Night Line: Larry Eustachy Has Southern Miss On Track For Its First NCAA Bid in 21 Years

Posted by EJacoby on February 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Head coach Larry Eustachy hasn’t led a team to the NCAA Tournament since his two-seed Iowa State Cyclones were upset in the first round of 2001. But the Southern Miss basketball program has waited even longer, as it’s been 21 years since the Golden Eagles went dancing. This season, the combination of Eustachy’s guidance and a collection of veteran players have USM in prime position to earn a ticket to the Big Dance, whether as the champion of their league or an at-large selection. On Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles snapped a 17-game losing streak against Memphis by defeating the Tigers, 75-72, to earn sole possession of first place in Conference USA. A program that has never won an NCAA Tournament game is well on their way to having a chance to do so this season.

Larry Eustachy is Back in Control of a Potential NCAA Tournament Team (AP/S. Coleman)

Southern Miss (20-3, 7-1 C-USA) has quietly put together a solid resume this season, and Wednesday’s win was the signature victory they needed to justify their sparkling record. The Golden Eagles have only lost to undefeated Murray State in Alaska, at Denver in its first ‘real’ game, and at Memphis by two points earlier in the season. The Denver loss appears rough, but the Pioneers are actually a top 100 RPI team at 16-6, 6-3 in the Sun Belt, and it’s never easy to play a true road game at the start of the season. Meanwhile, Southern Miss has been flawless in the rest of its conference games and also boasts road wins at Colorado State and Arizona State and home victories over Ole Miss and South Florida, both of which are above .500 in the SEC and Big East, respectively. Tally it all up and the Golden Eagles have a spectacular RPI of #11, which is music to the NCAA Tournament committee’s ears.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 26th, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • Rice Upsets Texas A&M; Kazemi Records 36th Career Double-Double: The conference had arguably its best night of the season on Thursday, posting a 6-2 overall record, which was highlighted by Rice’s 65-58 upset victory over Texas A&M at College Station. Junior forward Arsalan Kazemi led Rice with 10 points and 13 rebounds, recording his ninth double-double of the season and 36th of his career, as the Owls snapped the Aggies’ 80-game regular season, non-conference home win streak. Kazemi is now six double-doubles shy of the conference record. The junior carried the scoring load in his sophomore season, but has found help this season from fellow junior Tamir Jackson and senior Lucas Kuipers.
  • Tulane Drops Second Game, Falling to Syracuse: The conference’s only losses Thursday night came against ranked competition. Tulane took on #1 Syracuse, losing 80-61 in a lopsided contest. However, the team’s trio of top scorers Kendall Timmons, Jordan Callahan and Ricky Tarrant were not shut out, combining for 41 points. Timmons was the top performer, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
  • Memphis’ Continues To Tumble: The high-powered Memphis Tiger offense was contained and exposed on Thursday night when it faced the #16 Georgetown Hoyas, falling 70-59. Despite averaging 80 points a contest, Memphis was held in check throughout the game, which has become a trend when the Tigers take on tougher competition. Sophomore guard Will Barton continued his fantastic play, contributing a double-double in the losing effort. Barton finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but fellow sophomore Chris Crawford led the team with 17 points. Barton currently leads the conference in scoring with an average of 19.9 points per game, which is more than two points higher than UCF’s Marcus Jordan, who is second in scoring.
  • UTEP Builds Mo’ In Hawaii: In the first game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, UTEP had a chance to make a statement and did, dominating Clemson. The Miners walked away with a 61-48 victory, following a 23-8 run during the game’s final 13 minutes. The Tigers recorded a lone field goal during that span. With the win, UTEP improves to .500 for the first time this season. Though they fell to the streaking Wildcats in the semifinal game, UTEP bounced back in the consolation round, holding off Auburn 83-76. The Miners are streaking at the right time, winners of four of their last five. Sophomore guard Michael Perez is finally filling the void left by Randy Culpepper, as he averaged over 17 points per game in the Diamond Head Classic.

Marcus Jordan Is Second In Conference USA In Scoring And The Knights Boast Two Of The League's Top Five Point-Scorers (Credit: Chris Schubert).

Power Rankings

  1. Tulane (11-2): The Green Wave suffered its second loss of the season on Thursday night, but they take a lot of experience away from facing the top-ranked team in the country. Tulane is the best defensive team in conference, allowing only 55.1 points a night. In comparison, the league’s worst defensive team, Memphis, allows 74.3 points per night. Kendall Timmons has found a long-term running partner in freshman Ricky Tarrant, who has blossomed into a star in the early part of this season.
  2. Southern Miss (10-2): It’s hard to pick nits on a team that has won six in a row. Southern Miss has emerged as one of the best teams in conference because they play complete team basketball. Lacking a consistent top performer, the Golden Eagles have relied on several players to make plays.  A lot of credit goes to the Golden Eagles seniors such as Darnell Dodson and Maurice Bolden, who each recorded a double-double in Thursday night’s win over South Florida. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Week Five

Posted by IRenko on December 23rd, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will bring you his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences each Friday during the season.  Follow him on twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

The biggest and most impressive result — but also most perplexing — of the past week was Davidson’s 80-74 win versus Kansas. The Wildcats are a genuine contender in the Southern Conference this year, but they haven’t proven to be one of the best teams in the TO26.  Indeed, the win in Kansas City was sandwiched between a 23-point drubbing at Charlotte and an eight-point loss at UMass, two teams that are hardly the caliber of the Jayhawks.

Nik Cochran Led Davidson to a Truly Shocking Upset

Yet for one shining moment in their non-conference schedule, Davidson went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country in one of the toughest road environments and in the process, managed to avenge their loss to Kansas in the Elite Eight in 2008.  Nik Cochran led the way with 21 points on just six field goal attempts.  He was 4-5 from three-point range and 7-8 from the free throw line.  But it was a fairly balanced effort for the Wildcats, who also received double-digit scoring from Jake Cohen, De’Mon Brooks, and J.P. Kuhlman.  Perhaps most importantly, they were able to contain Thomas Robinson on the defensive end.  Although the Kansas star notched 21 points, it took him 18 field goal attempts and 12 free throw attempts to get there.

More on the week that was after the updated Top 15 rankings, after the jump.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

  1. Break up the Utes! After dropping eight straight games and needing ten games to notch its first win over a Division I opponent, Utah has now won two in a row after knocking off Portland Monday night behind a career-high 26 points from senior point guard Josh Watkins. The Utes started hot and never trailed, but needed three big defensive plays – two blocked shots and a drawn charge – in the final two minutes to seal the game. Meanwhile, JuCo transfer Cedric Martin has turned into a solid second scoring option for Larry Krystkowiak’s club, hitting three threes on the night on his way to his third-straight game with double-digit scoring. Their trip to Weber State on Thursday figures to be a bit tougher, but it is good to see this team showing some life.
  2. Once again, we’ve got a Pac-12 team coming up with new and exciting ways to lose basketball games. Well, for Arizona State, I guess this isn’t all that new, as Monday night they lost their second-straight game on a buzzer-beating three. The most recent perpetrator was Southern Mississippi’s Darnell Dodson (formerly of Kentucky), playing in his first game back after having been dismissed from the team in April following a guilty plea to multiple criminal charges. Dodson played just a minute in the first half, but scored 17 points in the second half, including the game winner as time expired. The Sun Devils had rallied from 11-points down with under four minutes to play to tie the game up, after leading for the first 32 minutes. Keala King was spectacular for Herb Sendek’s team down the stretch, scoring five points, grabbing four rebounds, handing out three assists and swiping a couple steals in the final four minutes on his way to his first career double-double and likely his most complete game in a Sun Devil uniform.
  3. Somebody stole USC’s uniforms on Monday night. Either that or the scorekeeper was drunk. One of the two. How else to explain an 83-point outburst for a team that came into the game ranked 340th in the nation with just over 54 points per game. The Trojans scored 36 points in a loss against Cal Poly earlier in the season, but scored more than that in each half last night in its 24-point win over TCU. Maurice Jones led the way with 25 points, but sophomore Dewayne Dedmon chipped in 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, grabbed six boards and was exceptionally active defensively, blocking three shots and getting three steals. Not only did the Trojans put in an unprecedented display offensively (aside from knocking down shots, they only turned the ball over four times), they also got back to playing defense the way they are used to, forcing 20 Horned Frog turnovers.
  4. Weird story out of Eugene today, as ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan posted a story citing quotes supposedly from Dana Altman’s postgame press conference following Oregon’s home loss to Virginia on Sunday, in which Altman apparently ripped everything from the Ducks’ play to the Cavs’ Mike Scott and even the team’s pregame spaghetti. Only problem was, Altman never said any of those things. Oregon sports information director Chris Geraghty said that the Ducks’ website had been “compromised” at some point on Sunday night with a hacker making changes to Altman’s published postgame quotes.
  5. Lastly, let’s put the name Jabari Brown to bed for awhile. Brown, who was Altman’s big program-changing five-star recruit, lasted exactly two games and produced 12 points in his Duck career before suddenly leaving the team in the middle of the semester with the intention to transfer out of the program. On Monday, it became official that Brown has committed to Frank Haith and Missouri, as had been rumored for the last couple weeks, and he will be eligible as a sophomore at the end of the first semester in 2012. In the meantime, Brown threw away a season of eligibility for no obvious reason, and we shall never speak of him again around these parts.
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Summer School in the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 7th, 2010

Jared Quillen from Big Blue Cats is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

News: At the spring meetings in Destin, Florida, SEC officials discussed scrapping the divisional format in conference tournament play. Under the current system, the top two teams in each division get a bye in the opening round of the SEC tournament. Going to a one-through-twelve seeding instead of two groups of one-through-six would effectively protect the top teams in the SEC, and increase the likelihood of the SEC getting five, six, or even seven teams in the NCAA tournament (the goal should be eight). Last year Mississippi State and Mississippi finished first and second, respectively, in the Western division, but only fifth and sixth overall in the conference behind Eastern division teams Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Florida, yet both teams were awarded opening round byes in the conference tournament and still missed the NCAA Tournament.

The West as a whole finished a putrid 9-27 against the East. Take away the West’s five wins against Georgia and it gets really ugly. Despite the uneven seeding the Eastern division managed to go 8-3 in the SEC tournament, so there is a strong case for going to a one-through-twelve tournament.

As you might expect, SEC West coaches wanted to keep the status quo. As Arkansas coach John Pelphrey put it, “There was a lot of discussion about it. I was for the way things are right now. Year in and year out, the fairest way to do it was to seed it by how you fare in your division,” which is pretty much what you would expect from a coach whose team finished third in the West but only seventh overall. “The problem is….you could have a team in the East that has a similar or same record as a team in the West, but it’s really a different record because of the teams you’re playing.” SEC teams play teams in their division twice and non-division opponents once. “What happens when you have two teams vying for a bye, and they have the same record?” as Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s where we came to a stalemate. We didn’t know what direction to go.”

Donovan highlights a good point as all of the coaches prefer keeping the current divisional format for league play and, as Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl explained, “There was some concern that if they re-seeded the SEC tournament one through twelve (like the Big 12), it would be the first step to doing away with the divisions.” In the end the SEC opted to do just as they did when other conferences were trading teams — nothing. It remains the opinion of Rush The Court, however, that the best and fairest system is to reward the teams with the best records and play a one through twelve tournament.

Coaching Carousel: On March 24th Tony Barbee was hired to replace Jeff Lebo at Auburn whose teams went 96-93 during Lebo’s six-year tenure. Barbee will be one of six coaches in the SEC with three years or less in the league, a list that includes up-and-comers Pelphrey (three years), Anthony Grant (two), Darrin Horn (two), Trent Johnson (two), and Mark Fox (one). With this crew in place, the SEC has a glut of rising coaches equaled by no conference in America.  The sad reality, however, is that there are only so many wins to go around, and some of these coaches are going to lose their up-and-coming status just as Kentucky’s Billy Gillispie and Georgia’s Dennis Felton did.

Recruiting: The SEC boasts 18 players in ESPN’s top 100, a number matched only by the ACC. Indeed, five of twelve SEC teams brought in at least two players in the top 100, including Kentucky with five. That’s the kind of talent the SEC’s going to need if the league is to reestablish itself as a dominant basketball conference.

Trent Johnson Has His Work Cut Out...

Power Rankings The following rankings are not necessarily a prediction of order of finish as much as an indicator of which teams have done the most to improve and to address deficiencies in the off-season.

  1. Kentucky – Kentucky’s entire team (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Pattrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton) went to the NBA. Kentucky also lost Perry Stevenson, Ramon Harris and Mark Krebs to graduation, and Darnell Dodson is gone for the season for undisclosed reasons. So what did John Calipari do? He signed the number one class in the America, again. Calipari’s haul includes five top 50 players in point guard Brandon Knight, shooting guard Doron Lamb, small forward Stacey Poole, power forwards Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter, and center Eloy Vargas who comes to Kentucky after playing one year at Florida and one year at Miami Dade College. The new Cats will be asked to contribute immediately as Kentucky will enter the 2010-11 season with only four returning scholarship players, two of which played less than five minutes per game last year. Time will tell, however, if number one in the summer power rankings translates into another SEC championship and deep NCAA run.
  2. Tennessee – Tennessee had as turbulent a season as any team in America last year, losing Tyler Smith for the season and Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams to suspension early in the year. After the Volunteers barely lost to Michigan State — just missing their first Final Four in the process — they also lost seniors Bobby Maze, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince. Coach Bruce Pearl has proven himself one of the better recruiters in the nation, however, and this year is no different. Pearl brings in top flight power forward Tobias Harris and talented shooting guards Jordan McRae and Trae Golden. Pearl also adds John Fields, a transfer from UNC Wilmington. Fields, a 6’9” forward who played one year after Wilmington after playing two years at East Carolina, will have one year of eligibility remaining and should be able to play immediately as NCAA rules allow a transfer player who has graduated to play immediately if he is enrolling in graduate school. Last year Fields averaged 10.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds in one season at Wilmington where he also set the school single game rebounding record with 21 against Towson.
  3. Florida – Florida could use a little depth up front and that’s about it. The Gators return their entire starting five and all but five of their 72 points per game. After just slipping into the NCAA Tournament last year, Florida enters the 2010-11 season as the SEC favorite and a legitimate top ten team. With no significant losses, freshmen power forwards Patric Young, Will Yeguete, and Cody Larsen will fill the final pieces in Florida’s march back to relevance after three less-than-stellar years following its two championships. Coach Donovan also brings in shooting guard Casey Prather and early high school graduate Scottie Wilbekin at point guard. Donovan is already adding talent for 2011, as well. Rutgers’ leading scorer Mike Rosario will sit out this season and be eligible for next year. Look for Donovan’s critics to hush now that the Gators are back on track. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 08.03.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 3rd, 2010

  1. Your Pitino/Sypher trial update…the biggest news from Monday was that Sypher’s ex-husband stated on the record that Sypher told him that she turned down a plea bargain because she wanted to “take Pitino [down] with” her.  The brilliance of this woman should not be understated, folks — she very well may end up imprisoned and penniless, while Pitino simply continues on about his business coaching his team and making millions of dollars (although she might counter with “15 seconds,” FTW).  To that end, CNNSI’s Dan Shaughnessy believes that Louisville should can Pitino for such a public embarrassment, while Seth Davis implores all of us to consider that, while Pitino is many things — including cad, adulterer and narcissist — he’s also a victim in this mess.
  2. Two former prominent collegiate point guards joined coaching staffs yesterday, with 1995 national champion Tyus Edney returning to his alma mater UCLA to join Ben Howland’s staff; and Duke basketball/Syracuse football star Greg Paulus joining Billy Lange’s staff at the Naval Academy.
  3. The fourth installment of the Flourishing Five finds Texas at #2 on the strength of Mack Brown and Rick Barnes’ programs.  That means that Florida will be #1 when the final installment is released later this week.  How do you guys feel about this?  Certainly we understand that the last five years have been phenomenal for both UF programs (titles in basketball in 2006 and 2007; football in 2006 and 2008).  But now, at exactly this moment in time?  UT hoops is  clearly ahead of Gator basketball, but can we say that UF football is right now that far ahead of Texas pigskin?  Not sure about that.
  4. Believe it or not, but practice has already started…at Kentucky.  And this isn’t some loophole that John Calipari has found in the NCAA rulebook, either.  Since UK is taking a mid-August trip to Windsor, Canada, the Wildcats get ten days to break in all of their new players over the next couple of weeks.  One player who won’t be joining the team on the Canada trip or at any point next year (according to Calipari) is Darnell Dodson, the top returning scorer on last year’s team (6.0 PPG).  Another projected top 25 team taking advantage of this mid-summer opportunity to get better is the Pittsburgh PanthersJamie Dixon’s team is in Ireland at the moment as part of a six-game trip over the next week-plus, and they’ve destroyed the two Gaelic teams they’ve faced so far.
  5. This is an interesting article by Pete Thamel at the NYT about World Wide Wes (aka William Wesley) in his newish role as an advisor for Creative Artists Agency (CAA).  There are questions as to the amount of access WWW will be able to have with blue-chippers now that he’s formally associated with an agency, but if we know anything about World Wide, he’ll probably figure out a way.
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ATB: Butler and West Virginia Punch Tickets to Indy

Posted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2010

Ticket Punching.  We all should have known something like this was in store by the first afternoon of the NCAA Tournament a short nine days ago.  That Thursday’s early insanity portended an unpredictable week-plus that has ultimately resulted in six teams still standing, only one of whom was given serious consideration for the Final Four (Duke).  Raise your hand if you had Butler and West Virginia in your Final Four, though — not even the autistic kid from Chicago had those two, and even though everyone was well aware as to the talent and capabilities of both the Bulldogs and Mountaineers, few people actually thought they could get to Indy (including us).  We’ve already read several references to the “Final Snore” with respect to the relative star power of these two teams plus the prospects of a not-Duke making it tomorrow, and we really don’t want to hear it.  The Tournament has been mostly chalk the last couple of years and then we heard complaints that there weren’t enough upsets.  This year, we’ve had a wide-open field with any of a number of teams having a legitimate shot to win it all (remember the “there are no dominant teams” meme?), and we’re perfectly fine with that.  Once in a while, the nature of this event unfolds in such a way that causes bracket mayhem, and instead of the same-old traditional power matchups, we end up with magical stories like Butler returning home to play in its first-ever Final Four and Bob Huggins leading his alma mater to same for the first time in several generations.

John Flowers Reps WVU's Muscle (Getty/C. Chambers)

On Knowing Yourself. #2 West Virginia 73, #1 Kentucky 66. Know thyself, the aphorism goes. Attributed to Socrates, it’s a piece of advice the Wildcats should have heeded against the Mountaineers. Everything that’s being written and discussed regarding this game revolves around Kentucky starting off at Absolute Zero from three. In fact, we’ve been hearing all season long about how Kentucky is not a “great shooting team.” Sure, an 0-20 start from beyond the arc doesn’t help, but let’s be honest. That’s an outlier. This stuff about not being able to shoot is not entirely true. Coming into this, Kentucky was the 15th best team in the nation as far as FG%, at 48.3%. That’s 15th out of 345 Division I teams. Sounds pretty great to us — but it’s not the whole story. From inside the arc, Kentucky was sixth in the nation (54.4%). From outside the arc, they drop to 34.4%. In other words, despite all the talk about how fantastic John Wall is (and he is) and how he can own a basketball game, Kentucky was and always should have been a low post-oriented team. The story isn’t that Kentucky went 4-32 (13%) from three-point range — it’s that they were taking them in the first place. Yes, that siren’s song of the open three is hard to resist. But a team with two lottery picks in the post should be looking to get the ball to the post, yes? There’s no reason that Darnell Dodson — a fine shooting guard, no question — should shoot nine shots (all of them threes) in his 12 minutes while Patrick Patterson shoots only seven shots in 37 minutes, with four of those coming from three. By the time Kentucky had gotten to 0-9, 0-10, 0-11…it was in their heads. West Virginia, on the other hand, showed total self-awareness. They relied on the exact same recipe that’s kept them in the upper reaches of the Top 25 all year long, the same recipe that earned them a Big East Conference Tournament championship. Sure, they don’t usually hit threes like they did in the first half, but after that hot start, when they cooled off, they did what they do best — drive to the hole using their inestimable athleticism. Kevin Jones, Da’Sean Butler, even hero-of-the-hour Joe Mazzulla either worked off of high screens to dart for the rim or just took their man to the hoop depending on who they had on them. Time after time, Eric Bledsoe and John Wall were left standing while the Mountaineer they were supposed to be guarding flew past them and got layups, revealing that the alleged weakness of the Kentucky guards is not their shooting, as is popularly believed — it’s that they don’t defend. Nobody’s wanted to say that all season, it seems, as if they’d be pointing out a naked emperor. But it explains the hot shooting start for WVU and the steady diet of layups the Mountaineers enjoyed. Knowing they didn’t have to guard the three as tightly, WVU then packed in that bizarre 1-3-1 zone tighter and frustrated the Wildcat bigs with physical play and quick hands. So yes, this is a shocker, and yes, maybe West Virginia shouldn’t have been in this region. But Kentucky’s players — and certainly their fans — know that UK wins this game if they play to their biggest strength. Indeed, Wall’s biggest strength is driving to the basket, and the only points of his that didn’t result from drives came on a banked-in three. But the Big Blue Nation should be happy, considering where they were last year, what they accomplished last year, and the likelihood of more fun to come. Wall, Patterson, and DeMarcus Cousins are almost certainly headed to the NBA, and you can’t blame them. Eric Bledsoe has considered the jump and there’s a lot of talk of even Daniel Orton leaving school. Our stance is that the latter two need a little more of…well, the Socratic Method. West Virginia has no such worries. And it wouldn’t matter right now, because they’re still alive. They’re going to the Final Four, and they deserve it. Why are they going instead of Kentucky? They were true to their own nature. They knew themselves.

At Only 33, Butler's Brad Stevens Still Has Some Moves (Reuters/R. Galbraith)

Let’s Go Home, Shall We? #5 Butler 63, #2 Kansas State 56.  Chants of “Let’s Go Home!!” echoed throughout the building, and Brad Stevens broke into dance along with his players (pictured above), and who could blame him?  It wasn’t that long ago that simply making the Dance was a great accomplishment for a program like Butler.  Then getting to the Sweet Sixteen was the ultimate goal.  Now, with today’s methodical and defensive-minded defeat of #2 seed Kansas State, the bar has been raised to where the Final Four and beyond are what will define this plucky little program from Indianapolis.  And yet, despite the difference in seeds and the obvious difference in athleticism among the players, the result today was entirely predictable based on what we’ve already seen from this Bulldog team in this Tournament.  Their defense has been the story, now having held four different teams to fewer then sixty points and we’re not exactly talking about Horizon League bottom-feeders here either.  Syracuse and K-State boasted two of the most efficient offenses in the nation, but the Butler preparation, focus and execution on the key scoring threats of both teams was nothing short of phenomenal.  Just like the Bulldogs did on Thursday night against Andy Rautins, KSU guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente could not find open looks anywhere through most of this game.  The two primary scoring threats for the Wildcats ultimately connected on 11-30 field goals, but many of those came very late in the game when K-State made its final push to briefly take a lead before running out of gas.  On the Butler side, it was Gordon Hayward (22/9) who was the star of the show, connecting on a wide array of jumpers, drives and even an alley-oop during this game.  Shelvin Mack (16/7/3 assts) had his typically effective game, and when it came down to the last few minutes of play it was clear which team had the clearer head to make the plays needed to win.  Dick Vitale is going on and on about Butler not being a Cinderella, and we agree only to the extent that they are a known commodity.  But we have to be realistic, too, and programs the caliber of Butler simply do not make it to the Final Four very often, and when they do they should be celebrated as such.  This isn’t UNLV in the 90s or Memphis of the last decade — this is a true mid-major school without the luxury of BCS level resources who is still getting major program results.  Programs from Clemson to Colorado and USC to Georgia, would do very well to take notice of how they did it.  It’s an unbelievable story and one of which we hope to report on throughout the week.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2010

EAST

  1. Kentucky 22-1 (7-1)
  2. Tennessee 18-4 (6-2)
  3. Vanderbilt 17-5 (6-2)
  4. Florida 17-6 (6-3)
  5. South Carolina 13-9 (4-4)
  6. Georgia 10-11 (2-6)

WEST

  1. Arkansas 12-11 (5-3)
  2. Mississippi 17-6 (5-4)
  3. Mississippi State 16-7 (4-4)
  4. Alabama 13-10 (3-6)
  5. Auburn 11-12 (2-6)
  6. LSU 9-14 (0-9)

Thanks to Villanova’s loss, Kentucky inched nearer the top of the polls again, moving to #2 in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 and #3 in the AP Top 25. Tennessee moved up a couple of spots to #12 in both polls, while Vanderbilt fell to #22 in the AP and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Mississippi and Florida are still getting votes, but the SEC is looking like a three-team race in the East and it appears no one wants to win the West. Arkansas leads the West and critics may point at their 12-11 overall record as a negative, but this is a totally different team with Courtney Fortson in the lineup.  Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season and Arkansas’s Courtney Fortson took player of the week honors.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • 2/9 -#12 Tennessee @ #24 Vanderbilt – 7PM – ESPN
  • 2/9 – Alabama @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPNU
  • 2/10 – Florida at South Carolina – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/10 – LSU @ Arkansas – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/11 – Mississippi @ Mississippi State – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 2/13 – Xavier @ Florida – 6 PM – ESPN
  • 2/13 – #12 Tennessee @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPN

THE WEEK THAT WAS

MISSISSIPPI (4-3) @ KENTUCKY (5-1)

Kentucky jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead over the Rebels and never looked back en route to a 85-75 victory. The Wildcats never trailed in the game and built the lead to 27-9 just ten minutes into the game. A big part of the Wildcats’ plan was to frustrate Mississippi guard Chris Warren and it worked as UK played tough defense throughout the game. Ole Miss would make runs and cut the lead to three on a couple of occasions but UK responded by pushing the lead to double digits where it remained. DeMarcus Cousins led the way for Kentucky with 18 points, 13 boards and 4 blocks. John Wall added 17 points and 7 assists and put aside any concerns of a rift with UK coach John Calipari. Darnell Dodson moved into the starting lineup for UK and had 14 points on 4-5 three-point shooting. The Rebels were led by Terrico White with 19 points and Eniel Polynice added 14 as the three Ole Miss guards (including Warren’s 15) accounted for 48 of Ole Miss’s 75 points.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-2) @ VANDERBILT (5-1)

The Commodores were dominating the Bulldogs early and at one point had built a 14-point lead, but Mississippi State cut into that lead at 73-72 with 28 seconds left when Dee Bost nailed a three-pointer. Vandy’s John Jenkins then hit two free throws with :06 left and Dee Bost missed a potential game-tying trey as Vanderbilt hung on for the 75-72 win. The win was the Commodore’s 16th straight home win. Jermaine Beal led Vandy with 17 points and A.J. Ogilvy added 16 as VU won their 11th game out of 12. Kodi Augustus led Mississippi State with 15 points and Jarvis Varnado had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

ARKANSAS (3-3) @ GEORGIA (1-5)

Georgia pretty much had their way in the first half of the game with the Razorbacks as they built a 37-22 halftime lead. The Bulldogs came out cold in the second half with only two FG’s in the first ten minutes and Arkansas used a 26-8 run to pull away for a 72-68 win. Arkansas’ Courtney Fortson sealed the deal with five FT’s in the last forty seconds. He led the Hogs with 27 points and hit 12-16 FTs in the game. Michael Washingon and Marshawn Powell had complete games for Arkansas with 15 points/8 boards and 11 points/9 boards. Trey Thompkins had 21 points for the Bulldogs and Travis Leslie chipped in with 14 points for the Bulldogs.

TENNESSEE (4-2) @ LSU (0-7)

The Volunteers seemed to have their game with LSU firmly in control as they led the Tigers 51-37 with about eight minutes remaining. At that point, the Tigers mounted a furious rally and the Volunteers could only manage eight points the rest of the way. LSU pulled within a point at 55-54 with seventeen seconds remaining but Bobby Maze calmly sunk a pair of FTs and the Vols held on for a 58-54 victory. Wayne Chism was the only Vol in double digits as he scored 20 points and hauled in 7 rebounds. For the Tigers, it was another dismal shooting night as they sank just 30.5% of their shots and were held to just 16 points in the first half. Bo Spencer hit 4 3-pointers and scored 25 points to lead the Tigers. Tasmin Mitchell added 13 points and 17 rebounds.

FLORIDA (4-3) @ ALABAMA (3-4)

Florida held a 64-60 lead over Alabama with 1:59 remaining but the Crimson Tide were not finished fighting. Alabama’s Anthony Brock stole the ball and scored on a three-point play and Mikhail Torrance hit a jumper to give Alabama a 65-64 lead with forty-nine seconds left. Florida’s Erving Walker then hit a jumper to give the Gators a 66-65 lead and Florida’s defense denied a couple of Alabama chances to seal the Gator win. Alex Tyus led the Gators with 19 points on 8-10 shooting and he pulled down 7 boards. Walker finished with 16 points and Kenny Boynton 15 as the Florida starters accounted for all but two of the Gator points. Torrance led Alabama with 22 points and hit five threes. JaMychal Green added 14 points for Alabama. This game was the first SEC meeting between UF coach Billy Donovan and former Florida assistant Anthony Grant.

KENTUCKY (6-1) @ LSU (0-8)

Kentucky was wary of a “trap game” heading into LSU just two days after the Tigers gave Tennessee all they wanted. The Tigers jumped out to a 6-1 lead over UK and were trailing just 12-10 with 10:44 left in the first half. Any thoughts of a LSU upset were dashed as UK went on a 22-0 run and took a 42-14 lead in at halftime. Kentucky coasted the second half and never let the Tigers get within 20 and won the interdivisional matchup 81-55. The game marked the sixth straight double-double for DeMarcus Cousins who poured in 19 points and 13 rebounds. Patrick Patterson added 16 and Eric Bledsoe and UK is now 22-1 on the season. Bo Spencer scored 25 points and Tasmin Mitchell added 10 as the Tigers shot just 31.8% for the game.

SOUTH CAROLINA (4-3) @ TENNESSEE (5-2)

Devan Downey may be the Southeastern Conference’s most dangerous shooter, but Tennessee’s Wayne Chism stole the show from him for at least one night. Chism scored a career-high 30 points as #14 Tennessee limited Downey’s scoring opportunities in a 79-53 rout of South Carolina. Tennessee held USC to just 16 points and led at the break 30-16. Bobby Maze and Scotty Hopson both had 11 points to pace the Vols. Downey did score 26 points, albeit on a 5-20 shooting night. He was 13-14 from the line. Brandis Raley-Ross threw in 12 for the Gamecocks.

VANDERBILT (6-1) @ GEORGIA (1-6)

The Georgia Bulldogs shocked the SEC when they outscored the Vanderbilt Commodores 49-32 in the second half en route to a 72-58 win. Vandy led 36-28 in the second half, but Georgia figured out the Vandy press and used a 14-21 shooting second half to spring the upset. Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both had 17 points for the Bulldogs and Dustin Ware added 10. Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley were the only two Commdores to show up with 21 and 18 points.

AUBURN (2-5) @ ARKANSAS (4-3)

Courtney Fortson scored 24 points — including nine in a row late in overtime — to lead Arkansas over Auburn 82-79. Fortson’s 3-pointer broke a 71-71 tie, and he later hit from the perimeter and made two free throws with 40.6 seconds left to make it 78-73. After an Auburn miss, Fortson made a layup for a seven-point lead. Auburn had forced overtime with Andre Malone’s layup on wild play in the final seconds of regulation. Marshawn Powell had 19 for Arkansas and Rotnei Clarke, added 12. Frankie Sullivan and Tay Waller both led Auburn with 18 apiece.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-3) @ FLORIDA (5-3)

Florida seemed to have the game in hand, leading the Bulldogs by 12 with 2:38 left, but the Gators had problems putting the Bulldogs away. The Bulldogs scored seven straight points and even got to within four at 66-62 before Florida closed the game out with free throws to win 69-62. Vernon Macklin scored 20 points for Florida and Chandler Parsons added 18 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Parsons was pressed into service as an emergency PG as Erving Walker was benched temporarily during a 2-14 shooting night. Ravern Johnson scored 20 for Mississippi State and Jarvis Varnado had 16 points and 13 boards.

ALABAMA (3-5) @ MISSISSIPPI (4-4)

Chris Warren scored 21 points, and Terrence Henry had 18 points and eight rebounds to help Mississippi come back to beat Alabama 74-67 and stay a half-game behind Arkansas in the SEC West. Mississippi trailed by 23 points in the second half but outscored the Crimson Tide 54-27 in the second half. Alabama dominated the first half 40-20. Terrence Henry added 18 for the Rebels. JaMychal Green scored 18 points for Alabama and Tony Mitchell pitched in 16.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles… (With a Wednesday Twist)

Posted by zhayes9 on February 3rd, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

This week’s Scribbles column will look ahead to a couple months down the road in Indianapolis, where 65 deserving teams will be whittled down to just four, and to that blissful Monday night in April when one lucky group will be dancing at mid-court to the tune of One Shining Moment. In my estimation, there are ten squads with a promising-to-slight chance of hoisting a 2010 National Champions banner during their home opener next season. I’m here to tell you those ten teams, why they have hopes of winning a national title, what’s holding them back, and the most realistic scenario as I see it come late March or beginning of April. These teams are ranked in reverse order from 10-1 with the #1 school holding the best cards in their deck.

10. Duke

Why they can win it all: Their floor leader and senior stalwart Jon Scheyer is the steadiest distributor in all of college basketball, evident from his incredibly stellar 3.28 A/T ratio and a 5.6 APG mark that ranks third in the ACC and 23d in the nation. Scheyer is also a deadly shooter coming off screens when he has time to square his body to the basket, nailing a career-high 39% from deep to go along with 44% from the floor overall. Duke is also a tremendous free-throw shooting team as a whole and Coach K has the ability to play a group of Scheyer-Kyle Singler-Nolan Smith-Mason Plumlee-Lance Thomas that doesn’t feature one player under 70% from the charity stripe. Duke also features a ton more size in the paint than during previous flameouts in the NCAA Tournament. When Singler plays small forward, Coach K can rotate Miles and Mason Plumlee, the glue guy Thomas, rebounding force Brian Zoubek and even Ryan Kelly at two positions with no player under 6’8. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more efficient backcourt in the nation than Scheyer and Smith. And it’s widely known that exceptional guard play is the ultimate key to winning in March.

What Makes Duke 2010 Different than Duke 2006-09?

Why they won’t win it all: Depth could certainly be an issue for the Blue Devils’ chances of raising their first banner since 2001. Andre Dawkins has fallen almost entirely out of the rotation and Coach K has started to limit Mason Plumlee’s minutes during important games. Also, Brian Zoubek’s tendency to immediately step into foul trouble limits his availability. It wouldn’t shock me to see Duke play Scheyer, Smith and Singler 40 minutes per game during their time in the NCAA Tournament. That could cause those key players, who rely primarily on their jump shot, to lose their legs and start throwing up bricks. Kyle Singler isn’t quite the superstar he was last season, either. Singler’s numbers are down across the board — scoring, rebounding, FG%, 3pt% — and he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury that may not improve in the weeks and months ahead. Duke also lacks the athleticism of teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Texas. They could struggle with quicker guards like John Wall and athletic rebounders of the Damion James mold.

Likely scenario: I see Duke reaching the Sweet 16 as a #2 seed where they fall to a more athletic, quick group of guards that can explode to the rim and draw fouls. Duke may have height, but most of that height just isn’t a threat offensively by any stretch of the imagination. Eventually getting into a jump shooting contest could be the Blue Devils’ downfall if two of Smith, Scheyer and Singler go cold.

9. West Virginia

Why they can win it all: Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in the nation when the chips are on the table. If the Mountaineers need a big shot to keep their season alive, Butler will demand the basketball and more than likely deliver. He’s downed Marquette and Louisville on game-deciding jumpers and led the second half charge against Ohio State. West Virginia is also supremely athletic and Bob Huggins’ teams always crash the boards with a tremendous ferocity. No contender can match the height across the board that West Virginia touts other than Kentucky. Huggins has experimented with lineups in which all of his players are 6’6 or taller, including 6’9 Devin Ebanks acting as a point-forward and 6’7 Da’Sean Butler capable of posting up smaller two-guards. Sophomore Kevin Jones is an incredible talent and a rebounding machine (7.7 RPG) that hits 55% of his shots from the floor and 44% from deep. West Virginia has the luxury of any of their forwards being able to step out and drain a mid-range jumper, from Ebanks to Jones to Wellington Smith to John Flowers every once in a full moon.

Ebanks is the X-factor for West Virginia

Why they won’t win it all: Let’s face it: Bob Huggins doesn’t have exactly the best track record when it comes to NCAA Tournament success. Huggins hasn’t reached the Elite 8 since 1995-96 with Cincinnati and only one Sweet 16 in the last ten years. In 2000 and 2002, his Bearcats lost just four games all season and yet didn’t reach the second weekend of March both times. Most also question whether the Mountaineers can hit outside shots on a consistent basis. They’ve struggled mightily in the first half of Big East games and can’t afford to fall behind against elite competition in March like they did against Dayton last season. Point guard play is a prudent question for West Virginia, as well. Joe Mazzulla is a quality perimeter defender and a capable distributor, but he’ll never be the offensive threat he was two seasons ago due to that shoulder injury. Darryl Bryant can certainly catch a hot streak shooting-wise, but in all honestly he’s more suited as an undersized two-guard. Bryant is averaging just 3.6 APG in 25+ MPG of action.

Likely scenario: I’m still fairly high on this team. I love Butler at the end of games and Ebanks can do anything for Huggins — from score to rebound to run the point — and Kevin Jones is one of the most underappreciated players in the Big East. In the end, I see a clankfest from outside ultimately costing West Virginia their season. And for all their rebounding history, the Mountaineers are in the mid-60s in the nation. The Elite Eight seems like a proper place for their season to conclude.

8. Texas

Why they can win it all: No team boasts better perimeter defenders than Texas. Anyone that watched Dogus Balbay completely shut down James Anderson in the second half Monday night knows he’s the best perimeter defender in the nation, even stronger than Purdue’s Chris Kramer. Avery Bradley came in with the reputation as an elite defender and he’s certainly lived up to that billing. Even J’Covan Brown off the bench is a capable defensive player and Justin Mason is a plus defender. When Dexter Pittman stays out of foul trouble, Texas boasts a legitimate shot-blocking presence that can negate quick guards on the rare occasion they slip past Balbay or Bradley. Texas is also the deepest team in the nation and Rick Barnes has the capability of playing 10 or 11 men on any night if he feels the need. The preserved minutes could pay dividends in the form of fresh players come March. Damion James should also be on a mission come March as a senior. He’s never reached a Final Four during his Longhorns career and came back for a fourth year in Austin to accomplish that very feat.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on February 2nd, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
EAST
  1. Kentucky                          20-1  (5-1)
  2. Vanderbilt                        16-4   (5-1)
  3. Tennessee                        16-4  (4-2)
  4. Florida                                15-6  (4-3)
  5. South Carolina             13-8  (4-3)
  6. Georgia                                9-10 (1-5)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State           16-5  (4-2)
  2. Mississippi                        16-5  (4-3)
  3. Arkansas                             10-11 (3-3)
  4. Alabama                              13-8 (3-4)
  5. Auburn                                11-11 (2-5)
  6. LSU                                         9-12  (0-7)
Both races in the East and the West are shaping up to be fierce battles to the end, but the East is taking an especially entertaining turn.  Kentucky found out the perils of paying on the road as a number one team as their reign at number one lasted barely 24 hours, as South Carolina and Devan Downey knocked them from their throne, 68-62. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, pulled off a big upset at Knoxville and had a chance to take a two game lead in the East but could not handle the resurgent Wildcats at Rupp Arena, who forced a tie atop the East at 5-1.  Tennessee kept themselves in the race with a thrilling win over Florida on Sunday to remain just a game back. Kentucky fell to #3 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #4 in the AP Top 25 after their one-and-done turn at the top of the polls.  Tennessee also took a tumble to 14th in both polls after losing to Vanderbilt this week, and the Commodores are 18th in the AP Top 25 and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today.  Ole Miss fell out of the ESPN/Today poll after a shocking loss to Arkansas on Sunday and are clinging to the 25th spot in the AP Top 25.  In weekly honors, Arkansas’s Marshawn Powell took home SEC Freshman of the Week honors and South Carolina’s Devan Downey was named the SEC player of the week. GAMES OF THE WEEK
  • 2/2 – #25 Mississippi (16-5) @ #4 Kentucky (20-1) – 7 PM  ESPN
  • 2/3 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ #18 Vanderbilt (16-4) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/4 – Florida (15-6) @ Alabama (13-8) – 7 PM – ESPNU
  • 2/6 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ Florida (15-6) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/6 – Alabama (13-8) @ #25 Mississippi (16-5) – 6 PM
  • 2/6 – South Carolina (13-8) @ #14 Tennessee (16-4) – 6 PM – ESPN

TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25 – ESPN/Today polls)

EAST

Kentucky (#4, #3) — Kentucky played nothing like the #1 team in the country as they missed 18 layups and lost a 68-62 game on the road to South Carolina this past Tuesday.  DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead Kentucky, and John Wall added 19 points.  Those two accounted for 46 of the Wildcats’ 62 points, and that lack of a third scorer was a main reason UK fell. Kentucky bounced back from their loss to South Carolina with a convincing 85-72 win over the hot Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 13 point lead 10 minutes into the game and controlled the final 30 minutes, keeping the lead in double digits the entire way. Cousins had another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Darnell Dodson scored 16 points while getting a rare start to lead UK.

Vanderbilt (#18, #20)Jermaine Beal scored 25 points and Vanderbilt won its 10th straight game with an 85-76 victory over No. 14 Tennessee on Wednesday night. It was Vandy’s first win in Knoxville in five tries and its first win over a ranked opponent this season.  A.J. Ogilvy added 12 points and three other Commodores hit double digits as Vandy shot 50.7% for the game.  Vanderbilt fell behind Kentucky early at Rupp Arena in that Saturday game  and could never regroup, falling 85-72 to the Wildcats.  The Commodores were outrebounded 39-21 by the Wildcats. Beal led the way for Vandy with 19 points and shot 4-8 from beyond the arc.  Ogilvy added 12 for the Commodores.

Tennessee (#14, #14)J.P Prince scored 22 points on 9-10 shooting but it was not enough for the Volunteers to defend their home court in a 85-76 loss to Vanderbilt.  Scotty Hopson and Bobby Maze added 14 and 12 points, respectively, as the Vols fell to 3-2 in the SEC.  Hopson hit a jumper with :17 remaining to give the Volunteers a thrilling 61-60 win over the Florida Gators on Sunday.  The shot allowed the Vols to notch their sixth straight win over the Gators.  Wayne Chism had 16 points and 11 boards to lead the Vols and help them avoid a three game losing streak.

FloridaAlex Tyus scored 23 points, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton added 21 apiece, and Florida beat Georgia on Wednesday, 87-71.  The Gators extended their winning streak to four and continued their recent domination in the series. Florida has won 12 of their last 13 meetings versus the Bulldogs. Tyus missed a short jumper with five seconds left and, in a game televised nationally on CBS this past Sunday, the Gators went down to a sixth straight loss in games against Tennessee.  Tyus led the Gators with 18 points, and Chandler Parsons added 14.  Parsons hit a late 3-pointer to give the Gators a lead, and was in a position to hit his third game-winning shot of the year.  A Scotty Hopson jumper dashed those dreams and gave UT the lead for good.

South Carolina — Devan Downey took nearly half his team’s shots and threw in 30 points to lead his Gamecocks to a 68-62 win over Kentucky.  Downey took over the game during the closing minutes and the Wildcats had no answer on covering him.  Brandis Raley-Ross added 17 points and gave the Gamecocks another scoring option they had been lacking recently.  Kentucky was the first #1 team that the  Gamecocks have defeated in eight attempts.  Downey had 33 points, including the driving basket with 50 seconds left, that gave South Carolina a 78-77 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Gamecocks trailed 63-54 with less than 10 minutes remaining but then Downey scored 12 out of the Gamecocks’ final 24 points down the stretch.  Sam Muldrow added 19 points and 11 boards for South Carolina.

Georgia –  Ricky McPhee drained five three pointers and scored 21 points on Wednesday, but the Bulldogs were still blown out by the Gators, 87-71.  The Bulldogs were, in effect, a three man team with Trey Thompkins scoring 24 and Travis Leslie adding 11/8/4 in the loss.  The two other players Georgia started scored a total of just eight points and the Bulldogs wasted a 59% shooting night in a 16 point loss.  Georgia’s had it’s share of tough losses this season, but the 78-77 loss at South Carolina on Saturday may have been its toughest.  The Bulldogs became the latest team that could not control Devan Downey down the stretch as he hit the game winner with :50 left.  Leslie and Thompkins had 21 and 18 points, respectively.

WEST

Mississippi StateRavern Johnson scored 19 points to lead Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs blew an 11 point lead and lost to Arkansas on Thursday night, 67-62.  Barry Stewart and Kodi Augustus respectively scored 11 and 10 points.  Augustus added 10 boards for the double-double and Jarvis Varnado grabbed 14 rebounds.  Three days later, the Bulldogs snapped a two game SEC skid as Mississippi State beat LSU, 67-51. Johnson led the way with 15 points and Varnado had another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to aid the Bulldogs’ cause.  Phil Turner added 12 points off the bench for Mississippi State.

Mississippi (#25, –)Chris Warren scored 20 points, Terrico White had 19 and the Rebels weathered Auburn’s 3-point shooting before pulling out an 84-74 victory.  The Rebels shot 57% overall, and scored 46 points in the paint. They got 53 points from their three starting guards, including 14 from Eniel Polynice.  The Rebels won back to back road games in the SEC for the first time in nine seasons.  The Ole Miss Rebels lost a big chance to hold on to first place in the West as they were upset at home by the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday. Warren and Polynice had 17 and 15 points, respectively, but White suffered through a 3-14 shooting night.

ArkansasCourtney Fortson scored a career-high 35 points, carrying Arkansas through the second half as the Razorbacks rallied for a 67-62 win over Mississippi State this past Thursday.  Fortson scored 33 of his points in the second half, repeatedly drawing fouls and converting inside, despite his 5’11 frame. Arkansas trailed 49-38 at one point but came back to earn a much-needed victory.  Stefan Walsh hit three 3-pointers and added 12 points off the bench.   After winning two games in the Southeastern Conference last season, Arkansas is suddenly 3-3 and has notched back-to-back wins over Western Division-leading teams.  The latest upset came at Oxford on Sunday as Arkansas dumped the Ole Miss Rebels, 80-73.  Michael Washington scored 22 points, Marshawn Powell added 19, and Rotnei Clarke posted 18 for the Jekyl-and-Hyde Razorbacks.

Alabama –  The Crimson Tide held the toothless LSU Tigers to just 13 points in the second half on Wednesday and blew LSU out, 57-38.  Charvez Davis scored 15 points off the bench in just 18 minutes to lead the Crimson Tide while Mikhail Torrance and Tony Mitchell both scored 10 points.  Mitchell added 10 boards for a double-double in that one.  Everytime Alabama takes a step forward and seems like a contender in the West, they take a step or two back.  Such was the case in Alabama’s 58-57 loss to Auburn on Saturday. Torrance led the way with 13 points an  added 10 points. Auburn -  The Auburn Tigers hit 11 three-pointers, including five by Tay Waller, but it was not enough to hold off the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night.  Waller scored 21 points in the 84-74 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 15 points and Lucas Hargrove 10 as the Tigers dropped a tough one on their home court.  Hargrove hit a free throw with three seconds left on Saturday to lift Auburn to a 58-57 win over Alabama. The Crimson Tide led 55-51 with 2:58 left in the game, but Hargrove, who finished with 14 points, had a dunk and converted a three-point play to cut Alabama’s lead to 57-56. Waller hit 3 3-pointers and scored 20 points, continuing his hot play.

LSU – The Tigers had a dreadful night on Wednesday, shooting just 29.2% from the field and 11.1% from long range as LSU suffered a 57-38 loss to Alabama.  LSU scored just 13 points in the second half.  Tasmin Mitchell and Dennis Harris “led” the Tigers wiwth 8 points each.  LSU suffered through yet another horrid shooting stretch as they suffered a 67-51 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday.  The Tigers shot just 34% from the floor and Mitchell was the only Tiger in double digits with 26 points — more than half his team’s total.

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10.28.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2007

We’re counting down – just over one week until the first tipoffs…

  • Didn’t Coach K wait a couple of years after winning B2B titles before using the back excuse? Whatsup Billy D, we realize your team is young, but come on!
  • Georgia’s Dennis Felton is officially screwed – he just kicked leading scorer Takais Brown off the team. AOL Fanhouse wonders why UGa players are being charged $10 cashmoney for missing classes – we wonder the same thing.
  • One week later, Mizzou’s Darryl Butterfield is at it again.
  • Bill Self is in tight with half of the top 15 in the class of 09… will they beat Bucknell in 2011?
  • More brilliance from BBall Prospectus – how similar is one player to another?
  • Faustian bargains – why you should never marry a rival fan.
  • Plissken takes a sensible look at why student-athletes shouldn’t be paid for their services.
  • Will Kentucky build a new Rupp Arena?
  • Duke and Carolina have special water needs.
  • Speaking of special needs, Basketball Times chose Duke as the top program of the last decade.
  • We don’t even know what to make of this ridiculous thing.
  • Preseason Materials by Conference -
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