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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SEC Morning Five: 02.10.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 10th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost had lots to say prior to the first matchup with rival Ole Miss, but he hasn’t had much to say this go-around after suffering a loss against the Rebels. Bost refused to trash talk on Twitter, resorting instead to focusing on the task at hand. “We’ve got to get our competitive edge back and just go out there and compete,” said Bost. “And take it personal when anybody scores on us.” The senior played much better in the rematch scoring 15 points and dishing out 13 assists to lead the Bulldogs to a 70-60 win. Maybe Bost will have plenty to say afterwards, but his play did the talking this time around.
  2. The Florida Gators are ready to regroup after a 20-point loss to Kentucky on Tuesday. “We have to move on,” Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal said. “We’ll have a day off (Wednesday) and then we will watch film and then be ready for the next game Saturday against Tennessee. We have to put this one behind us.” The game against Kentucky was Florida’s worst game as far as the numbers go. The Gators shot their worst field goal and three-point field goal percentages of the season. It was the second lowest point total for Florida all season. And the 20-point margin was by far the largest loss of the season for the Gators. This game is one Billy Donovan and company would like to forget.
  3. South Carolina lost by 34 to the Wildcats last week, and now Gamecocks’ fans are wondering if their beloved team will win again this season. The Gamecocks are losing the faith amongst the natives in Columbia. “Each game (with the exception of Alabama) plays like a broken record: poor execution, questionable coaching, a chance to turn things around and maybe even pull off a win, then the comeback bid falling short. Another game, another loss for South Carolina’s men’s basketball team.” Fortunately for South Carolina, the most winnable game on paper is approaching on Wednesday with a home game against the Georgia Bulldogs (11-12 overall, 2-7 SEC).
  4. The Kentucky Wildcats have a star in center Anthony Davis, but Big Blue Nation cannot cash in on Davis’ success. The UK Athletics office has issued a cease and desist order to Wildcats’ fans who were selling posters of the freshman and his incredible wingspan. “We have to do everything we can to prevent from someone making a profit off of an amateur student-athlete’s image or name,” UK Athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy said. “And so if somebody puts something on eBay or sells it in a store, our normal process is a cease-and-desist letter.” As basketball crazed as Kentucky fans are, it is surprising to find these collector’s items for sale considering Wildcat fans aren’t usually ones to give up their basketball memorabilia so easily.
  5. While CBS Sports believes the race for National Player of the Year is between Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis and Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, RTC claims Davis is the clear frontrunner after his performance against Florida. Statistically, Davis isn’t the leader, but his impact on both ends of the court is what puts him at the top of the discussion. But despite all of the accolades and praise, he has remained a great teammate. Coach John Calipari said, ” I said to both of them (Davis and fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), ‘You guys understand, these guys love playing with you because you don’t command the ball. You defend. You rebound. You block shots.’ They get to shoot all the balls. What’s better than that?” The only thing better is the 16-game winning streak the Cats are currently on with the aid of the two dynamic freshmen.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.07.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 7th, 2012

  1. Alabama head coach Anthony Grant suspended junior forward Tony Mitchell indefinitely on Monday due to “conduct detrimental to the team.” Grant said that the decision came after “an accumulation” of incidents. On Saturday, Mitchell came off the bench for the first time this season but still played 31 minutes in a double-overtime win over Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide face rival Auburn on Tuesday and Tiger head coach Tony Barbee said the suspension “doesn’t mean a thing.”
  2. More than a few column inches have been dedicated to Kentucky’s SEC schedule, starting with the lack of a Thursday-Saturday scenario and finishing with the Wildcats’ first nine league games featuring only one RPI top 50 opponent (home vs Alabama). Starting with tonight’s top-10 showdown with Florida, Kentucky will face six top-50 foes and #51 (Ole Miss) in its last seven games. “I’m going to talk to them today about making sure we are humble,” head coach John Calipari said in his weekly teleconference. “Let’s understand why we’ve been winning and let’s understand where we have to take this.”
  3. The best SEC freshman not residing in Lexington, Florida’s Bradley Beal, has proved repeatedly to be the real deal and he again showed why in the Gators second half rally against Vanderbilt on Saturday. He scored five straight points and 14 of his 16 in the last 12 minutes of the game. In addition to his scoring, Beal ranks as the top rebounding guard in the conference and he credits Billy Donovan for making him work on his dedication to rebounding, “It’s always in my mind, because I always get on myself because I’m like, ‘Dang, I need to rebound or coach is going to get on me,’” Beal said. “Coach has always been hectic on me about going to rebound, going to rebound. I’ve just been trying to take that into my mentality and try my best to rebound.”
  4. In his weekly teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury offered up some positive news on freshman DeVille Smith who had missed the Bulldogs’ last four games and was hospitalized for headaches, dizziness and memory loss for the second time this season. Stansbury said Smith returned to school on Monday, but was not ready to project when Smith might return to the team.  “Right now I’m not even concerned about the basketball part of it,” he said. “That’s not even a concern, when he’ll play. I have no idea when that’ll happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
  5. By virtue of a loss at LSU, special contributor Jerry Palm placed Arkansas as one of his “Weekend Losers” as the Razorbacks fell to 0-6 on the road. Arkansas has only one more road game against a top-100 opponent, its season finale at Mississippi State, but they can get off the schneid on Wednesday in Athens against Georiga.
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ATB: Border War non-RTC, Is It a Duke Loss If Nobody Noticed, and Melo Returns to Syracuse…

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. Forget the Super Bowl, it’s Rivalry Week across the college basketball nation… On Saturday, it was a Border War to remember, followed by a Sunday battle for bragging rights in Michigan, and we have a whole slew of great rivalry games coming up this week. From Florida-Kentucky to Duke-Carolina to Syracuse-Georgetown to even Gonzaga-St. Mary’s and Creighton-Wichita State, center stage is now ours. For the next 35 days until Selection Sunday, games will count a little more than they did before as teams position themselves for the postseason. And for that guy who says the college basketball regular season doesn’t matter? Remind him of three of the last five Super Bowl champions — one 9-7 team and two 10-6 teams won it all, while a 16-0 and a 15-1 team ended up ringless. This is why we play the games.

Your Watercooler Moment. The “Last” Border War in Columbia Goes to Missouri.

Marcus Denmon Motions At Students To Stay Put (credit: The Dagger/J. Eisenberg)

The storylines coming out of the “last” Border War game in Columbia, Missouri, on Saturday night were compelling — Game of the Year type of stuff. Even beyond the hyperbole about marauding Jayhawkers, divorced families and the finality of it all (we’ll wager the two schools are playing regularly again within five years), the game itself captured the essence of college basketball rivalry better than any other we’ve seen this year. Both Kansas and Missouri are outstanding teams, filled with playmakers on each side who are, depending on the day, equal parts dominant and confounding. For parts of the game, Kansas’ favorite whipping boy, Tyshawn Taylor, appeared the best player on the floor — driving the ball with confidence for a 21-point, highly efficient 9-15 shooting game; but it was his late-game mistakes that again cost his team when it mattered most. A turnover followed by two big misses at the foul line with KU down only one point leading to an admittedly questionable charge call, again punctuate his bugaboos (inconsistency and turnovers, especially in the clutch), issues that will haunt Jayhawk fans long after he’s gone. His counterpart on the Missouri side, Marcus Denmon, had backslid considerably from his scorching nonconference start (34.3% against Big 12 competition), but for the first time in his career against Bill Self’s team, he played a focused and effective game, going for 29/9 on 10-16 shooting and singlehandedly leading the Tigers back from the brink of a crushing home defeat. The senior guard dropped a one-man 9-0 run on the Jayhawks in the span of just over a minute, first with a layup and-one, then with back-to-back dagger treys, to erase KU’s eight-point lead with two minutes to go and put the Tigers in position to win the game with just under a minute left. KU’s Thomas Robinson (25/13) was once again the best player on the floor, but it was Denmon’s leadership and poise under pressure against the Jayhawks that made all the difference. His attitude at the end of the game says it all — he and fellow senior Kim English reportedly instructed the student section to stay in its seats rather than flooding the court in a massive RTC. With age comes wisdom, and his position is correct — elite teams only rush the court under very circumscribed conditions, and the Missouri seniors did not want their accomplishment sullied by giving Kansas the pleasure. At the end of the day, the Tigers still have a couple of major flaws that they have to mask (notably, interior size and a porous defense), but with playmakers like Denmon, English, Flip Pressey and a team that believes in itself, we expect that the dream season will continue in Columbia deep into March under first-year head coach Frank Haith.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • Fab Melo Returns, Boeheim Ties Dean Smith For Third in Wins. Sophomore Syracuse center probably doesn’t know who Dean Smith is, but maybe with his extra tutelage over the last two weeks, he found time to learn some college basketball history as well. On Saturday, though, he helped his coach Jim Boeheim make history with his 879th win as he contributed a career-high 14 points in his first game back from suspension and again anchored the patented SU 2-3 zone as the Orange destroyed St. John’s from start to finish at Madison Square Garden. Boeheim’s squad had struggled through a road loss to Notre Dame and two close wins at Cincinnati and West Virginia while Melo was out of the lineup, but if Saturday’s performance with him back is any indication, Syracuse may be looking at a one-loss regular season (and Boeheim could catch Bob Knight’s 902 wins as soon as next December).
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SEC Set Your TiVo: 02.04.12

Posted by EMoyer on February 4th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Vanderbilt @ #11 Florida – 1:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The best of a so-so weekend in the SEC lost a little bit of luster after Vanderbilt lost at Arkansas on Tuesday. As it still stands, the winner moves into second place in conference standings. Vanderbilt would tie Florida at 6-2 with a win, conversely the Gators could take a two-game lead on the Commodores with the home victory.
  • Saturday represents the first of two meetings between the Gators and Commodores. Each of the previous three seasons have resulted in season sweeps. The Gators won twice in 2008-09; Vanderbilt took both meetings in 2009-10 while Florida won both regular-season meetings and eliminated the Commodores in an SEC Championship semifinal contest as season ago.
  • This contest features the reigning SEC Player of the Week (Jeffery Taylor) and Freshman of the Week (Bradley Beal) and four of the top seven scorers in the conference. Additionally, the Gators and Commodores rank first and second, respectively, in three-pointers made and in three-point percentage.
  • The Gators are one of two SEC schools undefeated at home (Kentucky) and Vanderbilt has the second-best road record in the conference at 4-2. Could the experienced-laden Commodores steal a key SEC road win after letting one get away on Tuesday? In their six losses, Commodore opponents have shot almost 39% from the three-point arc as compared to 31.5% in their 16 wins.

Ole Miss @ Alabama – 8:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • A pair of teams squarely on the NCAA bubble square off in Tuscaloosa. Both teams enter fresh as neither has played since Saturday. Alabama ended a three-game slide by beating Arkansas. Ole Miss owns a pair of quality conference wins (Arkansas, Mississippi State) but an overtime loss at Auburn will remains a stain on the résumé.
  • The Crimson Tide have dominated the Rebels at home, winning 70 of the 80 contests.
  • The Tide’s defense remains one of the top in the nation by allowing a scant 57.9 points per game this season,the ninth-best average in the nation and the best in the SEC. Only seven Alabama opponents have even reached the 60-point mark this season and four have failed to score 50 points. The Crimson Tide has held their opponents  to just a 37.3% field goal percentage, the sixth lowest in the country. Ole Miss more than holds its own at the defensive end, holding opponents to 39.4% shooting and the Rebels are 11-2 when holding their opposition to less than 40% shooting.
  • History says Alabama is the right choice in this game. In addition to their home dominance, the Crimson Tide are 27-2 in their last 29 games at Coleman Coliseum.

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SEC Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 27th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele knows his role on the team, as do his teammates and coaches. “I’ve always said that Jalen (Steele) is the one guy that does something different on this basketball team,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He is capable of doing what he did, jump up and make shots. He’s the one guy, if you ask me what his role is — it is to make shots.” And that is exactly what Steele did on Wednesday night against LSU. While the Bulldogs were just five of 14 from beyond the arc, Steele contributed to more than half of MSU’s outside points going three of four from three-point land. The Bulldogs are solid in the frontcourt, but could use a consistent outside threat as they are fifth in the conference with a 35.3% three-point accuracy. Not bad, but not terribly threatening either. Steele becomes even more valuable for the Bulldogs if he can continue to knock shots down from long range.
  2. LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant was medically cleared to play on Tuesday for his first action since the beginning of January. O’Bryant suffered a fractured hand in practice on January 4, which kept him on the sidelines for five straight games. He saw playing time on Wednesday night against Mississippi State and its formidable frontline of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. And it looks like O’Bryant will need a few more games to get back in the swing of things. He played a solid 20 minutes, but finished with just six points and four rebounds. The key to the game was rebounds, and LSU wasn’t able to keep up with Mississippi State. The Tigers had a 51.4% defensive rebounding percentage and just 21.6% on the offensive end. LSU will need O’Bryant and the rest of the LSU frontcourt to shore up its rebounding to stay competitive in the conference.
  3. With Wednesday’s win over Alabama, South Carolina avoided an 0-5 start in SEC play. It would have been their worst start in the conference since an 0-6 start in 1998-99. Coach Darrin Horn admits his Gamecocks need the kind of atmosphere that was displayed in the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night. “We need our fans,” Horn said. “We need some atmosphere. I appreciate them finally getting up and doing that.” South Carolina also needed a little Bruce Ellington. The sophomore guard hit the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining. He finished with 12 points for the Gamecocks, but more importantly, appears to be getting into a solid groove as he becomes more comfortable on the basketball court (after playing football for Steve Spurrier through early January). Ellington has averaged 14.5 points and three assists over his last four games, and will need to continue to be a focal point for South Carolina to win another conference game (or two).
  4. After a four game losing streak, Alabama has gone from SEC title contender to no longer even a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide’s only win over an RPI top 25 opponent came against Wichita State in mid-November. For a team with an RPI of 40, the problem is that there aren’t too many more opportunities for that big victory. The Tide have Florida and Mississippi State at home, as well as two games against Ole Miss. Anthony Grant‘s squad was left out of last year’s Big Dance because of a low RPI and very few marquee wins. It would be a shame for a team that started out so strong in 2011-12 to meet the same fate. It is, of course, very early to be talking about which teams are in and which ones are out, but isn’t that part of what makes college basketball so fun? However. there won’t be anything fun about March for Grant and company unless Alabama is able to  string together wins in the SEC.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal played poorly over two consecutive games in early January shooting 6-27 without scoring in double figures. After three solid games in a row, Beal says his slump is over. “He’s got a better feel and understanding of when and where shots are coming for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know if he ever really felt comfortable with that. I think he’s getting better at that. I think he’s understanding when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, but he’s not allowing some missed shots or plays that maybe don’t go his way to affect him on the next play.” Even with a couple of difficult games mixed in, Beal has had a terrific first (and maybe only) year for the Gators. He has managed to score 14.1 points per game playing in a backcourt with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Mike Rosario coming off the bench. That is impressive for anyone, but especially a freshman.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 11th, 2012

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