Three Takeaways from Kentucky vs. South Carolina

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 25th, 2015

When you take in a live game, sometimes you can sense that the home team thinks it can win. Everything about the aura in Colonial Life Arena on Saturday told me the Gamecocks felt they had a chance to beat the top-ranked Wildcats. The crowd was into it; the team gave 100 percent effort; and after a three-pointer from Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina led by one with just 4:31 left in the first half. That was where it all ended, though. A big-time victory wasn’t meant to be for a Gamecocks squad that looked much improved from their last couple of times out, but there were several key takeaways that we will see play out through March for Kentucky and the rest of the SEC.

Frank Martin was proud of his team's effort on Saturday against the number one team in the country (Bruce Thorson/US Presswire).

Frank Martin was proud of his team’s effort on Saturday against the number one team in the country (Bruce Thorson/US Presswire).

  1. “Stop saying the SEC isn’t any good” -  South Carolina coach Frank Martin was emphatic in making sure the assembled media knew his stance on the legitimacy of the conference. As he was answering another question, he couldn’t let the moment pass: “By the way, stop saying the SEC isn’t any good,” he said to the room. He has a point. At the time of this writing, the SEC has eight teams ranked among the top 60 of the RPI. Kentucky (#1), Arkansas (#24), Georgia (#26) Texas A&M (#32), LSU (#44), Alabama (#52), Tennessee (#54), and Ole Miss (#59) all are in position for consideration for an NCAA Tournament bid. Additionally, according to Ken Pomeroy, the SEC is the fourth-best conference in the country, behind only the Big 12, Big East and ACC. The SEC has proven its worth this season, and Selection Sunday should assist in shedding the unfair label that the league is just Kentucky and everybody else. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Only Thing Standing in the Way of Arizona’s Pac-12 Coronation is Arizona

Posted by Mike Lemaire on January 24th, 2015

For the first half of Thursday night’s battle for first place in the Pac-12 against Stanford, Arizona looked like the team that could only muster 56 points in a losing effort against Oregon State. But in the second half, the Wildcats showed why there is no other team in the conference that can hang with them when they are at full strength and minimizing their mistakes. The Wildcats actually jumped out to an early lead as the Cardinal’s thin frontcourt had absolutely no answer for Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson inside. But Ashley also picked up three cheap fouls in the first 12 minutes of the game and teammate Stanley Johnson picked up two of his own, and when they left the court, things started to fall apart. Without their two biggest offensive mismatches on the floor, Arizona struggled to take advantage of its distinct size advantage and instead settled for contested jumpers. On the other end of the floor, the Wildcats’ stout defense made things difficult for Stanford, at least when they weren’t fouling Cardinal players. Stanford made 13 free throws in the first half and star guard Chasson Randle scored six of his 14 first half points from the charity stripe. As a result, a first half that any casual observer would think Arizona should have won ended with Stanford up two points.

Arizona Has the Look of a Team Figuring It Out (USA Today Images)

Arizona Has the Look of a Team Figuring It Out (USA Today Images)

Of course slow starts and early mistakes have become something of Arizona‘s modus operandi this season, and nobody expected the Wildcats to go away. Ashley and Johnson returned to the floor in the second half and immediately made an impact, combining for 10 points in the first six minutes as Arizona slowly but surely took the lead for good. Even more importantly, the Arizona defense decided to start moving its feet and quit picking up cheap fouls, and all of a sudden, their suffocating defense returned in earnest. Once Randle made a difficult layup to bring Stanford within three points with just under 10 minutes to play, the Wildcats’ put the clamps down and the Cardinal didn’t make another field goal for more than eight minutes. By that point, the game was well in hand and Arizona was on its way as the odds-on favorite to run away with the conference regular season title.

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Handicapping the Wooden Award Finalists

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 21st, 2015

The Wooden Award released its midseason top 25 list last week. College basketball’s top individual honor will likely go to a player named on that list, but there’s still time for others (attention: Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet, Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas) to work their way into the picture. However, it’s also true that the field of real contenders for the award is thinning as we near February and March. RTC handicaps the race for the Wooden…

Jahlil Okafor, Duke. Odds To Win = 3/2.

Any national Player of the Year discussion must begin with Duke’s freshman sensation. Okafor’s averages of 18.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game begin to explain his value to the Blue Devils, but the impact of his presence runs much deeper than that. His steadiness (double-figure points in every game this season) has stabilized a Duke attack that was far more reliant on the three-point shot a season ago, while his unselfishness has helped the Duke guards find space on the perimeter. The presumptive top pick in next June’s NBA Draft has looked like the best player in college basketball from opening night, but an April coronation as the National Player of the Year will surely depend on Duke’s success. Balance has fueled the rise of other national title contenders (Kentucky and Virginia most notable among them), but there is no question that Okafor will continue to lead the Duke charge. Pole position has been well-earned: This is Okafor’s award to lose.

At The Midway Point Of The Season, Duke Freshman Jahlil Okafor Is The Frontrunner To Win The Wooden Award. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

At The Midway Point Of The Season, Duke Freshman Jahlil Okafor Is The Frontrunner To Win The Wooden Award. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Odds To Win = 5/2.

Kaminsky nabbed the national spotlight last March with a show-stopping regional final performance against Arizona. He has not given it up since. ‘Frank the Tank’ is grabbing more rebounds (8.2 RPG this season), blocking more shots (1.8 BPG) and even handing out more assists (2.4 APG) than he did a year ago. The Wisconsin center has been outstanding all season, but his value to the Badgers may have been best exhibited in a 40 minute stint on the bench. As their star sat out with a concussion on January 11, Wisconsin fell to Rutgers in one of the most shocking results of the season. The loss showed just how important the versatile center has become for Bo Ryan’s team. A balanced Badgers’ lineup may pose some threat to Kaminsky’s Wooden Award chances, but that surrounding talent is also what’s made the his team legitimate national title contenders. And as Wisconsin chases that elusive championship, its versatile big man is making a serious push for the most prestigious of individual accolades.

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The SEC Week That Was: Volume III

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 20th, 2015

For the next nine weeks or so, we’ll run down a few weekly superlatives from league play, take a look at how conference teams look in the eyes of the NCAA Tournament selection committee, and anything else that merits discussion. Here is Volume III, including games from January 12-18.

Team of the week. It took three rounds of this column to get there, but the league Colossus finally gets the nod. Kentucky did in the second week of SEC play what so many predicted it would do in the first — thrash its opponents. The Wildcats beat Missouri by more points (49) than it allowed the Tigers to score (37), and, as Brian pointed out earlier this week, it was the best defensive (points per possession) performance in conference play in the Calipari era. The ‘Cats followed up that victory with an easy 22-point win against a good Alabama team. Its defense was again outstanding, but it was the Kentucky offense that caught my eye in Tuscaloosa. Just one week after a rough outing in College Station (28.1% FG, 32.1% 3FG, 25-of-35 FTs), the Wildcats were hyper-efficient in a slow-paced game (50% FG, 47% 3FG, 16-of-18 FTs). If that’s a sign of the Wildcats’ offense to come, it’s worth wondering whether this team may actually cut down the nets in early April sporting a goose egg in the loss column.

Tyler Ulis led an efficient Kentucky attack against Alabama with 11 points and two assists (AP Photo).

Tyler Ulis led an efficient Kentucky attack against Alabama with 11 points and two assists (AP Photo).

Player of the Week. Let’s follow the crowd and hand it to Tennessee’s Armani Moore. The junior wing won the SEC’s Player of the Week award and it was well-deserved. He contributed solid scoring totals in last week’s wins over Arkansas (14) and Missouri (15), but more importantly scored crucial points late in both games. His two free throws sealed the Vols’ victory over Arkansas, and he broke a tie-game in Columbia with under four minutes to go with a contested layup. The 6’5″ Moore also helped an undersized Tennessee front line win the rebounding battle in both games. Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones, who played well in returning from an ankle injury, and Georgia’s Kenny Gaines, who guided the Bulldogs through a crucial undefeated week, also deserve mention.

Tournament Chatter. Can you say mediocrity? The league currently has seven teams sitting at 2-2, and the only 3-1 teams (Tennessee and Florida) appear to be well behind several of those in the NCAA Tournament pecking order. None of the fringe NCAA contenders have yet played their way out of the picture but we could be headed toward the league’s nightmare scenario. A team or two separating from the pack would lock in a few bids, but if the soft middle continues to beat up on each other without rhyme or reason, it risks damaging everyone’s profile. Still, 10 (10!) teams are worth mentioning and that’s not too bad.

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RTC Top 25: Week Nine

Posted by Walker Carey on January 19th, 2015

After nine weeks of the regular season there is probably not a conference that has more uncertainty in it than the Big 12. If the importance of home court advantage in that loaded league had not been clear before, this past week really made sure that everyone realizes it. From Tuesday through Saturday in conference games featuring at least one ranked team, the home team notched a sterling 7-0 record. No Big 12 win last week was more important, though, than #9 Iowa State knocking off #14 Kansas on Saturday night. The victory moved the Cyclones to a 3-1 league record, which helped them keep pace in the loss column following Wednesday’s narrow loss at #23 Baylor. The Big 12 has been so crazy this season that an unranked team (Kansas State) somehow holds sole possession of first place. There is a lot of basketball still to be played, of course, so it will be a good idea to keep an eye on this conference as Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Baylor, and Oklahoma State figure to battle tooth-and-nail for the league crown all the way to the last weekend of the regular season.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump….

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 11.59.34 AM

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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SEC M5: MLK Day Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 19th, 2015

SEC_morning5

  1. So many potential narratives started swirling around after Kentucky’s shaky outings against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Had the Wildcats become unfocused and vulnerable? Would they respond? Was the sky falling? At least for now, it seems the close calls indeed got the ‘Cats attention. “I think those struggles just reset our mind,” Willie Cauley-Stein told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “Now we’re back to like, ‘OK, we’re trying to shut people out.’ We’re not just trying to play with them. We’re trying to demoralize them.” After allowing Ole Miss to score more points per possession than it had any team this season (1.09), Kentucky broke Missouri’s soul (0.58) and then stifled a good Alabama squad (0.83). Given Alabama’s length, athleticism and desperation for a marquee win, the game in Tuscaloosa may have been one of the tougher road assignments Kentucky will face this year. They passed it easily, and it seems the appropriate narrative is that the Wildcats’ slow start to conference play may have in fact been a positive thing.
  2. Kentucky isn’t the only team that took something away from its SEC opener against Ole Miss. The Rebels weren’t intimidated in Rupp against a seemingly invincible opponent, and they brought that same confidence to Fayetteville when they whacked Arkansas 96-82. If you combine their shooting stats from both games, the Rebels shot 53.1 percent on 32 three-point attempts. That is precisely the way to give yourself a chance against good teams in tough environments. The abundance of bravado has to be tied to Ole Miss’ veteran backcourt of Jarvis Summers, Stefan Moody and Snoop White. The trio has guided the Rebels to a 2-2 record against arguably the best the SEC has to offer: Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU and Arkansas. Ole Miss may be able to make some hay as the schedule eases up, especially if it keeps lighting it up from deep.
  3. Is Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones the most important player in the SEC? Probably not, but the Aggies are 2-0 with him in SEC play and 0-2 without him. Billy Kennedy’s leading scorer returned from an ankle injury to score 16 points in a win over Mississippi State and then 18 points in Saturday’s win over LSU. The latter performance was all the more impressive since it came against the Tigers’ ultra-talented front line. Would a healthy Jones have given the Aggies the slight edge they would’ve needed to drop Kentucky? We will never know, but with how Texas A&M has struggled to score this season, it needs Jones to remain healthy if it has any chance of ending up on the tournament bubble.
  4. Auburn’s big recruits a year away. The team was coming off a 20 point loss. Kentucky wasn’t in town. And this is Auburn, after all. Nonetheless, Auburn Arena was rocking Saturday night during the Tigers’ quality win over South Carolina. This is the Bruce Pearl effect. We heard about the spike in season ticket sales during the offseason, and actually saw it come to life against the Gamecocks. Cinmeon Bowers – who is becoming a star in the SEC – ripped down an offensive rebound and converted a tough layup to extend the Tigers’ lead to three with under four minutes left and the arena exploded. Last year, a scene like that seemed a world away. But there is truly excitement around Auburn basketball, and with home wins over Missouri and Carolina, not to mention the emergence of Bowers as a double-double machine, there is tangible progress on the court too. Again, this is the Bruce Pearl effect, and the entire league is better for it.
  5. Florida’s 24-game conference win streak came to an end with an unusual sight. Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith were glued to bench for a large swath of the second half in the Gators’ loss to Georgia, and not because of foul trouble. “For me, it was just, let’s play (freshman) Devin Robinson, Chris Chiozza. Let’s get them some experience. Let’s let them play. These older guys aren’t playing at the level we need them to play at,” Billy Donovan told the Gainesville Sun. Despite the loss, Florida’s 3-1 conference record does not have it in a helpless position so the benching was a somewhat bold move from Donovan. It might signal that this season has become as much about building for the future as it is contending in the present. And that’s not a bad thing, because except for senior Jon Horford, this same Florida team will likely take the floor together next year.
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SEC M5: 01.16.15 Edition

Posted by David Changas on January 16th, 2015

SEC_morning5

  1. Auburn’s Cinmeon Bowers was one of the most sought-after junior college players in the country last year and he has proved to be quite a find for Bruce Pearl. He is currently the team’s third-leading scorer (13.7 PPG) and the league’s leading rebounder (11.3 RPG) despite standing only 6’7″. But given what Bowers went through while in high school in Milwaukee, it’s no surprise that the 278-pound forward is one of the league’s toughest players. As chronicled by Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com, Bowers was shot five times during a car robbery attempt four year ago. Given that experience, the often free-spirited Bowers can handle any criticism leveled by Pearl, who is impressed with how the junior has shaken a rocky start to notch nine double-doubles and become one of the Tigers’ most productive players. Given where Auburn is in its program development arc, Pearl has to be thankful Bowers decided to follow him to the school.
  2. Per NCAA rules, teams are allowed to take overseas trips in the offseason every four years, and Kentucky took advantage of its opportunity to do so last summer. The Wildcats traveled to the Bahamas and the timing could not have been more perfect. The trip south gave John Calipari the opportunity to work his talented freshmen with a returning group that played for the national championship a few months earlier. Given the Wildcats’ currently undefeated and mostly-dominant start, the trip appears to have been a resounding success. But that success came at quite a cost. As Adam Himmelsbach of The Courier-Journal points out, the astounding $792,845.68 price tag was nearly $640,000 more than North Carolina spent on its own trip to the Bahamas last summer, and it was 21 times more costly than a similar trip taken by Portland State. Much of that cost related to bringing along teams that could challenge the Wildcats, but while the large figure may cause some unease for Kentucky fans, it’s likely that most of Big Blue Nation will see it as money well spent if the Wildcats win another national championship.
  3. Speaking of large sums of money, it was revealed earlier this week that retiring SEC commissioner Mike Slive, who is currently fighting prostate cancer and will leave his post at the end of July, earned $2.1 million in compensation for the 2013-14 school year, a 69% increase from the prior year. Slive, who is not the highest-paid conference commissioner (he trails the Pac-12’s Larry Scott and the ACC’s John Swofford), clearly has done great things for the league in his tenure, not the least of which is the enormous CBS contract and the establishment of the SEC Network, which launched last August. The vast majority of that success has to do with the conference’s unprecedented dominance in football, but as we have indicated here in the past, if there is one hole in Slive’s legacy, it’s that the conference’s collective performance on the hardwood has been mostly lackluster.
  4. While the overall performance of the SEC has been subpar in basketball during much of Slive’s tenure, there clearly are two programs that have consistently performed at a very high level: Kentucky and FloridaCBSSports.com‘s Matt Norlander set out to find which programs have performed the best when football and basketball are combined, and although newly-crowned national champion Ohio State appeared to be the obvious choice, Norlander found that Florida has actually performed the best. He reviewed eight categories in both sports and found that only the Gators qualified in all of them. Given three football national championships and Billy Donovan’s two basketball titles and four Final Four appearances, it should be no surprise that Florida has had more success than any other program in both major sports over the past two decades.
  5. When Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com issued his latest bracketology column earlier this week, it wasn’t all that surprising that he had five SEC schools included even though most are currently projecting four in the field. What was really surprising, though, was that he chose Tennessee as one of the five teams. Palm listed the Volunteers as a #9 seed, despite an RPI (#53) that ranks outside the top 50. What is even more surprising is that he released his field prior to Tennessee’s upset win over Arkansas Tuesday night. Of course, such things mean very little only three games into the conference season, and Donnie Tyndall all but said to ignore any such projections. Still, the fact that Tyndall could have a team with as many newcomers and limitations as this one in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid is a testament to the job he has done in his first half-season in Knoxville. For Volunteers fans anxiously awaiting the results of the inquiry into Tyndall’s actions while he coached at Southern Miss, they just hope he’s around for a while to build on what he has done.
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Morning Five: 01.16.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 16th, 2015

morning5

  1. Notre Dame has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the season, but they took their first big hit earlier this week when they announced that Zach Auguste will be out indefinitely while dealing with an academic matter (reportedly not a suspension). While Jerian Grant is the headliner for the Irish, Auguste comes close in terms of his impact as the 6’10” junior has been averaging 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season. Without Auguste, the Irish are very short up front (relatively speaking of course) with 6’5″ Pat Connaughton. While they were able to sneak out of Georgia Tech with a win without Auguste on Wednesday night things will get significantly tougher for them in the coming weeks in the ACC. If Auguste is unable to return, this would be the second straight season the Irish were undone by academic issues as Jerian Grant had to temporarily leave the school last year as the result of an “academic misstep”.
  2. James Madison dismissed junior guard Andre Nation from its basketball team on Wednesday saying “he no longer fits within our program and the vision we have for the future”. We are not sure what made Matt Brady finally come to that decision, but it had been a rough season for Nation as he was suspended for the first five games of the season following an arrest for disorderly conduct and misdemeanor assault (which as JMU Sports Blog pointed out at the time was not exactly something new) and saw his scoring drop from 15.4 points per game last season to 9 points per game this season. Nation will remain on scholarship through the spring semester, but we would not be surprised to see him turn up at another mid-major school very shortly given his proven ability to score at that level.
  3. If you wanted a reminder of the difference between the haves and have-nots of the college basketball world, we would direct you to Adam Himmlesbach’s look at Kentucky‘s trip to the Bahamas this year. The eight-night trip that included games against a French pro club and the Dominican and Puerto Rican national teams at the Atlantic Resort in the Bahamas cost $792,845.68. While some of this was offset by 57 boosters who agreed to pay $6,000 to fly along, but that only generated a little over $347,000 when combined with the nearly $18,000 from their share of ticket revenues the overall cost to the school was $431,836.10, which is nearly three times as much as North Carolina (certainly not paupers) spent for a trip the year before. While some of the costs were from the flying out opposing teams and providing them with hotel rooms and meal money, the Wildcats certainly treated themselves well from John Calipari’s $1,550-per-night suite to the $150 per diem for meals the players and staff members received (compare that with the $124 per diem NBA players received in 2013). We aren’t aware of the costs of trips for other schools, but outside of Duke’s ridiculous 2011 trip to China and Dubai that included a chartered Boeing 767 with an estimated charter price of over $1 million we have a hard time seeing anybody approaching a trip that might exceed the overall budget of the basketball program of their first opponent in the NCAA Tournament.
  4. Speaking of big sums of money, Kentucky might be spending it, but Kent State will be collecting it after an appeals court ruled in their favor saying that Geno Ford will have to follow the terms of his contract requiring him to pay the school $1.2 million for leaving them for Bradley in March 2011. That figure is the result of Ford’s 2008 contract that required him to pay back his salary multipled by the years remaining if he left before his contract expired. So when Ford left the school a year after renegotiating a five-year deal that was worth $300,000 per year he opened himself up to the clause. Before you feel too bad for Ford, he is making $700,000 per year at Bradley even though he is just 42-74 at the school and we are pretty sure he can find an accountant who will find a way to let him write off the $1.2 million over a couple of years.
  5. One of the most confusing things about college basketball recruiting over the years is why cities like Chicago and New York City don’t have better college basketball teams. Regardless of how you feel about which city produces the best talent it is clear that these cities underachieve on the college level. New York has one decent program in St. John’s, but Chicago can’t even claim that much. Adam Doster of Grantland has a good piece on why a city that is so loaded with basketball talent cannot produce a single respectable college basketball program. While much of it is attributable to the administrations at the schools and how much they are willing to invest in the program, some of it also falls on the coaches in and around the city who have not been able to make local talent and high school/AAU coaches buy in. If a young coach (like Chris Collins) really wanted to make a mark, there are certainly worse places to set up shop than the Chicago area.
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A Column of Enchantment: College Hoops Doesn’t Need Major Reforms

Posted by Joseph Nardone on January 15th, 2015

I like progressive things. Between looking for outside-the-box ideas or solutions, to not being stuck in the fictional ideal of tradition, even all the way to Flo the Progressive lady, looking to fix things — even if they aren’t currently broken — is the right way to go about living life. Still, it irks me that people are currently looking to make some major overhauls to college hoops because, well, the college football playoff was a huge success. Honestly, the two sports are completely different beasts. For one, and most importantly, college football is an incredibly more profitable sport. Even when dumb, non-progressive folks were saying that the playoff would ruin the sport, most sane people realized that it would not only increase viewership but also make the schools more loot — which is the end game for all universities. Basically, the college football world added one more game to its bowl system, rebranded it into a playoff, and poof, college football is even more popular.

Ohio State Capped Off a Great College Football Playoff (USA Today Images)

Ohio State Capped Off a Great College Football Playoff (USA Today Images)

Now, because it is easy to call for such things moments after another had such major success, smart people in the college basketball community want some reform. We aren’t talking paying the players reform, because that would be all too altruistic and right, but reducing the number of Division I teams type of reform. The person calling for it is ESPN commentator Jay Bilas, who is as smart, respected and progressive as they come. While I agree with some of his theoretical ideas, selfishly and hypothetically I disagree. Bilas wants fewer Division I teams for various educated reasons (I won’t go into them because his article is behind a paywall and I’m less knocking his idea as I am more supporting my own). So it is not as if he is wrong. He and I just have differing opinions on the matter. I — just as good looking as Bilas, but far less educated, respected and known — think college basketball is fine with the number of teams that are currently playing Division I hoops. I do think, though, that if we really wanted to get a bit more progressive with the sport, make more areas care and make it feel more local despite it being a national sport.

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SEC M5: 01.14.15 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 14th, 2015

SEC_morning5

  1. One of the league’s hottest players since entering SEC play has to be Kentucky’s Devin Booker, who scored 13 points against Ole Miss, 18 points against Texas A&M and seven last night against Missouri. During the three-game run he was 8-of-11 from distance, and it is his outside shooting that makes Booker such a dangerous weapon for the Wildcats — perhaps the best long-range threat since Doron Lamb rained triples for the 2012 championship team. He won’t shoot at such a blistering rate all season long (currently 50.8%), but if he continues to produce it’ll be hard for John Calipari to keep him off the court in close games. Despite their exceptional defensive talent, the Wildcats don’t have all that many players who can create their own shot; therefore, the offensive threat that Booker poses will make it easier for guys like Karl-Anthony Towns and Dakari Johnson to find room inside to operate.
  2. It appears Ole Miss did indeed take something away from its near-win at Rupp Arena last Tuesday. “If we can do that against Kentucky, we can do that against anybody else,” forward Sebastian Saiz told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. The Rebels followed it up with a solid win over the weekend against South Carolina, and have two big opportunities ahead against LSU and Arkansas. If Ole Miss can win both games — no easy task considering that the Razorbacks game is in Fayetteville — the NCAA Tournament bubble could start to come into view. What could set the Rebels apart is that they can actually put the ball in the basket (24th in adjusted offensive efficiency) in a league where many teams struggle to score. Jarvis Summers and Stefan Moody were both a bit inconsistent to begin the year, but when the two guards are both hitting shots at the same time, the Rebels can be a handful.
  3. Florida’s ultimate potential is tied in large part to Kasey Hill’s development. The sophomore has struggled shooting the ball this year, making just 20 percent of his two point jump shots and 25 percent of his three point shots. Billy Donovan thinks that while Hill will likely never be a lights out shooter, there is room for growth. Hill is one of the quicker guards in the SEC, but his inability to keep defenses honest has likely had an effect on Florida’s ability to take advantage of Chris Walker’s athleticism at the rim. Walker has not shown he can create offense on his own and would be benefitted greatly from Hill breaking down the defense and creating seams. But the more defenses can sag off Hill, the less he’ll be able to create opportunities for others. Nonetheless, Hill is an ultra-talented player and a slight improvement would go a long way for Florida.
  4. A rash of injuries has followed a tough opening week for Georgia, which could now be down three rotation players. The scariest situation happened to freshman Yante Maten (18.2 MPG), who suffered a concussion after being hit by a car outside of Stegeman Coliseum. Kenny Paul Geno (9.8 MPG) broke his wrist against Arkansas, and an Achilles injury could keep Juwan Parker (23.9 MPG) out of tonight’s game against Vanderbilt. Mark Fox has been essentially using a seven-man rotation with Parker and Maten getting the most minutes of all the reserves. Even if Parker can suit up, the Bulldogs may need Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic to play close to 40 minutes in a critical game. Fox has to hope Cameron Forte can provide some cover. The junior forward was pressed into 24 minutes of action against LSU after never seeing more than six minutes in a game prior to that, and held up well with 10 points and six rebounds.
  5. Another reserve big man that saw his minutes explode in the LSU-Georgia game was Darcy Malone, who played 16 minutes after having only seen 20 minutes total before the game. This was the latest in Johnny Jones’ season-long quest to find depth, especially in the front court. The big man group of Malone, Brian Bridgewater, Elbert Robinson, Aaron Epps and John Odo has combined for just 6.3 rebounds per game. With that kind of production, or lack of production, you can’t blame Jones for rolling the dice. Luckily for the Tigers it appears that freshman guard Jalyn Patterson has emerged as a solid backcourt contributor. In fact, Jones trusts Patterson so much that he had him in over Josh Gray, who was having an erratic game taking care of the ball, late in the Tigers’ loss to Missouri last week.
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RTC Weekly Primer: Hilton Magic, Yum!, and Battle Out West

Posted by Henry Bushnell on January 13th, 2015

The first two months of the college basketball season are all about landmarks. Okay, they’re not all about landmarks, but they are about building up to something more important, and landmarks help us track the progress. First there are Midnight Madness and the season’s opening weekend. Then, the Champions Classic followed by all the holiday tournaments. More recently we’ve celebrated the return of conference play and the first full Saturday of games. Now, we’ve got one final landmark to pass before we hit full stride: the return of ESPN’s College Gameday. The festive travelling Saturday pregame show is back for good this weekend when Rece Davis and the crew travel to Ames for Iowa State’s match-up with Kansas, and it returns with some tweaks. First of all, Seth Greenberg replaces Digger Phelps as one of the three studio analysts; but more importantly, flex scheduling has been introduced, which means ESPN can choose its destination a week in advance to ensure it relocates to the most intriguing game of the weekend (just like the football version). With the eyes of the college sports world now fully trained on the hardwood, a more interesting Gameday experience is just another of many things to look forward to in 2015.

Three for the Money

This Was the View the Last Time These Two Teams Met

This Was the View the Last Time These Two Teams Met

  • Kansas at Iowa State | Saturday, 9:00 PM EST, ESPN. If Kansas and Iowa State are worthy of Gameday’s attention, they’re certainly worthy of ours. Assuming that the Jayhawks get past Oklahoma State at home on Tuesday – by no means a foregone conclusion – they’ll have successfully shrugged off questions and will have started Big 12 play 3-0 for the ninth consecutive year. On the other side of things, Iowa State is one of the most enigmatic teams in the country. On some nights the Cyclones look offensively un-containable, but on others, they look completely out of sync. One thing for which they can be counted on though is a healthy sprinkling of Hilton Magic. Iowa State has only dropped two games over the past three calendar years in their building, but both, however, came against Kansas. Both were also barn-burners. Count on another one this Saturday. 
  • Duke at Louisville | Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN. The Jayhawks and Cyclones got Gameday, but this early tip-off between the Blue Devils and Cardinals should garner just as much attention. NC State played the role of narrative-killer on Sunday when its upset meant Coach K won’t have an opportunity to win his 1,000th game here, but perhaps now the game will take on a little added importance. The key will be how Louisville’s guards keep Duke out of the lane and how well they recover to the three-point shooters. Jahlil Okafor will clearly be a factor underneath, but if Terry Rozier and Chris Jones can make things uncomfortable for Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones, the Blue Devils could fall short of their customary offensive output.
  • Utah at Arizona | Saturday, 7:00 PM EST, Pac-12 Network. Saturday could go a long way to deciding the Pac-12 crown this season. And while it’s a shame that this game is buried on the Pac-12 Network, it’s a huge occasion. Utah is the insurgent, rising to power from the ashes, while Arizona is still king until proven otherwise. The Wildcats’ throne will be seriously threatened on Saturday. After a stunning loss to Oregon State — coming only three games after a defeat at UNLV — there are some issues in Tucson. Sean Miller still hasn’t found consistent enough offense from his talented group, and one worry is that he must sacrifice defense to get his best offensive five on the floor. Delon Wright, Utah’s do-everything combo guard, will look to take advantage of a physically underwhelming Arizona backcourt. Find this one on a stream somewhere.

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RTC Top 25: Week Eight

Posted by Walker Carey on January 12th, 2015

Last week’s college basketball action was highlighted by a Sunday of crazy upsets. First, unbeaten Duke was knocked off by NC State in Raleigh. Next, Wisconsinwithout the services of star big man Frank Kaminsky – was stunned by Rutgers in Piscataway. Last, Arizona experienced defeat at the hands of Oregon State in Corvallis. Winning on the road in conference play is always a tough task, and that was never more on display this year than it was Sunday. A team that was able to grab a crucial conference road victory, though, was Virginia. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers went into South Bend on Saturday and knocked off Notre Dame in a back-and-forth battle that was not decided until the final minute. If this past week was any indication of how conference season will play out, we are certainly in for two months of surprises and thrilling finishes.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump….

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Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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