Player of the Week
Ravern Johnson, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs closed the conference season in style earning a #2 seed in the West and a first round bye in the SEC Tournament (will face the winner of Vanderbilt/LSU in round two). The hot shooting stroke of Ravern Johnson carried them to the finish line. Johnson posted 23 points per game in victories at Arkansas and vs. South Carolina, connecting on 16/32 field goals and an incredible 12/22 three-pointers. The stringy 6'7 SG also contributed on the glass snagging 5.5 boards per. Since returning from his "twitter suspension" in early February, Johnson has re-found his early season form. He's hit 26 of 44 three's in his last six games, and at least three in every contest. While his stock has taken a hit on the big board (currently at 47) there is no doubt he fills a role at the next level with his size and specialized skill. It should be noted that his teammates Kodi Augustus (19 points on 63% shooting and 8 rebounds) and Renardo Sidney (13.5 points and 9.5 boards) also stepped up with clutch efforts in the final two games.
Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt
Ezeli's high-powered performance couldn't prevent the Commodores from ending the season on a two-game slide. He played his best game of the season in a thrilling defeat at Kentucky, scoring 22 points on 8 of 13 shooting (6 of 9 FT), hauling in 13 rebounds (5 offensive) and blocking 3 shots (season high 36 minutes of floor time). In a disappointing home defeat vs. Florida on senior night he continued to show off his improved accuracy from the free throw line. Ezeli connected on 8/9 from the charity stripe and 4/5 from the field on route to a 16-point effort. However, his 4 rebounds were not up to standard as Vanderbilt was beaten up on the boards 30-21. The 3,4 and 5 rebound efforts on his game log are far too frequent for a 6'11 beast with his agility. Aggression and positioning must improve as a senior. If past history is any indicator, those weaknesses will transform into strengths for the hard working, quick learning center.
Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas- 25 points, 9/16 3PT, 9/11 FT and 4 assists.
Kenny Gabriel, Auburn- 20 points, 12/24 FG, 13/16 FT and 9 rebounds.
Andre Stringer and Malcolm White, LSU
Stringer, the Tigers second leading scorer at 11 per game, scored just 7 total points in losses at Georgia and vs. Auburn. He hit 2 of 11 field goals, 1 of 9 three's and posted a 2:5 assist:turnover ratio. The freshman point guard finished the regular season shooting 34% from the floor and 29% from distance. He failed to score more than 10 points in any of his team's final eight games.
His teammate Malcolm White wrote an apropos conclusion to a disappointing campaign. The 6'9 forward attempted only 8 shots in LSU's last four games, scoring a composite 11 points. A talented shot blocker, he swatted only a single shot during that same stretch. Big things were expected from the Ole Miss transfer and he rarely delivered. He's a "man" against Tennessee Martin and Southern University, but passive against real competition.
Top 5: Potential Player Matchups in Atlanta
1. Trey Thompkins, Georgia versus JaMychal Green, Alabama - Quarterfinals
The league's top power forwards could battle it out twice in a six-day window. Green and the Tide were victorious in Tuscaloosa, but Thompkins and the Bulldogs will have the crowd in the rematch. Both played effective games in the first bout, however, it's time for Thompkins to show his lottery-bound "class" and raise his level in the postseason. Georgia needs the win to ease bubble tension.
2. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt versus Renardo Sidney, Miss. St. - Quarterfinals
255 pounds of muscle against 280+ pounds of flab. The truth is, they likely won't be pitted against one another, but it's fun to imagine nonetheless. Both present obvious matchup difficulties for the other: Sidney with his comfort level on the perimeter, and Ezeli with his quickness in the post and off the floor. Both fouled out in the first meeting in 28 total minutes of action.
3. Terrence Jones, Kentucky versus Tony Mitchell 0, Alabama- Semifinals
Two absolute stat sheet stuffers, and two of the most entertaining performers in the conference. Once again, the Tide will likely use Chris Hines on Jones, but Mitchell should get an opportunity. Jones got to the free throw line 10 times in the initial meeting and will likely take his versatile game into the post. Keep in mind, Mitchell is deceptively strong at 6'6 and played a lot of PF last season out of necessity.
4. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee versus Chandler Parsons, Florida - Quarterfinals
The Gators were victorious in both of the regular season meetings, including a 1-point W with a banged up Parsons in Gainesville. Hopson averaged 21 points against Florida, but hasn't gotten sufficient aid from his teammates. Parsons has dominated the backboards and will surely force Hopson to battle on the glass outside his comfort zone.
5. Sam Muldrow, South Carolina versus Reginald Buckner, Mississippi - Round 1
Let's give some love to the opening round clashes on Thursday. Two of the nation's premiere shot blockers will take center stage at the Georgia Dome, with Muldrow 4th in the country at 3.3 per game and Buckner 9th at 3.1. Muldrow drilled 3 three-pointers in the lone regular season meeting and his jumpshot could play a huge role drawing Buckner away from the paint. With their tendency to go after all shots, neither is foreign to foul trouble.
Auburn won back-to-back conference games for the first, and only, time this season. The Tigers overcame a 16-point halftime deficit to knock off Mississippi and triumphed at LSU.
Kentucky saved its best road performance for last, winning a nail-biter at Tennessee and ending the road 0'fer. Confidence winning in a chaotic environment could be monumental in late March.
The win at Tennessee on Sunday, was the Wildcats second road victory in conference play, they defeated South Carolina at their place as well.
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