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: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 6th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. “Correlation does not always imply causation” as our friends at A Sea of Blue point out, but in this case the evidence certainly seems to fit. Kentucky has lost four of the five games it has played this year where the pace was played at 66 or fewer possessions. Kentucky’s scoring in transition has clearly been more effective than its half court offense, but is UK actively pushing the pace or settling for working on its half court woes? What has to be concerning for Kentucky fans is that the Wildcats seem to be slowing down. Other than a January 29 date with Ole Miss, one of the most uptempo teams in the nation, the Cats haven’t gone over 70 possessions since January 2.
  2. Tennessee forward Kenny Hall is in trouble again, this time after an arrest for driving on a suspended license. Police stopped Hall for going 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, after which it was determined that his driver’s license was suspended for a previous unpaid fine. Hall missed the last 11 games of last season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. It is unclear now how this situation will affect Hall’s status with the Volunteers but University of Tennessee athletics department spokesperson Tom Satkowiak said, ”The administration and coaching staff are aware of the situation, and it is being addressed internally.” Guess we’ll find out when we find out.
  3. Former Auburn standout and current Missouri guard Earnest Ross has been markedly better off the bench than he has been starting the game this season. However, Tigers head coach Frank Haith had to create buy-in from Ross by demonstrating just how much better he was playing coming off the bench.  Haith wrote out Ross’ statistics on the white board during a team meeting last week and asked which stat line he would prefer. Ross is averaging 12.6 points per game as a substitute as opposed to just 8.5 PPG beginning the game on the court. Naturally, he chose the 12.6 per-game scoring average. ”As a player, it kind of makes you understand a little bit more,” Ross said. “I kind of understood the reason, and as long as we’re winning, I’m happy.”
  4. This season has reached an embarrassing low for Auburn‘s basketball team after six straight losses in SEC play. “I’m pretty sure that you would be embarrassed too if you lose six straight and you have a team that has the talent and is one of the best recruiting classes you can put together, and then having seniors that are not producing,” senior guard Frankie Sullivan said. “It’s very embarrassing. It’s hard to even get on a social network or talk to your family or friends about basketball because you’re embarrassed.” The six-game losing streak has brought Auburn’s record down to 8-13, but a home date with rival Alabama on Wednesday would be a perfect time for the Tigers to break their current skid.
  5. LSU coach Johnny Jones has full confidence in point guard Anthony Hickey, especially after his late-game heroics on Saturday against Mississippi State. “He’s what I like to call a warrior and a winner,” said Jones. “He doesn’t shy away or back away from those opportunities at the end of games.” Hickey scored seven of his 12 points in the final 46.7 seconds of the game including a game winner with just over a second remaining. The Tigers are finally starting to turn the corner, winning three of their last four games.
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SEC Power Rankings: Week Three

Posted by KAlmekinder on December 5th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Week Three’s SEC Power Rankings:

Is there a clear explanation for Kentucky’s back-to-back losses?

  1. Florida - The Gators just keep winning with one key reason: an evenly spread, highly efficient offense. Of the two marquee match-ups Florida has had so far this season, they have won against then-#22 Wisconsin by 18 points, and most recently, against a regularly tough Marquette squad, 82-49. The Gators are averaging nearly 74 points a game on 47% shooting (36% from beyond the arc). In the win over the Golden Eagles last week, six Gators, including three off the bench, posted double figure points while shooting over 50% from the field. Florida’s chemistry and rhythm has led them to the top of the SEC Power Rankings and a top six ranking in the national polls.
  2. Missouri - With most of the attention involving Missouri is focused on Michael Dixon leaving the team, the Tigers have been able to focus on winning with their other personnel. The key to Missouri’s quick turnaround has been forward Laurence Bowers, making his presence known this year after missing last season due to injury. Bowers posted a season high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the Tigers’ win over Appalachian State last Saturday, including 3-for-3 from long distance. With no other difficult match-up until the annual “Braggin’ Rights” showdown versus Illinois later this month, Missouri should remain near the top of the Power Rankings.
  3. Alabama - A narrow 58-56 loss to #17 Cincinnati showed Alabama’s true colors earlier this week. The Tide rallied from 13 down to only lose on a Cashmere Wright fadeaway at the buzzer. Alabama could have used another efficient night from guard Trevor Releford (5-15 shooting, only 12 points), but a loss to a ranked Cincinnati team tested Anthony Grant’s club the entire night and proved that they have the ability to rally when needed. Both Dayton (5-2) and VCU (5-3) come to Tuscaloosa in the next few weeks for another couple of solid tests for the Tide.
  4. Ole Miss - Ole Miss has quietly risen through the rankings because of its own success and the failures of others. Kentucky’s losses (discussed below) have paved the way for an undefeated Rebels squad to a top four position in the SEC Power Rankings. While Ole Miss’ schedule can be considered weak, they have still yet to lose a game. Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in points per game and sixth in rebounds per game. The next test, the Rebs’ first true road game at Middle Tennessee State, will show the rest of the league if they are better than people think. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Power Rankings: Week One

Posted by DPerry on November 19th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. We’ve been able to see each team in action, but with vastly different degrees of difficulty as far as scheduling, we’ll need to see more before the rankings truly take form.

A perfect night for Erik Murphy propels the Gators to the top spot.

  1. Florida- The Gators’ offense has shown the potential to be dominant. The lineup is bursting at the seams with skilled scorers, both in the frontcourt and backcourt. In going 10-10 from the field, we’ve probably seen senior Erik Murphy‘s best performance of the season, but he should have no problem improving on last year’s breakout campaign. Turnovers have been a concern, but with the reinstatement of point guard Scottie Wilbekin allowing Kenny Boynton to move to the two, Florida should be able to take better care of the ball.
  2. Kentucky- The loss to Duke isn’t a huge concern. The Blue Devils are a quality, veteran team. No, the real problem with the Wildcats so far is the lack of depth. Jarrod Polson, a star against Maryland, was completely ineffective against a more disciplined defense, and John Calipari only trusted Willie Cauley-Stein enough to give him six minutes. The continued absence of Ryan Harrow leaves Kentucky without a true point guard, a role not suited for Archie Goodwin or Julius Mays. Still, in watching the young Wildcats play, it’s tough to argue that they have the highest ceiling of any SEC team.
  3. Missouri- Frank Haith has used his first few games to assess all the new talent that arrived in Columbia this offseason. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross and freshman Negus Webster-Chan have been particularly impressive. We’ll know a lot more about the Tigers after the face three quality opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis this week. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 16th, 2012

  1. LSU went immediately to work this week with new coach Johnny Jones, but without the aid of a cadre of experienced big men. 6’9″ forward Johnny O’Bryant, who averaged 8.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season, will be counted on to lead the way on the low blocks this season. Other than O’Bryant, the Tigers are fairly thin in the frontcourt. A pair of junior college transfers, Shavon Coleman and Calvin Godfrey, could be counted upon to provide quality minutes. And so far in practice reports, Coleman, who has drawn the task of defending O’Bryant, has “held up well.” Coleman stands at just 6’6″, but will likely spend a majority of minutes guarding larger opponents at the power forward slot.
  2. Tony Barbee is feeling confident with his new-look Tigers, but if he is going to get Auburn over the .500 hump he will have to do so with six new faces this season. One of the less heralded freshmen, 6’3″ guard Brian Greene, Jr., could end up being the most productive. The freshman is considered a strong candidate for the open point guard position, and he has drawn praise from returning guard Frankie Sullivan. ”It is just not that he stands out, but you always see the guy,” Sullivan said. “Even in the drills, he is the one who is catching on the quickest.” Sullivan will likely start at the two guard spot. He led the Tigers in scoring last year with 12.6 points per game, but still wasn’t 100 percent because of a knee injury that sidelined him during the 2010-11 season.
  3. Want to know why Kentucky has been so good in the Calipari era? They score more points than the other team. And that is not purely because of offense, but because the Wildcats have been a lockdown defensive squad under Coach Cal. For three years running, the Cats have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in three defensive categories: effective field goal percentage, two point percentage, and blocks. According to Glenn Logan at ASoB, “Kentucky has been #1 in the nation in blocks three years running – an impressive statistic that very few people mention when analyzing the Wildcats.” But likely because of that strong protection around the rim, Kentucky has given up a higher percentage of three-point attempts and subsequently a higher percentage of three-point field goals. As Logan points out, “If you’re taking 3′s, you’re not taking 2′s closer to the basket.” With top defender and shot blocker Nerlens Noel guarding the basket, that might just be the plan.
  4. The Arkansas faithful hasn’t exactly witnessed the football success it had hoped for, but there is a certain optimism towards year two of the Mike Anderson era in Fayetteville. And according to Doc Harper of ArkansasExpats.com, the Hogs should be in the NCAA Tournament. “Bottom line, if BJ Young is deserving of all the hype he’s getting, Arkansas will be in the tournament in March,” Harper says. “Any NBA lottery pick should be able to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament on his own.” The Razorbacks should be much improved from a 6-10 SEC mark last season, but it won’t be Young alone that gets them there. Arkansas’ depth should be enough to unleash a full 40 minutes of Anderson’s fast paced system.
  5. Uni watch 2012 is in full effect. With a number of departures from a solid team last season, we are not certain what the Crimson Tide will look like on the court. But we do know that they will be doing it in style. Alabama joined the Nike Hyper Elite team with basketball stalwarts Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, and North Carolina. The current Tide players showcased the new slimmer look with the Alabama specific print on the back. Alabama lost leading scorers JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell , but return enough talent to make a splash in the SEC standings.

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.

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SEC Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 17th, 2011

  1. Georgia won its first two games of the season against Wofford and Bowling Green, but there are some concerns for the Dawgs moving forward. The University of Georgia student newspaper points out that the Bulldogs have been outrebounded in three of the four halves they have played thus far this season. “It was definitely frustrating, especially coming from a team last year we were really good in that area,” said senior guard Dustin Ware. “It’s something we’re definitely going to address and we’re just going to keep getting better at.” Rebounding was an area that Georgia expected to experience problems in after the Bulldogs lost big men Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins. However, being outrebounded 43-28 by Bowling Green is a major sign of trouble ahead for when Mark Fox’s team plays bigger and stronger teams in the front court.
  2. I feel like I’ve heard this story before: An SEC big man goes through a physical transformation in the offseason and plans to contribute more to his team this season. Unlike Renardo Sidney’s supposed improvements, this time, it sounds like reports of better conditioning and a new look seem to be true. Ole Miss sophomore Demarco Cox has worked his way into the starting lineup for the Rebels after dropping 40 pounds over the summer. He’s running every day and changed his diet and the hard work seems to be paying off. Cox started on Monday night against Grambling State, and the big man grabbed ten rebounds in 35 minutes of play. The Rebels will need Cox’s continued improvement in order to provide additional depth to a front line that is already one of the best in the SEC.
  3. Speaking of Renardo Sidney, Andy Katz points out how detrimental he can be to Mississippi State’s on-court chemistry. Sidney is expected to play Thursday night against Texas A&M after missing the last game with a groin injury. Coach Rick Stansbury is hoping to get to a point where he can play Sidney alongside transfer Arnett Moultrie. “There’s no question they can play together,” Stansbury said. “Arnett can play inside and out. There is plenty of room on and off the court. Arnett is a terrific rebounder. And the two of them would be tough to handle in there. But our challenge is not about minutes together but to have [Sidney] have productive minutes. We hope it gets better.” The Bulldogs need to right the ship after an early season loss to Akron, and any corrective measures begin with Sidney. Sidney and Moultrie could be one of the SEC’s most dominant frontcourts, but Sidney just can’t seem to get to a point where he helps MSU more than he hurts them.
  4. SEC basketball is accustomed to playing second fiddle to football season, especially in pigskin-crazed Florida. But it seems that in the midst of a mediocre college football season, Gator fans are beginning to turn to basketball much earlier than usual for a reprieve. The University of Florida student newspaper, The Alligator, writes that Billy Ball (referring to Billy Donovan’s typically fast and exciting style of play) is the perfect cure for those needing to turn their eyes from the football field. Donovan’s team this year likes to run with the potential to win frequently. And the author even thinks a Final Four year could be in store. Based on their play against Ohio State Tuesday night, Florida needs to figure out a way to involve their low post players more and begin playing unselfishly if the Gators are going to satisfy their fans. Florida has a difficult schedule coming up with games against Syracuse, Arizona and Texas A&M. While those will be exciting, the ultimate excitement comes with winning big games and not simply playing in them.
  5. Auburn fans are satisfied with the progress on the court for second year coach Tony Barbee. The Auburn Plainsman writes that improvements are already evident. The author points out that “the team played with as much heart as any in the country, and that shows effective coaching.” The Tigers are 2-0 to start the new season, and the effectiveness of the Tigers appears to lie with the progress of junior center Rob Chubb. Chubb is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds per game in 24 minutes of action. Auburn will continue to rely on a solid post game from Chubb and the contributions of 6’1″ guard Frankie Sullivan, who sat out last year with an injury. After struggling a bit against McNeese State, Sullivan came back to score 22 points and grab five rebounds against Kennesaw State.
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SEC Make or Break: Auburn Tigers

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 4th, 2011

The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. The next team in the series is the Auburn Tigers.

The Auburn Tigers look to improve on what was a dismal 2010-11 season. Last season, the Tigers went 4-12 in SEC play, and were a forgettable 11-20 overall. In Tony Barbee’s first season as head coach, his team was known for its tough, hard-nosed play. But Auburn ranked second to last in the SEC in scoring offense (62.4 PPG), field goal percentage (39.8%) and 10th in rebounding margin (-0.9). The Tigers have a promising roster coming back this season, however, as they return 6’1″ guard Frankie Sullivan after a season-ending injury last year. Sullivan only played in six games last season, but averaged over 12 points per game in his freshman year. Barbee has also secured a couple of impact transfers in former Texas guard Varez Ward and former Clemson guard Noel Johnson, who will be eligible in December. If Auburn can continue its gritty play, and find a consistent offensive presence somewhere on the court, then year two under Barbee will be a lot better than the first.

Tony Barbee should see signs of improvements this season from the Tigers

The three key non-conference games that will make or break the Tigers schedule this season:

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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

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

Conference Recap

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

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

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

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

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

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

Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Week Ahead

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

Monday on the SEC Basketball Coaches Teleconference, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury took some exception to the idea that there is a trend with the East playing much better than the West.  He mentioned that in his time at Mississippi State, his teams have gone 41-41 against the East and 10-8 in SEC conference tournament play.  Let me start by saying that anyone that can that quickly pull up those numbers probably has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.  But now, let’s just take a look at the numbers.

Last year, the SEC West finished 39-57 against SEC East.  This year in head-to-head games, the West is 2-4 against the East.  A week ago, Auburn managed a mere six points in the first half against LSUAlabama, a team picked to finish third of six in the West, lost to St Peter’s early in the season.  The East currently has a 74.7% winning percentage with a 9.5 point scoring margin to the West’s 59.2% and 4.6 margin.

The East has quality wins against Florida State, Kansas State, Washington, Notre Dame, Louisville, Villanova, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Marquette.  The West has beaten um, well, Auburn got a lucky one against Florida State.

Ed. Note: There has also been some notable player movement recently around the SEC: Former Mississippi State sophomore Twanny Beckham will try to find increased playing time at Kentucky and could be eligible as soon as next January (we’re not sure how transferring to Kentucky will net Beckham more time amongst a sea of stud freshmen next season than the 15.7 minutes per game he earned under Stansbury, but if it makes him happy, why not?). Beckham’s former teammate, maligned Bulldog Elgin Bailey, dismissed after last month’s infamous scuffle with Renardo Sidney, will hope to start fresh at Southeast Louisiana, and suspended Kentucky Wildcat Darnell Dodson is headed to Southern Mississippi. Lastly, Auburn will welcome forward Noel Johnson from Clemson. While none of these players are necessarily high-impact types, hopefully they will thrive for their new schools.

Power Rankings

  1. Kentucky (14-3, 2-1) – The Wildcats lost one last week to Georgia and responded by taking out their frustrations on SEC cellar dwellers Auburn and LSU.  The Cats beat Auburn 78-54 in a midweek contest in which Terrence Jones set the Kentucky single game freshman scoring record by coming off the bench and scoring 35 points.  That record of course was only 24 days old, having previously been set by Doron Lamb, who also came off the bench to score 32 against Winthrop.
  2. Georgia (13-3, 2-1) – After beating Kentucky at home last week, Georgia lost to Vanderbiltin a game that was close the whole way.  Going  5-21 from three makes it hard to win in the SEC East, and that really is the Achilles heel for the Bulldogs.  They are currently last in the SEC in three-point shooting at 31 percent.  The Dawgs followed that loss with a 98-76 thumping of Mississippi.  The poor point shooting will cost Georgia in close ones, but for now they’re winning, having gone 10-1 since losing two straight to Notre Dame and Temple.
  3. Florida (13-4, 2-1) – Both Mississippi and Tennessee gave Florida tougher games than they should have and then Florida lost to South Carolina.  Still, head coach Billy Donovan said on Monday that he feels his team is still getting better and playing better defense.  No worries though, they probably won’t need it this week against Auburn.
  4. Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-2) Vanderbilt has been disappointing of late, having dropped two of their last three to South Carolina and Tennessee with a win over Georgia sandwiched between.  I think this speaks to the competitiveness of the East.  Vanderbilt should make quick work of reeling Mississippi this week and then take on a surging St. Mary’s team that has won 10 straight.
  5. South Carolina (11-5, 2-1) The Gamecocks held Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezelito only seven points on two of seven shooting and fouled him out in overtime.  South Carolina got the win by holding the Commodores to only 39 percent shooting, but the problem is that the Cocks followed that up by laying an egg in Tuscaloosa, only scoring 47 points in a ten-point loss to Alabama.  The win against Florida in Gainesville is a good sign however.
  6. Arkansas (12-4, 2-1) A close win over Tennessee at home, a close loss to LSU away and a close win over Alabama at home.  A good week, but not enough to get overly optimistic about.  The Razorbacks have a tough week with games at dangerous South Carolina and still improving Florida.  Going 0-2 this week is not unlikely.  Going 1-1 would be good, 2-0 makes Arkansas the clear favorite to win the West.
  7. Tennessee (11-6, 1-2) I think a lot of people became very optimistic that this very talented, seriously under-performing team had turned a corner after beating Memphis 104-84 in Knoxville, but this is not your John Calipari’s Memphis team and it should be remembered that this game was just a shooting match where both teams shot better than 45 percent from the field.  Tennessee found losses to Arkansas and Florida and a close win over Vanderbilt.  This week, the Volunteers face Georgia and Connecticut on the road and could very well find themselves 0-2 on the week and 1-3 in SEC play.  Making the NCAA Tournament is looking tougher and tougher.
  8. Alabama (10-7, 2-1) Alabama looks to be getting its season back on track after an embarrassing early season by starting 2-0 in SEC play.  The Arkansas loss is nothing to be ashamed of – no one has won in Fayetteville this season.  This week, Alabama, the league leader in points allowed per game at 56.8, and Kentucky, the league leader in points scored per game at 79.9, face off in Tuscaloosa.
  9. Mississippi State (10-7, 2-1) I would like to say that Mississippi is playing much better now that Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost are finally on the court together, but the Bulldogs lost to Alabama to begin conference play and had to pull out a close one over in-state rival Mississippi before beating Auburn by 21 at home. But honestly, who hasn’t beaten Auburn by 20?
  10. Mississippi (12-6, 0-3) The Rebels need to find a cause because it’s getting ugly in Oxford.  Ole Miss was tabbed to finish second in the West and is now 0-3.  Not bloody likely at this point.  Three straight losses is bad for any team.  When you lose by 22 on your home court, the fans stop showing up.
  11. LSU (10-8, 2-1) The Tigers held Auburn to only six points in the first half.  Yeah, six. Then they beat Arkansas in a 56-53 snoozer.  At 2-0, things seemed to be looking up for LSU, but then the Tigers were humiliated 82-44 at Rupp Arena and everyone remembered that LSU lost to North Texas by 20 on their home court and is only 4-6 in their last 10.
  12. Auburn (7-10, 0-3) Well this is a familiar place.  The game against LSU was the low point of the season for the Tigers who are suffering through a tough season of injuries, unexpected departures and ineligible players.  A very tough start for coach Tony Barbee, but these are the cards he was dealt.  I wonder if he’s questioning that advice that long-time friend and former boss John Calipari gave him encouraging him to take the Auburn job.  Given some time, I think he will do well.  One quick note, Frankie Sullivan came back from injury and Auburn won four straight including a win over Florida State, the team that just dealt the evil Blue Devils their first loss.  He goes down again and Auburn loses three straight.

A Look Ahead

Tennessee at Georgia and Tennessee at Connecticut are intriguing games to me because of the confusing story that is the Tennessee Volunteers.  I want to see if this team that can beat anyone or lose to anyone, mostly the latter of late, can pull out a couple of good wins to follow up their come-back win over Vanderbilt.

Kentucky at Alabama – I think at this point with Kentucky as the only team in the top 25 and playing very well of late, a loss to Georgia notwithstanding, you have to mark all Kentucky games on your calendar, particularly in this match-up where Alabama’s league leading point per game defense will be tested by the highest scoring offense in the league.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Pitt has a team capable of reaching that elusive Final Four

1. I had an opportunity to attend the consolation and championship games of the 2K Sports Classic last Friday and learned a great deal about the four teams participating- Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois and Maryland. The Panthers were one of my preseason Final Four teams and did nothing to give me second thoughts on that prediction. Ashton Gibbs is a true playmaker at the end of the shot clock, Jamie Dixon has an incredibly deep frontcourt and the Panthers play heady, smart, hard-nosed basketball for 40 minutes. It’s possible we overrated Illinois a bit coming into the year. They lack a bruiser down low that can post up on the block and demand the basketball. Mike Tisdale’s the same player he’s been his entire career at Illinois, a capable mid-range jump shooter that lacks any sort of physicality and is often mired in foul trouble because opposing power forwards constantly out-muscle him. Maryland looks like a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that should sneak into the NCAA Tournament because Gary Williams always receives max effort from his teams and Jordan Williams is a force in the post, although he needs to avoid silly fouls and demand the basketball more often. The team that needed to convince me they were a contender after last season’s disaster is Texas. The Longhorns are a top-20 team with a duo of physical, lockdown defenders on the perimeter in Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, an athletic low-post presence in Tristan Thompson and an explosive scorer in Jordan Hamilton. A shortened rotation and accepted roles has helped Rick Barnes develop improved chemistry, as well.

2. The story of the first two weeks of college basketball might just be Minnesota. The Big Ten was the best conference coming into the season with Michigan State and Ohio State shaping up to be Final Four frontrunners, Purdue and Illinois mainstays in the polls and Wisconsin as solid as ever. Minnesota was a team that nobody could quite get a handle on, especially considering it was impossible to predict just how much the additions of Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen would help Tubby Smith.  After three statements wins in Puerto Rico over Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia, the Gophers appear to be yet another contender primed for a deep March run out of the absolutely loaded Big Ten. Al Nolen was superb in the championship game against West Virginia locking down the Mountaineer’s point guard duo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant on defense and splitting the West Virginia defense with dribble penetration that either resulted in free throws (11-12 on the night) or open looks for sharpshooting teammate Blake Hoffarber. Where the Gophers have forged their identity, though, is inside with a plethora of size and length. Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, Mbakwe and big bodied Mo Walker provide Smith a frontline that can go toe-to-toe with any in the nation. Just wait till they get Devoe Joseph back.

3. The most crippling defeat for any team with NCAA Tournament aspirations could have come Monday afternoon at the Maui Invitational for Wichita State. The Shockers inability to contain Kemba Walker (29 second half points) cost them a chance to pick up a quality win over a Big East opponent and a shot at potential #1-seed Michigan State in the semifinals. Why is this so devastating? One, Wichita just blew their best chance for an RPI/SOS booster. The only other challenging non-conference game on the slate is a road trip to San Diego State, where it’s extremely unlikely the Shockers leave with a victory. Merely the addition of the Spartans on their schedule would improve Wichita’s power rating dramatically. Instead, it’s increasingly likely Gregg Marshall’s team will have to win the MVC Tournament. This task is very possible; after all, the Shockers are the prohibitive favorite, a senior-laden squad with talents like Toure Murry, David Kyles and J.T. Durley. Marshall’s goal in Maui was to pick up two quality wins for the resume in March. That chance has gone by the wayside.

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