Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on November 24th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

CURRENT SEC STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky   4-0
  2. Florida   3-0
  3. Tennessee   4-1
  4. South Carolina   3-1
  5. Vanderbilt   2-1
  6. Georgia   1-2

WEST

  1. LSU   3-0
  2. Mississippi   4-1
  3. Mississippi State   2-1
  4. Arkansas   2-1
  5. Alabama   2-1
  6. Auburn   2-3

Coming into this season, there were two main storylines to watch for the conference as a whole.  The first was if the SEC, after a down year and having only three NCAA teams last year, could rebound and regain its status as an elite conference.   The second one was if the influx of new talent in the SEC, both in the coaching and playing ranks, would help to raise the prestige level of the SEC.

The jury is out as to whether the SEC is going to be an elite conference this year.  So far, the SEC has an unimpressive 32-12 record so far.  There have been embarrassing losses, the key one being #19 Mississippi State losing to Rider by 14 points.  Add to this the fact that the SEC have not knocked off a “name team,” yet.  Just last night, #9 Tennessee lost to #6 Purdue and #24 Vanderbilt lost to Cincinnati.  The East division is clearly the class of the league with a 17-5 record and all three of the SEC’s ranked teams residing in that division.  So far, only Kentucky, Florida, and LSU have escaped the first two weeks of the season unscathed.

The SEC saw a great influx of new talent this season with eight top-50 recruits and three new coaches calling the SEC home.  Even with all the expectations in Kentucky, John Calipari has the Wildcats at 4-0 for the first time since 2005 and the #1 recruiting class has been a smash hit so far.  John Wall is a bonafide superstar, while DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, and Eric Bledsoe have show brilliance at times and have become Rupp Arena favorites.  Of their freshmen, only John Hood is struggling for playing time for the Wildcats.   Both of the Florida Gators’ talented newcomers have been as good as advertised. Kenny Boynton oozes star power while Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin has been solid.  John Jenkins is averaging around 8 PPG off the bench for Vanderbilt and is slowly discovering his 3-point stroke.  Reginald Buckner is averaging about 4 points and 6 rebounds a game coming off the bench for the Ole Miss Rebels.  The ninth big name in the SEC, Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney is still battling eligibility issues and has not seen the court for the Bulldogs.

While Calipari is the dean of the new SEC coaches, there are two new faces to look at in the coaching ranks.  Anthony Grant has his Crimson Tide playing pretty well after an embarassing season-opening loss to Cornell.  The Tide are a scrappy team, however, and they won their next two games.  Mark Fox has a slightly bigger challenge at Georgia, which has had a rough start to the season with an embaressing loss to Wofford and a blowout loss to CUSA member UAB.  Fox has the Bulldogs fighting hard, but as of now, their talent level is at the bottom of the SEC. .

GAMES TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS WEEK

It’s a varied slate this week as most teams are still feasting on cupcakes both before and after the Holidays but there are a few SEC teams taking on some interesting opponents and a couple of Holiday Tournaments where the SEC can garner some hardware.  Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting matchups this week:

  • Florida vs Florida State, 11/24, 7 PM ESPN 360
  • LSU vs #13 Connecticut, 11/25, 7 PM, ESPN2 – Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Classic in NYC
  • Alabama vs Baylor, 11/26, 6:30 PM, ESPN – Old Spice Classic in Orlando
  • Florida vs #2 Michigan State, 11/27, 8 PM

In addition, Kentucky is playing in the Cancun Challenge with games against Cleveland State on 11/24 and Stanford or Virginia on 11/25.  Vanderbilt will be looking to advance through the losers brackert in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.  Alabama will be at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.  On Friday, 11/27, Mississippi State tips off against Rider in the South Padre Island Invitational.

TEAM BREAKDOWNS (National rankings are AP and ESPN/USA TODAY)

EAST

  • Kentucky (#5, #5) - The John Calipari era got underway minus John Wall with a 75-69 victory over 2009 NCAA Tournament Team Morehead State.  The win was a nice mixture of the old (Patrick Patterson – 20 points) and the new (Eric Bledsoe – 24 points) as Calipari’s blended his 7 returning players with the 6 new faces in a new offense.  John Wall made his Wildcat debut a memorable one as he had 19 points and sank a last second jumper to give UK a 72-70 win over the hot-shooting Miami RedHawks who blistered the nets for 15 treys.   Both Patrick Patterson and freshman DeMarcus Cousins had double doubles for the Wildcats.  Kentucky had a second straight opponent come into Rupp Arena and sear the nets from beyond the 3 point arc, but in the end, the Wildcats overcame the 18 3-pointers by Sam Houston State, 102-92.  UK had three players with 20 points or more (DeMarcus Cousins – 27, John Wall – 21, Patrick Patterson – 20) and the Cats got zero points from their bench in this unique game.  The Wildcats got a more complete game in their 92-63 win over Rider.  Patrick Patterson had 19 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Wildcats to their first 4-0 start since 2004.
  • Florida - Alex Tyus recorded a double double with 12 points and 13 rebounds as the Gators drilled the Stetson Hatters 74-46 in their season opener.  Chandler Parsons led the Gators with 14 points from the bench and highly touted freshman Kenny Boynton had 12 points in his Gator debut.  The Gators led unheralded Georgia Southern by just one point at half, but pulled away in the second half for a 69-49 win over the Golden Eagles.  Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 22 points and transfer Vernon Macklin added 15.  Florida showed the talent they have as they were able to win by 20 on a night in which PG Erving Walker was 0-10 from the field.  The Gators moved to 3-0 by popping 12 treys and rode 23 points from Kenny Boynton to a 80-58 win over Troy.  Chandler Parsons continued his string of solid play off the bench with 15 points.
  • Tennessee (#9, #11) – Bruce Pearl has a squad that can go 10 deep and blitz you defensively. Those skills were evident in the Volunteers’ 83-54 season-opening win over Austin Peay.  Sophomore Scotty Hopson scored 16 points and Cameron Tatum added three 3 pointers off the bench and 15 points to lead four Vols in double digits.   Bruce Pearl got his 100th win in a history-making 124-49 win over UNC Asheville.   The 124 points set a Vols record; they set another record with 34 assists and tied one with 16 3 pointers.  Hopson led 6 Vols in double digits with 25 points.  Tennessee continued their trend of demolishing opponents in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.  The latest victim was East Carolina to the tune of 105-66.  Hopson continued his great start with 25 points and the Vols threw up 62 points in the second half.  It took four games but the Vols were finally tested by heavy underdog DePaul.  The Blue Demons held Hopson to 4 points but just fell short of the upset, losing 57-53.  Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism led UT with 14 and 13 points, respectively.  Tennessee finally met their match in the Paradise Jam in the form of the the Purdue Boilermakers.  It was an outstanding game throughout with the Vols losing a 73-72 heartbreaker.  Wayne Chism led the way with 24 points and Hobson was again kept in check, scoring just 9.
  • South Carolina – South Carolina scored the first 14 points of it’s season opener to cruise over Alabama State 88-50. Devan Downey made his first 5 shots and finished 7-9 for 23 points.  Sam Muldrow had 13 points and 7 boards to help pace the Gamecocks.  Dominique Archie, another one of the Gamecocks to flirt with the NBA, had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead his team to a 90-66 win over Georgia Southern.  This was a complete team effort as the Gamecocks had five players in double digits and recorded 12 blocks.  The Gamecocks struggled a bit in their third game against LaSalle but remained perfect with a 78-68 win over the Explorers.  Archie again led South Carolina in scoring and he was followed by Mike Holmes with 15 points.  The Gamecocks had another tight game in the semifinals of the Charleston Classic, but advanced with a 69-66 win over the South Florida Bulls.  Downey and Archie led the assault again with 17 and 15 points. The Gamecocks tasted defeat for the first time in the final, falling to the 5-0 Miami Hurricanes 85-70.  South Carolina had a bad night from the field, shooting just 34%.  Downey led the way with 20 points on 8-23 shooting.  The Gamecocks received some bad news yesterday when it was announced that Dominique Archie would be out of the lineup indefinitely due to a sprained right knee suffered in the Miami game.  As of now, there is no timetable for Archie’s return or the severity of the injury.
  • Vanderbilt (#24, #24)Jeffrey Taylor scored 20 points and 7 rebounds as Vanderbilt broke open a seven point game at halftime with a strong second half to beat Lipscomb 95-73.  Jermaine Beal added 17 points as Vandy shot 58.9% from the field.  The Commodores traveled across the country to California for their second game of the season at St Mary’s.  In the end, Vandy handed St Mary’s just their 3rd home court loss in the last three seasons, 72-70.  Taylor and Beal led the Commodores with 19 and 16 points.  Vanderbilt continued their travels west with a trip to Honolulu to participate in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.  They ran into a hot Cincinnati Bearcats team and finished on the short end of a 67-58 score.  The travel had to affect the Commodores’ shooting as they shot a miserable 27.5% from the field; they were led by Jermaine Beal’s 16 points.
  • Georgia – The Bulldogs opened the Mark Fox era with a win over 67-59 win over New Orleans.  Ricky McPhee had a huge 3 pointer to give the Bulldogs a 58-53 lead with 2:19 left to help the Bulldogs pull away while Trey Thompkins will be counted on to build upon his season-opening performance of 25 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks.  It looks like it may be a long season for Fox and the Bulldogs, though, as they lost at home to Wofford 60-57.  Thompkins had 14 points and 16 boards to lead the Bulldogs and it should be noted that the same Wofford Terriers lost by just three points to Pitt a few days earlier.  Georgia then fell to 1-2 with a 72-56 loss at UAB.  Dustin Ware and Travis Leslie tried to keep Georgia in the game with 17 and 10 points, respectively, but the remaining three Bulldog starters scored just 10 points total.

WEST

  • LSU – Despite losing a lot of talent last season, the Tigers displayed their trademark defensive intensity in their 82-62 season-opening win over Louisiana-Monroe.  The Warhawks did not score on their first 14 possessions.  For LSU, Bo Spencer showed no ill effects from offseason wrist surgery and scored 23 points while Storm Warren had a double-double in his first start with 15 points and 12 boards.  Warren continued his strong play with another double-double in LSU’s 56-45 win over Indiana State in the NIT Season Tipoff.  Spencer and Dennis Harris also tallied double digits as the Tigers struggled from beyond the 3-point line, going 0-15.  The Tigers fought off a tough WKU Hilltoppers squad in the second round of the Preseason NIT, 71-60.  Warren racked up his third double double in as many games and Spencer continued his strong start with 28 points.
  • Mississippi – The Rebels built a 27-8 lead after just 8:00 of their season opener against Arkansas-Little Rock and were never challenged the rest of the way, cruising 92-64.  DeAundre Cranston had 21 points on 8-9 shooting and 7 boards to lead Ole Miss while Murphy Holloway and Terrico White chipped in 17 and 16 points. The Rebels got another team effort with 17 steals and 10 blocks as they dominated Alabama State 90-53.  Terrico White and Eniel Polynice led the balanced attack with 19 and 17 points.  Ole Miss took the long trip to San Juan to play in the Puerto Rico tip off and dismantled the Indiana Hoosiers 89-71.  Holloway had a big night with 26 points and the Rebels swatted 12 shots.  The Rebels advanced to the finals of the Tipoff with a 86-74 win over Kansas State.  Chris Warren and Terrico White both had huge games with 27 and 25 points.  The #6 Villanova Wildcats harassed the Rebels into a 38% shooting performance and broke open a close game at halftime to win 79-67 in the finals of the Puerto Rico Tipoff. Chris Warren led the Rebels in scoring with 24 points as Ole Miss suffered their first loss.
  • Mississippi State – Friday the 13th was definitely unlucky in Starkville as the team some people expected to win the SEC stumbled at home against Rider, 88-74.  The loss dimmed the performance of Jarvis Varnado who had 22 points on 8-8 shooting, 14 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots.  The Bulldogs got into the win column with a 82-67 win over SE Louisiana.  Jarvis Varnado was again a triple threat, with 20 points, 9 boards, and 8 blocks.  This game was a big night for the starters as all five notched double digits in scoring.  Despite their uneven start, the Bulldogs have balanced scoring.  This was evident in their 67-51 win over tiny Bethune Cookman.  Four Mississippi State starters had exactly 10 points, and Phil Turner finished with 9 to top off the odd statistical night.  Jarvis Varnado added 10 rebounds.
  • Arkansas – Sophomore Rotnei Clarke had arguably the performance of the season in the Razorbacks 130-68 trouncing of Alcorn State.  Clarke set an SEC record with thirteen 3-pointers (in 17 attempts) and left the game with 5:00 remaining and 51 points tallied.  Jemal Farmer and Marshawn Powell added double doubles in the Arkansas rout. The Razorbacks found their lack of depth to be a major problem against #22 Louisville as Rick Pitino met his former Wildcat John Pelphery in the coaching matchup.  Clarke led Arkansas in scoring with 16 and shot 3-7 from FG range, making him 16-24 on the season from beyond the arc.  Arkansas needed overtime to dispatch of Appalachian State, but the Razorbacks improved to 2-1 with the 81-72 win.  Marshawn Powell led Arkansas with 29 points and 4 of the 5 starters scored in double digits as Rotnei Clarke added 16.
  • Alabama – The Anthony Grant era got off to a bumpy start as the Tide were bounced by the Big Red of Cornell, 71-67.  Granted, Cornell was an NCAA school last year and are expected to win the Ivy League this year.  JaMychal Green had a double-double with 17 points and 10 boards while Mikhail Torrance added 16 points.  Anthony Grant did not have to wait that long for his first ‘Bama win as the Tide rolled over Jackson State, 86-69.  Freshman Tony Mitchell scored 23 points and the Tide went on a 21-8 blitz to start the second half to put the win away.  The Tide continued their strong play by handing previously unbeaten Providence their first loss 84-75.  Torrance had a big night with 26 points but both JaMychal Green and Justin Knox contributed double-doubles.
  • Auburn – The Tigers needed a DeWayne Reed layup with 12 seconds left to hold off last season’s NIT Tourney participant Niagara Purple Eagles 69-65.  Reed led Auburn with 24 points.  Frankie Sullivan added 10, but Auburn was challenged with poor shooting all night and finished with just 35% from the field.  Lucas Hargrove provided most of his team’s offense with 24 points as the Tigers’ struggles continued in a 73-62 loss to Missouri State.   The Tigers were outrebounded 35-29 and had 25 turnovers to compound their problems.  It could be a long season for the Tigers as they lost to the Central Florida Golden Knights 84-74 in the Glenn Wilkes Classic at Daytona Beach.  UCF was previously 0-27 against SEC teams.  Frankie Sullivan scored 22 points in the loss to lead the Tigers.  Auburn bounced back in their next game of the Glenn Wilkes Classic and dismantled the IUPUI Jaguars 80-65.  DeWayne Reed and Frankie Sullivan helped Auburn even their record at 2-2 with 24 and 20 points.  Auburn gave the 4-0 North Carolina State Wolfpack all they wanted but fell short, 60-58, thanks to a NC State basket with 1.3 seconds left. Frankie Sullivan led the Tigers with 21 points.
jstevrtc (547 Posts)


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One Response to “Checking In On… the SEC”

  1. Chris says:

    The Archie injury at South Carolina concerns me. As a Gamecock fan, I see him as the key piece of this year’s team. He’s tough to defend because of his size, his shooting touch and his quickness. Our post players, though more athletic than in past years, aren’t that dynamic, and someone like John Wall will be able to neutralize Downey. I’m hopeful that he’s back soon. If not, I could see us at 9-5 heading into the SEC schedule and that won’t get us an NCAA bid.

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