SEC M5: 02.07.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 7th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1.  Coach John Calipari expressed his excitement about the return of Willie Cauley-Stein because of the intangibles he brings to the team. “Willie Cauley-Stein was unbelievable,” Calipari said. “He just added energy.” He didn’t just bring energy though. It also helps that the seven foot center added 13 points and six rebounds in the home win over South Carolina. Kentucky desperately needed Cauley-Stein’s defensive rebounding abilities as the Cats slipped to eighth in the SEC in conference only defensive rebounding percentage. With the big guy back in the lineup alongside Nerlens Noel, the Wildcats controlled the boards against the Gamecocks on Tuesday night with almost 80 percent of the available defensive rebounds.
  2. Tennessee guard Jordan McRae maintains that the Vols still believe in their abilities despite a 3-5 start to conference play going into Wednesday night’s clash with Georgia. “Our confidence is still way up,” McRae said. “We still have a ways to go in the SEC, so it’s not over for us.” It was around this time last year when a struggling UT team won eight of its last nine to work its way into the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation. Ultimately, the Vols didn’t make it into the Big Dance, but they built confidence heading into this season. Cuonzo Martin’s squad is in desperate need of a turnaround again this February, but it just doesn’t seem like that momentum swing is on the horizon this time around.
  3. While the state of Mississippi turned its attention to college football National Signing Day, Andy Kennedy and company were focused on trying to break Ole Miss’ two game losing streak. The road to redemption began Wednesday night against rival Mississippi State. “We’re on a two-game losing streak and whether it’s the Mississippi State Bulldogs or the Los Angeles Lakers that comes in here on Wednesday, we got to stop this,” Kennedy said. “We’ve put too much work into this.” The Rebels need to establish a consistent scorer to go along with guard Marshall Henderson. Until that point, Ole Miss’ fate will continue to depend entirely on Henderson’s streaky shot.
  4. Don’t look now, but Georgia entered play Wednesday night on a three game winning streak and winner of four of its last five games. Tennessee’s coach Cuonzo Martin spoke before the teams played on Wednesday night to say he thought the Bulldogs were beginning to click. “They changed some lineups, and now I think they have the right lineup more than anything,” Martin said. “They have not changed what they do. Their system and style is still the same, and their guys are playing with a level of confidence.” Georgia coach Mark Fox went small to attempt to find some offense to surround guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The tactic appears to be working as the 1.18 points per possession Georgia managed on Saturday against South Carolina was the highest mark it has achieved all season.
  5. Vanderbilt has left the building. That’s the way it felt at least during the last seven minutes of the Commodores’ loss to Alabama on Saturday. The way the game ended seemed to anger easily frustrated coach Kevin Stallings. “It’s hard for me to stay positive anyway because I’m naturally slanted negatively, which is probably my quality that I hate the most,” Stallings said. “I don’t lose sight of the big picture. … The big picture looks good to me. The immediate picture doesn’t look worth a crap.” The immediate picture had the ‘Dores on a three game losing streak entering Wednesday’s game with LSU.
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SEC M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Frank Haith has had a rough month. Questions over his job security in the wake of violations at Miami have been festering, and his Missouri Tigers, previously ranked in the top 10, were in free fall after heavy losses to Ole Miss and Florida. But forward Laurence Bowers’ return would solve the latter problem at least, right? Wrong. Missouri lost to LSU in Baton Rouge, and Haith is not amused. “We have no toughness in the first half; we have no resolve,” Haith said. “It’s disappointing. It’s really extremely disappointing. Guys are tending to do their own thing when the game’s getting tight or there’s adversity.” Star point guard Phil Pressey, despite finally finding his scoring touch, should shoulder as much of the blame as anyone. The Wooden Award nominee has become a gunner from long-range, and missed a hurried effort (one of his 8 3-point misses on the night) late in the game when Missouri had been steadily coming back. “We (had been) driving the ball, and we needed to keep driving the ball,” Haith said, noting there was plenty of time left. “We said that in timeouts.” The Tigers are 0-4 in true road games this season.
  2. “They’re real good.” -Frank Martin. He was talking, of course, about Florida, right after his Gamecocks succumbed to a nearly 40-point loss at their hands. The Gators, sporting a 7-0 conference record with a point differential of over 28, are making a mockery of the SEC. They’ve beaten up on the bottom of the league, but the sheer dominance of their victories, not to mention the shellacking of 17th-ranked Missouri, indicates that weak opposition isn’t the only explanation for their success. Florida isn’t unbeatable, but their balanced offense (the nation’s 4th most efficient) is somewhat of a safeguard against an unexpected upset. Four players average more than 11.0 points a game, and a fifth (Scottie Wilbekin), was just named SEC Player of the Week. Even if the odds are defied and every Gator has an off shooting night, coach Billy Donovan can just fall back on the 2nd best defense in the country. Your move SEC.
  3. Tennessee will be likely be shorthanded for their trip to Fayetteville this weekend. Junior guard Trae Golden suffered an injury to his right hamstring late in the Volunteers victory over Vanderbilt and is unlikely to recover by Saturday. “It’s tough for our team,” Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I thought he had really been assertive (lately) with the ball. So it’s tough for our team, but more importantly, it’s tough for Trae. He wants to be out there. He’s upset about it. But we have to keep moving.” Hometown walk-on Brandon Lopez should be the next in line to pick up the slack for Golden. The early scouting report on him features a lot of the standard buzzwords for walk-ons, so any offensive output will be a bonus. Arkansas’ up-tempo style and the loss of Golden puts points at a premium, so the Volunteers will have to count on Jordan McRae rediscovering his shooting stroke and Jarnell Stokes continuing his recent offensive resurgence.
  4. As if having 12 of your shots blocked by one person wasn’t painful enough, the hits keep on coming for Ole Miss in the aftermath of their loss to Kentucky. Reserve forward Aaron Jones suffered a torn ACL while senior guard Nick Williams re-aggravated a foot injury. Jones is obviously done for the year, while there is no timetable for Willams’ return. This represents a serious blow to the Rebels’ depth, affording coach Andy Kennedy no game time to adjust his rotation before traveling to Gainesville this weekend. Freshman Derrick Millinghaus, who has seen his minutes dwindle since the start of conference play, should see more time, while classmate Terry Brutus seems like the best bet to contribute a few minutes in the paint.
  5. I said a few months ago that we wouldn’t mention this guy on this microsite again, but circumstances are forcing my hand. Big Blue Nation favorite and apparent troll Billy Gillispie will be in attendance for Kentucky’s trip to College Station this weekend. In response to Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy‘s invite, Gillispie said “Actually, I’m playing golf [in College Station] on Friday. I said, ‘Who are y’all playing Saturday?’ They said, ‘Kentucky,’ and so I said, ‘I think I’ll go.’ But it’s no big deal.” Kentucky players will be focused on stopping Aggie guard Elston Turner, who scored 40 in his trip to Rupp Arena, but Wildcat fans will certainly be paying attention to an individual on the sideline. Expect one of ESPN’s cameras to be attached to Billy, treatment usually reserved at Kentucky games for Ashley Judd.
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SEC M5: 01.11.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 11th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Kentucky escaped with a 60-58 win over Vanderbilt Thursday night, the Wildcats’ first true road win of the season. The victory wasn’t without controversy however, as Nerlens Noel’s short jumper with 17.3 seconds clearly should have been called a shot-clock violation, leaving Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings incensed and ESPN’s Bobby Knight perplexed. Despite their continued troubles shooting from long range, Kentucky looked to be in top form in the first half, coasting to a double-figure lead at the break. A different team came out of the locker room after halftime, though, appearing passive on the offensive end as Vanderbilt switched to a zone. “They outworked us,” John Calipari said. “They beat us to 50-50 balls, they beat us to rebounds. We were lucky to win the game.”
  2. As it was the only SEC game of the night, I’ll keep rolling on Kentucky-Vanderbilt. The Wildcat offense had an abysmal second half, but the defense wasn’t far behind. The Commodores put up 34 points after the break, or one more than they managed in 40 minutes against Marist. The culprit on the UK side isn’t tough to identify. “You can sit here and sugarcoat it, but you all watched it,” Calipari said. “They went at Kyle [Wiltjer] every single possession I had him in the game. Every single possession.” The shockingly slow stretch forward only provides value on the offensive end, but making only a single field goal in 14 minutes isn’t the type of production that will keep him on the floor. His minutes have been steadily declining throughout the season, and Wiltjer may find himself struggling to stay in the rotation sooner rather than later.
  3. The Los Angeles Athletic Club released its 25 finalists for the Wooden Award, and, as you might have guessed, the SEC’s representation isn’t overly impressive. The conference earned only two nominations, trailing each of the other power conference except for the Pac-12 (completely snubbed). The nominations both come from the same team: Laurence Bowers and Phil Pressey. The Missouri power forward and point guard are deservedly included, and there shouldn’t be much of an argument from the rest of the league that anyone else should have been there. Florida is a well-rounded team without a true standout star, and none of the talented Kentucky freshman have shown the required consistency to be on the short list.
  4. In its first game since receiving confirmation that Jeronne Maymon will miss the entire season with injury, Tennessee had a chance to make an impression as the Vols opened conference play against Ole Miss. The Rebels pack some punch on both ends of the court, but if the Volunteers still consider themselves to be contenders for an NCAA at-large bid, this was the type of home game they needed to win. Of course, Mississippi dominated the game from start to finish, out-rebounding the Vols by 10 boards and leaving Cuonzo Martin’s squad with more questions than answers. Junior guard Jordan McRae and his 26 points were the lone bright spot for the home team, but he realizes how much his team will miss their most experienced big man. “I told Jeronne after the game that if we could just find one guy to get the rebounds he always got,” McRae told Mark Wiedmer of the Times Free Press. “Because he seemed to get every rebound last year.” How can they fix it? Said McRae, “”Well, there isn’t anybody like Jeronne.”
  5. A home win over South Carolina is rarely cause for celebration, but for Mississippi State, dubbed a “public embarrassment” by coach Rick Ray earlier in the week following a loss to Alabama A&M, opening up conference play on a positive note is quite a surprise. “Great to get the first win in SEC. For most of our guys, it’s the first time they’ve experienced SEC basketball,” Ray told reporters after Wednesday’s victory. Mississippi State took advantage of 24 South Carolina turnovers (they rank in the bottom 10 nationally in turnover percentage), as the Gamecocks couldn’t find an answer for the Bulldogs’ 1-3-1 zone. Fred Thomas and Tyson Cunningham were especially impressive on the defensive end, combining for eight steals while forcing USC’s Bruce Ellington into nine turnovers.
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SEC Transition Basketball: Tennessee Volunteers

Posted by Brian Joyce on August 13th, 2012

It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Tennessee. 

State of the Program

Year one under new head coach Cuonzo Martin was, for all intents and purposes, a success. Most of the talent in Knoxville walked out the door when the Bruce Pearl circus left town, leaving the Vols with a tough rebuilding job. But Martin had UT competing night in and night out with some of the best teams in the country. The Vols lost to Duke, Pittsburgh, College of Charleston, and twice to Memphis just to name a few of the early-season defeats.  Tennessee’s difficult non-conference schedule may have piled up several losses, but it also prepared the Vols for life in the SEC. And it paid off. Martin’s team went a surprising 10-6 in conference play, including winning eight of its final nine games in the regular season.

Cuonzo Martin is building a winner in Knoxville, and doing so quickly. (Photo via AP Photo/The News Sentinel, Adam Brimer)

Year one  of the Martin Era was impressive, but the pieces are in place for year two to be even better. The Vols built a strong frontline in Jeronne Maymon, Jarnell Stokes, and Kenny Hall, and all three have returned to Knoxville for another season. Point guard Trae Golden is back as well. The list of returning players goes on and on, giving the Vols the advantage of having the entire offseason to gain a better understanding of Martin’s system. But any conversation about Tennessee’s rebuilding efforts wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the biggest returner of all. The most important piece to the Vols’ hoops success is Cuonzo Martin, and that is saying a lot considering the resounding “who?” heard around the state of Tennessee in March 2011 when Martin was hired to take over the reins of a reeling UT basketball program.

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SEC Morning Five: 01.10.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 10th, 2012

  1. The SEC named LSU’s Justin Hamilton as the SEC Player of the Week. Hamilton led LSU to an 81-55 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday. He averaged 22 points, 12.5 rebounds, three blocks and 1.5 steals this week. The seven-foot transfer grabbed 10 offensive rebounds over the past two games. The SEC freshman of the Week went to Arkansas’ BJ Young. Young led the Razorbacks to a win over Mississippi State this past week averaging 20.5 points, three rebounds, one steal and one assist per game. Against the Bulldogs, Young contributed 24 points on 10-13 shooting.
  2. Has Terrence Jones brought himself out of a month-long slump with his 20-point performance against South Carolina? Although Jones contributed far more than he has in recent games, he still only managed to snag three rebounds for the Wildcats. That won’t earn the power forward much praise from us here at Rush the Court or the guys over at A Sea of Blue, but perhaps Jones’ issue is more mental than anything else. Glenn Logan writes, “Jones frequently looks, and plays, like his mind is on anything but the game.” The 6’9″ sophomore has reached double figures in rebounding just once this season, and it could be exactly this sort of aloof behavior and attitude that is the difference between this season and last year when he averaged 8.8 rebounds per game.
  3. Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson’s son, Michael Anderson Jr., was arrested Sunday morning for driving while under the influence. Anderson, Jr., is the video coordinator on his father’s staff at Arkansas. “All of our (staff) members are expected to make the right decision on and off the floor,” Anderson said about his son’s arrest. “I expect that. Unfortunately some individuals don’t always make the right decision. But as a father, I will support Mike and hopefully help him learn from this situation.” The elder Anderson has to be disappointed with the distraction coming off Arkansas’ biggest win of the year over Mississippi State. This is not the first DWI arrest for Anderson, Jr. He was arrested while on the Missouri basketball team during his father’s first season as the Tigers’ head coach.
  4. Diminutive point guard Cory Stanton announced that he is transferring from Lipscomb to Tennessee to join the Vols as a walk-on this season. Stanton is sitting out this season with Lipscomb after transferring from Clemson. He averaged 2.4 points per game while at Clemson last season, including  a nine-point game against Michigan. Coming out of high school, Stanton was the No. 7 player in the state of Tennessee. Vols’ coach Cuonzo Martin has already grabbed some extra help this season, getting a commitment from 6’8″ forward Jarnell Stokes to begin play immediately. Stanton should be able to practice and begin playing for the Vols’ backcourt as well.
  5. Martin adjusted the starting lineup for the Vols in their 67-56 win over Florida, and grabbed the attention of some of the guys on the bench. One of those players was former starter Jordan McRae, who sat out 12 minutes of the first half, only to return with a vengeance. He came back in the game to hold Florida’s leading scorer Kenny Boynton in check. “I definitely needed Coach to do what he did,” McRae said. “It definitely sent a message; it’s a reality check. The whole time I was sitting over there, I was just thinking, ‘when I get in, I’m not going to worry about scoring, I’m just going to guard my man.’ ” Martin’s message was received loud and clear with improved play propelling Tennessee to its signature win so far this season.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.14.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 14th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati plays its first game since the Xavier brawl as Dead Week continues around the country. You should also keep an eye on the Iona/Richmond game at 3 PM but that one won’t be found on television.

Cincinnati at Wright State – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (**)

  • Cincinnati will only have six key contributors available when it heads to Wright State tonight. The Bearcats will be without Yancy Gates, Cheikh Mbodj, Ge’Lawn Guyn, and Octavius Ellis due to their suspensions stemming from the fight with Xavier on Saturday. Sean Kilpatrick and Dion Dixon will have to step up in a big way for Cincinnati in order to win this game on the road. Wright State is not a good team, but the Bearcats have only one player taller than 6’5” available tonigt. For a team that can’t afford to speed up the game, that’s not a good combination for Cincinnati. Kilpatrick, Dixon, and point guard Cashmere Wright all can score, but the other Bearcats are all unproven. With Gates and company out, Cincinnati is missing a combined 22.2 PPG and 14.6 RPG in this game.
  • Wright State’s biggest advantages in this game are home court and height. Cincinnati’s players may be rattled playing a road game after the suspensions while the Raiders have three players 6’7” or taller, including 6’10” A.J. Pacher. He’s been plagued by foul trouble all season but if he manages to stay on the court for any extended period of time, Pacher will cause problems for Cincinnati in the paint. Billy Donlon’s top scorer is point guard Julius Mays, who is averaging 10.2 PPG. Wright State doesn’t score a lot of points due to its brutal offense but Mays does hit on 39.4% of his treys. Ordinarily, Wright State wouldn’t have much of a chance to beat Cincinnati. Given the Bearcats’ personnel issues, the Raiders have a solid chance this time.

Mick Cronin Will Need To Find A Way To Win Without His Best Players Tonight

  • Expect this game to be played at an incredibly slow pace. Both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket so this has the makings of a close game played in the 40s or 50s. For Wright State to win, it must assert itself inside from the start, limit Kilpatrick, and force some turnovers. The Raiders rank #35 in defensive turnover percentage, certainly a respectable number. Should this game come down to the wire, Cincinnati is actually a better free throw shooting team without the suspended players on the court. Kilpatrick, Wright and Dixon all shoot over 70% from the stripe. With all of the uncertainty around Cincinnati, we’re not sure how this game will play out. If forced to pick, we would give the slightest of edges to the home squad.

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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-off: Pittsburgh vs Tennessee

Posted by mlemaire on December 3rd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Pittsburgh v. Tennessee.

#18 Pittsburgh vs Tennessee

Mike: At the beginning of the season, I would have picked Pittsburgh to win this game by a large margin, but the Panthers have struggled mightily against inferior opponents and do not have the look of a contender, at least not yet. To make matters worse, Jamie Dixon announced Friday that starting point guard and one of the team’s best offensive players, Travon Woodall, was going to miss a month because of a number of different injuries. The Panthers still have star guard Ashton Gibbs and efficient forward Nasir Robinson, but Woodall (14.1 PPG, 8.3 APG, 45% 3FG) had really improved his game this year and was truly the engine that made the Panthers go. Dixon will be forced turn to freshman John Johnson who is lightning quick and a strong on-ball defender, but his offensive game lacks polish and he has only been playing a little more than ten minutes per game this season. Expecting the true freshman to replace Woodall’s production is foolish, but if he can take care of the basketball and feed Gibbs and Robinson he should prove a capable stop gap in the short term. Tennessee isn’t particularly deep, but their backcourt tandem of Trae Golden and Jordan McRae is lethal from behind the arc and as Brian pointed out, Jeronne Maymon really played well in Maui and could be an emerging force in the paint for the Volunteers. Usually the staple of Jamie Dixon’s teams is their defense. However, this year, Pitt has been the most efficient offensive team in the country, but they are #168 in adjusted defense and are really missing the length and versatility of Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown. I think this is going to be a very close game but with the way Pitt is playing and the injury to Woodall, I think Tennessee has too much firepower on offense for the Panthers. I think Ashton Gibbs will have a huge game, but I don’t think it will be enough in the end. Prediction: Tennessee 72 — Pittsburgh 68

Jamie Dixon's Team Has Struggled Defensively

Brian: I really liked Tennessee‘s effort and intensity in Maui. They truly played with a sense of urgency that I hope continues throughout the season. Jeronne Maymon’s effort was especially impressive. He is averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, but it was his 32-point, 20-rebound performance against Memphis that made me a believer. He’s built like a defensive lineman, and he’s got a fairly nice shooting touch from mid-range. Cuonzo Martin‘s team wont be as easy to defeat as many believed in the preseason. Tennessee was picked to finish 11th out of 12 SEC teams, but the Vols are much better than that. That being said, I’m not sure Tennessee has an answer for Ashton Gibbs, who is averaging 19.1 PPG on 42.9% shooting from three-point range. The Vols haven’t been effective at stopping the outside shot, and Gibbs’ shooting could be what does them in during this one. I expect to see a great effort from the Vols, but I think they will come up short. Prediction: Pittsburgh 81 — Tennessee 73
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SEC Make or Break: Tennessee Volunteers

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 8th, 2011

The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. The next team in the series is the Tennessee Volunteers.

The end of the Bruce Pearl era took with it seven seniors and two underclassmen (Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson) who declared early for the NBA draft. After all the dust settled, new Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin is left with one starter from last year and one heck of a rebuilding project ahead of him. Martin rebuilt Missouri State University in his first head coaching position, and he will need time to rebuild things in Knoxville. Things will not come easily for the Vols as they play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. Tennessee plays Duke in the Maui Invitational Tournament (and additional games against a loaded field), at Memphis, Pittsburgh in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies and that’s not even mentioning games at Oakland and at College of Charleston, both of whom are teams that beat UT last year. It will be a long road for Martin and the Vols, but playing competitively in this murderer’s row of top shelf teams will be a good start.

Martin isn't the only new face in Knoxville...

The three key non-conference games that will make or break the Volunteers schedule this season:

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SEC Morning Five: 11.03.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 3rd, 2011

  1. The non-conference schedule is ready to begin and according to CBSSports.com, the SEC has scheduled an incredibly tough out of conference slate.  On average, the 12 SEC schools scheduled teams with 17.6 wins last year — the most of any power conference. As a whole, SEC teams scheduled 31 true road games, and will play a total of 37 NCAA Tournament teams from last season. Finally, SEC teams will play a total of 43 power conference opponents. Need more numbers? How about charts? CBS has you covered there too with enough analysis to keep you busy all day at work today. But don’t blame RTC if you don’t get anything else done!
  2. Who’s ready for less previews and more basketball? The Tennessee Volunteers are anxious to play. It has been nearly eight months since the Vols have played a game in Thompson-Boling Arena, and the Vols look like a completely different team after Bruce Pearl’s dismissal led to mass defections and a new coaching staff. But the Tennessee basketball team won’t be the only thing in Knoxville with a facelift. Thompson-Boling Arena has received an upgrade to the LED ribbon board around the bottom of the arena’s upper deck. Jordan McRae says, “we had a great arena anyway, but now there’s no question that it makes it feel more like an NBA arena.” Tennessee fans are even more anxious to see the Cuonzo Martin’s new-look team than they are upgrades to the facility.
  3. The preseason #2 Kentucky Wildcats took to the floor Wednesday night for their first exhibition game. The Cats opened up slowly against Division III Transylvania University, actually trailing 11-4, but one person there was excited about the slow start and it might not be who you think. Kentucky coach John Calipari said, “I think we thought we were going to win by a hundred. I was so happy the game was close. I was so happy the start was what it was. Then when we started separating, they came back and tied it up again. I was loving it. It’s a teaching tool. It’s a chance for me to talk to them about, you know, look, they’re a good team, but they’re Division III.” We can almost guarantee that Calipari won’t be satisfied with too many more slow starts like this one.
  4. Another positive emerged from the Cats’ eventual 97-53 win over Transylvania — Calipari has found a new starter in freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Cal said, “I would say, looking at today, he’s a starter because you have to have him start the game. Can’t start the game like we did today.” Kidd-Gilchrist did a little of everything in the exhibition as he contributed 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and one block. Calipari praised him even more, saying, “he was the difference in what happened. He did what I knew he would do.” Now that Calipari apparently has one spot in his lineup solidified, he has a little more than a week to determine the other four starters — UK tips off the season on Veteran’s Day against Marist.
  5. Not all SEC coaches are as pleased with their team’s performances. New Arkansas coach Mike Anderson didn’t see the type of defense he is looking for in Arkansas’ enhanced 40 Minutes of Hell style. In the Red-White game scrimmage, the two squads combined for 191 points. As Anderson spoke about the Hawgs’ upcoming scrimmage against Texas A&M-Commerce, he said, “I’m really anxious to see defensively because that’s some of the things that we’ve been really picking up here lately. Trying to get our defensive intensity, our pressure defense. It’ll be a work in progress. You’ll see some things that we’re not doing well early right now that hopefully we’ll be doing better later on in the season.” With only 10 scholarship players, many of whom are freshmen, the progression will need to be seen sooner rather than later for Anderson to remain in the honeymoon phase with Razorback fans.
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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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RTC’s Top Ten Recruiting Classes of 2010

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist and a frequent contributor.

For the college basketball fanatic, incoming freshman are like shiny, new toys. It’s one of the true pleasures of following the sport religiously and a benefit of the current one-and-done era: every talented prospect from all reaches of the nation must compete on the college hardwood for at least one season. It gives us a chance to enjoy John Wall’s end-to-end speed, Kevin Durant’s heroics and Michael Beasley’s scoring prowess, even for just five months. A handful of  coaches have assembled an accomplished group of these freshmen, whether as a complete annual overhaul (Kentucky) or an influx into an already stable core (Duke). Here are the top ten freshmen classes around college basketball this season and a preview of what fans that may not follow the ins and outs of recruiting can expect from these all-world talents:

1. Kentucky - G Brandon Knight, C Enes Kanter, F Terrence Jones, G Doron Lamb, F Stacey Poole, F Eloy Vargas

Calipari's Newest Band of Merry Freshmen

Let this sink in: John Calipari’s 2010 class is good for tops in the nation, yet his 2011 group is even better with arguably three of the top five prospects next year. This year’s collection is highlighted by Knight, Gatorade’s National High School Player of the Year as a junior and easily one of the nation’s top prospects. In fact, he’s even further along as a pure scorer than his predecessor at the point for Kentucky, with a more reliable jumper and the ability to carry his team offensively. Maybe more importantly, Knight has the mentality, toughness and competitive nature to take on the burden of leading a program of Kentucky’s stature with such lofty expectations. The class would take a considerable blow if Kanter, a Turkish import dealing with eligibility concerns, can’t take the Rupp Arena floor at any point this season. Kanter plays in the post with high efficiency and an array of advanced moves, making him the ideal replacement for the ultra-productive DeMarcus Cousins. Kanter is talented enough to be a First Team All-America candidate if he plays an ample amount of games. Like Kanter, Jones is a former Washington commit that features a tremendous outside jumper and a hard-working mentality on defense, a trait that will endear him to Calipari immediately, a coach that has always demanded equal effort on both ends of the floor. Lamb is another gifted scoring two-guard that would be the highlight of nearly every other recruiting class in the nation, while Poole is more of a slashing wing with supreme athleticism. Look for Florida transfer Eloy Vargas to earn playing time immediately for what could be a relatively thin Kentucky frontcourt.

2. North Carolina - F Harrison Barnes, G Reggie Bullock, G Kendall Marshall

This three-man class continues the steady stream of Roy Williams recruiting coups, although the Hall of Fame coach hopes that this trio has more of an immediate impact than his 2009 unit of John Henson, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and the Wear twins. Barnes is the near-unanimous choice for the best all-around player in the 2010 class and the prohibitive favorite to take home Freshman of the Year honors this season. Good luck finding easily noticeable flaws in Barnes’ game. He excels in the mid-range, can score in a multitude of ways, has an excellent perimeter shot, shows unwavering effort on the glass and plays with an IQ off the charts for an 18-year old. Williams hit the jackpot when he convinced Barnes to spurn Duke (can you imagine Barnes with Irving and that returning team?) and spend his one year in college at Chapel Hill. He’s a phenomenal student and a coaches’ dream, always willing to listen to advice to improve this game. The Heels backcourt is somewhat crowded with Larry Drew, II, also expected to see heavy minutes, but both Bullock and Marshall are way too gifted to keep on the bench. Bullock features a pinpoint outside jumper — possibly the best in the entire class — and has a true offensive mentality as a two-guard in Williams’ offense. Marshall is more of the pure point guard, a phenomenal distributor blessed with uncanny court vision. He could be an upgrade over Drew in a short period of time. Marshall will need to improve his shooting range to avoid defenses sagging off of him late in games.

3. Ohio State - C Jared Sullinger, F DeShaun Thomas, G Aaron Craft, G Jordan Sibert

Sullinger is Reminiscent of Zach Randolph in the Paint

Nobody would be shocked to see Sullinger challenge Barnes for top freshman in the country this season. What makes him so effective in the post is a rare combination of brute strength and touch around the rim. Always playing with confidence and a high motor, Sullinger can score in a multitude of ways down low that make him nearly impossible to guard. Expect the Columbus native to step in immediately at the center position as an upgrade from the incumbent Dallas Lauderdale. Thomas is one of Indiana high school’s top all-time scorers, a versatile southpaw forward that can finish anywhere on the floor and has the strength/athleticism to guard power forwards. Due to the return of David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford, along with Sullinger entering the fray and the question mark at point guard, Ohio State has enough depth that Thomas may prove Matta’s ace in the hole off the bench this season.  Craft could end up winning that open point guard competition. While his offensive game needs improvement, all Matta will need from his freshman is the ability to find his plethora of talented teammates and play capable defense against opposing point guards, two areas where Craft is very capable. Sibert could also see chunks of minutes as a freshman. The Cincinnati product is still inching back to 100% following a leg injury, but when healthy will provide the Buckeyes with another slashing wing with a scorers’ mentality.

4. Memphis - G Will Barton, F Jelan Kendrick, G Joe Jackson, F Tarik Black, G Chris Crawford

Hopefully UTEP, UAB and other Conference USA foes enjoyed one year of lackluster Memphis basketball. That brief spell is about to come to a quick and decisive end when this prized recruiting class takes the floor at FedEx Forum. Barton has the highest ceiling — a 6’6 shooting guard that can score at virtually any spot inside of halfcourt, uses his size to lock down defensively and finishes smoothly at the rim. He should start immediately alongside Wesley Witherspoon, giving head coach Josh Pastner plenty of height and versatility around his perimeter. Kendrick is another 6’6 prospect with point guard skills. He has the vision and distributing skills to direct traffic late in games for Pastner, but can also step in at the shooting guard or small forward. Local product Joe Jackson could win the point guard job immediately as another phenomenal scorer with an offensive repertoire that reaches far beyond his years. He’s been seemingly unstoppable late in games scoring the basketball, although his progress running the Tigers attack as a pure point is something to keep an eye on. Black is the top post player in this class, another Memphis kid that’s virtually unguardable with the rock deep in the paint. He should see immediate minutes alongside Will Coleman and Angel Garcia on the Tigers frontline.

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