SEC Weekly Five: 05.25.12 EditionPosted by Brian Joyce on May 25th, 2012
- The biggest splash this week in the SEC again came from the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats and its scheduling choices. First, some group of stuffy faculty members chastised John Calipari’s decision to move toward more neutral site games. So what does Calipari do? He announced that UK has added Baylor to its schedule in a Rupp Arena game in 2012-13, but the Cats will travel to play the Bears in Cowboys Stadium in 2013-14. Now that’s an “experience.” But it’s not about playing Baylor. This move, as is seemingly everything Calipari does, is a strategic move to advance his program. First, four members of the 2013 high school class play in Texas, and all four are considering Kentucky. This is in part a recruiting move to gain an edge on his competitors. But first and foremost, Cowboys Stadium just happens to also be the host site for the 2014 Final Four. Calipari wants a practice run in the venue where his Cats hope to cut down the nets again in two years. That’s what scheduling huge neutral site games are all about — giving his squad a simulation of the biggest stage possible to prepare them for when the time comes.
- While Kentucky is adding Baylor to its schedule, another SEC school is calling off its match-up with the Bears. Mississippi State and Baylor have agreed to cancel the two remaining games on their contract. New Bulldogs coach Rick Ray realizes he has a rebuilding year ahead of him. “We play in the toughest tournament known to mankind out at Maui and then we come back from that and our next game is Baylor,” Ray said. “We open up our season at Troy. Our schedule — if I had my say so, we wouldn’t have that type of a schedule. So, that’s a concern.” Mississippi State was set to host Baylor this season in Starkville, but would have been required to travel to Waco in 2013 to return the favor. The decision to cancel was mutual.
- Yahoo Sports published a list of the top newcomers gracing the SEC with their presence next season, and a couple of Kentucky Wildcats were joined by a new member of the Missouri Tigers at the top of the list. Shouldn’t all of Missouri’s team be up for inclusion? Regardless, senior center Alex Oriakhi, a transfer from Connecticut, joins Kentucky freshmen Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel as the players most likely to make an impact next season. From the article: “Noel is a defensive difference-maker. While he lacks bulk, he is athletic and already has advanced shot-blocking skills. His offense is raw, but his defense and rebounding make up for that.” Hey, that sounds familiar. Here’s what the site said last year at this time about Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis: “His shot-blocking and rebounding ability make him a game-changer defensively. His offensive skill set is good and continues to improve.” Not a bad person to be compared to at this stage in his career.
- Arkansas added juco forward Coty Clarke to its roster earlier this week. Clarke averaged 14.5 points and 13.0 rebounds per game with Birmingham (AL) Lawson State Community College last season. Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson is excited about the addition. “Coty is excited about being a Razorback and that excites me,” Anderson said. “He is an athletic forward who can impact on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively. Coty has a blue collar mentality which is needed on this team. He is an excellent fit for the ‘Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.’” Depth is an important issue for this year’s Arkansas team, as injuries impacted how far Anderson could go down the bench last year.
- Our very own Rush the Court profiled a couple of former SEC players in our NBA Draft Profiles. Vanderbilt senior Festus Ezeli is viewed as a late first round pick in the mold of current Houston Rockets center Samuel Dalembert. RTC compared him to the big man, saying, “Ezeli has a similar skill set as a defense-first center with ideal size who can protect the rim. Dalembert, though, transitioned from a raw prospect to a 10-year NBA veteran who has averaged 8.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks in a strong career thanks to the ability to adapt to the speed of the NBA game.” Kentucky senior Darius Miller is hoping to get picked up in the second round and RTC says he has at least has the look of an NBA player. “While his three-point percentage dropped from the blistering 44.3% he shot as a junior to a merely good 37.6% as a senior, he’s shown NBA range and a willingness to step into the right shot when needed. Throw in the fact that at 6’8” and 235 pounds he’s got the frame to handle the big boys at the next level, and Miller looks the part of an NBA wing.” Good luck to both of the seniors as well as the rest of the SEC athletes hoping to be selected.