Happy Halloween From the SEC: Which School Represents Which Candy?Posted by KAlmekinder on October 31st, 2012
As we preview the SEC this season, the focus this week is on Halloween, the junk food-centered holiday predominantly celebrated by children or college kids, who both have different motives when this date comes around on the calendar every year. While the ghosts and goblins knock on doors asking for their sweet tooth tithes tonight, we pose the question: Which Halloween candy represents each SEC school? The analogies might surprise you.
- Alabama – M&M’s. The always consistent M&M’s can never disappoint, even with variable options such as peanut butter and peanut. This year marks Year Four of the Anthony Grant Experience in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide are coming off consecutive 20-win seasons and are building a case to challenge more prominent schools for their place in the SEC pecking order. Returning senior Jalen Steele, sophomore sharpshooter Trevor Lacey and skilled freshman Devonta Pollard will provide skill and reliability for Anthony Grant as the Tide battles a tough non-conference slate, including Purdue, Villanova, Cincinnati, and Grant’s previous school, VCU. A 2o-plus win season in Alabama, coming off another dominant season on the gridiron, will have fans in Tuscaloosa cheering all season long.
- Arkansas – Milky Way. Like the Milky Way bar in its history, Arkansas basketball has lost some luster from its national championship ways in the early 1990s. Over time, better teams and chocolate bars have gained popularity while leaving little respect for this program and its chocolate. Arkansas has not been to the NCAA Tournament in four years and is 17 years removed from its last Final Four appearance. Now on their third coach since Nolan Richardson’s firing in 2002, head coach Mike Anderson is working to reinvigorate the “40 minutes of hell” style of play that his mentor used to gain attention almost two decades ago. The Milky Way bar has done the same; changes to the texture, size, and taste to attract more buyers might have done more harm than good. Maybe a trip back to their standard will be more profitable too.
- Auburn – Smarties. The Smarties are the consistently bad candy; they can always be found in a jumbo pack of other powder-type candies for cheap and are always the last Halloween candy eaten — usually on the day after Thanksgiving. Auburn basketball has consistently been the Smarties of the SEC. Since the 2003-04 season, Auburn has finished in the bottom three of the conference standings in all but one year. Fans no doubt see basketball as the dead period between fall football games and spring football practice. There is some hope on the horizon, however, as Auburn is in the mix with ESPN Top 100 recruit Austin Nichols and was quoted to say he “wanted to be the face of the program.” Head coach Tony Barbee, his staff, and players hosted a free “Barbee-Q” for all Auburn students on Monday night. Maybe weekly free food and an elite recruit could help invigorate some life into the basketball program; or maybe just feed some college kids so they take a break from eating ramen every night.
- Florida – Snickers. Playing second fiddle to Kentucky’s Ferrero Rocher in the conference, Florida has always been an efficient basketball snack. The different layers of a Snickers bar equates well to Florida; the Gators’ inside post presence (peanuts, Patric Young) provides a reliable backbone for the outside shooting (chocolate shell, Erik Murphy) that will occasionally ‘melt’ during games. The always sticky yet consistent guards (nougat, Kenny Boynton) provide the fluid intangibles that can lead to the end of a good snack or season, and in this case, the Elite Eight and a possible trip to the Final Four.
- Georgia – Necco Wafers. If Auburn as Smarties represents rock bottom in the SEC, then one step above that is Georgia and Necco Wafers. Their bland taste represents the ideology behind sports at Georgia; football has the priority while basketball receives the leftovers. This will be Mark Fox’s fourth year at Georgia. After having success at Nevada, his luck in the SEC has been very limited, with a current coaching record only four games above .500. An at-large bid in the 2011 NCAA Tournament has been the Bulldogs’ only bright spot in the last three years. With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returning as the focal point of the Bulldogs, Georgia will need a miraculous splash this season in the conference,to avoid being stuck in the SEC cellar doldrums.
- Kentucky – Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Let’s face it: Kentucky has proven to be John Calipari’s “gold standard of college basketball.” Many fans and pundits might disagree with his tactics for using the one-and-done rule, but Calipari has mastered the art and proven that his way can lead to a championship (as well as multiple NBA draft picks). And who doesn’t want the best chocolate treats on Halloween? Kentucky has already locked in the number one recruiting class for 2013 with the Harrison Twins, James Young, and Marcus Lee all verbally committing in September and October, while Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins are still considering the Wildcats. This year’s squad is completely new again but will start with the same script as the previous three years; how will these young players mature and play together this season? Expect to see the same out of the 2012-13 Cats: a Sweet Sixteen appearance as their floor with a run at the Elite Eight and Final Four in their sights.
- LSU – Werther’s Originals. If you want the caramels from the elderly folks home, you must visit before their bedtime at 8 PM. Allow for enough time for a story about Pete Maravich and the great seasons of LSU basketball in the 1970s. LSU basketball really hasn’t been the same since. The days of Shaquille O’Neal came and went and the last peak in LSU’s history came in 2006 with a trip to the Final Four. In the six years since, LSU has only been to a postseason tournament twice (one NCAA, one NIT), and only their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last two decades after going to 10 straight from 1984-93. New coach Johnny Jones has some pieces to work with this year, including Johnny O’Bryant, Anthony Hickey, and Andre Stringer, so another NCAA appearance would be a good place to start.
- Mississippi State – Airheads. The Airheads packs, with its random assortment of sweet and sour flavors, provides the perfect analogy for the Bulldogs over the last few seasons. Before the sudden retirement of coach Rick Stansbury and the loss of several key players to the NBA Draft or transfer, there was always something going on in Starkville. Their consistency came in the form of annual 20-win seasons from the 2001-10 seasons (except for 2005-06 with a 15-15 mark) with six trips to the NCAA Tournament. Their best year by record was in 2003-04 (26-4), but arguably their most important came in 2009-10 when the Bulldogs lost the SEC Tournament championship when Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins forced overtime with a tip-in and eventually fell in the extra period. The ‘Dogs ended up in the NIT Final Four that season and it was a foreshadowing of what was coming. The following two years proved to be a tumultuous experience for Stansbury from the Renardo Sidney fiasco that caused him to lose the respect of his players to a couple of seasons where expectations far exceeded performance. Rick Ray steps in as the new man for the ‘Dogs and will hopefully get them back on a more consistent track.
- Missouri – Ice cream cake. Those who get the miracle of cake on Halloween, good for you. The analogy here for Missouri revolves around the amount of transfers that have been brought into Columbia. Second-year head coach Frank Haith gets this year to do many things, such as improve on the Tigers’ 30 wins from last season and use the eligible transfers that left a void in last year’s rotation due to injury. Connecticut transfer Alex Oriakhi will mirror Laurence Bowers in the post, who missed all of last year due to injury. Pepperdine transfer guard Keion Bell will help alleviate some of the double team mismatches that will face SEC preseason POY Phil Pressey this season. Other transfers and key role players return to mold another squad into a great team challenging for the SEC crown by season’s end.
- Ole Miss – Hot Tamales. The Rebels have never been a dominant basketball force in the SEC. Littered with only a few NCAA Tournament appearances, Ole Miss has a more quantitative showing in the NIT but has helped in playing the role of spoiler for other teams in the regular season and beyond. The most recent example involves Chris Warren hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer to knock off #11 Kentucky at home. Last year, #7 seed Ole Miss took out #2 seed Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, ending the Volunteers’ hopes to salvage an NCAA appearance out of a late season run. The trap game facade that Ole Miss displays has proven itself timely in the last few years. Can the Rebels repeat history again this year in a crucial game?
- South Carolina – Candy Corn. The laziest and cheapest candy to buy for Halloween would be candy corn. With a bland taste and, as comedian Lewis Black describes, it “is always collected at the end of the year because nobody ate it.” Is South Carolina basketball bland or cheap? Probably not to the fine people in Columbia, but the rest of the conference disagrees. The Gamecocks finished last year as the worst team in the conference — by three games. A final 10-21 season led to head coach Darrin Horn’s exit. Former Kansas State top dog Frank Martin joins the team in hope to turn the candy corn of 2012 into cotton candy; not the greatest choice, but a step towards the future. Martin first goal should be to work on winning by more than a single point at the end of regulation to beat an exhibition opponent.
- Tennessee – Chocolate covered bacon, because there’s no real candy version of a barbecue party. Tennessee, minus the poor Bruce Pearl jokes, has instantly become a trendy darkhorse pick for the SEC title this season. Second year coach Cuonzo Martin has brought a tough defensive-minded approach to basketball in Knoxville. The midseason addition of Jarnell Stokes last year helped the Vols to a 19-15 season record and second place finish in the SEC. Stokes returns this year with senior forward Jeronne Maymon to provide a quality frontcourt for Martin. Expect to see the Vols in the horse race for the SEC title this year and to earn a bid to the Big Dance.
- Texas A&M – Swedish Fish. Texas A&M, like Swedish Fish, comes from a ‘foreign land’ to the SEC (i.e., the Lone Star State). The Aggies spent the last 15 years in the Big 12 and have really only had basketball success since Billy Gillispie’s tenure half a decade ago. Head coach Billy Kennedy’s first year last year was difficult, dealing with his own and his team’s health issues and finishing in the bottom tier of the league with a 14-18 record. Is it possible that the move will help Kennedy and the Aggies this year? The move to “The division formally known as the SEC West” will help A&M as they will avoid multiple Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri games on the schedule. The Swedish Fish not only come from Sweden but also bring an under-the-radar following. They might not be the most popular, but get the job done for those who enjoy the candy. Billy Kennedy should have many opportunities this year to bring a buzz back to College Station during basketball season.
- Vanderbilt – Trick. Many children don’t understand the concept of the phrase ‘trick-or-treat’ and expect candy nonetheless. Some trick-or-treaters have experienced the neighbor asking them a joke or riddle for a subtle reminder not to be greedy. Lately, Vanderbilt has done exactly that to its fans and those rooting for them every year. The Commodores, while finishing regular seasons with 20-plus wins, have flaked on three out of the last four NCAA Tournament appearances, most notably succumbing to first round opponents that are usually in the dangerous “12 over 5″ or “13 over 4″ upset scenarios. Last season, while winning 25 games and securing the SEC’s automatic bid, Vanderbilt snapped its NCAA losing streak but lost to Wisconsin in the Third Round to miss out on the Sweet Sixteen again. Kevin Stallings will need to work with a new core of guys this year as he loses the majority of his scoring and defensive presence due to the NBA Draft or graduation; hopefully he can keep his latest group of guys together for several years and finally push Vanderbilt into the much more fun treat category.