SEC Power Rankings: Week Three

Posted by KAlmekinder on December 5th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Week Three’s SEC Power Rankings:

Is there a clear explanation for Kentucky’s back-to-back losses?

  1. Florida – The Gators just keep winning with one key reason: an evenly spread, highly efficient offense. Of the two marquee match-ups Florida has had so far this season, they have won against then-#22 Wisconsin by 18 points, and most recently, against a regularly tough Marquette squad, 82-49. The Gators are averaging nearly 74 points a game on 47% shooting (36% from beyond the arc). In the win over the Golden Eagles last week, six Gators, including three off the bench, posted double figure points while shooting over 50% from the field. Florida’s chemistry and rhythm has led them to the top of the SEC Power Rankings and a top six ranking in the national polls.
  2. Missouri – With most of the attention involving Missouri is focused on Michael Dixon leaving the team, the Tigers have been able to focus on winning with their other personnel. The key to Missouri’s quick turnaround has been forward Laurence Bowers, making his presence known this year after missing last season due to injury. Bowers posted a season high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the Tigers’ win over Appalachian State last Saturday, including 3-for-3 from long distance. With no other difficult match-up until the annual “Braggin’ Rights” showdown versus Illinois later this month, Missouri should remain near the top of the Power Rankings.
  3. Alabama – A narrow 58-56 loss to #17 Cincinnati showed Alabama’s true colors earlier this week. The Tide rallied from 13 down to only lose on a Cashmere Wright fadeaway at the buzzer. Alabama could have used another efficient night from guard Trevor Releford (5-15 shooting, only 12 points), but a loss to a ranked Cincinnati team tested Anthony Grant’s club the entire night and proved that they have the ability to rally when needed. Both Dayton (5-2) and VCU (5-3) come to Tuscaloosa in the next few weeks for another couple of solid tests for the Tide.
  4. Ole Miss – Ole Miss has quietly risen through the rankings because of its own success and the failures of others. Kentucky’s losses (discussed below) have paved the way for an undefeated Rebels squad to a top four position in the SEC Power Rankings. While Ole Miss’ schedule can be considered weak, they have still yet to lose a game. Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in points per game and sixth in rebounds per game. The next test, the Rebs’ first true road game at Middle Tennessee State, will show the rest of the league if they are better than people think. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 30th, 2012

  1. Michael Dixon is leaving the Missouri Tigers basketball team. News broke Thursday afternoon regarding another unrelated accusation made in 2010 against the Missouri guard purporting his involvement in a forcible rape case. The new information, found in a university police incident report, detailed Dixon’s alleged involvement but no charges were filed against him at the time. Later Thursday evening, a text message from Dixon to a friend of his revealed his intention of leaving the team because of the firestorm surrounding the player. There is no official word from coach Frank Haith regarding his dismissal from the team or if Dixon will remain a student at Missouri. Dixon had been suspended since October for a ‘team violation.’
  2. How bad is the bottom of the SEC this season? Bad enough that Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger is already worried about Ole Miss’ RPI rating come March. Kellenberger notes that five SEC teams are outside the top 200 in the RealTimeRPI.com rankings right now, and head coach Andy Kennedy is well aware that he has to play all five schools — Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State, Georgia, and South Carolina — a total of six times. While the RPI is not the primary factor for seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the numbers are given quite a bit of consideration. Many teams with quality in-conference resumes have been left out of the Big Dance because of their RPI, so Ole Miss needs a few upsets and quality wins to ensure an at-large berth and avoid the wrath of the bubble on Selection Sunday.
  3. The Mayans can claim their infamous ‘end of the world’ hoax centered on the year 2012, which many people still believe (not sure why). Many Kentucky fans might take the years 2018 or 2019 a bit more seriously, though. In an article for ESPN the Magazine, head coach John Calipari stated that he plans on being in Lexington for six to seven more years, a date many of the Wildcat faithful hope will never come. When then-head coach Tubby Smith left Kentucky for Minnesota in 2007, Calipari told ESPN he was “waiting on a phone call” but felt the timing was better in 2009 when he ultimately decided to leave Memphis for Kentucky. Calipari’s current contract ends in 2019.
  4. LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III strongly believes that his team is not getting the recognition that they should be receiving this year. As seen in this video in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, O’Bryant says that the Tigers are “a lot deeper than most people think.” He certainly has a right to stand up for his teammates, as LSU is now 5-0 on the season, led by O’Bryant with a double-double in each of his last two games.
  5. There was a lot of hype headed into the Florida-Marquette SEC/Big East Challenge game on Thursday night. Marquette was entering its first true road test of the season as well as a rematch of the Sweet Sixteen game (won by the Gators) from last year’s NCAA Tournament. Florida easily won the battle again, 82-49. The story that caught a lot of attention though was the move by coach Billy Donovan to keep Patric Young on the bench last night. Donovan did not start Young because of his “attitude” in practice and thus gave more playing time for Will Yeguete. Young was able to contribute off the bench however, recording three blocks in Florida’s rout.
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SEC M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 29th, 2012

  1. In the constant juggling of priorities for South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington as a dual-sport athlete, basketball finally is on his mind, at least for now. Ellington, a wide receiver for Steve Spurrier’s gridiron Gamecocks, closed out the regular season last weekend in a win over in-state rival Clemson and is now available to practice with his basketball teammates. Coach Frank Martin spoke to Spurrier on Tuesday regarding Ellington’s situation of practice and travel until football practice begins for bowl preparation. “I’m pretty sure Bruce is going to travel with us,” said Martin. “Whether he’ll play or not, I don’t know.”
  2. We have witnessed over the last two seasons the games-on-battleships idea grow but only with marginal success. While the opportunity to honor our troops and the excitement to play in more exotic locations has far exceeded our expectations, the execution of games has been subpar, to say the least. The idea has resulted in two games called off so far in its career — one of those, the Florida-Georgetown game stopped at halftime due to excessive moisture on the court on November 9 — will not be rescheduled. The two schools could not agree on a future date this season to resume the game due to too many pre-existing scheduling issues. Florida offered a few dates around the New Year’s holiday when both schools were free, but Georgetown did not want to play another high-profile game before opening Big East play versus Marquette on January 5.
  3. Let’s get caught up on the mess that is conference realignment. Last week’s news featured both Maryland and Rutgers leaving the ACC and Big East, respectively, for the Big Ten. This week, Louisville has already joined the ACC, and there are still moves that could be made. One scenario suggests that if Florida State and Clemson both eventually decide to join the Big 12, the SEC could target league cornerstones North Carolina and Duke to complete its 16-team conference. An ACC source said both UNC and Duke have been chased “by the SEC for the past three years” and would then decide between them and the Big Ten. If chosen, those two possible additions would catapult the SEC to the premiere basketball conference in the country.
  4. As Kentucky’s Ryan Harrow returns to the court after his bout with a mysterious illness and a trip back home, head coach John Calipari isn’t ready to give him the reins at point guard spot quite yet. On Wednesday, Calipari stated that Archie Goodwin will continue to command the point guard duties until otherwise stated because “Archie has earned it.” Calipari, while challenging Harrow to compete and earn his starting position back, is still excited for the opportunity to play both guards on the court at the same time and stated “that is a good thing.”
  5. While Florida is facing a brutal three-game stretch ahead (vs. Marquette, at Florida State, at #9 Arizona), most of their medical and emotional attention is focused on forward Casey Prather,  who suffered two concussions in a nine-day span last week. After a complete diagnosis of the injuries, Prather has been forced by the Gators’ medical staff to wear a padded sparring-like helmet as a preventive measure in practices. Coach Billy Donovan and the head athletic trainer are unsure if the helmet will be worn by Prather for the remainder of the season but they will continue to monitor Prather’s prognosis throughout the year.
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SEC M5: 11.28.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 28th, 2012

  1. There has been a lot of speculation and curiosity as to why Missouri‘s Michael Dixon was suspended indefinitely without reason a few months ago. On Tuesday, the Kansas City Star reported that the star Tigers guard had been accused of forcible rape on August 20 but not charged by the district attorney due to insufficient evidence. The police report, disclosed earlier this month, states that the case was “a thorough investigation” and that it “was determined that the evidence was not sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury,” according to Tracy Gonzalez of the Boone County (MO) Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Dixon, who is still serving his team suspension, will not be punished criminally, but he could face additional consequences from the school after decisions are made by the Student Conduct Committee and the Chancellor (see: Dez Wells).
  2. After putting a terrible Maui Invitational performance behind them and accepting the changes needed to make from the trip, Rick Ray and the Mississippi State Bulldogs are looking forward. The first step is to get players (and coaches) back healthy. Ray returned to the sidelines Tuesday night versus Alcorn State after battling a stomach virus that kept him ill during the trip to Maui. Also, the Bulldogs got forward Colin Borchert back from a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Borchert contributed six points on 2-of-5 shooting in the Bulldogs’ 60-44 win. While only scoring 60 points, the Dogs held ASU to only 28.3% shooting and 18 rebounds, a subtle move in the right direction.
  3. Veteran head coach Billy Donovan knows when to turn a negative situation into a teaching lesson. It has been two weeks since Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin was reinstated by the university but the savvy coach will still not yet start Wilbekin in his normal place in the lineup. Wilbekin was replaced by veteran Mike Rosario due to Wilbekin’s suspension and will continue to come off the bench until otherwise determined. Rosario has averaged 11 points a game in his place, compared to only nine points a game for Wilbekin off the bench. Donovan is using this situation as a teaching moment for Wilbekin until he can earn his spot back in the starting rotation.
  4. There isn’t much hype about Arkansas shooters in the SEC when they have to contend with the likes of Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee, but Sports Illustrated‘s Luke Winn is determined to make sure one of the Razorbacks’ top scorers receives some publicity this season. Junior Mardracus Wade was recently named one of the 16 best shooters in the country by Winn in an SI.com slideshow. Wade leads the Hogs in minutes played this season and he is shooting 40% from beyond the arc. The recent high praise for Wade and his team hopefully proves true soon, especially with a brutal non-conference slate still ahead on the menu. If things work out, Wade could join stellar sophomore BJ Young as another solid scoring option and could help lead Arkansas to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons.
  5. With talk about Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele as major contributors to Alabama‘s offense, the star veteran guards had to sit out Tuesday’s game versus Lamar due to injury and illness. Luckily, the Crimson Tide did not need them as they routed Lamar, 75-47. While a win over lowly Lamar was expected, what was more interesting was coach Anthony Grant‘s positive comments regarding his bench players who played significant minutes tonight. Grant was quoted in saying that he “believes in each and every one of these guys that we coach on a daily basis” and that’s the “motivation for me is to try to help them achieve the things they want to achieve and help our team achieve the things we want to achieve.” Grant’s mindset and coaching ability will help maximize the potential from these bench players who would not normally get time if Releford and Steele were healthy. Hopefully, Alabama can get both Releford (stomach virus) and Steele (groin) back quickly as they have to face #17 Cincinnati, Dayton, and VCU all within the next three weeks.
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SEC M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 27th, 2012

  1. After a disastrous showing in the Maui Invitational, Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray has spent the last few days reflecting on his team’s performance in Hawaii. Ray, who also battled a stomach virus while on the trip, discussed several reasons why the Bulldogs underperformed in the tournament. Ray said that his squad, while losing by an average of 29 points per game, “played harder than the other teams for the most part” and a lot of the second-chance opportunities for opponents came from MSU’s rebounding woes. He also noted that the team’s assist-to-turnover ratio (1:2) “needs to be rectified before beating anybody that’s a quality opponent.”
  2. Tennessee got into the Cyber Monday/holiday spirit yesterday by offering $7 tickets to any men’s or women’s basketball home game other than those versus Kentucky for the rest of the season. The promotion, while ending at 7 pm on Monday (sorry), was good for any seat in the 300-level section of Thompson-Boling Arena. There is no official word on whether the online deal resulted in an increase in ticket sales, but such a promotion on Cyber Monday surely could not have hurt the Vols’ chances of packing the arena for their remaining games — especially with great games ahead including Wichita State, Memphis, Xavier, Alabama, Florida, and Missouri all coming to Knoxville this season.
  3. How has Alabama grown this season? The work of veterans Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele, and Trevor Lacey have combined for 37.8 points per game (54% of the team’s scoring) along with an outstanding 2.57 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. With Rodney Cooper (15 PPG/4 RPG) currently out due to shoulder tendinitis, heralded freshman Devonta Pollard emerged as a fourth contributor in keeping the Crimson Tide undefeated, and was listed as one of Al.com‘s three points of the game regarding Alabama’s win over Charleston Southern last weekend. Pollard, who came into that game averaging only four points per outing, was able to control the game to the point where he “could take advantage of his God-given talents”, as stated by coach Anthony Grant. With a healthy Cooper expected back in the lineup as well as a star freshman quickly learning the college game through ample playing time, the Tide could become another legitimate contender for the SEC title.
  4. It seems to be exact opposites in the state of Mississippi this year: Ole Miss has the advantage over in-state rival Mississippi State in basketball while the Bulldogs hold the upper hand on the gridiron. Ole Miss already has five wins in its first five games this season on the hardwood compared to the Bulldogs’ single victory. Of course, Ole Miss has the advantage of not enduring the change of leadership and player exodus that has occurred in Starkville over the last few seasons. The Rebels’ Murphy Holloway was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday, and even while winning versus low-quality opponents, Ole Miss still has a projected higher season win total (22-7, 12-6) than Mississippi State (9-21, 3-15), according to KenPom.com. Regardless of the quality of opponents and game results, the momentum on the hardwood is clearly in Oxford this season.
  5. The learning curve in the SEC might come quicker than imagined for South Carolina‘s Frank Martin.  The Gamecocks concluded their holiday festivities by winning the Hoops for Hope Classic over Arkansas-Little Rock in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last weekend. Martin’s squad, now 5-1 on the season, is quickly gaining confidence with each win they accrue in the non-conference schedule. A win over St. John’s this week in the SEC/Big East Challenge could give the Gamecocks the momentum they need as they face rival Clemson next week. Wins over both teams could serve to propel South Carolina to an outstanding 12-1 non-conference record before playing Mississippi State in its first SEC game in early January. As the games will become more difficult in the waning months of the season, more wins now could help ease the pain later on for Martin and his young, inexperienced squad.
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SEC M5: 11.26.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 26th, 2012

  1. It probably seems just yesterday for Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings when the Commodores won their first SEC Tournament title in 60 years, or that’s how he would like to remember it. With the departures of all of the starters of that title-winning team, Vanderbilt knew years of rebuilding would be ahead but probably did not expect starting from the ground up. In Friday night’s game versus Marist, a team that has been averaging only 55 points per game this season, the ‘Dores recorded their lowest offensive result since the shot clock era began — 33 points. Stallings was quoted regarding the loss that his guys “are so uptight and have a lack of self-confidence right now.”  Still under indefinite suspension from the team, heralded sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker was unable to contribute in the Marist loss. Vanderbilt rebounded nicely to beat UTEP on Sunday to close out its participation in the Old Spice Classic, but regardless of the team’s mindset or current suspensions, Stallings now knows how far they have fallen (and how far they have to go) since their league championship in New Orleans last March.
  2. Speaking of suspensions, Missouri‘s Michael Dixon continues to ride the pine for a rules violation until he can show improvement to coach Frank Haith and the rest of his teammates. His support from the bench hasn’t kept him from tweeting his rage about the situation, though. The Columbia (MO) Tribune‘s Steve Walentik reported that Dixon quickly tweeted (and even more quickly deleted said tweet) his innocence after the team’s loss to Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament over the weekend. Walentik describes the situation with Dixon, Haith, and the university as pending, and none of the specifics have been released by anyone associated with the university. Meanwhile, former Mizzou guard Kim English, now with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, defended his former teammate, also on Twitter, by calling out the university’s student committee board ‘a joke’ and believes Dixon’s chances for reinstatement are good and lie with the university chancellor.
  3. The mystery surrounding Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow’s situation has ceased. Harrow, who practiced Sunday with the team in Lexington, left the squad due to an illness after the Wildcats’ opening-season win versus Maryland and was forced to tend to “a family situation over the holiday break” as soon as he began his recovery. A healthy Harrow back in the lineup alleviates some of the point guard duties for starting shooting guard Archie Goodwin, who played the lead role in Harrow’s absence, and backup point guard Jarrod Polson, as UK prepares for its match-up versus Notre Dame in the SEC/Big East Challenge on Thursday.
  4. In only his two years in Knoxville, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin has quickly saved what could have been a disastrous next half-decade or more for the Volunteer basketball program. How has he done it? Not only through his tough-minded defense, game planning, and hard work, but also by dreaming big. Brendan Quinn writes a brilliant piece about the struggles Martin faced as he grew up in the drug-laden projects of East St. Louis, Illinois, while his mother, Sandra, encouraged him to “dream big” and act on all the great opportunities life presents. It is this upbringing that Martin has used to not only achieve his personal and professional dreams, but also a reminder to stay humble throughout the more difficult times in his career.
  5. We all gripe and offer our opinions as to certain things should be changed, whether it’s the BCS football system, the current political situation, or just a problem in your local community. But, what about college basketball? An interesting article written by Will Blythe at The New Republic discusses how college basketball has become a ‘dumpster fire’ and how four changes (one-and-done rule, AAU circuit, fouls, and basketball minor leagues) could return the game to the state where it once was from the 1960s to the 1990s. Blythe’s argument is that the coaches and players have lost the loyalty and school spirit that they once had in the game’s “heyday” and these four changes would help restore some of the luster to college basketball across the nation.
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Mississippi State’s Maui Performance Signals a Tough Season for Rick Ray

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 22nd, 2012

The Mississippi State Bulldogs spent earlier this week on the beautiful island of Maui as they participated in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Among the palm trees, sandy beaches, and perfect waves, the Bulldogs’ lack of productivity in the annual preseason tournament showcased why Rick Ray‘s club, which finished in last place in the event, will have to endure a long and difficult path back to the top of the SEC.

Mississippi State’s woes displayed in Maui is a foreshadowing for the rest of the season (WFAA.com)

The Bulldogs lost all three of their guaranteed games in Maui by an average of 29 points. They averaged only 18 field goals per game, three three-point field goals per game, and, at one point, trailed #9 North Carolina by 49 points on Monday evening. Was this the worst performance from an SEC team in Maui in the last half-decade? Yes. Since 2007, the first year since any one specific school has been in Maui before (Kentucky went in 2006 and 2010), Mississippi State became the first SEC program to finish last in the annual week-of-Thanksgiving tournament. Out of the possible 18 games in the six total years of this research, Mississippi State had three of the five lowest scoring games of any SEC team (averaging 55 points per game). They also allowed opponents three of the five highest scoring games in the six years (averaging 84 points per game).

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SEC Coaches and RTC Staff Select All-SEC Teams

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 9th, 2012

The college hoops season is underway today and there were still a few preseason lists left to be voted upon. The SEC coaches selected their first and second team all-SEC squads earlier at the SEC Headquarters in Birmingham. Ten different schools were represented in the process, with Tennessee leading with three selections. Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Florida were represented with two selections apiece. The results can be found below.

Jeronne Maymon is one of three Volunteers represented on the preseason Coaches’ All-Conference squads.

First-Team All-SEC
Name, School Pos. Ht. Wt. Class Hometown
Trevor Releford, Alabama G 6-0 195 Jr. Kansas City, Mo.
B.J. Young, Arkansas G 6-3 180 So. St. Louis, Mo.
Kenny Boynton, Florida G 6-2 190 Sr. Pompano Beach, Fla.
Patric Young, Florida C 6-9 249 Jr. Jacksonville, Fla.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia G 6-5 205 So. Greenville, Ga.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky F 6-10 228 Fr. Everett, Mass.
Phil Pressey, Missouri G 5-11 175 Jr. Dallas, Texas
Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee F 6-7 260 Sr. Madison, Wis.
Second-Team All-SEC
Name, School Pos. Ht. Wt. Class Hometown
Marshawn Powell, Arkansas F 6-7 240 Jr. Newport News, Va.
Alex Poythress, Kentucky F 6-7 239 Fr. Clarksville, Tenn.
Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU F 6-9 256 So. Cleveland, Miss.
Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss F 6-9 225 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss F 6-7 240 Sr. Irmo, S.C.
Trae Golden, Tennessee G 6-1 205 Jr. Powder Springs, Ga.
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee F 6-8 270 So. Memphis, Tenn.
Elston Turner, Texas A&M G 6-5 212 Sr. Sacramento. Calif.

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SEC M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 9th, 2012

  1. For the third week in a row, a player on an SEC team has been suspended indefinitely. This week’s ‘winner’ is Florida starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who joins the list of Missouri’s Michael Dixon (still suspended for Missouri’s game on Friday), Vanderbilt’s Dai-Jon Parker, and Mississippi State’s Shawn Smith of suspended players for indefinite and undisclosed reasons. Rush the Court‘s own Brian Joyce wrote a great piece on how Wilbekin’s suspension could hurt the learning curve of the Gators early this season.
  2.  The preseason Wooden Award list was released on Thursday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, who has sponsored the Wooden Award for the last 45 years. The SEC was represented well with six players on the list, including: Kenny Boynton (Florida), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Phil Pressey (Missouri), Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee), BJ Young (Arkansas), and Patric Young (Florida). The Wooden Award list prohibits freshmen from its initial release because the LAAC “has not seen them play on the college level” and thus prevents notable freshman players such as Kentucky‘s Nerlens Noel or Alex Poythress from being included. All transfers and medical redshirt players are also off this exclusive list, but they will have a chance to play their way onto it later this season.
  3. Switching coaching jobs, especially across the country and into a different conference is never easy, but South Carolina’s Frank Martin has handled the move with ease. What has been Martin’s first test as the head coach of the Gamecocks before their first regular season game on Friday? Finding a regular point guard, according to Martin, who recently spoke to Darryl Slater of the Post and Courier (SC) newspaper regarding his options at the position. Junior point guard Bruce Ellington will miss the first half of the season as he wraps up his wide receiver duties with the football team and even more time could be missed until he can learn Martin’s style of play. South Carolina’s best option at this point, as described by Martin, is returnee Eric Smith, who took over the point guard duties for the last 15 games of last season. Smith was described as a more natural fit but will need to work on his consistency to keep his starting job.
  4. Ever wonder why there isn’t a well-documented fantasy college basketball leagues across the country? Well, the witty folks at NBC College Basketball Talk have a solution for your inquiry. They have drafted a league using FCBLZone.com to track fantasy stats for all of the top college basketball players this season. You can follow them by searching the Twitter hashtag #NBCtheLeague. Let’s hope it turns into the college basketball version of FX’s comedy show The League. Who will play the part of Taco and his explicit ability to sell a special kind of wine?
  5. What should be expected from Tennessee this season? CBSSports.com breaks down the potential best and worst-case scenarios for the Vols this season, including the opportunity for a stellar frontcourt combination of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon in the post. Daniel Martin predicts Cuonzo Martin will get his squad back to the postseason, including a win or two in the NCAA Tournament, and we can’t necessarily disagree with him.
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SEC M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 8th, 2012

  1. The opening game in last year’s season between Michigan State and North Carolina took place on the deck of an aircraft carrier, an unprecedented location for a college basketball game in the history of the sport. Back by popular demand and the opportunities it provides to our military personnel, many more college basketball games (and practices) are taking place at military bases or other aircraft carriers across the world this year. On Friday, Florida will become the first SEC school to take place in one of these military-themed games against Georgetown on the deck of the USS Bataan in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic in Jacksonville. When asked about the specifics, coach Billy Donovan stated that the outdoor temperature, unusual sight lines, and unique atmosphere of the game will not affect the Gators’ game plan at all. The temperatures will be a bit cooler in this year’s game, hopefully avoiding a condensation problem similar to what arose during the game action in San Diego last year.
  2. So what happened Tuesday night at Ole Miss? In non-basketball related news, Twitter conversations in Oxford regarding the presidential election results triggered university police to convene at the student union on campus to disperse an angry group of protesting students, some of whom were shouting racially-charged epithets according to a statement from the school. The result? Two arrests for disorderly conduct, one for public intoxication, and another for failure to comply with police orders were handed out. The university issued a statement stating the campus was ‘a normal day’ on Wednesday and all campus related events will go on as planned. Let’s hope so — Mississippi doesn’t have a history of racial enlightenment to fall back on here.
  3. Can Tennessee make it nine straight wins versus UNC-Asheville next week in Puerto Rico? The Volunteers have history on their side, but the Bulldogs want to schedule a home-and-home series with the Vols and hopefully end the streak that way. Separated by only 117 miles across the Smoky Mountains, both Tennessee and UNC-Asheville ironically will travel 1550 miles to Puerto Rico for their latest game in the series. UNC-Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach is hopeful that a new arena on his side of the divide could trigger a local rivalry with the Vols, but there were no comments from Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on the subject. Also, Volunteers freshman Derek Reese began basketball activities again on Tuesday after tearing his right labrum over the summer. Reese participated in layup drills using only his left hand.
  4. Mark your calendars appropriately: ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan has compiled a list of the must-see non-conference games before New Year’s Day. Which SEC schools frequent the list? Kentucky and Florida, of course. Kentucky and Florida have four games each on the list, followed by Missouri with two games and Arkansas with one. The only two games that are not on campus locations include Missouri’s games in the difficult Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament and Florida’s match-up with Georgetown on the USS Bataan, off the coast of Jacksonville. These games will not only make for great viewing but also good early tests for all clubs before conference play.
  5. What makes Kentucky coach John Calipari so successful? He has proven that he can corral the egos of mega-talented freshmen and mold them into a national championship squad using a style of play that best fits that specific team’s needs. In the 2010-11 season, Calipari used the reliable shooting of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb to push his team to a surprise Final Four run. The previous team was centered around the play-making of John Wall and the size of DeMarcus Cousins. But how do these recruits end up at Kentucky and why does the Big Blue Nation adore their coach so much? Jason King of ESPN.com dubs the Calipari persona almost ‘gospel-like,’ breaking down Calipari’s unbelievable ways of operating a blue-blooded powerhouse, including recruiting, his relationships with hip-hop moguls such as Jay-Z and Drake, and his uncanny ability to make time (when he has none) to raise a million dollars via a telethon for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
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Preseason SEC Power Rankings

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.

Kentucky tops the first Rush the Court: SEC power rankings (Washington Post)

  1. Kentucky – The playlist is set on repeat as long as Calipari is in Lexington; raw freshmen talent comes in, matures, performs at their highest peak in March, and gets drafted. Don’t expect this year’s squad to match last year’s numbers or expectations. However, Calipari will find a way to get these Cats to mature quickly and be in the hunt for their 48th SEC crown and another Final Four run.
  2. Florida – The Gators return quite a bit from their second Elite Eight run in as many seasons. Their expectations are to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007. While the veteran leadership of Kenny Boynton is a positive, the Gators must get more consistent play from several key role players, including Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario, to reach their goals. The pieces are in place for another deep Gator run.
  3. Missouri –  The island of misfit transfers is located in Columbia, Missouri. Newcomers such as Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriahki (Connecticut), and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all come to Missouri to find a new and hopefully winning experience in the Tigers’ first year in the SEC. With preseason SEC Player of the Year Phil Pressey leading the backcourt as well as Laurence Bowers in the post, Missouri should not only come close to their success of last year but also vie for the school’s first Final Four appearance in history.
  4. Tennessee –  The Volunteers won nearly 20 games last year and earned a postseason NIT berth with first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Adding freshman phenom forward Jarnell Stokes in January resulted in at least four more wins in the second half of the season. Martin’s defensive style of play, plus Stokes on the team for a full year and senior Jeronne Maymon guarding the post, should cause hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC title. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

  1. We are under 60 hours away from college basketball’s first regular season games tipping off and both Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated have released their first bracket projections of the 2012-13 season. Each bracket has only five SEC teams in the field as of today: Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, and Tennessee. Kentucky is projected to be a #1 seed in both Lunardi’s bracket as well as Glockner’s while they disagree on the seeds for the remaining four teams. Get over there and check them out — it’ll get you more ready for the season to start than you might think.
  2. The season has not even begun but the problems keep accumulating for Mississippi State and Rick Ray, as the Bulldogs just lost another player to injury. Brandon Marcello from the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger originally reported that freshman guard DeAndre Applewhite suffered a devastating knee injury late last week. On Tuesday, an MRI scan showed that Applewhite tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee, thus sidelining him for the entire 2012-13 season. Applewhite joins Jacoby Davis on the injured list with virtually the same knee injury that the point guard suffered back in July. Applewhite’s injury leaves the Bulldogs with only eight healthy scholarship players on the squad, but healthy or not, Mississippi State opens its season Friday versus Troy.
  3. The pundits writing for ESPN’s College Basketball Nation blog hosted a fantasy college basketball draft earlier Tuesday, drafting five starters, a reserve, a head coach and an arena for the season. The draft took place via live-blog on Tuesday afternoon while former-Tennessee-coach-turned-analyst Bruce Pearl recapped the proceedings in a more reader-friendly article. The draft results are also here for an easier view. Only four SEC players, coaches, or venues were drafted among the group. Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Missouri’s Phil Pressey were drafted as players, Kentucky coach John Calipari as a coach, and Rupp Arena as a venue. Makes sense.
  4. A lot of the press coverage the Missouri Tigers are receiving this preseason is with respect to all their talented transfers who will suit up this season. One player ready to play again on Friday (and going largely unmentioned in most of these analyses) is forward Laurence Bowers, a player finally ready to return from an ACL tear suffered 13 months ago. Bowers’ hard work in rehabilitation will provide another strong body in the post, a piece the Tigers desperately missed at times last year as when they were bounced in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament against Norfolk State. Bowers will join transfer Alex Oriahki from Connecticut (more on him in a moment) as a dynamic tandem in the Tigers’ frontcourt.
  5. USA Today released an article late Tuesday describing college basketball’s “free agency era,” a situation slowly gaining popularity with programs across the country. The article mentions former Connecticut Huskies forward Alex Oriahki, now with the Missouri Tigers because of the unique situation UConn was in last season regarding academic APR sanctions and including a postseason ban. As the APR takes greater effect with a higher threshold in the future, many more high-caliber players could follow suit, leaving schools to play for programs not similarly restricted. Could this usher in a new free agency system that directs certain recruits to certain schools? Oriahki has set the model in play for a potential change with the NCAA rulebook.
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