SEC M5: 12.13.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 13th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Tennessee has scored under 40 points in each of its last two games, scoring just 0.98 points per possession. The Volunteers’ answer? Speed up the pace. “I’d love to get out and run,” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. The players don’t think it’s time to panic just yet. “Everything is magnified right now because Jeronne (Maymon) is out and we had two games under 40 points,” junior Trae Golden said. “We’re fine. It’s still early in the season.” But there is a problem here folks. The Volunteers couldn’t even muster 40 points, not once, but twice. That’s not fine regardless of how early in the season it may be. And it is worth pointing out that speeding up the game doesn’t change Tennessee’s points per possession. It is what it is. Speeding up the pace just means we can see more of their inefficiency in action.
  2. Somebody please get Jeronne Maymon on line one. His Volunteers desperately need him. Speeding up the pace of play may not be the answer, but Maymon certainly could be. Luckily for Tennessee, the senior forward is making significant strides. Maymon is riding a stationary bike as well as walking on a treadmill. The bad news? There is still no timetable for his return, which is troubling. But the even worse news? The UT Director of Compliance confirmed that Maymon could potentially redshirt if need be. The fact that the scenario is even coming up doesn’t sound positive for a speedy recovery.
  3. Junior center Carl Engstrom of Alabama is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL and MCL. The surgery to repair his left knee was performed on Tuesday. “We are disappointed to lose Carl for the remainder of the season,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “Carl is a very valuable member of our team and will be greatly missed. However, the hard work and determination that he has displayed throughout his career will also assist him going forward as he rehabs and prepares to continue his career next season. We are fortunate to have an outstanding medical team that will assist him during this process.” Engstrom was a contributor for the Crimson Tide, starting in three games this year, and clearly was a big body in the low post.
  4. LSU coach Johnny Jones indicated that point guard Anthony Hickey may be joining the team sooner rather than later. The sophomore was suspended for a “violation of athletic department and university policy.” According to Jones, Hickey is likely to join LSU on its upcoming three-game road trip. He is sorting through the disciplinary matter with university officials. Hickey’s return will be a big boost for the undefeated Tigers. So far this year, the starter was averaging 10.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game.
  5. Florida is outscoring opponents by an average of over 25 points per game. What makes the Gators so dominant this season? A team typically known for its offensive prowess is shutting opponents down on the defensive end this year. “Coach [Donovan] just tells us every game that we can’t slack off, and we can’t have any slippage in practice,” junior guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “We try to go hard, and he’s constantly pushing us to go even harder.” The Gators’ field goal percentage defense is ranked in the top 10 in the country at under 35 percent. Florida’s defense will be tested on Saturday with the best offensive team it has played all season in Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats.
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SEC M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 10th, 2012

  1. Camp Cal, as coach John Calipari affectionately termed his boot camp with the Wildcats, is more about thinking than it is conditioning. “For the next two weeks, we’ll be going at least five of the days three times a day,” Calipari said. “I’m fine. I’ll be exhausted, but what the heck. The whole point is to help these young people think differently. They’ve got to think differently than they’re thinking.” The change in thinking hasn’t yet made its way into the full 40 minutes of game play, although the Cats were victorious over Portland by 28. “I had to coax them into playing,” Calipari said. “I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t be on a guy, ‘Play, scramble, stay down.’ What? What is that, strategy? I mean, that’s basically how I’m coaching right now.” The Cats are still making mistakes made by inexperienced teams, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has reviewed the Wildcats’ roster. They have two more home games over the next two weeks before meeting Louisville in the Yum! Center on December 29. Three weeks is a long way away, so expect Kentucky to look significantly improved by the time its intrastate showdown with the Cards roll around.
  2. Another SEC guard has been suspended, and this time it’s LSU’s Anthony Hickey. LSU coach Johnny Jones cited a violation of athletic department and university rules as the reason for the suspension. “We will cooperate fully with the Athletic Department and University on the matter,” said Jones. “There is a responsibility that comes with playing college basketball. If a player doesn’t take care of his responsibilities, then he loses the privilege of being able to play. We look forward to continuing to focus on our upcoming game Tuesday and our three-game road trip that follows.” At this point, there is no timetable for Hickey’s return to the court. The Tigers are 5-0 with Hickey in the lineup, fueled by his 10.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game. However, this is not the first time the point guard has found himself in trouble.
  3. The Arkansas media is calling for Mardracus Wade to be more aggressive on offense after the Hogs lost to Michigan in Ann Arbor by 13 points. Wade scored five points on just five shots from the field despite playing 34 minutes. Wade has the third best effective field goal percentage on the team, but is ninth in percentage of shots and is 10th in percentage of possessions. The Razorbacks could have used his help on Saturday. Wade is extremely effective at getting to the free throw line (76.3% free throw rate), but Arkansas didn’t shoot a free throw until six minutes left in the game. Mike Anderson’s squad has lost four of its last five contests, with three of those losses away from home. The Hogs are typically very strong at Bud Walton Arena, and they begin a five-game home stand on Saturday. That should give Anderson time to work out a few of the kinks.
  4. Who loves statistics? We do! And so does John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader who provides us with 20 stats you need to know from Kentucky’s win on Saturday. A lot of good information here about the Cats’ recent performances including a snippet about the play of freshman Alex Poythress. Poythress has scored in double figures in seven of the first nine games of his college career, including his 15 points on Saturday. Most importantly, he is 13-of-17 from the field in the last two games, including three of four from beyond the arc. Poythress’ efficient play has put him as an early member of a prestigious grouping that Luke Winn often refers to in his power rankings called the 70/50/20 club. Only four players possess membership at this point in the season. The club is reserved for players who shoot an effective field goal percentage of at least 70 percent, play in at least 50 percent of available minutes, and take at least 20 percent of his team’s shots when he is on the floor. Poythress is shooting 72.2 percent, playing in 73.1 percent of available minutes, and shooting 21.5 percent of the Wildcats’ shots. He joins Belmont’s Ian Clarke, UC Davis’ Ryan Sypkens, and Syracuse’s James Southerland as the only current members. With efficiency numbers like that, Poythress can’t shy away from the basketball as he did against Notre Dame.
  5. Tennessee’s Skylar McBee’s jersey will hang in the rafters at Grainger High School after he scored 2,362 points during his high school career. McBee was honored Saturday when his number four jersey was retired. “I’m very proud of where I come from,” McBee said. “And it’s an honor that all these people back home think that highly of me that they want to retire my number. It’s very humbling, and it means a lot to me.” McBee started as a walk-on for Tennessee, but was given a scholarship by previous coach Bruce Pearl. The guard is averaging 7.3 points per game for the Vols this season in his senior year.
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SEC M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 6th, 2012

  1. Florida added another impressive win to its resume Wednesday night, crushing Florida State 72-47 in Tallahassee. The Gators utilized a balanced offensive attack (five players with nine or more points) and shot almost 50% from the field. However, their defensive performance was the real story, especially in the first half. The Seminoles were only able to muster 15 points on five made field goals, going into the break already facing a 20-point deficit. Just to rub a little salt in the wound for the hosts, top 2013 recruit Andrew Wiggins was in attendance to see the ‘Noles get run off the court (though the love he allegedly got from some FSU coeds may be the trump card).
  2. In the wake of Kentucky’s poor start to the season, coach John Calipari has no intention of riding it out. After Tuesday’s game, the Wildcats officially entered “Camp Cal,” a three-week period in which practices will skew heavily toward conditioning. Calipari hopes the strategy will work to improve his team’s mental toughness. “I think we all got intoxicated, including me, about everything that was written and said about this team,” he told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “I kept telling you, ‘We’re not that good.'” Kentucky’s home stand continues for three more games, but a late December trip to Louisville looms large, undoubtedly the target Calipari has in mind for his players’ improvement.
  3. There isn’t much of a winning culture supporting South Carolina basketball, but new coach Frank Martin isn’t willing to quietly let it continue. His most recent problem with his team is with its inability to take care of the ball. “It’s embarrassing,” said Martin. “I wish I could use another word. We’ve lost three games, and all three games have basically been lost with our inability to play offense. We play with such an individual frame of mind on offense, and we don’t pass the ball. We don’t screen. We don’t know the concepts that we need to play with.” The Gamecocks have turned the ball over on a staggering 27.4% of their possessions this season (according to TeamRankings), ranking 338th in the nation in that statistic. Martin succeeded at a non-traditional basketball school in Kansas State, and while there hasn’t been much early success with the Gamecocks this year, there is a new sense of urgency about the program.
  4. Tennessee will honor the late Ray Mears on December 13 when the Vols host Wichita State in Knoxville. “(He) was such an admired and respected man and I think Tennessee fans view him as much more than a basketball coach,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said in a press release. “I want to ensure that we never overlook his contributions.” Mears is the Volunteers’ all-time wins leader, as he coached Tennessee legends such as Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld. If honoring Mears isn’t enough to get you out to Thomspson-Boling Arena, the UT athletic department will be offering discounted popcorn and soda (which this writer assumes is an apology for the Vols’ offensive showings against Georgetown and Virginia).
  5. Is getting relegated to a non-BCS bowl enough for LSU fans to eschew football for some basketball? Probably not, but they may be pleasantly surprised if they do. Ex-player and new coach Johnny Jones has his team off to its best start in four seasons. The young Tigers rallied to beat Seton Hall over the weekend to move to 5-0, and even earned a vote in the AP Top 25 poll. Though they’ve taken care of business so far, LSU will have to prove themselves against better competition to be considered a true player in the SEC. After a home date next week with Chattanooga, Jones’ team will get their chance as they leave Baton Rouge for the first time, traveling to play quality opponents in Boise State and Marquette.
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SEC Power Rankings: Week One

Posted by DPerry on November 19th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. We’ve been able to see each team in action, but with vastly different degrees of difficulty as far as scheduling, we’ll need to see more before the rankings truly take form.

A perfect night for Erik Murphy propels the Gators to the top spot.

  1. Florida- The Gators’ offense has shown the potential to be dominant. The lineup is bursting at the seams with skilled scorers, both in the frontcourt and backcourt. In going 10-10 from the field, we’ve probably seen senior Erik Murphy‘s best performance of the season, but he should have no problem improving on last year’s breakout campaign. Turnovers have been a concern, but with the reinstatement of point guard Scottie Wilbekin allowing Kenny Boynton to move to the two, Florida should be able to take better care of the ball.
  2. Kentucky- The loss to Duke isn’t a huge concern. The Blue Devils are a quality, veteran team. No, the real problem with the Wildcats so far is the lack of depth. Jarrod Polson, a star against Maryland, was completely ineffective against a more disciplined defense, and John Calipari only trusted Willie Cauley-Stein enough to give him six minutes. The continued absence of Ryan Harrow leaves Kentucky without a true point guard, a role not suited for Archie Goodwin or Julius Mays. Still, in watching the young Wildcats play, it’s tough to argue that they have the highest ceiling of any SEC team.
  3. Missouri- Frank Haith has used his first few games to assess all the new talent that arrived in Columbia this offseason. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross and freshman Negus Webster-Chan have been particularly impressive. We’ll know a lot more about the Tigers after the face three quality opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis this week. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 13th, 2012

  1. In recognition of their stellar opening performances, the SEC named Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer as the conference’s Player of the Week, while South Carolina forward Michael Carrera earned Freshman of the Week honors. As his team’s only returning contributor, Wiltjer’s 19 points, six boards and three blocks were invaluable in Kentucky’s nail-biter win over Maryland. The Oregon native has a reputation as a soft big man, but he showed signs that he may have made considerable strides in his defense and rebounding. Carrera’s stat line in his debut performance was shocking. The undersized forward displayed a nonstop motor in contributing 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Gamecocks’ overtime victory against Milwaukee-Wisconsin. He’ll need to maintain that aggression for South Carolina to compete on the glass in SEC play.
  2. The Johnny Jones era at LSU began with a win, but with forward Johnny O’Bryant III going down with an injury, we doubt the new coach could fully celebrate. O’Bryant headed to the locker room only 11 minutes into the Tigers’ opener against UCSB, and his status remains in doubt moving forward. The Tigers are another SEC team that lacks much inside punch, and O’Bryant was expected to handle the bulk of the frontcourt’s production. Fortunately, Anthony Hickey realizes that adjustments are necessary. “All five of us have to rebound,” the sophomore point guard told reporters, “We’re all crashing the boards hard.”
  3. The history of the Duke-Kentucky rivalry isn’t a long one, but it certainly doesn’t lack for highlights. The 1992 East Regional Final is the most notable, as any NCAA Tournament pre-game highlight montage would have you know. However, Kentucky fans are quick to point to the 17-point second half comeback from Tubby Smith’s 1998 national champions against Duke in the Elite Eight as another highlight. In the last match-up between the two bluebloods in 2001, the defending national champion Blue Devils were taken to overtime by a Rashaad Carruth-led Kentucky squad. Tonight’s match-up in Atlanta features two top teams who employ very different styles, and should provide some very compelling basketball. One bold prediction: The announcers will inform the audience, without noting which team is responsible for two-thirds of them, that Duke and Kentucky have combined for 12 national titles.
  4. Tennessee fans received bad news on Monday, with the school revealing that forward Jeronne Maymon will likely remain sidelined through the end of November as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. The senior forward had a breakout junior season and is projected to form one of the conference’s most potent frontcourts with Jarnell Stokes inside. The Volunteers barely missed a beat without him in their opening win against Kennesaw State, but with possible games against NC State, Oklahoma State, and a match-up at Georgetown before the end of the month, the competition will get tougher. Kenny Hall is a quality deputy for Maymon, while Yemi Makanjuola could provide a rebounding boost against bigger lineups.
  5. If a mediocre Horizon League foe blows out an SEC team on its home floor, and no one was there to see it, did it really happen? Well, yes. as Georgia fell to 1-1 with a 68-56 loss to Youngstown State on Monday. The Bulldogs were outrebounded 42-31, and shot a dreadful 3-24 from the field in the first half. Coach Mark Fox didn’t mince words in the post-game press conference, admitting that his team “set the game back 10 years” with its putrid offensive performance. An embarrassingly small and lifeless crowd only contributed to an evening that the Bulldogs hope will be the low point of their season. As a meeting with top-ranked Indiana looms just a week away, Georgia will need to make drastic improvements to keep that game respectable.
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Preseason SEC Power Rankings

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.

Kentucky tops the first Rush the Court: SEC power rankings (Washington Post)

  1. Kentucky – The playlist is set on repeat as long as Calipari is in Lexington; raw freshmen talent comes in, matures, performs at their highest peak in March, and gets drafted. Don’t expect this year’s squad to match last year’s numbers or expectations. However, Calipari will find a way to get these Cats to mature quickly and be in the hunt for their 48th SEC crown and another Final Four run.
  2. Florida – The Gators return quite a bit from their second Elite Eight run in as many seasons. Their expectations are to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007. While the veteran leadership of Kenny Boynton is a positive, the Gators must get more consistent play from several key role players, including Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario, to reach their goals. The pieces are in place for another deep Gator run.
  3. Missouri –  The island of misfit transfers is located in Columbia, Missouri. Newcomers such as Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriahki (Connecticut), and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all come to Missouri to find a new and hopefully winning experience in the Tigers’ first year in the SEC. With preseason SEC Player of the Year Phil Pressey leading the backcourt as well as Laurence Bowers in the post, Missouri should not only come close to their success of last year but also vie for the school’s first Final Four appearance in history.
  4. Tennessee –  The Volunteers won nearly 20 games last year and earned a postseason NIT berth with first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Adding freshman phenom forward Jarnell Stokes in January resulted in at least four more wins in the second half of the season. Martin’s defensive style of play, plus Stokes on the team for a full year and senior Jeronne Maymon guarding the post, should cause hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC title. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 5th, 2012

  1. Two years removed from raising over a million dollars in Haiti earthquake relief efforts with a nationally televised telethon, Kentucky is at it again. The Wildcats are going to host another telethon this year to support the victims and recovery of the aftermath from Hurricane Sandy in the northeast. John Calipari will host this telethon on Wednesday evening and already has some ideas as to improve upon the last one, stating that the Hati fundraiser had over 70,000 calls. “We couldn’t take them all. We could only take 2,000. So we’re going to hope to have it so that whoever calls in, that phone will be answered somewhere.” The telethon will be from 7-8 PM EST online at WKYT.com.
  2. After the sudden change in roster spots and coaching, many Bulldog fans knew the Mississippi State rebuilding process would take some time, but even they probably did not think it would begin with a very close win in its exhibition game versus William Carey on Sunday night. Rick Ray’s club trailed by eight points in the first half but eventually came back to win, 80-74. Ray was asked if his team was ready for Friday’s regular season match-up versus Troy and he gave “no” as his response. While his team’s execution was poor, Ray focused on the positives and knew that their exhibition would help with teaching points for his squad going forward.
  3. It has been a few weeks since Missouri head coach Frank Haith suspended Michael Dixon and Dominique Bull for team rules violations. On Friday, Haith stated that Dixon would continue to sit out for the Tigers’ exhibition versus Missouri Southern yesterday (which Missouri won, 86-60). Haith said that Dixon is working better to meet the team’s rules and expectations and has rejoined the team in practice. The freshman Bull, suspended for a separate incident, dressed out on Sunday but he was not guaranteed any playing time (he received three minutes). There is no timetable set for Dixon’s return to the lineup.
  4. The first step toward new head coach Johnny Jones’ returning LSU to a premier SEC power is by establishing a solid recruiting base. Jones is off to a great start by already receiving verbal commitments from two 2013 ESPN Top 100 recruits in Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman. Late last week he made his biggest splash by landing Baton Rouge star and #14 overall player, Jarell Martin, a 6’8″ power forward who had offers from Alabama, St. John’s, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. LSU now has two verbal commitments in the Texas/Louisiana area with four more also considering the Tigers. Jones is successfully using his local geography pitch to help land these recruits and it could pay off with more to come.
  5.  The Georgia men’s and women’s basketball teams participated in “Painting the ‘G'” over the weekend, a tradition started two years ago by the Georgia football staff. They let Mark Fox and the basketball players physically paint the Georgia “G” on the football field before their most recent game, knowing that while football still reigns in the SEC, November is also the beginning of the basketball season. The football staff wants to convey the message that all its players and coaches support and respect the other sports at the university and looks to involve them in other projects.
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SEC M5: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on October 25th, 2012

  1. Kentucky took to the Rupp Arena floor Wednesday night for its annual Blue-White scrimmage. Over 12,000 fans were in attendance, with many more catching the action on Fox Sports Net. The new-look Wildcats put on a high-flying, high-scoring show, but coach John Calipari downplayed the performance. “Folks, let me just say this,” he told fans after the final buzzer, “thanks for being here tonight. Can you see how far we have to go?” This isn’t surprising of course, as Calipari downplaying his team’s level of quality before the season seems to be his modus operandi. Big performances from freshmen Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel will dominate headlines, but the upperclassmen showed promise as well. Kyle Wiltjer displayed improved strength and dropped a pretty baby hook over Noel, while transfer Julius Mays showed a quick and accurate trigger from long range. Even Jon Hood, coming off a knee injury, looked energetic and shot the ball efficiently. If one of these older players can step into the leadership role vacated by Darius Miller, Kentucky may not be as far away as their coach believes.
  2. Attendence figures have been woeful for South Carolina over the past few seasons, but Frank Martin has designs on quickly changing that. In a meeting with members of the student body on Monday, the new Gamecock coach discussed ideas to increase fan interest. “I’ll make myself available for anything the students want,” he said. “I need you guys in that building.” Martin isn’t the type to shy away from a challenge. In 2007, he took over a Kansas State program that hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in over a decade and promptly led the Wildcats to four bids in six seasons. Turning around a moribund South Carolina program might be even tougher. The overall lack of talent on the roster makes an immediate reversal of fortunes unlikely, but Martin’s willingness to reach out to a jaded fanbase is a step in the right direction.
  3. Want to hear what your coach thinks about your team’s chances this season? Your questions will be answered today, as the league’s coaches gather in Hoover, Alabama, for SEC Media Day. The story from last year’s event was the unwavering confidence of Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who seemed to take issue with the fact that his team wasn’t being ranked ahead of the inexperienced Kentucky Wildcats. After losing every key contributor from a 25-win team, how will the Commodores’ coach react to this year’s 10th place prediction for his squad?
  4. New LSU coach Johnny Jones got a jump on the Media Day festivities when he addressed local media in Baton Rouge yesterday. “We have really been pleased with the last few days of practice,” said Jones. “Unfortunately, we have had a few players go down with injuries which are somewhat of a little setback. Hopefully, we will get them back on the floor in the near future within the next few days. That would be beneficial for us because of our lack of numbers.” Any hint of injury on an already thin squad is troubling news for LSU fans, since even a full-strength Tiger team won’t win many conference games this season. Jones will be counting on good fortune on the injury front to stay away from the bottom of the standings. If he runs into some bad luck, however, he can ask Andrew Del Piero for help finding practice bodies. A couple of those trombone players looked like they had some size.
  5. Details surrounding Billy Gillispie’s dismissal from Texas Tech continue to emerge, and they aren’t pretty. E-mails obtained by USA Today indicate that the former Kentucky coach regularly ignored practice time restrictions, most notably on one October weekend in 2011 when the team “practiced for 7 hours, 15 minutes on Saturday, and 6 hours, 30 minutes on Sunday”. His tenure in the SEC was an unmitigated disaster, and his failed campaign at Texas Tech only highlights how unfit Gillispie was to lead the league’s most prestigious program. It seems unlikely that another school will take a chance on him in the near future (if at all), so when the controversy over his improprieties in Lubbock fades away, we hope that you won’t have to read Gillispie’s name on this site for long, long time.
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LSU’s Andrew Del Piero: From Tuba Player to Basketball Scholarship

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 24th, 2012

Seven-footer Andrew Del Piero was a two time All-State selection in high school, and as such, highly recruited to attend LSU. But not in basketball. The honors bestowed upon Del Piero were from his time as a standout tuba player before joining the Golden Band from Tigerland. A 7’3″ tuba player? Surely it didn’t take long for the big guy to figure out he fit in more on the basketball court than performing in the band. Can you figure out which one is Del Piero?

Del Piero walked on last season with the Tigers basketball team, playing in only four games. Despite scoring just three points and grabbing two rebounds in 12 minutes of action all season, Del Piero was offered a scholarship to play for coach Johnny Jones this season. “Andrew is on scholarship now,” Jones said. “When we came back to school, because of the work that he had put in and his commitment to what we were doing. Andrew being a senior and what he’s going through, I just thought it would be fitting if a scholarship was awarded to him.” Not only is Del Piero now on scholarship (for basketball), but because of a shortage of size and bodies in the LSU frontcourt, he is making a contribution. Sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant says Del Piero is usually assigned to guard him in practice, and it is no cakewalk.  “He helps me because he’s got that heavy body and a heavy center of gravity and I have to work when I bang inside with him,” O’Bryant said.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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SEC M5: 10.19.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 19th, 2012

  1. As Missouri slowly tries to find its identity in the SEC football realm, its basketball presence has already been met with much hype and high expectations heading into the season. The Tigers’ initial move from the Big 12 to the SEC was criticized regarding the status of some of their regional rivalries, most notably with its immediate neighbors, Kansas and Illinois. Yesterday the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the “Braggin’ Rights” rivalry between Missouri and Illinois will continue through the 2016-17 season. The annual Mississippi River border showdown at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis has featured an intense regional rivalry since its inception in 1980. Missouri has won the last three meetings in the series after Illinois had won nine straight from 2000-08. As for the rivalry with Kansas, no news has surfaced (and may never surface) since Missouri’s departure from the Big 12 and thus ending the century old Border War, for now.
  2.  Could Michigan’s Fab Five beat last year’s Kentucky squad? Or vice versa? Coach John Calipari defended his Wildcats in an ESPN “Numbers Never Lie” clip on Thursday. Co-host and former Fab Five member Jalen Rose, in defense of his Wolverines, jokingly stated “Kentucky cheated by not starting all five freshmen last year.” Calipari praised Rose for his vocal leadership that helped make the Fab Five a very tight-knit group and said “my team wasn’t as vocal but came together in the same way. It would’ve been a heck of a game.”
  3. With the release of the Top 25 Coaches Poll earlier this week, head coach Mike Anderson and the Arkansas Razorbacks saw the difficult road that lies ahead: Seven ranked opponents on their schedule this year, including four within three weeks of each other. The Las Vegas Classic will challenge the Hogs early with games against #15 Creighton and #21 Wisconsin on November 24. Less than a week later, Arkansas hosts #9 Syracuse on November 30. In conference play, Arkansas will play home-and-home with #10 Florida and  #17 Missouri with another home game versus #3 Kentucky on March 2. Anderson will be tested early and often this season, hoping these difficult games will improve on last year’s 18-14 record and get the Razorbacks back into the NCAA Tournament.
  4. In recruiting news, Missouri picked up a commitment on Thursday from ESPN Top 100 forward Johnathan Williams, III. Dave Telep of ESPN reported that the 6’8″ Memphis native chose the Tigers over Tennessee, Michigan State, Georgetown, and George Mason. Williams is ranked as the 38th best overall recruit in the Class of 2013 and the second Top 100 recruit Missouri has obtained for next year. Williams’ pick has immediately vaulted the Tigers to #16 in next year’s class rankings.
  5.  New LSU head coach Johnny Jones spoke out on Wednesday about the first four practices he held this year. Jones discussed the difficulty of playing with only 11 guys and the challenge of molding his squad to understand the tempo he expects to see this season. “We want to try and make sure that our level is as such the way that we play. We’re trying to implement our system in just a short time because we’ll obviously be playing here in less than a month,” Jones said. The new head coach also praised several of his players but was still grounded, knowing they must all improve individually as well as a team going forward.
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SEC M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 16th, 2012

  1. LSU went immediately to work this week with new coach Johnny Jones, but without the aid of a cadre of experienced big men. 6’9″ forward Johnny O’Bryant, who averaged 8.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season, will be counted on to lead the way on the low blocks this season. Other than O’Bryant, the Tigers are fairly thin in the frontcourt. A pair of junior college transfers, Shavon Coleman and Calvin Godfrey, could be counted upon to provide quality minutes. And so far in practice reports, Coleman, who has drawn the task of defending O’Bryant, has “held up well.” Coleman stands at just 6’6″, but will likely spend a majority of minutes guarding larger opponents at the power forward slot.
  2. Tony Barbee is feeling confident with his new-look Tigers, but if he is going to get Auburn over the .500 hump he will have to do so with six new faces this season. One of the less heralded freshmen, 6’3″ guard Brian Greene, Jr., could end up being the most productive. The freshman is considered a strong candidate for the open point guard position, and he has drawn praise from returning guard Frankie Sullivan. “It is just not that he stands out, but you always see the guy,” Sullivan said. “Even in the drills, he is the one who is catching on the quickest.” Sullivan will likely start at the two guard spot. He led the Tigers in scoring last year with 12.6 points per game, but still wasn’t 100 percent because of a knee injury that sidelined him during the 2010-11 season.
  3. Want to know why Kentucky has been so good in the Calipari era? They score more points than the other team. And that is not purely because of offense, but because the Wildcats have been a lockdown defensive squad under Coach Cal. For three years running, the Cats have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in three defensive categories: effective field goal percentage, two point percentage, and blocks. According to Glenn Logan at ASoB, “Kentucky has been #1 in the nation in blocks three years running – an impressive statistic that very few people mention when analyzing the Wildcats.” But likely because of that strong protection around the rim, Kentucky has given up a higher percentage of three-point attempts and subsequently a higher percentage of three-point field goals. As Logan points out, “If you’re taking 3’s, you’re not taking 2’s closer to the basket.” With top defender and shot blocker Nerlens Noel guarding the basket, that might just be the plan.
  4. The Arkansas faithful hasn’t exactly witnessed the football success it had hoped for, but there is a certain optimism towards year two of the Mike Anderson era in Fayetteville. And according to Doc Harper of ArkansasExpats.com, the Hogs should be in the NCAA Tournament. “Bottom line, if BJ Young is deserving of all the hype he’s getting, Arkansas will be in the tournament in March,” Harper says. “Any NBA lottery pick should be able to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament on his own.” The Razorbacks should be much improved from a 6-10 SEC mark last season, but it won’t be Young alone that gets them there. Arkansas’ depth should be enough to unleash a full 40 minutes of Anderson’s fast paced system.
  5. Uni watch 2012 is in full effect. With a number of departures from a solid team last season, we are not certain what the Crimson Tide will look like on the court. But we do know that they will be doing it in style. Alabama joined the Nike Hyper Elite team with basketball stalwarts Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, and North Carolina. The current Tide players showcased the new slimmer look with the Alabama specific print on the back. Alabama lost leading scorers JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell , but return enough talent to make a splash in the SEC standings.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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SEC Transition Basketball: LSU Tigers

Posted by Brian Joyce on September 8th, 2012

Wrapping up the SEC transition basketball series with today’s update: LSU.

State of the Program

Other than a home win over Marquette in December, last season was not much to brag about for the LSU Tigers. A 10-3 start to the season had Tigers fans optimistic heading into conference play, but that feeling quickly dissipated after LSU lost six of eight games through one stretch. An 18-15 season was not enough to spark excitement for a fan base looking for any reason to hold onto hope. Coach Trent Johnson announced his departure from Baton Rouge in March. And lo and behold, a spark ignited.

Johnny Jones takes over in Baton Rouge. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Enter North Texas coach and former LSU Tiger, Johnny Jones. Jones, who was part of two LSU Final Four teams as a player and an assistant coach, was chosen to lead the Tigers out of its path of recent mediocrity. UNT won two Sun Belt championships under Jones, and LSU is hoping for similar success in the SEC. The Tigers haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since the 2009 season when they won the SEC with a 13-3 conference record. For Jones to keep the flame lit, an NCAA Tournament berth has to come sooner rather than later.

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