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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SEC M5: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on March 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Missouri earned its second road win of the season at South Carolina last night, thanks to a fantastic shooting display. The Tigers hit nearly 70% of their shots, including 6-of-9 from three-point range. ”I don’t think we could have played any better offensively,” head coach Frank Haith said. Guards Keion Bell and Jabari Brown enjoyed a size advantage over the smaller starting Gamecock backcourt, enabling them to combine for 47 points. Phil Pressey (one game after scoring 27 against Kentucky) didn’t attempt a single shot, opting instead to serve as a pure play-maker, finishing with nine assists. Missouri will head home for a two-game stretch before traveling to Tennessee for its regular season finale.
  2. After suffering its first three losses of its SEC schedule, the air of invincibility has vanished from Florida. Don’t be too quick to remove them from your list of title contenders, though, as the Gators are finally getting healthy. Billy Donovan announced Thursday that both Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier II have been cleared for this weekend’s game against Alabama. ”Our guys that have been through the grind of most of the last month or so, they can’t rest and relax,” Donovan said. “They’ve got to understand that they’ve got to step up and they’ve got to play and they cannot take the approach of, ‘Well, we’re a little bit deeper. We have more guys available.’ Because I just don’t know if Frazier and/or Yeguete are going to be really able to be able to really provide some significant minutes for us.” Frazier missed only one game, but Yeguete has been sidelined since February 5, during which Florida desperately missed his rebounding ability, only out-boarding its opponent in two of six games.
  3. With the Gators finally having the luxury of a full squad, their biggest worry this Saturday will be Alabama guard Trevor Releford. The junior guard from Kansas City has been a revelation for the Tide this season, earning him quite a bit of praise. ”I see a lot more confidence in his shot,” said LJ Goolsby, Releford’s AAU coach. “That’s been evident the last couple of games, most importantly. The bigger the game, the better he is a lot of times. That speaks volumes about his competitiveness. Competitors want the biggest challenges. They accept it and embrace it.” With the departures of JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, the position of #1 scoring option was up for grabs in Tuscaloosa this season, and Releford has locked it down. He’s been especially hot recently (including a career high 36 points against LSU), and will have to be at his best to upset the Gators in Gainesville.
  4. Tennessee waited until the last possible opportunity to turn its season around, displaying some pretty remarkable composure during their late-season run. What’s behind this new and improved Volunteers team?  The Chattanooga Times Free PressPatrick Brown credits coach Cuonzo Martin and his stoic nature. ”You can’t get overemotional in certain situations,” Martin says. “You’ve got to be even-keeled. But that’s easier said than done.” The second-year coach rarely changes his tone in his interactions with the media, even when some of the Vols’ early-season performances undoubtedly had him boiling inside. Consider leading scorer Jordan McRae impressed. ”You guys see our practices, the way Coach Martin is, you would think we hadn’t won a game yet this year,” said the junior guard. “That’s just the way it’s going to be, and I think Coach Martin does a really good job of making us realize we always have a game after this one.”
  5. Kentucky fans were treated to a night of celebration on Wednesday. The Wildcats easily dispatched Mississippi State, as expected, but the real draw was the 1996 team’s return to Rupp Arena. With stars like Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, and Walter McCarty all in attendance, coach John Calipari will hope uber-recruit Andrew Wiggins, who was taking his official visit to the Lexington campus, was impressed by the tradition. The Bulldogs were a bit of a break for the Wildcats, whose NCAA Tournament hopes will be put to the test when they travel to Arkansas (undefeated at home in SEC play) on Saturday.
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An Outsider’s Trip to the Heart of Big Blue Nation

Posted by dnspewak on February 28th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC Correspondent. He covered College Gameday and Missouri/Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Saturday.

Kentucky’s intro video is long. It’s not even the only intro video — there’s a hipper version that plays right before the public address announcer introduces the Wildcats’ starters. The first one isn’t as hip, though. It’s nostalgic. It’s a full two minutes (possibly an NCAA record for intro videos) of grainy, black-and-white video from the Dark Ages set to the tune of Bittersweet Symphony.

It is awesome. As the shots move at lightning speed from frame to frame to frame to frame, you see Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Pat Riley, Jamal Mashburn, Patrick Sparks, Tayshaun Prince, Frank Ramsey, Tony Delk, Sean Woods, Kenny Walker, Dan Issel and all the other Kentucky legends this state has embraced for almost a century. Tubby Smith makes a few appearances. Rick Pitino does not. For 120 seconds, Big Blue Nation stands and claps in unison to the beat of Bittersweet Symphony, and you realize whatever’s about to start in a few minutes isn’t just a basketball game. It’s some sort of religious experience, something that’s bonded the 24,000 people in the building together for decades.

Kentucky Enjoyed The College Gameday Festivities

Kentucky Enjoyed The College Gameday Festivities

I met a man on Saturday morning who told me he’d been driving 75 miles from Northern Kentucky to watch games at Rupp Arena since 1980. I met another woman from Bowling Green, Kentucky, who said she’d had season tickets since her teenage children were toddlers. These people exist at every level of college basketball and in every single arena across the country, but here, there are thousands of them. It’s just a little different in Kentucky, and you can feel that the second you walk into Rupp and see the eight hundred million banners in the rafters. There are so many retired jerseys, it’s a wonder they haven’t run out yet.

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SEC M5: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 27th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. The red-hot Tennessee Volunteers extended its winning streak to six games Tuesday night, handing Florida their second loss in three games. Jordan McRae provided most of the offense with 27 points, while Jarnell Stokes (14 rebounds) dominated the glass in a game that was almost a must-win for the Vols to make the NCAA Tournament field. Florida began SEC play with 11 straight victories, looking almost infallible in comparison to the rest of the weak conference. However, injuries have taken their toll (Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier II, most recently) and the Gators have lost some of that shine, maybe enough to completely excuse themselves from the #1-seed conversation. With the loss, Billy Donovan’s record against Cuonzo Martin fell to 0-3.
  2. Anthony Grant charged Trevor Releford with putting the offense on his back through the rest of the season, and he started out in style. Behind 21 points from the junior guard, Alabama avenged an ugly February 6 loss to intrastate rival Auburn with an easy win Tuesday night. Nick Jacobs chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds. ”We talked about the importance of every game going forward, but obviously any time you get a chance to play your in-state rival that adds a different meaning,” Grant said after the game. Alabama travels to Gainesville this weekend with, unbelievably, a chance to tie the Gators atop the SEC standings.
  3. Believe it or not, Georgia still has a chance to grab a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. Show of hands: Who thought the Bulldogs would be able to say that at the end of February? Really? Really? Coach Mark Fox will face a challenge tonight, as he brings his young backcourt into the uncomfortable environment that is Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym, the only venue in the nation that features benches along the baseline. “I’m probably more worried about it this year with such a young perimeter group,” Fox said of the Commodores’ court configuration. “There’s a lot of the game they’ll have to manage on their own on the floor.” Freshman Charles Mann has been seeing more time at the point, while classmates Kenny Gaines and Brandon Morris have earned their share of minutes as well. The Bulldogs have lost three of four games after a previous five-game winning streak.
  4. Andrew Wiggins, the top recruit in the class of 2013 according to both Rivals and ESPN, will take an official visit to Kentucky, probably while you’re reading this. He’s visited the Lexington campus before, but expects to see more than he did on his previous unofficial trip. ”He’ll have a chance to meet different people: the academic people, the athletic director,” said Rob Fulford, Wiggins’ coach at Huntington (WV) Prep. “It’s more official as far as what you’re looking for and getting a feel for the school.” The forward originally from Canada is also considering Florida State, Kansas, and North Carolina. Also, watch this.
  5. Frank Haith hasn’t been hesitant to criticize his team this season. His most recent target is his team’s subpar defense on the road against Kentucky. “We had nobody play on that end of the court,” Haith said. “And when you have nobody play on that end of the court, you don’t have a chance. We had so many breakdowns where we didn’t rotate, we didn’t shrink the gap and allowed them driving lanes and loose balls and poor closeouts.” Kentucky entered Saturday’s game with Missouri without any momentum, but the Tigers’ lax defense allowed the Wildcats to shoot over 50% from the field, as well as over 40% from long range. Haith believes that his team only plays quality defense when their offensive game is on, which may help to explain much of the Tigers’ road struggles this season.
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After Saving the SEC’s Tourney Chances, What’s Next For Missouri?

Posted by DPerry on February 22nd, 2013

It’s no secret that the SEC is having a down year. From defending champ Kentucky suffering a 30-point loss at Tennessee to first-year head coach Rick Ray struggling through an 11-game losing streak and multiple suspensions, the evidence is overwhelming. SEC fans, however, were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief Tuesday night after Missouri’s victory over Florida, one of the most important results of the conference season.

Laurence Bowers

Laurence Bowers had 17 points and 10 rebounds in Missouri’s upset of Florida. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

If the Gators had been able to hold on to their 13-point second half lead, I’d probably be writing a piece about the very real possibility of the SEC sending only one team to the NCAA Tournament. According to the most recent projections from Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm, only Florida, Missouri, and Ole Miss have résumés worthy of Tourney invites, with the latter two only just making the cut. A few more road losses would have sent Mizzou further down the “S-curve”, while the Rebels seem really committed to complete capitulation, having lost five of seven since this. Kentucky and Alabama could play their way in, but their margin for error is slim.

Yes, Missouri’s upset of Florida was the most direct route in virtually ensuring that the SEC wouldn’t join the likes of the Patriot League and the Summit League as one-bid conferences, but Frank Haith won’t be satisfied with a repeat of a first-round exit. Expectations were high in Columbia entering the season, and the Tigers have been largely disappointing. Can Mizzou use the home upset as a springboard for a late-season run?

If they can make these three improvements, don’t be surprised to see the Tigers carrying a lot of momentum into March:

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SEC M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 21st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Have Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks worked their way onto the NCAA bubble? Arkansas’ resume is considerably better at home than it is on the road, but as ESPN.com points out, “Since Febuary 2, the Razorbacks are 4-1 with wins over Florida and, most recently, Missouri. They also — in typical fashion — lost 67-49 at Vanderbilt. On January 26, they lost 75-54 at South Carolina. So, yeah, there’s plenty of work to do here.” But unfortunately for the Hogs, NCAA Tournament games aren’t played at home, and they just haven’t been the same team away from Bud Walton Arena. 
  2. Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden isn’t abandoning Tigers coach Frank Haith in the wake of potential NCAA violations. ”You know, I’m looking forward to working with Frank for a long time. And he’s done great things here with us, and we look forward to continuing to do great things,” Alden said. At this point, however, the AD doesn’t know the extent to which Haith will be punished for the alleged violations. While a show of confidence is important at this stage in the game, it doesn’t really mean much if bad news is pending. If penalties are imposed on him at some point down the road, a statement of full confidence at that point will be far more telling.
  3. Florida blew a 13-point second half lead against Missouri on Tuesday night, and it’s time to start pointing the finger to locate the problems. The Florida Times Union points to an ill-advised three pointer by Kenny Boynton, costly turnovers by Mike Rosario, and key missed free throws by Patric Young as reasons for the demise. And as the author points out, this isn’t the first time the Gators have unraveled during a close game. Three turnovers and a missed free throw during the final minute cost UF a six-point lead at Arizona, and Florida was within one point against Kansas State but it just couldn’t close out with a win. Billy Donovan’s squad has reason for concern as it is 0-3 in games this season decided by single figures.
  4. Florida’s late-game struggles have a common theme — the head coach. While Donovan is the greatest head coach ever to stand on the sidelines at the University of Florida, his winning percentage in games decided by five points or fewer doesn’t stack up to that of his national championship-winning peers. The most recent three-point loss to Missouri gave the accomplished Donovan a mere 57-75 record in games with the outcome at five points or fewer, which is just a .469 winning percentage. In comparison, just to name a few, Donovan’s mentor Rick Pitino sits at .503, John Calipari is at .570, and Jim Boeheim is the leader among active national championship winners at .628. Donovan’s record is in fact the worst among active national championship-winning coaches, and he is the only coach with that criteria with a losing record in close games.
  5. Rick Ray just can’t catch a break. The Mississippi State coach suspended sophomore forward Roquez Johnson for an unspecified violation of team rules, leaving him with just five scholarship players. But Ray didn’t back off of his zero tolerance approach to discipline. “What they’re trying to figure out is… how much can they get away with without getting punished?” Ray said. “I think there’s a little bit with this situation with those older guys. ‘Hey, how much can I get away with without getting punished?’ And the answer is: nothing.” If this basketball coaching gig doesn’t work out for Ray, he joked that he has enough material from this first year on the job with the Bulldogs to write a book.
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ACC M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 21st, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Fox Sports: I would’ve said the ACC Player of the Year race was a dead heat as late as last week. But as long as Miami keeps dominating the league (even by low margins of victory), I’m starting to think Shane Larkin holds the best card. Barring some outrageous performances to close out the season (and at least one marquee win) Erick Green should be done. It may not be fair, but life isn’t fair. Mason Plumlee has a very good shot at the award too — assuming he bounces back to form after struggling against Maryland and looks good against Miami (a Duke win against Miami next Saturday would turn the tables somewhat). But Larkin is the most important player on the conference’s best team. At a minimum, he and Kenny Kadji are first-teamers.
  2. Orlando Sentinel: Great news out of Tallahassee, as Terrance Shannon has been cleared for no-contact practice. Shannon suffered a nasty neck injury early in conference play at Virginia. He had to be carted off the court in one of the scarier moments of the season. Apparently, Shannon sought a second opinion and will be back much sooner than expected. Assuming the rest of his rehabilitation goes according to schedule, it’s possible he’ll be back before the end of the season. Shannon adds tons of energy and toughness to a young Florida State front line.
  3. Duke Basketball Report: Every year there’s a team in the ACC (usually one in the lower tier) that plays more than its fair share of close games. This year three of the league’s bottom five teams are struggling to win the close ones. Just in conference games alone, Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech are a combined 4-15 in games decided by five points or fewer. Meanwhile, all of Florida State’s conference wins have been by five points or fewer (thank Michael Snaer for that 6-1 record in close games), while close games are a coin flip for Wake Forest and NC State. Miami is the only team unblemished in close games with a 4-0 record, although the Hurricanes have been flirting with disaster recently.
  4. Washington Post: That sound was Maryland falling back to the wrong side of the bubble after a brutal letdown loss at Boston College following its emotional upset win against Duke. Want to know what this Maryland team is starting to look dangerously like? A worse version of 2010-11 Virginia Tech. Ugly non-conference resume with no quality wins? Check. Talented roster shaped largely around two dynamic players but with a fatal flaw? Check (the Hokies couldn’t shoot; Maryland can’t hold onto the basketball). Huge upset win over Duke that boosted NCAA hopes dramatically immediately followed by a soul-crushing loss to Boston College? Check. NIT? Yes and to be determined.
  5. Kansas City Star: The details of Frank Haith‘s notice of allegations were released by Missouri. The reported “unethical conduct” charge was dropped to “failure to monitor” (which is far less severe). The big charge levied against Haith is that he failed to notify the athletic department of Nevin Shapiro’s instability and gave money to an assistant to pass along to the renegade booster. With the NCAA’s recent struggles, it’s hard to see Haith’s punishment with much teeth. If the NCAA does try to get medieval, expect him to fight back and potentially get a settlement. A suspension of some kind is the most likely punishment.
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Morning Five: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. After nearly two years of investigations and countless missteps the NCAA finally sent Miami and people who left the school their notice of allegations. All of the reports that we have at this point are from sources as nobody outside of the school’s administration has access to the official notice, but the primary allegations are for “lack of institutional control”, which is amusing given the lack of institutional control that the NCAA has shown in controlling their own investigators. While most of these allegations are around the football team, at least a few of them involve the basketball staff under former coach Frank Haith, who has moved on to Missouri. According to reports Haith is facing a failure to monitor charge rather than the more serious unethical conduct charge that could have carried a show-cause penalty.
  2. When NCAA Selection Committee Chairman Mike Bobinski claim that the RPI was the best computer predictor of NCAA Tournament success we were stunned, but unlike many of us who just laughed at the suggestion John Ezekowitz decided to take a look at the data and found that Bobinski was wrong. As you would expect Ken Pomeroy’s rankings outperform the RPI (of course every college basketball fan knows that Pomeroy is the most amazing thing ever), but what is more interesting is how much Ezekowitz’s Survival Advantage model (explained here) outperforms both the RPI and Pomeroy in predicting the NCAA Tournament. This is something that you should remember in a month when you are filling out your bracket.
  3. As usual Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings have their usual wealth of great information packed into the most concise format this side of Twitter. While Luke always makes great use of graphics and charts his weekly column typically focuses on one or two major themes. This week’s themes (outside of enraging every single college basketball fan in the state of Michigan) are Winn’s analysis of three players (Trey Burke, Tyler Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk) having exceptionally efficient high-usage seasons and two players (Kenny Kadji and Erik Murphy) who have become much more perimeter-oriented later in their college careers.
  4. The success of a few individuals (most notably Mike Leach in football before his closet fiasco) has led some to speculate that there could be a change in the way that sports are played. One of the latest examples to make the media rounds is the style of play from West Liberty, a Division II school, that has been highly successful in playing an up-tempo style of basketball. While we have had our issues with gimmicks in basketball (see our takedown of Malcolm Gladwell from 2009), but this attack and others like it are obviously more nuanced than what Gladwell espoused. We doubt that any power conference schools (read: athletic directors) would be willing to try it, but we would love to see a mid- or low-major try it out.
  5. Since the Fab Five, which technically didn’t exist (we’re still going with that, right), Michigan has experienced relatively little success in the NCAA Tournament. However, this season the Wolverines have realistic Final Four aspirations and with the NCAA’s dissociation of Chris Webber and the school ending in May, the school has been reaching out to the former members and with Juwan Howard now on board it seems like only a matter of time before the school has some big event to celebrate the group. Frankly we cannot see the downside of it other than irritating the NCAA, which will still leave a black mark next to the team’s accomplishments. However the administration has expressed some reservation in celebrating the group so it will be interesting to see what they decide.
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Pressey Acknowledges Haters, Comes Up Big Against Gators

Posted by dnspewak on February 20th, 2013

Danny Spewak is an RTC correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak. He filed this report following Missouri’s victory over Florida at Mizzou Arena. 

Phil Pressey knows the haters exist. He knows what they say, too. You shoot too much. You turn the ball over too much. You make stupid decisions late in games. You’re a team cancer. You’ve regressed from a year ago. You hardly look like the SEC Player of the Year. You play too out of control. As Missouri has tumbled out of the national rankings — thanks in large part to a 1-6 road record — Pressey has taken the majority of the heat for his high turnover rate and questionable decision-making. Some of it is overkill and exaggeration; some of it is rooted in truth.

Phil Pressey Did The Job On Tuesday (US Presswire)

Phil Pressey Did The Job On Tuesday (US Presswire)

On Tuesday, Pressey made everybody shut up with a gritty performance on national television in a 63-60 victory over fifth-ranked Florida. “He was dialed in on both ends,” his coach Frank Haith said. The turnover bug hit Pressey early, which partly contributed to the Tigers’ 13-point deficit with about 11 minutes to play in regulation. Missouri couldn’t defend the perimeter, Pressey wasn’t creating, and it appeared as though Missouri would slide further toward the wrong side of the bubble with a home loss to the Gators.

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SEC M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 20th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. After commenting over the weekend that his players are uncoachable, John Calipari backed off those comments slightly this week. He was still upset about bad habits, but remained cautiously optimistic. “All that aside, we can make what we want of this season,” he said. “We could be the story of the year, of recovery and all that. We can do that if they choose to do that.” The Wildcats, however, are running out of time. Calipari and company may have to rely upon the SEC Tournament of which he hasn’t placed much value on the last several years. This year, it may be UK’s only realistic shot at an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. After a somewhat frustrating and disappointing year last season, Mike Rosario has become a huge part of Florida’s dominance this season. Part of the turnaround is that the guard received a lot of guidance from his coach. “Part of the reason I challenged him so much was when he’s focused on and locked in, he seems to play his best basketball,” coach Billy Donovan said. “When he’s loose, relaxed and not on edge or really ready, he gets a little carefree.” Some balance in the offense has benefited Rosario. His offensive rating is more than 10 points higher while his percentage of possessions and shots are both the lowest they have been in his entire career.
  3. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy insists that guard Marshall Henderson isn’t a distraction. “Marshall and I have constant dialogue about making good decisions,” Kennedy said. “That was all in fun. He just has fun with a lot of things. Sometimes, I’m envious of his nature. He seems to be enjoying it a lot more than I am.” Kennedy’s comments continue to confirm his unwavering support of Henderson, which has to be comforting for players in the Rebels’ program. And with six games left and the SEC Tournament to follow, what more of the legend of Marshall Henderson do we have yet to come?
  4. After just two points and 10 turnovers in the first match-up with Florida, Missouri’s Phil Pressey played better in the rematch last night (seven points, 10 assists, five turnovers). Frank Haith has faith in his junior point guard. “He’s our guy, love him, and we’re going to continue to help him through it and help ourselves,” he said, “We’ve got to show him confidence and our belief in him. That’s all we can do. I’m not going to shred his confidence by taking the ball out of his hands, for sure. He’s going to be out there at the end of games.” With the best win of Missouri’s season now on the resume, Pressey and the rest of the Tigers have to feel better about the remainder of the season.
  5. The Clarion Ledger makes the case for Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the SEC Player of the Year. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson agrees. “He’s a big guard that can rebound the basketball,” he said. “He’s a guy that can take over the game. And (Georgia coach Mark Fox) said he has taken over this team. As a sophomore, that tells you what kind of player he is.” Caldwell-Pope is averaging 17.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and has scored in double figures in every game this season. His play had led the Bulldogs to five straight wins in SEC play before a recent two-game skid.
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Meet the New SEC Hoops Rivalry: Missouri vs. Arkansas

Posted by dnspewak on February 19th, 2013

Danny Spewak is an RTC contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak. He filed this report after a weekend trip to Fayetteville for an SEC clash between Arkansas and Missouri.

The University of Arkansas campus sits in the northern tip of the state, just a short freeway cruise from the southern border of Missouri. It’s an easy, five-hour drive from Columbia to Fayetteville, and yet it took conference realignment for Missouri and Arkansas to finally play each other in basketball. The first meeting between the two teams since 2007 made up for lost time on Saturday afternoon. The atmosphere and game were terrific— a 73-71 Razorback victory complete with a late-game comeback, officiating controversies, and the birth of a star named B.J. Young. It didn’t feel like just another February conference game between two unranked SEC teams.

B.J. Young Was The Hero This Weekend(Photo credit: AP Photo).

B.J. Young Was The Hero This Weekend(Photo credit: AP Photo).

It felt like a rivalry. Right, Earnest Ross? “Not really,” the Tiger guard said. “It was just a game on our schedule.” That’s the sting of defeat talking. The 19,000 rabid fans at Bud Walton Arena offered a completely different picture. You could feel the buzz in pregame warm-ups, when a few Arkansas students taunted MU’s Jabari Brown and dared him to laugh at their Norfolk State jokes. The intensity of the game heightened with every passing minute, starting with Missouri’s hot start and eventually culminating into a down-to-the-wire thriller. It was physical. Loud. And it really meant something, especially considering MU’s Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers were playing against Mike Anderson, their former head coach and a man who left the Tigers in the dust in 2011.

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SEC M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 19th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Nerlens Noel’s high school coach said his torn ACL injury on February 12 at Florida could have occurred in large part because an injury during his sophomore year of high school did not fully heal. Noel rushed back to play basketball in the spring on the recommendation of his advisors despite being told to rest through the summer. “If the leg healed awkwardly and (Noel) had a malalignment in that knee,” Dr. Robin West, orthopedic surgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers said, “that could predispose him to future injuries in that leg.” It’s certain those same advisors are now trying to get a piece of the pie if Noel can maintain his NBA Draft position throughout this process.
  2. Tennessee beat Kentucky by 30 points on Saturday, and now the Vols are feeling confident heading into the last portion of the season. “It’s amazing what confidence can do for you,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It’s the same team. We haven’t changed anything, outside of tweaks here and there. It’s the same system.” The Volunteers are now on a three-game winning streak, but a blowout win over the Wildcats may be more about the hardships of UK than it is about Tennessee.
  3. Frank Martin’s first season in Columbia has been less than superb, but the fellas at Garnet and Black Attack say don’t blame Martin for that. Former coach Darrin Horn left the cupboard bare, but this year isn’t when the first-year coach will be judged. “This season isn’t the real test for Martin. It would have been fantastic for him to have managed to make something happen with this team, but barring a miracle, that’s off the table now. The test for Martin is to build a program where one wasn’t before. That’s going to require recruiting and getting talented players to buy into his philosophy.” And Martin is already well on his way to building a future with recruiting more talented players for the Gamecocks.
  4. It seemed clear that the NCAA had botched its investigation into current Missouri coach Frank Haith, but now it’s official. An external review of the NCAA’s investigation techniques revealed several missteps and insufficient oversight during an inquiry into Haith’s time at Miami. “With the completion of the external enforcement review, we recognize that certain investigative tactics used in portions of the University of Miami case failed our membership,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. In other news, nobody, including the NCAA itself, was actually surprised that the governing body made errors during its own investigation.
  5. Are five Florida players actually better than Michael Jordan? Well, no, but five Gators currently have offensive ratings higher than Jordan’s rating his junior year at North Carolina. But college basketball is arguably more of a team game than it was in Jordan’s era, and the Gators are one heck of an efficient team. Florida’s offensive balance is extraordinary, as seven Gators have a possession percentage above 18 percent. UF is shooting a solid 40 percent from beyond the arc while taking 41 percent of its shots from three-point range, contributing to its outstanding overall efficiency.
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