Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2010


  1. Kentucky 22-1 (7-1)
  2. Tennessee 18-4 (6-2)
  3. Vanderbilt 17-5 (6-2)
  4. Florida 17-6 (6-3)
  5. South Carolina 13-9 (4-4)
  6. Georgia 10-11 (2-6)


  1. Arkansas 12-11 (5-3)
  2. Mississippi 17-6 (5-4)
  3. Mississippi State 16-7 (4-4)
  4. Alabama 13-10 (3-6)
  5. Auburn 11-12 (2-6)
  6. LSU 9-14 (0-9)

Thanks to Villanova’s loss, Kentucky inched nearer the top of the polls again, moving to #2 in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 and #3 in the AP Top 25. Tennessee moved up a couple of spots to #12 in both polls, while Vanderbilt fell to #22 in the AP and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Mississippi and Florida are still getting votes, but the SEC is looking like a three-team race in the East and it appears no one wants to win the West. Arkansas leads the West and critics may point at their 12-11 overall record as a negative, but this is a totally different team with Courtney Fortson in the lineup.  Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season and Arkansas’s Courtney Fortson took player of the week honors.


  • 2/9 -#12 Tennessee @ #24 Vanderbilt – 7PM – ESPN
  • 2/9 – Alabama @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPNU
  • 2/10 – Florida at South Carolina – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/10 – LSU @ Arkansas – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/11 – Mississippi @ Mississippi State – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 2/13 – Xavier @ Florida – 6 PM – ESPN
  • 2/13 – #12 Tennessee @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPN



Kentucky jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead over the Rebels and never looked back en route to a 85-75 victory. The Wildcats never trailed in the game and built the lead to 27-9 just ten minutes into the game. A big part of the Wildcats’ plan was to frustrate Mississippi guard Chris Warren and it worked as UK played tough defense throughout the game. Ole Miss would make runs and cut the lead to three on a couple of occasions but UK responded by pushing the lead to double digits where it remained. DeMarcus Cousins led the way for Kentucky with 18 points, 13 boards and 4 blocks. John Wall added 17 points and 7 assists and put aside any concerns of a rift with UK coach John Calipari. Darnell Dodson moved into the starting lineup for UK and had 14 points on 4-5 three-point shooting. The Rebels were led by Terrico White with 19 points and Eniel Polynice added 14 as the three Ole Miss guards (including Warren’s 15) accounted for 48 of Ole Miss’s 75 points.


The Commodores were dominating the Bulldogs early and at one point had built a 14-point lead, but Mississippi State cut into that lead at 73-72 with 28 seconds left when Dee Bost nailed a three-pointer. Vandy’s John Jenkins then hit two free throws with :06 left and Dee Bost missed a potential game-tying trey as Vanderbilt hung on for the 75-72 win. The win was the Commodore’s 16th straight home win. Jermaine Beal led Vandy with 17 points and A.J. Ogilvy added 16 as VU won their 11th game out of 12. Kodi Augustus led Mississippi State with 15 points and Jarvis Varnado had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

ARKANSAS (3-3) @ GEORGIA (1-5)

Georgia pretty much had their way in the first half of the game with the Razorbacks as they built a 37-22 halftime lead. The Bulldogs came out cold in the second half with only two FG’s in the first ten minutes and Arkansas used a 26-8 run to pull away for a 72-68 win. Arkansas’ Courtney Fortson sealed the deal with five FT’s in the last forty seconds. He led the Hogs with 27 points and hit 12-16 FTs in the game. Michael Washingon and Marshawn Powell had complete games for Arkansas with 15 points/8 boards and 11 points/9 boards. Trey Thompkins had 21 points for the Bulldogs and Travis Leslie chipped in with 14 points for the Bulldogs.

TENNESSEE (4-2) @ LSU (0-7)

The Volunteers seemed to have their game with LSU firmly in control as they led the Tigers 51-37 with about eight minutes remaining. At that point, the Tigers mounted a furious rally and the Volunteers could only manage eight points the rest of the way. LSU pulled within a point at 55-54 with seventeen seconds remaining but Bobby Maze calmly sunk a pair of FTs and the Vols held on for a 58-54 victory. Wayne Chism was the only Vol in double digits as he scored 20 points and hauled in 7 rebounds. For the Tigers, it was another dismal shooting night as they sank just 30.5% of their shots and were held to just 16 points in the first half. Bo Spencer hit 4 3-pointers and scored 25 points to lead the Tigers. Tasmin Mitchell added 13 points and 17 rebounds.

FLORIDA (4-3) @ ALABAMA (3-4)

Florida held a 64-60 lead over Alabama with 1:59 remaining but the Crimson Tide were not finished fighting. Alabama’s Anthony Brock stole the ball and scored on a three-point play and Mikhail Torrance hit a jumper to give Alabama a 65-64 lead with forty-nine seconds left. Florida’s Erving Walker then hit a jumper to give the Gators a 66-65 lead and Florida’s defense denied a couple of Alabama chances to seal the Gator win. Alex Tyus led the Gators with 19 points on 8-10 shooting and he pulled down 7 boards. Walker finished with 16 points and Kenny Boynton 15 as the Florida starters accounted for all but two of the Gator points. Torrance led Alabama with 22 points and hit five threes. JaMychal Green added 14 points for Alabama. This game was the first SEC meeting between UF coach Billy Donovan and former Florida assistant Anthony Grant.

KENTUCKY (6-1) @ LSU (0-8)

Kentucky was wary of a “trap game” heading into LSU just two days after the Tigers gave Tennessee all they wanted. The Tigers jumped out to a 6-1 lead over UK and were trailing just 12-10 with 10:44 left in the first half. Any thoughts of a LSU upset were dashed as UK went on a 22-0 run and took a 42-14 lead in at halftime. Kentucky coasted the second half and never let the Tigers get within 20 and won the interdivisional matchup 81-55. The game marked the sixth straight double-double for DeMarcus Cousins who poured in 19 points and 13 rebounds. Patrick Patterson added 16 and Eric Bledsoe and UK is now 22-1 on the season. Bo Spencer scored 25 points and Tasmin Mitchell added 10 as the Tigers shot just 31.8% for the game.


Devan Downey may be the Southeastern Conference’s most dangerous shooter, but Tennessee’s Wayne Chism stole the show from him for at least one night. Chism scored a career-high 30 points as #14 Tennessee limited Downey’s scoring opportunities in a 79-53 rout of South Carolina. Tennessee held USC to just 16 points and led at the break 30-16. Bobby Maze and Scotty Hopson both had 11 points to pace the Vols. Downey did score 26 points, albeit on a 5-20 shooting night. He was 13-14 from the line. Brandis Raley-Ross threw in 12 for the Gamecocks.


The Georgia Bulldogs shocked the SEC when they outscored the Vanderbilt Commodores 49-32 in the second half en route to a 72-58 win. Vandy led 36-28 in the second half, but Georgia figured out the Vandy press and used a 14-21 shooting second half to spring the upset. Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both had 17 points for the Bulldogs and Dustin Ware added 10. Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley were the only two Commdores to show up with 21 and 18 points.

AUBURN (2-5) @ ARKANSAS (4-3)

Courtney Fortson scored 24 points — including nine in a row late in overtime — to lead Arkansas over Auburn 82-79. Fortson’s 3-pointer broke a 71-71 tie, and he later hit from the perimeter and made two free throws with 40.6 seconds left to make it 78-73. After an Auburn miss, Fortson made a layup for a seven-point lead. Auburn had forced overtime with Andre Malone’s layup on wild play in the final seconds of regulation. Marshawn Powell had 19 for Arkansas and Rotnei Clarke, added 12. Frankie Sullivan and Tay Waller both led Auburn with 18 apiece.


Florida seemed to have the game in hand, leading the Bulldogs by 12 with 2:38 left, but the Gators had problems putting the Bulldogs away. The Bulldogs scored seven straight points and even got to within four at 66-62 before Florida closed the game out with free throws to win 69-62. Vernon Macklin scored 20 points for Florida and Chandler Parsons added 18 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Parsons was pressed into service as an emergency PG as Erving Walker was benched temporarily during a 2-14 shooting night. Ravern Johnson scored 20 for Mississippi State and Jarvis Varnado had 16 points and 13 boards.


Chris Warren scored 21 points, and Terrence Henry had 18 points and eight rebounds to help Mississippi come back to beat Alabama 74-67 and stay a half-game behind Arkansas in the SEC West. Mississippi trailed by 23 points in the second half but outscored the Crimson Tide 54-27 in the second half. Alabama dominated the first half 40-20. Terrence Henry added 18 for the Rebels. JaMychal Green scored 18 points for Alabama and Tony Mitchell pitched in 16.

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #5 – SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2008

Kurt of SEC Hoops: The Good, The Bad, The Dirty is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:


  1. Tennessee (25-5, 13-3)
  2. Florida (25-5, 12-4)
  3. Kentucky (22-8, 11-5)
  4. Vanderbilt (24-6, 9-7)
  5. South Carolina (19-10, 8-8)
  6. Georgia (15-13, 5-11)


  1. Alabama (18-11, 8-8)
  2. LSU (21-10, 8-8)
  3. Mississippi State (21-10, 8-8)
  4. Ole Miss (17-13, 7-9)
  5. Arkansas (14-15, 5-11)
  6. Auburn (14-17, 3-13)


What You Need to Know.  The name of the game for the SEC this year is youth. The Western Division in particular, as nearly every team loses some nucleus from squads that formed a comparatively weak conference half as it was. Tennessee once again looks to lead a strong Eastern Division despite the loss of All-American Chris Lofton. The nation will be looking towards this typically loaded conference with several questions heading into 2008-09. Can Florida’s sophomores have a breakout season similar to those of 2006-07? Can Kentucky put enough guards around all-SEC forward Patrick Patterson to compete for the East? And can the West avoid being stomped once again in head-to-head competitions with the East? My answers: yes, yes, and no.

Predicted Champion.   Tennessee (#2 seed NCAA). It’s pretty easy to brag on Bruce Pearl. He’s one of the nation’s premier coaches, owning a ridiculous 394-108 (.785) record as a head coach, standing third amongst current head coaches. Despite losing popular 2007-08 preseason pick for National Player of the Year Chris Lofton and do-everything guard/forward JuJuan Smith, the Vols will benefit from huge losses across the board for the SEC. All-American forward Tyler Smith (13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) returns to provide the squad with a heavy-duty anchor inside (although the 6’7, 215 lb. junior hits 37.8% from behind the arc), while talented center Wayne Chism will be mopping up inside defensively. Hopping aboard the orange train are a pair of insanely talented newcomers. Everything-All-American out of high school Scotty Hopson will be challenging for the starting spot at shooting guard while junior-college All-American Bobby Maze looks to start at point guard. All in all, the talent, experience, and coaching level is the highest in Knoxville, and that’s why the Vols are picked to win the SEC regular season for the second consecutive season.   Here’s some clips from the classic #1 v. #2 matchup Tennessee had with Memphis last season.

NCAA Teams.

  • Florida (NCAA #3) – The Gators have once again put together a formula for a set of super sophomores. The league’s top freshman, as well as one of the conference’s best point guards in years, returns in Nick Calathes while a pair of star freshmen in Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas will attempt to fill the rather large shoes of NBA-bound Marreese Speights. Don’t be surprised if the Gators reclaim the SEC regular-season title for the third time in the past four years and show up knocking on the door of the NCAA’s Elite Eight.
  • Kentucky (NCAA #6) – The Wildcats have a lot of outside shooting to replace, after losing over 33 points per game in Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley. SEC Co-Freshman of the Year Patrick Patterson returns and looks to touch the ball on nearly every possession, and incoming freshman DeAndre Liggins should serve as this year’s heavily-relied upon freshman for the Wildcats at the point guard spot. UK could challenge for the Eastern Division (and thus, the overall SEC crown) and sneak into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen if the pieces fall correctly.
  • Vanderbilt (NCAA #9) – Replacing SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster won’t be easy for Kevin Stallings, but the Commodores have another potential POY candidate in A.J. Ogilvy to step into that leadership role. Ogilvy returns as the conference’s most efficient player and scorer, and Jermaine Beal will be the guy to pass inside to the talented post-man while remaining a scoring threat this season. Although the Commodores lose an immense talent in Foster, Ogilvy should be enough to push the squad into the first couple of rounds in the NCAA Tournament.
  • LSU (NCAA #11) – The Tigers return nearly every major contributor from last year’s 13-18 squad except for star freshman Anthony Randolph and head coach John Brady, who was replaced during the offseason with accomplished former Stanford coach Trent Johnson. Johnson inherits possibly the league’s most talented overall player in senior Marcus Thornton, the league’s leading returning scorer, along with a chance to get LSU back to the NCAA Tournament (if just so) for the first time since 2006’s Final Four run.
  • Mississippi State (NCAA #12) – The Bulldogs lose the most talented duo in the conference in multi-dimensional Jamont Gordon and dominating post-presence Charles Rhodes. In addition, State will need to find a replacement at shooting guard with sophomore Ben Hansbrough transferring to Notre Dame. The positive, however, is that MSU is loaded with talented and will anchor around National Defensive Player of the Year Jarvis Varnado, who led the nation in blocks per game and helped the team rank second nationally in field-goal percentage defense. Adding two big new pieces to the puzzle in freshmen Dee Bost and Romero Osby, the Bulldogs could win their share of the West for the third time in the past four season and make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the past eight seasons.

NIT Teams.

  • Alabama (NIT) – I’ve predicted several SEC squads with similar in-conference records, and thus those with the weaker RPIs have been restricted to the NIT. Alabama is one of them. The Tide return former All-American Ronald Steele, but major questions still surround his ability to return to his former self after several complications with knee injuries. McDonald’s All-American freshman JaMychal Green will step into the spot of the league’s most dominant offensive post-man in departed Richard Hendrix. If Green can handle the post himself, or if little-known sophomore Justin Knox can step in to assist, the Tide could find themselves away from a top NIT seed and into the NCAAs.
  • South Carolina (NIT) – New head coach David Horn from Western Kentucky infamy will step into a very favorable position at the helm of the Gamecocks. USC brings back more firepower, at least percentage-wise, than any other SEC team and could post the biggest turnaround season the league has seen in quite some time. Junior Devan Downey returns as one of the league’s top point guards and toughest men to keep out of the lane along with ranking as the SEC’s second-leading returning scorer. With almost every piece seeming to come into place for a special season for USC, keep your eyes pealed for a potential Gamecock bubble squad.


  • Arkansas – Just as USC returns nearly everyone, Arkansas loses nearly everyone from a team that underachieved a season ago. Namely, the Razorbacks lose former SEC Freshman of the Year Patrick Beverly, who decided to try his luck overseas. Despite a solid recruiting class, this should be a rebuilding year for John Pelphrey.
  • Auburn – The Tigers simply have had a bare cupboard in both talent and depth constantly under Jeff Lebo, and this year is little different. The return of Korvotney Barber should help matters some, assuming he stays healthy, but Auburn won’t improve to any real degree until Lebo is let go.
  • Georgia – The Bulldogs under Dennis Felton have been comparable to Auburn under Lebo for quite some time, except that Felton recruits a bit better and has had some nominal success such as last year’s confusing SEC Tournament run. With mass suspensions and off-the-court issues, UGA should remain near or at the bottom of the conference this season – and Felton should receive his pink slip much like Lebo.
  • Ole Miss – The Rebels lost a lot last season, but were still anchored inside by solid and experienced forwards, especially Dwayne Curtis.  With those losses, this team is almost entirely underclassmen and could sneak into the NIT if they catch some breaks.

RPI Boosters.

  • Kentucky @ North Carolina (11.18.08) – If the Wildcats can pull a massive upset of the consensus #1 team in the nation in Chapel Hill, they will be well on their way to returning to national recognition.
  • Tennessee vs. Marquette (12.16.08) – The Volunteers get little or no breaks throughout the non-conference schedule, and this SEC vs. Big East matchup will be for conference bragging rights.
  • LSU @ Texas A&M (12.20.08) – If the Tigers want to prove they are rebounding, this will be one of few opportunities for them to so in the non-conference slate.
  • South Carolina @ Baylor (01.02.08) – The Gamecocks’ schedule is ridiculously light, and their schedule will be inflated by this point in the season. This game is a must-win if USC wants to take the step up into the NCAAs.
  • Tennessee @ Kansas (01.03.08) – Another heavyweight matchup for the Vols, who have a chance to take down a reigning national champ on their home court.
  • Kentucky @ Louisville (01.04.08) – The Cats could seriously bolster their NCAA seed and chances to advance in the NCAAs by taking down Louisville on the road.
  • Memphis @ Tennessee (01.24.08) – A quickly-heating rivalry as the amount of NBA potential on this floor could drown the common man.

Important Games.

  • LSU @ Mississippi State (01.11.09) – If the Tigers want to break through the cap and take the West, a win in this early conference game would be a huge advantage.
  • Kentucky @ Alabama (01.24.09) – The Tide must be able to win games at home against the top tier of the East if they have any serious hope of challenging for the overall SEC crown.
  • Mississippi State @ Alabama (02.21.09) – If the Bulldogs take care of the Tide at home, they have a shot to make it six in a row over their rivals and take a major step towards another West title.
  • Tennessee @ Florida (03.01.09) – The Gators must hold serve at home to compete in the East, while the Vols could wrap up the conference title with a win here.
  • Kentucky @ Florida (03.07.09) – We know the Wildcats can win at home, but can they win in Gainesville? This one could be for the East.

Neat-O Stat.  The Southeastern Conference is one of the nation’s deepest and most competitive leagues. The SEC ranks second only behind the ACC in average conference RPI since 1999, and has put every single member into the NCAA tournament since 2002.

65 Team Era.  The SEC has had a tremendous amount of success in this era, going 178-117 (.603) which is good enough for third behind the ACC and Big East.  This includes thirteen F4s and five national titles.  What’s particularly impressive is that only four of those F4s and two titles belong to Kentucky, the traditional standard-bearer of this league, which shows that the rest of the conference has taken basketball to heart and stepped it up. 

Final Thoughts.  The SEC was a huge disappointment on the national scene a season ago. Without major flag-bearers such as Kentucky or Florida dominating, expectations fell on Tennessee to take their #2 seed to the Final Four. Instead, the Vols served as the only team from the conference to make the Sweet Sixteen before falling on their faces to Louisville.  While this year likely won’t be much of an improvement, consider it a gigantic top-to-bottom reloading of one of the nation’s premier men’s basketball conferences, with the league’s talent being tremendously youth-oriented.  Three SEC teams look to have serious aspirations for getting past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and all are from the East: Tennessee, Florida, and Kentucky. If a Western Division team can step up and compete better than expected and at least two of these teams make the Sweet Sixteen this season, it should serve as a useful springboard to a very potent year for the SEC on the national scene in 2009-2010.

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