Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

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

STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky       15-0    
  2. Tennessee      10-2
  3. Florida       11-3
  4. Vanderbilt         11-3
  5. South Carolina       8-5
  6. Georgia         7-5

WEST

  1. Mississippi State      12-3
  2. Mississippi      11-2
  3. Alabama      10-4
  4. LSU        9-5
  5. Auburn         8-6
  6. Arkansas       7-7

NEWS & NOTES

  • The big story in the SEC this week was the arrest and indefinite suspension of four Tennessee basketball players — Tyler Smith, Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams.  The group was arrested on a myriad of drug and weapon charges.  Some of the charges were felonies, and given the recent problems with UT’s football program, it is hard to imagine any scenario in which the players may step back on the court this season.  It is a big loss for the Vols, as the players had accounted for 33 points a game.  Elsewhere, South Carolina dismissed forward Mike Holmes from the team for repeated rule violations.  Holmes is the second starter lost this season for the Gamecocks as Dominique Archie was also lost for the season due to injury. 
  • Kentucky continues to be the class of the SEC in the rankings, holding onto their #3 ranking in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Tennessee is #15 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top 25.  Mississippi remains the third ranked team at #14 in the AP poll and #16 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Florida is hovering just outside the top 25 and may re-emerge with another strong week or two. 
  • Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Player of the Week again after averaging 18.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in two Wildcat wins.  Cousins also won the Freshman of the Week award last week for his double-double performances against Drexel and Long Beach State.  This week, that honor goes to Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, who averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a pair of Commodore wins.  

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK

The parade of cupcakes ends later this week as SEC play officially gets underway.  What else really needs to be said?  As of right now, the SEC has seven teams with 10 wins already, and you have to consider each strong tournament teams right now.  Let’s see how these teams hold up as it goes within the conference from here on out.

  • 1/5 – #2 Texas (13-0) @ Arkansas (7-7) – 7:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/5 – #17 Georgia Tech (11-2) @ Georgia (7-5) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/6 – Charlotte (10-3) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Florida (11-3) @ Vanderbilt (11-3) – 12:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/9 – Mississippi State (12-3) @ #16 Mississippi (11-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Alabama (10-4) @ LSU (9-5) – 5:00 PM
  • 1/10 – #1 Kansas (13-0) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 4:30 PM – CBS

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

  • Kentucky (#3, #3)John Wall set a UK record for assists with 16 as UK crushed the Hartford Hawks 104-61 on Tuesday night.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and 12 boards and Darius Miller scored a season high 16 points to key the  ’Cats win.  On Saturday, Kentucky endured a sluggish first half and then pulled away in the second half to defeat bitter in-state rival Louisville 71-62.  Cousins led the way with 18 points and 18 rebounds.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall both had 17 points.  Kentucky, at 15-0, is off to their best start in 40 years. 
  • Tennessee (#16, #15)Wayne Chism had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Tennessee dominated inside for a 66-59 victory over Memphis on New Year’s Eve.  JP Prince and Tyler Smith had 12 and 11 to lead the Vols in the rivalry game.
  • Florida—Florida breezed to a 43-13 halftime lead against Presbyterian and then coasted for a 79-38 win.  The Gators outrebounded the Blue Hose, yes, the Blue Hose, by a 48-24 margin.  Chandler Parsons led the way with 21 points off the bench and Alex Tyus had 16 points and 13 boards while Erik Murphy had a double-double (16 pts, 11 boards) off the bench.  Chandler Parsons hit a dramatic 75-foot shot as time expired in OT to give the Gators a 62-61 win over NC State.  The three-pointer was Parson’s only FG of the game.  Vernon Macklin had 14 points and Erving Walker 13 to lead the Gators in scoring. 
  • Vanderbilt—Freshman reserve John Jenkins scored 15 points to lead Vanderbilt to an 86-48 victory over Manhattan.  Eleven players scored for the Commodores, the third straight game that Vanderbilt had at least 10 players score.  AJ Ogilvy also came off the bench to add 12 points.  John Jenkins scored a career-high 20 points to lead Vanderbilt in an 82-46 rout of Southern Mississippi.  The freshman guard was 6-of-6 from 3-point range and the Commodores shot a season-high 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from beyond the arc. Jeffery Taylor had 14 points off the bench and Ogilvy had 10 points in his return to the starting lineup as Vandy blasted Middle Tennessee 73-53.  Vanderbilt proves to be one of the SEC’s deeper teams as five players scored in double figures. 
  • South Carolina—The Gamecocks battled back from a 21-point halftime deficit, but it was not enough as they fell short to the Boston College Eagles 85-76.  Devan Downey had 29 points and Brandis Raley-Ross 13, but SC fell to 8-4 on the season.  Baylor made a clean sweep of its two games in the SEC, this time stopping the Gamecocks 85-74.  Downey had 20 points and Lakeem Jackson 19 but it was not enough to stop the Gamecocks’ second loss of the week.   
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulldogs dusted the Pepperdine Waves 64-47.  Travis Leslie and Ricky McPhee also scored in double digits for the Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs were no match for the Missouri Tigers on Saturday as they were routed 89-61.  Leslie was the only Bulldog in double digits with 18 points as the Bulldogs had only 6 assists against 23 turnovers.

WEST

  • Mississippi (#14, #16)—Ole Miss set a school record for three-pointers with 14 as they beat Jackson State 90-75.  Terrico White hit 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and scored 29 points to lead the Rebels.  Zach Graham added 14 points. 
  • Mississippi State—Jarvis Varnado scored a season-high 23 points and tied his career-best 17 rebounds as Mississippi State won its ninth straight with a 77-68 victory over San Diego on New Year’s Eve.  The Bulldogs used their superior inside game to take control of the game late in the first half and maintained its lead throughout the game.  Kodi Augustus added 17 points.  MSU also suffered a tough loss at the hand of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 55-52.  Jarvis Varnado had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs and Dee Bost added 13 off the bench. 
  • AlabamaJaMychal Green scored 19 points and had eight rebounds to lead Alabama to a 77-65 victory over Tennessee State.  Senario Hillman added 15 points and six assists for the Crimson Tide, who have won three of their past four games.  Mikhail Torrance scored 19 points to lead Alabama over Toledo 67-50 on Monday night for their third straight win. Justin Knox added 14 points and Green had 12 for the Crimson Tide who have put together a three-game winning streak for the third time this season.
  • LSU—LSU is starting to look like a team that will not be able to compete in the SEC as they got thumped by Xavier 89-65.  LSU has gotten blown out of a couple of matchups against NCAA-level teams so far this season.  Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Storm Warren accounted for 49 of the Tigers 65 points.  The Tigers also blew a 12-point second half lead in the second half and went down to Utah, 61-59.  Warren (21 points) and Mitchell (19 points) accounted for over two-thirds of the Tiger’s points.  LSU snapped their three game losing streak with a 83-60 romp over McNeese State.  Mitchell and Spencer had 19 and 18 points, respectively, to lead the Tigers. 
  • AuburnLucas Hargrove had 20 points and 13 rebounds as Auburn overcame a sluggish start to beat Charleston Southern 77-62 on Tuesday night.  The Tigers fell behind 22-15, but turned up the pressure and forced 22 turnovers.  Frankie Sullivan added 10 points and six steals for Auburn.  Brendon Knox scored 18 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double and Auburn defeated Georgia Southern 95-75.  The Tigers shot a season-high 54.2 percent from three-point range (13 of 24), including a 4-5 effort by Sullivan who finished with 15 points.
  • Arkansas—The Razorbacks had a chance to get a good statement win but were blown out at home by Baylor, 70-47.  Jemal Farmer, Rotnei Clark and Marshawn Powell were the only Razorbacks to show up as they scored 38 of Arkansas’s 47 points.  Arkansas had a chance to redeem themselves against #24 UAB but suffered a heartbreaking 73-72 loss as UAB scored at the buzzer.  The Hogs got good games from Powell (22), Washington (18), and Clark (16) but those three accounted for 56 of Arkansas’ 72 points. 
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RTC Live: Vanderbilt @ St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2009

RTCLive

Vanderbilt, a pre-season favorite along with Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC’s Eastern Division, takes on 2-0 Saint Mary’s at 8:30 p.m. Pacific time tonight in the ultimate hostile environment — the Gaels’ bandbox gym in Moraga, CA. New Mexico State and San Diego State have already fallen to the Gaels by an average margin of 27 points in Moraga, so the Commodores have their work cut out for them. The game features a head-to-head showdown between two of the best big men in the country, the Commodores’ 6-11 junior A.J. Ogilvy and the Gaels’ 6-11 senior Omar Samhan.  Join us tonight for another great RTC Live event!

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

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If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #5 – SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2009

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

SEC EAST

  1. Kentucky  (13-3)
  2. Tennessee  (11-5)
  3. South Carolina  (10-6)
  4. Vanderbilt (10-6)
  5. Florida (7-9)
  6. Georgia  (2-14)

SEC WEST

  1. Mississippi State (10-6)
  2. Mississippi (9-7)
  3. Arkansas (9-7)
  4. Alabama (7-9)
  5. LSU  (6-10)
  6. Auburn (4-12)

All-Conference Team:

  • John Wall (G), Kentucky
  • Devan Downey (G), South Carolina
  • Tyler Smith (F), Tennessee
  • Patrick Patterson (F), Kentucky
  • Jarvis Varnado (F), Mississippi State

6th Man. Terrico White (G), Mississippi

Impact Newcomer. John Wall (G), Kentucky

sec logo

What You Need to Know.  After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years, the Kentucky Wildcats are poised to regain their role at the top of the SEC, having added the number one recruiting class and top coach John Calipari. This year looks to be a year of redemption and resurgence not only for UK but for the whole SEC which placed just three teams in the NCAA last year.  Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are very strong, experienced teams in the East that should go dancing.  Mississippi State hopes to win the West behind Jarvis Varnado and Mississippi and Arkansas look to be much improved and can give any team in the SEC fits.

Predicted Champion. Kentucky  (NCAA Seed:  #1).  Kentucky returns Patrick Patterson and the core group of the team that won 22 games last season.  The main loss for UK was junior Jodie Meeks who went to the NBA, but in his place, UK added the number one recruiting class and hired head coach John Calipari.  Obviously, Calipari faces the task of instilling a new offense with six new faces, but the Cats are so deep that freshman Daniel Orton, a top 25 player, will have to battle for significant playing time.  The Wildcats achilles heel last year was at point guard and UK added two of the top four freshman points in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.  Talent and depth alone make this a top 10 team and if Calipari can install his DDMO effectively, this is a legitimate Final Four team.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Mid-South Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South and Deep South) are located here.

It’s time for the fifth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of landlocked states that produce some really good basketball players – the Mid-South.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south_impact_players copy

  • James Anderson – Jr, F – Oklahoma St. An obvious and unanimous choice for our Mid-South list, James Anderson cannot be blamed if he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder right now.  Let’s see:  he’s the third-leading returning scorer in the Big 12  for the upcoming season; last year the guy averages 18.2 points, 5.7 boards, shoots over 48% from the field as well as over 82% from the line and 41% from beyond the three-point line… and he gets left off the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list.  Anderson has coolly acknowledged his surprise at this slight, and we think he’s well within his right to do so.  No doubt this will provide motivation for the versatile forward as he embarks upon his junior season for a Cowboys squad that needs him in the leadership role.  Gone are Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris, leaving only Anderson and Obi Muonelo in terms of returning double-digit scorers.  That’s over 27 points a game for which to compensate, so Anderson will get the touches, without question.  Last year was the first trip to the NCAA Tournament for Oklahoma State in the last four years, and despite the aforementioned losses, Cowboy fans are most assuredly expecting another bid this season.  If it’s going to happen, it will be on Anderson’s shoulders.  We know that making our Impact Players list for the Mid-South region isn’t the same as making the preseason Wooden Award Top 50.  But at least we can say… hey James… we got your back, man.
  • Patrick Patterson – Jr, F – Kentucky. Patrick Patterson didn’t need a ton of motivation to return for a junior season in Lexington. The potential NBA riches were surely enticing, but with the news of John Calipari’s hire and subsequent commitments of a recruiting class for the ages, Patterson found himself in a spot where another season at Kentucky may mean a national championship, a far cry from the tumultuous two campaigns he spent in the Bluegrass State under the tutelage of Billy Gillispie. Patterson is a physical specimen in the paint for Kentucky and coach Cal has to be absolutely salivating at the thought of pairing Patterson and diaper dandy DeMarcus Cousins there to complement John Wall, Darius Miller and Eric Bledsoe on the perimeter (just think if Jodie Meeks had stuck around). Patterson nearly finished with a double-double last season at 17.9 ppg and 9.3 rpg, including a dominant 22/15 performance at future #1 seed Louisville, a 19/16 vs. Miami and 21/18 vs. Auburn. In fact, Patterson led the SEC with 15 double-doubles in 2008-09 and was the only player in the conference to finish in the top five in scoring and rebounding. A wildly underrated part of Patterson’s game is his 77% ft to go along with an efficient 60% from the field overall. Most NBA scouts think Patterson will only get stronger and continue to improve with another season in college, a scary thought for opposing SEC coaches and forwards, and a delightful proposition for Calipari. The 6’8″ big man already possesses an NBA-ready frame, a beast on the blocks that loves to bang inside and fight for any rebound in his vicinity. If Patrick Patterson gets the ball deep, he will score. Period. And with John Wall, possibly the top point guard in the nation this season, making those entry passes, Patterson should be able to average a double-double for Kentucky, only adding to the 1,000+ points he’s already totaled as a Wildcat. Barring injury (which isn’t a certainty as PP battled a stress fracture in his ankle in 07-08), Patterson seems about as surefire as anyone in the country to earn national accolades this season. But with realistic hopes of a Final Four at Kentucky for the first time in Patterson’s career, it won’t be about personal accomplishments for the determined forward; it’ll be all about wins.

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ATB: Gettin’ Chismed

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2008

afterbuzzer1

Big East/SEC Invitational. This is so ridiculous.  Tonight was the opening night of yet another conference challenge series invitational that theoretically is a great idea, but is executed all wrong by the powers-that-be.  Why don’t the Pac-10, Big 12, SEC and Big East realize that interest will be much greater in these things if they’re made into week-long EVENTS, similar to the way the ACC and Big 10 do it, and they let ESPN carry all the games throughout the week.  The Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series is bad enough, considering nobody even knows about it; but this Big East/SEC thing is an abomination.  It only involves four teams from each conference, and somehow a team like South Florida gets invited.  South Florida… most people don’t even realize that USF is IN the Big East or even carries a basketball program!  Furthermore, they’ve decided to have doubleheaders in semi-neutral venues, which only serves to confuse people and create situations where half the stands are empty, even though two top 25 teams are playing (see: UT-Marquette tonight in Nashville).  How cool would it be to have three legitimate made-for-tv challenges between all the power conferences in the first three weeks of December, leading into Bowl Week?  Make this happen.  FYI – the much-maligned SEC went 2-0 tonight, but who wouldn’t beat South Florida?

  • Tennessee 80, Marquette 62. The score was Marquette by 2 with just over ten minutes remaining.  Then Tennessee and, more precisely, Mr. Headband as Yarmulke Wayne Chism, took over the game.  The Vols scored on eleven of their next twelve possessions, and Chism was involved in seven of them.  Game pretty much over.  Chism, incidentally, set a new career-high with 26 pts and 11 rebounds, and it was clear that in the second half he was feeling it.  The Vols didn’t get a huge amount of production from anyone else, though, (Tyler Smith had 14/3; Bobby Maze 10/6 assts) but their long arms and athletic defense did force Marquette into its worst shooting performance of the season (38%).  Wesley Matthews continued to show his value, as he dropped 30 (15 from the line) on a myriad of drives and scoop shots in the lane.  Matthews is #2 in the nation in FT attempts (97), behind only Blake Griffin, which shows just how frequently he gets into the paint and absorbs contact.
  • Vanderbilt 71, South Florida 52. We’re not going to spend too much time on this turd of game, but one interesting aspect of it was that the much-ballyhooed Mike Mercer (transfer from Georgia) and Gus Gilchrist (transfer from Maryland, sorta) made their tv debuts.  Mercer had 10/3 assts, while Gilchrist added 12/8 off the bench.  Anyone expecting these two players to turn USF into a Big East contender should have their heads examined.  AJ Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal had twenty each for the Commodores.
This Sweaty Vol Fan Was Outworking Wayne Chism Tonight

This Sweaty Vol Fan Was Outworking Wayne Chism Tonight

It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.

  • LMU’s Bill Bayno is taking a leave of absence due to a “serious medical condition” related to coaching-related stress.  Maybe the 0-10 record with a trip scheduled to Pauley on Wednesday had something to do with it.
  • Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury was hospitalized yesterday with migraines and flu-like symptoms, although further tests were being done.
  • Mike Davis lost half of his team today, as former Hoosier Armon Bassett decided to transfer (whereabouts unknown), and three other players were found academically ineligible for the spring semester.   UAB is now down to six scholarship players.
  • RIP, Pete Newell.

Scores that Have Us Wishing For Saturday.

  • Clemson 76, North Florida 36. In the past seven years, Clemson has had starts of 10-0, 17-0, 11-0, 9-0, and now in 2008-09, 11-0 again.  In those other four unbeaten starts, the final result was two NITs, one NCAA first round loss, and one losing record.  Woo.  Hoo.
  • Texas 88, Texas Southern 72. We’ve said it before, but if Dexter Pittman (19/5) gets going, Texas is a whole different animal.  One troubling aspect of tonight’s game is they allowed 0-9 TSU to shoot 58% against them – Rick Barnes cannot be happy about that.

On Tap Wednesday (all times EST). Nothing like a Duke v. UNC-Asheville game (w/o Kenny George) to keep us warm at night.  We’re actually very intrigued with how Syracuse responds 48 hrs after losing at home, whether Pitt will dominate a good Siena team, and if St. Mary’s can go into Mac Court and beat a young Oregon team.

  • NC State (-9.5) v. East Carolina – 7pm
  • Syracuse (-25) v. Canisius (ESPNU) – 7pm
  • Duke v. UNC-Asheville (ESPN2) – 7:30pm
  • LSU v. Nicholls St. (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • Memphis (-22) v. Arkansas-Little Rock – 8pm
  • Arkansas (-6.5) v. Austin Peay (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • Ohio St. v. Jacksonville (ESPNU) – 9pm
  • Pittsburgh (-18.5) v. Siena (ESPN2) – 9:30pm
  • St. Mary’s (-2.5) @ Oregon – 10pm
  • UNLV (-10) v. Santa Clara – 10:30pm
  • UCLA (-30.5) v. Loyola Marymount – 11pm
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Checking in on the… SEC

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2008

Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

The misery continues for the Southeastern Conference. Only one unbeaten remains after MSU, South Carolina and Tennessee dropped games, with only LSU keeping their heads above water. The Wildcats from Kentucky met a couple of high-profile-conference foes and matched up well, while Mississippi State dropped two close ones in their matchups against power-conference squads. As a whole, the conference is wallowing badly at the moment, but Tennessee – powered by All-American Tyler Smith – is looking like the perennial powerhouse they have become in the past few years under Bruce Pearl and set to take the SEC regular-season title once again.

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Checking in on the… SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2008

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Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Okay, so the Southeastern Conference has…well…embarrassed itself. Kentucky got the party started with a home loss to VMI and as of this posting, only four unbeatens remain in what was formerly considered a “power conference.” This season is looking like a major reloading session for the SEC, as nearly every team is falling short of pre-season expectations. Stars like Shan Foster, Chris Lofton, Jamont Gordon and Marreese Speights have exited and the conference is feeling the losses in a big way.  Let’s get to this week’s SEC rankings…

Week One Power Rankings

  1. #12 Tennessee (3-0)
  2. Mississippi State (4-0)
  3. LSU (3-0)
  4. #17 Florida (3-1)
  5. South Carolina (3-0)
  6. Vanderbilt (1-1)
  7. Auburn (2-1)
  8. Alabama (1-1)
  9. Kentucky (2-2)
  10. Ole Miss (3-1)
  11. Georgia (3-1)
  12. Arkansas (2-1)

For now, we’ll classify the teams in terms of how they are performing versus how they were expected to before the season. This category will change pretty often, depending on the week, but each one will feature a short snippet of each team in the conference.

Surprise Teams

While “expectations” are subjective, these are teams that are playing above the level they were expected to at this point in the season.

Mississippi State – The Bulldogs’ offseason seemed to be one gigantic nightmare. The most potent duo in the conference in Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes departed for the NBA (or not) and a third starter in Ben Hansbrough to transfer. Instead of taking a step backward, the squad has meshed surprisingly well on the shoulders of reigning National Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado, who is thus far averaging just short of a triple-double with 10.3ppg, 13.0rpg, and 7.8bpg. Varnado again leads the nation in blocks and has helped State lead the SEC in seven statistical categories thus far. Freshman point guard Dee Bost has been outstanding in early play, currently leading the SEC in assists per game with 6.75apg. The competition has been weak, but while other league teams are dropping those games, the Bulldogs have been owning their opponents so far.

LSU - The other West standout is in a very similar situation as Mississippi State, except that expectations for the Tigers are high considering their high talent level and experience versus the rest of the Western Division. LSU’s competition level has been similarly weak, but LSU is defeating teams by an average of 25.7ppg and is looking to be the surprise team of the SEC. The Tigers are stacked with potent offensive players in Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton, but are surprisingly stingy on defense as well.  With the conference down, LSU could win enough conference games to make the NCAA Tournament as long as the squad stays healthy. LSU lacks depth, so any loss would be a disaster.

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #5 – SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2008

Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

EAST

  1. Tennessee (25-5, 13-3)
  2. Florida (25-5, 12-4)
  3. Kentucky (22-8, 11-5)
  4. Vanderbilt (24-6, 9-7)
  5. South Carolina (19-10, 8-8)
  6. Georgia (15-13, 5-11)

WEST

  1. Alabama (18-11, 8-8)
  2. LSU (21-10, 8-8)
  3. Mississippi State (21-10, 8-8)
  4. Ole Miss (17-13, 7-9)
  5. Arkansas (14-15, 5-11)
  6. Auburn (14-17, 3-13)

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What You Need to Know.  The name of the game for the SEC this year is youth. The Western Division in particular, as nearly every team loses some nucleus from squads that formed a comparatively weak conference half as it was. Tennessee once again looks to lead a strong Eastern Division despite the loss of All-American Chris Lofton. The nation will be looking towards this typically loaded conference with several questions heading into 2008-09. Can Florida’s sophomores have a breakout season similar to those of 2006-07? Can Kentucky put enough guards around all-SEC forward Patrick Patterson to compete for the East? And can the West avoid being stomped once again in head-to-head competitions with the East? My answers: yes, yes, and no.

Predicted Champion.   Tennessee (#2 seed NCAA). It’s pretty easy to brag on Bruce Pearl. He’s one of the nation’s premier coaches, owning a ridiculous 394-108 (.785) record as a head coach, standing third amongst current head coaches. Despite losing popular 2007-08 preseason pick for National Player of the Year Chris Lofton and do-everything guard/forward JuJuan Smith, the Vols will benefit from huge losses across the board for the SEC. All-American forward Tyler Smith (13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) returns to provide the squad with a heavy-duty anchor inside (although the 6’7, 215 lb. junior hits 37.8% from behind the arc), while talented center Wayne Chism will be mopping up inside defensively. Hopping aboard the orange train are a pair of insanely talented newcomers. Everything-All-American out of high school Scotty Hopson will be challenging for the starting spot at shooting guard while junior-college All-American Bobby Maze looks to start at point guard. All in all, the talent, experience, and coaching level is the highest in Knoxville, and that’s why the Vols are picked to win the SEC regular season for the second consecutive season.   Here’s some clips from the classic #1 v. #2 matchup Tennessee had with Memphis last season.

NCAA Teams.

  • Florida (NCAA #3) – The Gators have once again put together a formula for a set of super sophomores. The league’s top freshman, as well as one of the conference’s best point guards in years, returns in Nick Calathes while a pair of star freshmen in Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas will attempt to fill the rather large shoes of NBA-bound Marreese Speights. Don’t be surprised if the Gators reclaim the SEC regular-season title for the third time in the past four years and show up knocking on the door of the NCAA’s Elite Eight.
  • Kentucky (NCAA #6) – The Wildcats have a lot of outside shooting to replace, after losing over 33 points per game in Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley. SEC Co-Freshman of the Year Patrick Patterson returns and looks to touch the ball on nearly every possession, and incoming freshman DeAndre Liggins should serve as this year’s heavily-relied upon freshman for the Wildcats at the point guard spot. UK could challenge for the Eastern Division (and thus, the overall SEC crown) and sneak into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen if the pieces fall correctly.
  • Vanderbilt (NCAA #9) – Replacing SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster won’t be easy for Kevin Stallings, but the Commodores have another potential POY candidate in A.J. Ogilvy to step into that leadership role. Ogilvy returns as the conference’s most efficient player and scorer, and Jermaine Beal will be the guy to pass inside to the talented post-man while remaining a scoring threat this season. Although the Commodores lose an immense talent in Foster, Ogilvy should be enough to push the squad into the first couple of rounds in the NCAA Tournament.
  • LSU (NCAA #11) – The Tigers return nearly every major contributor from last year’s 13-18 squad except for star freshman Anthony Randolph and head coach John Brady, who was replaced during the offseason with accomplished former Stanford coach Trent Johnson. Johnson inherits possibly the league’s most talented overall player in senior Marcus Thornton, the league’s leading returning scorer, along with a chance to get LSU back to the NCAA Tournament (if just so) for the first time since 2006’s Final Four run.
  • Mississippi State (NCAA #12) – The Bulldogs lose the most talented duo in the conference in multi-dimensional Jamont Gordon and dominating post-presence Charles Rhodes. In addition, State will need to find a replacement at shooting guard with sophomore Ben Hansbrough transferring to Notre Dame. The positive, however, is that MSU is loaded with talented and will anchor around National Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado, who led the nation in blocks per game and helped the team rank second nationally in field-goal percentage defense. Adding two big new pieces to the puzzle in freshmen Dee Bost and Romero Osby, the Bulldogs could win their share of the West for the third time in the past four season and make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the past eight seasons.

NIT Teams.

  • Alabama (NIT) – I’ve predicted several SEC squads with similar in-conference records, and thus those with the weaker RPIs have been restricted to the NIT. Alabama is one of them. The Tide return former All-American Ronald Steele, but major questions still surround his ability to return to his former self after several complications with knee injuries. McDonald’s All-American freshman JaMychal Green will step into the spot of the league’s most dominant offensive post-man in departed Richard Hendrix. If Green can handle the post himself, or if little-known sophomore Justin Knox can step in to assist, the Tide could find themselves away from a top NIT seed and into the NCAAs.
  • South Carolina (NIT) – New head coach David Horn from Western Kentucky infamy will step into a very favorable position at the helm of the Gamecocks. USC brings back more firepower, at least percentage-wise, than any other SEC team and could post the biggest turnaround season the league has seen in quite some time. Junior Devan Downey returns as one of the league’s top point guards and toughest men to keep out of the lane along with ranking as the SEC’s second-leading returning scorer. With almost every piece seeming to come into place for a special season for USC, keep your eyes pealed for a potential Gamecock bubble squad.

Others.

  • Arkansas – Just as USC returns nearly everyone, Arkansas loses nearly everyone from a team that underachieved a season ago. Namely, the Razorbacks lose former SEC Freshman of the Year Patrick Beverly, who decided to try his luck overseas. Despite a solid recruiting class, this should be a rebuilding year for John Pelphrey.
  • Auburn – The Tigers simply have had a bare cupboard in both talent and depth constantly under Jeff Lebo, and this year is little different. The return of Korvotney Barber should help matters some, assuming he stays healthy, but Auburn won’t improve to any real degree until Lebo is let go.
  • Georgia – The Bulldogs under Dennis Felton have been comparable to Auburn under Lebo for quite some time, except that Felton recruits a bit better and has had some nominal success such as last year’s confusing SEC Tournament run. With mass suspensions and off-the-court issues, UGA should remain near or at the bottom of the conference this season – and Felton should receive his pink slip much like Lebo.
  • Ole Miss – The Rebels lost a lot last season, but were still anchored inside by solid and experienced forwards, especially Dwayne Curtis.  With those losses, this team is almost entirely underclassmen and could sneak into the NIT if they catch some breaks.

RPI Boosters.

  • Kentucky @ North Carolina (11.18.08) – If the Wildcats can pull a massive upset of the consensus #1 team in the nation in Chapel Hill, they will be well on their way to returning to national recognition.
  • Tennessee vs. Marquette (12.16.08) – The Volunteers get little or no breaks throughout the non-conference schedule, and this SEC vs. Big East matchup will be for conference bragging rights.
  • LSU @ Texas A&M (12.20.08) – If the Tigers want to prove they are rebounding, this will be one of few opportunities for them to so in the non-conference slate.
  • South Carolina @ Baylor (01.02.08) – The Gamecocks’ schedule is ridiculously light, and their schedule will be inflated by this point in the season. This game is a must-win if USC wants to take the step up into the NCAAs.
  • Tennessee @ Kansas (01.03.08) – Another heavyweight matchup for the Vols, who have a chance to take down a reigning national champ on their home court.
  • Kentucky @ Louisville (01.04.08) – The Cats could seriously bolster their NCAA seed and chances to advance in the NCAAs by taking down Louisville on the road.
  • Memphis @ Tennessee (01.24.08) – A quickly-heating rivalry as the amount of NBA potential on this floor could drown the common man.

Important Games.

  • LSU @ Mississippi State (01.11.09) – If the Tigers want to break through the cap and take the West, a win in this early conference game would be a huge advantage.
  • Kentucky @ Alabama (01.24.09) – The Tide must be able to win games at home against the top tier of the East if they have any serious hope of challenging for the overall SEC crown.
  • Mississippi State @ Alabama (02.21.09) – If the Bulldogs take care of the Tide at home, they have a shot to make it six in a row over their rivals and take a major step towards another West title.
  • Tennessee @ Florida (03.01.09) – The Gators must hold serve at home to compete in the East, while the Vols could wrap up the conference title with a win here.
  • Kentucky @ Florida (03.07.09) – We know the Wildcats can win at home, but can they win in Gainesville? This one could be for the East.

Neat-O Stat.  The Southeastern Conference is one of the nation’s deepest and most competitive leagues. The SEC ranks second only behind the ACC in average conference RPI since 1999, and has put every single member into the NCAA tournament since 2002.

65 Team Era.  The SEC has had a tremendous amount of success in this era, going 178-117 (.603) which is good enough for third behind the ACC and Big East.  This includes thirteen F4s and five national titles.  What’s particularly impressive is that only four of those F4s and two titles belong to Kentucky, the traditional standard-bearer of this league, which shows that the rest of the conference has taken basketball to heart and stepped it up. 

Final Thoughts.  The SEC was a huge disappointment on the national scene a season ago. Without major flag-bearers such as Kentucky or Florida dominating, expectations fell on Tennessee to take their #2 seed to the Final Four. Instead, the Vols served as the only team from the conference to make the Sweet Sixteen before falling on their faces to Louisville.  While this year likely won’t be much of an improvement, consider it a gigantic top-to-bottom reloading of one of the nation’s premier men’s basketball conferences, with the league’s talent being tremendously youth-oriented.  Three SEC teams look to have serious aspirations for getting past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and all are from the East: Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky. If a Western Division team can step up and compete better than expected and at least two of these teams make the Sweet Sixteen this season, it should serve as a useful springboard to a very potent year for the SEC on the national scene in 2009-2010.

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Where 2008-09 Happens: Reason #18 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2008

Shamelessly cribbing from last spring’s very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube. 

#18 – Where Australian Import Happens

Patty Mills – St. Mary’s

AJ Ogilvy – Vanderbilt

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Unbeaten/Winless Watch (12.25.07)

Posted by rtmsf on December 26th, 2007

We really wanted to do this two weeks ago, but as you know, life got in the way.  So we’ll make do with what’s left.

As of Xmas Day, out of a total 341 D1 teams, there were a total of nine unbeaten teams and only four winless teams remaining (see table below).   Four of the nine unbeatens are unsurprising – #1 UNC, #2 Memphis, #4 Kansas, and #6 Wazzu were all preseason top ten teams.  Pittsburgh wasn’t ranked in the preseason, but they’re always pretty  good, so we’re not shocked by their inclusion (esp. once Levance Fields got himself unTazed).  That leaves us with three shockers from the SEC/ACC and one ridiculous Southland Conference inclusion (although… we had ‘em).

Unbeatens & Winless 12.25.07 v.5

From the SEC there are two unbeatens.  Florida?  Nope.  Kentucky?  Nope.  Tennessee?  Nope.  Mississippi State?  Nope.  Those four teams have about a baker’s dozen number of losses between them.  But if you had Ole Miss and Vandy at 22-0 heading into the last week of 2007, proceed directly to the Bellagio sports book.  Do not pass go.   Do not collect $200.  Ok, so Ole Miss’s 11-0 start smells an awful lot like the annual Clemson torridness (in a somewhat ironic twist, Ole Miss’s best win was at Clemson last week – 85-82), but we have to tip the hat to Andy Kennedy’s squad for beating all comers so far, and setting themselves up for a possible run at the SEC West title and an NCAA bid.  (memo to University of Cincinnati:  how’s bailing on Kennedy working out for ya?  Oh right, losses to Illinois St., Bowling Green and Belmont.  Good luck with that.)  As for Vandy, they’ve probably got a little more upside than Ole Miss due to the addition of a freshman stud who incomprehensibly gets almost no hype, AJ Ogilvy (19/7).  With senior guard Shan Foster, this inside-outside tandem plus Vandy’s home court nearly assures the ‘Dores of an NCAA berth, and given the relative state of the rest of the SEC this year, possible SEC title.

The last two unbeatens are probably the most surprising of all.  Miami (FL) was 12-20 last season, and the Hurricanes have already matched that win total this year.  A very soft schedule has made this record possible, but two solid road wins (@ Providence and @ Miss. St.) show that this team will be worth watching in the ACC race this year.   The final unbeaten, Sam Houston St., has an early win over Bob Knight and Texas Tech on their resume, but little else.  Still, it’s a great early-season story, and we’ll be rooting for them to keep it up through their west coast trip to SDSU and Loyola Marymount this coming weekend.

As for the four winless teams, we can’t say there are any real surprises.  Furman and Grambling will win soon enough, but we’re not sure about the disasters otherwise known as Ball St. and NJIT.   NJIT, probably the worst offensive team in the nation, has only broken sixty points once this year; and has been under fifty points four other times.  Ball St. is still feeling the aftershocks of the Ronny Thompson fiasco, and there’s no telling when they’ll come out of that tailspin.  Last year’s winless streak leader, Iona, didn’t get their first victory until Feb. 3 (0-22), and we think NJIT has a chance to match or exceed that this year.

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ATB: OJ Mayo’s Debut – “Mercer Mercer Me!”

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2007

ATB v.4

11.10.07

Story of the Night. Is the A-Sun the best conference in college hoops this season? Three nights after Gardner-Webb shocked the hoops world against Kentucky, and one night after Belmont whacked Cincy… the Mercer Bears went into LA and pushed around #25 USC and OJ Mayo. That’s three road wins against three BCS teams in the span of about 72 hrs (remember: the A-Sun was 0-34 v. BCS teams last year!) As for this game, sure OJ got his numbers (32/7/4 assts on 12-27 FG + 8 tos), and isn’t that really why he’s there? In shooting 59% for the game (led by James Florence’s 30), Mercer rode a 17-pt halftime lead into an easy win. We have a bad feeling that more of this is on the horizon for USC with Mayo running the show. We’re just sayin… (Mercer 96, USC 81)

Things We Didn’t See. #5 Georgetown appears to have had a shaky opening game against Bill & Mary tonight, leading by only 2 pts with under 10 mins to play. When the Hoyas finally realized they have something nobody else in CBB has – a skilled 7’2 center named Roy Hibbert (23/8/3 blks) – they put the game away. We love the Hoya backcourt of Wallace and Sapp (combined for 33/10 assts), but we’ll continue to have a lingering concern over the long-term prospects of this year’s version until we see if Dajuan Summers or someone else can adequately fill the departed role of Jeff Green (Georgetown 68, William & Mary 53). Staying in the Big East, Pitt is a team we never know what to make of from year to year game to game. Tonight they throttled a solid NC A&T team, with a big contribution from Sam Young (career-high 24/11/4 stls). We’re sure they’re on their way to another 20-25 win season and a top 4 seed, where we’ll either pick them to go to the E8 and they’ll lose in the first round; or, the reverse (Pittsburgh 86, NC A&T 61). Tubby Smith’s debut today at Minnesota went much as his debuts at Kentucky (88-49 v. Morehead St.) and Georgia (91-71 v. W. Carolina), with a blowout win versus an overmatched team. In typical Tubby fashion, the Gophers held Army to 35% shooting and forced 23 turnovers. One Gopher blog lauded the hustle and dedication from players that has been missing in recent years (Minnesota 84, Army 52). Over at Oregon, we were interested to see how the Ducks would respond to the loss of Aaron Brooks, and so far, so good, as a balanced attack quickly overwhelmed Pepperdine tonight. Malik Hairston, Tajuan Porter and Bryce Taylor all had 17 pts each as the Ducks raced out to a 30-pt lead at halftime and cruised the rest of the way – we likey (Oregon 100, Pepperdine 70). Vandy is an SEC team that we probably have overlooked this year, but the Dores picked up a solid win over a mid-major tonight by beating Austin Peay. Showing just how tough it is to beat Vandy in Memorial Gym once again, the Commodores shot 55% from the field and 52% from three in keeping AP comfortably at bay most of the night. Shan Foster (21 pts) and AJ Ogilvy (18/9/2 blks) led the way for Vandy, while AP star Drake Reed had a rough night (12/7 on 3-16 shooting) (Vanderbilt 81, Austin Peay 67). There was a great game tonight in Milwaukee when Marquette took on another talented mid-major, IUPUI. Marquette’s 8-pt halftime lead was quickly erased by a second-half 17-2 run by IUPUI, but spurred by Jerel McNeal’s 20 pts, the Warriors came storming back with a 23-8 run of their own to ensure victory (Marquette 76, IUPUI 68).

Score of the Night. Unbelievably, we’re going back to The Farm. For the second consecutive night, Stanford had a 30+ pt halftime lead over an opponent, and again, no starter played more than 20 minutes. Tonight’s beneficiary was Northwestern St. – what’s TJ giving those boys (Stanford 97, Northwestern St. 58)?

Upset Alert. Other than the above USC game, there were no big upsets today.

Joey Dorsey Award. OJ Mayo (USC). Not for his game tonight, but for his quote that hearing his name called in the starting lineup “was a lot of fun. I wish we would’ve won.” Maybe we’re being nitpicky here, but after getting thumped by Mercer, we’re not sure any part of the night should be remembered as fun.

On Tap Today (all times EST). 47 games on tap, several of which are worthwhile (assuming Comcast doesn’t screw us again and gets FC working).

  • Loyola (MD) (-5) v. Pennsylvania 12pm – our favorites in the Ivy and the MAAC.
  • Rutgers (NL) v. North Dakota St. 1pm - NDSU gave Florida trouble; they can do more than that with Rutgers.
  • Seton Hall (NL) v. Monmouth (ESPN FC) 1pm – um, we’ll be washing our hair at that time.
  • Virginia (NL) v. Vermont 2pm – don’t understand why this isn’t FC worthy but the garbage game above is.
  • Florida (-17.5) v. Tennessee Tech 3pm – really would like to see if Calathes can keep it up.
  • Gonzaga (-12.5) v. Montana 4pm – we’re very high on Gonzaga this year, but Montana is no slouch.
  • Stanford (NL) v. UCSB 6pm – if Stanford is up 30+ at half of this game, we’re putting them #1 in Monday’s blogpoll ballot.
  • Pittsburgh (NL) v. St. Louis (ESPN FC) 6pm – we’re tuning in just to see Majerus back on the sidelines.
  • Kansas (NL) v. UMKC (ESPN FC) 8pm – let the Kansas Kremations continue.
  • Oregon (NL) v. Pacific (ESPN FC) 9pm – both of these teams had great first games.
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