SEC Morning Five: 12.30.11 EditionPosted by Brian Joyce on December 30th, 2011
- The plan going into Vanderbilt’s win over Marquette on Thursday night was to ease Festus Ezeli into action. Ezeli played limited minutes (17), but looked good scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. Despite his positive play, head coach Kevin Stallings says that Ezeli isn’t yet at 100%. “[Festus] has looked better the last few days,” Stallings said. “I would probably say he’s at about 75% and may be starting to inch above that. We’ll just keep trying to give Festus some time and see how it goes.” The play of both Ezeli and the entire Commodores team last night has again brought up the question of who this Vandy team really is. Vanderbilt hasn’t looked the part of a Top 25 team for most of the year, but lived up to its preseason hype in the win over the Golden Eagles. The Commodores’ inconsistent play and the return of Ezeli to full health remains the most intriguing storyline going into conference play in the SEC.
- Louisville plans to put Kentucky’s freshman point guard Marquis Teague to the test on Saturday. Although Teague had begun to play better of late, he reverted to his old ways in committing six turnovers in UK’s win over Lamar on Wednesday. Before he started talking about turkeys during the Marquette and Vanderbilt game, ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said, “Louisville will extend pressure and try to wear down Marquis Teague. They’ll try to get into Teague.” Teague, of course, thinks he knows how to handle the pressure. “The easiest thing with the press is if you pass through it, you don’t have to waste energy,” he said. “It’s when you try to dribble through it that you get tired.” Which version of Teague will show up? We will find out on Saturday if the young point guard is up to the test against what is likely the best defensive pressure the Cats will face all season long.
- The guys at A Sea of Blue make the case that the Kentucky and Louisville rivalry is the best in the nation. While conventional wisdom says North Carolina and Duke create the premier matchup of the college basketball season, they also meet two to three times per season. In a typical year, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils split the season series, and go forward without real bragging rights over the other fan base. But with Kentucky and Louisville, “you have 365 days, more or less, to suffer at the hands of your rivals. If this all sounds extreme, it is, and insanely exciting. And that’s why this rivalry is the best. There are no half-measures, no splits, no draws — only victory, and defeat.” And as ASoB points out, “being the loser is P-A-I-N-F-U-L, especially when you live behind enemy lines.” A lot is on the line on Saturday, and we will all benefit by witnessing a great game filled with the emotion and passion of a true rivalry.
- Auburn coach Tony Barbee has been pleased with the Tigers’ defensive effort , but acknowledges a lot of work needs to be done on the offensive end. “Offensively, we were anemic tonight,” Barbee said. “Hopefully, we can chalk it up to being an off night. More of a concern was we didn’t have guys make plays when they had an opportunity to make plays.” Unfortunately for Auburn, the offensive struggles are more of a season long trend than simply an off night. The Tigers are currently shooting 44.8% from the field, and just 33.8% from beyond the arc on the season. Barbee’s squad ranks #233 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is the worst in the SEC. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for Auburn fans, but the Tigers’ defense isn’t that good either, ranking 11th out of 12 teams in the SEC in adjusted defensive efficiency. Not a good sign heading into SEC play.
- Jarnell Stokes has reached celebrity status in Knoxville, and he hasn’t even played his first game yet. After spending the day signing autographs and talking with Volunteer fans, Stokes said, “I’m no savior, I’m a basketball player. But I’ve always been a winner, and I plan on being a piece of what Coach [Cuonzo] Martin is putting together here. The fans here, man, they’re great. Today was awesome.” The Vols could use a little extra boost to push them over the edge. All six of Tennessee’s losses this season have been by 10 points or less. Four of the losses were decided by less than five points. One little addition (or one major addition in the case of Stokes) could be the difference between a win or another close loss for Tennessee.