Silent Knight? I’m Not Buying It.

Posted by jstevrtc on February 3rd, 2009

 

John Stevens is a featured writer for RTC.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

So of course now there’s speculation that Bob Knight is headed to yet another school where all he’ll have to do is change the logo on his red sweaters and he’s good to go.  I obviously don’t know if he’ll end up taking the position, but despite Knight’s feeble attempt to downplay the issue, I think we can say for sure that he’s considering it.

daylife.com)
Questions, Indeed… (photo credit: daylife.com)

Note how the initial reports stated that “a friend” of Knight’s stated that he was interested in the job.  Ok, fine.  But the General’s response to this?  He didn’t say anything about whether or not he’s talked to friends about the job, he never said anything about how his friends would NEVER talk to local media about Knight’s speculation over a job, he never said anything about how he flatly didn’t want that job.  In fact, he’s made it a point to reiterate his previous statement of “I never said I wouldn’t coach again, I’d be interested if the right situation came along,” though he adds that he hasn’t had any contact with anyone “at Georgia” about that particular vacancy.  “I haven’t talked to anyone from Georgia about it” is not an answer to the question. “Are you thinking about taking a job that an alleged friend of yours said you were interested in?”  Woodward and Bernstein would call that a non-denying denial.  Seems like Knight’s had contact with SOMEONE or else he’d be angrier and more direct in his lack of interest.  And he’d most certainly have this “friend” publicly flogged.
 
Another interesting wrinkle is the timing of this Pat Summitt situation, with her 1000th win coming up sometime soon.  Summitt didn’t get it on Monday, but as you likely know, they had Knight, as the all-time-winningest NCAA men’s coach, calling that game with Brent Musberger for ESPN.  I wonder how easy that is for Knight to be around.  I’m not saying he begrudges Coach Summitt anything, but the worship for the Tennessee coach has increased so much lately ahead of that pending 1000th win.  You don’t think a competitive guy like Knight wouldn’t mind a little of that reverence and adoration, himself?  To go down as the ONLY NCAA men’s coach to get into the quadruple-figures, and therefore don the implied “best-coach-ever” mantle that comes with a number like that?  I think Knight would consider that to be an absolute acquittal and justification for everything he’s ever done, and that might be to tasty a legacy to pass up.

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It was either this, or a shirtless Bruce Pearl. (photo credit: afrothunder.wordpress.com)

On Monday’s “Tirico and Van Pelt” program on ESPN Radio, the first question Mike Tirico asked Coach Knight was about the possibility of Knight taking the Georgia job.  You know Coach Knight’s response (as above).  But later on in that interview, in my opinion, came a more telling moment.  Mr. Tirico asked Knight about how he communicates with his son Pat after incidents like the one Pat just had down at Texas Tech, and specifically inquired whether the conversation more resembles that of a father-son interaction or if it is more like two coaches talking shop (a great question).  In his response, Knight hesitated for a moment, and then stated, “I just can’t stay away from it, Mike…” and explained that he basically let Pat consult him with basketball-related questions from time to time.  I don’t blame Pat Knight for this, of course — I mean, who wouldn’t occasionally call up their winningest-NCAA-men’s-coach-ever-dad for some coaching advice if they had the chance? — but does Bob Knight’s response to the Tirico question sound like a man who is ready to leave the coaching profession behind?  When your name comes up as a possible candidate for a coaching job and you’re saying things in interviews like “I can’t stay away from it,” no matter how you try to downplay your interest, I’m going to call you on it.
 
For what it’s worth, I totally agree with rtmsf’s earlier piece about Knight not being a good fit for Georgia (that second photo makes me think I’m personally a GREAT fit for UGA, but I digress).  He’d be a basketball coach going to a football school and I can’t see Bob Knight going anywhere where he doesn’t have the biggest office and, as Mel Brooks would say, the biggest schwartz, as it were.  And, as Mark Schlabach reported in a phone interview on ESPN.com on Monday night, the current president of the University of Georgia is Michael F. Adams.  And who is Dr. Adams good friends with?  Dr. Myles Brand, the current president of the NCAA…and the man who fired Knight from Indiana in 2000.  Methinks the current UGA administration and Mr. Knight might not see eye-to-eye on a few matters.

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The Smiling General. (photo credit: lubbockonline.com)

But Knight has never been one to back down from a challenge.  It might not be the best idea for Knight to go to UGA.  It’s also not a great idea to throw chairs across floors, physically threaten your AD, or hurl plants in your office, but that didn’t stop him.  Listen, I have no problem with Coach Knight taking the reins at some program.  I can’t blame a man who think he still has it in him to achieve excellence — and indeed, further cement his “all-time” status by breaking that 1000-win barrier.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be known as the all-time greatest at what you do.  I’d miss his wit on the GameDay set, but who knows, maybe he’ll take this job and be reborn and make everyone forget about Dennis Felton and Jim Harrick.  I don’t think it’s the best fit, but he could certainly prove me and rtmsf wrong.  In my view, though, despite his attempts to downplay the issue and make it seem like he’s not interested, I think we have a lot of evidence to the fact that he’s either considering the job…or he likes the attention, and at least wants us to think he’s considering it.

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Breaking: Georgia Fires Dennis Felton

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

Wow, maybe Damon Evans, the AD at Georgia, read our missive on SEC schools wising up after Mark Gottfried was let go on Monday.  From today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“I was hoping that we’d build upon the success that we had in the SEC tournament,” said Evans, referring to the Bulldogs’ tornado-interrupted championship run last March in Atlanta. “That’s what all the Georgia fans wanted; that’s what we wanted; that’s what Dennis wanted. We thought it would be a momentum-builder for us. To be where we are today is disappointing.”

Better Times for Felton and Georgia

Better Times for Felton and Georgia

Obviously, the final straw was Georgia’s 83-57 rape at the hands of Florida in Gainesville last night, as it was the Dawgs’ seventh loss in a row.  A meeting was set up between Evans and Felton this morning, where the coach was given the news.  Pete Herrmann, an associate coach, will take over the reins on an interim basis through the rest of the season.  Georgia plays Alabama on Saturday, which sets up a once-in-a-lifetime scenario where two teams will play a midseason head-to-head game in the same week where both head coaches were canned.  Call it the Pink Slip Bowl

Is Gary Williams Next?

Is Gary Williams Next?

By way of a post-mortem for Felton, he showed a lot of promise at Western Kentucky, winning three consecutive Sun Belt titles from 2001-03, but at Georgia, he never could seem to get over the wanton destruction that previous coach Jim Harrick had left in his wake.  With Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee in the SEC East Division, Felton was usually guaranteed six losses per year, and there was a seemingly constant influx of players moving into and out of his program.  It just never appeared that things got settled there.  Felton’s record at Georgia – two NIT appearances, 1 incredibly unlikely NCAA appearance and SEC Tourney title (the “Tornado Tourney“), and five+ years of general malaise in Athens (84-91 overall, 26-59 SEC).

Soon VCU’s Anthony Grant will be able to name his price with all these SEC schools calling. 

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The Mark Gottfried Effect: The SEC Is Wising Up On Its Coaches

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2009

There’s news coming out of Tuscaloosa tonight that doesn’t involve Nick Saban (although Utah’s demolition of the Tide a month ago may have led to this unrelated breaking news).  No, the crimsontided stepchild of Alabama’s athletics program is the one driving the needle tonight – Mark Gottfried’s Philip Pearson’s basketball program.  Er, formerly Mark Gottfried’s basketball program.

Flickr.com

Photo Credit: Flickr.com

Today Alabama announced that Mark Gottfried, arguably the second most successful coach in Bama history (behind the irascible Wimp Sanderson), resigned amidst criticism over the state of his program in light of Ronald Steele’s decision to leave the school last week.  (although if you believe in msg board chatter,  using the word “resignation” is irresponsible; Gary Parrish concurs…)  From the AP report:

Gottfried, who played at Alabama, said he quit during a meeting with athletic director Mal Moore.  “It has been a wonderful decade for me and my family, and I love the University of Alabama, but I feel that it is in the best interests of everyone involved,” Gottfried said in a statement released by the university.  Gottfried’s teams have missed the NCAA tournament the last two years, and the coach was criticized over the recent departure of point guard Ronald Steele, a preseason first-team AP All-American pick two years ago, who later was hit by injuries. The school blamed Steele’s departure on a recent injury, but Steele said there was more to his decision than that.

There’s absolutely more to it than this.  A generation ago, a coach in the SEC with the success of Mark Gottfried could have stayed for thirty years and eventually had a practice facility named after him (Dale Brown comes to mind).  No longer.  Today in the era of million-dollar salaries and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately performance evaluations, even in the football-centric SEC (minus Vandy, Kentucky and Arkansas), “good enough” is no longer good enough.  Just last year, LSU canned John Brady, an Xs & Os charlatan who two years prior had parlayed a couple of great recruits into a very unlikely Final Four run.  They replaced him with a well-respected rising star in coaching, Trent Johnson (at $1.2M per, reportedly, of course).  At South Carolina, Dave Odom was invited to retire after he had taken the Gamecocks to two NIT titles and an NCAA Tournament in the last five years.  Darrin Horn already has matched the win total (14) of Odom’s last season with virtually the same roster.   Over in Athens at Georgia, Dennis Felton is currently walking the Bataan death march with his 310th most efficient offense and is expected to be replaced at the end of this season even after his unprecedented run in the SEC Tournament last year.

This Used to be Good Enough at Bama

This Used to be Good Enough at Bama

A sea change in philosophy is moving through the SEC in basketball.  Mark Gottfried is a competent head coach.  He recruits fairly well, his players generally stay out of trouble and graduate, and he occasionally had a good enough team to make a little noise in March, but nobody would ever have confused him for Hank Iba.  That used to be good enough for a football school like Alabama.  Or LSU.  Or South Carolina.  But times are changing, and those schools have seen how all-inclusive athletic prowess can build a national “brand” such as at Florida, Ohio St. and Texas that benefits the entire athletic program (and school at-large).  Basketball is a key component of that equation, and therefore it doesn’t surprise us in the least that Gottfried is now gone (before he got a chance to make a late-season run and “save” his job).

Memo to VCU’s Anthony Grant, you might want to answer any calls that come from The 205 this spring.

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Checking in on the… SEC

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2008

Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

The misery continues for the Southeastern Conference. Only one unbeaten remains after MSU, South Carolina and Tennessee dropped games, with only LSU keeping their heads above water. The Wildcats from Kentucky met a couple of high-profile-conference foes and matched up well, while Mississippi State dropped two close ones in their matchups against power-conference squads. As a whole, the conference is wallowing badly at the moment, but Tennessee – powered by All-American Tyler Smith – is looking like the perennial powerhouse they have become in the past few years under Bruce Pearl and set to take the SEC regular-season title once again.

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Checking in on the… SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2008

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Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Okay, so the Southeastern Conference has…well…embarrassed itself. Kentucky got the party started with a home loss to VMI and as of this posting, only four unbeatens remain in what was formerly considered a “power conference.” This season is looking like a major reloading session for the SEC, as nearly every team is falling short of pre-season expectations. Stars like Shan Foster, Chris Lofton, Jamont Gordon and Marreese Speights have exited and the conference is feeling the losses in a big way.  Let’s get to this week’s SEC rankings…

Week One Power Rankings

  1. #12 Tennessee (3-0)
  2. Mississippi State (4-0)
  3. LSU (3-0)
  4. #17 Florida (3-1)
  5. South Carolina (3-0)
  6. Vanderbilt (1-1)
  7. Auburn (2-1)
  8. Alabama (1-1)
  9. Kentucky (2-2)
  10. Ole Miss (3-1)
  11. Georgia (3-1)
  12. Arkansas (2-1)

For now, we’ll classify the teams in terms of how they are performing versus how they were expected to before the season. This category will change pretty often, depending on the week, but each one will feature a short snippet of each team in the conference.

Surprise Teams

While “expectations” are subjective, these are teams that are playing above the level they were expected to at this point in the season.

Mississippi State – The Bulldogs’ offseason seemed to be one gigantic nightmare. The most potent duo in the conference in Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes departed for the NBA (or not) and a third starter in Ben Hansbrough to transfer. Instead of taking a step backward, the squad has meshed surprisingly well on the shoulders of reigning National Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado, who is thus far averaging just short of a triple-double with 10.3ppg, 13.0rpg, and 7.8bpg. Varnado again leads the nation in blocks and has helped State lead the SEC in seven statistical categories thus far. Freshman point guard Dee Bost has been outstanding in early play, currently leading the SEC in assists per game with 6.75apg. The competition has been weak, but while other league teams are dropping those games, the Bulldogs have been owning their opponents so far.

LSU - The other West standout is in a very similar situation as Mississippi State, except that expectations for the Tigers are high considering their high talent level and experience versus the rest of the Western Division. LSU’s competition level has been similarly weak, but LSU is defeating teams by an average of 25.7ppg and is looking to be the surprise team of the SEC. The Tigers are stacked with potent offensive players in Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton, but are surprisingly stingy on defense as well.  With the conference down, LSU could win enough conference games to make the NCAA Tournament as long as the squad stays healthy. LSU lacks depth, so any loss would be a disaster.

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ATB: Quiet Before the Storm

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2008

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News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93.  He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.  Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history.  May he rest in peace.

pete-newellPhoto Credit:  LA Times

Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was.  Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win   Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else.  SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough.  In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson.  People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.

Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land.  Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games.  No longer.  Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%).  Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort.  So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.

Preseason NIT Action.

  • Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous.  33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting.  The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back.  They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
  • Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far.  Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls.  MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
  • BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts.  BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
  • St. John’s 86, Cornell 75.  The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75.  Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
  • Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half.  E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win.  Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
  • Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53.  Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
  • Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62.  Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight.  The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced.  UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.

Big East Tuneups.

  • Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year?  Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
  • Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
  • Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville.  Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
  • Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season.  Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
  • Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game.  UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away.  AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack.  Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.

Other Games of Interest.

  • Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts.  He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
  • Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont.  He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts.  AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
  • Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row.  Another 26% FG shooting night.  Can we send them back to D2 now?

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST):

  • 24 Hour Marathon of College Hoops – see separate post here for schedule and times.
  • Indiana v. IUPUI (BTN) – 6:30pm
  • Bucknell v. Boston U. – 7pm
  • Tennessee (-25) v. UT-Martin (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Ole Miss (-10) v. South Alabama – 8pm
  • Texas (-22) v. Tulane (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • USC (-16) v. New Mexico St. – 9pm
  • Gonzaga (-27.5) v. Idaho (FSN) – 9pm
  • San Diego (-5.5) v. Nevada (ESPN FC & 360) – 10pm
  • Arizona St. (-3) @ San Diego St. (CBS CS) – 11pm
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2008-09 Conference Primers: #5 – SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2008

Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

EAST

  1. Tennessee (25-5, 13-3)
  2. Florida (25-5, 12-4)
  3. Kentucky (22-8, 11-5)
  4. Vanderbilt (24-6, 9-7)
  5. South Carolina (19-10, 8-8)
  6. Georgia (15-13, 5-11)

WEST

  1. Alabama (18-11, 8-8)
  2. LSU (21-10, 8-8)
  3. Mississippi State (21-10, 8-8)
  4. Ole Miss (17-13, 7-9)
  5. Arkansas (14-15, 5-11)
  6. Auburn (14-17, 3-13)

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What You Need to Know.  The name of the game for the SEC this year is youth. The Western Division in particular, as nearly every team loses some nucleus from squads that formed a comparatively weak conference half as it was. Tennessee once again looks to lead a strong Eastern Division despite the loss of All-American Chris Lofton. The nation will be looking towards this typically loaded conference with several questions heading into 2008-09. Can Florida’s sophomores have a breakout season similar to those of 2006-07? Can Kentucky put enough guards around all-SEC forward Patrick Patterson to compete for the East? And can the West avoid being stomped once again in head-to-head competitions with the East? My answers: yes, yes, and no.

Predicted Champion.   Tennessee (#2 seed NCAA). It’s pretty easy to brag on Bruce Pearl. He’s one of the nation’s premier coaches, owning a ridiculous 394-108 (.785) record as a head coach, standing third amongst current head coaches. Despite losing popular 2007-08 preseason pick for National Player of the Year Chris Lofton and do-everything guard/forward JuJuan Smith, the Vols will benefit from huge losses across the board for the SEC. All-American forward Tyler Smith (13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) returns to provide the squad with a heavy-duty anchor inside (although the 6’7, 215 lb. junior hits 37.8% from behind the arc), while talented center Wayne Chism will be mopping up inside defensively. Hopping aboard the orange train are a pair of insanely talented newcomers. Everything-All-American out of high school Scotty Hopson will be challenging for the starting spot at shooting guard while junior-college All-American Bobby Maze looks to start at point guard. All in all, the talent, experience, and coaching level is the highest in Knoxville, and that’s why the Vols are picked to win the SEC regular season for the second consecutive season.   Here’s some clips from the classic #1 v. #2 matchup Tennessee had with Memphis last season.

NCAA Teams.

  • Florida (NCAA #3) – The Gators have once again put together a formula for a set of super sophomores. The league’s top freshman, as well as one of the conference’s best point guards in years, returns in Nick Calathes while a pair of star freshmen in Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas will attempt to fill the rather large shoes of NBA-bound Marreese Speights. Don’t be surprised if the Gators reclaim the SEC regular-season title for the third time in the past four years and show up knocking on the door of the NCAA’s Elite Eight.
  • Kentucky (NCAA #6) – The Wildcats have a lot of outside shooting to replace, after losing over 33 points per game in Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley. SEC Co-Freshman of the Year Patrick Patterson returns and looks to touch the ball on nearly every possession, and incoming freshman DeAndre Liggins should serve as this year’s heavily-relied upon freshman for the Wildcats at the point guard spot. UK could challenge for the Eastern Division (and thus, the overall SEC crown) and sneak into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen if the pieces fall correctly.
  • Vanderbilt (NCAA #9) – Replacing SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster won’t be easy for Kevin Stallings, but the Commodores have another potential POY candidate in A.J. Ogilvy to step into that leadership role. Ogilvy returns as the conference’s most efficient player and scorer, and Jermaine Beal will be the guy to pass inside to the talented post-man while remaining a scoring threat this season. Although the Commodores lose an immense talent in Foster, Ogilvy should be enough to push the squad into the first couple of rounds in the NCAA Tournament.
  • LSU (NCAA #11) – The Tigers return nearly every major contributor from last year’s 13-18 squad except for star freshman Anthony Randolph and head coach John Brady, who was replaced during the offseason with accomplished former Stanford coach Trent Johnson. Johnson inherits possibly the league’s most talented overall player in senior Marcus Thornton, the league’s leading returning scorer, along with a chance to get LSU back to the NCAA Tournament (if just so) for the first time since 2006’s Final Four run.
  • Mississippi State (NCAA #12) – The Bulldogs lose the most talented duo in the conference in multi-dimensional Jamont Gordon and dominating post-presence Charles Rhodes. In addition, State will need to find a replacement at shooting guard with sophomore Ben Hansbrough transferring to Notre Dame. The positive, however, is that MSU is loaded with talented and will anchor around National Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado, who led the nation in blocks per game and helped the team rank second nationally in field-goal percentage defense. Adding two big new pieces to the puzzle in freshmen Dee Bost and Romero Osby, the Bulldogs could win their share of the West for the third time in the past four season and make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the past eight seasons.

NIT Teams.

  • Alabama (NIT) – I’ve predicted several SEC squads with similar in-conference records, and thus those with the weaker RPIs have been restricted to the NIT. Alabama is one of them. The Tide return former All-American Ronald Steele, but major questions still surround his ability to return to his former self after several complications with knee injuries. McDonald’s All-American freshman JaMychal Green will step into the spot of the league’s most dominant offensive post-man in departed Richard Hendrix. If Green can handle the post himself, or if little-known sophomore Justin Knox can step in to assist, the Tide could find themselves away from a top NIT seed and into the NCAAs.
  • South Carolina (NIT) – New head coach David Horn from Western Kentucky infamy will step into a very favorable position at the helm of the Gamecocks. USC brings back more firepower, at least percentage-wise, than any other SEC team and could post the biggest turnaround season the league has seen in quite some time. Junior Devan Downey returns as one of the league’s top point guards and toughest men to keep out of the lane along with ranking as the SEC’s second-leading returning scorer. With almost every piece seeming to come into place for a special season for USC, keep your eyes pealed for a potential Gamecock bubble squad.

Others.

  • Arkansas – Just as USC returns nearly everyone, Arkansas loses nearly everyone from a team that underachieved a season ago. Namely, the Razorbacks lose former SEC Freshman of the Year Patrick Beverly, who decided to try his luck overseas. Despite a solid recruiting class, this should be a rebuilding year for John Pelphrey.
  • Auburn – The Tigers simply have had a bare cupboard in both talent and depth constantly under Jeff Lebo, and this year is little different. The return of Korvotney Barber should help matters some, assuming he stays healthy, but Auburn won’t improve to any real degree until Lebo is let go.
  • Georgia – The Bulldogs under Dennis Felton have been comparable to Auburn under Lebo for quite some time, except that Felton recruits a bit better and has had some nominal success such as last year’s confusing SEC Tournament run. With mass suspensions and off-the-court issues, UGA should remain near or at the bottom of the conference this season – and Felton should receive his pink slip much like Lebo.
  • Ole Miss – The Rebels lost a lot last season, but were still anchored inside by solid and experienced forwards, especially Dwayne Curtis.  With those losses, this team is almost entirely underclassmen and could sneak into the NIT if they catch some breaks.

RPI Boosters.

  • Kentucky @ North Carolina (11.18.08) – If the Wildcats can pull a massive upset of the consensus #1 team in the nation in Chapel Hill, they will be well on their way to returning to national recognition.
  • Tennessee vs. Marquette (12.16.08) – The Volunteers get little or no breaks throughout the non-conference schedule, and this SEC vs. Big East matchup will be for conference bragging rights.
  • LSU @ Texas A&M (12.20.08) – If the Tigers want to prove they are rebounding, this will be one of few opportunities for them to so in the non-conference slate.
  • South Carolina @ Baylor (01.02.08) – The Gamecocks’ schedule is ridiculously light, and their schedule will be inflated by this point in the season. This game is a must-win if USC wants to take the step up into the NCAAs.
  • Tennessee @ Kansas (01.03.08) – Another heavyweight matchup for the Vols, who have a chance to take down a reigning national champ on their home court.
  • Kentucky @ Louisville (01.04.08) – The Cats could seriously bolster their NCAA seed and chances to advance in the NCAAs by taking down Louisville on the road.
  • Memphis @ Tennessee (01.24.08) – A quickly-heating rivalry as the amount of NBA potential on this floor could drown the common man.

Important Games.

  • LSU @ Mississippi State (01.11.09) – If the Tigers want to break through the cap and take the West, a win in this early conference game would be a huge advantage.
  • Kentucky @ Alabama (01.24.09) – The Tide must be able to win games at home against the top tier of the East if they have any serious hope of challenging for the overall SEC crown.
  • Mississippi State @ Alabama (02.21.09) – If the Bulldogs take care of the Tide at home, they have a shot to make it six in a row over their rivals and take a major step towards another West title.
  • Tennessee @ Florida (03.01.09) – The Gators must hold serve at home to compete in the East, while the Vols could wrap up the conference title with a win here.
  • Kentucky @ Florida (03.07.09) – We know the Wildcats can win at home, but can they win in Gainesville? This one could be for the East.

Neat-O Stat.  The Southeastern Conference is one of the nation’s deepest and most competitive leagues. The SEC ranks second only behind the ACC in average conference RPI since 1999, and has put every single member into the NCAA tournament since 2002.

65 Team Era.  The SEC has had a tremendous amount of success in this era, going 178-117 (.603) which is good enough for third behind the ACC and Big East.  This includes thirteen F4s and five national titles.  What’s particularly impressive is that only four of those F4s and two titles belong to Kentucky, the traditional standard-bearer of this league, which shows that the rest of the conference has taken basketball to heart and stepped it up. 

Final Thoughts.  The SEC was a huge disappointment on the national scene a season ago. Without major flag-bearers such as Kentucky or Florida dominating, expectations fell on Tennessee to take their #2 seed to the Final Four. Instead, the Vols served as the only team from the conference to make the Sweet Sixteen before falling on their faces to Louisville.  While this year likely won’t be much of an improvement, consider it a gigantic top-to-bottom reloading of one of the nation’s premier men’s basketball conferences, with the league’s talent being tremendously youth-oriented.  Three SEC teams look to have serious aspirations for getting past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and all are from the East: Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky. If a Western Division team can step up and compete better than expected and at least two of these teams make the Sweet Sixteen this season, it should serve as a useful springboard to a very potent year for the SEC on the national scene in 2009-2010.

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04.01.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on March 31st, 2008

We haven’t broken out one of these in a while, but there’s no time like the present…

  • The Lopez Bros. say adios to Stanford, merely three days after losing their Sweet Sixteen game to Texas.
  • Western Kentucky head coach Darrin Horn is reportedly the choice to take over for the embattled G. David Odom at South Carolina, making Horn the second WKU coach in the last five years to leave for an SEC school (Dennis Felton – Georgia).  Update: apparently Odom isn’t leaving SC after all – in fact, he’s getting a new 10-year contract!
  • Not that anyone expected otherwise, but Midwest Region MOP Stephen Curry is staying in school at Davidson for at least another year.
  • The IU implosion continues in the aftermath of the Kelvin Sanctions saga – starters Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis have been kicked off of the team.  Just guessing, but methinks this miiiight have been purposeful.
  • And former McD’s AA Taylor King (rotflmao) is transferring out from under the iron fist of Coach K at Duke – word is that Villanova or Gonzaga is his likely destination.
  • Sean Sutton is reportedly getting forced out at Oklahoma St. – it’s been no secret around here that we thought he was doing a horrid job, we guess that the benefactors at OSU agreed. 
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Late Introduction & Weekend Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2008

By way of a late introduction, we wanted to thank our buddy N-Bug for his detailed postings this past weekend on the various conference tourneys and bracket analysis.  We’ve been insanely busy with our real job(s), and haven’t been able to do much more than catch the occasional game and periodically watch Bob Knight get molested by Digger.  Somebody should call an Amber Alert on Digger and just get it over with – that dude is creepy.  As for Knight, we figure that one of these times where Digger is busily groping his arms and shoulders, he’s going to snap and dispose of Mr. Phelps in the nearest wastebasket.

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on the weekend games and brackets.

  • That tornado situation at the SEC Tourney in the ATL was crazy.  We were watching it live and the rumbling locomotive sound for anyone who grew up in flyover land (we did) was unmistakeable.
  • By the same token, penalizing Georgia/Kentucky by making it play two games in a single day, and further limiting the fan access to school administrators and families at the Alexander Coliseum was a total bush league maneuver by the SEC.  Does anyone think this would have been the same response (no fans) had the SEC football championship game been interrupted by a natural disaster?  No freakin way.
  • Props to Georgia and Dennis Felton though for sticking it right back up the SEC’s ass by winning three games in about 27 hours.
  • Seth Greenberg’s diatribe about whether the Hokies were one of the best 65 teams in America has been debated endlessly already.  Clearly, they’re one of the best 65, but that’s not the important measure.  They needed to be one of the best 34 at-large teams, and it’s arguable whether they were.  Then his follow-up response yesterday was pure idiocy, which N-Bug eloquently captured.  It’s about the “experience,” Seth?  If it’s really about the “experience,” then most of your players already got to have the “experience” last season; whereas South Alabama’s and St. Mary’s players will get that “experience” this time around.  What a joke.
  • Also can’t believe he brought up the garbage bowls at all, as if any but a handful of bowls are on par with the NCAA Tournement.
  • What is it about Pitt in the Big East Tourney?  They completely outmuscled and outhustled the Hoyas all over the court on Saturday night.
  • UNC, UCLA, Kansas, Wisconsin.  Pretty much all chalk in those tourneys.  Most likely second-round loser?  Wisky.
  • Who else thought Bob Knight was ready to rip into Vitale for the mere mention of him returning to Indiana?  We’re not sure whether Knight is on some gag order as a result of his settlement with the school, but his eyes told the tale.  He was livid, and he quite obviously sees Vitale and Digger as little more than failed coaches turned circus clowns.  He seems to respect Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas, though.  Maybe it’s a players/coaches thing.
  • Easiest bracket is the West, with UCLA only facing a serious threat from UConn, depending a) on whether the Huskies can avoid losing in the first two rounds; and b) which UConn shows up (which largely determines the first point).
  • Toughest bracket is the East, with UNC potentially facing an Indiana team with enough talent to knock them off in the second round (think: UNC 2000?), an explosive ND squad, and either Louisville or Tennessee potentially in the regional finals.  Any of those three teams are F4-worthy.

Final thing for now – thanks again to N-Bug for helping out and also setting up the Yahoo Bracket for RTC.  Be sure to sign up by Thurs. morning.

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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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