SEC M5: 12.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 11th, 2012

  1. The Kentucky players haven’t quite bought into John Calipari’s system yet, but they’re certainly trying to become a top 10 team. “Definitely,” freshman center Nerlens Noel said. “We’ve definitely got the potential. We’ve got the players, the pieces, the coaching staff. We’ve got all the great tools. We’ve just got to work on some things and really bring it all together.” But if anybody has the credibility to get first year players to buy in, it’s Calipari. Perhaps last year’s success is part of what is hindering this year’s version of the Wildcats? “We’re trying to uphold expectations we shouldn’t have had,” freshman Willie Cauley-Stein said. “We’re not last year’s team.” He’s right about that. The 2012-13 team is more 2010-11 than 2011-12, and that team was possibly a play away from being Cal’s first championship team.
  2. Jarvis Summers is crucial to Ole Miss‘ success this year. The Rebels lost their first game of the season on Saturday to Middle Tennessee State, in part because Summers sat the last 13 minutes of the first half in foul trouble. While he was on the bench, his backups committed seven of Ole Miss’ 18 turnovers. “They just took the ball,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “Like what happens sometimes when you play your big brother. They just took your ball.” Summers returned to play 17 minutes in the second half, but it just wasn’t enough. He finished the game with just seven points and four assists, but Kennedy recognized his impact on the game by allowing Summers to play through four fouls with over six minutes left in the game.
  3. Florida is getting some much needed rest before one of its biggest games of the year against Arizona. “Playing as many games as we’ve played this early against some really good quality opponents I think guys get mentally drained,” coach Billy Donovan said. “So I think we’ll probably need some time to regroup before we go out west.” The Gators have 10 days between games, allowing some time to recover from injuries as well. Senior forward Erik Murphy hasn’t been 100 percent after a hip pointer injury, and of course final exams are mixed in for the student-athletes. “This a good group,” Donovan said. “They’ve worked hard. We’ve had to individually battle through our own adversity as a team.” So far this year, 13 points is the closest margin any team has come to the Gators.
  4. Missouri is also preparing for one of its biggest games of the year, but this one is for bragging rights above all else. Missouri is already circling a December 22 date with Illinois, which is one of the hottest teams in the country right now. The author makes the case that the Tigers need this win for RPI purposes because of the weak standing of the SEC relative to the Big 12 from which coach Frank Haith and the Tigers migrated. I tend to disagree. Yes, the SEC is weak at the bottom, but teams like Kentucky (with a current RPI of #95) or Tennessee (#132) won’t stay that low for long. Regardless, the match-up with the Illini is important in the bigger picture for Haith and company, but don’t expect the top half of the SEC to be a hindrance to RPI standings in the long run.
  5. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings had a unique perspective regarding Vandy guard Kyle Fuller’s honor as SEC player of the week for his outstanding performance against Xavier. Fuller scored all 12 of Vanderbilt’s points during the overtime period, leading the Commodores to a surprising victory. “That’s awesome for him and almost embarrassing for the rest of us,” Stallings said. “Good for Kyle. He made some huge plays.” Fuller came up huge in the road victory with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting, along with five assists, four rebounds, and three steals. You have to sort of agree with Stallings on this one, however. Vandy desperately needed someone not named Kedren Johnson to step up on the offensive end. Johnson’s field goal attempts have been in double figures in every game this season, and until the return of Dai-Jon Parker, the Commodores can’t continue to rely that heavily on Johnson for all of their scoring.
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SEC Transition Basketball: Mississippi Rebels

Posted by Brian Joyce on July 26th, 2012

It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Mississippi.

State of the Program

Coach Andy Kennedy has led Ole Miss to the NIT in five of his first six seasons as head coach, but has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament while in Oxford. Under Kennedy, the Rebs have never done better than 9-7 in conference play, and 2011-12 was more of the same. There were several low points including a 30-point loss to Marquette and a 26-point home loss to Vanderbilt. After an 8-8 conference record saddled with mid- to late-season losses of two of its most talented players — the dismissal of guard Dundrecous Nelson for marijuana charges and the suspension (and eventual departure) of guard Jelan Kendrick for being, well, his true self — Ole Miss might be ready for a fresh start. But could this be the year that the Rebs take the next step and get into the Big Dance?

Murphy Holloway will be key in the middle for the Rebels this season. (AP Photo/B. Newman)

There is certainly enough talent in Oxford for Ole Miss to get over the hump. Kennedy returns three double figure scorers in all. Guard Jarvis Summers and wing Nick Williams bring back a lot of experience in the backcourt while seniors Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner return to form one of the best front lines in the conference. Kennedy welcomes six newcomers to the fold next season, but Holloway knows the secret to how the Rebels will advance. “I think we have a lot of pieces that can help us soon, but I think it’ll be more of our returning players that already get it,” Holloway said. “We kinda got it at the end of the season last year and what you have to do to win. There’s no way around it, this is what you got to do.”

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SEC Morning Five: 12.07.2011 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 7th, 2011

  1. When you hang banners in Rupp Arena, then you make that money! On Tuesday the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a contract extension for basketball coach John Calipari, making him the highest paid college basketball coach in the nation. Including money for broadcasting and endorsements, Calipari will make $3.7 million the first year; if he stays through the eight-year duration, he will make $4.5 million in his final year. Compared to college football’s highest-paid coaches, the Kentucky basketball coach’s salary is less than Texas’ Mack Brown ($5.2 million/yr) and just five other coaches, including the SEC’s Nick Saban ($4.8 million) and Les Miles ($3.75 million), but it’s certainly not too shabby.
  2. The season series with North Carolina and Kentucky is now awaiting renewal. Officials from both schools aren’t exactly rushing out to secure the series, including newly-minted coach John Calipari. The Kentucky coach spoke on his radio show about removing one of the heads of the “three-headed monster” — UNC, Louisville and Indiana — in Kentucky’s non-conference schedule. The coach argued that one of the traditional rivals must be dropped to allow for a projected increase of SEC conference games and to protect his ever-constant flow of talented freshmen recruits. Calipari later clarified on his CoachCal.com web site that Kentucky’s schedule should be tailored to the players and the team. Ultimately, Calipari is trying to find a solution for two problems: Traditional rivalry games don’t make the kind of broadcasting money that justifies the risk of losing; and without an earlier start for team practices, Calipari’s freshmen-loaded squads will always be more vulnerable in high-profile December games against traditional powerhouses. A Kentucky non-conference schedule without North Carolina would be strange but acceptable if Kentucky continues to sign up for marquee events like the State Farm Champions Classic. We think that a Kentucky season without engaging long-time regional rivals Louisville and Indiana, however, would just be wrong.
  3. One regional rivalry that won’t be going away anytime soon: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. The two in-state foes will clash for the 188th time on the hardwood tonight. This is truly a home-grown event: The Atlanta Constitution-Journal’s preview highlights that ten of fourteen players on each teams’ roster grew up in the Peach State. The Yellowjackets have not won at Stegeman Coliseum since 1976, though the teams played at a neutral court for 14 years since that time. (For more info about tonight’s games, check out our Set Yer TiVo post.)
  4. Good news for people who love Gator news: Erik Murphy has recovered from his knee injury and should play against Arizona tonight. The 6’10” junior missed three games since November 25 after suffering a bone bruise in practice. Murphy was a key figure in keeping Florida within reach in its seven-point loss to then #3 Ohio State and was desperately missed in the four-point loss against then #4 Syracuse. Arizona has been using a three-guard lineup recently, which may allow Murphy to contribute more inside-the-paint than outside of it.
  5. In this week’s SEC Check-In — which you checked out, right? — we rewarded Mississippi with a #4 position in our Power Rankings due to its ability to gut out wins against good-not-great opponents. The difference between this Rebels team and last year’s team is the lack of guard Chris Warren. Red Cup Rebellion wonders whether Warren’s absence is providing an example of a Ewing Theory-like effect on coach Andy Kennedy’s team. RCR notes that current guards Jarvis Summers and Nick Williams in particular have been controlling the offense more effectively than Warren’s efforts last season. With former McDonald’s All-American and Memphis transfer Jelan Kendrick becoming eligible for a December 10 game against Mississippi Valley State, Ole Miss will need to adapt to continue their impressive tough-win streak.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 6th, 2011

  1. Kentucky’s Terrence Jones was named SEC Player of the Week. Jones helped the Wildcats with a 26-point, nine-rebound and four-block performance against St. John’s. He followed that game up with 14 first half points against fifth-ranked North Carolina. Jones finished the week averaging 20 points, eight rebounds, 3.5 blocks and three steals. Ole Miss’ Jarvis Summers was named SEC Freshman of the Week. Summers averaged 19.5 points, three rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals this week. He finished with a career high 27 points in a win against Penn State, and had 12 points, three assists and two steals in a close win at DePaul.
  2. The Tennessee compliance office sent out a one-page letter to local car dealerships to remind them of the potential dangers that can arise from giving student-athletes improper benefits. “As part of The University of Tennessee’s NCAA rules education efforts, the Compliance Office is reaching out to local car dealers to remind you of the potential dangers in running afoul with NCAA rules when dealing with student-athletes,” the letter reads. “We want to ensure that your business does not receive unwanted attention due to a potential NCAA rules infraction.” If only Tennessee had taken this proactive stance when Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl were employed at the university. It is, however, an interesting development that athletic departments now feel the need to educate the community and local businesses from committing infractions that could severely affect the institution.
  3. The Big East got the best of the SEC in the first complete Big East/SEC Challenge. The Big East finished with an 8-4 advantage, while the SEC secured victories from Kentucky, Mississippi State, LSU and Ole Miss. Coming into the series, both conferences were seen by some to be the top two conferences in college basketball, but this proved that the SEC has a long way to go if it seeks to take over as the nation’s elite conference. The top four teams in the SEC might be among the best any conference has to offer, but they weren’t able to prove it in this event. Alabama lost to Georgetown, Vanderbilt lost to Louisville and Florida dropped a close one to Syracuse.
  4. Florida‘s loss to Syracuse last week makes the Gators’ upcoming matchup with Arizona even more critical. Billy Donovan’s squad has lost to both #2 Ohio State and #3 Syracuse. While the Gators have tested themselves with tough true road games, they have yet to come up with any quality wins. Florida’s best RPI win up until this point has been a 91-55 victory over North Florida, a team with an RPI of 135. Arizona has since fallen out of the Top 25, but remains a good team with an RPI of 30. The Gators need to get consistency from center Patric Young in order to take some pressure off their talented guards. Young played in only 25 minutes and contributed just six points in the loss at Syracuse.
  5. Kentucky Sports Radio found a great piece from Hoopspeak U on the experience of being in Rupp Arena as a North Carolina fan.  The author, Danny Nowell, recounts the hospitality of Kentuckians, the atmosphere in Rupp Arena and the sheer madness of Kentucky fans. There’s not much of a recount of the game, as it didn’t exactly turn out as Nowell had hoped, but this story isn’t about the game. It’s about Nowell’s experience, and it’s  a clever and interesting read. So go ahead and give it a gander because we know you need a different perspective on the Kentucky and North Carolina clash.
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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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