by Jim Feist
The SEC has a bunch of teams loaded with talent, depth and athleticism. Kentucky won national championships in 1998 and 2012, Florida knocked on the door in 2000 getting to the title game against Michigan State, then won it all with back-to-back titles. Here's a look at some of college basketball's best teams in the SEC.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have another powerhouse young team for coach John Calipari, who likes to groom them for one year before they head off to the NBA. Kentucky has a powerful frontcourt of 6-11 freshman Karl-Anthony Towns (8.5 ppg, 6 rpg), 7-0 junior Willie Cauley-Stein and 7-foot sophomore Dakari Johnson (8 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Even the backcourt is huge with 6-6 sophomore Aaron Harrison (11 ppg) and 6-6 freshman Devin Booker (10.6 ppg). They flattened Kansas (72-40) and North Carolina (84-70) by double digits, and showed clutch ability with back-to-back overtime wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M. The Wildcats are 7-3-1 ATS on the road and 16-7 run under the total with great defense. Just bring on March: This talented, deep group is ready.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks are getting it done by running, Top 15 in the nation in scoring and assists behind a backcourt of 6-5 senior guard Rashad Madden and 6-6 junior Mike Qualls (15.7 ppg). Arkansas leads the SEC in five categories, including scoring (80) & offensive rebounds (13.7).
The frontcourt has a force in 6-11 sophomore Bobby Portis (17.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg), and Arkansas is one of five teams in the nation with two top 30 RPI road wins. The Razorbacks have been great at home and at covering against weak teams, 17-8 ATS at home against a team with a losing road record. They play 5 of their final 8 games on the road, including a showdown at No. 1 Kentucky to end February.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are not an easy team to face with their attacking defense. They gave up just 70 points to No. 1 Kentucky in a loss -- in double overtime. They held Kentucky to 28% shooting. 6-7 junior guard Jalen Jones (13.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and 6-7 junior Danuel House (13.8 ppg) anchor the backcourt and lead the team in scoring, with 6-9 senior Kourtney Roberson manning the low post.
Junior guard Alex Caruso is a terrific playmaker averaging 5.5 assists per contest. The Aggies are a great bounce back team, 51-25 ATS following a loss. And that great defense really helps on the road, where the Aggies are 46-21 under the total.
Ole Miss: The Rebels have impressed with another strong offense behind the backcourt duo of junior guard Stephan Moody (15.5 ppg) and senior Jarvis Summers (13 ppg). Like Texas A&M, they took top-ranked Kentucky to overtime, an 89-86 loss. They held Kentucky to 42% shooting. Ole Miss is now 13-102 against Kentucky! Kentucky had its worst defensive game of the season. The Wildcats allowed Ole Miss to shoot 49 percent from the floor and 53 percent from 3-point range. Kentucky was also outscored in the paint 30-26 by Ole Miss. Ole Miss has been on a recent 10-4 run over the total, including 7-2 over on the road.
LSU: It’s no secret how the Tigers win: Like the days of Shaq or Big Baby Davis they have a huge frontcourt with 6-10 sophomore Jarrell Martin (16 ppg, 9 rpg) and 6-8 sophomore Jordan Mickey (16.7 ppg, 11 rpg). Once again they are one of the top rebounding teams in the nation.
The backcourt has size, too, with 6-6 sophomore Tim Quarterman (12 ppg) and 6-4 junior Keith Hornsby (12.6 ppg). The Tigers have been better on the road than last season, pulling off victories at Ole Miss, Florida and Vandy, the latter in overtime. They even have a non-conference win at West Virginia building an impressive resume before March. LSU is 20-7 over the total in SEC play.
Georgia: Let’s call them the “Not-Quite Bulldogs,” because they haven’t quite been there when stepping up. Georgia lost to Gonzaga by 14, lost at home to Arkansas by 4 and lost in double overtime at LSU. 6-8 senior Marcus Thornton (13.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is a force at center but missed a few games recently with a concussion.
The backcourt is fine with 6-3 junior Kenny Gaines (11 ppg) and 6-5 junior Charles Mann (11 ppg). They had a showdown at Kentucky and covered as a +18 dog, but lost by 11 after falling behind at the half, 42-27. Georgia committed 16 turnovers leading to 18 Kentucky points. The Bulldogs are an impressive 30-12-1 ATS against the SEC and 19-7 under the total after a spread cover.