SEC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC. With tournament action set to tip from Atlanta on Thursday, get set with RTC’s regular season recap and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

Hottest Teams Going Into The Postseason:

  • FloridaPasting Alabama to close out the season is a really good sign.
  • KentuckyLooking good on a lot of people’s brackets after winning two tough ones and they’ve been top 10 at KenPom.com all season.

Tournament Sleeper: Mississippi State – Too much talent here to not be dangerous when push comes to shove.  The question is, will they play the way they’re capable or the way when they’ve fumbled?

Best First Round Matchup: Tennessee vs. Arkansas, Thursday - The South Carolina/Ole Miss game doesn’t carry much weight, and I don’t see Georgia having too much trouble with Auburn, nor Vanderbilt with LSUArkansas is the higher seeded team here due to the wackiness of the Southeastern Conference Tournament seeding (more on that later).  Arkansas won the previous meeting 68-65 in Fayetteville.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

The biggest story out of the SEC this week is the Southeastern Conference’s suspension of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl for the first eight games of conference play.  Pearl hosted recruit Aaron Craft at his home contrary to NCAA rules and misled investigators about a picture that was taken with Craft during the visit.  Pearl also admitted to making excessive recruiting phone calls.  For his sins, the Tennessee will reduce Pearl’s pay by a total of $1.5 million over the next five years and he is not allowed to recruit off campus for one year.  Pearl got a pretty stiff punishment here, but this should come as no surprise.  The NCAA is still considering the matter and may impose additional penalties in December when it releases its findings.

Tennessee has no desire to let Pearl go despite his misdeeds.  He has won a lot of games in Knoxville and he is a great recruiter.  The problem now is that there is a question mark as to how good he is at recruiting if he plays by the rules.  Pearl is on a short leash and the university has made it clear – any more violations, and he’s out.

Pearl should have known better from previous incidents and it is likely the NCAA will impose additional punishments.  There are two universal truths in this life: one, the NCAA hates being left out of the punishment game when a violation has occurred, particularly for repeat offenders, and two, the NCAA hates recruiting violations.  If you want to get your team in a heap of trouble, the fastest way to do it is through recruiting violations.  Indiana is still suffering from the Kelvin Sampson disaster, a fellow repeat offender.  Indiana is likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year due to Sampson’s cheating.  Time will tell if the NCAA’s sanctions will have such an effect on Tennessee.  The moral of the story, keep it clean out there, coaches.

In other news, Georgia is playing well despite the loss of star Trey Thompkins who is out with a high ankle sprain.  The Bulldogs got a good win against a talented Colorado team that should make the NCAA Tournament this year.  The Bulldogs are currently 4-0, but Thompkins was recently cleared to practice.

In the preseason primer, I predicted Enes Kanter would be eligible for Kentucky.  Seeking to make me look the fool, the NCAA saw otherwise.  While the NCAA and Kentucky do agree on the facts of the case, that Enes Kanter received payment for play while in his native Turkey, they disagree on the interpretation of NCAA rules, Kentucky obviously believing Kanter deserves to play.  The NCAA ruled that he received benefits over and above necessary expenses and declared him “permanently ineligible,” a big blow to the Wildcats’ plans to win a second straight SEC crown and an eighth National championship.  John Calipari stated that he was not happy with the NCAA’s decision but that he respected it.  Following Kentucky’s 88-65 win over East Tennessee State, Alan Cutler, a Lexington sports reporter, opened the press conference by asking Calipari’s opinion on the matter.  Calipari was noticeably frustrated and responded, “Didn’t we just play a game?”  The school will appeal the decision.

Power Rankings

    1. Kentucky (3-0) opened the season with a pasting of East Tennessee State 88-65 in which freshman Terrence Jones recorded a double-double scoring 25 points and collecting 12 rebounds.  On Monday night against Oklahoma, Jones recorded his second double-double by scoring 29 points and pulling down 13 rebounds to go along with 3 assists, two steals, and four blocks.  Apparently, Jones doesn’t like to see anyone else’s name on the stat sheet.  In between those two games, Kentucky trounced Portland 79-48 in a game in which the Wildcats scored the first 15 points of the game and were never challenged.  After three games, Kentucky leads the SEC in three-point field goal percentage and assist/turnover ratio, both weak points on last year’s squad.
    2. Arkansas (2-0) While I don’t expect the Razorbacks to remain at number two for very long, it’s hard to drop them lower than number two when they won their first two games against Grambling State and Florida Gulf Coast by an average margin of 33 points per game.  That’s the highest scoring margin in the SEC, and it’s not even close.  Guard Rotnei Clarke picked up right where he left off last year making five three pointers in his first game this season.  Through two games, Clarke is 10-23 from three point range and leads Arkansas in scoring at 17 points per game.
    3. Georgia is 3-0 record despite playing without preseason SEC POY pick Trey Thompkins.  Mark Fox can flat-out coach.  Underestimate him at your own peril.  He will have the Bulldogs competing all year long and no game against the ‘Dogs will be an easy one, with or without Thompkins.  In Thompkins’ absence, guard Travis Leslie has taken it upon himself to pick up the slack by leading Georgia in both points and rebounds at 18 and 8.3 per game, respectively.  Georgia will need Thompkins back soon, however, as the road gets tougher from here.  They next face Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic which also features Temple, Wisconsin, California and Texas A&M.
    4. Mississippi State’s (3-0) Kodi Augustus is leading the SEC in rebounds at 11.0 RPG and is second in scoring at 20.0 PPG behind fellow Bulldog Ravern Johnson’s 25.5 PPG.  While they didn’t win big against Tennessee State, Appalachian State or Detroit, whom they defeated 75-65, 76-74 and 82-76, respectively, the Bulldogs are playing without guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sydney.  Mississippi State will be very, very good once Sydney and Bost return and should be an exciting team to watch.
    5. Vanderbilt (3-1) whipped Presbyterian 88-47 in the Commodores season opener then beat Nebraska 59-49 and followed that up with a hard fought loss to West Virginia, 74-71.  The ‘Dores got what might have been a nice win against North Carolina if it had not been tainted by the fact that UNC had previously lost to Minnesota two days before.  Vanderbilt fans frequently chanted “overrated” as they taunted the Tar Heels in a game that Vandy led for all but a few moments.  The pollsters seemed to agree, dropping UNC to the 25 spot. Regardless, Vanderbilt made touted UNC freshman forward Harrison Barnes look bad as they held him to just 4-12 shooting.
    6. Tennessee (3-0)  Well, the Volunteers are undefeated but have yet to leave Knoxville.  They got a 20 point win over Chattanooga.  Beating Belmont by nine at home could be a little better, but it will do.  A lot of folks sounded alarm bells when the Vols lost their exhibition game against Indianapolis.  You can stop ringing the bells.  Exhibition wins and losses are meaningless.  These are tune-ups and coaches use them as such.  Tennessee’s real problems are off the court where Bruce Pearl’s indiscretions may prove costly down the road.  For now, Tennessee is playing well enough and should reach the finals of the NIT Preaseason Tip-Off following a win against VCU which I think they will get.  Oh, and that Tobias Harris kid is everything he was hyped up to be.  He currently leads Tennessee in scoring at 16.3 points per game, though he also leads in turnovers with 3.7 TPG.
    7. Florida (3-1).  How does the preseason SEC favorite end up number seven?  I think Doug Gottlieb summed it up well on Sunday when he said, “And then I saw them get pounded by Ohio State and I realized why all five starters returned.”  Florida easily handled UNC Wilmington, 77-60, in the Gators’ season opener but they followed it with an ugly loss to Ohio State in which they played the same uninspired defense that they played last year.  The Buckeyes easily beat Florida’s press and shot 62.9% in the game.  The Gators had no answer for Jared Sullinger inside who went 13-17 from the floor, nor for David Lighty who went 9-11.  You will recall that I expressed skepticism over Florida being tabbed as the SEC preseason favorite.  They appear to be the same team as last year in many respects, which makes sense as they have all the same players.  They still lack defensive intensity particularly inside.  Yes, they did pummel North Carolina A&T 105-55 following their loss to Ohio State and they got a quality win against NBA-bound Kenneth Faried’s Morehead State team, but I remain skeptical.  Florida shot only 26.3% from three point range and 38.9% overall in that game and Faried had his wicked way with Florida’s bigs scoring 20 points and pulling down 18 rebounds.  Patric Young was supposed to provide the inside game Florida was lacking but in four games for the Gators, he has yet to prove he is up to the job.  Get it together, Gators, or you’re going to make a lot of media folks feel very silly for picking you number one, not to mention those that picked the Gators as National Championship contenders.
    8. Mississippi (2-1) Ole Miss opened the year with a meaningless win over Arkansas State, which is currently 0-4 but then got a quality win over Ohio Valley Conference favorite Murray State behind guards Zach Graham‘s career high 22 points and Nick Williams’ 21 points.  The Rebels then lost a tough one against a quality Dayton team that came back from a 15 point second half deficit to win 78-71 by taking advantage of a 33 to 16 free throw opportunity disparity.  In the end I don’t expect this loss to cost Mississippi as a bad loss.  The problem, however, was this was Mississippi’s last chance to get a quality win against a non-conference opponent.  The rest of Ole Miss’s preseason schedule is cupcake city and since I expect the Rebels to be a bubble team this year, picking up another quality non-conference win was crucial.  It may take ten conference wins to make the Tournament now.  It sounds silly to say that so early, but that’s the situation that Mississippi puts itself in every year by continually playing one of weakest preseason schedules of any team in a major conference.
    9. South Carolina (2-1) After watching the Gamecocks lose to Michigan State 82-73 in a game they were never supposed to have a chance of winning anyway, I realized I really liked this team.  They played hard throughout and were never intimidated by the number two-ranked Spartans.  Michigan State forced them into 20 turnovers and the ‘Cocks shot poorly making only 35.7% from the field, but were able to get off 70 shots to State’s 53.  They battled and impressed me with their hunger.  The reality is that they just didn’t have the talent to keep up. Spartan’s loaded team.  This loss was sandwiched by dominating wins over Elon 95-79 and Radford 85-56.  If South Carolina continues to play this way, I may have to rethink the four SEC wins I predicted, even in the loaded SEC East.  Hard play always pays dividends.  Hey did anyone else notice that South Carolina replaced 5’9 leading scorer Devan Downey who shot 40% last year with 5’9 leading scorer Bruce Ellington, who is shoots 35.1% this year.  Ellington also averages three rebounds, 2.3 assists and four turnovers, nearly identical to Downey’s marks in the same categories.
    10. LSU (2-2) Well, it’s getting ugly down here towards the bottom.  What is there to say about LSU?  They opened with an 87-78 win over Northwestern State, and then lost to lowly Nicholls State 62-53.  LSU held Nicholls State to only 35.8% from the field and only seven assists, outrebounded the Colonels and blocked more shots, yet they still lost.  Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that NSU stole the ball from them 12 times.  When you can hold a team to only 35.8% and outrebound them by nine and still lose to that bad team, it’s going to be a long year.  There is some great young talent on this team in freshmen Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner who are leading the team in scoring at 15.8 and 12 points, respectively, but their shooting is horrendous at only 34 and 37%.  LSU managed to get a win over Tennessee-Martin 79-56 — no reason for excitement there — and a loss against Memphis.  It’s early, but I think the Tigers are still a year away.
    11. Alabama (2-3) While LSU is disappointing, Alabama is inexcusable.  Between talented players like JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Senario Hillman there is no reason Alabama should be on a three game losing streak to the likes of Seton Hall, Iowa and St. Peters.  Seton Hall was picked to finish seventh in the Big East and Iowa was picked last in the Big Ten in the Rush The Court conference primers.  Folks, I like Anthony Grant, but it’s getting ugly out there.  Alabama shot only 32.5% from the field in that loss to St. Peter’s, a game that was supposed to be a walk through.  Well, at least Alabama has wins against Florida A&M and Troy.  That’s got to count for something right?
    12. Auburn (1-3) When you open up with three straight losses to basketball giants like North Carolina-Asheville, Samford and Campbell, and your only win is a two point victory over a bad Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders team, it’s hard to find something to be positive about.  Because I like to find things to build on, I found something good. Sophomore guard Andre Malone is shooting lights-out from three point range, making 14-25 shots thus far.  Last year he shot a mere 20.7% from three.  After him, the Tigers are nothing to write home about.  Auburn is currently last in the SEC in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage and turnover margin, and are eleventh of twelve teams in field goal percentage defense, three point percentage defense, assists, steals, and turnover margin.  All of that amounts to Pomeroy’s lowest-ranked team in the Big Six conferences. Those numbers aren’t exactly against stellar teams.  Good luck to you Auburn, those predicted three SEC wins are all of a sudden looking pretty hard to come by.

      A Look Ahead

      Here are the key matchups for Southeastern Conference teams this week:

      • Georgia has a game they should win against Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic on Thursday.  Assuming they do, they will face the winner of Temple and California on Friday, a quality opponent either way.  If they lose they face the loser of that same game.  A good early test no matter the outcome, but the win is necessary as the Old Spice Classic is Georgia’s last chance for some good non-conference wins.
      • Tennessee next plays a tough VCU team on Wednesday at 7:00 Eastern.  Win that and they take on the winner of Villanova/UCLA, (likely ‘Nova) in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday.  These two wins are important for Tennessee to keep their momentum going and stay positive in the face of the punishments handed down against their coach.
      • Kentucky’s foe tonight is Washington, a team that surely will want vengeance against the Wildcats for stealing away Terrence Jones and the now ineligible Enes Kanter, both of whom had previously committed to Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar before backing out and pledging allegiance to Calipari.  It’s must-see hoops TV tonight at 9:30 Eastern.

      Other Points of Interest

      • The SEC named Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 21.7 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan in games against Nebraska, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
      • Tennessee’s Tobias Harris, was named SEC Freshman of the Week after leading the Volunteers in scoring and rebounding at 16 and 7 in wins against Belmont and Missouri State.
      • Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley just barely got the triple double against Presbyterian in Vandy’s season opener with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but it was good for Vanderbilt’s first one ever in its 110-year history.
      • There is a little disparity between the SEC East and the SEC West.  Maybe you’ve noticed.  Currently the SEC is 29-12 overall, but 17 of those wins and only three losses come from the SEC East against slightly superior competition than the West is playing.  The West is now 12-9. It’s time that the SEC adopt a conference tournament that seeds the best team against the worst rather than pitting the number one team in the East against the number six in the West.  This hurts the conference’s chances at getting five to six bids.  It also severely hurts the West’s chances of getting multiple bids as the top West teams must play the bottom East teams which while still at the bottom of the East are considerably better than the bottom of the West.  I am sure that come conference tournament time Mississippi State would much rather be facing off against the likes of Auburn or LSU than Vanderbilt or South Carolina, either of which could very well win a game or two in the conference tournament.
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      RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

      Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

      Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

      Predicted Order of Finish

      SEC East

      • T1. Florida (11-5)
      • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
      • T1. Georgia (11-5)
      • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
      • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
      • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

      SEC West

      • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
      • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
      • T3. Alabama (7-9)
      • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
      • 4. LSU (4-12)
      • 5. Auburn (3-13)

      All-Conference Team

      • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
      • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
      • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
      • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
      • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

      6th Man

      Travis Leslie – Georgia

      Impact Newcomers

      • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
      • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
      • F Patric Young – Florida
      • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
      • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

      Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

      What You Need To Know

      • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
      • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.

      • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.

      • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

      Predicted Champion

      Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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      Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #13 Why We Love College Basketball

      Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2010

      Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

      #13 – Where #1 Goes Down Happens

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      2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

      Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2010

      Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

      After dissecting a trio of Big 12 teams in prior weeks, more and more elite programs are releasing their 2010-11 schedules to the masses. Let’s continue with Kentucky, a squad that reloaded following the departure of an astounding five first round draft picks.

      With so much turnover, Calipari has another tough coaching job on his hands

      Team Outlook: A fan base as rabid and fanatical as Kentucky’s surely awaited this week’s announcement with tremendous anticipation. Big Blue Nation has expectations for their Wildcats that perennially surpass any other program in the nation. Their point guard and this April’s #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, John Wall, will be replaced by Brandon Knight, whose high school accolades and ranking matches those of his predecessors under John Calipari. If deemed eligible by the NCAA, Enes Kanter will fill the post presence left by the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Similarly to Kanter, Terrence Jones spurned Washington and headed to Kentucky, a 6’9 wing very capable of matching the offensive production provided by Eric Bledsoe a season ago. The key word for Kentucky and Calipari since he took the helm: replenish. And if Knight, Kanter and Jones are history next April, three more top-ten recruits will fill the void. It’s a tall task for Knight and Kanter to match the contributions of Wall and Cousins, two of the top three players in the sport last season. Still, with such talent abounding, a wide open SEC, and the true dribble-drive offense back into high gear, to expect a giant step back from Big Blue and underestimating the coaching prowess of Calipari would be a grave mistake.

      Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 7.5. A program with the visibility and significance of Kentucky should challenge themselves at every chance. Forced out of necessity more than choice to load up in November and December at Memphis, Calipari has utilized that same strategy in Lexington. The potential is there to face fellow powerhouses at least in terms of college basketball history: North Carolina, Michigan State, Louisville, Indiana, Notre Dame, Washington and Oklahoma, although these teams remain at varying degrees of competitiveness. Kentucky will surely attract an enormous contingent to Maui where they could face a top-ten team in the semifinals in Washington and a top-two team in the finals, Michigan State. North Carolina is still working its way back up to elite status following last year’s NIT berth, but the young Wildcats’ trip to the Dean Dome won’t be any sort of cakewalk. The same theory applies to Louisville on New Year’s Eve, the next chapter of one of the fiercest rivalries the sport knows. A matchup with possible NCAA squad Notre Dame should also prove competitive. Kentucky gets everyone’s best shot, and it’s no relief for Calipari that up to seven non-conference contests will be either on true road or neutral floors.

      Cupcake City: Two notable cupcakes travel to Lexington when Mississippi Valley State and Coppin State make the trip for what should be 40-point blowouts, but other than that Calipari did a solid job limiting the scrubs. East Tennessee State returns their top three scorers from an NCAA Tournament team that was blown out in the first round by, you guessed it, Kentucky. I’m not saying the Wildcats are vulnerable to lose to the Buccaneers, but they will not be a total walkover. Winthrop rode a Big South Cinderella run to an NCAA bid and is on the slate. Boston University with John Holland and Jake O’Brien is halfway decent, while a Maui tune-up in Portland against the rebuilding Pilots will provide a raucous atmosphere. Last season, Kentucky did struggle a bit early in the campaign against Miami (OH), Stanford and Sam Houston State while Calipari determined roles and rotations for a plethora of new players. If the same holds true a year later, Portland and BU could be pesky opponents.

      Toughest Early Season Test: It’s far from a guarantee that Kentucky downs Washington in the Maui semifinals. After all, the Huskies return the majority of their backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy with a frontcourt anchored by Matthew Bryan-Amaning and a talented newcomer in Terrence Ross. Plus, they should have plenty of motivation to knock Kentucky down a few pegs following the Kanter and Jones situations that have been rehashed continuously. If the Wildcats can survive Washington, and I have a sneaking suspicion they will, Michigan State awaits in the final if the Spartans can knock off Connecticut or Wichita State (unless they pull a Virginia against Chaminade). The Spartans return their entire Final Four squad with the exception of Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen. Containing Kalin Lucas is baptism by fire for green Brandon Knight, while wing Darius Miller may have the unenviable task of chasing around three-point bomber Durrell Summers. The Spartans will likely be ranked number two in the nation behind Duke at this point. Win or lose, the learning experience will certainly be valuable for the young Wildcats.

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      SEC Media Notes: 06.29.10

      Posted by nvr1983 on June 29th, 2010

      As part of our attempt to continue to provide you with the best independent college basketball information on the Internet we will periodically bring you information from conference media calls. Today’s entry comes from the SEC, which amazingly was not affected what could have been a massive conference shake-up.

      Ed. Note: The conference call actually took place on Monday, but I had an ophthalmologist appointment and I’m pretty sure that they used just about the entire bottle of eye drops to dilate my eyes so I’m just starting to see straight again. The below entries are my some of the key points the coaches made, but are not direct quotes. If you want to listen to the coaches speak directly, click on the link next to their name.

      Anthony Grant (Alabama)Audio
      – Defense: Last year their defense gave them a chance to be in every game that they played, but they had to have that solid defense because their offense was not always there.
      – Returning players: Senario Hillman one of elite athletes in the SEC and can guard multiple positions. He will need to improve shot selection and decision-making, but is making strides. JaMychal Green adds size and strength to the frontcourt, which is as good as any team in the SEC. Should improve with an extra year of experience. Tony Mitchell had a very good freshman year and being named to SEC All-Freshman team was an accomplishment. Grant is looking for the players to make a jump between their first and second year in the Alabama program.

      Tony Barbee (Auburn)Audio / Key Quotes
      – Lack of Experience: Starting over is exciting because you get to mold a new group of players. It will be hard to judge what he has until he sees the team together in the Fall.
      – Plan: Focus on defense because they could be “offensively challenged” because they don’t know what they have outside of Frankie Sullivan. Given their lack of size on the inside they might have to focus on their offense around the 3-point line.

      John Pelphrey (Arkansas)Audio
      – Frontcourt: They have Marshawn Powell on the inside, but will need to develop more on the inside to help support him.
      – APR: We’re all working very hard. We want to see these young men improve in the classroom and on the court. He isn’t sure statistics over the short-term can adequately reflect the academic performance of a program, but is open to more long-term measures.
      Andre Clark: Aware of the transfer to TCU and does talk with players who have transferred if they contact him about an issue.

      Billy Donovan (Florida)Audio
      – Backcourt: Didn’t know what to expect coming into last season having lost Nick Calathes. Irving Walker played his freshman year at 2 guard spot. Kenny Boynton came in with huge reputation out of high school, but you’re never sure with them making the jump. Limited depth in the backcourt meant those two played more minutes than they probably should have, which meant they couldn’t do some of the stuff they would have otherwise done such as press. Coming into this year with the experience should be helpful for those two coming into this season. Still some issues with depth in the backcourt this year although they are adding freshmen Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather to the backcourt.
      Alex Tyus: First UF player to put his name in the NBA Draft and return to UF. It was Alex’s decision. He worked out with a couple of NBA teams and listened to what NBA had to say about where he might go. No pressure from UF to come back. Donovan feels that process is only going to help the Gators going forward.
      Patric Young: Very physical and aggressive player, but needs some work on the inside. In the near term he will bring energy and a great rebounding presence to the Gators.

      Mark Fox (Georgia)Audio
      Marcus Thornton: Really big boost after picking him up following his release from his letter of intent from Clemson. Gives Georgia a lot of options because of his versatility.
      Trey Thompkins: Had discussion with family and got info from NBA. Felt it wasn’t appropriate. Only would be able to work out for 1 or 2 days due to final exams and the new NBA Draft withdrawal deadlines.
      Turnovers: Feels they will take better care of the ball and they should also be able to create more turnovers on the defensive end, which should create more easy baskets.

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      SEC Tournament Preview

      Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

      Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.  The SEC Tournament begins Thursday at Noon ET.

      EAST

      1. Kentucky 29-2 (14-2)
      2. Vanderbilt 23-7 (12-4)
      3. Tennessee 23-7 (11-5)
      4. Florida 20-11 (9-7)
      5. South Carolina 15-15 (6-10)
      6. Georgia 13-16 (5-11)

      WEST

      1. Mississippi State 21-10 (9-7)
      2. Mississippi 21-9 (9-7)
      3. Arkansas 14-17 (7-9)
      4. Alabama 16-14 (6-10)
      5. Auburn 15-15 (6-10)
      6. LSU 11-19 (2-14)

      Despite all the hype and hoopla over the SEC being a much improved conference this season, at this time the SEC still has as many teams locked into the NCAA Tournament as they did last year — three. Kentucky finished up the regular season with their 44th SEC regular season championship and the number two ranking in both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today Top 25. Tennessee finished #13 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #15 in the AP top 25. The Vanderbilt Commodores finished the season ranked #20 in the AP Top 25 and #23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Other than these three teams, no other SEC school even received votes in either poll so you would figure that if any other teams are to go dancing, they need to get some wins in the upcoming SEC Tournament.

      Now that the regular season is over, I am pleased to present my first and second team ALL-SEC roster, as well as my choice for Player of the Year and Coach of the Year:

      FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC

      • G- John Wall, Kentucky
      • G- Devan Downey – South Carolina
      • F- DeMarcus Cousins – Kentucky
      • F- Trey Thompkins, Georgia
      • C – Jarvis Varnado – Mississippi State

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      RTC Daily Bracketbusters: Monday-Thursday

      Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2010

      Even though ESPN likes to hype up its Bracketbuster day, the fact is that the last few weeks of the season act like an elimination tournament with teams moving in and out of the NCAA Tournament, while other teams move up and down on a daily basis. While each and every game could theoretically have an impact on the Bubble and NCAA seeding, there are a few games that matter more than the others which we will feature over the next two weeks leading up to the conference tournaments. We will feature these in two posts per week. The first will be a post released on Sunday night for games from Monday through Thursday, and the second will be a post released on Thursday night for games from Friday through Sunday.

      Tenth
      Georgia Tech at Clemson on Raycom/ESPN Full Court at 8 PM on Tuesday – This game is important not just for NCAA seeding, but also for ACC seeding. Both teams are currently occupying a position in the ACC standings where they could easily rank anywhere from 3rd in the conference all the way down to 7th in the conference. That conference rank could be the difference between having to play Duke or having to play UNC (ok, I’ll admit that was a cheap shot Tar Heel fans) early in the ACC Tournament. As you would expect from fairly similar teams, they both sit in the middle of most brackets. I could see either one going as high as a 6-seed or as low as a 9-seed when Selection Sunday roles around and these head-to-head match-ups will play a huge role in where they fit in the bracket.

      Ninth
      Memphis at UAB on Comcast Sports South at 9 PM on Wednesday – It still seems incredible after all these years of John Calipari‘s teams dominating Conference USA that the Tigers are no longer dominating CUSA any more. In fact, these two Conference USA teams will be playing for more than the #2 seed in the CUSA Tournament (UTEP is in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed) when they meet in Birmingham. They might be playing for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament as well. Most bracketologists have the Blazers as one of their last teams in while the Tigers are one of the last teams out. A win by Josh Pastner‘s squad could cause the teams to flip positions into and out of the bracket overnight. Normally I might make this game even higher, but I’m not buying the UTEP Kool-Aid and the loser could still get in with either a win in the conference tournament over the other or could potentially win the CUSA Tournament outright.

      Eighth
      Oklahoma State at #24 Texas A&M on ESPN at 9 PM on Wednesday – Both teams are coming off huge home wins. Now the question is whether they can sustain the momentum. The Cowboys will need to show they can win away from the land of perpetual T. Boone Pickens money and the Aggies will need to show they can win against a team that isn’t collapsing. Both teams are currently in a group of five Big 12 teams with in-conference records of either 8-6 or 9-5. A win here or there could mean the difference between finishing 3rd in the conference or finishing 7th in the conference and even though OSU has a win over KU everybody in the Big 12 (and the country) wants to avoid the Jayhawks for as long as possible in any tournament (Big 12 or NCAA). Right now both teams are in the 6-8 seed range, but a hot or cold streak to finish the season could mean anywhere from a 5-seed to a 10-seed for these two teams.

      Seventh
      #19 Vanderbilt at Florida on ESPN at 7 PM on Tuesday – The Gators are coming off a tough two-point loss at Georgia, but their prior three-game winning streak has assured them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now they are entering a two-game stretch (home versus Vanderbilt then at Kentucky) where it might appear that they can only help their NCAA seed and a win could boost them 2-3 spots, but if they lose these two and their opener in the SEC Tournament a four-game losing streak might be enough to take them to the NIT for the third straight year. As for the Commodores, they have a treacherous two-game finish in Gainesville then at home against Devan Downey and company. They are currently chasing a #3 or #4 seed, but a loss in either of those games could cripple their chances at getting a top-4 seed (barring an upset victory over Kentucky in the SEC Tournament). Technically they still have a chance of winning the SEC regular season title (if they win out and the Wildcats finish on a 3-game losing streak), but we don’t see that happening.

      Can Chandler Parsons and his Gators shoot their way into the field?

      Sixth
      #9 Villanova at Cincinnati on ESPN2 at 7 PM on Tuesday – The question here is how these teams respond to difficult loses on Saturday. Villanova’s loss was more visible and watched (by just about everyone in upstate New York–aka everything outside of NYC), but the Bearcats suffered a difficult loss in Morgantown where they blew a 2nd half lead before falling just short. The Wildcats loss likely will keep them out of a #1 seed, but the Bearcats loss might be enough to keep them out the NCAA Tournament altogether. A win here for Villanova would be big to ensure that they stay on the 2-seed line while Cincinnati needs a win here and probably at Georgetown along with 1 or 2 wins in the Big East Tournament to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

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      ATB: Magic in Rupp

      Posted by rtmsf on February 26th, 2010

      A Little Magic in Rupp Tonight

      The RematchKentucky 82, South Carolina 61. In the locker room before the game, John Calipari told his team, “Guys, before we start, here, I got a recruit here we want to talk to, so make sure you introduce yourself to the recruit.”  A moment later, into the locker room walked…Earvin “Magic” Johnson.  And honestly, that was about the only unexpected thing that happened this evening at Rupp Arena.  To be sure, this looked pretty similar to the South Carolina squad that has ownership of the only bruise on Kentucky’s record; not much has changed.  Devan Downey went nuts (26 points on 9-25), and that’s about the whole story for the Gamecocks.  This was a different Kentucky team, though, especially when it came to defense and glasswork, and the biggest change was seen in Patrick Patterson.  Ticked off after his five point performance in the first game against South Carolina, Patterson blew up for a season-high 23 points on 10-12 shooting, swatted four shots, and yanked down eight boards on this night.  South Carolina won the rebounding war in the teams’ first meeting 40-38, and even beat Kentucky on the offensive glass a month ago, 16-13.  Tonight, Patterson — whom sophomore Darius Miller called the “unquestioned leader of this team,” in case there was any doubt — along with Miller (7/8) and DeMarcus Cousins (19/11, his 17th double-double), were having none of that.  Kentucky owned the glass on both ends, outworking the Gamecocks 44-26 overall and 14-8 on the offensive side.  South Carolina had a short 7-0 run in the middle of the second half to cut the Wildcat lead to six, but didn’t really test the Wildcats after that.  It’ll be interesting to watch Kentucky in their next one.  The postgame interviews tonight didn’t end until around midnight, and Kentucky now travels to Knoxville on Saturday to take on Tennessee in a game that starts at noon — that’s right, a mere 36 hours.  Calipari noted how this is “the doldrums, the dog days of the season.  We and a lot of other teams are all wanting to get on with it…let’s get on with that other tournament, and I’m not talking about the one in Nashville (the SEC),” and, because of that, revealed some trepidation about the Tennessee game, adding, “They played Tuesday.  I think they’re there, just waiting on us.”  Magic’s message to the UK team, by the way, was simply to tell them (according to Calipari), “You’re a defensive team.  I love it, the way you guys guard, and I love watching you play.  Keep rebounding and defending the way that you are now, and stick together.”  Looks like the Wildcats got the message.

      #20 Vanderbilt 96, Georgia 94 (OT). Vandy survived the post-Kentucky hangover by coming back against the very pesky Georgia Bulldogs tonight in a game they probably should have lost.  With 33 seconds left, the Commodores were down five points when Andre Walker nailed a big three to bring his team back within two.  After two missed FTs by Georgia’s Dustin Ware, AJ Ogilvy got a key tip-in to send the game to overtime and give Vandy new life.  In overtime, the Dores were able to build a small margin, but Georgia still had a chance to tie waved off when a missed FT led to a heave/tip-in that came after the buzzer.  Regardless, Vandy stayed one game up on Florida for the second seed in the SEC East and the all-important first round bye in the SEC Tournament.  Jermaine Beal was awesome with 28/7 assts and Ogilvy added 16/11 in the winning effort.  Vanderbilt is a team that is still slightly under the national radar but they can cause serious trouble for teams in the NCAA Tournament with the right matchups.

      Other Games of National Interest.

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      RTC Live: South Carolina @ Kentucky

      Posted by jstevrtc on February 25th, 2010

      Is this a revenge game for Kentucky?  You recall that it was South Carolina that beat Kentucky on ESPN near the end of January, giving UK their only blemish on the season and removing them from the #1 ranking to which they had ascended merely days beforehand.  The UK players and coaches downplay the revenge factor a bit, but you can’t help but think that the Wildcats would LOVE to get the Gamecocks back…especially after the USC Student Senate sent a rather boastful message to Kentucky after that game. USC is here to prove that first one wasn’t a fluke, and Devan Downey relishes these spoiler roles.  He has his critics (is USC really 6-0 when he takes less than 14 shots?), but he’s certainly exciting, and God only knows what the Rupp Arena crowd has in store for him tonight.  Should be fun.  ESPN2’s got this one at 9pm, and we’ll be there as well.  Join us, and join the discussion this evening.

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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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      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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