SEC Basketball Mailbag: Bubble talk, Coaching carousel and more

In SEC Basketball by Blake Lovell

Another week, another impressive list of questions in the SEC basketball mailbag.

Let’s get right to it.

When the winning team of a game has eight points with four minutes left in the first half, it’s usually not a good sign.

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and erase all SEC games this season that included 50+ fouls and 70+ free throws.

Then again, if we did that, we’d only have a two or three games left in the 2016-17 SEC regular season history books.

There’s no doubt about it.

Before John Egbunu’s season-ending injury and South Carolina’s two-game home slide, the results of the SEC tournament seemed clear: we’d get some type of combo from the Kentucky/Florida/South Carolina trio in the championship game.

But now? Things aren’t so predictable.

The Gators and Gamecocks should still be the biggest threats to Kentucky, but the challengers are vulnerable. That means a plethora of teams could pull off upsets in the quarterfinals and make this tournament interesting.

Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and even Ole Miss all have the tools to make a deep SEC tournament run. You can throw Vanderbilt and Auburn in there also if they’re both shooting the three well.

This year’s tournament will be fascinating to watch.

Good follow-up to the previous question.

I won’t pick a team that’s currently in the top four, so that excludes Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama (with the latter two tied for fourth).

The team that I’m going to choose wouldn’t have been a darkhorse at the start of the season, but most are overlooking them at this point.

And that team is Georgia.

Despite losing five straight SEC games before scoring that big victory in Knoxville over Tennessee, the Bulldogs are well-equipped to do damage in the tournament. The reasoning for that is pretty simple: JJ Frazier and Yante Maten.

Frazier (16.6 PPG) and Maten (19.4 PPG) are both currently in the top six in the SEC in scoring, and are one of the most underrated duos in the entire country. We’ve seen these two take over games time after time, and Frazier’s second half performance in the win over the Vols was the latest example of that.

I wouldn’t underestimate what those two are capable of in an unpredictable tournament setting.

This question is in response to NC State firing former Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried.

I don’t see any way that he lands at LSU (if/when Johnny Jones is out) or Missouri (if/when Kim Anderson is out). And I can’t see Mark Fox being out at Georgia at this stage.

Gottfried’s recent personal issues were well-documented prior to the start of this season, so it would seem likely that he’d take a year off or join ESPN as an analyst.

As for potential candidates at LSU and Missouri, there are many factors that will come into play if/when these searches actually happen. Who will these teams be competing against? Who will listen and who won’t? How much are you willing to spend?

However, if I were the athletic director of each school and had to make a list of coaches I realistically felt like I had a shot at, this is what it would look like:

LSU

  • Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington)
  • Cuonzo Martin (California)
  • Eric Musselman (Nevada)

Missouri

  • Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington)
  • King Rice (Monmouth)
  • Matt McCall (Chattanooga)

I also wouldn’t underestimate the number of power conference coaches that’ll listen to both schools. But right now, there’s too many unknowns to craft any true predictions about who could land in either spot.

Thornwell is still the leader in my eyes. If the Gamecocks continue to tumble down the stretch, that may jump Monk back to the top.

It’s a tight race any way you look at it, but I love Thornwell’s ability to impact a game on both ends of the floor. He’s top five in the SEC in scoring and rebounding, so it’s hard to go wrong with him as the choice.

On the Arkansas front, the Razorbacks just can’t afford any more bad losses. Losing to a team like Texas A&M (and even Auburn) would hurt from an RPI standpoint, but the good news for Mike Anderson is that Arkansas is back in the Top 40 after the win at South Carolina.

The Hogs need to beat who they should beat and not lose another Missouri-like game along the way.

The three locks: Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina (barring a massive collapse).

The ones with work to do: Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.

It’s all about winning at this point. I like the remaining schedules for Tennessee and Alabama better than the other two, but there’s little room for error once you hit mid-February. Again, Arkansas is in the best position to grab that fourth spot based on the high RPI and number of wins.

Because of the inconsistencies we’ve seen all season, four is the best bet.

Blake Lovell has worked in sports media for over 10 years. His work has been featured on The New York Times, Rivals, Time Warner Cable, Scout.com, FanRag Sports, FanSided and many more. He currently covers SEC football and basketball for various publications.