The Sunday Blog, four weeks to SEC Tourney


The Sunday Blog likes those noon games even if they seem strange. Leaves more time for watching hoops with friends, which I did at Ballyhoo’s late into Saturday evening.

1. It is a big week for the Florida basketball team because the Gators are going to two places where they have not has a lot of success — Knoxville and Lexington. Sure, Florida handled Tennessee in Gainesville but I expect a battle up there. Tennessee is a weak team mentally and mentally-weak teams collapse on the road. But they play tough when everyone is cheering for them. And we all know about Kentucky.

Of Billy Donovan’s 100 SEC losses more than a quarter of them (26) have been at these two venues. Here are his records at Thompson-Boling and Rupp.

At Tennessee: 5-12 (won his first game there).

At Kentucky: 3-14 (thanks to the Oh-Fours who won twice there.)

Last year was this team in microcosm as the Gators lost at both places by a total of 10 points. This team has been better at winning close games so we will see.

2. Time for the SEC Bubble Watch as we wonder if any teams in this league besides Florida and Kentucky really want to go to the Big Dance.

Tennessee — RPI 47.

Last week: The Vols lost at Vanderbilt and won at home against South Carolina.

Next week: Florida at home and at Missouri.

Prognosis: That Vandy loss hurt but it’s nothing that a win over Florida can’t cure. Everyone has Tennessee in right now but the Vols need to at least split this week.

Missouri — RPI 49.

Last week: Lost at Florida, lost at Ole Miss.

This week: Arkansas and Tennessee at home.

Prognosis: I don’t think the Tigers are in after losing two great chances to add to their resume. They have to sweep this week.

Ole Miss — RPI 53.

Last week: Lost at Kentucky, beat Missouri.

This week: At Alabama, at Georgia.

Prognosis: The win over Missouri was the highest RPI win the Rebels have this year which is one reason I don’t think they’re in. There are opportunities down the road but they need to take care of business this week.

LSU — RPI 61.

Last week: Lost at Georgia, beat Auburn.

This week: At Texas A&M, at Arkansas.

Prognosis: When this is all over, the Tigers may well look back at that inexplicable defensive effort at Georgia (91 points allowed) as the reason they are hosting an NIT game.

3. The Marcus Smart story was a great one early this year. Now, it has turned into a disaster. Smart returned to Oklahoma State when everybody thought he would go pro. He’s an incredibly talented player who survived a tough upbringing. But it turns out the chair-kicking incident was the tip of the iceberg. In a loss to Texas Tech, Smart shoved a fan and refused to leave the court. Maybe some time away from the game will help him calm down.

4. For much of the 2014 bracket watch, Florida State has been considered a lock from the ACC because of two big wins in 2013 over VCU and UMass. But the Seminoles are slipping, having lost four of five games to go to 14-9. The RPI is all the way down to 51 I’m not sure they’d make the field today. Three of those losses were to North Carolina State, Clemson and Maryland. There are opportunities ahead (North Carolina, at Pitt, Syracuse) but the Semis can’t afford any more bad losses.