SEC Morning Five: 12.07.2011 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 7th, 2011

  1. When you hang banners in Rupp Arena, then you make that money! On Tuesday the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a contract extension for basketball coach John Calipari, making him the highest paid college basketball coach in the nation. Including money for broadcasting and endorsements, Calipari will make $3.7 million the first year; if he stays through the eight-year duration, he will make $4.5 million in his final year. Compared to college football’s highest-paid coaches, the Kentucky basketball coach’s salary is less than Texas’ Mack Brown ($5.2 million/yr) and just five other coaches, including the SEC’s Nick Saban ($4.8 million) and Les Miles ($3.75 million), but it’s certainly not too shabby.
  2. The season series with North Carolina and Kentucky is now awaiting renewal. Officials from both schools aren’t exactly rushing out to secure the series, including newly-minted coach John Calipari. The Kentucky coach spoke on his radio show about removing one of the heads of the “three-headed monster” — UNC, Louisville and Indiana — in Kentucky’s non-conference schedule. The coach argued that one of the traditional rivals must be dropped to allow for a projected increase of SEC conference games and to protect his ever-constant flow of talented freshmen recruits. Calipari later clarified on his CoachCal.com web site that Kentucky’s schedule should be tailored to the players and the team. Ultimately, Calipari is trying to find a solution for two problems: Traditional rivalry games don’t make the kind of broadcasting money that justifies the risk of losing; and without an earlier start for team practices, Calipari’s freshmen-loaded squads will always be more vulnerable in high-profile December games against traditional powerhouses. A Kentucky non-conference schedule without North Carolina would be strange but acceptable if Kentucky continues to sign up for marquee events like the State Farm Champions Classic. We think that a Kentucky season without engaging long-time regional rivals Louisville and Indiana, however, would just be wrong.
  3. One regional rivalry that won’t be going away anytime soon: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. The two in-state foes will clash for the 188th time on the hardwood tonight. This is truly a home-grown event: The Atlanta Constitution-Journal’s preview highlights that ten of fourteen players on each teams’ roster grew up in the Peach State. The Yellowjackets have not won at Stegeman Coliseum since 1976, though the teams played at a neutral court for 14 years since that time. (For more info about tonight’s games, check out our Set Yer TiVo post.)
  4. Good news for people who love Gator news: Erik Murphy has recovered from his knee injury and should play against Arizona tonight. The 6’10″ junior missed three games since November 25 after suffering a bone bruise in practice. Murphy was a key figure in keeping Florida within reach in its seven-point loss to then #3 Ohio State and was desperately missed in the four-point loss against then #4 Syracuse. Arizona has been using a three-guard lineup recently, which may allow Murphy to contribute more inside-the-paint than outside of it.
  5. In this week’s SEC Check-In — which you checked out, right? — we rewarded Mississippi with a #4 position in our Power Rankings due to its ability to gut out wins against good-not-great opponents. The difference between this Rebels team and last year’s team is the lack of guard Chris Warren. Red Cup Rebellion wonders whether Warren’s absence is providing an example of a Ewing Theory-like effect on coach Andy Kennedy’s team. RCR notes that current guards Jarvis Summers and Nick Williams in particular have been controlling the offense more effectively than Warren’s efforts last season. With former McDonald’s All-American and Memphis transfer Jelan Kendrick becoming eligible for a December 10 game against Mississippi Valley State, Ole Miss will need to adapt to continue their impressive tough-win streak.
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SEC Fresh Start: Jelan Kendrick

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 1st, 2011

The Fresh Start series will profile a new coach or eligible transfer who will make an impact in the Southeastern Conference this season. The next player in the series is Memphis Tiger transfer and new Ole Miss guard/forward, Jelan Kendrick.

Talk about needing a fresh start. Jelan Kendrick has no shortage of talent. He is the first McDonald’s All American to ever sign with Ole Miss. But along with those honors, he brings a lot of baggage with him to Oxford. Kendrick was kicked off the Memphis team last year before ever playing a game after he threatened a teammate. While he has the talent to make an immediate impact for the Rebels, can Kendrick get everything else in order to be productive?

Jelan Kendrick is Mississippi's first McDonald's All American

Ole Miss is looking for a scorer to replace all-SEC star Chris Warren, and Kendrick could be the player to step up and help fill some of that void. Rebels coach Andy Kennedy is excited to see what Kendrick can do: “I’m anxious to see if he can come in and evolve into the player I think he’s potentially capable of. His greatest calling card is his versatility and ability to facilitate — not for himself but for others. He can play the one, and either one of our wings. His length and size give him the ability to defend multiple positions. I don’t want to get overly excited because the kid’s never played a second of college basketball, but we’ve seen him in practice and know what he’s capable of doing physically.”

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

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SEC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC. With tournament action set to tip from Atlanta on Thursday, get set with RTC’s regular season recap and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

Hottest Teams Going Into The Postseason:

  • FloridaPasting Alabama to close out the season is a really good sign.
  • KentuckyLooking good on a lot of people’s brackets after winning two tough ones and they’ve been top 10 at KenPom.com all season.

Tournament Sleeper: Mississippi State – Too much talent here to not be dangerous when push comes to shove.  The question is, will they play the way they’re capable or the way when they’ve fumbled?

Best First Round Matchup: Tennessee vs. Arkansas, Thursday - The South Carolina/Ole Miss game doesn’t carry much weight, and I don’t see Georgia having too much trouble with Auburn, nor Vanderbilt with LSUArkansas is the higher seeded team here due to the wackiness of the Southeastern Conference Tournament seeding (more on that later).  Arkansas won the previous meeting 68-65 in Fayetteville.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

The NCAA Sitting on Their Thumbs: Am I the only one that finds the NCAA to be a little ridiculous?   This week, the omnipotent governing body of college athletics released its findings on Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl regarding his little BBQ incident with potential recruits.  I hope they were Memphis style ribs by the way — those are my favorite.  Anyway, while I’m not really interested in commenting on the findings as there really wasn’t anything here we weren’t already aware of, except for a previously undisclosed secondary infraction committed by Bruce Pearl and assistant Tony Jones.  Last summer they spoke with 2012 recruit Jordan Adams prior to the start of basketball practice.  That was a no-no, but secondary violations are of little consequence.

What I want to talk about is the 22-month investigation undertaken by the NCAA.  I mean really?  22 months to tell us what we already knew, that Bruce Pearl attempted to influence others to provide the NCAA and Tennessee “with false and misleading information concerning their involvement.”  I gotta ask; what the heck is the NCAA doing up in Indianapolis?  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Indianapolis, it’s a fine town, but surely at some point you can take a break from screwing around on the river next to your office and get some work done.  I mean, two years!  I guess I should give them some credit though.  I mean, they did waste about 11 months or so sitting on information about Enes Kanter trying to decide what to do about his eligibility and I’m sure that kept them pretty busy.  So maybe they just didn’t have time to work on Bruce Pearl’s case.

In the end, it worked out well for Tennessee as they followed this news with a win over Vanderbilt this week.  Whenever the Volunteers are faced with adversity, they just go ahead and win their next tough game.  Need I remind you of last year when half the team got suspended and Tennessee went out and beat number one ranked Kansas for good measure.  I’m telling you, if the NCAA really wants to punish Tennessee, the best thing they can do is just leave the whole matter alone.  The entire season will be a disaster.

A Lot of Politicking: Yesterday on the SEC Basketball coaches’ teleconference, multiple coaches were asked about the potential of reseeding the SEC tournament 1-12 instead of the current 1-6 divisional seeding.  I found the statements from coaches disappointing overall.  The question was dodged and deflected by SEC West coaches with political acumen.  They really held the party line which read, “I’m sure we’ll have some things to discuss when the coaches meet this spring,” and as Andy Kennedy put it, “I just want to do what’s best for the conference.”  In other words, “I don’t want to answer that question.  Doing so would reveal that I like the unfair system currently in place that benefits lower tier teams from the weaker West Division.”

Not surprisingly, East Division coaches were quite comfortable speaking on the matter.  Kentucky coach John Calipari noted that his team is 3-3 against SEC West teams and that he feels lucky to be 3-3.  As far as he’s concerned, however, if there was no SEC tournament, “I’d be fine with that too.”  Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings prefers reseeding, but Georgia coach Mark Fox was the most eloquent.  He suggested that if they can’t agree to reseeding altogether, perhaps they could go to a system where both division leaders still receive the top two seeds and the rest of the teams are seeded 3 through 12.

While Fox’s suggestion sounds nice and it’s probably a compromise that coaches would buy into, this RTC correspondent is still displeased.  A compromise here means that they’re still going to do something wrong, just not as wrong as before.  Such a compromise ignores the problem that the SEC is rewarding poorer performing teams by giving them with an easier path to the championship.  Get it right and move on.

 

Power Rankings

1. Florida (22-6, 11-3) The Gators beat Georgia at home and Chandler Parsons had 16 points in his return from injury.  By winning that game, the Gators clinched at least a share of the SEC East Division for the first time since 2007.  The Gators then fell to Kentucky in Lexington, but then again, nobody beats Kentucky in Lexington.  Due to the Gators’ conference record and the fact that they took the first meeting with the Wildcats in Gainesville, they easily maintain their spot atop the power rankings.

2. Alabama (19-9, 11-3) Is the Tide slipping?  A close game against SEC last place Auburn in which they just escaped with a 51-49 win followed by a 68-63 loss to Mississippi is not a good at this point in the season.  On the flip side you could say that Alabama had a good week by reaching 15-0 at home and beating Auburn despite shooting just 26 percent from the field.  A team that finds a way to win despite shooting that poorly is usually in a pretty good place.

3. Kentucky (20-8, 8-6) The Wildcats’ road woes continue.  They lost to Arkansas in Fayetteville bringing their conference road record to just 1-6.  This despite the fact they outshot the Razorbacks 42.3 percent to 38.4 percent, outrebounded them 43 to 35, allowed only seven assists to the Arkansas’ 10, blocked 11 shots to the Hogs’ six and committed 16 fouls to 18.  In other words, they won every statistic except for the one that matters, points.  The Cats followed that game with a win at home over Florida where John Calipari remains undefeated in his time in Lexington.  The game was also the 500th win of his career.  He is now 500-151.  Darius Miller had his second career high in three games with 24 points topping his previous high of 22 against South Carolina.  Brandon Knight scored a career high 26 points in the loss at Arkansas and was selected as freshman of the week by the SEC, his fifth such honor this season.  That was Knight’s 12th twenty-point game, a freshman record at UK.  Yes, that’s even more than a certain Mr. John Wall (who had eight of them)

4. Vanderbilt (21-7, 9-5) Vanderbilt lost to Tennessee at home.  That loss means that Vanderbilt can now at best win a share of the SEC.  After that loss, the Commodores took out their frustrations on the LSU Tigers winning 90-69.  Lance Goulbourne had 16 points and 17 rebounds, particularly impressive numbers after he scored a total of four points in his last four games.

5. Georgia (19-9, 8-6) The Bulldogs shot 60 percent from the field in the first half but still lost to Florida.  Georgia held South Carolina to just 28 percent from the field and 1 for 19 from three.  But more significant, the Dawgs got their 19th victory on the season, matching their highest win total since Jim Harrick Coach left the program in ruins after a scandal plagued 2003 season.  A win against LSU this week should be enough to get an at-large bid.

6. Tennessee (17-12, 7-7) Despite the win over Vanderbilt this week, I am feeling less and less confident about Tennessee’s tournament chances, especially after losing 70-69 to Mississippi State at home.  Tennessee is just 3-4 at home in conference play and has lost 5 of 7.  No worries, Tennessee still has a home date with Kentucky to close out the season, and Kentucky is terrible on the road.

7. Arkansas (18-10, 7-7) A single win over Kentucky at Bud Walton Arena may have saved coach John Pelphrey’s job.  Good for him as he has quite the class coming in next year with four players in the ESPN top 100.  That class is ranked sixth in the nation by ESPN and is certainly a sign of good things to come in Fayetteville if the fans can hold on just a little longer.  Pelphrey’s great class could also be a liability in some ways however as programs like to bring coaches in at a time when they can make a first year splash.  Rotnei Clarke was named SEC player of the week after scoring a career high 26 points in the win over Kentucky. Clarke is also just 6 three pointers away from passing Scotty Thurman, who is on the staff at Arkansas, for third on the Razorbacks’ all-time made three-pointers list.  He now has 262 in his three seasons at Arkansas.  It is likely that he will pass Pat Bradley some time next year becoming Arkansas’ all-time leader.  Bradley recorded 366 three pointers.

8. Mississippi (18-11, 6-8) The Rebels followed their worst loss of the year at South Carolina with their best win of the year over Alabama.  Chris Warren had 25 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals as Mississippi overcame an 11-point second half deficit to beat likely SEC champion Alabama.  But it’s too little too late for a team that came into the season looking like a potential at-large candidate.  Gonna take a conference tournament championship now.

9. South Carolina (14-12, 5-8) The Gamecocks were able to snap their five game losing streak by beating Mississippi 79-73 despite a career high 33 points by the Rebels’ Chris Warren.  There was simply too much Sam Muldrow for the Rebels to overcome as he came away with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.  The Cocks’ next game against Georgia, however, was dismal.  Only 48 points on 28 percent shooting can really get you down.

10. Mississippi State (18-11, 6-8) Despite shooting 56 percent from the field and outrebounding LSU 38-32, Mississippi State managed to lose 84-82 to the Tigers.  How you’re able to pull that off, I don’t know.  But it has been a season on weirdness in Starkville.  The Bulldogs followed that loss with a 70-69 win in Knoxville, their first at Tennessee since 1999.

11. Louisiana State (11-18, 8-9) The Tigers ended their ten-game losing streak, barely, by beating Mississippi State 84-82 in Starkville but quickly resumed their losing ways at home in an embarrassing 69-90 loss to Vanderbilt.  Don’t blame Storm Warren, though.  He had eight assists, no turnovers and a career-high 24 points (he averages 7) on 12-of-20 shooting in the loss.

12. Auburn (9-19, 2-12) The Tigers don’t have a lot of weapons and are very young, but they have played two of the best defensive games of any team in the SEC this season.  Earlier in the year the Tigers held SEC leading Florida to under 30 percent shooting overall and 20 percent from three in a 45-40 loss.  This week they did just that again in a 51-49 loss to SEC leading Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  The Tide’s Jamychal Green had to make a tip-in with .3 seconds to play for Alabama to get the win, but this game could very well have gone Auburn’s way.  In the Tigers next outing, Arkansas’ Delvon Johnson had to get a dunk with six seconds remaining to give the Hogs a 57-55 win in Auburn.  Credit coach Tony Barbee and his team for playing guts out defense.  That takes heart when you’re having such a tough season.  I see good things in Auburn’s future.

A Look Ahead

This time of year there’s always a lot of “Win and you’re in.”  Let’s take a look at the games of consequence this week.

  • March 1, Alabama @ Florida. No question, this is the game of the week.  There are still those that claim Alabama is on a soft bubble.  Getting the win at Gainesville all but guarantees the SEC crown and puts Alabama in “lock” status for the NCAA Tournament, a loss to St. Peter’s notwithstanding.  These are the top two teams in the conference peaking at just the right time.  Watch this game.
  • March 1, Vanderbilt @ Kentucky. As it stands Vanderbilt gets the number two seed out of the East.  If Wildcats win this one at Rupp, where John Calipari is undefeated in his two seasons at Kentucky, they have a shot to steal the number two seed.  Plenty at stake here between two teams that shoot the three very well.
  • March 5, Georgia @ Alabama. The Bulldogs probably still need a quality win to feel really comfortable about their at-large status.  This game has been gift-wrapped as a late season opportunity to stand out in the minds of the selection committee.  Win and they’re in.
  • March 5, Auburn @ LSU. There’s something special about battles in futility.  Here you have a clash of last place teams.  LSU needs this win to avoid sharing last place with Auburn.  Auburn needs it to avoid taking last place outright.  LSU won the previous meeting at Auburn 62-55.
  • March 5, Vanderbilt @ Florida. If Vanderbilt loses to Kentucky the Commodores can still hang onto the number two seed by beating Florida if Kentucky loses to Tennessee in Knoxville.  Wouldn’t hurt their seeding in the NCAA’s either.
  • March 6, Kentucky @ Tennessee. The Volunteers’ bubble is getting pretty soft despite their strong strength of schedule.  Win and they’re in.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

There was little change in SEC standings this week, which bodes well for the SEC’s chances at getting six bids to the NCAA Tournament, the most since 2008.  And that’s just how Joe Lunardi sees it as he currently projects six SEC teams in his bracket.  That means that Tennessee and Georgia both remain in the tournament despite suffering losses this week.  The SEC is second only to the Big East in total conference bids, which is currently projected at eleven.  While I think that is a little excessive, it’s quite obvious that the big winners in the expanded 68-team field are the major conferences; especially with the number of historically strong mid-majors sitting squarely on the bubble.  Memphis and Gonzaga are probably barely in, meaning one more little trip up and they lose their bid.  Saint Mary’s is on the edge of losing its at-large bid after a loss to Utah State on Saturday and Butler, last year’s national championship runner-up, is just barely playing its way back into at-large consideration.  The mid-majors’ loss is the SEC’s gain.

Power Rankings

1. Florida (21-5, 10-2): Florida went to LSU and got a win without Chandler Parsons.  Now on a five-game winning streak, Florida has established enough breathing room to feel confident about its chances of winning the SEC East if not the conference.  I was critical of the Gators early, but they have proven me the fool.

2. Alabama (18-8, 10-2): The Tide is 7-1 against SEC West opponents including wins over Arkansas and at LSU.  Last week, Alabama clinched the SEC West, its third SEC West title and first since 2005.  Alabama is also 14-0 at home.  How’d the Tide do it?  Well for starters, holding conference opponents to a league-leading 38 percent from the field really helps.  This team is only getting better and seems poised to make a good run in the NCAA Tournament.

3. Kentucky (19-7, 7-5): Mississippi State gave the Wildcats more than they wanted in Rupp Arena, closing the Cats’ lead to just four with under a minute left after Kentucky built a 12-point lead with 3:26 to play.  The Wildcats followed that win with an easy victory over reeling South Carolina in a game that Kentucky opened up with 15-0 lead.  Darius Miller, who has been known to disappear at times, scored a career-high 22 points.

4. Vanderbilt (20-6, 8-4): The Commodores have won five straight since dropping two in a row to Arkansas and Florida.  With this week’s two wins, Vandy reaches the 20-win mark for the sixth time in the Kevin Stallings era.  Jeffery Taylor continues to shine, recording a double-double at Auburn where he scored 20 points and pulled down ten rebounds.

5. Georgia (18-8, 7-5) Despite the loss to Vanderbilt, the win over Tennessee should be enough to solidify the Bulldogs’ at-large chances barring a late season meltdown in conference play.  The win in Knoxville was also Georgia’s first in ten years.  Mark Fox is doing everything right in Georgia, which finished with four, three and five conference wins and a last place finish in the SEC East in each of the last three seasons, but now has a good chance of finishing second in the East with just four games to play.

6. Arkansas (16-10, 5-7) The Hogs won easily over Florida A&M at home this week in a rare late season non-conference matchup, but couldn’t get the win at Alabama despite a 31-31 tie at the half.  Then again, no one has beaten the Tide at home this year.  The Razorbacks host Kentucky this week in what should certainly be a rowdy one as it always is when the Cats come into Bud Walton Arena.

7. Tennessee (16-11, 6-6) After dropping three straight to Alabama, Florida and Kentucky in the Volunteers’ toughest stretch of the season, the Vols beat South Carolina, 73-67, but couldn’t get the home win over Georgia despite Scotty Hopson’s career high 32 points.  Inconsistency is making home games very frustrating for the Volunteers, who are now 10-6 at home, including 3-3 in conference play.

8. Mississippi (17-10, 5-7) The Rebels beating Auburn handily 90-59 is good, but losing to in-state rival Mississippi State twice in a season for the second straight year is frustrating.  The Bulldogs controlled the second half despite a 33-33 tie.  On the bright side, Chris Warren made all four of his free throw attempts in the loss to improve his nation-leading free-throw percentage to 94.3 percent.

9. South Carolina (13-12, 4-8) After a strong start to the SEC, where the Gamecocks got wins over Vanderbilt and Arkansas and at Florida, the Gamecocks seem to be withering now.  The Cocks are also losers of seven of their last eight, including five straight after opening SEC play at 3-1.  Credit that to the Cocks’ poor shooting (40.4%) and terrible turnover ratio (0.8:1).  Couple that with a stretch that includes games at home against Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and on the road against Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky, and wins can be hard to come by.  It doesn’t help either when freshman leading-scorer Bruce Ellington has played nine straight games without shooting at least 50 percent from the field, including a 1-12 performance against Georgia and 1 for 11 at Kentucky in his last three games.  They’ll be better next year.

10. Mississippi State (14-12, 6-6) The Bulldogs suffered a second straight loss at Kentucky following their season low-point loss to Auburn, but were able to follow that up with a 71-58 home win over in-state rival Mississippi.  The Bulldogs have now won five straight against the Rebels and when you’re having a rough year, it’s always nice to be able to say at least you’re dominating your rival.

11. Auburn (9-17, 2-10) As usual, Auburn had a tough week, losing 90-59 at Ole Miss and 77-60 to Vanderbilt despite keeping it close for most of the game trailing by just two with 14 minutes to play.  If you’re looking for a bright spot, Earnest Rost is averaging 19.3 points per game over Auburn’s last four and is shooting 54.5 (12-22) from three and 56.5 percent overall.  Compare that to last year when he averaged just 2.8 points per game.

12. LSU (10-17, 2-10) Monday on the SEC Coaches Teleconference, Tigers Coach Trent Johnson said, “Believe it or not, we’re starting to play better.”  I’m gonna go with the “or not” option.  The Tigers have lost ten straight, including home losses this week to Alabama and Florida.  The dubious stretch has to be among the longest current active losing streaks.  Furthermore, LSU is currently last in conference play in the following categories: scoring, scoring margin, three-point field goal percentage and assist to turnover ratio and second-to-last in free throw percentage, field goal percentage, rebounding, blocked shots, steals and turnover margin.  But Coach Johnson thinks things are getting better.  Apparently those rose-colored glasses are working out pretty well for the LSU coach.

The Week Ahead

At this point, every game matters, whether for seeding or just getting into the NCAA Tournament.  Let’s see what’s on the docket:

  • February 22, Tennessee @ Vanderbilt.  Rivalry games are always fun and the Volunteers probably need to win this one to feel really comfortable with their chances for an NCAA berth, especially with games against Florida and at Kentucky still remaining on the schedule.
  • February 23, Kentucky @ Arkansas.  The Wildcats have to get this win on the road against “Unforgettable” Kentucky alum John Pelphrey in Fayetteville if they want to have any chance of winning the conference regular season, much less the East.  They haven’t been strong on the road and Bud Walton is always particularly hostile to the Cats.
  • February 24, Georgia @ Florida. Georgia won the last one 101-94 in double overtime.  The Bulldogs can stay in the hunt for the East or at least a second-place finish with a win at Florida.  Florida’s NCAA seeding gets better with every win.
  • February 26, Florida @ Kentucky.  Florida holds a 9-4 advantage over Kentucky in their last 13 meetings, a fact not lost on the Wildcat faithful who have learned a special hatred for the Gators of late.  The Gators won the last meeting on February 5, 70-68.  A win by Florida here all but guarantees them an SEC East championship and brings an end to coach John Calipari’s 31-game win streak at Rupp Arena, where he is undefeated in his two seasons at Kentucky.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

Mississippi State’s Ravern Johnson was suspended indefinitely this week.  Of course, at Mississippi State “indefinitely” generally means a game or two.  In this case, two.  This team was picked to win the SEC West, but talk about a team in turmoil.  Let’s take a look at the timeline:

  • Nov. 12 Mississippi State begins the season without point guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sidney.  The Bulldogs get a 75-65 win over Tennessee State. Record 1-0.
  • Dec. 18 Sidney plays in his first college basketball after a year and a half suspension.  The Bulldogs lose 88-57 to Virginia Tech. Record 7-3.
  • Dec. 21 Sidney is suspended for a game after playing in just one game for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
  • Dec. 23 Sidney returns and the Bulldogs defeat San Diego 69-52. Sidney and forward Elgin Bailey get in a fight in the stands after the game while watching Utah play Hawaii, because Elgin Bailey wouldn’t move his feet for Sidney to get through.  Record 8-4.
  • Dec. 24 Sidney and Bailey are suspended indefinitely.
  • Jan. 3 Mississippi State announces that Elgin Bailey will seek a transfer and has been granted a release.
  • Jan. 8 Sidney and Bost return from suspension and open SEC play with a 75-57 home loss to Alabama. Record 8-7 (0-1).
  • Feb. 4 Following a 75-61 loss to Alabama, Ravern Johnson sends “inappropriate tweets” and violates a class attendance policy.  He is suspended indefinitely. Record 11-10 (3-4).
  • Feb. 12 Johnson’s “indefinite” suspension ends after two games.  He returns just in time for the low point in the Bulldogs’ season, a 65-62 loss to SEC last place team Auburn in a game that MSU led 51-32 with 11:25 to go.

The reality here is that coach Rick Stansbury has completely lost control of this team both on and off the court.  This season is nothing short of a train wreck and I hope that this will be the last time that I write about the silliness that is Mississippi State basketball.

  • In less ridiculous news, Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology has six SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament.  If his prediction holds true and Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all make the tournament, that will be the best showing in the Big Dance for the SEC since 2008, when last place Georgia made a crazy run through the SEC tournament and became the sixth team to qualify along with Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

Power Rankings

1. Florida (20-5, 9-2) At this point, there can be no question that Florida should be in the top spot here.  While still having deficiencies, Florida by hook or by crook has managed to get to 20-5 overall and 9-2 in conference play by gutting out close ones whether at home or on the road.  Florida has won nine games decided by six points or less.  The Gators have also played in four overtime games this year, winning three of them.  Two of those overtime wins came on the road.  However, just when things are starting to look really good for the preseason SEC favorites, Chandler Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise and internal bleeding associated with it.  He is likely to miss the Gators’ game against LSU on Sunday.  If LSU were not on an eight-game losing streak, I might be a little concerned.

2. Alabama (16-8, 8-2) After a disappointing early season in which Alabama started 5-6, the Tide has become one of the best defensive teams in the nation holding teams to just 58.4 points per game.  Because of that defense and an improved offense, Alabama is 11-2 in its last 13 games.

3. Kentucky (17-7, 5-5) Right now, you have to ask whether this team is just not as good as we thought, or is it simply a bad road team?  Maybe it’s a little bit of both.  Kentucky still has good wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville, but that seems like a long time ago for a team that is 2-6 in true road games, with five of those losses coming in league play.  Lucky for Kentucky, only two of the Wildcats’ last six games are away.  The Wildcats should be safe this week as they don’t have to go on the road for their contests against Mississippi State and South Carolina.

4. Vanderbilt (18-6, 6-4) Vanderbilt had a great week after winning two close ones at home against Alabama and Kentucky.  Like Kentucky, Vandy has been weak on the road, going just 1-3 in conference road games.  Unlike Kentucky however, the Commodores must go on the road for four of their last six including games at Georgia, and Kentucky.

5. Georgia (17-7, 6-4) Georgia lost to Xavier early in the week in a game that was close throughout.  This was the first game between the two teams since 2008 when they met in the NCAA Tournament following Georgia’s Cinderella run through the Southeastern Conference tournament, winning three games in two days after a tornado at the Georgia Dome forced the league to move the games to Georgia Tech.  Xavier won that game in 2008, too.  Following their loss to the Musketeers, the Bulldogs held South Carolina to just 30.5% shooting and 4-23 from the field.

6. Arkansas (15-9, 5-6) After losing three straight to Georgia, Mississippi and Mississippi State, Arkansas finally got a win at home against Louisiana State.  Rotnei Clarke scored 25 points while going 5-6 from three.  More importantly though, the Razorbacks have now won 15 games for the first time in three seasons, having won 14 games in each of the past two seasons.

7. Tennessee (15-10, 5-5) It’s been an up-and-down year for the Volunteers, mostly down of late.  Coach Bruce Pearl made his return from suspension to face Kentucky in Lexington.  The result?  Tennessee was thoroughly outplayed in a game where Bruce Pearl said he didn’t help his team.  The Vols followed that up with a tough 61-60 home loss to Florida.

8. Mississippi (16-9, 4-6) Chris Warren tied his season high of 26 points in a win over LSU.  Speaking of Chris Warren, he’s made 29 of his last 31 free throws in Mississippi’s last three contests and leads the SEC in free throw shooting at 93.8 percent.  Not only that, but Warren now has 1,821 career points, good for fourth place on Ole Miss’ all-time scoring list.  It is all but a given that Warren will pass Carlos Clarke’s 1,822 points in the Rebels’ next game taking his place as Ole Miss’s third leading scorer.  It remains unlikely that Warren passes number one Jon Stroud (2,328 points) and number two Joe Harvell (2,078 points).

9. South Carolina (13-10, 4-6) Things haven’t gone well for the Gamecocks of late.  They started the conference season at 3-1 including wins over Vanderbilt and at Florida.  Now the Cocks are losers of five of their last six.  A terrible shooting night at home against Georgia this week only added to their woes.  In that game, Bruce Ellington shot just 1-12 from the floor.  But then again, he hasn’t shot at least 50 percent in a game since a January 12 loss at Alabama.

10. Mississippi State (13-11, 5-5) Look, it’s never good when you lose to Auburn, but when you blow a 19-point lead with 11:25 to go in the game, well that’s just completely unacceptable.  At one point Auburn went on a 17-0 run.  Really?  Auburn?  I don’t think Auburn’s gone on a 17-0 run in years.  How did they possibly manage it this year with such and offensively challenged team?  I’m sure Mississippi State’s utterly despicable play had a little something to do with it.  Really Bulldogs, this is just getting embarrassing.

11. Auburn (9-15, 2-8) With all of the players, that Auburn lost from last year’s team including 73 percent of the Tigers’ scoring and 62 percent of their rebounding  and then losing three freshman commits in Luke Cothron, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Josh Langford who were all expected to contribute right away, Auburn has more excuses than any other team in the league.  Add to that the fact that leading returning scorer Frankie Sullivan has only played in six games and you have a team that just can’t get a break.  So simply not being in last place for just one week is quite an accomplishment.

12. LSU (10-15, 2-8) Somehow, LSU has been able to wrest the bottom spot from Auburn and that is quite a feat.  LSU has now lost eight straight games, including an 80-61 loss this week at Arkansas.  LSU is one unusual team that seems to do really well or really bad.  Let’s look at how LSU has finished in each of the past five seasons.

  • 2006 – 27-.9 Won SEC, Final Four
  • 2007 – 17-15 Last in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2008 – 13-18 Fourth in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2009 – 27-8 Won SEC. Lost to UNC in second round of NCAA Tournament.
  • 2010 – 11-20 Last in SEC. No tournament.

The Week Ahead

  • Feb. 16 Vanderbilt @ Georgia I’m not convinced that Georgia is firmly entrenched in the NCAA Tournament just yet.  A win over the Commodores could go a long way towards cementing that spot.
  • Feb. 19 Georgia @ Tennessee Same story as above, except substitute Tennessee for Georgia.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2010

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

  • Count me as one who didn’t see Festus Ezeli coming.  Vanderbilt’s player with the coolest name in the Southeastern Conference was named SEC player of the week for his superior play against Western Kentucky and Belmont, averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks including a 24/10 performance against Belmont.  He now sports numbers of 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and two blocks per game.   And he’s doing it in only 21.3 minutes an outing.   He also leads the SEC in field goal percentage at 67.7%.  No bad for a guy who last year averaged 3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest.  I for one was critical of Vanderbilit in the preseason claiming they would be weak inside after losing AJ Ogilvy.  Uncle Festus has done a fantastic job thus far and will be pivotal in some of the close SEC contests that Vanderbilt is likely to face in the stacked SEC East.
  • Speaking of Vanderbilt, three different Vanderbilt players — Brad Tinsley, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli — have been named player of the week.  Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson is the only other player in the league to be given the honor.  Also, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and Tennessee’s Tobias Harris have been trading off freshman of the week honors.  If the pattern holds, it’s Jones’ week, a sight Wildcats fans would welcome after Jones’ horrendous 3-17 foul-out performance against North Carolina on Saturday.
  • In other Wildcat news, after Auburn football’s Cam Newton was declared eligible by the NCAA, the University of Kentucky opted to re-submit their case for Enes Kanter’s eligibility from a different angle rather than go through the appeals process.  The NCAA explained their decision to allow Newton to play by stating that there was no evidence that Newton had any idea that his father was shopping his skills to universities for pay.  In the NCAA’s eyes, as Newton was unaware that there was any issue with his amateurism, he should remain eligible to play.  UK hopes that the NCAA will hold form in what it sees as a similar case with a precedent and pass down a favorable ruling on Kanter, who is a Turkish national that received benefits above expenses while playing for a professional team in his homeland.  Kanter, his family and the school maintain that Kanter intended to play college basketball all along and did not intentionally violate any rules.  The NCAA allows foreign players to play on professional teams and maintain their amateurism so long as they do not receive benefits above expenses.
  • Auburn and Missisippi State have yet to play a road game.  Auburn at least will head to Pittsburgh to play Rutgers in a neutral site game as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational.  Mississippi State, however, will be relaxing at home this week as they won’t hit the road until December 18, when they face Virginia Tech.  Hey, isn’t that when Renardo Sidney finally plays?

Power Rankings

  1. Tennessee (6-0): Tennessee is the lone undefeated team in the SEC.  Plus they didn’t play this week, which means their record went untarnished.  The Volunteers are taking an 11-day break while they prepare for Pittsburgh.  I guess it’s kind of tough to recover after facing Middle Tennessee at home.
  2. Vanderbilt (7-1): Vanderbilt just keeps climbing.  Their only loss is to West Virginia.  No shame in that, and should they beat Missouri on Wednesday, they are all but guaranteed a top 25 ranking – A pleasant surprise for a team that was picked to finish fifth in East by the media, this writer included.
  3. South Carolina (6-1): Like Vanderbilt, South Carolina continues to impress.  Their sole blemish is a hard-fought loss to Michigan State in their second game of the year.  Again, no shame in that.  This week, they beat Delaware State and then beat Clemson in a 64-60 thriller that came down to the final minute, just the way you like to beat an in-state rival.
  4. Georgia (6-2) After two straight tough losses to Notre Dame and Temple, Georgia has won three in a row.  One of those is a three-point win against Manhattan, a team that is now 2-6 and hasn’t made the Tournament since 2004.  Georgia followed that up with a 66-64 win over UAB and a 73-72 close call against rival Geogia Tech.  With Trey Thompkins playing better after a couple of unsteady early games, all should be back on track in Athens.  Thompkins is averaging 19.7 points and 7.7 rebounds and shooting well after scoring 13 in each of his first two games on 37% from the field.
  5. Kentucky (5-2): What to do with Kentucky?  They lost to North Carolina in their only game this week, so perhaps they should go lower than some other teams on this list, but to drop them to sixth or below seems absurd.  Kentucky had no answer for Tyler Zeller on Saturday and the hole inside became a gaping chasm on Saturday when big men Terrence Jones, Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas combined for 15 fouls, 3 turnovers, 1 assist and only 13 points on 5-19 shooting.  I can hear the “Free Enes” chants coming from UK’s campus even with my headphones blasting Smashing Pumpkins.  (Hey, I’m a nineties kid).
  6. Arkansas (5-1): Arkansas went 2-0 this week against Oklahoma and Troy.  But then again, who in the SEC hasn’t beaten these teams?  Kentucky beat Oklahoma and the Sooners have lost four since and the SEC is beating up on Troy left and right.  The Trojans have already taken their licks from Alabama and Mississippi State and now Arkansas.  Their lone win is against Division-II Huntington (AL).  Coach Pelphrey, I’d love to rank you higher this week, but I can’t against these teams.  Come back with a couple more wins next week and we’ll talk.
  7. Florida (6-2): The Gators lost to Central Florida after eking out a close one against Florida State.  I know they went and pummeled American just after that and I know UCF is now 7-0, but I also know that a team with Florida’s talent shouldn’t be dropping games like that.  When starting forwards Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons combine to go 1-14 against much smaller competition, there are problems.  Furthermore, I didn’t think it was possible, but Kenny Boynton is even worse from three this year than last year.  He is currently shooting 26.5 percent, compared to 29.4 percent in 2009-10.  Dreadful.  I wasn’t convinced this group of Gators was much better than last year’s, when the media was picking them to win the SEC and possibly make a Final Four run and they are proving me the wiser.  Step it up, Florida.  There’s a lot of work to be done before conference play starts.
  8. Mississippi (4-2): Luckily for the Rebels, Chris Warren can make those off-balance threes when they matter.  Well, at least against Southern Mississippi he can.  He’s only shooting 28 percent on the year from three, but he shot 4-9 from deep against Southern Miss in his best game this season.  That’s a good win for Mississippi against a quality opponent.  Look for Southern Mississippi to do good things in Conference USA this year.
  9. Mississippi State (4-1): The Bulldogs didn’t play this week, but Ravern Johnson still leads the SEC in scoring at 25.4 per game, and he’s got plenty of breathing room.  Kentucky’s Terrence Jones is second at 19.0 points per game.  Additionally, Kodi Augustus continues to lead the league in rebounding at 10.8 per game.
  10. LSU (5-2): Also didn’t play anyone this week.  The Tigers have been on the road exactly once so far, against South Alabama. They return to the Maravich to square off against the Central Michigan Chippewas in the second of seven straight home games. Show me something, Trent Johnson.
  11. Auburn (3-4) Well, this is the first week Auburn hasn’t been in last place.  I’m not totally sure they deserve the honor, if you want to call it that.  It’s never impressive to see a Division-II team on the schedule.  Auburn beat Georgia Southwestern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff this week, both at home.  I guess when you’re playing the tough ones, you want to give yourself that homecourt advantage.
  12. Alabama (4-4) The Tide beat South Alabama 72-50 and then got worked over by Purdue 66-47 in a game in which they went 0-9 from three.  I really thought Alabama was going to be better than this.  The three-point shooting is terrible and they turn the ball over too much.  And it’s not like they’ve played the toughest competition.  Purdue is the first team Alabama has played that should have had a shot at beating the Tide.  On the bright side, I’m sure they’ll jump back in front of in-state rival Auburn next week.

A Look Ahead

The SEC/Big East Invitational is this week and can I just say that this event has turned out to be a major disappointment on the part of the conference’s planners.  Here is the lineup this year:

  • 12/8: Arkansas vs. Seton Hall, Kentucky vs. Notre Dame
  • 12/11: Auburn vs. Rutgers, Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh

As my father used to say about my shoddy yardwork, “This ain’t cuttin’ it.”  Can we please get some kind of a legitimate invitational here?  The matchups in this series are continually disappointing.  We’re lucky that Notre Dame has been surprisingly good this year, or the Tennessee/Pitt game would be the only one worth watching.  There are 28 teams between these two conferences and these are the eight teams they schedule?  Where are Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt?  Where are Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Georgetown, and Villanova?  Instead of providing us with some marquee publicity-generating matchups, we are given perennial cellar dwellers Auburn, Rutgers and Seton Hall.  Really?  As I said, it ain’t cuttin’ it.

Other Important Games this Week

  • 12/8 – Vanderbilt at Missouri: If Vanderbilt picks up a win here and wins the games they are supposed to through the rest of the preseason, they’ve probably all but assured themselves an NCAA Tournament bid.  All that’s left is the seeding.
  • 12/11 – Kentucky vs. Indiana: Twelve championships between them and a long-standing history of hoops tradition. What’s not to like?
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The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  For an introduction to this series, please click here.

Introduction

We are getting into the thick of the things as teams are now well into their non-conference slate. While many small-conference schools take their lumps at the hands of larger-conference opponents as often happens at this time of year, other are emerging as legitimate contenders within the world of the “Other 26.” At this point in most seasons the Maui Invitational controls much of the discussion within college basketball circles, and this year has been no different. The tournament encompasses some of the nation’s best teams, and for about a week the focal point of college basketball is the Lahaina Civic Center. Suited more for an AAU championship game than a premiere college basketball venue, the Civic Center witnessed one of the most dominating performances in the history of the Invitational. Averaging 30 points, missing only two of 28 free throws, and guiding the young Huskies to the title is the mark of a champion, and Kemba Walker did all of those. Walker’s first heroics of the Invitational came against Wichita State, who so nearly thwarted Connecticut’s chances at winning the Invitational on the first day. In the process, however, the Shockers garnered my full admiration in how they competed with some of the top teams in America. In the end, Kemba Walker and Connecticut prevailed, but Wichita State was heard and will continue to make noise throughout the year.

What team impressed the most?

Following a tough season-opening loss to Georgetown by three points, Old Dominion has run off four straight victories. Their wins were hardly against cupcake opponents either as two came against Clemson and Xavier (it should be known that both the Tigers and Musketeers have both fallen only to Old Dominion). It is a grave task for any opponent to combat the Monarchs’ attack as no one ODU player is far and away the most significant contributor. Frank Hassell is the team’s leader from a statistical perspective as he averages nearly a double-double and is an extremely efficient offensive player, shooting better than 60% from the field. Blaine Taylor, ODU’s coach, is the mastermind behind this balanced attack. Check out these numbers: six players are averaging between 5.5 and 8.8 shots a game, and seven players average between 4.2 and 12.6 points a game. While not a flashy team by any means, Old Dominion plays a true team game — a truce recipe for success come March.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.20.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#22 Wisconsin @ UNLV – 7 pm on Versus (****)

Take This Man Lightly At Your Own Risk

Bo Ryan’s Badgers always seem to fly under the radar but you can bet UNLV won’t be taking them lightly. Tre’Von Hughes is back for the Rebels after a suspension and will play a key role going up against a strong Wisconsin backcourt led by Jordan Taylor. UNLV does a lot of things well but one thing they haven’t been successful at so far this year is three point shooting (ranked #241). They make up for that on defense, ranking first in the country in two point FG% defense. That defense will be put to the test against an incredibly efficient Wisconsin offense. All-American candidate Jon Leuer has been on fire to start the season. Leuer leads an offense ranked sixth in efficiency and first in offensive rebounds, not to mention being highly ranked in other offensive categories. Wisconsin’s problem is three point defense. The good thing for them, as we mentioned, is that UNLV is not a good shooting team from behind the arc. Will that change? The teams will probably meet in the middle. We can’t wait to see the matchups in the backcourt between Taylor/Keaton Nankivil/Josh Gasser for Wisconsin and Willis/Anthony Marshall/Oscar Bellfield for UNLV. There’s also a pretty good front court matchup going as Leuer and Chace Stanback go head to head. This is one of the better games of November and will look great on the winner’s resume come March.

Dayton @ Mississippi – 7 pm (no TV) (**)

This is a rematch of a game from last season’s NIT, won by the eventual champion Flyers of Dayton. Both could use a win here to enhance their resume in hopes of moving up to the big tournament this year. Dayton returns three of its top five scorers from a year ago led by senior Chris Wright. The 6’8 forward should have an advantage going up against a relatively thin Rebel front line but he was held to 1-9 shooting in last season’s matchup, though he did pull down 11 rebounds. Chris Johnson led all scorers last year with 22/10 but he’s struggled so far, scoring only nine points in two games. Dayton is going to have to do a nice job defending a fairly efficient Mississippi offense led by Chris Warren (is everybody playing in this game named Chris?) and Zach Graham. Graham had 22 points in a good win over Murray State on Wednesday night, a game many including yours truly thought Ole Miss could lose. Mississippi is not a very good defensive team but Dayton lacks offensive punch. The Flyers have struggled in a few offensive areas, especially free throw and three point shooting. The good news is that Mississippi doesn’t defend the three well so if someone can get hot from deep for Dayton they may be able to parlay that into a victory. Mississippi doesn’t have many opportunities for quality non-conference wins on their schedule but we think they’ll get this one and avenge last season’s loss to Dayton.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.17.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 17th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The college basketball world can relax a bit tonight after a full day of hoops yesterday. The action picks up in full force again on Thursday and Friday after two fairly interesting games this evening. All times eastern.

Murray State @ Mississippi – 8 pm on ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)

The Racers of Murray State knocked off Vanderbilt in a memorable first round NCAA Tournament game last season so Mississippi better be on full alert tonight. Murray State is being talked about again as a possible mid-major surprise again in the tournament and why not? They return five of their seven top scorers from last year’s team that won 31 games and the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State only lost by two to national runner-up Butler, certainly an impressive showing for a #13 seed. They also played a good California team tight on the road, falling by only five in their season opener last year. They are coming off a 50-39 victory over East Tennessee State on Monday night in which they held the Buccaneers to 33% from the floor and 10% from three. B.J. Jenkins led all scorers with 14 points and shot 3-4 from deep. The Rebels are 1-0 though they struggled a bit with Arkansas State in their season opener. Star senior Chris Warren is back and hopes to lead Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. Gone from last year’s team, however, are Terrico White, Eniel Polynice and Murphy Holloway. Those three combined to average 34/16/6 for Andy Kennedy last season so players like Zach Graham and Terrance Henry are going to have to step into primary roles for the Rebels this year. Warren had to will his team to victory the other night by scoring 20 of his 26 points after halftime as Ole Miss was down eight at the break. Mississippi is not a particularly good defensive team while Murray State is just that. On offense it’s quite the opposite as Murray struggles to score and the Rebels rank #29 in offensive efficiency. Something has to give tonight and usually (but not always) defense wins out. Ole Miss is going to have to control the boards and minimize turnovers in order to win. The Racers were outrebounded by ETSU and generally are not that good on the glass. The Rebels need to exploit that advantage in order to create more possessions and therefore more opportunities to score. Conversely, Murray excels at creating turnovers which will get them some extra possessions that they may lose in the rebounding battle. The Racers were #16 in turnover percentage last year and currently lead the nation in that category so far this season. This game figures to be very close as the teams are opposites of each other and will try to go after each other’s weaknesses. Mississippi prefers to play with a fairly quick pace while Murray is content with a slow, grinding game. Whichever team imposes their style for the majority of the game stands a good chance of winning. We just might pick Murray State to come up with a nice road victory (and RPI booster) this evening.

Utah State @ BYU – 9 pm on The Mtn. (Mountain West Sports Network) (***)

This Game, Won by USU Last Year, is Always a War

If you look at the statistics on Ken Pomeroy’s site from last season, these two teams were remarkably similar. They were two of the top three 3-point shooting teams in the entire country last year and both were in the top 12 in effective field goal percentage as well. BYU also led the nation in free throw shooting while Utah State wasn’t far behind, ranking #12. Dave Rose leads his BYU team into another season of high expectations behind do-it-all player Jimmer Fredette. Fredette averaged 22 PPG last season leading the Cougars to a thrilling first round win over Florida in the NCAA Tournament. Key players Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock also return for the men from Provo, Utah. The Aggies return two of their best players as well in Tai Wesley and Pooh Williams. Each team is 1-0 on the young season but Utah State struggled against another in-state rival over the weekend, Weber State. It is always difficult to win at the Marriott Center as the crowd is about as raucous as it gets in college basketball. They’ll most certainly be up and ready for this battle for the state of Utah. These two teams have played 226 times with BYU holding a 135-91 edge. However, Utah State won the last meeting on its home floor in Logan. Trying to contain Fredette will be paramount for the Aggies and coach Stew Morrill but hardly any team has been able to do that recently. Utah State did hold him to 5-15 shooting last year but he still managed to score 19 points. Expect a lot of threes to go up and to be made in this game tonight, though each team struggled mightily from the arc in their first game. When a lot of threes are attempted, long rebounds often result. BYU is not a good offensive rebounding team because of that so if Utah State can control the defensive boards they will have many more opportunities to score. The keys for the Aggies in last year’s win were getting to the line (+10 points there) and rebounding (+6). Everything else was fairly even and USU won by ten points, the margin from the foul line. BYU is favored at home, though only by six and a half points. We expect this to be a close game for 30 minutes with the Cougars gradually pulling away from the Aggies down the stretch. That isn’t to say Utah State can’t win (they certainly can), but winning on the road at BYU is something that rarely happens.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players: National Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

Over the past month-plus, we’ve been presenting our RTC Impact Players for the 2010-11 season. From coast to coast and the Canadian border down to Mexico, we’ve selected the sixty players nationally who we believe will have the most impact on the game this year.  Each of the ten geographic regions was allotted five “starters” and a “sixth man,” an artificial construct that was easy to fill in some areas while much more difficult in some of the others.  In case you’ve missed the series along the way, this post will serve as your wrap-up.  We’re rank-ordering the ten “teams” by geographic region and list some of the near-miss players in each one.  Each regional post has a much more extensive writeup on each player chosen, so be sure to click on its respective link if you’re looking for additional information.  Here’s the view of the 2010-11 college basketball world from 500,000 feet.

The 2010-11 RTC Impact Players Map

The Ten Regions

(* denotes current injury, suspension or ineligibility)

1. Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL). Wow, and imagine if Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt.  Another group of first-rounders has everything, but what really sets this team apart is the inside dominance that Sullinger and Johnson can impose.  There isn’t a region on our list this year that would be able to stay out of foul trouble against those two, especially with the heady play of Mack, McCamey and Moore finding the big men in the right spots time and time again.  It’s no coincidence that the nation’s best conference — the Big 10 — has its footprint located here.

  • Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
  • E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
  • Chris Wright, F, Dayton
  • Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
  • JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
  • Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois (6th)

Near Misses: William Buford, Ohio State; Maurice Creek, G, Indiana; John Shurna, Northwestern

2. South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC). Obviously, if you can’t find a space for a likely all-american like Nolan Smith, this is a sick team.  Its only weakness is that other than Tracy Smith, it is extremely perimeter-oriented.  Granted, nobody can put a more talented five on the floor, but if a team like the above can pound the ball inside on them, that could make the difference.

  • Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech
  • Kevin Anderson, G, Richmond
  • Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
  • Kyle Singler, F, Duke
  • Tracy Smith, F, NC State (6th)

Near Misses: Nolan Smith, Duke; Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

3. Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX). This is a ridiculously talented region, with first-rounders everywhere on the floor.  The only possible issue would be who would be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, but if Selby is eligible to run the show, we’re not sure there’s a much better group anywhere else in America.  This region is so strong we had to leave a high-major conference POY (Culpepper) off the team.  Wow.

  • LaceDarius Dunn*, G, Baylor
  • Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State
  • Perry Jones, F, Baylor
  • Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
  • Cory Higgins, F, Colorado
  • Josh Selby*, Kansas (6th)

Near Misses: Alec Burks, Colorado; Gary Johnson, Texas; Randy Culpepper, UTEP

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