Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 22nd, 2009

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.


  1. Kentucky 12-0
  2. Florida 8-2
  3. Tennessee 8-2
  4. South Carolina 8-3
  5. Vanderbilt 8-3
  6. Georgia 5-4


  1. Mississippi 10-1
  2. Mississippi State 9-2
  3. LSU 8-2
  4. Alabama 7-4
  5. Arkansas 6-5
  6. Auburn 5-6

Kentucky set a new standard in college basketball as they became the first program to win 2,000 wins in an 88-44 romp over Drexel.  John Calipari is more than exceeding expectations with a 12-0 record and a #3 ranking in both polls.  UK appears to be gelling right now and are clearly setting the standard in the SEC. Unfortunately, the UK game was about the only highlight in the SEC this week as both Florida and Tennessee suffered head scratching losses.  The two Mississippi schools are starting to rise and play very well and the SEC is turning into a five or six team race.

In the polls, the Wildcats hold on to the number 3 ranking in both polls.  Tennessee falls out of the top ten to 14 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top #25.  The Florida Gators fell to #18 in both polls after their second straight loss.  The Ole Miss Rebels did move up to #15 in the AP Top #25 but are at #21 in the ESPN/USA Today. Despite a few strong weeks, Mississippi State would appear logically to be the next SEC team to crack the polls but they are not getting much love from the voters and it may be a couple more weeks before a 5th team joins the rankings.

Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He averaged 9.5 PPG on 88.9 FG% to go with 5.0 RPG and 3.0 blocks in two wins.   Georgia’s Trey Thompkins named SEC Player of the Week.  He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in a victory over Illinois .


Just a few stocking stuffers strewn through the week, but the real present of the week is the Mississippi/West Virginia matchup.  Here is a look at some of the key games this week:

12/22:  South Alabama (8-4) @ Florida (8-2) – 7 PM – ESPN 360

12/22:  Missouri State (10-0) @ Arkansas (6-5) – 8PM

12/22:  LSU (8-2) @ Washington State (9-2) – 10 PM

12/23:  Long Beach State (6-4) @ Kentucky (11-0) – 1 PM

12/23:  Mississippi (10-1) @ West Virginia (8-0) – 7:30PM – ESPN2

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)


Kentucky (#3, #3) — Kentucky, behind Patrick Patterson’s 21 points, overcame an overall sluggish performance and pulled away from the Austin Peay Governors late for a 90-69 win on Saturday.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and John Wall threw in 11 to lead the Wildcats.  With the 11-0 start, Calipari eclipsed Adolph Rupp’s record for best start by a first year coach.   UK was a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line in the game and that helped to thwart any Governor’s comebacks.  Two days later, UK assured there would be no drama in getting their 2,000th win as they jumped out to a 56-20 halftime lead en route to an 88-44 romp over Drexel.   Patterson and Cousins each had 18 points and Cousins grabbed 13 boards to lead UK.  An amazing stat from the week is that UK went 35-37 from the free throw line for the two games.

Florida (#18 , #18) — The Gators blew an eight point lead and were upset by the Richmond Spiders 56-53 on Saturday night.  This was the second straight loss for UF, who started the season 8-0 and reached #10 in the rankings.  It was a sloppy game as both teams shot 38% and despite having a 10 rebound advantage, the Gators were outhustled by the scrappy Spiders.

Tennessee (#16, #14) — Tennessee opened the SEC week Tuesday night with a 77-58 win over the Wyoming Cowboys.  The Vols only led by one at the half but had a very good defensive second half and pulled away for the win. Scotty Hopson continued to pace the Vols with 14 points and Wayne Chism had 13.  It does say something about the Vols overall strength when they can win by 19 despite being outrebounded and going 4-20 from beyond the 3 point line.  On Saturday, Bruce Pearl suffered his worse loss at Knoxville and the #8 Vols were routed 77-55 by the 4-4 USC Trojans.  Hopson was the only Vol that turned out to play and he had 16 points.  In comparison, the rest of the starting lineup scored just 23 points.  Tennessee could not mount any challenge to the Trojans with their 2-22 three-point shooting.

South Carolina — The Gamecocks broke open a 52-all tie with a 24-6 run to pull out a 76-58 win over the upset-minded Richmond Spiders last Wednesday.  Devan Downey led the way with 18 points and Johndre Jefferson had a nice performance off the bench (12 pts, 8 boards) to help South Carolina continue to win without Dominique Archie.  On Saturday the Gamecocks suffered a crushing lost to the Wofford Terriers, 68-61.  South Carolina had won the previous 21 meetings against Wofford, who have also beaten the Georgia Bulldogs this year.  Downey led the USC scoring with 17 and Brandis Raley-Ross had 14.  The Gamecocks rebounded from the devastating news that Archie is lost for the year by blasting the Furman Paladins 81-57 Monday night.  Sam Muldrow and Devan Downey both had 16 to lead the Gamecocks.

VanderbiltJeffrey Taylor had 20 points on white hot 10-11 shooting as Vanderbilt rebounded from a rough week last week with a 84-71 win over the Tennessee State Tigers.   A.J. Ogilvy, apparently relegated to the bench for now, added 11 points and 6 boards in just 15 minutes.   The Commodores had a great shooting night, hitting 67.9% from the field.  Then last night the Commodores used 60% shooting to blast the Mercer Bears 99-59.  This was a game where the Commodores got a lot of production off their bench with 17 points from John Jenkins and A.J. Ogilvy had 11 points in just 15 minutes.

GeorgiaTrey Thompkins hit four straight free throw attempts in the final 22.2 seconds to finish with 21 points and help Georgia beat Illinois 70-67 on Saturday night.  This was was the biggest win of the Mark Fox era as the Illini came into the game at 8-2.  Travis Leslie added 17 points as the Bulldogs improved to 5-4.


Mississippi (#15, #21) — The Ole Miss Rebels are becoming King of the Comeback as they came from behind in the third straight game to force OT vs the UTEP Miners on Wednesday, then dominated the extra period en route to a 91-81 victory.  Chris Warren had a career high 32 points and 5 3-pointers.  Terrico White added three treys and 19 points.  The Rebels won their 6th game in a row with a 108-64 romp over the Centenary Gentlemen on Saturday.  Ole Miss hardly broke a sweat in posting a 30 point halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way.   The Rebs were led by White’s 17 and the team nailed 11 treys to key the romp.

Mississippi State — Mississippi State used 63% shooting to put away the Wright State Raiders 80-69.  The Bulldogs got impressive showings from their guards rather than their forwards.   Barry Stewart hit five treys and had 21 points while Dee Bost had 11 assists to key the Bulldog win.   Jarvis Varnado, who entered the day leading the nation in blocks this season, added five more to help Mississippi State to its sixth-straight win in a 70-64 victory over Houston on Saturday.  If that is not enough, Varnado added 17 boards and 13 points.  Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost both added 15 points for the Bulldogs.

AlabamaMikhail Torrance scored 15 points and had seven assists, and JaMychal Green added 14 points to lead Alabama to a 60-45 victory over Samford.  The game only featured six free throws and a total of 15 fouls between the two teams.  In their other matchup, the Tide came out flat and were generally dominated in a 87-74 loss to #22 Kansas State.  Alabama did manage a late run that cut an 18 point deficit to seven, but ran out of gas as Kansas State pulled away again.  Torrance had 20 and Green added 17 for the Alabama cause.

LSUTasmin Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining in the game lifted LSU to a 63-60 victory over Nicholls State on Thursday night.  LSU continued it’s trend of struggling with lesser teams with the 3-9 Colonels.  Mitchell was 11-14 for the game and had 27 points and Storm Warren had a double double with 13 points and 11 boards.  Bo Spencer scored 22 points, including two important free throws in the final minute, to lead LSU to a 65-61 victory against Rice on Saturday.  Mitchell had a double double with 10 points and 12 boards as LSU improved to 8-0 at home.

Arkansas — On Wednesday, the shorthanded Razorbacks had to face Alabama State without the SEC’s leading scorer Rotnei Clarke (tendinitis) but still got a compete team effort to beat the Hornets, 76-51.  Michael Washington had 22 points and Marshawn Powell 13 to help the Hogs.  Washington scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Arkansas held off Stephen F. Austin 72-69 on Saturday.  Stefan Walsh added 13 points off the bench as the Hogs moved above .500 at 6-5.

Auburn — The Tigers let a great opportunity for a signature win slip through it’s fingers with a 76-72 loss at Florida State.  DeWayne Reed and Frankie Sullivan both scored 17 points and the Tigers nailed 13 treys but could not close the gap for the upset win.  On Sunday, the Tigers became a signature win for another program as they lost 107-89 to the Sam Houston State Bearkats.  Auburn became the first SEC victory for the Bearkats who threw 92 points up on Kentucky earlier this season.  Reed’s 19 led the way for the Tigers.

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Posted by jstevrtc on December 21st, 2009

On Monday night, the University of Kentucky will welcome the Drexel Dragons into Rupp Arena for a 7:00 PM ET tilt that — no disrespect to Drexel, here, we’re just playing the percentages — could give UK its 12th win of the season against no losses, and could further the record for best start at UK for a first-year coach.  Previously held by (no surprises here) Adolph Rupp, who started the 1931 season with ten straight wins, John Calipari took that record for himself with the Wildcats’ win over Austin Peay on Saturday.

Just your typical Monday night, post-finals week, holiday season, non-conference game, eh?

Oh, yeah.  There’s this other thing.

As you likely know by now, a win over the Dragons on Monday evening will mark win #2,000 for the Kentucky program.  They’ll beat North Carolina to that finish line by eight wins, or about a month.

While acknowledging how impressive that number is and what it means to Kentucky fans, the players and coaches in Lexington are largely dismissing the occasion with a sort of wave of the hand, seeing it not so much as a finish line but a milepost on the way to another finish line located in Indianapolis in early April.  That makes sense, when you figure that Calipari himself will only be responsible of 12 of those 2,000 wins, and that even the three current Kentucky seniors — Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, and Mark Krebs — can lay claim to only 74 of them, a mere 4%.

Any wearer of the Kentucky uniform, past or present, should certainly feel a part of this achievement.  No doubt about that.  Calipari said it best, though, in a recent AP story about reaching 2,000 wins when he simply said, “It’s important to the Commonwealth.”

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Knight’s Calipari Remark — Let It Go

Posted by jstevrtc on December 18th, 2009

No doubt by now you’ve heard about Bobby Knight’s return trip to Indiana last night to speak at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and the lick he got in on Kentucky head honcho John Calipari.  Just so we’ll have it in front of us, here’s what the General said:

“We’ve gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking and that’s why I’m glad I’m not coaching.  You see, we’ve got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he’s still coaching.  I really don’t understand that.”

That’s from the report on Knight’s trip to Indianapolis for his speaking appearance.  The initial reaction for most people is going to be to question Bob Knight’s definition of integrity.  They’ll reel off a laundry list of Knight’s transgressions and try to discredit him in that fashion.  They’ll assault his character and call him all kinds of nasty names.  Much will be written about the irony of Bob Knight accusing another man of a lack of integrity.

Forget the slam...does he have his facts right?

Forget the slam...does he have his facts right?

Of greater importance to us, though, is the actual content of what the guy said.  Everything you read is going to focus on his slam of Calipari (though he didn’t actually say the name, for some reason), but we think any examination of the statement should start with a much more basic question:  is what he said factual?  Were things really “cleaner” back in the good ol’ days of Knight’s time of prowling the sideline?  And did John Calipari really put two schools on probation?

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Thoughts On The Sporting News’ Top 50 Coaches List…

Posted by jstevrtc on July 31st, 2009

By now you’ve probably seen the list published earlier this week by The Sporting News naming their Fifty Greatest Coaches of All Time, across all sports.  And most likely you’ve at least seen that the legendary John Wooden tops that list, a selection about which this blogger has not heard one single detractor, not even one with a bad argument.  What’s interesting to me is the names from the college basketball world that follow Wooden on that list.  Here they are; I added two coaches at the end who did not make the TSN list (though one would think they might) just for the discussion:

TSN all-time coaches

The first thing that strikes me is where John Wooden ranks on the all-time Division 1 wins list.  21st??!?  It’s always been obvious that in these lofty heights number of wins has never been a great indicator of coaching ability, since teams just didn’t play as many games until the 80s when that number really took off.  That would seem to make winning percentage a more important statistic.  But not on this list, it appears.  If that statistic mattered here, you wouldn’t expect Dean Smith to be quite as high, and you’d expect Adolph Rupp to be higher; you would certainly expect Roy Williams to at least make the list.  Final fours?  Nope.  Dean Smith would be appropriately stationed, but Mike Krzyzewski would be higher along with Rupp, and again you’d think Williams would get on.   And so on.  No single major statistic appears to have guided the thinking, here.

The question is, does this reduce the validity or credibility of the list?  According to TSN, their panel consisted of “seven World Series-winning managers, four Super Bowl champion coaches, and the winningest coaches in the NBA, NHL, and college basketball.”  I’m not saying they necessarily got anything wrong — who better to ask about coaches than players and other coaches?  It is at least obvious that there’s only one thing the panel considered, at least in terms of how the best coaches in college basketball fell on the list — reputation.

No contest.   (credit:

No contest. (credit:

The selection of Wooden at the top cannot be argued because he’s got the reputation, the aura, and too much of the overall look of the statistics on his side.  After that it’s a crapshoot depending on what you think is the most important determiner of coaching greatness.  To the TSN panel, it’s something akin to curb appeal that influenced them.  Would Bob Knight not have been higher than 16th on an all-time coaches list were it not for his acerbic nature?  Would Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith have been closer together were it not for Rupp’s reputation (whether you think he deserves it or not) as a bigot, and/or Smith having an image bordering on — dare I say it — holy?  Is Roy Williams still being punished for his inability to win the big one while at Kansas?  And what of Pat Summitt?  She’s the only one who could even challenge Wooden in terms of college basketball coaches; her numbers are barely conceivable, and then you throw in her 1oo% graduation rate (yes, that’s right, every Tennessee player on her watch who has completed their eligibility there has also graduated).  Should she be higher than 11th on the whole thing?  And if you want to talk about the effect of reputation on this list, there probably isn’t a better example than the appearance of the late great Pete Newell.  Only 357 games coached, a single title, only two Final Fours, and the lowest winning percentage on the coaches on the above list.  But he goes and forms the Big Man Camp — and eventually what he would call the Tall Women’s Basketball Camp (I guess “Big Woman’s Camp” wasn’t an appealing name for such a place) — and finds a way to coach players in a way that didn’t directly show up as wins and losses, and here he is, on the overall list ahead of people like Joe Torre, Tom Osborne, Toe Blake, and Chuck Daly.  In addition, if you ask any coach, they’ll tell you that, before he died, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a better coach and man than Mr. Newell.  Does he belong on the list?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know one thing — the list generates great discussion (especially in the summer lull), so come on…let’s hear from the Duke fans who think Coach K got screwed, let’s hear from the UNC fans who think Smith-Williams should be 1-2.  Let’s hear from the UK fans who think Rupp is too great to be even considered on such a list.  Knowing the passion of college hoop fans and the readers of this site, it should be good.

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03.02.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2009

We have a weekend full of links for you today as I was sort of busy over the weekend. On Saturday there was the RTC Live from Storrs, CT on Senior Night/Day, which was followed by RTC Aftermath that recapped the event. On Sunday, I was busy running Boom Goes the Dynamite and making some new friends from Duke (see the comment section).

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