SEC Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 12th, 2012

  1. ESPNU will debut the latest in the SEC “Storied” documentary series on February 11 with 40 Minutes of Hell. The film goes behind the scenes on former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson‘s success with the Razorbacks in the early 1990s. The “40 minutes of hell” fast paced and pressing style that Richardson employed in the SEC won him the National Championship in 1994. Richardson’s separation from the university was anything but amicable as he slapped Arkansas with a wrongful termination lawsuit. The Razorbacks hired Richardson’s protege, Mike Anderson, as head coach helping to bring the former coach closer to fans, players, and the University of Arkansas. Not to mention, the hire also brought back a style of play that is modeled after Richardson’s championship winning system.
  2. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne has found his role on Vanderbilt’s roster, and he is making his impact felt on the defensive end. Goulbourne has limited the role of several prominent big men in recent games, holding Marquette’s Jae Crowder to 30.8% shooting and Auburn’s Kenny Gabriel (just to name a couple) to just 2 points on 1-7 shooting. “He’s done an unbelievable job about three games in a row where the team’s best player was the four man,” Vanderbilt guard Brad Tinsley said. “He’s really figured out how to take what the coaches tell him and put that out on the court.” With the return of center Festus Ezeli and solid defense from Jeffery Taylor, Goulbourne’s defense is an added plus for a team known more for its offense. The Commodores’ commitment to the defensive end has their defense ranked ahead of their offense in latest Pomeroy efficiency rankings.
  3. Kentucky coach John Calipari has a theory for why his Wildcats haven’t been effective on the road in the last couple of years. He says the SEC is not an easy league to compete in, and declares that the league could have as many as five teams competing in the Sweet Sixteen. “This league, with the top five teams that we have, that are all NCAA Tournament teams, and really,” said Calipari. “I’ll make a prediction, other than us, of those five, I would say four of those, without us, will be Sweet 16 teams. How about that?” It’s not that far-fetched of a prediction. Vanderbilt and Florida have the talent to compete with anybody in the nation, and Alabama and Mississippi State have both proven its legitimacy within the top 25 teams in the country. And of course, Kentucky, which Calipari didn’t put as a Sweet 16 team, will be competing well into March and most likely early April.
  4. Billy Donovan wasn’t happy with Florida’s defense in its loss against Tennessee, but the Gators played with much more intensity in their win Tuesday night over the Georgia Bulldogs. With all eyes on the defensive end, Florida held the Dogs to just 36.4 percent shooting on the night. Donovan was satisfied this time around. “I thought we defended them very, very well,” Donovan said. “We held them to 48 points. I think if you hold any team to 48 points you’ve done a pretty good job defensively.” The Gators, however, continued to neglect Patric Young in the post, as Young attempted just five shots on the night. If Florida can continue to hold opponents to 48 points, the lack of a post game may be a moot point.
  5. Mississippi State’s big man Renardo Sidney didn’t start on Saturday for the Bulldogs because of a coach’s decision. “I wanted to save him some foul trouble,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He had two fouls early in all those games.” The strategy wasn’t very effective as Sidney still committed three fouls in the first half. The fast paced action perpetuated by Arkansas’ full court pressure limited Sidney’s effectiveness. He scored just six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes of play. His replacement in the starting lineup, Wendell Lewis had similar issues. Lewis was limited to two points in 14 minutes of action.
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SEC Full Court Press: The Dawn of A New Year

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 3rd, 2012

The SEC Full Court Press is a quick hitting review of my thoughts and observations from the last week, as well as a look ahead.

The Week That Was:

  • Anthony Davis scored all 18 of his points and grabbed six of his rebounds in the second half of Kentucky’s win over Louisville.
  • Kentucky shot 29.8% and turned the ball over 21 times in that game. And the Wildcats still won.
  • 52 fouls were called in the annual rivalry game making the game choppy from start to end.
  • Florida lost to Rutgers on Thursday night, and the Scarlet Knights turned around and lost to USF on Sunday. That’s just how college basketball goes.
  • Is it ever too early to start the Bubble Watch? At least two surprise SEC teams could be in contention for an NCAA bid with a couple of quality wins. LSU currently has an RPI of #79 while Ole Miss is at #42. You may remember that Alabama was left out last year with an RPI of #80. LSU and Ole Miss have significant work left to do, but will have plenty of chances in conference play.
  • Vanderbilt held Marquette to 32.2% shooting in its 74-57 win. And people (myself included) said the Commodores couldn’t play defense? They obviously can, but will they show up every game?
  • Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor has performed well above his averages in the month of December. This past month, Taylor averaged 23 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game. Can he keep it up?
  • The Commodores beat top-15 team Marquette last week, and turned around and struggled at home against 4-8 Miami of Ohio. It appears that this is just the type of team that Vanderbilt will be this year — terribly inconsistent. That’s a bad habit to have going into NCAA tournament time.
  • Renardo Sidney was 5-of-6 from the field when he was on the court for Mississippi State against Baylor on December 28. He was limited to only 19 minutes of action. As has been said all season long, Sidney needs to find a way to be in the game for his team but that means overcoming both conditioning and attitude issues.

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Vanderbilt Moving Into SEC Play Full Speed Ahead

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2011

Bill Hupp is a correspondent for RTC who filed this report after Thursday night’s Vanderbilt-Marquette game. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls, and life.

It’s not necessarily a chip on his shoulder, but Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings is keenly aware of the perception that his team isn’t tough enough to contend for an SEC or National Championship. So when his preseason #7 Commodores started this season 6-4 after two gut-wrenching OT losses to ranked opponents (Xavier and Louisville), sandwiched between home upsets by Cleveland State and Indiana State, the whispers must have sounded deafening.

The Commodores Have Responded To Stallings' Challenge

Gone and temporarily forgotten from the national rankings, Vanderbilt has rolled off three straight blowout wins since that Indiana State defeat and seems to be rounding into expected form with SEC play straight ahead. On Thursday in front of a electric crowd at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Commodores bolted to a 31-6 first-half lead and never looked back, rolling to an impressive 74-57 non-conference road win over #14 Marquette. “Our goal coming into this game was to establish that there is some toughness to this team,” Stallings said afterwards. “We’re a little bit maligned for not being tough, but I thought we showed some pretty good toughness tonight.”

Vanderbilt (9-4) is known for its offensive firepower, but it was its defense against Marquette that was most impressive. Keying in on Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the Commodores held Marquette’s offensive leaders to 3-19 shooting in the first-half. They alternated between tough man-to-man and a 2-3-matchup zone in the second half, using their length to bother the smaller Golden Eagles. They will need that defensive intensity in the SEC where teams like Mississippi State and Alabama would prefer to grind it out on a nightly basis.

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ATB: Florida’s Decison to Foul, Dezmine Wells’ Hops, & the Putridity of Utah Basketball…

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. On the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, it’s only fitting that tonight’s slate of games was filled with the element of surprise. Astonishment at the ending of regulation in Florida versus Arizona; marvel at Vandy’s big man returning to the floor several weeks early; shock at just how far Utah basketball has fallen since its run to the finals in 1998; wonder that Badger fans didn’t pack the place tonight. There’s plenty to discuss on a busy Wednesday night in college basketball, so let’s jump to it.

Your Watercooler Moment. Florida’s Decision to Foul Arizona.

Donovan Could Not Believe That Prather Was Called For a Foul In the Late-Game Situation (AP)

Clearly Florida’s plan with five seconds to go and leading Arizona by three was to quickly foul the Wildcats to send them to the line. We’ve discussed the merits (and demerits) of this strategy in this space and on Twitter many times before, but it always creates an additional element of intrigue when a coach chooses to employ it. According to HSAC, teams only chose this strategy 12% of the time in 2009-10, and there was no discernible advantage in terms of the final outcome of the game (meaning teams won and lost at a statistically equal rates regardless of strategy). In tonight’s game, Florida’s decision for Casey Prather to immediately reach in and foul Solomon Hill on the inbounds play with five seconds remaining backfired in that the nearby referee rewarded Hill for throwing his arms into a shooting motion immediately after the catch. Three foul shot makes and a missed Florida prayer later, the game was headed to overtime. Florida ended up winning in the extra period, 78-72, but Donovan’s decision to have his player foul in that situation shows exactly why it terrifies coaches to employ the strategy. Even if it were statistically sound (and that’s not yet been proven, as far as we know), no coach wants to hear all the second-guessing that comes with such a decision when it backfires, as it very nearly did for the Gators tonight. More on the Arizona-Florida game below.

Dunkdafied. When Xavier’s Dezmine Wells dunks the ball, he shoots it down the rim like it’s a nerf ball coming out of his hand. As for Illinois’ Brandon Paul, he just takes everyone within a five-foot radius with him.

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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Other Friday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Auburn vs. Seton Hall and Louisville vs. Vanderbilt. 

Vanderbilt v. Louisville

Vanderbilt and Louisville will feature two top 25 teams facing off in the KFC Yum! Center.

Mike: The matchup has all the makings of a classic offense v. defense battle. Even without senior center Festus Ezeli, the Commodores are a prolific scoring team (#23 in adjusted offense) and swingmen John Jenkins (20.2 PPG) and Jeffery Taylor (15.4 PPG) can fill it up in a hurry. Of course they haven’t played a team as talented as Louisville. Even with the injuries to Wayne BlackshearMike MarraStephan Van Treese, and Rakeem Buckles, the Cardinals are still undefeated and the main reason why is they play suffocating defense (#3 in adjusted defense). However, with apologies to Butler, Louisville has played a relatively easy opening slate, and their depth will be tested against Vanderbilt’s talented lineup. Offensively the Cardinals don’t have a go-to scorer per se, but they do have seven players who average at least seven points per game, led by sweet-shooting forward Kyle Kuric (12.5 PPG). They also have a rugged, albeit thin, frontcourt which is led by talented freshman Chase Behanan (9.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and center Gorgui Dieng (8.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG) who has been one of the best shotblockers in the country thus far and is a big reason why Louisville is so successful on defense. But as balanced as Rick Pitino’s club is, star guard Peyton Siva is still what makes the team go, and he hasn’t quite found his comfort zone yet, missing two games with an ankle injury. Siva had 11 points, five assists and five steals in the team’s last game, a win over Long Beach State, but he also turned the ball over six times. No matter how good Louisville’s defense might be, Siva and fellow guard Chris Smith cannot be careless with the ball, because Vanderbilt is too efficient on offense to be gifted with so many extra possessions. What do you think, Brian?

Will Rick Pitino employ his full court press against Vanderbilt's struggling guards

Brian: I agree that this should be a great one. I think Vanderbilt will really be tested in this matchup. The Commodores haven’t taken good care of the basketball, and Louisville is a team that uses a full court press and creates lots of turnovers. Brad Tinsley has struggled when pressured, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Cardinals’ defense. You pointed out Vandy’s efficient offense, but you were nice by not mentioning its struggling defense. The ‘Dores have struggled to cut off opponent’s three-point shot allowing three teams to shoot at least 40 percent from outside the arc so far this year. Louisville loves to shoot the three, so it could be a long night for coach Kevin Stallings if his team lets the Cardinals get hot. It will be interesting to see how Stallings handles the defensive assignment for Siva. Siva is a player who could really hurt Vanderbilt with his penetration. He can score, as you point out, and he can also find open teammates. And one of the teammates he may find in this one is Dieng. Dieng is still developing his offensive skills, but his 6’11” frame could be difficult for Vanderbilt’s post players to defend. 6’9″ Steve Tchiengang and 6’8″ Lance Goulbourne will be down low for Vandy, but they will have to box out better than they did against Xavier when the Musketeers grabbed 25 offensive rebounds.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.02.11 – 12.04.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 2nd, 2011

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.

As we move into December, the first big Saturday of the year (highlighted by the battle in Lexington) is now upon us. Not to mention we get a nice preview of things to come on Friday evening.

#6 Florida @ #3 Syracuse – 7 PM EST Friday on ESPN (*****)

  • Syracuse has three distinct advantages in this game despite playing a top ten opponent. One is home court, two is height, and three is depth. The Orange have taller players at every position, one through five, and Jim Boeheim can go a legitimate ten deep into his bench. Against a Florida team that will be without forward Erik Murphy, Syracuse may be able to overwhelm the guard-heavy Gators. The key for the Orange will be defense. The 2-3 zone creates a fantastic match-up given Florida’s preferred style of offense, shooting lots of threes. If the Orange can be active and extend the perimeter of the zone, Florida will have a tough time.
  • The key for Florida is simple: make threes. To do that however, the Gators must establish Patric Young early and often. Playing without Murphy, Young is Florida’s only reliable post player. If he can’t get going, Syracuse won’t have to worry about extending the zone and leaving holes in the middle. If Young gets off to a fast start, the Orange will have to respect his presence by packing its defense in a bit more inside the arc. That will give Florida’s dynamic guards the opportunity to make shots. With Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario both shooting almost 50% from deep and two other Gators lurking as potential snipers, Syracuse doesn’t want to be forced to do that.

Can UF Establish Patric Young Inside To Give Its Shooters Room?

  • It’s always fun when a team that relies heavily on guards and the three point shot gets together with a team that plays almost exclusively zone. The Syracuse defense will tempt Florida to shoot the deep ball all night but Florida must work for open shots by establishing Young and some sort of an inside-out game. Keeping the zone off balance and moving the ball effectively are always keys to finding open shots. Defensively, Florida has to do better. Syracuse is much more efficient on that end of the floor while the Gators rank a pedestrian 52nd in the nation. Although three point shooting is the big key in this game, Florida’s defense could cost them in a tight game.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.30.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 30th, 2011

 

 

 

  1. There are many extremely talented freshmen in the nation this season, several of which are in the SEC. Mike Miller of Beyond the Arc says that Florida guard Bradley Beal might just be the best of them all. Miller cites Beal’s consistency, his shooting efficiency (58.8 eFG%), and his significance in the Gator offense despite the glut of talented guards in the Florida backcourt. Beal is averaging 17.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1 block per game. He was named SEC Freshman of the Week for this past week for his performances against Jacksonville and Wright State. The Freshman of the Week award has become a difficult honor to win within the SEC. A different freshman has won the award in each of the three weeks of the season thus far with Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Mississippi State’s Rodney Hood as the other two winners. Davis might be Beal’s biggest competition for the title of the top freshman in the country. While Davis is still developing a consistent offensive game, he has been an absolute beast on defense. He is averaging 12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and is fourth in the country in blocked shots with 4.3 blocks per game.
  2. Vanderbilt suffered a heartbreaking loss to Xavier on Monday night, but the Commodores had to be satisfied with at least a couple aspects of their game. CBS Sports RapidReports points out one positive from the loss was the continued improvement from the charity stripe. The Commodores rank 216th in the nation in free throw percentage (68.5%) yet they shot 75% from the free throw line on Monday making nine of 12 attempts. Jeffery Taylor was 5-6 for 83% despite averaging 60.5% from the line thus far this year. Although 75% is an improvement Vanderbilt has to get to the line more often than the 12 shots they attempted on Monday. For comparisons sake, Xavier went to the line 27 times. Vanderbilt must attack the rim off the dribble rather than settle for jump shots in order to improve this number, and this has not been an aspect of Vanderbilt’s game that they have displayed thus far this season.
  3. The guys at Anchor of Gold are not exactly sure why Vanderbilt lost, but they offer up a couple of suggestions. The stat I found most interesting is that Xavier walked away with a 51% offensive rebounding percentage against the Commodores’ depleted frontline. The Musketeers grabbed 25 offensive rebounds explaining how they were able to shoot just 37.2% from two-point field goal range and come away with the win on the road. Festus Ezeli‘s return has to significantly affect this deficiency. Ezeli won’t erase all of Vanderbilt’s struggles, but he will be a difference maker on both ends of the court. I’m not hopping off the Vanderbilt bandwagon just yet as I think it is important to see how this team plays with the big man in the middle before casting judgement on the quality of this team. Vanderbilt has another huge test on Friday as they face Louisville in the KFC Yum Center.
  4. CoachCal.com editor Eric Lindsey gave us a full report from John Calipari‘s Tuesday practice with the Wildcats as they prepare for St. John’s on Thursday and UNC on Saturday. Similar to two recent posts about UK on the SEC microsite, Calipari spent some time focusing on their low post game. Cal has worked with big man Anthony Davis to stay lower to the ground to avoid getting pushed around by stronger defenders. By bending his knees, Davis can create a lower center of gravity. Calipari also worked on having low post players seal off their defender and make quick, one bounce moves to the basket. By establishing a low post presence, Kentucky opens up a number of options within their offense, which was covered in our most recent Breaking Down the Play post. Expect to see the Cats go down low early and often this week.
  5. Rupp Arena will be on display on Saturday afternoon via CBS for the Wildcat’s showdown with North Carolina. The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the University of Kentucky could renovate Rupp rather than build a new arena as previously discussed and better meet the needs of the school. Kentucky is looking to upgrade spaces for the media room, interview room, and training room; add premium seating for the University president and others; and add a new center-hung scoreboard that displays the score, player stats, instant replays, and close-ups of players and coaches. Kentucky has led the nation in average attendance for 15 of the last 16 years, but seemed to be motivated by a brand new arena 85 miles to the west in Louisville. Now the plan appears to be to renovate Rupp Arena to make the improvements needed without building a new arena. In the long run, it would be a mistake to neglect the history that Rupp Arena brings to Kentucky and to college basketball as a whole.
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A Quick, Fake Summary: All Else is Castles Built In The Air

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 28th, 2011

Festus Ezeli busted a deal and spun the wheel. (He also spun his MCL; he’ll be out for a while.) Vanderbilt has been spun about without him, though it might not be due to his absence.

At the beginning of the season, it was theorized that Vandy’s seniors would rise up and contribute more with Ezeli out. Against Xavier tonight, the Commodores of Musictown still couldn’t barter themselves a decent offense. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne (18 points on 8-17 FG seven rebounds), junior guard John Jenkins (20 points on 8-18 FG & 4-9 3FG) and senior forward Jeffery Taylor (18 points on 6-11 FG, five rebounds) all led the charge defensively but faded as near the end. Not one Commodore scored a single point in the last 3:56 of the second half.

Earlier in the that half, senior guard Brad Tinsley had controlled drives into the paint that resulted in easy assists. Like the rest of the ‘Dores, Tinsley tried to do too much late in the game. With his limited defensive ability, Xavier guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons finally took control and powered the Musketeers to a 82-70 overtime victory.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.28.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 28th, 2011

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.

The quality of games kicks into high gear this week with a pair of good ones to start it off.

Long Beach State at #9 Louisville – 7 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • Louisville’s depth has taken a big hit recently with Wayne Blackshear, Mike Marra, and Peyton Siva all dealing with injuries. Siva returned from a sprained ankle Friday against Ohio in a closer than expected Cardinals win but he remains in a shooting slump. He is just 5-24 (20.8%) in three games this season but is managing to dish out six assists per contest. The Cardinals are winning games defensively as they are ranked second in the nation in defensive efficiency while only putting up 67 PPG on the other end of the floor. A Long Beach State team that plays quick without much defense could be the recipe Louisville needs to gain more confidence offensively. However, Louisville must avoid turnovers against the 49ers, a team that loves to get out in transition. The Cardinals are averaging 15 turnovers per game with Siva at a shaky 3.7 per game.

    Louisville Will Have Its Hands Full With Long Beach State

  • Long Beach State has lost twice on the road since winning at Pittsburgh, falling to San Diego State and Montana. The 49ers defense has not been up to par and that is hurting them significantly. They love to play at a fast pace but they are very average defensively as well as on the boards. Casper Ware going up against Siva should be a terrific match-up and he will need to carry the team all night as he did against Pittsburgh on November 16. Long Beach State is not going to get many opportunities to score against the strong Louisville defense so limiting turnovers, especially on the road, has to be its top priority. They average 15 a game but simply cannot afford that many in this game. To win, Long Beach State must play its best defensive game to date and get to the free throw line where they will have a significant edge over Louisville. Depth has to be a concern for Dan Monson, whose team only goes seven deep.
  • Larry Anderson and James Ennis have a height advantage at the two and three positions against Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric, but they must stay in front of their men all game. Ennis is a good on-ball defender averaging 2.3 steals per game, but the Louisville guards may be able to exploit Long Beach State from the three-point arc. In the paint, T.J. Robinson is a terrific rebounder but he will be going up against the 6’10” Gorgui Dieng (3.4 blocks per game) and a Louisville team that rebounds well as a unit. To earn more possessions for his team, Robinson likely has to have a big game on the glass as well as offensively. That will be extremely difficult against a Cardinals front line that allows only 33.5% shooting inside the arc. Long Beach State does have a chance to win the game but there is one major difference between Pittsburgh and Louisville. It is defense and that is why we feel the Cardinals have the ultimate edge in this game tonight.
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SEC Morning Five: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 24th, 2011

 

  1. Alabama’s 6-0 start has put the college basketball community on full alert. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports writes about the ten things that have impressed him so far in this early season, and Alabama’s solid play is the first mention. He cites the excellent defense from Anthony Grant‘s Crimson Tide and assertiveness of forward Tony Mitchell. Mitchell and his thunderous dunks have been impressive thus far, helping this Alabama squad enter the discussion as one of the SEC’s best teams, an exclusive club of which they were not a member in the preseason. Grant’s exciting athletes and intense defense has brought praise not only for the Crimson Tide, but the legitimacy of the Southeastern Conference.
  2. But don’t get too comfortable, Alabama fans. The injury bug that has hit multiple SEC teams thus far is headed to Tuscaloosa. JaMychal Green was held out of Wednesday’s game Alabama A&M with a hip pointer. And the Tide’s leading scorer, Mitchell, left the game on crutches. The Daily Bama Blog reports that Mitchell’s injury appears to be only a sprained ankle.  “When it happened I’m sure it was painful, but I think our medical staff will do a great job making sure he’s healthy,” coach Grant said. A huge sigh of relief for Alabama as both Mitchell and Green are crucial to the Tide’s success. Alabama returns to action Sunday against VCU, and both players should be back in action.
  3. The guys at Anchor of Gold spent some time praising Jeffery Taylor’s outstanding defensive presence. Taylor was assigned to Oregon State star Jared Cunningham who was coming off a 35-point effort against Hofstra and a 37-point massacre of Texas. When Taylor matched up with Cunningham one-on-one, Cunningham went 2-6 and managed 7 points in 28 minutes of action. Defensive specialist Dai-Jon Parker spelled Taylor for spurts and held Cunningham to 2 points in 8 minutes. Taylor and Parker’s perimeter defense remains key to Vanderbilt‘s success this season. A number of athletic and high scoring guards from Kentucky, Florida, and others will come into Nashville this season, and Taylor will need to repeat his “ferocious” defensive effort for the Commodores to continue to string together victories.
  4. John Calipari‘s Kentucky Wildcats played a little 2-3 zone in their 88-40 route of Radford on Wednesday night. “I think it’s something that we need to think about doing some,” Calipari said. “And we’ve got to get better than we are right now.” A zone could be a viable option on defense for the Cats because of Kentucky’s length and athleticism.  “I don’t see us giving up wide-open shots because we’re so big,” Calipari said about the possibilities of playing more zone. “I would probably do it with a big lineup so that every shot is a contested shot.” Kentucky has just over a week and a half to figure out what defense to play before the Cats take on the number one ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
  5. It’s an abbreviated Morning Five today as we encourage you to enjoy the holiday. And of course, enjoy lots and lots of college basketball. Happy Thanksgiving to all SEC fans. May your dunks be thunderous and your defense be ferocious.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.23.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 23rd, 2011

  1. Ready to debate? By all means, grab a cup of coffee first and let’s get to it. Ron Chimelis of The Republican says John Calipari doesn’t need to win an NCAA title to be a Hall of Famer. Chimelis thinks Calipari already has the resume to make it in. He cites Cal’s 512 wins (42 of those were later vacated by the NCAA leaving him with 470 official wins), three Final Fours appearances (two of those were wiped from the record books), and his remarkable turn-arounds with Massachusetts and Memphis. Chemelis thinks Calipari will in fact win the title that has evaded him throughout his career, but he has a Hall of Fame resume without it. What say you? Will there be a HOF ballot more criticized and talked about than Calipari’s? Does he need a national title to punch his ballot into the Hall? Or do you despise Calipari so deeply that you don’t want him in no matter how many championships he wins?
  2. Regardless of your feelings for Calipari, you have to agree that he has produced a long line of talented point guards dating back to his days in Memphis. Cal has taken up for his newest floor general, Marquis Teague, by taking to Twitter. Teague has been erratic in his first four collegiate games for Kentucky, committing 18 turnovers and never quite settling in to the flow of the game. Calipari tweets, “Gotta love the #BBN, only our fans would point out that my last two PG’s also had 18 turns in the 1st 4 games. DRose & Tyreke had a bunch 2.” He quickly followed with another tweet, “Marquis will be fine. I’m gonna spend more time w/ him & once we get it figured out everyone will be talking about how good he is.” Freshmen, especially point guards, almost always take a little time to adjust to the speed of the college game. Remember, Teague has only played in four college games. Give the young man time. Cal has proven that he has an outstanding track record with point guards, and Teague will be another first round draft pick after developing in the Kentucky system.
  3. As was mentioned here in the SEC Morning Five on Monday, Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell injured his knee in practice last Thursday. The results of his MRI revealed torn ligaments that will cause the Razorbacks’ star to miss the rest of the season. This is unfortunate news for Powell and Arkansas. “This is definitely a setback, but I told him that sometimes you have to have setbacks in order to have a great comeback,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “He is in good spirits and looking forward to helping his team in any way that he can.” The Razorbacks are down to nine scholarship players. It is crucial for Anderson’s system to have the depth to sub in and out for his fast-paced style of play. Powell was averaging 19.5 points per game and his absence will require another (or several) Razorback(s) to step up to fill the scoring gap.
  4. John Gasaway writes that Vanderbilt’s defense has not been nearly as bad as the discussion has indicated. He says the Commodores are an excellent defensive rebounding team and create a good amount of turnovers to offset the high number of two point field goals that they allow. Gasaway has been somewhat impressed with the Commodores saying “this will be the best Commodore team of recent years when (Festus) Ezeli returns.” The problem according to Gasaway is that Kentucky, Alabama, and Florida are all better than they have been in recent years as well. League play will be brutal at the top of the conference, as the top four are sure to trade off tough losses. The notion expressed in Basketball Prospectus is the same one shared here — while the SEC may not be the best conference from top to bottom, the top four is as good as any conference in the country. Vanderbilt certainly belongs in the top tier, and their defense will only improve once Ezeli returns.
  5. Speaking of Ezeli, Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports says that Ezeli’s return will be a game-changer on both ends of the court for Vanderbilt. Ezeli’s defense and shot blocking ability gives the Commodores an inside presence to guard the low post, which has been a concern in the early going. On offense, he demands respect from opposing defenders, opening up the floor for the shooters – John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley. His presence will mean the difference between a Vanderbilt team that is hanging by a thread at the bottom of the latest Top 25 poll, and the team that was ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason. “He’s as important to us as a guy like Jared Sullinger is to Ohio State,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “I’m not saying he’s as good, but he gives us the same presence. You have to game plan for him.”
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A Quick, Fake Summary: Don’t Worry, Vanderbilt…We All Have Our Little Faults

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 13th, 2011

Throughout the season, RTC’s Gerald Smith will be bringing you off-the-cuff and odd recaps of games: Quick, Fake Summaries. This first one of the season involves Vanderbilt‘s shocking 71-58 home loss to Cleveland State Sunday afternoon.

Vanderbilt was flying high into this season. Despite another early NCAA Tournament exit, the Commodores returned seniors Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins to a team that led the SEC in scoring last season. They opened up their gym to two teams of green; one (Oregon) self-destructed with unforced turnovers on Friday. Today, the other green team was glowing and sapped the strength from the Super-Seniors.

Cleveland State’s quick guards hindered Jenkins (5-14 FG, 2-8 3FG, 5-7 FT for 17 points), preventing him from getting comfortable shooting behind screens. Those quick-as-a-Flash guards nullified senior point guard Brad Tinsley (two asists, three turnovers) by making him a defensive liability; head coach Kevin Stallings was forced to play Tinsley only 21 minutes and sophomore guard Kevin Fuller (three turnovers) fared little better. The senior forward Taylor was practically nonexistent with just nine points, four rebounds and six turnovers.

The Vikings’ broad-shouldered Aaron Pogue out-muscled senior forward Steve Tchiengang (five points, ten rebounds, one block). With senior center Festus Ezeli out with an injury and suspension, Vanderbilt had no inside-out post game. Well, no post game completely: the Commodores scored just 10 points in the paint. Without any offensive push and no ability to stop the Viking’s constant scoring, Vanderbilt wimpered all the way into the pool of defeat.

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