SEC M5: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

 

 

 

  1. Billy Kennedy is on the hot seat in College Station, according to sources close to the third year coach. Despite going to the NCAA Tournament from 2006 to 2011 under Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon, the Aggies haven’t even gotten a sniff of the Big Dance in Kennedy’s first two seasons at the helm. Texas A&M Athletic Director Eric Hyman expects a postseason berth at the end of the year, and it sounds like Kennedy likes his chances. “We’re deeper and more talented,” Kennedy said after his team’s exhibition win. “We’ve just got to find our identity and find a rotation, and guys have to start separating themselves.” Of course Kennedy needs all of his players on the court to be successful, and it appears that the Aggies are struggling in that department.
  2. Kennedy’s cause won’t be helped by Texas A&M guard J-Mychal Reese, who was suspended indefinitely for a violation of athletic department rules. Reese started 25 games last season for the Aggies averaging 6.2 points, 1.9 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game. Reese will continue to practice with the team, and could be reinstated for game action in the “near future.” In A&M’s first exhibition game of the year, the backcourt got a 13-point contribution from Fabyon Harris and 11 points and six rebounds from guard Jamal Jones. The Aggies won by just 10 points over Texas Permian Basin, but perhaps the bigger absence at this point is forward Kourtney Roberson, who is still sidelined with a heart condition. Roberson plans to return to the team in a few weeks, but the Aggies can ill afford to lose any more key players in light of the number one item on today’s morning five.
  3. Florida coach Billy Donovan is also busy suspending players from his already thin roster. Donovan previously placed point guard Scottie Wilbekin on the pine, and now Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris will join him. While Wilbekin will sit out the first three games of the year, Finney-Smith and Harris will both be out for the first two. “Well, I mean, you know, it is what it is,” Donovan said. “We just try to go with the guys that we know are going to be available, going to be there to play.” The Gators have very few players available at this point. Donovan has just five scholarship players at his disposal because of the aforementioned suspensions and injuries or illnesses hampering Will Yeguete, Michael Frazier, and Eli Carter.
  4. It was no surprise that the Kentucky Wildcats came in as the preseason #1 in the Associated Press rankings. The Cats will play #2 Michigan State Spartans on November 12 as part of the Champions Classic. The #1 vs #2 match-up will be the first time the top two college basketball teams squared off in the regular season since 2008. And for the SEC history buffs, that last match-up of the nation’s best was when Memphis and the SEC’s own Tennessee Volunteers battled. But you probably already know that Kentucky coach John Calipari downplayed the honor by pretending his team isn’t very good. After learning of his team landing the top spot, he said, “we may be very talented, but I can’t imagine us being the best team in the country at this point.” That’s Calipari speak for, “we’re really, really good.”
  5. Speaking of UK, Calipari grabbed a 2014 recruit in 6’5″ guard Devin Booker on Thursday. Booker liked what he saw in Kentucky, and of course, in Calipari. “The history of Kentucky, coach John Calipari,” Booker said. “I’m a show-me type, and Coach Calipari showed me a lot of things he does with big guards.” Booker is the #31 player in the Scout.com rankings, joining point guard Tyler Ulis and center Karl Towns in what makes up the current Wildcats’ 2014 class. Of course, with the mass exodus scheduled out of Lexington at the end of the year, Calipari and company aren’t done securing a new crop of youngsters for the blue and white. However, in a rare recruiting setback, Calipari appears to have lost out on James Blackmon Jr., who recommitted to Indiana last night.
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Negative Recruiting Reaches Staggering Depths

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 18th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Most college hoops fans follow the game purely for their own enjoyment. They don’t see what goes on behind the scenes – the extreme measures programs often take to keep their student-athletes eligible and the hostile interplay between opposing players. And they most certainly do not know everything there is to know about recruiting. The practice seems simple enough: woo players with the promise of playing time, high scoring totals, and wins; drop huge sums on gaudy locker rooms, maybe a game console or two; superimpose a silhouette of your school’s logo/mascot at midcourt, just to give that four-star shooting guard something to look at, something the other schools don’t have, every time he takes the floor. All of this is fair game, but anyone with even scant knowledge of college basketball recruiting, particularly amongst the best schools and players, can tell you there’s much more to it than shiny facilities and the prospect of maintaining a gaudy scoring average in an uptempo offense. The presence of agents, shoe company representatives, and other third parties, all attempting to influence top-level recruits’ decisions in one way or another – and quite often funneling them to a particular school – has only increased in recent years. Coaches and players are not oblivious to this; it’s not hard for them to point out those who are not playing by the rules.

It's truly dispiriting to learn coaches would go so far as to use a coach's medical condition against him in recruiting (Getty Images).

It’s truly dispiriting to learn coaches would go so far as to use a coach’s medical condition against him in recruiting (Getty Images).

That’s just one unseemly aspect fans rarely, if ever, get to experience. The number of top-ranked players who don’t come across some type of illicit financial arrangement – who are not offered something from someone – over the course of their recruitment is probably smaller than anyone not directly involved with recruiting could possibly imagine. Another side, an arguably worse one, is the concept of negative recruiting, wherein coaches bash coaches from programs, or simply bash their programs, in an effort to lead players away from competitors. It can be anything from pointing out a particularly unsavory aspect of one coach’s resume, to critiquing his preferred style of play, to commenting on the lack of fan or institutional support at his program. Sometimes, things get ugly, and on Tuesday, we learned of one particularly disconcerting case involving Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy.

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Morning Five: 09.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 18th, 2013

morning5

  1. New Jersey’s effort to legalize sports gambling within the state took a hit yesterday as a federal appeals court upheld a prior ruling that New Jersey’s proposed legalization of sports gambling conflicted with current federal law. As we have mentioned before in this space the heart of the issue is the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that only allows gambling on sports in any form in just four states–Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. New Jersey has questioned the constitutionality of this law on several levels and although they lost the appeal 2-1 they appear to be encouraged (at least publicly) by the lone dissenting vote, which they claim is the first public vote against the law. We still are not sure what the overall outcome will be and what the NCAA’s response will be (it has threatened to stop allowing NCAA postseason competition in the state), but with the huge amount of money on the line we have no doubt that this case will drag on for years as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has already stated that the state will appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.
  2. The report that opposing coaches were using Billy Kennedy‘s battle with Parkinson’s Disease against him on the recruiting trail has generated plenty of criticism for the unidentified coach(es). While we understand that the approach will make almost everybody uncomfortable and would be classified as distasteful by nearly everybody we have a hard time finding it quite as offensive as many others have. Although few media members are willing to publicly acknowledge it, the health of a coach, who is theoretically going to be one of the guiding forces in your life the next four years, is something that should be under consideration for any recruit in the same way that the likelihood that the coach is going to leave the school for another job–NCAA or NBA–should be a consideration. Kennedy’s health issues, which are a private matter on some level, are made into a public one because of his job whether the fans and media like it or not.
  3. We have no idea why the Jalen Steele‘s departure from Mississippi State had to be so messy, but given the recent history of the program it should not come as a surprise. Early yesterday, the school put out a release stating that Steele would forego his senior year at Mississippi State to focus on graduating. On the surface this appeared to be nothing more than an unfortunate end to Steele’s injury-plagued college career. That is before Steele went off on the program on Twitter. Mississippi State later attempted to clarify the issue by saying it was an issue of open roster spaces for the 2014-15 season as Steele was wanted to redshirt this season and come back next season. Unfortunately, Mississippi State supposedly had already filled all of its roster spots for next season meaning that Steele was left on his own to try to move on to another school (Hello, transfer waiver!), which is a situation that clearly did not sit too well with Steele.
  4. Terry Lanier’s commitment to VCU on Monday may not have made major headlines, but it is another sign of how far VCU has come as a program since making it to the Final Four in 2011. This might seem like a fairly straightforward association that players want to play for successful teams, but as Borzello notes it has not necessarily been the case for other teams that have made surprise runs to the Final Four recently. There are multiple potential explanations for this–the most obvious one and also the most politically touchy–is that Shaka Smart, an a young, well-educated African-American, appeals more to recruits, who are predominantly African-American than his two Caucasian counterparts (Jim Larranaga and Brad Stevens), who also happened to both leave the schools they led to the Final Four. Whatever the reasons for his recruiting success are, Shaka Smart’s ability to continue to build on that Final Four run is another reason why he is among the most coveted coaches in college basketball.
  5. The NIT may have fallen off in terms of prestige for early season tournaments, but we have to give them credit for being one of the few that still requires you to win to advance to the showcase rounds. This year’s NIT field will be headlined by Arizona and Duke with the two schools hosting the opening round games along with Rutgers and Alabama. Looking through the fields Arizona, Duke, and Alabama should advance fairly easily, but the road for Rutgers appears to be much more challenging. One other interesting aspect of NIT Season Tip-Off is the fact that it includes two schools–Metro State and Stillman–that are not even Division I schools. Although we doubt that this tournament will be interesting until the championship game, we have to give them credit for making it a real tournament unlike most of the other ones out there.
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SEC M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Frank Haith has had a rough month. Questions over his job security in the wake of violations at Miami have been festering, and his Missouri Tigers, previously ranked in the top 10, were in free fall after heavy losses to Ole Miss and Florida. But forward Laurence Bowers’ return would solve the latter problem at least, right? Wrong. Missouri lost to LSU in Baton Rouge, and Haith is not amused. “We have no toughness in the first half; we have no resolve,” Haith said. “It’s disappointing. It’s really extremely disappointing. Guys are tending to do their own thing when the game’s getting tight or there’s adversity.” Star point guard Phil Pressey, despite finally finding his scoring touch, should shoulder as much of the blame as anyone. The Wooden Award nominee has become a gunner from long-range, and missed a hurried effort (one of his 8 3-point misses on the night) late in the game when Missouri had been steadily coming back. “We (had been) driving the ball, and we needed to keep driving the ball,” Haith said, noting there was plenty of time left. “We said that in timeouts.” The Tigers are 0-4 in true road games this season.
  2. “They’re real good.” -Frank Martin. He was talking, of course, about Florida, right after his Gamecocks succumbed to a nearly 40-point loss at their hands. The Gators, sporting a 7-0 conference record with a point differential of over 28, are making a mockery of the SEC. They’ve beaten up on the bottom of the league, but the sheer dominance of their victories, not to mention the shellacking of 17th-ranked Missouri, indicates that weak opposition isn’t the only explanation for their success. Florida isn’t unbeatable, but their balanced offense (the nation’s 4th most efficient) is somewhat of a safeguard against an unexpected upset. Four players average more than 11.0 points a game, and a fifth (Scottie Wilbekin), was just named SEC Player of the Week. Even if the odds are defied and every Gator has an off shooting night, coach Billy Donovan can just fall back on the 2nd best defense in the country. Your move SEC.
  3. Tennessee will be likely be shorthanded for their trip to Fayetteville this weekend. Junior guard Trae Golden suffered an injury to his right hamstring late in the Volunteers victory over Vanderbilt and is unlikely to recover by Saturday. “It’s tough for our team,” Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I thought he had really been assertive (lately) with the ball. So it’s tough for our team, but more importantly, it’s tough for Trae. He wants to be out there. He’s upset about it. But we have to keep moving.” Hometown walk-on Brandon Lopez should be the next in line to pick up the slack for Golden. The early scouting report on him features a lot of the standard buzzwords for walk-ons, so any offensive output will be a bonus. Arkansas’ up-tempo style and the loss of Golden puts points at a premium, so the Volunteers will have to count on Jordan McRae rediscovering his shooting stroke and Jarnell Stokes continuing his recent offensive resurgence.
  4. As if having 12 of your shots blocked by one person wasn’t painful enough, the hits keep on coming for Ole Miss in the aftermath of their loss to Kentucky. Reserve forward Aaron Jones suffered a torn ACL while senior guard Nick Williams re-aggravated a foot injury. Jones is obviously done for the year, while there is no timetable for Willams’ return. This represents a serious blow to the Rebels’ depth, affording coach Andy Kennedy no game time to adjust his rotation before traveling to Gainesville this weekend. Freshman Derrick Millinghaus, who has seen his minutes dwindle since the start of conference play, should see more time, while classmate Terry Brutus seems like the best bet to contribute a few minutes in the paint.
  5. I said a few months ago that we wouldn’t mention this guy on this microsite again, but circumstances are forcing my hand. Big Blue Nation favorite and apparent troll Billy Gillispie will be in attendance for Kentucky’s trip to College Station this weekend. In response to Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy‘s invite, Gillispie said “Actually, I’m playing golf [in College Station] on Friday. I said, ‘Who are y’all playing Saturday?’ They said, ‘Kentucky,’ and so I said, ‘I think I’ll go.’ But it’s no big deal.” Kentucky players will be focused on stopping Aggie guard Elston Turner, who scored 40 in his trip to Rupp Arena, but Wildcat fans will certainly be paying attention to an individual on the sideline. Expect one of ESPN’s cameras to be attached to Billy, treatment usually reserved at Kentucky games for Ashley Judd.
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SEC M5: 01.10.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 10th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Alabama lost its SEC opener in a difficult contest on the road at Missouri to the tune of 84-68, but there were several aspects of the game of which the Tide had improved from an 8-5 start to the season. However, was rebounding actually improved as the article suggests? Missouri is leading the nation in rebounds per game and is second in rebounding margin, but advanced statistics tell a more in-depth story. Missouri is a strong offensive rebounding club (42.3 percent for seventh in the nation), but only a moderate defensive rebounding team (opponents grab 29.0 percent, which is 68th in the nation). In Tuesday’s game, the Crimson Tide grabbed 29 percent of available offensive rebounds, which is exactly on par with Missouri’s average and below Alabama’s previous average (33 percent). Anthony Grant’s club, however, grabbed a strong 82 percent of defensive rebounds, which is exemplary considering the Tide’s previous average and the Tigers’ strength on the offensive glass. Rebounding statistics do not adequately describe both sides of the ball, but advanced statistics can describe more of what occurred. Alabama’s offensive rebounding on Tuesday was mediocre, but defensive rebounding represented a major improvement for the Crimson Tide.
  2. Many SEC teams believe they have a chance to make a run at a championship, but one team isn’t mincing words. The Florida Gators are confident heading into SEC play. “I think we’re right up there at the top,” senior guard Kenny Boynton said when asked about UF’s chances in the expanded conference. “I think there are some great teams in the SEC. Honestly, I think Kentucky is a good team despite their record, I think we’ve got to respect them as a team, but overall I think if we do the right things we’re at the top and we can win it.” And Florida didn’t disappoint in its first game on Wednesday night, as the Gators blew out Georgia 77-44 in Gainesville.
  3. John Calipari isn’t done recruiting the class of 2013, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t working ahead. Five-star point guard Tyus Jones (class of 2014) is taking an unofficial visit to Kentucky over the weekend while the Cats take on Texas A&M at Rupp Arena. Adam Zagoria caught up with the number one point guard’s high school coach who confirmed the news. Jones is currently looking at UNC, Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky, Baylor, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Ohio State as his list of possible schools.
  4. Texas A&M opened up conference play on Wednesday night against Arkansas, and the Aggies were excited to begin play in their inaugural year in the SEC. “Obviously, like everybody, it’s conference time. There’s a buzz,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “There’s a level of enthusiasm for us, especially with this being our first game in the SEC.” The Aggies are fitting in quite nicely in the conference with an embarrassing loss to Southern in the non-conference schedule, but when the nerves wear off and the Razorbacks leave College Station, the Aggies will head to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky.
  5. Kevin Stallings conferred with Kentucky coach Calipari about Thursday’s meeting in Nashville between the Cats and the ‘Dores. “I think they only have a couple of guys that even played in that game, just like us,” Stallings said. “So I would say that it’s probably wise for everyone to move on because there’s nothing any of us can do about what happened. I’m still mad about the two games they beat us. I thought we had a chance to win all three.” Sound familiar? That’s because that is almost the exact same statement Calpari made about the game. After wading through the coachspeak remains the potential for a quality game. Memorial Gym is always a tough environment, and Kentucky’s freshmen haven’t fared well in true road games thus far.
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SEC M5: 12.21.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 21st, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Jabari Parker’s commitment was the lead story in college basketball yesterday, and to the chagrin of almost everyone, the Chicago product chose to attend Duke. He had narrowed down his choices to five schools before his announcement, with Florida serving as the SEC’s only representative. Any program would benefit greatly by adding a talent like Parker, but the Gators will still have one of the nation’s best incoming classes. Billy Donovan will bring in Chris Walker and Kasey Hill, both consensus top 10 recruits, in addition to South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith. Of all the spurned schools on Parker’s final list, Florida is probably in the best position going forward.
  2. Tennessee has gotten back on track with wins over Wichita State and Presbyterian, but after a miserable start to the season, Volunteer fans are still counting the days until they see Jeronne Maymon back on the floor. Unfortunately, it may be a while. Maymon’s rehabilitation from knee surgery hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Vols had hoped. The ambitious diagnosis had the senior forward returning to action as early as this month, but as Maymon continues to limp around Tennessee’s training facility, the possibility of a medical redshirt has been explored. “He’s open to everything,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “One thing about Jeronne, he’s a coachable guy. He wants to do what’s best for the team. If that means coming back (for a redshirt season), he’ll come back. We’re trying to figure out what’s best for Jeronne Maymon first and foremost, then our team.” Coming back for only a few games surely isn’t the smart move, but in a season filled with high expectations in Knoxville, getting Maymon back on the court is absolutely essential in Tennessee’s efforts to meet those goals.
  3. Texas A&M has had an especially unremarkable season. Outside of a slight upset of Washington State on a neutral court (maybe?), the Aggies have beaten every inferior team and lost in both games against superior competition. This is progress, however, for second-year coach Billy Kennedy, who struggled mightily in his first season, posting a 4-14 record in the Big 12. He’ll hope that the SEC schedule is kinder as he enters a new conference, and he may be in luck. The middle of the SEC is weak, and A&M has the talent to take advantage. Senior Elston Turner has improved on his shooting percentages, and at 16.1 points per game, he’s the type of player who can make a difference as the Aggies take on the SEC’s many mediocre teams.
  4. In the wake of the Michael Dixon situation, off-the-court news hasn’t been especially kind to Missouri this season. That changed on Thursday, however, as the Tigers revealed that the basketball team had achieved their highest collective GPA (over a 3.0) in over a decade. “I’m so proud of our guys and their efforts in the classroom,” coach Frank Haith said. “We demand a lot from them throughout the year and they delivered in a big way, which deserves recognition.” Tigers’ leading scorer Laurence Bowers is one of the stars in the classroom as well. The senior forward has already finished his undergraduate degree, and is a semester away from a master’s in Health Education and Promotion.
  5. “Going Big”, the ESPN Films documentary about former Kentucky great, Sam Bowie, premiered on ESPNU last night. Every basketball fan knows the basics of Bowie’s tale, but director Tom Friend utilizes an unfamiliar perspective to tell his story: the perspective of Sam Bowie. It’s impossible to ignore the Michael Jordan factor with this subject, but any true connection between Jordan’s success and Bowie’s struggles with injury are the product of a fabricated narrative (a compelling one, to be fair). For the former Kentucky center, getting over the Jordan comparisons was tough, but the support of the Lexington community made it possible. “I always knew when the [NBA] season was over that I was immediately going to go back to Kentucky, because that was a safe haven for me to get away from the Michael Jordans, from the critics,” Bowie said. “And that’s a beautiful thing, because when you’re getting beat up like I was getting beat up, you run for cover. And my cover was getting back to Lexington.”
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SEC Power Rankings: Week One

Posted by DPerry on November 19th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. We’ve been able to see each team in action, but with vastly different degrees of difficulty as far as scheduling, we’ll need to see more before the rankings truly take form.

A perfect night for Erik Murphy propels the Gators to the top spot.

  1. Florida- The Gators’ offense has shown the potential to be dominant. The lineup is bursting at the seams with skilled scorers, both in the frontcourt and backcourt. In going 10-10 from the field, we’ve probably seen senior Erik Murphy‘s best performance of the season, but he should have no problem improving on last year’s breakout campaign. Turnovers have been a concern, but with the reinstatement of point guard Scottie Wilbekin allowing Kenny Boynton to move to the two, Florida should be able to take better care of the ball.
  2. Kentucky- The loss to Duke isn’t a huge concern. The Blue Devils are a quality, veteran team. No, the real problem with the Wildcats so far is the lack of depth. Jarrod Polson, a star against Maryland, was completely ineffective against a more disciplined defense, and John Calipari only trusted Willie Cauley-Stein enough to give him six minutes. The continued absence of Ryan Harrow leaves Kentucky without a true point guard, a role not suited for Archie Goodwin or Julius Mays. Still, in watching the young Wildcats play, it’s tough to argue that they have the highest ceiling of any SEC team.
  3. Missouri- Frank Haith has used his first few games to assess all the new talent that arrived in Columbia this offseason. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross and freshman Negus Webster-Chan have been particularly impressive. We’ll know a lot more about the Tigers after the face three quality opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis this week. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on October 26th, 2012

  1. As we mentioned yesterday, Kentucky coach John Calipari isn’t one to normally give his team undue praise, and he didn’t change course Thursday at SEC Media Day. “Whoever did that needs to be drug-tested,” Calipari said in response to those who consider his Wildcats the team to beat. “We’re not very good right now. I think we’ll be a good team eventually, hopefully, but right now we’re average.” Calipari won’t ever fall victim to the hype, but he should get used to this line of questioning in the future. When his freshman-dominated team cut down the nets in April, his star-studded squads ceased being the primary example of why the one-and-done strategy isn’t a viable championship method. He’s showing no signs of slowing down in the recruiting arena, meaning that his squads will be perceived as one of the heavy favorites almost every year in the foreseeable future.
  2. Frank Martin believes that Ole Miss is in for a big season. We were hoping for an outrageous quote out of the new South Carolina coach on Media Day, but some respectful optimism will have to do. When asked about Martin’s comments, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy responded, “The pieces are in place for us to have a good team. I think when you return your top nine, four starters, and you have the most experienced top line in the SEC, it’s not a bad place to start.” Unfortunately, that experience he’s referencing has only done enough to become an NIT fixture. Each of Kennedy’s teams in Oxford has finished with between seven and nine wins in conference play, and because of another weak non-conference schedule, that number will need to increase for the Rebels to have a chance to go dancing.
  3. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy wants you to forget about last year. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and [I’m] really excited about the opportunity to be at Texas A&M and represent a great school and a great league,” the coach told assembled media in Hoover, Alabama, “It’s going to be a lot more fun, I promise you.” The Aggies’ first season after Mark Turgeon bolted for Maryland was disastrous. The projected Tourney team suffered from a rash of injuries and underachievement. The offseason wasn’t much better, with Khris Middleton bolting for the NBA and several contributors graduating or transferring. The cupboard isn’t completely bare, however, as the Turners (Ray and Elston, mistakenly identified in the link as twins) will be expected to provide leadership in addition to on-court production. Says Kennedy: “For us to be good, they have to have great years – not just average years, they’ve got to have great years”.
  4. Arkansas received some disappointing news last night when the NCAA denied a transfer waiver for forward Alandise Harris. The Little Rock native was hoping to receive immediate eligibility after leaving Houston for family reasons. Harris played two years for the Cougars and averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 boards last season. This development leaves second-year coach Mike Anderson with a depth problem in the frontcourt. Marshawn Powell is the unit’s primary scoring threat, but he’s coming off a season lost to injury. Hunter Mickleson is a defensive specialist hoping that his offensive game will improve. Beyond that exists only unproven commodities. With his high-energy defensive schemes, Anderson has to be worried about fatigue for his thin frontcourt.
  5. In an entirely unsurprising development, Huntington Prep forward Andrew Wiggins announced his intention to reclassify to his original 2013 recruiting class. The 2014 top prospect immediately unseats Jabari Parker and Julius Randle as the top available talent atop both ESPN’s and Rivals’ rankings. The battle to land Wiggins’ signature on a letter of intent will be fierce, and John Calipari will surely be involved. With top 10 commitments from Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, and James Young (not to mention five-star Marcus Lee) already signed on, landing the swingman would give the Kentucky coach the most highly touted recruiting class in recent memory.
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Nothing Says Team-Building Like 5 AM Runs With the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 23rd, 2012

Texas A&M welcomes seven newcomers to its team and was picked to finish ninth in its first SEC preseason media poll on Monday, but don’t expect the Aggies to go down without a fight. Coach Billy Kennedy’s squad didn’t usher in the new year with a celebratory “Madness” practice last week, but the Aggies did go straight to work. The team hit the streets of campus to participate in 5 AM workouts with the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, as seen in the video below:

Kennedy knows that A&M has a long way to go to become competitive in the SEC. The Aggies finished at the bottom of the Big 12 last season with a 4-14 conference mark. A big key to A&M’s turnaround will be seniors Ray Turner and Elston Turner, and Kennedy expects a lot from his team leaders this season. “We need those guys to have great years on and off the court from a leadership standpoint,” Kennedy said. “They’ve been solid, but I would like for them to give a little bit more leadership. … You look at our team and those two guys are the only two that have legitimate Division I experience.”

Texas A&M plays an exhibition on November 3 against Incarnate Word and opens up the season on November 9 with Louisiana Tech. The Aggies’ first taste of the SEC will come Wednesday, January 9 against Arkansas in Reed Arena in College Station. Perhaps these early morning bonding and team-building experiences will pay off for this inexperienced group come SEC play.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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SEC Transition Basketball: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by Brian Joyce on September 6th, 2012

Let’s finish these off this week with the last few of what we’re calling it Transition Basketball, an offseason look at each of the 14 SEC basketball programs. Today’s update: Texas A&M.

State of the Program

Billy Kennedy’s first season in College Station came with high expectations. The Aggies were on a roll, making the NCAA Tournament in the previous five seasons, with junior Khris Middleton back to lead the way along with seniors David Loubeau and Dash Harris. Texas A&M was a consensus top 25 pick in the preseason, and a popular choice to finish in the top echelon of the Big 12 with national powerhouses Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri. However, the popular pick isn’t always the right pick. Mark Turgeon left the cupboard fully stocked with athleticism and experience, but after an 8-1 start, the Aggies fell flat the rest of the way going 6-17 the remainder of the season. Bad fortune struck the Aggies when 6’9″ forward Kourtney Roberson went down in late December with an ankle injury and freshman Jamal Branch decided mid-season that he wanted to transfer to St. Johns. Harris and Middleton were both slowed by injuries. Unfortunately for A&M fans, even with a little luck on their side, it’s not likely the team’s win column will improve drastically in its first season in the SEC.

Kennedy can’t afford another disappointing effort in College Station

Though three key pieces (Middleton, Loubeau, and Harris) from last year are gone, several role players could step up to fill those roles. There is promise down low in 6’9″ forwards Ray Turner (9.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG) and Roberson (4.6 PPG and 4.9 RPG) who is back along with a bill of good health after he was granted a medical hardship for his injury last season. 6’5″ guard Elston Turner scored a solid 13.8 points per game in his first year in College Station and will likely need to score with even more efficiency this year for the Ags to be successful. But is that enough for Kennedy’s club to make significant improvement?

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Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great

FINAL GRADE: D

The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)

FINAL GRADE: F

Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2012

  1. First, for your disturbing, what-is-wrong-with-the-world news, the Southern Miss band apparently chanted a racial/xenophobic slur at Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez. Several things strike us about this particular incident. First of all, it’s shameful a visible group like the band would involve itself in these sorts of shenanigans. Second of all, chanting “Where’s your green card?” to Rodriguez actually makes no sense, considering he’s from Puerto Rico (learn your geography). Third of all, we wonder if these people would have had the guts to chant this at Frank Martin, who is of Cuban heritage, but was born in Miami. We’re guessing that’s a no.
  2. Frank Haith has worked his magic at Missouri all year, partly because of his businesslike demeanor. You will often hear Kim English, for example, talk about Haith’s preparation and attention to detail. Whether you’d like to give Haith or Mike Anderson credit for this dream season, you can’t deny Haith has done a masterful job taking someone else’s players and adapting them to his own coaching style.
  3. Marcus Denmon and Kim English are nursing minor injuries, but they seem to be nothing more than small distractions. At this point, everybody is banged up. It’s still worth mentioning that Denmon is dealing with a foot problem and English has sore quads. Ever the comedian, English said coach Frank Haith will need to erase his lob play from the playbook. As if English could ever throw down an alley-oop off a lob– not that we could even come close, of course.
  4. Billy Kennedy has a message for you: don’t worry about him at Texas A&M. He says he’s here to stay in College Station, less than a year after a Parkinson’s diagnosis. After a disastrous first season, Kennedy will bring back a few starters and must now rebuild his program to fit his image and personal style. Now that his health is improving, that should be an easier task.
  5. Tad Boyle‘s a smart guy. That’s why he coaches Colorado and has them in the NCAA Tournament. Still, it’s a little humorous to see him make a statement like this in regards to the Big 12 vs. the Pac-12: “All I can tell you is coming from the Big 12, which is a heck of a league, and coming into the Pac-12, which is a heck of a league, the difference in respect factor is huge,” Boyle said. “The difference in talent and ability and quality of play is small.” Um, no. Not this year.
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