February 26, 2024

Biggest Winners and Losers from Men’s College Basketball with 1 Month to Go | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

South Carolina's Lamont Paris

South Carolina’s Lamont ParisBryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Biggest Winner: Lamont Paris, South Carolina

And with good reason. They went 11-21 last season and lost three of their four leading scorers, seemingly trying to plug a sinking ship via transfer portal acquisitions from Wofford (B.J. Mack), Minnesota (Ta’Lon Cooper) and Vanderbilt (Myles Stute).

But it worked, and these nice guys aren’t finishing last.

After recent wins over Kentucky and Tennessee, South Carolina is threatening to win the whole SEC and is darn near a lock to make the NCAA tournament for what would be just the second time since 2004.

The other time? They made it to the 2017 Final Four.

Biggest Loser: Kentucky’s Defense

Sure, Arkansas is actually the SEC’s biggest loser, going from preseason AP No. 14 to a hot mess that might post an overall losing record.

However, Kentucky’s defense is the much more prominent loser.

On offense, this might be the most potent team John Calipari has had at Kentucky. At any rate, KenPom shows that the Wildcats have not had a lower turnover percentage, a higher three-point percentage or a higher assist rate under Coach Cal.

But they are squandering what could be a magical season with what has been by far their worst defense in KenPom history.

What’s bizarre about that is Reed Sheppard is a phenomenal individual defender, averaging 3.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per 40 minutes. And Ugonna Onyenso has emerged as an elite shot blocker. But they’re getting little out of Antonio Reeves, D.J. Wagner and Justin Edwards on that end of the floor, resulting in nearly 80 points allowed per game.

Because the offense is so good, Kentucky rarely gets blown out. But the Wildcats have already lost three games this season (all in the past month) in which they scored at least 91 points, which is highly unusual.

After hiring Calipari in 2009, Kentucky won 119 of the first 120 games in which it scored at least 86 points. The lone exception was a 97-92 loss to the Lonzo Ball-led UCLA Bruins, which was an outrageously efficient offensive team.

Over the past four weeks, though, Kentucky has three wins and three losses when scoring at least 86 points.