Vanderbilt Guard Dai-Jon Parker Suspended

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 31st, 2012

Coming off its first SEC Tournament title since 1952 and losing a majority of their offense from last season due to the NBA Draft or graduation, Vanderbilt already knew it would have to replace many pieces on this season’s team. Today, they will have to add sophomore guard Dai-Jon Parker to the list because of a non-academic suspension. Head coach Kevin Stallings announced Tuesday that the projected starting shooting guard will be suspended indefinitely because Parker “failed to uphold the high standard that we expect of a Vanderbilt basketball player and will be disciplined accordingly.” Parker and sophomore Kedren Johnson were expected to fill the voids left by Brad Tinsley, John Jenkins, and Jeffery Taylor, all upperclassmen who left after last season due to graduation or to pursue professional careers. The guard trio of Tinsley/Jenkins/Taylor provided Vanderbilt’s most dangerous weapon: 244 three-pointers on a blistering 43% clip and high offensive efficiency numbers. Parker and Johnson, on the other hand, were substituted into the rotation last year with very minimal roles.

Who will replace Dai-Jon Parker in Vanderbilt’s already depleted backcourt?

The departures of Tinsley, Jenkins, and Taylor, as well as experienced defensive big men Festus Ezeli, Lance Goulbourne, and Steve Tchiengang, made up arguably Vanderbilt’s most well-rounded team in the Kevin Stallings era. The Commodores’ offensive efficiency (115.7) ranked #11 in the country while their defensive efficiency (92.7) was solid at #30. Sky-high expectations after winning the SEC Tournament over heavily favored Kentucky  quickly came crashing down when Vanderbilt lost to Wisconsin in the Third Round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, one step short of the school’s first Sweet Sixteen since 2007.

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Bracket Prep: Michigan State, Florida State, Vanderbilt, St. Bonaventure, Long Beach State, & New Mexico State

Posted by EJacoby on March 11th, 2012

Selection Sunday is here! We’ve been providing you with summaries of every automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and this post concludes all of the conference tourney winners. Big Ten, SEC, ACC, A-10, Big West, and WAC were the last ones to complete their championships. Here’s everything you need to know.

Michigan State

Draymond Green is the Force Behind the Spartans' Strong Attack (AP Photo/A. Goldis)

  • Big Ten Champion (27-7, 16-5)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #4/#3/#3
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +17.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. After winning the Big Ten Tournament, expect Michigan State to steal the last #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s nothing that this team hasn’t done to deserve the top line. 27-7 against the #1 strength of schedule, co-champion of the best conference in the country, and Big Ten Champions. This is a classic Tom Izzo team that’s ferocious on the boards and executes efficiently on both offense and defense. The Spartans run through their Big Ten Player of the Year, but this is a deep team that relies on many contributors in different areas. A late season ACL injury to blossoming freshman forward Branden Dawson was horrible news and is potentially devastating. But Dawson was still not much of an offensive factor and the team won the Big Ten Tournament without him, showing an ability to adapt.
  2. Draymond Green is the Big Ten Player of the Year who does everything that you want in a senior star leader. 16.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game is what Green provides. The 45% field goal percentage doesn’t look great until you realize that Green does much of his work on the perimeter, including hitting the most three-pointers on the team. The rest of this team is loaded with strong athletes and defenders, from the interior duo of Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne to the perimeter players Keith Appling and Brandon Wood, and beyond to the reserves. Appling is crucial to this team as the playmaking point guard with explosive agility to make plays for his teammates and himself.
  3. Most things in March Madness are unpredictable, but one of the few guarantees is that Tom Izzo’s teams will play their best basketball in the NCAA Tournament. This Izzo team is loaded and ready to dance with as difficult a combination to beat as nearly anyone in the country. A +17.3 adjusted scoring margin is the fourth best in the nation, led my MSU’s elite defense. The Spartans allow just 37.7% defensive field goal shooting, the second best in the land. Their 89.9 defensive efficiency also ranks in the top 10. Throw in their own 47.7% field goal shooting, and this team’s shooting percentage disparity is fantastic, which is always a top formula for success. Their 55.2% rebound percentage is top 10 in the nation, as well. The numbers look great for Michigan State. But this team just lost its best athlete to the ACL injury and it doesn’t have the amount of elite scorers that a usual #1 seed does. Instead, this team is so efficient defensively that it will be difficult to knock off. Teams that gave Michigan State trouble were those that caught fire from the outside while holding their own defensively, like Indiana. Expect an awesome clash of styles between MSU and its opponent in a Sweet Sixteen matchup, if it can avoid an upset from the 8-9 seed, or 10-7 seed if it receives a #2 seed.

Florida State

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Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

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SEC Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 12th, 2012

  1. ESPNU will debut the latest in the SEC “Storied” documentary series on February 11 with 40 Minutes of Hell. The film goes behind the scenes on former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson‘s success with the Razorbacks in the early 1990s. The “40 minutes of hell” fast paced and pressing style that Richardson employed in the SEC won him the National Championship in 1994. Richardson’s separation from the university was anything but amicable as he slapped Arkansas with a wrongful termination lawsuit. The Razorbacks hired Richardson’s protege, Mike Anderson, as head coach helping to bring the former coach closer to fans, players, and the University of Arkansas. Not to mention, the hire also brought back a style of play that is modeled after Richardson’s championship winning system.
  2. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne has found his role on Vanderbilt’s roster, and he is making his impact felt on the defensive end. Goulbourne has limited the role of several prominent big men in recent games, holding Marquette’s Jae Crowder to 30.8% shooting and Auburn’s Kenny Gabriel (just to name a couple) to just 2 points on 1-7 shooting. “He’s done an unbelievable job about three games in a row where the team’s best player was the four man,” Vanderbilt guard Brad Tinsley said. “He’s really figured out how to take what the coaches tell him and put that out on the court.” With the return of center Festus Ezeli and solid defense from Jeffery Taylor, Goulbourne’s defense is an added plus for a team known more for its offense. The Commodores’ commitment to the defensive end has their defense ranked ahead of their offense in latest Pomeroy efficiency rankings.
  3. Kentucky coach John Calipari has a theory for why his Wildcats haven’t been effective on the road in the last couple of years. He says the SEC is not an easy league to compete in, and declares that the league could have as many as five teams competing in the Sweet Sixteen. “This league, with the top five teams that we have, that are all NCAA Tournament teams, and really,” said Calipari. “I’ll make a prediction, other than us, of those five, I would say four of those, without us, will be Sweet 16 teams. How about that?” It’s not that far-fetched of a prediction. Vanderbilt and Florida have the talent to compete with anybody in the nation, and Alabama and Mississippi State have both proven its legitimacy within the top 25 teams in the country. And of course, Kentucky, which Calipari didn’t put as a Sweet 16 team, will be competing well into March and most likely early April.
  4. Billy Donovan wasn’t happy with Florida’s defense in its loss against Tennessee, but the Gators played with much more intensity in their win Tuesday night over the Georgia Bulldogs. With all eyes on the defensive end, Florida held the Dogs to just 36.4 percent shooting on the night. Donovan was satisfied this time around. “I thought we defended them very, very well,” Donovan said. “We held them to 48 points. I think if you hold any team to 48 points you’ve done a pretty good job defensively.” The Gators, however, continued to neglect Patric Young in the post, as Young attempted just five shots on the night. If Florida can continue to hold opponents to 48 points, the lack of a post game may be a moot point.
  5. Mississippi State’s big man Renardo Sidney didn’t start on Saturday for the Bulldogs because of a coach’s decision. “I wanted to save him some foul trouble,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He had two fouls early in all those games.” The strategy wasn’t very effective as Sidney still committed three fouls in the first half. The fast paced action perpetuated by Arkansas’ full court pressure limited Sidney’s effectiveness. He scored just six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes of play. His replacement in the starting lineup, Wendell Lewis had similar issues. Lewis was limited to two points in 14 minutes of action.
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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Other Friday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Auburn vs. Seton Hall and Louisville vs. Vanderbilt. 

Vanderbilt v. Louisville

Vanderbilt and Louisville will feature two top 25 teams facing off in the KFC Yum! Center.

Mike: The matchup has all the makings of a classic offense v. defense battle. Even without senior center Festus Ezeli, the Commodores are a prolific scoring team (#23 in adjusted offense) and swingmen John Jenkins (20.2 PPG) and Jeffery Taylor (15.4 PPG) can fill it up in a hurry. Of course they haven’t played a team as talented as Louisville. Even with the injuries to Wayne BlackshearMike MarraStephan Van Treese, and Rakeem Buckles, the Cardinals are still undefeated and the main reason why is they play suffocating defense (#3 in adjusted defense). However, with apologies to Butler, Louisville has played a relatively easy opening slate, and their depth will be tested against Vanderbilt’s talented lineup. Offensively the Cardinals don’t have a go-to scorer per se, but they do have seven players who average at least seven points per game, led by sweet-shooting forward Kyle Kuric (12.5 PPG). They also have a rugged, albeit thin, frontcourt which is led by talented freshman Chase Behanan (9.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and center Gorgui Dieng (8.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG) who has been one of the best shotblockers in the country thus far and is a big reason why Louisville is so successful on defense. But as balanced as Rick Pitino’s club is, star guard Peyton Siva is still what makes the team go, and he hasn’t quite found his comfort zone yet, missing two games with an ankle injury. Siva had 11 points, five assists and five steals in the team’s last game, a win over Long Beach State, but he also turned the ball over six times. No matter how good Louisville’s defense might be, Siva and fellow guard Chris Smith cannot be careless with the ball, because Vanderbilt is too efficient on offense to be gifted with so many extra possessions. What do you think, Brian?

Will Rick Pitino employ his full court press against Vanderbilt's struggling guards

Brian: I agree that this should be a great one. I think Vanderbilt will really be tested in this matchup. The Commodores haven’t taken good care of the basketball, and Louisville is a team that uses a full court press and creates lots of turnovers. Brad Tinsley has struggled when pressured, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Cardinals’ defense. You pointed out Vandy’s efficient offense, but you were nice by not mentioning its struggling defense. The ‘Dores have struggled to cut off opponent’s three-point shot allowing three teams to shoot at least 40 percent from outside the arc so far this year. Louisville loves to shoot the three, so it could be a long night for coach Kevin Stallings if his team lets the Cardinals get hot. It will be interesting to see how Stallings handles the defensive assignment for Siva. Siva is a player who could really hurt Vanderbilt with his penetration. He can score, as you point out, and he can also find open teammates. And one of the teammates he may find in this one is Dieng. Dieng is still developing his offensive skills, but his 6’11” frame could be difficult for Vanderbilt’s post players to defend. 6’9″ Steve Tchiengang and 6’8″ Lance Goulbourne will be down low for Vandy, but they will have to box out better than they did against Xavier when the Musketeers grabbed 25 offensive rebounds.

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A Quick, Fake Summary: All Else is Castles Built In The Air

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 28th, 2011

Festus Ezeli busted a deal and spun the wheel. (He also spun his MCL; he’ll be out for a while.) Vanderbilt has been spun about without him, though it might not be due to his absence.

At the beginning of the season, it was theorized that Vandy’s seniors would rise up and contribute more with Ezeli out. Against Xavier tonight, the Commodores of Musictown still couldn’t barter themselves a decent offense. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne (18 points on 8-17 FG seven rebounds), junior guard John Jenkins (20 points on 8-18 FG & 4-9 3FG) and senior forward Jeffery Taylor (18 points on 6-11 FG, five rebounds) all led the charge defensively but faded as near the end. Not one Commodore scored a single point in the last 3:56 of the second half.

Earlier in the that half, senior guard Brad Tinsley had controlled drives into the paint that resulted in easy assists. Like the rest of the ‘Dores, Tinsley tried to do too much late in the game. With his limited defensive ability, Xavier guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons finally took control and powered the Musketeers to a 82-70 overtime victory.

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Set Your TiVo: 11.28.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 28th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The quality of games kicks into high gear this week with a pair of good ones to start it off.

Long Beach State at #9 Louisville – 7 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • Louisville’s depth has taken a big hit recently with Wayne Blackshear, Mike Marra, and Peyton Siva all dealing with injuries. Siva returned from a sprained ankle Friday against Ohio in a closer than expected Cardinals win but he remains in a shooting slump. He is just 5-24 (20.8%) in three games this season but is managing to dish out six assists per contest. The Cardinals are winning games defensively as they are ranked second in the nation in defensive efficiency while only putting up 67 PPG on the other end of the floor. A Long Beach State team that plays quick without much defense could be the recipe Louisville needs to gain more confidence offensively. However, Louisville must avoid turnovers against the 49ers, a team that loves to get out in transition. The Cardinals are averaging 15 turnovers per game with Siva at a shaky 3.7 per game.

    Louisville Will Have Its Hands Full With Long Beach State

  • Long Beach State has lost twice on the road since winning at Pittsburgh, falling to San Diego State and Montana. The 49ers defense has not been up to par and that is hurting them significantly. They love to play at a fast pace but they are very average defensively as well as on the boards. Casper Ware going up against Siva should be a terrific match-up and he will need to carry the team all night as he did against Pittsburgh on November 16. Long Beach State is not going to get many opportunities to score against the strong Louisville defense so limiting turnovers, especially on the road, has to be its top priority. They average 15 a game but simply cannot afford that many in this game. To win, Long Beach State must play its best defensive game to date and get to the free throw line where they will have a significant edge over Louisville. Depth has to be a concern for Dan Monson, whose team only goes seven deep.
  • Larry Anderson and James Ennis have a height advantage at the two and three positions against Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric, but they must stay in front of their men all game. Ennis is a good on-ball defender averaging 2.3 steals per game, but the Louisville guards may be able to exploit Long Beach State from the three-point arc. In the paint, T.J. Robinson is a terrific rebounder but he will be going up against the 6’10” Gorgui Dieng (3.4 blocks per game) and a Louisville team that rebounds well as a unit. To earn more possessions for his team, Robinson likely has to have a big game on the glass as well as offensively. That will be extremely difficult against a Cardinals front line that allows only 33.5% shooting inside the arc. Long Beach State does have a chance to win the game but there is one major difference between Pittsburgh and Louisville. It is defense and that is why we feel the Cardinals have the ultimate edge in this game tonight.
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Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli Sprains MCL & PCL

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 28th, 2011

Vanderbilt’s hopes to challenge for a high NCAA Tournament seed have become a little more complicated. Senior center Festus Ezeli sprained the MCL and PCL ligaments in his right knee during Tuesday’s practice. Luckily for the preseason All-SEC Second-Teamer, the injury does not require surgery and he should return within six to eight weeks.

We Hear Ya, Big Man. Get Better Soon.

Senior forward Steve Tchiengang will likely replace Ezeli as the starting center. Redshirt freshman Josh Henderson was already planning to see more action due to Ezeli’s NCAA-mandated six-game suspension for ineligible benefits. Now Tchingang and Henderson will need to extend their roles through nearly every significant non-conference game for the Commodores: November 21 vs. either Texas or Oregon State in the TicketCity Legends Classic Finals; November 28 vs. Xavier featuring the recently reinstated 7-footer Kenny Frease; and December 2 at Louisville where Ezeli was expected to be productive against Cardinal centers Gorgui Dieng and Stephan Van Treese.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.05.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2011

***** – 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The final Saturday of the regular season is also the best of the year. Epic would be one way to describe the schedule today. Bids will be clinched, bubbles will burst and conference titles will be decided. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#2 Kansas @ #21 Missouri in progress on CBS (****)

It's Title Time (Again) For Markieff and KU, Though We Don't Expect the Tigers To Go Quietly

The Jayhawks can clinch the Big 12 title with a win here or a Texas loss at Baylor this evening. Through Texas’ surge and preseason projections brandishing Kansas State and Baylor, we learned one thing in this conference in 2010-11: the conference title goes through Lawrence until proven otherwise. Missouri will be in the NCAA Tournament win or lose, but a win here would really improve their seeding and give them confidence heading into the postseason. The Tigers are a different team at home and should give KU all they’ve have in front of their raucous crowd and a national television audience, looking to complete their home slate undefeated. Kansas will need to protect the ball and dominate in the paint and on the glass in order to win on the road. Missouri’s preference for a quick pace means rebounding is a vulnerability, and the Morris twins should be able to pull down a lot of missed shots assuming they stay out of foul trouble.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

The NCAA Sitting on Their Thumbs: Am I the only one that finds the NCAA to be a little ridiculous?   This week, the omnipotent governing body of college athletics released its findings on Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl regarding his little BBQ incident with potential recruits.  I hope they were Memphis style ribs by the way — those are my favorite.  Anyway, while I’m not really interested in commenting on the findings as there really wasn’t anything here we weren’t already aware of, except for a previously undisclosed secondary infraction committed by Bruce Pearl and assistant Tony Jones.  Last summer they spoke with 2012 recruit Jordan Adams prior to the start of basketball practice.  That was a no-no, but secondary violations are of little consequence.

What I want to talk about is the 22-month investigation undertaken by the NCAA.  I mean really?  22 months to tell us what we already knew, that Bruce Pearl attempted to influence others to provide the NCAA and Tennessee “with false and misleading information concerning their involvement.”  I gotta ask; what the heck is the NCAA doing up in Indianapolis?  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Indianapolis, it’s a fine town, but surely at some point you can take a break from screwing around on the river next to your office and get some work done.  I mean, two years!  I guess I should give them some credit though.  I mean, they did waste about 11 months or so sitting on information about Enes Kanter trying to decide what to do about his eligibility and I’m sure that kept them pretty busy.  So maybe they just didn’t have time to work on Bruce Pearl’s case.

In the end, it worked out well for Tennessee as they followed this news with a win over Vanderbilt this week.  Whenever the Volunteers are faced with adversity, they just go ahead and win their next tough game.  Need I remind you of last year when half the team got suspended and Tennessee went out and beat number one ranked Kansas for good measure.  I’m telling you, if the NCAA really wants to punish Tennessee, the best thing they can do is just leave the whole matter alone.  The entire season will be a disaster.

A Lot of Politicking: Yesterday on the SEC Basketball coaches’ teleconference, multiple coaches were asked about the potential of reseeding the SEC tournament 1-12 instead of the current 1-6 divisional seeding.  I found the statements from coaches disappointing overall.  The question was dodged and deflected by SEC West coaches with political acumen.  They really held the party line which read, “I’m sure we’ll have some things to discuss when the coaches meet this spring,” and as Andy Kennedy put it, “I just want to do what’s best for the conference.”  In other words, “I don’t want to answer that question.  Doing so would reveal that I like the unfair system currently in place that benefits lower tier teams from the weaker West Division.”

Not surprisingly, East Division coaches were quite comfortable speaking on the matter.  Kentucky coach John Calipari noted that his team is 3-3 against SEC West teams and that he feels lucky to be 3-3.  As far as he’s concerned, however, if there was no SEC tournament, “I’d be fine with that too.”  Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings prefers reseeding, but Georgia coach Mark Fox was the most eloquent.  He suggested that if they can’t agree to reseeding altogether, perhaps they could go to a system where both division leaders still receive the top two seeds and the rest of the teams are seeded 3 through 12.

While Fox’s suggestion sounds nice and it’s probably a compromise that coaches would buy into, this RTC correspondent is still displeased.  A compromise here means that they’re still going to do something wrong, just not as wrong as before.  Such a compromise ignores the problem that the SEC is rewarding poorer performing teams by giving them with an easier path to the championship.  Get it right and move on.

 

Power Rankings

1. Florida (22-6, 11-3) The Gators beat Georgia at home and Chandler Parsons had 16 points in his return from injury.  By winning that game, the Gators clinched at least a share of the SEC East Division for the first time since 2007.  The Gators then fell to Kentucky in Lexington, but then again, nobody beats Kentucky in Lexington.  Due to the Gators’ conference record and the fact that they took the first meeting with the Wildcats in Gainesville, they easily maintain their spot atop the power rankings.

2. Alabama (19-9, 11-3) Is the Tide slipping?  A close game against SEC last place Auburn in which they just escaped with a 51-49 win followed by a 68-63 loss to Mississippi is not a good at this point in the season.  On the flip side you could say that Alabama had a good week by reaching 15-0 at home and beating Auburn despite shooting just 26 percent from the field.  A team that finds a way to win despite shooting that poorly is usually in a pretty good place.

3. Kentucky (20-8, 8-6) The Wildcats’ road woes continue.  They lost to Arkansas in Fayetteville bringing their conference road record to just 1-6.  This despite the fact they outshot the Razorbacks 42.3 percent to 38.4 percent, outrebounded them 43 to 35, allowed only seven assists to the Arkansas’ 10, blocked 11 shots to the Hogs’ six and committed 16 fouls to 18.  In other words, they won every statistic except for the one that matters, points.  The Cats followed that game with a win at home over Florida where John Calipari remains undefeated in his time in Lexington.  The game was also the 500th win of his career.  He is now 500-151.  Darius Miller had his second career high in three games with 24 points topping his previous high of 22 against South Carolina.  Brandon Knight scored a career high 26 points in the loss at Arkansas and was selected as freshman of the week by the SEC, his fifth such honor this season.  That was Knight’s 12th twenty-point game, a freshman record at UK.  Yes, that’s even more than a certain Mr. John Wall (who had eight of them)

4. Vanderbilt (21-7, 9-5) Vanderbilt lost to Tennessee at home.  That loss means that Vanderbilt can now at best win a share of the SEC.  After that loss, the Commodores took out their frustrations on the LSU Tigers winning 90-69.  Lance Goulbourne had 16 points and 17 rebounds, particularly impressive numbers after he scored a total of four points in his last four games.

5. Georgia (19-9, 8-6) The Bulldogs shot 60 percent from the field in the first half but still lost to Florida.  Georgia held South Carolina to just 28 percent from the field and 1 for 19 from three.  But more significant, the Dawgs got their 19th victory on the season, matching their highest win total since Jim Harrick Coach left the program in ruins after a scandal plagued 2003 season.  A win against LSU this week should be enough to get an at-large bid.

6. Tennessee (17-12, 7-7) Despite the win over Vanderbilt this week, I am feeling less and less confident about Tennessee’s tournament chances, especially after losing 70-69 to Mississippi State at home.  Tennessee is just 3-4 at home in conference play and has lost 5 of 7.  No worries, Tennessee still has a home date with Kentucky to close out the season, and Kentucky is terrible on the road.

7. Arkansas (18-10, 7-7) A single win over Kentucky at Bud Walton Arena may have saved coach John Pelphrey’s job.  Good for him as he has quite the class coming in next year with four players in the ESPN top 100.  That class is ranked sixth in the nation by ESPN and is certainly a sign of good things to come in Fayetteville if the fans can hold on just a little longer.  Pelphrey’s great class could also be a liability in some ways however as programs like to bring coaches in at a time when they can make a first year splash.  Rotnei Clarke was named SEC player of the week after scoring a career high 26 points in the win over Kentucky. Clarke is also just 6 three pointers away from passing Scotty Thurman, who is on the staff at Arkansas, for third on the Razorbacks’ all-time made three-pointers list.  He now has 262 in his three seasons at Arkansas.  It is likely that he will pass Pat Bradley some time next year becoming Arkansas’ all-time leader.  Bradley recorded 366 three pointers.

8. Mississippi (18-11, 6-8) The Rebels followed their worst loss of the year at South Carolina with their best win of the year over Alabama.  Chris Warren had 25 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals as Mississippi overcame an 11-point second half deficit to beat likely SEC champion Alabama.  But it’s too little too late for a team that came into the season looking like a potential at-large candidate.  Gonna take a conference tournament championship now.

9. South Carolina (14-12, 5-8) The Gamecocks were able to snap their five game losing streak by beating Mississippi 79-73 despite a career high 33 points by the Rebels’ Chris Warren.  There was simply too much Sam Muldrow for the Rebels to overcome as he came away with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.  The Cocks’ next game against Georgia, however, was dismal.  Only 48 points on 28 percent shooting can really get you down.

10. Mississippi State (18-11, 6-8) Despite shooting 56 percent from the field and outrebounding LSU 38-32, Mississippi State managed to lose 84-82 to the Tigers.  How you’re able to pull that off, I don’t know.  But it has been a season on weirdness in Starkville.  The Bulldogs followed that loss with a 70-69 win in Knoxville, their first at Tennessee since 1999.

11. Louisiana State (11-18, 8-9) The Tigers ended their ten-game losing streak, barely, by beating Mississippi State 84-82 in Starkville but quickly resumed their losing ways at home in an embarrassing 69-90 loss to Vanderbilt.  Don’t blame Storm Warren, though.  He had eight assists, no turnovers and a career-high 24 points (he averages 7) on 12-of-20 shooting in the loss.

12. Auburn (9-19, 2-12) The Tigers don’t have a lot of weapons and are very young, but they have played two of the best defensive games of any team in the SEC this season.  Earlier in the year the Tigers held SEC leading Florida to under 30 percent shooting overall and 20 percent from three in a 45-40 loss.  This week they did just that again in a 51-49 loss to SEC leading Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  The Tide’s Jamychal Green had to make a tip-in with .3 seconds to play for Alabama to get the win, but this game could very well have gone Auburn’s way.  In the Tigers next outing, Arkansas’ Delvon Johnson had to get a dunk with six seconds remaining to give the Hogs a 57-55 win in Auburn.  Credit coach Tony Barbee and his team for playing guts out defense.  That takes heart when you’re having such a tough season.  I see good things in Auburn’s future.

A Look Ahead

This time of year there’s always a lot of “Win and you’re in.”  Let’s take a look at the games of consequence this week.

  • March 1, Alabama @ Florida. No question, this is the game of the week.  There are still those that claim Alabama is on a soft bubble.  Getting the win at Gainesville all but guarantees the SEC crown and puts Alabama in “lock” status for the NCAA Tournament, a loss to St. Peter’s notwithstanding.  These are the top two teams in the conference peaking at just the right time.  Watch this game.
  • March 1, Vanderbilt @ Kentucky. As it stands Vanderbilt gets the number two seed out of the East.  If Wildcats win this one at Rupp, where John Calipari is undefeated in his two seasons at Kentucky, they have a shot to steal the number two seed.  Plenty at stake here between two teams that shoot the three very well.
  • March 5, Georgia @ Alabama. The Bulldogs probably still need a quality win to feel really comfortable about their at-large status.  This game has been gift-wrapped as a late season opportunity to stand out in the minds of the selection committee.  Win and they’re in.
  • March 5, Auburn @ LSU. There’s something special about battles in futility.  Here you have a clash of last place teams.  LSU needs this win to avoid sharing last place with Auburn.  Auburn needs it to avoid taking last place outright.  LSU won the previous meeting at Auburn 62-55.
  • March 5, Vanderbilt @ Florida. If Vanderbilt loses to Kentucky the Commodores can still hang onto the number two seed by beating Florida if Kentucky loses to Tennessee in Knoxville.  Wouldn’t hurt their seeding in the NCAA’s either.
  • March 6, Kentucky @ Tennessee. The Volunteers’ bubble is getting pretty soft despite their strong strength of schedule.  Win and they’re in.
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Set Your Tivo: 03.01.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 1st, 2011

***** – 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Welcome to March, the best month of the year for all hoops fans. It’s a huge night for bubble teams across the country, with a few having a chance for that elusive marquee win that may put them over the top. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#19 Vanderbilt @ #22 Kentucky – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Tonight, Josh Harrellson Will Be the Lone Kentucky Player Honored By the Senior Night Playing of "My Old Kentucky Home"

This is the only game in tonight’s preview that doesn’t feature a bubble team as both of these clubs are solidly in the field. They’re both projected to get 5-seeds and are actually right next to each other on the S-curve. The Commodores won the first meeting in Nashville by means of a strong shooting night on which they hit 55% from three. Kentucky held Vanderbilt to 41.2% shooting inside the arc in that game, however, and that’s something the Wildcats do very well on the whole. They rank fifth nationally in two point defense and block percentage, plus they rebound well with Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson up front. Both teams have the ability to get silly from beyond the arc, so this game could very well come down to interior play.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.16.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 16th, 2011

***** – 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s a big night all across the college basketball landscape but two games featuring teams all ranked in the top 12 lead the way. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#9 Wisconsin @ #11 Purdue – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (****)

We Don't Expect a Post-Buckeye Hangover From Leuer and the Badgers, But You Never Know

It’ll be interesting to see how the Badgers respond on the road after taking down #1 Ohio State on Saturday. Wisconsin is 3-4 in true road games and needed overtime to turn away Iowa last week. We expect this to be a very clean game with few turnovers played at a slow pace.

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