NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.22.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 22nd, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • On Sunday, Ohio State blew out a very solid George Mason squad. Because of this, many are wondering if anyone will be able to stop the Buckeyes. It will be almost impossible if they keep putting up performances like Sunday.
  • Former Tennessee point guard Bobby Maze believes that current Ohio State guard Aaron Craft is responsible for turning Bruce Pearl into the NCAA for Pearl’s illegal recruitment barbecue. Maze’s reasoning is that Craft grew upset when the Vols beat the Buckeyes in last season’s Sweet 16. Is Maze simply defending the man who brought him in or is there some truth to his allegations?
  • Kentucky has a storied history of impact freshmen. One publication believes that it must be asked if Brandon Knight is the best freshman in Wildcat history. It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the article is definitely worth a read.
  • Everyone knows North Carolina can score points in transition. Just about every team led by Roy Williams, whether it was his teams at Kansas or those at Chapel Hill since he took over in 2003,  lives and dies by its ability to get up and down the court in a hurry. Marquette head coach Buzz Williams believes the key to his squad’s Sweet 16 matchup with the Tar Heels will be stopping transition opportunities.
  • ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson has some attributes other teams cannot prepare for: timing, instincts, and an 88-inch wingspan. Henson has been a stalwart defending the interior all season and it will be hard for Marquette to drive to the bucket with him standing in the way.

Southeast

  • Butler head coach Brad Stevens is only 34 years old, yet he has already coached in a national championship, won his league title four straight years, beaten Bob Knight, and reached two straight regional rounds. For most coaches, that would be a fairly impressive career, but Stevens is just getting started.
  • The key player for Wisconsin against Butler may be big man Keaton Nankivil. Butler’s big men have the ability to float around the perimeter and Badgers such as Nankivil and Jon Leuer will be tasked with the job of preventing them from getting hot.
  • Less than two years ago, Brigham Young head coach Dave Rose was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The cancer was so severe that he was given a five-in-one million chance of surviving. Rose survived and now he has his Cougars in the Sweet 16.
  • Florida guard Kenny Boynton is not practicing due to a right ankle injury. While there is pain and discomfort, Boynton is fully expected to play against BYU on Thursday. Boynton will be a huge factor in that game, as the Cougars are obviously a guard-oriented team.
  • Last week at this time, many media outlets were picking Belmont to upset Wisconsin in the first round. Presently, Wisconsin is being picked by many of the same outlets to reach the Final Four. It sure is crazy how March Madness works sometimes.

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2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Tennessee  (Midwest Region)

We know the Buckeyes have had three full days of rest since their second round game against Georgia Tech.  But Thad Matta has shortened (and by “shortened,” we mean “set on fire and forgotten about”) his bench so much late in the season and in this tournament that you have to even wonder if that’s enough time for the Buckeyes to recover.  Jon Diebler has played every minute of the Buckeyes’ first two tournament games.  William Buford has missed two minutes of action TOTAL out of the possible 210 minutes of game time in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.  David Lighty and Evan Turner have only sat for five minutes in that same time span.  The only starter who sits for any amount of time is big man Dallas Lauderdale, and he still plays at least 30 minutes a game.  Yet, the Buckeyes keep rolling.  The only thing Jon Diebler seems tired of is finding himself open behind the three point line.  He’s 11-22 in OSU’s two tournament games, and a lot of these things aren’t monitor-checkers.  They were deep.  And of course Turner has shown us his usual excellence.  There aren’t any surprises with the Buckeyes.  Tennessee, though, is a different story.  You never know whose night it’s going to be.  Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince…any one or two of these guys can get hot, but then you have to worry about players like Brian Williams or Melvin Goins or Bobby Maze stepping up with a 15 point or 12 rebound night.  OSU’s four-forwards-and-Turner (who’s officially listed as a forward!) will be able to keep the Volunteer guards from getting too out of hand, but can they guard and rebound against the slightly taller Tennessee bigs?  As a team, rebounding is one of the few Buckeye weaknesses, and Tennessee has shown the capability to dominate the glass this year when they put their minds to it.  Both teams are among the nation’s best when it comes to guarding the three, but it’s OSU that gets a little more of their offense from the long ball.  On paper, the matchups are not favorable for OSU.  And the Tennessee kids are the kind who will relish the fact that they’re “supposed” to lose this game.  We doubt it’ll be a blowout, and remarkably both of these teams are fantastic in games decided by ten points or less.  In those games, OSU is 10-5 this season, and Tennessee is 13-2.  It’s gonna be a fun one.

The Skinny:  If both teams guard the three well, it will hurt OSU more than Tennessee.  Factor in the possibility that all those minutes could be catching up to the Buckeyes, and you have the makings of an upset.  It’s not easy taking the Volunteers in this game, because of how they can sometimes take nights off between the ears.  But Tennessee has had two chances to underestimate their opponent in this tournament, and didn’t either time.  They won’t here; they know what OSU can do.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Volunteers emerge.

7:27 pm – #3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (South Region)

The Gaels come into this game as one of the tournament’s Cinderellas, but this time Cinderella is actually the Tournament’s giant with Omar Samhan who has been the most dominant big man in the field so far after dominating Richmond and Villanova to the point where analysts were ripping Jay Wright for not doubling down on Samhan fo abusing Villanova’s interior players. In Wright’s defense, doubling down on Samhan would leave the St Mary’s guards open on the perimeter where they rank fourth in the country from beyond the arc. Scott Drew probably won’t be saddled with that dilemma since he has a center in 6’10 Ekpe Udoh who is every bit as good as Samhan. Even if Samhan does get the edge on Udoh here he will have to deal with 6’10 Anthony Jones, 7′ Josh Lomers and 6’7 Quincy Acy. With such a strong interior defense, the Bears block more shots than any other team in the NCAA Tournament at more than seven blocks per game so don’t expect Samhan to dominate the Bears like he did the Spiders and Wildcats. In addition to the challenge for Samhan on the offensive end, he will also be under pressure on defense going against a likely first rounder in Udoh. After hearing that you might be forgiven for thinking that this game will be decided solely on what happens on the inside, but you would be wrong. The matchup of guards featuring LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter against Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova could be the key to the game with the Bears having the edge in athleticism and the Gaels having the edge in shooting. Saint Mary’s will need their perimeter players (especially McConnell who is a ridiculous 75-145, or 51.7% from 3 this season) to hit treys against Baylor’s zone to open up space for Samhan to operate. If McConnell and Delledova can keep Dunn and Carter in front of them most of the time, the WCC might get its first team in the Elite Eight since 1999 when Gonzaga made it their before losing to eventual champion UConn (yes, that is the last time the Bulldogs made it that far).

The Skinny: Everyone will be talking about Baylor coming into this game with the homecourt advantage since the game is being played in Houston (a little over 180 miles away from Baylor’s campus in Waco), but Baylor doesn’t have a strong following like other schools in the state do. In fact, we might get a “Duke at Greensboro” situation where UNC fans (or in this case Texas and Texas A&M) root against the local team. Still the combination of Udoh, Dunn, and Carter should be enough to get it done as Samhan’s beastly NCAA Tournament run comes to an end.
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Boom Goes The Dynamite: First Round 03.18.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 18th, 2010

Best first flight of games ever?  It just might be.  Right now the Selection Committee are looking like a bunch of geniuses.  We have confidence in the second flight of games bringing some excitement, too.  We popped for the DirecTV package so we’ll be monitoring every game:

  • Ohio vs Georgetown
  • East Tennessee State vs Kentucky
  • Northern Iowa vs UNLV
  • Washington vs Marquette
  • San Diego State vs Tennessee
  • Wake Forest vs Texas
  • Lehigh vs Kansas
  • Montana vs New Mexico

After what we saw this afternoon, we suggest you join us for our live-blogging feature this evening.  Get that refresh-button finger warmed up, and by all means let us know in the comments section what you’re watching and how you’re celebrating this unofficial national holiday.  We’ll start at around 7 PM ET.  See you there!

7:00: That’s OK Hemogoblin.  Though scheduling a fantasy baseball draft TODAY??  Hmmm…  Anyway, Butler is polishing off UTEP in a game that is going to screw up a lot of brackets.  UTEP was a popular upset pick for the first round, and sometimes beyond.  Frankly, I expected more from Arnett Moutrie at the forward spot.  Zero points today.

7:30: OK, sorry there, folks.  Had a quick  dinner break, which I tried to time right so it would happen during the single-game interval.  Didn’t hit it.  We haven’t missed much.  Kentucky has started pretty hot against ETSU and UNLV has taken an early lead over Northern Iowa.

7:52: Kentucky is shooting 70% to start this game.  YEESH.  They’re already up 41-16 against ETSU.  At what point do you pull the starters to rest for the second game against either Wake or Texas?

7:58: Anyone want to wake up Georgetown?  The Armon Bassett/D.J. Cooper tandem has been quite effective for the Bobcats, so far a combined 6-12 and 15 of Ohio U.’s 33 points.

8:02: Goodness.  John Wall already has seven assists.  Let’s see what else is on…

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2010

EAST

  1. Kentucky 22-1 (7-1)
  2. Tennessee 18-4 (6-2)
  3. Vanderbilt 17-5 (6-2)
  4. Florida 17-6 (6-3)
  5. South Carolina 13-9 (4-4)
  6. Georgia 10-11 (2-6)

WEST

  1. Arkansas 12-11 (5-3)
  2. Mississippi 17-6 (5-4)
  3. Mississippi State 16-7 (4-4)
  4. Alabama 13-10 (3-6)
  5. Auburn 11-12 (2-6)
  6. LSU 9-14 (0-9)

Thanks to Villanova’s loss, Kentucky inched nearer the top of the polls again, moving to #2 in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 and #3 in the AP Top 25. Tennessee moved up a couple of spots to #12 in both polls, while Vanderbilt fell to #22 in the AP and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Mississippi and Florida are still getting votes, but the SEC is looking like a three-team race in the East and it appears no one wants to win the West. Arkansas leads the West and critics may point at their 12-11 overall record as a negative, but this is a totally different team with Courtney Fortson in the lineup.  Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season and Arkansas’s Courtney Fortson took player of the week honors.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • 2/9 -#12 Tennessee @ #24 Vanderbilt – 7PM – ESPN
  • 2/9 – Alabama @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPNU
  • 2/10 – Florida at South Carolina – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/10 – LSU @ Arkansas – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/11 – Mississippi @ Mississippi State – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 2/13 – Xavier @ Florida – 6 PM – ESPN
  • 2/13 – #12 Tennessee @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPN

THE WEEK THAT WAS

MISSISSIPPI (4-3) @ KENTUCKY (5-1)

Kentucky jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead over the Rebels and never looked back en route to a 85-75 victory. The Wildcats never trailed in the game and built the lead to 27-9 just ten minutes into the game. A big part of the Wildcats’ plan was to frustrate Mississippi guard Chris Warren and it worked as UK played tough defense throughout the game. Ole Miss would make runs and cut the lead to three on a couple of occasions but UK responded by pushing the lead to double digits where it remained. DeMarcus Cousins led the way for Kentucky with 18 points, 13 boards and 4 blocks. John Wall added 17 points and 7 assists and put aside any concerns of a rift with UK coach John Calipari. Darnell Dodson moved into the starting lineup for UK and had 14 points on 4-5 three-point shooting. The Rebels were led by Terrico White with 19 points and Eniel Polynice added 14 as the three Ole Miss guards (including Warren’s 15) accounted for 48 of Ole Miss’s 75 points.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-2) @ VANDERBILT (5-1)

The Commodores were dominating the Bulldogs early and at one point had built a 14-point lead, but Mississippi State cut into that lead at 73-72 with 28 seconds left when Dee Bost nailed a three-pointer. Vandy’s John Jenkins then hit two free throws with :06 left and Dee Bost missed a potential game-tying trey as Vanderbilt hung on for the 75-72 win. The win was the Commodore’s 16th straight home win. Jermaine Beal led Vandy with 17 points and A.J. Ogilvy added 16 as VU won their 11th game out of 12. Kodi Augustus led Mississippi State with 15 points and Jarvis Varnado had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

ARKANSAS (3-3) @ GEORGIA (1-5)

Georgia pretty much had their way in the first half of the game with the Razorbacks as they built a 37-22 halftime lead. The Bulldogs came out cold in the second half with only two FG’s in the first ten minutes and Arkansas used a 26-8 run to pull away for a 72-68 win. Arkansas’ Courtney Fortson sealed the deal with five FT’s in the last forty seconds. He led the Hogs with 27 points and hit 12-16 FTs in the game. Michael Washingon and Marshawn Powell had complete games for Arkansas with 15 points/8 boards and 11 points/9 boards. Trey Thompkins had 21 points for the Bulldogs and Travis Leslie chipped in with 14 points for the Bulldogs.

TENNESSEE (4-2) @ LSU (0-7)

The Volunteers seemed to have their game with LSU firmly in control as they led the Tigers 51-37 with about eight minutes remaining. At that point, the Tigers mounted a furious rally and the Volunteers could only manage eight points the rest of the way. LSU pulled within a point at 55-54 with seventeen seconds remaining but Bobby Maze calmly sunk a pair of FTs and the Vols held on for a 58-54 victory. Wayne Chism was the only Vol in double digits as he scored 20 points and hauled in 7 rebounds. For the Tigers, it was another dismal shooting night as they sank just 30.5% of their shots and were held to just 16 points in the first half. Bo Spencer hit 4 3-pointers and scored 25 points to lead the Tigers. Tasmin Mitchell added 13 points and 17 rebounds.

FLORIDA (4-3) @ ALABAMA (3-4)

Florida held a 64-60 lead over Alabama with 1:59 remaining but the Crimson Tide were not finished fighting. Alabama’s Anthony Brock stole the ball and scored on a three-point play and Mikhail Torrance hit a jumper to give Alabama a 65-64 lead with forty-nine seconds left. Florida’s Erving Walker then hit a jumper to give the Gators a 66-65 lead and Florida’s defense denied a couple of Alabama chances to seal the Gator win. Alex Tyus led the Gators with 19 points on 8-10 shooting and he pulled down 7 boards. Walker finished with 16 points and Kenny Boynton 15 as the Florida starters accounted for all but two of the Gator points. Torrance led Alabama with 22 points and hit five threes. JaMychal Green added 14 points for Alabama. This game was the first SEC meeting between UF coach Billy Donovan and former Florida assistant Anthony Grant.

KENTUCKY (6-1) @ LSU (0-8)

Kentucky was wary of a “trap game” heading into LSU just two days after the Tigers gave Tennessee all they wanted. The Tigers jumped out to a 6-1 lead over UK and were trailing just 12-10 with 10:44 left in the first half. Any thoughts of a LSU upset were dashed as UK went on a 22-0 run and took a 42-14 lead in at halftime. Kentucky coasted the second half and never let the Tigers get within 20 and won the interdivisional matchup 81-55. The game marked the sixth straight double-double for DeMarcus Cousins who poured in 19 points and 13 rebounds. Patrick Patterson added 16 and Eric Bledsoe and UK is now 22-1 on the season. Bo Spencer scored 25 points and Tasmin Mitchell added 10 as the Tigers shot just 31.8% for the game.

SOUTH CAROLINA (4-3) @ TENNESSEE (5-2)

Devan Downey may be the Southeastern Conference’s most dangerous shooter, but Tennessee’s Wayne Chism stole the show from him for at least one night. Chism scored a career-high 30 points as #14 Tennessee limited Downey’s scoring opportunities in a 79-53 rout of South Carolina. Tennessee held USC to just 16 points and led at the break 30-16. Bobby Maze and Scotty Hopson both had 11 points to pace the Vols. Downey did score 26 points, albeit on a 5-20 shooting night. He was 13-14 from the line. Brandis Raley-Ross threw in 12 for the Gamecocks.

VANDERBILT (6-1) @ GEORGIA (1-6)

The Georgia Bulldogs shocked the SEC when they outscored the Vanderbilt Commodores 49-32 in the second half en route to a 72-58 win. Vandy led 36-28 in the second half, but Georgia figured out the Vandy press and used a 14-21 shooting second half to spring the upset. Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both had 17 points for the Bulldogs and Dustin Ware added 10. Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley were the only two Commdores to show up with 21 and 18 points.

AUBURN (2-5) @ ARKANSAS (4-3)

Courtney Fortson scored 24 points — including nine in a row late in overtime — to lead Arkansas over Auburn 82-79. Fortson’s 3-pointer broke a 71-71 tie, and he later hit from the perimeter and made two free throws with 40.6 seconds left to make it 78-73. After an Auburn miss, Fortson made a layup for a seven-point lead. Auburn had forced overtime with Andre Malone’s layup on wild play in the final seconds of regulation. Marshawn Powell had 19 for Arkansas and Rotnei Clarke, added 12. Frankie Sullivan and Tay Waller both led Auburn with 18 apiece.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-3) @ FLORIDA (5-3)

Florida seemed to have the game in hand, leading the Bulldogs by 12 with 2:38 left, but the Gators had problems putting the Bulldogs away. The Bulldogs scored seven straight points and even got to within four at 66-62 before Florida closed the game out with free throws to win 69-62. Vernon Macklin scored 20 points for Florida and Chandler Parsons added 18 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Parsons was pressed into service as an emergency PG as Erving Walker was benched temporarily during a 2-14 shooting night. Ravern Johnson scored 20 for Mississippi State and Jarvis Varnado had 16 points and 13 boards.

ALABAMA (3-5) @ MISSISSIPPI (4-4)

Chris Warren scored 21 points, and Terrence Henry had 18 points and eight rebounds to help Mississippi come back to beat Alabama 74-67 and stay a half-game behind Arkansas in the SEC West. Mississippi trailed by 23 points in the second half but outscored the Crimson Tide 54-27 in the second half. Alabama dominated the first half 40-20. Terrence Henry added 18 for the Rebels. JaMychal Green scored 18 points for Alabama and Tony Mitchell pitched in 16.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on February 2nd, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
EAST
  1. Kentucky                          20-1  (5-1)
  2. Vanderbilt                        16-4   (5-1)
  3. Tennessee                        16-4  (4-2)
  4. Florida                                15-6  (4-3)
  5. South Carolina             13-8  (4-3)
  6. Georgia                                9-10 (1-5)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State           16-5  (4-2)
  2. Mississippi                        16-5  (4-3)
  3. Arkansas                             10-11 (3-3)
  4. Alabama                              13-8 (3-4)
  5. Auburn                                11-11 (2-5)
  6. LSU                                         9-12  (0-7)
Both races in the East and the West are shaping up to be fierce battles to the end, but the East is taking an especially entertaining turn.  Kentucky found out the perils of paying on the road as a number one team as their reign at number one lasted barely 24 hours, as South Carolina and Devan Downey knocked them from their throne, 68-62. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, pulled off a big upset at Knoxville and had a chance to take a two game lead in the East but could not handle the resurgent Wildcats at Rupp Arena, who forced a tie atop the East at 5-1.  Tennessee kept themselves in the race with a thrilling win over Florida on Sunday to remain just a game back. Kentucky fell to #3 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #4 in the AP Top 25 after their one-and-done turn at the top of the polls.  Tennessee also took a tumble to 14th in both polls after losing to Vanderbilt this week, and the Commodores are 18th in the AP Top 25 and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today.  Ole Miss fell out of the ESPN/Today poll after a shocking loss to Arkansas on Sunday and are clinging to the 25th spot in the AP Top 25.  In weekly honors, Arkansas’s Marshawn Powell took home SEC Freshman of the Week honors and South Carolina’s Devan Downey was named the SEC player of the week. GAMES OF THE WEEK
  • 2/2 – #25 Mississippi (16-5) @ #4 Kentucky (20-1) – 7 PM  ESPN
  • 2/3 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ #18 Vanderbilt (16-4) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/4 – Florida (15-6) @ Alabama (13-8) – 7 PM – ESPNU
  • 2/6 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ Florida (15-6) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/6 – Alabama (13-8) @ #25 Mississippi (16-5) – 6 PM
  • 2/6 – South Carolina (13-8) @ #14 Tennessee (16-4) – 6 PM – ESPN

TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25 – ESPN/Today polls)

EAST

Kentucky (#4, #3) — Kentucky played nothing like the #1 team in the country as they missed 18 layups and lost a 68-62 game on the road to South Carolina this past Tuesday.  DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead Kentucky, and John Wall added 19 points.  Those two accounted for 46 of the Wildcats’ 62 points, and that lack of a third scorer was a main reason UK fell. Kentucky bounced back from their loss to South Carolina with a convincing 85-72 win over the hot Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 13 point lead 10 minutes into the game and controlled the final 30 minutes, keeping the lead in double digits the entire way. Cousins had another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Darnell Dodson scored 16 points while getting a rare start to lead UK.

Vanderbilt (#18, #20)Jermaine Beal scored 25 points and Vanderbilt won its 10th straight game with an 85-76 victory over No. 14 Tennessee on Wednesday night. It was Vandy’s first win in Knoxville in five tries and its first win over a ranked opponent this season.  A.J. Ogilvy added 12 points and three other Commodores hit double digits as Vandy shot 50.7% for the game.  Vanderbilt fell behind Kentucky early at Rupp Arena in that Saturday game  and could never regroup, falling 85-72 to the Wildcats.  The Commodores were outrebounded 39-21 by the Wildcats. Beal led the way for Vandy with 19 points and shot 4-8 from beyond the arc.  Ogilvy added 12 for the Commodores.

Tennessee (#14, #14)J.P Prince scored 22 points on 9-10 shooting but it was not enough for the Volunteers to defend their home court in a 85-76 loss to Vanderbilt.  Scotty Hopson and Bobby Maze added 14 and 12 points, respectively, as the Vols fell to 3-2 in the SEC.  Hopson hit a jumper with :17 remaining to give the Volunteers a thrilling 61-60 win over the Florida Gators on Sunday.  The shot allowed the Vols to notch their sixth straight win over the Gators.  Wayne Chism had 16 points and 11 boards to lead the Vols and help them avoid a three game losing streak.

FloridaAlex Tyus scored 23 points, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton added 21 apiece, and Florida beat Georgia on Wednesday, 87-71.  The Gators extended their winning streak to four and continued their recent domination in the series. Florida has won 12 of their last 13 meetings versus the Bulldogs. Tyus missed a short jumper with five seconds left and, in a game televised nationally on CBS this past Sunday, the Gators went down to a sixth straight loss in games against Tennessee.  Tyus led the Gators with 18 points, and Chandler Parsons added 14.  Parsons hit a late 3-pointer to give the Gators a lead, and was in a position to hit his third game-winning shot of the year.  A Scotty Hopson jumper dashed those dreams and gave UT the lead for good.

South Carolina — Devan Downey took nearly half his team’s shots and threw in 30 points to lead his Gamecocks to a 68-62 win over Kentucky.  Downey took over the game during the closing minutes and the Wildcats had no answer on covering him.  Brandis Raley-Ross added 17 points and gave the Gamecocks another scoring option they had been lacking recently.  Kentucky was the first #1 team that the  Gamecocks have defeated in eight attempts.  Downey had 33 points, including the driving basket with 50 seconds left, that gave South Carolina a 78-77 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Gamecocks trailed 63-54 with less than 10 minutes remaining but then Downey scored 12 out of the Gamecocks’ final 24 points down the stretch.  Sam Muldrow added 19 points and 11 boards for South Carolina.

Georgia —  Ricky McPhee drained five three pointers and scored 21 points on Wednesday, but the Bulldogs were still blown out by the Gators, 87-71.  The Bulldogs were, in effect, a three man team with Trey Thompkins scoring 24 and Travis Leslie adding 11/8/4 in the loss.  The two other players Georgia started scored a total of just eight points and the Bulldogs wasted a 59% shooting night in a 16 point loss.  Georgia’s had it’s share of tough losses this season, but the 78-77 loss at South Carolina on Saturday may have been its toughest.  The Bulldogs became the latest team that could not control Devan Downey down the stretch as he hit the game winner with :50 left.  Leslie and Thompkins had 21 and 18 points, respectively.

WEST

Mississippi StateRavern Johnson scored 19 points to lead Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs blew an 11 point lead and lost to Arkansas on Thursday night, 67-62.  Barry Stewart and Kodi Augustus respectively scored 11 and 10 points.  Augustus added 10 boards for the double-double and Jarvis Varnado grabbed 14 rebounds.  Three days later, the Bulldogs snapped a two game SEC skid as Mississippi State beat LSU, 67-51. Johnson led the way with 15 points and Varnado had another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to aid the Bulldogs’ cause.  Phil Turner added 12 points off the bench for Mississippi State.

Mississippi (#25, –)Chris Warren scored 20 points, Terrico White had 19 and the Rebels weathered Auburn’s 3-point shooting before pulling out an 84-74 victory.  The Rebels shot 57% overall, and scored 46 points in the paint. They got 53 points from their three starting guards, including 14 from Eniel Polynice.  The Rebels won back to back road games in the SEC for the first time in nine seasons.  The Ole Miss Rebels lost a big chance to hold on to first place in the West as they were upset at home by the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday. Warren and Polynice had 17 and 15 points, respectively, but White suffered through a 3-14 shooting night.

ArkansasCourtney Fortson scored a career-high 35 points, carrying Arkansas through the second half as the Razorbacks rallied for a 67-62 win over Mississippi State this past Thursday.  Fortson scored 33 of his points in the second half, repeatedly drawing fouls and converting inside, despite his 5’11 frame. Arkansas trailed 49-38 at one point but came back to earn a much-needed victory.  Stefan Walsh hit three 3-pointers and added 12 points off the bench.   After winning two games in the Southeastern Conference last season, Arkansas is suddenly 3-3 and has notched back-to-back wins over Western Division-leading teams.  The latest upset came at Oxford on Sunday as Arkansas dumped the Ole Miss Rebels, 80-73.  Michael Washington scored 22 points, Marshawn Powell added 19, and Rotnei Clarke posted 18 for the Jekyl-and-Hyde Razorbacks.

Alabama —  The Crimson Tide held the toothless LSU Tigers to just 13 points in the second half on Wednesday and blew LSU out, 57-38.  Charvez Davis scored 15 points off the bench in just 18 minutes to lead the Crimson Tide while Mikhail Torrance and Tony Mitchell both scored 10 points.  Mitchell added 10 boards for a double-double in that one.  Everytime Alabama takes a step forward and seems like a contender in the West, they take a step or two back.  Such was the case in Alabama’s 58-57 loss to Auburn on Saturday. Torrance led the way with 13 points an  added 10 points. Auburn –  The Auburn Tigers hit 11 three-pointers, including five by Tay Waller, but it was not enough to hold off the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night.  Waller scored 21 points in the 84-74 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 15 points and Lucas Hargrove 10 as the Tigers dropped a tough one on their home court.  Hargrove hit a free throw with three seconds left on Saturday to lift Auburn to a 58-57 win over Alabama. The Crimson Tide led 55-51 with 2:58 left in the game, but Hargrove, who finished with 14 points, had a dunk and converted a three-point play to cut Alabama’s lead to 57-56. Waller hit 3 3-pointers and scored 20 points, continuing his hot play.

LSU – The Tigers had a dreadful night on Wednesday, shooting just 29.2% from the field and 11.1% from long range as LSU suffered a 57-38 loss to Alabama.  LSU scored just 13 points in the second half.  Tasmin Mitchell and Dennis Harris “led” the Tigers wiwth 8 points each.  LSU suffered through yet another horrid shooting stretch as they suffered a 67-51 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday.  The Tigers shot just 34% from the floor and Mitchell was the only Tiger in double digits with 26 points — more than half his team’s total.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 26th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
EAST
  1. Kentucky                   19-0  (4-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 15-3  (4-0)
  3. Tennessee                 15-3  (3-1)
  4. Florida                     14-5  (3-2)
  5. South Carolina           11-8  (2-3)
  6. Georgia                        9-8  (1-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State        15-4  (3-1)
  2. Mississippi                 15-4  (3-2)
  3. Alabama                   12-7   (2-3)
  4. Arkansas                    8-11  (1-3)
  5. Auburn                      10-10  (1-4)
  6. LSU                           9-10  (0-5)
Good Rankings Week in the SEC.  Kentucky finally ascended to the top of both the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Top 25 . The last SEC team ranked No. 1 in AP poll was Tennessee on Feb. 26, 2008. This is Kentucky’s first No. 1 AP ranking since March 18, 2003.  Kentucky also stands alone as the only undefeated team in college basketball with a 19-0 record. Kentucky was an unanimous choice to both sets of voters.  Tennessee fell from the top 10 in both polls as they landed at #14 in both.  The Ole Miss Rebels came in at #18 in the AP poll and #20 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Vanderbilt is now the fourth SEC team in both polls, coming in at #21 in the AP poll and #23 with the ESPN/USA Today voters.  Mississippi State continues to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.
Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He played just 17 minutes but had 16 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Arkansas.   Georgia’s Travis Leslie was named SEC Player of the Week. He had 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in win over No. 8 Tennessee.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
1/26 – #1 Kentucky (19-0) (4-0) @ South Carolina (11-8) (2-3) – 9 PM – ESPN
1/27 – #23 Vanderbilt (15-3) (4-0) @ #14 Tennessee (15-3) (3-1)  – 7PM – ESPNU.
1/27 – Georgia (9-8) (1-3) @ Florida (14-5) (3-2) – 7 PM – ESPN  360
1/28 – #20 Mississippi (15-4) (3-2) @ Auburn (10-10) (1-4) 9 PM – ESPNU
1/28 – Mississippi State (15-4) (3-1) @ Arkansas (8-11) (1-3) – 9 PM – ESPN2
1/30 – #23 Vanderbilt (15-3) (4-0) @ #1 Kentucky (19-0) (4-0) – 4 PM – ESPN
1/30 – Arkansas (8-11) (1-3) @ #20 Mississippi (15-4) (3-2) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
1/31 – Florida (14-5) (3-2) @ #14 Tennessee (15-3) (3-1)
TEAM REPORTS (RANKINGS ARE AP TOP 25/ESPN – ESPN/USA Today)
EAST
Kentucky (#1 – #1) — Kentucky turned in their most complete game of the season with a 101-70 romp over the Arkansas Razorbacks this past Saturday.  The Wildcats jumped out o a 10-0 start and never looked back as they made their case for the number one ranking in the country.  Darius Miller had a career high 18 points and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both chipped in 16.  Cousins added 14 rebounds.

Vanderbilt (#21, #23) —  Jeffrey Taylor scored all of his 18 points in the second half and Vanderbilt rallied for an 82-74 victory over Auburn.  John Jenkins‘ 3-pointer with 11:39 left gave Vanderbilt its first lead after the Commodores trailed by as many 16 in the first half. A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley assisted the win with 17, 16, and 15 points, respectively.
Tennessee (#14, #14) — Wayne Chism scored all 11 of his points late in the game and Tennessee held off a determined Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, 63-56.  Scotty Hopson scored 17 and Kenny Hall 12 off the bench to pace the Vols who are 5-0 since the January 1 incident that led to Tyler Smith being kicked off the team. Then, on Saturday, Tennessee fell behind early to the Georgia Bulldogs and trailed at the half by 15 points.  The Vols could never get back into the game on the road and fell, 78-63.  Hopson led the Vols in scoring with 19 while Bobby Maze and Kenny Hall both conributed double digits in a game in which Georgia outplayed them in every aspect.
Florida —  Erving Walker scored 27 points, and Florida went on a 9-0 run late in the second half to pull away for a 71-66 win over Arkansas. Kenny Boynton added 13 points in the UF win, but the Gators bench only managed six points in the game.  Chandler Parsons hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, his second game-winning shot in three weeks, and Florida beat South Carolina 58-56 on Saturday night.  Parsons finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He missed his first three 3s, but hit the only one that mattered.  Boynton led the Gators with 14 points.
South Carolina —  Devan Downey scored 25 points but got very little help from his teammates as South Carolina fell to Mississippi on Wednesday, 66-57.  The Gamecocks did find a bit of hope as freshman Ramon Galloway had 11 points and is starting to emerge as a new scoring option.  The Devan Downey show continued in Gainesville on Saturday as Downey scored 36 of his team’s 56 points against the Gators.  That was almost enough for the win but a last second Gator 3-pointer finished the Gamecocks, 58-56.  Sam Muldrow was the next leading scorer with six points.
Georgia — The Bulldogs ended a ten game losing streak to the Tennessee Vols with a 78-63 upset on Saaturday.  Georgia hit 56% for the game, including 7 -12 3-pointers in the win.  The duo of Trey Thompkins (21 pts) and Travis Leslie (19 points) keyed the win.
WEST
Mississippi State — After a week off, the Bulldogs struggled through their worst shooting performance of the season on Saturday and hit just 2 -18 3-pointers resulting in a 62-57 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide.  The Bulldogs also shot just 31.7% from the floor and 65.2% from the line.  Even Jarvis Varnado was not immune to the bad shooting as he went 4-14.  Barry Stewart was their leading scorer with 13 points.
Mississippi (#18, ##20) — The Rebels evened their SEC record on Saturday with a tough 66-57 win over South Carolina.  The Rebels had to fight off a furious Gamecock rally after leading by 15 at half, but evened their SEC record at 2-2.  Chris Warren had 17 points and Murphy Holloway had 14 points and 12 boards.  On Wednesday, the LSU Tigers held Warren scoreless for 30 minutes, but Warren got loose for the last ten with 14 points, and helped the Rebels pull away from LSU, 73-63.  Warren was one of three Rebels (Terrance Henry, Eniel Polynice) with 14 points.
Alabama — The Crimson Tide found themselves in a 1-3 SEC hole after losing a tough 63-56 game to the Tennessee Vols on Tuesday.  Alabama appeared to be a darkhorse candidate for the SEC West title but now need to put together a nice winning streak to get their season back on track.  JaMychal Green had 16 to lead Alabama.  The Crimson Tide stopped their slide with a 62-57 upset of Mississippi State four days later.  Mikhail Torrance had 20 points and Green added 18 as the Tide came away with a big home court win.
ArkansasRotnei Clarke had five 3-pointers and scored 17 points to lead the Razorbacks but it was not enough to stop a late 9-0 run by Florida and an eventual 71-66 loss on Thursday.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson both had 14 points but this was another in a season of frustrating losses for Arkansas.  Less than 48 hours later, Arkansas went up to Rupp Arena in Lexington to try and prevent Kentucky from ascending to the number one ranking and came back the victim of a 101-70 beatdown.  Fortson scored 21 points to lead the Razorbacks and Clark managed 13 points even though he was harassed into 2-9 shooting from beyond the arc for the game.
Auburn —  DeWayne Reed scored 21 points on Wednesday and Auburn hit six of eight free throws in the final minute, sealing an 84-80 win over LSU.  Auburn had balanced scoring with five players in double digits scoring and was 10-22 on 3-point shooting.  The Tigers let a 16 point first half lead get away from them and they suffered a tough 82-74 loss at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.  Lucas Hargrove had 19 points for the Tigers while Reed and Frankie Sullivan added 16 and 14.
LSU —  LSU got 38 points and 10 rebounds from Tasmin Mitchell on Wednesday but that was not enough to beat the Auburn Tigers.  Storm Warren added 17 points and 12 boards and Bo Spencer added 12.  The rest of the Tigers could only muster 13 points as LSU fell, 80-67.   Spencer, Mitchell, and Warren scored 49 of the Tigers’ 63 points and once again it was too little as the Tigers fell 73-63 to Ole Miss on Saturday for their fifth straight loss. Michell had a double-double with 16 and 11 and Spencer added 22 points.  The Tigers are still winless in the conference and will try for their first again this Wednesday against Alabama.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST
  1. Kentucky                  18-0         (3-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 14-3         (3-0)
  3. Tennessee                14-2        (2-0)
  4. South Carolina           11-6        (2-1)
  5. Florida                      12-5         (1-2)
  6. Georgia                      8-8         (0-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State     15-3          (3-0)
  2. Arkansas                  8-9          (1-1)
  3. Mississippi              13-4          (1-2)
  4. Alabama                 11-6          (1-2)
  5. LSU                        9-8           (0-3)
  6. Auburn                    9-9           (0-3)

The talk of the SEC being a vastly improved conference may have been a bit premature once we got into conference play.  I still think the SEC will have five sure-fire seeds in the NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Mississippi) with Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama being bubble teams at this time.  Mississippi had two losses to ranked teams, but I still think they are tournament-worthy.

The Tennessee situation got a little more resolved this week as it was announced that Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum will be rejoining the Vols but Brian Williams still remains on suspension indefinitely.  The trio were suspended because of a January 1st arrest on guns and drug charges.  Tyler Smith was dismissed from the team.

Speaking of the Vols, they have now solidified themselves inside top 10 as they find themselves as the #8 team in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Kentucky still holds onto the #2 spot in each of the polls this week — for now.  Mississippi is still hanging around in the polls at #22 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today and Mississippi State re-enters the AP at #23.  Vanderbilt is on the verge of entering both polls also.

Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe was named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in wins at Florida and at Auburn.  Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado named SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks in wins over Arkansas and Georgia.

MUST-SEE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • 1/19 – Tennessee (14-2) @ Alabama (11-6) – 7 PM – ESPN
  • 1/20 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Mississippi (13-4) – 9PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/21 – Florida (12-5) @ Arkansas (8-9) – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 1/23 – Mississippi State (15-3) @ Alabama (11-6) – 12PM – CBS; Mississippi (13-4) @ LSU (9-8) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – Arkansas (8-9) @ Kentucky (18-0) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Florida (12-5) – 6 PM – ESPN
TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST:
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) –  On Tuesday, Kentucky used a 17-4 run over the last 5:00 to put away the Florida Gators in Gainesville, 89-77.  This was the first win for Kentucky at Gainesville since 2004.  UK was led by Eric Bledsoe’s 25 points.  John Wall added 17 points and Patrick Patterson 15.  Three days later, Kentucky built an early 19 point lead on Auburn but the Tigers gave UK their best shot and chipped away to eventually tie the game at 60.  Kentucky pulled away over the last 6:00 or so to win their second straight road game, 72-67, and remain perfect on the season.  Kentucky was led by 16 points and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins and 13 points each from Wall and Bledsoe.
  • VanderbiltJeffery Taylor broke open a tie game with :06 left by hitting one of two free throws and Vanderbilt held off Alabama to win 65-64 at Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.  A.J. Ogilvy and Taylor scored 13 points to lead Vandy and freshman John Jenkins hit three of four 3-pointers to finish with 11 off the bench.  It was a battle of 2-0 SEC teams on Saturday as Vanderbilt traveled to South Carolina.  Ogilvy scored 18 of 22 points in the second half as Vanderbilt won their eighth straight game with an 89-79 victory over South Carolina.  Taylor led with 16 for the Commodores.
  • Tennessee – Starting center Wayne Chism scored 12 points, not to mention 12 rebounds and six steals as Tennessee (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) shook off a slow start to beat Auburn on Thursday, 81-55.  Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince both had 14 points for the Volunteers, while Scotty Hopson chipped in 11 and Kenny Hall added ten.  Chism played 41 minutes and scored 26 points, including six consecutive free throws in overtime, to bail Tennessee out as the Volunteers beat Mississippi 71-69 just two days later.  Prince added 13 points as the Vols won their sixth straight game.
  • South Carolina – Devan Downey scored 29 points and had seven rebounds to lead South Carolina to a 67-58 win over LSU on Wednesday.  The Gamecocks trailed 49-47 with about 9:00 remaining when they went on a 17-1 streak that sealed the game.  Downey was 6-12 on 3-pointers and Brandis Raley-Ross also put in 12 for the Gamecocks.  On Saturday, Downey had 35 points and 6 steals but that was not enough to prevent a home court 89-79 loss to Vanderbilt.  Raley-Ross and Lakeem Jackson also put in 11 points apiece.
  • Florida –  The Gators dropped to 0-2 conference play for the first time in the Billy Donovan era on Tuesday with their 89-77 loss to Kentucky.  Erving Walker nailed four 3-pointers and had 20 points, and Alex Tyus added 17.  The last time UF was 0-2 in conference play was 1996 — the year before Donovan arrived.  On Saturday, Kenny Boynton had 18 points as the Gators won a battle of winless SEC teams over LSU, 72-58.  Chandler Parsons had 11 points as he moved into the starting lineup and all five Gator starters scored in double figures.  On the downside, the Gator bench only managed four points in the win.
  • Georgia –  The Bulldogs gave the 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels all they wanted on Wednesday night, but fell short in a 80-76 loss.  The Bulldogs, who were coming off an eight point loss at #2 Kentucky last Saturday, were in this game until the final seconds.  Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs scoring with 21 points and Travis Leslie added 17 for Georgia.  Georgia then took another tough loss on Saturday as they fell 72-69 to Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs had leads of 41-30 and 64-51 but could not maintain.  Thompkins and Leslie led the way with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
WEST:
  • Mississippi State –  Jarvis Varnado  had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks for his second triple-double, and Mississippi State just held on to beat Arkansas 82-80 on Thursday night.  The Bulldogs opened an early 19-point lead, but had to repel a late rally by the Razorbacks who cut it to three with 32 seconds left.  Dee Bost had 20 to lead the Bulldogs, and Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart also scored in double digits.  Bost and Phil Turner each scored 15 points to lead Mississippi State to a 72-69 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Bulldogs had to overcome a pair of 10-point deficits in beating the Bulldogs.
  • Arkansas – On Thursday night the Razorbacks mounted a furious second half rally but fell just short at Starkville, losing 82-80 to Mississippi State.  The Hogs fought back from 19 down but could not complete the comeback.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson had 25 and 20 points, respectively, to help the Razorbacks fight back.  On Saturday the Razorbacks were feeling it, as three players posted double-doubles in a 71-59 win over Alabama. Powell had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Washington scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Razorbacks. Fortson  had 12 points and 10 assists, and Rotnei Clarke also scored 17.
  • MississippiEniel Polynice scored off an inbounds pass to himself with 11.3 seconds remaining on Wednesday night, and Mississippi (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) handed Georgia another tough loss, 80-76.  Polynice finished with 10 and Chris Warren added 12 to lead the Rebels.  Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham each scored 11 off the bench to aid the Rebel cause.  Then on Saturday Ole Miss led most of the second half but could not hold off the Volunteers in Knoxville losing in OT, 71-69.  Warren and Terrico White led the Rebels with 19 and 17 points, respectively, and Graham scored 16 off the bench.
  • Alabama – The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early 10 point lead and led most of the game on Wednesday evening, but could not hold on in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Vanderbilt.  Mikhail Torrance had 23 points on 9-13 shooting and Tony Mitchell added ten points off the bench for Alabama.  ‘Bama’s tough start in the SEC continued on Saturday with a loss to Arkansas, 71-59.  Torrance led the way with 15 points and JaMychal Green added 13 as the Tide lost their second straight.
  • LSU – The Tigers led most of the game against South Carolina but fell apart the last 9:00 as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 67-58 win.  LSU is not getting much production from any players not named Storm Warren (19 points), Bo Spencer (14) or Tasmin Mitchell (13).  Those three scored 47 of the Tiger’s 58 points.  The Tigers’ rough season got rougher as they were dumped by the Gators at Gainesville by a score of 72-58.  Mitchell was the only Tiger with more than 8 points as LSU’s season seems to be in freefall.
  • Auburn – Traveling to Knoxville on Thursday, the Tigers battled with the Tennessee Vols in the first half and trailed just 38-37 at the break, but Auburn could not keep up with the Vols in the second half and suffered a 81-55 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 19 points and Frankie Sullivan contributed 14 to lead the Tigers.  At home against Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Auburn came back from a 19-point deficit and eventually tied UK at 60 late in the second half, but went cold from the field over the last few minutes as the Wildcats pulled away for a 72-67 win.  Auburn was led by Reed with 19 points and Frankie Sullivan’s 15.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST:
  1. Kentucky              17-0     (2-0)
  2. Vanderbilt             12-3     (1-0)
  3. South Carolina      10-5     (1-0)
  4. Tennessee            12-2        (0-0)
  5. Florida                  11-5     (0-2)
  6. Georgia                 8-6      (0-1)
WEST:
  1. Mississippi State  13-3     (1-0)
  2. Alabama                  11-4     (1-0)
  3. Arkansas               7-8      (0-0)
  4. Mississippi           12-3     (0-1)
  5. LSU                           9-6     (0-1)
  6. Auburn                  9-7     (0-1)
News & Notes

A couple of off-court situations were resolved for two SEC teams.  Courtney Fortson made his first appearance for the Arkansas Razorbacks as his long suspension is now over.  As for the other situation, all-SEC guard Tyler Smith was dismissed from the Tennessee Volunteers for drug and weapon charges and the fates of three other Vols still hang in the balance.

Speaking of Tennessee, you probably heard — they pulled off the upset of the week when they knocked off #1 Kansas 76-68 on Sunday afternoon.  They were not the only SEC team to pull off a big out-of-conference upset last week as the Georgia Bulldogs knocked off #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66.

Thanks to the Volunteers, Kentucky now occupies the #2 spot in both the AP Top 25  and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Tennessee, for their efforts, did creep back into the top 10 at #9 in the AP Top 25 and #10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Ole Miss continues to represent as the third SEC team in the Top 25 — #21st in AP Top 25, and 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today.  Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Florida continue to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.

Tennessee’s Bobby Maze was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 5.5 APG in wins over Charlotte and No. 1 Kansas.  Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 13.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in wins over Middle Tennessee and Florida.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:
  • 1/12 – #2 Kentucky (16-0) @ Florida (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN  (more on this in a moment)
  • 1/13 –  LSU (9-6) @ South Carolina (11-5) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/13 –  Vanderbilt (12-3) @ Alabama (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/14 – Auburn (9-7) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 7 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/16 – #21 Mississippi (12-3) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – Vanderbilt (12-3) @  South Carolina (10-5) – 6:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – LSU (9-6) @ Florida (11-4) – 8 PM
TEAM UPDATES (rankings are AP, ESPN/USA Today):
EAST
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) — DeMarcus Cousins scored seven of his 16 points in the final three minutes as the Wildcats stayed unbeaten with a gritty 76-68 win over Georgia on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 21-10 lead and the Bulldogs responded with a 21-5 run and it was nip/tuck the rest of the way.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall also scored 17 points apiece for the Wildcats.  The came right back on Tuesday with a road game at the O-Dome in Gainesville and took out the Gators, 89-77.  Eric Bledsoe keyed the ‘Cats with an incredible 25/7/5 asst night on 10-13 shooting.  Wall added 19/4/6 assts and the always steady Patterson chipped in 15/7 as Kentucky had to hold off a Florida team that got hot from three midway through the second half.  We’ll have even more on this one in next week’s SEC summary.
  • VanderbiltA.J. Ogilvy responded to being back in the starting lineup and scored 24 points, and Vanderbilt opened the Southeastern Conference schedule beating Florida, 95-87, on Saturday for the Commodores’ sixth straight victory.  Jermaine Beal added 22 points and Jeffrey Taylor had a perfect shooting day (5-5 FG, 4-4 FT) to add 14 points for the Commodores.
  • South Carolina — The Gamecocks got exactly what the doctor ordered on Saturday with a 88-58 pounding of the Longwood Lancers as South Carolina readied for conference play.  Devan Downey scored 18 points but the Gamecocks also got 15 points from Evaldas Baniulus off the bench.  Ramon Galloway also hit double digits with 12 points.  Downey then poured in 33 points with four 3-pointers as the Gamecocks opened SEC play with a 80-71 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday.  South Carolina hit 11 3-pointers on the game and broke open a 52-all tie with an 8-0 run to break open the game.  Sam Muldrow added 12 points and 4 blocked shots.
  • Tennessee (#9, #10) — The Volunteers really did not know what to expect when they came into their game against Charlotte with four players suspended.  What the Vols found was new faces to step up as they breezed by the Charlotte 49ers, 88-71.  Wayne Chism scored 18 points and Scotty Hopson added 17 and the Vols, with just six scholarship players, shot 57.6% with all five starters scoring in double figures.  And of course Tennessee pulled off their second big win of the week with the 76-68 upset of #1 Kansas on Sunday.  Hopson had 17 and Bobby Maze added 16, but the lasting image of this game was walk-on Skylar McBee milking the shot clock late in the game and then delivering a duck-under three point dagger to the heart of the Kansas Jayhawks.
  • FloridaKenny Boynton scored 28 points (including six 3-pointers) and Erving Walker added 22 (with five treys) but it was not enough as the Gators fell 95-87 to the Vanderbilt Commodores despie tossing in 13 3-pointers for the game.  The Gators hadn’t lost an SEC opener since 2001 at South Carolina.  On Tuesday night the faced the formidable #2 Kentucky Wildcats and hoped to score a sixth straight home win over the Big Blue, but 20 points from Walker and 17/7 from Alex Tyus couldn’t propel the Gators past UK; the Rowdy Reptiles went home disappointed as Florida went down, 89-77.
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins scored 20 points, Ricky McPhee hit two key baskets near the end and Georgia pulled off its first big victory for new coach Mark Fox, knocking off  #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66, on Tuesday night. McPhee had four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.  The Bulldogs showed their win over Georgia Tech was not a fluke as they battled Kentucky to the wire on Saturday before losing, 76-68.  The Bulldogs cut the lead to two with 1:00 remaining but UK pulled away the last minute.  Travis Leslie scored the first 10 points of the game for Georgia and finished with 20.  Thompkins finished with 17.
WEST
  • Mississippi StateDee Bost tied a career high with 25 points and fueled Mississippi State’s 80-75 upset of #16 Mississippi on Saturday with fearless drives to the basket.  This was also a huge road win for the Bulldogs who opened SEC play against their biggest competition in the West.  Ravern Johnson added 15 and Kodi Augustus had a double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Alabama — Alabama looks to be the big surprise of the SEC as they continued their strong early play with a 66-49 win over LSU in the SEC opener for both teams.  JaMychal Green scored 14 points to lead Alabama, while Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance added 13  and 12 points, respectively.  Alabama now has a four game winning streak.
  • Arkansas — Courtney Fortson made his debut after a season long suspension and had 19 points/7 assists, but it was not enough to help his Razorbacks pull an upset over #2 Texas.  Arkansas hung tough for about 38 of the 40 minutes but Texas pulled away at the end to win, 96-85.  Rotnei Clarke added 24 points for the Razorbacks.
  • Mississippi (#21, #23) — Terrico White had five 3-pointers and scored 21 points to lead Ole Miss to a 84-56 thumping of the UCF Golden Knights.  Ole Miss jumped out early and had a 46-24 halftime lead and the Knights never had a chance.  Eniel Polynice had 16 points and Murphy Holloway had a double double with 11 points and 10 boards to help key the rout.  On Saturday, the Rebels suffered a key early season home SEC loss against bitter rival Mississippi State, 80-75.  Chris Warren led the Rebels with 15 points despite a 5-17 shooting night and Zach Graham and Terrance Henry had 14 points and 12 points, respectively, off the bench.
  • LSU — The troubles continue for LSU as they managed just 18 points in the first half against Alabama and lost their SEC opener 66-49 to the Crimson Tide.  Bo Spencer scored 13 points, and Dennis Harris and Tasmin Mitchell added 12 and 11, respectively.  Storm Warren got in early foul trouble and had just four points and a mere one rebound.
  • AuburnDeWayne Reed scored 20 points to lead Auburn to a 96-72 victory against Division II West Georgia on Tuesday night. Frankie Sullivan scored 17 points and Tay Waller added 16 for the Tigers, who shot 52% from the field and outrebounded the Wolves, 40-29.  Auburn could only manage two 3-pointers compared to South Carolina’s 11, and that was the difference in the game as Auburn dropped a tough game on Saturday, 80-71.  Reserve Brendon Knox led Auburn with 22 points, Reed scored 19, Lucas Hargrove had 12 and Sullivan added 10 in the loss.
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What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

CURRENT STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky  10-0
  2. Florida  8-1
  3. Tennessee  7-1
  4. South Carolina  6-2
  5. Vanderbilt  6-3
  6. Georgia  4-4

WEST

  1. Mississippi  8-1
  2. Mississippi State  7-2
  3. LSU  6-2
  4. Alabama  6-3
  5. Auburn  5-4
  6. Arkansas  4-5

It was a very slow week in the SEC as three teams did not see any action at all.  Kentucky and Mississippi State represented the SEC well in the SEC/Big East Invitational while Florida and Georgia lost their matchups.  Both Mississippi teams have been coming on strong and supplying some firepower to the West; Tennessee has only one setback and they should challenge UK all season.  The big story for the rest of the year will be the race to 2000 wins between UK and North Carolina.  Kentucky has pretty much assured themselves of being the first team to break the 2000-win plateau as they currently have 1998 wins to 1992 for UNC.

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part Two)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December, January and the first part of February/March in case you missed them):

February 16- North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (#36 overall)- Many believe Georgia Tech has assembled the talent to play with the supposedly rebuilding reigning champs. Still, UNC should be the favorite to win the ACC and Tech may be right on their heels (no pun intended). Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors make up a frontcourt composed of two possible lottery picks. Iman Shumpert (5.0 APG) returns to bolster the backcourt at the 1 or 2 position while Zach Peacock and Mo Miller provide depth for a Tech squad looking for a late-season impact win.

4880903041245_Miami_at_Georgia_Tech[1]

February 22- West Virginia @ Connecticut (#20 overall)- Whether Stanley Robinson is assigned Da’Sean Butler on the perimeter or Devin Ebanks in the post, Stix is the key for Connecticut this season and in this specific Big East battle. Robinson averaged 14.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG in his final ten contests last year and the UConn coaching staff strongly believes their athletic forward can replicate that success the entire season. He won’t be spending the first half in a sheet metal plant this time around, either.

February 23- Tennessee @ Florida (#62 overall)- The Gators could linger around the bubble this season in a difficult SEC East. Knocking off likely high seed Tennessee at home would send a message to the committee at this late date in the season. It’s imperative Kenny Boynton have an electric shooting game against Tennessee’s shaky defense for the Gators to have a shot. They’ll also need Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons to contain the Tennessee bigs inside and out.

February 24- Purdue @ Minnesota (#32 overall)- A difficult road contest for a Purdue team looking to capture the Big Ten title. Minnesota always plays at a different level defensively at the Barn, meaning this could be a battle of wills in the 50s that sends Big Ten haters screaming in the streets. How Minnesota’s youth, whether it be sophomores Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson or their freshmen Royce White and Rodney Williams, develops into late February should reveal whether the Gophers can pull off this upset.

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