Checking In On… the Southland Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2011


Zach Birdsong is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference. You can also find his musings online at houstonianonline.com or on Twitter @zachbird_nerd.

Readers Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Lamar battles tough opponents: Pat Knight has certainly had his hands full during his time as the Lamar head coach. So far this season, the Cardinals have battled some quality top-10 opponents that included Louisville and more recently, Ohio State and Kentucky. Despite losing all three of those games by an average margin of 20 points, the Cardinals have actually been quite competitive in those games and seen some different players step up. While those games have added losses to the Cardinals record, Knight is pleased with what he is seeing. In fact, he thinks these tough games will help the Cardinals, stating: “This is just going to help us in conference.” They will open up conference play on January 4 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
  • Fortenberry missing playing time: Southeastern Louisiana’s leading scorer, forward Brandon Fortenberry, missed his third straight game when the Lions traveled to take on South Carolina. In his absence, the team is 1-2, and struggling offensively. On the road against Arkansas and South Carolina, the Lions shot just 33% from the floor including 28% from three-point territory. In his absence, senior guard Elgin Bailey returned and has been the team’s predominant scorer averaging 13.5 points per game. In that span of three games, Bailey is also averaging nine rebounds per game. While Bailey has been a big contributor, the Lions are hopeful that Fortenberry will be ready for conference play which begins on January 4 when the team travels to UTA.
  • Ingram named Conference Player of Week: Texas-Arlington forward Bo Ingram was selected as this week’s Southland Conference Player of the Week. Over the past week, the Mavericks competed in the Athletes in Action tournament that saw the Mavericks go 2-1. In that three-game span, Ingram averaged 19.3 points per game, including 21 points against both Utah State and Saint Peter’s. During the tournament, Ingram also averaged 5.3 rebounds per game, including 11 offensive rebounds. Ingram is peaking at the right time and they are hopeful that it will continue as conference play begins January 4 for the Mavericks. They will open up conference play against Southeastern Louisiana and that game is scheduled for 7 PM.

Texas-Arlington's Bo Ingram Had An Outstanding Week (southland.org)

Power Rankings

  1. Lamar (8-5): Despite going just 1-2 over the last two weeks, Lamar has continued to impress. The team faced and defeated Rice by the score of 87-81, before stepping up and playing some big names. First the Cardinals traveled to Columbus to take on the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes before heading over to Lexington to take on the #3 Kentucky Wildcats. Both games ended in losses for Pat Knight’s squad. However, they were able to keep it competitive and playing these caliber of teams in their non-conference schedule will help out the Cardinals when they open Southland Conference play. Senior guard Mike James has been impressive for the Cardinals, averaging over 21 points a game over the last two weeks, including a 29-point performance against Kentucky.
  2. Texas-Arlington (6-5): From a fan’s perspective, no team has been more fun to watch over the last two weeks than the Mavericks. The team may be 2-2 over that time period, but the team had its share of nail biters as each game was close. The first set of games for the Mavericks required them to travel to Tulsa and then play at Utah State. Despite hanging in there with Tulsa, the Mavs lost by five, 80-75, in overtime. They would also fall at Utah State, 73-69, despite a 21-point performance by senior forward and Southland Conference Player of the Week Bo Ingram. However, the Mavs would get back on track as they traveled back to Arlington and defeated Kent State, 74-73, and St. Peter’s, 73-68. Against St. Peter’s, Ingram had another 21-point performance, shooting 7-of-14 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range. Read the rest of this entry »
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D.J. Gardner Learns the Reality of the Social Media Era the Hard Way

Posted by nvr1983 on August 27th, 2011

Over the past two years few programs have had to deal with as many major issues related to eligibility and suspensions as Mississippi State has had to. From the initial investigation and year-long suspension of Renardo Sidney to the nine-game suspension that Dee Bost had to serve last year and finally the ugly fight between Sidney and teammate Elgin Bailey in the stands at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii last December the program has had a difficult time getting out of its own way and putting its best possible team on the court. This time it involves a player, D.J. Gardner, who was not even going to be on the team this year.

Stansbury appears to be running a three-ring circus in Starkville

On Thursday, Rick Stansbury, announced that Gardner, a highly touted recruit who was considered a top 20 shooting guard in the class of 2011, would be redshirting. According to Gardner’s mother, her son approached the staff about redshirting after finding out that he would be part of a three-man shooting guard rotation rather than receiving the majority of the playing time that he had reportedly been promised during his recruitment to Starkville. In addition, she reports that the decision as to whether or not her son would be redshirting was not supposed to be decided on until November. However, when Stansbury announced that Gardner would be redshirting, D.J. fired off the following tweet (edited for our family audience):

These b***es tried to f**k me over.. That’s y I red shirted .. But I wish my homies a great as* season.. I don’t even know y I’m still here

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

Mississippi State’s Ravern Johnson was suspended indefinitely this week.  Of course, at Mississippi State “indefinitely” generally means a game or two.  In this case, two.  This team was picked to win the SEC West, but talk about a team in turmoil.  Let’s take a look at the timeline:

  • Nov. 12 Mississippi State begins the season without point guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sidney.  The Bulldogs get a 75-65 win over Tennessee State. Record 1-0.
  • Dec. 18 Sidney plays in his first college basketball after a year and a half suspension.  The Bulldogs lose 88-57 to Virginia Tech. Record 7-3.
  • Dec. 21 Sidney is suspended for a game after playing in just one game for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
  • Dec. 23 Sidney returns and the Bulldogs defeat San Diego 69-52. Sidney and forward Elgin Bailey get in a fight in the stands after the game while watching Utah play Hawaii, because Elgin Bailey wouldn’t move his feet for Sidney to get through.  Record 8-4.
  • Dec. 24 Sidney and Bailey are suspended indefinitely.
  • Jan. 3 Mississippi State announces that Elgin Bailey will seek a transfer and has been granted a release.
  • Jan. 8 Sidney and Bost return from suspension and open SEC play with a 75-57 home loss to Alabama. Record 8-7 (0-1).
  • Feb. 4 Following a 75-61 loss to Alabama, Ravern Johnson sends “inappropriate tweets” and violates a class attendance policy.  He is suspended indefinitely. Record 11-10 (3-4).
  • Feb. 12 Johnson’s “indefinite” suspension ends after two games.  He returns just in time for the low point in the Bulldogs’ season, a 65-62 loss to SEC last place team Auburn in a game that MSU led 51-32 with 11:25 to go.

The reality here is that coach Rick Stansbury has completely lost control of this team both on and off the court.  This season is nothing short of a train wreck and I hope that this will be the last time that I write about the silliness that is Mississippi State basketball.

  • In less ridiculous news, Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology has six SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament.  If his prediction holds true and Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all make the tournament, that will be the best showing in the Big Dance for the SEC since 2008, when last place Georgia made a crazy run through the SEC tournament and became the sixth team to qualify along with Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

Power Rankings

1. Florida (20-5, 9-2) At this point, there can be no question that Florida should be in the top spot here.  While still having deficiencies, Florida by hook or by crook has managed to get to 20-5 overall and 9-2 in conference play by gutting out close ones whether at home or on the road.  Florida has won nine games decided by six points or less.  The Gators have also played in four overtime games this year, winning three of them.  Two of those overtime wins came on the road.  However, just when things are starting to look really good for the preseason SEC favorites, Chandler Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise and internal bleeding associated with it.  He is likely to miss the Gators’ game against LSU on Sunday.  If LSU were not on an eight-game losing streak, I might be a little concerned.

2. Alabama (16-8, 8-2) After a disappointing early season in which Alabama started 5-6, the Tide has become one of the best defensive teams in the nation holding teams to just 58.4 points per game.  Because of that defense and an improved offense, Alabama is 11-2 in its last 13 games.

3. Kentucky (17-7, 5-5) Right now, you have to ask whether this team is just not as good as we thought, or is it simply a bad road team?  Maybe it’s a little bit of both.  Kentucky still has good wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville, but that seems like a long time ago for a team that is 2-6 in true road games, with five of those losses coming in league play.  Lucky for Kentucky, only two of the Wildcats’ last six games are away.  The Wildcats should be safe this week as they don’t have to go on the road for their contests against Mississippi State and South Carolina.

4. Vanderbilt (18-6, 6-4) Vanderbilt had a great week after winning two close ones at home against Alabama and Kentucky.  Like Kentucky, Vandy has been weak on the road, going just 1-3 in conference road games.  Unlike Kentucky however, the Commodores must go on the road for four of their last six including games at Georgia, and Kentucky.

5. Georgia (17-7, 6-4) Georgia lost to Xavier early in the week in a game that was close throughout.  This was the first game between the two teams since 2008 when they met in the NCAA Tournament following Georgia’s Cinderella run through the Southeastern Conference tournament, winning three games in two days after a tornado at the Georgia Dome forced the league to move the games to Georgia Tech.  Xavier won that game in 2008, too.  Following their loss to the Musketeers, the Bulldogs held South Carolina to just 30.5% shooting and 4-23 from the field.

6. Arkansas (15-9, 5-6) After losing three straight to Georgia, Mississippi and Mississippi State, Arkansas finally got a win at home against Louisiana State.  Rotnei Clarke scored 25 points while going 5-6 from three.  More importantly though, the Razorbacks have now won 15 games for the first time in three seasons, having won 14 games in each of the past two seasons.

7. Tennessee (15-10, 5-5) It’s been an up-and-down year for the Volunteers, mostly down of late.  Coach Bruce Pearl made his return from suspension to face Kentucky in Lexington.  The result?  Tennessee was thoroughly outplayed in a game where Bruce Pearl said he didn’t help his team.  The Vols followed that up with a tough 61-60 home loss to Florida.

8. Mississippi (16-9, 4-6) Chris Warren tied his season high of 26 points in a win over LSU.  Speaking of Chris Warren, he’s made 29 of his last 31 free throws in Mississippi’s last three contests and leads the SEC in free throw shooting at 93.8 percent.  Not only that, but Warren now has 1,821 career points, good for fourth place on Ole Miss’ all-time scoring list.  It is all but a given that Warren will pass Carlos Clarke’s 1,822 points in the Rebels’ next game taking his place as Ole Miss’s third leading scorer.  It remains unlikely that Warren passes number one Jon Stroud (2,328 points) and number two Joe Harvell (2,078 points).

9. South Carolina (13-10, 4-6) Things haven’t gone well for the Gamecocks of late.  They started the conference season at 3-1 including wins over Vanderbilt and at Florida.  Now the Cocks are losers of five of their last six.  A terrible shooting night at home against Georgia this week only added to their woes.  In that game, Bruce Ellington shot just 1-12 from the floor.  But then again, he hasn’t shot at least 50 percent in a game since a January 12 loss at Alabama.

10. Mississippi State (13-11, 5-5) Look, it’s never good when you lose to Auburn, but when you blow a 19-point lead with 11:25 to go in the game, well that’s just completely unacceptable.  At one point Auburn went on a 17-0 run.  Really?  Auburn?  I don’t think Auburn’s gone on a 17-0 run in years.  How did they possibly manage it this year with such and offensively challenged team?  I’m sure Mississippi State’s utterly despicable play had a little something to do with it.  Really Bulldogs, this is just getting embarrassing.

11. Auburn (9-15, 2-8) With all of the players, that Auburn lost from last year’s team including 73 percent of the Tigers’ scoring and 62 percent of their rebounding  and then losing three freshman commits in Luke Cothron, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Josh Langford who were all expected to contribute right away, Auburn has more excuses than any other team in the league.  Add to that the fact that leading returning scorer Frankie Sullivan has only played in six games and you have a team that just can’t get a break.  So simply not being in last place for just one week is quite an accomplishment.

12. LSU (10-15, 2-8) Somehow, LSU has been able to wrest the bottom spot from Auburn and that is quite a feat.  LSU has now lost eight straight games, including an 80-61 loss this week at Arkansas.  LSU is one unusual team that seems to do really well or really bad.  Let’s look at how LSU has finished in each of the past five seasons.

  • 2006 – 27-.9 Won SEC, Final Four
  • 2007 – 17-15 Last in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2008 – 13-18 Fourth in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2009 – 27-8 Won SEC. Lost to UNC in second round of NCAA Tournament.
  • 2010 – 11-20 Last in SEC. No tournament.

The Week Ahead

  • Feb. 16 Vanderbilt @ Georgia I’m not convinced that Georgia is firmly entrenched in the NCAA Tournament just yet.  A win over the Commodores could go a long way towards cementing that spot.
  • Feb. 19 Georgia @ Tennessee Same story as above, except substitute Tennessee for Georgia.
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Twitter Silence At Mississippi State

Posted by jstevrtc on February 3rd, 2011

Head coach Rick Stansbury has, as of this afternoon, imposed a Twitter ban on his players. The move comes hours after senior Ravern Johnson voiced…er, tweeted his displeasure about how little his talents are showcased, a sentiment retweeted by teammate Renardo Sidney.

Guards Also Need to Hit Shots

In its entirety, the missive from Johnson read thusly: “Starting to see why people transfer you can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because u watching someone else wit the ball the whole game shooters need to move not watch why other coaches get that do not make sense to me.”

The Bulldogs lost 75-61 at Alabama last night. Johnson played 40 minutes, scored ten points on 2-7 shooting, pulled three rebounds and added no assists.

Just as bad, from our view, is the retweet by Sidney. After a suspension for an outburst during practice, and then another short one that followed the program-embarassing fight Sidney got into with Elgin Bailey at the Diamond Head Classic around Christmastime (Bailey left the program in January) — an atrocity that was seen on national television, and only happened because Bailey wouldn’t move his feet – you’d think Sidney would eschew any anti-coach rhetoric. After the pains that MSU went through in terms of getting him enrolled and eligible, and then the suspensions and that horrible display in Hawaii, Sidney is lucky to be on the team or even enrolled as a college student.

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Mike Holmes Dismissed a Second Time in a Year

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2011

Walker Carey is an RTC contributor.

Lately in college basketball, there has been a troubling trend of certain players who just do not understand what it means to be a part of a major collegiate basketball program. These individuals have failed to represent their schools in a positive manner. Some have paid the price by being dismissed from their respective programs, while others have been allowed to continue to play. On Wednesday evening, news broke that Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis dismissed star forward Mike Holmes from the program following an altercation with Chanticleers’ leading scorer Desmond Holloway. Coastal Carolina is the second program that Holmes has been dismissed from in a little over a year. Last season, when Holmes was at South Carolina, coach Darrin Horn dismissed him from the program after he suffered an eye injury due to what he referred to as “horsing around” at his home. Following his injury, Holmes behaved strangely by attending South Carolina women’s games, but not attending his own team’s games.

Mike Holmes Was Dismissed For the Second Time in a Year

While both Darrin Horn and Cliff Ellis realized that Mike Holmes could no longer be a part of their programs, there has been an instance this season where a coach has not gotten the same message. The well publicized brawl between Mississippi State forwards Elgin Bailey and Renardo Sidney ended with both players suspended indefinitely. Shortly after the brawl, Sidney was reinstated, while Bailey was permanently invited to leave the program. The situation at Mississippi State could be more understandable if this was not the first problem Sidney had while a member of the Bulldogs. Shortly before the brawl, he was briefly suspended for a violation of team rules. This situation leaves one failing to fully understand how a player who continually embarrasses himself and his school is allowed to remain on the team.

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Morning Five: 01.19.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2011

  1. Former Mississippi State forward Elgin Bailey of the refusal to move his legs for His Heiness Renardo Sidney’s passing fame, will re-surface at Southeastern Louisiana next season for his final year of eligibility.  The 6’8, 265-lb forward was kicked off the team for getting into a fight with Sidney even though he was the team captain at the time and Sidney had already been suspended once for bad behavior.  Bailey is a nice pickup for the Lions — teams in the Southland typically don’t have that kind of skilled size in the post (5/4 in 19 MPG).  We think he’ll do well there.
  2. Over at Memphis, Wesley Witherspoon, he of the let’s mock the assistant coach on the team bus fame, will remain suspended through Wednesday’s game versus Southern Mississippi, but he will be back at practice on Thursday and available to play in this weekend’s game at UAB on Saturday.  Perhaps Witherspoon has learned a lesson about comedic timing (e.g., probably not great when your season is headed back to the NIT), but Josh Pastner’s hope for the preseason all-CUSA forward is that he’ll start producing — the four games prior to his suspension resulted in a 7/4 average, well below his season numbers of 12/5.
  3. On a similar note, Washington State’s Reggie Moore hasn’t been officially reinstated by head coach Ken Bone just yet, but all indications are that the player who was charged with marijuana possession in December will be back in action soon.  Bone allowed him back at practice yesterday and he said to reporters that “there’s a chance” he could be back in the lineup for Thursday night’s game against Arizona State.
  4. It’s not always the best situation when the coach’s kid is starting as a freshman, but Creighton’s Doug McDermott is one such exception.  The son of head coach Greg has taken over the MVC by storm with a 13/7 average this year, good for first in both scoring and rebounding on the team and fourth in the conference.  The wild part is that if Dana Altman hadn’t taken off for Nike Nation up in Eugene last spring, then McDermott would be playing for league rival and tearing it up for Northern Iowa instead of Creighton.  Big, big things are already being predicted for the  young forward’s career, as White & Blue Review outlines here.
  5. In an attempt to become the Maui Invitational for the eastern time zone, the Bahamas have passed NCAA eligibility requirements for its new tournament (called the Battle 4 Atlantis… and yes, we hate the name already) that will begin next Thanksgiving.  While in theory this sounds like a great idea, we’re a little concerned about using a converted ballroom as the “gym” (similar to what the Cancun Challenge and some of the Vegas tourneys have done in the past).  There isn’t a high school gym somewhere on those islands that could do the trick?
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The Week That Was: Dec. 28-Jan. 3

Posted by jstevrtc on January 4th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Introduction

Happy New Year everyone! TWTW hopes that you all had a great and safe NYE and then had a better time recovering on your couch over the following couple of days with some college hoops on the flat screen. And TWTW won’t judge if your condition forced you to watch said games on mute — that’s just a casualty of the season.

What We Learned

Harrellson Is Most Valuable As a Glass Cleaner, But Has a Solid Stroke As Well

It looks like Kentucky is headed toward another 14-2 type run through the SEC this season, and a perfect 16-0 record in conference play isn’t out of the question. That statement isn’t as much based off of how the Wildcats are playing (though TWTW was very impressed with how UK dismantled Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center on New Year’s Eve) but it’s a reflection of just how putrid the rest of the conference seems at this point. The Wildcats are the only SEC team ranked in the AP Top 25. Tennessee’s reputation has dropped faster than Goldman Sachs’, going from a chic dark horse Final Four pick to a team on the bubble. Losses to Oakland, Charlotte and College of Charleston coupled with unimpressive wins over Belmont and Tennessee-Martin will do that to you. Now the Vols face Memphis in their last game before Bruce Pearl’s eight-game suspension. Cross Tennessee off your list of possible teams that could challenge Kentucky. That leaves us with Florida and Vanderbilt as Kentucky’s top competition. TWTW is not a fan of Florida, who recently lost to Jacksonville, so if we were to circle a possible first conference loss for Kentucky we’d have to choose Feb. 12 at Vanderbilt. That game is the last of a three-game stretch in which the Wildcats travel to Florida and host Tennessee. Vandy took Missouri down to the wire in an overtime loss on Dec. 4 and the Commodores beat North Carolina during the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Don’t be shocked if Vanderbilt hands Kentucky its first conference loss that night.

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Message Not Received: Sidney To Stay, Bailey To Leave

Posted by jstevrtc on January 3rd, 2011

Earlier today we saw the fallout from the Renardo Sidney vs Elgin Bailey fracas from December 24th. The indefinite suspensions on both players have been lifted; Sidney is reinstated with no further penalty. Bailey has asked for and been granted a release from Mississippi State and plans to transfer.

The linked AP report from ESPN.com offers a preliminary account of the events that led up to the brawl in the stands. Evidently Sidney was trying to walk down the aisle past Bailey, who refused to move his feet to let Sidney by. This is what caused the madness seen on television and by the fans in attendance at the game. The report also mentions that head coach Rick Stansbury confirmed that Sidney would have been dismissed from the team if it had been found that Sidney had started the fight. He notes that the sending home of Sidney and Bailey after the scrap, “sent a strong message…that this type of behavior is unacceptable.”

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference

A Look Back

Now that non-conference play is all but over, I thought we should take a look at the biggest surprises and disappointments thus far, as well as a couple other notes from around the conference.

Biggest Surprise – Vanderbilt

Having lost AJ Ogilvy and leading scorer Jermaine Beal, Vanderbilt looked to be a team that would have a tough time in the stacked SEC East, but the holdovers from last year have stepped up and made this Vanderbilt team even better than last year’s.  No one has improved more than junior Festus Ezeli, who has gone from 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last year to 13.1 and 7.1 respectively.  Vanderbilt finished the pre-conference season 11-2 with quality wins over Nebraska, North Carolina and Marquette and losing only to West Virginia and Missouri.  Even more impressively, the Commodores outscored opponents by 16 points per game.  Look for the ‘Dores to finish second in the SEC.

Biggest Disappointment – Tie, Tennessee/Mississippi State

Both of these teams leave me shaking my head.  Tennessee started the season 7-0 against teams that are a combined 65-27 including Big East powers Villanova and Pittsburgh.  Since that time, Tennessee has gone 2-4 against teams that are a combined 48-37, and Bruce Pearl hasn’t even started his suspension yet.  They have all the same players they started with and the schedule has gotten easier.  I just do not get it.

As far as Mississippi State, this is a team that started the season as a possible SEC championship contender once Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost became eligible.  Then Sidney was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team after playing only one game and suspended again after his second game in a Bulldogs uniform for a fight with Bulldogs senior Elgin Bailey.  In Sidney’s defense, the other players say it was mostly Bailey’s fault.  But mostly doesn’t help Mississippi State, who desperately needs Sidney on the court if they are to salvage this season and have any chance at making the NCAA tournament.

Other Notes

  • It appears that the NCAA delights in antagonizing Wildcat fans by dragging their feet through the procuess surrounding the appeal of Enes Kanter’s ineligibility ruling. The NCAA was able to declare Cam Newton eligible in a day, but has been considering the Enes Kanter case for the better part of seven months now. The NCAA declared Kanter permanently ineligible for receiving benefits over and above actual expenses while playing for a Turkish professional team as a teenager but has allowed Kentucky to resubmit their case in light of the Cam Newton case as a precedent. There were some that thought a decision would come quickly, but after two weeks of standing around and patting themselves on the back for its near endless display of inconsistency, the NCAA announced this week that no decision would come before the New Year. In the meantime, Enes Kanter’s father, stated that if declared ineligible for this season but allowed to play next year, a la Renardo Sidney, Enes Kanter would indeed return to school next year and play, rather than declare for the NBA, again making the case that Kanter’s desire all along has been to play “amateur” college basketball in the United States under coach John Calipari.
  • You will perhaps recall that I previously lamented the lack of quality matchups in the SEC/Big East Invitational which this year involved Arkansas, Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, Auburn and Pittsburgh.  It was announced around the holidays that beginning in 2011, six SEC teams and six Big East teams will participate in an annual event whose title will alternate between the BIG EAST/SEC Challenge and SEC/BIG EAST Challenge.  I for one can’t wait to see the matchups.  Cross your fingers for Kentucky/Syracuse, Tennessee/Georgetown, Vanderbilt/Louisville, Mississippi State/Pittsburgh.

Power Rankings

  1. Kentucky (11-2) Kentucky is winning games by a league-leading 17.5 points per game, including 23.3 over the last six which includes wins over Notre Dame and in-state rival Louisville.  Speaking of Kentucky’s win over Louisville, senior center Josh Harrellson scored a career high 23 points and 14 rebounds in 37 minutes of play.  Contrast that with last year, when he played a total of 88 minutes and scored 28 points and pulled down 27 rebounds in 22 games. Kudos are also in order for Doron Lamb, who led the Cats with 32 points making seven of eight threes and setting the freshman scoring record for Kentucky against Winthrop. That record was previously held by Jamal Mashburn, who on February 3, 1991 set the previous record at 31 against Georgia.
  2. Vanderbilt (10-2) Vanderbilt scored a good win over Marquette and then an easy 80-52 win over Davidson without leading scorer John Jenkins (concussion) and starting forward Andre Walker (twisted ankle).  Vanderbilt has played a tough early schedule with multiple injuries and come out of it very well.  I expect a great SEC season for the Commodores.
  3. Florida (10-3) In hindsight, Florida’s loss to Central Florida doesn’t look so bad as Central Florida is now 13-0 with wins against Florida, Miami and likely Southern Conference challenger Furman.  Florida is playing well, having gotten a tough road win over Xavier this week, but they still need better shooting out of Kenny Boynton and a better assist to turnover ratio out of Erving Walker.
  4. Georgia (11-2) Georgia is 11-2, but they’re not winning by much, only 6.7 points per game.  That said, they are on an eight-game winning streak, the longest in the conference, albeit against decidedly weak competition.  What can be said about the Bulldogs however is that they’re beating the teams that they should and not losing to the teams that they shouldn’t. Dustin Ware (7 points in his last three games) and Gerald Robinson (18 in the same span) are sputtering badly.
  5. Arkansas (10-2) While the Razorbacks don’t yet have a big win, they do have a 14.3 point per game scoring margin in their favor, meaning that when they win, they win decisively and they currently have the best record in the SEC West.
  6. Mississippi (11-3) Like Georgia, Mississippi hasn’t really lost to anyone bad, but they haven’t really beaten anyone good, either.  Mississippi is going to need at least 10 SEC wins to get to the NCAA Tournament and maybe 11.
  7. Alabama (7-6) Alabama had five players in double figures in an easy 83-60 win over Pepperdine in the Tide’s only game this week.  While not as disappointing as Tennessee’s and Mississippi State’s preseason, the Tide has certainly underperformed with losses to St. Peter’s and Iowa.  This was supposed to be a better team than last year, but they played an easier preseason schedule and came out with a worse record than last year when the Tide was 11-4 going into conference play. Senior Charvez Davis, who came off the bench to score 22 points on 5-6 from deep against Lipscomb, had a night to remember while his team has had a lot of them to forget.
  8. Tennessee (9-4) I usually like to say you can throw out the first seven games of the season because teams aren’t yet in a rhythm and they’re still getting used to new personnel or coaches.  It looks like Tennessee literally “threw out the first seven games.”  After getting great wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh, the Volunteers have been terrible, losing to Oakland, Charlotte and Southern California and then barely beating Belmont and Tennessee-Martin before losing to College of Charleston.
  9. South Carolina (8-4) The Gamecocks are in free fall mode after starting 7-1. A loss to Ohio State may be understandable, but not losing to Furman for the first time in 30 years. Poor shooting (37 percent) and 19 turnovers led to a weak seven-point victory over 2-12 Jacksonville State.  Follow that with a home loss to Boston College and the Cocks are losers of three of four.  Now comes the hard part, conference play.
  10. LSU (8-7) The Tigers have lost five of seven and not necessarily to stellar competition either (no disrespect to North Texas, who thumped LSU by 20).  Let’s run down the list here: College of Charleston, Wichita State, North Texas, Rice and Virginia.  Trent Johnson has no seniors, four freshmen, and five sophomores, so we can hope that with experience and a good recruiting class, the Tigers will be better next year.
  11. Mississippi State (8-6) To recap a little of what I said earlier, this team has been a serious disappointment.  The Bulldogs have lost two straight including four of five.  That’s their third two game losing streak in their first 14 games.  Not exactly what we expected when this season started.
  12. Auburn (6-7) Auburn is on a three-game win streak, its longest so far this season, but even with that short streak and Mississippi State’s woes, I still say the Bulldogs beat Auburn handily, so here Auburn sits, at the bottom of the heap.

A Look Ahead

  • Arkansas @ Texas, Jan. 4. This is the Razorbacks’ chance to get a quality win over a non-conference foe on the road.  Do that and an NCAA berth is very likely in a weak Western division.
  • Tennessee @ Arkansas Jan. 8. I want to see how the Volunteers do without Coach Pearl at the helm.  In the preseason, it appeared that wins against Eastern division teams would be hard to come by; as Tennessee has been disappointing of late, this a prime opportunity for Arkansas to score one.
  • Mississippi @ Florida Jan. 8. Well, Mississippi kind of walked through the non-con portion, but may be the best team in the West.  Florida was tabbed as the preseason favorite in the East.  This will be a good game to gauge where these two teams really are.
  • Georgia @ Kentucky, Jan. 8. Last year, an overachieving Bulldog team led by first year head coach Mark Fox ran with the Cats for a half.  I’m interested to see what this improved Georgia team can do against a new litter of Cats led by freshmen Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.
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The Week That Was: December 18-27

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

It’s that time of year again: Conference season. UConn and Pittsburgh opened up the Big East slate Monday night with the first of what will be many highly-anticipated conference matchups over the next couple of months. It won’t be much longer until we get Pitt-Georgetown, Duke-Maryland, Washington-Washington State, Ohio State-Purdue and plenty over other mouth-watering games. It’s definitely a more appealing prospect than watching Kentucky pummel Winthrop or Texas beat down North Florida.

What We Learned

Taylor & Pitt Easily Ripped UConn

  • It might have been wise for Jim Calhoun to schedule some true road games for his young UConn squad before its Big East opener at Pittsburgh. The Huskies certainly played as though they weren’t prepared for what was waiting for them in the amped up Peterson Events Center. But honestly, there was little reason to think that this game was going to be anything other than a wakeup call for UConn. The Huskies boast seven freshmen, and only three players in its rotation that had ever played at that venue. No surprises here that the Panthers jumped out to an early double-digit lead and cruised to a 78-63 win. At least the Huskies can take solace in the fact that they don’t have to face Pittsburgh again until possibly the Big East Tournament. The Panthers’ length along the perimeter makes them a tough matchup for Kemba Walker, who needed 27 shots and 11 free throws to score 31 points against the likes of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker.
  • After a less-than-stellar start to its season, in which Butler got smoked by Louisville and lost in overtime to Evansville en route to a 4-4 record through its first eight games, it now looks like Brad Stevens’ squad has righted the ship. The Bulldogs have won five in a row and just beat Washington State on Christmas Day to win the Diamond Head Classic. Key to the Bulldogs recent surge has been their improved play on the defensive end. Butler has not allowed more than 68 points since Mississippi Valley St. put up 71 on Dec. 11, and in their last four wins, the Bulldogs have allowed their opponents to shoot the following percentages: Stanford, 31.4%; Utah, 39.6%; Florida State, 38%; and Washington State, 40.7%. The Bulldogs’ defensive numbers still aren’t great, they rank 48th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings and they’re #272 in turnover %, but they’re on their way back to being a squad that can win games on the defensive end. As the schedule shifts to Horizon League play, the Bulldogs again are a safe bet to claim another conference championship.
  • When we last checked in with Tennessee, the Vols just had erased most of the momentum gained from a win over Pittsburgh with a home loss to Oakland (nothing to be embarrassed about, but not what we like to see from one of our top-10 teams). As it turns out, that loss to the Golden Grizzlies was a harbinger for what turned out to be a very unhappy holiday season for Bruce Pearl. The Vols lost their next two games, both to unranked opponents. Tennessee lost 49-48 to a Charlotte squad without leading scored Shamari Spears, who was kicked off the team a few days earlier. Then the Vols lost again by one point, this time to USC. To make matters worse, their win to halt the three-game skid did little to make people believe the Vols aren’t in the middle of a tailspin. Tennessee blew a 13-point lead to Belmont and needed a layup from Scotty Hopson with 5.7 left to escape with a 66-65 win. Despite his last-second bucket, Hopson’s recent play has been a major reason for the Vols’ struggles. Hopson scored a combined 28 points his losses to Oakland, Charlotte and USC on 8-31 shooting. He rebounded to score 19 points against Belmont, but he’s still suffering from a shooting slump. Hopson is 2-14 from three in his last four games.
  • TWTW isn’t a huge fan of making sweeping proclamations before conference play begins, nor do we like to divulge its national championship favorite until the most opportune moment. (Personally, TWTW prefers to wait until about 10 seconds left in the title game to announce who we think will win it all). But if TWTW was forced to name a team it would be Ohio State. UConn, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas are all fine choices, but there’s something about the Buckeyes that separates them from the pack. Everything starts with Jared Sullinger, who is first on the team in points (17.5) and rebounds (10.1) and is the clubhouse leader for national freshman of the year. Sullinger has owned the paint from Day 1 and has shown a knack for dominating games like few other big men this year (see his 40/13 against IUPUI and his 30/19 against South Carolina). What’s remarkable about Sullinger, though, has been his ability to avoid foul trouble. Sullinger hasn’t fouled out of one game this season and only has one game (his first) in which he had four infractions. But OSU isn’t just limited to Sullinger. The Buckeyes boast five players who average at least 10 points a game. They can beat you just as easily outside as they can inside with shooters like David Lighty and Jon Diebler, who shoot 45.5% and 47.4% from three, respectively. And freshman Deshaun Thomas is the kind of athletic wing that can score in bunches off the bench. Could Ohio State be better without Evan Turner? TWTW thinks so.
  • People wondered how Kansas would be able to integrate freshman phenom Josh Selby into its rotation once he returned from his NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension, the question being whether Selby’s presence would disrupt the Jayhawks’ chemistry from their 9-0 start. After two games, two wins and two electric performances by Selby, it’s obvious there was never a need to worry whether his addition would be anything but welcome. In his debut against USC, Selby scored 21 points and drilled a go-ahead three with 26 seconds ago to lead the Jayhawks to 70-68 win. There was no need for any late heroics in his second game, but Selby still made his presence felt, to the tune of 18 points and a 3-4 shooting night from beyond the arc. Selby’s already established himself as one of Kansas’ go-to scorers, and the fact that Bill Self had Selby not only on the court in the waning seconds against USC but shows how important Selby will be to any title run for KU.

Media Blackout

The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.

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Morning Five: 12.27.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 27th, 2010

  1. The big news of the weekend was Ricardo Ledo committing to play for Providence, which might help Keno Davis save his  job. Ledo, widely considered one of the top 10 players in next year’s class, is so highly regarded that some pundits speculated that the ability to recruit Ledo (a native of Puerto Rico who might play for the team) was the primary reason why Rick Pitino agreed to coach the Puerto Rican national basketball team. Now that Ledo has committed to Providence we have to wonder if Pitino will find other commitments that might decrease his ability to coach another team.
  2. Speaking of recruits, Kadeem Jack, who left his prep school early to enroll at Rutgers, practiced with the Scarlet Knights for the first time yesterday, but according to coach Mike Rice they will not be using any of Jack’s eligibility this season. Instead, Rice expects Jack to join the team officially in the fall of 2012 along with the rest of a heralded recruiting class. We are interested to see whether Rutgers and St. John’s, another program in the area with a hyped recruiting class, can translate these hauls into wins in the next few years.
  3. While most of the college basketball world relaxed and spent time with their friends and family there was also quality basketball being played in Hawaii, the big winner was Butler, who ran off three straight wins knocking off Utah, FSU, and Washington State in succession to win the Diamond Head Classic. After a rough start to the early season, the Bulldogs appear to be rounding into shape and should be a team to be reckoned with despite what Joe Lunardi might have thought (Insider access: Basically an absurd column questioning if Butler and Gonzaga would make the NCAA Tournament).
  4. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only noteworthy thing to happen at the Diamond Head Classic. We have already mentioned it and the Twitterverse has been buzzing about it over the holiday weekend, but in case you missed it Renardo Sidney got into a fight with his teammate Elgin Bailey and the two were suspended indefinitely. Although there was an unsubstantiated rumor about Bailey being kicked off the team (since he reportedly started the fight) we have to think if talent weren’t such a mitigating factor in determining punishment that it would be the troubled Sidney who would be getting the boot first.
  5. In our opinion it is still early to be thinking about NBA Draft prospects, but Jonathan Giovany has an excellent look at six players who were established stars or at least solid players who have done a lot to help their draft status (assuming there is a NBA Draft this summer). Some of the choices are obvious (like Kemba Walker), but others (like Jon Leuer) are a little more interesting. Either way, we have to say that we agree with all of his selections although we hope that all the players stay in college with the exception of the seniors, whom we wish we could keep anyways.
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