SEC M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 9th, 2012

  1. For the third week in a row, a player on an SEC team has been suspended indefinitely. This week’s ‘winner’ is Florida starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin, who joins the list of Missouri’s Michael Dixon (still suspended for Missouri’s game on Friday), Vanderbilt’s Dai-Jon Parker, and Mississippi State’s Shawn Smith of suspended players for indefinite and undisclosed reasons. Rush the Court‘s own Brian Joyce wrote a great piece on how Wilbekin’s suspension could hurt the learning curve of the Gators early this season.
  2.  The preseason Wooden Award list was released on Thursday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, who has sponsored the Wooden Award for the last 45 years. The SEC was represented well with six players on the list, including: Kenny Boynton (Florida), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Phil Pressey (Missouri), Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee), BJ Young (Arkansas), and Patric Young (Florida). The Wooden Award list prohibits freshmen from its initial release because the LAAC “has not seen them play on the college level” and thus prevents notable freshman players such as Kentucky‘s Nerlens Noel or Alex Poythress from being included. All transfers and medical redshirt players are also off this exclusive list, but they will have a chance to play their way onto it later this season.
  3. Switching coaching jobs, especially across the country and into a different conference is never easy, but South Carolina’s Frank Martin has handled the move with ease. What has been Martin’s first test as the head coach of the Gamecocks before their first regular season game on Friday? Finding a regular point guard, according to Martin, who recently spoke to Darryl Slater of the Post and Courier (SC) newspaper regarding his options at the position. Junior point guard Bruce Ellington will miss the first half of the season as he wraps up his wide receiver duties with the football team and even more time could be missed until he can learn Martin’s style of play. South Carolina’s best option at this point, as described by Martin, is returnee Eric Smith, who took over the point guard duties for the last 15 games of last season. Smith was described as a more natural fit but will need to work on his consistency to keep his starting job.
  4. Ever wonder why there isn’t a well-documented fantasy college basketball leagues across the country? Well, the witty folks at NBC College Basketball Talk have a solution for your inquiry. They have drafted a league using to track fantasy stats for all of the top college basketball players this season. You can follow them by searching the Twitter hashtag #NBCtheLeague. Let’s hope it turns into the college basketball version of FX’s comedy show The League. Who will play the part of Taco and his explicit ability to sell a special kind of wine?
  5. What should be expected from Tennessee this season? breaks down the potential best and worst-case scenarios for the Vols this season, including the opportunity for a stellar frontcourt combination of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon in the post. Daniel Martin predicts Cuonzo Martin will get his squad back to the postseason, including a win or two in the NCAA Tournament, and we can’t necessarily disagree with him.
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Preseason SEC Power Rankings

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 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. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.

Kentucky tops the first Rush the Court: SEC power rankings (Washington Post)

  1. Kentucky – The playlist is set on repeat as long as Calipari is in Lexington; raw freshmen talent comes in, matures, performs at their highest peak in March, and gets drafted. Don’t expect this year’s squad to match last year’s numbers or expectations. However, Calipari will find a way to get these Cats to mature quickly and be in the hunt for their 48th SEC crown and another Final Four run.
  2. Florida – The Gators return quite a bit from their second Elite Eight run in as many seasons. Their expectations are to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007. While the veteran leadership of Kenny Boynton is a positive, the Gators must get more consistent play from several key role players, including Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario, to reach their goals. The pieces are in place for another deep Gator run.
  3. Missouri –  The island of misfit transfers is located in Columbia, Missouri. Newcomers such as Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriahki (Connecticut), and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all come to Missouri to find a new and hopefully winning experience in the Tigers’ first year in the SEC. With preseason SEC Player of the Year Phil Pressey leading the backcourt as well as Laurence Bowers in the post, Missouri should not only come close to their success of last year but also vie for the school’s first Final Four appearance in history.
  4. Tennessee –  The Volunteers won nearly 20 games last year and earned a postseason NIT berth with first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Adding freshman phenom forward Jarnell Stokes in January resulted in at least four more wins in the second half of the season. Martin’s defensive style of play, plus Stokes on the team for a full year and senior Jeronne Maymon guarding the post, should cause hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC title. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 11.06.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 6th, 2012

  1. The season is just a few days away, but that doesn’t mean teams can’t still receive bad news. In Marquette‘s case, it was an announcement that sophomore guard Todd Mayo is academically ineligible. Mayo, who averaged 7.9 minutes and 2.7 rebounds per game last season, was expected to have a greatly expanded role with the graduation of the team’s top two players. We aren’t sure how long Mayo will be out for, but we would guess he couldn’t come back until Christmas break at the earliest based on Marquette’s academic calendar. On the other hand, Arkansas will only be without sophomore guard B.J. Young for two games (an exhibition game last night and the season opener on Friday against Sam Houston State) after he violated some undisclosed team rules. We doubt that Young’s suspension will have a long-term effect on the Razorbacks, but Mayo’s absence may for a team that is already losing a lot from last season.
  2. While it was a relatively quiet day for current college basketball players, the next crop of incoming players were making quite a bit of news. Yesterday Dakari Johnson became the fourth five-star prospect previously in the class of 2014 to reclassify to the class of 2013. Johnson, who was the #4 overall recruit in the his old class, joins Andrew Wiggins, Noah Vonleh, and Wayne Selden in a group of talented players who have decided to leave high school a year early. We have no idea why so many highly rated players are choosing to leave the class of 2014 (we can always hope that there rumors that the NBA’s two-year rule is coming), but it promises to make the class of 2013 a very solid one although it should raise questions as to what the class of 2014 will look like when this is all finished.
  3. As for players making decisions on where to play college basketball, five-star power forward Chris McCullough made the biggest announcement of the day when he committed to Syracuse. McCullough may actually be part of a package deal that could bring four-star shooting guard Isaiah Whitehead to an already-impressive class. While the Monday commitment of Austin Nichols to Memphis isn’t as big as that of McCullough to Syracuse,‘s Jeff Borzello points out that it was a big coup for the Tigers as Nichols was considered a Tennessee lean before using his 58-page binder on schools to pick Memphis.
  4. Many of you probably remember the story of Austin Hatch, a 2014 Michigan commitment who was involved in a plane crash that killed his father and stepmother and left him in a medically-induced coma. After 18 months of recovery, he has now been cleared to begin conditionally practicing again with his high school team. Hatch, who was in the plane crash shortly after committing to play for the Wolverines in 2011, was given a fifth year of prep eligibility by the Indiana High School Athletic Association and reportedly still has an offer on the table to become a member of the Wolverines’ class of 2014. Before we get ahead of ourselves it is worth pointing out that the Hatch family is still not sure if Austin will play for his team this season. Regardless of whether he plays for Canterbury High School, Michigan, or any other team, we are sure that basketball fans across the country will be pulling for him.
  5. As you hopefully have noticed today is Election Day. Here at RTC we try to stay above the political fray for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is that not every member of our staff has the same political beliefs), but we feel like we should express our one and only wish for this election. We aren’t going to proselytize about how you have to vote as a good American (that’s your choice), but we do hope that however the outcome of this election turns out that members from both sides of the aisle can come together after the election to do what they honestly think is best for the long term interests of the country rather than continuing the same antagonistic and destructive tactics that we have witnessed for years.
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SEC M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The SEC media’s preseason predictions were revealed Monday, and it’s clear that members of the press see a gap between the top four and the rest of the conference. Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, and Tennessee all received at least one first-place vote in addition to two representatives on the all-SEC teams. If you’re looking for a team to try to break into the upper tier, look no further than Arkansas, the only other school with two all-SEC representatives. Sophomore BJ Young had a stellar freshman campaign, but he was overshadowed by the young stars at Kentucky. Consider him the favorite for the league scoring title. Add in Marshawn Powell and a deep recruiting class, and Mike Anderson’s team should be in position to challenge if one of the top four slips up.
  2. Monday was a big day for newly minted preseason SEC player of the year Phil Pressey. The conference media wasn’t the only source praising him as CBS Sports released its preseason list of the top 50 point guards, ranking the Tigers floor general second only behind Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. Pressey and Canaan are hardly the only two candidates who can make a claim for that top spot, but striking differences in their respective styles of play make comparisons tough. Pressey barely averaged double-figure points last season, and because of the talent around him, there are no guarantees he’ll improve those totals. Canaan, however, is a point guard in name only. The senior averaged fewer than four assists per game last season, and with his three highest scoring teammates departing, he’ll have even less of a reason to pass. The casual fan may take a quick glance at Canaan’s numbers and see the superior player, but Pressey’s multi-faceted game shouldn’t be ignored.
  3. Power forward recruit Torren Jones committed to Missouri on Monday, adding to an already impressive 2013 class. Frank Haith has shown a deft recruiting touch in his short time in Columbia. This past spring, he utilized the transfer market for short-term fixes that will keep his team competitive despite losing stars such as Kim English, Marcus Denmon, and Ricardo Ratliffe to graduation. However, his efforts in the 2013 high school recruiting class are much more important to the long-term health of the program. Missouri enters the SEC as a title contender in their first season, and if Haith maintains his momentum, the Tigers will be a mainstay in the top tier of the conference for years to come.
  4. Vanderbilt isn’t short on question marks entering the new season, but finding a replacement for center Festus Ezeli may be the most pressing. 6’11” sophomore Josh Henderson was expected to fill the role, but after experiencing problems in his recovery from foot surgery, the Virginia native won’t be ready for the start of the season. According to the Tennessean, Shelby Moats is next in line. The 6’8” sophomore isn’t criminally undersized, but as a perimeter-oriented big man, he could have trouble adjusting to a new role focusing on the paint. Henderson should return in time for conference play, but we’ll see if head coach Kevin Stallings can keep his team afloat through the first few weeks with a severely limited frontcourt rotation.
  5. With the football team mired in its worst season in over a half century, will Auburn fans turn their attention to basketball? Unlikely, but Tony Barbee and his team are doing all they can to drum up some excitement. The Tigers basketball squad will host a pep rally this Friday, and are even providing free food to early-arriving fans, with an intrasquad scrimmage will be open to the public on Saturday. Auburn boasts a talented freshman class and could surprise a few teams, but complimentary refreshments may be necessary to fill Auburn Arena after the Tigers inevitably once again fall out of contention.
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SEC Media Pick Kentucky as SEC Champion, Phil Pressey as SEC POY

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 22nd, 2012

No surprises here: The SEC media has chosen the Kentucky Wildcats to repeat as SEC champs. John Calipari’s team, coming off the first perfect season in conference regular season play since they last accomplished the feat in the 2002-03 campaign, received 328 total votes, including 17 first place selections. Florida finished second in the voting with 310 votes (five first place votes), Missouri third (286, one) and Tennessee fourth (269, one). Mississippi State, with new head coach Rick Ray and the loss of stars Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney, and Arnett Moultrie, was picked dead last with 37 votes, over 150 votes below the Bulldogs’ preseason ranking last year. The Vanderbilt Commodores, after surprisingly winning the 2012 SEC Tournament last season, also lost nearly the same number of votes as Mississippi State because of a similarly large personnel losses. The full preseason poll is listed below.

Kentucky was picked to repeat as SEC Champs by the media on Monday

SEC Preseason Media Poll

  1. Kentucky (17)  328
  2. Florida (5)         310
  3. Missouri (1)      286
  4. Tennessee (1)   269
  5. Arkansas            226
  6. Alabama             222
  7. Ole Miss              186
  8. Georgia               149
  9. Texas A&M        122
  10. Vanderbilt         120
  11. LSU                       116
  12. Auburn               95
  13. South Carolina 54
  14. Mississippi State 37
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SEC M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 16th, 2012

  1. LSU went immediately to work this week with new coach Johnny Jones, but without the aid of a cadre of experienced big men. 6’9″ forward Johnny O’Bryant, who averaged 8.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season, will be counted on to lead the way on the low blocks this season. Other than O’Bryant, the Tigers are fairly thin in the frontcourt. A pair of junior college transfers, Shavon Coleman and Calvin Godfrey, could be counted upon to provide quality minutes. And so far in practice reports, Coleman, who has drawn the task of defending O’Bryant, has “held up well.” Coleman stands at just 6’6″, but will likely spend a majority of minutes guarding larger opponents at the power forward slot.
  2. Tony Barbee is feeling confident with his new-look Tigers, but if he is going to get Auburn over the .500 hump he will have to do so with six new faces this season. One of the less heralded freshmen, 6’3″ guard Brian Greene, Jr., could end up being the most productive. The freshman is considered a strong candidate for the open point guard position, and he has drawn praise from returning guard Frankie Sullivan. “It is just not that he stands out, but you always see the guy,” Sullivan said. “Even in the drills, he is the one who is catching on the quickest.” Sullivan will likely start at the two guard spot. He led the Tigers in scoring last year with 12.6 points per game, but still wasn’t 100 percent because of a knee injury that sidelined him during the 2010-11 season.
  3. Want to know why Kentucky has been so good in the Calipari era? They score more points than the other team. And that is not purely because of offense, but because the Wildcats have been a lockdown defensive squad under Coach Cal. For three years running, the Cats have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in three defensive categories: effective field goal percentage, two point percentage, and blocks. According to Glenn Logan at ASoB, “Kentucky has been #1 in the nation in blocks three years running – an impressive statistic that very few people mention when analyzing the Wildcats.” But likely because of that strong protection around the rim, Kentucky has given up a higher percentage of three-point attempts and subsequently a higher percentage of three-point field goals. As Logan points out, “If you’re taking 3’s, you’re not taking 2’s closer to the basket.” With top defender and shot blocker Nerlens Noel guarding the basket, that might just be the plan.
  4. The Arkansas faithful hasn’t exactly witnessed the football success it had hoped for, but there is a certain optimism towards year two of the Mike Anderson era in Fayetteville. And according to Doc Harper of, the Hogs should be in the NCAA Tournament. “Bottom line, if BJ Young is deserving of all the hype he’s getting, Arkansas will be in the tournament in March,” Harper says. “Any NBA lottery pick should be able to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament on his own.” The Razorbacks should be much improved from a 6-10 SEC mark last season, but it won’t be Young alone that gets them there. Arkansas’ depth should be enough to unleash a full 40 minutes of Anderson’s fast paced system.
  5. Uni watch 2012 is in full effect. With a number of departures from a solid team last season, we are not certain what the Crimson Tide will look like on the court. But we do know that they will be doing it in style. Alabama joined the Nike Hyper Elite team with basketball stalwarts Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, and North Carolina. The current Tide players showcased the new slimmer look with the Alabama specific print on the back. Alabama lost leading scorers JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell , but return enough talent to make a splash in the SEC standings.

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: Arkansas Razorbacks

Posted by Brian Joyce on August 21st, 2012

It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Arkansas.

State of the Program

In year one of the homecoming of Mike Anderson, he had the Razorbacks on the brink of returning to the NCAA Tournament as they stood 16-6 on February 1 with an RPI inside the top 50. The final month doomed the squad, however as they won only two of their final 10 games. After starting 16-1 at home, they limped in with a 1-3 record in front of the home faithful, defeating only bottom-dweller South Carolina in that stretch. Inexperience and untimely injuries proved too much for the Razorbacks to overcome.

Mike Anderson is back in Fayetteville with enough talent to make the Razorbacks a contender in the SEC

The young Hogs return eight players from last season’s team including junior Marshawn Powell, who was averaging 19.5 points and 6.0 rebounds before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and second-team All-SEC sophomore guard B.J. Young, who led SEC freshmen in scoring.  The Razorbacks return 69 percent of their offense and 55 percent of their rebounding from a year ago. Returners made 125 of the 160 starts with only Marvelle Waithe (eight starts) and Michael Sanchez (27 starts) graduating. Many thought that Arkansas’ talent and new style could push the Razorbacks into the surprise team of the SEC last season. While the Hogs never made that push, the secret is out, and they won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season.

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SEC Weekly Five: 06.22.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 22nd, 2012

  1. The University of Kentucky athletic department announced its decision to increase ticket prices by as much as $10 for a single game ticket next season. In addition, the K Fund donation required to buy season tickets has increased by as much as $1500. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said the jump in prices were due to several factors including: the increasing cost of tuition, additional travel costs due to SEC conference realignment, and the rising costs of paying upper echelon coaching salaries like John Calipari’s $5.2 million dollar annual salary (it is worth mentioning at least some of which is paid through annual endorsements). However, when you are coming off a 2012 National Championship and have the most passionate fan base in all of college basketball, fans in the Bluegrass State will pay whatever the asking price to watch their Cats in Rupp Arena.
  2. Talent wins championships, and while the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats have plenty of talent, there is something missing from next year’s roster — experience, particularly in Calipari’s system. Basketball pundits clamored over UK’s one-and-done stars from last season, but it was senior Darius Miller who stepped out of the spotlight to quietly lead his team.  “He does everything the team needs him to do. He completes everybody. He’s not competing, he’s completing,” Calipari said of Miller towards the end of the 2012 season. “If he needs to rebound, defend (he will). He plays some guard, he plays some four (power forward). Whatever position we ask him, he just completes.” It is clear that Calipari’s Cats have the talent to compete for a repeat performance next year, but the question (asked by Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue) becomes, who replaces Darius Miller? And at this point, the answer is, it’s too early to tell.
  3. New LSU head coach Johnny Jones has added David Patrick to his staff to serve in the role of assistant basketball coach. Patrick has served as an assistant with Saint Mary’s and Nicholls State before his most recent stint as player personnel scout for the Houston Rockets. “We are definitely excited about the addition of David Patrick to our staff,” said Jones. “He will not only be able to help us with game planning and practice preparation, but we look forward to him helping to raise our level of recruiting at LSU, both regionally as well as nationally. With his background in both Division I and professional basketball, he brings a level of experience to our program that will help us to move forward.” Jones has built a lot of momentum since being announced as the head man for the Tigers in April. In addition to luring Patrick to Baton Rouge, he initially recruited former UNT assistants Shawn Forrest and Charlie Leonard and added former Georgetown assistant Robert Kirby over a month ago.
  4. A couple of SEC players made Eamonn Brennan’s list of 10 potential breakout players for 2012-13. Okay, so these lists aren’t exactly news, but it’s at least a conversation starter. Brennan puts Arkansas guard BJ Young, who briefly considered a jump to the NBA after his freshman year, on the list. Can a guy who averaged over 15 points per game really be a breakout player? Regardless, Young and his young teammates (see what we did there) could elevate Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks back into the Top 25 this year after a long hiatus from the national college basketball landscape.The other SEC player on Brennan’s list is Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer saw just over 11 minutes per game last year, but when he was on the floor he took the highest percentage of shots on the team. Wiltjer isn’t afraid to hoist the ball up there, and we are likely to see even more shots from him this season.
  5. Incoming Florida transfer Dorian Finney-Smith has ties to the Florida program and he wasn’t going to choose against the Gators again. Finney-Smith is close friends with former Gator center Vernon Macklin. “Vernon is like a brother to me,” Finney-Smith said. “I saw how successful he was at Florida and that played a role in my decision.” It’s a decision that Finney-Smith seems happy with. “Coach Donovan said we’re going to be going up-and-down the floor, every day,” he said. “I like that. It will be fun.” It isn’t sounding like much fun for the rest of the SEC though. Florida’s 2013-14 front line is coming together with the addition of several quality transfers. In addition to the 6’8″ Finney Smith, Billy Donovan added 6’9″ Damontre Harris earlier this summer, a transfer from South Carolina. Both big men will sit out this season, but will be able to practice with the team.
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Handicapping Next Season’s SEC/Big East Challenge Matchups

Posted by EJacoby on June 4th, 2012

The Big East sent more teams (nine) to last year’s NCAA Tournament than any other conference, while the SEC compiled the best winning percentage (.769) during the Big Dance. The two leagues are squaring off next season in the second annual SEC/Big East Challenge, whose matchups were announced on Friday. With plenty to offer in the form of juggernaut teams and program traditions, the idea of this event should provide great intrigue to the non-conference season, something the Big Ten and ACC have done in their cross-conference challenge for the past 14 years. Next year’s slate doesn’t look nearly as enticing as some were hoping for — UConn, Louisville, and Missouri aren’t participating, while Syracuse is in but wants out – and our SEC microsite broke down the lack of headline games on the schedule. Nonetheless, we can’t overlook this event that allows for top conference teams to play true road games against other power leagues. Last season, Georgetown played at Alabama in one of the most entertaining games of the entire non-conference slate, and that game didn’t garner much publicity at all. The Big East came away victorious, 8-4, in last year’s event. Here’s what the 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge presents us.

Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish Like Their Chances Against the National Champs Next Year (AP Photo)

Youth vs. Experience, Kentucky at Notre Dame (Nov. 29) – Notre Dame returns all five starters from last season; Kentucky returns none. But both teams have high hopes next year, as the Fighting Irish bring back the entire core from a team that went 13-5 in the Big East while the National Champion Wildcats showcase the nation’s number two recruiting class of SEC-ready stars. Both programs have decorated pasts with loyal fanbases; each team is ranked in the RTC preseason Top 25. What’s not to love about this matchup? A Kentucky-Syracuse game would have garnered more hype, but this matchup could produce a better game. Who wins out, the young guns or the vets? We should get a great read on the new crop of UK freshmen in this their first real road test.

Seeking Sweet Revenge, Marquette at Florida (Nov. 29) – These two teams squared off in last year’s Sweet Sixteen, when the Gators ended the Golden Eagles’ season and Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom’s careers. Buzz Williams’ boys are looking for revenge in Gainesville, though both teams will look a lot different from last season. Florida loses its own pair of stars (Erving Walker, Bradley Beal) but Kenny Boynton and Patric Young are back to form one of the nation’s most threatening inside-out duos. Each team must call on a host of young players that showed promise last year but have to step into more prominent roles in 2012-’13. There’s plenty of intrigue in this one, though Florida is the strong favorite at home.

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Top Ten Diaper Dandies: Midseason Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on January 13th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Compiling a list of the nation’s top freshmen in mid-January is admittedly unfair. Whether they’re a high-profile athlete or a science lab dork, ask anyone to reminisce about their first semester at school and the phrase “learning experience” comes to mind. Over the next two months, the grind of conference play will quickly mold youthful freshmen into hardened veterans. As Jeremy Lamb can attest, there’s still plenty of time for collegiate rookies to become a household name.

With that important caveat in mind, let’s gauge where this year’s talented rookies rank in terms of production and instant impact. Not all of the inclusions were ballyhooed recruits and high school All-Americans, but instead I present to you the collection of players who possess the maturation, intelligence and skill level to succeed immediately during such a difficult transition both on and off the court.

Cody Zeller has lived up to the lofty billing

Honorable Mention

Thomas Gipson, Kansas State- Gipson has proven a tremendous frontcourt compliment to the more perimeter-oriented Jamar Samuels, bulldozing opponents with his sturdy 6’7” frame to the tune of 9.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG through his first half season at Manhattan. Gipson ranks in the top-60 in the country in both offensive rebounding percentage and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.

Tony Mitchell, North Texas– Since becoming eligible on December 18 after failing to qualify at Missouri, Mitchell immediately scored in double-figures his first four games at North Texas. His banner performance to date was a 34-point, 16-rebound effort against South Alabama. The former five-star recruit is shooting an efficient 65% from inside the arc.

Quincy Miller, Baylor– The jewel of Scott Drew’s recruiting class may not post the raw numbers of other rookies due to the abundance of talent on his roster, but Miller has shown flashes of a future lottery pick, including a smooth step-back three down the stretch in Baylor’s win over Kansas State this past week. Miller is a versatile matchup nightmare as a double-figure scorer that shoots 35% from three and also snatches over five rebounds per contest.

Eli Carter, Rutgers– Carter didn’t come to Piscataway with quite the sterling reputation of some of his fellow classmates, but he’s been the most productive freshman from day one. Carter uses the most shots and possessions on a per-minute basis on the Scarlet Knights, and as long as he’s scoring over 14 a game, shooting 43% and posting 31/7/7 efforts like he did in their upset over Florida, Mike Rice will keep the green light on.

Tony Wroten, Washington– The Seattle native has been a Jekyll and Hyde act early for an equally enigmatic Huskies team. The turnovers (4.1 per game), defensive lapses and shot selection are sometimes mind-numbing, but you’ll live with some faults when your 6’5” guard is shooting 55% from inside the arc and grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game. Wroten has scored 20+ points in three of his first five conference outings.

10. Rodney Hood, Mississippi State– Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie receive the bulk of the attention, but Hood has provided a steady and efficient complimentary scoring option for Rick Stansbury. The southpaw is averaging 12.6 PPG on 53% from two and 44% from three and turns the ball over roughly once every 34 minutes. Improve from the charity stripe (59%) and Hood could be an all-SEC contender as soon as next season.

9. Austin Rivers, Duke- If you can filter out all of the unrealistic expectations, Rivers has completed a very respectable first semester serving as Duke’s primary dribble-drive threat and crunch-time scoring option. Rivers leads Duke in scoring, shoots 45% from two, 40% from three and put together 20+ point performances against top-15 Ohio State and Michigan. Look for Rivers to cut down on his turnovers as the game slows down and his decision-making improves.

8. Andre Drummond, Connecticut– Outside of #1 on this list, no player has as much room to grow from now until March as Drummond. Just as impressive as his highlight reel dunks during a 20-point, 11-rebound outing against West Virginia last Monday were two baseline jumpers he nailed during the second half. If Drummond can expand his offensive repertoire to include occasional mid-range/post scoring to compliment his explosiveness and pick-and-roll prowess, Connecticut may emerge as the second best team in the Big East by season’s close.

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