Morning Five: 09.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 18th, 2013

morning5

  1. New Jersey’s effort to legalize sports gambling within the state took a hit yesterday as a federal appeals court upheld a prior ruling that New Jersey’s proposed legalization of sports gambling conflicted with current federal law. As we have mentioned before in this space the heart of the issue is the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that only allows gambling on sports in any form in just four states–Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana. New Jersey has questioned the constitutionality of this law on several levels and although they lost the appeal 2-1 they appear to be encouraged (at least publicly) by the lone dissenting vote, which they claim is the first public vote against the law. We still are not sure what the overall outcome will be and what the NCAA’s response will be (it has threatened to stop allowing NCAA postseason competition in the state), but with the huge amount of money on the line we have no doubt that this case will drag on for years as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has already stated that the state will appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.
  2. The report that opposing coaches were using Billy Kennedy‘s battle with Parkinson’s Disease against him on the recruiting trail has generated plenty of criticism for the unidentified coach(es). While we understand that the approach will make almost everybody uncomfortable and would be classified as distasteful by nearly everybody we have a hard time finding it quite as offensive as many others have. Although few media members are willing to publicly acknowledge it, the health of a coach, who is theoretically going to be one of the guiding forces in your life the next four years, is something that should be under consideration for any recruit in the same way that the likelihood that the coach is going to leave the school for another job–NCAA or NBA–should be a consideration. Kennedy’s health issues, which are a private matter on some level, are made into a public one because of his job whether the fans and media like it or not.
  3. We have no idea why the Jalen Steele‘s departure from Mississippi State had to be so messy, but given the recent history of the program it should not come as a surprise. Early yesterday, the school put out a release stating that Steele would forego his senior year at Mississippi State to focus on graduating. On the surface this appeared to be nothing more than an unfortunate end to Steele’s injury-plagued college career. That is before Steele went off on the program on Twitter. Mississippi State later attempted to clarify the issue by saying it was an issue of open roster spaces for the 2014-15 season as Steele was wanted to redshirt this season and come back next season. Unfortunately, Mississippi State supposedly had already filled all of its roster spots for next season meaning that Steele was left on his own to try to move on to another school (Hello, transfer waiver!), which is a situation that clearly did not sit too well with Steele.
  4. Terry Lanier’s commitment to VCU on Monday may not have made major headlines, but it is another sign of how far VCU has come as a program since making it to the Final Four in 2011. This might seem like a fairly straightforward association that players want to play for successful teams, but as Borzello notes it has not necessarily been the case for other teams that have made surprise runs to the Final Four recently. There are multiple potential explanations for this–the most obvious one and also the most politically touchy–is that Shaka Smart, an a young, well-educated African-American, appeals more to recruits, who are predominantly African-American than his two Caucasian counterparts (Jim Larranaga and Brad Stevens), who also happened to both leave the schools they led to the Final Four. Whatever the reasons for his recruiting success are, Shaka Smart’s ability to continue to build on that Final Four run is another reason why he is among the most coveted coaches in college basketball.
  5. The NIT may have fallen off in terms of prestige for early season tournaments, but we have to give them credit for being one of the few that still requires you to win to advance to the showcase rounds. This year’s NIT field will be headlined by Arizona and Duke with the two schools hosting the opening round games along with Rutgers and Alabama. Looking through the fields Arizona, Duke, and Alabama should advance fairly easily, but the road for Rutgers appears to be much more challenging. One other interesting aspect of NIT Season Tip-Off is the fact that it includes two schools–Metro State and Stillman–that are not even Division I schools. Although we doubt that this tournament will be interesting until the championship game, we have to give them credit for making it a real tournament unlike most of the other ones out there.
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Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele Lands in the Dog House

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 12th, 2013

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

It’s no secret that Mississippi State coach Rick Ray needs all the help he can get. The Bulldogs are on an eight-game losing streak in the SEC, the longest such streak for MSU since 1987. Ray’s team was already down to seven scholarship players for the season before word came down over the weekend that guard Jalen Steele has been suspended indefinitely. That’s enough misfortune to make anybody lose their cool, which Ray eventually did. And that makes what Steele did, whatever it was, even more frustrating considering how badly his team needs him right now.

We don't know what he did to deserve it, but this Bulldog is in Rick Ray's dog house.

We don’t know what he did to deserve it, but this Bulldog is in Rick Ray’s dog house.

It was no surprise initially when Ray chose not to comment on Steele’s situation. Chastising your players publicly is not standard operating procedure. But just like when you were little and you knew you really messed up when your dad told you “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed,” Steele has to know this was a colossal mistake. On Monday, Ray let his frustration over the situation boil over. “Now you’re taking away a chance for guys to go out and compete and win because you’ve shortened the rotation,” Ray said about his disappointment in Steele. “I think more than anything you’re screwing your team and you’re screwing your teammates when you get into trouble like that.”

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SEC M5: 02.12.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 12th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Road wins have been hard to come by in the league this season, but after a win over South Carolina on Sunday, Tennessee is no longer in search of its first. “Finally got that road win, great feeling,” coach Cuonzo Martin said Monday. “Getting on the plane after a road win, that was always one of the things I took great pride in as a player.” Jarnell Stokes is presumably feeling pretty great as well. The sophomore posted his fifth straight double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, convincing the SEC to name him the conference’s Player of the Week. Stokes was a disappointment in non-conference play, appearing to be lost without his veteran frontcourt mate Jeronne Maymon; but maybe or maybe not coincidentally, Stokes has been a beast ever since a well-placed call from his coach.
  2. Nerlens Noel is unquestionably the best shot-blocker in the SEC, with Kansas’ Jeff Withey serving as his only real competition nationwide (my sincere apologies, Chris Obekpa). Who is better? ESPN Stats & Info took a look at that question. Noel is certainly flashier by taking advantage of his elite athleticism, but he’s “more of a ‘swatter’, liking to block the ball as hard as he can”, whereas Withey’s blocks more often find their way into a teammate’s hands. A weakness of Withey’s, however, is that he uses only his right hand to defend shots. Noel has blocked 61 with his right hand and 42 with his left, a benefit that can be utilized when caught out of position.
  3. Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray addressed the mystery surrounding Jalen Steele’s suspension, calling the junior’s transgression a “selfish act.” “Now you’re taking away a chance for guys to go out and compete and win because you’ve shortened the rotation,” he said Monday. “I think more than anything you’re screwing your team and you’re screwing your teammates when you get into trouble like that.” The loss of Steele for a few games won’t help the Bulldogs on the court, but the stance from his first-year coach is what’s really important. Let’s be honest, Mississippi State, with a roster short on talent as well as bodies, isn’t headed for a successful season. With a full team, they just might be able to sneak into 13th place in the SEC standings. For a program that had more than its fair share of off-the-court issues under previous coach Rick Stansbury, an emphasis on discipline from Ray is necessary for the culture change he desires.
  4. A road trip to Mississippi State doesn’t usually demand maximum attention from opposing coaches, but Frank Haith isn’t overlooking his upcoming trip to Starkville. His Missouri Tigers, who fell out of both the AP and ESPN polls this week, know that Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to finally grab that first true road win. “You look at the numbers, we haven’t defended well on the road, we haven’t shot the ball as well on the road,” Haith said at the SEC teleconference. “We’re still not defending like I would like us to do. That’s all a mental toughness type thing.” Mizzou’s defeat of Ole Miss was its most impressive win of the conference season and they’ll look to build on that momentum before hitting a tough three-game stretch: at Arkansas, vs. Florida in Columbia, and at Kentucky.
  5. Kentucky is looking like the league’s hottest team after winning five straight, but the Wildcats aren’t the only team on a roll. In case you missed it (and I’m guessing you did), the Georgia Bulldogs have a nice little five-game winning streak of their own. Three of those wins have come on the road, which is extra impressive in a season when home court is being defended so fiercely. Unsurprisingly, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has led the way. Since there is no real secondary scoring threat on the roster, defenses key completely on the sophomore guard every moment he’s on the court, but he’s still producing to the tune of 17.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. The Bulldogs will try to make it six in a row this week when Alabama comes to town.
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SEC M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 11th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Missouri took advantage of some hot shooting in the first half to wrap up a much needed win over the weekend against Ole Miss. The Tigers’ starting backcourt combined for 57 points, but Alex Oriakhi was the headlining story. The low post force had his most productive game of the season with 22 point, 18 boards, and 1 melee instigation. Oriakhi was immediately hit with a flagrant, and Reginald Buckner was ejected in the aftermath after throwing a punch. A Twitter exchange between the two schools’ SB Nation sites proclaimed that a rivalry had just been created, which, unless I’m mistaken, is legally binding. Rebels and Tigers, let the hate commence.
  2. Missouri proved their home mettle again this weekend with their resounding win over Ole Miss, but every positive in Columbia just highlights the Tigers’ astounding road troubles. Why can’t a team with talent in spades beat up a weak SEC? “That is the $50-million question,” says Frank Haith. He’d be wise to find an answer soon, as Missouri finishes with five of eight on the road. The thought of a disappointed Tigers team on Selection Sunday hadn’t even crossed my mind through the first few months of the season, but several more road losses (in addition to a likely home defeat to Florida) would likely leave the Tigers on the outside looking in come March 17th.
  3. On the topic of winless road teams, Arkansas celebrated their massive win over Florida in the most Arkansas way possible: being dismantled by Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks, who had 37 points by the third TV timeout against the Gators, scored their 37th point at 11:44 of the second half. “You have to give credit to Vanderbilt, but when you go on the road you have to make shots,” said Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson.  “When you are on the road, you have to match your opponents’ intensity.” The Commodores, no stranger to offensive meltdowns, were pretty impressive on that end of the floor. Kevin Stallings‘ team shot 50% from the floor and spread shots around nicely, with five players tallying at least eight points.
  4. The Wildcat bench stole the spotlight in Saturday’s win over Auburn, but a tough outing for Archie Goodwin is raising some concerns in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky‘s leading scorer played a season-low 17 minutes, scoring only 3 points on 1-6 shooting. “I’m trying to get Archie to zone in on his team, what he’s got to do for his team and get out of how he’s playing because then you can’t make a shot, you’re afraid to make a play because you’re afraid you are going to screw up, versus I’m playing for the team, I know what the team needs me to do, they need me to drive,” stream of consciousness expert John Calipari told reporters. Goodwin has practically eliminated the 3-point shot from his offensive arsenal (a great decision), but he seems to oscillate on his commitment to attacking the basket.
  5. One of the league’s greenest teams will be without their most experienced players for a while, as Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Coach Rick Ray has declined to give further details after announcing the decision before the Bulldogs’ trip to Florida over the weekend. After starting 2-0 in SEC play, Mississippi State has lost 8 straight by a margin of 21 points per game.
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Morning Five: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2013

morning5

  1. The big news of the weekend was the reinstatement of James Southerland. The Syracuse senior had been declared ineligible for what was presumed to be an issue with a term paper from the fall semester. The Orange had managed to keep their head above water without their leading scorer for nearly a month, but Southerland’s probably moves them from a likely Sweet 16 team to a Final Four contender. In his return yesterday against St. John’s, Southerland scored 13 points including three three-pointers, which should come as a welcome relief to Syracuse fans who have missed outside marksmanship (he was still the team’s most prolific three-point shooter even after missing the previous six games).
  2. On Friday we heard about a feature that The New York Times was doing on Jason Williams (we’re a college basketball site so he is still Jason to us just like Kareem is Lew Alcindor around these parts) and expected it to be an interesting read, but never expected it to be quite as in-depth and revealing as what was published. For those of you who forgot or might have been too young to remember (writing that that makes us feel so old), Williams was one of the best college basketball players of the past decade and that is even counting the one-and-dones. When he was at his best he was as dominant a force at guard as you will see (just ask USC, Maryland, or Kentucky fans about that). After Williams essentially ended his career with a motorcycle accident he disappeared from the public eye before reemerging as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. The article does a great job detailing what happened during that period including a suicide attempt by Williams.
  3. In a drop in valuation that would make MySpace investors blush the latest reports indicate that the Big East is set to agree upon a six-year deal with NBC Sports worth $20-23 million per year, which doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that they had been seeking a $300 million per year deal from ESPN, which the network not surprisingly declined. That offer may have been ridiculous, but it is amusing to note that the conference turned down a $1.17 billion offer for nine years from ESPN, which would have worked out to $13.8 million for football schools and $2.43 million for non-football schools compared to the $3.12 million and $1.5 million for the two groups respectively now. To pour a little salt in the wound, the so-called Catholic 7 are reportedly looking at a deal worth $30-40 million per year from Fox Sports depending on how many teams they add to the conference.
  4. Speaking of the Catholic 7 and the Big East we didn’t think it was possible, but it looks like they may have a somewhat amicable split as both sides are agreeing to separate following the 2013-14 season. We expected that to be the date that they split, but it sounds much cleaner than we expected to be. We guess this means that people will still pretend that the Big East is a relevant conference for another year although the big moves from the conference (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville, and Notre Dame) are already set in motion so this move is really delaying the inevitable.
  5. After winning their first two games in the SEC it is possible that Mississippi State fans got their hopes up. Unfortunately those two wins may have been the highlight of their season as they lost their next seven SEC games before suspending junior guard Jalen Steele indefinitely for violating undisclosed team rules. [Ed. Note: They lost their eighth straight on Saturday against Florida.] Steele, who missed eight of the team’s games earlier this season with a broken wrist, was among the team’s leading scorers (one of the few positives for the Bulldogs is they have a balanced scoring attack with seven players averaging between 7.8 and 10.5 points per game). Normally we would say the loss of a player of Steele’s caliber would be a big loss, but in the case of Mississippi State they don’t have much further to fall.
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SEC M5: 01.21.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 21st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Ole Miss‘ win over Arkansas gives the Rebels a 4-0 beginning to SEC play marking its best conference start since the 1936-37 season. That’s 76 years since the Rebels have began this well in league games. It may feel like it’s been about the same length of time since Andy Kennedy’s club has been to an NCAA Tournament (never under Kennedy; the last time was 2002), and the Rebels are hoping to break that streak too. And while they’re at it, they may even try to break into the Top 25 rankings, a faraway land that Ole Miss hasn’t seen since 2001. The players sense that something special is brewing in Oxford as well. “Anybody can see it,” said senior Nick Williams. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do something great here, and we understand what we need to do because me, Murphy (Holloway) and Reg (Buckner) — we have been here for a while and we’ve been so close for so long.” Could this finally be the year that Ole Miss breaks through?
  2. Florida’s 83-52 thrashing of Missouri on Saturday led to a number of questions. Is Florida that good? Yes, especially at home. Is Missouri that bad? I really hope not. Does Laurence Bowers really make that much of a difference? No. But it’s undeniable that the Tigers are on a downward spiral. They’ve lost two of their last three games, and dropped three of their last six. To make matters worse, guard Keion Bell adds that Missouri simply wasn’t prepared. ”I just think that we, as a team, we underestimated the amount of pressure that their full-court press would put on us,” Bell said. “Although the coaching staff has embedded it in our brains throughout the whole week, we just didn’t take heed to the things that they were saying about Florida’s pressure, and we weren’t ready at the beginning of the game.” Missouri needs to regroup before things get worse, and perhaps listen to the coaching staff during its preparation. A softer upcoming schedule of South Carolina, Vanderbilt, at LSU, and Auburn should help.
  3. It was a homecoming of sorts for Mississippi State Bulldog Jalen Steele, who always dreamed of playing in Thompson-Boling Arena. Steele grew up in Knoxville as a Tennessee Mr. Basketball, but then-Volunteers head coach Bruce Pearl went for two recruits you may have heard of instead — Aaron Craft and Josh Selby. Even though his basketball career didn’t work out exactly as planned, Steele finally heard his name called in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday. ”To hear my name called and it said ‘Knoxville,’ that felt good,” Steele said. Steele showed he was good enough to play with the Vols too, as he added 15 points in a losing effort for the Bulldogs. I imagine it was a surreal moment, even in defeat, for a player who has been through a lot in Starkville.
  4. When you’re playing as well as Florida is right now, four points probably won’t matter, but it might one day. Gators center Patric Young isn’t satisfied with his free throw shooting after a 4-of-8 performance against LSU. “It’s huge because I’m leaving points on the board whenever you miss free throws,” Young said. “You go 4 for 8, that’s four points that help you with your draft stock or your average on the year. I mean, it doesn’t really matter but when it comes down to the line in a game-winning situation, you need to be able to step up with confidence.” For the sake of his draft stock, Young hit the practice courts to shoot 500 free throws a day, and the hard work is paying off. He entered the Texas A&M game shooting 50 percent from the line, but went 4-of-5 against the Aggies and 1-of-1 against Missouri.
  5. Kentucky has struggled against quality teams this season, but John Calipari’s Wildcats have a surplus of NBA talent on the roster. However, during an ESPNU telecast of the Kentucky vs. Auburn game on Saturday night, Charles Barkley said none of the current Wildcats were ready for the NBA. ”John Calipari’s a friend of mine. I love him as a friend. There ain’t one player on this Kentucky team who should go pro early. I hate the one-and-done rule in college basketball. Just ’cause there’s a rule does not mean you have to do it. Listen, Anthony Davis played well enough for him to go pro. … I wish some of these parents would talk to their kids.” Though Cal’s younger Cats will excel in the pro game one day, Chuck has a point for the here and now. Archie Goodwin is probably the most pro-ready of the three freshman Wildcats most likely to be selected in the first round. Nerlens Noel is ready defensively, but his offensive game has a ways to go. But Alex Poythress is the biggest question mark in terms of making the jump. He has tendencies to disappear for long stretches offensively, and did you see his defense on Elston Turner?  The issue is not just directed towards Kentucky’s freshmen but the entire college game. The one-and-done mentality has watered down the talent level, enabling and pushing players like Noel and Poythress who could both benefit from an extra year of development to make the jump after just one year.
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Q&A Around the SEC: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 14th, 2012

Christian D’Andrea is a columnist for the Vanderbilt site Anchor of Gold and a weekly columnist for the SEC microsite.

It’s been a rough season in Starksville. Of course, losing your team’s top four players and the head coach who ran the team for more than a decade will lower expectations a bit. That’s what Mississippi State is going through right now. Former coach Rick Stansbury was dismissed this spring after failing to reach the NCAA Tournament in his last three years. That might have been excusable if Stansbury hadn’t been in charge of one of the NCAA’s most talented – but dysfunctional – rosters. The Bulldogs had high-level recruits like Renardo Sidney, Dee Bost, Rodney Hood, and Arnett Moultrie on their teams, but the only thing State had to show for it was a pair of NIT appearances and some embarrassing footage of Sidney fighting teammate Elgin Bailey in the stands at a preseason tournament.

Rick Ray stepped into a tough situation in Starkville.

Rick Ray stepped into a tough situation in Starkville.

Now, Mississippi State is smack-dab in the middle of a rebuilding phase that might carry into 2013-14 and beyond. The Bulldogs have plenty of work to do if they want to emerge as an upper-tier program in the SEC once again. In order to figure out just where new coach Rick Ray and his staff need to start, we turned to the experts. Braden Bishop is a contributor at the Mississippi State blog For Whom the Cowbell Tolls. He took some time to focus away from the Bulldogs’ upcoming Gator Bowl match-up to answer some questions about MSU’s outlook for the season. His answers are below:

Rush the Court: Mississippi State is going through a top-to-bottom rebuilding process in 2012-13. Not only are the Bulldogs replacing their four top scorers from last year, but they’ll do it without longtime coach Rick Stansbury. What can SEC fans expect out of State and new head coach Rick Ray this season?

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Mississippi State’s Maui Performance Signals a Tough Season for Rick Ray

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 22nd, 2012

The Mississippi State Bulldogs spent earlier this week on the beautiful island of Maui as they participated in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Among the palm trees, sandy beaches, and perfect waves, the Bulldogs’ lack of productivity in the annual preseason tournament showcased why Rick Ray‘s club, which finished in last place in the event, will have to endure a long and difficult path back to the top of the SEC.

Mississippi State’s woes displayed in Maui is a foreshadowing for the rest of the season (WFAA.com)

The Bulldogs lost all three of their guaranteed games in Maui by an average of 29 points. They averaged only 18 field goals per game, three three-point field goals per game, and, at one point, trailed #9 North Carolina by 49 points on Monday evening. Was this the worst performance from an SEC team in Maui in the last half-decade? Yes. Since 2007, the first year since any one specific school has been in Maui before (Kentucky went in 2006 and 2010), Mississippi State became the first SEC program to finish last in the annual week-of-Thanksgiving tournament. Out of the possible 18 games in the six total years of this research, Mississippi State had three of the five lowest scoring games of any SEC team (averaging 55 points per game). They also allowed opponents three of the five highest scoring games in the six years (averaging 84 points per game).

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Morning Five: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 15th, 2012

  1. Yesterday was the first day of the early signing period, which runs from November 14 through 21. As we have said before we would think that at some point in the future the elite recruits would avoid signing at all and just enroll at schools so as not to put themselves in a situation of having signed at a school and have the coaching staff leave them for a better situation. Having said that there were a couple of big story lines with the most obvious being the success of the SEC, which has loaded up on the most highly rated recruits. We have already talked about the potentially ridiculous class that Kentucky is putting together, but it is also worth pointing out that Florida may end up with the second best class in the country when the dust settles. We will have much more on this later in the day so be on the look out for more details on what has gone down so far.
  2. When the NCAA declared Shabazz Muhammad ineligible it was not a matter of if, but when UCLA would appeal. The when turned out to be yesterday as UCLA formally filed its appeal to the NCAA to have Muhammad reinstated. Muhammad’s case has been discussed online ad nauseam, but a report suggesting that the NCAA may have already prejudged Muhammad came out yesterday based on a conversation overheard on a cross-country flight in which the boyfriend (possibly soon to be ex-boyfriend) of Abigail Grantstein, the NCAA’s lead investigator in the Muhammad case, allegedly told another passenger on August 7 that the NCAA was going to find Muhammad ineligible and not allow him to play this season, which contradicts the earlier NCAA statement that they had waited until they received all of the evidence (almost 3 months later) before deciding on Muhammad’s eligibility. Attorneys for Muhammad and UCLA are using this report as support to ask the NCAA to drop its investigation into Muhammad and reinstate him immediately. After criticizing the speed at which the Muhammad family provided it with information we wonder how quickly the NCAA will collect evidence on this one.
  3. Speaking of Muhammad, Arizona senior Solomon Hill has some advice for him: don’t go to college. Ok, maybe it isn’t that simple, but Hill has come out and said that he thinks that with the way that the NCAA is handling investigations into played eligibility he can see a day where top recruits skip college and just hire an agent out of high school rather than deal with NCAA investigations. While this is not a new idea we found this quote particularly interesting: ”If you don’t want to be investigated, just don’t go to college. If you take money early, make the decision that you’re not going to attend college and you’re going to seek training. There’s nothing bad with that decision.” In addition, Hill also suggested that if Muhammad was not cleared by December he should just start preparing for the Draft. On the surface this seems like a perfectly reasonable idea, but we imagine that the UCLA fans and staff would prefer that Hill keep his ideas of the subject to himself.
  4. After just one weekend of college basketball there are already several notable injuries to report. The most significant are Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele, who will be out for six weeks with a fractured right wrist, and Providence guard Vincent Council, who will be out for four to five weeks with a hamstring injury (original article require registration). Two other stars who also sustained injuries, but should miss less time are UCLA guard Kyle Anderson, who is a game-time decision (right wrist contusion) for today’s game against James Madison, and Georgetown forward Otto Porter, who missed last night’s win over Liberty with a concussion and has no definitive timetable to return.
  5. Finally, in a score that is straight out of the Big Ten, Fresno State defeated UC Riverside 39-30, which might actually be a blowout given how low scoring the game was. The box score is full of interesting/horrifying stats in a game that was actually 35-27 before some window dressing made the final score slightly more respectable. The  Fresno State media release is billing it as a defensive stalemate, which is a euphemism they must have borrowed from some old Big Ten press releases. Perhaps the most important statistic is that only 806 people (plus the players and coaches) had to watch it although some people apparently watched it online and are using it as an example of the beauty of college basketball.
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SEC M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 18th, 2012

  1. One of the best articles you will read this week is regarding the interaction between Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Lane Goodwin, a 13 year-old teen from Beech Grove, Kentucky, who is battling a rare form of cancer. The last few weeks have brought the “Thumbs Up For Lane Goodwin” movement on Twitter and Facebook that quickly gained interest among Wildcat players and the Big Blue Nation. With the endorsement of these high profile basketball players, it quickly spread nationwide as celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Tim Tebow, Anderson Cooper, and many others have also given a “thumbs up” for Lane. Yesterday, Twitter and Kentucky Sports Radio reported the tragic passing of Lane. The sudden loss of a teenager fighting a terrible disease helps remind us that not only there are more things to life than college basketball but these players do care about the community and will help out as much as possible for those in need.
  2.  The preseason Top 25 USA Today Coaches Poll was released on Wednesday with Kentucky coming in at #3 with five first place votes, behind their neighbors Indiana and Louisville at #1 and #2, respectively. Florida was the only other SEC team to crack the top 10 (#10) while Missouri was the last SEC squad to be ranked in the poll (#17). Both Tennessee and Georgia were among the others schools who received votes, but neither was ranked in the Top 25.
  3. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele spoke extensively to the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger on Wednesday regarding the style of play and the content of practice for the Bulldogs early in the season. Steele stated that MSU has been focusing on defense lately and that a lot of the practices are physical, comparing the hardwood practices to the gridiron. In terms of style of play, new head coach Rick Ray wants “more dribble drive and creating more shots for people”, according to Steele. He also mentioned the increased respect given to the new head coach in comparison to former leader Rick Stansbury, who abruptly retired after last season. Stansbury struggled in the latter few years with commanding respect and obedience from his players, both on and off the court.
  4. New Florida transfer Damontre Harris is already sitting out this season due to NCAA transfer rules but will have to spend even more time without practice because of a dislocated shoulder. Harris transferred from conference rival South Carolina after last season where he averaged 6.8 points per game on 55% shooting in 25 minutes per game. Once healthy, Harris will provide quality practice minutes against Gator returnees Patric Young and Erik Murphy in the post.
  5. Texas A&M is preparing to host its Maroon & White scrimmage on Friday, October 18 at 8:15 PM CT. Head coach Billy Kennedy will have an opportunity to showcase nine returnees and seven newcomers to the Aggie faithful. The event is sandwiched in between a full sports weekend at A&M, including an important SEC football game versus LSU. Free food and drink will be provided by local advertisers and students of course are encouraged to attend.
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SEC Transition Basketball: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Posted by Brian Joyce on September 5th, 2012

Let’s finish these off this week with the last few of what we’re calling it Transition Basketball, an offseason look at each of the 14 SEC basketball programs. Today’s update: Mississippi State.

State of the Program

After starting last season 19-5, Mississippi State’s year didn’t turn out quite like head coach Rick Stansbury had hoped. The Bulldogs were cruising through the early part of the year behind tireless forward Arnett Moultrie and senior guard Dee Bost. After getting vindication with a home victory over rival Mississippi, however, the Bulldogs fell apart by suffering through a five-game losing streak late in SEC play. For a team that was nationally ranked and looked to be on cruise control for an NCAA berth, a 2-7 record to finish out the year was quite the letdown. MSU then lost to Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament, and proceeded to lose to Massachusetts in the first round of the NIT. That team gave up on Stansbury. And Mississippi State gave up on itself.

Renardo Sidney? Gone. Rick Stansbury? Gone. Regardless of whether or not you see the departures as a positive or negative, the new look Bulldogs might not be a look you’re familiar with.

Quick, name one player on next year’s Mississippi State roster? We’re waiting. Can’t do it? Yeah, didn’t think so. Well, that’s because not a single starter from last year remains in Starkville. Moultrie was a first round NBA Draft pick and will play in the big leagues next season. Bost and Brian Bryant graduated. Freshman Rodney Hood transferred to Duke. Deville Smith transferred. Renardo Sidney is most likely being Renardo Sidney somewhere. Six of the Bulldogs’ top seven scorers will be somewhere other than Starkville next season. That leaves Jalen Steele and Wendell Lewis as the only returning players who averaged more than one point per game. The 2011-12 season was frustrating for Bulldogs’ fans, but the first year under new coach Rick Ray might be downright depressing.

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SEC Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 27th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele knows his role on the team, as do his teammates and coaches. “I’ve always said that Jalen (Steele) is the one guy that does something different on this basketball team,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He is capable of doing what he did, jump up and make shots. He’s the one guy, if you ask me what his role is — it is to make shots.” And that is exactly what Steele did on Wednesday night against LSU. While the Bulldogs were just five of 14 from beyond the arc, Steele contributed to more than half of MSU’s outside points going three of four from three-point land. The Bulldogs are solid in the frontcourt, but could use a consistent outside threat as they are fifth in the conference with a 35.3% three-point accuracy. Not bad, but not terribly threatening either. Steele becomes even more valuable for the Bulldogs if he can continue to knock shots down from long range.
  2. LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant was medically cleared to play on Tuesday for his first action since the beginning of January. O’Bryant suffered a fractured hand in practice on January 4, which kept him on the sidelines for five straight games. He saw playing time on Wednesday night against Mississippi State and its formidable frontline of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. And it looks like O’Bryant will need a few more games to get back in the swing of things. He played a solid 20 minutes, but finished with just six points and four rebounds. The key to the game was rebounds, and LSU wasn’t able to keep up with Mississippi State. The Tigers had a 51.4% defensive rebounding percentage and just 21.6% on the offensive end. LSU will need O’Bryant and the rest of the LSU frontcourt to shore up its rebounding to stay competitive in the conference.
  3. With Wednesday’s win over Alabama, South Carolina avoided an 0-5 start in SEC play. It would have been their worst start in the conference since an 0-6 start in 1998-99. Coach Darrin Horn admits his Gamecocks need the kind of atmosphere that was displayed in the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night. “We need our fans,” Horn said. “We need some atmosphere. I appreciate them finally getting up and doing that.” South Carolina also needed a little Bruce Ellington. The sophomore guard hit the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining. He finished with 12 points for the Gamecocks, but more importantly, appears to be getting into a solid groove as he becomes more comfortable on the basketball court (after playing football for Steve Spurrier through early January). Ellington has averaged 14.5 points and three assists over his last four games, and will need to continue to be a focal point for South Carolina to win another conference game (or two).
  4. After a four game losing streak, Alabama has gone from SEC title contender to no longer even a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide’s only win over an RPI top 25 opponent came against Wichita State in mid-November. For a team with an RPI of 40, the problem is that there aren’t too many more opportunities for that big victory. The Tide have Florida and Mississippi State at home, as well as two games against Ole Miss. Anthony Grant‘s squad was left out of last year’s Big Dance because of a low RPI and very few marquee wins. It would be a shame for a team that started out so strong in 2011-12 to meet the same fate. It is, of course, very early to be talking about which teams are in and which ones are out, but isn’t that part of what makes college basketball so fun? However. there won’t be anything fun about March for Grant and company unless Alabama is able to  string together wins in the SEC.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal played poorly over two consecutive games in early January shooting 6-27 without scoring in double figures. After three solid games in a row, Beal says his slump is over. “He’s got a better feel and understanding of when and where shots are coming for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know if he ever really felt comfortable with that. I think he’s getting better at that. I think he’s understanding when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, but he’s not allowing some missed shots or plays that maybe don’t go his way to affect him on the next play.” Even with a couple of difficult games mixed in, Beal has had a terrific first (and maybe only) year for the Gators. He has managed to score 14.1 points per game playing in a backcourt with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Mike Rosario coming off the bench. That is impressive for anyone, but especially a freshman.
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