SEC M5: 11.20.13 Edition

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 20th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. For the first time in eight seasons, Alabama scored more than 100 points in a game. All it took was playing Division II Stillman to pull it off. Two things worth noting really stood out in the box score. First, the Crimson Tide attempted 31 free throws while Stillman took just nine. Clearly, Alabama was more aggressive offensively, and were able to take advantage of the new NCAA rules. Second, and perhaps more remarkable in the age of the three-pointer, but Alabama made just five threes for the game. They made 32 two-point field goals, yet another testament to their aggressive mentality on offense. That is the mentality Anthony Grant needs from his team when they play better opponents the rest of the season.
  2. Frank Martin is concerned that his team is suffering from a lack of leadership, and it is showing with the team’s bad start. Martin felt that a lack of preparation led directly to the Gamecock’s inability to run their offense against Clemson, in true coach’s fashion Martin hated the team’s defense too. With seven true freshman on the roster, this really shouldn’t come a surprise. While Martin can lean on sophomore Michael Carrera for leadership, that is a lot to ask of a player with just one year of NCAA experience under his belt. As the season goes on, South Carolina will work out their issues, and a leader will emerge. In the meantime, enjoy Frank Martin’s brilliant quotes throughout the article, which include complimenting his team’s defense by calling it “not pathetic”.
  3. When a team is as deep and talented as Kentucky is, someone suffers a loss of playing time. At the start of the season it looked like Marcus Lee and Dominique Hawkins would not be in the Wildcat rotation. Flash forward to five games into the season and the picture has already changed. Lee started his second straight game last night, scoring 10 points and three blocks. Hawkins only scored 3 points, but played 13 minutes in a blowout win. John Calipari likes the way Hawkins brings energy when he plays, something the Wildcats have struggled with at times this season. Lee adds a versatile defensive element that Calipari loves. Lee can lead a press and also protect the rim in half court situations. Exactly what the rest of the country wanted, for Kentucky to find even more depth.
  4. LSU has one of the most talented front courts in the country this season, and their rebounding numbers reflect that so far. Even without start freshman Jarell Martin, the Tigers averaged 53.5 rebounds in their first two games, and added 56 last night. Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey have been dominating the glass, and even 5-9 guard Andre Stringer has been contributing quite a few rebounds. This is an advantage that LSU should continue to exploit all season long. Not only will it keep them in contention against Kentucky and Florida, but it will cause major issues for teams like Missouri that don’t have much size inside.
  5. Speaking of Martin, his return is still up in the air right now. While there was speculation he might return last night, precaution won out and Martin sat out again. It’s hard to determine the impact of Martin’s injury since he has only played 33 seconds and the LSU big men haven’t missed a beat without him. Still Martin is a five-star recruit and expected to make a major impact whenever he does get back from his injury. The sooner he comes back and develop chemistry with his teammates the better. In the meantime, fellow freshman Jordan Mickey has been a revelation for LSU and added 16 points and 11 rebounds last night.
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Jarell Martin’s Injured Ankle Pressures LSU Backcourt to Produce

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 13th, 2013

Jarell Martin’s college career got off to a disappointing start yesterday, as he sprained his ankle during the first minute of LSU’s 92-90 season-opening loss at Massachusetts. Martin missed his only field goal attempt of the game, and never returned after the injury. Head coach Johnny Jones has yet to give an estimate on how severe the injury is or how long it will keep Martin out, but he did stress that the team will be extremely cautious with its precocious freshman.

Jarell Martin hurt his ankle just one minute into his college career (Scout.com)

Jarell Martin hurt his ankle just one minute into his college career (Scout.com)

In the short term, Martin’s absence was noticeable in the way Jones worked his rotation. The Tigers missed his presence with the team’s early foul trouble, especially when Johnny O’Bryant was forced to stay in the game with two early fouls. He was the only player scoring for the Tigers at the time, but his presence on the floor led to a third first half foul, costing him playing time later. Had he not been injured, Martin would have been able to shoulder some of the scoring load and perhaps Jones would have been more comfortable keeping O’Bryant on the bench had he trusted someone else to score. Based on how close the game was at the end, and the way LSU struggled to score when O’Bryant was out, it seems safe to assume the Tigers could have won had Martin been healthy. At the very least, LSU would have avoided the scoring issues that plagued them for long stretches in both halves.

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Team Chemistry Over Playing Time Holds the Key to LSU’s Season

Posted by Justin Bridgman on November 12th, 2013

When a team finishes its season on a run and they return a group of core veterans, it is natural to expect them to be quite good the next season. When that same roster adds a top 10 recruiting class, expectations rise even further. For LSU and Johnny Jones, a unique dilemma is going to play out early this season. Jones claims he can play up to 11 guys this season, but with all that talent and only 200 minutes per game to divvy up, someone is bound to get upset.

Johnny Jones is all smiles now, but can he make all his players happy this season? (SportsNola.com)

Johnny Jones is all smiles now, but can he make all his players happy this season? (SportsNola.com)

Can Johnny O’Bryant, Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey learn to play together? They are three of the best players on the roster, and all of them are best suited to play power forward. Martin is going to play small forward even though he played at the four throughout high school. He has some perimeter skills including a great jump shot, but his frame is more suited to play down low. To use him exclusively as an outside shooter would be a disservice to his overall talent. Mickey at the five has rim-protecting skills that will make life easier for O’Bryant, but he will also be taking up space in the lane and forcing O’Bryant to operate around him. O’Bryant will need to adjust and take advantage of all the open shooters created with such a packed lane.

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SEC Power Rankings: Week Three

Posted by KAlmekinder on December 5th, 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. Week Three’s SEC Power Rankings:

Is there a clear explanation for Kentucky’s back-to-back losses?

  1. Florida – The Gators just keep winning with one key reason: an evenly spread, highly efficient offense. Of the two marquee match-ups Florida has had so far this season, they have won against then-#22 Wisconsin by 18 points, and most recently, against a regularly tough Marquette squad, 82-49. The Gators are averaging nearly 74 points a game on 47% shooting (36% from beyond the arc). In the win over the Golden Eagles last week, six Gators, including three off the bench, posted double figure points while shooting over 50% from the field. Florida’s chemistry and rhythm has led them to the top of the SEC Power Rankings and a top six ranking in the national polls.
  2. Missouri – With most of the attention involving Missouri is focused on Michael Dixon leaving the team, the Tigers have been able to focus on winning with their other personnel. The key to Missouri’s quick turnaround has been forward Laurence Bowers, making his presence known this year after missing last season due to injury. Bowers posted a season high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the Tigers’ win over Appalachian State last Saturday, including 3-for-3 from long distance. With no other difficult match-up until the annual “Braggin’ Rights” showdown versus Illinois later this month, Missouri should remain near the top of the Power Rankings.
  3. Alabama – A narrow 58-56 loss to #17 Cincinnati showed Alabama’s true colors earlier this week. The Tide rallied from 13 down to only lose on a Cashmere Wright fadeaway at the buzzer. Alabama could have used another efficient night from guard Trevor Releford (5-15 shooting, only 12 points), but a loss to a ranked Cincinnati team tested Anthony Grant’s club the entire night and proved that they have the ability to rally when needed. Both Dayton (5-2) and VCU (5-3) come to Tuscaloosa in the next few weeks for another couple of solid tests for the Tide.
  4. Ole Miss – Ole Miss has quietly risen through the rankings because of its own success and the failures of others. Kentucky’s losses (discussed below) have paved the way for an undefeated Rebels squad to a top four position in the SEC Power Rankings. While Ole Miss’ schedule can be considered weak, they have still yet to lose a game. Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in points per game and sixth in rebounds per game. The next test, the Rebs’ first true road game at Middle Tennessee State, will show the rest of the league if they are better than people think. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 30th, 2012

  1. Michael Dixon is leaving the Missouri Tigers basketball team. News broke Thursday afternoon regarding another unrelated accusation made in 2010 against the Missouri guard purporting his involvement in a forcible rape case. The new information, found in a university police incident report, detailed Dixon’s alleged involvement but no charges were filed against him at the time. Later Thursday evening, a text message from Dixon to a friend of his revealed his intention of leaving the team because of the firestorm surrounding the player. There is no official word from coach Frank Haith regarding his dismissal from the team or if Dixon will remain a student at Missouri. Dixon had been suspended since October for a ‘team violation.’
  2. How bad is the bottom of the SEC this season? Bad enough that Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger is already worried about Ole Miss’ RPI rating come March. Kellenberger notes that five SEC teams are outside the top 200 in the RealTimeRPI.com rankings right now, and head coach Andy Kennedy is well aware that he has to play all five schools — Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State, Georgia, and South Carolina — a total of six times. While the RPI is not the primary factor for seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the numbers are given quite a bit of consideration. Many teams with quality in-conference resumes have been left out of the Big Dance because of their RPI, so Ole Miss needs a few upsets and quality wins to ensure an at-large berth and avoid the wrath of the bubble on Selection Sunday.
  3. The Mayans can claim their infamous ‘end of the world’ hoax centered on the year 2012, which many people still believe (not sure why). Many Kentucky fans might take the years 2018 or 2019 a bit more seriously, though. In an article for ESPN the Magazine, head coach John Calipari stated that he plans on being in Lexington for six to seven more years, a date many of the Wildcat faithful hope will never come. When then-head coach Tubby Smith left Kentucky for Minnesota in 2007, Calipari told ESPN he was “waiting on a phone call” but felt the timing was better in 2009 when he ultimately decided to leave Memphis for Kentucky. Calipari’s current contract ends in 2019.
  4. LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III strongly believes that his team is not getting the recognition that they should be receiving this year. As seen in this video in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, O’Bryant says that the Tigers are “a lot deeper than most people think.” He certainly has a right to stand up for his teammates, as LSU is now 5-0 on the season, led by O’Bryant with a double-double in each of his last two games.
  5. There was a lot of hype headed into the Florida-Marquette SEC/Big East Challenge game on Thursday night. Marquette was entering its first true road test of the season as well as a rematch of the Sweet Sixteen game (won by the Gators) from last year’s NCAA Tournament. Florida easily won the battle again, 82-49. The story that caught a lot of attention though was the move by coach Billy Donovan to keep Patric Young on the bench last night. Donovan did not start Young because of his “attitude” in practice and thus gave more playing time for Will Yeguete. Young was able to contribute off the bench however, recording three blocks in Florida’s rout.
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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 Coaches and RTC Staff Select All-SEC Teams

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 9th, 2012

The college hoops season is underway today and there were still a few preseason lists left to be voted upon. The SEC coaches selected their first and second team all-SEC squads earlier at the SEC Headquarters in Birmingham. Ten different schools were represented in the process, with Tennessee leading with three selections. Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Florida were represented with two selections apiece. The results can be found below.

Jeronne Maymon is one of three Volunteers represented on the preseason Coaches’ All-Conference squads.

First-Team All-SEC
Name, School Pos. Ht. Wt. Class Hometown
Trevor Releford, Alabama G 6-0 195 Jr. Kansas City, Mo.
B.J. Young, Arkansas G 6-3 180 So. St. Louis, Mo.
Kenny Boynton, Florida G 6-2 190 Sr. Pompano Beach, Fla.
Patric Young, Florida C 6-9 249 Jr. Jacksonville, Fla.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia G 6-5 205 So. Greenville, Ga.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky F 6-10 228 Fr. Everett, Mass.
Phil Pressey, Missouri G 5-11 175 Jr. Dallas, Texas
Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee F 6-7 260 Sr. Madison, Wis.
Second-Team All-SEC
Name, School Pos. Ht. Wt. Class Hometown
Marshawn Powell, Arkansas F 6-7 240 Jr. Newport News, Va.
Alex Poythress, Kentucky F 6-7 239 Fr. Clarksville, Tenn.
Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU F 6-9 256 So. Cleveland, Miss.
Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss F 6-9 225 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss F 6-7 240 Sr. Irmo, S.C.
Trae Golden, Tennessee G 6-1 205 Jr. Powder Springs, Ga.
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee F 6-8 270 So. Memphis, Tenn.
Elston Turner, Texas A&M G 6-5 212 Sr. Sacramento. Calif.

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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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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: 10.16.12 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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SEC Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 27th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele knows his role on the team, as do his teammates and coaches. “I’ve always said that Jalen (Steele) is the one guy that does something different on this basketball team,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He is capable of doing what he did, jump up and make shots. He’s the one guy, if you ask me what his role is — it is to make shots.” And that is exactly what Steele did on Wednesday night against LSU. While the Bulldogs were just five of 14 from beyond the arc, Steele contributed to more than half of MSU’s outside points going three of four from three-point land. The Bulldogs are solid in the frontcourt, but could use a consistent outside threat as they are fifth in the conference with a 35.3% three-point accuracy. Not bad, but not terribly threatening either. Steele becomes even more valuable for the Bulldogs if he can continue to knock shots down from long range.
  2. LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant was medically cleared to play on Tuesday for his first action since the beginning of January. O’Bryant suffered a fractured hand in practice on January 4, which kept him on the sidelines for five straight games. He saw playing time on Wednesday night against Mississippi State and its formidable frontline of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. And it looks like O’Bryant will need a few more games to get back in the swing of things. He played a solid 20 minutes, but finished with just six points and four rebounds. The key to the game was rebounds, and LSU wasn’t able to keep up with Mississippi State. The Tigers had a 51.4% defensive rebounding percentage and just 21.6% on the offensive end. LSU will need O’Bryant and the rest of the LSU frontcourt to shore up its rebounding to stay competitive in the conference.
  3. With Wednesday’s win over Alabama, South Carolina avoided an 0-5 start in SEC play. It would have been their worst start in the conference since an 0-6 start in 1998-99. Coach Darrin Horn admits his Gamecocks need the kind of atmosphere that was displayed in the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night. “We need our fans,” Horn said. “We need some atmosphere. I appreciate them finally getting up and doing that.” South Carolina also needed a little Bruce Ellington. The sophomore guard hit the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining. He finished with 12 points for the Gamecocks, but more importantly, appears to be getting into a solid groove as he becomes more comfortable on the basketball court (after playing football for Steve Spurrier through early January). Ellington has averaged 14.5 points and three assists over his last four games, and will need to continue to be a focal point for South Carolina to win another conference game (or two).
  4. After a four game losing streak, Alabama has gone from SEC title contender to no longer even a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide’s only win over an RPI top 25 opponent came against Wichita State in mid-November. For a team with an RPI of 40, the problem is that there aren’t too many more opportunities for that big victory. The Tide have Florida and Mississippi State at home, as well as two games against Ole Miss. Anthony Grant‘s squad was left out of last year’s Big Dance because of a low RPI and very few marquee wins. It would be a shame for a team that started out so strong in 2011-12 to meet the same fate. It is, of course, very early to be talking about which teams are in and which ones are out, but isn’t that part of what makes college basketball so fun? However. there won’t be anything fun about March for Grant and company unless Alabama is able to  string together wins in the SEC.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal played poorly over two consecutive games in early January shooting 6-27 without scoring in double figures. After three solid games in a row, Beal says his slump is over. “He’s got a better feel and understanding of when and where shots are coming for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know if he ever really felt comfortable with that. I think he’s getting better at that. I think he’s understanding when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, but he’s not allowing some missed shots or plays that maybe don’t go his way to affect him on the next play.” Even with a couple of difficult games mixed in, Beal has had a terrific first (and maybe only) year for the Gators. He has managed to score 14.1 points per game playing in a backcourt with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Mike Rosario coming off the bench. That is impressive for anyone, but especially a freshman.
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