SEC Morning Five: 03.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 9th, 2012

  1. Auburn has not made many basketball headlines recently until now. Suspended guard Varez Ward is under investigation in a point shaving scandal, according to this report from Yahoo! Sports. The FBI is investigating two games in particular —  a 68-50 loss to Alabama on February 7 and a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on January 25. Ward and guard Chris Denson, who has been later cleared of any wrong-doing, were suspended by Tigers coach Tony Barbee prior to a February 25 game when it appears that Barbee was made aware of the allegations.
  2. There were no surprises as Kentucky was named the favorite this weekend, but SEC coaches seem ready to hand over the SEC Tournament crown to the dominant Wildcats. “Everybody’s playing for second place,” said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. South Carolina coach Darrin Horn agrees, labeling UK freshman Anthony Davis as the difference maker in New Orleans. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid impact games the way he does,” Horn said. “He’s just a unique, unique talent.” The Wildcats have won two SEC Tournament championships in a row, since the arrival of coach John Calipari, and seek their third in a row this weekend. With several top tier SEC teams struggling, it is difficult to imagine any challengers removing the Wildcats from the top of the perch.
  3. While most focused on what’s been happening in Lexington, some coaches took the time to speak about the amazing story of Tennessee freshman Jarnell Stokes. “He was in high school, practices about a week, lines up against Kentucky and makes his first four shots, gets a double-double against UConn about a week later, and think about what he has done for the team,” Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. “Think about what he would be if he was with them all year.” Stokes’ quick transition displays how talented he is, but also displays the remarkable coaching job done by first year coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin helped develop Stokes as well as find ways to get the freshman some playing time without impacting the established team chemistry amongst the Volunteers team. It will be interesting to monitor Stokes and Tennessee’s success this postseason.
  4. Florida freshman Bradley Beal returned to practice for the Gators after being sidelined from an ankle injury sustained in last weekend’s Kentucky game. Beal was not able to practice Monday or Tuesday of this week, but plans to play in the Gators’ opening game on Friday. Florida has dealt with a rash of injuries this year as Will Yeguete, Mike Rosario, and Erik Murphy among others have been out at some point this year. The Gators have lost three games in a row and five of their last eight so remaining healthy is a huge concern going into the tournament.
  5. Vanderbilt remains confident going into the postseason despite the fact that the Commodores haven’t been very successful in March over the last couple of years. Senior forward Jeffery Taylor refused to acknowledge that the ‘Dores or head coach Kevin Stallingswere feeling any of the pressure to succeed this year given the talent and experience Vanderbilt has. “I think all of us are in a place where we have our backs against the wall, especially us seniors,” Taylor said. “But as far as Coach feeling any pressure, I don’t think so. He shouldn’t feel any pressure. “The two teams we lost to (Murray State in 2010, Richmond in 2011) were two really good teams and both of them went down to the wire. And it just happened that the other team made a couple of more plays than we did. But I don’t think that falls on the coach. I think that falls on the players.” Vanderbilt certainly has the talent to do well this postseason, but have been too inconsistent in its play for anyone to be overly-confident.
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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