SEC Morning Five: 11.21.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 21st, 2011

  1. Kentucky was not especially impressive in its 62-52 gutty win over Old Dominion on Sunday. The Wildcats’ subpar performance brought out the critics who said that Kentucky is too young to dictate how it will win in every game, and the Cats aren’t tough enough to handle really physical teams inside. Even coach John Calipari can be counted amongst the critics of the Cats after their sloppy play in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off. For my two cents, the Cats have to take better care of the basketball. Freshman point guard Marquis Teague lost the ball six times contributing to 21 total turnovers for the Wildcats on the day. Sloppy play could be part of the reason that the Cats couldn’t get Terrence Jones more involved in the offense. He was 3-9 on the day, finishing with just six points. Jones has to get more touches near the basket, as he simply wasn’t a key component of Kentucky’s offense on Sunday.
  2. Kentucky fans are known to overreact every once in a while, and many Wildcat fans have been quick to torch Teague for his poor play. UK fans are quick to forget how often freshmen John Wall and Brandon Knight turned the ball over in their first year, especially at the beginning of the season. Knight had eight turnovers in the Maui Invitational last year against Washington, and had as many turnovers in his first four games in 2010-11 (18 TOs) as Teague has through four games this season. Knight averaged over three turnovers per game for the season, while Wall averaged over four. All three players are super-quick and excellent in transition, but playing quickly can lead to sometimes being out of control. Teague will settle into his role running the Wildcat offense, just like Knight and Wall did before him, and just like he did in the second half of Sunday’s matchup with ODU. Teague turned the ball over only once in 19 second half minutes against the Monarchs.
  3. Speaking of harsh critics, nobody is tougher on his guys’ early season struggles than Kevin Stallings is on Vanderbilt’s defensive woes. “We have to play better defensively,” Stallings said. “We’re a pretty good offensive team, but we suck on defense. Until we get better defensively, it doesn’t matter who we put out there. We’ve got to get better defensively. Period.” It’s true, but Vandy is without their best defensive player in center Festus Ezeli. “Festus ain’t here,” Stallings said. “He ain’t gonna be here Monday. He’s not going to be playing Friday or the following Monday. If they’re sitting around and waiting for him to come back, then we got more problems than just our defense.” Vanderbilt hasn’t held an opponent under 47% from the field in its first four games this season. If the Commodores can play consistently better defense, they have the offense to compete with just about any team in the country.
  4. Arkansas received bad news when star forward Marshawn Powell went down in practice with what is being called a “serious” knee injury. “We don’t know if it’s a sprained knee or something worse in there,” coach Mike Anderson said. “He had worked so hard in the offseason to get himself in the best shape he’s ever been in. It’s a tremendous loss.” Powell was limited by a foot injury last year as his averages dropped to 10.8 PPG and 4.5 RPG. In two games this season, he was averaging 19.5 points and six rebounds per game, including a 20-point performance against Oakland last week. Powell will undergo additional tests on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. Regardless, the news is a huge blow to Anderson and the Hogs, as they could use the scoring and leadership that Powell provides for this young team. Arkansas lost to Houston by the score of 87-78 in Powell’s absence.
  5. There is some debate as to how good of a Tennessee Volunteer team will take the court on Monday for a Maui Invitational matchup with Duke. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas says, “I don’t think people can reasonably expect great things this year given all the program has been through in the last year. But they have some capable players and they go as hard as anybody.” Memphis coach Josh Pastner, whose Tigers are also in Maui for the tournament, disagrees. “Everyone thinks Tennessee is going to fall off, I told everyone, ‘hey, they still have really good players,”’ Pastner said on Sunday. “Cuonzo Martin, can obviously flat out coach, there is no denying that, and he is going to get really good players.” Some of this could be typical coachspeak from Pastner, but Martin’s Tennessee squad will take the court on Monday for a first impression for folks outside of Knoxville. The Vols, picked to finish 11th in the SEC, beat UNC Greensboro and Louisiana-Monroe easily, but Duke will present a far more difficult challenge. The Maui Invitational has an extremely strong field this year, which could be advantageous for a Tennessee team looking to determine its standing amongst the nation’s best. UT will play either Michigan or Memphis (the loser of their game) on Tuesday, following its game versus the Blue Devils.
Brian Joyce (284 Posts)

Brian Joyce is an advanced metrics enthusiast, college hoops junkie, and writer for the SEC basketball microsite for Rush the Court.


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