The RTC Podblast: SEC Preseason Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 31st, 2013

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We’re just a little over a week from the start of games across this fair nation, and that means it’s time to preview each of the major seven basketball conferences on the RTC Podcast. This week we’ll unveil previews for the Big East (Tuesday), Big Ten (Wednesday), SEC (Thursday) and Pac-12 (Friday), with the AAC, ACC and Big 12 to come next week. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) is our talented and engaging host, leading the group through a series of topics and questions related to the upcoming season. For this podblast, we invited RTC SEC microsite correspondent Brian Joyce (@bjoyce_hoops) to the program, as he helped us consider whether this year’s league will be another version of Kentucky & Everyone Else.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And don’t forget to check out our 2013-14 Preseason Podcast, the National Edition, and feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

The rundown is below if you’d like to skip around.

  • 0:00-10:04 – Is This Kentucky Team More Like 2012 or 2013?
  • 10:04-14:44 – Florida as a Contender
  • 14:44-21:00 – Anyone Else in the SEC Going to be Good?
  • 21:00-23:16 – Randy Rejects Tennessee as a Potential Favorite Team
  • 23:16-24:48 – MARSHALL HENDERSON!
  • 24:48-29:24 – Other SEC Stars
  • 29:24-30:33 – Underrated SEC Players
  • 30:33-33:41 – Impact of Frank Haith’s Suspension on Mizzou and the Rest of the SEC
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SEC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 24th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. The hype is so great around Kentucky that it seems newsworthy when someone doesn’t pick the Wildcats to win the SEC. Five voters in the preseason SEC media poll picked Florida to win the league, and one of them was former Wildcats assistant coach Joe Dean Jr. Dean likes Florida’s veteran edge, and anticipates two great games between the teams this season. Kentucky cruised to the SEC regular season crown in 2011-12 with a six-game lead, and Florida won last season with a two-game margin that was never really in doubt. Having both programs at the level they are expected to be at this season should make for a tighter race. This isn’t to say Tennessee, LSU or another school won’t be in contention too. Dean also had an interesting take on the potential risk of John Calipari adding Kentucky high school stars Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis to the class: “When I was there, there was a train of thought with Kentucky high school players that if you were going to bring them to Kentucky, they had to be capable of starting at Kentucky at some point in their career. If they were not, then the fan base in Maysville, Paducah, Danville, Pikeville would be upset because they think those kids are the greatest thing in the world.”
  2. Several national college basketball voices have highlighted the drastic difference in penalties handed out to Frank Haith and Bruce Pearl for what appears to be similar misconduct (lying to NCAA investigators). No one will likely ever know what happened in those respective meetings with the NCAA, and it’s possible Haith’s behavior wasn’t as comparatively bad as Pearl’s. Still, there’s no denying that Haith’s five-game suspension looks golden compared to Pearl’s multi-year show-cause penalty and subsequent absence from the sport. But Haith might not be totally free and clear of this scandal once he returns to the Tigers’ bench. His record at Missouri is excellent but he has yet to win an NCAA tournament game, and the lingering stigma of a #15 seed (Norfolk State) over a #2 seed is hard to escape. Haith is by no means on the hot seat, but if his teams continue to disappoint in postseason play, the Miami scandal could resurface as ammunition for boosters and fans that want him gone.
  3. Jarnell Stokes is taking to heart the feedback he received from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee after last season. “It wasn’t anything like you’re too short to play in the NBA or you just don’t have skills,” Stokes said. “They were basically saying you have to be able to run the floor better and find different ways to score, be able to show you can shoot the ball and improve my overall skills.” DraftExpress has Stokes as a late first round pick in its current 2014 mock draft. Like all coaches who have pro prospects on their teams, Cuonzo Martin faces the difficult situation of allowing his players to showcase the skills and development NBA scouts want to see while keeping with the overall team scheme. This is a fine line coaches must deal with since the statement “I can help get you to the next level” is undoubtedly a common refrain on recruiting visits.
  4. Julian Terrell will return to Vanderbilt to serve as the director of video operations on Kevin Stallings’ staff. Terrell played at Vanderbilt from 2002-06 and was a member of the Commodores’ 2004 Sweet Sixteen team. Since then he’s made numerous stops playing abroad. Kentucky video coordinator Tim Asher said that five SEC schools still don’t have positions dedicated to video operations, instead relegating these duties to graduate assistants. Given its importance to scouting, it seems almost irresponsible to not have a full-time staff member doing this type of work nowadays. One would think teams would want every possible advantage, and video wouldn’t seem to be the philosophical jump advanced metrics is for some coaches. However, this could also represent a budget issue for some schools.
  5. Kentucky and UTEP are set to play at Maryland in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 NCAA championship game between the two schools (UTEP was Texas Western at the time). The 1966 game, also the focus of the 2006 movie Glory Road, was historically significant because Texas Western started five African-American players versus the Wildcats, representing the first all-black team to play in a championship game. If it all works out, the game may even take place on Martin Luther King Day three seasons from now. Kudos to both schools for putting this game together; it’s a well-deserved homage to a college basketball game that transcended the sport. Pat Riley (a Kentucky forward in 1966) is the most famous person to have played in that game, so it’ll be interesting to see if he gets involved.
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NCAA Closes the Book on Miami Scandal as Frank Haith Skates

Posted by Matt Patton on October 23rd, 2013

Yesterday, over two years after Nevin Shapiro contacted the NCAA with allegations of wrongdoing throughout the athletic department, Miami finally got closure from the Committee on Infractions in a scathing 102-page report that confirmed nearly all of the substantive allegations from Charles Robinson’s initial report. More specifically, the NCAA found that Miami “lacked institutional control” in both overlooking Shapiro’s violations and actively covering them up after the fact.

Mark Emmert and the NCAA seemed bigger than life before handing down Miami's judgement. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Mark Emmert and the NCAA seemed bigger than life before handing down Miami’s judgement. (AP/LM Otero)

The most serious punishments were reserved for some of the coaches implicated — Frank Haith (“former head men’s basketball coach”), Jorge Fernandez (“former assistant men’s basketball coach B”), and two former assistant football coaches — each of whom received punishments ranging from  a five-game suspension for Haith (now at Missouri) to a two-year show-cause for Fernandez. The football team will lose three scholarships per year over the next three years, and the basketball team will lose one scholarship per year over the same time. All of this comes on top of the university’s self-imposed punishments, which were significant. But the penalties are a far cry from two years ago when Mark Emmert threw around the phrase “death penalty” with various major media outlets.

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SEC M5: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 23rd, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. The uncertainty hanging over Frank Haith from the Nevin Shapiro/Miami scandal has finally reached its end. The NCAA on Tuesday suspended Haith for Missouri’s first five regular season games for failing to “promote an atmosphere of compliance” while head coach at Miami. Haith, while publicly disagreeing with the suspension, has decided not to appeal it. This is a probably a wise decision, as it provides instant closure for himself and the Missouri program. An appeal would have stayed the suspension and kept the issue lingering in the background. If the suspension was then appealed and upheld, Haith could have missed critical late season games. Instead, Haith will miss five games in which Missouri will be a heavy favorite even without his leadership on the sideline (Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb, and IUPUI). The logical bet for his fill-in would be Dave Leitao, who has been the head man at DePaul and Virginia at different points in his career.
  2. Florida got a verbal commitment from 2014 guard Zach Hodskins on Monday, who will join the program as a preferred walk-on. What’s significant about a 6’4″ preferred walk-on? How about that Hodskins was born without the lower half of his left arm. Whether Hodskins ever sees big minutes for the Gators is irrelevant; a player with that kind of perseverance and commitment can only have a positive impact on the team in the long run. And after watching a Hodskins’ highlight reel, it’s not hard to envision him contributing at some point in his Gator career.
  3. Frank Martin isn’t having a relaxing fall. The second year South Carolina coach said the best thing that his team does thus far is “aggravate him.” But he also said his team, with its eight newcomers, is “trying their rear ends off” to learn his system. The Gamecocks return only six players who averaged more than 10 minutes a game last season. Martin built competitive teams at Kansas State with less than ideal talent, and he has a good opportunity to lay that kind of groundwork with so many of his own players early in his tenure in Columbia.
  4. Alabama guard Trevor Releford was named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list for the second consecutive season. This continues a string of recognition for Releford, who was also named to the preseason SEC first team last week. Releford is the active SEC leader in career points and assists, and is arguably the best returning point guard in the league, with Scottie Wilbekin also in the discussion. Freshmen Andrew Harrison and Kasey Hill are expected to vault into that category too this year.
  5. This is a bit dated, but former Kentucky stars Anthony Davis and John Wall returned to Rupp Arena for an NBA preseason game between Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans and Wall’s Washington Wizards last Saturday. The Pelicans won 93-89 in front of 14,000+ fans in attendance. Davis scored 16 points and grabbed four rebounds, while Wall scored 16 points and handed out 11 assists. This is another example of the NBA’s creativity in expanding their brand. Are there are other college heroes returning home possibilities? The Oklahoma City Thunder (Kevin Durant) and Portland Trail Blazers (LaMarcus Aldridge) playing in Austin could work. From the SEC side, perhaps Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls could tune up against Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks in Gainesville next season. But to continue something like this you’d need a relatively large population area, a particularly interested fan base, and multiple guys with accomplished careers at the same school. That seems like a rare mix.
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ACC M5: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 23rd, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Miami Herald: The biggest news out of ACC country yesterday was the conclusion of the NCAA’s investigation into Miami. We will have more on that later today, but Michelle Kaufman has an interesting perspective. Rather than looking at the punishments, she asks, “Where are they now?” The answers are damning to say the least: Nevin Shapiro is in prison, two lead NCAA investigators moved on, and Frank Haith and Cecil Hurtt are still in coaching positions. It’s not hard to figure out why the NCAA didn’t hammer the Hurricanes.
  2. Wilmington Star News: It’s no secret Roy Williams’s system develops elite college point guards. The Tar Heels have three of the ten Bob Cousy Award trophies on campus. This year Marcus Paige joins fellow ACC floor generals Quinn Cook, Devon Bookert (an interesting choice), Eric Atkins, and Tyler Ennis on the preseason Cousy Award watch list. None are considered the favorites for the award (ahem, Marcus Smart), but all are point guards to watch in ACC play.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: While Mark Turgeon didn’t seem concerned about recruiting to Maryland once he moves to the Big Ten, Mike Brey is. Brey is considering scheduling Georgetown in the future to keep his in with the DMV. On a side note I think Laura Keeley underestimates the difference in media money between Big Ten and ACC schools. It is true that it is only a few million this year, but the ACC just renegotiated its deal. Also Maryland’s athletic department was facing fiscal crisis, which made the money that much more important.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Speaking of Maryland, some tough news out of College Park yesterday, as Terrapin assistant Dalonte Hill started a leave of absence following his third DUI charge in the last five years. Hill’s importance to Maryland recruiting cannot be overstated, as he has close ties to the premier AAU team from the area.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: You want a dark horse rookie of the year candidate? Look no further than Tyler Ennis, who is Jim Boeheim’s only point guard this season. That means Ennis will have a large role for Syracuse this year, potentially a more integral role than Duke’s Jabari Parker who will have his playing time eaten into by a roster chock full of athletic wings.
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Morning Five: 10.23.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 23rd, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday, the NCAA released its long-awaited report on its investigation into the alleged violations committed at Miami. While those involving the football program were the primary focus of the national media, in many ways the ones involving the basketball program were more interesting and we don’t just say that because we are a basketball site. The men’s basketball program was hit with a reduction in three scholarships (total) over the next three years, but otherwise escaped harm. If you want to hear our take on reducing scholarships, check out Mike DeCourcy’s column on why the idea is idiotic. In addition, the NCAA also issued assistant coach Jorge Fernandez a two-year show-cause, which basically amounts to a four-year ban since he has been untouchable while in limbo. Of course, the biggest news for us is that Frank Haith was only given a five-game suspension for his role in this. Normally we would use quotation marks to modify the only, but in this case he got very lucky. Gary Parrish did an excellent job describing how ridiculously light Haith’s punishment is in comparison to the three-year show-cause penalty that Bruce Pearl got for lying about hosting a cookout (it is a little more complex than that, but not to the degree that the NCAA made it out to be) and, as Andy Glockner pointed out repeatedly yesterday on Twitter, Todd Bozeman got an eight-year show-cause for doing essentially the same thing Haith did (to the point where we wonder if Glockner’s new job is being Bozeman’s PR guy). At this point, we think all the parties involved will be glad to just put the entire thing behind them.
  2. Haith was not the only coach making the wrong kind of headlines yesterday as Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill announced that he will be taking a “leave of absence” after being arrested over the weekend for what is at least his third DUI in the past five years. Hill, who is best known for essentially being an assistant who is essentially a package deal to bring in recruits, has been receiving a seemingly exorbitant $300,000-a-year salary at Maryland, but that is actually a significant drop from the $423,000-a-year he was making at Kansas State for helping bring Michael Beasley to Manhattan. Both Mark Turgeon and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson expressed their support for Hill and we would expect that he will be back on the sidelines (or recruiting trail) in the near-future. One more interesting twist on this is that Hill’s pipeline has largely come from the famed D.C. Assault AAU program that came into the national spotlight this August when its founder Curtis Malone was indicted on federal drug charges so we are not sure how that dynamic will affect Hill’s ability to recruit down the road.
  3. Villanova fans got an explanation for the mysterious photo that junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston temporarily posted on Instagram of himself on crutches back in August. It turns out that Pinkston had developed a MRSA infection of his right leg that required incision and drainage and eventually what has been described as “emergency surgery” as well as what is likely a prolonged course of antibiotics. By now, you have probably become familiar with MRSA infections due to the news media hyping it up over the past few years or perhaps the recent spate of infections on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you are not, essentially it an increasingly common bacteria that does not respond to older antibiotics that were previously used to treat the organism, but can generally be treated fairly easily with antibiotics (even oral forms). With competent medical care, superficial MRSA abscesses like what Pinkston appears to have had respond well to treatment and as expected (although maybe not as Pinkston and his family, coaches, and teammates feared) it appears that he will be ready to play when the season starts.
  4. Yesterday, we mentioned how West Virginia was waiting on the NCAA to rule on the eligibility of freshman forward Elijah Macon. Well, it appears that Macon might have other issues affecting his eligibility to play after he was arrested for disorderly conduct during a court hearing involving his sister. According to reports, Macon became upset during the hearing and after leaving the hearing hit something loudly enough for it to be heard in the courtroom. He was asked to leave the building which he did, but continued yelling and was then arrested. We have no idea what triggered Macon’s reaction, but we doubt that Bob Huggins will take too kindly to it.
  5. It is really early to start w thinking about Player of the Year awards, but yesterday The Bob Cousy Award committee released its preseason watch list. All of the big names that you would expect–Aaron Craft, Jahii Carson, and Marcus Smart–are on there as well as a handful of the more heralded incoming freshmen–Andrew Harrison, Kasey Hill, and Tyler Ennis. Interestingly, two schools–Harvard and Memphis–have a pair of point guards on the watch list, which seems unusual, but we don’t make a habit of memorizing these lists. We don’t see any particularly glaring omissions although we are sure fans of some schools will be able to muster up sufficient outrage over some perceived slight.
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America’s Top Five Party Schools: College Hoops Edition

Posted by BHayes on August 13th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. Be sure to tweet your disagreements with this column @HoopsTraveler.

You may have already caught it, but last week the Princeton Review released its annual list of the top 10 party schools in the country. This coronation of the most “festive” campuses across the country got us to thinking a little bit, and we wondered which schools best combine college basketball and partying. Unfortunately, it is only in a fantasy alternate reality that I have had the privilege of visiting the campuses of all 351 Division I basketball programs (now we all know how sad my dreams are), but with over 100 of them under my belt, including eight of the Princeton Review’s top 10 (Lehigh, really?), I feel at least somewhat qualified to create a list of the schools that best combine college basketball with extracurricular festivities. I’m only working off what I know here (i.e., the places I’ve personally been), and apologies if I went to the wrong frat party during my one night in town – we all swing and miss sometimes. So with those caveats in place, here are college basketball’s five best party schools – plus a few honorable mentions below those.

A Good Time Was Had By All

A Good Time Was Had By All

5. Missouri – Columbia, Missouri is one of the more underrated college towns in America. Not only the midpoint between Kansas City and St. Louis, the home to the Mizzou campus also lays claim to a lively downtown and massive student body as well as a pretty decent athletic program. The newest members of the SEC have made plenty of recent noise under Mike Anderson and now Frank Haith, and passers-through will not be disappointed by the post-game activities on and off East Broadway. Oh, and Shakespeare’s Pizza is an absolute must for food and libations before heading over to the game at Mizzou Arena.

4. Minnesota – Few college basketball arenas can match the eccentric personality of The Barn in Minneapolis, and it’s those little quirks that make Williams Arena the perfect spot to cozy up on a cold Minnesota night. The good but rarely great Gophers have been a bit of a tease over the last few years, but the program has a solid history, and win or lose, the streets outside the doors to the Barn have plenty of immediate options for eating and drinking. Finding a seat at Campus Pizza before or after a game will be a challenge, but well worth the effort if you can make it happen.

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Morning Five: 05.13.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 13th, 2013

morning5

  1. It seems like Rutgers cannot get anything right. Even the hiring of Eddie Jordan, which seemed like a no-brainer, has turned into a public relations disaster as Jordan never graduated from college. This is not at the level of George O’Leary and his fake degree with at an institution that never existed, but it is still an ugly mark against an institution that has already been dragged through the mud with its handling of the Mike Rice situation. From what the school is saying Jordan never represented himself as a graduate of the school and it was simply a media relations error. If that is in fact true and the school claims that it does not require its coaches to have college degrees (Who cares since they do not count against the APR, right?), this issue will probably be swept under the rug, but we imagine that opposing coaches will use this to recruit against Jordan by pointing out that if he did not bother to complete his college degree it seems a little less credible that he would make sure your son ends up with a college degree when his basketball career is over.
  2. It appears that the recruitment of Andrew Wiggins, the #1 high school player in (North) America, will be coming to a close as he is expected to announce his decision at 12:15 PM today. Many fans and several analysts have voiced their displeasure with Wiggins taking so long to announce his decision, but with the way that schools get put on probation and players or coaches leave it makes sense for the top player in the country (or any coveted recruit for that matter) to wait as long as possible to make their decision. Wiggins is set to decide between Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina. If Wiggins winds up in Lexington, you can be sure it will set off another round of hysteria about Kentucky’s incoming class. Interestingly, the most frequently cited destination we have seen from college basketball analysts is Florida State. If that were to happen, Wiggins would make the Seminoles a legitimate NCAA Tournament team and would create some very interesting match-ups against Duke and Jabari Parker.
  3. The Miami investigation is the mess that never seems to go away. The latest update is that Frank Haith‘s petition to question Bank of America employees on whether they gave unauthorized access to his bank accounts (allowing the NCAA to analyze his accounts) was denied by a federal judge in Miami on Friday. Based on what has been released about the case it appears that Haith will still be able to get the information if he decides to file a lawsuit, which he may be doing in the near future. If the NCAA did in fact illegally obtain Haith’s financial records it could be dealing with a very messy legal case and one that it cannot rely on its own jurisdiction to help it evade substantial penalties.
  4. Georgia Tech lost a pair of players over the weekend. The most significant was Julian Royal, who is headed to George Mason (announced via that Instagram picture) and will finally get to play for Paul Hewitt after Hewitt recruited him to Georgia Tech before moving to George Mason. On the surface, the addition of a player who was the odd man out in Georgia Tech’s rotation may not seem like a big get, but coming out of high school Royal was considered the best player in the state of Georgia and a player that Hewitt thought fit his system so perhaps playing for Hewitt in his system (and new scenery) will help Royal realize his potential. The other move from Georgia Tech was Brandon Reed‘s decision to transfer after his junior season. Reed, who averaged 5.2 points per game on 38.4 percent from three-point range last season, will graduate this summer as he also sat out a year after transferring from Arkansas State. As a result Reed will be able to transfer again without having to sit out a year if he picks an appropriate graduate degree program.
  5. We are still waiting on a few recruits from the class of 2013 to commit (see the big one in bullet #2), but a pair of highly rated recruits in the class of 2014 appear to have already made their choices. The more firm of the two commitments comes from Daniel Hamilton, a top 30 recruit, who verbally committed to play at Connecticut. The addition of Hamilton should give the Huskies a very potent backcourt for the 2014-15 season (when Rodney Purvis is eligible) as they will be looking to replace more experienced players. The other quasi-commitment comes from Chris Chiozza, who is a top-100 player, and appears to be headed to Florida with a formal announcement tomorrow. The news on Chiozza is not particularly noteworthy except for the fact that he is a high school teammate of Leron Black, a top-20 player in the junior class so perhaps Chiozza’s decision will offer some clue as to where Black is headed.
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Morning Five: 03.07.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 7th, 2013

morning5

  1. The beauty of advanced quantitative analysis in sports is that, when done correctly, it can validate things that you already inherently know. Trey Burke as the best player in America? It sure felt like it while we were watching him lead Michigan past Kansas and Florida on the way to the Final Four. Rick Pitino as the best coach going right now? Considering how his Louisville Cardinals were essentially the same cast of characters from a surprise 2012 Final Four run and became recognizably better on the offensive end (especially out of timeouts) in 2013? Sure seems like it. Of course, there are limitations — Florida rated tops in KenPom’s efficiency ratings for most of the season, but the Gators were merely a good team filled with good players, not a great one. SI.com‘s Luke Winn keeps us interested by doing what only he has proven he can do — sifting through terabytes of efficiency data and video clips to come up with his second annual Data-Based Coaching/Player Awards. Lots of good information in the piece, but perhaps the neatest has to be his quantification of Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi as the nation’s best all-around defender. 
  2. Speaking of Pitino, the guy continues to get a surplus of positive press in the wake of his second national title. Several outlets had a Pitino/Kentucky Derby story coming out of the weekend, but ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil wrote the quintessential story about the man she calls “the Derby King.” The crux of the story is that regardless of whether Pitino’s horse “Goldencents” finished first, 10th, 17th or somewhere behind the barns in Saturday’s Derby, the 60-year old tattooed grandfather owns the town of Louisville and everything in it. Including Millionaire’s Row. It’s not the kind of read you see much of anymore in the instant-gratification world of online writing, but that makes it even more worth your time.
  3. This news is circumstantial and ultimately may not mean anything at all, but the possibility that it could mean something is really disturbing given recent events. Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com reported on Wednesday that Missouri head coach Frank Haith has filed a petition in federal court to determine how the NCAA got its hands on what appears to be microfiche copies of his personal bank records. According to the report, some of Haith’s Bank of America records were voluntarily turned over as part of the NCAA’s investigation into the Nevin Shapiro violations at his former school, Miami, but those records did not include the more detailed microfiche copies which Haith seems to believe that the NCAA has in its possession. The gigantic elephant in the room, of course, is that the NCAA already admitted missteps in this case by offering payment to certain witnesses for testimony, but an as-yet unfounded assertion that the organization may have illegally solicited bank records to bolster its case could set off yet another firestorm surrounding the organization. Stay tuned on this one.
  4. If there’s one thing we love about college sports, it’s when former stars come back into the fold as a coach at their alma mater. The Arizona Star-Republic reported on Monday that “Mighty Mouse,” former Arizona star and current Memphis assistant, Damon Stoudamire, is returning to Tucson to join Sean Miller’s staff as an assistant there. For those who don’t remember him at Arizona, he was a three-time all-Pac-10 guard, an All-American in 1995, and, along with backcourt mate Khalid Reeves, led the Wildcats to Lute Olson’s second Final Four in 1994. He’ll fit in great on Miller’s staff, focusing on work with the guards, a role he has fulfilled with Josh Pastner the last couple of seasons.
  5. One other significant coming and going from Monday was out of Florida, as the second Gator in a week announced his transfer out of the program. Last week it was freshman Braxton Ogbueze who say the writing on the wall with two top 10 recruits and Rutgers transfer Eli Carter entering the program; this week it is Devon Walker, a freshman wing who saw just a handful of minutes in 25 contests this season. The Gators are coming off three straight Elite Eight appearances, but none of those three teams were loaded with NBA talent (Bradley Beal’s freshman year was the lone exception). With Kasey Hill and Chris Walker both headed to Gainesville next season, though, the Gators could actually boast more elite talent in 2013-14 than it has the last several years.
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With Kentucky Loss, SEC Fan Apathy For Basketball Exposed Again

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report while covering the SEC Tournament in Nashville this weekend.

You’ve heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” When it comes to Kentucky fans and the SEC Tournament, it goes more like this: “Wherever you hold it, they will come.” Everyone knows that the Wildcats have struggled all season with almost an entirely new team, and chances are, they will miss out on the NCAA Tournament. But if you happened to be in downtown Nashville Friday evening, you would think John Calipari’s team was a prime contender for the national championship. For Friday’s blowout loss to Vanderbilt, whose campus is two miles from Bridgestone Arena, the SEC Tournament drew its largest crowd of the weekend, and of the 18,000+ in attendance, at least 15,000 were part of the “Blue Mist,” the affectionate name given to Wildcat fans who take over whatever city the annual extravaganza is being held in. The Commodores would have felt more at home if the game had been in Rupp Arena, not that it was evident from their play.

uk fans nashville

Kentucky’s surprising ouster from this tournament was not only bad for the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, which was looking forward to a St. Patrick’s Day weekend with thousands of Wildcat fans in town, but it once again brought to light an embarrassing issue for the SEC.  Bridgestone Arena had plenty of empty seats for Saturday’s semifinals, and Sunday’s championship likely will be no different.  Mike Slive has made more money for this league since he took over as commissioner in 2002 than you can count. He’s overseen expansion into Texas and Missouri, massive television contracts, and rumor has it that he’s on the verge of announcing the formation of the SEC Network, expected to launch in August 2014.  But make no mistake: That money has been made because of football. It is the cash cow of college sports in every league, but there’s no question that the pigskin is more important to the SEC than any other. And there’s no clearer of example of that than the conference’s dominance of the BCS, which it was won seven consecutive times.

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A Puncher’s Chance? Breaking Down the Teams Driving the 2013 SEC Tournament

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on March 11th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

The SEC Tournament is upon us, and thanks to the league’s new 14-team format, fans get a whole extra day of win-or-go-home basketball in the south. The 2012-13 season hasn’t been particularly kind to the SEC. The conference suffered through a plague of upset losses and a dearth of quality wins which led to speculation that Florida would be the league’s only representative at the NCAA Tournament.

That course has been corrected over the final three weeks of the season thanks to some big wins across the conference’s second tier, but there are still plenty of teams battling for postseason slots. Tennessee and Kentucky will be looking to one-up each other as they duel for what might the last at-large invitation to the Big Dance. Alabama and Ole Miss will look to re-enter the postseason conversation with legitimizing wins. Arkansas, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt will try to rally hard and extend their seasons one day at a time.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 14 teams that will be competing for conference honors when Wednesday rolls around.

The Prohibitive Favorite: Florida

 (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

Florida Seeks Another SEC Title in Nashville (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

Billy Donovan’s team hasn’t been perfect against a downtrodden conference, and that has cost the Gators a shot at a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their best recourse for that will be to put together a dominant run in Nashville, and an easy Friday match-up against LSU or Georgia will give them the opportunity to get off on the right foot. Much like the rest of the season, this will be a high-risk, low-reward endeavor for Florida. They won’t face a top-50 opponent until a theoretical Sunday match-up in the title game. They’ll have to hold court and prove that they can reclaim the dominance that led them to a string of double-digit wins to open league play.

The Savvy Bet: Missouri 

Mizzou may have the richest depth of any team in the SEC, but Frank Haith’s squad has been vulnerable against the conference’s good and mid-level teams in 2013. The Tigers have struggled to play well as a team despite the wealth of experience on their roster, but they’ve been able to regroup (4-2 in their last six games) as the SEC Tournament approaches. Mizzou has the scoring, ball movement, and rebounding to push any opponent to the limit. Players like Alex Oriakhi, Laurence Bowers, and Phil Pressey can create mismatches against any team they face. Can they ratchet up the defense and come together as a cohesive unit when the pressure is on? The Tigers are just a #6 seed in the SEC bracket, but they have the potential to do so much more — especially with a relatively weak draw on the road to the conference championship game.

The At-Large Brawlers: Tennessee, Kentucky

Tennessee and Kentucky represent the conference’s best candidates for a third and possibly fourth NCAA Tournament bid, but it may be a case of one-or-the-other when it comes to the selection committee’s final bracket. Both of these teams proved that they can beat Florida over the past two weeks, but their victories came with the help of home court advantage. Now, they’ll have to prove that they can travel to a neutral court and roll that momentum into a season-sustaining run through the SEC Tournament. The Volunteers and Wildcats will be pitting their resumes against each other for a chance to make it to the Big Dance, and while either team can make a case for inclusion based on their regular season performances, another significant win would all but ensure their spot in one of the NCAA’s four regions.

Jordan McRae and Tennessee are the hottest team in the SEC. (USA Today)

Jordan McRae and Tennessee are the hottest team in the SEC. (USA Today)

The only way these two would meet in Nashville is in the SEC title game, and both teams would be likely locks for the 68-team filed at that point. Kentucky has the better collection of talent, but no team has been hotter over the past month than Tennessee. The Volunteers are at the tail end of an 8-1 run that rallied the team from CBI territory and on to the happy side of the bubble. However, they may have been pushed down to NIT status after Saturday’s UK win over the Gators and Middle Tennessee State’s surprising Sun Belt Tournament loss. Is there room for both of these teams in the NCAA bracket?

The Forgotten Bubble Contenders: Ole Miss, Alabama

Ole Miss and ‘Bama belonged in the previous group until late-season slumps effectively tanked their seasons. For the Rebels, February and March represented a precipitous fall from grace. Marshall Henderson and his teammates plummeted from a potential five-seed or better all the way off the NCAA Tournament bubble with a 6-6 record down the stretch that included losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State. Still, Henderson, Murphy Holloway, and Reginald Buckner could lead the third-seeded Rebels to a big weekend if they can regain their early-season magic.

The Crimson Tide didn’t have a bad spring, they just failed to produce any resume-defining wins. Anthony Grant’s team is solid across the court and strong enough to hang with the SEC’s best teams, but they’ve been unable to lock down an impressive top-50 victory in 2013. This rebuilding Alabama squad has the pieces in place for a big 2014 run, but they might not have the gas this week to get to the SEC title game and back to the bright side of the bubble.

Puncher’s Chances: Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU

The SEC Tournament occasionally fails to follow rhyme, reason, or tradition. Some years, a tornado hits the host arena and wills a 4-12 Georgia team to the Big Dance. In others, a Vanderbilt team that hadn’t known much beyond abject failure in the conference bracket wins their first postseason title since 1950. Five teams at the lower end of the Southeastern spectrum could end up adding to that legacy in 2013.

Vanderbilt, thanks in part to the emergence of freshman Sheldon Jeter, is finishing its season better than they started it. A team that can shoot from three-point range and play hard-nosed defense on the perimeter is always dangerous in tournament play, and that will give Kevin Stallings’ team a shot. Same goes for Texas A&M, a squad that could ride Elston Turner Jr.’s hot hand to a marquee match-up on Sunday.

Arkansas, with wins over Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri, may have the best resume of the group when it comes to the league’s third tier and a high-paced style that could wreak havoc in a four-day tournament setting. Georgia has been streaky all year and could be an upset of Florida away from an easy path to the SEC title game. Finally, LSU has been wholly unpredictable in 2013 and that volatility could result in a surprising run to a weekend match-up or a Thursday exit at the hands of Georgia.

Saving Money on Costly Weekend Hotels in Nashville: Mississippi State, Auburn, South Carolina

Frank Martin’s team has some young talent, but doesn’t have a path to a Friday game unless Bruce Ellington or Michael Carrera catch fire for the Gamecocks. Even with a big, slightly inexplicable win over Ole Miss, Mississippi State is still a rebuilding team with just seven scholarship players to count on in Nashville. Auburn held Alabama to just 37 points once and also beat Florida State this season, but that’s about it for bright spots in a season that’s ending on a 1-14 skid.

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SEC M5: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 8th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  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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