Banged Up Florida Not Getting Any Healthier

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 15th, 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.

The SEC regular season race is Florida‘s to lose. Kentucky can’t win at home, much less on the road. Missouri lost to Ole Miss, albeit it without its leading scorer. And don’t even get us started on the rest of the conference. The Gators are in prime position to win their first conference regular season championship since 2011. That is, if they can stay healthy.

Casey Prather went down with an ankle injury against LSU on Saturday. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Casey Prather went down with an ankle injury against LSU on Saturday. (Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The backcourt situation has had its share of injuries as Mike Rosario sat out against LSU with an ankle sprain and Scottie Wilbekin sat out three games due to a suspension, but then played through a broken finger on his right hand. The frontcourt has not been any better as Will Yeguete underwent x-rays on his knee for tendinitis. Then, recent starter Casey Prather suffered a high ankle sprain in the first half in Florida’s victory over LSU. After he was sidelined with a knee injury, Erik Murphy suffered a fractured rib against Air Force. Then, he re-aggravated his left rib in practice. Now, we learned that Prather is sidelined for 10 to 14 days with an ankle injury further adding to the Gators’ recent string of bad luck.

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SEC M5: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 14th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. The defending national champions are squarely on the bubble. That realization hit the Kentucky faithful hard this weekend as the Wildcats dropped their fifth game of the season in a home loss to Texas A&M. The idea that John Calipari’s team wouldn’t be invited to this year’s tournament scarcely cross the minds of college basketball fans going in to season, but through the first half of the season, Kentucky’s season-opening win over Maryland is their only RPI Top 100 victory. “It’s still early January. It’s going to be another month before this team comes together,” Calipari said Saturday. “I just hope we are winning enough games as we learn to do this.” He may be out of luck. There’s a lot of basketball to be played, but with the SEC’s lack of quality, there are very few opportunities for quality wins left on the schedule.
  2. Texas A&M’s Elston Turner has deservedly been admitted to the  unofficial pantheon of “Cat Killers”. He can’t claim the top spot (the belongs to David Robinson and his 45 points way back in ’87), but I can’t imagine that the Aggie senior would be too bummed about finishing behind the Admiral. Maybe he can just settle for National Player of the Week. Singing the praises of a guy who just dropped 40 points in one of college basketball’s most hallowed venues is tough to do without sounding overly obvious. But I’ll try. He simply couldn’t miss. Opponents know that stopping Turner is practically synonymous with stopping Texas A&M, and Kentucky’s collection of athletes still couldn’t him. He made 14 field goals on 19 attempts, and while I haven’t found an official stat for so-called daggers, Turner had plenty of those as well. The Aggies are peaking at the right time, and will hope to carry that momentum through to their home date with Florida this week.
  3. In addition to being charged with creating a gameplan to stop Turner, Billy Donovan will be dealing with another injury to a contributor leading up to Florida’s trip to College Station. Casey Prather suffered a lower leg injury in the Gator’s blowout of LSU over the weekend, and the junior swingman is  facing an indefinite (quickly becoming college basketball’s new buzzword) stretch on the sideline. “That is what they are saying right now— a high ankle sprain,” said Donovan. “Those things are tough to come back from and they’re a long healing process if that’s what it is.” Prather joins Mike Rosario (suffering from a high ankle sprain as well) on the trainers table, and while neither injury appears to be season-ending, Florida’s depth in the short term will clearly be taking a huge hit. Erik Murphy’s return against LSU couldn’t have come at a better time, but a six-man rotation isn’t conducive with the brand of basketball Donovan wants to play.
  4. Does Missouri really need Laurence Bowers? I can’t imagine that anyone was actually asking that question, but the answer is a resounding yes. The 10th-ranked Tigers were run off the floor in Oxford over the weekend, unable to overcome the loss of their primary frontcourt scoring option. Point guard Phil Pressey finished with as many turnovers as he had assists, stifled by an offense that struggled mightily for creativity and inspiration. Jabari Brown, Earnest Ross, and Pressey combined to miss 13 3-pointers, several of which were forced because of the newly-reinstalled 4-guard offense’s inability to cope with the Ole Miss pressure defense. ”I don’t think they ever got in an offensive rhythm and that’s a tribute to how much effort our guys had defensively,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy told reporters.
  5. Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings doesn’t strike me as coach who would admit to believing in moral victories, but last week’s close call against Kentucky was undoubtedly an improvement for his young team. Any momentum from that effort, however, was quickly extinguished as the Commodores failed to compete against Arkansas, totaling only 33 points for second time this season. The Commodores turned the ball over 25 times and barely reached double digits in made field goals. Stallings wasn’t in the mood to dig for a silver lining. ”Well, there’s not a lot to say,” he told reporters. “We got our tails whipped, and I was real disappointed in our play in just about every way.” The Dores’ unfortunately doesn’t have a lot of time for adjustment as Ole Miss visits Tuesday night, Vandy’s third game in six days.
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Look For Frank Haith to Go Small Again In Laurence Bowers’ Injury Absence

Posted by DPerry on January 9th, 2013

Missouri opened its SEC season with an easy home win over Alabama last night, but it came at a steep price. Leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who missed the entire 2011-12 season with a torn left ACL, suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee after a collision with an opponent. (The injury was immediately followed by a supremely awkward ESPN feature on Bowers’ successful return from injury). CBS Sports‘ Jeff Goodman reports that Bowers will be held out of the next two games before being re-evaluated by the Tigers’ medical staff.

Bowers has exceeded expectations in his return from an ACL tear.

Bowers has exceeded expectations in his return from an ACL tear.

Behind point guard Phil Pressey, Bowers has been Missouri’s most important player this season. He isn’t the most physically imposing post presence, but he returned from his medical redshirt season with a more well-rounded game, capable of extending out to the perimeter and knock down jump shots. In a well-balanced starting frontcourt, he provides the skill that meshes so well with Alex Oriakhi’s brawn. The temporary loss of Bowers will expose the Tigers’ lack of depth down low, but Frank Haith proved last season that he has no problems running a system wholly (or largely) dependent on perimeter options. This year’s team has plenty of pieces in the backcourt, but the majority of Bowers’ scoring responsibility should fall on transfer Jabari Brown, who has been lights-out after qualifying in December. The former five-star Oregon recruit is coming off a monster game against the Crimson Tide in which he hit five three-pointers on the way to a 22-point performance. The offense will still run through Pressey, of course, but Brown should be on the end of a lot more of the flamboyant playmaker’s assists.

Bowers will certainly miss the Tigers’ trip to Oxford over the weekend (potentially tricky) and their home game against Georgia (probably not tricky). Frank Haith and his team, however, will be eyeing January 19 as the date that they truly need Bowers back at full health, as Missouri travels to Gainesville to take on Florida. We’ll be hoping to see the senior back in action as well, as a potential match-up between Bowers and the also currently-injured Gator’ Erik Murphy promises to be one of the most exciting inside-out battles in SEC play. Let’s hope both guys have speedy recoveries.

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SEC M5: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 8th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. X-rays conducted on Erik Murphy confirmed that the Gators’ forward suffered a fractured rib last week. Florida coach Billy Donovan is hoping Murphy can return to action soon, but the team’s second leading scorer is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s SEC opener against Georgia. “It’s in a really bad spot. It’s right by his lat [muscle],” Donovan said. “Any time he raises his arms up or reaches his arms up, there’s a significant amount of pain.” The Florida coaching staff will make a final determination on Murphy’s status on Wednesday. If the starter is unable to go, expect forwards Will Yeguete and Casey Prather to see additional playing time. Yeguete scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Yale in Murphy’s absence, while Prather came off the bench for nine points and six boards.
  2. Missouri received a rather large commitment from JuCo center Keanau Post. Post is coming to Columbia from Southwestern Illinois College where he averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. “As soon as I get there working with the strength and conditioning coach, I think my upside is real good and I can fit in,” said Post. “I know they’re looking for me to be a bit of a scorer, which I know I can do with all the work I’ll be doing in the weight room to get myself stronger. They want me to rebound which I know I can do. I can run the floor very well. The other day when I was up there, Alex (Oriakhi) did a great job of that. I think I’ll put up the same kind of effort. Blocking shots, being there to clean up.” But the post player is seriously a big guy, standing at 6’11″ and weighing in at 260 pounds. He will give the Tigers some depth in the post next season after the losses of both Oriakhi and forward Laurence Bowers.
  3. Guard Phil Pressey has practically done it all for Missouri this season, but coach Frank Haith doesn’t want his superstar point guard to force shots. “Phil just needs to be Phil,” Haith said. “Phil doesn’t have to be more than Phil Pressey, and I think that he’s hearing that too much, and I don’t like that because I think that makes him feel like he has to do more. He doesn’t. He has to just be Phil Pressey. He doesn’t have to take 25 shots. He doesn’t have to. […] He really doesn’t.” With the loss of guard Mike Dixon earlier this year, Pressey has been forced to play 34.1 minutes per game for the Tigers. He leads the SEC in percentage of possible minutes played at 85.3 percent. Only five other SEC players exceed 80 percent.
  4. Yesterday’s SEC M5 talked about the decision of Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon to take a medical redshirt this season in order to return for a final year of eligibility in 2013-14. Would Maymon’s return this season disrupt some positive momentum the Vols have going? The power forward didn’t want to chance it. ”I didn’t want to miss too many games,” Maymon admitted. “I didn’t want to come back and be a distraction and have coach try to put me in there where other guys have paved the way for themselves to play this year. I’m just going to take the backseat and let guys do what they have to do.” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed that Maymon would likely be able to return from the injury later this month, but both the player and coach agreed that a few late season games weren’t worth risking his health or a full year of eligibility. ”I knew at some point, if it got this late, I wasn’t about to put the kid on the court and try to win a few games and he’s not 100 percent,” Martin said. Tennessee carries on without the preseason all-SEC selection on Wednesday in its SEC opener against Ole Miss.
  5. Every team needs some experience and Alabama is happy to welcome its lone senior, Andrew Steele, back after six missed games with an injury. Steele scored just two points in his first game back, but the Tide broke a losing streak that included losses in five of their last six games. And perhaps the senior’s addition had a little something to do with the change. “The complexion of our team has changed a little bit,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We look forward to starting conference play. He affected the game in a variety of ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.” The youthful Tide started four sophomores and a junior in their last outing, so Steele’s return gives Grant’s squad a leader to turn to on the court.
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Morning Five: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 8th, 2013

morning5

  1. Now that we are done with that joke of a championship we can get back to sports where teams have to beat the best to appear in a championship game. This is not to say that the NCAA Tournament always pits the two best teams against each other because most years we do not have the two consensus top teams playing on that Monday night in April, but we do get two teams that have beaten teams from the same general pool of teams to get there. With college football attempting to move in that direction we can only hope we do not continue to get disastrous postseasons from it.
  2. For those of you who were unfaithful and got sucked into the vortex of the BCS Championship Game, Seth Davis and Ken Pomeroy have you covered with their week in reviews. Usually Davis and Pomeroy have fairly similar recaps in that they usually have similar biggest games and upsets, but this week they differ quite a bit primarily because Pomeroy digs a little deeper into the results thanks to his mathematical model that considers the #330 team beat the #185 team to be a bigger upset than an unranked ACC team beating another unranked ACC team. Still both are worth a read if you need to catch up on any action you missed last week.
  3. Florida is starting SEC play tomorrow against Georgia, but may be doing so without the services of Erik Murphy, who may be out due to a fractured rib. According to the report (and we aren’t sure how accurate it is), Murphy had been playing with a bruised rib, but further injured himself on Friday when he took a forearm to his chest during practice. That supposedly led to the fracture that was discovered on x-ray on Monday. Given how weak the Bulldogs are and the fact that Florida has a big game coming up against Missouri in less than two weeks resting him would probably be the most reasonable decision, but the school has not decided on whether or not he will play.
  4. We don’t think that they will be holding any ceremonies for Jim Boeheim as he takes his last trip through the Big East, but he is still taking time to reminisce at each stop. While South Florida has not exactly been the site of many memorable games for the Orange (unless you consider easy wins memorable) Boeheim took time out to talk about the ups and downs of the conference and his hopes for stability within the ACC. One of the interesting things that Boeheim brought up was the fact that he never seriously considered moving to the NBA. We can’t be certain that Boeheim never seriously considered it although we have never heard any significant rumors, but it is interesting that we have rarely heard many rumors about coaches above a certain age looking at the NBA with the obvious exception of Mike Krzyzewski while many in the younger generation have already been in and out of the NBA.
  5. By now we all know that polls don’t matter in college basketball (except for RTC’s poll), but that doesn’t stop Gary Parrish from releasing his weekly Poll Attacks. This week’s “victims” are a writer who ranked Illinois behind three teams they beat easily and the coaches who apparently didn’t see that Pittsburgh played last week. While these continue to be entertaining and the logic that some of the writers and coaches have continues to vex us, we have a hard time getting too worked up over these decisions. Now if these decisions affected who played for the championship that might be another matter…
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Kenny Boynton Shoots Florida Out Of a Sluggish Start at Yale

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC correspondent who also writes for Syracuse blog “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Sunday’s match-up between Florida and Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.

Sunday’s trip to New Haven to take on the Yale Bulldogs was supposed to be a homecoming game for Florida senior Erik Murphy, who grew up in nearby South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Unfortunately for Murphy’s New England-based friends and family, he was sidelined with bruised ribs after an injury in practice. Luckily for Gator fans, who flocked to Payne Whitney Gymnasium in what was deemed a sellout by Yale, fellow senior Kenny Boynton put on an incredible performance from deep, sinking 8-of-10 three pointers and finishing with 28 points, tying a career-high. Boynton’s 23-point second half also broke him out of a personal slump, clinching a 79-58 win for Florida against a scrappy-if-overmatched Yale team looking to win back its home court.

Florida guard Kenny Boynton broke Lee Humphrey's school record for made three-pointers with eight shots on Sunday at Yale.  Boynton now has 289 made threes in his career.

Florida guard Kenny Boynton broke Lee Humphrey’s school record for made three-pointers by hitting eight shots on Sunday against Yale. Boynton now has 289 made threes in his career.

From the opening tip, Yale tried to run with Florida, which led to a sloppy and frenetic first half.  The Bulldogs did a decent job breaking the Gator press early, often using center Jeremiah Kreisberg at the half-court line to advance the ball.  However, Florida’s length disrupted Yale’s half-court sets, leading to nine first half turnovers for the Bulldogs. Yale was able to stick around for the first 15 minutes of the game, in large part due to success on the boards where they edged the Gators by one in the first half. Florida also struggled to score outside of the paint early on, and only led by one point with just over five minutes remaining in the half.  Despite keeping the game close, Yale was never able to get its own offense going, shooting 9-of-25 in the first half, and eventually Florida’s star guards took over. The Gators closed the half on a 14-3 run, spurred by a late three-pointer by Boynton, and three successful free throws from freshman Michael Frazier II, who was fouled while shooting a three of his own.

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SEC M5: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 7th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. The biggest news of the weekend came with the announcement that Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon will redshirt for the 2012-13 season. Maymon intends to give his left knee time to recuperate so that he can make a full return to the court in 2013-14. ”It’s really tough to know that I can’t be on the court with my teammates this season,” Maymon said. “But I have confidence in them, just like I have confidence in these coaches and our medical staff. I know this is in my best interest, and I am going to work incredibly hard to come back as an even better player and teammate next season. I love Tennessee.” Maymon averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season, and would have been a huge boost to a struggling offense that has put up point totals of 36 and 38 points already this year. He led the team last year in effective field goal percentage at 55.8 percent, and the Vols could certainly use a low post threat to help out sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes. Maybe next year will be the year, assuming Stokes decides to suit up one more season in Knoxville.
  2. Another SEC school lost one of its top scorers over the weekend as well. South Carolina guard LaShay Page has been ruled academically ineligible because of what Gamecocks coach Frank Martin is calling an “academic glitch.” Page is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.7 points per game. Similar to Tennessee, USC has not exactly put on a clinic on the offensive end this season, so any personnel losses hurt — Page took over 30 percent of the Gamecocks’ shots, so he won’t be easy to replace even though he wasn’t exactly the most efficient scorer with a 41.9% effective field goal rate. The backcourt should get somewhat of a boost with guard Bruce Ellington’s return from the football field and freshman Michael Carrera’s return from injury, but Page’s loss will no doubt be a huge blow for a team on the upswing.
  3. Florida forward Erik Murphy is out again, this time missing Sunday’s game against Yale because of bruised ribs sustained in practice. Murphy will undergo x-rays to determine if any further damage has been done when the team returns to Gainesville on Monday. “It’s tough for us and certainly disappointing for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. Murphy averages 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, and is the most offensively efficient player on the Gators’ roster (fifth in the nation). Though Murphy was surely missed on the court against the Bulldogs, this is especially disappointing because the game was somewhat of a homecoming for the senior. He grew up about an hour from the Yale campus in Kingstown, Rhode Island.
  4. This season hasn’t exactly gone as planned for John Calipari and UK, but next season could be his most talented roster yet. And that’s without knowing which of his current superstars will return. Kentucky received another commitment from a high school senior over the weekend, the number one rated center in the country, Dakari Johnson. Coach Cal is waiting on decisions from another pair of high schoolers (Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins), of which he will likely land one. Once finalized, some are calling this the greatest recruiting class of all-time. Not just at Kentucky, which would be quite the feat since Cal has been at the helm, but the best anywhere at any time. That’s impressive, but think of the talent that could return to help lead this group of fab freshmen. Kentucky could end up with a collection of starters in 2012-13 who may be sitting on the bench to make room for a new group of starters in 2013-14. Could be an interesting dynamic, but Calipari has made it work before.
  5. Speaking of super recruit Andrew Wiggins, after a string of top ranked recruits selecting the Wildcats, could Calipari and Kentucky actually lose a recruit? It seems so. Evan Daniels, Fox recruiting analyst, thinks Wiggins will choose the Seminoles of Florida State over the stacked Wildcats. The number of available shots in a loaded Wildcats’ lineup could be a factor in Wiggins’ decision. The Wildcats will likely play similar to last season, where minutes and shots are spread fairly evenly among six to eight talented players. If Wiggins wants the ball in his hands, then Lexington may not be the spot for him.
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SEC M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 17th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida did a lot of things right in its match-up with Arizona over the weekend. Mike Rosario had his best game as a Gator, Erik Murphy found his scoring touch again, and the team defense looked ferocious at times. However, 38 minutes of a performance wasn’t good enough as the last two minutes saw the Gators give away the game through a comedy of errors, with Kenny Boynton serving as the primary culprit. In addition to two Rosario turnovers, Boynton missed two three-pointers, committed a turnover, and missed the front end of a crucial 1-and-1. Florida appeared to have the game comfortably in hand, but only managed four shots in the final five minutes, allowing the host Wildcats back in the game. ”I told our guys at halftime, if we’re going to lose, let’s at least make them beat us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We beat ourselves tonight.”
  2. Missouri will gain a welcome addition to its backcourt rotation tonight when the Tigers take on South Carolina State. Jabari Brown, a highly touted recruit from the class of 2012, initially attended Oregon, but after only two appearances for the Ducks, announced his intention to transfer. The circumstances around the decision remain a mystery, but Missouri fans will quickly forget that if he can help solidify the two-guard slot for Frank Haith’s team in the wake of Michael Dixon’s departure. “I feel I’m ready to jump in, but that’s not my call,” Brown said. “Whatever coach Haith says, I’m going to roll with it. I might have to take on a little larger role. I’m not saying I have to score ‘x’ amount of points. I just know Mike was a great player, so everyone has to step up collectively.” Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Negus Webster-Chan have struggled on the offensive end of the court so far, so Tiger fans will be hoping that Brown’s offensive pedigree isn’t just hype.
  3. When Kentucky fans see a player make an obvious mistake on the court, they next thing they often see is a replacement Wildcat jogging from the bench to the scorer’s table. John Calipari doesn’t have a very deep stable of reserve options, but that certainly doesn’t stop him from substituting liberally when he sees something he doesn’t like. “If we don’t start changing, we’re going to struggle,” Calipari said. “You either want to change or you have your excuses of why it’s happening. Let’s just change. That’s my thing.” There were some positive signs for Calipari’s squad against Lipscomb over the weekend. Ryan Harrow, starting his first game since the season opener, looked more aggressive and Kyle Wiltjer finally busted out of a shooting slump and even added an unexpected presence on the glass.
  4. A road loss to VCU in Anthony Grant’s return to Richmond isn’t too shocking as the Rams are a quality team, but the 19-point margin of defeat is a bit of a surprise. Personally, I give up trying to analyze this team. The lack of frontcourt options has been Alabama’s weakness so far, but when freshman forward Devonta Pollard finally had a game that displayed his considerable ability, the usually strong backcourt couldn’t hold up its end. Pollard came off the bench to contribute 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. “This is a tough loss,” said Grant after the game. “We’ve lost three in a row here. When you win your first six, you always say it’s never as good as it seems. When you lose three in a row, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve got to go back and look at the film.”
  5. The SEC lost another undefeated team over the weekend, though LSU’s loss to Boise State was met with a lot less fanfare. Freshman guard Corban Collins was a bright spot for the Tigers, scoring a career-high 19 points. But the LSU defense wasn’t up to the task, allowing 89 points to the Broncos, including eight three-pointers and 23 free throws. The trip to Boise was the first of three straight road games for Johnny Jones’ team, who will travel to UC Irvine and Marquette before they see their home court again.
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#5 Florida at #9 Arizona: Keys to the Game

Posted by DPerry on December 15th, 2012

In a Pac-12/SEC microsite joint venture, contributors Andrew Murawa and Doug Perry tell us what the Wildcats and Gators need to do to gain the upper hand in this weekend’s premier matchup.

Arizona will win if…

Lyons Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

Lyons’ Handling the Ball Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

  1. They can limit turnovers. Arizona’s turnover numbers look real bad (they’re averaging turnovers on 22.2% of all their possessions), but the fact is, they’ve been inflated by a couple horrific games. Against Southern Miss, they gave it up on better than 38% of their possessions, and against UTEP it was turnovers on 30% of possessions. But, in their biggest game to date last weekend at Clemson, they only turned it over 11 times. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Solomon Hill, the player most responsible for getting the Wildcat halfcourt offense into gear, was responsible for five of those turnovers. Florida does a great job of pressuring opposing ball-handlers, with Scottie Wilbekin in particular harassing opponents into turnovers on a regular basis, so if Arizona can make solid decisions and take care of the ball, that will be a major first step in securing the big win.
  2. They can force bad shots. Florida doesn’t really have a ton of weaknesses, but historically, guys like Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario have been known to go into chucker mode from time to time and throw up baffling shots. While the seniors won’t necessarily be rattled by the spectacle of the McKale Center and the national stage, Arizona can help them along the way to bad shots by using their length to dissuade post-entry passes, by employing physical perimeter defense, and by, perhaps most importantly, sticking with Erik Murphy through picks and pops and rolls and whatever else he does, limiting his good looks at the hoop. If the Wildcats can do their best to limit the impact of guys like Murphy and Patric Young on the offensive end, Boynton and Rosario will have to take it upon themselves to win this game. And frankly, Sean Miller would likely rather take a chance getting beat by those guys than getting beat by the Florida bigs.
  3. The veterans play like veterans. Arizona’s freshman trio of big guys – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – are serious gonna-bes. They are all gonna be major players, not only at their current level of basketball but likely at the next level. And, while they’ve shown the ability to make a major impact on the outcome of the current season, this is, in reality, their first big-time game. As such, while each of those guys needs to live up to the responsibilities that the Arizona coaching staff tasks them with, the eventual outcome of this game will be determined by whether Arizona’s vets – seniors Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and, to a lesser extent, sophomore Nick Johnson – live up to their ends of the bargain. Each of them have been very good this season, but this is the first real test. Not only are these guys going to need to knock down shots, make smart plays, and sell out defensively, they’re going to need to provide a positive example for the youngsters as to how games of this caliber should be approached. If the vets can play as vets should, it will not only bode well for Arizona’s chances in this big game, but it will be the first positive step towards success in the following big games.

Florida will win if…

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

  1. They limit Arizona’s three-point shots. The Wildcats aren’t shy about putting up shots from long range. Arizona ranks in the top 15 nationally in three-point percentage (40.5%) and three-pointers/game (8.6), and defending perimeter shots is not Florida’s specialty (132nd in opponent three-point percentage). The Gators have a propensity to be aggressive in passing lanes, earning steals on 12.7% of their opponent’s possessions, but they should be careful not to overplay against a team that’s so dangerous from long distance. The McKale Center will be bumping, and a parade of made threes is exactly what Arizona will want to keep their fans as loud as possible. Florida is one of the most experienced teams you’ll see in college basketball’s elite tier, but a passionate fan base eager to see the Wildcats thrust into the national title conversation can rattle even the most seasoned team.
  2. They don’t forget about the big guys. Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario are great perimeter scoring threats, but they aren’t exactly famous for their discerning taste in shot selection. If the two gunners spend the night forcing shots that they shouldn’t, I can’t see the Gators flying back east with a victory. Patric Young has been somewhat of an afterthought in Florida’s offense this season, but I guarantee that Arizona isn’t overlooking him. The junior center had the best game of his career against the Wildcats last season, racking up 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Admittedly, Arizona’s frontcourt has added a ton of size since last season, so Young’s massive frame won’t be as great of an advantage, but he’s an option that Billy Donovan would be foolish to ignore. Forward Erik Murphy has cooled off a bit since his hot start, but he’s capable of a monster game.
  3. They can handle Mark Lyons. Arizona’s stellar freshman class steals the headlines, and they’ve shown flashes so far, but Sean Miller’s crew can’t hang with Florida on youthful talent alone. No, the Wildcats will go as far as their upperclassmen will take them, and Mark Lyons is the best of the bunch. He isn’t a model of consistency (0-7 from the field against Southern Miss), but the Xavier transfer is coming off his best game of the season, scoring 20 points and adding four rebounds and four assists in a tough road environment at Clemson. He’ll have the home crowd’s support on Saturday night, but the Gators’ defense presents a much tougher challenge. Guards have an especially tough time scoring on Donovan’s sound defense, but outside of maybe FSU guard Michael Snaer, they haven’t yet faced a perimeter scoring threat with the big-game pedigree of Lyons.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 14th, 2012

setDVR

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

It’s been a slow week in college basketball with students hitting the books and getting through finals week. However, things pick up quite a bit this weekend with some great non-conference action led by a marquee match-up in the desert. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend 

#5 Florida at #9 Arizona  10:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Patric Young's Offensive Rebounds Are One Way To Get Additional Touches (Getty)

Will Patric Young Dominate the Wildcats Again This Season? (Getty)

  • Florida won the match-up last season with Arizona in a tough overtime battle. The Gators’ Patric Young dominated the game with a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Coach Billy Donovan was disappointed the Gator guards did not get Young the ball more often. It will be interesting to see how Arizona responds this season to defending Young. The addition of 7’0″ freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski to the Wildcats line-up should make a significant difference for coach Sean Miller. His size will at least create problems at the basket for the 6’10″ Young. Keep a close eye on Florida’s ability to create turnovers as well. It helped them win last season in Gainesville and will be a big factor again. Finally, three-point shooting will play a key role in the outcome of the game. Approximately 40% of Florida’s field goal attempts are from downtown and U of A gives up more treys than two-thirds of the teams in college hoops. You will want to keep an eye on Gator forward Erik Murphy from beyond the arc. He presents a tough match-up with his 6’10″ frame and his ability to stroke the three. If Murphy is hitting from downtown, the Wildcats are in deep trouble.
  • Arizona and Florida are both in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. We mentioned Tarczewski’s defense before, but his biggest contribution to this game may be on the offensive boards. He needs to clean up the glass on missed shots to give Arizona as many looks as possible. Miller’s squad got excellent production last year from it’s backcourt against the Gators and need the same from guards Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons this season. Lyon’s needs to be careful of turnovers as he has a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio. If he isn’t protecting the ball, Arizona will have trouble again this year.
  • Arizona’s size will allow them to compete all game long with a very talented and good shooting Florida squad. Their ability to go big at guard with Kevin Parrom could be the difference in the game. While the jury is still out on the Wildcats, a home game against Florida will be a great barometer for what we can expect in the future. The team that wins the offensive rebounding battle will take this one.

More Great Hoops

#6 Louisville at Memphis  2:30 PM EST, Saturday on Fox College Sports (****)

  • Louisville won this match-up last season in a close eight-point ballgame. This season however they are without star center Gorgui Dieng due to his wrist injury. Dieng went for 14/14 last year and always makes a major impact on defense. Without Dieng manning the middle, Louisville actually lacks size. Duke took advantage of this size deficiency and was able to beat the Cardinals a few weeks ago as a result. Look for Memphis to try to do the same thing at home this Saturday. Memphis is tall on the inside and a good offensive rebounding team. They are not as good at getting to the free throw line, however, which is also how the Blue Devils beat the Cardinals. Memphis ranks #307 nationally in free throw rate. Guard play from the Tigers will be a key factor in this contest. They need to get to the line and not turn the ball over. In their blowout win against an Ohio team known for turning teams over, the Tigers only committed miscues on over 16% of their possessions. A lot has to go right for the Tigers to pull an upset here, but with Dieng out, this is their best opportunity.

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SEC M5: 12.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 11th, 2012

  1. The Kentucky players haven’t quite bought into John Calipari’s system yet, but they’re certainly trying to become a top 10 team. “Definitely,” freshman center Nerlens Noel said. “We’ve definitely got the potential. We’ve got the players, the pieces, the coaching staff. We’ve got all the great tools. We’ve just got to work on some things and really bring it all together.” But if anybody has the credibility to get first year players to buy in, it’s Calipari. Perhaps last year’s success is part of what is hindering this year’s version of the Wildcats? ”We’re trying to uphold expectations we shouldn’t have had,” freshman Willie Cauley-Stein said. “We’re not last year’s team.” He’s right about that. The 2012-13 team is more 2010-11 than 2011-12, and that team was possibly a play away from being Cal’s first championship team.
  2. Jarvis Summers is crucial to Ole Miss‘ success this year. The Rebels lost their first game of the season on Saturday to Middle Tennessee State, in part because Summers sat the last 13 minutes of the first half in foul trouble. While he was on the bench, his backups committed seven of Ole Miss’ 18 turnovers. “They just took the ball,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “Like what happens sometimes when you play your big brother. They just took your ball.” Summers returned to play 17 minutes in the second half, but it just wasn’t enough. He finished the game with just seven points and four assists, but Kennedy recognized his impact on the game by allowing Summers to play through four fouls with over six minutes left in the game.
  3. Florida is getting some much needed rest before one of its biggest games of the year against Arizona. “Playing as many games as we’ve played this early against some really good quality opponents I think guys get mentally drained,” coach Billy Donovan said. “So I think we’ll probably need some time to regroup before we go out west.” The Gators have 10 days between games, allowing some time to recover from injuries as well. Senior forward Erik Murphy hasn’t been 100 percent after a hip pointer injury, and of course final exams are mixed in for the student-athletes. “This a good group,” Donovan said. “They’ve worked hard. We’ve had to individually battle through our own adversity as a team.” So far this year, 13 points is the closest margin any team has come to the Gators.
  4. Missouri is also preparing for one of its biggest games of the year, but this one is for bragging rights above all else. Missouri is already circling a December 22 date with Illinois, which is one of the hottest teams in the country right now. The author makes the case that the Tigers need this win for RPI purposes because of the weak standing of the SEC relative to the Big 12 from which coach Frank Haith and the Tigers migrated. I tend to disagree. Yes, the SEC is weak at the bottom, but teams like Kentucky (with a current RPI of #95) or Tennessee (#132) won’t stay that low for long. Regardless, the match-up with the Illini is important in the bigger picture for Haith and company, but don’t expect the top half of the SEC to be a hindrance to RPI standings in the long run.
  5. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings had a unique perspective regarding Vandy guard Kyle Fuller’s honor as SEC player of the week for his outstanding performance against Xavier. Fuller scored all 12 of Vanderbilt’s points during the overtime period, leading the Commodores to a surprising victory. ”That’s awesome for him and almost embarrassing for the rest of us,” Stallings said. “Good for Kyle. He made some huge plays.” Fuller came up huge in the road victory with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, along with five assists, four rebounds, and three steals. You have to sort of agree with Stallings on this one, however. Vandy desperately needed someone not named Kedren Johnson to step up on the offensive end. Johnson’s field goal attempts have been in double figures in every game this season, and until the return of Dai-Jon Parker, the Commodores can’t continue to rely that heavily on Johnson for all of their scoring.
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Canadian Imports, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. When the AP Top 25 was released Monday afternoon, Kentucky wound up unranked for the first time in the John Calipari era after a blowout loss to Notre Dame and a home setback to Baylor, UK’s first loss at Rupp Arena under Calipari (UK remains ranked at #20 here at RTC). Kentucky’s drop from #8 to unranked was the largest in AP poll history since the poll expanded to include 25 teams in 1990. Now we all know college basketball polls don’t really matter (unlike a certain other collegiate sport) so this is just something to discuss among basketball junkies. But seriously, do people really believe this isn’t one of the Top 25 teams in the country? I guess it depends on your philosophy when it comes to filling out a ballot. If you’re going purely by record, sure the Wildcats shouldn’t be ranked at 4-3. But a deeper inspection reveals a team with a win over Maryland, one that could turn into a very good win if the Terrapins sustain their early season level of play, and three losses to very good basketball teams (Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor). The Wildcats aren’t anywhere near last year’s juggernaut but until they lose to a bad team or the losses to good teams keep piling up, I’ll continue to rank Kentucky and won’t overreact. What are the issues Calipari faces? Number one, Ryan Harrow has proven not to be the answer at point guard. Archie Goodwin has been forced to be the primary ballhandler and is turning the ball over more than three times per game. Second, Kentucky’s rebounding and defense has taken a dip from last year but who didn’t expect that? Anthony Davis is in New Orleans now, not Lexington. Third, the team is relying exclusively on freshmen, one sophomore (Kyle Wiltjer, who does need to pick his game up) and two transfers. There is no veteran presence who has been through the SEC wars like Doron Lamb and Darius Miller had been last season. While Cal’s teams have had tremendous freshmen talent, the presence of Miller and Lamb pushed the team over the top last year. Without that crucial element, Kentucky will continue to struggle with immature plays and poor decision-making. However, I’m sure that Calipari will find a way to make things work eventually. Let’s not panic in early December because Kentucky lost three games to Top 25 teams.

    Coach Cal’s Team Is Now Unranked, But Don’t Panic Yet

  2. With Kentucky struggling to find its way right now, Florida has emerged as the early favorite in the SEC. The Gators are 6-0 with a pair of blowout wins over Wisconsin and Marquette and a nice “neutral” court win over a good Middle Tennessee team. It’s pretty clear that Florida is for real but the schedule ramps up in a big way this month with tomorrow’s road trip to rival Florida State followed 10 days later by a visit to Arizona and a quasi-road game against Kansas State in Kansas City on December 22. Everyone knows about Florida’s high-powered offensive attack but the most astonishing thing about this team has been its defense. This could very well be Billy Donovan’s best defensive team in Gainesville. Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 48.5 PPG to date. The Gators are fourth in defensive efficiency and have also improved their rebounding from a year ago with Patric Young and Will Yeguete doing most of the work on the boards but even UF’s guards are contributing to that effort as well. Florida is just as efficient on the offensive end of the floor with balanced scoring and depth. Seven Gators are averaging at least seven points per game, led by Kenny Boynton. Donovan has to be thrilled with senior Erik Murphy, someone who is an absolute match-up nightmare for almost every opponent because of his length, versatility and ability to stretch defenses. When Murphy hangs out on the perimeter he can hit shots or open up gaps for his teammates to drive and score, or get to the line as Florida has done so well this year. His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet at you but he’s such a valuable asset to this team. Murphy has had his share of off-court problems and here’s to hoping he’s learned from that and takes on a leadership role for his team as a senior. He’s off to a great start and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Florida in the top 10 all year long. Read the rest of this entry »
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