Morning Five: 07.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 30th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday for Vanderbilt might have been as bad of a day as a program could have without a NCAA investigation. The big news from the program was that Kedren Johnson, its leading scorer last season, was suspended for the upcoming academic year. Johnson averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds leading a Commodore team that managed to go 16-17 last season despite losing its top three players from the previous season. The wording on Johnson’s apology (“It was a violation of the good conduct expected of all Vanderbilt students. I take full responsibility and now must begin working to regain the trust and respect of my school, the student body, our fans and especially my coaches and friends on the team.”) and the fact that this has not been reported in the mainstream media would argue against it being a serious legal matter and more likely something academic (perhaps like what Harvard experienced last season). If Johnson is able to atone for whatever he did, he should still have two more productive seasons remaining at Vanderbilt.
  2. One player who will apparently not be returning to Nashville is Kevin Bright, who has opted to pursue a pro basketball career in Germany after averaging 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a freshman. Normally we would consider such a move premature, but Bright was not your typical freshman. For one thing he is already 21 years old, but perhaps more interestingly he grew up in Germany and also played in a German youth program before coming over to Vanderbilt. Of course, that may not sit well with Vanderbilt’s staff as Kevin Stallings was not told by Bright of his decision to leave the school and to play internationally.
  3. Yesterday EA Sports filed a motion in federal court asking the judge to allow the company to respond to the plaintiff’s latest complaint in the notable Ed O’Bannon player likeness case. Using a recent Supreme Court decision as its authority (Comcast v. Behrend, decided in March 2013), attorneys for EA argued that the company has the right to ”test the legal sufficiency of the complaint before a class is certified.” Since the court has not yet come to a decision on the issue of certifying the case as a class action (and correspondingly exposing the NCAA, EA and others to billions of dollars in liability), EA wants to have an opportunity to get out of the cross-hairs before that decision is made. According to the article, a sports law expert named Michael McCann believes that the judge will allow EA to make its response. Will it ultimately matter? Mostly this is a case of CYA, but given the huge potential numbers surrounding this case, it makes sense that EA Sports would give it a try.
  4. We would really like to be more excited about the announcement that Dereck Whittenburg is coming back to North Carolina State as an assistant coach, but it is kind of hard to do since this will be the third time he is doing so. Whittenburg is best known for the most famous air ball in basketball history also has served as an assistant at George Mason and Long Beach State before serving as a head coach at Wagner and Fordham. Although his head coaching career was less than distinguished he did manage to lead Wagner to the 2003 NCAA Tournament. It appears that Whittenburg’s primary role will be as director of player development at the school so we are not sure what his intentions are in terms of getting back into full-time coaching.
  5. It seems like show-cause penalties are not quite the death sentence they previously were as former Bruce Pearl assistant Jason Shay is on the verge of becoming the second of that staff to get a Division I job after receiving a show-cause. Shay has reportedly accepted a position at North Dakota. In Shay’s case like that of Steve Forbes (the first Pearl assistant to be hired again at the Division I level) the show-cause was only one year so he sat out an extra year before coming back to Division I. Pearl still has one more year left on his show-cause and although he is certainly a much bigger name than either of these two his hiring would attract much more scrutiny although we would not be shocked to see a desperate program go after him.
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Can Nerlens Noel Still Win SEC FrOY? A Look at the League’s Race

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on February 21st, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland. You can find past editions of the SEC Freshman Watch here (East) and here (West).

Handicapping the SEC’s Freshman of the Year race didn’t take much effort back on February 10. Nerlens Noel was fresh off of his third straight double-double and was the anchor behind Kentucky’s rise from the NCAA Tournament bubble to the Top 25. In 10 SEC games, he had averaged 10.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.7 blocks per game to lead the Wildcats to an 8-2 conference record. More than halfway through the season, the award was his to lose. Through no fault of his own, he may have.

Can Noel Still Win SEC FrOY Despite His Injury?

Can Noel Still Win SEC FrOY Despite His Injury?

Noel tore the ACL of his left knee in the middle of a loss to Florida last week, ending his season and possibly his SEC career. His absence has left a big hole around the rim for Kentucky and created a void at the top of the league’s freshman pecking order. With Noel out for the final four weeks of conference play, the Freshman of the Year (FrOY) award is seemingly up for grabs. However, a lackluster crop of first-year players means that UK’s injured center might still be the league’s best bet to win the honors.

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SEC Freshman Watch: Breaking Down the “East’s” Most Effective Newcomers

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on February 12th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite Contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland. You can find past editions of the SEC Freshman Watch here (East) and here (West).

The SEC conference slate is more than halfway complete, and the league’s freshmen have begun to stabilize in their fourth month of NCAA competition. As expected, some first-year players are starting to wilt under the grind of the college schedule, while some surprising players are getting stronger as the year goes on. Kentucky has rebounded from early adversity to rejoin the Top 25 rankings, while Georgia, who once sat in the SEC basement with a 1-4 record, has ridden a five-game winning streak to stake its claim as a mid-tier team.

Noel's D is Keying the UK Resurgence (Photo credit: AP).

Noel’s D is Keying the UK Resurgence (Photo credit: AP).

These teams are getting big contributions from freshman play-makers to reboot their seasons. The Wildcats are playing well through Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin’s growing pains thanks in part to the burgeoning defense of Nerlens Noel in the middle. Georgia is riding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to key wins, but Charles Mann has turned into the Bulldogs’ third-leading scorer and Brandon Morris is becoming a pesky defender on the wing. Even South Carolina, mired in a 2-8 SEC season so far, can take solace in Michael Carrera’s scrappy production in the Gamecock frontcourt. Let’s take a closer look at how these first-year players have performed since SEC play got underway. This week, we’ll go back and examine how the freshmen of the former SEC East are doing.

Kentucky: Nerlens Noel has stepped his game up defensively for the Wildcats, and that’s been a big piece of Kentucky’s charge back into the Top 25. UK has won five straight heading into Tuesday night’s showdown with Florida, and Noel has averaged 5.2 blocks and 10.2 rebounds in that span. His offense is still a work in progress, but his impact has been undeniable.

Kentucky Freshmen 2/12

Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin have been trending in the opposite direction, as they’ve taken a back seat to Noel as the season has worn on. Poythress’s minutes and scoring have dropped as the athletic freshman has struggled with fouls (four per game in his last six contests). Goodwin has struggled as a shooter and a ball-handler recently. He hasn’t made a three-pointer in his last eight games (0-of-10) and his assists have dropped (while his turnovers have increased) as the Wildcats have faced tougher opponents.

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Ole Miss Avoids Destructive Resume Loss With Comeback Win at Vandy

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2013

David Changas (@dchangas) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s game between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Prior to the season, the Ole Miss Rebels were picked to once again finish in the middle of the pack in the SEC. Little did anyone know that the league would be quite as bad as it has been, with preseason favorite Kentucky leading a throng of disappointing teams that may miss the NCAA Tournament. Given his track record of not having made the Big Dance in his first six seasons in Oxford, it was reasonable to assume that Andy Kennedy’s squad would once again be left out. But the Rebels brought a gaudy 13-2 record and an improving RPI into Tuesday’s contest against Vanderbilt in icy Nashville, and with it the hope that this could be the year Kennedy gets the monkey off his back. With a pre-conference schedule filled with an array of cupcakes and losses only to top-50 RPI mid-majors Indiana State and Middle Tennessee State, it was reasonable to be skeptical about whether this Rebels team was any different than some of Kennedy’s prior squads which, though talented, never did enough to qualify for the Tournament.

Ole Miss Celebrates Its Comeback Against Vandy

Ole Miss Celebrates Its Comeback Against Vandy

What we did not know about the Rebels coming into the season – and what appears to separate this team from prior Rebel teams – is that they would have a difference-making scorer who could lead them from NIT mainstay to SEC contender. But in junior transfer Marshall Henderson,  Ole Miss has just that, and he proved it in the grandest way possible on Tuesday. The Rebels’ 10-point overtime victory in Nashville is one that they clearly were expected to get, especially given that they were coming off a blowout win at Tennessee and a 15-point win at home on Saturday against #10 Missouri. In that game, the Rebels held the Tigers to 36% shooting from the field and forced 19 turnovers en route to a 64-49 victory. But given the way Tuesday’s contest unfolded, this is the type of win that could propel Ole Miss to bigger things, signaling that the Rebels can win on nights when they are not at their best.

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SEC Freshmen Report: Volume I

Posted by CNguon on December 21st, 2012

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @anchorofgold.

The SEC has always been home to some of the NCAA’s most talented newcomers. Much of that has to do with Kentucky’s one-and-done superstars, but Lexington’s five-star recruits aren’t the only players making an impact for Southeastern Conference teams. Several under-the-radar prospects – and some of them big names – are starting to get the feel for the NCAA game and bringing value to their programs early in their careers. As a result, teams like South Carolina and Auburn can put a little extra confidence behind their rebuilding efforts.

Nerlens Noel,

Nerlens Noel (Ken), Michael Carrera (SC) and Negus Webster-Chan (Missou) are just three of many freshmen making an impact this season in the SEC East

So who should SEC basketball fans be looking out for with conference play looming? Every week, we’ll look at how the best freshmen in the SEC have performed in their inaugural seasons. We’ll break the league down football-style into East and West divisions to provide an in-depth look at the young guns that may end up dotting all-SEC teams for years to come. This week, we’ll start with the East by introducing you to the most talented first-year players that the conference has to offer. While a team led by newcomers has carried Kentucky through an up-and-down first two months, teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are also leaning on rookies to carry them to the postseason. Here’s a breakdown on those fresh faces in the (former) SEC East and how they’ve impacted their teams so far.

SEC East

uk freshmen

Kentucky: Kentucky, a team replacing all of its starters in 2012-13, has easily gotten the strongest return from its freshman play-makers this winter. Nerlens Noel has been as good as advertised, and Willie Cauley-Stein has shown a combination of size and skill that suggests that he’d be a starter for almost any other team in the SEC this winter. The two have combined for 18 points, 14 rebounds, and nearly six blocks per game as the Wildcats’ primary big men. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have carried the ‘Cats offensively. Both have shown well-rounded offensive play, while Poythress in particular has shown some defensive chops that could make him a nightmare matchup (a 7’1” wingspan and the size and strength to cover both forward positions) as the season wears on. However, both have struggled with turnovers early in the year, and their talent hasn’t been enough to cover up UK’s relative inexperience in three early losses. Kentucky may have gotten off to an unexpected start thanks to those losses, but they’re also playing on a steeper learning curve than most teams in the SEC. The development of their freshman class will be one of the conference’s biggest stories to watch once league play unfolds.

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Checking in on the… Horizon League

Posted by rtmsf on January 16th, 2009

Damon Lewis, a reporter and play-by-play announcer for the Horizon League Network, is RTC’s Horizon League correspondent.

  1. Butler (#17/18)          6-0    15-1
  2. Milwaukee                   6-1    11-6
  3. Green Bay                    5-1    12-5
  4. Cleveland State        4-3    13-6
  5. Wright State               3-3    9-8
  6. UIC                                    2-4    9-7
  7. Loyola                            2-4    10-8
  8. Youngstown St.       2-5    5-11
  9. Valparaiso                   2-5    5-13
  10. Detroit                           0-6    4-11

Much to my surprise, there seems to be as much attention on the Horizon League this year, as any year I can remember.  Maybe some of that has to do with the often-mentioned “reload” at Butler, or maybe it’s the HL’s tendency to impress when the lights are at their brightest.

In my RTC Horizon League season preview, I mentioned how tough HL teams have been once they make the NCAA Tournament.  During the regular season, the lights are brightest in the Horizon League when teams get the opportunity to play on national television, via the ESPN family of networks.  To date, Horizon League games on one of the WWL’s platforms have featured a buzzer-beating win by Butler over Cleveland State, a HUGE road win by Butler over Xavier, and an overtime win by Green Bay over Milwaukee.  Not to be forgotten, Cleveland State’s 70-foot buzzer-beating win over Syracuse was broadcast on the Big East Network (AKA – ESPN Regional).  Both buzzer-beaters were the “Top Play” on ESPN’s SportsCenter that night, and this play from Green Bay’s Terry Evans and Ryan Tillema also brought home “Top Play” honors on SportsCenter, in Green Bay’s 77-75 OT win last Friday night at the home of the Panthers.

Those are only a few examples of what’s going on this year in the Horizon League.  The level of play is as good as I’ve seen it many years, but that may not translate into multiple NCAA bids.  Unfortunately, as you can probably see by the current standings (shown above), There aren’t 2 or 3 teams separating themselves from the rest of the pack.  Yes, I see the 2-game gap between Green Bay and Cleveland State, but looks can be deceiving.  There are 3 teams in the HL who have yet to play Butler.  Wanna guess who they are?  Yep…Milwaukee, Green Bay (Butler hosts both next week), and UIC (hosting Butler on Saturday afternoon).  It’s still early, but this thing is trending more and more toward one-bid with each passing road loss by Cleveland State and UIC.

Now that we’re in the heart of league play, my position with the Horizon League Network allows for a fair amount of travel to see a lot of these teams in person.  With that in mind, my thoughts on specific teams will hopefully be a bit more concise from here on out, as I no longer have to speculate solely on what “seems” to be true by reading game recaps and looking over box scores.  Remember folks…games aren’t played on paper.

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