Morning Five: 01.10.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday morning we mentioned the pending imaging studies on Ryan Kelly (foot)and Laurence Bowers (knee). Even though it seems like most of the concern from the public was for Bowers (likely due to the fact that he missed last season with an injury to his other knee) it was Kelly who appears to have suffered the more significant damage as he will be out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury to his right foot. With no additional information on what Kelly’s injury is we will not even bother speculating as to how long he will be out other than to say that we doubt he will be playing at North Carolina State on Saturday. Meanwhile, Bowers will be held out for the next two games and then be reevaluated after an MRI revealed that he had a sprained MCL in his right knee and nothing more serious. While Bowers will miss the next two games he could be back just in time for the Tigers’ showdown in Gainesville with Florida.
  2. Some of you may be a little perplexed by how much time Luke Winn spend on free throws in his power rankings this week, but he also has some interesting non-free throw shooting analysis including some statistics that suggest that Jeff Withey could be having a better defensive season than Anthony Davis did last year and looks at how much worse Phil Pressey is in pick-and-roll situations this season without the type of shooters he had last season. If numbers make your eyes glaze over and you are into more juvenile humor (see his sidenote about J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison for an example), Mark Titus has his own power rankings that provide inside in the way that only The Shark can. Overall, their rankings are fairly similar with the exception of Arizona as Titus, who isn’t just looking at the numbers (just kidding, Luke), considers their game against Colorado to essentially be a loss.
  3. Boise State picked up a huge win yesterday night as they knocked Wyoming from the ranks of the unbeatens, but they may have ended the night as losers after they suspended Derrick MarksMikey ThompsonKenny Buckner, and Darrious Hamilton indefinitely just before their trip to Wyoming. Marks, the team’s leading scorer, is obviously a huge loss, but both Thompson and Buckner both see significant playing time in a rotation that is not particularly deep. While the Broncos escaped with a last second win last night, the loss of these players will make things extremely difficult for them in a challenging Mountain West Conference.
  4. As if things were not bad enough for Illinois State, which has started 0-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference after coming in as a potential threat to Creighton, things appear to be on the way to getting worse before they get better as the team announced yesterday that it had suspended senior guard Tyler Brown indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. After starting 9-3 with their three loses coming against stiff competition (three-point overtime loss versus Northwestern, three-point loss at Louisville, and a 14-point loss against Montana in which the Redbirds led by three with five minutes left), the team has completely fallen apart. While their first two losses in conference (by two at Indiana State and by seven against Creighton) are excusable their next two losses, which came against Northern Iowa and Missouri State, have raised some serious questions about the team. We are not sure how the loss of their second leading scorer (15.3 points per game) will do anything, but make things worse, but perhaps Brown’s absence will bring the team closer together and get them back on track.
  5. Now that we are about halfway through the season, it is a good time to reevaluate which conference games are worth your attention as there have been some significant surprises both for better and for worse. To that end, Jeff Borzello counts down the 30 best conference games this season. Now this list comes with the caveat that Borzello didn’t want to feature the same teams over and over again or this could have easily turned into a countdown of the best Big Ten games. One thing that is definitely worth pointing out is that several of these games are coming up very soon including three this Saturday.
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Look For Frank Haith to Go Small Again In Laurence Bowers’ Injury Absence

Posted by DPerry on January 9th, 2013

Missouri opened its SEC season with an easy home win over Alabama last night, but it came at a steep price. Leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who missed the entire 2011-12 season with a torn left ACL, suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee after a collision with an opponent. (The injury was immediately followed by a supremely awkward ESPN feature on Bowers’ successful return from injury). CBS Sports‘ Jeff Goodman reports that Bowers will be held out of the next two games before being re-evaluated by the Tigers’ medical staff.

Bowers has exceeded expectations in his return from an ACL tear.

Bowers has exceeded expectations in his return from an ACL tear.

Behind point guard Phil Pressey, Bowers has been Missouri’s most important player this season. He isn’t the most physically imposing post presence, but he returned from his medical redshirt season with a more well-rounded game, capable of extending out to the perimeter and knock down jump shots. In a well-balanced starting frontcourt, he provides the skill that meshes so well with Alex Oriakhi’s brawn. The temporary loss of Bowers will expose the Tigers’ lack of depth down low, but Frank Haith proved last season that he has no problems running a system wholly (or largely) dependent on perimeter options. This year’s team has plenty of pieces in the backcourt, but the majority of Bowers’ scoring responsibility should fall on transfer Jabari Brown, who has been lights-out after qualifying in December. The former five-star Oregon recruit is coming off a monster game against the Crimson Tide in which he hit five three-pointers on the way to a 22-point performance. The offense will still run through Pressey, of course, but Brown should be on the end of a lot more of the flamboyant playmaker’s assists.

Bowers will certainly miss the Tigers’ trip to Oxford over the weekend (potentially tricky) and their home game against Georgia (probably not tricky). Frank Haith and his team, however, will be eyeing January 19 as the date that they truly need Bowers back at full health, as Missouri travels to Gainesville to take on Florida. We’ll be hoping to see the senior back in action as well, as a potential match-up between Bowers and the also currently-injured Gator’ Erik Murphy promises to be one of the most exciting inside-out battles in SEC play. Let’s hope both guys have speedy recoveries.

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Morning Five: 01.09.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 9th, 2013

morning5

  1. That groan you heard yesterday was collective sound released by everybody involved with college basketball as the NCAA released the first version of the RPI for this season. We had several posts on our microsites detailing which teams are probably ranked too high and too low in the RPI and although there is plenty of time for the formula to work itself out (read: match what writers and fans feel is correct) it always has seemed strange that the NCAA has clung to this system as its computer metric to help create the bracket for the NCAA Tournament. As Jeff Eisenberg points out the computers do not necessarily agree on how to rank teams and points out five prominent differences between the RPI and KenPom rankings. In the end we can take solace in one thing–at least it isn’t the BCS.
  2. With what is most likely their toughest in-conference game (a trip to North Carolina State) next Duke may be without the services of Ryan Kelly, who injured his right foot in their win against Clemson last night. According to Andy Katz, the initial x-rays were inconclusive so Kelly and the Blue Devils are awaiting the results of a CT scan today to determine the extent of the injury. As you may remember this is the same foot that Kelly injured at the end of last season that cause him to miss the ACC Tournament and their season-ending upset loss in the NCAA Tournament to Lehigh. We never bought into the idea that Kelly was Duke’s best player, but he may be their most versatile player and for a team that is not particularly deep that could be a much more significant loss than you would otherwise expect.
  3. Starting conference play with one of your best players sidelined by injury is never a good thing as Louisville will have to do as Chane Behanan is expected to be out for a little over a week after spraining his ankle in practice on Monday. Fortunately for the Cardinals their next two opponents are Seton Hall and USF so they should not need Behanan’s services to get by those teams. Things get a little trickier after that as they travel to Connecticut on January 14, which would be the early estimate for when Behanan can return, before a showdown at home against Syracuse on January 19. Behanan is expected to be back by the time they play the Orange, but it is unclear if he will be back to 100% or if he will be tentative pushing off his injured ankle when he comes back.
  4. After missing last season with an ACL tear in his left knee, Laurence Bowers had returned to put up career high averages in points and rebounds, but his comeback appears to have been put on hold as Bowers injured his right leg and while the severity of the injury is unknown initial reports indicate that it may be a sprained medial collateral ligament pending a MRI today. If that is the case, Bowers could miss a significant amount of time although any speculation on the duration would be premature. Fortunately for Bowers and the Tigers they do get a little bit of a break in their schedule until their showdown with Florida in Gainesville on January 19. While all three of these injuries are unfortunate it would be particularly difficult for Bowers to essentially miss most of two seasons with unrelated injuries.
  5. Now that college football season is finally over we can forget about the mock BCS standings and instead focus on various bracket projections including two of the most prominent, which come from Andy Glockner and Joe Lunardi, who both released their latest iterations yesterday. While Lunardi does not offer online explanation of his bracket, Glockner provides his analysis by conference, which we assume will not be enough to appease the legions of fans wronged by his mock bracket. We won’t get into the details of the seeding and potential match-ups at this point other than to say that the competition to get into the Indianapolis region will be extremely competitive. We will point out that it is interesting how few “locks” there are at this point and it could lead to some very interesting mid-major tournaments as teams battle for at-large bids.
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Resetting the SEC at the Midpoint: A Three-Bid League?

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 2nd, 2013

Many of us are aware that a significant portion of our SEC brethren pay more attention to the football field than the hardwood during November and December. Yeah, football’s alright, but think of all the great moments those poor sports fans have missed thus far during this college basketball season. Okay, maybe not from SEC basketball, but the sport as a whole has been great. At least nobody can argue that action from the SEC hasn’t been, well, eventful. And now we’re here to catch you up with what’s happened in the league and throughout the SEC microsite during the early part of this 2012-13 season:

November and December has been tough for Rick Ray and the rest of the SEC coaching brethren.

November and December has been tough for Rick Ray and the rest of the SEC coaching brethren.

Conference Recap

Well, things aren’t going as planned around here. SEC schools have lost to the likes of Troy, Alabama A&M, Winthrop, and Marist just to name a few. Barring a huge collapse, just a few SEC squads should hear their names in March (Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky), but the rest of the teams in the conference have significant work to do. As a whole, the conference has been downright wretched. And that’s the nice version. On the bright side, it has been fun, and it’s only the beginning. We have a lot of catching up to do, so let’s get right down to it.

All SEC Non-Conference Performers

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 97, #9 Missouri 94 (OT)

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2012

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It was one of the more thrilling games of the young season, an up-and-down affair featuring great individual performances, scoring in bunches, and little of that pesky defense that can serve just to ugly things up. No, this was a track meet, a sprint. And one that needed some extra distance to decide a winner.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. This is What The Buzz Was About. We spent much of the offseason hearing about how great this UCLA recruiting class was and just how high the ceiling was for this team, but for much of the first month and a half of the season, the Bruins just didn’t live up to the hype. But quietly over the last couple weeks, UCLA has gotten on an offensive roll, racking up efficient offensive performances against questionable competition. Leading the way has been Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top two recruits in this year’s freshman class, depending on whom you ask. Tonight was his, and really, the entire UCLA team’s chance to show the strides that they have made. Muhammad poured in 27 points, including seven of UCLA’s nine points in overtime, and flashed the athleticism and killer instinct that was long rumored about him. While there is still plenty of room for improvement (case in point, he grabbed just one rebound in 34 minutes of play), we’re starting to see what we expected to see. And in proximity to the rumors that had been swirling about Ben Howland’s job being in jeopardy, this win may have come at just the right time.
  2. Phil Pressey. He Good. Phil Pressey, on the other hand, was a guy who had been largely living up to the high standards that he had previously set for himself. Tonight, he found himself facing a team with an up-tempo, minimal defense in which he can thrive. And thrive he did, wowing Tiger and Bruin fans alike to the tune of 19 points and 19 assists, setting a Missouri record for dimes in a game. The assists are the big story, and they came in a variety of ways: whip-aheads on the fast break; drive-and-dish jobs creating easy looks for big guys like Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers; and crisp passes to spot-up shooters for threes. And when he wasn’t handing out assists, he was creating for himself. He knocked down a late three (one of three on the night) in the face of Larry Drew II, he got into the lane and flipped in runners, and he knocked down pull-up jumpers. Just looking at the 8-for-22 effort in the box score could give one pause, but he was everything for the Tigers, accounting for 67 of their 94 points on just his shots and assists alone.
  3. Defense? What Defense? Much of the talk during the game on Twitter was about the lack of defense being played. And, yeah, there is little arguing that this was not exactly a fine example of defensive basketball. When all was said and done, the two teams combined to give up 1.18 points per possession. But you know what? At least for UCLA, that’s something to be okay with — at least there were signs of improvement. While they allowed far too much dribble penetration, at least it was to a point guard the quality of Pressey. And UCLA forced 17 turnovers (five from Pressey) which led to 36 points, quite possibly the difference in the game. At no point is this UCLA team going to be a shining example of Howland’s great defensive coaching, but if the Bruins can bolster its already potent offense by forcing turnovers and creating fast break opportunities, at least that can help to mitigate some of the easy points they give up.

Stars of the GameThe Wear Twins. Yeah, this should probably go to Pressey. Or maybe if you really want to hand it out to a player on the winning team, Muhammad. But I’ve already talked plenty about those two. How about the Wear twins though? Though they are a pair much maligned by large fan bases on both coasts, they were both excellent tonight. Travis Wear set a new career high, knocking in 22 points, grabbing nine boards and swatting a couple of shots. His brother, despite some early foul trouble, made all seven of the shots he attempted from the field on his way to 16 points and six boards. And, while a guy like Alex Oriakhi will get more attention as the big athletic dude in the middle, the Wears outplayed him, frustrated him, and, frankly, out-toughed him. Now there’s a sentiment I never thought I’d have. And, finally, with the game on the line, it was not Muhammad, it was not Jordan Adams (who was on the bench with leg cramps after being the guy called on at the end of regulation), it was not Kyle Anderson to whom the Bruins turned in the final moments of overtime. It was Travis Wear, who responded with a nice turnaround jumper to put UCLA up three with 13 seconds remaining.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Missouri at UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2012

As conference plays looms around the corner, the last real big game on the Pac-12 non-conference schedule tips off tonight at 7:00 PM PST on ESPN2 as the as-yet underachieving Bruins take on the Tigers, currently ranked #9 in the RTC Top 25. I’ll (@AMurawa) be on hand at Pauley Pavilion to report on the action, but in advance, let’s run down what to keep an eye on tonight.

Why It’s Important: While Missouri may have some solid wins on their non-conference resume (Virginia Commonwealth, Illinois and Stanford), UCLA is very much in need of heading into conference play with something positive in the rear view mirror. While they’re riding a four-game winning streak now and the offense has picked up over most of that stretch, defensively they are still struggling. And Missouri’s efficient offensive, run by playmaker par excellence Phil Pressey, is going to give the Bruins all the test they want. The hyped freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams has been explosive, but they’ll need to prove their toughness tonight in order to establish any national cred.

Phil Pressey's Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA's Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Phil Pressey’s Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA’s Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Missouri Player to Watch – Phil Pressey: The point has been made before, but I don’t mind repeating it: Pressey is the type of player who can, even in the midst of a poor shooting night, have a positive effect on his team on both ends of the court. The most recent example of such came on Saturday when Pressey missed his first 15 shots, wound up just 3-of-19 from the field (and an oh-fer from behind the arc) and yet was still almost universally regarded as the most important player in the Tigers’ nine-point win over Illinois. Why? Because his ability to create good looks for his teammates (and yes, part of that is being a constant threat to shoot the ball) is almost unparalleled. He hands out assists on better than 32% of his teammates baskets, good for better than six assists per night. Given UCLA’s record of struggling to stop penetration, priority number one for Ben Howland and his senior point guard Larry Drew II will be slowing Pressey, forcing bad shots and making other players beat them.

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SEC M5: 12.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2012

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  1. Did anybody really think Louisville center Gorgui Dieng wouldn’t play against Kentucky? Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino originally said Dieng wouldn’t play in the nationally-televised clash with Kentucky this Saturday — just last week, Pitino said, “Gorgui’s latest exam with the doctor didn’t go as well as my optimism was. The last X-ray we thought it would be healed, and it was not.” What a difference a week makes? Dieng recently practiced for the first time since injuring his wrist on November 23, and now Pitino and Dieng are hopeful he will be in the lineup to play against Kentucky’s big guys. “We’ll see how it goes today,” Pitino said. “And then we’ll make a decision.” The Kentucky and Louisville rivalry just wouldn’t be the same without a little pregame drama. Kentucky’s young bigs could struggle against a shot-blocking presence who rebounds as well as Dieng.
  2. Of course we will be inundated with Kentucky and Louisville previews this week to prepare for one of the biggest non-conference games on the slate, but if you’re looking for the key to the game it is probably in Kentucky’s defense. And thankfully, A Sea of Blue has us covered with an in-depth look at the Wildcats’ defense this year. As for the long and short of it, Kentucky is preventing opponents from shooting at the rim and not allowing three-point looks at a rate similar to last year’s team. That’s definitely a good thing going into a contest against a team that loves the three. Can Kentucky force Peyton Siva and Russ Smith to take contested shots from deep within the mid-range area? That question just might decide the game.
  3. Missouri beat its other border rival Illinois last weekend, and the Tigers are not taking a break to celebrate. Instead, Mizzou spent Christmas Day practicing instead of taking time off to be with family. “Our normal prep work is three days before a game,” head coach Frank Haith said. “Tomorrow’s a travel day, but we will get in in the morning and get some work done before we get on the plane, and then obviously, the day before when we get there, it’s a lot of shooting. That’s normal practice for us in terms of our prep work to get ready for a game.” Haith plans to give the team some time off after its game Friday against UCLA, which is great news for the players’ families who can buy them presents at half off in those day-after-Christmas sales.
  4. Laurence Bowers was named SEC player of the week for his outstanding performance against Illinois, finally getting some kudos from outside of the state of Missouri. But of course, he’s still getting some praise from within Columbia too. “He’s the truth; he can do it all,” said senior forward Alex Oriakhi. “It’s just a joy to play with him.” Bowers leads the team in scoring and field goal percentage and is second in rebounding average. His offensive rating and effective field goal percentage are both the highest of his career and among the best in the nation while taking almost 30 percent of the Tigers’ shots. Bowers’ continued development alongside Oriakhi in the post could be the key to Mizzou staying near the top of the SEC in its first season.
  5. What would the Christmas season be without dancing elves? And not just any dancing elves — this video has dancing elves with Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin’s head. Enjoy and happy holidays.
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Braggin’ Rights Win Over Illini Reveals a Different Missouri Team

Posted by dnspewak on December 23rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report from the Scottrade Center following Missouri’s 82-73 victory over Illinois Saturday night. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

It was an unfamiliar sight. The big, bad Missouri Tigers ferociously attacked the offensive glass on Saturday, flying over Illinois at every opportunity and bullying the Fighting Illini with their size and strength. Phil Pressey, who missed his first 15 shots from the field, could have missed 100 shots for all he cared. Every time Pressey clanked another floater off the rim, Alex Oriakhi was there to clean up the mess. By the end of Missouri’s 82-73 Braggin’ Rights victory at the Scottrade Center, he’d tallied 14 rebounds — seven on the offensive end – and cemented himself as the face of the Tigers’ new identity.“Alex is just a monster on the glass. We see that every day in practice. We call it eating,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said. “That’s how Alex eats.” His diet is starting to rub off on his teammates. Bowers grabbed 10 rebounds, too, and scored a game-high 23 points in a contest that featured a near-brawl in the first half during a tie-up. In fact, the game teetered on the brink of an all-out brawl for 40 minutes. The officiating crew rarely blew the whistle. As the second half wore on, Oriakhi and the Tigers clamped up defensively, out-rebounded the Illini by 22 and powered their way to a fourth straight victory in the Braggin’ Rights series.

Missouri v. Illionis

Missouri Showed Some Real Toughness Saturday Night (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

Notice the key word here: “powered.” In every way, the Tigers flashed their new identity as a tough, in-your-face squad who will fight you for loose balls and make you miserable on the offensive glass. That’s an absurd and fairly unbelievable identity for this program, considering the team has seemed to perpetually lack size for several years. When MU hired Mike Anderson in 2006, he implemented a style of play tailored toward speed, quickness and guard play. He recruited tough kids who could guard, and he recruited forwards who could run the floor, but he never recruited a traditional big man. For five seasons, Missouri compensated for an inability to rebound by forcing turnovers and scoring in transition. Sometimes, it worked, like during a run to the Elite Eight in 2009. Other times, though, it left Missouri fans shaking their heads when opponents would manhandle the Tigers on the boards and in the paint. When Anderson left for Arkansas, he left Frank Haith with a terrific set of guards, which he coached to 30 wins using a four-guard attack. They were fun. They were gunners. They won by outscoring you. But Kyle O’Quinn and Norfolk State eventually exposed the guard-heavy attack in the NCAA Tournament.

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SEC Freshmen Report: Volume I

Posted by CNguon on December 21st, 2012

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

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

Nerlens Noel,

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

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

SEC East

uk freshmen

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

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SEC M5: 12.21.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 21st, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Jabari Parker’s commitment was the lead story in college basketball yesterday, and to the chagrin of almost everyone, the Chicago product chose to attend Duke. He had narrowed down his choices to five schools before his announcement, with Florida serving as the SEC’s only representative. Any program would benefit greatly by adding a talent like Parker, but the Gators will still have one of the nation’s best incoming classes. Billy Donovan will bring in Chris Walker and Kasey Hill, both consensus top 10 recruits, in addition to South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith. Of all the spurned schools on Parker’s final list, Florida is probably in the best position going forward.
  2. Tennessee has gotten back on track with wins over Wichita State and Presbyterian, but after a miserable start to the season, Volunteer fans are still counting the days until they see Jeronne Maymon back on the floor. Unfortunately, it may be a while. Maymon’s rehabilitation from knee surgery hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Vols had hoped. The ambitious diagnosis had the senior forward returning to action as early as this month, but as Maymon continues to limp around Tennessee’s training facility, the possibility of a medical redshirt has been explored. “He’s open to everything,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “One thing about Jeronne, he’s a coachable guy. He wants to do what’s best for the team. If that means coming back (for a redshirt season), he’ll come back. We’re trying to figure out what’s best for Jeronne Maymon first and foremost, then our team.” Coming back for only a few games surely isn’t the smart move, but in a season filled with high expectations in Knoxville, getting Maymon back on the court is absolutely essential in Tennessee’s efforts to meet those goals.
  3. Texas A&M has had an especially unremarkable season. Outside of a slight upset of Washington State on a neutral court (maybe?), the Aggies have beaten every inferior team and lost in both games against superior competition. This is progress, however, for second-year coach Billy Kennedy, who struggled mightily in his first season, posting a 4-14 record in the Big 12. He’ll hope that the SEC schedule is kinder as he enters a new conference, and he may be in luck. The middle of the SEC is weak, and A&M has the talent to take advantage. Senior Elston Turner has improved on his shooting percentages, and at 16.1 points per game, he’s the type of player who can make a difference as the Aggies take on the SEC’s many mediocre teams.
  4. In the wake of the Michael Dixon situation, off-the-court news hasn’t been especially kind to Missouri this season. That changed on Thursday, however, as the Tigers revealed that the basketball team had achieved their highest collective GPA (over a 3.0) in over a decade. “I’m so proud of our guys and their efforts in the classroom,” coach Frank Haith said. “We demand a lot from them throughout the year and they delivered in a big way, which deserves recognition.” Tigers’ leading scorer Laurence Bowers is one of the stars in the classroom as well. The senior forward has already finished his undergraduate degree, and is a semester away from a master’s in Health Education and Promotion.
  5. “Going Big”, the ESPN Films documentary about former Kentucky great, Sam Bowie, premiered on ESPNU last night. Every basketball fan knows the basics of Bowie’s tale, but director Tom Friend utilizes an unfamiliar perspective to tell his story: the perspective of Sam Bowie. It’s impossible to ignore the Michael Jordan factor with this subject, but any true connection between Jordan’s success and Bowie’s struggles with injury are the product of a fabricated narrative (a compelling one, to be fair). For the former Kentucky center, getting over the Jordan comparisons was tough, but the support of the Lexington community made it possible. “I always knew when the [NBA] season was over that I was immediately going to go back to Kentucky, because that was a safe haven for me to get away from the Michael Jordans, from the critics,” Bowie said. “And that’s a beautiful thing, because when you’re getting beat up like I was getting beat up, you run for cover. And my cover was getting back to Lexington.”
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SEC M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 19th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Several members of the national media have been quick to criticize Kenny Boynton in the days following his disappointing performance at Arizona. The criticism is hard to argue with, as the senior guard scored only five points on 10 attempts from the field. SI‘s Andy Glockner got in on the act, publishing an article in which he asks whether Boynton will be a help or hindrance for Florida come Tournament time. I fall squarely in the former camp. His high-volume three-point shot totals aren’t as reliable as a what a dominant post player or steady ball-handler brings to the table, but Boynton is the type of player who has the ability to win you games in March that you otherwise have no business winning. He hit the 20 point-mark in 12 games last year, not to mention the three times thus far in his senior season. Boynton could very well be the culprit in an early postseason defeat for the Gators, but without him in the picture, Florida simply isn’t a team with realistic Final Four aspirations.
  2. Georgia didn’t make much progress toward finding a secondary offensive option last night, but the Bulldogs did enough of the defensive end to earn their third win of the season over Mercer, 58-49. The visiting Bears mustered only 16 field goals, including a miserable 6-of-26 from beyond the arc. “Today was important and we needed to win,” said head coach Mark Fox. “We won the game today because we played such a physical schedule early. We had to be sound for 40 minutes to win this game because [Mercer isn't] making very many mistakes.” Fox is certainly still tinkering with his rotation, as 11 players saw the court for 10 minutes or more in Tuesday’s victory.
  3. The cupcake-heavy home schedule bothers the season ticket holders in Lexington, but Jerry Tipton believes that Kentucky will ultimately benefit from these breather games. Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson, who played at Rupp last Saturday, agrees. “The chance to work on execution without the distracting consideration of winning or losing,” says Sanderson. “The label of ‘guarantee games’ refers to a payment the lesser team receives for its service as a sacrificial lamb. But the greater team in these match-ups is all but guaranteed of a victory.” While I believe that the Wildcats probably needed to recalibrate some things after losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, I think a nearly month-long break from quality competition is too long. A mentally-prepared Kentucky team doesn’t stand much of a chance at the Yum! Center in Louisville anyway — I won’t be surprised if the young and rusty ‘Cats struggle mightily against the tested Cardinals.
  4. Jabari Brown stole the headlines in his first game in a Missouri uniform, but it was a big night for Laurence Bowers as well, as the senior forward joined the Tigers’ 1,000 point club. Bowers is especially pleased to now be mentioned in the same class as former teammates Kim English and Marcus Denmon. “I’m kind of in competition with those guys, to be honest,” Bowers said. “I know that I might not surpass them as far as scoring points, but I definitely want to surpass them as far as the season they had.” Team success will be harder to guarantee than points, however. Bowers combines with Alex Oriakhi to form a fearsome frontcourt, and point guard Phil Pressey is one of the nation’s best lead guards, but no wing player has stepped up and shown any consistency through the early part of the schedule.
  5. Mike Anderson and his high-intensity style produces the need for a lot of bodies, but Arkansas won’t be able to count on Brandon Mitchell this season. The two-sport football star would have served as an athletic backcourt option off the bench, but with new football coach Bret Bielema converting Mitchell from wide receiver to quarterback, basketball will have to take the back seat. “He told me his focus is on football right now,” Anderson said. “It makes sense. We have got a new coaching staff and he has got to get ready for Coach B. He did a good job for us but football is what he is here for.”
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SEC M5: 12.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 12th, 2012

  1. The NCAA honored the 2006-07 Florida Gators by naming them one of the top 25 teams in NCAA Tournament history, and Joakhim Noah as one of the top 75 players to ever play in the Tournament. The back-to-back Gators ran through the regular season and NCAA Tournament on their way to a 35-5 record and a repeat performance as National Champions. Dick Vitale spoke about where Florida ranked in terms of all-time great teams. “They rank very high to me in terms of their loyalty factor,” Vitale said. “In today’s day and age, everyone runs for the quick buck, have visions of grandeur and the dollar. Those kids have to be commended, Noah and (Al) Horford and (Corey) Brewer could have taken a lot of cash. But it’s a tribute to the school, tribute to the coaches and it certainly was an outstanding team defensively.” Two Kentucky teams (1995-96 and 2011-12) also made the list, as well as several SEC players, but what about the 1993-94 Arkansas Razorbacks? Nolan Richardson’s team went 31-3 on the year, beating Duke for the 1994 National Championship. For a complete list of the NCAA’s all-time teams, players, and moments from the NCAA Tournament, be sure to click here.
  2. Auburn lost four games in a row before Tuesday’s bounce-back game against winless Grambling. Including Tuesday night’s victory, the Tigers have four home games in a row where they are hoping to build back a winning attitude. “We just have to be more confident with the ball,” freshman guard Jordan Price said. “At the end of the game, we have a lot of turnovers, defensive breakdowns, offensive breakdowns, so we have to be more confident.” Like several SEC teams, Auburn coach Tony Barbee is trying to blend a lot of  newcomers. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and old faces, particularly new faces, trying to fit into the program,” center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum said. “We’ve had some miscommunication, but everything seems to be falling into place.” It needs to fall into place quickly for the Tigers. They play Illinois and Florida State before beginning conference play.
  3. The search for what ails the Kentucky Wildcats continues to fall short. ESPN took a stab, and so did our friends at CollegeBasketballTalk, but both missed the most detrimental factor of the Wildcats’ shortcomings. Myron Medcalf wrote, “So Kentucky doesn’t have a talent problem. It has a youth problem, a point guard problem, an inexperience problem. The Cats were not as good as they thought they were and now they know it.” Youth has never been an issue. The 2011-12 Kentucky squad proved that. Point guard play and inexperience rear their ugly head consistently, but Medcalf and CBT miss one of the biggest issues. Defense is one of the largest ailments for the 2012-13 Wildcats. Kentucky’s effective field goal percentage defense ranks 52nd in the country. Last year, John Calipari’s team was number one in that category. The problem is partly because Kentucky gives up too many shots at the rim (34% of the overall opponents shots are taken at the rim), and too often don’t get back on defense after missed shots.
  4. Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer has always been a liability on the defensive end, but who would have thought the three-point marksman would hurt the Wildcats on offense? With the exception of two games where Wiltjer played well and caught fire from beyond the arc against weaker competition, the sharpshooting forward hasn’t made more than one three-pointer in any other game. And overall, Wiltjer is shooting eight fewer percentage points from outside than he did last season. Players are supposed to increase their shooting numbers as they get older and more experienced, right? Wiltjer’s difficulties on the offensive end are in part because the rest of Kentucky’s offensive threats aren’t drawing double teams like last year’s stars. Last year, Kentucky’s penetration into the lane caused defenders to sag down to help leaving Wiltjer wide open for the jumper. Kentucky’s slashers don’t draw as much attention this year which leaves Wiltjer to create his own shot, which is not his forte.
  5. Missouri is ready to welcome in some help in transfer Jabari Brown, who is expected to be cleared to play by the end of this week. Frank Haith is looking forward to what Brown will contribute to the Tigers. “We need him to be Jabari Brown — not to be Mike Dixon, not to be Marcus Denmon,” Haith said. But teammates say Brown will be just fine being himself, and bringing some much needed shooting to the roster. “He can shoot the ball,” point guard Phil Pressey said. “He’s hit a couple in my face, so I know he can shoot the ball.” Forward Laurence Bowers was even more direct about Brown’s impact. “He’s definitely, I would say, probably the best shooter on our team. From practice, it’s been pretty clear,” Bowers said. Missouri isn’t exactly shooting lights out, and with the loss of Dixon, the Tigers will certainly benefit from Brown’s addition to the team.
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