SEC M5: New Year’s Day Edition
Posted by DPerry on January 1st, 2013
- If I told you before the season that Kentucky would lose to fierce rival Louisville but the Big Blue Nation would be generally happy with the performance, you would call me crazy, right? Well, that is exactly what has happened. The Wildcats have not lived up to preseason expectations through non-conference play, but their effort at the Yum! Center on Saturday revealed a different team, and a new level of offensive efficiency was the impetus. The Cardinals boast one of the most fearsome defensive units in the country, allowing only 81 points for every 100 possessions (good for 6th nationally), but the Wildcats exposed them, tallying a single-game offensive efficiency of 107.1.
- The biggest negative to come out of the loss for Kentucky fans is the worrying play of freshman Alex Poythress. The talented forward has a polished post game for such a young player, but he’s come up very small in some big spots for the Wildcats. Against Louisville, he played just 15 minutes, giving way to classmate Willie Cauley-Stein, who, despite struggling from the free-throw line, exhibited a much higher work rate. Coach John Calipari revealed yesterday that Poythress might have to get used to watching the game from the sideline if he didn’t increase his intensity. Point guard Ryan Harrow’s work ethic was widely questioned early in the season, but his recent play has quieted those concerns, and Calipari will hope his young post player will follow suit.
- The SEC continued their awful season over the weekend, with Alabama’s home loss to Tulane standing out as the worst of the bunch. “Tonight, what cost us the game was our inability to have success on the offensive end,” coach Anthony Grant said after the loss. The Crimson Tide shot under 40% from the field and converted only 3 of their 15 attempts from long range. Early in the season, Alabama emerged as a surprise contender to save the SEC from a down season, starting 6-0, but they have won only one game in six tries in December. Hopefully, January will bring back the Tide’s shooting stroke, a necessary improvement for a team with so little inside depth.
- Jeronne Maymon remains on the bench, but Tennessee got an infusion of size over the weekend in the form of Derek Reese. The freshman tore his labrum lifting weights before the season started, and there were questions over whether he could return to help the Vols in 2012-13. Reese was not highly recruited, but with a guard’s skill set in a 6’8″ frame, coach Cuonzo Martin is confident that he can contribute. “In our offense, when you run motion, guys like Derek at the four position and Jeronne Maymon, you can facilitate your offense through those guys,” Martin said. “Because Derek can make shots and make plays off the dribble and Jeronne can make plays off the dribble, and your offense flows. When you don’t have guys like that, things can become stagnant on offense.” For a team ranked 166th in the nation in offensive efficiency, they’ll take help in any way they can.
- Auburn nearly pulled off one of the conference’s most unlikely results of the season over the weekend, taking 12th-ranked Illinois down to the wire in Chicago. “There is no such thing as a moral victory,” said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. “We came in here to get this job done, and we didn’t. We gave ourselves some opportunities. Like I told the guys, we have one game left in the first stage of the season in the non-conference schedule. We have to move on past this, and we have to go get that, but the first thing we have to do is address why we didn’t get this one today.” That sort of reaction is expected from a coach of course, but the close loss the Illini is easily Auburn’s most impressive effort on the season. It does not change their disappointing season, but in the tightly packed basement of the SEC, performances like this indicate that the Tigers might finish closer to the middle of the pack than the conference cellar.