NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

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SEC Set Your TiVo: 03.03 – 03.04.12

Posted by EMoyer on March 3rd, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

#1 Kentucky @ # Florida- Noon EST Sunday on CBS (****)

  • Kentucky will look to complete its first perfect SEC regular season since 2003. The Wildcats have posted 11 of the 15 undefeated league records in SEC history.
  • At 15-0, Kentucky is one of three schools (Long Beach State – Big West; Texas-Arlington – Southland) in NCAA D-I with an unblemished record in conference play.
  • Florida holds a 2-8 record all-time vs. the No. 1 team in the country, including 0-8 vs. Kentucky. The Gators’ two wins over the No. 1 team came in the NCAA Tournament, defeating Duke in 2000 and Ohio State in 2007.
  • In those eight games, Kentucky has beaten Florida by an average of 29.1 points per game.
  • The Gators have already sealed a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament and can reach the No. 2 seed with a win. If Vanderbilt defeats Tennessee on Saturday, Florida would be guaranteed at least the No. 3 seed,

Vanderbilt @ Tennessee  – 4:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins leads the SEC in scoring at 20.1 points per game. If he finishes atop the league, he will be the first player to lead the SEC in scoring in consecutive seasons since LSU’s Ronnie Henderson in 1995 and 1996. His 115 made three-point field goals leads the nation.
  • Vanderbilt is the only team in the SEC that sports three 1,000-point scorers in Jenkins (1,837), Jeffery Taylor (1,547), and Brad Tinsley (1,192).
  • Tennessee’s 110 wins over the Commodores are the most by the Vols over any opponent,
  • The Volunteers can score the final first-round bye in next week’s SEC Tournament with a win and an Alabama loss.

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SEC Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 2nd, 2012

  1. JaMychal Green’s role has been somewhat limited as of late because of a suspension handed down from coach Anthony Grant, but Green stepped up in a big way on Senior Night. “For this to be my last game at the Coliseum, that’s the way I’d like to go out,” Green said. “I really didn’t think of it as my last game, I just thought about winning.” Green scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including a tip in with just 34 seconds remaining in the game as the Crimson Tide went on to beat rival Auburn. For Alabama to be effective in the NCAA Tournament, Green will be a key reason why.
  2. Arnett Moultrie is now praising his team for its togetherness, just days after he blasted them for an inability to turn the season around. After the Bulldogs’ win over South Carolina, Moultrie said, “The team is together. It’s always been together since Day 1. We’re enjoying this win right now and hopefully it’ll start a streak and get us going so we can make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament.” Moultrie was a big reason for the victory. The power forward finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds for his 17th double double of the season. This win ended a five-game losing streak for the Bulldogs, and hopefully squashed some team turmoil that seemed to be brewing from within.
  3. After two straight losses, Florida is focused on getting better, even if it is March. While UF’s next opponent, Kentucky, played Georgia Thursday night, the Gators were able to focus on making improvements in practice. “I think the next 11 to 12 days for our team will be critical because we do have some periods where we can practice and focus on ourselves,” coach Billy Donovan said. Florida looks to avoid its first three-game losing streak since the 2009-10 season.
  4. Tennessee kept hope alive for a first round bye in the SEC Tournament. After beating LSU on Wednesday night, the Volunteers need to beat Vanderbilt on Saturday to avoid playing next Thursday in the conference tournament. Coach Cuonzo Martin stressed the team’s desire as the primary reason for its victory Wednesday, and of its key ingredient for success moving forward. “The key was heart,” said Martin. “We’ve been through these situations plenty of times before, and we had the heart and mental toughness to win it.” Martin’s team may have a lot of heart, but it also has a lot of freshman Jarnell Stokes. Stokes came up big on Wednesday with a career high 18 points.
  5. Kentucky has come a long way since 2009 when Georgia came to Lexington and spoiled Senior Night. On March 4, 2009, the Bulldogs beat the Wildcats 90-85 while UK was under head coach Billy Gillispie. What a difference a couple of years make. At the end of Gillispie’s era at UK, the Wildcats’ future was in question as they were coming off a 3-5 end to the SEC season and a trip to the NIT. Now, the Cats are fresh off a Final Four trip, and are hoping to attend another one this year. And of course, the Wildcats are looking to go a perfect 16-0 in conference play for the first time since 2003. A lot has changed, and John Calipari deserves way more credit then he gets for that transformation.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.29.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 29th, 2012

  1. Kentucky head coach John Calipari has become the face of coaches recruiting college players who stay for only one year.  Recently, one of his star freshman, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, said he “wasn’t going anywhere” after this season. Despite that comment, Calipari defended his actions, “It’s not my rule. I don’t even like the rule one-and-done.” Calipari continued by saying, “Whether it’s Carolina, Duke, Florida, we’re all in the same boat. If a kid plays really well and that’s what he chooses to do, you can either try to talk him out of it or the (other) option is, don’t recruit good enough players that can be drafted.”
  2. Auburn head coach Tony Barbee set his deadline for when he would decide if Varez Ward and Chris Denson would return for Wednesday’s game with Alabama: “Before we get on the bus for Tuscaloosa.” Both were suspended for Saturday against Arkansas.
  3. The AP wrote Tuesday that Alabama’s JaMychal Green was “expected to return to the starting lineup” for Wednesday’s contest against Auburn. In his absence, he saw the Crimson Tide improve their NCAA Tournament outlook, defeating Tennessee, Mississippi State and Arkansas. “It’d be pretty big,” said Green, who came off the bench against the Bulldogs. “I’ve never been there. It’d be a great experience for everybody on the team. It’s just the way I want to go out.”
  4. For a team picked 11th in the preseason, Tennessee remains alive for finishing as high as the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament. For that scenario to play out, the Volunteers must win out and Florida must most lose to Kentucky on Saturday. They enter the final week of the regular season tied with Alabama for the fourth and final bye position. “We are fighting for our lives,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “You have to get better every day. There’s plenty of work to do. Our guys are hungry right now.We’re fighting. We don’t have any luxury or margin for any error to be happy or be successful or think we’ve done something special. But we have every right just like everyone else to win ball games.”
  5. In winning six of their last seven games, players on Tennessee credit team chemistry as one of the reasons for the improved play. “We didn’t have a level of team togetherness, passion for one another,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Where you say, ‘I really wanna see my teammate be successful before I see myself have success. You start to play together, you don’t worry about if your shot is falling or not; you’re just playing basketball.”
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SEC Morning Five: 02.23.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 23rd, 2012

  1. LSU extended its longest SEC winning streak since 2008-09 by holding off Georgia last night. The four-game winning streak has the Tigers “pushing for a bid” in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since that same season. They still must overcome bad non-conference losses to Coastal Carolina and South Alabama, though. As Storm Warren said in advance of Wednesday’s contest with Georgia, “We don’t want to slip up again.”
  2. After a hiccup against Alabama, Tennessee continued its late-season surge by beating fading Ole Miss on Wednesday. Prior to their loss to the Rebels, Volunteer guard Skylar McBee said Tuesday in regards to any potential postseason aspirations, “We’ve just got to take care of business one day at a time, and I think if we keep trying to get better, then everything else will take care of itself… I think you see a lot more people trying to figure where they’re going to be at the end of the season. You can kind of work the numbers a little bit better because you can see who has to go play at this place and who’s got who and what teams you’ve got left. But I think it’s a mindset you’ve got to have every day that, ‘I know I can’t look forward.'”
  3. Despite being reinstated to the team by head coach Anthony Grant, Alabama’s JaMychal Green will not play in Thursday’s critical contest at Arkansas. When asked what went into the decision, Grant said, “”He’s not playing Thursday. We’ll see how the week goes this week, and we’ll make some decisions after Thursday.” The Tide enters the game as a #10 seed in the latest RTC Bracketology. Arkansas’ slide started with a 72-68 loss at Alabama on January 28 starting a 2-5 slide that has seen the Razorbacks’ RPI fall from inside the Top 50 to #88.
  4. One Birmingham News columnist, Kevin Scarbinsky, wrote of Grant’s decision: “It’s the first sign of clarity for the remaining players in weeks,” and “Grant has earned the benefit of the doubt by putting this entire season at risk to teach a lesson that should last long past March Madness.” When Alabama cooled an improving Tennessee team on Saturday, “It gained the confidence of knowing it could win without Green and Mitchell if it applied pressure on defense and took the ball to the rim on offense.”
  5. Alabama’s opponent Arkansas has battled through the fatigue that manifested in a 19-point loss to Tennessee and a 30-point blowout at home to Florida. “I think sometimes fatigue is a factor and it might be even with our guys fatiguing now with having… only eight guys, eight scholarship guys for a period,” head coach Mike Anderson said Tuesday. Anderson has cut back on practice and weight rooms sessions for players have also been shorter.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 21st, 2012

  1. The final two Alabama players enduring suspensions, senior JaMychal Green and junior Tony Mitchell, reached some level of closure as Green, who has missed the past three games, was reinstated to return to practice. Mitchell, who has missed the past four games after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, will remain suspended for the rest of the season, head coach Anthony Grant said on Monday.
  2. Kentucky hosted the newly reclassified star recruit Nerlens Noel during Saturday’s 77-62 victory against Ole Miss. On Twitter (@NerlensNoel3) he said “Kentucky trip went well. Them fans are suttin else, showed alot of love.” Noel took an unofficial visit to Syracuse last weekend for the Orange’s 85-67 win over Connecticut. He’s also slated to make upcoming trips to Florida , Georgetown and North Carolina.
  3. In his weekly teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said Renardo Sidney might sit out his second consecutive game with back spasms when Mississippi State hosts No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday.“I’ll probably know at game time, if you want to know the truth,” Stansbury said. “It’s very obvious we need his big body out there, especially with our lack of depth. That’s the thing. We missed him over there Saturday with just giving us another guy you can throw in the block who can score. We need that depth defensively in there, body-wise. It’s very obvious — against a Kentucky team, as talented as they are — you need everybody you can possibly get. We don’t just need his body, we need his body to play well for us to have any chance at all.”
  4. Florida head coach Billy Donovan said he’s hopeful Mike Rosario will return for Tuesday’s game with Auburn. “I would say that he can sometimes be a little bit over-cautious, whether it be his lower back dealing with a disk problem or a sprained ankle,” Donovan said. “He gets worried a lot of times mentally, himself, that he’s going to re-injure himself or hurt himself where he doesn’t feel right.” Rosario, who has missed six games this season, returned to practice last week but pulled himself out when the hip pointer started to bother him.
  5. The SEC announced its weekly awards with Vanderbilt junior John Jenkins earning his third career Player of the Week award (his first of 2011-12) and Florida’s Bradley Beal claiming his sixth Freshman of the Week honor. Jenkins, who won twice during his sophomore campaign, averaged 27.0 points per game in wins at Ole Miss and Georgia. He shot 81.3% from the floor (13-16), 83.3% from three (10-12), and 85.7% from the free throw line (18-21).  Beal averaged 17.5 points per game in helping the Gators score a pair of road wins at Alabama and Arkansas. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.
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Morning Five: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 21st, 2012

  1. While Seth Davis is one of the better college basketball journalists out there he normally is not one that you find taking controversial stances, but this week he decided to shake the hornets’ nest by doing the unthinkable–defending the RPI. Seth’s defense is not an attempt to say that the RPI is a perfect tool as it is far from it, but he believes it is a solid tool that should be used with a variety of other tools including your own eyes when judging a team. Still Seth’s column generated quite a bit of discussion on Twitter yesterday, which for the most part was fairly civil. We are sure that this will continue to be a point of contention going forward, but with the way many bubble teams are playing late in the season if they don’t make the cut they have no reason to complain.
  2. In his latest blog post, Nerlens Noel talked about his recent visits to Syracuse and Kentucky and his impressions of those visits, but the bigger news is that he has still not officially reclassified as a member of the class of 2012. He says that his paperwork should be finalized by early March. Other than that it is mostly a couple of anecdotes, talking about visiting schools in the future, and his decision to turn down an invitation from Duke, which is what most Kentucky fans will probably fixate on.
  3. With the season winding down and their NCAA fate hanging in the balance, Anthony Grant finally made a decision on his two leading scorers/rebounds. Yesterday, Alabama announced that it was suspending Tony Mitchell for the rest of the season while allowing JaMychal Green return to practice. We still do not know what Mitchell did that led to his eventual dismissal for conduct detrimental to the team while Green, who has been suspended twice before, was allowed to return after being held out for three games for violating unspecified team rules. Although Green is able to practice with the team he will not play on Thursday at Arkansas so the earliest he would return to action would be this Saturday against Mississippi State.
  4. Florida, which has struggled to find enough guards to fill their minutes, may get Mike Rosario back for their game tonight against Auburn. Rosario has missed the last three games after sustaining a hip pointer in practice. We are not sure what Rosario’s role is on this team going forward as he is probably their 7th man and he was pretty far behind the top three guards even before he was injured. Perhaps he can fill in when he has a hot hand or if they have foul trouble, but we would not expect too much out of Rosario going down the stretch.
  5. Since this past October, Connecticut has been waiting to hear from the NCAA on its potential 2013 NCAA Tournament ban due to its low APR score. The committee that would make that ruling met yesterday and. . .they pushed it off to the next meeting, which is from April 23 to 25. The decision is particularly big for the Huskies because they already had their waiver brushed aside and a postseason ban would probably mean a departure for several key figures including Jim Calhoun, Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, and Alex Oriakhi.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 15th, 2012

  1. Georgia’s Gerald Robinson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague were honored with SEC Men’s Player of the Week awards. Robinson was named the SEC Men’s Player of the Week after averaging 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, and three assists this week. The Bulldogs won both games with victories over 20th-ranked Mississippi State and Arkansas, in which Robinson added a career-high 27 points. Teague has steadily improved as point guard for the top-ranked Wildcats, and was named Freshman of the Week.  Teague contributed 12.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds and achieved his first double-double in Kentucky’s win over Florida.
  2. The Wildcats have run the table twice in the SEC, going a perfect 16-0, and could do it again this year. “When one of the ways (of winning) is not working for you, you can rely on something else,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ” … What makes a really, really special team is when you have a variety of ways to win. (The Cats) can win almost any kind of situation they’re in.” Wildcats coach John Calipari isn’t as concerned with a 16-0 record as he is with improvement. “My concern is, are we improving as a team?” Calipari said. “What I’m seeing right now is we are.” The only two teams since the 1956 season to go undefeated through league play were Kentucky’s 1995-96 team and the Wildcats again in 2002-03. The 1996 team, of course, won the National Championship for then coach Rick Pitino, and that is a very realistic goal for the 2012 version of Kentucky, regardless of the final conference record.
  3. It may be hard to define what swagger is, but a coach will know it when he sees it.  “When players walk with a certain type of swagger, a level of confidence — not cockiness, not arrogance — they can play, and they can compete,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said after a win at Florida. “Before, we just weren’t mentally ready.” Tennessee knows it is a much better team than the 11th place finish that was predicted in the preseason, and two wins over Florida along with playing close with Kentucky prove Martin has the Vols playing to win. However, the Vols need help. “We need our fans, and we need their support to help get us over the hump,” Martin said. “If our guys are giving effort, and they are leaving everything out on the floor, they deserve that support.”
  4. Depth is a major concern for Florida and coach Billy Donovan. “Dire is probably a pretty good word,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively, certainly going into Alabama without Will (Yeguete) being there. There is a tremendous void for us defensively at the basket.” In fact, the Gators are without their two leading scorers off the bench in Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario. The Gators will be ready to respond. “We just have to react appropriately and come together as a team,” guard Scottie Wilbekin said. And after two straight losses, Florida needs to come together quickly.
  5. The Gators are not the only team dealing with depth issues. Alabama, Florida’s opponent on Tuesday night, welcomed back Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele after suspensions from the team for a violation of team rules.  “When you look at Andrew Steele — he’s been probably the finest student-athlete that I’ve coached — he made a mistake,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “His body of work speaks for itself in terms of who he is as a person and what he’s been all about. I was a former student-athlete. You are faced with a lot of different things and you have to make decisions. Sometimes you make the wrong one. I don’t think that’s any indication of who he is as a person. Same thing with Trevor Releford. He’s a young man that’s in his sophomore year in college and made a bad choice. I think his teammates understand that. Certainly as a coach, I don’t condone it, but I’m not going to condemn him as a human being for making a bad decision. We will move on and get ready to play.” Grant has continued the suspensions for forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, the team’s top two leading scorers. When asked about those situations, Grant responded that the situations were “different.”
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Morning Five: Valentine’s Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 14th, 2012

  1. Last week we mentioned the possibility of a Mountain West/Conference USA merger and yesterday the two sides moved closer to “a new association” with the start of combined play happening as early as the 2013-14 season. With both conferences seeing a significant number of their former constituents departing for greener pastures the move is one of self-preservation. This move probably will not have the domino effect that other major moves have had, but should take some potentially interesting target schools off the market for the time being.
  2. Santa Clara has suspended Kevin Foster, the West Coast Conference’s leading scorer (17.8 PPG), for the remainder of the season after his arrest for driving under the influence. Foster has been suspended by the team following his arrest in the early morning on January 22. Since that time he has missed seven games with the Broncos losing all seven. To be fair, the team was only 8-10 with him on the court. Since this is Foster’s junior season, there is a possibility that the team could bring him back next season, but now he will have to deal with the legal system first as he is scheduled to be arraigned March 7 as he has been charged with a misdemeanor.
  3. With Connecticut sitting on the NCAA bubble and its Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun still on an indefinite medical leave our faith in a rally by the Huskies is fading by the day. While Calhoun could theoretically come back any day now, it looks like that day will not be tomorrow when UConn plays DePaul. In fact, it could be quite a while as according to reports Calhoun is still meeting with medical specialists to get second- and third-opinions on how to manage his spinal stenosis. Calhoun is apparently still deciding whether to go with conservative management or undergo a surgical procedure, which would probably keep him out for the rest of the season. With just six games left in the regular season and the hopes of a promising season growing bleaker with every game, we would expect Calhoun to make a decision in the near-future.
  4. It was not quite like Larry Bird calling his Celtic teammates “sissies” in the 1984 NBA Finals, but after looking at tape of their home loss to Michigan State, Jared Sullinger criticized the entire team for playing like “spoiled brats” for their constant arguing with each other and the officials. Sullinger was careful not to simply call out his teammates as he included himself in the comment since along with his impressive totals of 17 points and 16 rebounds he also had 10 turnovers. It will be interesting to see how the Buckeyes respond to the loss moving forward as they have the potential to stay a #1 seed or drop down to a #3 seed with a tricky close to the regular season.
  5. Tonight’s Florida-Alabama game will have a vastly different look than what we expected coming into the weekend. Coming off back-to-back losses the Gators will be without the services of Will Yeguete after he suffered a concussion and required 10 stitches as the result of  a fall in Saturday’s loss against Tennessee and will also be without Mike Rosario as he continues to deal with a hip injury. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide will welcome back two of the four players who had been suspended last week for the catch-all conduct detrimental to the team. While Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green will continue to serve their suspensions, the team will “most likely” have Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele back for tonight’s game. Anthony Grant has not released any more information about if and when Mitchell and Green would return, but if he wants to avoid being on the bubble on Selection Sunday he might want to consider reinstating them fairly soon.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.13.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 13th, 2012

  1. The Florida Gators suffered a tough home loss to Tennessee on Saturday, but that loss could have long-lasting ramifications. Sophomore forward Will Yeguete left the game with a concussion. Head coach Billy Donovan labeled Yeguete as doubtful for Florida’s next game Tuesday at Alabama. “He failed a concussion test when he went in (the locker room),” Donovan said. “A lot of it is going to be how well he responds. He’s definitely not going to practice (today), not going to practice Monday. The doctors have told me that he can’t play, but (doubtful) would be my guess.”
  2. Tennessee’s win was witnessed by a prominent future Volunteer. Derek Reese, one of Tennessee’s signees for 2012, traveled to Gainesville from his hometown of Orlando. “I was expecting the game to be closer; that was a real good win, real important,” Reese said. “I think it’s a result of Coach Martin’s mentality. He’s tough-minded and he’s going to make you play hard and get the most out of you, and that’s how the successful teams do it in sports. That’s what I was looking for in a college coach.”
  3. Following Alabama’s short-handed road loss at LSU last week, Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant spoke of his decision to suspend JaMychal Green, Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele on Friday night. He said he received information about something that happened before the trip: “I’m very disappointed in terms of some of the choices that we as individuals made,” Grant said. “But you’re dealing with young men. I was a college student at one point. Can’t say that I did all the things right all the time.”
  4. Two Crimson Tide freshmen from Huntsville — Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph — saw increased playing time against LSU as part of the suspensions. Bill Bryant of the Huntsville Times wrote how the relationship between the two, who finished 1-2 in Alabama’s Mr. Basketball each of the previous two years, was formed and how their learning curves were accelerated with the suspensions.
  5. With ESPN in Nashville for College Gameday this weekend, several of the network’s analysts offered up some lofty comparisons to Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. “He’s special in how he affects the game,” Dick Vitale said of Davis. “He’s the only player I’ve seen going back to Patrick Ewing that affects the game without scoring a point.” “He is the best big guy college basketball has seen in a while, several years,” Jay Bilas wrote. “I liken him to a more skilled Marcus Camby. He is a game changer defensively that can block shots around the rim and block perimeter jump shots.”
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SEC Morning Five: 01.25.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 25th, 2012

  1. Alabama forward Tony Mitchell is officially on a cold streak. After scoring nearly 14.5 points per game this season, Mitchell is averaging just three points per contest in the Crimson Tide’s last two games — both losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. “We have a couple of plays set up for Tony,” senior forward JaMychal Green said. “We just have to uncover him and get him moving so he can just play ball.” Mitchell’s frustrations showed on Saturday against Kentucky as the junior fouled out after only 20 minutes of play. The Crimson Tide are on a three-game losing streak in which Mitchell hasn’t scored more than eight points. Prior to the Tide’s loss to Mississippi State on January 14, Mitchell had scored in double figures in 10 straight games and in 15 of the Tide’s first 16.
  2. Renardo Sidney’s progress for Mississippi State is evident, especially on the defensive end. Sidney held Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli to four points in 25 minutes over the weekend and came up with a big block in what appeared to be an easy dunk for Ezeli. “The old Sid would have let him just dunk it,” freshman Rodney Hood said about the key block. “He went after it. That’s when I really realized he’s coming along – he’s back. Defensively, he’s being a presence out there.” While Sidney’s minutes are still somewhat limited, he has been effective for the Bulldogs. Sidney’s field goal percentage has improved from 51.7% last year to 55.5% in 2011-12.
  3. Artist renderings of a renovated Rupp Arena interior have been released. The 23,500 seat venue, opened in 1976, is home to the Kentucky Wildcats, and the Cats haven’t lost in Rupp since John Calipari took the helm in the 2009-10 season. Kentucky currently holds the nation’s longest home court winning streak with 46 straight victories, 45 of which came under Calipari. Pictures of the Rupp Arena concourse have also been released, complete with some interesting characters hanging out awaiting UK basketball. The recent push for a new and improved Rupp surely doesn’t have anything to do with the $238 million dollar KFC Yum! Center down the highway that opened in October 2010 to host the Wildcats’ in-state rivals, the Louisville Cardinals, right?
  4. Calipari says his newly crowned number one team might need a loss to fuel the Wildcats’ competitive juices. “We probably need a loss,” Calipari said. “So we’ll come together and say, ‘We’re not losing like this.’ The Kentucky head coach knows his Cats have taken a few “on the chin” in recent games, and need to develop a mentally tough attitude to continue winning games. The blueprint for defeating the Wildcats involves physical play in the post to push around Kentucky’s thin front line. This isn’t to say that Calipari isn’t happy with his team. “We’re young,” he said, “but we’re good, too.”
  5. Our own Rush the Court’s official bracketologist Zach Hayes has a couple of SEC teams on the bubble, with one surprise team on the positive end. While we have maintained that only five SEC teams will make it into the Big Dance, Hayes has six conference teams making it in. Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Alabama all seem to make a good case for inclusion, and Hayes has all five in comfortably. The Arkansas Razorbacks are one of his last four teams out. Mike Anderson’s Hogs have a 14-5 record with a recent quality win over Michigan. But RTC also includes Ole Miss as one of the last four teams in the Tournament. The Rebels are 13-6 with an RPI of #31, but lack a quality win on their resume. Ole Miss’ best win thus far was a 75-68 win over its in-state rival Mississippi State.
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Is Vanderbilt’s Turnaround Complete?

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 20th, 2012

Vanderbilt started out the season with the highest expectations in program history, but a disappointing 6-4 start including losses to Cleveland State and Indiana State labeled the Commodores as underachievers not able to overcome their defensive liabilities. Center Festus Ezeli returned, but doubts of Vanderbilt’s potential remained. Even an eight game winning streak hasn’t won over the Commodores’ critics, but a 69-59 win in Tuscaloosa was good enough to convince me. Vanderbilt still has a lot to prove because of a lack of recent NCAA Tournament success, but its defense against Alabama displayed just how high the ceiling is this year.

Vanderbilt is a completely different team mid-way into the season

The Commodores’ defense was the key to their win on Thursday night. Kevin Stallings’ club held Alabama to 32.9% shooting by putting the Crimson Tide’s stars on lockdown. Leading scorer Tony Mitchell, coming into the game averaging 13.7 points per game, scored zero points on 0-8 shooting. Alabama forward JaMychal Green managed only six points. Ezeli’s impact on the Commodores’ interior defense was on full display, as was the potential of Vanderbilt’s defense when the center is on the court.

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