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February 16, 2007
SEC Breakdown: Ole Miss takes over the West
Best matchup: Kentucky center Randolph Morris vs. Alabama frontcourt: Although Kentucky has lost two in a row, Morris has played very well during his team's skid. He collected 19 points and nine rebounds Saturday against Florida's frontcourt. He helped the Wildcats stay competitive on a night when they shot 3-for-22 from 3-point range. Morris followed that up by compiling 14 points and 12 rebounds Tuesday in an 89-85 loss to Tennessee. Morris will try to help Kentucky end its slump Saturday when he battles Alabama's talented frontcourt duo of Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix.
Worst matchup: Florida frontcourt vs. Vanderbilt frontcourt: Vanderbilt's home-court advantage gives the Commodores a remote chance of pulling the upset Saturday if they're hot from 3-point range. Vanderbilt's only hope is to shoot extremely well, because the Commodores don't have the frontcourt muscle to match up with Florida's Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer. That trio combined for 40 points and 25 rebounds Jan. 31 in a 74-64 victory over Vanderbilt.
The pressure is on: Georgia guard Billy Humphrey: This 6-foot-2 sophomore has moved into the starting lineup now that Mike Mercer is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Humphrey compiled seven points, two assists, four turnovers and three steals Wednesday in a closer-than-expected 75-66 victory over Kennesaw State. The Bulldogs will need consistent production from Humphrey as they continue their quest for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Upset alert: Tennessee at South Carolina: Tennessee is on a bit of a roll right now with three consecutive victories, but the Volunteers still haven't proved they can win away from home. Tennessee has lost all six of its SEC road games. South Carolina point guard Tre Kelley has averaged 26 points and 5.3 assists in his last three games. If Kelley has another big game Saturday, don't be surprised if the Vols return home unhappy once again.
Who's hot: Mississippi State forward Charles Rhodes has averaged 22 points and 6.5 rebounds during the Bulldogs' two-game winning streak. Florida guard Taurean Green scored 20 second-half points Wednesday as the Gators rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Alabama 76-67. Alabama forward Richard Hendrix has averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in his last six games. Hendrix is shooting 67.6 percent (48-of-71) during that stretch. Vanderbilt swingman Derrick Byars has averaged 20.4 points and has shot 52.1 percent (74 of 142) in his last 10 games. Byars shot 11 of 15 and scored a career-high 32 points Wednesday in a 78-68 victory over South Carolina. Louisiana State forward/center Glen Davis has averaged 22.5 points and 14.5 rebounds in his last two games. Ole Miss guard Clarence Sanders has averaged 22 points in his last four games. Sanders made a game-winning jumper Wednesday with less than one second remaining in a 71-70 victory over LSU. Ole Miss guard Todd Abernethy has 26 assists and two turnovers in his last three games.
Who's not: South Carolina guard Brandis Raley-Ross has shot 1-for-18 in his last two games. Ole Miss guard Bam Doyne has shot 33.3 percent (8-for-24) in his last two games. Florida guard Lee Humphrey has shot 25 percent (3-for-12) from 3-point range in his last two games. Humphrey had shot 68.8 percent (33 of 48) from beyond the arc in the nine previous games.
Must-see TV: Kentucky at Alabama (Saturday, 3 p.m., Lincoln Financial): This game could mean plenty to Alabama's postseason aspirations. The Tide had an RPI rating of 32 as of Thursday, which would seem to bode well for their NCAA hopes. But they would feel a whole lot more comfortable if they posted a winning conference record. Alabama can even its SEC mark at 6-6 by beating Kentucky, which has just about locked up an NCAA bid despite losing its last two games.
Freshman to watch: Tennessee forward Wayne Chism: The 6-foot-9 Chism has helped give the Vols more of an inside presence as the season has progressed. Chism picked up his third career double-double Saturday by collecting 17 points and 12 rebounds in an 84-57 thrashing of Vanderbilt. He followed that up by shooting 7-for-11 from the field and scoring 16 points in an 89-85 victory over Kentucky.
Bench bonus: Ole Miss guard Clarence Sanders continues to establish himself as one of the nation's top substitutes. Sanders scored 29 points and made the game-winning shot Wednesday in a 71-70 victory over LSU. Sanders leads the Rebels with 16.4 points per game and ranks third on the team in minutes per game. Florida forward/center Chris Richard came off the bench and compiled 11 points and five rebounds Saturday when Joakim Noah and Al Horford got in foul trouble during a 64-61 victory at Kentucky. Richard has shot 9-for-11 from the floor in his last five games.
Key stat: Florida can set a school record by winning its 18th consecutive game Saturday at Vanderbilt. The Gators are currently on their third 17-game winning streak over the last 15 months. Florida won its first 17 games in the 2005-06 season. The Gators also won their last six games in 2005-06 before starting this season with 11 wins in a row.
They said it: "We outplayed them the whole way except for the last six seconds of the game. Our team deserved to win the game. We didn't do it. That's where we are right now." - Louisiana State coach John Brady after a late turnover Wednesday allowed Ole Miss to score the winning basket with less than one second remaining in the Rebels' 71-70 victory over the Tigers.
Injury update: Georgia guard Mike Mercer is out for the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament and spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Saturday during a 73-54 victory over South Carolina. Mercer ranks second on the team in scoring (13.6) and assists (3.3).
Worth noting: Florida's rally from an 18-point deficit Wednesday in a 76-67 victory over Alabama marked the largest comeback by a Billy Donovan-coached team. Florida leads the nation in field-goal percentage (.537). South Carolina had won eight of its last 10 games at Vanderbilt's Memorial Gym before falling 78-68 to the Commodores on Wednesday. Arkansas guard and Mississippi State transfer Gary Ervin had an unhappy return to his old campus Wednesday. Ervin shot 0-for-4 and failed to score a point in the Razorbacks' 84-60 loss to Mississippi State. The most recent SEC player of the week was Florida forward Corey Brewer. The 6-9 junior averaged 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals in road victories over Georgia and Kentucky. The most recent SEC freshman of the week was Tennessee forward Wayne Chism. The 6-9 Chism helped limit Louisiana State forward/center Glen "Big Baby" Davis to five points in a win over the Tigers before collecting 17 points and 12 rebounds in a victory over Vanderbilt.
What you may have missed: Mississippi State leads the SEC with 6.8 blocks per game and entered the week ranked sixth in the nation in that category. The Bulldogs have blocked 163 shots, which already represents the second highest single-season total in school history. Mississippi State's 1995-96 Final Four team blocked 175 shots in 34 games.
RPI watch: The SEC had the best overall RPI conference ranking and was the only league to have three representatives in the top 12 of the RPI rankings as of Thursday. The highest-rated SEC teams are No. 7 Florida, No. 8 Kentucky and No. 12 Tennessee.
Those three teams are followed by No. 32 Alabama, No. 44 Vanderbilt, No. 47 Arkansas, No. 51 Georgia, No. 53 Ole Miss, No. 69 Mississippi State, No. 82 Louisiana State, No. 101 South Carolina and No. 108 Auburn.