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, CBSSports.com 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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SEC Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 9th, 2012

  1. Much of Kentucky’s championship hopes depend on the progress of Marquis Teague, the freshman point guard who some think is beginning to come into his own. Against South Carolina, Teague scored 17 points and had four assists with just two turnovers. “Yeah, this probably was my best overall game so far,” Teague said. “I was just slowing it down more, looking to get my teammates involved more.” His teammates have taken notice of his improved play. “He’s started listening,” fellow freshman Anthony Davis said. “And when he starts listening, great things start to happen.” UK coach John Calipari must appreciate Teague’s play too, as the freshman tied his career-high with 36 minutes against the Gamecocks. While Teague’s play was much improved, he was coming off two games in which he struggled with four points and four turnovers against Louisville and six points on 2-7 shooting against Arkansas-Little Rock. He has hardly provided consistent play for the Wildcats at their most crucial position.
  2. Speaking of struggling this year, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones has rarely looked like the preseason SEC Player of the Year. In his first SEC game, Jones returned to form by scoring 20 points on 8-9 shooting. “That’s the Terrence Jones we know,” Calipari said. “He took that last three, which made me angry, but short of that I wanted him to get a couple of more rebounds. But I wanted him to get aggressive offensively and make baskets and free throws. …That’s who he is.” While Saturday’s game was a significant improvement for Jones, the sophomore hasn’t recorded a double-double yet this year. Last season, Jones had 13 double-doubles including hitting the mark six times by this point in the year. While Jones finally got going on the offensive end, he grabbed just three rebounds in the game. The Wildcats don’t necessarily need the power forward to score 20 every night, but they definitely need more than three rebounds from him.
  3. Florida freshman Bradley Beal struggled to open up conference play on Saturday. In his SEC debut, Beal shot 4-12 scoring just nine points. He also turned the ball over five times. “With turnovers, that I think he has to get better with that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “But he’s gotta go through it, he’s got to learn. As good and talented as he is, he’s gonna kind of have those ups and downs and he’s gotta learn and grow from it.” Despite the off night, the freshman guard is having a stellar season. Beal is averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Gators. He has failed to reach double figures in scoring in only four games this season, including the last two games.
  4. Arkansas’ “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” turned into “40 minutes of hell” for Mississippi State. Bulldogs’ coach Rick Stansbury admitted the Razorbacks style was difficult to prepare for. “Arkansas is totally different the way they play,” Stansbury said. “It’s just different. You can’t simulate it. It’s different. We didn’t do a very good job guarding it.” The Hogs forced Mississippi State into 18 turnovers on the night, which quickly became the difference in the game. Arkansas scored 23 points off those turnovers, forcing the Dogs to play a much faster pace than they were accustomed. Mississippi State will get another crack at the fast paced play of Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks in the regular season finale on March 3 in Starkville.
  5. Ole Miss continued to struggle as it opened up SEC play with an 81-55 loss against LSU. The Rebels are without their leading scorer and leading rebounder as Dundrecous Nelson was kicked off the team for a run in with the law earlier this week while leading rebounder Murphy Holloway is still recovering from a minor injury. Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy doesn’t have excuses though. “It’s easy for us to use excuses, that we lost our leading scorer and our leading rebounder,” Kennedy said. “But that doesn’t, in my mind, justify the inability to compete at an SEC level. In my mind, this team does not compete 1-10. All 10 guys got in the game. All 10 guys have to compete at an SEC level for us to have a chance.” Ole Miss is in somewhat of a free fall after starting out the year at 9-1. Since, the Rebels have lost four of their last five, and in that stretch, have scored more than 56 points in a game just once.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 28th, 2011

  1. SEC Men’s Player of the Week honors went to LSU’s Ralston Turner this week for his impressive play in beating 10th ranked Marquette. He scored 22 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting. For the week, Turner averaged 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and one steal per game. Florida’s Bradley Beal took home another SEC Freshman of the Week award for his 21-point performance against Florida State. He averaged 17 points, six rebounds, two steals and one assist per game for the week. This was the third time Beal has won the award, which is especially impressive considering the freshmen class in the SEC this year.
  2. Kentucky’s Eloy Vargas is patiently biding his time until he gets an opportunity to play significant minutes for the Wildcats. “Coach is telling me I will get my time to shine,” Vargas said. “I am thinking about the future because some people will be in foul trouble, be hurt or not be tough enough and this is how you will come out for a big game. My chance will come. I just have to be ready for it.” Vargas has accepted his role as a rebounder and defensive presence on Kentucky’s front line. He grabbed seven rebounds against Samford last week while power forward Terrence Jones was out with an injury. Somewhat surprisingly, Vargas is Kentucky’s highest ranked player in both offensive (13.5%) and defensive rebounding (24.5%) percentage.
  3. Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist received a police escort after the Wildcats’ game against Loyola on Thursday to make a flight to be home with his ill mother who was hospitalized on Wednesday evening. Kidd-Gilchrist and Kentucky coach John Calipari decided that he would stay in Lexington to play the game and then go home, but Kidd-Gilchrist says he was thinking about being in New Jersey. “It was hard. I mean, it’s my mother,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “But it’s fine now, so it’s all good.” When you are as talented as Kidd-Gilchrist, perhaps it is easier to mentally check out but still score 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists as he did on Thursday.
  4. Kentucky would like to renew its series with Indiana so long as the series returns to neutral site games. Prior to 2006, the series alternated between Indianapolis and Louisville, and that is UK’s preference at this time. You may remember that the UK head coach has publicly questioned if Kentucky will be able to continue all of its current rivalries. Next year, both Texas A&M and Missouri join the SEC (wait, Missouri DID finally confirm its acceptance into the SEC, right?) and that means that the conference could add additional conference games into the regular season schedule. Calipari hinted that Kentucky will likely drop one of its highly competitive non-conference games (Louisville, North Carolina or Indiana), and it appears that Indiana is not at this time one of the dropped teams.
  5. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin says that SEC teams shouldn’t be sleeping on the Volunteers this season. “You’ve got a team here that’s trying to find it’s way; you can’t overlook anyone,” Martin said. “I don’t think we’ve hit our stride as a unit.” In the Volunteers’ six losses, their largest loss was to Duke in the Maui Invitational by 10. UT has been competitive in every games this year. And help is on the way. Martin expects mid-season signee Jarnell Stokes to qualify academically, and to begin playing immediately. “It’s coming in here, and making sure his conditioning is where it needs to be,” Martin said. “As a coach it’s my responsibility to put him in situations where he can be successful. So you see where he does well and what his strengths are. He’s hungry to play.” Stokes is the 14th ranked prospect in RSCI’s Class of 2012 rankings, and is sure to help the Vols overcome many of these close losses. While Tennessee may still finish near the bottom of the conference standings, it would be short-sighted to think the Vols won’t pull a major upset or two in conference play.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 21st, 2011

  1. “The Breakfast Club” has started at the University of Kentucky, and this version has nothing to do with Molly Ringwald. Without class or other obligations to worry about over the holiday break, several players have taken it upon themselves to lift weights, eat breakfast together, and practice for the remainder of the morning. “Michael Jordan did that Breakfast Club,” head coach John Calipari said. “They met at 6 a.m., they trained, they stretched, they had a personal trainer and then they ate breakfast and then they went to practice. They did it every day, including game day. So we have four guys doing it right now. Hopefully, a couple more guys will step up and start doing the breakfast club.” While Calipari declined at first to say who the four were, he did say, “It is a good group of guys and the guys that you expect to be in it are in it. Hopefully, the other guys will join in and do it.” Kentucky beat Samford on Tuesday night and will play again on Thursday night against Loyola (Md). The Wildcats are hoping the hard work and extra effort will pay off before next week’s showdown against Louisville on New Year’s Eve.
  2. Florida freshman Bradley Beal is becoming more comfortable on the court, and that is a bad sign for opposing defenses that felt Beal has scored points at ease 11 games into his college career. “I’m not as nervous as I was,” Beal said. “Basically, it’s starting to come natural and I’m playing within the flow of the game, not really forcing anything. Just relaxing and enjoying the flow of the game.” Beal is averaging 15 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, but is only shooting 33.9% from beyond the arc. If Beal settles into the college game, and improves his shooting averages (45.8 FG% and 69.4 FT%), he could be a superstar in the Gators’ backcourt. Beal has plenty of competition for shots as guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker average 18.7 and 14.5 points per game respectively.
  3. After starting out as one of the hottest teams in the country, Alabama has lost three of its last four games. However, a tough non-conference schedule will benefit the Tide in the long run. “I don’t think it can do anything but help us,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “We’ve been faced with a lot of different styles of play, a lot of different challenges in terms of matchups and things that we’ve had to go against both offensively and defensively. Any time you play against quality competition, it can’t do anything but help you.” But the Tide’s three-point shooting won’t improve simply from playing better competition. The Tide are shooting a dismal 24.4% from beyond the arc, only making an average of three long distance shots per game. Its three-point shooting has to get better for Alabama to move past this losing streak.
  4. Florida may be a little under-manned in its game with Florida State on Thursday. Mike Rosario and Cody Larson, both of whom missed the Gators’ victory over Mississippi Valley State, are doubtful. “I would say that probably both those guys are doubtful. Could that change? Yes,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m not ready to say that they’re not playing, but Mike’s back has flared up and Cody’s got strep throat so we’re probably not going to find anymore out, probably until see what happens in practice on Wednesday.” Rosario is averaging 9.4 points per game while Larson is scoring 1.3 per game. The Gators won last year’s match-up with FSU 55-51 in Tallahassee. Florida hasn’t lost a home game in the O’Connell Center since a 72-69 loss to South Carolina on January 15, 2011.
  5. Kentucky’s freshman walk-on Sam Malone suffered a torn ACL in the team’s win over UT Chattanooga on Saturday. Calipari tweeted Tuesday afternoon with his thoughts on the guard. “Losing Sam Malone to an ACL injury is heartbreaking,” Calipari said. “He has been a great teammate and an even better person. You never want to hear someone is injured, but for Sam to go through his fourth knee injury is especially tough because he’s worked so hard to get where he is. He has become a valuable member of our team and quickly became a fan favorite. We look forward to Sam making a full recovery.” Malone has quickly become a fan favorite in Lexington for his fearlessness in firing up shots late in blowout wins. There is no word yet on when or if Malone will be able to return.
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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 14th, 2011

Gerald Smith (@fakegimel) is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference. 

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • That’s Why You’re Mad: Kentucky was seeing red on Saturday as they dropped a game to Indiana. Coaches across the country (especially in the SEC) had a good look at the blueprint to upset Big Blue: Hot outside shooting, strong post play, and good interior defensive positioning to take charges on driving Wildcats. Much has been made about Terrence Jones‘ malaise and Marquis Teague‘s resurgence. Although the Wildcats have plenty of time to lick their wounds the pride of being the last undefeated SEC team was trampled by the Hoosier faithful rushing their court.
  • Desperately Seeking 3-Goggles: Another SEC power-team also had its pride damaged last week. Dayton exploited Alabama’s weakness — awful three-point shooting — to pull off a 74-62 upset. Though the Crimson Tide’s next game yielded a better result (64-52 win over Detroit), the three-point shooting woes continued (2-15 vs. Detroit, 10-58 the last four games). Coach Anthony Grant was counting on one or more of his freshmen guards — Trevor Lacey, Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph — to provide the outside shooting. None of them have risen to the challenge yet. Alabama will be particularly vulnerable to upsets from streaky-shooting teams until they find a solution to their outside shooting woes.

The Iron Has Been Unkind To Trevor Lacey's Three-point Shooting. (Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE)

  • Big: A pleasant surprise in the SEC this season has been the play of Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie. The transfer from UTEP, averaging 17.1 PPG and 11.2 RPG, is exceeding the expectations set for him. Unfortunately the 6’11” forward is battling with knee tendinitis. He has missed three games for the Bulldogs, including yesterday’s 75-68 victory over FAU. Moultrie will hopefully be ready for Mississippi State’s next series of games which include two away games, including a tilt at #6 Baylor.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 13th, 2011

  1. The Florida Gators swept the SEC Player of the Week awards this week. Center Patric Young averaged 18.5 points and 10 rebounds as he was named SEC Player of the Week. Young had a double-double in both games this week against Arizona and Rider. Great things happen when the Gator guards feed the low post as evidenced by Young’s 77.3% shooting from the field. Bradley Beal was named SEC Freshman of the Week as he averaged 13.5 points, five rebounds and two assists per game. Beal put up 18 points and four rebounds in the Gators’ blowout win over Rider. This is the second time this season that Beal has won the award.
  2. After a third consecutive loss, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin is considering changes to the starting lineup for the Volunteers going into Wednesday’s battle with the College of Charleston. Some Tennessee starters may be playing themselves out of the rotation for not buying into the defensive philosophy of Martin. “We’re definitely looking into it as we speak,’’ Martin said. “You look at every scenario. For us, we have to have a defensive mind-set, and I don’t know if we have that right now.’’ The Volunteers allowed Austin Peay to shoot 72% from the field in the second half on their way to their fifth loss of the season. Martin’s defense is allowing a 51.3 eFG% (254th in the nation) and has an adjusted defensive efficiency of 99.2 (162nd in the nation).
  3. Speaking of the Volunteers’ clash with the College of Charleston, Tennessee is looking at this game as a must-win situation. The Vols have lost three in a row coming into tomorrow’s game. On top of that, the Cougars beat Tennessee 91-78 last year in Knoxville. “Losing three straight, we have to get this win,” center Kenny Hall said. “We also remember them coming in and dominating us last year.” Martin’s squad is in need of a confidence-building win, and a win over CofC might do the trick. College of Charleston is 7-1 coming into the rematch with the Vols, with 6’7″ forward Antwaine Wiggins averaging 17.4 PPG.
  4. Alabama’s Anthony Grant is looking for more consistency from his young Crimson Tide team. The Tide raced out to a 38-16 lead over Detroit on Saturday only to allow the Titans to scratch back into the game in the second half. Alabama eventually won by eight points, but Grant was looking for more. “We’ve got to learn to maintain that focus and energy over the course of a 40-minute game regardless of a score or how things are going for us individually,” he said. “We’ve had spurts that lasted longer than they did tonight. We’ve got to figure out how to put that together for 40 minutes.” In the second half, Bama was limited to 35% shooting and were forced into nine turnovers, getting out-scored 32-24 in the second 20 minutes of action.
  5. There was no doubt that something was wrong with Kentucky’s Terrence Jones on Saturday in the Wildcats’ one-point loss against Indiana. It was mentioned here yesterday in the SEC M5. And now several experts, including Dick Vitale, are weighing in on what was wrong with Jones. “I can understand kids having a bad game. Not scoring. Maybe forcing turnovers. I cannot understand not playing aggressively, and he didn’t play aggressively in a very emotional [game]. The kid has to look in the mirror,” Vitale said. “There’s no question he let his teammates down. It’s not about putting up numbers. I have no problem with that. I have a problem if you’re not playing hard.” Jones took only three shots the entire game (scoring four points), but it was his defensive effort that forced John Calipari to relegate him to the bench for good with three minutes remaining in a close game on the road. Kentucky dropped to #3 in both national polls on Monday, although the Wildcats only fell to #2 in the RTC Top 25.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona at Florida

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2011

While Washington has a couple of big challenges this week in New York City, we’ve chosen Arizona’s trip to Florida as the Pac-12 game of the week, largely for the contrast in styles and the expectation that these Wildcats are getting close to turning it on. There were high expectations for the freshman backcourt duo of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson coming into the season, with both players regarded as top 25 recruits. But, as is often the case, both players took some time adjusting to their new surroundings. Johnson has had some ups and down, but has been a pretty consistent scorer for the Wildcats, averaging 10.8 points per game and earning his first start of the season a week ago against New Mexico State. The odds are good that he may never leave the starting five again. Turner, meanwhile, started the opener against Valparaiso, but lost his job to sophomore Jordin Mayes. Just yesterday, however, Sean Miller was hinting that Turner could earn his way back into the starting lineup as early as tonight’s game. Of course, that was all before Turner missed the final practice before the team’s trip to Gainesville and was suspended. With Turner out, sophomore Mayes will retain his starting spot and be called upon to put in plenty of extra minutes against a talented Gator backcourt.

Kenny Boynton, Florida

Kenny Boynton Has Been Hot For Florida And Arizona Will Need To Cool Him Down To Stand A Chance (Credit: Kim Klement, US Presswire)

Even with Turner in the backcourt, the Wildcats were bound to have their hands full with Florida’s athletic and dymanic quartet of guards: Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Bradley Beal. All four are capable of knocking down shots from increasingly improbable range, while sure to keep the defense honest with a quickness off the bounce that could earn them easy hoops in the lane or free throw opportunities. Boynton has been criticized at times for being a little too loose with his shot selection, but so far this year he has been knocking down shots at such a high rate (47.3% from three, with an effective shooting percentage of 65.9%) that his green light from Gator coach Billy Donovan has been justified. Walker, the senior point guard, is playing the best ball of his career thus far, handing out assists on over 30% of his team’s hoops while he’s in the game, and knocking down his own shots at a pretty good clip as well (56.6% eFG). Then there’s the freshman, Beal, who may be the best of all of them, despite struggling with his shot at Syracuse this past weekend. A major bonus out of the 6’3” Beal has been his ability to rebound with the big boys while often playing out of position at the three, grabbing double-digit rebounds three times in his seven games and averaging seven rebounds per game.

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