SEC Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 24th, 2012

  1. Ole Miss forward Terrance Henry was named SEC Player of the Week after his first double-double of the season. Henry played well in the Rebels’ win over Georgia with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He averaged 18 points, 6.5 rebounds and two assists on the week. While Henry scored 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in Ole Miss’ win over Mississippi State, it was his defense on point guard Dee Bost that helped stifle the Bulldogs’ offense. Tennessee freshman Jarnell Stokes was named SEC Freshman of the Week in just his second week with the Volunteers. He helped UT beat defending national champion Connecticut by averaging 13.5 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, one assist and one steal. For Stokes to accomplish that in his second and third games of the season is even more impressive.
  2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope must have great timing. He called to commit to the Georgia Bulldogs while coach Mark Fox was on an airplane ready for take-off. “He called me, I looked at my phone, and I said I better answer this,” Fox said. “So I answered my phone, and this flight attendant was saying: ‘You have to hang up your phone.’” As the plane took off, Fox lost the connection before Caldwell-Pope could finish the call. So when the freshman guard called back later that week, Fox was at dinner. The head coach knew exactly what to do though. “Left the table,” Fox said.  Caldwell-Pope’s 14.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game so far this season probably made that an easy decision for Fox.
  3. Guard Mike Rosario has helped turned the Gators’ bench from a liability in SEC play to a positive. Everyone is aware of Rosario’s offensive firepower, but he is getting additional playing time because of his commitment to the defensive end of the court. “Coach told me to stick my nose in there whenever I can to try to slap the ball and try to get a steal,” Rosario said. The strategy worked for the 6’3″ guard as he has four steals in his past three games. Prior to that, Rosario had not recorded a steal since December 17.
  4. First Kevin Stallings cried foul, and now Florida coach Billy Donovan is following suit. The Gators’ head man, just like Vanderbilt’s coach last week, is upset that Kentucky doesn’t go through the same rigors of conference scheduling as the rest of the SEC. “My problem with it is if you want to get more teams in the NCAA Tournament… our league should not put teams at a disadvantage competitively,” Donovan said. “I don’t think that’s right to the players, to the teams that are playing. I think we all agree that we need to play Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday. We’ve done it. But I think everybody needs to do it.” As mentioned last week in the SEC Morning Five, Kentucky is one of only three SEC teams that didn’t have the back-to-back scheduling issue that Florida and Vanderbilt (among others) had to endure. But if Donovan wants to argue that the SEC needs additional teams in the NCAA Tournament, then he also must understand that exposure helps in that endeavor. And the best exposure for the SEC is a TV deal with the Worldwide Leader, and the Kentucky Wildcats are the basketball reason that deal is a reality.
  5. Former Oklahoma State starter Fred Gulley plans to join the University of Arkansas basketball team next season. He will sit out one year based on NCAA transfer rules, and will be eligible in the spring of the 2012-13 season. Prior to leaving the Cowboys this season, Gulley averaged 4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in eight games. He is a 6’2″ guard, and is originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Arkansas will welcome the help. While the Razorbacks could use additional depth in the low post, coach Mike Anderson’s fast-paced style of play means that the Hogs can use healthy bodies at any position.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2011

  1. Mississippi received a nice present under the tree as forward Murphy Holloway‘s MRI revealed that his injury against Middle Tennessee State University was only a bad high ankle sprainAndy Kennedy said that Holloway can return to practice as soon as he regains “strength and mobility.” Kennedy and the Rebels will need Holloway back as soon as possible. Holloway is the team’s leading rebounder with 9.6 rebounds per game, and he adds in 9.9 points. The Rebs have lost their last two games in a row, and hit the road to face a tough Dayton team that already knocked off Alabama earlier in the year.
  2. Mississippi State freshman Rodney Hood may not have come in with the hype that many SEC freshmen had, but his play is making quite the statement. Hood has come along quickly averaging 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He has focused his practice on mid-range jumpers and it shows. Hood has connected on 62% of his two point field goals this year. “The first part of the season, I was just finding my way,” Hood said. “Now I’m coming into my own.” Rick Stansbury obviously likes what he sees as Hood leads the team in minutes at 33.2 minutes per game.
  3. Georgia has struggled in the second half of games this year, blowing halftime leads against Colorado, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech. Just when it looked like the Bulldogs may let another lead slip out of their grasp, the players dug a little deeper to put together a non-conference win against Furman. “Our team executed very well tonight,” coach Mark Fox said. Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped up big, showing a major display of leadership. “I realized that we were starting to slack on defense,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So I just tried to help my team by creating steals, help on the drive, and rebound and I did that.” Georgia will need more than just Caldwell-Pope to step up though. The Bulldogs have struggled on offense (131st in adjusted offensive efficiency) with only one other player averaging double figures in scoring (senior Gerald Robinson at 13.6 PPG).
  4. Patric Young is a freak of nature. We all know that, right? But did you see his block on Thursday night? It is clear that Young is beginning to turn some heads with his tremendous play as of late. It is clear that he is a much better player this year than the developing freshman that averaged 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year. Sometimes, a SportsCenter type highlight is all we need to remind us of that. “Whenever you block somebody’s shot and pull it down with one hand, that’s making ‘SportsCenter,’” Young said. Yes, it will. The highlight reels are nice, but I think Billy Donovan will be more impressed with Young connecting on 63.3% effective field goal percentage, and snagging a solid 11.6 offensive rebounding percentage. Those numbers should lead to Young getting more than the 18.9% of shots (sixth on the team) that he takes in the Florida offense.
  5. LSU‘s play of late is putting the team in good company. The last time a Tigers’ team won three road wins in non-conference play was 1985-86. You may remember that LSU team was the lowest seeded team at the time (#11 — now tied with VCU and George Mason) to go to a Final Four. The Tigers have won on the road against Houston, Rutgers, and North Texas. Defense has been the key to the Tigers’ successful run. LSU has held six straight opponents under 60 points, in what is believed to be the first time since the 1952-53 Tigers held six straight teams under 60. This team also has a couple of bad losses to go with those wins — a loss at Coastal Carolina and at home against South Alabama. Which version of Trent Johnson‘s squad will show up when the Tigers get the opportunity for quality RPI games against Virginia, Ole Miss, and Alabama in the next two and a half weeks will be a big determinant in how successful the Tigers are this season.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 20th, 2011

  1. It’s time again for the SEC Men’s Basketball Weekly Awards. The SEC Player of the Week award went to Florida’s Kenny Boynton who played well in his only game last week with 22 points and two assists as his Gators beat Texas A&M. Boynton hit six of 12 three-point shots, tying his season high for threes in a game this season. Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named SEC Freshman of the Week as he poured in 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in the Bulldogs’ win over Southern California. Caldwell-Pope is settling in as a consistent scorer as he leads Georgia with 14.2 points per game so far this season.
  2. The elder statesman of SEC basketball will be sticking around for a few more years. Florida coach Billy Donovan signed a three-year contract extension with the Gators, keeping him at the helm in Gainesville until the end of the 2015-16 season. Donovan is 46 years old, and has coached Florida to 16 successful seasons including two national titles, three Final Fours and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. “Billy Donovan has built one of the elite programs in the country at the University of Florida,” Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said. This year, Donovan has led the Gators to a 9-2 record and a #11 ranking in the current AP poll (#9 ranking in the current RTC poll). Many of you may remember Donovan’s flirtation with the Orlando Magic several years ago, and it is great to keep one of college basketball’s best where they belong.
  3. Louisville freshman Chane Behanan says that his Louisville Cardinals will go undefeated this year. Behanan boldly and confidently stated, “we’re the number one team in the country in my eyes, and like I said, we’re going undefeated. Point blank, period.” While the Cards are one of only six unbeaten teams left in college basketball this year, there are a lot of games left to play. Wait, why are we talking about the Cardinals on the SEC microsite? Well, that would be because Louisville plays its bitter and hated rival, the Kentucky Wildcats on December 31 in Rupp Arena. This statement by one of Louisville’s freshmen is sure to provide some bulletin board material for a UK squad that will already be fired up. We’re sure you didn’t need any more reasons to watch this clash on New Year’s Eve, but it is shaping up to be a good one and we’re still 11 days away.
  4. Speaking of Kentucky, the Wildcats play Samford tonight and it appears that they will be without  forward Terrence Jones. Jones dislocated his finger on Saturday against UT-Chattanooga and was unable to practice on Monday. “I don’t know yet. We’ll see,” coach John Calipari said when asked whether his star forward would play. “I don’t expect him to start if he doesn’t practice today, but I don’t know.” The preseason All American struggled against Indiana, and has to be eager to get back on the court to put this situation behind him. Are some of you wondering how a 6’9″ power forward can be held out of multiple games because of a pinky finger? Check out this picture of Jones’ finger and we think you will know why. You might want to finish your breakfast before clicking on that link.
  5. LSU will take the good with the bad as the Tigers defeated #10 Marquette 67-59 on Monday night without leading scorer Andre Stringer. Marquette jumped out to a 13-0 lead, but the Tigers fought back only to almost give the game away in the second half when their shooters struggled to convert from the free throw line. The Tigers finished a dismal 14-27 from the charity stripe. However, LSU was hot from several feet behind the foul stripe as Trent Johnson’s club made 7 of 11 three point shots. Ralston Turner led the charge with 22 points, including four three-pointers, but it was the Tigers’ defense that has them rolling with five wins in a row and a 7-3 record. LSU ranks #42 in adjusted defensive efficiency (kenpom.com)with a 91.9 rating, holding opponents to a 45.1% effective field goal percentage.  LSU’s defense held Marquette to 36.2% shooting from the field. It will be interesting to see if good or bad will prevail for Johnson’s team as they look to build upon this quality win with two tough home games coming up against Virginia and Ole Miss in the next several weeks.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 15th, 2011

  1. How did Festus Ezeli cope with watching his team lose two close overtime games in a row on November 28 to Xavier and December 2 against Louisville while he was out with an injury that sidelined him for Vanderbilt’s first eight games of the season? While the rest of us throw every item within arm’s reach at the TV during our favorite team’s close games, it sounds as though Ezeli has kept his cool watching in street clothes on the bench. “It’s just tough. I’m an emotional person and when the games start, I get into it a lot,” Ezeli said. “It’s just hard being on the bench and not being able to help, because I know I can help a lot. It’s tough. Just little stuff. I feel like I’m very good at helping them in the paint, especially on defense and protecting the rim and stuff like that. I feel like I could have helped a lot, especially in the last two minutes of the games – both games in overtime.” Ezeli returned to action last week against Davidson with 21 minutes of play, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds. The big man is not at 100% just yet, but the Commodores will certainly be a different team once he is at full speed.
  2. Alabama‘s Anthony Grant realizes that the Crimson Tide will see a lot of zone after Georgetown used a 2-3 zone so effectively in Bama’s 57-55 loss to the Hoyas on December 1st. The Tide settled for outside shots against the Hoyas’ zone, going 3 of 16 (18.8%) from beyond the arc. “I think the fallacy there is people think you’ve got to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” Grant said. “I disagree with that. I think there’s obviously a lot of different ways, but no matter what you’re doing, the ball has to work inside down, no matter if it’s a man or a zone.” The Tide have not shot well from three-point range on the season shooting only 25.3% (37 of 146). Yep, the Tide are going to see more zone this year, and they will need to find better quality shots then what they have settled for thus far.
  3. Andy Kennedy has a good problem to have for his Ole Miss Rebels–too many guards! The Rebs have seven scholarship guards, including McDonald’s All American Jelan Kendrick who became eligible for his first game Wednesday night against Louisiana-Lafayette, but did not play due to a decision by Kennedy. Freshman LaDarius White played his first game for Ole Miss on Saturday, and he played well coming off the bench with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes. Finding room for White and Kendrick could be a fix for many of the Rebels issues this season. “We’ve been terribly inconsistent in a lot of areas,” Kennedy said. “Twenty-three turnovers (on Saturday) is laughable. Our ball security needs a lot of work, but we continue to defend.” That is if Kendrick can make his way on the court this season.
  4. Maybe this isn’t interesting to anybody but Georgia fans, but they will be traveling to Italy next year to play from August 3-12, 2012. The interesting aspect to me is that young teams need the advantage of being together and playing earlier, and the Bulldogs seem to fit the mold of a team that could benefit from the extra time together. Georgia has a good freshmen and sophomore class that could make noise in the SEC next year if they keep their nucleus intact. The trip to Italy seems to be the right move at the right time for Mark Fox and his young Bulldogs, but Fox needs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the roster for one more year to be able to have the firepower to make a splash next year.
  5. Georgia is using its week off to find a solution to its second half woes. The Bulldogs have lost four games in a row, in three of which they blew a halftime lead. “We didn’t come out in the second half, and I think it’s just us needing to get ready to come out and play hard,” Caldwell-Pope said after the Georgia Tech game. “We haven’t had the mindset that we need to come out and just play as hard.” In the Bulldogs’ last two games, they were outscored by 15 (against Cincinnati) and 16 (against Georgia Tech) in the second half. Georgia has five more non-conference games to figure out what is going on before they open up SEC play on January 7 against Alabama. The Bulldogs have been tied or led going into the half in seven of their nine contests yet are currently 4-5 going into Saturday’s match-up with the USC Trojans.
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SEC Set Yer TiVo: 12.5.2011 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 5th, 2011

SEC Set Your TiVo will take a look ahead at each week’s key games. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two days. The SEC has given us two whole days of no basketball action. Take Monday and Tuesday to spend time with your significant other and/or children. Tell them you love them and that you enjoy their company. Then on Wednesday night, you have a choice: Shall you spend an unprecedented third day with the people-that-you-love-the-most-after-March? Or is there a game that needs to be seen?

Arizona at Florida – Wednesday, December 7, 7 PM on ESPN3 (***)

Arizona is still trying to figure things out this season. Sean Miller has started eight different players, most recently removing center Kyryl Natyazhko from the starting lineup. In Saturday’s 53-39 win over Northern Arizona, the Wildcats featured a three-guard set featuring Kyle Fogg (11 PPG, 41.4% 3FG), Jordin Mayes (7.4 PPG) and Nick Johnson (10.8 PPG, 46.4% 3FG). That leaves 6’7″ Jesse Perry (10.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG) and 6’6″ Solomon Hill (12.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.1 assists per game) in the frontcourt.

Patric Young identifies aliens and subliminal advertising using the eyewear provided by Billy Donovan (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

In the paint, Arizona may find themselves outmatched. 6’9″ Patric Young and 6’7″ Will Yeguete played up to their size in a losing effort against Syracuse. If 6’10″ forward Erik Murphy can contribute — he’s been cleared to play — Arizona will have a tough time covering all the locations from which Murphy can score. Arizona must not over-commit to interior defense or else Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Erving Walker will bomb away. Arizona has one of the best three-point defenses in the country even though they allowed 8-12 3FG shooting in a 61-57 loss to San Diego State.

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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Cincinnati @ Georgia

Posted by mlemaire on December 2nd, 2011

Gerald Smith: When Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie left Georgia early for the NBA Draft, they packed up all the shooting accuracy with them. They contributed roughly 45% of all field goals made last season which powered Georgia to a 45.2% shooting pace last year. This season the Bulldogs are shooting just 38.4% from the floor in seven games. Freshman guard and 2011 McDonald’s All-American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13.6 PPG, 5 RPG) is doing his best to shoulder the scoring burden. Caldwell-Pope and the Bulldogs needs more help from senior guard Dustin Ware, who’s experiencing a drop-off in production from last season (7.9 PPG, 43.5% 3FG, 3.5 assists per game) to this season (6.8 PPG, 35.0% 3FG, 1.9 assists per game). Georgia’s frontcourt duo of forwards Donte’ Williams (7.6 PPG, 40% FG, 56% FT) and Marcus Thornton (3.4 PPG, 22% FG, 50% FT) leave a lot to be desired.

Georgia does a good job on defense but doesn’t have enough speed and strength to stop the more talented teams. Xavier and California both plowed the bulldogs with speedy guards.

Prediction: Cincinnati 71, Georgia 63

Ware Needs to Get a Few More Shots to Fall This Season

Patrick Prendergast: Cincinnati came into this season with elevated expectations as they returned their top four scorers from year’s 26-9 NCAA Tournament team that won eleven Big East games and finished sixth in the conference.  Perhaps the Bearcats have rested on their laurels a bit too much as they have disappointed in the early going, sitting at 4-2 including a 56-54 loss to Presbyterian. For Cincinnati to be successful they need to feed the beast, 6’9″ 260-pound center Yancy Gates (14.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG), and work inside out to open up the three-guard attack of Sean Kilpatrick (13.8), Dion Dixon (12.5 PPG), and Cashmere Wright (10.0 PPG).  Part of Cincinnati’s early issues lie in the fact that Dixon and Wright are lagging last years scoring pace (17.0 and 16.5 PPG, respectively).

Like Georgia, Cincinnati will use the shot clock on offense and play tough on defense, where they are allowing just 53 points per game. Cincinnati should have the horses to prevail in this one, especially if Gates gets consistent touches.

Prediction: Cincinnati 64, Georgia 54

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SEC Morning Five: 11.25.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 25th, 2011

 

 

 

 

  1. Did anybody try cooking for Thanksgiving? It’s okay, sometimes things don’t turn out exactly how you planned. I’m sure everybody grinned and ate it anyway. Well, LSU‘s season isn’t turning out how coach Trent Johnson planned either. In their most recent game, they fell to South Alabama despite building a 12-point lead. “Like I told the team, you just can’t show up and expect to win a game, whether you are at home or on the road,” Johnson said. “The one thing that sort of concerns me is that although we had 17 assists and 11 turnovers, and when we got up 10, I thought we had some guys try to go off on their own a little bit.” LSU came into the game with a two-game win streak, but were out-rebounded by the Jaguars 42-31. This is the Tigers third loss of this early season. The problem for Johnson and the Tigers is that nobody is grinning and pretending to enjoy what is happening to this LSU team.
  2. The Georgia student newspaper, the Red and Black, says coach Mark Fox is optimistic about how his young Bulldogs are coming along. Fox was impressed with how his team responded after a difficult loss to California with a hard-fought win over Notre Dame the following night. But Georgia’s schedule just gets tougher from this point forward. “This schedule is challenging and for a young team, it’s extra challenging,” Fox said. “You gotta learn how to beat good teams and you don’t learn how to beat good teams by just playing bad ones. So we’re gonna have to grow up on the job. We’re gonna have a lot of teachable moments like we had against Cal and Notre Dame. There is just so much for this group to experience.” Georgia will get plenty of opportunities to grow up on the job as they play Xavier, Cincinnati, Colorado, and Southern California over the next few weeks. Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has filled in to produce some much needed scoring with 13.2 points per game so far. The Dogs are counting on Caldwell-Pope to increase his field goal percentage (40.4%) as he gets more experience throughout the season.
  3. Arkansas is still learning to deal with the injury of leading scorer Marshawn Powell. Freshman Devonta Abron started in place of Powell against Utah Valley on Wednesday night and finished with three points and three rebounds. The entire frontcourt really struggled in Powell’s absence. Abron, Hunter Mickelson, Michael Sanchez, and Marvell Waithe combined to score six points and grab 13 rebounds. “We have to work with what we have now,” 6’2″ guard Madracus Wade said of Powell’s injury. “The young guys have to step up. … We’ve all got to get in there and rebound.” Arkansas won 67-59, but it is clear that Mike Anderson’s up-tempo system can’t run entirely on guard play. The Razorbacks have to find frontcourt production soon to avoid a major letdown in Anderson’s first year at the helm.
  4. Tennessee‘s narrow losses against #6 Duke and #8 Memphis have the Vols confident that they can play with anyone in the nation. A big reason for the Volunteers success in Maui was the outstanding play of power forward Jeronne Maymon who scored 32 points and grabbed 20 rebounds against Memphis. The performance was the first time a Division I player has scored at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Blake Griffin in 2009. “We know we’re good enough to play against anybody on any given night,” Maymon said. “Each night we go to practice like we’re getting ready for the No. 1-ranked team.” Maymon and Tennessee proved, despite losing two close games, that they were highly underrated with the potential to be an NCAA Tournament team. The Volunteers were picked to finish 11th in the SEC in the preseason and it is seems clear that the Vols will finish much higher than that.
  5. The Clarion-Ledger has a few observations from the first five Ole Miss games of the season. The most interesting note is just how bad the Rebels’ offensive efficiency has been this year. They are 17-97 (17.5%) from beyond the arc, bad enough for 340th in the nation. The Reb’s two point percentage is 49.8%, which is significantly better at 125th in the nation. Andy Kennedy seems to be struggling to replace do-it-all guard Chris Warren, who averaged 19.1 points per game last year. Terrance Henry is the Rebels leading scorer thus far with 12.2 points per game, but he is shooting at an alarming 41.2% from the field. The Rebels wins thus far are a bit misleading. While the Rebs are 4-1, a 30-point loss on Sunday to Marquette signifies that unless Kennedy can solve their offensive woes, more difficult times lie ahead for Ole Miss once they take a step up in competition.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.14.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 14th, 2011

  1. Senior point guard Brad Tinsley’s minutes were limited in Vanderbilt’s shocking demise against Cleveland State on Sunday. The Vandy offense looked out of sync, and as a result, they were pressured into 21 turnovers. Tinsley was bothered by a hand injury that was aggravated during the Oregon game a couple of nights ago. “Brad’s hand has been an issue,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said in his postgame press conference. “I didn’t ask him how the hand was feeling (today).” It seems unclear whether Tinsley sat during crucial minutes of the game because of his defensive liability or because of the injury. This will remain a situation to keep an eye on. One thing remains clear, Tinsley will have to stay in front of quicker guards defensively in order to stay on the floor in the future.
  2. Vanderbilt’s surprising loss has the critics out in full force. Some tabbed the ‘Dores as a team that didn’t belong in the top ten. And well, they won’t be for long. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports isn’t hitting the panic button just yet, because it is November after all. And the Commodores are without Festus Ezeli. Parrish acknowledges, however, that this loss doesn’t help the perception that Vandy is in fact overrated. A 71-58 loss to Cleveland State looks bad, but Vanderbilt has time to correct its mistakes.
  3. Arkansas’ 83-63 win over USC Upstate started the Mike Anderson era for the Razorbacks, but the biggest storyline was the attendance in Bud Walton Arena for that game. Anderson’s first game brought in 10,500 fans, but he believes this is only the beginning. “This is a style of basketball that hasn’t been played here in a while,” Anderson said. “There is potential here, but we have to keep working. We are by no means where we want to be.” As long as Anderson continues winning and playing an exciting brand of basketball, the attendance numbers will continue to grow in Fayetteville.
  4. The SEC had many outstanding freshmen take the court this past weekend, and they generally didn’t disappoint. The CBS Eye on College Basketball blog took a look at the first glimpse of the nation’s best freshmen, and all five SEC freshmen on the top 20 list scored in double figures. Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague impressed in a blowout win against Marist. Davis scored 23 points, grabbed ten rebounds and earned five blocks in a high flying display of athleticism. Florida’s Brad Beal scored 14 points, and Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope pushed the Bulldogs to victory with 15 points. These young stars are already looking good, and it was only their first game in a college uniform. Just wait until they become truly adjusted to the college game and their new teams.
  5. It wasn’t all about the freshmen this weekend though. Some sophomores were turning in impressive performances as well. Tennessee is looking for a scorer in the Cuonzo Martin era, and they may have found him. Sophomore point guard Trae Golden lit up UNC Greensboro for a career high 29 points in a game where he was 10-14 from the field with six rebounds and nine assists. His performance has Martin and the Volunteers excited that they may have found the offensive weapon that they so desperately need. But if we’ve learned anything from this opening weekend, it is still very early and a lot can change over the next few weeks and months.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.01.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 1st, 2011

  1. While we keep an eye on the Opening Night countdown timer on the top-left corner — anybody got a magical Hylian Ocarina? — we are squeezing every drop out of the SEC Media Days. This morning’s informative drip involves Georgia coach Mark Fox pouring out accolades for freshman guard and McDonald’s All-American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Citing his great demeanor and team-first attitude, Fox expects upperclassmen Dustin Ware and Gerald Robinson to mentor Caldwell-Pope and help him adjust and contribute immediately to the Bulldogs. The team will need Caldwell-Pope up-to-speed quickly, as the Bulldogs will need to replace the scoring output of Travis Leslie. Quick: double-time it!
  2. After being suspended from the Florida basketball team for his part in breaking into a car last April, junior forward Erik Murphy needed a mentor. Erik’s father contacted former McDonald’s All-American point guard Chris Herren — the subject of the ESPN documentary Unguarded — about Herren’s spiral into drug and alcohol abuse and subsequent recovery. Herren spent the summer with Murphy in Rhode Island working out their basketball games and their personal demons. Murphy tells Gatorsports.com that he is in the best physical shape of his career thanks to Herren’s workouts. His Florida teammates hope that he’s matured enough to handle his supporting role on a team that could crack the Top 5 this season.
  3. It’s likely that Tennessee won’t be cracking any Top 25 lists this season (even with a Megaton Hammer). The Vols are short on the kind of talent necessary to succeed in coach Cuonzo Martin’s motion offense system. The pieces are coming into place, though; junior college transfer D’Montre Edwards announced he will sign with Tennessee as a member of the 2012 recruiting class. Edwards led Brevard Community College last season with 15.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG and hitting 37% of his three-pointers. If Martin can secure a few more members of the 2012 class — complementing Edwards and 2012 recruit Derek Reese — the Vols will have a solid foundation for competitiveness next season.
  4. Another member of the 2012 recruiting class announced for a SEC team yesterday. Willie Cauley, a four-star player ranked #36 overall by Rivals.com, committed to Kentucky. The seven-foot Cauley seems like the perfect player for Coach John Calipari’s weakside inside player. Cauley picked the Wildcats over Florida and a few other non-conference teams. The basketball and football star might also draw the attention of Kentucky football head coach Joker Phillips, who is desperate for a tall wide receiver who can catch the ball.
  5. The Associated Press preseason All-American list released yesterday features just one SEC player: Kentucky sophomore forward Terrence Jones. The preseason SEC Player of the Year joins Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor on the team. Jones’ campaign for Player of the Year honors will be enjoyed by increasing numbers of SEC fans. Joe Dorish of Yahoo.com reports that the SEC had the third-highest average attendance for college basketball in 2010-11.
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SEC Make or Break: Georgia Bulldogs

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 25th, 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 Georgia Bulldogs. 

Georgia lost a lot of scoring and star power by losing early entrants Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA draft. However, there is still enough talent in Athens to field a good team. Senior guard Gerald Robinson returns along with his 12.2 PPG, and Mark Fox landed a 6’4″ standout guard named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from nearby Greenville. Georgia made the NCAA Tournament last year primarily because of Thompkins and Leslie, but also because they have become an outstanding defensive team. The Bulldogs held opponents to 39.7% shooting from the field. If Fox can get his team to buy in to team defense, then the Dogs can remain competitive in the SEC. Expect UGA to get out and run this year because they have the athleticism to push the tempo, and also because a faster pace will help minimize the effect that losing Thompkins and Leslie will have on the Georgia front line.

Mark Fox will rely upon Caldwell-Pope to push the tempo and score for a much quicker Georgia team

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Preseason Tournament Preview: SEC East

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 21st, 2011

Pack your bags and get ready for some basketball!  Everything you need to know about the preseason basketball tournaments involving SEC East teams this season are right here… Well, everything except local travel arrangements and restaurant suggestions. Get ready for remote and beautiful destinations such as Maui, Hawaii; Kansas City, Missouri; somewhere in Connecticut; and East Rutherford, New Jersey. We can only hope that the basketball being played is as stunning as the scenery. If you’re ready to hit the Motel 6 in your city of choice and watch some great hoops then we have you covered with the rest of the details. Just don’t forget to leave the light on.

Progressive CBE Classic

  • The  field: *Missouri,  *Georgia, *Notre Dame, *California, Austin Peay, Bowling Green, Detroit, George Washington, Mercer, Niagara, Sam Houston State, South Dakota State (*automatically advances to championship round)
  • Dates: November 13 – 17, 2011; Championship rounds – November 21 & 22, 2011
  • Location: Kansas City, MO
  • 1st round Matchup: Georgia vs. California
  • Potential Later Round Matchups: Georgia vs. Notre Dame or Georgia vs. Missouri
  • Thoughts: In the opening round of championship play, Georgia plays a Golden Bears team that should challenge Arizona and UCLA to win the Pac-12. Cal returns three double figure scorers from last year and looks to build upon a fourth place finish. Meanwhile, Georgia lost Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins as early entries into the NBA draft. Mark Fox’s Bulldogs will be looking for leadership and scoring, and could find both in freshman McDonald’s All American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Win or lose, Georgia will be matched up with either the Fighting Abromaitis’ team of Notre Dame or the Missouri Tigers. Missouri has outstanding guard play and will test Georgia’s young back court. Tim Abromaitis is a 6’8″ bruiser who will challenge the void left down low by the losses of Leslie and Thompkins.
  • Prediction:  Georgia drops both to come back to Athens 0-2.

EA Sports Maui Invitational

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Great Expectations for Five Highly Ranked SEC Freshmen

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 18th, 2011

This year, the SEC will be home to 14 McDonald’s All American Game alumni including JaMychal Green (2008), Kenny Boynton (2009), Renardo Sidney (2009), Patric Young (2010), Terrence Jones (2010), Doron Lamb (2010), Jelan Kendrick (2010), Brad Beal (2011), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2011), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2011), Johnny O’Bryant (2011), Anthony Davis (2011), Marquis Teague (2011) and Kyle Wiltjer (2011). These players are selected using recruiting rankings and evaluations at the high school and AAU level. It is not an exact science, but obviously players ranked in the top of the class generally produce at the next level. Green, Boynton, Sidney, Young, Jones and Lamb have demonstrated their talent through superb play and numerous all-SEC selections among them (Kendrick remains to be seen). This year, expectations are at an all-time high. The focus of this post is on the five newbies the SEC welcomes from the top 12 of Scout.com’s final recruitment rankings for the Class of 2011 – Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal, Teague, and Caldwell Pope. With that level of talent coming into the league it is certain that the SEC’s overall play and competitiveness will be elevated. However, is there any guarantee that with high expectations comes automatic production?

#1 recruit - Kentucky's Anthony Davis

To get some idea of what we can expect this season from the SEC’s highly ranked incoming freshmen, I have evaluated the top 12 players from Scout.com’s final recruiting rankings over the last five seasons. Why 12? Well, the best answer is that it seemed to be a good cutoff and I was too tired to extend it to 15 or 20. I am only one man people! I examined PPG in their first year in college, as well as results from whether or not they went pro as that is also an indicator of talent or at least potential. Here are the last five years of players and their point production beginning with the Class of 2006 and going through the Class of 2010.

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