 14 rebounds, both leading the team. Sophomore guard Jahmai Mashack came off the bench to grab three offensive rebounds, leading the team in that category. As a team, Tennessee recorded 15 offensive rebounds to Auburn’s 8. Auburn also only blocked the Vols four times, though center Dylan Cardwell was out for Auburn, second on the team in BPG. 

That was all the positives, however. After a week where it seemed like Tennessee could be in the driver’s seat for a tournament run, they drove the bus off the road and off a cliff. That may be a bit harsh, but combining for 100 points over the course of two games doesn’t give the Selection Committee something to salivate over. With the exception of *maybe* 2011 UConn, March Madness winners don’t just score points when they need to, they score points when they want to. And Tennessee couldn’t buy a bucket this week. Good luck holding Purdue or Baylor to 43 points. 

Looking ahead, the Vols travel to Nashville to play Vanderbilt before returning home to face Mizzou in what should be a good game. 

3) Kentucky Wildcats

Last week’s ranking: 5 (+2)

Record: 16-7 (7-3)

Last week: @ Ole Miss (W) 75-66, Florida (W) 72-67

Next week: Arkansas (Feb. 7 – 9 p.m.), @ Georgia (Feb. 11 – Noon)

Best wins: @ Tennessee, Texas A&M, Florida, Michigan

Worst losses: South Carolina

Current Tournament Position: 11 seed (Making the Madness, ESPN), 10 seed (Waldo’s Watchlist, Matty Brackets, CBS Sports)

Kentucky is quietly making its way back into the postseason picture, which feels odd to say. Not the postseason part, but the “quietly” part. After a sweaty win over Ole Miss and a wire-to-wire victory over a Florida team coming off a victory over Tennessee, Kentucky improved to 16-7 overall and 7-3 in the conference, shaking off a 1-3 start. 

Oscar Tshiebwe continues to do Oscar Tshiebwe things, averaging 15.9 PPG to go along with 13.6 RPG and 0.9 BPG. Coach Cal bringing Cason Wallace and CJ Frederick into the starting five regularly has paid dividends, with the offense playing utterly differently with a lineup of Jacob Toppin, Chris Livingston, Tshiebwe, Wallace, and Frederick on the court. The team is now sitting around the 10-11 seed range in most brackets, and they only play one ranked opponent the rest of the regular season, #6 Tennessee, who they’ve already beat. 

It also means the Wildcats find themselves back in the SEC power rankings top 3 for the first time that I can remember. I’m sure they were there at one point, I just genuinely cannot remember putting them there.

This week, Kentucky will look to improve to 18-7 with games against Arkansas and Georgia, a feat that seemed impossible after their loss to South Carolina, which feels like years ago. 

4) Texas A&M Aggies

Last week’s ranking: 3 (-1)

Record: 16-7 (8-2)

Last week: @ Arkansas (L) 70-81, Georgia (W) 82-57

Next week: Auburn (Feb. 7 – 7 p.m.), @ LSU (Feb. 11 – 8:30 p.m.)

Best wins: @ Auburn, Missouri, Florida (x2)

Worst losses: Murray State, Wofford

Current Tournament Position: First Four Out (ESPN, Making the Madness), Last Four In (Matty Brackets, Waldo’s Watchlist), OUT (CBS Sports)

Pop quiz. Which SEC basketball squad is the only team to not lose to a ranked team this season? It’s the Aggies of College Station, who have a 2-0 mark against teams in the Top 25. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword since it means that 1) all seven of their losses have come against unranked teams, and 2) they have games against Alabama and Tennessee still remaining on their schedule. However, they’re still a very talented team, and a 1-1 split of those two games is manageable with the way they’ve been playing. 

They’re not there on the schedule quite yet, though, as they draw Auburn at home this week before going on the road to take on LSU. Texas A&M is perfectly capable of beating both those teams, as they’ve already beaten Auburn on the road to snap the Tigers’ home-game winning streak. 

5) Florida Gators

Last week’s ranking: 7 (+2)

Record: 13-10 (6-4)

Last week: #2 Tennessee (W) 67-54, @ Kentucky (L) 67-72

Next week: @ #3 Alabama (Feb. 8 – 9 p.m.), Vanderbilt (Feb. 11 – 3:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Tennessee, Missouri, @ Mississippi State

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: First Four Out (ESPN, Waldo’s Watchlist), OUT (Making the Madness, Matty Brackets, CBS Sports)

Florida must’ve read last week’s edition of the SEC basketball power rankings where I called them out for being too predictable because they went out and beat Tennessee by double digits just to lose to Kentucky wire-to-wire in the next game out. Tough, but the gutsy performance against UT moves them up to #5 on the list, even if it ends up being temporary. Colin Castleton’s supporting cast has developed nicely in the last few weeks after early-season struggles. 

So nice, even, that the Gators have begun to show up on the bubble in brackets, making ESPN’s First Four Out. However, they have a huge test this week when they have to travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama on the road before a home game against Vandy. 

6) Missouri Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 4 (-2)

Record: 17-6 (5-5)

Last week: LSU (W) 87-77, @ Mississippi State (L) 51-63

Next week: South Carolina (Feb. 7 – 9 p.m.), @ #6 Tennessee (Feb. 11 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: Iowa State, Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, UCF

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: 6 seed (CBS Sports), 7 seed (ESPN), 9 seed (Making the Madness, Matty Brackets), 10 seed (Waldo’s Watchlist), CBS Sports)

Missouri may have been caught looking forward a bit with their loss to Mississippi State after beating LSU. After all, the Tigers’ matchup with Tennessee in Knoxville is this weekend. Even though Mississippi State has been playing better the past two weeks, it’s still a disappointing loss, and it’ll drop them two spots, especially after they scored a season-low 51 points.  

However, this is still a very good team, and CBS Sports’ bracketology still has them as a 6 seed in their latest edition. Kobe Brown could garner SEC Player of the Year votes with the way he’s been playing, (though I think Brandon Miller is the rightful frontrunner right now.) The team’s depth has been on display recently, especially in the win against Iowa State, and this team could go far in March with the right matchups. Keep an eye on rebounding numbers, that’s one thing Missouri doesn’t do well.

This week, the Tigers play South Carolina at home before the aforementioned road test against the Vols. A 1-1 split seems inevitable for Dennis Gates’ squad. 

7) Arkansas Razorbacks

Last week’s ranking: 8 (+1)

Record: 16-7 (5-5)

Last week: Texas A&M (W) 81-70, @ South Carolina (W) 65-63

Next week: @ Kentucky (Feb. 7 – 9 p.m.), Mississippi State (Feb. 11 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: San Diego State, Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Fordham

Worst losses: @ Vanderbilt

Current Tournament Position: 8 seed, (Waldo’s Watchlist), 9 seed (Making the Madness), 10 seed (Matty Brackets), 11 seed (ESPN, CBS Sports)

Arkansas is a flawed team. There, I said it. Yeah, they went 2-0 last week, so I’m obligated to move them up in the rankings, but South Carolina of all teams simply exposed the Razorbacks. After beating a jet-lagged Texas A&M team, which, good on them, will likely pay dividends on Selection Sunday, Arkansas struggled against the worst team in the SEC. After South Carolina slipped into a 1-3-1 zone, The Gamecocks went on a 10-0 run to take the lead, and the Razorbacks would not have won the game had it not been for Anthony Black’s late layup. The team shot 26% from three and got outrebounded by the 13th-ranked rebounding squad in the conference. 

This is still the same team that gave up 97 points to Vanderbilt, and they rank last in the conference in threes made. They commit 13.3 turnovers per game, the 3rd-highest in the conference, and can’t crash the offensive glass despite shooting the highest percentage of 2-point shots in the conference. Their FT% sits at under 70%, so getting to the line isn’t too beneficial for them either. Nick Smith may or may not come back, and Trevon Brazile definitely isn’t coming back until next year. Jordan Walsh hasn’t been as advertised, and Derrian Ford is a non-factor. With Smith out, Black is the only freshman from the star-studded class actually playing to expectations. Ricky Council is averaging almost 18 PPG, but he can’t be asked to do everything for the team. Even with Devo Davis’ late-season improvements, the team still almost lost to South Carolina. 

This is not the same Arkansas team as last year, even if Smith returns this month. Looking ahead, they play a road game against Oscar Tshiebwe and Kentucky before coming back to Fayetteville and playing a Mississippi State squad that has improved vastly over the past two weeks. They need to win at least one of their next two games. 

8) Auburn Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 6 (-2)

Record: 17-6 (7-3)

Last week: Georgia (W) 94-71, @ #2 Tennessee (L) 43-46

Next week: @ Texas A&M (Feb. 7 – 7 p.m.), #3 Alabama (Feb. 11 – 2 p.m.)

Best wins: Arkansas, Northwestern, Florida, Saint Louis

Worst losses: N/A

Current Tournament Position: 6 seed (Making the Madness, Matty Brackets), 7 seed (Waldo’s Watchlist), 8 seed (ESPN), 9 seed (CBS Sports)

Auburn, I want to take a paragraph to really absorb the loss against Tennessee, to look at the numbers, and just take the whole thing in. 43 points in 40 minutes for somehow the *second* time this season. Every Tiger not named Johni Broome combined for 8-of-42 from the field. That’s a 19% mark. A 3-for-27 team-wide effort from behind the arc, (that’s 11%,) and excluding Wendell Green’s 2-for-9 mark, that’s 1-for-18 from the rest of the team. 18 fouls against the team to go along with 12 turnovers, and only five assists.

Zakai Zeigler of Tennessee went 0-for-10 from the field and still managed to get more assists individually (6) than Auburn had as a team. 10 different players saw the court for the Tigers, but only five different players scored the entire game. Despite all of this, despite it all, the Tigers had a chance to tie the game as time expired and maybe did get fouled shooting a three. But at the end of the day, the refs didn’t go 3-for-27 from three-point territory for the day. Auburn did, and they’ve got no one to blame but themselves. 

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Auburn looked fine against Georgia, scoring 94 points and showing no signs of the offensive meltdown to come against Tennessee. Allen Flanigan led the way with 22 points, and Broome and Green scored 19 and 18 points, respectively. K.D. Johnson even managed 13 points off the bench on just seven shots. Perhaps the best part was the rebounding masterclass put on by Broome, as he grabbed 18 boards for a nifty 19-18 statline with no fouls against him. 

At the end of the day, though, this team has still lost three of its last four, including its 28-game home winning streak to Texas A&M, who they play on the road this week before having to travel home to play Alabama. They’re losing their stride at the wrong time, and with two tough games on the horizon, the odds this team drops to 17-8 are basically a coin flip. A team always wants to have momentum going into March Madness, but Auburn might have to worry about getting there. 

9) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 10 (+1)

Record: 15-8 (3-7)

Last week: @ South Carolina (W) 66-51, Missouri (W) 63-52

Next week: LSU (Feb. 8 – 9 p.m.), @ Arkansas (Feb. 11 – 6 p.m.)

Best wins: Marquette, TCU, Missouri, Utah

Worst losses: Drake 

Current Tournament Position: Next Four/Five Out (Making the Madness, Waldo’s Watchlist), Building a Resume (Matty Brackets)

Don’t look now, but Mississippi State could sneak into the NCAA Tournament. Yes, they’re 15-8 and 3-7 in conference play, but don’t forget this team was ranked near the end of non-conference play. The Bulldogs have won three games in a row, with quality wins over TCU and Missouri in the process. Earlier, they beat Utah and Marquette. Tolu Smith won SEC Player of the Week again, and he’s quietly averaging 14.9 PPG and 8.4 RPG. He could improve on a 56% mark from the free-throw line, but he’s been dominant in most games. 

Don’t sleep on Shakeel Moore, either, who is averaging 2.2 SPG to go along with 8.9 PPG. The Bulldogs still have the 6th-rated adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom, even if their offense isn’t the best. Or even average. After such a momentous last two weeks, I would’ve liked to move the Bulldogs up higher in the rankings. I say that like I’m not the one creating the list, but the other eight teams above all have at least two more conference wins than the Bulldogs do. 

However, they have the chance to move up this week, playing LSU at home before a tougher road test against Arkansas. Beating Arkansas to (hypothetically) move to 17-8 with four quality wins, and Missouri could be enough to slide into the tournament for the time being. The Bulldogs need to continue playing defense the way they have been recently, however. They held Missouri to a season-low 52 points, and the Tigers hadn’t scored less than 64 points in a game this year before that.  

10) Georgia Bulldogs

Last week’s ranking: 9 (-1)

Record: 14-9 (4-6)

Last week: @ #25 Auburn (L) 73-94, @ Texas A&M (L) 57-82

Next week: Ole Miss (Feb. 7 – 7 p.m.), Kentucky (Feb. 11 – Noon)

Best wins: Auburn, Mississippi State, Notre Dame

Worst losses: @ Georgia Tech

Current Tournament Position: OUT

In normal circumstances, Georgia would be at most #11 in these rankings with their resume, but they’re three games ahead of every team below them in either overall record or conference record. After starting out 3-1 in SEC play, they’ve lost five of their last six, including last week’s games against Auburn and Texas A&M by a combined 46 points.

The duo of Kairo Oquendo and Terry Roberts has cooled off a bit, combining for 4-of-13 from the field against Auburn and Oquendo went 1-of-6 from the field against Texas A&M (Roberts missed the game with a concussion.) In the first 18 games, either Oquendo or Roberts led the team in scoring 14 of those. They were 10-4 in those games, but in the last five games, either Oquendo or Roberts has led the team in scoring just once. The team is 1-4 in their past five.

Georgia’s success doesn’t correspond with Roberts’ or Oquendo’s success 100% of the time, but it’s a pretty good indicator of how well the team does in a given game. If the duo can turn back into the efficient playmakers they were earlier this year, a season that is seeming to derail a bit could be righted. 

This week, they play two home games, one against Ole Miss and one against Kentucky. They should beat Ole Miss, and should give at least a bit of competitiveness against Kentucky, but given the way they’ve been playing, 0-2 could be a possibility. 

11) Vanderbilt Commodores

Last week’s ranking: 11 (-)

Record: 11-12 (4-6)

Last week: @ #4 Alabama (L) 44-101, Ole Miss (W) 74-71

Next week: #6 Tennessee (Feb. 8 – 7 p.m.), @ Florida (Feb. 11 – 3:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Arkansas, Pittsburgh, @ Temple

Worst losses: Grambling State

Current Tournament Position: OUT

A win over Ole Miss would’ve been enough to put Jerry Stackhouse’s team above Georgia in the SEC basketball power rankings since Georgia had lost five of their last six, including a game against Vandy, had Vanderbilt not lost by *57* points to Alabama. I don’t have a written law code for the power rankings, as it’s basically the Wild West from week to week, but rule #1 would be that a team cannot move up the rankings after losing by 50+ points the previous week. Vanderbilt will abide by it because they don’t have a choice anyway. I don’t care if it’s 2021-22 Georgia against 2012-13 Kentucky, losing 101-44 in a college basketball game just sucks. There’s no way around it, and it will forever be etched into the SEC basketball game logs. 

Now that that’s out of the way, they did play much better at home against Ole Miss. Liam Robbins had a career game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 blocks, while Tyrin Lawrence also had a double-double with an 18-point, 10-rebound performance in the absence of Jordan Wright (concussion.) The ‘Dores played disciplined basketball, only committing 10 fouls in the game. 

Hopefully, Wright can heal in time for Wednesday’s matchup with #6 Tennessee, where Vanderbilt will need every player’s A-game to eke out a win. The home game against UT (Tennessee gets to be UT until Texas can beat them) is followed by a road trip to Gainesville to take on the Gators. It might be hard for Vandy to earn a win this week, but a 4-6 mark through 10 conference games is better than expected. 

12) LSU Tigers

Last week’s ranking: 12 (+0)

Record: 12-11 (1-9)

Last week: @ Missouri (L) 77-87, #4 Alabama (L) 69-79

Next week: @ Mississippi State (Feb. 8 – 9 p.m.), Texas A&M (Feb. 11 – 8:30 p.m.)

Best wins: Arkansas, Wake Forest, Wofford

Worst losses: Texas Tech

Current Tournament Position: OUT

LSU has looked non-competitive for weeks now, and I’ve begun to wonder why they haven’t moved down to #13 or #14 in these rankings. I need to stop giving the Tigers the benefit of doubt because they’re 0-10 in their last 10 games and haven’t won since 2022. It’s February 7th. 

8 of those 10 losses have been by double digits, including both losses last week to Mizzou and Alabama. The disappearance of Adam Miller (he’s scored in single-figures in six of his last eight games,) combined with the team averaging 60.8 PPG during the losing streak has the Bayou Bengals down in the dumps. 

KJ Williams is the only consistent force, averaging 16.7 PPG and 7.6 RPG, but opposing teams can afford to put their defensive focus on him without worrying about other options. 

At its simplest, though, this year is just a reminder that it will take time to rebuild and wade through the absolute dumpster fire Will Wade left when Wade threw $100,000 at Javonte Smart in a “strong-ass offer.” Gone is a (corrupt) winning team, but coach Matt McMahon will get the roster back to its winning ways without Wade which is why he got paid the big bucks. (Much more than $100,000.) Have patience, Tigers fans. Go watch the Alabama-LSU football game on repeat. 

Looking ahead, the road doesn’t get much easier, playing a Mississippi State squad that seems to have found its rhythm on the road in Starkville before a home matchup with Texas A&M. 

13) Ole Miss Rebels

Last week’s ranking: 13 (-)

Record: 9-14 (1-9)

Last week: Kentucky (L) 66-75, @ Vanderbilt (L) 71-74

Next week: @ Georgia (Feb. 7 – 7 p.m.), South Carolina (Feb. 11 – 1 p.m.)

Best wins: Florida Atlantic, Temple, Stanford

Worst losses: North Alabama, Vanderbilt

Current Tournament Position: OUT

Ole Miss actually looked improved last week compared to the week before, losing both games, but by single digits this time. An 8-point home loss to new-look Kentucky with Matt Murrell out and a 3-point road loss to Vanderbilt isn’t horrible, even if a win against the ‘Dores was possible. Freshman Amaree Abram managed 17 points in Murrell’s absence against Kentucky, while Jaemyn Brakefield led the team with 15 points against Vanderbilt. Brakefield posted a double-double, with 12 rebounds as well. 7 of his 12 boards came on the offensive end, but the Rebels ultimately couldn’t capitalize on them. 

Despite a 1-11 mark in their last 12 games, the Rebels have a great chance to stop their skid this week, taking on Georgia in Athens before a home game against South Carolina. Ole Miss already beat South Carolina once on the road, so it’s not impossible. Yet again, the two teams will face off to take control of the coveted #13 spot of the SEC basketball power rankings, the mark that holds absolutely no significance other than not being last. 

14) South Carolina Gamecocks

Last week’s ranking: 14 (-)

Record: 8-15 (1-9)

Last week: Mississippi State (L) 51-66, Arkansas (L) 63-65

Next week: @ Missouri (Feb. 7 – 9 p.m.), @ Ole Miss (Feb. 11 – 1 p.m.)

Best wins: @ Kentucky, Clemson, Western Kentucky

Worst losses: @ George Washington, East Carolina, Davidson, @ Vanderbilt, Ole Miss

Current Tournament Position: OUT

For the second week in a row, I was tempted to move South Carolina into the 13th spot. The reason being, for the second week in a row, is that they almost won another game. They didn’t, obviously, but they almost did. And it wasn’t Georgia this week, either, it was Arkansas. Entering as +12.5 point underdogs, South Carolina used 20-point games from both Meechie Johnson and Josh Gray, the latter of which averaged 3.4 PPG coming into the contest, to keep the game neck-and-neck in the second half. A 10-0 run made the game a 59-58 margin in the Gamecocks’ favor with just 4 minutes to play, but a Josh Gray three-pointer hit off the backboard as time expired to let the Razorbacks leave Columbia victorious, 65-63. 

The reason they stick in the cellar, however, is a non-competitive loss to Mississippi State earlier in the week at home, 66-51. Games like that are ones that cement a team into the last spot in the SEC Power Rankings. Ole Miss also has the competitive advantage over the Gamecocks, beating them 70-58. 

I’d like to end the article with a positive note, though, and point out that Gray is averaging 10.3 PPG and 11.8 RPG over his last four games, after entering that stretch averaging 2.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG. One extremely underrated facet of coaching is the ability to improve players mid-season. Watching a player become more efficient in a role over the course of a season is a brownie point not just for the player, but also the coach, as it shows the coach is able to maximize the talent of his players while making needed adjustments to his game plan. Development isn’t just a year-to-year thing, and ending the year playing better basketball than the start of the season can provide momentum going into an offseason. Kudos Josh Gray, and kudos Lamont Paris. 

This week, they play two road games, a tough matchup with Mizzou in the other Columbia, and a winnable road matchup in Oxford against Ole Miss.