SEC Tournament Preview: Rapid Fire Round

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 13th, 2014

The SEC tournament is underway, and the SEC microwriters have so many key questions to answer to preview the SEC Tournament. Today’s burning questions are a rapid fire round of all the major story lines we haven’t covered yet heading into the beginning of the tournament. Which potential matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend? Can Kentucky pull it together or is destined for an early exit? How many wins does Arkansas need for an NCAA berth? What about Missouri? Which team cuts down the nets on Sunday? The SEC microsite writers answer all of these questions in rapid succession as we head into round two of action in Atlanta.

Will John Calipari's "tweak" alter Kentucky's course? We'll know soon.

Will John Calipari’s “tweak” alter Kentucky’s course? We’ll know soon.

David Changas (@dchangas)

Which potential match-up are you most looking forward to this weekendTennessee-Florida.  Assuming the Volunteers have turned a corner and can get by likely quarterfinal opponent Arkansas, have they improved enough to take down a Gator squad that has certainly already secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament?

Can Kentucky pull it together or is destined for an early exit? Objectively, there isn’t a lot to be excited about with respect to Kentucky’s recent play. However, there are a few factors that make me think they’re going to reach the championship game on Sunday. First, they have an unmatched history in this event, and have been particularly good in Atlanta in the past. Second, they’ll have an overwhelming crowd advantage, as Big Blue Nation always descends upon the Georgia Dome in hordes. Third, they have a relatively easy draw. They avoid the Florida/Tennessee/Arkansas side of the bracket and should have only LSU and Georgia or Ole Miss standing between them and the title game. I’ll be surprised if they don’t make it there.

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SEC M5: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on December 30th, 2013

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  1. Kentucky‘s starting trio of guards closed out the Wildcats win against Louisville, showing why they were such highly-regarded recruits. It has been a largely inconsistent first two months for the Harrison twins and James Young, with some good moments and some bad. But with Julius Randle out of the game and Louisville taking the lead in the second half, the trio took over. CBSSports‘s Jeff Borzello writes, “The shooting numbers won’t look great (16 for 45 from the field, 3 for 12 from 3, 11 for 21 on free throws), but one has to look past that in order to see the impact the Harrison-Harrison-Young trio made in the final 20 minutes. Those three scored 25 of the Wildcats’ 30 second-half points — including 14 points during a game-changing 15-4 run after Jones’ three-point play.” This collective performance comes just weeks after the Wildcats attitude and “togetherness” was questioned. It’s thus encouraging for John Calipari and Big Blue Nation that it was in a close rivalry game with Randle on the bench that the Widlcat guards took over. If they can show that sort of resolve in a situation like that, there’s no reason they can’t show it in March too.
  2. True road wins were hard to come by for Missouri last season, as the Tigers only picked up two of them. Frank Haith is already halfway to that total this season after Missouri’s win at North Carolina State on Saturday night. Most impressive was that the Tigers executed (for the most part) down the stretch and won a close game. They were not able to do this in a similar situation against Illinois the week before. “Our guys showed great character and great toughness after getting down 10 in both halves,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “Everything wasn’t pretty, but I thought we were gritty and we made big plays.” This isn’t the first time the Tigers have shown resilience this season, as they fought back from several big runs and ten plus point deficits to beat UCLA. It’s definitely been an overall positive non-conference season for Missouri.
  3. Anthony Hickey moved to 11th all-time on LSU’s assists list in the Tigers win against McNeese State last Saturday. The guy he passed was the one giving him directions from the sideline, Johnny Jones. ”I’m not exactly sure where I was on the list, but he better get a lot better because I was probably down the list,” Jones said with a proud smile. “Anthony has done a tremendous job for us leading our basketball team.” Hickey has indeed quietly had a solid season alongside the great starts from Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey. Hickey has kept his assist numbers consistent (3.5 per game, 21.3% assist percentage) while turning the ball over less than he did last season (1 per game this season v. 1.8 last season). He’s also doing a good spacing the floor for LSU’s bigs by hitting a career best 39% from three.
  4. Mike Anderson must be having fun this season. Not only is Arkansas 10-2, but he has the Razorbacks playing fast (32nd in the country with 75.2 possessions per game) and is using nearly every able body on his bench. Anderson played 12 players at least 12 minutes in the Razorbacks’ win against High Point last Saturday. The “40 Minutes of Hell” system presents a number of interesting angles. On one hand, players that go to Arkansas will play fast and often get playing time early in their career. But on the other hand, that playing time may be limited, and by nature will generally be less than it would be elsewhere. Sophomore guard Michael Qualls is having a break out season, but is only playing 25 minutes a game. That’s still a significant chunk, but should he be playing more? Or are his solid numbers a product of not being over-exposed? Again, there are a lot of interesting aspects to Anderson’s system.
  5. There was a moment late in Alabama’s loss to UCLA that it appeared Trevor Releford (34 points) was about to will the Tide to a win. He sunk a three-pointer to pull Alabama within two, then stole the ball and tied the game with a layup. But the Tide wouldn’t score again and lost yet another close game to a good team. Anthony Grant’s team sits at 5-7 (the first time that Grant has been two games under .500 at Alabama) and has to be considered the biggest disappointment in the SEC. Hard-fought losses to Oklahoma, Duke, Drexel, Wichita State, and now UCLA are commendable, but nothing more than losses in the end. Given their talent and Releford’s ability to take over, the Tide should threaten in games against the conference’s upper tier. But it doesn’t appear they will threaten for a NCAA Tournament invite after how the non-conference season has unfolded.
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LSU Comes Out of Old Spice Eyeing an NCAA Year

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 3rd, 2013

LSU got a trip to Disney World out of the Old Spice Classic, and no one can take away from them. As cool as that is, the Tigers also ended up leaving the happiest place on earth with a quality win over Butler, and that’s pretty cool too. LSU opened the tournament with a decisive win over Saint Joseph’s. That could end up being a resume-booster because the Hawks competed in a close game with Creighton, but not much is known about Phil Martelli’s group yet (KenPom #77). LSU then led Memphis at halftime of their next game but a sloppy, turnover-filled second half resulted in a seven-point loss.

LSU got a giant three from Anthony Hickey in the final seconds against Butler (photo courtesy sportsnola.com).

LSU got a giant three from Anthony Hickey in the final seconds against Butler (photo courtesy sportsnola.com).

Next up was Butler, a team that obviously still carries name value and had shown something by clawing back into its previous game with Oklahoma State to lose by two. The Tigers overcame a late six-point deficit and executed a must-have three by Anthony Hickey in the final seconds to force overtime. Leaving Orlando with a close loss to Butler would have been frustrating. They would have been saddled with three close losses to good teams, suggesting that the Tigers don’t yet have the ability to win against good competition in those situations. They also would’ve been beaten in a variety of ways. LSU couldn’t take care of the ball against Memphis, turning it over 24 times. Against Butler, LSU held the Bulldogs to just 33 percent shooting but got beat up on the offensive glass (18). You can challenge shots and force bad ones, but it won’t matter much if you keep giving up second chances.

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SEC M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 19th, 2013

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  1. Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson was named the SEC Player of the Week for his impressive work against Southern Illinois and Hawaii. He averaged 22 points on 51.5% shooting over those two games while carrying the Tigers to two victories. Clarkson has proven himself to be one of the biggest offensive threats in the conference already this season. His hard driving style has thrived with the new rules. If teams guard him too closely, he ends up on the foul line, and if they don’t, he is finishing at the rim. Clarkson is probably going to earn this honor a few more times this season, he is the heart of the Missouri offense, and without him in the game scoring is going to be difficult for the Tigers. It is not just the scoring that is so important, it’s the way it creates open looks for the rest of the team, especially Jabari Brown.
  2. In a very good article detailing the most overburdened players in college basketball, Miles Simon mentions Ole Miss star Marshall Henderson. As has been mentioned here before, Henderson has to carry his entire team’s offense this season. His most trusted teammates from last season are all no longer on the team, and that creates a situation where Henderson is asked to do too much. As a team, Ole Miss would benefit greatly from Henderson shooting more efficient shots and being able to find open teammates. The problem is, nobody has yet shown themselves capable of making those shots. Jarvis Summers and Ladarius White in particular need to help Henderson in the back court. If Summers and White can prove themselves capable of making open shots, the defense will have to defend them, and Henderson will wind up with more efficient looks.
  3. The Harrison twins were downright awful against Michigan State, but they showed Sunday night why they are such highly regarded basketball players. Aaron finished with 28 points including four made three pointers. Andrew finished with eight points, eight rebounds, and most importantly just two turnovers. Plenty of people questioned their collective readiness for the college game after Michigan State rendered both freshman useless. John Calipari made a great point after the game. “Like I said to Aaron after, you can’t be energized because you made shots. You’ve got to be energized because you’re playing basketball.” This is true not just for Aaron, but for the entire Kentucky team. The challenge isn’t winning on nights when all the shots are falling, it is winning on the night where the shots aren’t falling. That will be what puts them over the top this season.
  4. Coming into the season it seemed like LSU might have a bit of a point guard controversy. Freshman Tim Quarterman had the four star pedigree while junior Anthony Hickey was the solid contributor with past behavior issues. While Hickey has come off the bench every game this season, he already averages double the minutes of Quarterman, who has been the starter. The reality is, this situation is working itself out, and there is never going to be a controversy. Quarterman’s reputation for being a distributor has yet to be proven on the court, he’s had just one assist this season. He’s looked more comfortable playing off the ball, and actually had some of his best minutes while being teamed up with Hickey. This is a great thing for the Tigers, and gives them usable depth instead of a minutes feud. Combined with Andre Stringer, LSU can actually throw a few different guard combinations all with varying skill sets.
  5. As if the Gators needed more bad news, it looks like point guard Kasey Hill is going to miss a lot of time. He badly sprained his ankle Monday night in a win against Southern. It’s a shame too, because Hill was having a very good game going 4-6 from the field with three assists. With Hill out, and Scottie Wilbiken still suspended, Florida currently doesn’t have a point guard. DeVon Walker will fill in for now, along with Michael Frazier and perhaps a sprinkling of Dorian Finney-Smith. Still, it is a large burden to carry, and Florida’s offense is likely to take a dip in production until a real point guard returns. Florida will have to rely on their size advantage inside to create space on the perimeter, instead of the other way around. It will be yet another challenge for Billy Donovan this season.
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Jarell Martin’s Injured Ankle Pressures LSU Backcourt to Produce

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 13th, 2013

Jarell Martin’s college career got off to a disappointing start yesterday, as he sprained his ankle during the first minute of LSU’s 92-90 season-opening loss at Massachusetts. Martin missed his only field goal attempt of the game, and never returned after the injury. Head coach Johnny Jones has yet to give an estimate on how severe the injury is or how long it will keep Martin out, but he did stress that the team will be extremely cautious with its precocious freshman.

Jarell Martin hurt his ankle just one minute into his college career (Scout.com)

Jarell Martin hurt his ankle just one minute into his college career (Scout.com)

In the short term, Martin’s absence was noticeable in the way Jones worked his rotation. The Tigers missed his presence with the team’s early foul trouble, especially when Johnny O’Bryant was forced to stay in the game with two early fouls. He was the only player scoring for the Tigers at the time, but his presence on the floor led to a third first half foul, costing him playing time later. Had he not been injured, Martin would have been able to shoulder some of the scoring load and perhaps Jones would have been more comfortable keeping O’Bryant on the bench had he trusted someone else to score. Based on how close the game was at the end, and the way LSU struggled to score when O’Bryant was out, it seems safe to assume the Tigers could have won had Martin been healthy. At the very least, LSU would have avoided the scoring issues that plagued them for long stretches in both halves.

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Team Chemistry Over Playing Time Holds the Key to LSU’s Season

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 12th, 2013

When a team finishes its season on a run and they return a group of core veterans, it is natural to expect them to be quite good the next season. When that same roster adds a top 10 recruiting class, expectations rise even further. For LSU and Johnny Jones, a unique dilemma is going to play out early this season. Jones claims he can play up to 11 guys this season, but with all that talent and only 200 minutes per game to divvy up, someone is bound to get upset.

Johnny Jones is all smiles now, but can he make all his players happy this season? (SportsNola.com)

Johnny Jones is all smiles now, but can he make all his players happy this season? (SportsNola.com)

Can Johnny O’Bryant, Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey learn to play together? They are three of the best players on the roster, and all of them are best suited to play power forward. Martin is going to play small forward even though he played at the four throughout high school. He has some perimeter skills including a great jump shot, but his frame is more suited to play down low. To use him exclusively as an outside shooter would be a disservice to his overall talent. Mickey at the five has rim-protecting skills that will make life easier for O’Bryant, but he will also be taking up space in the lane and forcing O’Bryant to operate around him. O’Bryant will need to adjust and take advantage of all the open shooters created with such a packed lane.

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SEC Advanced Metrics Superstars

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 30th, 2013

The concept of advanced metrics certainly has its critics across the college basketball landscape. Basketball players, especially of the young and unpaid variety, are far from robots that perform exactly as their percentages suggest. We know this because Ohio State did not win the 2011 National Championship, Florida was not in the Final Four last year, and I am not filthy rich from winning gambling bets. It is clear that utilizing advanced statistics such as offensive ratings, offensive rebounding percentages and percentage of possessions must be balanced with what we see on the court, but advanced statistics can give us an in-depth look at a player’s potential.

We know Marshall Henderson scores a lot, but how does he fare when analyzing temp free statistics?

We know Marshall Henderson scores a lot, but how does he fare when analyzing tempo-free statistics?

To preview the SEC season ahead, we are going to look at players who excelled in advanced and tempo-free metrics last year in an attempt to predict who will be a standout this season. If we know a player scored 14 points per game, we need to know how many times he shot the ball to know how efficient he was. And just because we know a player scored only four points per game doesn’t mean that he was inefficient, but maybe he didn’t see many minutes or play a large role in the offense. Advanced metrics allow us to take our analysis one step further and hopefully serve to make more accurate predictions. Allow us to present our 2013-14 SEC advanced metrics superstar awards (refer to Ken Pomeroy’s explanations page for help with definitions).

SEC Breakout Players

We are looking for players who were largely role players last year but could become major contributors this season. We are specifically examining players with fewer than 60 percent of minutes played last season. And the nominees are…

  • Michael Carrera, South Carolina – Carrera was just a freshman last season, but his advanced statistical profile was solid. He had a good offensive rating (102.8) despite being a high volume shooter (25.4% shots and 27.0% poss.). The really impressive part, though? He placed in the top 25 in the nation in both offensive (16.0%) and defensive (25.0%) rebounding percentages. At just 6’5”, Carrera finds a way to come up with the ball.  Look for the Gamecock sophomore to become a centerpiece of Frank Martin’s second year in Columbia.
  • Michael Frazier, Florida – A lot of points walked out the door in Gainesville, but Frazier remains. He saw limited action (43.7% minutes) and a limited role on offense (15.8% shots), but he had an offensive rating of 121.2 with incredible three point shooting (46.8%). Can he remain this efficient with an expanded role? His 63.3 percent effective field goal percentage gives us hope that he can.
  • Jabari Brown, Missouri – Brown had a 113.4 offensive rating, a 51.6% effective field goal rate, and was part of a very crowded backcourt last season with the Tigers. The crowd has thinned quite a bit, so look for Brown to take a big step forward this year.

SEC Outstanding Rebounders

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SEC M5: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 6th, 2013

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  1. “Correlation does not always imply causation” as our friends at A Sea of Blue point out, but in this case the evidence certainly seems to fit. Kentucky has lost four of the five games it has played this year where the pace was played at 66 or fewer possessions. Kentucky’s scoring in transition has clearly been more effective than its half court offense, but is UK actively pushing the pace or settling for working on its half court woes? What has to be concerning for Kentucky fans is that the Wildcats seem to be slowing down. Other than a January 29 date with Ole Miss, one of the most uptempo teams in the nation, the Cats haven’t gone over 70 possessions since January 2.
  2. Tennessee forward Kenny Hall is in trouble again, this time after an arrest for driving on a suspended license. Police stopped Hall for going 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, after which it was determined that his driver’s license was suspended for a previous unpaid fine. Hall missed the last 11 games of last season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. It is unclear now how this situation will affect Hall’s status with the Volunteers but University of Tennessee athletics department spokesperson Tom Satkowiak said, ”The administration and coaching staff are aware of the situation, and it is being addressed internally.” Guess we’ll find out when we find out.
  3. Former Auburn standout and current Missouri guard Earnest Ross has been markedly better off the bench than he has been starting the game this season. However, Tigers head coach Frank Haith had to create buy-in from Ross by demonstrating just how much better he was playing coming off the bench.  Haith wrote out Ross’ statistics on the white board during a team meeting last week and asked which stat line he would prefer. Ross is averaging 12.6 points per game as a substitute as opposed to just 8.5 PPG beginning the game on the court. Naturally, he chose the 12.6 per-game scoring average. ”As a player, it kind of makes you understand a little bit more,” Ross said. “I kind of understood the reason, and as long as we’re winning, I’m happy.”
  4. This season has reached an embarrassing low for Auburn‘s basketball team after six straight losses in SEC play. “I’m pretty sure that you would be embarrassed too if you lose six straight and you have a team that has the talent and is one of the best recruiting classes you can put together, and then having seniors that are not producing,” senior guard Frankie Sullivan said. “It’s very embarrassing. It’s hard to even get on a social network or talk to your family or friends about basketball because you’re embarrassed.” The six-game losing streak has brought Auburn’s record down to 8-13, but a home date with rival Alabama on Wednesday would be a perfect time for the Tigers to break their current skid.
  5. LSU coach Johnny Jones has full confidence in point guard Anthony Hickey, especially after his late-game heroics on Saturday against Mississippi State. “He’s what I like to call a warrior and a winner,” said Jones. “He doesn’t shy away or back away from those opportunities at the end of games.” Hickey scored seven of his 12 points in the final 46.7 seconds of the game including a game winner with just over a second remaining. The Tigers are finally starting to turn the corner, winning three of their last four games.
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Uncertainties About Guard Play Remain After Kentucky Escapes LSU

Posted by Will Tucker on January 27th, 2013

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s Kentucky-LSU game in Lexington.

The name on the lips of everyone in Rupp Arena on Saturday was that of Alex Poythress, after his Wildcats dispatched a slumping LSU team, 75-70. The mercurial forward, whose production and motor had yet to match the expectations set by his high draft stock, notched his first college double-double with 20 point and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. The performance absolved him of the forgettable 15 minutes he logged before fouling out in last week’s loss to Alabama. It also discouraged much discussion of the somewhat perplexing showing from Kentucky’s backcourt trio of Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays, and Archie Goodwin. While John Calipari’s guards each put together efficient stat lines and rebounded from a (generally) dismal game in Tuscaloosa, their disjointed half court execution left several lingering questions about Kentucky’s guard play.

(Credit Clay Jackson)

The backcourt is still a source of headaches for Calipari (Credit Clay Jackson)

While there was plenty of blame to go around after Kentucky’s ugly 59-55 loss to Alabama, much of it laid with Harrow and Goodwin for shooting their team out of the game. The two combined to score 13 points on 5-24 shooting (20.8%), and dished out as many turnovers as assists (4). For his part, Mays hit four of his five three-point attempts and was the only Wildcat with a positive +/- rating in what was only the second time he had scored in double digits since mid-December. John Calipari’s backcourt triumvirate was as much of a wildcard heading into yesterday’s game as Poythress. That former Kentucky Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey would be looking to exact revenge on his home turf for two losses against Kentucky last year placed even more pressure on his would-be defenders.

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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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Resetting The SEC Race: A Look At The Seven “West” Teams

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 9th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC microsite contributor and an editor at Nashville Sports Hub. You can find him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

Conference play began for Alabama and Missouri last night, and soon after the rest of the SEC will fall in line. The SEC East has carried the conference banner over the first third of the NCAA basketball season, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t “West” schools that will be vying for postseason bids when March rolls around. The state of the former division has been muddled by a throng of underwhelming non-conference schedules, but it’s almost a lock that at least one of these teams will surprise their opponents en route to a NCAA Tournament berth. Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M have all gotten out to hot starts in 2012-13. Can they sustain them?

Let’s take a closer look at each program in what was once known as the SEC West:

Texas A&M – The Aggies Are Headed Into Their First Season of SEC Play, But a Weak Non-Conference Schedule May Have Masked Their Flaws.

  • The good: Texas A&M will enter the SEC with a 10-3 record thanks to head coach Billy Kennedy’s deliberately-paced play-calling. This team has used spacing, shooting, and patience to create open looks and bring inferior opponents down to their level. Senior Elston Turner Jr. has benefited the most from the Aggies’ new style of play, leading the team with 15.5 points per game thanks to a stellar performance from behind the arc.Kennedy’s preference is to grind down opponents, and it’s worked for TAMU so far. Only four opponents have cracked the 60-point barrier on the Aggies this season, and much of that success comes from a team defense that is helping to hold opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field. However, it’s a big question mark as to whether or not these trends can continue when the team’s schedule dives into more hostile waters during SEC play.
  • Elston Turner Jr. has one of the smoothest strokes in the game (AP)

    Elston Turner Jr. (31) has one of the smoothest strokes in the game (AP)

  • The bad: A&M has played a cupcake schedule so far, and its three losses have come with varying degrees of disappointment. Their only win over a team ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s top 100 came in a 55-54 squeaker over Washington State, and that has been tempered by losses to Saint Louis, Oklahoma, and Southern.They’ll have to shape up quickly if they want to stay afloat in the SEC. They’ll open with Arkansas before traveling to Kentucky and then hosting Florida in their first three games. These showdowns will give the Aggies a chance to prove themselves, but it could also give this team a big hole to climb out of just two weeks into conference play.
  • Player to watch: Elston Turner Jr. The Washington transfer has one of the smoothest shooting strokes in the game, and he’ll carry on a tradition of behind-the-arc dominance that SEC gunners John Jenkins and Rotnei Clarke have left behind in recent years. He’s become a more complete player in his second year at A&M, and he’ll be driven to make his transfer a prudent choice by leading his team to the postseason.
  • Can it last? No. The Aggies have played just two teams from power conferences, beating a mediocre Washington State team and losing by double-digits to a better but still underwhelming Oklahoma squad. They’ve proven that they’d be able to burn through the Sun Belt, but haven’t shown enough through an easy non-conference schedule to prove that they can hack it in their first year of SEC play. Billy Kennedy’s team will have some success in league games, but their current pace looks unsustainable.

Ole Miss – The Rebels Are Scoring and Have the Best Record in the SEC at 11-2, But Who Have They Played?

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SEC M5: 12.28.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 28th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. The New Jersey Nets fired coach Avery Johnson on Thursday, thus beginning the hunt for a replacement, and, of course, an established college coach is always a viable option. Cue the rumors of Kentucky coach John Calipari’s departure to the NBA. It is an annual rite of passage at this point, but Calipari and Kentucky have been there and done that. And he did it in New Jersey to boot. It just does not seem possible that he would leave at this point for another try in the big leagues, and definitely not a return to the same franchise. By the way, Calipari will have Kentucky in the hunt for another National Championship next year. He’s a coach made for the college game, and call me naive, but I think he finishes his career in Lexington.
  2. Frank Martin continues to rack up some top shelf talent at South Carolina. With a strong recruiting class already set for 2013, Martin secured a commitment from Villanova transfer Ty Johnson. Johnson is a 6’3″ guard who averaged 3.3 points and 2.0 assists per game in 32 games of action in his freshman season, but will fill a need at point guard for the Gamecocks when he becomes eligible in December 2013. Martin is stockpiling talent in Columbia since his arrival this offseaso — in addition to Johnson, a top-75 recruit coming out of high school, Martin has also collected commitments from five-star Sindarius Thornwell, three-star center Desmond Ringer, and the son of former Gamecock star BJ McKie, guard Justin McKie. With improved talent in Columbia, things could turn around fairly quickly for South Carolina in the next several years.
  3. LSU guard Anthony Hickey spent three games on the sidelines for disciplinary reasons earlier in the year, and now he will be out for a fourth game because of another violation. ”Anthony has a lot of improvement to do in a lot of areas not only on the floor but off as well,” Tigers coach Johnny Jones said. “We have to try to help him develop.” Hickey is averaging 10.3 points and a national best 3.5 steals per game, but the point guard duties will be handed off to junior Andre Stringer. This string of suspensions isn’t the first time Hickey has landed in the dog house for various LSU coaches, and it likely won’t be the last.
  4. Frank Haith’s Missouri Tigers are hitting their stride with big victories over Illinois and Virginia Commonwealth, but have recently suffered a minor setback as reserve power forward Tony Criswell will miss tonight’s UCLA game with a broken finger. Criswell is among the nation’s best offensive rebounders, with a 13.7% offensive rebounding rate. The Tigers are somewhat thin in the frontcourt beyond their starters Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers, so Haith may choose to play small ball in Criswell’s absence with a three- or four-guard lineup. It’s not like Mizzou hasn’t gone small before, and been quite successful.
  5. Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin went 4-of-17 from the field on Saturday in the Cats’ win over Marshall, but John Calipari needs Goodwin to make the easy ones against Louisville. Goodwin missed several shots at the rim against the Thundering Herd, leaving Calipari searching for answers. “I was disappointed, he missed four layups. I think he’s flippin’, Rod (Strickland) thinks he’s looking down, he’s not seeing the basket, he’s looking up at the last moment to shoot it. I don’t know what it is, I’ll watch the tape, see if I can figure out.” Expect Cal and Goodwin to watch the tape and figure it out quickly. Regardless, Calipari does not have much depth to put Goodwin on the bench if it happens again.
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