Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 19th, 2014
- The SEC’s 2014 NCAA Tournament action is now upon us. Cuonzo Martin will makes his NCAA debut against Iowa and its high-powered offense this evening in Tennessee’s third-ever game in Dayton (losses in 2001 and 2009). The Hawkeyes ranked fourth in KenPom’s offensive efficiency ratings, and are headlined by all-Big Ten first team selection Roy Devyn Marble (17.3 PPG, 22.2 PER). If the Vols need some confidence in keeping elite scores in check, they need not look very far. In recent poundings of Auburn and Missouri, Tennessee held the SEC’s top two scorers (Jabari Brown and Chris Denson) to 1-of-10 shooting nights. Do something like that to Marble tonight and the Vols have a great chance to keep on playing through the weekend.
- If there was any question about Arkansas’ motivation for the NIT, it was answered with a 54-point second half in the Razorbacks win last night over Indiana State. In an ideal world, the NIT can be used as a confidence-builder and springboard to next season for young players. If that’s the case, Anthlon Bell will have something to feel good about this offseason. The sophomore scored 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-8 from three-point land. This was only the second time he has hit the 20-point plateau this year (23 points against Ole Miss). With Fred Gulley and Mardracus Wade graduating, Bell will be in a position for more playing time on the wing, and Mike Anderson has to hope he can become a more consistent offensive option. The Razorbacks play the winner of California and Utah Valley in the NIT next.
- Missouri was shorthanded, both on its roster and in the stands, but still found a way to erase a 13-point second half deficit and beat Davidson in its NIT opener. The Tigers weren’t able to bully Davidson on the glass like it first appeared, grabbing only one more rebound than the Wildcats for the game. But they were able to attack the basket on the smaller Davidson team, shooting 58.0 percent from the field and getting to the line 34 times. Jabari Brown’s 30 points were the headline, but also notable was Frank Haith giving a good chunk of playing time to junior forward Danny Feldman (four points, four rebounds), who had seen the court for only 19 total minutes all season. This could have been a message to suspended freshmen Wes Clark and Shane Rector about the value of doing things the right way. The Tigers will play the winner of Toledo and Southern Miss next.
- The SEC’s other two NIT squads open the tournament this evening. LSU takes on a San Francisco team that finished third in the WCC and is making its first postseason appearance since an appearance in the CBI in 2011-12. This may be the last chance to see Johnny O’Bryant in a LSU uniform, and he should have ample opportunities against a porous Dons’ defense (KenPom #145). Georgia tips off its NIT campaign at home against Vermont, a team that briefly grabbed the nation’s attention with a near-win at Duke in November. The Catamounts are an experienced team (five of their top six scorers are seniors), and face a much younger Bulldogs squad in Athens. It’ll be interesting to see how the two juxtaposed teams approach this game.
- Auburn made a giant splash by hiring former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, bringing the accomplished and controversial coach back to the conference in which he excelled for six years. David Changas had a great take on the hire, pointing out what it could mean in a larger context. He writes, “after seeing the coup that [Auburn AD Jay Jacobs] was able to pull off, perhaps other SEC schools that have not shown they are serious about basketball will renew their commitment to the sport.” For the conference’s profile to improve, it only takes a few schools to become consistent NCAA Tournament threats. Consistently elite programs are great, but they’re not the only way to respectability. Pearl’s hire is a long-term step in this direction.
Posted by dnspewak on February 13th, 2012
- If you ever attend a Missouri basketball game, take a glance at the gentlemen lined up at center court during pre-game warm-ups. There are four players in warm-up clothes: Jabari Brown, Keion Bell, Earnest Ross, and Danny Feldman, four transfers who cannot play this season but make a considerable impact in practice. Next year, they will take the reins from this graduating senior class for the Tigers. For now, though, they may actually be the hidden key to Missouri’s success this season. According to Bryan Burwell, watching the “real” team face the “scout” team in practice is quite a scene with physical play and elbows flying. Marcus Denmon even said he thought the practice team could win a lot of games in the Big 12–an ambitious comment, sure, but not totally off-base.
- Rarely is a 15-point loss a moral victory for anyone, but Oklahoma State has to at least be a bit happier with its resilience in Lawrence this weekend. Last month, Baylor handed the Cowboys an embarrassing 41-point loss in Waco. On Saturday, Oklahoma State showed some fortitude after halftime “rallying” from a 29-point hole to nearly crack a single-digit deficit late in the second-half. “It show’s we’re willing to fight with any team in this league. We got off to a bad start. We had to turn it around the second half,” Markel Brown said. You never want to get into the habit of applauding 15-point losses, but any progress is worth noting at this point for Travis Ford‘s program.
- We are not old enough to remember Lon Kruger‘s playing days, but folklore has it that he’s one of the better players to ever play in the Big Eight Conference. This article recalls his glory days at Kansas State and how he is trying to fuel his mentality into his Oklahoma team. The Sooners’ season hit rock bottom this weekend with a blowout loss to Texas Tech, dropping them to 3-9 in the Big 12 and probably ending any real chance at an NIT berth. Changing the culture in a program takes awhile, though, so it is not time for Oklahoma fans to panic. Kruger’s the right man for the job, as long as his intensity carries over into his players one of these years.
- We haven’t talked about realignment in a few weeks, so let’s get an update. According to this article, the “trade” between West Virginia/TCU and Missouri/Texas A&M isn’t a fair deal for the Big 12. Looking strictly at the immediate future, the league may lose a little luster. But there’s a problem with his article’s argument. Missouri isn’t traditionally a top-five program, and West Virginia is having a relative down season by its standards. Over the next 10-15 years, this “trade” could be a wash, especially if TCU ever figures out how to revitalize its program. Bottom line, it is silly to discuss this. The Big 12 has taken a hit basketball-wise, but it’s not about to collapse.
- Texas may have saved its NCAA Tournament hopes this weekend by rallying in Manhattan to beat Kansas State, a sign of resilience for an oft-criticized program in recent years. So many accuse Rick Barnes of wasting talent, but he’s actually brought a workmanlike attitude to this young team in 2011-12. The Longhorns are even starting to embrace their underdog status, and their dreams of reaching the Big Dance aren’t dead yet. If Barnes can figure out a way to sneak into the NCAAs with this many freshmen in the rotation, he’ll deserve a lot of credit for, dare we say, “overachieving.”