SEC M5: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 10th, 2012

  1. CBS Sports named Missouri point guard Phil Pressey to its preseason All-America first team. “It’s so rare in college basketball today to have a guy like Phil who just makes everyone better,” said college basketball writer Jeff Goodman. “That’s the No. 1 quality of a point guard, someone that heightens the level of play of everyone around him. Phil is a good leader and can be a great defender, but ultimately what sets him apart is his ability to put opposing defenses on their heels and get his teammates open looks.” Pressey averaged an impressive 6.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game last season. The star point guard would also make a good candidate for the All-Blogger team as he wrote for Goodman this summer in an entertaining blog about the Tigers’ trip to Europe. I still vote @rushthecourt for All-Blogger team Player of the Year and first team honors.
  2. Florida and Kentucky are arguably the two best teams in the SEC (with Missouri, of course, in the mix), but ESPN thinks the two juggernauts also have the toughest non-conference schedules in the league. The Gators face a daunting schedule of Wisconsin, at Arizona, Georgetown, Kansas State and at Florida State. Meanwhile, the Wildcats pair up with foes Duke, Baylor, at Notre Dame, and Maryland. It’s no coincidence that the most consistent teams and dominant coaches in the SEC continue to schedule in a way that challenges their young teams to grow and prepare prior to hitting conference play. Both schools continue to reap the benefits of a strong non-conference schedule when UK and Florida are among the nation’s most prepared teams come tournament time.
  3. Kentucky coach John Calipari is calling on a familiar name to assess this year’s team. Number one draft pick Anthony Davis played with the current Cats this summer and offered up an observation. “Kyle is way better, way stronger, can do more things. I really like where Kyle is right now,” Davis said. “Kyle” is of course Kentucky sophomore Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer averaged just 4.8 points and 1.7 rebounds per game on last season’s national championship squad, but he was also relegated to the bench behind several future NBA players — Davis, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. While Wiltjer played only 11.3 minutes per game, surely being the elder statesmen on a young squad this season will have its advantages, or at least some additional time on the court. Wiltjer’s progress will go a long way in determining Kentucky’s success this season.
  4. It can be difficult to keep up with Kentucky’s revolving door of freshmen talent, so a comparison can help give Wildcat fans an idea of what to expect. Though Calipari cautioned Big Blue Nation to avoid comparing Nerlens Noel to last year’s NPOY Davis, he was less hesitant to compare freshman forward Alex Poythress to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. “Lets not say Michael Gilchrist but somewhere in that category of a Michael Gilchrist,” Calipari said. “That every minute you’re on the floor you’re either diving, you’re going after a ball, you’re attacking the ball, you’re in a defensive stance. You’re bouncing, you’re sprinting, you’re doing something, you’re motor’s moving. You’re never jogging, there is no such thing as a jog. When he gets to that point it becomes a little scary.” In tomorrow’s SEC Morning Five, look for a blurb regarding Calipari’s comparisons of shooting guards Archie Goodwin and Doron Lamb.
  5. Everybody is chiming in with opinions in anticipation of viewing Kentucky’s fab freshmen next week. Analyst Jimmy Dykes is curious, however, to see one of the less heralded freshmen — Willie Cauley-Stein. “I know about Goodwin, Poythress, Nerlens, Wiltjer, [Jon] Hood,” Dykes said. “Willie is a guy I have not seen and continue to hear high praise about. He probably was not rated as high as he should have been. I am anxious to see how good he looks and how he can potentially be.” If Cauley-Stein’s basketball skills are half as good as his freestyle rap skills in a McDonald’s parking lot, then look out world. You’ve been warned.

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: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by Brian Joyce on August 2nd, 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: Kentucky.

State of the Program

The Kentucky Wildcats’ 2011-12 season was nearly perfect. Kentucky finished at 38-2, with an unblemished 16-0 conference record on its way to the SEC regular season championship. Anthony Davis was awarded the 2012 Naismith Player of the Year award as the nation’s best player. He won quite a few other awards including National Freshman of the Year, National Defensive Player of the Year, 2012 NCAA First Team All-American, SEC Player of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and First Team All-SEC. John Calipari hasn’t exactly won over critics (he probably never truly will), but impressively snagged his first national championship in just his third year with UK. The Wildcats’ offense was a thing of beauty. At times, their defense was even better.  Fans couldn’t have asked for more than that.

Kyle Wiltjer hopes to make this pose a lot this season. (Photo from kysportsbuzz)

Unfortunately for Wildcats fans, this season could be John Calipari’s biggest rebuilding project yet. In 2009-10, he had junior Patrick Patterson to steady a young group of Wildcat studs. In 2010-11, senior Josh Harrelson came out of nowhere to lead UK’s improbable run to the Final Four. In 2011-12, unsung hero Darius Miller had been through it all, surviving the roller coaster years before Calipari’s arrival to return for his senior year ready to lead his team on a championship run. But in 2012-13, Calipari doesn’t have a single player who has started for his program in the past. He is lacking someone who has made meaningful contributions or played significant minutes in his system, a junior or senior leader who can show the younger players what to expect. This season, Calipari is starting over. He always does to a certain extent, but in years past, he had at least one or two veteran players to bridge the gap. Next season, he needs sophomores Kyle Wiltjer and Ryan Harrow to step into that role.

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SEC Weekly Five: 07.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on July 20th, 2012

  1. While many athletic programs avoid so much as acknowledging their players are utilizing social media outlets, Tennessee is embracing it. The Volunteers have added players’ Twitter account information on their online player profiles. And associate media relations director Tom Satkowiak hasn’t turned his players loose in the social media world, but rather is educating them on its proper use by conducting seminars and workshops. “I cringe every time I see a coach or program ban the use of social media,” Satkowiak said. “I think we should be educating guys on how to use it because it’s not going to go away. It’s a part of life now. We just need to educate them on how to use it right.” And there are plenty of opportunities to showcase improper use as well, as Satkowiak has done by showing pictures and tweets that have landed other players in big trouble. A coach cannot control every action of his players, so it’s refreshing to see a university turn to education first as opposed to automatically resorting to punishment.
  2. Fifth year Kentucky senior Julius Mays doesn’t have long to adjust to his new coach John Calipari, but the guard is coming along quickly in a new system. Mays transferred to the Wildcats with one season of eligibility remaining after playing for NC State and Wright State. And even though he is a veteran player, he is learning new things already. “Coming here it’s just completely different, even the way (Calipari) wants you to come off the ball screens,” Mays said in an interview with CoachCal.com. “It’s completely different than the ways I’ve done in the past, and I’ve played ball screen offense for the four years I’ve been in college.” It is clear that Mays can score, so Calipari will figure out how to find minutes for a player who can provide three-point shooting accuracy and scoring even if he isn’t in the starting lineup.
  3. Players can’t be expected to practice and work out every second of the day. It’s the summer, after all, and that means a lot more free time. Kentucky sophomore Kyle Wiltjer and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein recently found the time to take a break from basketball to make an entertaining video complete with break-dancing in the parking lot, freestyle raps, and a special guest appearance from “random dude’ complete with swag. And this isn’t Wiltjer’s first taste of YouTube success. Wiltjer and his crew, affectionately known as the “White Boy Academy”, have made other videos including this dunk fest, this instructional video, and this celebratory rap video. It may be a slow news week for SEC basketball, but we can always count on the WBA and the addition of Cauley-Stein to entertain us. Well done, fellas. Well done.
  4. Look out, ESPN College Gameday is coming back to Rupp Arena. Kentucky has been a participant in College Gameday every year since its inception in 2005 (, excluding a Billy Gillispie season in 2009). Rupp Arena has hosted the show three times (2005 against Mississippi State, 2007 against #1 ranked Florida, and 2010 against Tennessee) and holds the record for the largest attendance at the Gameday morning show. But this time, Kentucky fans are really looking forward to the arrival of Digger Phelps after his dig at Big Blue Nation in Nashville last year. Just imagine if Bobby Knight shows up in Lexington too, after his comments or lack thereof about Kentucky and coach John Calipari over the years. The drama of the personalities involved might be the biggest draw for this event, and not the actual game itself, which has the Cats facing off with the Florida Gators.
  5. Ole Miss sent out this release , already mentioned in the RTC Morning Five on July 18, stating that the rivalry between Memphis and the Rebels would be renewed on the hardwood. While Tigers coach Josh Pastner said “not so fast my friends,” his beef isn’t just with Ole Miss. He has expressed his lack of interest in playing any regional SEC team. Regarding in-state rival Tennessee, Pastner told a Knoxville radio station, “I have no desire to play Tennessee,” and told CBS Sports his team would not play the Volunteers “unless the Governor makes me.” It sounds like Pastner isn’t making friends anywhere he turns in the Southeastern Conference.
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SEC Weekly Five: 06.22.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 22nd, 2012

  1. The University of Kentucky athletic department announced its decision to increase ticket prices by as much as $10 for a single game ticket next season. In addition, the K Fund donation required to buy season tickets has increased by as much as $1500. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said the jump in prices were due to several factors including: the increasing cost of tuition, additional travel costs due to SEC conference realignment, and the rising costs of paying upper echelon coaching salaries like John Calipari’s $5.2 million dollar annual salary (it is worth mentioning at least some of which is paid through annual endorsements). However, when you are coming off a 2012 National Championship and have the most passionate fan base in all of college basketball, fans in the Bluegrass State will pay whatever the asking price to watch their Cats in Rupp Arena.
  2. Talent wins championships, and while the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats have plenty of talent, there is something missing from next year’s roster — experience, particularly in Calipari’s system. Basketball pundits clamored over UK’s one-and-done stars from last season, but it was senior Darius Miller who stepped out of the spotlight to quietly lead his team.  “He does everything the team needs him to do. He completes everybody. He’s not competing, he’s completing,” Calipari said of Miller towards the end of the 2012 season. “If he needs to rebound, defend (he will). He plays some guard, he plays some four (power forward). Whatever position we ask him, he just completes.” It is clear that Calipari’s Cats have the talent to compete for a repeat performance next year, but the question (asked by Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue) becomes, who replaces Darius Miller? And at this point, the answer is, it’s too early to tell.
  3. New LSU head coach Johnny Jones has added David Patrick to his staff to serve in the role of assistant basketball coach. Patrick has served as an assistant with Saint Mary’s and Nicholls State before his most recent stint as player personnel scout for the Houston Rockets. “We are definitely excited about the addition of David Patrick to our staff,” said Jones. “He will not only be able to help us with game planning and practice preparation, but we look forward to him helping to raise our level of recruiting at LSU, both regionally as well as nationally. With his background in both Division I and professional basketball, he brings a level of experience to our program that will help us to move forward.” Jones has built a lot of momentum since being announced as the head man for the Tigers in April. In addition to luring Patrick to Baton Rouge, he initially recruited former UNT assistants Shawn Forrest and Charlie Leonard and added former Georgetown assistant Robert Kirby over a month ago.
  4. A couple of SEC players made Eamonn Brennan’s list of 10 potential breakout players for 2012-13. Okay, so these lists aren’t exactly news, but it’s at least a conversation starter. Brennan puts Arkansas guard BJ Young, who briefly considered a jump to the NBA after his freshman year, on the list. Can a guy who averaged over 15 points per game really be a breakout player? Regardless, Young and his young teammates (see what we did there) could elevate Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks back into the Top 25 this year after a long hiatus from the national college basketball landscape.The other SEC player on Brennan’s list is Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer saw just over 11 minutes per game last year, but when he was on the floor he took the highest percentage of shots on the team. Wiltjer isn’t afraid to hoist the ball up there, and we are likely to see even more shots from him this season.
  5. Incoming Florida transfer Dorian Finney-Smith has ties to the Florida program and he wasn’t going to choose against the Gators again. Finney-Smith is close friends with former Gator center Vernon Macklin. “Vernon is like a brother to me,” Finney-Smith said. “I saw how successful he was at Florida and that played a role in my decision.” It’s a decision that Finney-Smith seems happy with. “Coach Donovan said we’re going to be going up-and-down the floor, every day,” he said. “I like that. It will be fun.” It isn’t sounding like much fun for the rest of the SEC though. Florida’s 2013-14 front line is coming together with the addition of several quality transfers. In addition to the 6’8″ Finney Smith, Billy Donovan added 6’9″ Damontre Harris earlier this summer, a transfer from South Carolina. Both big men will sit out this season, but will be able to practice with the team.
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Morning Five: 05.30.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 30th, 2012

  1. After Butler announced that it would be heading to the Atlantic 10 for the 2013-14 season one month ago most observers put the Bulldogs in the back of their mind when it came to conference realignment. That decision appears to have been premature as Butler announced yesterday that it was heading to the Atlantic 10 immediately. The move, which is widely believed to have been made in reaction to the likely decision by the Horizon League to ban the school from its postseason tournament as a response to the school’s prior announcement that it was leaving the conference, makes what is already one of the premier conferences in the country even better. For years, fans of Atlantic 10 basketball have scoffed at some writers referring to the conference as a mid-major. After this move, we should probably start rating them along with the BCS conferences as they would probably rate fairly highly on that scale even if they probably lack the premier team that their counterparts will have next season.
  2. Florida may have found an eventual replacement for Patric Young in the form of South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris. Ok, so that may be an exaggeration based on the 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game Harris put up as a sophomore, but Harris could help the Gators out on the inside when Young and Erik Murphy leave Gainesville. Harris, who should be eligible for the 2013-14 season and would have two more years of eligibility left, could be part of a plan for rebuilding the interior for the Gators that is focused on adding Chris Walker, a top-10 recruit in the class of 2013 who hails from Florida.
  3. College basketball players can find a lot of strange ways to injure themselves whether it is working out, playing another sport, or being involved in a car accident. Rarely are they involved in an event like what Chad Renfro experienced while visiting his parents. The junior from Barry University was surfing near Jacksonville, Florida last week when he noticed a sharp pain in his leg and quickly realized that he had been bitten by shark. Renfro was able to make it back to shore and was sent to a local hospital where he received treatment including 85 stitches. Renfro appears to be in good spirits though and should not miss any time during the upcoming season.
  4. Say what you want about John Calipari, but he knows how to get his point across. Yesterday, we included a link to a piece by Mike DeCourcy offering advice for five players on how to improve their games this summer. In a post on his personal site, Calipari offers advice to Kyle Wiltjer and in doing so also finds a way to turn the advice for his rising sophomore into a propaganda piece. According to the site, the letter is the same for every returning player on the team although we doubt he thinks of Sam Malone as a potential sixth man unless he is talking about the sixth man figuratively. For us the key point is Calipari using his website to give us all a peak inside his program while casually mentioning the program’s accomplishments in case any of us were unaware of those accomplishments.
  5. The Mayor just got a pay raise in Iowa as Iowa State announced that it had signed Fred Hoiberg to an eight-year extension that increases his annual salary from $800,000 per year to $1.5 million per year. That might seem like a pretty hefty pay raise and it is, but Hoiberg has had a pretty impressive run recently including being the reigning Big 12 co-Coach of the Year. In just two years, Hoiberg took a team that had posted a sub-.500 record three straight years and led them to a 23-11 record and a NCAA Tournament victory before losing to eventual national champion Kentucky. Some of that performance can be attributed to serendipity in the form of Royce White, who was able to overcome his personal demons to terrorize Big 12 defenses. Hoiberg will have his work cut out trying to find another player of White’s caliber willing to come to Ames, but he will have a little more time to do so now.
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Won and Done… Kentucky Roster Undergoes Yearly Overhaul

Posted by EMoyer on April 18th, 2012

On Tuesday evening, the worst kept secret was revealed as Kentucky’s five heralded underclassmen, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague all declared for June’s NBA Draft. The five brings the total to 15 of John Calipari recruits to leave early since 2008.

It Was All Smiles For This Group in Lexington

Eight of the previous 10 went on to become first round picks and two (John Wall and Derrick Rose) went No. 1 overall. Both the mock drafts at NBADraft.net and on ESPN.com have all five Wildcats going in the first round. DraftExpress.com lists four Wildcats going in the first round with Lamb currently an early second-round choice. According to all three sites, Davis will join Wall and Rose as top overall picks. They also agree that Kidd-Gilchrist projects as a top three pick and two (ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com) put Jones in the lottery.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 04.02.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 2nd, 2012

  1. After four consecutive wins to start the CBI tournament, Washington State’s season ended Friday night with a second consecutive loss in the three-game championship series against Pittsburgh. Both teams played without their leading scorers, as Washington State’s Brock Motum and Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs both sat out with sprained ankles. Reggie Moore led the way for the Cougars with his fourth consecutive double-digit scoring output, but his 18 points to go with five assists were not enough to overcome a 12-2 Panther run in the middle of the second half that broke open a tight game. In the end, the Cougs lost by six and wrap up their season with a 19-18 overall record.
  2. With all of the Pac-12 schools having now completed their seasons on the court, and with no coaching changes expected, the biggest question remaining for any of the conference programs is the decisions of Washington’s Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten in regards to the NBA Draft. The first shoe dropped on Sunday for the Huskies, as Ross announced his intention to declare for the NBA Draft. Wroten, however, has yet to announce his choice, although it is widely suspected that his days in Seattle are done as well. And, not only are Huskies fans making peace with that eventuality, there is also talk that they may be better off without him. With Abdul Gaddy due back next season for his senior year and redshirt freshman point guard Andrew Andrews ready to step into the breach as well, UW has plenty of talent in the backcourt. And chemistry-wise, Lorenzo Romar’s team may be better off without the distraction of Wroten around. Sounds like a rationalization to me.
  3. At Utah, however, there is no cache of extra talent lying around Larry Krystkowiak’s roster, so any early defections for the program will sting. On Friday, news came down that three Ute players would be transferring out of the program: Chris Hines, Kareem Storey and Javon Dawson. Given that Krystkowiak had signed more players than he had scholarships available, we all knew that there would be some changeover in the program, but this list of names was something of a surprise. Individually, none of those three players is much of a loss for the Utes, but as a trio of relatively experienced players, it is a hit. Hines, in particular, is a surprise, given that he was expected back as a team leader for his senior season next year, but given that he will graduate this year, he’ll be eligible to play immediately wherever he winds up next season, likely at a program a notch down from the Pac-12 level.
  4. Tonight, Oregon basketball fans will watch the NCAA title game with interest, as two of their own will be playing for Kentucky in their quest for a championship. Terrence Jones and Kyle Wiltjer were both prep stars in Portland, but rather than stick around to play for one of the in-state schools, both opted to head across the country to continue their basketball careers. And next season, another Oregonian – 6’10 center Landen Lucas – will don a Kansas uniform for his collegiate career rather than a Duck or Beaver jersey. It’s easier said than done, but for either program to take the next step, head coaches Dana Altman and Craig Robinson need to find a way to keep elite home-state prospects from looking elsewhere for their collegiate careers.
  5. While Shabazz Muhammad gets the most publicity, there is another elite high school recruit still available who is considering UCLA. Georgia’s Tony Parker is a 6’9” center, currently rated the #21 recruit in the 2012 class who has the Bruins as one of his seven potential landing spots. There is speculation that wherever Muhammad ends up could tip Parker’s hand, as both players have UCLA and Duke among their final choices. After playing in the McDonald’s All-American game last week, Parker is now getting ready for the Jordan Brand Classic in two weeks.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2012

Kansas

  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.

Louisville

  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.
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The Ultimate Breakdown: Kentucky vs. Louisville

Posted by zhayes9 on March 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

The hysteria leading up to Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky national semifinal will be unprecedented.

The mutual loathing between legends John Calipari and Rick Pitino is only matched by the contempt between the two fan bases. Such a passionate and deep-seeded rivalry playing out on the grandest of stages is tantalizing to even the most casual observer. But once the smoke clears and the ball is tipped, those juicy storylines all become secondary, fading into the background with the hype and frenzy. Suddenly all that’s relevant is Peyton Siva’s speed, Kyle Kuric’s smooth jumper, Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the open floor.

For the lowdown on what to expect from the biggest basketball game in the history of the commonwealth, here’s a full-fledged Dr. Jack-style breakdown covering every aspect of Saturday’s opener:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist celebrating Kentucky's regional final win

Backcourt- It’s no accident that Peyton Siva’s remarkable late-season turnaround has coincided with Louisville’s spurt from a seventh place finish in the Big East to the Final Four in New Orleans. Russ Smith is an irrepressible, confident ball stopper just as prone to a mindless turnover as he to is scoring 10 points in the blink of an eye. Siva and Smith provide the engine to Louisville’s attack, while athletic two-guard Chris Smith and long-range marksman Kyle Kuric are Pitino’s steady cogs. Kentucky’s Achilles heel was long considered freshman point Marquis Teague, but he’s significantly cut down on his turnovers and can pack an unexpected scoring punch. Doron Lamb is a superior gunner to Kuric, shooting a fantastic 47% over his career from three. Look for Calipari to plug versatile swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Siva to stifle the Cardinals’ offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is a standout defender and the best collegiate player in transition since Derrick Rose. Edge: Kentucky.

Frontcourt- The progression of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng from a raw, bungling, and clumsy big man to a premier post defender and competent scoring threat in just two seasons has been nothing short of incredible. The popular crutch that freshmen are sophomores by the time March rolls around is often untrue, but it applies in the case of Chane Behanan, a gifted offensive rebounder who will be asked to contain Terrence Jones. When Jones is engaged, active and filling up the stat sheet, Kentucky is unstoppable. Anthony Davis has had an OK year: number one high school recruit, starting center for top-ranked Kentucky, national freshman of the year, likely national player of the year, and future top overall pick in the NBA Draft. Only North Carolina can come close to matching Kentucky’s weaponry down low. Edge: Kentucky.

Bench- Neither team extends very deep into their bench, yet both boast a de facto starter in Russ Smith and Darius Miller. At just 38% from two and 31% from three, Smith isn’t exactly the pillar of efficiency, but for a team that didn’t finish in the top 100 in offensive efficiency and scored less than 60 points in five of their final six conference games, Pitino will gladly accept the good with the bad (per Luke Winn, Pitino likes to say Smith “makes coffee nervous”). Any coach in America would love to have Darius Miller on their team, a steady wing defender equally adept at attacking off the dribble or firing from deep. Louisville steady defender Jared Swopshire and Kentucky pick-and-pop threat Kyle Wiltjer also see limited time off the pine. Slight Edge: Louisville.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 19th, 2012

  1. They were the last hope for the Pac-12, and for 30 minutes or so, it looked like Colorado had a good chance to extend their Cinderella run through the weekend. But too much Brady Heslip and too little defensive rebounding doomed the Buffaloes against Baylor, sending the conference to an early end in the NCAAs. But, looking back on the season for Colorado, it was a magical run, including a five-game win streak taking them from the outside of the tournament bubble to a Round of 32 appearance with a Pac-12 Tournament title mixed in there. All things considered, it was as good of a season as could have been expected of a Buff team that was missing its four leading scorers from the previous season and was picked as low as 11th in preseason Pac-12 rankings. And, despite the loss of seniors Carlon Brown, Nate Tomlinson, and Austin Dufault, the future is bright in Boulder.
  2. There are a handful of Pac-12 teams whose season still go on in lesser tournaments, highlighted by Oregon, who pulled off a 108-97 win over Iowa on Sunday in the  second round of the NIT in the highest scoring game in regulation this season. The Ducks trailed by as many as 15 in the game, but behind E.J. Singler’s 25 points and four other players who scored in double figures, the Ducks advanced.
  3. And the Ducks next step is a trip up I-5 to Seattle for a quarterfinal matchup with conference rival Washington, who advanced by slamming Northwestern on Friday night, 76-55. The Huskies earned the win by using their athleticism to kill the Wildcats on the glass, force plenty of bad shots and just generally get them out of rhythm. Oh, and Terrence Ross lit them up for 32 points and eight rebounds. Tony Wroten, who took a lot of heat in the aftermath of the Huskies’ Pac-12 Tournament loss has struggled to rediscover his scoring touch (just 11 points on ten field goal attempts in two NIT games), but has handed out 15 dimes. Oregon State is the final Pac-12 team still playing, and they’ll get their season back underway tonight when they host TCU in the CBI.
  4. While we’re on the topic of the three remaining Pac-12 schools, all in the northwest, The Columbian points out that one of the reasons that the Pac-12 may be down is their inability to tie up local prospects. By way of example, Greg Jayne points out that the quintet of Peyton Siva, Brad Tinsley, Terrence Jones, Kyle Wiltjer, and Brian Conklin – all kids from either Oregon or Washington who are playing elsewhere – would be a pretty darn good start on an NCAA Tournament team. The gauntlet is thrown for Lorenzo Romar, Craig Robinson, and Dana Altman: keep your local prospects at home.
  5. Lastly, in what must be considered good news for UCLA and Ben Howland, Shabazz Muhammad will be taking his final official visit to the Westwood campus at some point in early April and then will announce his decision a couple of days later. While Muhammad hadn’t previously intended to use an official visit at UCLA (since he had already visited the campus on multiple occasions unofficially), the plan is to check back in with the Bruin program in the wake of last month’s controversial Sports Illustrated article and “get the nuts and bolts of that,” according to his father Ron Holmes. Still, as UCLA has long been considered the favorite to earn the services of the elite high school prospect, the fact that he is heading back to Los Angeles just days before his announcement at the very least gives Howland and company to make the final big sales pitch.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 20th, 2012

  1. With Anthony Davis on the bench in foul trouble during the first half of Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss, the Cats needed another game changer. Kentucky received a boost from freshman Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer scored 13 points, his SEC high on five of six shooting, including three of four three point shooting. “I really (give) credit to my hard work this week,” Wiltjer said. “I’ve really put in a lot of time getting extra reps because I really feel that pays off and builds confidence.” Wiltjer must continue improving on rebounding and defense in order to keep getting playing time down the stretch.
  2. Another Wildcat had to step up because of Davis’ absence in the first half. Terrence Jones recorded his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. But coach John Calipari wants this every game. “Terrence, this is what you should be every game we play,” Calipari said. “It should be a double-double. Without an excuse. I don’t want to hear it. You should be a double-double. You’re a top five player.” Jones’ numbers have slipped significantly from his freshman year. Last season, Jones finished with 13 double-doubles on the season.
  3. Mississippi State is 1-5 on the road in the SEC, and after losing to both LSU and Auburn, the Bulldogs have dropped three games in a row. Rick Stansbury‘s squad is looking forward to being back in Starkville as they need a big win over top-ranked Kentucky. “I don’t know if your back is against the wall,” Stansbury said. “You have the best team in the country coming to your place. That’s all you need to feel. That’s all that matters. If you don’t feel that, you don’t feel anything. It’s an opportunity for us. That’s what it is. We’re not worried about our backs. We have a great opportunity ahead of us on Tuesday night. That’s the way we’re going to look at it.” Mississippi State could certainly use the boost. After these recent losses, the Bulldogs have fallen to 57th in the current RPI rankings.
  4. One possible reason for the Bulldogs’ struggles is the absence of forward Renardo Sidney. Sidney sat out Mississippi State’s loss on Saturday due to back spasms. “He said he couldn’t go, so that’s kind of where we left it at,” Stansbury said. Sidney’s presence will be crucial if the Bulldogs have a chance to beat Kentucky on Tuesday. In last season’s game in Lexington, Sidney added 11 points and eight rebounds in an 85-79 loss.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal received a technical foul after a highlight worthy dunk against Alabama. After rising over seven-foot tall Moussa Gueye. Beal and Gators’ center Patric Young, turned to each other, put their hands together and bowed. The referee saw this as a sign of showing off, but was this action really excessive? The Gators were up 12 at the time, giving the Crimson Tide an opportunity to fight back with 1:16 left to play. Luckily for Beal the Gators held on to win, and he didn’t have to feel the wrath of coach Billy Donovan if that play let Alabama back in the game.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.07.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 7th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Florida at Kentucky – 7:00PM EST on ESPN HD (*****)

The biggest SEC showdown of the season is upon us. Football is done and college hoops takes center stage until the end of March. Hold on to your hats folks, it’s going to be awesome!

How will Patric Young fair against the best shot blocker in the nation, Anthony Davis?

  • There has been a lot of chatter recently about whether or not Florida is overrated. Tonight will determine if that talk comes to an end, as they face the best team in the SEC and the number one ranked team in the country in Lexington. One area in which the Gators are not overrated is on offense. They are second in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, #4 in eFG%, and #9 in offensive turnover rate. If you can hit shots and limit turnovers, you can beat anybody. Interestingly, Florida’s four losses were also their four highest turnover games (based on turnover rate). Keep a close eye on Kentucky’s ability to turn the Gators over. As good as the Wildcat defense is, it does not frequently cause turnovers. Less turnovers will certainly mean more three-point attempts for the Gators, who are taking 44% of their shots from downtown. If the Gators can convert threes with those added opportunities, they have a chance to take down the top team in the nation.
  • Kentucky is #1 for a reason. They are third in adjusted offensive efficiency and seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency in the nation, and they have only gotten better in conference play. Their only loss on the season was a buzzer-beater on the road at Indiana. The match-up between Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Patric Young of Florida will get a great deal of attention, as it should. The battle down low will certainly be fun to watch. Keep an eye on the overall edge in size that Kentucky has on Florida. While Young is certainly a beast, Kentucky can throw size at the Gators all day with the likes of 6’9” Terrence Jones, 6’9” Kyle Wiltjer, 6’8” Darius Miller, and 6’7” Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
  • The difference in the game will be on the defensive end. Kentucky has one of the top defenses in the country and Florida does not. It will take a special performance from the Gator defense to stop Kentucky on offense. As long as the Wildcats can play strong half court defense as they have all season, they will remain undefeated in the SEC after tonight.

Other Games to Watch:

Do yourself a favor and focus on Florida and Kentucky.

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2014

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