Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

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In Their Own Words, SEC Style: Inaugural Chapter

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 19th, 2012

In Their Own Words will be a regular feature on the SEC Microsite that will explore tweets, quotes, videos or any other type of media outlet where players or coaches choose to communicate.

Ole Miss – Mississippi State

The Egg Bowl rivalry has created some good ole-fashioned trash-talking from some of the players involved. Mississippi State’s Dee Bost had this to say about the game:

@DBost3: We in Oxford tomorrow lol

LOL indeed, Dee. Oxford… Laughing out loud. But I guess in retrospect, playing in Tad Smith Coliseum is no laughing matter. It seems like Bost waged war with the Rebels with that comment, but then later he was ready to call a truce. Sort of:

Dee Bost added fuel to the fire in an already hostile rivalry against Ole Miss

@DBost3: I wish these ole miss ppl stop tweeting me damn get a life

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SEC Full Court Press: Nothing Easy On the Road

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 17th, 2012

The SEC Full Court Press is a quick hitting review of my thoughts and observations from the last week, as well as a look ahead.

The Week That Was (01.09.12 – 01.15.12)

  • Florida’s Kenny Boynton seemed to prefer a high degree of difficulty on his way to 15 points against Georgia. He was 1-6 (16.6%) from two point field goals on Saturday, but 4-7 (57.1%) from three-point range.
  • Now that his time playing football for Steve Spurrier is over, South Carolina point guard Bruce Ellington has excelled on the hardwood. This week he averaged 18.5 points and three assists per game against Vanderbilt and Florida. Coming into these two games, Ellington had only scored in double figures twice all season.
  • Vanderbilt got to the free throw line 44 times (making 30) against Georgia, showing improvement in its aggressiveness and ability to establish a presence in the low post.
  • Three-point shooting continues to be an issue for Alabama. The Crimson Tide were 1-9 (11.1%) in a loss in Starkville against Mississippi State.
  • Arnett Moultrie continues to rack up video game type numbers with 25 points and 13 rebounds against Bama. At one point, Moultrie scored 14 straight points for the Bulldogs.
  • While I still think Moultrie is the SEC Player of the Year, Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has made a fairly significant case for most valuable player. He finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds against Tennessee, but came up big in the clutch when Kentucky needed him most.
  • Speaking of Kentucky, the Cats have as many conference road wins already this season (two) as they had on the road throughout the entire SEC slate last season.
  • Who says John Calipari-coached teams can’t shoot free throws? Since the beginning of SEC play, the Cats are shooting 75% from the charity stripe. And they’ve been there 69 times in the first three conference games.
  • For all my NCAA Tournament bubble talk last week, I now believe the SEC will end up as a five-bid league. LSU, Ole Miss and Arkansas looked as though they could wind up on the bubble, but all three are far too inconsistent to make a serious run.

Beat the Press

  • The team I was most impressed with this week was the Mississippi State Bulldogs.  After struggling last week in a fast paced affair with Arkansas, Mississippi State got two important wins this week. First, the Bulldogs won 62-58 over the Tennessee Volunteers and then outlasted Alabama for a 56-52 win. The offense wasn’t clicking for the Bulldogs on either night, shooting under 45 percent from the field in both, but they found a way to win. This week will be even more telling as Mississippi State hits the road for contests against in-state rival Ole Miss and then on to Nashville for a tough game at Vanderbilt.

Anthony Davis needs one block to tie the single season blocks record at Kentucky

  • This week, not only did Anthony Davis beat the press, but he swatted it into fifth row of the stands. Davis was key down the stretch in Kentucky’s victory over Tennessee as the freshman center showcased some offensive moves in the post. He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks against the Vols, averaging 16 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, 2.5 steals and two assists on the week. Davis handles the ball on the perimeter often for the Cats, but had zero turnovers in either game.  With his eight blocks this week, Davis is now two blocks away from setting the single season blocks record (one block to tie) at Kentucky.

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SEC Morning Five: 01.17.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 17th, 2012

  1. The SEC doesn’t take holidays off as the league announced its SEC Men’s Players of the Week. Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie was named the Player of the Week after averaging 19 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks last week. Moultrie had a monster game against Alabama with 25 points and 13 rebounds. He is tied for an SEC best with nine double-doubles. The Freshman of the Week was Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Davis is closing in on the single season blocks record at UK as he added eight blocks this week. The 6’11” center averaged 16 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, 2.5 steals, and two assists per game. He has scored in double figures in seven straight games.
  2. Florida’s Patric Young is scheduled for both an MRI and an X-ray this week for his injured ankle. The injury limited him to four points and three rebounds (the article states Young grabbed four rebounds, but he only had three) on just two attempted shots and only 13 minutes of action. Gators coach Billy Donovan doesn’t consider the injury to be serious though. “My main concern with him is conditioning because he has been limited in practice,” Donovan said. While Young was limited to a season low 13 minutes of action, he somehow managed to pick up four fouls.
  3. Former Ole Miss guard Dundrecous Nelson, who was dismissed from the team following drug charges, is transferring to Jackson State. Nelson was averaging 11.6 points per game in 14 games for the Rebels, but was turning the ball over 2.3 times per contest. He was replaced in the starting lineup as Andy Kennedy looked for a steady point guard to lead his team. Kennedy still hasn’t found the answer though as Ole Miss averages 16.8 turnovers per game, which is worst in the SEC.
  4. Don’t look now, but Vanderbilt may have quietly turned a corner into the second best team in the conference. The Commodores are on a seven-game winning streak, and they are improving on previous areas of concern. Typically, teams that are extremely reliant on the three-point shot have difficulty finding other ways to score when long range shots aren’t falling. On the season the Commodores average 36.8% of their points from the three-point shot. In its win over Georgia on Saturday, Vanderbilt limited its points from beyond the arc to only 19.5%. While that might not be a positive, the fact that the Commodores were aggressive in finding extra points at the free throw line is a good sign. Vandy’s free throw rate (calculated by FTA/FGA) was by far a season high of 107.3. For comparison, its next best free throw rate this season was 61.1 against North Carolina State.
  5. Kentucky is looking like a Final Four team, despite not playing well on the road. The Cats continue to find a way to win though. And John Calipari‘s team gets it done on the defensive end. A Kentucky opponent hasn’t shot over 50% from the field since Connecticut did it in the first match-up between the two foes last year on November 24, 2010  in the Maui Invitational Tournament. In fact, the highest shooting percentage an opponent has achieved this season has been 43.1% by Indiana, which of course resulted in a loss for the Wildcats. Going on the road in the SEC caused a slight setback this week for the Cats as both Auburn and Tennessee shot over 40% in what resulted in closer than expected wins for the Wildcats.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.13-01.15

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

A couple of Mountain West battles highlight Saturday’s action but the big one is late Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten.

#14 Connecticut @ Notre Dame – 11:00 AM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Led by Andre Drummond’s 20/11 on 9-11 FG, Connecticut got back on track by defeating West Virginia on Monday night. To win on the road, the Huskies will need quality efforts from most of their roster. That starts with Shabazz Napier protecting the basketball. Jim Calhoun’s sophomore point guard sets the tone for this team, good or bad. Napier (and UConn as a whole) has struggled with turnovers, especially in Big East play. On the road against a team looking to make its mark in the middle of the conference, the Huskies have to do a better job handing the ball if they are to win this one. The more possessions UConn can earn by using its strong rebounding advantage while minimizing turnovers, the more opportunities there will be for talented players such as Drummond, Jeremy Lamb (25 points vs. WVU) and Ryan Boatright to score.

    Can Napier Step Up To Lead The Huskies?

  • Believe it or not, Notre Dame actually has an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament. 37 at-large bids have to come from somewhere and the Fighting Irish are on the bubble according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. This will be a tall order for Notre Dame, even at home. The Irish have won 29 consecutive home games but that will be tested mightily against the Huskies. The emergence of Jack Cooley in the paint could be the biggest reason why Notre Dame has a chance to upset UConn. Cooley has averaged 16.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG over his last eight games, the latest Notre Dame big man to develop nicely under Mike Brey. However, Cooley will likely have a more difficult time against Connecticut’s stifling interior defense. The Huskies have always owned the paint under Calhoun and this year is no different. Notre Dame has to make outside shots in order to win because it can’t count on Cooley alone inside. Jerian Grant has turned into a consistent scorer but the Irish need a third option. Brey had hoped Scott Martin would be that guy but he has really struggled. However, Martin is impacting the game in other ways, rebounding well even when the shots aren’t falling. Notre Dame must try to get to the foul line as well. UConn historically doesn’t foul often so this could be difficult even at home.
  • If Drummond plays like he did against West Virginia, the Huskies will be a strong favorite. UConn must rebound aggressively to counteract any turnover problems it may have. The Irish have struggled shooting the three ball this year and Connecticut ranks second in interior defense. If those statistics hold true, Notre Dame will have an incredibly difficult time scoring. The good news for the Irish? They have been the best team defending the triple in Big East play (20.9%). For UConn, it’s simple. Protect the ball, rebound, and defend the paint. If the Huskies do that, they will snap ND’s 29-game home winning streak. Easier said than done, of course.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 11th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie has experienced a decline in points over the last three games. The power forward averaging 16.2 points per game has also grabbed 2.1 fewer offensive rebounds per game during this stretch. Coaches are keyed in on Moultrie’s ability to get second-chance opportunities in close range for the Bulldogs, and they’re scheming to keep him off the rim. The Bulldogs’ next opponent, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, discussed his strategy saying, “The way he rebounds the basketball, the way he scores on the block, you want to try to get him off the block. You want to try to keep him off the glass.” That strategy is certainly easier said than done, but it again reiterates the importance of forward Renardo Sidney’s play down low. Sidney needs to continue to stay in the ballgame by improving his conditioning and avoiding foul trouble so that he can help take pressure off Moultrie in the post. Moultrie only attempted six shots in the Bulldogs’ weekend loss to Arkansas.
  2. His star player hasn’t been as effective, but Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury isn’t panicking just yet. The players, however, believe that SEC teams have their gameplan for attacking the Bulldogs. “Pressure us and run us,” freshman Rodney Hood said. Moultrie added, “I think pretty much every team is going to come in and try to press us.” The strategy certainly worked for Arkansas. The Razorbacks forced 18 turnovers. But the Bulldogs’ head coach is more concerned with the 98 points the defense allowed, the most points a Stansbury coached team has ever given up. “They hit us in the mouth early and I don’t know if we ever recovered from it,” Stansbury said. The 56.5% field goal percentage is the only time a team has shot above 50% on the Bulldogs’ defense all season.
  3. Tony Barbee is finally under contract with the Auburn Tigers, signing a seven-year deal with the team he’s already been coaching for 22 months. Barbee and Auburn had been operating on a letter of understanding since March 24, 2010. “I’m glad it’s signed,” Barbee said. “The contract was a bigger deal for everybody else but Auburn and me. I was very comfortable with the letter of agreement we were working under… Auburn had committed to me. I had committed to them.” Barbee is 10-5 in his second year as head coach of the Tigers, and faces John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats on Wednesday night.
  4. Forward Murphy Holloway may be ready to to go for the Ole Miss Rebels after being sidelined with an injury sustained on December 21. “[He’s] probable for tomorrow,” Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy said. “The pain he feels is from that bone bruise. That tendon, the ligament is all pretty stable. For him, he’s still having some pain — which you can see in his gait. Some of it may be anticipatory, some of it may be in his mind.” (Ok, who had to google the word “gait?” Kennedy always keeps us on our toes.) Holloway’s return should provide a boost on offense for a team without leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson. Ole Miss has lost four of its last five games heading into a home matchup with the red-hot Razorbacks.
  5. Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn’t at all happy with the Gators’ defensive effort against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday. “We didn’t play hard at all, on both ends of the floor,” freshman Bradley Beal said. “Our defense, we didn’t play great help defense, we didn’t guard the ball well. Our transition defense wasn’t good. We had too many breakdowns during the game. I mean, it really cost us.” The Gators allowed the Vols to shoot 51%, the highest percentage Florida has allowed all year. Florida isn’t a strong enough defensive squad to have off shooting nights, and Donovan’s three-point bombers weren’t hitting with their normal efficiency. The Gators shot 31.8% from beyond the arc, spelling a recipe for disaster on the road. Donovan needs to shore up Florida’s defensive effort to  protect his team against another bad shooting night, whether on the road or on a neutral site court deep during a tournament run in March.
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Freeze Frame: Attacking Arkansas’ Full Court Press

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 10th, 2012

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is known for his patented full court pressure, and that defensive intensity caused a headache for the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday. The Razorbacks scored 23 points off turnovers, pressuring the Bulldogs into 18 miscues for the game. Mississippi State looked flustered all night, making a parody of costly errors. Today’s version of Freeze Frame will look at where coach Rick Stansbury’s squad went wrong on Saturday. We’ll also discuss how HD channels should be a prerequisite for watching college basketball. Watching ESPN Full Court’s free preview this week is like watching an old Atari game on your 1980s television complete with drunk goggles. Not good.

Play 1 (14:05 remaining in the first half):

The first rule of attacking Arkansas’ press is you don’t talk about the press. The second rule of beating the press is you DO NOT talk about the press. Ok, the third rule is you don’t try to dribble through it. Freshman guard Deville Smith received the ball in the corner as two Arkansas guards closed in on him.

Don't dribble towards the baseline!

He committed another cardinal sin by dribbling towards the baseline (That’s the fourth rule, by the way). With nowhere to go, Smith’s best option is a skip pass to a streaking offensive player near the half-court line. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big 12 Weekly Primer: Jan 9 – 11

Posted by dnspewak on January 9th, 2012

Kansas State has a rare opportunity this week to ruin two teams’ undefeated seasons in consecutive games. Just three days after handing Missouri its first loss at Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats will host 15-0 Baylor on Tuesday night in a battle of two of the Big 12’s top frontcourts. There are a few other games to keep an eye on this week, too: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will meet tonight in a Bedlam game, though the series is hardly enticing right now with both programs struggling. And on Wednesday, MU will need to recover quickly from Saturday’s smackdown with Iowa State looming in Ames.

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • Baylor at Kansas State, Tuesday, 7 p.m. CT (Big 12 Network)

Facing an undersized Missouri team this weekend, Kansas State frustrated Ricardo Ratliffe and punished the Tigers with a physical frontline. Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez combined for seven blocked shots and Rodney McGruder attacked the basket at will as Frank Martin‘s team exposed MU’s main weakness in the paint. Unfortunately for KSU, it won’t be able to bully Baylor like that on Tuesday night. The Bears, who have been rebounding better lately, can throw any number of forwards at the Wildcats’ post defenders, including Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Perry Jones and starters Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. They can’t play effectively unless their guards get them the basketball, though, so  it’s important for Pierre Jackson in particular to play well in a road environment. He has turned the ball over at a fairly alarming rate this year, but he has provided the missing piece for Baylor’s offense this year as a facilitator off the bench. Still, Kansas State’s half-court intensity on the defensive end may give the guards some problems, and this game could turn ugly if they can’t hold on to the basketball. In fact, for all of the talk about the forwards in this game, the guards will make the difference. Brady Heslip can provide BU with another element if his outside shots are falling, and starter A.J. Walton and reserve Gary Franklin cannot be outplayed by Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez and the rest of KSU’s deep and balanced backcourt. When BU has looked shaky offensively this season (for example, in a two-point win over Mississippi State), turnovers and a lack of ball movement has held it back. Baylor may have been able to edge MSU on a neutral court during a cold shooting night, but it won’t be able to recover from an off game in Manhattan.

Rodney McGruder Is a Difficult Matchup For Baylor

The key individual matchup is… Perry Jones vs. Jordan Henriquez. Filling in for the struggling Thomas Gipson, Henriquez earned the start against Missouri on Saturday and did not disappoint. The seven-footer blocked four shots and played one of his most complete games of the season with 10 points and eight rebounds. Now a junior, Henriquez no longer plays like a project anymore. He has the size and defensive ability to frustrate Jones, who has struggled against elite big men like Arnett Moultrie (MSU) and Kevin Jones (West Virginia) this season.

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Pierre Jackson: Baylor’s Unlikely Answer in the Clutch

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 29th, 2011

On a team with pre-season All American Perry Jones III, senior Quincy Acy, and heralded freshman Quincy Miller (one of the nation’s most talked about frontlines), Baylor relied on 5’10” junior college transfer Pierre Jackson to beat Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Beating the Bulldogs did not come easily as the Bears struggled to find their shooting stroke in the midst of a defensive slugfest. The #5 team in the country shot 21.4% from the field in the last 20 minutes, but somehow, Baylor found a way to win. The Bears found Jackson.

Pierre Jackson goes up for two to win the game for Baylor (Credit: AP photo/Matt Strasen)

Jackson started out the game with 10 points on four of six shooting, but would miss his first six shots of the second half including a layup that would have tied the game with 2:25 on the clock. Even after his poor start in the last twenty minutes of the game, he wasn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands with under a minute to play and a tie ball game. Neither was his coach.

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Baylor Preserves Its Undefeated Record, But Hardly in Encouraging Fashion

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

Baylor beat a top-15 team on Wednesday night, and that’s terrific. The undefeated Bears locked down Mississippi State on the final possession of the game to ice the win, holding the Bulldogs to 41% from the field and they actually won the rebounding battle for a change. For good measure, they even threw down a few electric dunks in the second half to give a partisan crowd in Dallas something to cheer about. But this 54-52 win wasn’t anything for Baylor to brag about. In fact, the play on the court at the American Airlines Center hardly resembled a marquee matchup between two ranked squads. After Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson combined for five three-pointers in the first half, the Bears failed to make a trey after halftime and finished with almost twice as many turnovers (15) as team assists (8). With scouts from nearly every NBA franchise in the building, star Perry Jones scored just eight points, and Baylor’s big men looked frustrated all night against the beef and length of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. Scott Drew‘s halfcourt offense was not pretty in the second half, and that was punctuated by several missed layups, missed free throws and silly turnovers near the end of the game.

Baylor Knocked Off Mississippi State, But It Wasn't Pretty (credit: Austin Statesman)

You think that’s bad? Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney committed a technical foul with his team leading by two points in the final minute, and after BU took the lead, the Bulldogs’ final possession consisted of a few passes 30 feet from the basket and a wild, contested mid-range attempt by Rodney Hood to end the game. It was blocked, but you could have guessed that. The Bulldogs scored just 19 points in the second half, one less than Baylor’s 20. Point guard Dee Bost‘s struggles from three-point land continued with a 1-5 effort, and as usual, Sidney dominated when he played but only logged 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Rick Stansbury‘s team shot seven free throws but made just three, and it also finished with just nine team assists.

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SEC Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 29th, 2011

  1. Mississippi State met sixth ranked Baylor on Wednesday night in Dallas, Texas. The most anticipated matchup was in the post where Bulldogs’ forward Arnett Moultrie got the best of NBA prospect and Baylor sophomore Perry Jones III. “He was a good player,” Moultrie said. “My goal was to lock him down defensively. I think I did pretty good. I don’t think he was the reason they won the game.” Moultrie grabbed 10 rebounds and scored eight points, while holding Jones III to eight points and six rebounds on 4-13 shooting. Jones III looked out of sync offensively, and was not able to establish position on Moultrie in the post all night. Despite shutting down Baylor’s top offensive option, the Bulldogs lost 54-52.
  2. It appears as though Florida guard Mike Rosario will make his return from a back strain that has caused him to miss the past two games. The team that Florida plays on Thursday? Rutgers, Rosario’s former team, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years. Rosario is averaging 9.4 points per game coming off the bench for the Gators. He averaged 16.2 and 16.7 points per game in his first two years at Rutgers, and expect Rosario to give a little extra effort to put up those kind of numbers on Thursday. It should be an emotional game for the junior transfer, but regardless of the opponent, it is good to see him return to action.
  3. Kentucky’s Terrence Jones isn’t ready to offer any insight into his poor performance against Indiana a couple of weeks ago. “It happened,” Jones said. “The game is over. We just have to move on. There’s nothing I can do to change what happened.” Not that you need a reminder, but Jones scored four points, grabbed one rebound and committed six turnovers in the Wildcats’ loss in Bloomington. “It’s tough because we lost,” Jones added. “Anything else doesn’t matter to me.” Jones returned to action against Lamar on Wednesday night, adding nine points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. Emotions will be high when Louisville comes to Rupp Arena on Saturday, and Kentucky will need Jones at 100 percent both physically and mentally.
  4. Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist compared himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow when asked about being the Wildcats’ MVP so far this season. Blasphemy! Nobody is like Tebow. Although Kidd-Gilchrist has achieved a cult-like status in Lexington with his hard work and tremendous effort on the court. Wildcat fans have taken a liking to his production too, as Kidd-Gilchrist averages 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Kentucky retailers have even created a MKG for MVP t-shirt. “I don’t get into all that,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I’m just a winner. That’s it. I’m like Tebow. I just want to win the games. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”
  5. ESPN’s Andy Katz took a look at the SEC in his conference power rankings. While Kentucky and Florida topped the list, the most interesting and difficult team to rank is Vanderbilt. Katz writes, “It’s hard to push the Commodores down too far, even though this team has struggled mightily during the early part of the season. The Dores get yet another challenge this week at Marquette.” Vandy’s matchup with Marquette on Thursday night is about redemption. The Commodores have fallen significantly from their top 10 ranking in the preseason, and it is becoming more and more difficult to leave Vandy at the top of the rankings in the SEC. The 2011-12 ‘Dores just don’t look like a team that will be able to break coach Kevin Stallings’ losing streak in the NCAA Tournament.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.28.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 28th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See the bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tonight’s action offers a variety of 4-star matchups, including some exciting conference openers and one of the last top-25 non-conference showdowns. Carve out some time tonight to catch these great games.

Perry Jones and Undefeated Baylor Face Their Final Non-Conference Test Tonight Against Mississippi State (AP/T. Gutierrez)

#12 Georgetown at #10 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

  • One of the biggest surprises in the country thus far, Georgetown is now looking to prove it can hang with the top teams in the Big East. Given how the Hoyas have played recently, they should have a great chance to add another impressive win to their resume tonight in the KFC Yum! Center. Georgetown has already won a true road game over then-top-15 Alabama, and tonight it heads west looking to rely on a veteran big three that have been consistent all year. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are getting it done from the perimeter, each averaging about 15 points per game and hitting exactly two three-pointers per game to lead the team from deep. Henry Sims, the most unlikely assist man in the nation, has executed his point forward role to perfection in Coach Thompson III’s Princeton-style offense. Sims leads the team with 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while continuing his low-post impact to the tune of 12.5 points and 5.5 boards per contest. If Georgetown can continue its current pace of 1.16 points per possession, which is ninth best in the country, then they will have a shot to pull off the road win tonight.
  • Before taking on Kentucky later this week in a massive in-state powerhouse showdown, Louisville has this fierce test to begin Big East play. Rick Pitino’s team has been well-prepared all season leading to an undefeated record, but they have been vulnerable at home and have nearly been upset several times at the Yum! Center. The Cardinals, though, continue to collect wins thanks to a spectacular defensive effort. Louisville’s defensive efficiency of 83.0 is the fifth-best number in the nation, and they are also ranked top-10 defensively in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per possession, and rebounding. Coach Pitino will run out a nine- or ten-man rotation and look to speed up the Hoyas’ efficient offense by implementing high pressure and different defensive looks throughout the night. How guards Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, and Peyton Siva shoot from behind the arc will be the key to the Cardinals’ offense.
  • This should be a tremendous game, as two red-hot conference foes do battle with their conflicting styles of play. Louisville is a five-point favorite at home, and their depth across the board will give them an advantage tonight. But the Hoyas are able to counteract any opponent’s strengths when their offense is clicking. Keep an eye on who can establish their style of play early in the game.
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