Eminently Watchable: Assessing Year Three of the Frank Martin Experience

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on October 31st, 2014

Under Frank Martin, South Carolina has quietly become one of the most interesting teams in the SEC. Not flashy, not high-scoring, maybe not even specifically “good”… but interesting? Absolutely. Martin’s blueprint for a turnaround in Columbia isn’t written in ink; it’s been sculpted in malleable clay. The veteran coach has been tasked with taking the under-appreciated spoils of the disastrous Darrin Horn regime and fusing them with the flashier products of taking a Big 12 Coach of the Year title on the recruiting trail. Those pieces are slowly coming together, cobbling the foundation for a return to big time basketball in the Palmetto State.

Frank Martin (USA Today)

Frank Martin Feels Like He’s Turning the Corner at South Carolina (USA Today)

Martin’s team can be divided into two camps. The most prominent one is filled with the high-flyers that Martin brought to South Carolina despite his team’s underwhelming recent history. Top 100 recruits Sindarius Thornwell and Demetrius Henry chose Columbia a year ago thanks to their coach’s reputation rather than the program’s results. Four-star guard Tyrone Williams took his talent south after one year in Villanova’s rotation. Similarly rated point guard Marcus Stroman joined the team for his first NCAA season this fall. Suddenly, the Gamecocks have the personnel to throw elite athletes at their opponents at nearly every position. The key to the program’s success, however, may lie in the guys from the other camp – the overlooked players who pledged to a first-year coach. The guys who committed to a veteran leader whose primary duty was to put out the dumpster fire that had been left in front of him. That includes Lithuanian bangers Laimonas Chatkevicius and Mindaugas Kacinas. It also includes the linchpin that holds this team together – Michael Carrera.

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SEC Non-Conference Schedule Round-Up: Part III

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 8th, 2014

Christian D’Andrea is the manager of Anchor of Gold and an SEC Microsite writer. He can be found @TrainIsland on Twitter. 

As of Tuesday night, the SEC season is here, and we’ve been celebrating the start of conference play by running down the best and worst of the league’s early-season slate. On Friday and Saturday last week, we covered the first 70 percent of the league’s teams. Today, we’ll finish up our rundown of the SEC’s non-conference performances with the league’s alphabetical basement.

SEC

SEC Basketball Is Back

South Carolina

  • Record: 7-6
  • Best Win: Either a seven-point neutral-site victory over 10-3 St. Mary’s, or their rare, back-to-back wins over Akron in a three-day span.
  • Lowest Point: Losing to in-state “rival” USC-Upstate after leading 33-16 late in the first half.

The Gamecocks’ continual rebuilding efforts have continued in 2013-14, but sloppy play has defined this team early on. Only three USC players are scoring in double-figures, and none of them shoot better than 41.1 percent from the field. USC’s offense will improve, as it always does, now that Bruce Ellington’s quest for Capital One Bowl glory is complete. However, his explosive scoring out of the backcourt may not be enough to keep the ‘Cocks over .500 this winter.

Tennessee 

  • Record: 10-4 (1-0)
  • Best Win: A 15-point neutral-site victory over 10-3 Xavier.
  • Lowest Point: Allowing UTEP coach Tim Floyd to work out his USC-related frustrations over them in the Battle 4 Atlantis opening round.

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SEC Non-Conference Schedule Round-Up: Part II

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 4th, 2014

Christian D’Andrea is the manager of Anchor of Gold and an SEC Microsite writer. He can be found @TrainIsland on Twitter. 

Conference play is just around the corner in the SEC, and that means it’s time to judge the league’s 14 teams based on their early-season schedules. SEC teams loaded up on cupcakes and quality opponents alike, but the real test for these programs will start when the ouroboros of league play begins. The conference boasts plenty of teams with winning records, but not all victories are built to last – and the drop under .500 could be a precipitous one in a league of “haves” and “have-nots.”

SEC Hoops Tips Off on Saturday With a Full Slate

SEC Hoops Tips Off on Saturday With a Full Slate

Today, we’ll look at five more SEC teams that will be jockeying for a spot in the NCAA Tournament behind big performances this winter. You can find the first part of the non-conference review that was published on Friday here. We’ll have part three, with the final four teams in the league, ready to go in the coming days.

Kentucky

  • Record: 10-3
  • Best Win: A seven-point home win over #6 Louisville.
  • Lowest Point: A 1-3 record against ranked teams. Kentucky’s only win over a ranked opponent came at home, while two of those losses came on neutral(-ish) courts.

At this point in the season, Kentucky has lost to more ranked teams than it’s beaten, but John Calipari’s young team appears to be rounding into shape with SEC play on the horizon. The Wildcats have 11 days to reflect on their season-defining win over #6 Louisville before jumping into conference play against rebuilding Mississippi State and Vanderbilt teams. That should give John Calipari plenty of time to build some momentum behind his young, talented roster.

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SEC Non-Conference Schedule Round-Up: Part I

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 3rd, 2014

Christian D’Andrea is the manager of Anchor of Gold and an SEC Microsite writer. He can be found @TrainIsland on Twitter. 

New Year’s Eve has come and gone, and the only resolution that we’ll get in college basketball is the clarity that comes when cupcake schedules are abandoned and league rivalries begin. The replacing of the calendar means that conference play is just around the corner, and the teams of the Southeastern Conference are ready to tear each other up after a disappointing 2012-13 season. Currently, three SEC programs are ranked inside the Top 25, while five other programs have three losses or fewer with league play on the horizon.

SEC Hoops Tips Off on Saturday With a Full Slate

SEC Hoops Tips Off on Saturday With a Full Slate

To prep for the upcoming SEC season, let’s take a look back at how each team fared in their non-conference slate. We’ll break the programs down alphabetically, with five schools getting called up in the first installment of this three-part series. While Florida and Arkansas have made their case for the league this season, teams like Alabama and Georgia are proving that depth isn’t necessarily a priority in this football-first conference.

Alabama

  • Record: 5-7
  • Best Win: A 12-point home win over 7-5 Texas Tech.
  • Lowest Point: Losing 64-66 to give South Florida its only non-conference win over a power conference opponent.

The Crimson Tide are better than their 5-7 record indicates, but not by much. Their seven losses have all come against either ranked teams or power conference opponents, with the exception of a three-overtime loss to 8-4 Drexel in the Preseason NIT. If you’re in to silver linings, Alabama made things respectable in a 10-point loss to Duke, cutting the Blue Devils’ lead to six points with under three minutes to play. They also pushed #11 Wichita State into deep waters before falling in the final minute of a five-point home loss.

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When is the Right Time to Tell Your Children About Marshall Henderson?

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on November 14th, 2013

Look, we can’t shelter our kids forever. It’s bound to happen. One day this spring, you’ll be sitting at the table, maybe drinking a cold Schlitz or preparing your tax return, and you’ll see it out the corner of your eye. A child speeds by, fingers fluttering from a palm stuck to their forehead, tongue darting out of their mouth. Multiple syllables, each half-forming a swear word before transforming into something else altogether streaming from his or her lungs. They create some kind of hybrid curse that the Roman Catholic Church will soon hold meetings to discuss. In the background, the scorched remains of what used to be the net of your backyard basketball hoop begin to float away in the wind. “Landsharking,” they’ll call it. Just something they picked up on the playground, they will say. From friends, or maybe an older brother. But you know better. You know exactly where it came from.

Here Comes America’s Most Famous Landshark

The issue  is no laughing matter. Landsharking ruins lives. Kevin Bright, the unfortunate forward in the background of the above picture, transferred back to Europe when not even his stoic German demeanor could conceal the pain of dealing with landsharking last year. La Salle adopted the move in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and after dispatching his Rebels, they promptly lost to Wichita State by 14 points. The only NCAA player man enough to wield the shark, it seems, is none other than Marshall Henderson himself.

That’s what makes him so dangerous for the most vulnerable Americans out there – the 9 to 13 year-olds who have devoted their lives to Ole Miss – or Utah, or Texas Tech, or South Plains College – basketball. These are the children who understand that a silky-smooth shooting form is best complemented by an unhinged glare and an attitude that counts every defensive move as a personal affront. Landsharking, when handled by a responsible adult, can be a powerful tool. For a child who doesn’t know how to use it properly, however, it can be a dangerous gateway into hardcourt clownship.

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Welcome to the Show: Identifying the Impact Freshman for Each Team in the SEC “West”

Posted by Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) on October 29th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor and Managing Editor of Vanderbilt’s SB Nation site Anchor of Gold.

After suffering through one of the worst overall seasons in conference history, the Southeastern Conference is ready to rebound behind a strong group of freshman newcomers. SEC teams constituted six of ESPN’s Top 25 recruiting classes for 2013, and that includes Arkansas and LSU, two “West” programs that are looking to regain past glory after a disappointing start to this decade. Four and five-star big men like Jarrell Martin, Bobby Portis, Jordan Mickey and Moses Kingsley will join a league that seems to be shifting away from the small-ball lineups that dominated most of the conference’s rosters in 2012-13.

Mike Anderson now has an intriguing young duo to work with. (AP)

Mike Anderson now has an intriguing young duo to work with. (AP)

Last week, we took a look at the incoming players who could lift their squads to new heights in the former SEC “East.” Today, we’ll take a look at the new guys who will be cutting their teeth on the other side of the conference. Here are the true freshmen – one per team – who are slated to have a major impact for their new teams this winter.

Alabama: Jimmie Taylor. Anthony Grant had very little to rely on up front in 2012-13, but he still guided the Crimson Tide to the NIT with an unorthodox four-guard lineup last winter. Now, raw center Moussa Gueye has transferred to Valparaiso, giving 6’10” forward/center Taylor the chance to play a major role for Alabama from the outset. The in-state recruit is a long, lean player who has great instincts for shot-blocking and solid athleticism for a big man. He should provide a consistent presence in the paint and on the boards for a team that was hurting for rebounds in conference play.

Arkansas: Bobby Portis. Mike Anderson’s 2013 haul was small, but potent. The Razorbacks added two big men who combined to receive nine stars between them from both ESPN and Rivals last spring. That’s a huge boost for a team whose best rebounder was 6’7″ combo forward Marshawn Powell, pulling down fewer than six rebounds per game in 2012-13. Portis, a five-star power forward, will give the Hogs some much-needed bulk up front, and 6’10” center Moses Kingsley will provide an imposing presence next to him. Anderson was forced to play plenty of small-ball last season, but the addition of two impact players who can thrive in the paint will give Arkansas some much needed flexibility. While the team will still feel the sting of losing Powell and B.J. Young to NBA Draft declarations, the future is bright in Fayetteville.

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Welcome to the Show: Identifying the Freshmen Primed to Make an Impact in the SEC “East”

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on October 23rd, 2013

Fall isn’t just for football in the Southeastern Conference – it also means the start of hardwood action for some of college basketball’s most powerful programs in the South. The SEC suffered through a rough patch in 2012-13. The league sent only three teams to the NCAA Tournament, and one of those – Ole Miss – happened to be a bubble team that blasted its way into the field thanks to a Marshall Henderson-led victory in the conference tournament. This year will be different. A talented group of recruits is ready to help guide the league back to national prominence. Eleven of the nation’s top 25 high school seniors chose conference schools last spring, and they’ll take the court looking to make an impact for their teams as non-conference play begins in November. Today, we’ll look at those difference-making newcomers, starting with the teams of the SEC “East.” We’ll run through each program, along with the one true freshman who is most likely to have a significant impact for his team in 2013-14.

John Calipari once again has plenty of talent to work with. (Getty)

John Calipari once again has plenty of talent to work with. (Getty)

  • KentuckyAndrew Harrison. With six five-star recruits to choose from, Harrison’s spot at the top of the list for Kentucky is a tenuous one. However, the return of players like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, along with John Calipari’s history of developing high-level guards, gives Harrison the edge for now. The Texan will step into Coach Cal’s long line of top-flight point guards with the Wildcats this season, joining luminaries such as Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and Eric Bledsoe. The departure of guards Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow, and Julius Mays should open up plenty of room in the UK backcourt for the nation’s top point guard recruit. Harrison has the size and athleticism to defend both guard positions and the basketball IQ to command an offense at the next level. He was especially proficient at running the fast break in high school, and he’ll look to push the tempo for the Cats this winter. He’ll have to improve his shooting to become a complete player, but he should have a successful freshman year with Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Grades: Recapping the SEC “East” Season That Was

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on April 22nd, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold. You can find him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

The 2012-13 NCAA basketball slate is firmly in our rear view, and with that comes some valuable perspective. The SEC struggled through one of its worst overall seasons in recent memory, but ultimately the year will be remembered more for Marshall Henderson’s theatrics and another Elite Eight appearance for Billy Donovan than it will be for Mississippi State’s rebuilding or Vanderbilt’s 50-33 loss to Marist. The league may have sputtered in its first season with Texas A&M and Missouri on board, but a slew of promising performances across the south suggests that 2013-14 will bring a return to high-major basketball for the conference.

The SEC Turned Out to be Open to Others This Year

The SEC Turned Out to be Open to Others This Year

With that in mind, let’s look back at how each team in the “East” finished out its season, and what hope may lie ahead for these seven programs. Several of the East’s programs have young cores that will return with valuable experience in 2013-14, and at least five of the division’s teams look like they’ll improve on lackluster seasons. For reference, our mid-season look at the East can be found here.

Vanderbilt

  • Season Summary: The Commodores got what they needed in 2013 – growth – even if it took a long and winding road to get there. Early in the season, Kevin Stallings’ team had been held to just 33 points on two separate occasions and was getting little from veterans Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller. Only Kedren Johnson displayed the proficiency to carry this team through stretches, and the bulk of his sophomore season was played under the stress of a nagging shoulder injury. In the season’s final weeks, things began to fall into place. Odom proved that he could be a key player on a winning team, while Fuller developed into a change-of-pace scorer off the bench. Freshmen Kevin Bright and Sheldon Jeter put together solid performances that showed that Stallings’ 2012 recruiting class may have been overlooked. In all, the ‘Dores finished light years from where they started, and that was the best fans in Nashville could have hoped for after losing their top six players from 2012.
  • Grade: C
  • Reason to be hopeful in 2013-14: Vanderbilt doesn’t lose anyone from its 16-17 squad, and will add four-star big man Damian Jones and former Tulsa guard Eric McClellan to the roster this fall. The Commodores are primed for a return to postseason play.

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Breaking Down the Game: Can Ole Miss Ride Its Hot Streak to a Win Over Wisconsin?

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on March 20th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

The #5-#12 match-up has traditionally been the most exciting place to be on the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. When red-hot SEC champion Ole Miss squares off with a stout and unpredictable Wisconsin team, it may be the best game of the Second and Third rounds.

Mississippi enters the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002 after winning the SEC title. The boisterous play of shooting guard Marshall Henderson has made the Rebels a front-page attraction despite their #12 seed, but it’s the steady presence of rock-solid players like Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner who have been the fuel behind Ole Miss’ comeback. Henderson, the senior guard in his first year as a Rebel, deserves his share of the praise. Ole Miss needed every victory in its recent five-game winning streak to make it to the Big Dance. Over that stretch, the veteran shooter has averaged 23.4 points per game and made at least three three-pointers in each of those contests. When he turns his swagger on, the rest of Andy Kennedy’s Mississippi team flows with him, often leading to feast-or-famine runs that can lead this team to monster wins and shocking losses.

The confidence that Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss are exhibiting might be enough to get by rugged Wisconsin. (AP)

The confidence that Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss are exhibiting might be enough to get by rugged Wisconsin. (AP)

The Badgers won’t let Henderson and company get too hot, though. Head coach Bo Ryan’s teams are built on a bedrock of slow play and deliberate work on the defensive end. The Badgers’ grind-em-down style of play sucks high-energy guards into their game plan and feeds on frustration. The end result has been a resume filled with key upsets in 2013 and a laundry list of high-scoring guards that were temporarily turned into low-efficiency gunners. Let’s look at how some of the Big Ten’s best shooters have fared against Bo Ryan’s defensive schemes this season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Potential SEC Matchups to Watch: the NIT’s Best Games

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on March 19th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

After a down year for conference basketball, SEC fans might be paying more attention to the NIT than the Big Dance this week. That’s because two of its most traditionally successful teams, Kentucky and Tennessee, are stuck playing in March’s second-biggest tournament. They’ll be joined by Alabama, another high-profile program that ended up on the wrong side of the bubble. While mid-major darlings like Middle Tennessee State, Saint Mary’s, Boise State, and La Salle earned at-large invitations, the SEC’s weak profile helped separate these former powerhouses from the NCAA Tournament.

uk ut 13

Kentucky and Tennessee Were On the Outside Looking In

Instead of kicking off the second-season on Thursday and Friday’s glorious start to March Madness, half of the SEC’s postseason teams will get to work on Tuesday and Wednesday in the opening round of the NIT. However, just because they aren’t playing on the big stage doesn’t mean that all of the must-watch games in the conference are confined to Florida, Ole Miss, and Missouri. A deep NIT field means that there are plenty of high-level match-ups waiting to fill in the gaps between NCAA Tourney play. Three different SEC teams will look to redeem their seasons with a deep run in the country’s second-most-prestigious basketball tournament. Here are the potential games to keep an eye out for once NIT play begins, assuming that the basketball gods pair up these teams in the best possible manner:

  1. Kentucky vs. Providence (NIT Second Round): Two teams that were forsaken by Rick Pitino in the past three decades will try to build their case for 2014 in a second round match-up built for basketball purists. Providence will be playing its last games in the Vincent Council era, but a young core led by Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts has Ed Cooley’s Friars trending upward. Of course, no team may have more unrealized potential in the NCAA right now than Kentucky. The Wildcats missed out on the NCAA Tournament thanks to a late-season fade brought on by Nerlens Noel’s season ending knee injury. If Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin decide to jump to the NBA this summer, this could be their last chance to make an impact as Blue Bloods. Despite playing in the NIT, each program has a ton to prove in this potential second round game. Read the rest of this entry »
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A Puncher’s Chance? Breaking Down the Teams Driving the 2013 SEC Tournament

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on March 11th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

The SEC Tournament is upon us, and thanks to the league’s new 14-team format, fans get a whole extra day of win-or-go-home basketball in the south. The 2012-13 season hasn’t been particularly kind to the SEC. The conference suffered through a plague of upset losses and a dearth of quality wins which led to speculation that Florida would be the league’s only representative at the NCAA Tournament.

That course has been corrected over the final three weeks of the season thanks to some big wins across the conference’s second tier, but there are still plenty of teams battling for postseason slots. Tennessee and Kentucky will be looking to one-up each other as they duel for what might the last at-large invitation to the Big Dance. Alabama and Ole Miss will look to re-enter the postseason conversation with legitimizing wins. Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt will try to rally hard and extend their seasons one day at a time.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 14 teams that will be competing for conference honors when Wednesday rolls around.

The Prohibitive Favorite: Florida

 (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

Florida Seeks Another SEC Title in Nashville (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

Billy Donovan’s team hasn’t been perfect against a downtrodden conference, and that has cost the Gators a shot at a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their best recourse for that will be to put together a dominant run in Nashville, and an easy Friday match-up against LSU or Georgia will give them the opportunity to get off on the right foot. Much like the rest of the season, this will be a high-risk, low-reward endeavor for Florida. They won’t face a top-50 opponent until a theoretical Sunday match-up in the title game. They’ll have to hold court and prove that they can reclaim the dominance that led them to a string of double-digit wins to open league play.

The Savvy Bet: Missouri 

Mizzou may have the richest depth of any team in the SEC, but Frank Haith’s squad has been vulnerable against the conference’s good and mid-level teams in 2013. The Tigers have struggled to play well as a team despite the wealth of experience on their roster, but they’ve been able to regroup (4-2 in their last six games) as the SEC Tournament approaches. Mizzou has the scoring, ball movement, and rebounding to push any opponent to the limit. Players like Alex Oriakhi, Laurence Bowers, and Phil Pressey can create mismatches against any team they face. Can they ratchet up the defense and come together as a cohesive unit when the pressure is on? The Tigers are just a #6 seed in the SEC bracket, but they have the potential to do so much more — especially with a relatively weak draw on the road to the conference championship game.

The At-Large Brawlers: Tennessee, Kentucky

Tennessee and Kentucky represent the conference’s best candidates for a third and possibly fourth NCAA Tournament bid, but it may be a case of one-or-the-other when it comes to the selection committee’s final bracket. Both of these teams proved that they can beat Florida over the past two weeks, but their victories came with the help of home court advantage. Now, they’ll have to prove that they can travel to a neutral court and roll that momentum into a season-sustaining run through the SEC Tournament. The Volunteers and Wildcats will be pitting their resumes against each other for a chance to make it to the Big Dance, and while either team can make a case for inclusion based on their regular season performances, another significant win would all but ensure their spot in one of the NCAA’s four regions.

Jordan McRae and Tennessee are the hottest team in the SEC. (USA Today)

Jordan McRae and Tennessee are the hottest team in the SEC. (USA Today)

The only way these two would meet in Nashville is in the SEC title game, and both teams would be likely locks for the 68-team filed at that point. Kentucky has the better collection of talent, but no team has been hotter over the past month than Tennessee. The Volunteers are at the tail end of an 8-1 run that rallied the team from CBI territory and on to the happy side of the bubble. However, they may have been pushed down to NIT status after Saturday’s UK win over the Gators and Middle Tennessee State’s surprising Sun Belt Tournament loss. Is there room for both of these teams in the NCAA bracket?

The Forgotten Bubble Contenders: Ole Miss, Alabama

Ole Miss and ‘Bama belonged in the previous group until late-season slumps effectively tanked their seasons. For the Rebels, February and March represented a precipitous fall from grace. Marshall Henderson and his teammates plummeted from a potential five-seed or better all the way off the NCAA Tournament bubble with a 6-6 record down the stretch that included losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State. Still, Henderson, Murphy Holloway, and Reginald Buckner could lead the third-seeded Rebels to a big weekend if they can regain their early-season magic.

The Crimson Tide didn’t have a bad spring, they just failed to produce any resume-defining wins. Anthony Grant’s team is solid across the court and strong enough to hang with the SEC’s best teams, but they’ve been unable to lock down an impressive top-50 victory in 2013. This rebuilding Alabama squad has the pieces in place for a big 2014 run, but they might not have the gas this week to get to the SEC title game and back to the bright side of the bubble.

Puncher’s Chances: Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU

The SEC Tournament occasionally fails to follow rhyme, reason, or tradition. Some years, a tornado hits the host arena and wills a 4-12 Georgia team to the Big Dance. In others, a Vanderbilt team that hadn’t known much beyond abject failure in the conference bracket wins their first postseason title since 1950. Five teams at the lower end of the Southeastern spectrum could end up adding to that legacy in 2013.

Vanderbilt, thanks in part to the emergence of freshman Sheldon Jeter, is finishing its season better than they started it. A team that can shoot from three-point range and play hard-nosed defense on the perimeter is always dangerous in tournament play, and that will give Kevin Stallings’ team a shot. Same goes for Texas A&M, a squad that could ride Elston Turner Jr.’s hot hand to a marquee match-up on Sunday.

Arkansas, with wins over Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri, may have the best resume of the group when it comes to the league’s third tier and a high-paced style that could wreak havoc in a four-day tournament setting. Georgia has been streaky all year and could be an upset of Florida away from an easy path to the SEC title game. Finally, LSU has been wholly unpredictable in 2013 and that volatility could result in a surprising run to a weekend match-up or a Thursday exit at the hands of Georgia.

Saving Money on Costly Weekend Hotels in Nashville: Mississippi State, Auburn, South Carolina

Frank Martin’s team has some young talent, but doesn’t have a path to a Friday game unless Bruce Ellington or Michael Carrera catch fire for the Gamecocks. Even with a big, slightly inexplicable win over Ole Miss, Mississippi State is still a rebuilding team with just seven scholarship players to count on in Nashville. Auburn held Alabama to just 37 points once and also beat Florida State this season, but that’s about it for bright spots in a season that’s ending on a 1-14 skid.

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Did Black Saturday Sink the SEC’s NCAA Tournament Chances?

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on March 5th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

There’s no way around it – the SEC is having one of its worst basketball seasons in recent history. If it holds up, the conference might get lapped by the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, and Mountain West Conferences in 2013. Only Florida has survived as a top 25 staple as talented but unproven teams like Kentucky and Missouri fell from the national rankings as the season wore on. The Wildcats have struggled to replace the game-altering defense and efficient offense of Nerlens Noel while Frank Haith’s Tigers have failed to gel as a unit despite boasting one of the country’s most talented rosters. Behind them, Ole Miss rose to the national consciousness thanks to Marshall Henderson and a 17-2 opening record. Then, they fell back to earth nearly as quickly while the cocksure guard struggled to make more than 35 percent of his shots in deflating losses. Even Alabama, with an 11-5 conference record and a top 50 RPI, has struggled to prove that their solid record passes the smell test in 2013.

The Gators and.... Who Else From the SEC... WIll Be Dancing?

The Gators and Who Else From the SEC Will Be Dancing?

Then, on March 2, with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee intently watching, all four teams lost. It started when Alabama, who needed a big win against Florida just to make it to the Tournament bubble, fell by a dozen points on the road. Then Tennessee, who was riding high after its own Gator upset, lost against a better-than-advertised Georgia team that was playing angry after an upset loss to Vanderbilt. Kentucky followed that up by allowing Arkansas to a 26-shot advantage in a 13-point defeat in Fayetteville. Then, most inexplicably of all, Ole Miss lost its Egg Bowl showdown with 7-20 Mississippi State, snapping the Bulldogs’ 13-game losing streak and completing the Rebels’ drop from potential NCAA Tournament #4-seed to NIT participant. There’s no sugar-coating how destructive this loss was – the Bulldogs had lost their previous two games by a combined 71 points. Marshall Henderson’s 3-of-18 performance from three-point range painted him less as a Chris Lofton-style savior and more as a late-era Antoine Walker chucker.

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