Morning Five: 01.06.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 6th, 2014

morning5

  1. After pleading guilty to third-degree felony marijuana possession charges on Friday, Utah State star Jarred Shaw was reinstated to the team. Shaw, who was arrested on December had missed five games before his reinstatement. Prior to his arrest and suspension, Shaw was leading the team in points (16.1), rebounds (7.8), and blocks (1.4) per game so this is clearly huge news for the Aggies. The Aggies actually did fairly well during their time without Shaw as they went 4-1 with their only loss coming by one point on the road at Air Force. With Shaw back, they should be competitive with anybody in the Mountain West.
  2. Few college basketball players have been as injury-prone as LIU-Brooklyn star Julian Boyd, who tore his ACL again in non-contact drill the day after Christmas. This injury, which is Boyd’s third, is expected to end Boyd’s college career. Boyd, who was the 2012 NEC Player of the Year, first injured his knee on December 12, 2012 and then re-injured it in July. According to the school, Boyd was close to coming back before his latest setback. While his college career appears to be over, perhaps Boyd, who was averaging 18.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season before injuring his knee, might have a career overseas if he can ever get healthy
  3. Over the weekend our SEC microsite talked about South Carolina’s resurgence. Now they will have try to maintain that without the services of Bruce Ellington, who has opted to forgo his final season of college basketball eligibility to focus on the NFL Draft. Ellington, a two-sport star at South Carolina, averaged 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists as a freshman in the 2010-11 season, but has seen his production drop each season as he has spent more time focusing on football. This season, he only played three games (between the end of the regular season and the football team’s bowl game) averaging 5.7 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 rebounds per game. Ellington is reportedly a top-20 wide receiver prospect so it certainly makes sense for him to focus on football at this point and not risk an injury playing basketball.
  4. Mitch McGary will undergo back surgery tomorrow, which is expected to keep him out for the rest of the season. As we stated last week the school’s official position is that McGary is “out indefinitely,” but it seems like everybody expects him to be out for the season. In fact, given McGary’s potential NBA future bringing him back this season might even be negligent. For the Wolverines, McGary’s surgery means the end of their hopes of making a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, but they still have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament.
  5. It didn’t take very long for Indiana transfer Luke Fischer to find a new home as the former Hoosier has decided to transfer to Marquette. Fischer, who grew up about 30 minutes away from the Marquette campus, only averaged 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 13 games this season after coming back from a preseason injury. Unlike nearly every other transfer that we have heard of in the past few years it appears that Fischer will not be applying for a hardship waiver of some sort so he will not be eligible to play until next December after sitting out a year.
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Bruce Ellington’s Presence For South Carolina Makes a Difference

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 28th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. He filed this report after Saturday’s South Carolina-Arkansas game in Columbia. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

A 40-11 run enabled South Carolina to erase a big early deficit and then some against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks outrebounded the Razorbacks 42-26. They only turned the ball over five times in the first half. USC even shot almost 60 percent from beyond the arc, but it was something slightly more intangible that led the Gamecocks to a 75-54 victory over Arkansas. Point guard Bruce Ellington’s leadership in the huddle and on the court gave Frank Martin’s squad the boost it needed to succeed. Football has limited Ellington’s ability to spend quality practice time with his team, but he’s doing a lot of catching up now.

Bruce Ellington's return is paying huge dividends for South Carolina.

Bruce Ellington’s return is paying huge dividends for South Carolina.

Down 15-3 with 15:39 left in the first half, Martin turned to his team during the first media timeout and said, “this ain’t good.” And after that, the coach did something he doesn’t often do, he stayed quiet. What happened next could eventually define Martin’s first season in Columbia. “And then Bruce did most of the talking. Just wanted to make sure we stayed on the same page and we’re good.” Ellington played football for Steve Spurrier in the fall before re-joining the Gamecocks’ basketball team last month. He missed valuable practice time, but Martin trusts his leadership skills. “He’s got that personality, he’s got that demeanor. If you’re an athlete and guys have been practicing for three months, you can’t walk in the first day and open your mouth. Now he’s been with us a little while. He’s better understanding what we’re supposed to do.”

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SEC M5: 01.11.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 11th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Kentucky escaped with a 60-58 win over Vanderbilt Thursday night, the Wildcats’ first true road win of the season. The victory wasn’t without controversy however, as Nerlens Noel’s short jumper with 17.3 seconds clearly should have been called a shot-clock violation, leaving Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings incensed and ESPN’s Bobby Knight perplexed. Despite their continued troubles shooting from long range, Kentucky looked to be in top form in the first half, coasting to a double-figure lead at the break. A different team came out of the locker room after halftime, though, appearing passive on the offensive end as Vanderbilt switched to a zone. “They outworked us,” John Calipari said. “They beat us to 50-50 balls, they beat us to rebounds. We were lucky to win the game.”
  2. As it was the only SEC game of the night, I’ll keep rolling on Kentucky-Vanderbilt. The Wildcat offense had an abysmal second half, but the defense wasn’t far behind. The Commodores put up 34 points after the break, or one more than they managed in 40 minutes against Marist. The culprit on the UK side isn’t tough to identify. “You can sit here and sugarcoat it, but you all watched it,” Calipari said. “They went at Kyle [Wiltjer] every single possession I had him in the game. Every single possession.” The shockingly slow stretch forward only provides value on the offensive end, but making only a single field goal in 14 minutes isn’t the type of production that will keep him on the floor. His minutes have been steadily declining throughout the season, and Wiltjer may find himself struggling to stay in the rotation sooner rather than later.
  3. The Los Angeles Athletic Club released its 25 finalists for the Wooden Award, and, as you might have guessed, the SEC’s representation isn’t overly impressive. The conference earned only two nominations, trailing each of the other power conference except for the Pac-12 (completely snubbed). The nominations both come from the same team: Laurence Bowers and Phil Pressey. The Missouri power forward and point guard are deservedly included, and there shouldn’t be much of an argument from the rest of the league that anyone else should have been there. Florida is a well-rounded team without a true standout star, and none of the talented Kentucky freshman have shown the required consistency to be on the short list.
  4. In its first game since receiving confirmation that Jeronne Maymon will miss the entire season with injury, Tennessee had a chance to make an impression as the Vols opened conference play against Ole Miss. The Rebels pack some punch on both ends of the court, but if the Volunteers still consider themselves to be contenders for an NCAA at-large bid, this was the type of home game they needed to win. Of course, Mississippi dominated the game from start to finish, out-rebounding the Vols by 10 boards and leaving Cuonzo Martin’s squad with more questions than answers. Junior guard Jordan McRae and his 26 points were the lone bright spot for the home team, but he realizes how much his team will miss their most experienced big man. “I told Jeronne after the game that if we could just find one guy to get the rebounds he always got,” McRae told Mark Wiedmer of the Times Free Press. “Because he seemed to get every rebound last year.” How can they fix it? Said McRae, “”Well, there isn’t anybody like Jeronne.”
  5. A home win over South Carolina is rarely cause for celebration, but for Mississippi State, dubbed a “public embarrassment” by coach Rick Ray earlier in the week following a loss to Alabama A&M, opening up conference play on a positive note is quite a surprise. “Great to get the first win in SEC. For most of our guys, it’s the first time they’ve experienced SEC basketball,” Ray told reporters after Wednesday’s victory. Mississippi State took advantage of 24 South Carolina turnovers (they rank in the bottom 10 nationally in turnover percentage), as the Gamecocks couldn’t find an answer for the Bulldogs’ 1-3-1 zone. Fred Thomas and Tyson Cunningham were especially impressive on the defensive end, combining for eight steals while forcing USC’s Bruce Ellington into nine turnovers.
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Resetting the SEC Race: A Look at the Seven “East” Teams

Posted by CNguon on January 4th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC Microsite writer and can be found @TrainIsland on Twitter. 

Non-conference play is wrapping up in the Southeastern Conference, and that means that the battle for SEC supremacy is about to begin. We’re two months into the college basketball season, and several teams are vying to be crowned as the SEC’s king. Florida and Missouri have carried the banner early in the season, but a talented program lies in wait in Lexington. Behind them, quietly successful squads like LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Texas A&M are also waiting to prove that their inflated records aren’t just the products of careful scheduling. This week, we’ll break down how each member of the SEC has started its 2012-13 campaigns, who their key players may be going forward, and whether they can carry their current pace into conference play. Today, we’ll start by looking at the conference known during football season as the SEC East:

Florida – Flaws May be Surfacing; The Gators are 2-2 after a 7-0 Start

  • The Good: The Gators have shown off a balanced attack and are playing great team defense to start their season. Opponents are shooting woefully against them, averaging just 52 points per game through Florida’s first 11 match-ups. No team has scored more than 67 points against UF so far in 2012-13. Kenny Boynton is still around and doing Kenny Boynton things. This can be recorded as either as positive or a negative for the Gators. He’s leading the team in scoring and swagger, but like a 6’2” Antoine Walker he’s shooting over six three-pointers per game and making fewer than 30 percent of them. He’s regressed since a strong junior season, but he’s still clearly this team’s general when it comes down to on-court leadership.

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

  • The Bad: Florida’s balance comes at the expense of not having an alpha dog to take over in tight situations. Boynton’s poor shooting tempers his status as a go-to player, while Erik Murphy and Patric Young have yet to prove themselves as consistent threats when the pressure is on. This is something that could fluster coach Billy Donovan when conference play brings more high-pressure situations.
  • Player to Watch: Erik Murphy. Murphy, the pride of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, has come into his own as a senior, shooting a stellar 57 percent from the field and 45 percent from long range. The 6’10” forward is an inside-out presence who can stretch opposing defenses and use his length to provide passable defense in the interior. His ability to draw defenders away from the hoop helps provide openings for a strong backcourt led by Boynton and Rosario. If he can maintain this level of play, he’ll give the Gators plenty of options on offense.
  • Can it Last? Yes, but… the Gators have been solid and have the talent to make a deep postseason run, but recent losses bring this team’s makeup and stability into question. Florida gave up the comeback of the 2012-13 season so far when turnovers and a missed Boynton free throw helped Arizona overcome a six-point deficit with 57 seconds left in the game. Two games later, they couldn’t get past a sneaky-good Kansas State team in Kansas City. The Gators have all the strength they need to get past the SEC’s lower-level teams, but they’ve still got to prove that they can handle the best the conference has to offer. Their reign at the top of the conference may be short lived.

Missouri – Their Talent Has Led to a 10-2 Record, But Can They Continue to Play as a Team?

  • The Good: Laurence Bowers has returned stronger than ever from last season’s ACL tear, and a Missouri team filled with transfers have helped place the Tigers among the NCAA’s elite in 2013. Jabari Brown (Oregon), Alex Oriakhi (UConn), Earnest Ross (Auburn), and Keion Bell (Pepperdine) have all played well in their new hometown of Columbia, Missouri. The Tigers have nine players that have earned 10 minutes per game or more this year; of those, only Phil Pressey suited up for Mizzou in 2011-12. Point guard Pressey has proven to be an excellent distributor, leading the SEC with 7.3 assists per game. He sprung for an insane 19-of-19 line against UCLA in an overtime loss and has stepped forward as this team’s leader out of the backcourt. Oriakhi has been just as good at Mizzou as he had been at UConn, and Brown has shown off the chops that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school. A talented roster has given this team a potent inside-out attack and the depth to hang with any opponent they’ll face in 2013. Additionally, they lead the NCAA in rebounds through a dozen games this season, pulling down 47.4 per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 4th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Tennessee’s premier non-conference rivalry continues today when Memphis travels to Thompson-Boling Arena to take on the Vols. The match-up will bring an eight-year contract between the schools to a close, and with the two schools unable to come to an agreement for future games, we may not see these in-state rivals face each other in the near future. It’s a shame really, as Tennessee-Memphis has been one of the most exciting rivalries in recent years. Bruce Pearl and John Calipari were instrumental in reigniting the rivalry, but even with new coaches Cuonzo Martin and Josh Pastner now on board, the two schools have remained competitive. Last November, in an unplanned game in the Maui Invitational, Memphis held off the Vols in double overtime in what turned out to be one of the most memorable early games of the season. A renewal of this rivalry seems unlikely in the near future, but we can always hope.
  2. John Calipari acknowledges his team’s occasional lack of effort. A special freshman class can break the mold (i.e., his 2011 class), but a group of stars coming from the high school ranks frequently struggles with motivation. How does Calipari combat this problem? Cold hard numbers. The UK training staff is employing a device (the specifics of which have not been disclosed) that gives them “the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time. Because we are able to read their heart rates, now we know who is maxing out in practice and who is hiding, who thinks they’re going hard and who isn’t, who is able to push themselves through pain, and who has mental toughness to be special.” Interesting.
  3. Auburn basketball. Anyone care to explain? I sure can’t. The Tigers have been a conference bottom-feeder for years, but at least one conference prognosticator (OK… me) thought that the Tigers would experience at least a mild renaissance this season. However, after a 2-5 start that included losses to Boston College and Rhode Island, I’d lost faith. However (yes, another “however”, it’s appropriate), the Tigers might have turned things around. Tony Barbee’s squad traveled to Chicago over the weekend and almost pulled off a massive upset over the 12th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini, and in their non-conference finale, the Tigers upset Florida State, a talented team despite not meeting its own preseason expectations. Auburn is entering SEC play on a high note, and with a relatively soft opening conference schedule, the Tigers will look to compile some momentum before matching up against the SEC’s elite.
  4. A quick look at its non-conference schedule shows UCLA as Missouri’s last quality opponent, but true college basketball connoisseurs will note that Bucknell shouldn’t be counted as one of the Tiger’s cupcakes. The SEC is in an obvious down year, but the newcomers from Columbia have made an impression in the young season. Despite the loss of a key contributor in shooting guard Michael Dixon, the Tigers still have arguably the nation’s top point guard in Phil Pressey, who shouldn’t have much of a problem dominating the weak defenses that populate much of the SEC. A home-and-home with Florida and a trip to Rupp Arena loom large, but Missouri boasts the quality of talent to become the conference’s premier team in its first season.
  5. We’re about a third of the way through the college basketball season, and South Carolina sits in the top half of the SEC. Impressive, right? Maybe not, if you look at the schedule. The Gamecocks have lost only three games to this point, but when your most impressive win is at home against Rider (ranked 207th by Ken Pomeroy), you take that record with a massive block of salt. The Gamecocks will be looking to establish more of a trustworthy record as we approach the SEC season, but in their last  non-conference game, they’ll be without several key contributors against South Carolina State over the weekend. Second-leading scorer Lashay Page, Outback Bowl hero Bruce Ellington, and freshman forward Michael Carrera will watch Saturday’s game from the sidelines, but as the Bulldogs rank 346th of 347 teams (according to Mr. Pomeroy), we won’t be surprised to see South Carolina escape without any trouble.
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SEC Power Rankings: Week Three

Posted by KAlmekinder on December 5th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Week Three’s SEC Power Rankings:

Is there a clear explanation for Kentucky’s back-to-back losses?

  1. Florida - The Gators just keep winning with one key reason: an evenly spread, highly efficient offense. Of the two marquee match-ups Florida has had so far this season, they have won against then-#22 Wisconsin by 18 points, and most recently, against a regularly tough Marquette squad, 82-49. The Gators are averaging nearly 74 points a game on 47% shooting (36% from beyond the arc). In the win over the Golden Eagles last week, six Gators, including three off the bench, posted double figure points while shooting over 50% from the field. Florida’s chemistry and rhythm has led them to the top of the SEC Power Rankings and a top six ranking in the national polls.
  2. Missouri - With most of the attention involving Missouri is focused on Michael Dixon leaving the team, the Tigers have been able to focus on winning with their other personnel. The key to Missouri’s quick turnaround has been forward Laurence Bowers, making his presence known this year after missing last season due to injury. Bowers posted a season high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the Tigers’ win over Appalachian State last Saturday, including 3-for-3 from long distance. With no other difficult match-up until the annual “Braggin’ Rights” showdown versus Illinois later this month, Missouri should remain near the top of the Power Rankings.
  3. Alabama - A narrow 58-56 loss to #17 Cincinnati showed Alabama’s true colors earlier this week. The Tide rallied from 13 down to only lose on a Cashmere Wright fadeaway at the buzzer. Alabama could have used another efficient night from guard Trevor Releford (5-15 shooting, only 12 points), but a loss to a ranked Cincinnati team tested Anthony Grant’s club the entire night and proved that they have the ability to rally when needed. Both Dayton (5-2) and VCU (5-3) come to Tuscaloosa in the next few weeks for another couple of solid tests for the Tide.
  4. Ole Miss - Ole Miss has quietly risen through the rankings because of its own success and the failures of others. Kentucky’s losses (discussed below) have paved the way for an undefeated Rebels squad to a top four position in the SEC Power Rankings. While Ole Miss’ schedule can be considered weak, they have still yet to lose a game. Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in points per game and sixth in rebounds per game. The next test, the Rebs’ first true road game at Middle Tennessee State, will show the rest of the league if they are better than people think. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.29.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 29th, 2012

  1. In the constant juggling of priorities for South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington as a dual-sport athlete, basketball finally is on his mind, at least for now. Ellington, a wide receiver for Steve Spurrier’s gridiron Gamecocks, closed out the regular season last weekend in a win over in-state rival Clemson and is now available to practice with his basketball teammates. Coach Frank Martin spoke to Spurrier on Tuesday regarding Ellington’s situation of practice and travel until football practice begins for bowl preparation. “I’m pretty sure Bruce is going to travel with us,” said Martin. “Whether he’ll play or not, I don’t know.”
  2. We have witnessed over the last two seasons the games-on-battleships idea grow but only with marginal success. While the opportunity to honor our troops and the excitement to play in more exotic locations has far exceeded our expectations, the execution of games has been subpar, to say the least. The idea has resulted in two games called off so far in its career — one of those, the Florida-Georgetown game stopped at halftime due to excessive moisture on the court on November 9 — will not be rescheduled. The two schools could not agree on a future date this season to resume the game due to too many pre-existing scheduling issues. Florida offered a few dates around the New Year’s holiday when both schools were free, but Georgetown did not want to play another high-profile game before opening Big East play versus Marquette on January 5.
  3. Let’s get caught up on the mess that is conference realignment. Last week’s news featured both Maryland and Rutgers leaving the ACC and Big East, respectively, for the Big Ten. This week, Louisville has already joined the ACC, and there are still moves that could be made. One scenario suggests that if Florida State and Clemson both eventually decide to join the Big 12, the SEC could target league cornerstones North Carolina and Duke to complete its 16-team conference. An ACC source said both UNC and Duke have been chased “by the SEC for the past three years” and would then decide between them and the Big Ten. If chosen, those two possible additions would catapult the SEC to the premiere basketball conference in the country.
  4. As Kentucky’s Ryan Harrow returns to the court after his bout with a mysterious illness and a trip back home, head coach John Calipari isn’t ready to give him the reins at point guard spot quite yet. On Wednesday, Calipari stated that Archie Goodwin will continue to command the point guard duties until otherwise stated because “Archie has earned it.” Calipari, while challenging Harrow to compete and earn his starting position back, is still excited for the opportunity to play both guards on the court at the same time and stated “that is a good thing.”
  5. While Florida is facing a brutal three-game stretch ahead (vs. Marquette, at Florida State, at #9 Arizona), most of their medical and emotional attention is focused on forward Casey Prather,  who suffered two concussions in a nine-day span last week. After a complete diagnosis of the injuries, Prather has been forced by the Gators’ medical staff to wear a padded sparring-like helmet as a preventive measure in practices. Coach Billy Donovan and the head athletic trainer are unsure if the helmet will be worn by Prather for the remainder of the season but they will continue to monitor Prather’s prognosis throughout the year.
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SEC M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 9th, 2012

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

Posted by Brian Joyce on August 20th, 2012

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

State of the Program

Last season couldn’t have been much worse for South Carolina. USC suffered early season losses to Elon, Tennessee State, Southern California, and Providence, and got a dose of high level basketball with a 25-point loss to North Carolina and a 34-point defeat to Kentucky. Things didn’t get any easier for the Gamecocks as they struggled to stay competitive all season. Coach Darrin Horn’s squad won just two games in conference play, and were eliminated in the first round of the SEC Tournament. However, there were a couple of bright spots as the season went on. Leading scorer Malik Cooke developed into a consistent threat, averaging 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Forwards Damontre Harris and Anthony Gill progressed throughout the year, finishing up the season with offensive rebounding percentages of 10.8% and 9.0%, respectively. But after the season, a shakeup was inevitable. Horn was fired. Cooke graduated. Harris and Gill transferred. South Carolina basketball reached a low point, and digging it out of its deep hole seemed impossible. Enter Frank Martin.

Frank Martin changes everything for the Gamecocks

Hope and excitement throughout Columbia was restored. Martin won at least 21 games in each of his five seasons as the head coach at Kansas State. He took four of those teams to the NCAA Tournament, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. How athletic director Eric Hyman lured Martin to South Carolina we will never know, but Martin is there to begin an epic rebuilding job. He inherits a team that hasn’t been to the Big Dance since 2004, and there’s not much talent to work with this season. It’s hard to imagine Martin not making progress over the next couple of years, but it’s also difficult to envision that happening this season.

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Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2012

  1. Frank Martin was introduced as the new head coach at South Carolina yesterday. We are usually indifferent on most coaching hires because they are usually involve hiring successful coaches from lower-tier programs, unsuccessful coaches from higher-tier programs, or unproven assistant coaches. It is rare to get a successful coach from a higher-tier program, but South Carolina managed to do it. Overall, it appears to be one of the better hires that we can remember at least as of the time of the hiring although Martin will have to deal with the some very strong programs around him. Martin will also have to deal with a program and a culture where one of the team’s star players, Bruce Ellington, cannot decide which sport he wants to play.
  2. John Currie, the athletic director at Kansas State, was quick to refute the growing speculation that a rift between he and Martin was a driving force in Martin’s decision to head to South Carolina. Currie was busy yesterday not only starting a search for a new coach and denying that his relationship with Martin was the driving force behind Martin’s decision, but also reporting that the evidence behind the school’s suspension of Jamar Samuels before the team’s game against Syracuse was that somebody found the wire transfer receipt in  the garbage. As several people have pointed out this report seems a little strange and there has been plenty of speculation that it was a ploy to help drive Martin out without having to face the wrath of boosters. We are not sure we believe that either, but it certainly has been an interesting few days in Manhattan, Kansas
  3. As we noted on Twitter yesterday we have seen athletes do a lot of dumb things with social media/networking, but Jonathan Holton appears to have taken it to another level. The Rhode Island freshman was arrested yesterday morning after reportedly posting unauthorized videos of sexual encounters with two female students onto his Facebook page. Holton, who is facing two felony counts and up to three years in prison along with a $5,000 fine, was released and warned not to contact the two alleged victims. We suspect this is not the type of start that Dan Hurley wanted when he took over the job at Rhode Island.
  4. C.J. McCollum is using his phenomenal performance against Duke as a sign to take his talents to the next level and he will enter his name into the NBA Draft. The Lehigh junior guard will not hire an agent for now, which will allow him the ability to withdraw from the Draft by April 10. If you are looking for an eventual source for whether or not McCollum stays in the Draft, you might want to check out The Brown and White, the Lehigh online student paper, which McCollum, a journalism major writes for. Surprisingly, McCollum did not release the story to his paper first and instead went through the school’s athletic department. We cannot give C.J. much direct advice on the court, but in the journalism industry it is generally a good idea to break your own stories rather than giving it away to other sources. Another junior, Georgetown‘s Hollis Thompson, will be entering the Draft and plans to sign with an agent. Thompson, who put him name in last year before pulling out, is making an interesting decision because unlike McCollum, who most consider a mid- to late-first round pick, Thompson would be hoping to be a late second round selection at best.
  5. Yesterday, Connecticut formally released Alex Oriakhi from his scholarship. As we noted when the news first broke, whether or not Oriakhi will be able to play next year is dependent on how the NCAA rules on UConn’s appeal of their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban. If UConn loses its appeal, Oriakhi can play next year, but if they win the appeal, he has to sit out a year. There will be no shortage of suitors for Oriakhi, but there is at least one school that Oriakhi will not consider–Duke. We are not quite sure of why Oriakhi is so strongly opposed to becoming a Blue Devil, but it is an interesting choice because he certainly would be able to get major minutes playing for them and would also have plenty of opportunity to showcase his skills on television.
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Morning Five: 03.13.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 13th, 2012

  1. Less than a month after getting kicked off the Georgia Tech team, Glen Rice Jr. has found himself in trouble again, but this time it is with the law. As the article notes, Rice’s involvement in the matter appears to be limited to being in the vehicle with others who were committing more serious crimes (like driving under the influence and discharging a firearm under the influence), but his decision to get involved in a situation like that should raise concern for the Georgia Tech staff, who probably would want to bring back their leading scorer and rebounder.
  2. Over the next few months you are going to be reading countless articles encouraging talented underclassmen to stay an extra year (or two or three) and in the case of Draymond Green it has made a huge difference. As Roger Groves of Forbes notes, Green’s decision to stay in school has proven to be the right one for him and one that Groves believes should be followed by more young players. While we appreciate Groves’ sentiment and Green’s growth, it is worth noting that Green was not even close to a legitimate pro prospect early in his career at East Lansing while many of the players he references in the article are. It is a lot easier to stay in school when you don’t have people waving million-dollar contracts in front of you.
  3. If you are a fan of advanced metrics (and we know some people are not like the author of the article we link to next), Columbus may be the place to be on opening weekend. Several teams at that site appear to be severely underseeded if you believe in the rankings of Ken Pomeroy, which is something that Pomeroy expounds upon in a post on his blog using a log5 analysis (warning for the Luddites, your head may explode when you see that). If you are looking for a more manageable analysis using advanced metrics then Luke Winn should be your go to source (as always).
  4. We already discussed this briefly yesterday, but if you missed Mike Decourcy’s interview with John Calipari it is certainly worth a read. Outside of his rather direct shot at the NCAA, Calipari is refreshingly open about the perception of his program and how he runs his program. For those of us who have had a chance to talk to him before most of this stuff is not new, but for those people who reflexively recoil at the mention of his name based on two of his Final Four appearances being vacated it might shine a light on why recruits, players, and Kentucky fans have fallen for him outside of the impressive record.
  5. South Carolina may not be dancing, but their fans have reason to celebrate with the announcement that their two-sport star Bruce Ellington plans to become “just” a basketball star after deciding to stop playing football. Ellington, who made the SEC All-Freshman team in football after gaining 707 all-purpose yards, actually saw a decline in his output last season on the court going from 12.8 points per game down to 10.6 points per game although his efficiency numbers were up across the board. With his renewed focus on basketball, don’t be surprised if Ellington comes back next November as a significantly improved player.
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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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