SEC Basketball's First Week Not Kind to Most Teams
While Arkansas exploded in its first game, it got brought down to reality by 20th-ranked Louisville. Several other SEC teams have lost already as well.
One of those teams is 18th-ranked Mississippi State.
The biggest surprise for the conference, however, was a positive one. Rotnei Clarke blew past SEC and Arkansas records on his way to a 13-of-17 performance from downtown to post 51 points against Alcorn State.
Here are Week One's awards.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Rotnei Clarke (33.5 ppg, 2.0 stl, 66.7% 3PT)
COACH OF THE WEEK: Trent Johnson (3-0 with win over Western Kentucky)
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK: Marshawn Powell (16.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.5 blk)
A breakdown of each team's performance thus far follows.
The Tide joined the ranks of those who lost their home opener. Cornell, picked to win the Ivy League, came in and stunned Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
A youth-dominated team can be both a positive and negative thing. Short-term, it's going to make the losses add up. Long-term, the team will have some depth and experienced talent.
Such is the case for Alabama. JaMychal Green led the way against Cornell, notching the game's only double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
In the Tide's second game, freshman Tony Mitchell came off the bench and put up 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting in just 24 minutes.
Poor defense and rebounding is the theme early on. 'Bama's opponents are shooting a collective 45.0 percent from the floor and outrebounding the Tide by 2.5 rebounds per game.
That must improve if Anthony Grant's team wants to turn this ship around.
ALABAMA GRADE: D
Jaws across the nation dropped when Arkansas' box score against Alcorn State was released.
Arkansas won 130-68—but that wasn't even the impressive part.
Rotnei Clarke shattered the SEC record on his way to shooting 13-of-17 from long range and scoring 51 points.
The 'Backs knocked down 53.3 percent of their threes and won by over 60 points. Some thought they might be able to give Louisville a run for their money.
They did, for a while.
Unfortunately for John Pelphrey, the Cardinals fired at will in the second half and cruised to a 96-66 victory.
Clarke also came back to earth but still led his team in scoring with 16 points, this time on 3-of-7 shooting from three.
Even in its blowout of Alcorn State, Arkansas barely outrebounded its opponent and was outrebounded by 13 against Louisville. Rebounding seems to be the weak area that needs the most attentions for the Hogs.
ARKANSAS GRADE: B-
The Tigers have had a tough early-season schedule and came out with a decent home win over visiting Niagara in their first game.
A trip to Missouri State produced a somewhat predictable 73-62 loss, but one that won't scar the RPI too badly.
DeWayne Reed is the team's most reliable scorer early on, as he led all scorers against Niagara with 24, despite an 8-of-20 shooting performance. Ball hog anyone? He followed that performance with a respectable 12 points in the Missouri State loss.
Auburn, always a small team, is battling rebounding issues early on. The team outrebounded Niagara by one and was outrebounded by six against Missouri State.
While the team won't suddenly grow a few inches anytime soon, spacing and foot placement can make all the difference on the glass.
AUBURN GRADE: B-
Florida's first game against Stetson went about as well as Billy Donovan could have hoped for.
Scoring was balanced, defense was aggressive, rebounding was impressive.
There were some warning signs, though.
Florida managed to hit just 1-of-13 treys for 7.7 percent. On top of that, Nick Calathes' departure left its mark, as the Gators dished out just 11 assists to 18 turnovers.
Only time will tell if the team's shooting and ball-handling will improve.
Alex Tyus recorded his first double-double of the season in the team's first game, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 13 rebounds.
FLORIDA GRADE: A-
As was expected, the Bulldogs are looking fairly awful early on.
Mark Fox's new squad managed to just squeak by New Orleans at home by a 67-59 score before falling to Wofford 60-57.
Trey Thompkins is leading the Bulldogs in nearly every respect. He's averaging 19.5 points and 14 points per game with double-doubles in each contest.
Offensive inconsistency is burdening this team, with excessive three-point misses the most obvious case. So far, Georgia has shot 30 three-pointers and made just six of those.
GEORGIA GRADE: D
No. 4 Kentucky (2-0)
After a less than outstanding start to the season with a 75-59 home victory against Morehead State, the Wildcats escaped certain ridicule on a step-back jumper from freshman John Wall with 0.5 seconds remaining to defeat Miami (OH) 72-70 in Lexington.
Eric Bledsoe, another big UK freshman, came out firing in Kentucky's first game, notching 24 points and seven rebounds—though he turned the ball over as many times as he hit the boards.
Wall scored 19 in his debut in the Blue's second game, while Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins both pulled down double-doubles.
Rebounding and scoring don't seem to be a problem for the 'Cats. Defense, however, does. Their opponents are shooting a combined 42.5 percent from the floor and 38.0 percent from behind the arc.
To keep out of trouble, John Calipari needs to put a little defense with his offense.
KENTUCKY GRADE: B
Storm Warren and Bo Spencer have coupled to become the most surprising duo in the league thus far.
Spencer, who averaged 3.4 points per game last season, has put up 61 points in the team's first three games on 20-of-51 shooting.
Warren has similarly come from nowhere to put up three double-doubles in three games.
The team isn't playing just nobodies either. Western Kentucky is a solid squad this year and gave the Tigers everything they could handle up until the end.
So far, LSU seems to have few weaknesses all around and may very well surprise some teams in the Western Division this season.
LSU GRADE: A+
Mississippi State (0-1)
The Bulldogs were the conference's first big disappointment, coming into the season ranked 18th only to lose to Rider 88-74. While Rider is likely one of the favorites in the MAAC, this was a tough loss for MSU.
Hard to keep the effort up when players are dropping like flies. MSU is down to eight scholarship players after injuries have swept through the once deep lineup.
Against Rider, the Bulldogs simply couldn't keep the Broncs from draining threes. Rider brought down 62.5 percent of those treys and 50.8 percent of their shots from the arc.
All-American Jarvis Varnado did everything he could. He's the only starter in the SEC not to have missed a shot (8-of-8) and scored 22 points, claimed 14 rebounds, and blocked seven shots in the loss.
If poor defense becomes a trend for State, the Bulldogs could be in for a disappointing season.
MSU GRADE: F
Ole Miss (2-0)
The Rebels have been balanced both offensively and defensively early on and quietly winning by big margins.
Murphy Holloway is looking to be a big part of the puzzle for the Rebels underneath, as he recorded the team's first double-double of the season against UALR with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Rebounding, as it was last season, will be a weakness for this squad. If Eniel Polynice and Holloway can continue to claim their share, this team could be competitive.
OLE MISS GRADE: A
South Carolina (2-0)
Call the Gamecocks the Rebels of the Eastern Division: quietly winning by large margins and getting the job done.
USC trumped Alabama A&M 88-50 and Georgia Southern 90-66. Nice wins, but lowly competition.
Devan Downey has been scoring well, especially in his first outing, where he put up 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting, though he turned the ball over four times.
Turnovers seem to be an issue for Darrin Horn's squad early on, as the team is averaging 20.5 per game—a sign that Downey needs to focus more on his team and less on scoring.
SOUTH CAROLINA GRADE: A
No. 10 Tennessee (2-0)
Watch out nation: Scotty Hopson has arrived.
After a disappointing freshman season, he's exploded onto the SEC scene early on. He's shooting 10-of-13 from behind the arc and averaging 20.5 points per game. Legit numbers.
As a team, the Vols are excelling. They broke a school scoring record in their second game, against UNC-Asheville, where they stomped their way to a 124-49 win. That's right, a 75-point margin.
They shot nearly 60 percent in that game and handed out 34 assists.
Anyone doubting that Tennessee will compete for the SEC title yet?
TENNESSEE GRADE: A+
Vanderbilt played absolutely no defense in their 95-73 victory over Lipscomb, and I suppose they didn't have to.
Their scoring was dominated by Jeffery Taylor, who led the game with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and Jermaine Beal, who scored 17. Taylor also grabbed seven rebounds.
Perhaps to avoid injury, A.J. Ogilvy was held to just 19 minutes but still recorded 13 points and nine rebounds in that time.
If Ogilvy's numbers increase against real opponents and the team's defensive effort improves, Vanderbilt could be a dangerous team.
VANDERBILT GRADE: A-