Is Vanderbilt’s Rod Odom Shooting His Way on to the NBA Radar?

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 11th, 2014

Rod Odom has been more than a pleasant surprise for Vanderbilt this season. The senior picked up this week’s SEC Player of the Week award, and should be in the discussion to land on an all-SEC team. His numbers are up across the board and this isn’t just a product of the over 35 minutes per game he’s been forced to play for Kevin Stallings. He’s shooting considerably better than last year despite more attempts per game, and has essentially come from under the radar to become one of the best scorers in the league. He’s also the rare breed of player that makes the hearts of NBA scouts beat just a little faster, a big man who can shoot. This got me thinking, does Odom have a chance to shoot himself from relative obscurity onto the draft radar? The NBA loves shooters with size, and the senior has shown that he can really stroke it.

Rod Odom (44.1 3P%) has shot himself into All-SEC discussion. Could there be bigger things ahead for the senior? (insider.espn.com)

Rod Odom (44.1 3P%) has shot himself into All-SEC discussion. Could there be bigger things ahead for the senior? (insider.espn.com)

  • 65.6% true shooting (up from 51.3% in 2012-13)
  • 44.1% 3FG (up from 35.3% in 2012-13 and despite taking nearly seven threes per game)
  • 74.2% FT (up from 64.2% in 2012-13)

Any player with size shooting over 40 percent from deep will get at least a glimpse from scouts. Non-traditional lineups filled with versatile players have been on the rise in the NBA for a few years, as teams try to create space for LeBron James, Derrick Rose, James Harden and others by surrounding them with shooters. Shooting from a forward is a bonus, and a big reason why Florida’s Erik Murphy heard his named called in the second round of last summer’s NBA Draft. Odom’s game this season is similar to Murphy’s production in his last two seasons in Gainesville. But despite how well the Vanderbilt senior has played this season, it doesn’t appear that he’s on the same path to the NBA.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 1st, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

  • Louisville senior associate athletic director for media relations Kenny Klein tweeted a photo of Cardinals guard Kevin Ware moving around on crutches Monday morning, less than 24 hours after suffering a gruesome broken leg in the first half of Sunday’s victory over Duke.
  • An outstanding column from Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports discussing how the courage and strength shown by Louisville guard Kevin Ware after his horrific leg injury served to inspire the Cardinals to get past Duke and reach the Final Four.
  • Has Louisville forward Gorgui Dieng improved his NBA Draft stock during the team’s NCAA Tournament run?
  • Louisville guard Russ Smith was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. The dynamic junior has dominated the tournament thus far, as he is averaging 26 points per contest.
  • Duke freshman swingman Rasheed Sulaimon was quite emotional after his subpar performance in Sunday’s loss to Louisville and in the process, he left no doubt that he truly cares about success and his teammates.
  • Andrew Jones of FoxSportsCarolinas.com writes that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got just about everything he could out of this year’s Blue Devils.

West Region

  • Wichita State is confident that it belongs in the Final Four. The ninth-seeded Shockers are in the Final Four for the first time since 1965.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall reminded his team to “play angry” at halftime of the Shockers’ Elite Eight victory over Ohio State and after notching the Elite Eight victory, they are playing angry into the Final Four.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall took Sunday to re-charge after Saturday’s thrilling Elite Eight victory over Ohio State, but he is back at work Monday preparing for Saturday’s Final Four match-up with top-seeded Louisville.
  • Here is an interesting story about a man from Long Beach, California, who put a $10 bet on Wichita State to win the national title. The Shockers had 750-1 odds to cut down the nets at the beginning of the NCAA Tournament, so he would win $7,500 off that bet if they do end up winning the title.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

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We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 78, #11 Minnesota 64

Posted by WCarey on March 24th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #11 Minnesota in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

  1. Florida’s offense was very impressive. The Gators shot the ball very well all game. They finished at a 56.8% mark from the field along with a very impressive 50% mark from deep. Florida was able to build a very comfortable lead because of its torrid shooting, 65.2% from the field, in the first half. While Minnesota fought back in the second half to trim the Gators’ lead, Florida’s offense still played quite well in the second frame. Billy Donovan’s squad has had balanced scoring all season with four players (Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario, and Patric Young) averaging more than 10 points per contest. The Gators only had three guys in double figures in Sunday’s victory, but it was evident that the team focuses on sharing the ball among all five players instead of looking to one as its go-to guy. Rosario showed that he has the ability to go off from behind the three-point line, as he finished with a career-best 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep.
  2. When Florida plays like it did in the first half, a national title is its ceiling. A statistic that shows just how dominant the Gators were in the first half: Rosario and Murphy combined for 32 first half points, while Minnesota, as a team, only managed to score 27 first half points. The Gators shot a scorching 65.2% from the field and connected on 7-of-14 three-point attempts during the opening frame. Florida also defended quite well during the first 20 minutes, as it held Minnesota to just 39.1% shooting, forced the Golden Gophers into many bad shots, and forced nine turnovers. The Gators have had a reputation for inconsistent play this season – especially late in the season – but if they can put forth similar performances to what they showed during the first half against Minnesota, they could cut realistically cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8.
  3. Minnesota deserves a great deal of credit for fighting hard. When Minnesota fell behind by 21 at half, it could have definitely laid down and ended up losing by 30+. The Golden Gophers did not do that though, as instead they battled until the final buzzer. While the closest they got to Florida was seven points, they definitely had the Gators worried for awhile in the second half. Guard Andre Hollins was red hot from behind the arc in during that time, which resulted in Florida having to make adjustments to its perimeter defense. By opening the second half on a 17-5 run, Minnesota forced Florida back into attack mode as that was needed to ensure the victory. A lot has been discussed nationally about Tubby Smith‘s job status as the leader of the program. While some of the whispers are probably fair, the team’s effort definitely suggests that Smith did not lose his team this season.

Star of the Game. Mike Rosario, Florida. The senior was feeling it all night for the Gators. He finished with a career-best 25 points – on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 shooting from deep. Whenever Florida needed a big shot, it looked to Rosario and he answered the bell. After having a subpar performance in the team’s Round of 64 victory over Northwestern State, Rosario was the best player on the floor in the Round of 32 and his performance has the Gators prepping for another Sweet 16 appearance.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 79, #14 Northwestern State 47

Posted by WCarey on March 22nd, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #14 Northwestern State in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Gators Pulled Away from the Demons Late

The Gators Pulled Away from the Demons Late

  1. Florida’s size and the athleticism of its bigs were just too much for Northwestern State. Everyone knew Florida was going to have a size and athleticism advantage over Northwestern State, but those advantages actually turned out to be much greater than expected. In a first half that was actually hotly-contested – Florida led by just eight at the break – the Gators took advantage of their athletic bigs Erik Murphy and Patric Young. Murphy tallied 11 points and Young tallied nine points in the opening frame. When Florida pulled away in the second half, its big continued to play a key role. Murphy finished the night with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Young finished with 16 points and eight boards. Reserves Will Yeguete and Casey Prather also provided Florida with solid minutes in the post. It is not that the Northwestern State bigs were not playing hard – they absolutely were – it was just they were so heavily overmatched on both ends of the court by the size and athletic ability of the Florida frontcourt.
  2. Florida’s guards played smart and avoided taking bad shots and committing bad turnovers. Florida’s guards have rightfully earned a reputation for being inconsistent and shaky with the basketball. That was not the case against Northwestern State, as Scottie Wilbekin, Kenny Boynton, and Mike Rosario all turned in pretty solid performances for the Gators. Wilbekin, who finished with 11 points and four assists, looked very solid running the offense and he also did a commendable job of scoring when needed. Boynton, who has been an enigma throughout his time in Gainesville, showed that he can absolutely turn in an efficient game by finishing with 11 points and refraining from taking any questionable shots. Rosario scored below his season average – he averages 12.3 points per game and he only finished with eight – but he avoided making mistakes. Florida is going to face better teams than Northwestern State as it continues its run through the tournament, but if its guards remain steady, there is an opportunity for the Gators to make it to Atlanta.
  3. With Georgetown falling tonight, Florida’s road to the Elite Eight got much easier. The South region became much more interesting when two-seed Georgetown suffered the upset of the tournament thus far by losing to 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast. Before the tournament began, a vast majority of national pundits were predicting a Florida/Georgetown matchup in next week’s South Regional at Cowboys Stadium. Now because that matchup cannot occur anymore, Florida will be the healthy favorite to come out of the bottom part of the South bracket. With the win over Northwestern State, the Gators advance to a Sunday showdown with either six-seed UCLA or 11-seed Minnesota. The winner of Sunday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Florida Gulf Coast and either seven-seed San Diego State or 10-seed Oklahoma. With a six-seed being the highest possible seed the Gators will have to face before the Elite Eight, it is only logical to conclude that their road to the Elite Eight has become much easier than originally expected.

Star of the Game. Erik Murphy, Florida. The senior forward helped set the tone for the Gators all night. Four Gators finished in double figures and Murphy led the way with 18 points. Murphy’s ability to finish around the hoop and step out and hit a jumper frustrated the Demons’ bigs all evening. Murphy was also part of an impressive defensive effort turned in by the Gators that held Northwestern State to just 15 points in the second half.

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Rushed Reactions: Florida 61, Alabama 51

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the SEC Tournament semifinal game between Florida and Alabama in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways:

fla alabama sec tourney 13

The Gators Survived Alabama’s Upset Bid on Saturday

  1. Florida Run.  The Gators trailed by 10 early in the second half before going on a 13-0 run to completely change the momentum of the game. Florida looked lethargic at that point, and it appeared they may be heading home a day earlier than most expected. However, led by senior point guard Kenny Boynton, the Gators made their run in less than three minutes, and Alabama never got closer than three the rest of the way. Florida outscored the Crimson Tide 34-14 after trailing by 10. “Boynton stepped up to the plate.  He gave them that spark and they kept building on that,” Alabama guard Trevor Releford said after the game. The run the Gators made was similar to the one they made two weeks ago in Gainesville, where they also trailed by 10 to the Tide in the second half. And that was certainly on Alabama players’ minds. Guard Trevor Lacey admitted that he discussed it with his teammates. “We knew we needed to keep attacking them,” he said.  The Gators clearly were not deterred when they fell behind, and showed again why they won the league’s regular season title.
  2. Good Kenny Boynton.  There is no shortage of enigmatic point guards in the SEC, and Boynton may be the leader of that club. The senior often takes shots out of the offensive flow, and has hit only 32.5% of his three-point attempts on the year. As the Gators practiced this week, coach Billy Donovan advised Boynton and fellow senior Mike Rosario to let the game come to them and to take shots only within the flow of the offense. While Donovan has expressed concern with the way Rosario has responded to that admonition, Boynton appears to have taken his coach’s advice. Even though he struggled shooting the ball in Friday’s blowout win over LSU, Donovan was pleased that Boynton dished out seven assists, and didn’t force anything on the offensive end. In this game, Boynton’s play sparked the Gators’ run, as Boynton scored seven of their 15 points. On the day, he led Florida with 16 points, and Donovan has made it clear that he has no problem with Boynton continuing to shoot the ball when he gets good looks, and if he continues to do that, the Gators chances to make a deep March run in a wide-open field are pretty good.
  3. Did Alabama’s Bubble Burst?  With Kentucky falling outside the RPI top 50 after last night’s loss to Vanderbilt, Alabama owns no wins over top-50 teams.  When compared to other bubble teams, that may do in the Crimson Tide. In most years, their resume wouldn’t even merit contention for a spot. But this year, given that the committee is considering so many unimpressive resumes, there’s always a chance. Alabama coach Anthony Grant was quick to point out when asked about the Tide’s chances after the game that whether his team has done enough to make the Big Dance is not his concern. “I don’t deal in that.  [The committee has] a tough enough job,” he said. Instead, he’ll sit back and wait to see what happens, but it’s much more likely that his team will be hosting a first-round NIT game than playing in the Big Dance.

Star of the Game.  Kenny Boynton.   Gators center Patric Young was too much for Alabama to handle, but Boynton keyed their turnaround, and sent Donovan’s team to the championship game for only the second time in six years.

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Florida Clearly Ready for this SEC Tournament

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Friday afternoon’s game between Florida and LSU at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

In the past, the Florida Gators have been accused of not emphasizing the importance of the SEC Tournament.  The Gators have largely sleep-walked through it since a run of three straight championships from 2005 to 2007 – the last two of those teams, of course, went on two win the national championship as well.  Since that time, they have advanced past the quarterfinals only twice, even when they’ve been a superior team versus their early-round opponents.  If Friday’s dismantling of LSU is any indication, this year will be different.  Coach Billy Donovan’s team, which appeared to be a contender for a #1- or #2-seed just a few weeks ago, limped down the stretch in losing four of its last five on the road, including a meltdown in the final eight minutes in the regular season finale at Kentucky.  It is clear Donovan wants this team to right the ship heading into the NCAA Tournament, and the team’s focus in the win over LSU was evident.  The Gators were on from the perimeter – usually a sign that things are going well for them – hitting 11-of-20 from three-point range.  Senior forward Erik Murphy was particularly hot, making 5-of-7 from three point range on his way to a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds.

The Gators Had Their Explosive Game Going Friday Afternoon (AP)

The Gators Had Their Explosive Game Going Friday Afternoon (AP)

Part of the reason Florida struggled down the stretch of the regular season was the absence of junior forward Will Yeguete, who missed six games because of a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.  He returned in a limited role in the Gators’ third-to-last game against Alabama, but continues to work himself into game shape.  Friday’s 21 minutes were the most he has played since January, and the energy he brings to his team is evident.  At 6’7″, he is the Gators’ most efficient rebounder and best defender. Yeguete is able to guard in the post and the perimeter, and there is no question that he is a key to Florida’s success from here.

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What Does Florida Need to Do to Become Great?

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 12th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

Less than a month ago, Florida seemed destined for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now, with three straight road losses and having lost four of its last five away contests, Florida is heading into the SEC Tournament needing to win it all just to be in the running for a two seed. More importantly, Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators seem to have lost all the momentum it had heading into the final stages of the season.

Donovan

What Can Donovan Do to Make His Very Good Team Great?

Florida’s ability to win in close game situations has to be of concern. The Gators’ most recent loss came at the hands of Kentucky in a 61-57 thriller in Rupp Arena. “We’re going to get into a close situation again,” Donovan said. “There’s no doubt about it. How will we respond? I don’t know.” So far this season, Donovan’s Gators haven’t responded well. In games decided by single digits, Florida is 0-5. Even more relevant than the score has been the way in which his team lost. Against the Wildcats, the Gators held a 57-50 lead with over seven and a half minutes remaining on the clock. Florida didn’t score a point for the remainder of the game, missing 11 shots and committing five turnovers as it watched Kentucky go on an 11-0 run. Have the Gators lost their mojo at the worst time possible?

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SEC M5: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 8th, 2013

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  1. Tempers flared on Tuesday night when Arkansas squared off against Missouri, but the real showdown was between coaches. Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson returned to Columbia for the first time since leaving the Tigers, and current Missouri coach Frank Haith apparently hasn’t taken too kindly to some of the credit Anderson has placed upon himself for Haith’s recent success. Anderson made no secret that he felt he left the program in great shape for Haith two seasons ago. “That was a team that probably could have contended for a Final Four. I really thought that. … So you ask me what kind of shape it was in? … It was in great shape. Most guys don’t inherit a team like that.” Did Haith take that statement personally? Perhaps he did take offense, based on the altercation during one of the timeouts of Missouri’s thumping of Arkansas.  So  it just might make you giddy to know that there is still a possibility that Missouri and Arkansas could face off once more in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, if a couple of things go the right way for both teams this weekend.
  2. There has been a lot of bubble chatter on this site, nationally, and among anyone who follows college basketball even moderately. The stakes were clear for both Ole Miss and Alabama, two teams widely considered among the first four out or close thereafter,  going into Tuesday’s game. Win, and live to see another day. Lose, and the bubble would burst. But according to at least one opinion, all of the excitement over the bubble was for naught because ultimately, “this Alabama team is not an NCAA Tournament team. Over and out.” Alabama has wins over Villanova, Tennessee, and Kentucky, but none of those are victories are likely to impress the committee too much. With three losses in their last four games, it is probably time for the Tide to focus their efforts on the postseason, but perhaps the NIT is a more appropriate goal at this point.
  3. Auburn senior guard Frankie Sullivan finally broke out of a severe slump on Wednesday night against the Tennessee Volunteers. He scored 24 points, his largest contribution since a 26 point effort against Arkansas on January 16. Following that double overtime loss in Bud Walton Arena, Sullivan was averaging almost 18 points per game, but from that point on, he managed just 9.7 points per game on 31 percent shooting from the field. Head coach Tony Barbee thinks it’s all in Sullivan’s head. “This stretch right here is as mind-boggling as anything I’ve seen,” Barbee said. “Those are shots that are as automatic as automatic can be for a guy. He’s just struggling mentally right now.” Unfortunately, Sullivan’s resurgence against the Vols is too late for the Tigers to make an impact in the league after losing fourteen of their last fifteen games.
  4. Florida is still experiencing some gaps during stretches on offense, but the Gators continue to rely on defense to win games. “Defense got it done for us tonight,” UF forward Erik Murphy said. “We weren’t clicking on offense early and it allowed us to overcome some things before we got into a rhythm.” Coach Billy Donovan said the Gators’ level of defensive efficiency against Vanderbilt is the way it should always be. “We need to do that to all the teams we play,” Donovan said. “They were a team that, scouting them, definitely was playing better and making shots from the 3-point line. We really collectively, I thought, did a good job there and didn’t give them too many easy layups.” Florida held Vandy to just 40 points on 26.9 percent shooting from the field. If UF continues to be inconsistent on offense, its defense will be forced to lead the way.
  5. Nerlens Noel is filling up his free time by dropping rhymes for his new rap, and it was actually pretty good. The real kicker came towards the end when Noel teases Kentucky fans with the line,  “I might come back — but I don’t know yet.” Check out the video for yourself. Enjoy on this Friday morning:

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Set Your DVR: Week Of 02.11.13

Posted by bmulvihill on February 11th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

If we’ve learned anything so far this season, the rest of the season will be anything but predictable. Almost every conference is still up for grabs, so we are in for an exciting few weeks as we head towards March. The games this week provide us several battles at the top of each conference that will go a long way in determining who will stand alone at the end of the regular season. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

#18 Marquette at #16 Georgetown – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Six teams still have a legitimate shot at winning the Big East regular season title. Marquette currently sits on top of the standings with Syracuse and Georgetown only one game back. In their previous match-up this season, the Golden Eagles outlasted the Hoyas 49-48 on the strength of their rebounding and free throw shooting. The game was anything but pretty. While shooting was poor on both sides for that contest, the Hoyas have significantly improved their shooting during their current five game win streak. If Georgetown can combine better shooting with a defense that is holding Big East opponents to 42.3% eFG, they become a very difficult team to beat. The Golden Eagles have been living inside the three-point line. They are first in the Big East in two-point field goal percentage at 51.8%. The Hoyas length bothered Buzz Williams’ squad last time out so keep a close eye on how they are shooting on the road this time. However, because Marquette was steadfast in getting into the paint, they got fouled and went to the line. That was the difference in the game. If the Hoyas can play good defense without fouling and hit the boards, they can win the rematch in D.C.
Otto Porter Will Be on Every Gator's Mind In This One (AP/R. Sutton)

Otto Porter and the rest of the Hoyas have improved their shooting significantly during their five game win streak. (AP/R. Sutton)

#14 Kansas State at #13 Kansas – 9:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

  • Kansas was going to eventually lose at home. However, three straight losses and a game behind Kansas State in the Big 12 standings seemed pretty far-fetched even just 10 days ago. This is a big game for the Jayhawks as they look to tie Kansas State at the top of the Big 12 and avoid back-to-back home losses. Kansas stopped the Wildcats 59-55 in Manhattan a few weeks ago by locking down the interior on defense and preventing second-chance points. In their most recent loss to Oklahoma, the Jayhawks improved their two-point shooting considerably over the last several games hitting 51% of their attempts inside the arc. Look for Bill Self’s squad to continue to take the ball into the paint where they have a size advantage. For Kansas State to win, they need to hit the three-ball. Kansas has shown vulnerability to the three and the Wildcats must take advantage if they want to build on their lead in the Big 12.

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Handicapping the SEC POY Race Heading Into February

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 29th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can complain about his terrible oddsmaking in the comments, or find him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

The first three weeks of conference play have come and gone in the SEC, and we’ve uncovered some revelations about the league. Ole Miss, for example, showed that a weak non-conference schedule camouflaged an emerging team. Florida, who hasn’t played a league game that it hasn’t won by 17 points or more, is every bit the beast they were expected to be. Missouri and Kentucky, on the other hand, have struggled despite talented rosters. What’s less clear is who the best player in the conference is. Several athletes have stepped up this year, some big men like Nerlens Noel and Reginald Buckner to guards like Phil Pressey and Kenny Boynton. They’ll all have their chance to join legends like Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Bernard King, and Dan Langhi in earning SEC Player of the Year honors. So far, a surprising player leads the pack as January winds to a close. Ole Miss is 6-0 in conference play, and a big part of that revival has been thanks to Marshall Henderson’s shooting. He’s not the only one with his eyes on the SEC POY hardware, though. Let’s take a look at who is gunning for league honors, and where their odds stand nearly 20 games into the season.

The Frontrunners

As If Enough Hadn't Been Written About Him Already This Week... (AP)

As If Enough Hadn’t Been Written About Him Already This Week… (AP)

  • Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss (5:1 odds to win POY)  – Well this is certainly surprising – at least to people not named Marshall Henderson. Henderson has been the catalyst behind Ole Miss’ surprising season by leading his team in scoring and swagger. The cocksure shooter has willed Mississippi to a 6-0 start in conference play. He leads the SEC in scoring and his shooting touch has pulled the Rebels out of tight games against Auburn, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. Henderson has plenty of negatives, though. He’s shooting less than 40 percent from the field and a big function of his game is having players like Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway up front to clean up his mess. He’s also an unreliable passer who averages more turnovers than assists from the backcourt. Still, he’s been the focal point of Mississippi’s 2013 revival, and his scoring and ability to come up big in the clutch have made him the POY front-runner as January winds down.

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SEC M5: 01.23.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 23rd, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Scottie Wilbekin is probably not the first player you think of on the Florida roster, but he is emerging as a superstar on defense. “He’s always hung his hat on being a great defender,” coach Billy Donovan said about his starting point guard. “That’s always been important to him. Our defense has gotten better and he’s got a lot to do with that. As a point guard, it’s probably somewhat changed our team’s mentality a little bit going out there and defending the way we have.” Wilbekin’s lock-down defense held Texas A&M’s Elston Turner to four points (a season low) on 1-of-10 shooting after a superb 40-point performance against Kentucky. Then, he held consensus preseason SEC player of the year Phil Pressey to two points (a season low) and 10 turnovers (season high) over the weekend.
  2. It seems like Florida Gator Erik Murphy has been playing through one injury or another all season long. But Murphy admits he’s playing through some pain caused by a broken rib. “Duke [Florida trainer Dave “Duke” Werner] pads it up pretty good, so it doesn’t really hurt that much when I get hit on it,” Murphy said. “Just trying to take care of it every day. Ice it. It’s getting better. The longer I wait, the better it’ll get. It’s healing over time, feeling better. But it’s not that bad when I’m playing.” The casual observer might not even notice a difference. Murphy’s statistics haven’t dropped off since missing his only game of the year on January 6 at Yale. He’s scored in double figures in each of the four games he’s played since.
  3. Kentucky won big at Auburn on Saturday, and coach John Calipari said that he saw something during that game that he’s “been waiting all year for.” It wasn’t necessarily the victory that got Coach Cal riled up. “See, I’m trying to convince them that the wins and losses, they come and go. You’re not going to be judged just by that. You’re going to be judged by your effort, your fight, your scrappiness. At the end of your career, that’s what they’re going to look at. Did you have it or not?” Cal’s corps of freshmen might not have it yet, but sometimes it takes a reminder that many of the Wildcats’ core group of leaders are just 17 games into their college careers and it takes more time than that to develop a cohesive team.
  4. Is Arkansas a football state or is there a possibility that fans of the flagship university can support basketball along with their love for football? Mike Anderson was brought in to save the Razorback program with a fast-paced (and winning) brand of basketball, but is it working? There seems to be more questions than answers regarding its current state, but fan support remains an important component to the measure of success. It was, in large part, a portion of the reason John Pelphrey was dismissed from the program. And right now, fan support in Arkansas is dwindling. Is that because of a lack of institutional support or is it because Anderson simply isn’t getting it done? He still has time to turn things around, but how much of a leash he has may be the most important question of all.
  5. On the flip side, Auburn sees its fan base growing in large part because of its belief in third year coach Tony Barbee’s ability to win games. A sold-out crowd against Kentucky on Saturday night showed the coaching staff that the fans are behind them and the team. “The excitement around Auburn basketball is the highest it’s been since we’ve been here,” assistant coach Randall Dickey said. And the interest in the team coincides with improved play from the Tigers. Auburn has a losing overall record, but wins over Florida State and LSU, along with a positive effort against the Wildcats, has Auburn seemingly headed in the right direction.
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