SEC Morning Five: 03.14.12

Posted by EMoyer on March 14th, 2012

  1. South Carolina’s Darrin Horn became the third head coach from a BCS school (joining Bruce Weber of Illinois and Doc Sadler of Nebraska) to lose his job this month. South Carolina fired Horn after four seasons in Columbia. He could not build on his 21-10 first season and interest in the team sagged. Quoting the AP account of the story “average paid attendance this season was 8,900 people in the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena – down about 1,500 fans – with most games seeing less than half of the announced number actually in the stands.”
  2. David Cloninger from GamecockCentral.com speculated on possible replacements, writing, “The hot name on several lips to replace Horn is Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, a South Carolina native who assisted at College of Charleston and then led tiny Winthrop to seven NCAA tournaments in nine years. Marshall is leading the Shockers into the NCAA tournament as a five-seed, and has publicly said, although it was years ago, that he would love to take the USC job someday. Another candidate that could emerge is Jeff Capel, the former Oklahoma coach who was contacted when Horn was hired, but turned down the offer, was later fired and currently serves as an assistant coach at Duke. Shaka Smart, the Virginia Commonwealth coach who shocked the world last season by taking a team from a play-in game to the Final Four, would be a hot name, but he has been publicly mentioned as the top choice to replace Bruce Weber, who was recently fired at Illinois.”
  3. John Clay wrote of the comparisons between Kentucky’s 1996 team than went undefeated in SEC play only to lose in the Tournament final in New Orleans before winning the national title to the 2012 version of the Wildcats that followed the same first two chapters of the script by speaking with a key member of the ’96 team, Tony Delk. Delk, now an assistant for New Mexico State said “It was a game where I thought that was the best loss we could have had. Because going into the tournament, you didn’t want to be too high. If we had won that game, it could have been, ‘OK, we’re going to cruise through this and we’re going to win easily.’ We could have gotten knocked off early. We re-focused ourselves.”
  4. In advance to Ole Miss opening play in the NIT, the Rebels secured a commitment from Marshall Henderson, a 6-2 guard from South Plains Junior College. Hen started his career at Utah but transferred to Texas Tech. After sitting out the NCAA-mandated transfer year, he moved again following the dismissal of coach Pat Knight. Henderson is averaging 19.4 points a game and is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 43 percent from the 3-point line, and 88 percent at the free-throw line.
  5. Florida’s all-SEC freshman guard Bradley Beal offered some insight as to his plans for next season. Some NBA Draft projections have placed Beal inside the top 10. “Either way it goes, if I leave, I still played a great year of college, I enjoyed it,” Beal said. “If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it. I have no clue. I haven’t even really thought about it at all,” said Beal. “Right now, I don’t know. I haven’t put too much thought into it. When that time comes I’m going to talk to coach (Billy) Donovan and my family and we’re going to have to sit down and talk about it. When that time comes, it comes.”
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SEC Morning Five: 02.24.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 24th, 2012

  1. Florida received bad news with the report that forward Will Yeguete is likely out for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. Yeguete was sidelined twice already this season, both for concussions. Billy Donovan confirmed the news that the foot is indeed broken and that Yeguete will miss a minimum of four to six weeks. Yeguete was averaging 6.3 rebounds and 4.5 points so far this season. Donovan will likely attempt to replace the defensive stopper with a committee of younger players. Freshman Cody Larson will probably see increased minutes, and Donovan has the option of playing additional guards in that forward slot to go with a smaller lineup.
  2. Florida failed to impress Donovan with Yeguete out of the lineup. In Tuesday’s matchup with Auburn, the Gators trailed 30-27 at halftime. Donovan had a spirited address in the locker room to spark an eventual 63-47 win. What did Donovan say? “My thing to them was, if Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem and Matt Bonner and Kenyan Weeks and Brett Nelson and Joakim Noah and Al Horford are watching right now, what’s their feeling like,” Donovan asked. ” Those guys gave their heart and soul to this program and that’s the way you’re representing our program right now with your effort, your focus and everything else? Beyond that, what do your families think right now?” The players obviously responded, and some even felt it was needed. “He needed to get on us, and I think it helped us,” guard Kenny Boynton said. One can only hope for the players sake that Donovan doesn’t have to get on them again.
  3. Coaches always preach the importance of free throws, but the discrepancy in Thursday night’s matchup between South Carolina and Vanderbilt definitely made the difference in the game. Vanderbilt made 25 of 28 free throws while the Gamecocks went four for four. “You’re not winning any games when the other team shoots 28 free throws and you shoot four,” South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. “It’s just not going to happen.” The other reason for Vanderbilt’s win was its team defense. The Gamecocks were the third SEC opponent that the Commodores held under 50 points.
  4. A big question surrounding the SEC right now pertains to the number of teams that will end up making it into the NCAA Tournament. Florida coach Billy Donovan thinks more thanjust Kentucky, Florida, and Vanderbilt should make it in.”The league is definitely stronger, and you can tell that from the fact that there aren’t a lot of games separating us,” said Donovan. “Other than Kentucky, which is undefeated, all of us are within a game or two of each other. So, certainly there are more than three teams that deserve to be in this tournament.” However, while Alabama and Mississippi State continue on a downward spiral, it will be difficult to make the case that more than four or five should make it in comfortably. Not everyone agrees though.”Look at Tennessee; look at Arkansas. Those are teams that could get on a tear and win our tournament,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “At that point, we’ve got six teams in. And it’s six teams that can advance. It’s not like having seven teams in and only two advance past the first round. We have six teams that could win some games.”
  5. Kentucky senior Darius Miller took a major leadership role in the final minutes of a close game against Mississippi State. Miller didn’t make a single shot in the first 32 minutes of play, but scored 12 points in the final eight minutes with a slight nudge from his coach. “I’m saying, ‘You’re out, next guy, I’m not going to play you,’” coach John Calipari said of the Miller benching. “Then he went back in, and he’s bombing balls. That’s what I said, ‘You’re that senior. You’re that glue to this team. They count on you to make those shots.’” Miller was key down the stretch last year in the Wildcats run to an SEC tournament title and NCAA Final Four run.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 27th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele knows his role on the team, as do his teammates and coaches. “I’ve always said that Jalen (Steele) is the one guy that does something different on this basketball team,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He is capable of doing what he did, jump up and make shots. He’s the one guy, if you ask me what his role is — it is to make shots.” And that is exactly what Steele did on Wednesday night against LSU. While the Bulldogs were just five of 14 from beyond the arc, Steele contributed to more than half of MSU’s outside points going three of four from three-point land. The Bulldogs are solid in the frontcourt, but could use a consistent outside threat as they are fifth in the conference with a 35.3% three-point accuracy. Not bad, but not terribly threatening either. Steele becomes even more valuable for the Bulldogs if he can continue to knock shots down from long range.
  2. LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant was medically cleared to play on Tuesday for his first action since the beginning of January. O’Bryant suffered a fractured hand in practice on January 4, which kept him on the sidelines for five straight games. He saw playing time on Wednesday night against Mississippi State and its formidable frontline of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. And it looks like O’Bryant will need a few more games to get back in the swing of things. He played a solid 20 minutes, but finished with just six points and four rebounds. The key to the game was rebounds, and LSU wasn’t able to keep up with Mississippi State. The Tigers had a 51.4% defensive rebounding percentage and just 21.6% on the offensive end. LSU will need O’Bryant and the rest of the LSU frontcourt to shore up its rebounding to stay competitive in the conference.
  3. With Wednesday’s win over Alabama, South Carolina avoided an 0-5 start in SEC play. It would have been their worst start in the conference since an 0-6 start in 1998-99. Coach Darrin Horn admits his Gamecocks need the kind of atmosphere that was displayed in the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night. “We need our fans,” Horn said. “We need some atmosphere. I appreciate them finally getting up and doing that.” South Carolina also needed a little Bruce Ellington. The sophomore guard hit the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining. He finished with 12 points for the Gamecocks, but more importantly, appears to be getting into a solid groove as he becomes more comfortable on the basketball court (after playing football for Steve Spurrier through early January). Ellington has averaged 14.5 points and three assists over his last four games, and will need to continue to be a focal point for South Carolina to win another conference game (or two).
  4. After a four game losing streak, Alabama has gone from SEC title contender to no longer even a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide’s only win over an RPI top 25 opponent came against Wichita State in mid-November. For a team with an RPI of 40, the problem is that there aren’t too many more opportunities for that big victory. The Tide have Florida and Mississippi State at home, as well as two games against Ole Miss. Anthony Grant‘s squad was left out of last year’s Big Dance because of a low RPI and very few marquee wins. It would be a shame for a team that started out so strong in 2011-12 to meet the same fate. It is, of course, very early to be talking about which teams are in and which ones are out, but isn’t that part of what makes college basketball so fun? However. there won’t be anything fun about March for Grant and company unless Alabama is able to  string together wins in the SEC.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal played poorly over two consecutive games in early January shooting 6-27 without scoring in double figures. After three solid games in a row, Beal says his slump is over. “He’s got a better feel and understanding of when and where shots are coming for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know if he ever really felt comfortable with that. I think he’s getting better at that. I think he’s understanding when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, but he’s not allowing some missed shots or plays that maybe don’t go his way to affect him on the next play.” Even with a couple of difficult games mixed in, Beal has had a terrific first (and maybe only) year for the Gators. He has managed to score 14.1 points per game playing in a backcourt with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Mike Rosario coming off the bench. That is impressive for anyone, but especially a freshman.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.05.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 5th, 2012

  1. Florida coach Billy Donovan is pleased with the development of guard Erving Walker into more of a multi-faceted point guard. Walker is second in the SEC with 5.2 assists per game, which is an increase of almost two assists per contest over last season. “The thing I’m most pleased with tonight more than anything is that Erving Walker could take four shots last game and not be in the flow of the game and then he can come back in this game and score 23 points,” Donovan said. Walker and guard Kenny Boynton have improved their shot selection as evidenced by an increase in field goal and three point shooting percentages for both players. Now if Donovan can get them to simply feed center Patric Young in the post, the Gators could be even more efficient on the offensive end.
  2. South Carolina guard Bruce Ellington played in the Gamecocks’ Capital One bowl game for Steve Spurrier’s football team, and turned around and took to the hardwood for Darrin Horn the next night against South Carolina State. Although Ellington was 3-3 from beyond the arc, he played for a season-low 13 minutes. It has been difficult for him to play both sports in such a busy time of the season. “Sometimes I don’t want to shoot after practice, but our trainer does a good job of getting me in there and getting shots up,” Ellington said. “He gets me in there every day to work on my shot, and it’s getting better.” It will be interesting to see this Gamecocks squad at full strength once Ellington is able to fully concentrate on basketball.
  3. Red Cup Rebellion wonders if former McDonald’s All American Jelan Kendrick is worth the trouble that he causes. Kendrick did not play for Ole Miss on Tuesday night against SMU, the second time this season that Kendrick did not play due to a decision made by coach Andy Kennedy. According to a poll on the RCR website, 39% of Rebel fans don’t think Kendrick is worth the wait, while another 36% aren’t sure yet. He is averaging just 2.7 points in three games this season. Kendrick became eligible in early December. At 6’7″, he could be a huge mismatch for the Rebels if he can make his way into the lineup.
  4. Coach Kennedy is happy with Ole Miss’ win over SMU, but he is realistic with what kind of team he has this year. “It’s going to be a grind, so grab on with both hands,” Kennedy said. “It’s who we are.” The Rebels scored 50 points in each of their last two games, but got the victory this time around. Ole Miss had been on a three-game losing streak coming in to Tuesday night. The Rebs shot 34.1% from the field and are still figuring out who will be effective for them on offense. “We got some guys that are playing with the yips. They’re not playing with the confidence that we need,” Kennedy said. I’m not certain what the yips are, but it sounds bad. Real bad.
  5. The Kentucky General Assembly tackles some of the most pressing issues in the state. They must have taken notice when Kentucky coach John Calipari openly questioned which rivalries his Wildcats would continue in non-conference play (or they read Rush the Court’s post on the rivalry) because Senator Tim Shaughnessy is attempting to pass into LAW a bill that would REQUIRE UK and Louisville to play each other in both basketball and football each year. Seriously. In all fairness, Kentuckians take their basketball rather seriously. While Shaughnessy is at it, can he pass a law that requires college freshmen to return to school rather than opting to enter the NBA Draft? THAT would ensure the best interests of the Kentucky basketball program, if that is his true intent.
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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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SEC Set Yer TiVo: Dead Week Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 13th, 2011

Students across SEC schools are finishing up their term papers and cramming for finals before the Christmas break. To help their students, most schools have scheduled a bunch of high-calorie cupcakes for this week’s game. Beware of the sugar crash! A team might sleep through their on-court exam and end up with an embarrassing grade.

Which games are worth the extra case of Red Bull, and which you should just sleep through?

Tennessee at Charleston — Wednesday, December 14 at 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN3 (***)

In the midst of a three-game losing streak — including an embarrassing 74-70 home loss to Austin Peay last Saturday — Tennessee has squandered a scrappy, feel-good start to the season. In order to build any momentum for being included on the NCAA Tournament bubble come March, Cuonzo Martin‘s team must stop the slide in the Carolina First Center. The College of Charleston has racked up an impressive 7-1 record this season with wins at Clemson and on a neutral court against UMass. They should win the Southern Conference and by extension make a potential win by Tennessee look especially good to the NCAA Selection Committee.

Tennessee Is the Only SEC Team Facing A Legitimate Threat This Week

Tennessee will need to find the defensive pressure of olden times to pull off the upset. For the season the Cougars are shooting 46.6% from the field and all five starters shoot better than 45%. Tennessee is 0-4 when allowing their opponents to shoot better than 43% from the field. Charleston is getting out-rebounded by their opponents by an average of three per game. If Tennessee can use their athleticism and length to contest shots and dominate the defensive glass, it will fuel their transition game and possibly help them avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

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SEC Morning Five: 11.16.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 16th, 2011

  1. Kentucky looked a little rusty on offense in the first half against Kansas on Tuesday night. There might be a good reason for that. Calipari says the Cats have just gotten around to installing necessary things like out-of-bounds and late-game plays. This doesn’t seem that unusual as practice time is limited, and games seem to be sneaking up earlier and earlier in the calendar each season. After watching the Wildcats dismantle a good KU team last night, however, it is scary to think how dominant this team can be with some additional time together.
  2. Jay Bilas went all access with Kentucky as the Cats and head coach John Calipari prepared for Kansas. Calipari spoke about his winning ways at Kentucky, competing at the highest level and getting the most out of his freshmen. This video included a good scream from Cal about poor defense and even a threat to put one of his players on a treadmill at 14 miles per hour. And now we now how Cal motivates his players at halftime.
  3. Florida coach Billy Donovan felt the Gators should have passed the ball down low to sophomore Patric Young more in the first half of last night’s game against Ohio State and standout center, Jared Sullinger. According to Gainesville Sun writer Kevin Brockman’s tweet last night, Donovan thought Young could have gotten Sullinger in foul trouble had the guards better fed the post. The Gators only passed the ball inside to Young once in the first half. Florida adjusted at halftime, and Young finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds while limiting Sullinger to only 16 points.
  4. Vanderbilt came up with a win against Bucknell, but it didn’t come easily. The Commodores played without leading scorer John Jenkins who was out with a sprained right ankle. Jenkins tweaked his ankle in the loss to Cleveland State, and his injury, along with the absence of Festus Ezeli, makes it two all-SEC players on the sidelines for the ‘Dores. And with starting point guard Brad Tinsley also nursing a wrist injury, Vandy needs to get healthy as quickly as possible. Vanderbilt will play in the TicketCity Legends Classic on Saturday against North Carolina State, and then face either Texas or Oregon State on November 21.
  5. The hot seat got hotter for a couple of SEC coaches with bad losses last night. Darrin Horn and South Carolina lost to Elon by the score of 58-53, while LSU and  Trent Johnson fell to Coastal Carolina 71-63. The SEC has lost a couple of unlikely games to mid-majors already this season, but these losses will impact the job security that both coaches feel going forward. Both came into the season feeling a bit insecure about their job prospects, and no doubt both are likely feeling quite a bit hotter under the collar at this point.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.11.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 11th, 2011

  1. Alex Poythress surprised the recruiting world by choosing the Kentucky Wildcats yesterday. The 6’8″ forward, ranked #16 in the class by Scout.com, also considered Memphis, Vanderbilt and Florida. Experts were stumped as to where the third best small forward prospect in the 2012 class would choose to take his talents. When asked about his decision, Poythress said, ““I just wanted to go to a place where I can get better and a place I feel comfortable at.” Kentucky has had the number one class three years in a row dating back to John Calipari’s first year in Lexington. Poythress’ commitment brings the Cats up to number two in Scout’s team rankings, with the Wildcats in hot pursuit of a couple of other top prospects. Never count out Calipari when it comes to recruiting.
  2. The Vanderbilt blog Anchor of Gold let out a little frustration after Kentucky nabbed Poythress. The Dores’ website vented about the rigorous academic standards of Vanderbilt University as compared to its competitors, the inconsistencies of the NCAA in handing out punishments against wrongdoers and the “it’s better to get forgiveness than permission” attitude of big time college athletics. The author points out that Vanderbilt is the only football program in the SEC without a major violation on its record and boasted that the Commodores have “graduated every men’s basketball player who exhausted his eligibility for thirty years.” Sometimes you just have to get things off your chest. It sounds like Vandy fans may not just want a good season this year for their men’s basketball program, but they may need it more than we thought.
  3. John Calipari spoke with the media on Thursday and indicated he will sit down with sophomore guard Stacey Poole some time in the next day or two. Poole has considered a transfer from Kentucky in reports according to his father. Calipari wants to give Poole all the time he needs to make a decision. “You want every player to stay, fight through it, learn not to run,” Calipari said before adding, “but if a young man doesn’t think his opportunity is here – they all want to play. I will support him.” The issue for Poole seems to be a lack of playing time. Getting on the court doesn’t appear to be in Poole’s future as long as Calipari continues to bring in top shelf talent at the guard position. Kentucky begins the season on Friday night against Marist, and it says here that Poole will most likely not be with the team.
  4. Nothing gets me pumped up for the basketball season like a YouTube video. Ole Miss basketball has created a preview video complete with player interviews, highlight footage and team goals for the season. The video is very well done. Coach Andy Kennedy needs to complete a few of these team goals in order to save his job. If the Rebels play half as well as the production of this video, then Kennedy might be able to stick around again next year.
  5. There’s at least one website that doesn’t think Kennedy is at the top of the SEC pecking order to get canned. CBS Sports published a list of the twelve coaches on the hot seat this year, and unfortunately two SEC coaches made the list. According to the report, South Carolina’s Darrin Horn and LSU’s Trent Johnson need a strong 2011-12 campaign in order to secure their jobs. Horn’s Gamecocks have been under .500 in winning percentage in each of the past two years, while the Tigers have won only 11 games in each of the past two seasons. This is certainly one list these guys don’t want to be on much longer.
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SEC Morning Five: 10.27.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 27th, 2011

  1. In last night’s annual Kentucky Blue vs. White game, Sophomore Terrence Jones went off for 52 points setting a record for most points scored in the intra-squad scrimmage. While just an exhibition game, the barrage of points has to be encouraging for Wildcat fans hoping for a new and improved Jones. Freshman Anthony Davis guarded Jones for most of the evening, but it didn’t seem to matter who was on him as he scored from just about everywhere on the court. Jones was 24-31 from the field, finishing with 16 rebounds and six assists. Scrimmage or not, 52 points is impressive. Jones displayed an ability to score in a variety of ways — knocking down threes, taking it strong to the rim and even finishing with his much-discussed right hand. Eight Kentucky players scored in double figures overall as freshman Kyle Wiltjer finished with 27 points on 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc and sophomore, Doron Lamb also scored 31 points.
  2. Memphis coach Josh Pastner has a message for all SEC teams — don’t ask to play his Memphis Tigers in a non-conference game. Pastner says it won’t happen on his watch. He singled out Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Florida as teams he does not want to play in order to avoid giving a recruiting advantage for those looking to recruit in Memphis. He says the solution, however, is simple. Invite Memphis to play in the SEC. Pastner says, “That will solve everything. You don’t have to ask me; we would play twice. If you’re coming in here, if you want to play Memphis, go to your presidents and vote Memphis in the SEC. That’s the easiest way to do it. If you’re asking me for a non-conference game, it’s not going to happen.” Pastner is either making a good case for Memphis to be considered for expansion to the SEC or he is setting the Tigers up to be the most hated non-conference rival by the entire league.
  3. Several SEC teams will be taking part in secret scrimmages over the next couple of weeks to prepare for opening games. Why the secrecy? Well, nobody seems to know, but you may want to delete your browser history if you click on the link. Better safe than sorry. The SEC teams taking part in the secrecy and their mysterious opponents are: Virginia @ Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech @ South Carolina, LSU @ Rice, Arkansas-Little Rock @ Ole Miss, Georgia @ Clemson, UCF @ Florida and Western Kentucky vs Alabama. Anybody with super-spy abilities, we need video and/or pictures. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.
  4. Ole Miss junior Murphy Holloway has been cleared to play immediately for the Rebel Black Bears. Holloway played two seasons for the Rebs before transferring to South Carolina to care for his daughter. After sitting out a year with the Gamecocks, Holloway decided to transfer back to Mississippi. He had to apply for a waiver with the NCAA to avoid having to sit out another year. The waiver was granted and Holloway will be allowed to play this season. He provides an immediate post presence for Ole Miss as he averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in his sophomore year. Andy Kennedy’s squad will get an impact player with SEC experience.
  5. Tennessee‘s athletic program boasts that their men’s basketball coaching staff has more than 5,000 career college basketball points during their playing careers. In fact, they claim to have more than 1,000 more college points than any other Division I staff. Here’s to hoping that this sets up an SEC coaching staff battle between former players. Rod Strickland vs. Anthony Grant. Orlando Antigua vs. Cuonzo Martin. Billy Donovan vs. John Calipari. John Pelphrey vs. Darrin Horn. Tony Barbee vs. Tracy Webster. Rick Stansbury vs. Kevin Stallings… Okay, maybe not that last one. Having a coaching staff with this much experience can give the Tennessee players a slight boost of confidence, but shouldn’t be much of an advantage otherwise. It is fun to think about a pick-up game of epic proportions at the next SEC media days. Battle royale style.
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20 Questions: Which Coaches Are Feeling the Heat This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2011

Question: Which Coaches Are Feeling the Heat This Season?

It’s the nature of the business that college coaches are hired to be fired.  With only a handful of exceptions around the country, job security among the coaching fraternity is hard to come by.  Every offseason roughly 15 to 20 percent of the profession turns over, with approximately half of those open jobs coming as a result of some unfortunate soul’s termination.  As we entered last season, the names of the men on the hot seat were easy to predict, and four of the five coaches listed didn’t let us down — Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Jeff Capel (Oklahoma), Sidney Lowe (NC State), and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee) were all ousted after disappointing seasons (our fifth choice, Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, got his team into the Dance and cooled his seat considerably).

Let’s take a quick look at one coach from each of the power conferences who could really use a breakthrough season in 2011-12.

ACC: Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest.  This was a tough league to choose from because eight of the 12 ACC coaches are in one of their first three seasons at their school.  But if we have to choose someone, it’s probably going to be the coach who guided his program to a historically awful season in his first year at the helm.  A one-win conference slate in addition to home losses to the likes of Stetson, Winthrop, UNC-Wilmington, and Presbyterian won’t buy you a great deal of slack from a program still trying to recover from the death of Skip Prosser four years ago.  Throw in the fact that several players have gotten into legal and academic trouble under Bzdelik’s watch and you start to wonder if he can survive another miserable season.  If the second-year coach expects to last much longer, he’s going to have to show some improvement in Winston-Salem this year.

There's Bad... Then There's Historically Bad...

Big East: Stan Heath, South Florida.  The five bottom-feeder Big East programs have all changed coaches in the last two years… except one — South Florida’s Stan Heath.  Heath enters his fifth season in Tampa with a total of one winning season and 19 Big East victories.  After putting together a solid 20-13 season resulting in an NIT appearance in his third year at the helm, USF backslid significantly last year to a 10-23 (3-15 Big East) mess.  Even at a school where basketball isn’t taken very seriously, a coach cannot expect to finish at or near the bottom of the standings of a 16-team league regularly and expect to stay employed very long.  He returns a verified talent in Gus Gilchrist in the post, but the Bulls don’t have a legitimate point guard and will spend this season shuttling around between different venues while the Sun Dome is refurbished.  If he’s not careful, the playing facility may not be the only new thing in USF hoops a year from now.

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SEC Morning Five: 10.21.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 21st, 2011

  1. Rally the troops! Sound the Horn of Nerdfighting and CHARGE! The ESPN/USA Today Preseason Top-25 poll has been released! The Southeastern Conference has four members on the list: Kentucky at #2 (with one 1st place vote), Vanderbilt at #7, Florida at #10 and Alabama at #17. (Future SEC member Texas A&M checks in at #19.) Mississippi State was the only other SEC school receiving votes from the coaches.
  2. Returning all five starters helped Vanderbilt garner their highest Preseason Top-25 ranking since 1965. Those 1965-66 Commodores, led by legendary coach Roy Skinner, were coming off their first NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance. This year’s Vanderbilt team has been upset in the past two NCAA Tournaments, leaving some observers to doubt their ability to make a serious run for the NCAA title. Others, such as CBS Sportsline’s Gary Parrish thinks Vandy had enough offensive talent and experience to advance further than the First Second Round. (Our very own Brian Joyce should soon have an interesting analysis of Vandy’s ability to succeed in the postseason. Keep yer eyes peeled!)
  3. After many years of success and orange body paint, it seems strange not seeing Tennessee listed on this Preseason Top 25 list. Their omission is understandable: Hitting the reset button to expunge the Bruce Pearl era, new Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin faces a strong schedule with a hodge-podge of athletic players who don’t exactly fit his system. After many years of being the big hounds on the block, Vols fans will need to change to root for the underdogs of the SEC East. One way to start will be getting ticket sales back on track.
  4. Mississippi State basketball fans have more to look forward to than a fitter Renardo Sidney and a team that has the potential to make all sort of noise come March. This is the 100th season of Bulldog basketball! (Please, don’t ring all your cowbells at once. It’s early.) The MSU Athletic Department has compiled a list of twenty All-Century team members: modern members include the versatile Mario Austin, incredible marksman Dontae’ Jones and swat-machines Jarvis Varnado and Erick Dampier. MSU fans can select the starting five from all these All-Century team members and the top five greatest games of Mississippi State history. Sounds like a fun start to a great year’s worth of events.
  5. Early in the 2011-12 team practice season there still remains more questions than answers for South Carolina. With only nine scholarship players, Coach Darrin Horn admitted to the media on Wednesday that he has yet to find a starting five players for his team. Horn’s challenge, he says, is that he has seven players that could start on any given night. The USC blog Garnet and Black Attack has speculated on a regular starting rotation that includes improving sophomore center/forward Damontre Harris and highly-regarded freshmen shooting guard Damien Leonard. The Gamecocks are currently practicing without point guard Bruce Ellington as he finishes the season for the Gamecock football team. With Ellington’s role on the football team possibly increasing due to the season-ending injury to running back Marcus Lattimore, Coach Horn may not know how much he will be able to play Ellington once he rejoins the basketball team. Horn is currently encouraged by the offensive effectiveness he’s seen in practice thus far but reincorporating his only returning experienced scorer remains a mystery.
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ESPN’s Toughest Arenas Survey: Analyzing Coaches’ Responses

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2011

ESPN.com had an interesting series of stories that went up today regarding various folks’ favorite college basketball arenas to visit and the toughest ones to play in.  As always when you read blurbs of primary source information, it’s enlightening to see the reasoning behind their choices.  For example, we never knew that NC State’s old home was such an ACC snake pit, but ESPN commentators Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis both independently cited Reynolds Coliseum as the toughest arena they ever played in. Davis even claimed that he never scored “on the opposite basket away from our bench in the first half” due to the flustered situation he found himself in all four years he visited Raleigh.

A number of media types also weighed in with their favorite places to experience a game, and several of the old faithfuls represent well here — Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (3 votes), Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse (2 votes) and the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden (2 votes) — along with a few other tried-and-trues including Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stanford’s Maples Pavilion, Penn’s Palestra, and UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (1 vote each).  But it was the list provided by Dana O’Neil (excellent usage of “sepia,” by the way) from her interviews of several head coaches back in July on the recruiting trail that really caught our eye. First, here’s her list:

Fifteen prominent coaches chose nine different arenas between them.  Three of those are already retired to the dustbin of history, and three others are clearly a personal house of horrors to specific coaches.  Not many people in this business will choose a place like Murray State Arena over somewhere like the Kohl Center or Breslin Arena, but Big Ten coach Bruce Weber did.  The remaining joints are again places we’re all familiar with as incredibly difficult to walk out with a win, but we quickly noticed that there was something peculiar about the responses among O’Neil’s interviewees.  Take a closer look — of the 15 coaches, only one of them gave an answer that includes a site where his team must regularly play games.

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