Rushed Reaction: #7 Florida 68, #3 Marquette 58

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Florida Out-Toughed Marquette. Except for a few moments where Marquette brought its patented Buzz Williams hustle and toughness to the fore, the ‘soft’ Gators mostly out-toughed the Golden Eagles on this night. They beat them on the boards by one, blocked six more shots, and didn’t back down at all when MU got in their face. We’ve been critical of Billy Donovan’s teams (other than the “oh-fours”) in the past because of too much perimeter play and a lack of fortitude, but this bunch never wavered when facing a team that makes its living of off that stuff.
  2. Marquette’s Stars Never Seemed Comfortable. It’s hard for us to give too much credit to Florida’s defense, but something was definitely bothering both Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom tonight. The two players combined for a 10-30 shooting night, and without their offensive capabilities, Marquette was never going to seriously threaten the Gators. Perhaps worse than that, though, with the two stars struggling, the rest of the starting lineup didn’t do much better. Jamil Wilson, Vander Blue, and Junior Cadougan went for 11 total points on 4-20 shots themselves. Ugh.
  3. Gators’ Lack of Size Hasn’t Hurt Them Yet. This wasn’t the matchup where the Gators’ lack of talented size caught up with them, but you have to figure that it will eventually. Sometimes with the right matchups, though, a team can get on a roll, and that’s exactly what the Gators have done. Billy Donovan talked about how the team didn’t appear to play very well down the stretch of the regular season, but he attributed much of that to the level of competitions they were playing in those games. We’re not sure what that says about this year’s NCAA Tournament field (at least the Gators’ path to the Elite Eight), but with how well Louisville is playing, they’ll have to earn it on Saturday afternoon.

Star of the Game. Bradley Beal, Florida. Beal looked like the future lottery pick that he will be tonight, as he carried the Gators through some key stretches with his drives to the goal and timely three-point shooting. He ended up with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and only missed two field goal attempts on the night. Superb outing for the freshman.

Quotable. “Beal is their swing vote… because he’s so multi-talented.” Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, on the Florida guard’s play tonight.

What’s Next? Florida will advance to play the surging #4 Louisville Cardinals with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Billy Donovan, with two national championships and three trips to the Final Four on his resume, will play his mentor, Rick Pitino, with a single national title and five trips on his resume. Wow.

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NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by AMurawa on March 20th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent.

The West Regional begins Thursday night in Phoenix with Michigan State vs. Louisville followed by Marquette vs. Florida. Our East Regional Reset published earlier today, while our South and Midwest Regional Resets will publish Wednesday. Make sure to follow RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Phoenix throughout the weekend.

New Favorite:  Michigan State, #1, 28-7. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Nothing has changed in the past week that would make the Spartans any less the favorite in the West, and in fact, the upset of Missouri in the round of 64 only further strengthens Tom Izzo’s odds of making it four-for-four in Final Four trips as a #1 seed. While Draymond Green has been excellent all year, if anything he has stepped his game up even more in the first two rounds of the tournament, and point guard Keith Appling has shown a toughness and an ability to make plays when they’re needed. The Spartans still have a very tough slate ahead of them, but of the teams remaining here, they are the slight favorite to advance to New Orleans.

Downtown Phoenix Hosts This Year's West Regional

Horse of Darkness:  Florida, #7, 24-10. They’re the lowest remaining seed in this region, and they haven’t really beaten anybody of great importance in their first two games, but they’ve beaten those teams with conviction. Their wins over Virginia and Norfolk State have come by an average of 30 points. And while all of their players deserve credit, freshman guard Bradley Beal may be the hottest of them all, not only scoring 14 in each of his games (with three threes mixed in there), but helping out the front line by averaging 10 boards. The Gators are still the underdogs in this region, but they match up well with a Marquette team that doesn’t do a great job of defending the three-point line, and, of course, Billy Donovan has a little bit of experience this deep in the tourney.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend):  Norfolk State 86, Missouri 84. This was really the only upset of even major proportions in the first weekend, and boy, was it a doozy. While the Lehigh upset of Duke may have earned more press among casual basketball fans just because of the Blue Devils’ reputation, the Spartan victory over Missouri was even more stunning. Not only was Mizzou a strong two-seed with an argument for a one-seed, Duke was generally considered a pretty weak two-seed. And Lehigh had a strong argument that they deserved a higher seed, while Norfolk State was plenty happy to avoid a 16-seed. In short, not only is the Kyle O’Quinn-led upset of the Tigers the most surprising result in the first weekend of the West region, it is one of the more surprising results in the history of the NCAAA Tournament.

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Rushed Reaction: #7 Florida 84, #15 Norfolk State 50

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point shooting was the killing blow. The biggest difference between Friday and today was the three-point shooting by Florida. Against Virginia the Gators were completely cold behind the arc, only hitting one three before halftime. Against Norfolk State, the Gators hit seven before the half that effectively led to their 28-point lead. For the game the Gators shot 10-of-28 from three, a far cry from the four they made on Friday. Florida set a school record with made three-pointers this season and they will need those to go down as they progress through the tourney.
  2. Ball movement. Florida has done a great job in Omaha with its ball movement. Despite Norfolk State playing zone for a large part of the game, Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and the rest of the Gators were moving around and looking for the open man when the Spartans would shut off drives to the basket.  They were obviously quicker than Norfolk State, but they will have to keep up their intensity for the whole game. After getting out to a large lead on the Spartans, their intensity fell off quite a bit in the second half. But the Gators only turned the ball over eight times for the game. Constant ball movement is a big part of the Billy Donovan offense.
  3. Balance will win games. Florida doesn’t have a dominant player like Thomas Robinson or Anthony Davis, but their team is really balanced. Walker (15), Boynton (20), Bradley Beal (14), Mike Rosario (10), and Erik Murphy (10) all scored in double figures for the Gators. Patric Young didn’t even score his first field goal until early in the second half, as he finished with only six points.  It will take a combination of players having a good game for Florida to continue to advance.

Star of the Game. Kenny Boynton, Florida. Although the Gators were balanced, it was Boynton who got things going for Florida with his 20 points and seven rebounds.  His physical play got Norfolk State out of sync and they could not recover. 

Quotable. “I’m extremely proud of my team, we did things that have never happened before at our university.” – Anthony Evans, Norfolk State head coach

Sights & Sounds. The Norfolk State band again was in full force, this time on the total opposite end of court than Friday. However, they were still very powerful and the fans in the stands enjoyed their enthusiasm.  Even the Purdue band that was right next to me waiting for the next game, all they could say was “wow.”

Wildcard. A #15 seed has never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Still, Norfolk State won the hearts of fans in Omaha during this trip as there were pockets of fans wearing their green St. Patrick’s Day shirts to show their support for the Spartans.  The Gators have now advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history, six of which have occurred under head coach Billy Donovan.

What’s Next? The Gators now head to Phoenix to take on Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen, where the Golden Eagles will try to slow down this quick Florida offense. The Florida guards look like they might be a little quicker than those from Marquette, but the Golden Eagles have a bit more inside. It should be a great game Thursday night.

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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting Virginia vs. Florida

Posted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012

This is a tough draw for Virginia. Florida is a very good team for a #7 seed, and that more than offsets the advantage Virginia could have theoretically gained as an unusually good #10 seed. In this match-up the NCAA did something that fans of contrasting styles love: pitting an elite offensive team against an elite defensive team. By Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency rankings, Florida has the second best offense in the country after Missouri while Virginia has the 104th. On defense, Virginia ranks 5th in efficiency while Florida ranks 121st. Virginia’s star is an elite post player in Mike Scott, while Florida relies on it’s triumvirate of guards (Bradley Beal, Kenny Bonyton, and Erving Walker) to rain down threes from the perimeter. Polar opposites of each other in terms of focus, both teams share an affinity for slow pace and play their starters heavy minutes. So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Well, in this case, the news doesn’t look particularly good for Virginia.

How Will Donovan Contain Mike Scott?

Of all the teams in the country, few match the statistical profile of Virginia as well as Florida’s SEC brother, Alabama. Like Virginia, Alabama is a defensive-minded team that struggles to score efficiently with a post-centered attack. The Gators played Alabama twice this year, once in the regular season and once in the conference tournament and walked away with the victory both times. It’s tempting to attribute these victories, like many of Florida’s victories, to hot three-point shooting, but the Crimson Tide actually did a pretty good job against the Gators, holding them to only 28.6% and 33.3% from behind the arc. Yet Florida won, by making enough threes, getting enough offensive rebounds, and forcing enough turnovers to get the win. Does the same fate await Virginia?

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SEC Morning Five: 03.14.12

Posted by EMoyer on March 14th, 2012

  1. South Carolina’s Darrin Horn became the third head coach from a BCS school (joining Bruce Weber of Illinois and Doc Sadler of Nebraska) to lose his job this month. South Carolina fired Horn after four seasons in Columbia. He could not build on his 21-10 first season and interest in the team sagged. Quoting the AP account of the story “average paid attendance this season was 8,900 people in the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena – down about 1,500 fans – with most games seeing less than half of the announced number actually in the stands.”
  2. David Cloninger from GamecockCentral.com speculated on possible replacements, writing, “The hot name on several lips to replace Horn is Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, a South Carolina native who assisted at College of Charleston and then led tiny Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments in nine years. Marshall is leading the Shockers into the NCAA tournament as a five-seed, and has publicly said, although it was years ago, that he would love to take the USC job someday. Another candidate that could emerge is Jeff Capel, the former Oklahoma coach who was contacted when Horn was hired, but turned down the offer, was later fired and currently serves as an assistant coach at Duke. Shaka Smart, the Virginia Commonwealth coach who shocked the world last season by taking a team from a play-in game to the Final Four, would be a hot name, but he has been publicly mentioned as the top choice to replace Bruce Weber, who was recently fired at Illinois.”
  3. John Clay wrote of the comparisons between Kentucky’s 1996 team than went undefeated in SEC play only to lose in the Tournament final in New Orleans before winning the national title to the 2012 version of the Wildcats that followed the same first two chapters of the script by speaking with a key member of the ’96 team, Tony Delk. Delk, now an assistant for New Mexico State said “It was a game where I thought that was the best loss we could have had. Because going into the tournament, you didn’t want to be too high. If we had won that game, it could have been, ‘OK, we’re going to cruise through this and we’re going to win easily.’ We could have gotten knocked off early. We re-focused ourselves.”
  4. In advance to Ole Miss opening play in the NIT, the Rebels secured a commitment from Marshall Henderson, a 6-2 guard from South Plains Junior College. Hen started his career at Utah but transferred to Texas Tech. After sitting out the NCAA-mandated transfer year, he moved again following the dismissal of coach Pat Knight. Henderson is averaging 19.4 points a game and is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 43 percent from the 3-point line, and 88 percent at the free-throw line.
  5. Florida’s all-SEC freshman guard Bradley Beal offered some insight as to his plans for next season. Some NBA Draft projections have placed Beal inside the top 10. “Either way it goes, if I leave, I still played a great year of college, I enjoyed it,” Beal said. “If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it. I have no clue. I haven’t even really thought about it at all,” said Beal. “Right now, I don’t know. I haven’t put too much thought into it. When that time comes I’m going to talk to coach (Billy) Donovan and my family and we’re going to have to sit down and talk about it. When that time comes, it comes.”
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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region here.

West Region

Favorite: Michigan State, #1, 27-7. This is the fourth time in the Tom Izzo era that Michigan State has earned a #1 seed. The previous three times (1999, 2000, and 2001), they advanced at least to the Final Four, winning the national title in 2000. Led by likely All-American senior forward Draymond Green, this is, almost without question, the best Spartan team since those teams at the turn of the century. They do have to go forward without injured freshman Branden Dawson, out for the year with a torn ACL, but senior Brandon Wood stepped into his starting spot and he shot the ball well in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. You can say that there are more talented teams in this region (Missouri and Marquette come to mind), but beating Izzo in March is always easier said than done.

Draymond Green And Michigan State Are The Team To Beat In The West Region (AP)

Should They Falter: Missouri, #2, 30-4. While the Spartans are the favorite, the Tigers are a solid 1-A. The Selection Committee had Mizzou as the #8 overall seed, but they have been excellent all season long behind the most efficient offense in the nation. The Tigers are undersized (only two players taller than 6’6” are in the rotation) and lack depth (they only play seven guys), but head coach Frank Haith gets every last drop out of the guys who do play. And with guards like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon, they have enough talent on the perimeter to cause plenty of trouble.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #14 (First Four), 26-8. I don’t have a whole lot of problems with any of the seeding this year; I think the Selection Committee by and large did a pretty good job. But I’m not sure why BYU is in the tournament. Their lone quality win of the season is over Gonzaga, a team who doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins itself. I would rather have seen a team like Drexel or Oral Roberts (teams admittedly without a ton of big wins either) get the Cougars’ spot. The Dragons and Golden Eagles both had better records against top 50 RPI teams, and both excelled in their conference regular season. I will even take Iona, their First Four opponent, over the Cougs despite a complete lack of quality wins on the Gaels’ resume. The committee gave Iona credit for scheduling a tough non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule out of conference even exceeds BYU’s.

Grossly Underseeded: Missouri, #2, 30-4. I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of outrage about anything in the bracket, but Missouri should not have dropped to the #8 overall seed. To me, they were right in the conversation with Kansas for the #5 overall seed (and I might have given Missouri the edge, although the committee docked them for a relatively tame non-conference schedule). The only difference for the Tigers in terms of their placement in the bracket is that had they earned the #5 overall seed, they would have been dropped in the St. Louis regional instead of being shipped West. But the good news is that they still are in the bracket with the lowest #1 seed. It all works out.

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SEC Morning Five: 03.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 9th, 2012

  1. Auburn has not made many basketball headlines recently until now. Suspended guard Varez Ward is under investigation in a point shaving scandal, according to this report from Yahoo! Sports. The FBI is investigating two games in particular –  a 68-50 loss to Alabama on February 7 and a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on January 25. Ward and guard Chris Denson, who has been later cleared of any wrong-doing, were suspended by Tigers coach Tony Barbee prior to a February 25 game when it appears that Barbee was made aware of the allegations.
  2. There were no surprises as Kentucky was named the favorite this weekend, but SEC coaches seem ready to hand over the SEC Tournament crown to the dominant Wildcats. “Everybody’s playing for second place,” said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. South Carolina coach Darrin Horn agrees, labeling UK freshman Anthony Davis as the difference maker in New Orleans. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid impact games the way he does,” Horn said. “He’s just a unique, unique talent.” The Wildcats have won two SEC Tournament championships in a row, since the arrival of coach John Calipari, and seek their third in a row this weekend. With several top tier SEC teams struggling, it is difficult to imagine any challengers removing the Wildcats from the top of the perch.
  3. While most focused on what’s been happening in Lexington, some coaches took the time to speak about the amazing story of Tennessee freshman Jarnell Stokes. “He was in high school, practices about a week, lines up against Kentucky and makes his first four shots, gets a double-double against UConn about a week later, and think about what he has done for the team,” Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. “Think about what he would be if he was with them all year.” Stokes’ quick transition displays how talented he is, but also displays the remarkable coaching job done by first year coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin helped develop Stokes as well as find ways to get the freshman some playing time without impacting the established team chemistry amongst the Volunteers team. It will be interesting to monitor Stokes and Tennessee’s success this postseason.
  4. Florida freshman Bradley Beal returned to practice for the Gators after being sidelined from an ankle injury sustained in last weekend’s Kentucky game. Beal was not able to practice Monday or Tuesday of this week, but plans to play in the Gators’ opening game on Friday. Florida has dealt with a rash of injuries this year as Will Yeguete, Mike Rosario, and Erik Murphy among others have been out at some point this year. The Gators have lost three games in a row and five of their last eight so remaining healthy is a huge concern going into the tournament.
  5. Vanderbilt remains confident going into the postseason despite the fact that the Commodores haven’t been very successful in March over the last couple of years. Senior forward Jeffery Taylor refused to acknowledge that the ‘Dores or head coach Kevin Stallingswere feeling any of the pressure to succeed this year given the talent and experience Vanderbilt has. “I think all of us are in a place where we have our backs against the wall, especially us seniors,” Taylor said. “But as far as Coach feeling any pressure, I don’t think so. He shouldn’t feel any pressure. “The two teams we lost to (Murray State in 2010, Richmond in 2011) were two really good teams and both of them went down to the wire. And it just happened that the other team made a couple of more plays than we did. But I don’t think that falls on the coach. I think that falls on the players.” Vanderbilt certainly has the talent to do well this postseason, but have been too inconsistent in its play for anyone to be overly-confident.
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RTC’s 2012 SEC Tournament Preview

Posted by EMoyer on March 8th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Tournament Preview

Tournament Tidbits

  • Kentucky is the top seed in the modified SEC Tournament. After 20 years of seeding based on divisional finishes, the 12 teams were seeded #1 through #12. This change allowed for four former “Eastern Division” schools (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida) to claim the first-round byes. In previous years, the Commodores and Gators would have had to play first round games and the 9-7 Alabama and 8-8 Mississippi State squads would have had byes.
  • Anthony Davis swept the SEC year-end awards, claiming Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year. There exists some history of SEC Players of the Year leading his team to a tournament title and claiming Tournament MVP honors in the process. In 25 years of the Coaches SEC Player of the Year, five have doubled up with Tournament MVP honors. Four of those players came from Kentucky (Ron Mercer, 1997; Tayshaun Prince, 2001; Keith Bogans, 2003; John Wall, 2010). Only one Defensive Player of the Year, Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnadoin 2009, went on to earn Tournament MVP honors (the award began in 2004). No SEC Freshman of the Year has won Tournament MVP honors in the same season (that award began in 2001).

    Anthony Davis Swept The SEC's Three Major Postseason Awards. Will The Dynamic Davis Add A Tournament MVP To His Growing List Of Accolades? (AP)

  • The Wildcats will go for its fourth “three-peat.” Kentucky won SEC Tournament titles from 1944-50, 1992-95 and from 1997-99. The only other programs to win three straight SEC titles are Alabama (1989-91) and Florida (2005-07).
  • Kentucky enters the SEC Tournament off a perfect 16-0 record in league games. In nine previous seasons, the Wildcats also posted perfect conference records leading up the conference tournament. Kentucky has gone on to win seven of those tournament titles, losing to Vanderbilt in 1951 and Mississippi State in 1996. The loss to the Bulldogs also came in New Orleans

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SEC Season Wrap-Up

Posted by EMoyer on March 8th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

The Year that Was

  • Kentucky pulled off its 12th undefeated SEC season in history (and 16th overall by any school) with an incredible scoring margin of 16.4 points per game against SEC foes – the widest margin since at least 1996-97. 
  • For the first time in the three years that John Calipari has coached the Wildcats, one of his many talented freshmen did not lead EC freshmen in scoring. That honor went to Arkansas’ B.J. Young. The first-year Razorback averaged 15.3 points per game.
  • While no Wildcat freshman led the league’s rookies in scoring, no  one would argue that his freshest class of Blue Chippers lacked impact. Anthony Davis shattered Kentucky, SEC, and NCAA records in the paint and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist produced some of his best efforts against the nation’s best.

    John Calipari Has Had A Lot Of Reasons To Smile So Far This Season (AP)

  • The league’s two new coaches, Mike Anderson (Arkansas) and Cuonzo Martin (Tennessee) each came from the “Show Me State” and both showed glimpses of excellence during the course of the season. Anderson and the Razorbacks started 17-1 at home before some late faltering has them starring at the NIT. Martin’s tenure opened with a 3-6 start that included losses to Oakland, Austin Peay, and College of Charleston. The season turnaround began with a home upset of Florida on January 7 and the team received an influx of talent when Jarnell Stokes (9.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 54.7% FG ) joined the team one week later. The Volunteers closed with eight wins in their last nine games and into “bubble talk” conversation.
  • A year ago, Alabama was left out of the NCAA Tournament despite winning in the old SEC Western Division. This season, Anthony Grant scheduled up, playing and most importantly, beating Wichita State, Purdue, and VCU. The Crimson Tide improved their strength of schedule from 114 last season to 19 this year entering the SEC Tournament. The Tide should easily return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2006.
  • Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins led the league in scoring at an even 20.0 points per game. He became the first repeat scoring champ in the SEC since LSU’s Ronnie Henderson in 1995 and 1996. He firmly established himself as one of the nation’s top shooters, connecting on an NCAA-leading 118 3-point field goals. That total ranks second in Commodore history, and him tied for the second-best single season total in SEC history with Tennessee’s Chris Lofton.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.28.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 28th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are counting down until March as the college hoops frenzy begins to build. Tonight the Michigan State Spartans look to clinch an improbable Big Ten regular season title and some teams in question look for answers in the SEC.

#4 Michigan State at #21 Indiana – 7:00PM EST on ESPN HD (****)

  • With a win tonight, Michigan State would clinch the Big Ten regular season title and a possible number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans are playing extremely strong basketball heading into March having won seven games in a row. Over the last 10 games, only Minnesota was able to shoot above 50% eFG against Tom Izzo and company. Keep a close eye on how Sparty defends Indiana’s two-point shooting specifically Cody Zeller. While Indiana is one of the top three-point shooting teams in the nation, they do not take many from downtown and their offense depends quite heavily on the free throw line. If Michigan State is playing strong interior defense without fouling, the Hoosiers will have a tough time winning this game.

Tom Izzo goes for another regular season Big Ten title tonight.

  • It will be important for Indiana to establish Zeller early by feeding the post. Additionally, the guards need to drive the ball to the net to create fouls or easy three-point opportunities on the drive and kick. Look to see if Indiana can create turnovers. Michigan State has had some trouble with turnovers including a turnover rate of 28% in their last game against Nebraska. While that game was a complete blow out, Indiana’s offense can make a team pay for such mistakes. The Hoosiers are 3-7 when creating turnovers on less than 18% of opponents possessions, so it’s an extremely important stat to watch during the game.
  • This game will be won in the paint. Michigan State throws Draymond Green, Adreian Payne, and Derrick Nix at Zeller. The trio held Zeller to 4 points and 4 rebounds in 23 minutes of action in the Spartans victory over the Hoosiers in late December. Zeller is going to have to have a much bigger game in order to take this one from the Spartans.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 21st, 2012

  1. The final two Alabama players enduring suspensions, senior JaMychal Green and junior Tony Mitchell, reached some level of closure as Green, who has missed the past three games, was reinstated to return to practice. Mitchell, who has missed the past four games after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, will remain suspended for the rest of the season, head coach Anthony Grant said on Monday.
  2. Kentucky hosted the newly reclassified star recruit Nerlens Noel during Saturday’s 77-62 victory against Ole Miss. On Twitter (@NerlensNoel3) he said “Kentucky trip went well. Them fans are suttin else, showed alot of love.” Noel took an unofficial visit to Syracuse last weekend for the Orange’s 85-67 win over Connecticut. He’s also slated to make upcoming trips to Florida , Georgetown and North Carolina.
  3. In his weekly teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said Renardo Sidney might sit out his second consecutive game with back spasms when Mississippi State hosts No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday.“I’ll probably know at game time, if you want to know the truth,” Stansbury said. “It’s very obvious we need his big body out there, especially with our lack of depth. That’s the thing. We missed him over there Saturday with just giving us another guy you can throw in the block who can score. We need that depth defensively in there, body-wise. It’s very obvious — against a Kentucky team, as talented as they are — you need everybody you can possibly get. We don’t just need his body, we need his body to play well for us to have any chance at all.”
  4. Florida head coach Billy Donovan said he’s hopeful Mike Rosario will return for Tuesday’s game with Auburn. “I would say that he can sometimes be a little bit over-cautious, whether it be his lower back dealing with a disk problem or a sprained ankle,” Donovan said. “He gets worried a lot of times mentally, himself, that he’s going to re-injure himself or hurt himself where he doesn’t feel right.” Rosario, who has missed six games this season, returned to practice last week but pulled himself out when the hip pointer started to bother him.
  5. The SEC announced its weekly awards with Vanderbilt junior John Jenkins earning his third career Player of the Week award (his first of 2011-12) and Florida’s Bradley Beal claiming his sixth Freshman of the Week honor. Jenkins, who won twice during his sophomore campaign, averaged 27.0 points per game in wins at Ole Miss and Georgia. He shot 81.3% from the floor (13-16), 83.3% from three (10-12), and 85.7% from the free throw line (18-21).  Beal averaged 17.5 points per game in helping the Gators score a pair of road wins at Alabama and Arkansas. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 20th, 2012

  1. With Anthony Davis on the bench in foul trouble during the first half of Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss, the Cats needed another game changer. Kentucky received a boost from freshman Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer scored 13 points, his SEC high on five of six shooting, including three of four three point shooting. “I really (give) credit to my hard work this week,” Wiltjer said. “I’ve really put in a lot of time getting extra reps because I really feel that pays off and builds confidence.” Wiltjer must continue improving on rebounding and defense in order to keep getting playing time down the stretch.
  2. Another Wildcat had to step up because of Davis’ absence in the first half. Terrence Jones recorded his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. But coach John Calipari wants this every game. “Terrence, this is what you should be every game we play,” Calipari said. “It should be a double-double. Without an excuse. I don’t want to hear it. You should be a double-double. You’re a top five player.” Jones’ numbers have slipped significantly from his freshman year. Last season, Jones finished with 13 double-doubles on the season.
  3. Mississippi State is 1-5 on the road in the SEC, and after losing to both LSU and Auburn, the Bulldogs have dropped three games in a row. Rick Stansbury‘s squad is looking forward to being back in Starkville as they need a big win over top-ranked Kentucky. “I don’t know if your back is against the wall,” Stansbury said. “You have the best team in the country coming to your place. That’s all you need to feel. That’s all that matters. If you don’t feel that, you don’t feel anything. It’s an opportunity for us. That’s what it is. We’re not worried about our backs. We have a great opportunity ahead of us on Tuesday night. That’s the way we’re going to look at it.” Mississippi State could certainly use the boost. After these recent losses, the Bulldogs have fallen to 57th in the current RPI rankings.
  4. One possible reason for the Bulldogs’ struggles is the absence of forward Renardo Sidney. Sidney sat out Mississippi State’s loss on Saturday due to back spasms. “He said he couldn’t go, so that’s kind of where we left it at,” Stansbury said. Sidney’s presence will be crucial if the Bulldogs have a chance to beat Kentucky on Tuesday. In last season’s game in Lexington, Sidney added 11 points and eight rebounds in an 85-79 loss.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal received a technical foul after a highlight worthy dunk against Alabama. After rising over seven-foot tall Moussa Gueye. Beal and Gators’ center Patric Young, turned to each other, put their hands together and bowed. The referee saw this as a sign of showing off, but was this action really excessive? The Gators were up 12 at the time, giving the Crimson Tide an opportunity to fight back with 1:16 left to play. Luckily for Beal the Gators held on to win, and he didn’t have to feel the wrath of coach Billy Donovan if that play let Alabama back in the game.
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