Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Pitt has a team capable of reaching that elusive Final Four

1. I had an opportunity to attend the consolation and championship games of the 2K Sports Classic last Friday and learned a great deal about the four teams participating- Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois and Maryland. The Panthers were one of my preseason Final Four teams and did nothing to give me second thoughts on that prediction. Ashton Gibbs is a true playmaker at the end of the shot clock, Jamie Dixon has an incredibly deep frontcourt and the Panthers play heady, smart, hard-nosed basketball for 40 minutes. It’s possible we overrated Illinois a bit coming into the year. They lack a bruiser down low that can post up on the block and demand the basketball. Mike Tisdale’s the same player he’s been his entire career at Illinois, a capable mid-range jump shooter that lacks any sort of physicality and is often mired in foul trouble because opposing power forwards constantly out-muscle him. Maryland looks like a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that should sneak into the NCAA Tournament because Gary Williams always receives max effort from his teams and Jordan Williams is a force in the post, although he needs to avoid silly fouls and demand the basketball more often. The team that needed to convince me they were a contender after last season’s disaster is Texas. The Longhorns are a top-20 team with a duo of physical, lockdown defenders on the perimeter in Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, an athletic low-post presence in Tristan Thompson and an explosive scorer in Jordan Hamilton. A shortened rotation and accepted roles has helped Rick Barnes develop improved chemistry, as well.

2. The story of the first two weeks of college basketball might just be Minnesota. The Big Ten was the best conference coming into the season with Michigan State and Ohio State shaping up to be Final Four frontrunners, Purdue and Illinois mainstays in the polls and Wisconsin as solid as ever. Minnesota was a team that nobody could quite get a handle on, especially considering it was impossible to predict just how much the additions of Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen would help Tubby Smith.  After three statements wins in Puerto Rico over Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia, the Gophers appear to be yet another contender primed for a deep March run out of the absolutely loaded Big Ten. Al Nolen was superb in the championship game against West Virginia locking down the Mountaineer’s point guard duo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant on defense and splitting the West Virginia defense with dribble penetration that either resulted in free throws (11-12 on the night) or open looks for sharpshooting teammate Blake Hoffarber. Where the Gophers have forged their identity, though, is inside with a plethora of size and length. Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, Mbakwe and big bodied Mo Walker provide Smith a frontline that can go toe-to-toe with any in the nation. Just wait till they get Devoe Joseph back.

3. The most crippling defeat for any team with NCAA Tournament aspirations could have come Monday afternoon at the Maui Invitational for Wichita State. The Shockers inability to contain Kemba Walker (29 second half points) cost them a chance to pick up a quality win over a Big East opponent and a shot at potential #1-seed Michigan State in the semifinals. Why is this so devastating? One, Wichita just blew their best chance for an RPI/SOS booster. The only other challenging non-conference game on the slate is a road trip to San Diego State, where it’s extremely unlikely the Shockers leave with a victory. Merely the addition of the Spartans on their schedule would improve Wichita’s power rating dramatically. Instead, it’s increasingly likely Gregg Marshall’s team will have to win the MVC Tournament. This task is very possible; after all, the Shockers are the prohibitive favorite, a senior-laden squad with talents like Toure Murry, David Kyles and J.T. Durley. Marshall’s goal in Maui was to pick up two quality wins for the resume in March. That chance has gone by the wayside.

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Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims- are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

SEC East

  • T1. Florida (11-5)
  • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
  • T1. Georgia (11-5)
  • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
  • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
  • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

SEC West

  • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
  • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
  • T3. Alabama (7-9)
  • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
  • 4. LSU (4-12)
  • 5. Auburn (3-13)

All-Conference Team

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
  • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
  • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
  • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

6th Man

Travis Leslie – Georgia

Impact Newcomers

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
  • F Patric Young – Florida
  • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
  • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

What You Need To Know

  • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
  • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.

  • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.

  • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

Predicted Champion

Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 26th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
EAST
  1. Kentucky                   19-0  (4-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 15-3  (4-0)
  3. Tennessee                 15-3  (3-1)
  4. Florida                     14-5  (3-2)
  5. South Carolina           11-8  (2-3)
  6. Georgia                        9-8  (1-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State        15-4  (3-1)
  2. Mississippi                 15-4  (3-2)
  3. Alabama                   12-7   (2-3)
  4. Arkansas                    8-11  (1-3)
  5. Auburn                      10-10  (1-4)
  6. LSU                           9-10  (0-5)
Good Rankings Week in the SEC.  Kentucky finally ascended to the top of both the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Top 25 . The last SEC team ranked No. 1 in AP poll was Tennessee on Feb. 26, 2008. This is Kentucky’s first No. 1 AP ranking since March 18, 2003.  Kentucky also stands alone as the only undefeated team in college basketball with a 19-0 record. Kentucky was an unanimous choice to both sets of voters.  Tennessee fell from the top 10 in both polls as they landed at #14 in both.  The Ole Miss Rebels came in at #18 in the AP poll and #20 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Vanderbilt is now the fourth SEC team in both polls, coming in at #21 in the AP poll and #23 with the ESPN/USA Today voters.  Mississippi State continues to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.
Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He played just 17 minutes but had 16 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Arkansas.   Georgia’s Travis Leslie was named SEC Player of the Week. He had 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in win over No. 8 Tennessee.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
1/26 – #1 Kentucky (19-0) (4-0) @ South Carolina (11-8) (2-3) – 9 PM – ESPN
1/27 – #23 Vanderbilt (15-3) (4-0) @ #14 Tennessee (15-3) (3-1)  – 7PM – ESPNU.
1/27 – Georgia (9-8) (1-3) @ Florida (14-5) (3-2) – 7 PM – ESPN  360
1/28 – #20 Mississippi (15-4) (3-2) @ Auburn (10-10) (1-4) 9 PM – ESPNU
1/28 – Mississippi State (15-4) (3-1) @ Arkansas (8-11) (1-3) – 9 PM – ESPN2
1/30 – #23 Vanderbilt (15-3) (4-0) @ #1 Kentucky (19-0) (4-0) – 4 PM – ESPN
1/30 – Arkansas (8-11) (1-3) @ #20 Mississippi (15-4) (3-2) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
1/31 – Florida (14-5) (3-2) @ #14 Tennessee (15-3) (3-1)
TEAM REPORTS (RANKINGS ARE AP TOP 25/ESPN – ESPN/USA Today)
EAST
Kentucky (#1 – #1) — Kentucky turned in their most complete game of the season with a 101-70 romp over the Arkansas Razorbacks this past Saturday.  The Wildcats jumped out o a 10-0 start and never looked back as they made their case for the number one ranking in the country.  Darius Miller had a career high 18 points and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both chipped in 16.  Cousins added 14 rebounds.

Vanderbilt (#21, #23) —  Jeffrey Taylor scored all of his 18 points in the second half and Vanderbilt rallied for an 82-74 victory over Auburn.  John Jenkins‘ 3-pointer with 11:39 left gave Vanderbilt its first lead after the Commodores trailed by as many 16 in the first half. A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley assisted the win with 17, 16, and 15 points, respectively.
Tennessee (#14, #14) — Wayne Chism scored all 11 of his points late in the game and Tennessee held off a determined Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, 63-56.  Scotty Hopson scored 17 and Kenny Hall 12 off the bench to pace the Vols who are 5-0 since the January 1 incident that led to Tyler Smith being kicked off the team. Then, on Saturday, Tennessee fell behind early to the Georgia Bulldogs and trailed at the half by 15 points.  The Vols could never get back into the game on the road and fell, 78-63.  Hopson led the Vols in scoring with 19 while Bobby Maze and Kenny Hall both conributed double digits in a game in which Georgia outplayed them in every aspect.
Florida —  Erving Walker scored 27 points, and Florida went on a 9-0 run late in the second half to pull away for a 71-66 win over Arkansas. Kenny Boynton added 13 points in the UF win, but the Gators bench only managed six points in the game.  Chandler Parsons hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, his second game-winning shot in three weeks, and Florida beat South Carolina 58-56 on Saturday night.  Parsons finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He missed his first three 3s, but hit the only one that mattered.  Boynton led the Gators with 14 points.
South Carolina —  Devan Downey scored 25 points but got very little help from his teammates as South Carolina fell to Mississippi on Wednesday, 66-57.  The Gamecocks did find a bit of hope as freshman Ramon Galloway had 11 points and is starting to emerge as a new scoring option.  The Devan Downey show continued in Gainesville on Saturday as Downey scored 36 of his team’s 56 points against the Gators.  That was almost enough for the win but a last second Gator 3-pointer finished the Gamecocks, 58-56.  Sam Muldrow was the next leading scorer with six points.
Georgia — The Bulldogs ended a ten game losing streak to the Tennessee Vols with a 78-63 upset on Saaturday.  Georgia hit 56% for the game, including 7 -12 3-pointers in the win.  The duo of Trey Thompkins (21 pts) and Travis Leslie (19 points) keyed the win.
WEST
Mississippi State — After a week off, the Bulldogs struggled through their worst shooting performance of the season on Saturday and hit just 2 -18 3-pointers resulting in a 62-57 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide.  The Bulldogs also shot just 31.7% from the floor and 65.2% from the line.  Even Jarvis Varnado was not immune to the bad shooting as he went 4-14.  Barry Stewart was their leading scorer with 13 points.
Mississippi (#18, ##20) — The Rebels evened their SEC record on Saturday with a tough 66-57 win over South Carolina.  The Rebels had to fight off a furious Gamecock rally after leading by 15 at half, but evened their SEC record at 2-2.  Chris Warren had 17 points and Murphy Holloway had 14 points and 12 boards.  On Wednesday, the LSU Tigers held Warren scoreless for 30 minutes, but Warren got loose for the last ten with 14 points, and helped the Rebels pull away from LSU, 73-63.  Warren was one of three Rebels (Terrance Henry, Eniel Polynice) with 14 points.
Alabama — The Crimson Tide found themselves in a 1-3 SEC hole after losing a tough 63-56 game to the Tennessee Vols on Tuesday.  Alabama appeared to be a darkhorse candidate for the SEC West title but now need to put together a nice winning streak to get their season back on track.  JaMychal Green had 16 to lead Alabama.  The Crimson Tide stopped their slide with a 62-57 upset of Mississippi State four days later.  Mikhail Torrance had 20 points and Green added 18 as the Tide came away with a big home court win.
ArkansasRotnei Clarke had five 3-pointers and scored 17 points to lead the Razorbacks but it was not enough to stop a late 9-0 run by Florida and an eventual 71-66 loss on Thursday.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson both had 14 points but this was another in a season of frustrating losses for Arkansas.  Less than 48 hours later, Arkansas went up to Rupp Arena in Lexington to try and prevent Kentucky from ascending to the number one ranking and came back the victim of a 101-70 beatdown.  Fortson scored 21 points to lead the Razorbacks and Clark managed 13 points even though he was harassed into 2-9 shooting from beyond the arc for the game.
Auburn —  DeWayne Reed scored 21 points on Wednesday and Auburn hit six of eight free throws in the final minute, sealing an 84-80 win over LSU.  Auburn had balanced scoring with five players in double digits scoring and was 10-22 on 3-point shooting.  The Tigers let a 16 point first half lead get away from them and they suffered a tough 82-74 loss at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.  Lucas Hargrove had 19 points for the Tigers while Reed and Frankie Sullivan added 16 and 14.
LSU —  LSU got 38 points and 10 rebounds from Tasmin Mitchell on Wednesday but that was not enough to beat the Auburn Tigers.  Storm Warren added 17 points and 12 boards and Bo Spencer added 12.  The rest of the Tigers could only muster 13 points as LSU fell, 80-67.   Spencer, Mitchell, and Warren scored 49 of the Tigers’ 63 points and once again it was too little as the Tigers fell 73-63 to Ole Miss on Saturday for their fifth straight loss. Michell had a double-double with 16 and 11 and Spencer added 22 points.  The Tigers are still winless in the conference and will try for their first again this Wednesday against Alabama.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST
  1. Kentucky                  18-0         (3-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 14-3         (3-0)
  3. Tennessee                14-2        (2-0)
  4. South Carolina           11-6        (2-1)
  5. Florida                      12-5         (1-2)
  6. Georgia                      8-8         (0-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State     15-3          (3-0)
  2. Arkansas                  8-9          (1-1)
  3. Mississippi              13-4          (1-2)
  4. Alabama                 11-6          (1-2)
  5. LSU                        9-8           (0-3)
  6. Auburn                    9-9           (0-3)

The talk of the SEC being a vastly improved conference may have been a bit premature once we got into conference play.  I still think the SEC will have five sure-fire seeds in the NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Mississippi) with Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama being bubble teams at this time.  Mississippi had two losses to ranked teams, but I still think they are tournament-worthy.

The Tennessee situation got a little more resolved this week as it was announced that Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum will be rejoining the Vols but Brian Williams still remains on suspension indefinitely.  The trio were suspended because of a January 1st arrest on guns and drug charges.  Tyler Smith was dismissed from the team.

Speaking of the Vols, they have now solidified themselves inside top 10 as they find themselves as the #8 team in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Kentucky still holds onto the #2 spot in each of the polls this week — for now.  Mississippi is still hanging around in the polls at #22 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today and Mississippi State re-enters the AP at #23.  Vanderbilt is on the verge of entering both polls also.

Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe was named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in wins at Florida and at Auburn.  Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado named SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks in wins over Arkansas and Georgia.

MUST-SEE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • 1/19 – Tennessee (14-2) @ Alabama (11-6) – 7 PM – ESPN
  • 1/20 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Mississippi (13-4) – 9PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/21 – Florida (12-5) @ Arkansas (8-9) – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 1/23 – Mississippi State (15-3) @ Alabama (11-6) – 12PM – CBS; Mississippi (13-4) @ LSU (9-8) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – Arkansas (8-9) @ Kentucky (18-0) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Florida (12-5) – 6 PM – ESPN
TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST:
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) –  On Tuesday, Kentucky used a 17-4 run over the last 5:00 to put away the Florida Gators in Gainesville, 89-77.  This was the first win for Kentucky at Gainesville since 2004.  UK was led by Eric Bledsoe’s 25 points.  John Wall added 17 points and Patrick Patterson 15.  Three days later, Kentucky built an early 19 point lead on Auburn but the Tigers gave UK their best shot and chipped away to eventually tie the game at 60.  Kentucky pulled away over the last 6:00 or so to win their second straight road game, 72-67, and remain perfect on the season.  Kentucky was led by 16 points and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins and 13 points each from Wall and Bledsoe.
  • VanderbiltJeffery Taylor broke open a tie game with :06 left by hitting one of two free throws and Vanderbilt held off Alabama to win 65-64 at Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.  A.J. Ogilvy and Taylor scored 13 points to lead Vandy and freshman John Jenkins hit three of four 3-pointers to finish with 11 off the bench.  It was a battle of 2-0 SEC teams on Saturday as Vanderbilt traveled to South Carolina.  Ogilvy scored 18 of 22 points in the second half as Vanderbilt won their eighth straight game with an 89-79 victory over South Carolina.  Taylor led with 16 for the Commodores.
  • Tennessee – Starting center Wayne Chism scored 12 points, not to mention 12 rebounds and six steals as Tennessee (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) shook off a slow start to beat Auburn on Thursday, 81-55.  Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince both had 14 points for the Volunteers, while Scotty Hopson chipped in 11 and Kenny Hall added ten.  Chism played 41 minutes and scored 26 points, including six consecutive free throws in overtime, to bail Tennessee out as the Volunteers beat Mississippi 71-69 just two days later.  Prince added 13 points as the Vols won their sixth straight game.
  • South Carolina – Devan Downey scored 29 points and had seven rebounds to lead South Carolina to a 67-58 win over LSU on Wednesday.  The Gamecocks trailed 49-47 with about 9:00 remaining when they went on a 17-1 streak that sealed the game.  Downey was 6-12 on 3-pointers and Brandis Raley-Ross also put in 12 for the Gamecocks.  On Saturday, Downey had 35 points and 6 steals but that was not enough to prevent a home court 89-79 loss to Vanderbilt.  Raley-Ross and Lakeem Jackson also put in 11 points apiece.
  • Florida –  The Gators dropped to 0-2 conference play for the first time in the Billy Donovan era on Tuesday with their 89-77 loss to Kentucky.  Erving Walker nailed four 3-pointers and had 20 points, and Alex Tyus added 17.  The last time UF was 0-2 in conference play was 1996 — the year before Donovan arrived.  On Saturday, Kenny Boynton had 18 points as the Gators won a battle of winless SEC teams over LSU, 72-58.  Chandler Parsons had 11 points as he moved into the starting lineup and all five Gator starters scored in double figures.  On the downside, the Gator bench only managed four points in the win.
  • Georgia –  The Bulldogs gave the 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels all they wanted on Wednesday night, but fell short in a 80-76 loss.  The Bulldogs, who were coming off an eight point loss at #2 Kentucky last Saturday, were in this game until the final seconds.  Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs scoring with 21 points and Travis Leslie added 17 for Georgia.  Georgia then took another tough loss on Saturday as they fell 72-69 to Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs had leads of 41-30 and 64-51 but could not maintain.  Thompkins and Leslie led the way with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
WEST:
  • Mississippi State –  Jarvis Varnado  had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks for his second triple-double, and Mississippi State just held on to beat Arkansas 82-80 on Thursday night.  The Bulldogs opened an early 19-point lead, but had to repel a late rally by the Razorbacks who cut it to three with 32 seconds left.  Dee Bost had 20 to lead the Bulldogs, and Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart also scored in double digits.  Bost and Phil Turner each scored 15 points to lead Mississippi State to a 72-69 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Bulldogs had to overcome a pair of 10-point deficits in beating the Bulldogs.
  • Arkansas – On Thursday night the Razorbacks mounted a furious second half rally but fell just short at Starkville, losing 82-80 to Mississippi State.  The Hogs fought back from 19 down but could not complete the comeback.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson had 25 and 20 points, respectively, to help the Razorbacks fight back.  On Saturday the Razorbacks were feeling it, as three players posted double-doubles in a 71-59 win over Alabama. Powell had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Washington scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Razorbacks. Fortson  had 12 points and 10 assists, and Rotnei Clarke also scored 17.
  • MississippiEniel Polynice scored off an inbounds pass to himself with 11.3 seconds remaining on Wednesday night, and Mississippi (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) handed Georgia another tough loss, 80-76.  Polynice finished with 10 and Chris Warren added 12 to lead the Rebels.  Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham each scored 11 off the bench to aid the Rebel cause.  Then on Saturday Ole Miss led most of the second half but could not hold off the Volunteers in Knoxville losing in OT, 71-69.  Warren and Terrico White led the Rebels with 19 and 17 points, respectively, and Graham scored 16 off the bench.
  • Alabama – The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early 10 point lead and led most of the game on Wednesday evening, but could not hold on in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Vanderbilt.  Mikhail Torrance had 23 points on 9-13 shooting and Tony Mitchell added ten points off the bench for Alabama.  ‘Bama’s tough start in the SEC continued on Saturday with a loss to Arkansas, 71-59.  Torrance led the way with 15 points and JaMychal Green added 13 as the Tide lost their second straight.
  • LSU – The Tigers led most of the game against South Carolina but fell apart the last 9:00 as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 67-58 win.  LSU is not getting much production from any players not named Storm Warren (19 points), Bo Spencer (14) or Tasmin Mitchell (13).  Those three scored 47 of the Tiger’s 58 points.  The Tigers’ rough season got rougher as they were dumped by the Gators at Gainesville by a score of 72-58.  Mitchell was the only Tiger with more than 8 points as LSU’s season seems to be in freefall.
  • Auburn – Traveling to Knoxville on Thursday, the Tigers battled with the Tennessee Vols in the first half and trailed just 38-37 at the break, but Auburn could not keep up with the Vols in the second half and suffered a 81-55 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 19 points and Frankie Sullivan contributed 14 to lead the Tigers.  At home against Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Auburn came back from a 19-point deficit and eventually tied UK at 60 late in the second half, but went cold from the field over the last few minutes as the Wildcats pulled away for a 72-67 win.  Auburn was led by Reed with 19 points and Frankie Sullivan’s 15.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST:
  1. Kentucky              17-0     (2-0)
  2. Vanderbilt             12-3     (1-0)
  3. South Carolina      10-5     (1-0)
  4. Tennessee            12-2        (0-0)
  5. Florida                  11-5     (0-2)
  6. Georgia                 8-6      (0-1)
WEST:
  1. Mississippi State  13-3     (1-0)
  2. Alabama                  11-4     (1-0)
  3. Arkansas               7-8      (0-0)
  4. Mississippi           12-3     (0-1)
  5. LSU                           9-6     (0-1)
  6. Auburn                  9-7     (0-1)
News & Notes

A couple of off-court situations were resolved for two SEC teams.  Courtney Fortson made his first appearance for the Arkansas Razorbacks as his long suspension is now over.  As for the other situation, all-SEC guard Tyler Smith was dismissed from the Tennessee Volunteers for drug and weapon charges and the fates of three other Vols still hang in the balance.

Speaking of Tennessee, you probably heard — they pulled off the upset of the week when they knocked off #1 Kansas 76-68 on Sunday afternoon.  They were not the only SEC team to pull off a big out-of-conference upset last week as the Georgia Bulldogs knocked off #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66.

Thanks to the Volunteers, Kentucky now occupies the #2 spot in both the AP Top 25  and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Tennessee, for their efforts, did creep back into the top 10 at #9 in the AP Top 25 and #10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Ole Miss continues to represent as the third SEC team in the Top 25 — #21st in AP Top 25, and 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today.  Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Florida continue to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.

Tennessee’s Bobby Maze was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 5.5 APG in wins over Charlotte and No. 1 Kansas.  Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 13.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in wins over Middle Tennessee and Florida.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:
  • 1/12 – #2 Kentucky (16-0) @ Florida (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN  (more on this in a moment)
  • 1/13 –  LSU (9-6) @ South Carolina (11-5) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/13 –  Vanderbilt (12-3) @ Alabama (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/14 – Auburn (9-7) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 7 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/16 – #21 Mississippi (12-3) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – Vanderbilt (12-3) @  South Carolina (10-5) – 6:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – LSU (9-6) @ Florida (11-4) – 8 PM
TEAM UPDATES (rankings are AP, ESPN/USA Today):
EAST
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) — DeMarcus Cousins scored seven of his 16 points in the final three minutes as the Wildcats stayed unbeaten with a gritty 76-68 win over Georgia on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 21-10 lead and the Bulldogs responded with a 21-5 run and it was nip/tuck the rest of the way.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall also scored 17 points apiece for the Wildcats.  The came right back on Tuesday with a road game at the O-Dome in Gainesville and took out the Gators, 89-77.  Eric Bledsoe keyed the ‘Cats with an incredible 25/7/5 asst night on 10-13 shooting.  Wall added 19/4/6 assts and the always steady Patterson chipped in 15/7 as Kentucky had to hold off a Florida team that got hot from three midway through the second half.  We’ll have even more on this one in next week’s SEC summary.
  • VanderbiltA.J. Ogilvy responded to being back in the starting lineup and scored 24 points, and Vanderbilt opened the Southeastern Conference schedule beating Florida, 95-87, on Saturday for the Commodores’ sixth straight victory.  Jermaine Beal added 22 points and Jeffrey Taylor had a perfect shooting day (5-5 FG, 4-4 FT) to add 14 points for the Commodores.
  • South Carolina — The Gamecocks got exactly what the doctor ordered on Saturday with a 88-58 pounding of the Longwood Lancers as South Carolina readied for conference play.  Devan Downey scored 18 points but the Gamecocks also got 15 points from Evaldas Baniulus off the bench.  Ramon Galloway also hit double digits with 12 points.  Downey then poured in 33 points with four 3-pointers as the Gamecocks opened SEC play with a 80-71 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday.  South Carolina hit 11 3-pointers on the game and broke open a 52-all tie with an 8-0 run to break open the game.  Sam Muldrow added 12 points and 4 blocked shots.
  • Tennessee (#9, #10) — The Volunteers really did not know what to expect when they came into their game against Charlotte with four players suspended.  What the Vols found was new faces to step up as they breezed by the Charlotte 49ers, 88-71.  Wayne Chism scored 18 points and Scotty Hopson added 17 and the Vols, with just six scholarship players, shot 57.6% with all five starters scoring in double figures.  And of course Tennessee pulled off their second big win of the week with the 76-68 upset of #1 Kansas on Sunday.  Hopson had 17 and Bobby Maze added 16, but the lasting image of this game was walk-on Skylar McBee milking the shot clock late in the game and then delivering a duck-under three point dagger to the heart of the Kansas Jayhawks.
  • FloridaKenny Boynton scored 28 points (including six 3-pointers) and Erving Walker added 22 (with five treys) but it was not enough as the Gators fell 95-87 to the Vanderbilt Commodores despie tossing in 13 3-pointers for the game.  The Gators hadn’t lost an SEC opener since 2001 at South Carolina.  On Tuesday night the faced the formidable #2 Kentucky Wildcats and hoped to score a sixth straight home win over the Big Blue, but 20 points from Walker and 17/7 from Alex Tyus couldn’t propel the Gators past UK; the Rowdy Reptiles went home disappointed as Florida went down, 89-77.
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins scored 20 points, Ricky McPhee hit two key baskets near the end and Georgia pulled off its first big victory for new coach Mark Fox, knocking off  #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66, on Tuesday night. McPhee had four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.  The Bulldogs showed their win over Georgia Tech was not a fluke as they battled Kentucky to the wire on Saturday before losing, 76-68.  The Bulldogs cut the lead to two with 1:00 remaining but UK pulled away the last minute.  Travis Leslie scored the first 10 points of the game for Georgia and finished with 20.  Thompkins finished with 17.
WEST
  • Mississippi StateDee Bost tied a career high with 25 points and fueled Mississippi State’s 80-75 upset of #16 Mississippi on Saturday with fearless drives to the basket.  This was also a huge road win for the Bulldogs who opened SEC play against their biggest competition in the West.  Ravern Johnson added 15 and Kodi Augustus had a double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Alabama — Alabama looks to be the big surprise of the SEC as they continued their strong early play with a 66-49 win over LSU in the SEC opener for both teams.  JaMychal Green scored 14 points to lead Alabama, while Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance added 13  and 12 points, respectively.  Alabama now has a four game winning streak.
  • Arkansas — Courtney Fortson made his debut after a season long suspension and had 19 points/7 assists, but it was not enough to help his Razorbacks pull an upset over #2 Texas.  Arkansas hung tough for about 38 of the 40 minutes but Texas pulled away at the end to win, 96-85.  Rotnei Clarke added 24 points for the Razorbacks.
  • Mississippi (#21, #23) — Terrico White had five 3-pointers and scored 21 points to lead Ole Miss to a 84-56 thumping of the UCF Golden Knights.  Ole Miss jumped out early and had a 46-24 halftime lead and the Knights never had a chance.  Eniel Polynice had 16 points and Murphy Holloway had a double double with 11 points and 10 boards to help key the rout.  On Saturday, the Rebels suffered a key early season home SEC loss against bitter rival Mississippi State, 80-75.  Chris Warren led the Rebels with 15 points despite a 5-17 shooting night and Zach Graham and Terrance Henry had 14 points and 12 points, respectively, off the bench.
  • LSU — The troubles continue for LSU as they managed just 18 points in the first half against Alabama and lost their SEC opener 66-49 to the Crimson Tide.  Bo Spencer scored 13 points, and Dennis Harris and Tasmin Mitchell added 12 and 11, respectively.  Storm Warren got in early foul trouble and had just four points and a mere one rebound.
  • AuburnDeWayne Reed scored 20 points to lead Auburn to a 96-72 victory against Division II West Georgia on Tuesday night. Frankie Sullivan scored 17 points and Tay Waller added 16 for the Tigers, who shot 52% from the field and outrebounded the Wolves, 40-29.  Auburn could only manage two 3-pointers compared to South Carolina’s 11, and that was the difference in the game as Auburn dropped a tough game on Saturday, 80-71.  Reserve Brendon Knox led Auburn with 22 points, Reed scored 19, Lucas Hargrove had 12 and Sullivan added 10 in the loss.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

CURRENT STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky  10-0
  2. Florida  8-1
  3. Tennessee  7-1
  4. South Carolina  6-2
  5. Vanderbilt  6-3
  6. Georgia  4-4

WEST

  1. Mississippi  8-1
  2. Mississippi State  7-2
  3. LSU  6-2
  4. Alabama  6-3
  5. Auburn  5-4
  6. Arkansas  4-5

It was a very slow week in the SEC as three teams did not see any action at all.  Kentucky and Mississippi State represented the SEC well in the SEC/Big East Invitational while Florida and Georgia lost their matchups.  Both Mississippi teams have been coming on strong and supplying some firepower to the West; Tennessee has only one setback and they should challenge UK all season.  The big story for the rest of the year will be the race to 2000 wins between UK and North Carolina.  Kentucky has pretty much assured themselves of being the first team to break the 2000-win plateau as they currently have 1998 wins to 1992 for UNC.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 8th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky  8-0
  2. Florida  8-0
  3. Tennessee  6-1
  4. Vanderbilt  6-1
  5. South Carolina  6-2
  6. Georgia  4-3

WEST

  1. Mississippi  7-1
  2. Alabama  6-2
  3. Mississippi State  5-2
  4. LSU  4-2
  5. Auburn  5-4
  6. Arkansas  4-5

Anyone doubting the SEC’s resurgence this season had to be pouring themselves a big glass of “hater-ade” after taking a look at the weekly Top 25 polls.  The SEC, which sent only three teams to the NCAA Tourney last season now has three teams perched in the Top 10 and four teams are among the Top 25 in the nation.

Kentucky used a win over North Carolina to leapfrog Purdue into the #4 spot in the AP Top 25 and now have that spot in both polls.  Tennessee only had one game last week, but moved to #9 in both polls due to other teams’ misfortunes, and the resurgent Florida Gators now occupy the #10 spot in the AP Top 25 and the 11th spot in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.  Mississippi debuted in the AP Poll at #25 and fell just outside the top 25 at #29 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  In contrast to that, Vanderbilt was #24th in the ESPN poll and #28 in the AP Poll.

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky  (7-0)
  2. Florida  (6-0)
  3. Tennessee  (5-1)
  4. South Carolina  (5-1)
  5. Vanderbilt  (4-1)
  6. Georgia  (3-2)

WEST

  1. Mississippi  (5-1)
  2. Mississippi State  (4-2)
  3. Alabama  (4-2)
  4. LSU  (3-2)
  5. Auburn  (3-3)
  6. Arkansas  (2-4)

The big story in the SEC this week has been the re-emergence of Florida as a national threat.  The question being asked everywhere is, “Is Florida back?”   As of now, that answer is a resounding YES.  The Gators just completed a very impressive week (see team updates), and have a good core group in the 2010 recruiting class.  Add to this the speculation that Florida may be taking the lead over Kentucky in the race for #1 2010 recruit Brandon Knight and it appears that this season and the future for UF is very bright indeed.  Thanks to Florida, the SEC East is shaping up as possibly one of the best divisions in the country with Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt combining for a 27-3 record.  The SEC East has three teams in the Top 17 in the country (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida) with Vanderbilt lurking in the fringes of the Top 25.  The SEC is still looking solid for a possible eight NCAA bids this year.  I know it’s early, but the five teams in the East, plus the two Mississippi teams and darkhorse Alabama are clearly the class of the conference thus far.

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on November 24th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

CURRENT SEC STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky   4-0
  2. Florida   3-0
  3. Tennessee   4-1
  4. South Carolina   3-1
  5. Vanderbilt   2-1
  6. Georgia   1-2

WEST

  1. LSU   3-0
  2. Mississippi   4-1
  3. Mississippi State   2-1
  4. Arkansas   2-1
  5. Alabama   2-1
  6. Auburn   2-3

Coming into this season, there were two main storylines to watch for the conference as a whole.  The first was if the SEC, after a down year and having only three NCAA teams last year, could rebound and regain its status as an elite conference.   The second one was if the influx of new talent in the SEC, both in the coaching and playing ranks, would help to raise the prestige level of the SEC.

The jury is out as to whether the SEC is going to be an elite conference this year.  So far, the SEC has an unimpressive 32-12 record so far.  There have been embarrassing losses, the key one being #19 Mississippi State losing to Rider by 14 points.  Add to this the fact that the SEC have not knocked off a “name team,” yet.  Just last night, #9 Tennessee lost to #6 Purdue and #24 Vanderbilt lost to Cincinnati.  The East division is clearly the class of the league with a 17-5 record and all three of the SEC’s ranked teams residing in that division.  So far, only Kentucky, Florida, and LSU have escaped the first two weeks of the season unscathed.

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Checking in on the… SEC

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2008

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

The misery continues for the Southeastern Conference. Only one unbeaten remains after MSU, South Carolina and Tennessee dropped games, with only LSU keeping their heads above water. The Wildcats from Kentucky met a couple of high-profile-conference foes and matched up well, while Mississippi State dropped two close ones in their matchups against power-conference squads. As a whole, the conference is wallowing badly at the moment, but Tennessee – powered by All-American Tyler Smith – is looking like the perennial powerhouse they have become in the past few years under Bruce Pearl and set to take the SEC regular-season title once again.

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