SEC Morning Five: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 19th, 2012

  1. Florida’s Billy Donovan received good news on center Patric Young’sankle injury as no structural damage was done. “He’s just got some pretty significant inflammation in the area that’s causing the problem with it and I think the best thing for him now is rest,” Donovan said. “But there’s nothing there for him that’s going to keep him out of games.” Young played just 13 minutes against South Carolina, limiting him to four points. He has been held out of practice so far this week, but is expected to play Saturday against LSU. Florida will need quality minutes from its big man against the Tigers’ seven footer, Justin Hamilton. Hamilton is one of the most underrated players in the conference, averaging 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season.
  2. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings isn’t happy with a scheduling inequality in the SEC. Stallings claims Kentucky gets an extra boost from the league that simply isn’t fair to the other teams. Nine conference teams go through at least one stretch of having to play a Thursday game followed by a Saturday game in the same week. The quick turnaround is difficult on players and coaching staffs, but Kentucky doesn’t play a Thursday-Saturday combo for the second straight year. In addition, the Wildcats get the added benefit of playing four SEC opponents coming off a Thursday night game. “Go figure that one out for me, would you?” Stallings said. “We all agreed to do it, so if you have one, like we have one, I’m not going to complain. To not have any and to be able to play four teams that have to do it to play you… that’s not right.” Stallings does enjoy having his Commodores on TV, correct? It seems much ado about nothing to us. LSU and Auburn don’t have to play through one of these quick stretches of games, but nobody complains about that. Because it’s Kentucky, Stallings wants to call foul, which seems hypocritical considering Vanderbilt has just one Thursday-Saturday combo this season.
  3. Speaking of Kentucky, center Anthony Davisbroke the Cats’ single season blocks record on Tuesday night against Arkansas. Davis now sits with 89 blocks just 19 games into his first collegiate season. The shot blocker extraordinaire is ahead of all but 34 TEAMS in NCAA Division I, all by himself. Given the shot blocking pace of Davis and the rest of the Wildcats, Kentucky should break the NCAA team record for blocked shots in a season currently set by Connecticut at 315. Although Davis is the best interior defender the college game has seen in many years, he is not likely to break the all-time single season block record set by Navy’s David Robinson in 1986. Davis also has a developing offensive game that has improved drastically over the last couple of weeks. He has scored in double figures in his last eight games, including a 27-point performance on 10-of-12 shooting against the Razorbacks.
  4. Arkansas played its patented uptempo game Tuesday night, but it played perfectly into Kentucky’s strengths. The Wildcats shot 57.1% helped out by their up and down point guard Marquis Teague. “Unbelievable floor game,” head coach John Calipari said. “The best he’s played all year. Nothing was forced. Didn’t make any crazy plays.” Teague dished out a season-high nine assists in the victory. Because of their effectiveness in the open court, Calipari would welcome other teams to play uptempo against the Wildcats. “Obviously I would love to play fast the whole game,” Calipari said, “but you’ve got to be able to play in the half court.” The Cats scored a very effective 1.23 points per possession, and what seemed like three lobs per minute to Anthony Davis.
  5. The SEC appears to have five solid teams (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State and Alabama) in the NCAA Tournament, but Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin isn’t convinced that the bubble will burst on his Volunteers. “Like I told our guys,” Martin said, “from Florida up until now, you say [we’re] one of the 65 or 68 teams, I would say yes. But you have to put a lot of work to cover some ground. I would definitely say from the time we started league play up until now, when you pick 65 or 33, 35 [at-large] teams, I would say yes.” Martin must not be aware that the selection committee typically doesn’t allow sub .500 teams or RPIs of #180 into the Big Dance. But then again, we admire the confidence Martin has in his squad. Keep the dream alive.
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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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SEC Full Court Press: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 9th, 2012

The familiarity amongst teams once conference play begins creates an atmosphere that is truly hard to predict. The SEC experienced some ups and downs as some teams didn’t play as expected while others rose to the occasion. The first week of SEC play was nothing if not unpredictable, and it’s only the beginning of what is to come.

The Week That Was:

  • The Ole Miss Rebels haven’t shot at least 45% from the field and at least 30% from three-point range since a December 17 loss to Southern Miss.
  • Meanwhile, the LSU Tigers, which beat the Rebels 81-55, have won eight of their last nine games.
  • Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is closing in on the single season blocks record for the school. He has 74 so far this season, just 10 away from the all-time best mark of 84 set by Andre Riddick in 1993-94 and Melvin Turpin in 1982-83.
  • Mississippi State allowed Arkansas to shoot 56.5% from the field on Saturday. Previously, the Bulldogs hadn’t allowed an opponent to shoot above 50% all season.
  • The Razorbacks’ Julysses Nobles came up with a huge game on Saturday. The junior guard had 24 points and seven assists in by far his best game of the season.
  • Coming off an 18-point loss to Memphis, the Tennessee defense held Florida to 56 points on 35.7% shooting. Both the point total and the shooting percentage were season lows for the Gators.
  • Billy Donovan won’t want to pack his bags and leave Gainesville again this season. The Gators are 0-4 on the road this year, losing at Ohio State, Syracuse, Rutgers and Tennessee.
  • Was that a Terrence Jones sighting? The Kentucky power forward had his best game in over a month with a 20-point performance on 8-9 shooting against South Carolina.
  • Auburn mustered up 35 points in its game against Vanderbilt. The ‘Dores scored 38 in the first half.
  • After accomplishing Auburn’s first ever triple-double this week, Kenny Gabriel tallied just two points, three rebounds and one block against the Commodores. It might be safe to say that Gabriel won’t secure the Tigers’ second triple-double in history while he’s playing against SEC competition.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.02.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 2nd, 2012

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.

It’s a relatively light night of hoops but two interesting games in the South should have your attention this evening.

Texas A&M at #5 Baylor – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • The Baylor Bears keep winning as they head into a conference showdown with in-state rival Texas A&M tonight. This figures to be a good match-up for Baylor although it needs to ensure it controls the pace. Texas A&M gets 65.2% of its points from two-point range (third in the nation) but interior defense happens to be Baylor’s biggest strength. The Bears allow only 39.3% shooting from inside the arc with Perry Jones III and company patrolling the paint. Defensively, look for Scott Drew’s team to try to pick up the pace and pressure Texas A&M’s guards. The Bears force a turnover 24.6% of the time although both teams don’t handle the ball particularly well.
  • Texas A&M is not comfortable playing at a faster pace but therein lies the dilemma. The Aggies don’t run efficient enough half court offense to succeed in a slower-paced game, especially against the strong Baylor defense. Billy Kennedy’s team should take a page out of Louisville’s playbook against Kentucky. A&M should pressure Baylor and try to get turnovers at certain times, but not throughout the entire game. Texas A&M may actually hurt itself while trying to force Baylor into turnovers, something that will speed up the game where the Bears’ superior athletes can take over. Texas A&M has to establish Ray Turner and David Loubeau inside while Khris Middleton uses his versatility to stretch Baylor’s defense, opening up seams. Getting Elston Turner going from long range would also be advantageous for A&M, a team that doesn’t rely much at all on the trifecta. Turner had 20 points on 3-5 shooting from deep in a loss against Florida last month.
  • For Texas A&M to have a chance on the road, it must rebound, rebound, and rebound some more in addition to controlling pace. If the Aggies don’t score inside off second chance opportunities or in transition, Baylor will win this game easily. Keep an eye on Baylor’s perimeter shooting. Texas A&M ranks #6 in three-point defense and will look to shut down Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson. Even if the Aggies are successful in that regard, they need to do a whole lot more to pull the upset.

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SEC Full Court Press: Week of 12.18.11 – 12.25.11

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2011

The SEC Full Court Press is a quick hitting review of my thoughts and observations from the last week, as well as a look ahead.

The Week That Was:

  • LSU is quietly on a six-game winning streak after beating #10 ranked Marquette and North Texas this past week. Could the Tigers (9-3, RPI of 53) give the SEC an unexpected sixth team in the NCAA Tournament? A January 2 match-up with Virginia is shaping up to be a much bigger game than anticipated as this could be a huge resume building win for the Tigers.
  • Speaking of LSU, center Justin Hamilton has stepped up his play as of late. Hamilton is averaging 13.8 points and eight rebounds per game over his last four contests.
  • Freshman Johnny O’Bryant recorded his first double-double of his career in the Tigers’ win over North Texas on Thursday. O’Bryant scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
  • The 48.3% field goal percentage Florida shot in its win over Florida State was the highest shooting percentage the Seminoles have given up all year, showcasing why this Florida team is one of the best in the country. In this classic battle of offense versus defense, offense won.
  • Kentucky‘s win over Loyola on Thursday has given the Wildcats the longest home win streak in the country at 42 games dating back to March of 2009. The Cats have not lost a game at Rupp Arena in the John Calipari era.
  • It isn’t all about the freshmen in Lexington. With Terrence Jones out of the lineup with a dislocated finger, senior Darius Miller has risen to the occasion. This week, Miller averaged 15 points, 3.5 rebounds, and four assists per game.
  • We noted Tennessee‘s putrid three-point defense in the latest edition of Freeze Frame. The Volunteers are allowing opponents to shoot 40.3% from beyond the arc, which is 327th in the nation. Tennessee did slightly better this week, holding both opponents under 40%.
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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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Surprise! Assessing Early Signs of Life at Providence, Oregon & Iowa State

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is an RTC contributor.

Last week we spent some time praising the work of two of the most familiar faces in the college basketball coaching world, Rick Pitino and Bruce Pearl, in getting their teams off to sparkling starts in the aftermath of some rough off-court patches. Today, I’d like to recognize some perhaps less well-known coaches who have turned awful offseasons of a different sort into solid starts for their respective teams. At Providence, Oregon and Iowa State, the basketball programs all went through turbulent summers full of personnel changes and uncertainty, but thus far the coaches at each of those programs has fought through the adversity to earn a combined 29-9 record for the three schools, albeit against maybe some lesser competition. None of the three schools are necessarily expected to be major contenders for NCAA Tournament berths, but at least they’ve got their programs headed in the right directions after rough offseasons.

Marshon Brooks Has Been a Revelation This Season

For Keno Davis and the Providence Friars, the offseason was an absolute nightmare – not that 2009-10 was all that great to begin with. The Friars lost their last 11 games of last season on the way to a 12-19 record, during which time junior guard Kyle Wright abruptly left the program. After the season was over, a new rash of bad news hit the Friars. First, it was announced that point guard Johnnie Lacy and center Russ Permenter would be transferring out of the program. Then, a couple days later, Lacy and freshman center James Still were charged with felony assault, leading to Still’s eventual dismissal. A month later, the bright spot in the Friar program was extinguished when leading scorer and rebounder Jamine “Greedy” Peterson was kicked off the team. About a week later, assistant coach Pat Skerry left to head to Big East rival Pitt, and in the process, severely hurt Providence’s recruiting with incoming 2010 recruit Joseph Young announcing that he would be staying closer to his Houston home for college. After Davis lost some face in refusing to allow Young out of his scholarship for a time, he was eventually released and allowed to enroll at the University of Houston. Next, 2011 commit Naadir Tharpe announced that he was withdrawing his commitment to the Friars and opening back up his recruitment. And finally, for good measure, Kadeem Batts suffered a disorderly conduct charge in July. In short, it was a miserable offseason.

But, in the face of all of that turmoil, the Friars are off to an 11-2 start to this season. Yes, they’ve dropped games to La Salle and Boston College, and for every win over a Rhode Island and an Alabama, there’s a win over Central Connecticut and Prairie View A&M, but at least Coach Davis has not allowed the negative momentum of the offseason to boil over into a disastrous 2010-11 campaign. Senior wing Marshon Brooks has developed into a versatile threat (22.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 2.0 3PG) and a team leader, while sophomores Vincent Council and Bilal Dixon are each developing into serious Big East-level talents. Council is among the top ten point guards in the nation in assists, with seven per game (he had 16 in a game against Brown), while Dixon has been killing the boards on both ends, to the tune of 9.7 rebounds per night (more than three of those on the offensive glass), and adding almost three blocked shots a night. While much more serious competition awaits the Friars come Big East play, Davis has focused on tightening things up on the defensive end where PC ranked in the bottom 100 teams in Division I last year in defensive efficiency; now PC ranks in the top 100. There is certainly a ways to go for this Friar team, and the talent level  is still such that any dream of a run to an upper-division Big East finish should be tempered with, you know, sanity, but Davis has taken what was a disastrous offseason and settled things down in Providence to the point where the program is no longer in freefall and is playing up to their talent level. There are sure to be plenty of losses (and losing streaks) in conference play, but expect the Friars to beat a team or two that they have no business beating, and to be competitive on a regular basis.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #4 – Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2009

seasonpreviewPatrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Kansas (15-1)
  2. Texas (14-2)
  3. Oklahoma (11-5)
  4. Kansas State (10-6)
  5. Missouri (9-7)
  6. Texas A&M (8-8)
  7. Oklahoma State (8-8)
  8. Iowa State (7-9)
  9. Baylor (5-11)
  10. Texas Tech (4-12)
  11. Nebraska (3-13)
  12. Colorado (2-14)

All Conference Team:

  • Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
  • Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
  • Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
  • Damion James (F), Texas
  • Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas

6th Man. James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State

Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas

big 12 logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • KU Dominance.  Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school.  Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
  • Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road.  The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
  • Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
  • X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons.  A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season.  He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.

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