SEC Full Court Press: The Dawn of A New Year

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 3rd, 2012

The SEC Full Court Press is a quick hitting review of my thoughts and observations from the last week, as well as a look ahead.

The Week That Was:

  • Anthony Davis scored all 18 of his points and grabbed six of his rebounds in the second half of Kentucky’s win over Louisville.
  • Kentucky shot 29.8% and turned the ball over 21 times in that game. And the Wildcats still won.
  • 52 fouls were called in the annual rivalry game making the game choppy from start to end.
  • Florida lost to Rutgers on Thursday night, and the Scarlet Knights turned around and lost to USF on Sunday. That’s just how college basketball goes.
  • Is it ever too early to start the Bubble Watch? At least two surprise SEC teams could be in contention for an NCAA bid with a couple of quality wins. LSU currently has an RPI of #79 while Ole Miss is at #42. You may remember that Alabama was left out last year with an RPI of #80. LSU and Ole Miss have significant work left to do, but will have plenty of chances in conference play.
  • Vanderbilt held Marquette to 32.2% shooting in its 74-57 win. And people (myself included) said the Commodores couldn’t play defense? They obviously can, but will they show up every game?
  • Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor has performed well above his averages in the month of December. This past month, Taylor averaged 23 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game. Can he keep it up?
  • The Commodores beat top-15 team Marquette last week, and turned around and struggled at home against 4-8 Miami of Ohio. It appears that this is just the type of team that Vanderbilt will be this year — terribly inconsistent. That’s a bad habit to have going into NCAA tournament time.
  • Renardo Sidney was 5-of-6 from the field when he was on the court for Mississippi State against Baylor on December 28. He was limited to only 19 minutes of action. As has been said all season long, Sidney needs to find a way to be in the game for his team but that means overcoming both conditioning and attitude issues.

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SEC Full Court Press: Week of 12.18.11 – 12.25.11

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2011

The SEC Full Court Press is a quick hitting review of my thoughts and observations from the last week, as well as a look ahead.

The Week That Was:

  • LSU is quietly on a six-game winning streak after beating #10 ranked Marquette and North Texas this past week. Could the Tigers (9-3, RPI of 53) give the SEC an unexpected sixth team in the NCAA Tournament? A January 2 match-up with Virginia is shaping up to be a much bigger game than anticipated as this could be a huge resume building win for the Tigers.
  • Speaking of LSU, center Justin Hamilton has stepped up his play as of late. Hamilton is averaging 13.8 points and eight rebounds per game over his last four contests.
  • Freshman Johnny O’Bryant recorded his first double-double of his career in the Tigers’ win over North Texas on Thursday. O’Bryant scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
  • The 48.3% field goal percentage Florida shot in its win over Florida State was the highest shooting percentage the Seminoles have given up all year, showcasing why this Florida team is one of the best in the country. In this classic battle of offense versus defense, offense won.
  • Kentucky‘s win over Loyola on Thursday has given the Wildcats the longest home win streak in the country at 42 games dating back to March of 2009. The Cats have not lost a game at Rupp Arena in the John Calipari era.
  • It isn’t all about the freshmen in Lexington. With Terrence Jones out of the lineup with a dislocated finger, senior Darius Miller has risen to the occasion. This week, Miller averaged 15 points, 3.5 rebounds, and four assists per game.
  • We noted Tennessee‘s putrid three-point defense in the latest edition of Freeze Frame. The Volunteers are allowing opponents to shoot 40.3% from beyond the arc, which is 327th in the nation. Tennessee did slightly better this week, holding both opponents under 40%.
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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 14th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

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

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

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

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

Kentucky is the best team in the land, but no team is without faults. In preparation for Saturday’s showdown with North Carolina, we will highlight Kentucky’s five biggest strengths and five biggest weaknesses of this early season. (Ed. Note: The UNC analysis is here)


  • Ball Control/Turnovers — The Cats turned the ball over 21 times against Old Dominion with point guard Marquis Teague racking up six by himself. The Kentucky offense has to learn to play under control. The Monarchs showed the Cats a packed-in zone disrupting Kentucky’s desire to take its man off the dribble resulting in more missed shots and more turnovers than the Cats were accustomed to. If Teague can continue to grow and develop into the leader this offense needs, Kentucky’s half court sets will continue to improve exponentially.
  • Defensive Rebounding/Frontcourt Strength — Kentucky has a 73.1% defensive rebounding percentage, which is not great. This can mostly be attributed to games where the thin frontcourt was pushed around a little bit. Anthony Davis isn’t going to out-muscle any of his opponents. But he is quick and can beat other big men to the ball. Davis has used his athleticism and wingspan to block shots and grab rebounds, but he will have to learn to body up with big men who will attempt to push him out of position. North Carolina’s John Henson has a similar body type to Davis, so this may not be as evident on Saturday.
  • Free throw shooting — The Cats are shooting 68.2% on the year from the foul line. They hit a low-point against Kansas going 16 of 29 for 55.2%. Kentucky is aggressive on offense, and ends up going to the free throw line often. They will need to begin converting at the line to avoid this being an issue in the future. Davis leads the team with 36 free throw attempts, but is only making 53%.
  • Depth — Kentucky has at least six future NBA pros on the roster. However, John Calipari is only going about seven deep right now. Freshman Kyle Wiltjer and senior Eloy Vargas don’t have much consistency to their minutes. Wiltjer is averaging just over 15 minutes per game, but only saw three minutes of action against Kansas. And Vargas is averaging just over eight minutes per game. Outside of early season blowouts, Calipari has not stretched his rotation past eight players. It hasn’t been an issue thus far for the Cats, but Kentucky has avoided foul trouble for the most part.
  • Three-point Shooting — The Cats are a much better three-point shooting team than they were in 2009-10 when they couldn’t shoot West Virginia out of a 1-3-1 zone in the Elite Eight, but the Cats could still get better at knocking down open shots from beyond the arc. On the year, Kentucky has been a solid 39.6%. However, the Cats were disrupted into shooting 4 of 13 against Old Dominion for 30.8% in that game. Kentucky is sure to see more zones like the one that Old Dominion employed this year, and the one that the Mountaineers used on their way to the Final Four in 2010, so three-point accuracy will continue to be important. In addition to Doron Lamb, who has been hitting 48.3% of his three-point attempts this, Kentucky also has two great shooters in Wiltjer and senior Darius Miller, both of whom have struggled thus far. Look for both to find their stroke as the season goes on and their confidence grows, and perhaps they could move this area into the strength column.

Kentucky needs Darius Miller's three point accuracy from last year to re-emerge

Kentucky’s strengths are what have put them as the number one team in the country right now.
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Five and Five: North Carolina’s Strengths and Weaknesses Against Kentucky

Posted by KCarpenter on December 2nd, 2011

The big game is tomorrow, and even if it’s probably not going to be “The Game of the Millenium,” there will be an unbelievable amount of talent on display as two contenders go head-to-head in Lexington. Right now, let’s take a good hard look at North Carolina and outline some strengths and weaknesses. (ed. note: the Kentucky analysis is here)


  • North Carolina Matches Up With Kentucky: Kentucky has one of the most freakishly athletic line-ups in the country. They are taller, longer, faster, and stronger than just about any team in the country. In North Carolina, the Wildcats meet a team that won’t feel over-matched on the basis of sheer athletic talent. The dominating performances that Kentucky has had early in the season will be harder to replicate against a very athletic Tar Heel team.
  • North Carolina Can Contain Terrence Jones: The two times that Jones has faced North Carolina, he hasn’t been able to dominate games. In fact, he’s struggled against the Tar Heels. Last December, Jones went three of 17 from the field on his way to a nine-point, six-rebound game. In the Elite Eight, he was also quiet with 11 points and seven rebounds, and turned the ball over four times. As talented as the team is, Jones is still Kentucky’s leading scorer and a bad game from him could hurt the Wildcats.

Jones Has Struggled Against The Tar Heels

  • Depth: So far this year, Kentucky has used a very shallow rotation that leans heavily on the starters while giving plenty of minutes to the experienced Darius Miller and using Kyle Wiltjer in spot minutes. North Carolina, by contrast normally goes eight deep with its standard rotation with spot minutes going to Justin Watts, Desmond Hubert, and Stilman White. With such a talented team, it makes sense that Kentucky’s rotation is pretty shallow, but there are two ways that this can hurt the Wildcats. Against North Carolina’s up-tempo attack, players tend to get tired more quickly, and often need rest. If Kentucky doesn’t pay attention, they may find their best players going into the final minutes with tired legs. Worse, a shallow rotation is vulnerable to foul trouble, something North Carolina excels at creating. Last December, four Kentucky players fouled out against North Carolina, including three starters. John Calipari will have to carefully calibrate the level of physicality he wants his players to bring on defense, or he might find his team in crunch time with his best players out of the game.
  • Experience: As a young team, North Carolina doesn’t often get to play the experience card, but against the youth of Kentucky, the Tar Heels seem like grizzled veterans. Starting a senior, two juniors, and two wise-beyond-their-years sophomores in Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall, this UNC team expects to play more cohesively and with better chemistry than their young adversaries who are still trying to learn each other.
  • Payback: Kentucky was the team that ended North Carolina’s NCAA Tournament run. After North Carolina’s loss last Saturday, Kentucky supplanted the Tar Heels at the top of the polls. The Wildcats have taken what North Carolina felt belonged to them and that’s a powerful motivation. Beyond team feelings, it seems like Zeller has a personal vendetta against Kentucky. Of course, the wry and stoic big man seems unlikely to get worked up by, well, just about anything, but it was in the Kentucky game during Zeller’s freshmen year that he broke his wrist. Since then, he’s always played well against Kentucky, whether in back-up minutes in 2009, or in a starring role in 2010 and 2011. Last December, Zeller scored a team-high 27 points on 13 shots while collecting 11 rebounds and five blocks. In the losing effort in March, he managed 21 points on 12 shots, nine rebounds, and four blocks.
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A Quick, Fake Summary: St. John’s Cannot Hide or Ever, Ever Escape

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 1st, 2011

Most folks wouldn’t be surprised if St. John’s lost tonight; any young team without their head coach in attendance would be rightful underdogs visiting a #1 team on their home court. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Kentucky finished the game with lot of blocks. They’ve been swatting them at an excellent pace for most of this early season. But the combination of Red Storm youth and Kentucky defensive length and intensity created the perfect environment for freshman forward Anthony Davis to wreak havoc.

Davis accumulated eight blocks through the second half of Kentucky’s 81-59 victory tonight. Kentucky fans in Rupp Arena were openly cheering for Davis to tie or break Kentucky’s single-game block record (nine, shared by Andre Riddick and Sam Bowie). When referee Jim Burr called a questionable body foul on Davis denying the ninth block, it was like a pitcher on a no-hitter in the 8th inning giving up a bloop single. Davis subbed out with 4:44 left in the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds and having outshined his teammates on the national stage.

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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: St. John’s @ Kentucky

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 1st, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Gerald Smith and Patrick Prendergast are going one-on-one to break down St. John’s trip to Rupp Arena to face Kentucky.

Gerald Smith: They’re young now, they’re wild now and they want to be free; Kentucky and St. John’s have got the magic power of freshmen in them! The Johnnies gathered the third-best recruiting class in the nation which included Maurice Harkless, D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer. The Wildcats managed yet another number one recruiting class of Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer (7.8 PPG while averaging 16 minutes per game) has been the slowest to adjust to the speed and complexity of coach John Calipari’s system. The other freshmen have been crucial from the beginning: Kidd-Gilchrist (12.5 PPG while averaging 30 minutes per game), Teague (11.7 PPG while averaging 30 minutes per game) and Davis (12.7 PPG while averaging 25.7 minutes per game) have powered the Kentucky machine to triumphs over Top 25 Kansas and an experienced and well-defending Old Dominion squad.

Its Fresmanpalooza in Lexington (credit: BB Times)

These Wildcats freshmen starters aren’t without their faults. Davis is still learning how to play as a collegiate-level forward who should be more effective in the post. Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump-shooting will be a thorn in his side most of the season. Teague is experiencing the normal growing pains of Calipari point guards: Forcing too many plays which lead to turnovers or bad offensive sets.

Which St. John’s freshmen have been the fueling their team so far this season?

Patrick Prendergast: First off, it is a shame that St. John’s coach Steve Lavin will not be on the sideline for the game as he continues in his recovery from prostate cancer surgery. His presence would have added to the allure of this one. If St. John’s, a team that has not played well of late, can hang in there with the more talented Kentucky team as they did with Arizona and Texas A&M, this has the potential to be an extremely entertaining game as it is difficult to see the Storm go out of character and try to slow the game down to offset Kentucky’s need for speed.

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Breaking Down the Play: Kentucky’s Post Game

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 29th, 2011

Breaking Down the Play is a regular feature during the season to provide in-depth analysis on the Xs and Os of an SEC team. Today’s Breaking Down the Play goes in depth on Kentucky’s ability to feed the post for a variety of options.

Kentucky’s ability to feed the post provides the Wildcats with a variety of options out of the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. The Cats were not establishing a post presence in their first several games of the year, but in the last two games they have made the inside out game a bigger part of their offensive strategy. In fact, Kentucky has run a designed play to give Terrence Jones the ball in the low post on the first play of the game in both of their last two contests. Kentucky has been extremely effective when making a pass to the post because of at least three different offensive options that open up for the Wildcats.

Below are the three plays from the game against Portland that showcase Kentucky’s options out of the post in the Dribble Drive offense:

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Can Kentucky Become A Team? Does It Need To?

Posted by nvr1983 on November 23rd, 2011

The old adage is that for many great teams the whole is greater than the sum of their parts, but for this year’s Kentucky team the opposite may be true. While John Calipari and the rest of Big Blue Nation hopes that this changes by the end of the season, the team’s performance early on indicates that this may not be the case. If the Wildcats continue to excel as individuals playing well in moments, but doing so inconsistently, the question is whether these Kentucky Wildcats are loaded enough to win a title by relying on their extraordinarily talented parts as opposed to becoming an efficiently functioning team. We have seen plenty of instances where supremely talented teams fail to live up to their potential because they rely on spectacular individual performances rather than cohesive play as a unit. However, few college basketball teams have boasted this amount of talent (all five Kentucky starters could be selected in next year’s NBA Lottery), particularly in an era where much of the top-level talent spends so little time in college.

Are The Wildcats A Group Of Individuals Or A Team?

The suggestion that the Wildcats function more as a talented group of individuals rather than a team should not be taken as a condemnation of Kentucky’s basketball team or John Calipari’s coaching methods even if some within the Big Blue Nation will take it as such. It is more a reflection of the extraordinary talent on this team and the lack of experience (outside of two seniors, the rotation is essentially two sophomores and four freshmen). You can make a compelling argument that the Wildcats still have ample time this season to come together as a team, but an equally compelling argument can be made that the skill sets of the players in their rotation tend to overlap so much that it is unrealistic for Calipari to put a rotation of his five best players on the floor and not have at least one of the players be somewhat redundant. As a result, it is unlikely that Kentucky will use all five players on the court at their optimal level, particularly on offense.

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Inconsistencies in SEC Preseason Awards Overshadows Positives

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 10th, 2011

The SEC Men’s Basketball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Awards were released yesterday, and they demonstrate the ridiculousness of preseason awards by demeaning the entire process. In a season where there is more talent in the SEC than any year in recent memory, the inconsistencies among the coaches’ decisions is troubling. The 2011-12 SEC Coaches first and second teams are as follows:

First Team All-SEC

  • G Dee Bost, Mississippi State
  • G Kenny Boynton, Florida
  • C Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt
  • F JaMychal Green, Alabama
  • G John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
  • F Terrence Jones, Kentucky
  • G/F Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt
  • G Erving Walker, Florida

Hey, Where Are the Freshmen SEC Stars Like Brad Beal?

Second Team All-SEC

  • F Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss
  • G Doron Lamb, Kentucky
  • G Darius Miller, Kentucky
  • F Tony Mitchell, Alabama
  • F Marshawn Powell, Arkansas
  • G Trevor Releford, Alabama
  • G Gerald Robinson, Georgia
  • F Renardo Sidney, Miss. State
  • F/C Patric Young, Florida

I have three major issues with this list:

  1. An All-Conference award team should consist of five players. Not eight. Not nine. Five. This is not an environment where everyone receives a trophy, and we should honor as many players as possible. Placing eight players on the first team and nine on the second team devalues the prestige of receiving the honor in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »
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