RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Jeffery Taylor

Posted by AMurawa on May 29th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Jeffery Taylor

School: Vanderbilt

Height/Weight: 6’7”, 225 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Jeffery Taylor's Athleticism, Defensive Ability and Perimeter Jumper Should Find Him An NBA Home (AP Photo)

Overview: When Taylor first showed up in Nashville four seasons ago, there was little doubt that he had the athletic ability to make an impact at the collegiate level. However, despite his above-average athleticism, there were enough holes in his game to make him a questionable NBA prospect. While he was a ready-made defender, his jumper was a mess (he hit just 22% of his 41 three-point attempts as a freshman, then attempted just 11 from deep as a sophomore), his handle was just average and his effort seemed to be hit-or-miss. But, from day one he was an important part of the Commodore offense, using up 26% of the team’s possessions and taking 25% of his teams’ shots, numbers that stayed pretty stable throughout his career. The difference was that over the years he began to use those possessions and shots more efficiently. In his final season with the ‘Dores, he hit just a shade under two three-pointers a game at a 42.3% clip, posting a 57% effective field goal percentage, while still keeping up his game-changing defensive play and chipping in on the glass and playing the most complete basketball of his career. And, he did all that while playing four seasons without any true play-making offensive player alongside him. Still, he heads into the NBA Draft needing to convince basketball executives that he is ready for the big time. Athleticism and defense are not in question, but he’s not got great size for his position (6’7” with a 6’6” wingspan isn’t very exciting), he has never proven the ability to create his own shot and, the fact that he’s 23 years old means there’s not a whole lot of upside left for his game.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2012

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

#6 Murray State vs. #11 Colorado State – West Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Steve Prohm Brings His One-Loss Team to the Dance (US Presswire)

Anytime you enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss and 4-0 record over NCAA Tournament teams, you’re a big story and a threat to go deep in the tournament. That’s the situation Murray State finds itself in. The fact that they’ve got a recent history of some success in the tournament (they knocked off Vanderbilt in the first round in 2010 before losing a heartbreaker to eventual national runner up Butler) makes them an even bigger challenge. In that 2010 loss to Butler, then-freshman guard Isaiah Canaan had the ball in his hands with the clock running down and threw an errant pass that got deflected by Gordon Hayward, effectively sealing the Racers’ fate. Two years later, Canaan is this team’s leader and one of the best guards in the nation, capable not only of getting his own opportunities in a variety of ways, but also creating for his teammates. And he’ll certainly be a problem for a Colorado State team whose guards, though talented scorers offensively, struggle to stay in front of their men on defense. Another issue for the Rams is the fact that they are one of the smallest teams in the nation (there are only five teams smaller, according to Ken Pomeroy’s effective height statistic), with a frontline that doesn’t go any larger than 6’6”. Murray may not have a lot more height (their two main interior players – Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel – go just 6’7”), but the lack of size has been an issue for CSU this year. Still, the Rams can score with just about anybody, but their inability to lock down defensively will be a problem. A bigger problem could be the fact that the Racers are playing not only within an easy drive of their campus, but that the hordes of Kentucky fans who show up for the early session will most certainly convert their allegiance to the Racers, at least temporarily.

The RTC Certified Pick: Murray State

#8 Kansas State vs. #9 Southern Miss – East Region Second Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

This could be an ugly game right off the bat. Neither of these two teams shoots the ball particularly well, especially Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have an awful two point field goal percentage (43.3%) and rank second to last among NCAA Tournament teams in effective field goal percentage. Only 16th seeded Western Kentucky is worse. Despite the poor shooting numbers, Larry Eustachy’s Golden Eagles have a respectable offensive efficiency number thanks to a minimal turnover percentage and solid offensive rebounding. If Southern Miss is going to win this game, it must rebound the basketball and score on second chance opportunities. While Kansas State is regarded as a team that plays terrific defense and rebounds well, the Wildcats are vulnerable on the defensive glass. Provided Southern Miss and point guard Neil Watson can keep a good handle on the ball and get some decent looks, this team will hang around. For Kansas State, it must get Rodney McGruder going early and often. McGruder is the best offensive player on this team and has been playing at a high level of late. Kansas State should win the game if it rebounds well and plays its typical brand of physical hard-nosed basketball. The Wildcats should get plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities against a Southern Miss team that has just one player taller than 6’7.” The free throw battle could be important as well. Each team gets to the line well but also fouls a lot when playing defense. The Golden Eagles shoot it much better from the stripe and they’ll need to today in order to offset the rebounding disadvantage.

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Both Kentucky & Vanderbilt Are Better Off With Sunday’s Results

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 11th, 2012

Sunday’s SEC Championship game worked out exactly how it needed for both teams involved.

Kentucky walked in to the Big Easy with confidence and for good reason. Going into the championship game, the Wildcats possessed a 24-game winning streak, two straight SEC Tournament titles, and an almost certain assurance they would be the #1 overall seed in The Big Dance. With UK up 62-55, Vanderbilt ended all that by out-hustling and out-performing the Cats with a 16-2 run over the final five minutes and five seconds. Kentucky’s swagger had turned to arrogance, but the Wildcats left New Orleans humbled, with its tail between its legs.

John Calipari Wasn't All Smiles On Sunday (AP)

Kentucky still received its #1 overall seed, but was handed a dangerous road to go with it. The Wildcats must slay demons of their past to advance to a second straight Final Four. Defending national champion Connecticut and earlier defeat Indiana potentially await in the Cats’ path. And the ultimate Kentucky enemy, the Duke Blue Devils, could be waiting in the Elite Eight to once again end Kentucky’s Final Four hopes twenty years after “The Shot” in a made for TV clash the Selection Committee has been drooling over for months. But Kentucky won’t make it out of the South region if it plays like the last five minutes and five seconds of Sunday’s game. Ironically, it may be that regrettable ending that ends up saving the Cats’ historic season.

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SEC Morning Five: 03.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 9th, 2012

  1. Auburn has not made many basketball headlines recently until now. Suspended guard Varez Ward is under investigation in a point shaving scandal, according to this report from Yahoo! Sports. The FBI is investigating two games in particular —  a 68-50 loss to Alabama on February 7 and a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on January 25. Ward and guard Chris Denson, who has been later cleared of any wrong-doing, were suspended by Tigers coach Tony Barbee prior to a February 25 game when it appears that Barbee was made aware of the allegations.
  2. There were no surprises as Kentucky was named the favorite this weekend, but SEC coaches seem ready to hand over the SEC Tournament crown to the dominant Wildcats. “Everybody’s playing for second place,” said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. South Carolina coach Darrin Horn agrees, labeling UK freshman Anthony Davis as the difference maker in New Orleans. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a kid impact games the way he does,” Horn said. “He’s just a unique, unique talent.” The Wildcats have won two SEC Tournament championships in a row, since the arrival of coach John Calipari, and seek their third in a row this weekend. With several top tier SEC teams struggling, it is difficult to imagine any challengers removing the Wildcats from the top of the perch.
  3. While most focused on what’s been happening in Lexington, some coaches took the time to speak about the amazing story of Tennessee freshman Jarnell Stokes. “He was in high school, practices about a week, lines up against Kentucky and makes his first four shots, gets a double-double against UConn about a week later, and think about what he has done for the team,” Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. “Think about what he would be if he was with them all year.” Stokes’ quick transition displays how talented he is, but also displays the remarkable coaching job done by first year coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin helped develop Stokes as well as find ways to get the freshman some playing time without impacting the established team chemistry amongst the Volunteers team. It will be interesting to monitor Stokes and Tennessee’s success this postseason.
  4. Florida freshman Bradley Beal returned to practice for the Gators after being sidelined from an ankle injury sustained in last weekend’s Kentucky game. Beal was not able to practice Monday or Tuesday of this week, but plans to play in the Gators’ opening game on Friday. Florida has dealt with a rash of injuries this year as Will Yeguete, Mike Rosario, and Erik Murphy among others have been out at some point this year. The Gators have lost three games in a row and five of their last eight so remaining healthy is a huge concern going into the tournament.
  5. Vanderbilt remains confident going into the postseason despite the fact that the Commodores haven’t been very successful in March over the last couple of years. Senior forward Jeffery Taylor refused to acknowledge that the ‘Dores or head coach Kevin Stallingswere feeling any of the pressure to succeed this year given the talent and experience Vanderbilt has. “I think all of us are in a place where we have our backs against the wall, especially us seniors,” Taylor said. “But as far as Coach feeling any pressure, I don’t think so. He shouldn’t feel any pressure. “The two teams we lost to (Murray State in 2010, Richmond in 2011) were two really good teams and both of them went down to the wire. And it just happened that the other team made a couple of more plays than we did. But I don’t think that falls on the coach. I think that falls on the players.” Vanderbilt certainly has the talent to do well this postseason, but have been too inconsistent in its play for anyone to be overly-confident.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.07.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 7th, 2012

  1. When you scroll down the star-studded roster of the top ranked Kentucky Wildcats, it is easy to locate a number of future NBA players. However, Darius Miller is not usually at the top of that list. The 6’7″ senior forward has been the glue guy for the Cats for four seasons, and nowA Sea of Blue makes the case that Miller is a legitimate NBA player. “Miller has above average hops, legit NBA 3-pt. range, and the ability to score in the post against smaller players,” said ASOB writer Alex Scutchfield. “He has lateral quickness and can score in traffic. His combination of size, athletic ability and shooting skill are hard to match in college basketball.” But will NBA scouts see it that way? One way to instantaneously grab their attention is to shine in the “One Shining Moment” that awaits Miller and his Kentucky Wildcats.
  2. The 2012 SEC Men’s Basketball Awards were announced, with no big surprises. Kentucky swept the major awards as Anthony Davis was named SEC Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Freshman of the Year. The super freshman averaged 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks per game. Kentucky senior Darius Miller earned the Sixth Man of the Year award. Finally, Wildcats coach John Calipari grabbed his first SEC Coach of the Year honor. Reigning SEC Player of the Year, John Jenkins, was again a First Team-All SEC selection along with teammate Jeffrey Taylor. Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Florida each had two selections on the First Team.
  3. Kentucky’s Anthony Davis  is accumulating some national attention as well with The Sporting News annual postseason awards. Davis was named the National Player of the Year,  National Freshman of the Year and National Defensive Player of the Year honors. The 6’11” center was a defensive force all season long, but his development on the offensive end throughout the season was the biggest surprise. “I was always comfortable; I was just kind of nervous to shoot the ball, afraid I’d make mistakes,” Davis said. “There was no actual point in the season where I was like, OK, I’ll shoot it now. My teammates are giving me the ball in great opportunities, great spots on the floor. Not that they weren’t doing it at first, but I wasn’t making shots.” The only question now is just how many additional awards Davis will accumulate this postseason. And the guess here is there are many more to come.
  4. How will Mississippi State handle the possibility of having to play several days in a row at the SEC Tournament considering the endurance issues the Bulldogs have dealt with regarding forward Renardo Sidney? “I think we’ll prepare like normal,” said Mississippi State assistant coach Phil Cunningham. “I think we’re just going to prepare for the Georgia game and not worry about after that because, obviously, it is an issue with Renardo but he has done OK. You look at it, we had a situation in new York in November and I know that was a long time ago, but we played on back-to-back nights and played pretty well up there.” The Bulldogs need to win to build their confidence going into the NCAA Tournament, and in reality, they need more than one victory to erase the negativity surrounding a recent five game losing streak. As he has all season, Sidney remains one of the keys to whether or not Mississippi State can be a good team or a great team, and his mental state over the next several weeks could be the difference between the Bulldogs making an early round exit or advancing into the second weekend of the Big Dance.
  5. How safe should the Ole Miss Rebels feel on Selection Sunday? Right now, the Rebels still have work to be done according to the experts. “I think that Mississippi ought to take the attitude that they probably need to just win the whole thing,” said Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. “Maybe pick up a couple of quality wins without winning the whole thing, you might be able to get in anyways. … I think it’s going to be hard for them to be at-larges.” First, Ole Miss has to get past Auburn, but one of the more interesting second round matchups could be the Rebels against another team on the outside of the proverbial bubble — the Tennessee Volunteers. The Rebels currently sit at number 51 in the RPI rankings with two top 50 RPI wins.
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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: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 17th, 2012

  1. The SEC announced the 2012 Allstate® SEC Basketball Legends. The 12-man class will be honored at the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament March 8-11 at the New Orleans Arena. The 2012 class includes Jack Kubiszyn (Alabama), Nolan Richardson (Arkansas), Chris Morris (Auburn), Mike Miller (Florida),  Willie Anderson (Georgia), Adrian “Odie” Smith (Kentucky), Jack Waters (Ole Miss), Chuck Evans (Mississippi State), Henry Martin (South Carolina), Gene Tormohlen (Tennessee), and Drew Maddux (Vanderbilt). Each SEC Basketball Legend will be recognized at halftime of his institution’s first game at the tournament.
  2. While Vanderbilt was throttling Ole Miss, 102-76, on Thursday, much of the drama came outside the lines. In the game, the Rebels received three technical fouls, one because of some fans throwing ice on the floor for a second time. Andy Kennedy and Terrance Henry also received technical fouls by the end of the night. After the game, teammates Reginald Buckner and Jelan Kendrick had to be separated by the coaching staff after an argument. “When you played like we played there’s a lot of frustration to go around,” Kennedy said. “I’m sure some of that got misguided.” Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger filed this video regarding the altercation.
  3. In that win, Jeffery Taylor scored 28 points as he continued his ascension up the Vanderbilt scoring chart. At Taylor’s current average, Vanderbilt would need to make the SEC Tournament championship game, and the NCAA championship game for him to pass Foster.  The Tennessean’s Mike Organ spoke to Taylor and his teammates about his chances of taking down Shan Foster of the school’s all-time leading scorer. “I’ve always been among the top scorers on the team, but we’ve always had good scorers and we’ve always had a balanced team,” Taylor said. “But where I am on the (all-time) scoring list is nothing that I’ve ever really had that great an interest in.” Organ writes that “at Taylor’s current average, Vanderbilt would need to make the SEC Tournament championship game, and the NCAA championship game for him to pass Foster.
  4. As Auburn basketball is starting to see a uptick under Tony Barbee, the story of Tigers’ walk-on starting point guard Josh Wallace has picked up steam. Evan Woodbery writes how Wallace, the owner of a 4.45 GPA in high school, can balance his book studies with his playbook studies. “Engineering is a pretty tough major, and I guess to balance that and play a sport is pretty demanding on both ends,” Wallace said with a shrug. “So I guess people want talk about it a lot.”
  5. Jack Blankenship, the subject of the “SEC basketball photo of the year” has seen the popularity of the picture grow to the point where ESPN’s Dave Wilsonwrote about Blankenship’s sudden stardom. “I thought it’d be cool to find a way to get a picture of myself and bring it to the games and hold it up,” Blankenship said. “It’s been amazing. I’ve always wanted to be famous.”
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Deconstructing Vanderbilt Heading Into the Stretch Run

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2012

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Vanderbilt-LSU game in Nashville last night.

The Vanderbilt Commodores continue to be one of college basketball’s biggest enigmas.  It is hard to understand how such an experienced team with so much talent has managed to lose seven games this season. Senior center Festus Ezeli, who has missed practice time over the past week nursing a knee injury, was dominant inside, scoring 21 points in just 27 minutes of action against talented LSU center Justin Hamilton.  Meanwhile, Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins combined to go 8-of-12 from behind the arc, and showed why the Commodores could be dangerous come March.  The three-headed monster combined for 60 of Vanderbilt’s 76 points in the Commodores’ 15-point victory in Nashville.

Festus Ezeli Has a Huge Test Against Anthony Davis Upcoming (AP/Mark Humphrey)

As impressive as Vanderbilt was in the second half, its first half performance was equally perplexing.  The Commodores were suffering from a hangover from last week’s losses at Arkansas and Florida, or were looking ahead to Saturday’s ESPN prime time tilt with top-ranked Kentucky.  Whatever Kevin Stallings said to his team at the break got it going, as the Commodores outscored the Tigers 49-34 after intermission. Stallings was pleased with his team’s effort and saw this game as a challenge. “I expected a hard-fought game, and got one.  I was proud of my team.  I thought we showed our experience there at the end of the game,” he said. Stallings was also pleased with what he got from his bench.  The reserves’ contributions may not have been noticeable on the stat sheet (four points), but Stallings thought they gave his team a lift. “I thought our bench played very well tonight. I thought [it] was very, very solid, and that’s what we need from them.”

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SEC Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 9th, 2012

  1. After witnessing his team getting dismantled in Lexington by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida coach Billy Donovan had high praise for coach John Calipari’s squad. “The one thing I like about their team is I love their disposition on the floor,” he said. “There’s a certain disposition you have to have and I’m not talking about an arrogance or a cockiness, but there’s like a focus level in terms of what really goes into winning at that level. There’s a mentality there.” Donovan is a good source on this year’s championship. Not only did he lead the Gators to two straight national championships in 2006 and 2007, but Florida has played the top three teams in the country, all on the road. He even offered up a nice prediction for basketball fans in April. Billy the Kid says he would love to see Kentucky and Syracuse play in the title game. “It would be a heck of a game,” Donovan said. And after last year’s anti-climatic performance, it’s a game that would be great for the sport of college basketball as well.
  2. Anybody who watched Kentucky’s rout of the seventh-ranked Gators on Tuesday can attest that this could be a championship year for the Cats. Despite being loaded with talent throughout his college coaching career, including making a Final Four run last year, this is John Calipari’s best team. The different between this team, and say, Calipari’s 2009-10 club that had five first round NBA draft picks, is that Kentucky has players experienced in Cal’s system. Calipari is well-known for his utilization of freshmen players who bolt for the NBA after one season. He has a couple of likely 1-and-dones in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who happen to be two of the best players in the nation, but he adds a level of comfort and experience that his previous teams have not typically possessed. Three returning players (Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones) give Calipari a complete team that knows his expectations and appears to be coming together at just the right time.
  3. Another key to the Wildcats’ latest successes has been the development of freshman point guard Marquis Teague. Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated charts how Teague’s shot and turnover percentages have declined over the course of the season. Against Florida on Tuesday, Teague finished with 12 points, 10 assists and five turnovers. His recent success, and thus the improvement of Kentucky’s offense, is attributed to him finding a comfortable role as a supporting player. “We enjoy winning, so if I’ve got to take less shots for us to win, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. And as long as he continues to find open teammates and improve his shot selection, Kentucky won’t just continue winning, but will continue winning big.
  4. Just when it appeared that Vanderbilt was hitting its stride after some early season struggles, the Commodores have lost three of their last four SEC games. And with a tough stretch ahead, including a College Gameday matchup with Kentucky on Saturday, there is at least some question as to whether or not the ‘Dores are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.“We’re not playing great right now, but I definitely think we’re a tournament team,” forward Jeffery Taylor said. Coach Kevin Stallings agreed. “If we stay healthy enough and we do what we’re supposed to do in our preparation, then we’ll be in the tournament,” he said. For the record, I think Vandy will make the Tournament, and I even think they will finally make it out of the first round. However, the fact that we are even having this conversation indicates just how far the Commodores have fallen from lofty preseason expectations that had them competing for an SEC title and contending for a Final Four in March.
  5. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t necessarily need forward Jeronne Maymon to score points. Martin is looking for an increased toughness from his leader, and the numbers will follow. “I don’t think it’s so much being asked to score,” Maymon said. “I just think it’s about going out there and trying to lead, in a way. Play tough defense, talk and be vocal — that’s all Coach [Cuonzo] Martin really stresses. He really doesn’t stress point totals.” Maymon’s 19 rebounds against Auburn signify exactly the sort of toughness that his coach is looking for. “Coach Martin loves tough guys and guys that go out there and play their heart out,” he said. “That’s mainly what I’m about.”
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SEC Set Your TiVo: 02.04.12

Posted by EMoyer on February 4th, 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.

Vanderbilt @ #11 Florida – 1:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The best of a so-so weekend in the SEC lost a little bit of luster after Vanderbilt lost at Arkansas on Tuesday. As it still stands, the winner moves into second place in conference standings. Vanderbilt would tie Florida at 6-2 with a win, conversely the Gators could take a two-game lead on the Commodores with the home victory.
  • Saturday represents the first of two meetings between the Gators and Commodores. Each of the previous three seasons have resulted in season sweeps. The Gators won twice in 2008-09; Vanderbilt took both meetings in 2009-10 while Florida won both regular-season meetings and eliminated the Commodores in an SEC Championship semifinal contest as season ago.
  • This contest features the reigning SEC Player of the Week (Jeffery Taylor) and Freshman of the Week (Bradley Beal) and four of the top seven scorers in the conference. Additionally, the Gators and Commodores rank first and second, respectively, in three-pointers made and in three-point percentage.
  • The Gators are one of two SEC schools undefeated at home (Kentucky) and Vanderbilt has the second-best road record in the conference at 4-2. Could the experienced-laden Commodores steal a key SEC road win after letting one get away on Tuesday? In their six losses, Commodore opponents have shot almost 39% from the three-point arc as compared to 31.5% in their 16 wins.

Ole Miss @ Alabama – 8:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • A pair of teams squarely on the NCAA bubble square off in Tuscaloosa. Both teams enter fresh as neither has played since Saturday. Alabama ended a three-game slide by beating Arkansas. Ole Miss owns a pair of quality conference wins (Arkansas, Mississippi State) but an overtime loss at Auburn will remains a stain on the résumé.
  • The Crimson Tide have dominated the Rebels at home, winning 70 of the 80 contests.
  • The Tide’s defense remains one of the top in the nation by allowing a scant 57.9 points per game this season,the ninth-best average in the nation and the best in the SEC. Only seven Alabama opponents have even reached the 60-point mark this season and four have failed to score 50 points. The Crimson Tide has held their opponents  to just a 37.3% field goal percentage, the sixth lowest in the country. Ole Miss more than holds its own at the defensive end, holding opponents to 39.4% shooting and the Rebels are 11-2 when holding their opposition to less than 40% shooting.
  • History says Alabama is the right choice in this game. In addition to their home dominance, the Crimson Tide are 27-2 in their last 29 games at Coleman Coliseum.

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SEC Morning Five: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 26th, 2012

  1. The SEC will expand to at least 18 games next season, and a 19-game schedule is a strong possibility. The additional games would enable the league to keep the same scheduling format, and help SEC teams add marquee home games (and potential TV games on ESPN and CBS) to the schedules. Every team (sans Kentucky because of the potential to be forced to discard a marquee game with North Carolina or Indiana) is likely to favor the additional league games. Expanding the SEC format should help keep the conference strong in the RPI category, by playing in-conference games against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri or Florida rather than Radford, South Carolina State or Alabama A&M.
  2. Kentucky and Florida are two of just nine schools that will unveil new Nike Hyper Elite Platinum uniforms during one conference game this season. According to Nike, these aren’t just for the futuristic look, but are “designed to create a new level of performance based on superior innovation.” The uniforms will feature “advanced ventilation and a unique platinum color that speaks to the exclusivity of those chosen to wear it.” And don’t you worry, fans will be able to purchase t-shirts from the new Elite Platinum brand. Both schools have chosen to wear their new unis against Tennessee. Kentucky will unveil its new duds on January 31, while the Gators will break them out on February 11. Why Tennessee? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the Volunteers have a strong relationship with Adidas. Well played, Nike… well played.
  3. Vanderbilt’s 65-47 drubbing of Tennessee on Tuesday night showcased again what a solid season senior Jeffery Taylor is having for the Commodores. Taylor put up an impressive 23 points, nine rebounds and four steals, bringing his averages to 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on the season. Most SEC fans consider junior guard John Jenkins to be the premier three-point shooter for Vanderbilt and the entire conference, but Taylor is second in the league with a 48.6% three point rate. In fact, Taylor hasn’t shot less than 50% from beyond the arc since a January 2 win over Miami (Ohio), and was a perfect 3-of-3 from long range against the Volunteers. His recent play reminds us how important center Festus Ezeli is to the Vanderbilt offense. Ezeli’s return to the lineup coincides with Taylor’s improved play because of the attention given to the big man inside. The Commodores have won nine out of their last 10 contests after a disappointing 6-4 start.
  4. Arkansas freshman Hunter Mickelson enjoyed a breakout game against Michigan with 11 points off the bench. Mickelson’s contributions are much needed considering the Razorbacks’ thin frontline. Coach Mike Anderson was happy with what he saw from Mickelson, but hopes for more. “Sometimes when you make that first shot, man, you get confidence,” Anderson said. “I thought that relaxed Hunter. He looked more relaxed than anything else in the game against Michigan. Hopefully we’ll see much more of that Hunter Mickelson.” And we just might. Arkansas has just three healthy scholarship players in its frontcourt after the injury bug hit the Razorbacks hard. Forward Marshawn Powell is gone after a season ending knee injury, and forward Marvell Waithe is doubtful for Wednesday’s game after a calf strain sustained in the Michigan win.
  5. When coaches say to take each game “one game at a time,” it is really more of a practice of the old saying “do as I say, not as I do.” Gator Zone takes an interesting look at the scouting habits of the Florida Gators. The effects of the quick turnaround (Thursday/Saturday combination) of conference games has forced the Gators’ coaching staff to be more prepared for upcoming games. Florida’s staff is looking five to 10 games out as each coach has an assignment to scout a future opponent. Billy Donovan wants what he calls “absolutes,” which means, “we absolutely have to do these things to win the game.” Just because scouting requires a lot of patience and energy doesn’t mean Donovan just accepts what his staff comes up with. “I ask a million questions,” Donovan said. “My favorite is, ‘Why?’ I want to hear why. I want them to explain to me why we’re going to do that. I want answers.” The article is an interesting read on an area of the game that we don’t often hear much about, and displays an inside look in how the Gators took down the Tigers on Saturday.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

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