SEC M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Frank Haith has had a rough month. Questions over his job security in the wake of violations at Miami have been festering, and his Missouri Tigers, previously ranked in the top 10, were in free fall after heavy losses to Ole Miss and Florida. But forward Laurence Bowers’ return would solve the latter problem at least, right? Wrong. Missouri lost to LSU in Baton Rouge, and Haith is not amused. “We have no toughness in the first half; we have no resolve,” Haith said. “It’s disappointing. It’s really extremely disappointing. Guys are tending to do their own thing when the game’s getting tight or there’s adversity.” Star point guard Phil Pressey, despite finally finding his scoring touch, should shoulder as much of the blame as anyone. The Wooden Award nominee has become a gunner from long-range, and missed a hurried effort (one of his 8 3-point misses on the night) late in the game when Missouri had been steadily coming back. “We (had been) driving the ball, and we needed to keep driving the ball,” Haith said, noting there was plenty of time left. “We said that in timeouts.” The Tigers are 0-4 in true road games this season.
  2. “They’re real good.” -Frank Martin. He was talking, of course, about Florida, right after his Gamecocks succumbed to a nearly 40-point loss at their hands. The Gators, sporting a 7-0 conference record with a point differential of over 28, are making a mockery of the SEC. They’ve beaten up on the bottom of the league, but the sheer dominance of their victories, not to mention the shellacking of 17th-ranked Missouri, indicates that weak opposition isn’t the only explanation for their success. Florida isn’t unbeatable, but their balanced offense (the nation’s 4th most efficient) is somewhat of a safeguard against an unexpected upset. Four players average more than 11.0 points a game, and a fifth (Scottie Wilbekin), was just named SEC Player of the Week. Even if the odds are defied and every Gator has an off shooting night, coach Billy Donovan can just fall back on the 2nd best defense in the country. Your move SEC.
  3. Tennessee will be likely be shorthanded for their trip to Fayetteville this weekend. Junior guard Trae Golden suffered an injury to his right hamstring late in the Volunteers victory over Vanderbilt and is unlikely to recover by Saturday. “It’s tough for our team,” Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I thought he had really been assertive (lately) with the ball. So it’s tough for our team, but more importantly, it’s tough for Trae. He wants to be out there. He’s upset about it. But we have to keep moving.” Hometown walk-on Brandon Lopez should be the next in line to pick up the slack for Golden. The early scouting report on him features a lot of the standard buzzwords for walk-ons, so any offensive output will be a bonus. Arkansas’ up-tempo style and the loss of Golden puts points at a premium, so the Volunteers will have to count on Jordan McRae rediscovering his shooting stroke and Jarnell Stokes continuing his recent offensive resurgence.
  4. As if having 12 of your shots blocked by one person wasn’t painful enough, the hits keep on coming for Ole Miss in the aftermath of their loss to Kentucky. Reserve forward Aaron Jones suffered a torn ACL while senior guard Nick Williams re-aggravated a foot injury. Jones is obviously done for the year, while there is no timetable for Willams’ return. This represents a serious blow to the Rebels’ depth, affording coach Andy Kennedy no game time to adjust his rotation before traveling to Gainesville this weekend. Freshman Derrick Millinghaus, who has seen his minutes dwindle since the start of conference play, should see more time, while classmate Terry Brutus seems like the best bet to contribute a few minutes in the paint.
  5. I said a few months ago that we wouldn’t mention this guy on this microsite again, but circumstances are forcing my hand. Big Blue Nation favorite and apparent troll Billy Gillispie will be in attendance for Kentucky’s trip to College Station this weekend. In response to Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy‘s invite, Gillispie said “Actually, I’m playing golf [in College Station] on Friday. I said, ‘Who are y’all playing Saturday?’ They said, ‘Kentucky,’ and so I said, ‘I think I’ll go.’ But it’s no big deal.” Kentucky players will be focused on stopping Aggie guard Elston Turner, who scored 40 in his trip to Rupp Arena, but Wildcat fans will certainly be paying attention to an individual on the sideline. Expect one of ESPN’s cameras to be attached to Billy, treatment usually reserved at Kentucky games for Ashley Judd.
Share this story

SEC M5: 01.29.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 29th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. SEC basketball hasn’t won a lot of weekends so far this season, but in the college basketball animated GIF game, Marshall Henderson provided a dominant performance over the weekend. Ole Miss went to Auburn expecting an easy victory, but thanks to a 4-of-17 showing at the free throw line, the Rebels barely escaped with the W. Let’s be honest, though: If you clicked on the link, you’ll realize that the game is secondary to what happened in the immediate aftermath. I’m having a tough time choosing which part of this five-second clip involving Henderson is my favorite. Is it the striped sweater guy who knows only one insult? Or is it the 70-something in the front row playing the role of disappointed grandfather? No, for my money, it’s the cheesing security guard in the white collared shirt. It’s like he knew he was about be thrust into temporary Internet stardom, and didn’t want his mom to see him dropping an F-bomb or flipping the bird. This Marshall Henderson microsite writer salutes you, Auburn security guard.
  2. Dealing with Henderson’s attempts to incite and annoy has to be a concern for many SEC coaches. However, don’t count John Calipari among them. When asked about how he wants his young Kentucky team to respond when they travel to Oxford tonight, he took an unorthodox approach. “Oh, I’d like us to lose our composure,” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “That’s what I’m looking for. Like, lose your composure. Get mad. Get angry. Be mad to be great.” Henderson’s three-point percentage (35.7%) isn’t terrifying at face value, but checking a player who is willing to shoot from almost anywhere over the half-court line is bound to throw your team defense for a loop. Look for Archie Goodwin to get the first opportunity to defend the unabashed gunner, but if he doesn’t show the willingness to chase him for the entire shot clock, Julius Mays should get the call.
  3. Scottie Wilbekin, after averaging 15 points, six assists, and two rebounds per game, was named the SEC Player of the Week on Monday. The junior point guard took a while to round in to shape this year thanks to an early-season suspension, but he keyed two Florida road blowouts in the past week at Georgia and Mississippi State. The most surprising aspect of his game is his vastly improved shooting stroke. In limited minutes, Wilbekin had shot only 35% and 43% from the floor in his first two Gator campaigns, but with the benefit of increased court time (not to mention several teammates who can score), he’s sitting at an impressive 48% this season. He’s been on fire recently, shooting 18-of-28 in his last three outings. The Gators host Mississippi on Saturday, and being able to count on scoring from the one-spot makes the Rebels’ task even more daunting.
  4. Nerlens Noel took home his second straight SEC Freshman of the Week honor after another couple of dominant defensive performances last week. In a loss to Alabama and a victory over LSU, the post presence racked up 18 points, 21 rebounds, and 13 blocks. He’s currently riding a streak of five games with six or more blocks. Making his defensive supremacy even more impressive is his ability to challenge shots without fouling, only picking up one in each game. Kentucky’s struggles have made it tough for Noel to receive the credit he deserves (and during the Auburn-Kentucky broadcast, Charles Barkley made it clear that no UK freshman had yet impressed him), but his irresistible recent form has forced the rest of the country to take notice.
  5. I hope you’ve had your fill of the SEC/Big East Challenge, because the event won’t continue past this season. “This was the final year of our contract for a basketball invent involving the Big East Conference,” SEC spokesman Craig Pinkerton said via e-mail. “Playing an event such as the SEC/Big East Challenge has provided a great opportunity to highlight our teams as well as the sport early in the season. We are continuing to explore our options for continuing an event like this.” The concept of an organized series of match-ups between the conferences was enticing, but it never truly delivered. The SEC hasn’t had the depth in quality that their Big East counterparts enjoyed over the past few years, resulting in only seven of the 40 games featuring two ranked teams. Of course, these details probably aren’t important. Any event that had to claim responsibility for the Tennessee-Georgetown disaster doesn’t deserve to be saved.
Share this story

SEC M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 14th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. The defending national champions are squarely on the bubble. That realization hit the Kentucky faithful hard this weekend as the Wildcats dropped their fifth game of the season in a home loss to Texas A&M. The idea that John Calipari’s team wouldn’t be invited to this year’s tournament scarcely cross the minds of college basketball fans going in to season, but through the first half of the season, Kentucky’s season-opening win over Maryland is their only RPI Top 100 victory. “It’s still early January. It’s going to be another month before this team comes together,” Calipari said Saturday. “I just hope we are winning enough games as we learn to do this.” He may be out of luck. There’s a lot of basketball to be played, but with the SEC’s lack of quality, there are very few opportunities for quality wins left on the schedule.
  2. Texas A&M’s Elston Turner has deservedly been admitted to the  unofficial pantheon of “Cat Killers”. He can’t claim the top spot (the belongs to David Robinson and his 45 points way back in ’87), but I can’t imagine that the Aggie senior would be too bummed about finishing behind the Admiral. Maybe he can just settle for National Player of the Week. Singing the praises of a guy who just dropped 40 points in one of college basketball’s most hallowed venues is tough to do without sounding overly obvious. But I’ll try. He simply couldn’t miss. Opponents know that stopping Turner is practically synonymous with stopping Texas A&M, and Kentucky’s collection of athletes still couldn’t him. He made 14 field goals on 19 attempts, and while I haven’t found an official stat for so-called daggers, Turner had plenty of those as well. The Aggies are peaking at the right time, and will hope to carry that momentum through to their home date with Florida this week.
  3. In addition to being charged with creating a gameplan to stop Turner, Billy Donovan will be dealing with another injury to a contributor leading up to Florida’s trip to College Station. Casey Prather suffered a lower leg injury in the Gator’s blowout of LSU over the weekend, and the junior swingman is  facing an indefinite (quickly becoming college basketball’s new buzzword) stretch on the sideline. “That is what they are saying right now— a high ankle sprain,” said Donovan. “Those things are tough to come back from and they’re a long healing process if that’s what it is.” Prather joins Mike Rosario (suffering from a high ankle sprain as well) on the trainers table, and while neither injury appears to be season-ending, Florida’s depth in the short term will clearly be taking a huge hit. Erik Murphy’s return against LSU couldn’t have come at a better time, but a six-man rotation isn’t conducive with the brand of basketball Donovan wants to play.
  4. Does Missouri really need Laurence Bowers? I can’t imagine that anyone was actually asking that question, but the answer is a resounding yes. The 10th-ranked Tigers were run off the floor in Oxford over the weekend, unable to overcome the loss of their primary frontcourt scoring option. Point guard Phil Pressey finished with as many turnovers as he had assists, stifled by an offense that struggled mightily for creativity and inspiration. Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross, and Pressey combined to miss 13 3-pointers, several of which were forced because of the newly-reinstalled 4-guard offense’s inability to cope with the Ole Miss pressure defense. “I don’t think they ever got in an offensive rhythm and that’s a tribute to how much effort our guys had defensively,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy told reporters.
  5. Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings doesn’t strike me as coach who would admit to believing in moral victories, but last week’s close call against Kentucky was undoubtedly an improvement for his young team. Any momentum from that effort, however, was quickly extinguished as the Commodores failed to compete against Arkansas, totaling only 33 points for second time this season. The Commodores turned the ball over 25 times and barely reached double digits in made field goals. Stallings wasn’t in the mood to dig for a silver lining. “Well, there’s not a lot to say,” he told reporters. “We got our tails whipped, and I was real disappointed in our play in just about every way.” The Dores’ unfortunately doesn’t have a lot of time for adjustment as Ole Miss visits Tuesday night, Vandy’s third game in six days.
Share this story

SEC M5: 01.11.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 11th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Kentucky escaped with a 60-58 win over Vanderbilt Thursday night, the Wildcats’ first true road win of the season. The victory wasn’t without controversy however, as Nerlens Noel’s short jumper with 17.3 seconds clearly should have been called a shot-clock violation, leaving Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings incensed and ESPN’s Bobby Knight perplexed. Despite their continued troubles shooting from long range, Kentucky looked to be in top form in the first half, coasting to a double-figure lead at the break. A different team came out of the locker room after halftime, though, appearing passive on the offensive end as Vanderbilt switched to a zone. “They outworked us,” John Calipari said. “They beat us to 50-50 balls, they beat us to rebounds. We were lucky to win the game.”
  2. As it was the only SEC game of the night, I’ll keep rolling on Kentucky-Vanderbilt. The Wildcat offense had an abysmal second half, but the defense wasn’t far behind. The Commodores put up 34 points after the break, or one more than they managed in 40 minutes against Marist. The culprit on the UK side isn’t tough to identify. “You can sit here and sugarcoat it, but you all watched it,” Calipari said. “They went at Kyle [Wiltjer] every single possession I had him in the game. Every single possession.” The shockingly slow stretch forward only provides value on the offensive end, but making only a single field goal in 14 minutes isn’t the type of production that will keep him on the floor. His minutes have been steadily declining throughout the season, and Wiltjer may find himself struggling to stay in the rotation sooner rather than later.
  3. The Los Angeles Athletic Club released its 25 finalists for the Wooden Award, and, as you might have guessed, the SEC’s representation isn’t overly impressive. The conference earned only two nominations, trailing each of the other power conference except for the Pac-12 (completely snubbed). The nominations both come from the same team: Laurence Bowers and Phil Pressey. The Missouri power forward and point guard are deservedly included, and there shouldn’t be much of an argument from the rest of the league that anyone else should have been there. Florida is a well-rounded team without a true standout star, and none of the talented Kentucky freshman have shown the required consistency to be on the short list.
  4. In its first game since receiving confirmation that Jeronne Maymon will miss the entire season with injury, Tennessee had a chance to make an impression as the Vols opened conference play against Ole Miss. The Rebels pack some punch on both ends of the court, but if the Volunteers still consider themselves to be contenders for an NCAA at-large bid, this was the type of home game they needed to win. Of course, Mississippi dominated the game from start to finish, out-rebounding the Vols by 10 boards and leaving Cuonzo Martin’s squad with more questions than answers. Junior guard Jordan McRae and his 26 points were the lone bright spot for the home team, but he realizes how much his team will miss their most experienced big man. “I told Jeronne after the game that if we could just find one guy to get the rebounds he always got,” McRae told Mark Wiedmer of the Times Free Press. “Because he seemed to get every rebound last year.” How can they fix it? Said McRae, “”Well, there isn’t anybody like Jeronne.”
  5. A home win over South Carolina is rarely cause for celebration, but for Mississippi State, dubbed a “public embarrassment” by coach Rick Ray earlier in the week following a loss to Alabama A&M, opening up conference play on a positive note is quite a surprise. “Great to get the first win in SEC. For most of our guys, it’s the first time they’ve experienced SEC basketball,” Ray told reporters after Wednesday’s victory. Mississippi State took advantage of 24 South Carolina turnovers (they rank in the bottom 10 nationally in turnover percentage), as the Gamecocks couldn’t find an answer for the Bulldogs’ 1-3-1 zone. Fred Thomas and Tyson Cunningham were especially impressive on the defensive end, combining for eight steals while forcing USC’s Bruce Ellington into nine turnovers.
Share this story

Look For Frank Haith to Go Small Again In Laurence Bowers’ Injury Absence

Posted by DPerry on January 9th, 2013

Missouri opened its SEC season with an easy home win over Alabama last night, but it came at a steep price. Leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who missed the entire 2011-12 season with a torn left ACL, suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee after a collision with an opponent. (The injury was immediately followed by a supremely awkward ESPN feature on Bowers’ successful return from injury). CBS Sports‘ Jeff Goodman reports that Bowers will be held out of the next two games before being re-evaluated by the Tigers’ medical staff.

Bowers has exceeded expectations in his return from an ACL tear.

Bowers has exceeded expectations in his return from an ACL tear.

Behind point guard Phil Pressey, Bowers has been Missouri’s most important player this season. He isn’t the most physically imposing post presence, but he returned from his medical redshirt season with a more well-rounded game, capable of extending out to the perimeter and knock down jump shots. In a well-balanced starting frontcourt, he provides the skill that meshes so well with Alex Oriakhi’s brawn. The temporary loss of Bowers will expose the Tigers’ lack of depth down low, but Frank Haith proved last season that he has no problems running a system wholly (or largely) dependent on perimeter options. This year’s team has plenty of pieces in the backcourt, but the majority of Bowers’ scoring responsibility should fall on transfer Jabari Brown, who has been lights-out after qualifying in December. The former five-star Oregon recruit is coming off a monster game against the Crimson Tide in which he hit five three-pointers on the way to a 22-point performance. The offense will still run through Pressey, of course, but Brown should be on the end of a lot more of the flamboyant playmaker’s assists.

Bowers will certainly miss the Tigers’ trip to Oxford over the weekend (potentially tricky) and their home game against Georgia (probably not tricky). Frank Haith and his team, however, will be eyeing January 19 as the date that they truly need Bowers back at full health, as Missouri travels to Gainesville to take on Florida. We’ll be hoping to see the senior back in action as well, as a potential match-up between Bowers and the also currently-injured Gator’ Erik Murphy promises to be one of the most exciting inside-out battles in SEC play. Let’s hope both guys have speedy recoveries.

Share this story

SEC M5: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 4th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Tennessee’s premier non-conference rivalry continues today when Memphis travels to Thompson-Boling Arena to take on the Vols. The match-up will bring an eight-year contract between the schools to a close, and with the two schools unable to come to an agreement for future games, we may not see these in-state rivals face each other in the near future. It’s a shame really, as Tennessee-Memphis has been one of the most exciting rivalries in recent years. Bruce Pearl and John Calipari were instrumental in reigniting the rivalry, but even with new coaches Cuonzo Martin and Josh Pastner now on board, the two schools have remained competitive. Last November, in an unplanned game in the Maui Invitational, Memphis held off the Vols in double overtime in what turned out to be one of the most memorable early games of the season. A renewal of this rivalry seems unlikely in the near future, but we can always hope.
  2. John Calipari acknowledges his team’s occasional lack of effort. A special freshman class can break the mold (i.e., his 2011 class), but a group of stars coming from the high school ranks frequently struggles with motivation. How does Calipari combat this problem? Cold hard numbers. The UK training staff is employing a device (the specifics of which have not been disclosed) that gives them “the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time. Because we are able to read their heart rates, now we know who is maxing out in practice and who is hiding, who thinks they’re going hard and who isn’t, who is able to push themselves through pain, and who has mental toughness to be special.” Interesting.
  3. Auburn basketball. Anyone care to explain? I sure can’t. The Tigers have been a conference bottom-feeder for years, but at least one conference prognosticator (OK… me) thought that the Tigers would experience at least a mild renaissance this season. However, after a 2-5 start that included losses to Boston College and Rhode Island, I’d lost faith. However (yes, another “however”, it’s appropriate), the Tigers might have turned things around. Tony Barbee’s squad traveled to Chicago over the weekend and almost pulled off a massive upset over the 12th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini, and in their non-conference finale, the Tigers upset Florida State, a talented team despite not meeting its own preseason expectations. Auburn is entering SEC play on a high note, and with a relatively soft opening conference schedule, the Tigers will look to compile some momentum before matching up against the SEC’s elite.
  4. A quick look at its non-conference schedule shows UCLA as Missouri’s last quality opponent, but true college basketball connoisseurs will note that Bucknell shouldn’t be counted as one of the Tiger’s cupcakes. The SEC is in an obvious down year, but the newcomers from Columbia have made an impression in the young season. Despite the loss of a key contributor in shooting guard Michael Dixon, the Tigers still have arguably the nation’s top point guard in Phil Pressey, who shouldn’t have much of a problem dominating the weak defenses that populate much of the SEC. A home-and-home with Florida and a trip to Rupp Arena loom large, but Missouri boasts the quality of talent to become the conference’s premier team in its first season.
  5. We’re about a third of the way through the college basketball season, and South Carolina sits in the top half of the SEC. Impressive, right? Maybe not, if you look at the schedule. The Gamecocks have lost only three games to this point, but when your most impressive win is at home against Rider (ranked 207th by Ken Pomeroy), you take that record with a massive block of salt. The Gamecocks will be looking to establish more of a trustworthy record as we approach the SEC season, but in their last  non-conference game, they’ll be without several key contributors against South Carolina State over the weekend. Second-leading scorer Lashay Page, Outback Bowl hero Bruce Ellington, and freshman forward Michael Carrera will watch Saturday’s game from the sidelines, but as the Bulldogs rank 346th of 347 teams (according to Mr. Pomeroy), we won’t be surprised to see South Carolina escape without any trouble.
Share this story

SEC M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Share this story

SEC M5: 12.21.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 21st, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Jabari Parker’s commitment was the lead story in college basketball yesterday, and to the chagrin of almost everyone, the Chicago product chose to attend Duke. He had narrowed down his choices to five schools before his announcement, with Florida serving as the SEC’s only representative. Any program would benefit greatly by adding a talent like Parker, but the Gators will still have one of the nation’s best incoming classes. Billy Donovan will bring in Chris Walker and Kasey Hill, both consensus top 10 recruits, in addition to South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith. Of all the spurned schools on Parker’s final list, Florida is probably in the best position going forward.
  2. Tennessee has gotten back on track with wins over Wichita State and Presbyterian, but after a miserable start to the season, Volunteer fans are still counting the days until they see Jeronne Maymon back on the floor. Unfortunately, it may be a while. Maymon’s rehabilitation from knee surgery hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Vols had hoped. The ambitious diagnosis had the senior forward returning to action as early as this month, but as Maymon continues to limp around Tennessee’s training facility, the possibility of a medical redshirt has been explored. “He’s open to everything,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “One thing about Jeronne, he’s a coachable guy. He wants to do what’s best for the team. If that means coming back (for a redshirt season), he’ll come back. We’re trying to figure out what’s best for Jeronne Maymon first and foremost, then our team.” Coming back for only a few games surely isn’t the smart move, but in a season filled with high expectations in Knoxville, getting Maymon back on the court is absolutely essential in Tennessee’s efforts to meet those goals.
  3. Texas A&M has had an especially unremarkable season. Outside of a slight upset of Washington State on a neutral court (maybe?), the Aggies have beaten every inferior team and lost in both games against superior competition. This is progress, however, for second-year coach Billy Kennedy, who struggled mightily in his first season, posting a 4-14 record in the Big 12. He’ll hope that the SEC schedule is kinder as he enters a new conference, and he may be in luck. The middle of the SEC is weak, and A&M has the talent to take advantage. Senior Elston Turner has improved on his shooting percentages, and at 16.1 points per game, he’s the type of player who can make a difference as the Aggies take on the SEC’s many mediocre teams.
  4. In the wake of the Michael Dixon situation, off-the-court news hasn’t been especially kind to Missouri this season. That changed on Thursday, however, as the Tigers revealed that the basketball team had achieved their highest collective GPA (over a 3.0) in over a decade. “I’m so proud of our guys and their efforts in the classroom,” coach Frank Haith said. “We demand a lot from them throughout the year and they delivered in a big way, which deserves recognition.” Tigers’ leading scorer Laurence Bowers is one of the stars in the classroom as well. The senior forward has already finished his undergraduate degree, and is a semester away from a master’s in Health Education and Promotion.
  5. “Going Big”, the ESPN Films documentary about former Kentucky great, Sam Bowie, premiered on ESPNU last night. Every basketball fan knows the basics of Bowie’s tale, but director Tom Friend utilizes an unfamiliar perspective to tell his story: the perspective of Sam Bowie. It’s impossible to ignore the Michael Jordan factor with this subject, but any true connection between Jordan’s success and Bowie’s struggles with injury are the product of a fabricated narrative (a compelling one, to be fair). For the former Kentucky center, getting over the Jordan comparisons was tough, but the support of the Lexington community made it possible. “I always knew when the [NBA] season was over that I was immediately going to go back to Kentucky, because that was a safe haven for me to get away from the Michael Jordans, from the critics,” Bowie said. “And that’s a beautiful thing, because when you’re getting beat up like I was getting beat up, you run for cover. And my cover was getting back to Lexington.”
Share this story

SEC M5: 12.20.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 20th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida had no problem keeping its losing streak at one as they bested Southeastern Louisiana last night, but star guard Kenny Boynton didn’t have as much luck emerging from his personal slump. After struggling against Arizona in the Gators’ biggest game of the season, the senior guard went just 1-of-7 for seven points against the Lions. It was backcourt companion Mike Rosario who took home the plaudits instead, scoring 20 points including four made three-pointers. “I think he’s conformed. He’s been more disciplined, more responsible and more accountable,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I feel like I know what I’m getting from him every day.” Both of the Gator guards are streaky players, and while Rosario is choosing a fortunate time to get hot, Boynton should retake the reins in the coming few games.
  2. The attendance problem isn’t just striking the teams at the bottom of the SEC. The conference’s premier team, Florida, is struggling to fill its seats on a game-by-game basis as well. The crowd was understandably sparse Wednesday night as students are home for winter break, but Florida’s hosted some marquee non-conference games against Wisconsin and Marquette that have failed to sell out. Donovan isn’t worried, however. “I never really get involved in that stuff at all,” Donovan said. “Here’s my thing, I think the two most important commodities people have in their life is their time and their money. And for anybody to determine what they should do with their time and their money to me would be a great injustice.” Sounds noble, but I’m guessing Donovan wouldn’t mind it if his elite basketball team got a little bit of the publicity reserved for the gridiron in Gainesville.
  3. The cupcake-heavy schedule that Kentucky has faced over the last few weeks doesn’t exactly lend itself to hard-hitting analysis, so the articles written about the Wildcats over that period have been a revolving door of reasons why the team isn’t up to par. The latest explanation is that Kentucky’s current group of players don’t have the same fear of failure that previous John Calipari teams held. The story of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and his “Breakfast Club” workout regimen keeps popping up, and this writer questions the fairness of that comparison. MKG certainly improved throughout the season, but Kentucky fans seem to forget that he was already pretty damn good when he came to Lexington. He actually got to the line (one of his premier skills) at a higher pace at the start of the season than he did at the end.
  4. When Marshawn Powell went down with a torn ACL early in the 2011-12 season, Arkansas never really recovered from the loss. The Razorbacks barely finished over .500 and didn’t appear in the postseason. Powell has made amends this season, though, returning to the court with an added skill: the ability to shoot from outside. Coach Mike Anderson is appreciative. “I think what (the three-point shooting) does, it presents problems for people.” Anderson said. “You’ve got to figure out how you want to play him. I think it helps us from the standpoint, now we can really space the floor. We don’t have to just clog the offensive lanes up, but at the same time we’ve got a guy we can get it to that can make some things happens.” Powell has more than doubled his three-point attempts per game this season (2.4), and he’s hitting them at a 50% clip. His newfound ability to play outside the paint has meshed well with BJ Young’s aggressive off-the-dribble scoring, and is one of the most important reasons that Arkansas’ offense has been so fearsome this season.
  5. Auburn won its third straight game Tuesday against Tennessee Tech, as reigning conference Freshman of the Week Jordan Price stayed red-hot from long distance. Price hit three three-pointers in an individual 12-point, 90-second outburst, capped off with a technical for taunting the Tech bench after his last make. “Bad players do what he did,” coach Tony Barbee said. “You’re hot, you’re making shots, and now you’re barking at the other team’s coach — that’s what bad players do. Good players know how good they are, and they let their game do the talking.” Price is currently sporting a streak of 11 straight made three-pointers, four away from the record set by Northwestern’s Todd Leslie in 1990.
Share this story

SEC M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 19th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Several members of the national media have been quick to criticize Kenny Boynton in the days following his disappointing performance at Arizona. The criticism is hard to argue with, as the senior guard scored only five points on 10 attempts from the field. SI‘s Andy Glockner got in on the act, publishing an article in which he asks whether Boynton will be a help or hindrance for Florida come Tournament time. I fall squarely in the former camp. His high-volume three-point shot totals aren’t as reliable as a what a dominant post player or steady ball-handler brings to the table, but Boynton is the type of player who has the ability to win you games in March that you otherwise have no business winning. He hit the 20 point-mark in 12 games last year, not to mention the three times thus far in his senior season. Boynton could very well be the culprit in an early postseason defeat for the Gators, but without him in the picture, Florida simply isn’t a team with realistic Final Four aspirations.
  2. Georgia didn’t make much progress toward finding a secondary offensive option last night, but the Bulldogs did enough of the defensive end to earn their third win of the season over Mercer, 58-49. The visiting Bears mustered only 16 field goals, including a miserable 6-of-26 from beyond the arc. “Today was important and we needed to win,” said head coach Mark Fox. “We won the game today because we played such a physical schedule early. We had to be sound for 40 minutes to win this game because [Mercer isn’t] making very many mistakes.” Fox is certainly still tinkering with his rotation, as 11 players saw the court for 10 minutes or more in Tuesday’s victory.
  3. The cupcake-heavy home schedule bothers the season ticket holders in Lexington, but Jerry Tipton believes that Kentucky will ultimately benefit from these breather games. Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson, who played at Rupp last Saturday, agrees. “The chance to work on execution without the distracting consideration of winning or losing,” says Sanderson. “The label of ‘guarantee games’ refers to a payment the lesser team receives for its service as a sacrificial lamb. But the greater team in these match-ups is all but guaranteed of a victory.” While I believe that the Wildcats probably needed to recalibrate some things after losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, I think a nearly month-long break from quality competition is too long. A mentally-prepared Kentucky team doesn’t stand much of a chance at the Yum! Center in Louisville anyway — I won’t be surprised if the young and rusty ‘Cats struggle mightily against the tested Cardinals.
  4. Jabari Brown stole the headlines in his first game in a Missouri uniform, but it was a big night for Laurence Bowers as well, as the senior forward joined the Tigers’ 1,000 point club. Bowers is especially pleased to now be mentioned in the same class as former teammates Kim English and Marcus Denmon. “I’m kind of in competition with those guys, to be honest,” Bowers said. “I know that I might not surpass them as far as scoring points, but I definitely want to surpass them as far as the season they had.” Team success will be harder to guarantee than points, however. Bowers combines with Alex Oriakhi to form a fearsome frontcourt, and point guard Phil Pressey is one of the nation’s best lead guards, but no wing player has stepped up and shown any consistency through the early part of the schedule.
  5. Mike Anderson and his high-intensity style produces the need for a lot of bodies, but Arkansas won’t be able to count on Brandon Mitchell this season. The two-sport football star would have served as an athletic backcourt option off the bench, but with new football coach Bret Bielema converting Mitchell from wide receiver to quarterback, basketball will have to take the back seat. “He told me his focus is on football right now,” Anderson said. “It makes sense. We have got a new coaching staff and he has got to get ready for Coach B. He did a good job for us but football is what he is here for.”
Share this story

SEC M5: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 18th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Playing in his first competitive game in 13 months, Missouri transfer Jabari Brown gave Tiger fans reason for optimism heading into the conference season. The sophomore guard kicked off his career in Columbia with 12 points in only 20 minutes against South Carolina State last night. “He played great,” coach Frank Haith said. “He was 1-for 7 from three, but that doesn’t concern me because I know that he’s going to make threes. What Jabari brings is basketball IQ, moves well without the ball. He passes the ball. He’s patient offensively, and I think that’s needed with this team.” Brown’s shooting woes aside, he showed an ability to draw contact when attacking the rim. Missouri had no trouble with the Bulldogs in their 102-51 win, meaning Brown will still need to prove himself in more meaningful minutes. He’ll get that opportunity this weekend in the annual Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois.
  2. Tennessee junior Trae Golden earned SEC Player of the Week honors for his performance against Wichita State last Thursday. The Shockers had no answer for the opposing ball-handler, allowing Golden to tally 25 points and five assists in the key win. One of the few positives so far this season for the Volunteers has been their ability to get to the free throw line (ranking 25th in the country in free throws per offensive play), and Golden is the key. He stands only 6’1″, but he leads the team with 47 trips to the foul line this season. His free-throw percentage is down from the previous two seasons, but after going 13-of-16 against Wichita State, he looks to have rediscovered his stroke.
  3. In what will undoubtedly be a long season for Auburn, the Tigers received some good news yesterday when guard Jordan Price was named SEC Freshman of the Week. Price is a serious threat from long range, shooting an amazing 8-of-8 from three-point land in games against Grambling and Furman, helping Auburn to their first winning streak of this season. He believes that he wasn’t completely ready for the rigors of a college season when he initially arrived on campus, and he’s still adjusting to the game at this level. “It started real fast, and I wasn’t really ready,” Price said. “As time goes on, and this Christmas break really helped me out, I’m getting in better shape. I’m getting more accustomed with the game and the speed of the game.”
  4. LSU will take the court tonight for the first time without being able to point to its undefeated record. The competition won’t be as tough as Boise State was, but the Tigers’ coach knows the UC Irvine Anteaters aren’t pushovers. “They are a good basketball team,” Johnny Jones said of his opponent. “They played UCLA to overtime. They beat Nevada and that win Saturday night at Fresno. So we will be playing a confident basketball team coming in on Tuesday so it will be a great challenge to us.” Jones also appears ready to play the hot hand. He announced that regular reserve Corban Collins, who has hit seven three-pointers in the last two games, may get the chance to enter the starting lineup.
  5. Georgia will host Mercer this morning at 11:30 AM, in what is being called the “Businessfan’s Special.” Four thousand students and teachers from the Athens area will be in attendance as well. The Bulldogs’ athletic department is getting creative to solve their attendance problem, but fans will be more interested to see if Mark Fox has anything up his sleeve to solve his 265th-ranked offense. Mercer has already beaten Florida State this season and won’t be intimidated by a power conference school, especially one with losses to Iona and Youngstown State already on its resume. Georgia couldn’t pull off the victory last time out, but Donte Williams and Charles Mann racked up 16 and 18 points, respectively. We’ll see if one of these players can step up and fill the role of secondary scorer that Georgia so desperately needs.
Share this story

SEC M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 17th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida did a lot of things right in its match-up with Arizona over the weekend. Mike Rosario had his best game as a Gator, Erik Murphy found his scoring touch again, and the team defense looked ferocious at times. However, 38 minutes of a performance wasn’t good enough as the last two minutes saw the Gators give away the game through a comedy of errors, with Kenny Boynton serving as the primary culprit. In addition to two Rosario turnovers, Boynton missed two three-pointers, committed a turnover, and missed the front end of a crucial 1-and-1. Florida appeared to have the game comfortably in hand, but only managed four shots in the final five minutes, allowing the host Wildcats back in the game. “I told our guys at halftime, if we’re going to lose, let’s at least make them beat us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We beat ourselves tonight.”
  2. Missouri will gain a welcome addition to its backcourt rotation tonight when the Tigers take on South Carolina State. Jabari Brown, a highly touted recruit from the class of 2012, initially attended Oregon, but after only two appearances for the Ducks, announced his intention to transfer. The circumstances around the decision remain a mystery, but Missouri fans will quickly forget that if he can help solidify the two-guard slot for Frank Haith’s team in the wake of Michael Dixon’s departure. “I feel I’m ready to jump in, but that’s not my call,” Brown said. “Whatever coach Haith says, I’m going to roll with it. I might have to take on a little larger role. I’m not saying I have to score ‘x’ amount of points. I just know Mike was a great player, so everyone has to step up collectively.” Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Negus Webster-Chan have struggled on the offensive end of the court so far, so Tiger fans will be hoping that Brown’s offensive pedigree isn’t just hype.
  3. When Kentucky fans see a player make an obvious mistake on the court, they next thing they often see is a replacement Wildcat jogging from the bench to the scorer’s table. John Calipari doesn’t have a very deep stable of reserve options, but that certainly doesn’t stop him from substituting liberally when he sees something he doesn’t like. “If we don’t start changing, we’re going to struggle,” Calipari said. “You either want to change or you have your excuses of why it’s happening. Let’s just change. That’s my thing.” There were some positive signs for Calipari’s squad against Lipscomb over the weekend. Ryan Harrow, starting his first game since the season opener, looked more aggressive and Kyle Wiltjer finally busted out of a shooting slump and even added an unexpected presence on the glass.
  4. A road loss to VCU in Anthony Grant’s return to Richmond isn’t too shocking as the Rams are a quality team, but the 19-point margin of defeat is a bit of a surprise. Personally, I give up trying to analyze this team. The lack of frontcourt options has been Alabama’s weakness so far, but when freshman forward Devonta Pollard finally had a game that displayed his considerable ability, the usually strong backcourt couldn’t hold up its end. Pollard came off the bench to contribute 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. “This is a tough loss,” said Grant after the game. “We’ve lost three in a row here. When you win your first six, you always say it’s never as good as it seems. When you lose three in a row, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve got to go back and look at the film.”
  5. The SEC lost another undefeated team over the weekend, though LSU’s loss to Boise State was met with a lot less fanfare. Freshman guard Corban Collins was a bright spot for the Tigers, scoring a career-high 19 points. But the LSU defense wasn’t up to the task, allowing 89 points to the Broncos, including eight three-pointers and 23 free throws. The trip to Boise was the first of three straight road games for Johnny Jones’ team, who will travel to UC Irvine and Marquette before they see their home court again.
Share this story