SEC M5: 02.04.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 4th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Scottie Wilbekin received a generous amount of recognition for his defense recently, but his offense is making strides as well. He scored 13 points and dished out seven assists in a much anticipated clash with Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson. “Since the year has gone on I have gotten more comfortable out there,” Wilbekin said. “It has been slowing down. The reads become easier as I’ve grown up. When I just slow down it seems something always opens up.” However, Wilbekin’s defense earned universal acknowledgment for a reason. His defense on Henderson played a large part in forcing Ole Miss’ enigmatic guard into four turnovers. 
  2. Henderson was extremely complimentary of Florida after the Gators’ 78-64 win, despite his 25 points on 7-11 shooting from beyond the arc. “I think (Florida) will contend for the national championship,” Henderson said. “We have seen how they have been blowing people out. They execute perfectly.” He didn’t exactly speak as favorably of UF’s student section, the Rowdy Reptiles. “I had to give it to them — I thought they’d be a little bit more mean than they were. There were some funny signs.” The O’Connell Center might be the most volatile environment Henderson and the Rebels have remaining on the schedule, with just a trip to Missouri that could even come close.
  3. Kentucky’s freshman laden team has been in desperate need of leadership. Saturday in College Station, senior Julius Mays stepped up as the veteran the Wildcats have been missing. Cat killer Elston Turner would most likely attest to Mays’ excellent defense. “Julius did a great job on Turner,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “Because Archie (Goodwin), if Archie ever sees Turner again, leave. If it’s a pickup game, go home. Don’t go near the guy. Julius played him pretty good, and made it hard. He scored some baskets, but (Julius) made it hard.” Turner ended the game with 21 points, including the game tying three pointer in regulation, but Mays impact on the road was invaluable. “Julius, without him, we don’t win today,” Calipari said.
  4. It takes a certain level of confidence and toughness to go on the road and win in the SEC. Vols center Kenny Hall says Tennessee just doesn’t have what it takes. “I feel like we still lack mental toughness,” Hall said. “I don’t even feel like we’ve got it down all the way. As a team, it’s about being consistent, staying focused, not turning the ball over, making plays, getting stops without the defensive breakdowns. At home we do a great job of it, but on the road, that’s when we when we really have to step it up, really tighten up our screws.” The Vols are 0-6 away from home this season, and they have five more road games left in SEC play. That is quite a few more defeats if Tennessee can’t put together the mental fortitude to steal one away from the friendly confines of Thompson-Boling Arena.
  5. Alabama coach Anthony Grant is confident going to the bench when his team needs composure and leadership. That’s because that’s where fifth year senior Andrew Steele resides. Steele came off the bench with 13 points to steady the Tide in a 58-54 win over Vanderbilt. “The numbers speak for themselves … but the other stuff, just his leadership, his communication, just the respect that he get, I can’t tell you how valuable it is,” Grant said. “For our young guys, they’re learning the lessons of what leadership is all about in terms of what he provides for them. Tonight, he got shots to fall. He had a season-high 13 points. He’s always going to give you the effort and the intangibles. … It’s great to see the ball go in, as hard as he works at it. The other things to me supersede the points, the rebounds and anything else. The intangibles, the leadership, the passion that he has for his team, for this university shows, and it’s contagious.” The numbers Grant refers to is Alabama’s winning percentage with Steele, which is 12-2, as opposed to its 2-5 record without him.
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SEC M5: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 8th, 2013

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  1. X-rays conducted on Erik Murphy confirmed that the Gators’ forward suffered a fractured rib last week. Florida coach Billy Donovan is hoping Murphy can return to action soon, but the team’s second leading scorer is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s SEC opener against Georgia. “It’s in a really bad spot. It’s right by his lat [muscle],” Donovan said. “Any time he raises his arms up or reaches his arms up, there’s a significant amount of pain.” The Florida coaching staff will make a final determination on Murphy’s status on Wednesday. If the starter is unable to go, expect forwards Will Yeguete and Casey Prather to see additional playing time. Yeguete scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Yale in Murphy’s absence, while Prather came off the bench for nine points and six boards.
  2. Missouri received a rather large commitment from JuCo center Keanau Post. Post is coming to Columbia from Southwestern Illinois College where he averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. “As soon as I get there working with the strength and conditioning coach, I think my upside is real good and I can fit in,” said Post. “I know they’re looking for me to be a bit of a scorer, which I know I can do with all the work I’ll be doing in the weight room to get myself stronger. They want me to rebound which I know I can do. I can run the floor very well. The other day when I was up there, Alex (Oriakhi) did a great job of that. I think I’ll put up the same kind of effort. Blocking shots, being there to clean up.” But the post player is seriously a big guy, standing at 6’11” and weighing in at 260 pounds. He will give the Tigers some depth in the post next season after the losses of both Oriakhi and forward Laurence Bowers.
  3. Guard Phil Pressey has practically done it all for Missouri this season, but coach Frank Haith doesn’t want his superstar point guard to force shots. “Phil just needs to be Phil,” Haith said. “Phil doesn’t have to be more than Phil Pressey, and I think that he’s hearing that too much, and I don’t like that because I think that makes him feel like he has to do more. He doesn’t. He has to just be Phil Pressey. He doesn’t have to take 25 shots. He doesn’t have to. […] He really doesn’t.” With the loss of guard Mike Dixon earlier this year, Pressey has been forced to play 34.1 minutes per game for the Tigers. He leads the SEC in percentage of possible minutes played at 85.3 percent. Only five other SEC players exceed 80 percent.
  4. Yesterday’s SEC M5 talked about the decision of Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon to take a medical redshirt this season in order to return for a final year of eligibility in 2013-14. Would Maymon’s return this season disrupt some positive momentum the Vols have going? The power forward didn’t want to chance it. “I didn’t want to miss too many games,” Maymon admitted. “I didn’t want to come back and be a distraction and have coach try to put me in there where other guys have paved the way for themselves to play this year. I’m just going to take the backseat and let guys do what they have to do.” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed that Maymon would likely be able to return from the injury later this month, but both the player and coach agreed that a few late season games weren’t worth risking his health or a full year of eligibility. “I knew at some point, if it got this late, I wasn’t about to put the kid on the court and try to win a few games and he’s not 100 percent,” Martin said. Tennessee carries on without the preseason all-SEC selection on Wednesday in its SEC opener against Ole Miss.
  5. Every team needs some experience and Alabama is happy to welcome its lone senior, Andrew Steele, back after six missed games with an injury. Steele scored just two points in his first game back, but the Tide broke a losing streak that included losses in five of their last six games. And perhaps the senior’s addition had a little something to do with the change. “The complexion of our team has changed a little bit,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We look forward to starting conference play. He affected the game in a variety of ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.” The youthful Tide started four sophomores and a junior in their last outing, so Steele’s return gives Grant’s squad a leader to turn to on the court.
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SEC M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 14th, 2012

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  1. Billy “the Kid” is far from a youngster, as Donovan is the elder statesman of the SEC after 17 seasons with the Florida Gators. While he is an accomplished coach at the college level, he hasn’t shut the door on coaching in the NBA. “The one thing that I think is always intriguing the older I get is the fact that (the NBA) is just all about basketball. I love the practices, I love the games, I love doing individual instruction and breaking down tape and game planning and doing those things.” Donovan infamously left for the Orlando Magic in 2007 before ultimately returning to the Gators. Could a third National Championship complete this chapter of the book for Billy Donovan? It certainly isn’t out of the question though Donovan is under contract through 2015-16.
  2. Will Florida go with a three-guard lineup? Or will it go big with a stronger frontline? Will the Gators play man-to-man defense? Or will they use their effective 2-3 zone? Florida’s versatility is one of its strengths as it prepares to travel to a top 10 team in Arizona. “There are some games where we’ve played small and moved (Erik) Murphy to the five (center) and (Casey) Prather to the four (power forward),” Donovan said. “I think a lot of it depends on fatigue, foul trouble, match-ups with the other team. So I think in certain situations a smaller lineup can look good, and in certain situations a bigger lineup can look good. I think it depends on what’s really going on during the game.” Arizona’s rather large frontcourt may dictate how the Gators play on Saturday. Patric Young, Florida’s starting center, stands at just 6’9″, but will be matched up with 7’0″ Wildcat freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. Donovan has to hope his team’s experience will win out over size.
  3. Many have compared the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats to the 2010-11 version — after a slow start and multiple losses on the road, the Brandon Knight-led Kentucky team went to the Final Four in Houston only to lose to the eventual champs, Connecticut. But who can remember two years ago? Do the Cats compare to any teams from last year? Our friends at A Sea of Blue think the 2011-12 Florida Gators are the best comparison. By the end of December, the Gators had three losses including understandable road defeats to Ohio State and Syracuse, but also a puzzling loss to Rutgers, a team outside the top 100 (KenPom’s rankings). Florida eventually marched all the way to the Elite Eight before a loss to Final Four-bound Louisville. Kentucky fans might be pretty satisfied with that fate come March, with the exception of the whole losing to Louisville thing.
  4. The hits keep on coming for the Alabama Crimson Tide, as the team has suffered another injury. This time, senior guard Andrew Steele is out four to six weeks with hernia surgery. This isn’t the first time Steele has had to deal with injuries. “He’s had his share of different injuries and different things that have come up over his career,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “He is looking forward to getting himself back to where he is able to play again and able to impact the game and help his teammates. I’m sure that he’ll do everything he can to recover as quickly as he can.” Steele is averaging just 4.2 points per game, but provides depth for Grant on what is becoming a very thin bench.
  5. Coach Sean Miller has built Arizona into a national powerhouse once again. And the SEC’s Missouri Tigers are right there with the Wildcats. Luckily for college basketball fans who prefer quality basketball games in November and December rather than media stunts driven to draw TV attention, Arizona and Missouri have agreed to play a home-and-home series beginning in 2015-16. “This is a great series and will generate the type of national exposure fans and programs want early in the college basketball season,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I have so much respect for Sean Miller and the Arizona program, and when you get two national brands playing in on-campus settings it’s great for all of college basketball.” Want to generate interest in college basketball prior to New Year’s Day? Continue to play games like this.
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SEC M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 5th, 2012

  1. Karl Towns Jr., the top recruit in the class of 2015, committed to Kentucky on Tuesday, a development that surprised almost no one. However, his announcement that he would be reclassifying to join the class of 2014 was definitely a curve ball. John Calipari is on the verge of signing a historic class next season, and with Towns coming to Lexington the year after that, he’s well on his way toward a high ranking in 2014 as well. The 6’11” center’s commitment was considered a formality because of his experience with the Calipari-led Dominican Republic national team this past summer. “Towns has a unique skill set,” writes ESPN’s Dave Telep. “Blessed with great size and agility, he’s a strong perimeter player, especially for a big man. Also a shot blocker and rebounder, Towns is a unique big who’ll be projected to bring an impactful scoring touch to the Kentucky lineup as a freshman.”
  2. Alabama will be without two key contributors when the Crimson Tide take the court Wednesday night against Dayton. Junior center Carl Engstrom is sidelined after injuring his knee early in Saturday’s game at Cincinnati, while senior guard Andrew Steele, suffering from a possible sports hernia, will miss his third straight game. The loss of Engstrom is more important in the short term. In Josh Benson and Devin Oliver, the Flyers have two post players who are averaging over 10 points per game, and the loss of the big Swede depletes an already thin Alabama frontcourt. Fortunately, after their date with Dayton, Anthony Grant’s crew has 10 days before they take the court again, a convenient opportunity to get healthier.
  3. The inept offense of the Georgia Bulldogs, mentioned in yesterday’s M5, did little to dispel their reputation in Tuesday night’s 62-52 loss to rival Georgia Tech. The visiting Bulldogs went a woeful 18-of-57 from the field, including only 2-of-17 from beyond the arc. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope again led the way with 16 points, but it’s tough to believe that, despite the lack of options around him, the sophomore guard is making the right decision in throwing up shots from long distance all night. He went just 1-of-8 against the Yellow Jackets, and is averaging only three three-pointers per game on almost nine attempts. The one-man show strategy hasn’t paid dividends yet, and for a coach in the hot seat like Mark Fox, it may be time to try a new approach.
  4. Missouri guard Keion Bell knows what it’s like to be a one-man show, but the Pepperdine transfer is leaving those days behind him. He racked up 1,365 points with the Waves in three seasons, but decided to transfer in hopes of finding more team-oriented success. “I knew my scoring was going to take a hit when I transferred, but it’s something I wanted to happen,” Bell told the St. Louis Dispatch. “I was at a university where I had to take a scoring role and it didn’t work out so well. Sacrificing to win is one thing I looked at with (Mizzou).” There were concerns over whether Bell could drop the gunner’s mentality after years of being the offense’s focal point, but early returns are positive. Bell’s most valuable skill is his ability to get to the free throw line. He’s only sixth on the team in minutes played, but ranks second with 24 free-throw attempts (of which he’s made 23).
  5. Michael Anderson, Arkansas‘ video coordinator and son of head coach Mike Anderson, has been suspended indefinitely after a DWI arrest. He was booked in Fayetteville Sunday morning after he failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test. This is Anderson’s third DWI arrest, including one earlier this year, but there is no indication that the younger Anderson will be let go. Hopefully, this latest incident will be a successful wake-up call, as Razorback fans have had more than their fair share of their coaches getting in trouble behind the wheel. Boom! Bobby Petrino slam! In related-but-unrelated news, best of luck to new Hogs football coach Bret Bielema.
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SEC M5: 11.28.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 28th, 2012

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

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 27th, 2012

  1. After a disastrous showing in the Maui Invitational, Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray has spent the last few days reflecting on his team’s performance in Hawaii. Ray, who also battled a stomach virus while on the trip, discussed several reasons why the Bulldogs underperformed in the tournament. Ray said that his squad, while losing by an average of 29 points per game, “played harder than the other teams for the most part” and a lot of the second-chance opportunities for opponents came from MSU’s rebounding woes. He also noted that the team’s assist-to-turnover ratio (1:2) “needs to be rectified before beating anybody that’s a quality opponent.”
  2. Tennessee got into the Cyber Monday/holiday spirit yesterday by offering $7 tickets to any men’s or women’s basketball home game other than those versus Kentucky for the rest of the season. The promotion, while ending at 7 pm on Monday (sorry), was good for any seat in the 300-level section of Thompson-Boling Arena. There is no official word on whether the online deal resulted in an increase in ticket sales, but such a promotion on Cyber Monday surely could not have hurt the Vols’ chances of packing the arena for their remaining games — especially with great games ahead including Wichita State, Memphis, Xavier, Alabama, Florida, and Missouri all coming to Knoxville this season.
  3. How has Alabama grown this season? The work of veterans Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele, and Trevor Lacey have combined for 37.8 points per game (54% of the team’s scoring) along with an outstanding 2.57 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. With Rodney Cooper (15 PPG/4 RPG) currently out due to shoulder tendinitis, heralded freshman Devonta Pollard emerged as a fourth contributor in keeping the Crimson Tide undefeated, and was listed as one of Al.com‘s three points of the game regarding Alabama’s win over Charleston Southern last weekend. Pollard, who came into that game averaging only four points per outing, was able to control the game to the point where he “could take advantage of his God-given talents”, as stated by coach Anthony Grant. With a healthy Cooper expected back in the lineup as well as a star freshman quickly learning the college game through ample playing time, the Tide could become another legitimate contender for the SEC title.
  4. It seems to be exact opposites in the state of Mississippi this year: Ole Miss has the advantage over in-state rival Mississippi State in basketball while the Bulldogs hold the upper hand on the gridiron. Ole Miss already has five wins in its first five games this season on the hardwood compared to the Bulldogs’ single victory. Of course, Ole Miss has the advantage of not enduring the change of leadership and player exodus that has occurred in Starkville over the last few seasons. The Rebels’ Murphy Holloway was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday, and even while winning versus low-quality opponents, Ole Miss still has a projected higher season win total (22-7, 12-6) than Mississippi State (9-21, 3-15), according to KenPom.com. Regardless of the quality of opponents and game results, the momentum on the hardwood is clearly in Oxford this season.
  5. The learning curve in the SEC might come quicker than imagined for South Carolina‘s Frank Martin.  The Gamecocks concluded their holiday festivities by winning the Hoops for Hope Classic over Arkansas-Little Rock in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last weekend. Martin’s squad, now 5-1 on the season, is quickly gaining confidence with each win they accrue in the non-conference schedule. A win over St. John’s this week in the SEC/Big East Challenge could give the Gamecocks the momentum they need as they face rival Clemson next week. Wins over both teams could serve to propel South Carolina to an outstanding 12-1 non-conference record before playing Mississippi State in its first SEC game in early January. As the games will become more difficult in the waning months of the season, more wins now could help ease the pain later on for Martin and his young, inexperienced squad.
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SEC M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 1st, 2012

  1. Jeronne Maymon sitting on the bench isn’t the ideal situation for the Tennessee Volunteers, but it might be the best case scenario for redshirt freshman guard Quinton Chievous. “He’s 6’5″, a perimeter player, but him playing at the four for us, it’s tough for big guys to guard him because he moves and has spacing and you have to guard him at the 3-point line,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He’s also a better post player than most guys in terms of offensive production. He creates a lot of mismatches for big guys, especially when his shot is going.” Chievous is making a name for himself in the post, creating a possibility for playing time since he is slightly lower on the depth chart in the backcourt. Though he may be pleasantly surprised with Chievous’ progress, Martin would certainly prefer to be at full strength at the forward position when the 6’7″ Maymon returns from a “minor setback” with a previous knee injury.
  2. John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats take on the number one team in the country in an exhibition game on Thursday. No, Cal hasn’t changed his mind on playing Indiana and isn’t ready to take on rival Louisville just yet. The Cats are taking on the NAIA’s top-ranked team Northwood, and Calipari says his team’s defense isn’t up to par yet. “We’ve just got a long way to go. Defensively, we’re just awful right now. We don’t stay in front of everybody and we got guys stopping left and right and think it’s OK or, ‘It wasn’t my man.’ Stuff like that,” Calipari said. But he is looking forward to seeing his team improve. “The greatest thing about playing a team like this… is that the weaknesses or the things we’re not doing well will be glaring.” An interesting side note for this game is that former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino is the head coach for Northwood, turning the Seahawks into an NAIA powerhouse in his six years there. Northwood may provide a quality exhibition test for the Cats after proving itself earlier in the week by trailing Michigan State by only six points at halftime.
  3. Much has been made about Calipari experimenting with various lineup possibilities, but you would have to assume that he has made a decision concerning his starting lineup for Thursday’s game. Wrong. “Don’t know who is going to start yet,” Calipari said. “Don’t know, still trying to figure some stuff out. What I’m tinkering with is combinations. I’m trying to figure out, when these guys are in together how do we play, when that group is in together how do we play. That’s what we are trying to do.” Regardless of whether or not you believe that is the truth, it is clear that the coach has been extremely vocal about his opinion concerning starting lineups. “It doesn’t matter who starts, it’s who’s going to finish,” Cal said. Remember, senior Darius Miller came off the bench despite playing 25-35 minutes during the NCAA Tournament run last season.
  4. After a successful 10-day trip in Italy this summer, it is clear that Georgia is ready to make a move up in the SEC landscape. “We have more pieces this year,” coach Mark Fox said. “We’re a deeper basketball team. We’re more athletic than we were, we’re a more physical group and certainly a more experienced group than last year.” Fox’s Bulldogs return four starters, including guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who averaged 13.2 points per game last year. In order to take a step forward, Caldwell-Pope will need to improve upon his field goal percentage which finished under 40 percent a season ago. Finding another scorer to help the 6’5″ star should help free him up for better looks.
  5. Alabama lost two big scorers in JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, but the Crimson Tide realize they will need to be a different type of team this year in order to be successful. “I think last year when we had someone like JaMychal down low, we focused a lot of our offense on him, which was understandable because he was such a dominant threat,” guard Andrew Steele said. “I think when you look at our team this year, our biggest strength will be opening up the court a little bit more and I think we’ll be a little more perimeter oriented. We still have confidence in our bigs, but our strength will be how we attack people off the dribble and space people.” Bama was not an effective perimeter-oriented team in 2011-12. The Tide shot just 28.9 percent from beyond the arc, which put them at a paltry 328th in the nation. The guards will have to knock down more open shots from long range in order for the offense to open up like Steele envisions.
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Devonta Pollard Has Big Shoes to Fill at Alabama

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 22nd, 2012

Freshman Devonta Pollard will be counted upon to be a major contributor for Alabama this season. The 6’8″ forward is replacing not one all-SEC performer, but two in departed forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. Green and Mitchell combined to contribute over 41 percent of Alabama’s scoring by themselves in helping lead the Tide to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 last season. Despite these high expectations, Pollard is proving he can be an effective leader in his own right.

Devonta Pollard Will Be A Major Force In The Middle For Anthony Grant. (Photo: Barking Carnival)

Thus far in practice, Pollard has drawn high praise from the coaching staff. Head coach Anthony Grant is happy with what he has seen so far. He’s doing well,” Grant said. “Obviously as a freshman, there’s a lot to learn in what the expectations are, the system and what-not, but … the veteran guys have done a good job of helping that learning curve for him. He has a very high basketball IQ as well, so he’s been able to pick things up.” Pollard has made an impression on his teammates as well. When asked how Pollard will impress fans this season, sophomore guard Levi Randolph said, “Just his energy. His skill. He can fly, he can jump, he can shoot, he can dribble. He’s going to be a great asset to the team.”

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

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SEC Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 15th, 2012

  1. Georgia’s Gerald Robinson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague were honored with SEC Men’s Player of the Week awards. Robinson was named the SEC Men’s Player of the Week after averaging 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, and three assists this week. The Bulldogs won both games with victories over 20th-ranked Mississippi State and Arkansas, in which Robinson added a career-high 27 points. Teague has steadily improved as point guard for the top-ranked Wildcats, and was named Freshman of the Week.  Teague contributed 12.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds and achieved his first double-double in Kentucky’s win over Florida.
  2. The Wildcats have run the table twice in the SEC, going a perfect 16-0, and could do it again this year. “When one of the ways (of winning) is not working for you, you can rely on something else,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ” … What makes a really, really special team is when you have a variety of ways to win. (The Cats) can win almost any kind of situation they’re in.” Wildcats coach John Calipari isn’t as concerned with a 16-0 record as he is with improvement. “My concern is, are we improving as a team?” Calipari said. “What I’m seeing right now is we are.” The only two teams since the 1956 season to go undefeated through league play were Kentucky’s 1995-96 team and the Wildcats again in 2002-03. The 1996 team, of course, won the National Championship for then coach Rick Pitino, and that is a very realistic goal for the 2012 version of Kentucky, regardless of the final conference record.
  3. It may be hard to define what swagger is, but a coach will know it when he sees it.  “When players walk with a certain type of swagger, a level of confidence — not cockiness, not arrogance — they can play, and they can compete,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said after a win at Florida. “Before, we just weren’t mentally ready.” Tennessee knows it is a much better team than the 11th place finish that was predicted in the preseason, and two wins over Florida along with playing close with Kentucky prove Martin has the Vols playing to win. However, the Vols need help. “We need our fans, and we need their support to help get us over the hump,” Martin said. “If our guys are giving effort, and they are leaving everything out on the floor, they deserve that support.”
  4. Depth is a major concern for Florida and coach Billy Donovan. “Dire is probably a pretty good word,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively, certainly going into Alabama without Will (Yeguete) being there. There is a tremendous void for us defensively at the basket.” In fact, the Gators are without their two leading scorers off the bench in Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario. The Gators will be ready to respond. “We just have to react appropriately and come together as a team,” guard Scottie Wilbekin said. And after two straight losses, Florida needs to come together quickly.
  5. The Gators are not the only team dealing with depth issues. Alabama, Florida’s opponent on Tuesday night, welcomed back Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele after suspensions from the team for a violation of team rules.  “When you look at Andrew Steele — he’s been probably the finest student-athlete that I’ve coached — he made a mistake,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “His body of work speaks for itself in terms of who he is as a person and what he’s been all about. I was a former student-athlete. You are faced with a lot of different things and you have to make decisions. Sometimes you make the wrong one. I don’t think that’s any indication of who he is as a person. Same thing with Trevor Releford. He’s a young man that’s in his sophomore year in college and made a bad choice. I think his teammates understand that. Certainly as a coach, I don’t condone it, but I’m not going to condemn him as a human being for making a bad decision. We will move on and get ready to play.” Grant has continued the suspensions for forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, the team’s top two leading scorers. When asked about those situations, Grant responded that the situations were “different.”
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Morning Five: Valentine’s Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 14th, 2012

  1. Last week we mentioned the possibility of a Mountain West/Conference USA merger and yesterday the two sides moved closer to “a new association” with the start of combined play happening as early as the 2013-14 season. With both conferences seeing a significant number of their former constituents departing for greener pastures the move is one of self-preservation. This move probably will not have the domino effect that other major moves have had, but should take some potentially interesting target schools off the market for the time being.
  2. Santa Clara has suspended Kevin Foster, the West Coast Conference’s leading scorer (17.8 PPG), for the remainder of the season after his arrest for driving under the influence. Foster has been suspended by the team following his arrest in the early morning on January 22. Since that time he has missed seven games with the Broncos losing all seven. To be fair, the team was only 8-10 with him on the court. Since this is Foster’s junior season, there is a possibility that the team could bring him back next season, but now he will have to deal with the legal system first as he is scheduled to be arraigned March 7 as he has been charged with a misdemeanor.
  3. With Connecticut sitting on the NCAA bubble and its Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun still on an indefinite medical leave our faith in a rally by the Huskies is fading by the day. While Calhoun could theoretically come back any day now, it looks like that day will not be tomorrow when UConn plays DePaul. In fact, it could be quite a while as according to reports Calhoun is still meeting with medical specialists to get second- and third-opinions on how to manage his spinal stenosis. Calhoun is apparently still deciding whether to go with conservative management or undergo a surgical procedure, which would probably keep him out for the rest of the season. With just six games left in the regular season and the hopes of a promising season growing bleaker with every game, we would expect Calhoun to make a decision in the near-future.
  4. It was not quite like Larry Bird calling his Celtic teammates “sissies” in the 1984 NBA Finals, but after looking at tape of their home loss to Michigan State, Jared Sullinger criticized the entire team for playing like “spoiled brats” for their constant arguing with each other and the officials. Sullinger was careful not to simply call out his teammates as he included himself in the comment since along with his impressive totals of 17 points and 16 rebounds he also had 10 turnovers. It will be interesting to see how the Buckeyes respond to the loss moving forward as they have the potential to stay a #1 seed or drop down to a #3 seed with a tricky close to the regular season.
  5. Tonight’s Florida-Alabama game will have a vastly different look than what we expected coming into the weekend. Coming off back-to-back losses the Gators will be without the services of Will Yeguete after he suffered a concussion and required 10 stitches as the result of  a fall in Saturday’s loss against Tennessee and will also be without Mike Rosario as he continues to deal with a hip injury. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide will welcome back two of the four players who had been suspended last week for the catch-all conduct detrimental to the team. While Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green will continue to serve their suspensions, the team will “most likely” have Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele back for tonight’s game. Anthony Grant has not released any more information about if and when Mitchell and Green would return, but if he wants to avoid being on the bubble on Selection Sunday he might want to consider reinstating them fairly soon.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 13th, 2012

  1. The Florida Gators suffered a tough home loss to Tennessee on Saturday, but that loss could have long-lasting ramifications. Sophomore forward Will Yeguete left the game with a concussion. Head coach Billy Donovan labeled Yeguete as doubtful for Florida’s next game Tuesday at Alabama. “He failed a concussion test when he went in (the locker room),” Donovan said. “A lot of it is going to be how well he responds. He’s definitely not going to practice (today), not going to practice Monday. The doctors have told me that he can’t play, but (doubtful) would be my guess.”
  2. Tennessee’s win was witnessed by a prominent future Volunteer. Derek Reese, one of Tennessee’s signees for 2012, traveled to Gainesville from his hometown of Orlando. “I was expecting the game to be closer; that was a real good win, real important,” Reese said. “I think it’s a result of Coach Martin’s mentality. He’s tough-minded and he’s going to make you play hard and get the most out of you, and that’s how the successful teams do it in sports. That’s what I was looking for in a college coach.”
  3. Following Alabama’s short-handed road loss at LSU last week, Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant spoke of his decision to suspend JaMychal Green, Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele on Friday night. He said he received information about something that happened before the trip: “I’m very disappointed in terms of some of the choices that we as individuals made,” Grant said. “But you’re dealing with young men. I was a college student at one point. Can’t say that I did all the things right all the time.”
  4. Two Crimson Tide freshmen from Huntsville — Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph — saw increased playing time against LSU as part of the suspensions. Bill Bryant of the Huntsville Times wrote how the relationship between the two, who finished 1-2 in Alabama’s Mr. Basketball each of the previous two years, was formed and how their learning curves were accelerated with the suspensions.
  5. With ESPN in Nashville for College Gameday this weekend, several of the network’s analysts offered up some lofty comparisons to Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. “He’s special in how he affects the game,” Dick Vitale said of Davis. “He’s the only player I’ve seen going back to Patrick Ewing that affects the game without scoring a point.” “He is the best big guy college basketball has seen in a while, several years,” Jay Bilas wrote. “I liken him to a more skilled Marcus Camby. He is a game changer defensively that can block shots around the rim and block perimeter jump shots.”
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