ATB: #1 Kentucky Goes Down-ey…

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2010

Devan Takes Down the Cats (Ky Kernel)

The Obama CurseSouth Carolina 68, #1 Kentucky 62.  First the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid, next Martha Coakley’s Senate race, now Kentucky’s short-lived reign at #1.  Just hours after President Obama had telephoned the Wildcat team to congratulate them on reaching the top ranking and raising over a million bucks in their Hoops for Haiti telethon, UK got lit up by South Carolina’s Devan Downey in Columbia to give the Gamecocks their first-ever win over a #1-ranked team.   Much like the president over the course of the last year, John Calipari and his team tonight learned the hard way that it’s considerably tougher playing the game with a giant blue target on your back.  Now, about this Downey kid.  Last weekend he was spectacular in a shoulda-been-win at Florida.  His one-on-five dribble drive to get through the entire Gator defense and make a running bank shot to give his team the lead was legendary.  Tonight he had three of those.  Or at least it seemed like he did.  What we do know for a fact was that there was nobody on the Kentucky defense who could stay in front of the guy (can anyone in America?), as he sliced, diced, and spiced his way through Wildcat defenders for 30/5/3 assts like Heidi Montag’s plastic surgeon with a scalpel in his hand.  He didn’t shoot well (9-29 FG), especially in the first half, but when it counted, it was Downey who appeared to be the best player on the floor (real estate shared tonight by at least three lottery picks).  UK’s superstar guard John Wall did his best to bring the Cats back late in the game, as Downey and he went mano a mano, but his 19/4 was too little, too late, and the result is that there will be another new #1 team next week.  So what can we take from this loss by Kentucky?  Well, we wrote last week that there was a large disconnect between Kentucky as top team in the human polls and Kentucky as a top 10-15 team in the computer numbers.  But the two areas that concerned us — three-point defense and forcing turnovers — weren’t the root cause of tonight’s loss.  The defense was good enough (.941 PPP holding SC to 34% from the field and 25% from three), but it was the Cats’ second-worst offensive performance of the year that made this happen.  The stat ESPN kept quoting was that Kentucky’s freshmen were scoring all of the second-half points, but what it really should have said is that DeMarcus Cousins (a dominant 27/12/3 blks) and John Wall were putting in the work.  Fellow freshman Eric Bledsoe (4/5 assts) is a helluva player in his own right, and he had the only other two second-half points, while UK’s junior all-american, Patrick Patterson, was completely forgotten the entire game (five points on four shots).  When Calipari’s offense is clicking, Kentucky puts four or more players into double-figures; tonight it was only two.  If Kentucky has aspirations to reach the top spot again this season (and we think they do), the key to making that happen will be impressing upon the youngsters to get more touches to one of the most versatile and efficient players in America, Patterson.  When all three of he, Wall and Cousins are clicking, few teams have the ability to match that kind of firepower.  Final note: beautiful, well-executed RTC by the Gamecock students — security can put up all the yellow tape they want, but RTCs on nights like tonight can’t be suppressed (start at the 1:20 mark).

Call 1-866-rtc-wins For Our Tip Hotline.  And there are no unbeatens left.  Just a quick aside, but three weeks ago we posted an article examining when we thought were the most likely games the four remaining unbeatens would lose.  3-1 ain’t bad.  The lone miss we had was Kansas’ stumble at Tennessee a couple of weekends ago, and we’re ok with that.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST
  1. Kentucky                  18-0         (3-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 14-3         (3-0)
  3. Tennessee                14-2        (2-0)
  4. South Carolina           11-6        (2-1)
  5. Florida                      12-5         (1-2)
  6. Georgia                      8-8         (0-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State     15-3          (3-0)
  2. Arkansas                  8-9          (1-1)
  3. Mississippi              13-4          (1-2)
  4. Alabama                 11-6          (1-2)
  5. LSU                        9-8           (0-3)
  6. Auburn                    9-9           (0-3)

The talk of the SEC being a vastly improved conference may have been a bit premature once we got into conference play.  I still think the SEC will have five sure-fire seeds in the NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Mississippi) with Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama being bubble teams at this time.  Mississippi had two losses to ranked teams, but I still think they are tournament-worthy.

The Tennessee situation got a little more resolved this week as it was announced that Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum will be rejoining the Vols but Brian Williams still remains on suspension indefinitely.  The trio were suspended because of a January 1st arrest on guns and drug charges.  Tyler Smith was dismissed from the team.

Speaking of the Vols, they have now solidified themselves inside top 10 as they find themselves as the #8 team in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Kentucky still holds onto the #2 spot in each of the polls this week — for now.  Mississippi is still hanging around in the polls at #22 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today and Mississippi State re-enters the AP at #23.  Vanderbilt is on the verge of entering both polls also.

Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe was named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in wins at Florida and at Auburn.  Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado named SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks in wins over Arkansas and Georgia.

MUST-SEE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • 1/19 – Tennessee (14-2) @ Alabama (11-6) – 7 PM – ESPN
  • 1/20 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Mississippi (13-4) – 9PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/21 – Florida (12-5) @ Arkansas (8-9) – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 1/23 – Mississippi State (15-3) @ Alabama (11-6) – 12PM – CBS; Mississippi (13-4) @ LSU (9-8) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – Arkansas (8-9) @ Kentucky (18-0) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Florida (12-5) – 6 PM – ESPN
TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST:
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) –  On Tuesday, Kentucky used a 17-4 run over the last 5:00 to put away the Florida Gators in Gainesville, 89-77.  This was the first win for Kentucky at Gainesville since 2004.  UK was led by Eric Bledsoe’s 25 points.  John Wall added 17 points and Patrick Patterson 15.  Three days later, Kentucky built an early 19 point lead on Auburn but the Tigers gave UK their best shot and chipped away to eventually tie the game at 60.  Kentucky pulled away over the last 6:00 or so to win their second straight road game, 72-67, and remain perfect on the season.  Kentucky was led by 16 points and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins and 13 points each from Wall and Bledsoe.
  • VanderbiltJeffery Taylor broke open a tie game with :06 left by hitting one of two free throws and Vanderbilt held off Alabama to win 65-64 at Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.  A.J. Ogilvy and Taylor scored 13 points to lead Vandy and freshman John Jenkins hit three of four 3-pointers to finish with 11 off the bench.  It was a battle of 2-0 SEC teams on Saturday as Vanderbilt traveled to South Carolina.  Ogilvy scored 18 of 22 points in the second half as Vanderbilt won their eighth straight game with an 89-79 victory over South Carolina.  Taylor led with 16 for the Commodores.
  • Tennessee – Starting center Wayne Chism scored 12 points, not to mention 12 rebounds and six steals as Tennessee (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) shook off a slow start to beat Auburn on Thursday, 81-55.  Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince both had 14 points for the Volunteers, while Scotty Hopson chipped in 11 and Kenny Hall added ten.  Chism played 41 minutes and scored 26 points, including six consecutive free throws in overtime, to bail Tennessee out as the Volunteers beat Mississippi 71-69 just two days later.  Prince added 13 points as the Vols won their sixth straight game.
  • South Carolina – Devan Downey scored 29 points and had seven rebounds to lead South Carolina to a 67-58 win over LSU on Wednesday.  The Gamecocks trailed 49-47 with about 9:00 remaining when they went on a 17-1 streak that sealed the game.  Downey was 6-12 on 3-pointers and Brandis Raley-Ross also put in 12 for the Gamecocks.  On Saturday, Downey had 35 points and 6 steals but that was not enough to prevent a home court 89-79 loss to Vanderbilt.  Raley-Ross and Lakeem Jackson also put in 11 points apiece.
  • Florida –  The Gators dropped to 0-2 conference play for the first time in the Billy Donovan era on Tuesday with their 89-77 loss to Kentucky.  Erving Walker nailed four 3-pointers and had 20 points, and Alex Tyus added 17.  The last time UF was 0-2 in conference play was 1996 — the year before Donovan arrived.  On Saturday, Kenny Boynton had 18 points as the Gators won a battle of winless SEC teams over LSU, 72-58.  Chandler Parsons had 11 points as he moved into the starting lineup and all five Gator starters scored in double figures.  On the downside, the Gator bench only managed four points in the win.
  • Georgia –  The Bulldogs gave the 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels all they wanted on Wednesday night, but fell short in a 80-76 loss.  The Bulldogs, who were coming off an eight point loss at #2 Kentucky last Saturday, were in this game until the final seconds.  Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs scoring with 21 points and Travis Leslie added 17 for Georgia.  Georgia then took another tough loss on Saturday as they fell 72-69 to Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs had leads of 41-30 and 64-51 but could not maintain.  Thompkins and Leslie led the way with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
WEST:
  • Mississippi State –  Jarvis Varnado  had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks for his second triple-double, and Mississippi State just held on to beat Arkansas 82-80 on Thursday night.  The Bulldogs opened an early 19-point lead, but had to repel a late rally by the Razorbacks who cut it to three with 32 seconds left.  Dee Bost had 20 to lead the Bulldogs, and Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart also scored in double digits.  Bost and Phil Turner each scored 15 points to lead Mississippi State to a 72-69 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Bulldogs had to overcome a pair of 10-point deficits in beating the Bulldogs.
  • Arkansas – On Thursday night the Razorbacks mounted a furious second half rally but fell just short at Starkville, losing 82-80 to Mississippi State.  The Hogs fought back from 19 down but could not complete the comeback.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson had 25 and 20 points, respectively, to help the Razorbacks fight back.  On Saturday the Razorbacks were feeling it, as three players posted double-doubles in a 71-59 win over Alabama. Powell had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Washington scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Razorbacks. Fortson  had 12 points and 10 assists, and Rotnei Clarke also scored 17.
  • MississippiEniel Polynice scored off an inbounds pass to himself with 11.3 seconds remaining on Wednesday night, and Mississippi (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) handed Georgia another tough loss, 80-76.  Polynice finished with 10 and Chris Warren added 12 to lead the Rebels.  Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham each scored 11 off the bench to aid the Rebel cause.  Then on Saturday Ole Miss led most of the second half but could not hold off the Volunteers in Knoxville losing in OT, 71-69.  Warren and Terrico White led the Rebels with 19 and 17 points, respectively, and Graham scored 16 off the bench.
  • Alabama – The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early 10 point lead and led most of the game on Wednesday evening, but could not hold on in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Vanderbilt.  Mikhail Torrance had 23 points on 9-13 shooting and Tony Mitchell added ten points off the bench for Alabama.  ‘Bama’s tough start in the SEC continued on Saturday with a loss to Arkansas, 71-59.  Torrance led the way with 15 points and JaMychal Green added 13 as the Tide lost their second straight.
  • LSU – The Tigers led most of the game against South Carolina but fell apart the last 9:00 as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 67-58 win.  LSU is not getting much production from any players not named Storm Warren (19 points), Bo Spencer (14) or Tasmin Mitchell (13).  Those three scored 47 of the Tiger’s 58 points.  The Tigers’ rough season got rougher as they were dumped by the Gators at Gainesville by a score of 72-58.  Mitchell was the only Tiger with more than 8 points as LSU’s season seems to be in freefall.
  • Auburn – Traveling to Knoxville on Thursday, the Tigers battled with the Tennessee Vols in the first half and trailed just 38-37 at the break, but Auburn could not keep up with the Vols in the second half and suffered a 81-55 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 19 points and Frankie Sullivan contributed 14 to lead the Tigers.  At home against Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Auburn came back from a 19-point deficit and eventually tied UK at 60 late in the second half, but went cold from the field over the last few minutes as the Wildcats pulled away for a 72-67 win.  Auburn was led by Reed with 19 points and Frankie Sullivan’s 15.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST:
  1. Kentucky              17-0     (2-0)
  2. Vanderbilt             12-3     (1-0)
  3. South Carolina      10-5     (1-0)
  4. Tennessee            12-2        (0-0)
  5. Florida                  11-5     (0-2)
  6. Georgia                 8-6      (0-1)
WEST:
  1. Mississippi State  13-3     (1-0)
  2. Alabama                  11-4     (1-0)
  3. Arkansas               7-8      (0-0)
  4. Mississippi           12-3     (0-1)
  5. LSU                           9-6     (0-1)
  6. Auburn                  9-7     (0-1)
News & Notes

A couple of off-court situations were resolved for two SEC teams.  Courtney Fortson made his first appearance for the Arkansas Razorbacks as his long suspension is now over.  As for the other situation, all-SEC guard Tyler Smith was dismissed from the Tennessee Volunteers for drug and weapon charges and the fates of three other Vols still hang in the balance.

Speaking of Tennessee, you probably heard — they pulled off the upset of the week when they knocked off #1 Kansas 76-68 on Sunday afternoon.  They were not the only SEC team to pull off a big out-of-conference upset last week as the Georgia Bulldogs knocked off #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66.

Thanks to the Volunteers, Kentucky now occupies the #2 spot in both the AP Top 25  and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Tennessee, for their efforts, did creep back into the top 10 at #9 in the AP Top 25 and #10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Ole Miss continues to represent as the third SEC team in the Top 25 — #21st in AP Top 25, and 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today.  Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Florida continue to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.

Tennessee’s Bobby Maze was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 5.5 APG in wins over Charlotte and No. 1 Kansas.  Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 13.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in wins over Middle Tennessee and Florida.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:
  • 1/12 – #2 Kentucky (16-0) @ Florida (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN  (more on this in a moment)
  • 1/13 –  LSU (9-6) @ South Carolina (11-5) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/13 –  Vanderbilt (12-3) @ Alabama (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/14 – Auburn (9-7) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 7 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/16 – #21 Mississippi (12-3) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – Vanderbilt (12-3) @  South Carolina (10-5) – 6:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – LSU (9-6) @ Florida (11-4) – 8 PM
TEAM UPDATES (rankings are AP, ESPN/USA Today):
EAST
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) — DeMarcus Cousins scored seven of his 16 points in the final three minutes as the Wildcats stayed unbeaten with a gritty 76-68 win over Georgia on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 21-10 lead and the Bulldogs responded with a 21-5 run and it was nip/tuck the rest of the way.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall also scored 17 points apiece for the Wildcats.  The came right back on Tuesday with a road game at the O-Dome in Gainesville and took out the Gators, 89-77.  Eric Bledsoe keyed the ‘Cats with an incredible 25/7/5 asst night on 10-13 shooting.  Wall added 19/4/6 assts and the always steady Patterson chipped in 15/7 as Kentucky had to hold off a Florida team that got hot from three midway through the second half.  We’ll have even more on this one in next week’s SEC summary.
  • VanderbiltA.J. Ogilvy responded to being back in the starting lineup and scored 24 points, and Vanderbilt opened the Southeastern Conference schedule beating Florida, 95-87, on Saturday for the Commodores’ sixth straight victory.  Jermaine Beal added 22 points and Jeffrey Taylor had a perfect shooting day (5-5 FG, 4-4 FT) to add 14 points for the Commodores.
  • South Carolina — The Gamecocks got exactly what the doctor ordered on Saturday with a 88-58 pounding of the Longwood Lancers as South Carolina readied for conference play.  Devan Downey scored 18 points but the Gamecocks also got 15 points from Evaldas Baniulus off the bench.  Ramon Galloway also hit double digits with 12 points.  Downey then poured in 33 points with four 3-pointers as the Gamecocks opened SEC play with a 80-71 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday.  South Carolina hit 11 3-pointers on the game and broke open a 52-all tie with an 8-0 run to break open the game.  Sam Muldrow added 12 points and 4 blocked shots.
  • Tennessee (#9, #10) — The Volunteers really did not know what to expect when they came into their game against Charlotte with four players suspended.  What the Vols found was new faces to step up as they breezed by the Charlotte 49ers, 88-71.  Wayne Chism scored 18 points and Scotty Hopson added 17 and the Vols, with just six scholarship players, shot 57.6% with all five starters scoring in double figures.  And of course Tennessee pulled off their second big win of the week with the 76-68 upset of #1 Kansas on Sunday.  Hopson had 17 and Bobby Maze added 16, but the lasting image of this game was walk-on Skylar McBee milking the shot clock late in the game and then delivering a duck-under three point dagger to the heart of the Kansas Jayhawks.
  • FloridaKenny Boynton scored 28 points (including six 3-pointers) and Erving Walker added 22 (with five treys) but it was not enough as the Gators fell 95-87 to the Vanderbilt Commodores despie tossing in 13 3-pointers for the game.  The Gators hadn’t lost an SEC opener since 2001 at South Carolina.  On Tuesday night the faced the formidable #2 Kentucky Wildcats and hoped to score a sixth straight home win over the Big Blue, but 20 points from Walker and 17/7 from Alex Tyus couldn’t propel the Gators past UK; the Rowdy Reptiles went home disappointed as Florida went down, 89-77.
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins scored 20 points, Ricky McPhee hit two key baskets near the end and Georgia pulled off its first big victory for new coach Mark Fox, knocking off  #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66, on Tuesday night. McPhee had four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.  The Bulldogs showed their win over Georgia Tech was not a fluke as they battled Kentucky to the wire on Saturday before losing, 76-68.  The Bulldogs cut the lead to two with 1:00 remaining but UK pulled away the last minute.  Travis Leslie scored the first 10 points of the game for Georgia and finished with 20.  Thompkins finished with 17.
WEST
  • Mississippi StateDee Bost tied a career high with 25 points and fueled Mississippi State’s 80-75 upset of #16 Mississippi on Saturday with fearless drives to the basket.  This was also a huge road win for the Bulldogs who opened SEC play against their biggest competition in the West.  Ravern Johnson added 15 and Kodi Augustus had a double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Alabama — Alabama looks to be the big surprise of the SEC as they continued their strong early play with a 66-49 win over LSU in the SEC opener for both teams.  JaMychal Green scored 14 points to lead Alabama, while Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance added 13  and 12 points, respectively.  Alabama now has a four game winning streak.
  • Arkansas — Courtney Fortson made his debut after a season long suspension and had 19 points/7 assists, but it was not enough to help his Razorbacks pull an upset over #2 Texas.  Arkansas hung tough for about 38 of the 40 minutes but Texas pulled away at the end to win, 96-85.  Rotnei Clarke added 24 points for the Razorbacks.
  • Mississippi (#21, #23) — Terrico White had five 3-pointers and scored 21 points to lead Ole Miss to a 84-56 thumping of the UCF Golden Knights.  Ole Miss jumped out early and had a 46-24 halftime lead and the Knights never had a chance.  Eniel Polynice had 16 points and Murphy Holloway had a double double with 11 points and 10 boards to help key the rout.  On Saturday, the Rebels suffered a key early season home SEC loss against bitter rival Mississippi State, 80-75.  Chris Warren led the Rebels with 15 points despite a 5-17 shooting night and Zach Graham and Terrance Henry had 14 points and 12 points, respectively, off the bench.
  • LSU — The troubles continue for LSU as they managed just 18 points in the first half against Alabama and lost their SEC opener 66-49 to the Crimson Tide.  Bo Spencer scored 13 points, and Dennis Harris and Tasmin Mitchell added 12 and 11, respectively.  Storm Warren got in early foul trouble and had just four points and a mere one rebound.
  • AuburnDeWayne Reed scored 20 points to lead Auburn to a 96-72 victory against Division II West Georgia on Tuesday night. Frankie Sullivan scored 17 points and Tay Waller added 16 for the Tigers, who shot 52% from the field and outrebounded the Wolves, 40-29.  Auburn could only manage two 3-pointers compared to South Carolina’s 11, and that was the difference in the game as Auburn dropped a tough game on Saturday, 80-71.  Reserve Brendon Knox led Auburn with 22 points, Reed scored 19, Lucas Hargrove had 12 and Sullivan added 10 in the loss.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky       15-0    
  2. Tennessee      10-2
  3. Florida       11-3
  4. Vanderbilt         11-3
  5. South Carolina       8-5
  6. Georgia         7-5

WEST

  1. Mississippi State      12-3
  2. Mississippi      11-2
  3. Alabama      10-4
  4. LSU        9-5
  5. Auburn         8-6
  6. Arkansas       7-7

NEWS & NOTES

  • The big story in the SEC this week was the arrest and indefinite suspension of four Tennessee basketball players — Tyler Smith, Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams.  The group was arrested on a myriad of drug and weapon charges.  Some of the charges were felonies, and given the recent problems with UT’s football program, it is hard to imagine any scenario in which the players may step back on the court this season.  It is a big loss for the Vols, as the players had accounted for 33 points a game.  Elsewhere, South Carolina dismissed forward Mike Holmes from the team for repeated rule violations.  Holmes is the second starter lost this season for the Gamecocks as Dominique Archie was also lost for the season due to injury. 
  • Kentucky continues to be the class of the SEC in the rankings, holding onto their #3 ranking in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Tennessee is #15 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top 25.  Mississippi remains the third ranked team at #14 in the AP poll and #16 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Florida is hovering just outside the top 25 and may re-emerge with another strong week or two. 
  • Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Player of the Week again after averaging 18.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in two Wildcat wins.  Cousins also won the Freshman of the Week award last week for his double-double performances against Drexel and Long Beach State.  This week, that honor goes to Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, who averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a pair of Commodore wins.  

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK

The parade of cupcakes ends later this week as SEC play officially gets underway.  What else really needs to be said?  As of right now, the SEC has seven teams with 10 wins already, and you have to consider each strong tournament teams right now.  Let’s see how these teams hold up as it goes within the conference from here on out.

  • 1/5 – #2 Texas (13-0) @ Arkansas (7-7) – 7:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/5 – #17 Georgia Tech (11-2) @ Georgia (7-5) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/6 – Charlotte (10-3) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Florida (11-3) @ Vanderbilt (11-3) – 12:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/9 – Mississippi State (12-3) @ #16 Mississippi (11-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Alabama (10-4) @ LSU (9-5) – 5:00 PM
  • 1/10 – #1 Kansas (13-0) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 4:30 PM – CBS

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)
 
EAST

  • Kentucky (#3, #3)John Wall set a UK record for assists with 16 as UK crushed the Hartford Hawks 104-61 on Tuesday night.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and 12 boards and Darius Miller scored a season high 16 points to key the  ’Cats win.  On Saturday, Kentucky endured a sluggish first half and then pulled away in the second half to defeat bitter in-state rival Louisville 71-62.  Cousins led the way with 18 points and 18 rebounds.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall both had 17 points.  Kentucky, at 15-0, is off to their best start in 40 years. 
  • Tennessee (#16, #15)Wayne Chism had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Tennessee dominated inside for a 66-59 victory over Memphis on New Year’s Eve.  JP Prince and Tyler Smith had 12 and 11 to lead the Vols in the rivalry game.
  • Florida—Florida breezed to a 43-13 halftime lead against Presbyterian and then coasted for a 79-38 win.  The Gators outrebounded the Blue Hose, yes, the Blue Hose, by a 48-24 margin.  Chandler Parsons led the way with 21 points off the bench and Alex Tyus had 16 points and 13 boards while Erik Murphy had a double-double (16 pts, 11 boards) off the bench.  Chandler Parsons hit a dramatic 75-foot shot as time expired in OT to give the Gators a 62-61 win over NC State.  The three-pointer was Parson’s only FG of the game.  Vernon Macklin had 14 points and Erving Walker 13 to lead the Gators in scoring. 
  • Vanderbilt—Freshman reserve John Jenkins scored 15 points to lead Vanderbilt to an 86-48 victory over Manhattan.  Eleven players scored for the Commodores, the third straight game that Vanderbilt had at least 10 players score.  AJ Ogilvy also came off the bench to add 12 points.  John Jenkins scored a career-high 20 points to lead Vanderbilt in an 82-46 rout of Southern Mississippi.  The freshman guard was 6-of-6 from 3-point range and the Commodores shot a season-high 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from beyond the arc. Jeffery Taylor had 14 points off the bench and Ogilvy had 10 points in his return to the starting lineup as Vandy blasted Middle Tennessee 73-53.  Vanderbilt proves to be one of the SEC’s deeper teams as five players scored in double figures. 
  • South Carolina—The Gamecocks battled back from a 21-point halftime deficit, but it was not enough as they fell short to the Boston College Eagles 85-76.  Devan Downey had 29 points and Brandis Raley-Ross 13, but SC fell to 8-4 on the season.  Baylor made a clean sweep of its two games in the SEC, this time stopping the Gamecocks 85-74.  Downey had 20 points and Lakeem Jackson 19 but it was not enough to stop the Gamecocks’ second loss of the week.   
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulldogs dusted the Pepperdine Waves 64-47.  Travis Leslie and Ricky McPhee also scored in double digits for the Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs were no match for the Missouri Tigers on Saturday as they were routed 89-61.  Leslie was the only Bulldog in double digits with 18 points as the Bulldogs had only 6 assists against 23 turnovers.

WEST

  • Mississippi (#14, #16)—Ole Miss set a school record for three-pointers with 14 as they beat Jackson State 90-75.  Terrico White hit 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and scored 29 points to lead the Rebels.  Zach Graham added 14 points. 
  • Mississippi State—Jarvis Varnado scored a season-high 23 points and tied his career-best 17 rebounds as Mississippi State won its ninth straight with a 77-68 victory over San Diego on New Year’s Eve.  The Bulldogs used their superior inside game to take control of the game late in the first half and maintained its lead throughout the game.  Kodi Augustus added 17 points.  MSU also suffered a tough loss at the hand of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 55-52.  Jarvis Varnado had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs and Dee Bost added 13 off the bench. 
  • AlabamaJaMychal Green scored 19 points and had eight rebounds to lead Alabama to a 77-65 victory over Tennessee State.  Senario Hillman added 15 points and six assists for the Crimson Tide, who have won three of their past four games.  Mikhail Torrance scored 19 points to lead Alabama over Toledo 67-50 on Monday night for their third straight win. Justin Knox added 14 points and Green had 12 for the Crimson Tide who have put together a three-game winning streak for the third time this season.
  • LSU—LSU is starting to look like a team that will not be able to compete in the SEC as they got thumped by Xavier 89-65.  LSU has gotten blown out of a couple of matchups against NCAA-level teams so far this season.  Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Storm Warren accounted for 49 of the Tigers 65 points.  The Tigers also blew a 12-point second half lead in the second half and went down to Utah, 61-59.  Warren (21 points) and Mitchell (19 points) accounted for over two-thirds of the Tiger’s points.  LSU snapped their three game losing streak with a 83-60 romp over McNeese State.  Mitchell and Spencer had 19 and 18 points, respectively, to lead the Tigers. 
  • AuburnLucas Hargrove had 20 points and 13 rebounds as Auburn overcame a sluggish start to beat Charleston Southern 77-62 on Tuesday night.  The Tigers fell behind 22-15, but turned up the pressure and forced 22 turnovers.  Frankie Sullivan added 10 points and six steals for Auburn.  Brendon Knox scored 18 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double and Auburn defeated Georgia Southern 95-75.  The Tigers shot a season-high 54.2 percent from three-point range (13 of 24), including a 4-5 effort by Sullivan who finished with 15 points.
  • Arkansas—The Razorbacks had a chance to get a good statement win but were blown out at home by Baylor, 70-47.  Jemal Farmer, Rotnei Clark and Marshawn Powell were the only Razorbacks to show up as they scored 38 of Arkansas’s 47 points.  Arkansas had a chance to redeem themselves against #24 UAB but suffered a heartbreaking 73-72 loss as UAB scored at the buzzer.  The Hogs got good games from Powell (22), Washington (18), and Clark (16) but those three accounted for 56 of Arkansas’ 72 points. 
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 25th, 2009

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Road Warriors

A few BCS schools developed reputations for rarely venturing far from their home arenas during their out of conference seasons and relying on their conference’s RPI to bolster their resumes come Selection Sunday.  Coach Jim Calhoun masked the inexperience of his 2007 Huskies by keeping them at home from early November to late December where they ran off 11 straight wins and rose to #12 in the polls.  They opened the Big East season with a 10 point loss to West Virginia, and continued to implode with an 6-14 record through January, February and early March.  The 1st round of the Big East Tournament was their post-season.  Florida State’s Len Hamilton nursed his 2006 Seminole squads to an 9-1 OOC record, leaving home once before ACC conference play (a loss to in state rival Florida).  FSU finished with a 9-7 conference record, and despite a signature win over #1-ranked Duke at the end of the conference season, could not tease a dance bid out of the Selection Committee come Selection Sunday.

A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65.  While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume.  Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents.  How did the conference members do this OOC season?

The statistics, drawn from each team’s Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website, shows the team’s road (away and neutral site) record, the team’s efficiency (points per possession the team scored – offense and allowed – defense), the team’s shot efficiency (on offense and defense) and the estimated average possessions per game.

Temple looks better with each passing week.  The road wins in particular are very encouraging and suggest the Owls will be able to score and defend in hostile venues. Seton Hall is a resume win, and the 46-45 loss at Georgetown (provided the Hoyas don’t implode again in 2010…) will be a good loss.  The nucleus of Fernandez, Brooks, Allen and Guzman (see Temple Team Capsule below) are putting together a very nice run, which they may well be able to sustain going into conference play.  File Rhode Island and Charlotte under “Surprised in a Good Way” also.  Though the Rams’ slate is a bit light (they did not participate in any MTE tournaments this season), it does include a double-digit win over Boston College from the ACC and a 2 point loss to a well-regarded 7-2 Virginia Commonwealth team on 12/2.  Charlotte was torched early in the season by Duke at the Cameron, but has bounced back nicely with double-digit wins over Hofstra, Louisville of the Big East and Winthrop, each of whom has a record of .500 or better.

Filed under “Surprised in a Bad Way” — try Dayton, Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers participated in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and started strong, taking out Georgia Tech in their first round.  They dropped their next two games to two more BCS teams (Villanova and Kansas State) and have scraped by their two road opponents — Miami, OH and George Mason.  Mason having a down year, is teetering at .500 (5-5) at this point and will, should the trend continue, watch the post-season on CBS and ESPN.  Duquesne started out well, housing Iowa in their second game of the season, but the two-overtime, neutral court loss to Pittsburgh seems to have thrown the team out of synch. They were hammered by West Virginia and lost to UIPIU last weekend.  The Jaguars may be the pick of the litter in the Summit League, but they too have taken three double-digit beatings.  Hardly makes for a stirring endorsement of the Dukes.  Bolding’s return may spark the Dukes, but heading into conference play (they have 2 more OOC games left), Duquesne’s prospects for A10 road wins seem uncertain at best.  Taking South Carolina may have been a stretch for Richmond, but their losses to in-state rivals William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (both of the CAA) gives me pause to think.  Those games most resemble the conference road conditions Richmond will probably encounter in conference play.  Both may have been “close” losses, but they were losses nevertheless.

George Washington’s 4-0 road record may look impressive, but know the opponents were UNC – Wilmington, Boston University, Navy and Towson. Not a BCS team to be found in a group whose collective record is 15-24.  Their extended, post holiday trek through New England should provide a bit more insight into the state of the program and their prospects in conference road play.  The unimpressive road/neutral records posted by Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and St. Louis (a combined 3-18) maybe due in large measure to the youth of all three squads.  Ken Pomeroy ranks them by experience level as #259, #305, #156 and #346 respectively, out of D1’s 347 D1.

Standings as of – 12/21/09:

  1. Temple (9-2)
  2. Rhode Island (9-1)
  3. Charlotte (9-2)
  4. Dayton (9-2)
  5. Richmond (9-3)
  6. George Washington (8-2)
  7. Duquesne (8-4)
  8. La Salle (7-4)
  9. Xavier (7-4)
  10. St. Louis (8-4)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-6)
  14. Fordham (2-8)

Team Rundowns…

Charlotte

Taking to the road, the 49ers beat Winthrop by ten, 57-47, on Sunday (12/20).  Junior forward Shamari Spears delivered from the field, going 5-11 from the floor for 13 points (his 45.5% shooting percentage well ahead of the team’s overall 39.1%), while senior point guard DiJuan Harris delivered from the line, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to pace Charlotte to the win.  Junior center Phil Jones grabbed 11 rebounds as the taller, more physical 49er team dominated with inside play.  The A10 team received ten more free throw opportunities than the host, and made the most of the advantage by converting 13 more times, going 18-22, compared to 5-12 for the Eagles. There indeed was the margin of victory.  Charlotte has now won five straight, all by double-digits.  The Niners traveled to Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23) for one last game before the Holidays and got thumped, 81-48, after shooting 16% in the first half and appearing generally uninterested.  They resume their schedule when they host Mercer on the 29th.

Dayton

The Flyers beat Presbyterian by 19 (71-52) at the UD Arena on Saturday (12/19), paced by junior forward Chris Wright and senior back-up point guard Mickey Perry, each of whom scored 15 points.  Perry, normally in the rotation for about 17 minutes per game saw 25 minutes when off-guard Marcus Johnson went down with an ankle sprain in the 1st half.  Redshirt freshman Josh Benson scored 10 points, also in extended action, when starter Chris Johnson left the game after a blow to the head, also sustained in the 1st half.  Dayton beat Appalachian State, 65-49, on Monday night.  The Blue Hose and Mountaineers should have been double digit wins, and the Dayton team many expected in November appears to be rounding into form as the conference season approaches.  Wright and Perry led the team in scoring for both games, grossing 29 and 30 points apiece respectively for the two games.  The Flyers return to action after the Holidays with a game versus Boston University on the 29th.  They will ring in the New Year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as they take on the Lobos of New Mexico on New Year’s Day.

Duquesne

The Dukes needed two overtimes to put down the Griffins of Canisius 86-77 on Wednesday 12/16.  Duquesne used size and speed to force turnovers and alter shots, but they did not control the boards.  The game, played for 68 possessions (adjusted for the overtimes), was a bit low for Duquesne home games this season.  The Dukes’ offensive efficiency was about 1.00 (points per possession), very slightly above their home court average, the defense, at 0.90, was higher than the Dukes’ 0.81 home average, suggesting the stifling defense, especially on opponent’s shooting, was simply not there.  Duquesne dropped a nine point road game, 73-64, to IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN on Saturday 12/19.  Continuing a trend for road games, Duquesne’s defensive efficiency again turned in a >1.00 defensive effort, 1.05 this time.  The Iowa game in November aside, the Dukes have had problems keeping opponent’s points per possession under 1.00 this season.  The culprits appear to be shot defense (the Dukes let the Jaguars hit at a 56.5% eFG% clip) and rebounding.  Duquesne hosts St. Francis, PA on Tuesday 12/22, then break for Christmas. They finish their OOC schedule with a trip to Virginia to play the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday 12/30.

Fordham

The Rams “hosted” Villanova at the IZOD Center, in the New Jersey Meadowlands last Saturday.  Before a Villanova-friendly crowd, Fordham dropped a 96-53 decision to the #9-ranked Wildcats.  The good news has to be that forward Chris Gaston had another good day scoring.  Another Ram has to step into the vacuum left by Jio Fontan.  Fordham faced James Madison in Virginia on Wednesday and dropped a disappointing one, 85-73, after leading by nine at the half.  They now break for the Holiday.  They resume their pre-conference road trip with games against Kennesaw State (in Georgia, Tuesday 12/29) and Hampton (back to Virginia, Sunday 1/3) in the fortnight before they take on Massachusetts in their A10 opener.

George Washington

George Washington took a week to finish the fall semester.  They squeaked out an 84-80 victory at  East Carolina on Tuesday 12/22, led by Damian Hollis’ 21/3 and Tony Taylor’s 20/6/4.  They will take a New England road trip the week after Christmas, facing Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on Monday 12/28, then travelling east to Cambridge, MA to face Harvard on Wednesday 12/30.  They will return to Washington to face cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

The Explorers beat Bucknell, 83-70, at home on Saturday then dropped a road game to Oklahoma State 77-62, on Monday night.  The Explorers continue to feel the effects of being an undermanned squad.  With senior PG Ruben Guillandeaux out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot, and senior swingman Kimmani Barrett nursing a fractured middle finger on his non-shooting hand, La Salle needs to free Rodney Green to cut and shoot, rather than take over the ball-handling duties.  Green continues to lead the Explorers in points scored — he scored 22 in each of last week’s games (Barrett scored the team-high 23 points versus Bucknell), but needs to maintain his stamina through the end of the game.  La Salle will host Cornell on 12/29 in what may be their last best chance to score a signature win in the OOC. Cornell beat St. John’s to take the ECAC Holiday Festival on Monday (12/21) night.

Massachusetts

Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad scored their best win of the season Saturday night when they downed the Tigers of Memphis 73-72 in Boston.  Freshman Terrell Vinson scored a team-high 21 points on 8-13 (0-1, 8-12) and 5-7 shooting.  Vinson grabbed nine boards, missing the chance to log his second consecutive double-double.  The Minutemen headed out of town to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday night and were stifled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 3-21 (14.3%) resulting in a 67-79 loss to the Eagles.  After the Holiday break they conclude their OOC schedule with a trip into the South to play Davidson on Wednesday 12/30.

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning streak to five when they beat Fairfield 89-84 on Saturday (12/20).  Senior guard Keith Cochran stepped back a bit in this game, letting the forward tandem of Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer take the offensive lead.  The seniors did not disappoint, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.  James logged his first double-double of the season by grabbing 11 rebounds as well.  Marquis Jones and Stevie Mejia handled the point guard duties effectively, dishing ten assists (with only four turnovers) between them.  Rhode Island has three more OOC games before they commence conference play, the first coming next Tuesday (12/29) when they travel to Philadelphia to play Drexel.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped their road game to South Carolina last Wednesday (12/16), 76-58.  The result may not have surprised; after all, Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Brandis Raley-Ross can be a handful, especially in front of a Gamecock-friendly crowd.  The margin was troubling as the Spiders will — should their fortunes during conference play pan out —  be looking for an at-large bid from the selection committee come that Sunday in March.  Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Anderson took large amounts of the possessions when they were on the floor (29.5%, 28.4% and 30.0% respectively — Anderson played the entire game), but of that core only Harper converted efficiently.  With an eFG% of 54.2% and a PPWS of 1.16, Harper developed an offensive rating of 111.6; an offensive rating greater than 100 is good, greater than 110 is very good.  For Geriot and Anderson however, the numbers were not nearly as impressive.  Both converted (eFG%) in the high 30s to mid 40s, but worse, both lost high percentages of their possessions:  Geriot lost 30.4% of his possessions, while for Anderson the number was 26.1%.  Where was David Gonzalvez? Out of action with four fouls, for starters.  The senior guard logged only 65% of the minutes, in large measure because he picked up his second foul at the 12 minute mark of the first half, sat for five minutes, came back in for another five minutes before picking up his third foul for the half.  Gonzalvez picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, and found himself watching as the Spiders four point advantage became a five point deficit.  The Spiders managed to bring the score to a tie, 52-52, with eight minutes left, but the Gamecocks launched a 24-6 run over the last eight minutes, running away from the Spiders and handing them their third road loss of the season.  Richmond bounced back with a 56-53 win over #13 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.  The game, played at Sunrise, FL (and not Florida’s homecourt at Gainesville), found the Spiders paced by the backcourt duo of Gonzalvez (16 points) and Anderson (14 points).  The two minute mark of the 1st half found the Spiders down by 13 (32-19), but Gonzalvez and senior center Geriot scored five unanswered points.  Still trailing by eight (32-24), Coach Mooney and his squad took to the locker room to regroup.  A 22-5 run over the first nine minutes of the 2nd half saw the Spiders blow by the Gators and take a nine point lead.  The Gators scored six unanswered points (a jumper by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, two converted free throws by sophomore guard Erving Walker and a layup by senior forward Dan Werner) to cut the deficit to three over the next 90 seconds.  The two teams were locked in a tug-of-war, never separated by more than four points (and tied twice) for the last 9:30 of the game.  The Spiders took the lead for good on a Gonzalvez three-pointer at the 1:34 mark, and the Spiders hit their free throws down the stretch to bring home the win.  After beating UNC – Greensboro, 89-63 (David Gonzalves posted a season-high 25 points), the Spiders can now break for the holidays.  Richmond will return to action on the 28th against another North Carolina school, the Seahawks of UNC – Wilmington.  The Spiders will spend New Year’s Eve on the road with yet a third North Carolina school, the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks beat Lehigh 77-66 on Sunday (12/20) and are off until after Christmas.  Senior guard Darrin Govens paced the team with 15 points, while three others, starting sophomore guard Chris Prescott along with two freshmen, forward Carl Baptiste and guard Carl Jones chipped in 13 apiece.  Sophomore forward Bryant Irwin scored a career-high 11 points.  Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY and will face the Siena Saints on Tuesday (12/29).

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies dropped a 13-point decision to the Orange of Syracuse 85-72, Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson and senior guard Chris Matthew led the Bonnies with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Orange answered with 17, 18 and 17 points from junior forward Rick Jackson, transfer wing Wes Johnson and sophomore forward Kris Joseph, respectively.  St. Bonaventure traveled to Little Three rival Niagara on Tuesday (12/22) for one last game before Christmas, but couldn’t get the job done, losing 71-77.  They return to action on Wednesday the 30th, as they host Canisius.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad beat Belmont, 75-67, on Wednesday (12/16), then lost to Missouri State, 73-63, on Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell, poked in the right eye with 2:59 to go in the Belmont game, was held out of the Missouri State game.  The Billikens could have used his 14.3 PPG on Saturday.  After winning by seven (61-54) at home against Missour-Kansas City on Tuesday 12/22, the Billikens break for Christmas, and return to action against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday 12/29.  Let’s hope Mitchell’s recovery is swift and complete.

Temple

Looking for a definition for “on a roll?”  Check out the Owls!

After knocking off Villanova on the 13th, the Owls headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark and housed the Seton Hall Pirates in their downtown arena, the Rock.  Down by 13 twice early in the 2nd half, Temple took a 40-21 run in the last 16 minutes to hand yet another Big East team their first loss of the season.  The two game snapshot above suggests that a nucleus of Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen has taken the reins on offense and has efficiently converted possessions into points.  Fernandez and Brooks took turns having career games, but that each was able to step in is a very good sign going forward.  Scootie Randall and Craig Williams should see their minutes grow; Randall because he has provided timely offense in both games, and Williams has taken the injured Michael Eric’s spot in the rotation.  Of particular interest is the Owls’ rebounding.  They dominated both of their Big East opponents, a bit surprising given the Big East’s reputation for physical inside play.  Especially noteworthy is the defensive rebounding coach Fran Dunphy is getting from his backcourt and wing players (Brooks, Guzman, Moore and Di Leo); 15% is a good number for a front court player, the 14%+ the four are registering is terrific.  Allen and Williams’ DR% is phenomenal, but simply not sustainable.  Guzman’s turnovers are high, but he has brought the ball up against two teams known for their press and ability to harass ball handlers.  Like Allen and Williams’ defensive rebounding, the number will probably not hold.

Xavier

The Musketeers traveled to Indianapolis, IN to take on the Butler Bulldogs, losing a 69-68 nail-biter on an unusual clock malfunction.  Xavier trailed through the first half, dropping behind by double digits ranging out to 15. They closed the gap to seven before the break, then came out with an 11-0 run to overtake the Bulldogs.  Jason Love and Kenny Frase were beginning to control the paint, as Terrell Hollaway hit several critical threes from the outside.  The X-Men were held the lead for over 13 minutes in the second half, but a Butler surge tied the game at the four-minute mark, and the teams traded the lead (and tied) five more times over the last four minutes.  Jordan Crawford’s trey with 45 seconds left broke the fourth tie and gave Xavier a three point cushion.  Holloway’s fifth foul at the 39 second mark put Butler guard Shelvin Mack on the line.  Mack hit both free throws, but Xavier had possession with just over a shot clock’s worth of time left.  A steal by Butler guard/forward Gordon Hayward with 36 seconds left gave Butler three tries (two misses and offensive rebounds) before Hayward converted on a layup with an unknown amount of time left on the clock.  According to the clock itself there appeared to be 1.8 seconds left, but the time keeper reported an earlier malfunction had prevented the clock from starting properly earlier in the Butler possession.  The referees (D.J. Carstensen, Sid Rodeheffer and Bo Borowski) decided there was no time left and called the game.  Xavier then hosted in-state rival Miami, OH on Wednesday 12/23.  The Muskies almost fell victim once again to a clock-related question at the end of that one.  Xavier’s Dante Jackson stole an in-bounds pass with less than seven seconds left which would have sealed the Xavier victory, but the play was blown dead because one of the zebras was checking the clock.  On the re-do, Miami’s Kenny Hayes missed a long three at the buzzer that would have tied it and Xavier won, 70-67.  After breaking for the Holiday, the Musketeers will conclude the OOC portion of their season with two BCS opponents — LSU (at home) on Tuesday 12/29 and Wake Forest (in Winston-Salem) on Sunday 1/3.

Games to Catch

  • La Salle vs Cornell, Tuesday 12/29 — The Big Red are heavy favorites to grab the Ivy’s bid to the NCAA.  I am interested, given Cornell’s win over St. John’s (a team looking to improve it’s standing in the Big East this season) in the ECAC Holiday Festival, to see how the Explorers match up.
  • Xavier vs LSU, Tuesday 12/29 — The Musketeers host the Tigers during holiday week.  While LSU was not expected to be a force in the SEC West this season, Xavier has a good chance to match up (indirectly) with two BCS teams expected to make some noise in their respective conferences, Connecticut and Arizona State.  The Huskies beat the Tigers by 26 at the NIT Season Tip-Off (semifinal game), while the Sun Devils took LSU by 19 a round later.
  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — The Spiders get another road test, this time against ACC contender Wake. The Spiders’ front court contingent of Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — The Lobos are not a BCS power, nor are they favored to take their conference bid (the Mountain West) this season.  But their homecourt, an 18,000 seat hole-in-the-ground in Albuquerque, NM known simply as “The Pit,” is a legend.  A notoriously difficult place for visitors to win.  The Flyers are expected to win the A10 title this season, and The Pit will be a good place to get ready for hostile crowds, and lots of noise.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 22nd, 2009

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky 12-0
  2. Florida 8-2
  3. Tennessee 8-2
  4. South Carolina 8-3
  5. Vanderbilt 8-3
  6. Georgia 5-4

WEST

  1. Mississippi 10-1
  2. Mississippi State 9-2
  3. LSU 8-2
  4. Alabama 7-4
  5. Arkansas 6-5
  6. Auburn 5-6

Kentucky set a new standard in college basketball as they became the first program to win 2,000 wins in an 88-44 romp over Drexel.  John Calipari is more than exceeding expectations with a 12-0 record and a #3 ranking in both polls.  UK appears to be gelling right now and are clearly setting the standard in the SEC. Unfortunately, the UK game was about the only highlight in the SEC this week as both Florida and Tennessee suffered head scratching losses.  The two Mississippi schools are starting to rise and play very well and the SEC is turning into a five or six team race.

In the polls, the Wildcats hold on to the number 3 ranking in both polls.  Tennessee falls out of the top ten to 14 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top #25.  The Florida Gators fell to #18 in both polls after their second straight loss.  The Ole Miss Rebels did move up to #15 in the AP Top #25 but are at #21 in the ESPN/USA Today. Despite a few strong weeks, Mississippi State would appear logically to be the next SEC team to crack the polls but they are not getting much love from the voters and it may be a couple more weeks before a 5th team joins the rankings.

Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He averaged 9.5 PPG on 88.9 FG% to go with 5.0 RPG and 3.0 blocks in two wins.   Georgia’s Trey Thompkins named SEC Player of the Week.  He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in a victory over Illinois .

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:

Just a few stocking stuffers strewn through the week, but the real present of the week is the Mississippi/West Virginia matchup.  Here is a look at some of the key games this week:

12/22:  South Alabama (8-4) @ Florida (8-2) – 7 PM – ESPN 360

12/22:  Missouri State (10-0) @ Arkansas (6-5) – 8PM

12/22:  LSU (8-2) @ Washington State (9-2) – 10 PM

12/23:  Long Beach State (6-4) @ Kentucky (11-0) – 1 PM

12/23:  Mississippi (10-1) @ West Virginia (8-0) – 7:30PM – ESPN2

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST

Kentucky (#3, #3) — Kentucky, behind Patrick Patterson’s 21 points, overcame an overall sluggish performance and pulled away from the Austin Peay Governors late for a 90-69 win on Saturday.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and John Wall threw in 11 to lead the Wildcats.  With the 11-0 start, Calipari eclipsed Adolph Rupp’s record for best start by a first year coach.   UK was a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line in the game and that helped to thwart any Governor’s comebacks.  Two days later, UK assured there would be no drama in getting their 2,000th win as they jumped out to a 56-20 halftime lead en route to an 88-44 romp over Drexel.   Patterson and Cousins each had 18 points and Cousins grabbed 13 boards to lead UK.  An amazing stat from the week is that UK went 35-37 from the free throw line for the two games.

Florida (#18 , #18) — The Gators blew an eight point lead and were upset by the Richmond Spiders 56-53 on Saturday night.  This was the second straight loss for UF, who started the season 8-0 and reached #10 in the rankings.  It was a sloppy game as both teams shot 38% and despite having a 10 rebound advantage, the Gators were outhustled by the scrappy Spiders.

Tennessee (#16, #14) — Tennessee opened the SEC week Tuesday night with a 77-58 win over the Wyoming Cowboys.  The Vols only led by one at the half but had a very good defensive second half and pulled away for the win. Scotty Hopson continued to pace the Vols with 14 points and Wayne Chism had 13.  It does say something about the Vols overall strength when they can win by 19 despite being outrebounded and going 4-20 from beyond the 3 point line.  On Saturday, Bruce Pearl suffered his worse loss at Knoxville and the #8 Vols were routed 77-55 by the 4-4 USC Trojans.  Hopson was the only Vol that turned out to play and he had 16 points.  In comparison, the rest of the starting lineup scored just 23 points.  Tennessee could not mount any challenge to the Trojans with their 2-22 three-point shooting.

South Carolina — The Gamecocks broke open a 52-all tie with a 24-6 run to pull out a 76-58 win over the upset-minded Richmond Spiders last Wednesday.  Devan Downey led the way with 18 points and Johndre Jefferson had a nice performance off the bench (12 pts, 8 boards) to help South Carolina continue to win without Dominique Archie.  On Saturday the Gamecocks suffered a crushing lost to the Wofford Terriers, 68-61.  South Carolina had won the previous 21 meetings against Wofford, who have also beaten the Georgia Bulldogs this year.  Downey led the USC scoring with 17 and Brandis Raley-Ross had 14.  The Gamecocks rebounded from the devastating news that Archie is lost for the year by blasting the Furman Paladins 81-57 Monday night.  Sam Muldrow and Devan Downey both had 16 to lead the Gamecocks.

VanderbiltJeffrey Taylor had 20 points on white hot 10-11 shooting as Vanderbilt rebounded from a rough week last week with a 84-71 win over the Tennessee State Tigers.   A.J. Ogilvy, apparently relegated to the bench for now, added 11 points and 6 boards in just 15 minutes.   The Commodores had a great shooting night, hitting 67.9% from the field.  Then last night the Commodores used 60% shooting to blast the Mercer Bears 99-59.  This was a game where the Commodores got a lot of production off their bench with 17 points from John Jenkins and A.J. Ogilvy had 11 points in just 15 minutes.

GeorgiaTrey Thompkins hit four straight free throw attempts in the final 22.2 seconds to finish with 21 points and help Georgia beat Illinois 70-67 on Saturday night.  This was was the biggest win of the Mark Fox era as the Illini came into the game at 8-2.  Travis Leslie added 17 points as the Bulldogs improved to 5-4.

WEST

Mississippi (#15, #21) — The Ole Miss Rebels are becoming King of the Comeback as they came from behind in the third straight game to force OT vs the UTEP Miners on Wednesday, then dominated the extra period en route to a 91-81 victory.  Chris Warren had a career high 32 points and 5 3-pointers.  Terrico White added three treys and 19 points.  The Rebels won their 6th game in a row with a 108-64 romp over the Centenary Gentlemen on Saturday.  Ole Miss hardly broke a sweat in posting a 30 point halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way.   The Rebs were led by White’s 17 and the team nailed 11 treys to key the romp.

Mississippi State — Mississippi State used 63% shooting to put away the Wright State Raiders 80-69.  The Bulldogs got impressive showings from their guards rather than their forwards.   Barry Stewart hit five treys and had 21 points while Dee Bost had 11 assists to key the Bulldog win.   Jarvis Varnado, who entered the day leading the nation in blocks this season, added five more to help Mississippi State to its sixth-straight win in a 70-64 victory over Houston on Saturday.  If that is not enough, Varnado added 17 boards and 13 points.  Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost both added 15 points for the Bulldogs.

AlabamaMikhail Torrance scored 15 points and had seven assists, and JaMychal Green added 14 points to lead Alabama to a 60-45 victory over Samford.  The game only featured six free throws and a total of 15 fouls between the two teams.  In their other matchup, the Tide came out flat and were generally dominated in a 87-74 loss to #22 Kansas State.  Alabama did manage a late run that cut an 18 point deficit to seven, but ran out of gas as Kansas State pulled away again.  Torrance had 20 and Green added 17 for the Alabama cause.

LSUTasmin Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining in the game lifted LSU to a 63-60 victory over Nicholls State on Thursday night.  LSU continued it’s trend of struggling with lesser teams with the 3-9 Colonels.  Mitchell was 11-14 for the game and had 27 points and Storm Warren had a double double with 13 points and 11 boards.  Bo Spencer scored 22 points, including two important free throws in the final minute, to lead LSU to a 65-61 victory against Rice on Saturday.  Mitchell had a double double with 10 points and 12 boards as LSU improved to 8-0 at home.

Arkansas — On Wednesday, the shorthanded Razorbacks had to face Alabama State without the SEC’s leading scorer Rotnei Clarke (tendinitis) but still got a compete team effort to beat the Hornets, 76-51.  Michael Washington had 22 points and Marshawn Powell 13 to help the Hogs.  Washington scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Arkansas held off Stephen F. Austin 72-69 on Saturday.  Stefan Walsh added 13 points off the bench as the Hogs moved above .500 at 6-5.

Auburn — The Tigers let a great opportunity for a signature win slip through it’s fingers with a 76-72 loss at Florida State.  DeWayne Reed and Frankie Sullivan both scored 17 points and the Tigers nailed 13 treys but could not close the gap for the upset win.  On Sunday, the Tigers became a signature win for another program as they lost 107-89 to the Sam Houston State Bearkats.  Auburn became the first SEC victory for the Bearkats who threw 92 points up on Kentucky earlier this season.  Reed’s 19 led the way for the Tigers.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 10th, 2009

checkinginon

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By The Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Standings (as of 12/9/09):

  1. Richmond (8-1)
  2. Charlotte (7-1)
  3. George Washington (6-1)
  4. Rhode Island (6-1)
  5. Temple (7-2)
  6. Duquesne (6-2)
  7. Dayton (6-2)
  8. La Salle (5-2)
  9. Xavier (5-3)
  10. St. Louis (5-3)
  11. St. Bonaventure (4-3)
  12. Massachusetts (4-5)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (3-4)
  14. Fordham (2-5)

Changes.   Change is in the air throughout the Atlantic 10 Conference very early this season.  Xavier, Dayton and Temple have all hit early road bumps in their out of conference (OOC) schedules — each has already logged a second loss.  Charlotte, Rhode Island and Richmond on the other hand, have been strong coming out of the gate, Richmond’s early season loss to William & Mary notwithstanding.  La Salle has had the strongest start in several seasons.  St. Bonaventure logged a couple of strong outings…before their rendezvous with Mississippi State.  And Fordham departed from long precedent by “releasing” 7th year head coach Dereck Whittenburg five games into their season. For Saint Joseph’s and Massachusetts however, change has not been a good thing.  Coach Phil Martelli may have finally found his guards, and Coach Derek Kellogg may have his athletic wings, but they are all very, very young.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 8th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky  8-0
  2. Florida  8-0
  3. Tennessee  6-1
  4. Vanderbilt  6-1
  5. South Carolina  6-2
  6. Georgia  4-3

WEST

  1. Mississippi  7-1
  2. Alabama  6-2
  3. Mississippi State  5-2
  4. LSU  4-2
  5. Auburn  5-4
  6. Arkansas  4-5

Anyone doubting the SEC’s resurgence this season had to be pouring themselves a big glass of “hater-ade” after taking a look at the weekly Top 25 polls.  The SEC, which sent only three teams to the NCAA Tourney last season now has three teams perched in the Top 10 and four teams are among the Top 25 in the nation.

Kentucky used a win over North Carolina to leapfrog Purdue into the #4 spot in the AP Top 25 and now have that spot in both polls.  Tennessee only had one game last week, but moved to #9 in both polls due to other teams’ misfortunes, and the resurgent Florida Gators now occupy the #10 spot in the AP Top 25 and the 11th spot in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.  Mississippi debuted in the AP Poll at #25 and fell just outside the top 25 at #29 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  In contrast to that, Vanderbilt was #24th in the ESPN poll and #28 in the AP Poll.

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky  (7-0)
  2. Florida  (6-0)
  3. Tennessee  (5-1)
  4. South Carolina  (5-1)
  5. Vanderbilt  (4-1)
  6. Georgia  (3-2)

WEST

  1. Mississippi  (5-1)
  2. Mississippi State  (4-2)
  3. Alabama  (4-2)
  4. LSU  (3-2)
  5. Auburn  (3-3)
  6. Arkansas  (2-4)

The big story in the SEC this week has been the re-emergence of Florida as a national threat.  The question being asked everywhere is, “Is Florida back?”   As of now, that answer is a resounding YES.  The Gators just completed a very impressive week (see team updates), and have a good core group in the 2010 recruiting class.  Add to this the speculation that Florida may be taking the lead over Kentucky in the race for #1 2010 recruit Brandon Knight and it appears that this season and the future for UF is very bright indeed.  Thanks to Florida, the SEC East is shaping up as possibly one of the best divisions in the country with Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt combining for a 27-3 record.  The SEC East has three teams in the Top 17 in the country (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida) with Vanderbilt lurking in the fringes of the Top 25.  The SEC is still looking solid for a possible eight NCAA bids this year.  I know it’s early, but the five teams in the East, plus the two Mississippi teams and darkhorse Alabama are clearly the class of the conference thus far.

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on November 24th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

CURRENT SEC STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky   4-0
  2. Florida   3-0
  3. Tennessee   4-1
  4. South Carolina   3-1
  5. Vanderbilt   2-1
  6. Georgia   1-2

WEST

  1. LSU   3-0
  2. Mississippi   4-1
  3. Mississippi State   2-1
  4. Arkansas   2-1
  5. Alabama   2-1
  6. Auburn   2-3

Coming into this season, there were two main storylines to watch for the conference as a whole.  The first was if the SEC, after a down year and having only three NCAA teams last year, could rebound and regain its status as an elite conference.   The second one was if the influx of new talent in the SEC, both in the coaching and playing ranks, would help to raise the prestige level of the SEC.

The jury is out as to whether the SEC is going to be an elite conference this year.  So far, the SEC has an unimpressive 32-12 record so far.  There have been embarrassing losses, the key one being #19 Mississippi State losing to Rider by 14 points.  Add to this the fact that the SEC have not knocked off a “name team,” yet.  Just last night, #9 Tennessee lost to #6 Purdue and #24 Vanderbilt lost to Cincinnati.  The East division is clearly the class of the league with a 17-5 record and all three of the SEC’s ranked teams residing in that division.  So far, only Kentucky, Florida, and LSU have escaped the first two weeks of the season unscathed.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

impactcountry(2)

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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2009-10 RTC Preseason All-Americans

Posted by zhayes9 on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

After vouching for the input of all four of our RTC scribes, here’s our official preseason All-American top four teams:

First Team

  • G- Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
  • G- Sherron Collins (Kansas)
  • F- Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)
  • F- Patrick Patterson (Kentucky)
  • C- Cole Aldrich (Kansas)

No real surprises for our first team. Kalin Lucas is the anchor of a Michigan State team with Final Four aspirations yet again (would be Tom Izzo’s sixth), while Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich form a tandem that’s reason #1 why Kansas sits atop all preseason rankings. The final two forwards — Luke Harangody and Patrick Patterson — are double-double machines inside that are both looking to send their teams back to the Dance after a year in NIT purgatory. Patterson’s team happens to be a Final Four possibility.

Second Team

  • G- John Wall (Kentucky)
  • G- Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
  • F- Evan Turner (Ohio State)
  • F- Craig Brackins (Iowa State)
  • C- Greg Monroe (Georgetown)

It takes a special player to make any preseason all-second team list before ever playing a minute at the collegiate level. All we’ve heard this offseason from Kentucky practice viewers and his coach John Calipari suggests we could find Wall replacing Collins or Lucas on the first team by season’s end. Willie Warren has a chance to lead all BCS conference players in scoring as the Oklahoma sophomore can flat out shoot the basketball. Evan Turner will play everything from the 1 to the 4 position for an Ohio State team returning nearly every key cog. The most unknown superstar in the land might be Craig Brackins, while Greg Monroe looks to turn around a sinking Georgetown ship.

Third Team

  • G- Jerome Randle (California)
  • G- Manny Harris (Michigan)
  • F- Kyle Singler (Duke)
  • F- Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest)
  • C- Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State)

Can Cal finally win a Pac-10 title? With Jerome Randle and his 46% 3pt at the helm, it’s entirely possible. Manny Harris returns as the #1 scoring option for a Michigan team looking to contend in the all-of-a-sudden feared Big Ten. The biggest surprise may be Kyle Singler, the Duke swingman voted Preseason All-American and yet finds himself on the third team here at RTC (let the accusations of anti-Duke bias begin). Al-Farouq Aminu is the man in Winston-Salem and could take off as a potential lottery pick, while Jarvis Varnado is this year’s Hasheem Thabeet down low making a super impact defensively.

Fourth Team

  • G- Greivis Vasquez (Maryland)
  • G- Devan Downey (South Carolina)
  • F- Robbie Hummel (Purdue)
  • F- Trevor Booker (Clemson)
  • C- Ed Davis (North Carolina)

The biggest decision in April may have been Greivis Vasquez electing to return to College Park and lead the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament. He’s a tremendous scorer and improving floor leader. Speaking of scoring, South Carolina’s Devan Downey can make any shot on the floor and could total 20 PPG this season. We all know what a healthy Robbie Hummel and Trevor Booker provide Purdue and Clemson, respectively, with scoring, rebounding and defense. Ed Davis look to make The Leap we all expect out of the UNC big man.

Also receiving votes: Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Kemba Walker (Connecticut), Nic Wise (Arizona), Damion James (Texas), Lazar Hayward (Marquette), Devin Ebanks (West Virginia), Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), A.J. Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), Jerome Jordan (Tulsa), Larry Sanders (VCU).

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