SEC M5: 11.23.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 23rd, 2012

  1. The Gators continue to roll, but something else rolled on Tuesday in Florida’s 58 -40 win over Savannah State — Kenny Boynton’s ankle. Boynton turned his ankle in the second half, tried to return to play, and eventually had to be helped off the court after just five points in 24 minutes. According to coach Billy Donovan, Boynton “was capable of going back into the game. We held him out.” Donovan added that he didn’t anticipate his senior guard would miss any additional time. That’s positive news for the Gators, as Boynton has increased his shooting percentages (he currently has an effective field goal percentage of 58.1%) and offensive efficiency rating (127.3, but be sure to read the small sample size oath).
  2. In quite a change of events from recent years and even earlier this year in its first exhibition game, Florida is relying on its defense to win games. “We’re getting better,” Donovan said. “I think the one thing I tried to do in the offseason was really show and display what and how teams scored against us and what we were going to try to do to try to correct those things. It’s an everyday process, but I think those guys are committed and I think those guys are working hard.” Florida’s adjusted defensive efficiency ranks fourth in the nation and its effective field goal defense ranks second. And the Gators’ defense might have won them the game against Savannah State. “Our defense saved us because we were not very good at all on offense,” Donovan said. Right now, Florida appears more balanced than it has been in many years.
  3. Kentucky point guard Ryan Harrow appears to be feeling better, but now will be out one more game, this time with a family issue. Prior to UK’s victory over Morehead State, Calipari said Harrow “called (Tuesday) and said, ‘Coach, I got an issue that I’ve got to deal with, and my mom’s here. I’m going to go deal with it.’ ” Harrow has struggled this year, only amassing 10 minutes of play this season. When asked whether or not he thought Harrow was having difficulty adjusting to the high pressures of being the starting point guard, “I don’t think so,” Calipari said. “I don’t think it’s that. It might be some of it, but I don’t believe that. He was getting better. That’s the sad thing about it.” Kentucky would certainly like to see its starting point guard back. Harrow’s first game back could be next Thursday against Notre Dame.
  4. Vanderbilt went into its game with Davidson on Thursday with a laundry list of items to work on. “We just have to get better at everything,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “Our post play in the game the other night was really bad. I mean, just from top to bottom — offensively, defensively, we fouled too much, we didn’t get picked up in transition, we made careless turnovers, we took bad shots. We just did a lot of things you do when you play poorly. It’s a process. These guys are young and eager and they want to do well, but sometimes they don’t know what to do or they don’t do the right thing.” The Commodores’ 48 points last Friday at Oregon was the fewest point total for the squad in more than nine years. Despite the loss to Davidson on Thursday, the ‘Dores limited turnovers to 12 but shot just 44.6 percent from the field.
  5. And finally we end with Frank Martin doing what Frank Martin does best. We are a little late on this, but it’s never too late to circle back around to one of Martin’s temper tantrums. Just wait until South Carolina jumps into conference play. We haven’t seen Martin mad yet.

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Happy Thanksgiving From the SEC Microsite

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 22nd, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the SEC Microsite.

Happy Thanksgiving


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SEC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 15th, 2012

  1. Preseason tournaments aren’t always just about the basketball, as teams travel to exciting destinations like Maui, Puerto Rico, or New York City. So is Anthony Grant planning anything fun for his team’s visit to the Big Apple for the 2KSports Classic this weekend? “Yes,” claims the Alabama coach. “We are going to play basketball.” The Crimson Tide are all business on this trip. Oregon State will be joining them at Madison Square Garden, and although the Beavers don’t have a history of scaring anyone, they appear to have their best team in years. The Pac-12 foe has a post game that can exploit Alabama’s interior weakness, but their lax perimeter defense should provide the Crimson Tide with plenty of open looks from deep. These contrasting strengths will produce some open-ended basketball. Maybe the Crimson Tide will even be allowed some off-the-court fun in the big city if they can take care of the Beavers Thursday night.
  2. I wrote yesterday that Florida’s offense could struggle against Wisconsin with star guard Kenny Boynton playing out of position, creating a mini-ballhandling crisis. The Gators did have trouble in taking care of the ball by committing 20 turnovers against the Badgers, but you don’t need to make the most of your possessions when you shoot as well as Florida did in its 74-56 win. Erik Murphy in particular put in a masterful performance — the senior forward, still recovering from an illness, shot a perfect 10-for-10 from the field for 24 points, not to mention the eight boards (four offensive) he tallied. Murphy’s offensive versatility was on full display against a Badger team that ranked 7th nationally in defensive efficiency last season. The Gators’ 62% field goal percentage clearly isn’t sustainable for the long haul of the season, but when suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin regains his eligibility, the Florida offense has all the pieces to become a juggernaut.
  3. Kentucky’s vaunted 2013 recruiting class moved a few steps closer to becoming official yesterday, as Marcus Lee and Derek Willis signed national letters of intent. But the good news didn’t stop there. Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who had originally intended to wait until April to sign, will instead sign with the Wildcats before the end of signing period, according to the twins’ father, and James Young is expected to follow suit. While there was no reason to think that the Harrison twins were wavering in their decision to come to Lexington, Wildcat fans will love to see the pen hit paper. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being touted as one of the best ever, and Calipari is still in the running for almost every other top uncommitted player.
  4. In AJ Ogilvy and Festus Ezeli, Kevin Stallings has become accustomed to having a reliable center patrolling the paint at Memorial Gym. He may have to do without that this season, but he won’t wait much longer than that after Damian Jones became Vanderbilt’s first 2013 commitment. The 6’9” defensive specialist from Baton Rouge spurned nearby LSU to sign with the Commodores. “I really like the coaches and players, and they have a really good work ethic,” Jones said when asked what attracted him to Vanderbilt. “That’s what I like and what I’m used to. Coach Stallings makes sure they work hard.” According to 247Sports recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer, Jones may not have the offensive skill set of Ogilvy or Ezeli, but he is an elite athlete who will be a dominant rebounder. Stallings doesn’t have a ton of talent in Nashville at the moment, but Jones makes for a great start in his efforts to fix that with his next recruiting class.
  5. Auburn will face several quality players in the conference season, but they might just have their toughest individual test of the year against Isaiah Canaan and Murray State tonight. Coach Tony Barbee isn’t taking the challenge lightly. “Murray State is a very talented team. The guys they have returning with Isaiah Canaan being a preseason first-team All-American and how great he was last year from the point guard position. He has the ability to score and get everyone involved.” Dexter Fields and Stacy Wilson join Canaan in a backcourt that will have a distinct advantage over the Tigers, so don’t be surprised if Barbee encourages his team to feed center Rob Chubb early and often. The 6’10″ senior will enjoy a height advantage over the Racers’ frontcourt, and has shown that he can score if his guards can find him in advantageous positions. With an off shooting night from Canaan and Barbee finding the right matchups to exploit, the Tigers could give themselves some momentum early in the season.
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Preseason SEC Power Rankings

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.

Kentucky tops the first Rush the Court: SEC power rankings (Washington Post)

  1. Kentucky – The playlist is set on repeat as long as Calipari is in Lexington; raw freshmen talent comes in, matures, performs at their highest peak in March, and gets drafted. Don’t expect this year’s squad to match last year’s numbers or expectations. However, Calipari will find a way to get these Cats to mature quickly and be in the hunt for their 48th SEC crown and another Final Four run.
  2. Florida – The Gators return quite a bit from their second Elite Eight run in as many seasons. Their expectations are to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007. While the veteran leadership of Kenny Boynton is a positive, the Gators must get more consistent play from several key role players, including Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario, to reach their goals. The pieces are in place for another deep Gator run.
  3. Missouri –  The island of misfit transfers is located in Columbia, Missouri. Newcomers such as Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriahki (Connecticut), and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all come to Missouri to find a new and hopefully winning experience in the Tigers’ first year in the SEC. With preseason SEC Player of the Year Phil Pressey leading the backcourt as well as Laurence Bowers in the post, Missouri should not only come close to their success of last year but also vie for the school’s first Final Four appearance in history.
  4. Tennessee –  The Volunteers won nearly 20 games last year and earned a postseason NIT berth with first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Adding freshman phenom forward Jarnell Stokes in January resulted in at least four more wins in the second half of the season. Martin’s defensive style of play, plus Stokes on the team for a full year and senior Jeronne Maymon guarding the post, should cause hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC title. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 10.25.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on October 25th, 2012

  1. Kentucky took to the Rupp Arena floor Wednesday night for its annual Blue-White scrimmage. Over 12,000 fans were in attendance, with many more catching the action on Fox Sports Net. The new-look Wildcats put on a high-flying, high-scoring show, but coach John Calipari downplayed the performance. “Folks, let me just say this,” he told fans after the final buzzer, “thanks for being here tonight. Can you see how far we have to go?” This isn’t surprising of course, as Calipari downplaying his team’s level of quality before the season seems to be his modus operandi. Big performances from freshmen Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and Nerlens Noel will dominate headlines, but the upperclassmen showed promise as well. Kyle Wiltjer displayed improved strength and dropped a pretty baby hook over Noel, while transfer Julius Mays showed a quick and accurate trigger from long range. Even Jon Hood, coming off a knee injury, looked energetic and shot the ball efficiently. If one of these older players can step into the leadership role vacated by Darius Miller, Kentucky may not be as far away as their coach believes.
  2. Attendence figures have been woeful for South Carolina over the past few seasons, but Frank Martin has designs on quickly changing that. In a meeting with members of the student body on Monday, the new Gamecock coach discussed ideas to increase fan interest. “I’ll make myself available for anything the students want,” he said. “I need you guys in that building.” Martin isn’t the type to shy away from a challenge. In 2007, he took over a Kansas State program that hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in over a decade and promptly led the Wildcats to four bids in six seasons. Turning around a moribund South Carolina program might be even tougher. The overall lack of talent on the roster makes an immediate reversal of fortunes unlikely, but Martin’s willingness to reach out to a jaded fanbase is a step in the right direction.
  3. Want to hear what your coach thinks about your team’s chances this season? Your questions will be answered today, as the league’s coaches gather in Hoover, Alabama, for SEC Media Day. The story from last year’s event was the unwavering confidence of Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, who seemed to take issue with the fact that his team wasn’t being ranked ahead of the inexperienced Kentucky Wildcats. After losing every key contributor from a 25-win team, how will the Commodores’ coach react to this year’s 10th place prediction for his squad?
  4. New LSU coach Johnny Jones got a jump on the Media Day festivities when he addressed local media in Baton Rouge yesterday. “We have really been pleased with the last few days of practice,” said Jones. “Unfortunately, we have had a few players go down with injuries which are somewhat of a little setback. Hopefully, we will get them back on the floor in the near future within the next few days. That would be beneficial for us because of our lack of numbers.” Any hint of injury on an already thin squad is troubling news for LSU fans, since even a full-strength Tiger team won’t win many conference games this season. Jones will be counting on good fortune on the injury front to stay away from the bottom of the standings. If he runs into some bad luck, however, he can ask Andrew Del Piero for help finding practice bodies. A couple of those trombone players looked like they had some size.
  5. Details surrounding Billy Gillispie’s dismissal from Texas Tech continue to emerge, and they aren’t pretty. E-mails obtained by USA Today indicate that the former Kentucky coach regularly ignored practice time restrictions, most notably on one October weekend in 2011 when the team “practiced for 7 hours, 15 minutes on Saturday, and 6 hours, 30 minutes on Sunday”. His tenure in the SEC was an unmitigated disaster, and his failed campaign at Texas Tech only highlights how unfit Gillispie was to lead the league’s most prestigious program. It seems unlikely that another school will take a chance on him in the near future (if at all), so when the controversy over his improprieties in Lubbock fades away, we hope that you won’t have to read Gillispie’s name on this site for long, long time.
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Vanderbilt’s Answers Begin at Point Guard

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 17th, 2012

After a historic SEC Tournament championship run, Vanderbilt watched as three Commodores were selected on NBA Draft night. Though senior Brad Tinsley was not one of them, his departure left a monumental void at the point guard position. Tinsley, a frustrating player for ‘Dores’ fans at times, remained a steadying influence for Kevin Stallings’ club with 9.0 points, 4.1 assists, and 2.6 rebounds per game last season. His senior leadership anchored one of the best offensive squads in the conference, thus finding a suitable replacement will not come easily. The Commodores find themselves in a year of transition, and the question that will prove most crucial to Vanderbilt’s adjustment will be whether Stallings can find consistency and production at the point.

Is Kedren Johnson the answer for Vanderbilt? (Mark Humphrey/ AP)

The Commodores have two talented and eager options in the backcourt. Junior Kyle Fuller, coming off a disappointing sophomore campaign, has the skills to develop into a strong contributor. He is quick enough to penetrate the lane, and makes good decisions with the ball. Fuller has shown that he is capable but will need to provide more consistent effort to see extended minutes. He never scored more than five points all of last season, and also never seemed to get into his comfort zone on the court.

The likely candidate to begin the year as the starter is sophomore Kedren Johnson. Johnson has good size at 6’4″ and has shown flashes of becoming a solid long-term player for the ‘Dores. He averaged just 3.1 points per game last year, but worked his way into more consistent playing time late in the season. In fact, Johnson played double figure minutes in his last 11 games. It is clear that Stallings trusts Johnson with running the offense, but he will need a big step up from the young player this season. Vanderbilt needs a leader it can trust, and with the top six scorers gone from a championship team a season ago (and also 87.7 percent of the scoring), the ‘Dores might need Johnson to step into that role quicker than expected.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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SEC Transition Basketball: Vanderbilt Commodores

Posted by Brian Joyce on July 10th, 2012

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

State of the Program

The reigning SEC Tournament champions appeared to be on a promising streak preceding the Big Dance. After swatting the proverbial monkey off its back and defeating Harvard in the Round of 64 following three straight first round exits, it was heartache once again for Commodore fans as the team settled well short of expectations. With a trio of NBA level talent and an experienced hoard of role players, 2011-12 was supposed to be the year on which Vandy fans had been waiting. Turnovers, a reliance on the outside shot, and difficulty rebounding marred Kevin Stallings‘ club, and now Vandy looks to be heading into a rebuilding year unfortunately situated in one of the SEC’s strongest years in recent history.

John Jenkins is gone, and so are his NBA bound teammates, Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor

With familiar names such as John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, and Festus Ezeli all gone, who does Stallings turn to now? In fact, his top six players in terms of minutes played are gone. The Commodores will rely heavily upon talented yet vastly inexperienced and untested players. The leading returning scorer for the 2012-13 ‘Dores averaged just over three points per game last season. To say there are some question marks about next season is an understatement. As Stallings pointed out in the SEC summer teleconference a few weeks ago, “It is certainly going to be a year of transition for our basketball program. Not one guy who is playing will have ever been in the role he will be assuming for next year’s squad.”  Vanderbilt certainly underperformed last season, but can it now exceed a lowered set of expectations in 2012-13?

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SEC Weekly Five: 04.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 27th, 2012


  1. Surely you heard that number one recruit and flat top fashionista Nerlens Noel committed to the University of Kentucky, but what you may not know is that Noel and his fellow incoming freshmen are helping to recruit other top talent to Lexington. Noel has led the charge, via Twitter of all places, to recruit Anthony Bennett, another top player in the class of 2012, to join him in the front line in the 2012-13 version of the defending national champions. Bennett is deciding among Kentucky, UNLV and Florida, with many experts believing it is down to the Gators and the Wildcats. Kentucky saw a lot of scoring walk out the proverbial door to the NBA, and another stockpile of freshmen talent is a must for the Wildcats to consider defending its current title.
  2. Noel isn’t the only one recruiting for Kentucky. Wildcat coach John Calipari has hit the recruiting trail and he has been forced to be slightly more creative than he has been in the past. Cal is looking to add depth to the backcourt  with 6’5″ shooting guard Mislav Brzoja. Never heard of Brzoja? I told you Calipari was getting creative. Brzoja is a shooting extraordinaire who helped Croatia defeat the USA in the U-19 FIBA World Championships.
  3. While Kentucky is completely overhauling its roster after losing seven players, Vanderbilt is undergoing a similar process with far from the same results. The Commodores lost their top six scorers, three of whom expect to be drafted, but they haven’t replaced their big three with top talent.  The biggest disappointment for Vanderbilt and coach Kevin Stallings has to be when in-state talent Alex Poythress chose to play at Kentucky after Vanderbilt recruited him for almost four years. “The staff invested an enormous amount of time and effort into recruiting (Poythress)… that was the watershed event,” Nashville-based recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said. “It’s safe to say it hasn’t been a good recruiting year for Vandy. Exactly why, I don’t know. Sometimes you get unlucky.” Like the Wildcats in Lexington, a lot of scoring leaves Vandy this spring, and it seems to be a much more difficult challenge to envision who will put the ball in the bucket in Nashville with John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli no longer on campus.
  4. New South Carolina coach Frank Martin insists he didn’t come to the Gamecocks simply to run away from his troubles at Kansas State, but rather because of his excitement to be part of the USC program. “I’m just telling you, (Gamecocks AD) Eric Hyman put his arms around me and it was hard for me not to feel the passion that he had for building the men’s basketball program,” Martin said. “I’ve never been through this before.” Martin inherits a team that finished last in the SEC, but he has taken little talent and done something with it before. Martin took over the Kansas State job on the heels of an NIT appearance and had the Wildcats in the Elite Eight within three years.
  5. Scheduling is always one of the joys of the college basketball offseason, and Indiana coach Tom Crean claims that Kentucky no longer wants to play the Hoosiers in a home-and-home series. Kentucky is pushing to move the series to neutral court sites again, possibly in Indianapolis and Louisville. After the heartbreaker suffered in Bloomington this past December, who can blame the Cats for wanting to change things? But one has to wonder how long top-tier programs can continue to avoid playing difficult games (or really any games) on the road? Kentucky is slowly limiting any true road games from its schedule, joining the likes of arch-nemesis Duke as teams that don’t typically play in hostile environments until conference play. That hasn’t exactly been a recipe for success for the Blue Devils. With Kentucky’s propensity for freshman-heavy rosters, doesn’t it make sense that Calipari would want to challenge his team on a rival’s home court to prepare for the rigors of March rather than take a guaranteed paycheck from an inferior opponent in a blowout win at Rupp?
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Saturday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 17th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Syracuse vs. #8 Kansas State – East Region Third Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Jim Boeheim's Team Appears Vulnerable: Will They Find Steady Footing?

You can make a case that Syracuse shouldn’t even be here after the officiating disaster at the end of its first game. However, the Orange survived and now are being questioned by many fans and commentators. A word of caution: Thursday’s game against UNC-Asheville may have been what Syracuse needed to get over the jitters of playing without Fab Melo. While that’s not likely to be a popular opinion, it may be enough to move Syracuse to at least the Sweet Sixteen. The Orange are not going to have an easy time with Kansas State’s physical defense but the big question mark is if the Wildcats can score enough to keep pace. Kansas State is actually somewhat vulnerable on the defensive glass and Syracuse did a nice job of offensive rebounding against Asheville. Obviously the Wildcats have a significant edge on their end of the floor when it comes to offensive rebounding but we actually like the matchups for Syracuse. The Orange have a lot more talent, are deeper and can pressure a Kansas State team that averages 14 turnovers per game. Syracuse won’t get out on the break often but all it needs is a couple stretches of turnovers and fast break points in order to create a cushion. Experience also matters and the Orange feature two seniors in Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph while Kansas State has freshman Angel Rodriguez running its offense. Syracuse isn’t nearly as good without Melo but we think the Orange are good enough to advance past the Wildcats in this game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Syracuse.

#2 Ohio State vs. #7 Gonzaga – East Region Third Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 2:45 pm ET on CBS

There are a ton of fascinating matchups in this game. From Gonzaga’s front court guarding Jared Sullinger to the nation’s most efficient defensive team going up against a Gonzaga team that can certainly put up points. Aaron Craft is widely considered to be one of, if not the best perimeter defender in the nation. Thad Matta will count on his sophomore point guard to shut down Gonzaga freshman Kevin Pangos, an absolute sniper from the arc. Gonzaga shoots the ball very well as a team but Pangos is the guy who really provides the spark for this team. The Bulldogs demolished West Virginia on Thursday but facing Ohio State is going to be a totally different animal. Gonzaga does have the front court depth needed to double Sullinger and make it difficult for the big fella to score inside. The key to beating Ohio State is to make them take jumpers while frustrating Sullinger and Gonzaga can do that with its strong front line. However, foul trouble could become a major concern for the Zags if they’re not careful. A matchup on the wing between Elias Harris and Deshaun Thomas are also intriguing, as is Gonzaga’s ability to get to the foul line against a defense that is physical but doesn’t foul a lot. If the Bulldogs can’t get to the stripe that means Sullinger isn’t in foul trouble and they’re going to be forced to make shots against a really tough Buckeye defense. This is going to be a really fun game to watch between two very talented teams. In fact, it may be the best Saturday matchup on a day in which there will be many.

The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State.

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SEC Morning Five: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 15th, 2012

  1. Alabama’s first round opponent will feature a clash in style from the Crimson Tide’s defensive philosophy. Creighton, the #9 seed matched up with Alabama in the round of 64, features a fast-paced offense ranked fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency and the third highest scorer in the nation in Doug McDermott. “Their defensive numbers are very impressive, holding teams to under 30 percent from the 3-point line and under 40 percent shooting for the year,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott. “They are obviously are going to provide some difficulties for us as we try to get into our offense and try to score at the rim. Anthony Grant has done a great job wherever he’s been and, obviously, what he’s done with the Alabama program in a short period of time is no exception.” Alabama may be a well oiled machine on defense, but its offensive numbers are the largest concern. The Tide are shooting 45.2 percent from the field and an alarming 28.5 percent from beyond the arc. Alabama’s defense has to be good to overcome those abysmal statistics.
  2. After 14 seasons with the Bulldogs, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury may be on the hot seat for his team’s performance over the last two years. After an infamous fight amongst teammates in the Diamondhead Classic last year in Hawaii, the conflict didn’t improve much this year for the disappointing Bulldogs. After starting out at 19-5 and climbing as high as #15 in the AP poll, Mississippi State imploded on its way to losing seven of its last nine games. In response to being on the hot seat, Stansbury said, “You know, I haven’t given it any thought and I think you know this: what we’ve done through 14 years speaks for itself. That’s all I can say about it.” Too often, unrealistic expectations fail to take into account a successful history and reputation. It is a shame to see long term success at one school go out the window in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society that focuses on the immediate past.
  3. Vanderbilt enjoyed unprecedented success with its second SEC Tournament championship ever. After hitting an emotional high on Sunday with their win over the Kentucky Wildcats, many wonder if the Commodores will be able to regain their composure and focus for the NCAA Tournament. Kevin Stallings is feeling good with where his team is at mentally. “We had a long talk about the need to do just that, the need to refocus our energy and refocus our minds,” Stallings said. “We were off (Monday), so we just got finished practicing (Tuesday morning). They’ve had a good focus about them. They weren’t hung over from Sunday, I don’t think.” Vanderbilt opens tournament play with #12 seed Harvard. Harvard is a good defensive team, holding opponents to a 40.6 percent field goal percentage on the year, but the Commodores’ porous defense of year’s past is much improved as they held Kentucky to just 35.9 percent shooting from the field during Sunday’s victory.
  4. One doesn’t need to be a basketball expert to decipher that Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis is good at basketball, but analyst Jay Bilas saw Davis’ potential at a Nike skills camp and came away most impressed with his hands. Davis attributes his time playing as a guard before hitting a growth spurt as the key to his soft touch.  “When you’re a guard, you’re going to have great hands,” Davis said. “Most ‘bigs’ will not have great hands. That’s a great attribute I have. It really helps, especially when they throw lobs or quick passes. To be able to catch it and finish around the rim.” While Bilas is impressed with Davis’ hands, I am impressed with the development of his offensive game throughout the course of the season, in some part due to his soft touch around the rim. The freshman center went from scoring almost exclusively on lobs and offensive rebounds to where he establishes himself on the low block with a variety of post moves. Davis has scored in double digits in 12 of his past 13 games and 21 of the past 23, including a double double in six of the last seven games.
  5. Tennessee won its first NIT game against Savannah State even with forward Jeronne Maymon not playing. “You’re talking about an all-league player, a guy who rebounds, a guy who posts really strong, a guy who helps facilitate the offense,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martinsaid. “You’re talking about your team leader.” Maymon averages 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game and is currently being evaluated on a day-to-day basis. The Vols face a tough Middle Tennessee State team in the next round in Knoxville, and will need Maymon’s rebounding ability after he grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in his last game against Ole Miss. Tennessee finished on Tuesday with an offensive rebounding percentage of 22.9 percent, which was its third lowest output on the season.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.13.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 13th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State is disappointed with being on the outside of the bubble, but it must find the will to play against Massachusetts in the NIT Tournament on Tuesday. “It’ll be a huge challenge for us, as you well know, but there is no one to blame but us,” Rick Stansbury said. “We had our opportunities. Most of the time this time of the year you’re trying to play your way in and we basically played our way out. We had a bad two-and-a-half week stretch and lose five in a row, and, again, had plenty of opportunities in all those games to close it out. And then we don’t close it out against Georgia down there.” The Bulldogs have lost six of their last eight, obviously heading in the opposite direction from the team that cracked the top 25 and looked as though they would be a tough out in March.
  2. Vanderbilt was able to secure its second conference tournament title through defense and hot shooting, but its coach attributes a lot of their success to caring about each other. “When you invest a lot, you care a lot,” Kevin Stallings said. “What I’m most proud of is the investment that’s occurred by this group of young men in our program. To see those guys get to experience what they experienced, that was a great feeling for me.” While this sounds more like a Dove for Men commercial, the Commodores have had the same core together for three to four years and it’s starting to pay dividends after several disappointing years.
  3. Tennessee is excited to continue playing even if it fell short of the ultimate goal of making the NCAA Tournament. “As a coach, I can’t be upset because of the progress we made,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Our goal is to make the NCAA tournament every year, and barring injuries, we have the talent to do that every year. But this isn’t disappointing this season considering where we started from.” Former Tennessee coach and current NIT Selection Committee member Don Devoe believes that the NIT is a building block for next season. “I know a lot of people are disappointed they lost to Ole Miss, but this can be a really special thing for the team and a springboard into the future.” The Volunteers will bring their pesky defense to a first round matchup with Savannah State in the NIT on Tuesday night in Thompson Boling Arena.
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari has faith in Tennessee’s success in the NIT — if it puts its mind to it. “I would suggest they will have a good run in the NIT — if they choose that,’’ Calipari said. “A lot of teams go in there and they’re mad about having to play in the NIT. I’ve had teams (at Memphis) that loved it, because of where we were at that time.” Was this a classic Calipari dig at an old rival or genuine belief in a team that gave Cal’s Wildcats a true test on the road? The Vols certainly have something to prove and will compete for much more than NIT titles once Martin replenishes the talent in Knoxville.
  5. Speaking of Kentucky’s outspoken coach, Calipari wasn’t exactly thrilled with his team’s draw in the South region. “The only thing I was happy about is I heard (the committee) was trying to get an exemption for the (Miami) Heat to be the second seed in our bracket, and they weren’t allowed to get that, so they couldn’t put them in there, too,” Calipari said. It certainly seems that for the #1 overall seed, the Wildcats drew an awfully tough bracket. However, there is not one team in Kentucky’s region that seems to be a true roadblock to UK’s fifteenth Final Four appearance.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.12.12

Posted by EMoyer on March 12th, 2012

  1. Vanderbilt ended a 61-year SEC Tournament Championship drought by toppling #1 Kentucky, 71-64, on Sunday. As a reward for their effort, the Commodores earned a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the committee did them few other favors. For starters, they will open their tournament on Thursday and secondly, they must travel to Albuquerque, N.M. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings voiced some displeasure with his team’s fate, saying “I thought with the win today, maybe we had a chance to crack the top 16 (and be a 4 seed). But we didn’t and that’s OK. It’s kind of difficult. I was really wanting, more than anything else, I was really hoping for a close site and a Friday game. And we got a far-away site and a Thursday game. So I guess that is what it is and we have to go get ready to do it.”
  2. As some experts began to say that Kentucky needed to experience a loss before NCAA Tournament, the Commodores obliged by handing the Wildcats their first loss in more than three months. John Clay wrote if the loss will follow the adage or if it held greater meaning. “Did a young Kentucky team, without a deep bench, succumb to the fatigue of playing three games in three days? Did the law of averages catch up with the Cats?”
  3. After falling to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament semifinals, Florida head coach Billy Donovan questioned the free throw disparity between his Gators and the favored Wildcats. “We got to the free-throw line two times in by far the most physical game we have played this year,” Donovan said. “How we only got there two times is beyond me. I thought it got to a point in the second half where it was kind of like just everybody was taking each other down because no one wanted to give up anything easy…When you see from our bench in the second half, Patric Young getting pushed in the back constantly, constantly, constantly, and there’s no whistle. I mean, to me it’s really hard to overcome 20 free throws to two.”
  4. Mississippi State’s late-season fade culminated in the the Bulldogs missing out on the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. On Sunday, Greg Shaheen, interim executive vice president for NCAA championships, acknowledged that the Bulldogs were among the final teams under consideration, “They were in discussions as recently as [Sunday] morning,” he said during a teleconference. “The committee woke up [Sunday] morning with an interest in kind of making sure that the last selections were exactly where they wanted to be, and Mississippi State was still in that discussion…Mississippi State was there for the taking when the final field was set. Certainly their résumé put them right there.”
  5. Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy offered up some thoughts on the Rebels earning a #2 seed in the NIT and on the suspension of Jelan Kendrick, who did not play at all during the SEC Tournament. On the NIT, he told Hugh Kellenberger, “My hope is that once we get through the disappointment of not getting it done against Vandy in the semifnials, they’ll be excited to play basketball and the competitive spirit and nature will kick in and they will want to keep playing,” Regarding Kendrick, Kennedy said, “We’ll revisit the situation this week.”
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