Resetting the SEC Race: A Look at the Seven “East” Teams

Posted by CNguon on January 4th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC Microsite writer and can be found @TrainIsland on Twitter. 

Non-conference play is wrapping up in the Southeastern Conference, and that means that the battle for SEC supremacy is about to begin. We’re two months into the college basketball season, and several teams are vying to be crowned as the SEC’s king. Florida and Missouri have carried the banner early in the season, but a talented program lies in wait in Lexington. Behind them, quietly successful squads like LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Texas A&M are also waiting to prove that their inflated records aren’t just the products of careful scheduling. This week, we’ll break down how each member of the SEC has started its 2012-13 campaigns, who their key players may be going forward, and whether they can carry their current pace into conference play. Today, we’ll start by looking at the conference known during football season as the SEC East:

Florida – Flaws May be Surfacing; The Gators are 2-2 after a 7-0 Start

  • The Good: The Gators have shown off a balanced attack and are playing great team defense to start their season. Opponents are shooting woefully against them, averaging just 52 points per game through Florida’s first 11 match-ups. No team has scored more than 67 points against UF so far in 2012-13. Kenny Boynton is still around and doing Kenny Boynton things. This can be recorded as either as positive or a negative for the Gators. He’s leading the team in scoring and swagger, but like a 6’2” Antoine Walker he’s shooting over six three-pointers per game and making fewer than 30 percent of them. He’s regressed since a strong junior season, but he’s still clearly this team’s general when it comes down to on-court leadership.

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

  • The Bad: Florida’s balance comes at the expense of not having an alpha dog to take over in tight situations. Boynton’s poor shooting tempers his status as a go-to player, while Erik Murphy and Patric Young have yet to prove themselves as consistent threats when the pressure is on. This is something that could fluster coach Billy Donovan when conference play brings more high-pressure situations.
  • Player to Watch: Erik Murphy. Murphy, the pride of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, has come into his own as a senior, shooting a stellar 57 percent from the field and 45 percent from long range. The 6’10” forward is an inside-out presence who can stretch opposing defenses and use his length to provide passable defense in the interior. His ability to draw defenders away from the hoop helps provide openings for a strong backcourt led by Boynton and Rosario. If he can maintain this level of play, he’ll give the Gators plenty of options on offense.
  • Can it Last? Yes, but… the Gators have been solid and have the talent to make a deep postseason run, but recent losses bring this team’s makeup and stability into question. Florida gave up the comeback of the 2012-13 season so far when turnovers and a missed Boynton free throw helped Arizona overcome a six-point deficit with 57 seconds left in the game. Two games later, they couldn’t get past a sneaky-good Kansas State team in Kansas City. The Gators have all the strength they need to get past the SEC’s lower-level teams, but they’ve still got to prove that they can handle the best the conference has to offer. Their reign at the top of the conference may be short lived.

Missouri – Their Talent Has Led to a 10-2 Record, But Can They Continue to Play as a Team?

  • The Good: Laurence Bowers has returned stronger than ever from last season’s ACL tear, and a Missouri team filled with transfers have helped place the Tigers among the NCAA’s elite in 2013. Jabari Brown (Oregon), Alex Oriakhi (UConn), Earnest Ross (Auburn), and Keion Bell (Pepperdine) have all played well in their new hometown of Columbia, Missouri. The Tigers have nine players that have earned 10 minutes per game or more this year; of those, only Phil Pressey suited up for Mizzou in 2011-12. Point guard Pressey has proven to be an excellent distributor, leading the SEC with 7.3 assists per game. He sprung for an insane 19-of-19 line against UCLA in an overtime loss and has stepped forward as this team’s leader out of the backcourt. Oriakhi has been just as good at Mizzou as he had been at UConn, and Brown has shown off the chops that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school. A talented roster has given this team a potent inside-out attack and the depth to hang with any opponent they’ll face in 2013. Additionally, they lead the NCAA in rebounds through a dozen games this season, pulling down 47.4 per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Freshmen Report: Volume I

Posted by CNguon on December 21st, 2012

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @anchorofgold.

The SEC has always been home to some of the NCAA’s most talented newcomers. Much of that has to do with Kentucky’s one-and-done superstars, but Lexington’s five-star recruits aren’t the only players making an impact for Southeastern Conference teams. Several under-the-radar prospects – and some of them big names – are starting to get the feel for the NCAA game and bringing value to their programs early in their careers. As a result, teams like South Carolina and Auburn can put a little extra confidence behind their rebuilding efforts.

Nerlens Noel,

Nerlens Noel (Ken), Michael Carrera (SC) and Negus Webster-Chan (Missou) are just three of many freshmen making an impact this season in the SEC East

So who should SEC basketball fans be looking out for with conference play looming? Every week, we’ll look at how the best freshmen in the SEC have performed in their inaugural seasons. We’ll break the league down football-style into East and West divisions to provide an in-depth look at the young guns that may end up dotting all-SEC teams for years to come. This week, we’ll start with the East by introducing you to the most talented first-year players that the conference has to offer. While a team led by newcomers has carried Kentucky through an up-and-down first two months, teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are also leaning on rookies to carry them to the postseason. Here’s a breakdown on those fresh faces in the (former) SEC East and how they’ve impacted their teams so far.

SEC East

uk freshmen

Kentucky: Kentucky, a team replacing all of its starters in 2012-13, has easily gotten the strongest return from its freshman play-makers this winter. Nerlens Noel has been as good as advertised, and Willie Cauley-Stein has shown a combination of size and skill that suggests that he’d be a starter for almost any other team in the SEC this winter. The two have combined for 18 points, 14 rebounds, and nearly six blocks per game as the Wildcats’ primary big men. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have carried the ‘Cats offensively. Both have shown well-rounded offensive play, while Poythress in particular has shown some defensive chops that could make him a nightmare matchup (a 7’1” wingspan and the size and strength to cover both forward positions) as the season wears on. However, both have struggled with turnovers early in the year, and their talent hasn’t been enough to cover up UK’s relative inexperience in three early losses. Kentucky may have gotten off to an unexpected start thanks to those losses, but they’re also playing on a steeper learning curve than most teams in the SEC. The development of their freshman class will be one of the conference’s biggest stories to watch once league play unfolds.

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Morning Five: 06.05.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 5th, 2012

  1. With the 2011-12 season in the books and with nearly two months to reflect on the season, Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus takes a look back at the top 100 recruits (plus) from the class of 2012 and ranks them again based on how they played as freshmen. The rankings themselves are not that surprising since we are assuming you followed college basketball last season. Instead, the interesting angle is how these guys were rated coming out of high school. Now it is entirely possible that some of the over-/underachievers may go back to their previous position, but it is instructive to remember how quickly this can change if your team has an incoming McDonald’s All-American or some lightly regarded incoming freshman.
  2. In a move that won’t necessarily swing the balance of power in next season’s national title discussion, but could influence the eventual national champion Louisville picked up a rather nice late addition in the form of former Virginia Tech commit Montrezl Harrell, who backed out of his commitment when Seth Greenberg was fired. Harrell, a 6’8″ four-star power forward, joins an already solid frontline and although we doubt that he will see many minutes overall he should provide an adequate big body next season if either of Louisville’s starters is in foul trouble or is dealing with injuries. His decision to head to Louisville should come as no surprise after Greenberg’s firing as Harrell was originally recruited to his private high school (Hargrave Military Academy) by one of Louisville’s current assistants.
  3. The race for Rodney Hood appears to have been narrowed down to two suitors: Duke and Ohio State. The Mississippi State transfer, who averaged 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game as a freshman last season, was one of the most highly coveted transfers available and appears to be taking his time making the decision as he intends to sit out the required one year transfer period. Adding a player of Hood’s size and ability would be a major addition for either program and there is the very real possibility that Hood might stick around that school for all three years that he has left. So while most fans will be focused in on the incoming freshman, Hood might be one of the bigger pawns to move in college basketball this offseason.
  4. Most people would view the run Kansas had to become the national runner-up as impressive and something to cherish. Bill Self is not one of those people and he still has not watched a replay of his team’s loss on that Monday night in New Orleans. That is not to say that Self has not kept himself immersed in his work as he has had to redouble his efforts in the wake of a significant part of his staff departing to take new jobs as head coaches of their own programs. While some people may consider Self’s decision not to analyze that loss as somewhat strange it does not seem out of the ordinary to us as you do not win eight straight Big 12 regular season titles by looking at the past.
  5. Got $5,000 to spare and looking to associate yourself with mediocrity? If you are then Colorado may have a basketball floor to sell you. The auction has not received a bid at the initial asking price of $5,000. This may seem strange to you given the cost of getting a new floor, which would be several multiples higher, but there is one major caveat: the floor, which was purchased in 1996, is being sold “AS/IS WHERE/IS”, meaning that you will have to transport it to wherever you would want to keep it. If you are wondering why the school does not just give it away to a local high school, it is because it is would be viewed as a violation of NCAA rules. Given all of the complicating factors the most likely home will probably be a local junior college or some Boulder resident with some extra cash and space for a basketball court.
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Who’s Got Next? Jarnell Stokes Thinking College, Andrew White To Kansas & More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on December 8th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing or different things you’d like to see, please let us know at

Lead Story: Jarnell Stokes Going To College In January ‘Definitely An Option’

Jarnell Stokes Has A Lot On His Mind. (Nation of Blue)

Stokes Exploring His Options. Class of 2012 power forward Jarnell Stokes saw his chances of playing high school basketball for Southwind High School (TN) disappear last week, and this week he’s strongly considering graduating high school early and enrolling in college in January. Remember, Stokes has yet to commit and has a top six of Kentucky, Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Connecticut so he’d have to commit very soon. The 6’8″, 250-pounder says he’s been preparing to attend college next semester and that he has other options available to him that he doesn’t want to reveal just yet. Four of the schools Stokes is considering — Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida and Tennessee — have athletic scholarships available for Stokes if he were to enroll in January and he could also qualify for an academic scholarship at Memphis, leaving Kentucky as the only school that he’d have to pay for. Stokes says he has no timetable right now and doesn’t know when he’s going to commit, but he’s going to have to make a decision in the next few weeks regardless of what he wants to do.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Andrew White on committing to Kansas: “I think it was a huge opportunity there to play. I have a great relationship with the staff. They’ve been good to me.”

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SEC Morning Five: 11.01.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 1st, 2011

  1. While we keep an eye on the Opening Night countdown timer on the top-left corner — anybody got a magical Hylian Ocarina? — we are squeezing every drop out of the SEC Media Days. This morning’s informative drip involves Georgia coach Mark Fox pouring out accolades for freshman guard and McDonald’s All-American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Citing his great demeanor and team-first attitude, Fox expects upperclassmen Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson to mentor Caldwell-Pope and help him adjust and contribute immediately to the Bulldogs. The team will need Caldwell-Pope up-to-speed quickly, as the Bulldogs will need to replace the scoring output of Travis Leslie. Quick: double-time it!
  2. After being suspended from the Florida basketball team for his part in breaking into a car last April, junior forward Erik Murphy needed a mentor. Erik’s father contacted former McDonald’s All-American point guard Chris Herren — the subject of the ESPN documentary Unguarded — about Herren’s spiral into drug and alcohol abuse and subsequent recovery. Herren spent the summer with Murphy in Rhode Island working out their basketball games and their personal demons. Murphy tells that he is in the best physical shape of his career thanks to Herren’s workouts. His Florida teammates hope that he’s matured enough to handle his supporting role on a team that could crack the Top 5 this season.
  3. It’s likely that Tennessee won’t be cracking any Top 25 lists this season (even with a Megaton Hammer). The Vols are short on the kind of talent necessary to succeed in coach Cuonzo Martin’s motion offense system. The pieces are coming into place, though; junior college transfer D’Montre Edwards announced he will sign with Tennessee as a member of the 2012 recruiting class. Edwards led Brevard Community College last season with 15.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG and hitting 37% of his three-pointers. If Martin can secure a few more members of the 2012 class — complementing Edwards and 2012 recruit Derek Reese — the Vols will have a solid foundation for competitiveness next season.
  4. Another member of the 2012 recruiting class announced for a SEC team yesterday. Willie Cauley, a four-star player ranked #36 overall by, committed to Kentucky. The seven-foot Cauley seems like the perfect player for Coach John Calipari’s weakside inside player. Cauley picked the Wildcats over Florida and a few other non-conference teams. The basketball and football star might also draw the attention of Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips, who is desperate for a tall wide receiver who can catch the ball.
  5. The Associated Press preseason All-American list released yesterday features just one SEC player: Kentucky sophomore forward Terrence Jones. The preseason SEC Player of the Year joins Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor on the team. Jones’ campaign for Player of the Year honors will be enjoyed by increasing numbers of SEC fans. Joe Dorish of reports that the SEC had the third-highest average attendance for college basketball in 2010-11.
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