Ole Miss Picks Up Some Momentum With Tournament Title

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on December 1st, 2014

Finally, there is a team in the SEC other than Kentucky that is making some non-conference hay as Ole Miss went to Niceville, Florida and won the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic. The Rebels knocked off a ranked Creighton team on Friday and then Cincinnati on Saturday in the championship game. The wins were absolutely necessary to make amends for an overtime loss at home on opening night to Charleston Southern. Ole Miss was able to win the tournament because it brought an efficient offense down the Florida Panhandle. The Rebels shot 52.1 percent against the Blue Jays (25-of-48) and 49.0 percent against the Bearcats (25-of-51), and only turned the ball over 14 times over the course of both games. The Rebels lost a lot of offensive firepower when Marshall Henderson left, but that kind of execution will be just as hard to stop as Henderson’s scoring bursts were.

Stefan Moody led Ole Miss over Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic title game (mississippi.scout.com).

Stefan Moody led Ole Miss over Cincinnati in the Emerald Coast Classic title game. (Getty)

The question going forward is whether Ole Miss can sustain that level of offensive efficiency. An encouraging sign for Andy Kennedy is that a number of players have been contributing this season. Jarvis Summers is the undisputed star and played that way against Creighton by scoring 23 points and not turning the ball over. But unlike the way it was with Henderson, the Rebels have not been entirely dependent on Summers carrying the scoring load. Stefan Moody took over against the Bearcats, scoring 26 points and going 3-of-7 from three point range. His outside shooting display was encouraging because he came into the game just 3-of-21 from deep. He essentially put the game out of reach early in the second half by scoring eight straight points to stretch the lead to from five to 13. Kennedy compared Moody’s quick-strike ability to Nate Robinson, and having him as an offensive threat should ease the pressure on Summers, who scored only eight points against the Bearcats. He’s so quick that he’ll be a tough cover if he can continue the outside shooting he showed against Cincinnati. Read the rest of this entry »

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SEC M5: 02.03.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on February 3rd, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. Kentucky isn’t the only SEC team playing with greater energy these days. LSU‘s effort had been similarly questioned after being pasted at home by Tennessee in their conference opener, and more recently, they had fallen behind by 19 points in a loss to wishy-washy Alabama. But the Tigers followed up their big win against Kentucky last week by racing out to a 15-point halftime lead against Arkansas over the weekend. “We didn’t want to be the team that comes out and gets hit every game,” said Jordan Mickey. “We want to do the hitting ourselves. We want to come out with a lot of energy and hit teams first.” This aggressive play is also attracting more fans to the Maravich Center, as NOLA.com‘s Ron Higgins wrote that the biggest crowd of the season watched the win over Arkansas. Johnny Jones is trying to reinvigorate the Tigers’ fan base, and building on the attention-grabbing Kentucky win with another solid performance should help his cause. It also helped the Tigers’ NCAA cause because they avoided a letdown after an important resume-building win (LSU lost to Alabama after beating Missouri).
  2. Michael Frazier‘s emergence as a reliable scoring option for Florida has been largely overshadowed by Casey Prather’s SEC Player of the Year level season. The sophomore guard led the Gators in scoring (21 points) against hapless Texas A&M, and the way he got those points indicates significant growth in his offensive attack. “Frazier matched a career high with 21 points but only got nine of those points on three-pointers (3-of-11 from beyond the arc),” writes Kevin Brockway of the Gainesville Sun. “Frazier went to the free throw line eight times and if he can do that while making three-point shots, it will boost both his scoring and UF’s scoring.” Frazier has essentially been a three-point specialist this season (taking 75 percent of his shots from deep), and a very good one at that (43.3% 3FG). It’ll be interesting to see he continues to explore driving opportunities as the season winds on. A game against an overmatched opponent like the Aggies is certainly a good chance to try new things.
  3. Auburn is going streaking. The Tigers won their second straight game by beating Georgia on Saturday, and had five players score in double figures in a conference game for the first time since 2010. That’s a stark change from a team that has been in a dead heat with Missouri to see which can get the highest percentage of their offense from the fewest players. The Tigers now head to South Carolina, where a third-straight win is not inconceivable. Despite these recent wins, Tony Barbee‘s job is still probably in jeopardy. The folks at College and Magnolia offered up Toledo’s Tod Kowalczyk as a potential replacement. While they make a good point about his history building up moribund programs (Wisconsin-Green Bay and Toledo), he has no connection to the South. This isn’t a fatal strike against him, but his entire Division I coaching career has been spent on the East Coast (Rutgers, Rider, New Hampshire) or the Midwest (Marquette, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Toledo). He’d be at an immediate recruiting disadvantage because at the moment Auburn is probably best served by recruiting regionally. Some hard work and a couple smart assistant coaching hires could fix this, but Kowalczyk would still be coming from behind at the start.
  4. Don’t look now, but Vanderbilt is on a three-game winning streak and in the thick of the SEC race. Kevin Stallings dipped into his bag of tricks and used a zone more against Mississippi State for a number of reasons. The Tennesseans‘ Nick Cole wrote, “Although typically a man-to-man team, Vanderbilt utilized a zone defense for much of the game to shield against fatigue for its seven-man rotation, as well as to force the Bulldogs, who are last in the league in three-point shooting percentage, into being a jump-shooting team.” Using the zone to save the Commodores’ legs isn’t a bad idea, since Vanderbilt’s season has essentially become a prolonged tournament with their small rotation. Kyle Fuller has been one the hardest working men in the South, logging 40 minutes in five of Vanderbilt’s eight conference games. But maybe enough is enough when it comes to that storyline. The Commodores have played well in the SEC, regardless of how many players see the court every night.
  5. Last week nearly spelled the end of Ole Miss’ NCAA tournament bid. The Rebels were roughed up by Tennessee in Knoxville, and then trailed South Carolina by nine with under 6 minutes left… at home. But Jarvis Summers led an Ole Miss rally, and Red Cup Rebellion summed up its importance. “The importance of winning this game can’t be overstated. Well, let me rephrase: The importance of not losing this game can’t be overstated. The Gamecocks came in with an RPI of #127, and losing to them on the Rebels’ home court could have doomed any shot for the Tournament.” This was the second time the Rebels staved off a potentially resume-tanking loss to South Carolina, as they won earlier by only one point in Columbia. The Rebels play Missouri, Florida and Kentucky (twice) in February, so winning the games they are favored in is even more important. They did that on Saturday, but not without some tense moments in Oxford. LaDarius White (12 points) reached double figures for the third time in four games, and has been nice perimeter counterpart to Summers and Marshall Henderson.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 15th, 2011

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

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 7th, 2011

  1. Feeling a bit more chipper and joyful than usual? It wasn’t that extra hour of sleep Sunday morning; it’s because today is the start of the 2011-12 basketball season! Tonight Mississippi State will face Eastern Kentucky in a game that actually counts! Tonight’s untelevised matchup is part of a regional round of play for the 2011 2K Sports Classic. Even though you can’t see the Bulldogs play until their ESPNU appearance against Akron on Wednesday, your basketball-loving soul should be soaring.
  2. At long last, the adoption is official: The SEC has new brothers in the Missouri Tigers. The latest school to be nabbed in SEC Expansion 2011: ALL YOUR TEAMS ARE BELONG TO US, Missouri made the official announcement with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive yesterday. Slive said that effective July 1, 2012, the Tigers would compete in the SEC East division. Parting is not such sweet sorrow for the Big 12: Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a statement that Missouri’s decision was, “disappointing… I personally believe this decision is a mistake.” By leaving the Big 12, the long-standing rivalry game between Mizzou and Kansas may be dropped.We hope that Jayhawks and Tigers can overcome their differences and continue the Border War Border Showdown.
  3. But why stop at just 14 teams? That’s what Kentucky coach John Calipari has been asking this whole time of SEC Expansion. Coach Cal told ESPN’s Andy Katz that the SEC should just go ahead and grab two more teams for a total of 16 since he expects other major conferences to do the same. We’re not for sure which schools would be the next two schools to join the SEC since the Big 12 & Big East have raised their conference exit fees. The Big East is also attempting to force West Virginia to fulfill its 27-month exit period. Perhaps the SEC should just wait until things settle down before grabbing another group of teams.
  4. There is one place that is not expanding currently in the SEC: basketball rosters in the state of Mississippi. Ole Miss will be without the services of freshman guard LaDarius White until at least the end of the fall semester. White has not met NCAA academic standards and will be ineligible for competition until he’s brought his grades back up. Mississippi State’s Kristers Zeidaks was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the entire 2011-12 season and the first 11 games of the 2012-13 season. The suspension is two games longer than the one imposed on current MSU forward Renardo Sidney for when he had to sit out the entire 2009-10 season.
  5. One roster change may be imminent in the former SEC East. As we mentioned Wednesday morning, Kentucky sophomore Stacey Poole is considering a transfer to another school. Poole sat out of the Wildcats’ exhibition game last week but remains on campus. Theoretically if Poole can complete his coursework for the fall semester he will become eligible for basketball in the spring semester of 2012-13 and have two more seasons of eligibility. The 6’4″ guard is behind Doron Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Darius Miller on the Wildcats’ depth chart. For his part Kentucky coach John Calipari said he would support Poole even if he decides to transfer: “I don’t blame him,” Calipari said. We hope for either a happy ending of Poole’s career at Kentucky or a happy new beginning.
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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

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