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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SEC M5: 11.06.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 6th, 2012

  1. The list of ineligible players in the SEC adds another as Texas A&M’s Shawn Smith was ruled a partial qualifier over the weekend. Smith, a freshman guard on the Aggies’ roster, will only be allowed to practice with the team this season. He will be eligible next season as a redshirt freshman and still have four years of eligibility remaining. Smith joins Missouri’s Michael Dixon and Dominique Bull as well as Dai-Jon Parker from Vanderbilt as the most recent SEC players to be removed from action. Those three suspensions are ongoing and the respective schools have not released any information as to the causes for their sanctions.
  2. The expectations for typical freshmen are usually low but not at a school like Kentucky. John Calipari’s system of high-caliber freshmen coupled with the ridiculous love and support of the Wildcat fans raises the expectations of their freshmen exponentially. Will  Totten at Kentucky Sports Radio wrote a piece comparing the statistics of freshmen in the Calipari era to other freshmen across the country and the reasons why the Wildcat freshmen’s numbers are slightly higher than the national averages. With everything involved with Kentucky basketball, those reasons seem pretty obvious.
  3. After his visit to Auburn where he was quoted by stating he wanted to be “the face of the program,” class of 2013 recruit Austin Nichols will not be committing to any SEC school this fall. Instead, Nichols chose Memphis on Monday over Auburn, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt, becoming the fifth commitment to the Tigers program in the class of 2013. Each of the SEC teams he considered could have significantly benefited from adding a five-star recruit next year, as Kentucky and Florida have recently been the only league programs regularly signing that level of high school talent.
  4. Many coaches have mutual respect for one other, stemming from their success on the court and character off it. But does that respect come from actions that took place in a high school decades ago? Frank Martin thinks it does. Martin, who is in his first year as the head coach at South Carolina, stated in an article that his first college essay was about Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, describing his hard work ethic and humble attitude when both he and Grant attended Miami Senior High School together. The same degree of respect goes the other way from Grant to Martin as well, as Grant has in the past described his relationship with Martin as like a ‘relative,’ stating he has been very close to him in almost every aspect of life.
  5. With a healthy Jeronne Maymon in tow, Tennessee is considered by many as a dark horse pick for the SEC crown. The problem is that Maymon is not healthy. The 6’7″ senior who spent the offseason rehabilitating the second knee surgery of his career is still on the sidelines for the Volunteers with still no timetable for his return. Cuonzo Martin and the rest of his squad is learning how to practice without Maymon in the lineup and are drafting a strategy for the season once he is healthy. With Maymon out, that means more practice time for Quinton Chievous, a redshirt freshman who could take Maymon’s place because of his speed and perimeter shooting. The injury also forces highly touted returning sophomore Jarnell Stokes to take a more pivotal role in the Vols’ game plan as well as providing leadership on and off the court.
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SEC M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 5th, 2012

  1. Two years removed from raising over a million dollars in Haiti earthquake relief efforts with a nationally televised telethon, Kentucky is at it again. The Wildcats are going to host another telethon this year to support the victims and recovery of the aftermath from Hurricane Sandy in the northeast. John Calipari will host this telethon on Wednesday evening and already has some ideas as to improve upon the last one, stating that the Hati fundraiser had over 70,000 calls. “We couldn’t take them all. We could only take 2,000. So we’re going to hope to have it so that whoever calls in, that phone will be answered somewhere.” The telethon will be from 7-8 PM EST online at
  2. After the sudden change in roster spots and coaching, many Bulldog fans knew the Mississippi State rebuilding process would take some time, but even they probably did not think it would begin with a very close win in its exhibition game versus William Carey on Sunday night. Rick Ray’s club trailed by eight points in the first half but eventually came back to win, 80-74. Ray was asked if his team was ready for Friday’s regular season match-up versus Troy and he gave “no” as his response. While his team’s execution was poor, Ray focused on the positives and knew that their exhibition would help with teaching points for his squad going forward.
  3. It has been a few weeks since Missouri head coach Frank Haith suspended Michael Dixon and Dominique Bull for team rules violations. On Friday, Haith stated that Dixon would continue to sit out for the Tigers’ exhibition versus Missouri Southern yesterday (which Missouri won, 86-60). Haith said that Dixon is working better to meet the team’s rules and expectations and has rejoined the team in practice. The freshman Bull, suspended for a separate incident, dressed out on Sunday but he was not guaranteed any playing time (he received three minutes). There is no timetable set for Dixon’s return to the lineup.
  4. The first step toward new head coach Johnny Jones’ returning LSU to a premier SEC power is by establishing a solid recruiting base. Jones is off to a great start by already receiving verbal commitments from two 2013 ESPN Top 100 recruits in Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman. Late last week he made his biggest splash by landing Baton Rouge star and #14 overall player, Jarell Martin, a 6’8″ power forward who had offers from Alabama, St. John’s, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. LSU now has two verbal commitments in the Texas/Louisiana area with four more also considering the Tigers. Jones is successfully using his local geography pitch to help land these recruits and it could pay off with more to come.
  5.  The Georgia men’s and women’s basketball teams participated in “Painting the ‘G'” over the weekend, a tradition started two years ago by the Georgia football staff. They let Mark Fox and the basketball players physically paint the Georgia “G” on the football field before their most recent game, knowing that while football still reigns in the SEC, November is also the beginning of the basketball season. The football staff wants to convey the message that all its players and coaches support and respect the other sports at the university and looks to involve them in other projects.
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Vanderbilt Guard Dai-Jon Parker Suspended

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 31st, 2012

Coming off its first SEC Tournament title since 1952 and losing a majority of their offense from last season due to the NBA Draft or graduation, Vanderbilt already knew it would have to replace many pieces on this season’s team. Today, they will have to add sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker to the list because of a non-academic suspension. Head coach Kevin Stallings announced Tuesday that the projected starting shooting guard will be suspended indefinitely because Parker “failed to uphold the high standard that we expect of a Vanderbilt basketball player and will be disciplined accordingly.” Parker and sophomore Kedren Johnson were expected to fill the voids left by Brad Tinsley, John Jenkins, and Jeffery Taylor, all upperclassmen who left after last season due to graduation or to pursue professional careers. The guard trio of Tinsley/Jenkins/Taylor provided Vanderbilt’s most dangerous weapon: 244 three-pointers on a blistering 43% clip and high offensive efficiency numbers. Parker and Johnson, on the other hand, were substituted into the rotation last year with very minimal roles.

Who will replace Dai-Jon Parker in Vanderbilt’s already depleted backcourt?

The departures of Tinsley, Jenkins, and Taylor, as well as experienced defensive big men Festus Ezeli, Lance Goulbourne, and Steve Tchiengang, made up arguably Vanderbilt’s most well-rounded team in the Kevin Stallings era. The Commodores’ offensive efficiency (115.7) ranked #11 in the country while their defensive efficiency (92.7) was solid at #30. Sky-high expectations after winning the SEC Tournament over heavily favored Kentucky  quickly came crashing down when Vanderbilt lost to Wisconsin in the Third Round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, one step short of the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2007.

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Happy Halloween From the SEC: Which School Represents Which Candy?

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 31st, 2012

As we preview the SEC this season, the focus this week is on Halloween, the junk food-centered holiday predominantly celebrated by children or college kids, who both have different motives when this date comes around on the calendar every year. While the ghosts and goblins knock on doors asking for their sweet tooth tithes tonight, we pose the question: Which Halloween candy represents each SEC school? The analogies might surprise you.

What Kinds of Candy Are the 12 SEC Schools This Year?

  • Alabama – M&M’s. The always consistent M&M’s can never disappoint, even with variable options such as peanut butter and peanut. This year marks Year Four of the Anthony Grant Experience in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide are coming off consecutive 20-win seasons and are building a case to challenge more prominent schools for their place in the SEC pecking order. Returning senior Jalen Steele, sophomore sharpshooter Trevor Lacey and skilled freshman Devonta Pollard will provide skill and reliability for Anthony Grant as the Tide battles a tough non-conference slate, including Purdue, Villanova, Cincinnati, and Grant’s previous school, VCU. A 2o-plus win season in Alabama, coming off another dominant season on the gridiron, will have fans in Tuscaloosa cheering all season long.
  • ArkansasMilky Way. Like the Milky Way bar in its history, Arkansas basketball has lost some luster from its national championship ways in the early 1990s. Over time, better teams and chocolate bars have gained popularity while leaving little respect for this program and its chocolate. Arkansas has not been to the NCAA Tournament in four years and is 17 years removed from its last Final Four appearance. Now on their third coach since Nolan Richardson’s firing in 2002, head coach Mike Anderson is working to reinvigorate the “40 minutes of hell” style of play that his mentor used to gain attention almost two decades ago. The Milky Way bar has done the same; changes to the texture, size, and taste to attract more buyers might have done more harm than good. Maybe a trip back to their standard will be more profitable too.
  • AuburnSmarties. The Smarties are the consistently bad candy; they can always be found in a jumbo pack of other powder-type candies for cheap and are always the last Halloween candy eaten — usually on the day after Thanksgiving. Auburn basketball has consistently been the Smarties of the SEC. Since the 2003-04 season, Auburn has finished in the bottom three of the conference standings in all but one year. Fans no doubt see basketball as the dead period between fall football games and spring football practice. There is some hope on the horizon, however, as Auburn is in the mix with ESPN Top 100 recruit Austin Nichols and was quoted to say he “wanted to be the face of the program.” Head coach Tony Barbee, his staff, and players hosted a  free “Barbee-Q” for all Auburn students on Monday night. Maybe weekly free food and an elite recruit could help invigorate some life into the basketball program; or maybe just feed some college kids so they take a break from eating ramen every night. Read the rest of this entry »
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Andrew Wiggins Reclassifies to Class of 2013, Adds More Schools to List

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 26th, 2012

Thursday became a huge day in the world of recruiting when top Class of 2014 prospect Andrew Wiggins decided to reclassify to the Class of 2013, essentially moving all of his college recruiting visits and commitment to a lucky college to next spring. This decision allows Wiggins to leapfrog current undecided recruit Jabari Parker to take over the #1 spot as the top recruit in this year’s senior class. Wiggins is currently in the process of taking the necessary classes and filing the paperwork to finalize his transition.

Wiggins is considered by some to be the best high school player since LeBron James (Getty Images)

Wiggins, a native of Thornhill, Ontario (Canada), chose to finish his amateur basketball career at Huntington (WV) Prep, a ‘basketball academy’ known for producing great basketball players from across the globe, including current collegiate star Gorgui Dieng (Louisville), but also former athletes of the coaching staff including current Dallas Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo, Houston Rockets forward Patrick Patterson, New York Knicks guard Bill Walker, West Virginia forward Deniz Kilicli, and current Virginia Tech football player Logan Thomas. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the 25th best player in the 2013 class and Wiggins’ teammate, recently chose to attend Florida State.

What makes Andrew Wiggins’ so spectacular? Some media members familiar with his talents have heralded him as the “best high school player since LeBron James.” The consensus is that Wiggins’ skill set is dominant in almost every category — scoring, slashing to the rim, rebounding, passing, and defense — all with the same tenacity and passion demonstrated by James throughout his time in high school and in the NBA.

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Analyzing Florida’s Non-Conference Schedule

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 25th, 2012

High expectations are floating around Gainesville this season, and with good reason. The Florida Gators look to expand on last year’s loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight with veteran players, key transfers, and a challenging non-conference slate. Experienced returnees Kenny Boynton, a preseason all-SEC First Team pick earlier this week, Erik Murphy, a three year letterman and post defender with good perimeter range, and reserve Scottie Wilbekin, a deadly three-point shooter at over 45%, lead the charge as the Gators will challenge Kentucky and Missouri for the SEC crown.

The Gators are primed for another run towards a Final Four (AP)

While the departures from last year’s team only includes Bradley Beal and Erving Walker (a combined 26.9 points per game on 42.1% shooting), the Gators will miss Beal’s steadiness on the floor and his play-making ability. But the Gators will also miss Walker’s production in almost every offensive category, most notably scoring (12.4 PPG), distribution (1.8 ATO), and durability (30.3 MPG). Head coach Billy Donovan has regrouped nicely after the losses of these two players, snagging transfers Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6’8″ sophomore forward from Virginia Tech, and 6’10” forward Damontre Harris from conference foe South Carolina. Both players will have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules but will be great practice acquisitions this year.

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SEC Media Pick Kentucky as SEC Champion, Phil Pressey as SEC POY

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 22nd, 2012

No surprises here: The SEC media has chosen the Kentucky Wildcats to repeat as SEC champs. John Calipari’s team, coming off the first perfect season in conference regular season play since they last accomplished the feat in the 2002-03 campaign, received 328 total votes, including 17 first place selections. Florida finished second in the voting with 310 votes (five first place votes), Missouri third (286, one) and Tennessee fourth (269, one). Mississippi State, with new head coach Rick Ray and the loss of stars Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney, and Arnett Moultrie, was picked dead last with 37 votes, over 150 votes below the Bulldogs’ preseason ranking last year. The Vanderbilt Commodores, after surprisingly winning the 2012 SEC Tournament last season, also lost nearly the same number of votes as Mississippi State because of a similarly large personnel losses. The full preseason poll is listed below.

Kentucky was picked to repeat as SEC Champs by the media on Monday

SEC Preseason Media Poll

  1. Kentucky (17)  328
  2. Florida (5)         310
  3. Missouri (1)      286
  4. Tennessee (1)   269
  5. Arkansas            226
  6. Alabama             222
  7. Ole Miss              186
  8. Georgia               149
  9. Texas A&M        122
  10. Vanderbilt         120
  11. LSU                       116
  12. Auburn               95
  13. South Carolina 54
  14. Mississippi State 37
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SEC M5: 10.19.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 19th, 2012

  1. As Missouri slowly tries to find its identity in the SEC football realm, its basketball presence has already been met with much hype and high expectations heading into the season. The Tigers’ initial move from the Big 12 to the SEC was criticized regarding the status of some of their regional rivalries, most notably with its immediate neighbors, Kansas and Illinois. Yesterday the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the “Braggin’ Rights” rivalry between Missouri and Illinois will continue through the 2016-17 season. The annual Mississippi River border showdown at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis has featured an intense regional rivalry since its inception in 1980. Missouri has won the last three meetings in the series after Illinois had won nine straight from 2000-08. As for the rivalry with Kansas, no news has surfaced (and may never surface) since Missouri’s departure from the Big 12 and thus ending the century old Border War, for now.
  2.  Could Michigan’s Fab Five beat last year’s Kentucky squad? Or vice versa? Coach John Calipari defended his Wildcats in an ESPN “Numbers Never Lie” clip on Thursday. Co-host and former Fab Five member Jalen Rose, in defense of his Wolverines, jokingly stated “Kentucky cheated by not starting all five freshmen last year.” Calipari praised Rose for his vocal leadership that helped make the Fab Five a very tight-knit group and said “my team wasn’t as vocal but came together in the same way. It would’ve been a heck of a game.”
  3. With the release of the Top 25 Coaches Poll earlier this week, head coach Mike Anderson and the Arkansas Razorbacks saw the difficult road that lies ahead: Seven ranked opponents on their schedule this year, including four within three weeks of each other. The Las Vegas Classic will challenge the Hogs early with games against #15 Creighton and #21 Wisconsin on November 24. Less than a week later, Arkansas hosts #9 Syracuse on November 30. In conference play, Arkansas will play home-and-home with #10 Florida and  #17 Missouri with another home game versus #3 Kentucky on March 2. Anderson will be tested early and often this season, hoping these difficult games will improve on last year’s 18-14 record and get the Razorbacks back into the NCAA Tournament.
  4. In recruiting news, Missouri picked up a commitment on Thursday from ESPN Top 100 forward Johnathan Williams, III. Dave Telep of ESPN reported that the 6’8″ Memphis native chose the Tigers over Tennessee, Michigan State, Georgetown, and George Mason. Williams is ranked as the 38th best overall recruit in the Class of 2013 and the second Top 100 recruit Missouri has obtained for next year. Williams’ pick has immediately vaulted the Tigers to #16 in next year’s class rankings.
  5.  New LSU head coach Johnny Jones spoke out on Wednesday about the first four practices he held this year. Jones discussed the difficulty of playing with only 11 guys and the challenge of molding his squad to understand the tempo he expects to see this season. “We want to try and make sure that our level is as such the way that we play. We’re trying to implement our system in just a short time because we’ll obviously be playing here in less than a month,” Jones said. The new head coach also praised several of his players but was still grounded, knowing they must all improve individually as well as a team going forward.
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