The Case for UNLV’s Dave Rice

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 27th, 2014

For those interested in bashing Dave Rice this season, it hasn’t been a challenge finding a few friends to join in on the fun. Even our own Andrew Murawa took a rip at UNLV’s walking, breathing, coaching piñata a few weeks back, listing Rice dead last in a ranking of the MW’s 11 current head coaches. This lack of love from Mr. Murawa and others is understandable: The Rebels have slogged their way through a season that began with a seemingly loaded roster and Mountain West title aspirations. Thomas & Mack Arena has turned uncharacteristically hospitable — feel free to ask Air Force, Nevada and UC Santa Barbara about UNLV’s new, friendlier visitor initiative if you don’t believe me. The Runnin’ Rebels may still finish third in the Mountain West and UNLV fans will fairly entertain hopes of running the table (at home) in the MW Tournament to find a backdoor into the Big Dance, but like the Vegas weekender stumbling onto his Sunday flight home, there is no hiding the disappointment for this UNLV team. Just don’t blame Dave Rice.

Dave Rice Has Plenty Of Destractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let's See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Dave Rice Suddenly Has Plenty Of Detractors After A Disappointing UNLV Season, But Let’s See If The Same Critics Are This Vocal Twelve Months From Now

Remember last year’s UNLV team? The one that won 25 games and earned a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament? If the memories aren’t flowing in, don’t look to this year’s team for any help. The only current Rebels to earn serious minutes a season ago are Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones — the result of Rice losing seven rotation players from last year’s team. Adding to the offseason chaos was the fact that four of those seven departees still possessed college eligibility, so their decisions to pursue basketball careers elsewhere (for a variety of reasons) were largely unplanned. The impact of those defections has been dramatically overlooked by Rice critics; lose that much talent and production from any team, and creating a brand-new winner the next season is bound to be difficult. For every Kansas there is a Miami, Temple or Illinois, where rebuilding years are understood as necessary steps to a brighter future. Somehow the folks in Sin City missed the memo preaching leniency in the wake of an offseason exodus, as most explanations for the Rebel malaise have skipped over the overhaul, choosing instead to focus on the perceived deficiencies of the man at the helm.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Disappointing Loss to Air Force Saturday Brings Surging UNLV Back Down to Earth

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 6th, 2014

Back at Thanksgiving, things weren’t looking especially bright for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Dave Rice’s team was just 2-3 (a record that excludes an embarrassing exhibition loss to Dixie State), and even that middling early mark may not have been representative of how quickly the team’s expectation level had deflated. Just a few weeks into the season, the Rebs appeared to be headed nowhere fast. But then, finally, things got going. Slowly at first — an easy win over Tennessee-Martin was followed by an encouraging loss at #1 Arizona (UNLV trailed by just two points with 30 seconds to go) – before things quickly accelerated, as the Rebels ripped off seven straight double-figure wins. The spurt restored much of the faith that had landed the team second in the Mountain West preseason poll, but after a puzzling, out-of-left field loss to Air Force at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night, doubts about the Rebels are again resurfacing.

Bryce Dejean-Jones

Bryce Dejean-Jones 28 Point Effort Wasn’t Enough For UNLV On Saturday Night, But Continued Offensive Efficiency From The Junior Will Be Key For The Rebels

Fair warning for anyone who peeks at Air Force’s early-season schedule: There are some scarring results on there. Losses to VMI, Jackson State, and 3-10 UC Davis (#320 in the latest Pomeroy rankings) are among the eyesores, although the increasingly salubrious Falcons did enter Saturday fresh off an upset of a solid Utah State team. Still, few expected Air Force to be especially competitive in this one (including local bookmakers, who had the Falcons listed as 14.5 point underdogs).As it turns out, the Falcons proved every bit as competitive as UNLV was disappointing. In his postgame presser, head coach Dave Rice flatly stated that “this was a very disappointing effort” multiple times. Disappointing indeed, and suddenly that post-Thanksgiving Rebels’ schedule took on a slightly less rosy tint.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 10.15.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 15th, 2012

  1. Most of the college basketball world has been preoccupied with the reloading job that John Calipari manages to pull off every year, but the work that Dave Rice has been doing to stockpile talent at UNLV has gone largely unnoticed at the national level. The latest piece to the Rebels’ burgeoning bench is Jelan Kendrick, the former McDonald’s All-American who has already made brief stops at Memphis and Ole Miss. Kendrick will spend this season at a community college in Iowa before coming to UNLV for the 2013-14 season as a redshirt junior. Kendrick has obviously had more than his share of off-court problems, but talented 6’7″ perimeter players are hard to find and if Kendrick can keep his head on straight he could be a key piece in the Rebels making a deep NCAA Tournament run in future seasons.
  2. Trevor Mbakwe has managed to brush off several legal issues in his past including felony assault charges and violating a restraining order to become one of the feel-good stories of the upcoming season coming off a torn ACL. On Friday, Minnesota announced that Mbakwe added a DWI arrest over the summer to that resume. Mbakwe was arrested on July 1 at 2:30 AM with a blood alcohol level of 0.12 and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI on September 10. He received a sentence of 16 hours of community service and one year of probation. Interestingly, Tubby Smith cited Mbakwe’s likely career as a professional basketball player as a reason for allowing him to remain on the team (hello, double standard). While it appears as if Mbakwe dodged a bullet here he still has to attend a hearing in Miami on September 17 for violation of his probation where he could receive a harsher penalty. We are assuming that probation is for the violation of a restraining order, but at this point there are so many charges that we aren’t sure which arrest that probation is for.
  3. By now you are wondering why we haven’t talked about Midnight Madness. The reason is that we already made several posts and tweets about it over the past few days. However, there was one even that is still worth discussing – the stabbing at Syracuse. While most events went off without a hitch, for some reason the Syracuse event was reportedly filled with several fights, one of which resulted in a 25-year-old man getting stabbed. The man is reportedly in stable condition at a local hospital (and presumably has been discharged by now), but has refused to cooperate with police. Based on that we doubt that anybody will be arrested in this case, but it will certainly change the atmosphere or at least the security at events like this in the future, particularly at Syracuse.
  4. In one of the more controversial recent trials involving a college basketball player, former Oklahoma State player Darrell Williams received a one-year suspended sentence and avoided any additional jail time as he had already spent that much time incarcerated. Williams, who continues to insist that he is innocent, will have register as a Level 1 sex offender (the least dangerous level) for the next 15 years. Williams’ team insisted that the case was one of racial profiling and had asked for a new trial citing a number of racial factors at play (two Caucasian women accusing an African-American in front of a largely Caucasian jury–11 Caucasians and 1 Asian-American), but was denied. For their part, the prosecution appears to be slightly more pleased although they expressed their thoughts that Williams was merely trying to put himself above the law.
  5. On Friday, Steven Goria, one of the leaders of a gambling ring accused of fixing a San Diego game in February 2010, was sentenced to more than two years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of sports bribery. The sentence is the longest that any of the 10 defendants have received so far. Goria reportedly made $120,000 off of a game that he allegedly paid the Toreros’ Brandon Johnson to influence. USD, a  team that was favored by 3.5 points over Loyola Marymount, lost the game 72-69 despite holding a lead late in the game. Goria and many of the other defendants have also been implicated in a marijuana distribution ring, which to our knowledge Johnson has not been involved in. All that appears to remain in the case is the trial of four more defendants (including Johnson) who have not yet reached plea agreements — that trial is set to begin on December 3. We expect that case will generate significantly more press from the sports media as it will involve a former college basketball player.
Share this story

SEC Weekly Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 8th, 2012

  1. Let’s talk scheduling, but enough about the soap opera between Kentucky and Indiana. There’s a new drama between Syracuse and Arkansas, and it turns out to be much ado about nothing. Syracuse originally refused to play in Fayetteville, but has relented to the powers that be and will play Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks after all. “We discussed our concerns regarding Syracuse’s participation in the SEC/Big East Challenge with the conference and have come to an agreement on the logistics of the game,” Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said in a statement. “The Big East Conference will work with us to assist in our on-conference scheduling for the 2012-13 season.” Not sure that Syracuse ever had a choice in the matter, but good to see everyone in agreement.
  2. Guards Jelan Kendrick and Maurice Aniefiok are leaving the Ole Miss program, according to a spokesman for the Rebels. Aniefiok averaged just 1.5 points and 0.8 rebounds per game in only 6.9 minutes per game. He struggled from the field shooting just 25.8 percent. Kendrick, a former McDonald’s All American, averaged 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game off the bench. Kendrick showed promise on the court, but struggled with off the court issues and with his relationship with coach Andy Kennedy.
  3. Welcome to the SEC, Missouri and Texas A&M. And how does the conference ensure a collegial  environment? By throwing a party, of course. However, the official welcome is set to expire soon. Missouri opens up football play with Georgia on September 8, and Tigers head football coach Gary Pinkel provided advice that could be relevant in college basketball this season as well. “I understand everyone is going to want to watch how A&M and Missouri do, coming from the Big 12 into this league. My big thing, when you’re new like we are, you’ve got to earn respect. That’s what we’re going to try to do.” Missouri instantly joins Kentucky and Florida at the top of the SEC power rankings this year in basketball, so the respect factor may come much quicker on the hardwood for the Tigers.
  4. Tennessee standout Jarnell Stokes has been named as a finalist for the U18 USA Men’s Basketball National Team. Committee chair Jim Boeheim spoke of the difficulty in making selections saying, “You had 23 guys who all are really good players, there wasn’t a bad player here. To get down to 12 is going to be difficult but I think we’re going to end up with a really good athletic team that is going to be very well coached. I think we’ve got an unbelievable coaching staff. I think we’ve got guys that have won, been winners, won state championships, and I think they’ll represent USA Basketball extremely well in this tournament.” Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan serves as the head coach for the team, which will make its final roster cuts on June 12.
  5. If you were a head basketball coach and every SEC head coaching position was open and available to you, which would you choose? Well, ESPN’s college basketball gurus made their choices and Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri top the list as desirable positions while Ole Miss, Auburn, and South Carolina finish out the bottom of the pack. No major gripes here on the order, but the placement of one school, in particular, was interesting. Mississippi State has been relatively successful recently, yet they rank number 11 on the list. I agree with the reasoning behind the placement, but if this is all true, why chase off Rick Stansbury? He enabled the Bulldogs to compete in the SEC and he recruited well for what we are now calling a bottom tier SEC basketball job. Sounds like Mississippi State was exceeding expectations with a coach at the level of Stansbury.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 03.05.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 5th, 2012

  1. Florida has lost three games in a row, but that doesn’t mean the Gators are lacking in confidence. “I don’t think our confidence is ever going to be a problem,” said Florida junior Erik Murphy, who added 14 points and tied a season high with eight rebounds. “We’ve got a bunch of confident guys on this team. We haven’t been playing too great and hopefully we can start putting it together.” The Gators are playing with effort, despite the results. “Whether you play hard or not, you’ve got to come out with the win,” Florida senior point guard Erving Walker said. “We’re in a one-and-done situation now, so we gotta figure this out.” Florida will have a bye into the second round of the SEC Tournament for the extra benefit of added practice time.
  2. The Florida players may not have come through against Kentucky, but the Gators’ fans came ready. Florida fans distributed this chant guide to organize the crowd’s heckling efforts against Kentucky players during Sunday’s game. But do Florida fans really need a guide to remember how to cheer? While it was a was a nice effort, Gator fans were really digging deep on this one. Needles? Wait, Anthony Davis has a unibrow? The heckling fell about as flat as the Gators defense on this Sunday afternoon.
  3. Tennessee is officially on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, but the Vols know they just need to focus on winning. “Whatever the numbers are, there’s nothing we can do but play games and win games,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said on Sunday. “We control our own situation. Whoever we play against, all we can do is everything in our power to win that game.” Just how many games do the Vols need to win? “A win at the SEC tourney makes NCAA possible,” ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said, “two wins makes it probable.” Tennessee gets the winner of Ole Miss and Auburn on Friday. The Vols have an RPI of 76 currently, and obviously have work to do in order to feel safe on selection Sunday.
  4. Some might argue that the Vols already have the look and feel of an NCAA Tournament team. The progress the Vols have made under Martin was obvious when Tennessee kept fighting on Saturday even when Vanderbilt cut the Vols’ second half lead to just two points.  “That’s our growth as a team,” Tennessee point guard Trae Golden said. “Back in the day, at the beginning of the season, we probably would’ve lost the lead and lost the game.” Pundits can compare numbers like the RPI all day long, but sometimes a team has to pass the eye test. And Martin knows he has an NCAA team on his hands. “We’re changing the culture and defining what we expect,” he said.
  5. Ole Miss is also in the hunt for an NCAA berth with a solid showing in the SEC Tournament, but the Rebels will need Jelan Kendrick to make an impact. Kendrick didn’t play in the Rebels’ win on Saturday because of a coach’s decision. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said he would “revisit” the situation before determining whether the troubled freshman will play in the SEC Tournament on Thursday. Saturday marked the third time that Kennedy chose not to play Kendrick even though he was eligible to play.
Share this story

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.”
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 01.05.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 5th, 2012

  1. Florida coach Billy Donovan is pleased with the development of guard Erving Walker into more of a multi-faceted point guard. Walker is second in the SEC with 5.2 assists per game, which is an increase of almost two assists per contest over last season. “The thing I’m most pleased with tonight more than anything is that Erving Walker could take four shots last game and not be in the flow of the game and then he can come back in this game and score 23 points,” Donovan said. Walker and guard Kenny Boynton have improved their shot selection as evidenced by an increase in field goal and three point shooting percentages for both players. Now if Donovan can get them to simply feed center Patric Young in the post, the Gators could be even more efficient on the offensive end.
  2. South Carolina guard Bruce Ellington played in the Gamecocks’ Capital One bowl game for Steve Spurrier’s football team, and turned around and took to the hardwood for Darrin Horn the next night against South Carolina State. Although Ellington was 3-3 from beyond the arc, he played for a season-low 13 minutes. It has been difficult for him to play both sports in such a busy time of the season. “Sometimes I don’t want to shoot after practice, but our trainer does a good job of getting me in there and getting shots up,” Ellington said. “He gets me in there every day to work on my shot, and it’s getting better.” It will be interesting to see this Gamecocks squad at full strength once Ellington is able to fully concentrate on basketball.
  3. Red Cup Rebellion wonders if former McDonald’s All American Jelan Kendrick is worth the trouble that he causes. Kendrick did not play for Ole Miss on Tuesday night against SMU, the second time this season that Kendrick did not play due to a decision made by coach Andy Kennedy. According to a poll on the RCR website, 39% of Rebel fans don’t think Kendrick is worth the wait, while another 36% aren’t sure yet. He is averaging just 2.7 points in three games this season. Kendrick became eligible in early December. At 6’7″, he could be a huge mismatch for the Rebels if he can make his way into the lineup.
  4. Coach Kennedy is happy with Ole Miss’ win over SMU, but he is realistic with what kind of team he has this year. “It’s going to be a grind, so grab on with both hands,” Kennedy said. “It’s who we are.” The Rebels scored 50 points in each of their last two games, but got the victory this time around. Ole Miss had been on a three-game losing streak coming in to Tuesday night. The Rebs shot 34.1% from the field and are still figuring out who will be effective for them on offense. “We got some guys that are playing with the yips. They’re not playing with the confidence that we need,” Kennedy said. I’m not certain what the yips are, but it sounds bad. Real bad.
  5. The Kentucky General Assembly tackles some of the most pressing issues in the state. They must have taken notice when Kentucky coach John Calipari openly questioned which rivalries his Wildcats would continue in non-conference play (or they read Rush the Court’s post on the rivalry) because Senator Tim Shaughnessy is attempting to pass into LAW a bill that would REQUIRE UK and Louisville to play each other in both basketball and football each year. Seriously. In all fairness, Kentuckians take their basketball rather seriously. While Shaughnessy is at it, can he pass a law that requires college freshmen to return to school rather than opting to enter the NBA Draft? THAT would ensure the best interests of the Kentucky basketball program, if that is his true intent.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 12.23.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 23rd, 2011

  1.  In Mississippi’s 68-56 loss to Middle Tennessee State, the Rebels’ guards failed to take care of the basketball turning it over 21 times. Freshman Jelan Kendrick, playing in just his second collegiate game ever, might be the answer Andy Kennedy needs at point guard. Kendrick turned the ball over just one time while scoring eight points, dishing out three assists, grabbing four steals, and securing three rebounds.”I’m just looking for somebody that doesn’t throw it to the other team,” Kennedy said. “I don’t mean that flippantly, but that’s the truth.” Although that might be the first time we have ever heard a coach use the term “flippantly”, the point, both literally and figuratively, is not lost. Kennedy gave Kendrick a chance to restore his troubled career, and he may give the 6’7″ guard a chance to run this Rebels team at the point guard position.
  2. Kenny Boynton‘s increases in field goal and three point shooting percentages are not by chance or simply another year of experience. Boynton reviews film after each game to improve upon his shot selection. “I watch the whole game,” Boynton said. “Every game. I’m looking at the shots I’ve taken. Were they open shots or tough shots? I didn’t do that my first two years. It’s really helped me a lot, because it’s helped me learn about shot selection.” Boynton is averaging 18.3 points and 3.0 assists per game. His extra time has not only made him a better player, but has made Florida a legitimate SEC title contender.
  3. It’s the holiday season, and what Florida really needs in its stocking is a focus on entry passes to the low block for its big man Patric Young. Young is currently shooting 63.3% from the field, but his touches have been limited by an abundance of overzealous shooting guards on the perimeter. He is highly efficient and helps open up the three point shot in the inside-out game. Young’s best game of the year came against Arizona when he took 15 shots, converting on 12, to score 25 points and grab 10 rebounds. Now Florida’s guards need to make sure those kind of performances come more often for the center. And if it isn’t too much to ask, all I really want for Christmas is for Young to keep wearing those protective glasses. He is so much more intimidating in a cool pair of shades.
  4. Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney continues to make strides on the basketball court, and he is now making solid contributions for the Bulldogs. In his last three games, Sidney has averaged 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. “I’d like to still get more minutes from him but, again, I’ll take less minutes as long as they’re more productive,” Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. “There have been signs of him getting better.” While Sidney still breathes towards the end of games like a dog in 110 degree heat, he is averaging 21.8 minutes this season. Sidney’s increased presence in the post could give Mississippi State one of the most dominant frontlines in the country as forward Arnett Moultrie continues to be one of the most consistent performers in the SEC. Moultrie got his seventh double-double of the season against Northwestern State on Thursday.
  5. Speaking of Mississippi State, senior point guard Dee Bost still feels like the Bulldogs are underrated despite staking a solid spot in the polls. “I feel like people don’t respect us enough,” Bost said. “We just have to keep winning to get people’s respect. With polls, that’s people’s opinions. We have to keep winning because that’s all we can control.” MSU is playing top-10 ranked Baylor next week, and Bost, for one, is looking forward to the opportunity to knock off a talented team. “We have another chance to prove where we are in the nation. People don’t respect us. If we win that game, people will respect us.” Alright Bost, it’s a deal. Beat Baylor next week and you will have our respect. Fall short, and we reserve the right to keep questioning the Bulldogs’ legitimacy.
Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 12.21.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 21st, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

After several consecutive slow weeknights, Wednesday night offers some very good games. All eyes should be tuned in, especially, to the ESPN2 early game.

Texas at #4 North Carolina – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

UNC Will Attack Texas With Their Forwards, Tonite on ESPN2 (Getty Images/P. Williams)

  • Since their collapse against NC State on November 21, Texas has won seven straight games by double digits, including some nice wins over Temple and at UCLA. Their talented guard combo of J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo is starting to click, with Brown’s numbers up to 19.3 points and 4.3 assists per game and Kabongo at 10.8 points and 6.0 assists per contest. Four of the Longhorns’ five leading scorers are freshmen, including Kabongo and exciting reserve guard Sheldon McClennan. The Longhorns are ranked seventh nationally with 1.18 points per possession and eighth in overall offensive efficiency (117.5). For Texas to hang in this game, they’ll need their young guards to keep scoring at a high rate, and hope to contain UNC’s massive frontcourt from dominating the offensive boards.
  • North Carolina has a massive size, experience, home court, and overall talent advantage in this game, which is why they’re 10-point favorites. Look for the Tar Heels to feature Tyler Zeller and John Henson inside to feast on Texas’s smaller front line. The bigs should be able to control this game on the boards, where UNC ranks 16th nationally in offensive rebounds per game, and number one overall on the defensive glass. Even if Texas’s guards can score effectively, Carolina can counter with its wing scorers of Harrison Barnes, Dexter Strickland, and Reggie Bullock, lead by the nation’s top assist man in Kendall Marshall (10.2 APG).
  • Texas has won four straight games against Carolina since 1995. The Longhorns are playing well and will certainly be ready for this game. But it’s hard to envision UNC losing this one at home given their huge advantage in the paint and with just as many talented guards. Expect a super exciting, high scoring affair between two of the top programs in the country, with Roy Williams’ team coming out on top.

Seton Hall at Dayton – 7:00 PM EST, no TV (***)

  • This is a huge road test for 9-1 Seton Hall, whose only loss came in the finals of the Charleston Classic against Northwestern. Senior Herb Pope has been an absolute stud all year and he leads the Big East in scoring (22.1 PPG) AND rebounding (11.9 RPG). His fellow senior leader, point guard Jordan Theodore, leads the conference in assists with 7.1 per game. Sophomore guard Fuquan Edwin leads the Big East in steals per game with 3.4 per contest. He and Theodore each average about 14 points per game, as well. This dangerous trio will look to lead coach Kevin Willard’s team to a big road win and legitimize their strong start to the season.
  • Dayton is a talented but very inconsistent team. They have strong wins over Alabama, Wake Forest, and Minnesota on their resume, but they also have a shocking home loss to Buffalo by 29 (!) points. They lost road games to Miami (Ohio) and Murray State, as well. First year coach Archie Miller’s team has five players that average nine or more points per game, lead by junior lead guard Kevin Dillard. A transfer from Southern Illinois, Dillard leads the team in scoring (11.9 PPG), assists (5.1 APG), and steals (2.3 SPG).
  • This game is not televised nationally or on ESPN3.com, but be sure to follow along, or even watch if it’s being shown locally. Dayton is a four-point home favorite in this one, but this is anyone’s game. The Flyers have several big home wins and another awful home loss. Seton Hall will look to control the game with the dominant Pope inside, who will be a load to handle for Dayton’s short interior players. I’d take Seton Hall and their experienced leaders to come out with the road win, but this one could go either way.

Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN3.com (***)

  • Middle Tennessee is coming off a big home win over Belmont to push its record to 10-2. They are the class of the Sun Belt Conference, and are only two-point underdogs in this game. When you factor in the three-point cushion given to home teams in Vegas lines, that means MTSU is considered the slightly better team. This is a fair assessment, as the Raiders have an impressive trio of upperclassmen in guard Marcos Knight and forwards LaRon Dendy and J.T. Sulton who all average at least 12 points and 6 rebounds per game. These three all shoot at least 53.6% from the field, as well, which powers the nation’s best field goal shooting team (53.2% as a team for the year).
  • Ole Miss also comes into this game with just two losses, the most recent of which came on Saturday at a pretty good Southern Miss team. Ole Miss features five players that average nine points or more, lead by junior Murphy Holloway’s 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Not included in their five leading scorers is new addition Jelan Kendrick, who is now eligible for Mississippi after transferring from Memphis when he was kicked off the team at the beginning of this year. Kendrick is a very talented freshman who could start to make his mark tonight. Andy Kennedy’s team will have the athleticism advantage in this game, such as their 6.2 blocks per game which ranks 13th in the country.
  • This game might be the best of the 9:00PM EST slate, so be sure to have ESPN3 ready on your computer even if you’re tuned in to the television for another game. We expect Ole Miss to take care of business at home, but MTSU will offer a great challenge and could come out with another impressive victory.

Oklahoma State at Alabama – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)

  • Oklahoma State comes into this game at 6-4 having lost two straight games. The Cowboys have a collection of talented players but have not found the best way to utilize their pieces; nine different players have been in the starting lineup in the first 10 games. LeBryan Nash, the McDonald’s All-American freshman, is starting to play better of late, seeing his minutes increase in the past three games. He’s now up to 12.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the season. Markel Brown is a talented sophomore guard (9.7 PPG) and Cezar Guerrero is a freshman with a quick trigger that can fill it up in a hurry (7.7 PPG), though takes plenty of questionable shots per game. Upperclassmen Jean-Paul Olekemi (9.7 PPG) and, especially, Keiton Page (12.7 PPG) are the leaders of the team that will look to ignite the upset in this one.
  • Alabama was ranked in the top 15 to begin this month, but the Crimson Tide have suffered three disappointing losses in the past three weeks, albeit to some good teams. Anthony Grant’s team lost at home to Georgetown on a game-winning three from the Hoyas, and they followed that one with two road losses to Dayton and Kansas State. Bama has had trouble scoring in those games. They aren’t a very effective offensive team, with a 104.8 efficiency that ranks 120th nationally. The Tide get it done on the defensive end where they allow an eFG% of 40.6 that is seventh best in the country. Jamychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Trevor Releford are big time athletes who all average double figure scoring and can lock down defensively.
  • This game is technically not a home game for Alabama, since it is being played in Birmingham as part of the 2011 Legacy Credit Union Holiday Classic. But for all intents and purposes, consider the Crimson Tide the home team as they will draw the much larger crowd in their home state. Bama has fallen victim to a few upsets this season, as they were the favored team in all three of their losses. But don’t expect a repeat in this one, as Oklahoma State is still a work in progress and the solid defense of Alabama should lead them to a victory.

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 201
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 12.16.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 16th, 2011

  1. While Florida‘s guard play has been the most talked about aspect of the roster, the Gators are actually more effective when distributing the ball down low to center Patric Young. There are a lot of great points per possessions stats in Ballin is a Habit’s breakdown, but the most interesting to us is the amount of double teams in the low post. In nine games thus far this year, Young has been double teamed three times. I went back and read the post just to make sure: that’s right, three times in nine games. Florida’s reliance on three point shots (39.2% of its total points according to kenpom.com) and accuracy from behind the line (40.3%) prohibit opposing defenses from double teaming Young, yet he is extremely accurate (58.7 eFg%). He simply doesn’t get the ball as often as he probably should. Young is fifth on the team in the percentage of possessions used (20.5%) behind Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal, and Mike Rosario. Notice any similarities between those four players? Yep, those are Florida’s aforementioned and often talked about guards dominating the majority of possessions.
  2. As mentioned in yesterday’s SEC Morning Five, Jelan Kendrick was eligible to play in his first game Wednesday night for Ole Miss, but did not even dress due to a “coach’s decision”. It appears that Kendrick hasn’t changed much from his old ways. The troubled guard was late for a team meeting on Tuesday night, and then showed up thirty minutes late for a team shootaround on Wednesday. That sort of behavior is exactly what landed Kendrick in trouble at Memphis where he was kicked off the team before ever playing a game. And if he keeps this up, his streak of watching his teams from the sidelines will certainly continue. Andy Kennedy doesn’t need this kind of headache regardless of Kendrick’s talent level.
  3. Should the College of Charleston students have rushed the court after beating a downtrodden Tennessee team? Regardless of your feelings on whether schools should RTC at all, we can all agree that the Volunteers weren’t a worthy adversary for College of Charleston to rush the court. The Vols are 3-6 on the year, and were actually the underdog playing on the road last night. But GoVolsXtra went one step further, calling their hometown team a mid-major basketball program. Ouch, that has to hurt. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin has to be given credit, however, for playing a difficult schedule in his first year at the helm. And College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins gave him that praise. “I want to thank Cuonzo Martin,” Cremins said. “He honored the contract that we made with Bruce Pearl. I appreciate them coming here. They brought a great atmosphere. It was a great win for us.” Martin has the respect of opposing coaches, but will he have the patience of Tennessee fans and blogs to dig the Vols out of mid-major hell? Tennessee has losses to Austin Peay and Oakland to go along with this loss to the Cougars.
  4. At this time two years ago, Jeronne Maymon was averaging about four points and four rebounds for Marquette. Not making the impact he had hoped for, Maymon decided it was best to seek out a new beginning by transferring to Tennessee. Although Maymon probably didn’t transfer from Marquette envisioning losses like this one on Wednesday night. The power forward was limited to nine points in the loss to the College of Charleston. But the Vols need more production from Maymon. He was impressive when he poured in 32 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to Memphis in the Maui Invitational. Since that point, his production has been somewhat limited. In the five games after that tough loss to the Tigers, Maymon hasn’t reached double figures in rebounding at all and has only reached double figures in points twice. Tennessee needs Maymon to climb out of this hole.
  5. The Worldwide Leader recognizes the charitable work that Arkansas forward Michael Sanchez has done off the court. “He’s got a service heart,” said his mother, Kim. “He’d do anything for anybody.” Sanchez is currently growing his hair out for locks for love. While many assumed he was growing his hair out to keep current with the new style, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. “Trust me, this isn’t about style points,” Sanchez said. “People might think I want attention, and I guess in some ways I do. Just not for myself.”  Sanchez has been somewhat hobbled this year by injuries limiting his production on the court. While he hasn’t made the impact he would probably like for Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks, he is certainly making an impact on others. It is great to see that basketball players can use their influence and visibility on the court to help those in need off of it.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 15th, 2011

  1. How did Festus Ezeli cope with watching his team lose two close overtime games in a row on November 28 to Xavier and December 2 against Louisville while he was out with an injury that sidelined him for Vanderbilt’s first eight games of the season? While the rest of us throw every item within arm’s reach at the TV during our favorite team’s close games, it sounds as though Ezeli has kept his cool watching in street clothes on the bench. “It’s just tough. I’m an emotional person and when the games start, I get into it a lot,” Ezeli said. “It’s just hard being on the bench and not being able to help, because I know I can help a lot. It’s tough. Just little stuff. I feel like I’m very good at helping them in the paint, especially on defense and protecting the rim and stuff like that. I feel like I could have helped a lot, especially in the last two minutes of the games – both games in overtime.” Ezeli returned to action last week against Davidson with 21 minutes of play, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds. The big man is not at 100% just yet, but the Commodores will certainly be a different team once he is at full speed.
  2. Alabama‘s Anthony Grant realizes that the Crimson Tide will see a lot of zone after Georgetown used a 2-3 zone so effectively in Bama’s 57-55 loss to the Hoyas on December 1st. The Tide settled for outside shots against the Hoyas’ zone, going 3 of 16 (18.8%) from beyond the arc. “I think the fallacy there is people think you’ve got to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” Grant said. “I disagree with that. I think there’s obviously a lot of different ways, but no matter what you’re doing, the ball has to work inside down, no matter if it’s a man or a zone.” The Tide have not shot well from three-point range on the season shooting only 25.3% (37 of 146). Yep, the Tide are going to see more zone this year, and they will need to find better quality shots then what they have settled for thus far.
  3. Andy Kennedy has a good problem to have for his Ole Miss Rebels–too many guards! The Rebs have seven scholarship guards, including McDonald’s All American Jelan Kendrick who became eligible for his first game Wednesday night against Louisiana-Lafayette, but did not play due to a decision by Kennedy. Freshman LaDarius White played his first game for Ole Miss on Saturday, and he played well coming off the bench with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes. Finding room for White and Kendrick could be a fix for many of the Rebels issues this season. “We’ve been terribly inconsistent in a lot of areas,” Kennedy said. “Twenty-three turnovers (on Saturday) is laughable. Our ball security needs a lot of work, but we continue to defend.” That is if Kendrick can make his way on the court this season.
  4. Maybe this isn’t interesting to anybody but Georgia fans, but they will be traveling to Italy next year to play from August 3-12, 2012. The interesting aspect to me is that young teams need the advantage of being together and playing earlier, and the Bulldogs seem to fit the mold of a team that could benefit from the extra time together. Georgia has a good freshmen and sophomore class that could make noise in the SEC next year if they keep their nucleus intact. The trip to Italy seems to be the right move at the right time for Mark Fox and his young Bulldogs, but Fox needs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the roster for one more year to be able to have the firepower to make a splash next year.
  5. Georgia is using its week off to find a solution to its second half woes. The Bulldogs have lost four games in a row, in three of which they blew a halftime lead. “We didn’t come out in the second half, and I think it’s just us needing to get ready to come out and play hard,” Caldwell-Pope said after the Georgia Tech game. “We haven’t had the mindset that we need to come out and just play as hard.” In the Bulldogs’ last two games, they were outscored by 15 (against Cincinnati) and 16 (against Georgia Tech) in the second half. Georgia has five more non-conference games to figure out what is going on before they open up SEC play on January 7 against Alabama. The Bulldogs have been tied or led going into the half in seven of their nine contests yet are currently 4-5 going into Saturday’s match-up with the USC Trojans.
Share this story

Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 14th, 2011

Gerald Smith (@fakegimel) is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference. 

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • That’s Why You’re Mad: Kentucky was seeing red on Saturday as they dropped a game to Indiana. Coaches across the country (especially in the SEC) had a good look at the blueprint to upset Big Blue: Hot outside shooting, strong post play, and good interior defensive positioning to take charges on driving Wildcats. Much has been made about Terrence Jones‘ malaise and Marquis Teague‘s resurgence. Although the Wildcats have plenty of time to lick their wounds the pride of being the last undefeated SEC team was trampled by the Hoosier faithful rushing their court.
  • Desperately Seeking 3-Goggles: Another SEC power-team also had its pride damaged last week. Dayton exploited Alabama’s weakness — awful three-point shooting — to pull off a 74-62 upset. Though the Crimson Tide’s next game yielded a better result (64-52 win over Detroit), the three-point shooting woes continued (2-15 vs. Detroit, 10-58 the last four games). Coach Anthony Grant was counting on one or more of his freshmen guards — Trevor Lacey, Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph — to provide the outside shooting. None of them have risen to the challenge yet. Alabama will be particularly vulnerable to upsets from streaky-shooting teams until they find a solution to their outside shooting woes.

The Iron Has Been Unkind To Trevor Lacey's Three-point Shooting. (Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE)

  • Big: A pleasant surprise in the SEC this season has been the play of Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie. The transfer from UTEP, averaging 17.1 PPG and 11.2 RPG, is exceeding the expectations set for him. Unfortunately the 6’11″ forward is battling with knee tendinitis. He has missed three games for the Bulldogs, including yesterday’s 75-68 victory over FAU. Moultrie will hopefully be ready for Mississippi State’s next series of games which include two away games, including a tilt at #6 Baylor.
Share this story