SEC M5: 2.26.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 26th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. After scoring 20 and 32 points against LSU and Texas A&M respectively Tennessee junior Trae Golden was been named the SEC Player of the Week. The Volunteer point guard has struggled through an up and down season, struggling to find consistency with his shot and decision-making. That wasn’t the case last week however as he shot  almost 50% from the field and a cool 19 for 20 from the free throw line. “He’s like the leader of our team, especially from the standpoint that he can get his own shot and create for others,” junior guard Jordan McRae said. “If you don’t have your floor general out there, it’s kind of hard for someone else to step in and duplicate what he’s been doing for us.” It’s no coincidence that Tennessee’s best stretch of the season has come at a time when Golden and sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes are playing their best basketball.
  2. Tennessee has a chance at a huge resume-padding win tonight when Florida comes to town. The Gators have absolutely dominated the SEC this season, with a scoring margin of over 20 points/game, but the Volunteers may have caught Billy Donovan’s team at the right time. Michael Frazier II will miss out with a concussion he suffered over the weekend, and Will Yeguete won’t yet be back from knee surgery. However, both could be healthy for the Gators home game against Alabama this weekend. “Frazier’s going to come back at some point. So is Will Yeguete,” Donovan said. “When that actually is, no one really knows right now but I think they’ll be a point where we have our team fully back and we’ll have a full complement of players.” The Gators finish out the season with Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
  3. Willie Cauley-Stein followed in the footsteps of his fallen frontcourt mate and was named SEC Freshman of the Week. The freshman from Kansas put together his best two-game stretch of the season, scoring 20 against Vanderbilt midweek before grabbing 12 rebounds and swatting 7 shots against Missouri on Saturday night. Kentucky looked helpless against Tennessee without Nerlens Noel patrolling the paint, but Cauley-Stein has proved to be a decent replacement for Noel’s lost production. The recognition is Cauley-Stein’s second of the season, his first coming after posting a double-double against Eastern Michigan heading into conference play.
  4. LSU doesn’t have many periods of sustained success in their basketball program’s history, but Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times thinks that may change under the guidance of first-year head coach Johnny Jones. Jones was involved in the program during its best years, as a player for the 1981 Final Four team, and as an assistant for the successful run from 1985-87, all under coach Dale Brown. “Jones’ team plays a lot like most of Brown’s teams — fast and high scoring with hustle and opportunistic defenses that tend to “freak” opponents,” writes Guilbeau. “It’s fun to watch, and people are gradually returning to the Assembly Center. There were 8,200 — a good crowd this century — on a beautiful Saturday with LSU coming off a loss, below .500 in the SEC and neither team ranked.” Jones is making progress on the recruiting trail as well. He’s making sure that his pitches are heard outside of LSU’s immediate surroundings, and has had his hard work rewarded with a commitment from McDonald’s All-American Jarell Martin, only the second to head to Baton Rouge since 2005.
  5. Trevor Releford has been Alabama‘s go-to guy much of the season, but should he be shooting even more? Probably. Trevor Lacey and Rodney Cooper are threats to score from the perimeter as well, but neither is nearly as efficient as Releford. The junior guard is shooting 49% from the field (trailing only reserve forward Nick Jacobs) and leads the team in shooting 42% from distance. “I’ve said this before: When he’s locked in, he’s as good as any guard in our league or across the country,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said Monday. “Here lately, he’s really been playing his best basketball, and we need him to continue.” Despite the heartbreaking loss to LSU over the weekend, Releford was in top form, scoring 36 on 14-18 shooting. The Tide are currently outside the tournament according to most bracket projections, but they have the opportunity for quality wins, with road trips to Florida and Ole Miss before the end of the year.
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SEC M5: 02.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 8th, 2013

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  1. Florida’s Will Yeguete will undergo surgery to repair loose pieces of cartilage in his right knee. The devastating news means Yeguete will be out for four to six weeks, meaning it’s possible he could return in time for the NCAA Tournament. “It’s Will’s decision,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He wants to do what he can to play this season.” The forward has been a huge boost for the Gators this season, acting as the second leading rebounder with 6.3 rebounds per game and providing excellent defense. His defensive rebounding percentage is the best on the team and ranks in the top 100 in the nation. This is a bad loss for Florida, which didn’t at all look like itself without Yeguete in a road loss to Arkansas on Tuesday.
  2. That sound you heard last night was the pop of Alabama‘s thin NCAA bubble bursting after a 49-37 loss to rival Auburn. The Crimson Tide managed just 37 points in the game after leading at halftime by the score of 23-13. Coach Anthony Grant had no explanation. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “I can’t. I have no explanation for that.” A performance like that has to bring about disappointment. “I’m concerned about my team,” Grant added. “The opportunities that we had in front of us, to come out – I expect more out of our guys.” Any chances of an NCAA berth just went out the window with this embarrassing loss, and has to be of concern moving forward.
  3. Ole Miss announced that center Demarco Cox, who hasn’t played since December 23, will be out for the rest of the season after a stress fracture in his foot hasn’t healed properly. This announcement comes on the heels (no pun intended) of 6’9″ sophomore Aaron Jones also announcing he would miss the remainder of the year with a torn ACL. Head coach Andy Kennedy has an issue in the frontcourt if he has to go to his bench. “I told Reg (Buckner) and Murph (Holloway) that they got to be prepared to play 40 minutes,” Kennedy said. With any additional injuries, he may no longer be joking.
  4. Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope always finds a way to get his points, but he insists that Georgia’s recent four-game winning streak isn’t about him. “The difference is we’re playing together,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’re helping each other through adversity when we’re down, when we’re not playing well. Our defense got better. We’ve just been finishing out games.” KCP still found the bucket, scoring 24 on 9-of-12 shooting, but it’s clear he’s now getting help. Tennessee’s Jordan McRae noticed the other players surrounding Caldwell-Pope. “We didn’t expect everybody else to shoot as well as they did,” McRae said. “We knew Caldwell-Pope, he could shoot.” The Bulldogs haven’t won four straight SEC games since winning the SEC Tournament in March 2009 and haven’t put together a streak this long in the regular season since 2003.
  5. One of Kentucky’s undergraduate assistants isn’t just a young college student taking game notes for coach John Calipari, but he has a wealth of experience to draw from and teach Kentucky’s young roster. Former Wildcat Marquis Estill, who played for former coach Tubby Smith at UK from 1999-2003, is finishing up his degree and helping Calipari as an undergraduate student assistant coach. Estill’s relationship with Calipari has the potential to create an eventual opening for him. “I would like to stay around here,” he said, “but Cal knows a lot of people and has great connections.” But perhaps before talking about a job in the future, Estill and Calipari can start at the beginning. “He actually knows my name now, which is a good sign,” Estill joked.
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SEC M5: 02.04.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 4th, 2013

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  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: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 25th, 2013

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  1. Earlier this week it seemed inevitable that Missouri’s Frank Haith was doomed to receive a notice of allegations from the NCAA and a potentially devastating penalty to go along with it. Then, the NCAA reported unethical conduct within its own investigation of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro. Our overlords on the RTC home page discussed the embarrassment associated with another botched scenario for the NCAA in Wednesday’s Morning Five. The NCAA’s ineptitude could end up giving Haith a temporary victory. With the NCAA sidelined with sorting out its own transgressions, a notice of allegations for Haith probably will not be coming anytime soon. Haith might not get away from this scandal unscathed, but now it appears that he will at least have a temporary reprieve.
  2. John Calipari is continuing to openly question his young team’s commitment to playing winning basketball in the wake of a 59-55 loss to Alabama. “Look, we still haven’t totally bought in,” Calipari said. “Individual players haven’t. But they just haven’t bought in, so we’re still doing it. But this is a team that’s growing and getting better. We showed signs and now we took a step back.” To paraphrase the words of former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, this team needs toughness, but Calipari maintains his staff can’t coach the intangibles. “If we have to coach emotion and intensity and effort, you’re not really coaching basketball.” One has to begin to wonder if Calipari’s decision to publicly criticize his team is based on a strategic move or has simply the result of frustration.
  3. Calipari also praised Alabama’s effort in pulling out the win in a close game against his Wildcats. “I love that kind of game. It’s a gut game. Had nothing to do with anything else. Neither one of us played well. They gutted it. They had discipline at the end. We did not – and that sometimes happens with a young team.” Alabama coach Anthony Grant agreed and praised the way his team finished the game. “To be able to win speaks volumes about the character of our guys and the resiliency of our guys,” Grant said. Alabama’s tough play of late has the Crimson Tide firmly in third place in the SEC standings with a 4-1 start to conference play.
  4. Florida’s 64-47 win over Georgia wasn’t a thing of beauty, but Billy Donovan was proud of his team’s effort. “I’m proud of our guys because we gutted the win out,” he said. “It wasn’t a pretty thing [where] we were just coming down and everything was easy. This was a hard-fought, tough, tough grind-out win”. Florida’s rebounding numbers have been key to the Gators’ continued success as they grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and tallied an over 80 percent defensive rebounding percentage on Wednesday night.
  5. LSU had a gameplan in its victory over Texas A&M, and it didn’t necessarily involve Anthony Hickey‘s career-high eight steals. Johnny Jones plan consisted of shutting down scorer Elston Turner. “I think a couple of things helped us with Turner: We extended the defense, which put him away from the basket, and when he got in the half-court sets, they didn’t have as much time on the shot clock,” Jones said. “I thought our guys did an excellent job, Malik Morgan and Charles Carmouche did a great job of shadowing him well, and then I thought the post guys did an excellent job of trying to trap the ball out of his hands and force him away from the basket.” Turner scored just five points on a season-low seven field goal attempts. It is clear that SEC defenses will focus on Turner after his 40-point performance in Rupp Arena so the Aggies need to find a second scoring option to help shoulder the load.
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SEC M5: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 24th, 2013

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  1. What is wrong with Kentucky? That’s the question on everyone’s mind following a 59-55 loss at Alabama. The success of similar John Calipari coached teams make this situation even more baffling. For whatever reason, Calipari made past freshmen look like upperclassmen with years of experience, but his magic wand isn’t working on this new crop of players in Lexington. The inconsistency in play this season should at least create more of an appreciation of the tremendous coaching job Calipari and his staff completed over each of the past three seasons. As ESPN’s Eammon Brennan points out, “each new UK game seems to bring with it new obstacles.” That’s the challenge of a team filled with freshmen. Calipari made it look easy in year’s past, but now we’re seeing the flip side of what an inexperienced team can look like.
  2. Calipari was fairly clear in his assessment of the reason the Cats lost the game on Tuesday night. “Our guard play was not near their guard play,” Calipari said. “It just wasn’t. We reverted back to just throwing it to Kyle Wiltjer in the post to try to keep the game close to give us a chance to win.” Kentucky’s guards, Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin, combined for just 13 points on five of 22 shooting. “We played not to lose, which young guys do on the road at times,” Coach Cal said. Kentucky has six road games on the schedule remaining in SEC play. In five true road games so far this season, the Cats are just 2-3, spelling trouble for the remainder of the season.
  3. Kevin Stallings typically doesn’t play freshmen in his system, but this season he has no other choice. After losing six players, three of whom went to the NBA, Stallings is going a little deeper on the bench to find role players to make the Commodores competitive. And now he’s found a freshman in Sheldon Jeter, whom he trusts enough to place in the starting lineup. “Sheldon wants to get better,” Stallings said. “And he does have some talent. He does have some ability to make shots and finish plays around the rim. And for a team that’s challenged sometimes offensively like we are, that’s a good thing.” It was important for Vanderbilt to find a third offensive option to take some of the load off of Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller, and Jeter may be that guy.
  4.  Trevor Lacey was just one of eight from the field Tuesday night, before a drive to the lane with 4:26 left in the game and Alabama clinging to a one point lead over Kentucky. He made the layup, but went down to the floor with a leg injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the close win over the Wildcats. “I think he’s fine,” said Alabama coach Anthony Grant, who came onto the court to check on the sophomore guard. “He’s got cramps in both calves. He was obviously unavailable to finish the game, but I think he’ll be fine.” Lacey’s three point shooting has been a significant area of improvement for the sophomore guard. He had made a three in all but three games prior to Tuesday, but was 0-3 against Kentucky, adding to that total.
  5. South Carolina had an opportunity to win a big one at Missouri on Tuesday night, but failed to capitalize on its chances. When asked about a free throw discrepancy that gave Missouri 36 free throws as compared to the Gamecocks’ 17 attempts, coach Frank Martin said, “I ain’t going there. You ask me to talk about the economy, I’ll give you whatever you want. I’ll give you my opinions on whatever.” Martin added, “Don’t make me go there because it won’t be good for me, my school. Definitely my wife will be (angry) at me because you know what comes after I go there.” Martin’s team gave up a 13 point second half lead, but it sounds like he has some strong opinions on how that occurred.
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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: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 1st, 2013

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  1. If I told you before the season that Kentucky would lose to fierce rival Louisville but the Big Blue Nation would be generally happy with the performance, you would call me crazy, right? Well, that is exactly what has happened. The Wildcats have not lived up to preseason expectations through non-conference play, but their effort at the Yum! Center on Saturday revealed a different team, and a new level of offensive efficiency was the impetus. The Cardinals boast one of the most fearsome defensive units in the country, allowing only 81 points for every 100 possessions (good for 6th nationally), but the Wildcats exposed them, tallying a single-game offensive efficiency of 107.1.
  2. The biggest negative to come out of the loss for Kentucky fans is the worrying play of freshman Alex Poythress. The talented forward has a polished post game for such a young player, but he’s come up very small in some big spots for the Wildcats. Against Louisville, he played just 15 minutes, giving way to classmate Willie Cauley-Stein, who, despite struggling from the free-throw line, exhibited a much higher work rate. Coach John Calipari revealed yesterday that Poythress might have to get used to watching the game from the sideline if he didn’t increase his intensity. Point guard Ryan Harrow’s work ethic was widely questioned early in the season, but his recent play has quieted those concerns, and Calipari will hope his young post player will follow suit.
  3. The SEC continued their awful season over the weekend, with Alabama’s home loss to Tulane standing out as the worst of the bunch. “Tonight, what cost us the game was our inability to have success on the offensive end,” coach Anthony Grant said after the loss. The Crimson Tide shot under 40% from the field and converted only 3 of their 15 attempts from long range. Early in the season, Alabama emerged as a surprise contender to save the SEC from a down season, starting 6-0, but they have won only one game in six tries in December. Hopefully, January will bring back the Tide’s shooting stroke, a necessary improvement for a team with so little inside depth.
  4. Jeronne Maymon remains on the bench, but Tennessee got an infusion of size over the weekend in the form of Derek Reese. The freshman tore his labrum lifting weights before the season started, and there were questions over whether he could return to help the Vols in 2012-13. Reese was not highly recruited, but with a guard’s skill set in a 6’8″ frame, coach Cuonzo Martin is confident that he can contribute. “In our offense, when you run motion, guys like Derek at the four position and Jeronne Maymon, you can facilitate your offense through those guys,” Martin said. “Because Derek can make shots and make plays off the dribble and Jeronne can make plays off the dribble, and your offense flows. When you don’t have guys like that, things can become stagnant on offense.” For a team ranked 166th in the nation in offensive efficiency, they’ll take help in any way they can.
  5. Auburn nearly pulled off one of the conference’s most unlikely results of the season over the weekend, taking 12th-ranked Illinois down to the wire in Chicago. “There is no such thing as a moral victory,” said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. “We came in here to get this job done, and we didn’t. We gave ourselves some opportunities. Like I told the guys, we have one game left in the first stage of the season in the non-conference schedule. We have to move on past this, and we have to go get that, but the first thing we have to do is address why we didn’t get this one today.” That sort of reaction is expected from a coach of course, but the close loss the Illini is easily Auburn’s most impressive effort on the season. It does not change their disappointing season, but in the tightly packed basement of the SEC, performances like this indicate that the Tigers might finish closer to the middle of the pack than the conference cellar.
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SEC M5: 12.26.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 26th, 2012

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  1. Happy holidays everyone. While Ole Miss was the lone SEC team in action on Christmas Day, all of the other teams spent time at home with their families. When Kentucky players in particular looked under the tree, they found that Santa was especially good to the Wildcats. Kentucky basketball didn\’t receive new socks or a tacky Christmas sweater, rather a brand new state of the art locker room at Rupp Arena. The new basketball suite, funded by private donors, includes a lounge, a dining area, a locker room, cold and hot tubs, a training room, a video room, and coaches\’ offices. And you thought your presents this year were cool?
  2. Missouri point guard Phil Pressey shot a forgettable 3-of-19 from the field on Saturday in the Tigers\’ win over Illinois, but he was still the most important player on the court. Pressey fueled Mizzou in other areas with 11 assists and seven rebounds. “He’s a valuable guy,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “Obviously he was at a level where I couldn’t afford to take him out.” Even though he missed his first 15 shots, Pressey played all but about one minute. His play against the Illini shows just how valuable Pressey is for Haith\’s squad, and he doesn\’t have to score a lot of points to remain the team\’s key cog.
  3. After a banner year in 2011-12 when he shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, Florida guard Kenny Boynton is experiencing the worst shooting slump of his four-year career at Florida. Boynton is just 17-of-61 from behind the arc on the season, going 1-of-5 in the Gators\’ most recent loss to Kansas State. But Boynton isn\’t letting the dry spell get to him. “I’m good,” Boynton said. “I’m not pressing. I know it’s going to come. Coach (Billy Donovan) told me to take open looks and that’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to do.” The slump hasn\’t affected all of his shooting, though. Boynton\’s free throw rate sits at 85 percent, the highest such clip of his career.
  4. Nerlens Noel has been one of the most reliable players for Kentucky\’s John Calipari, and he probably owes a lot of his toughness to his older brothers. Home pickup games with Noel\’s big brothers, both of whom are Division I football players, prepared him to absorb contact when going up around the rim. Older brother Rodman Noel said the siblings were rough on Nerlens \”to make him tougher.  At first, he didn\’t like how we operated things with him. He always used to tell my mom and complain. Over time, he started to adapt to it.\” The younger Noel is seeing the benefits of those backyard pickup games by getting to the free throw line regularly for 45 attempts already this season. But as far as running to tell his mom? \”Nah, nah,\” he said. \”I\’d never go to my mom. I was little, so I\’d start whining and stuff. And I wouldn\’t give them the ball back till I got the call.\”
  5. Alabama is down to eight scholarship players, but that is no excuse for Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant. After the Tide suffered a collapse in a seven-point loss to Mercer over the weekend — a team with an RPI of #228 — Grant had a meltdown of his own. “Let’s just be real about it,” he said. “We didn’t show up to play for 40 minutes today. We didn’t… Let’s not sugarcoat it.” Grant knows this loss was because of effort. “You saw the game. You see the results: 50-50 balls, when you get out-hustled to, that has nothing to do with talent. When you have breakdown after breakdown that cause bad offensive possessions, or for them to get success on their offensive end… That was more effort, focus and pride in performance. It’s frustrating right now as a coach to admit that. It’s embarrassing, really, to admit that.” Grant\’s club has been outplayed a lot over the past month. The Tide have lost four of their last five games, with just two more non-conference games left on the schedule.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Butler-Indiana, Arizona-Florida, Jim Boeheim, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 18th, 2012

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. After enduring the dreaded finals week, we college basketball fans were given a treat on Saturday afternoon courtesy of two teams who call basketball heaven, otherwise known as the state of Indiana, home. In what was the game of the year to date, the Butler Bulldogs overcame a second half deficit and tons of foul trouble and knocked off the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers. While an unranked team beating #1 is always an amazing accomplishment, nobody should be surprised by this result. Butler has done this time and time again over the last few seasons with a variety of different players (although this was the program’s first victory over a #1-ranked team) who embrace the same unselfishness and winning culture. The Butler Way, as it has been deemed, is the reason why Brad Stevens is considered among the top coaches in the college game. This meteoric rise for the 36-year-old Stevens, in only his sixth year as a head coach, doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Butler won the game by torching Indiana from deep and dominating inside, consequently exposing preseason All-American Cody Zeller’s deficiencies. Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Smith took it to Zeller all game and made him look like a very average center in the process, one who struggled to rebound and had difficulty scoring against the physical Butler defense. Zeller’s stat line may look alright (18 points, five rebounds), but 10 of his points were scored at the foul line. He wasn’t a major factor on either end of the floor, a credit to Stevens and his preparation as well as Butler’s personnel. This is a blueprint for future opponents with the proper personnel on how to attack Zeller and Indiana. The Hoosier defense, which up until Saturday’s game had looked much improved, did not look all that impressive on this day. Aside from Victor Oladipo (who is quickly becoming Indiana’s most important player), the Hoosiers didn’t defend the way they needed to against Butler’s deliberate offensive sets. Indiana has plenty of time to fix the problems and remains a legitimate national title contender but Saturday’s result was a good reality check. There is no truly dominant team in college basketball this season and we will see more results like this as the year progresses.

    Alex Barlow's Game-Winner Knocked Off Indiana

    Alex Barlow’s Game-Winner Knocked Off Indiana

  2. Another fantastic game broke out later Saturday night in Tucson where Arizona overcame a six point deficit in the final minute to shock Florida and remain undefeated. In a 40-minute game, the Wildcats led for only a stunning one minute and 24 seconds, out-played in their own building for the vast majority of the game. What did I draw from this game? Not much except that it was fun to watch and both teams are legitimate top ten outfits. Who is the better team? I’m sticking with Florida. The Gators went into the McKale Center and methodically dismantled Arizona for 37 of the 40 minutes played. The problem for Florida was meltdowns at the end of both halves which proved fatal. The Gators held an 11-point lead with under two minutes remaining in the first half but two turnovers and a blown defensive assignment on Nick Johnson allowed Arizona to cut the lead to three at the half. Florida weathered the storm and slowly built up a comfortable lead in the second half before Arizona charged back. A Scottie Wibekin triple with 2:44 remaining seemed to be the dagger but Florida would not score again. In a final minute disaster, the Gators committed three turnovers and 90% free throw shooter Kenny Boynton missed the front end of a one-and-one. Mark Lyons still had to hit a tough shot off the glass to give Arizona the win but this was a total giveaway by Florida, a team that had no business losing this game given the way it played out. What did I like about the Gators? A lot, from Patric Young’s smooth touch and suffocating defense to Mike Rosario’s newfound self-control and poise. Billy Donovan’s team does a great job in zone defense and I thought they should have played some more possessions in it. After a made basket, I really liked Florida throwing on some light full court pressure before settling back into the 2-3 zone. It served them well by confusing Arizona for the better part of the game. Offensively, Florida has nice balance and utilizes Erik Murphy in the perfect way with pick-and-pops as well as a series of staggered screens that really confused Arizona’s defense. Rosario and Boynton play more under control this year and don’t chuck as often as in the past. This is a team that should win the SEC and contend for a national championship. As for Arizona, this is a very good team but not one I’m sure can contend for a national title. Sean Miller’s club must cut down on its turnovers (which it did against Florida) and improve its three point defense. I mentioned Arizona’s poor opponents three point percentage in a previous edition of this column and the Wildcats failed to stop Florida’s shooters on Saturday. That has to get better in the long run if Arizona wants to go deep in March. Kaleb Tarczewski is a tremendously talented young center but he was exposed by Young. Tarczewski will keep getting better but any team with a skilled big should be able to handle Arizona inside. Don’t get me wrong, Arizona will likely win the Pac-12 and advance deep in the NCAA Tournament but this team is flawed, as are many. This was a great resume-building win for Arizona but I’m not so sure the Wildcats would have beat Florida if the game wasn’t in Tucson. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 17th, 2012

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  1. Florida did a lot of things right in its match-up with Arizona over the weekend. Mike Rosario had his best game as a Gator, Erik Murphy found his scoring touch again, and the team defense looked ferocious at times. However, 38 minutes of a performance wasn’t good enough as the last two minutes saw the Gators give away the game through a comedy of errors, with Kenny Boynton serving as the primary culprit. In addition to two Rosario turnovers, Boynton missed two three-pointers, committed a turnover, and missed the front end of a crucial 1-and-1. Florida appeared to have the game comfortably in hand, but only managed four shots in the final five minutes, allowing the host Wildcats back in the game. “I told our guys at halftime, if we’re going to lose, let’s at least make them beat us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We beat ourselves tonight.”
  2. Missouri will gain a welcome addition to its backcourt rotation tonight when the Tigers take on South Carolina State. Jabari Brown, a highly touted recruit from the class of 2012, initially attended Oregon, but after only two appearances for the Ducks, announced his intention to transfer. The circumstances around the decision remain a mystery, but Missouri fans will quickly forget that if he can help solidify the two-guard slot for Frank Haith’s team in the wake of Michael Dixon’s departure. “I feel I’m ready to jump in, but that’s not my call,” Brown said. “Whatever coach Haith says, I’m going to roll with it. I might have to take on a little larger role. I’m not saying I have to score ‘x’ amount of points. I just know Mike was a great player, so everyone has to step up collectively.” Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Negus Webster-Chan have struggled on the offensive end of the court so far, so Tiger fans will be hoping that Brown’s offensive pedigree isn’t just hype.
  3. When Kentucky fans see a player make an obvious mistake on the court, they next thing they often see is a replacement Wildcat jogging from the bench to the scorer’s table. John Calipari doesn’t have a very deep stable of reserve options, but that certainly doesn’t stop him from substituting liberally when he sees something he doesn’t like. “If we don’t start changing, we’re going to struggle,” Calipari said. “You either want to change or you have your excuses of why it’s happening. Let’s just change. That’s my thing.” There were some positive signs for Calipari’s squad against Lipscomb over the weekend. Ryan Harrow, starting his first game since the season opener, looked more aggressive and Kyle Wiltjer finally busted out of a shooting slump and even added an unexpected presence on the glass.
  4. A road loss to VCU in Anthony Grant’s return to Richmond isn’t too shocking as the Rams are a quality team, but the 19-point margin of defeat is a bit of a surprise. Personally, I give up trying to analyze this team. The lack of frontcourt options has been Alabama’s weakness so far, but when freshman forward Devonta Pollard finally had a game that displayed his considerable ability, the usually strong backcourt couldn’t hold up its end. Pollard came off the bench to contribute 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. “This is a tough loss,” said Grant after the game. “We’ve lost three in a row here. When you win your first six, you always say it’s never as good as it seems. When you lose three in a row, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve got to go back and look at the film.”
  5. The SEC lost another undefeated team over the weekend, though LSU’s loss to Boise State was met with a lot less fanfare. Freshman guard Corban Collins was a bright spot for the Tigers, scoring a career-high 19 points. But the LSU defense wasn’t up to the task, allowing 89 points to the Broncos, including eight three-pointers and 23 free throws. The trip to Boise was the first of three straight road games for Johnny Jones’ team, who will travel to UC Irvine and Marquette before they see their home court again.
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SEC M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 13th, 2012

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  1. Tennessee has scored under 40 points in each of its last two games, scoring just 0.98 points per possession. The Volunteers’ answer? Speed up the pace. “I’d love to get out and run,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. The players don’t think it’s time to panic just yet. “Everything is magnified right now because Jeronne (Maymon) is out and we had two games under 40 points,” junior Trae Golden said. “We’re fine. It’s still early in the season.” But there is a problem here folks. The Volunteers couldn’t even muster 40 points, not once, but twice. That’s not fine regardless of how early in the season it may be. And it is worth pointing out that speeding up the game doesn’t change Tennessee’s points per possession. It is what it is. Speeding up the pace just means we can see more of their inefficiency in action.
  2. Somebody please get Jeronne Maymon on line one. His Volunteers desperately need him. Speeding up the pace of play may not be the answer, but Maymon certainly could be. Luckily for Tennessee, the senior forward is making significant strides. Maymon is riding a stationary bike as well as walking on a treadmill. The bad news? There is still no timetable for his return, which is troubling. But the even worse news? The UT Director of Compliance confirmed that Maymon could potentially redshirt if need be. The fact that the scenario is even coming up doesn’t sound positive for a speedy recovery.
  3. Junior center Carl Engstrom of Alabama is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL and MCL. The surgery to repair his left knee was performed on Tuesday. “We are disappointed to lose Carl for the remainder of the season,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “Carl is a very valuable member of our team and will be greatly missed. However, the hard work and determination that he has displayed throughout his career will also assist him going forward as he rehabs and prepares to continue his career next season. We are fortunate to have an outstanding medical team that will assist him during this process.” Engstrom was a contributor for the Crimson Tide, starting in three games this year, and clearly was a big body in the low post.
  4. LSU coach Johnny Jones indicated that point guard Anthony Hickey may be joining the team sooner rather than later. The sophomore was suspended for a “violation of athletic department and university policy.” According to Jones, Hickey is likely to join LSU on its upcoming three-game road trip. He is sorting through the disciplinary matter with university officials. Hickey’s return will be a big boost for the undefeated Tigers. So far this year, the starter was averaging 10.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game.
  5. Florida is outscoring opponents by an average of over 25 points per game. What makes the Gators so dominant this season? A team typically known for its offensive prowess is shutting opponents down on the defensive end this year. “Coach [Donovan] just tells us every game that we can’t slack off, and we can’t have any slippage in practice,” junior guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “We try to go hard, and he’s constantly pushing us to go even harder.” The Gators’ field goal percentage defense is ranked in the top 10 in the country at under 35 percent. Florida’s defense will be tested on Saturday with the best offensive team it has played all season in Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats.
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SEC M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 7th, 2012

  1. Thursday night was a light one for SEC basketball, but the one game on the schedule did not disappoint. Vanderbilt traveled north to take on Xavier and was able to pull out a 66-64 overtime victory in Cincinnati. Earlier in the week, coach Kevin Stallings told media that he needed his team to be more aggressive. “I don’t know that people are trying to define their roles anymore,” he said. “I think that we just have to have guys that are aggressive.” Kyle Fuller was listening. The junior guard scored a career-high 25 points on 8-16 shooting. His resolute play also earned him 10 trips to the line. Xavier, implementing an entirely new starting lineup this season (like Vandy), isn’t as good as they have been in recent seasons, but a road win against a top 100 team (according to Ken Pomeroy) is exactly what the struggling Commodores needed.
  2. Breaking news: This year’s Kentucky team isn’t as impressive as the 2011-12 Wildcats. Beyond the clear disparity in talent, the current players’ commitment to their workouts has been called in to question. However, Willie Cauley-Stein (who has apparently become the spokesman for this freshman class despite being its least important player) believes that his team is starting to turn it around. “There are four of us in the gym and it carried over. Before it was one guy in the gym. It was Archie. Then Julius was in there. Then Alex was in there. Then I was in there,” Cauley-Stein said. “Now it is just collective and everybody is going to start going in there.” Kentucky’s apparently poor work ethic might have gone undetected if they hadn’t put in such a spiritless display last week against Notre Dame. John Calipari’s team has three cupcake home games over the next few weeks as a warm-up for the trip to Louisville on December 29.
  3. Alabama dropped its second straight game this week (at home against Dayton), leading coach Anthony Grant to question his team’s toughness. The words seem pretty harsh for a team that’s started its season brightly, but with the Crimson Tide giving up 81 points (the most they’ve allowed in a home defeat in Grant’s tenure), it’s tough to blame him. “At some point as a basketball player, as a team, you have to have a toughness about you,” he said. “Whether that’s something that can be developed, we’ll find out.” The Flyers made eight three-pointers in 19 attempts against Alabama, and shot almost 50% from the field overall. Point guard Kevin Dillard was the star, scoring 25 points and dishing out eight assists. A weak Alabama interior would be understandable given its lack of depth and injury troubles, but for a team so stacked on the perimeter, the Crimson Tide should be winning the backcourt battle almost every night.
  4. You couldn’t fault Missouri’s Negus Webster-Chan for being a little loud these days. The freshman came to Colombia without a lot of hype, but is now an unexpected starter for the 12th-ranked team in the country. That’s not his style though. “I was mostly quiet on the floor and let my game speak,” he told the News Tribune. “Coach likes his players to talk and I’m talking now.” Webster-Chan’s sub-30% field goal percentage indicates that he needs to work on his shot (or his shot selection), but he’s an energetic player who fits in a Tiger offense that has plenty of other scoring options around him.
  5. In what seems like a daily topic on the M5, let’s talk about another terrible SEC team at the bottom of the conference. Today’s “winner”: Auburn. The Auburn Villager‘s Griffin Gotta published an intelligent piece analyzing the Tigers’ struggles this season. He writes that coach Tony Barbee’s team has been in most of their games at the end, but aren’t able to execute in “winning time” (an expression I’ve only heard of in reference to the fantastic 30 for 30 documentary). Auburn ranks 323rd nationally in three-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot almost 40% from beyond the arc. In an end-of-game situation, allowing open long-range looks can let a trailing and desperate opponent back in to the game quickly and, when the Tigers are on the comeback trail, a conceded three can completely kill momentum.
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