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


  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


  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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SEC Power Rankings: Week Three

Posted by KAlmekinder on December 5th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Week Three’s SEC Power Rankings:

Is there a clear explanation for Kentucky’s back-to-back losses?

  1. Florida – The Gators just keep winning with one key reason: an evenly spread, highly efficient offense. Of the two marquee match-ups Florida has had so far this season, they have won against then-#22 Wisconsin by 18 points, and most recently, against a regularly tough Marquette squad, 82-49. The Gators are averaging nearly 74 points a game on 47% shooting (36% from beyond the arc). In the win over the Golden Eagles last week, six Gators, including three off the bench, posted double figure points while shooting over 50% from the field. Florida’s chemistry and rhythm has led them to the top of the SEC Power Rankings and a top six ranking in the national polls.
  2. Missouri – With most of the attention involving Missouri is focused on Michael Dixon leaving the team, the Tigers have been able to focus on winning with their other personnel. The key to Missouri’s quick turnaround has been forward Laurence Bowers, making his presence known this year after missing last season due to injury. Bowers posted a season high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the Tigers’ win over Appalachian State last Saturday, including 3-for-3 from long distance. With no other difficult match-up until the annual “Braggin’ Rights” showdown versus Illinois later this month, Missouri should remain near the top of the Power Rankings.
  3. Alabama – A narrow 58-56 loss to #17 Cincinnati showed Alabama’s true colors earlier this week. The Tide rallied from 13 down to only lose on a Cashmere Wright fadeaway at the buzzer. Alabama could have used another efficient night from guard Trevor Releford (5-15 shooting, only 12 points), but a loss to a ranked Cincinnati team tested Anthony Grant’s club the entire night and proved that they have the ability to rally when needed. Both Dayton (5-2) and VCU (5-3) come to Tuscaloosa in the next few weeks for another couple of solid tests for the Tide.
  4. Ole Miss – Ole Miss has quietly risen through the rankings because of its own success and the failures of others. Kentucky’s losses (discussed below) have paved the way for an undefeated Rebels squad to a top four position in the SEC Power Rankings. While Ole Miss’ schedule can be considered weak, they have still yet to lose a game. Ole Miss ranks second in the nation in points per game and sixth in rebounds per game. The next test, the Rebs’ first true road game at Middle Tennessee State, will show the rest of the league if they are better than people think. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your DVR: Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The Battle 4 Atlantis and the NIT Tip-Off continue over the weekend with some very interesting match-ups. So grab some Thanksgiving left overs and settle in for some good hoops.

#5 Michigan vs. Kansas State (PNIT Finals) – 4:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

The Wolverines are going to need better three-point shooting from Tim Hardaway Jr. against Kansas State. (Melanie Maxwell/

  • Both Michigan and Kansas State. are coming off tough semifinal wins in the NIT Tip-Off. Michigan was able to pull out a victory with strong second-half defense in the 1-3-1 zone and great defensive rebounding. While the Wolverines are not going to win many games going 3-17 from three-point land, it is encouraging to see them win with their defense, particularly because Kansas State brings a strong defense into any game. The Wildcats are only allowing teams to shoot 27.4% from downtown and are creating turnovers on 28% of opponents possessions. K-State also had eight players go double-figure minutes against Delaware while the Wolverines only had six players go into double-figure minutes against Pitt. The Wolverines could get tired in the second half due to K-State’s physical play if they do not get more minutes from the bench. KSU is going to have to improve its shooting significantly if they want to walk away with a big win. They’ve shot 41.5% eFG against Delaware and 44.8% eFG through five games this season. The Wildcats need to shoot over 50% eFG to have a chance at winning this one.

#23 Cincinnati vs. Iowa State (LV Invitational) – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on CBS College Sports (***)

  • While Cincinnati and Iowa State have two common opponents already, Campbell and North Carolina A&T, its tough to glean any significant information from the games because both were blowouts. The Bearcats come into the game with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.4, which is good for 11th in the nation. They are cleaning up on the defensive boards and shutting down two-point shooting. ISU is ranked 16th in the country in two-point shooting, hitting 56.9% of their shots inside the arc thus far. Keep a close eye on who wins the battle in the paint, as it should determine the winner of this one.

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SEC M5: 11.07.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

  1. We are under 60 hours away from college basketball’s first regular season games tipping off and both Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated have released their first bracket projections of the 2012-13 season. Each bracket has only five SEC teams in the field as of today: Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, and Tennessee. Kentucky is projected to be a #1 seed in both Lunardi’s bracket as well as Glockner’s while they disagree on the seeds for the remaining four teams. Get over there and check them out — it’ll get you more ready for the season to start than you might think.
  2. The season has not even begun but the problems keep accumulating for Mississippi State and Rick Ray, as the Bulldogs just lost another player to injury. Brandon Marcello from the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger originally reported that freshman guard DeAndre Applewhite suffered a devastating knee injury late last week. On Tuesday, an MRI scan showed that Applewhite tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee, thus sidelining him for the entire 2012-13 season. Applewhite joins Jacoby Davis on the injured list with virtually the same knee injury that the point guard suffered back in July. Applewhite’s injury leaves the Bulldogs with only eight healthy scholarship players on the squad, but healthy or not, Mississippi State opens its season Friday versus Troy.
  3. The pundits writing for ESPN’s College Basketball Nation blog hosted a fantasy college basketball draft earlier Tuesday, drafting five starters, a reserve, a head coach and an arena for the season. The draft took place via live-blog on Tuesday afternoon while former-Tennessee-coach-turned-analyst Bruce Pearl recapped the proceedings in a more reader-friendly article. The draft results are also here for an easier view. Only four SEC players, coaches, or venues were drafted among the group. Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Missouri’s Phil Pressey were drafted as players, Kentucky coach John Calipari as a coach, and Rupp Arena as a venue. Makes sense.
  4. A lot of the press coverage the Missouri Tigers are receiving this preseason is with respect to all their talented transfers who will suit up this season. One player ready to play again on Friday (and going largely unmentioned in most of these analyses) is forward Laurence Bowers, a player finally ready to return from an ACL tear suffered 13 months ago. Bowers’ hard work in rehabilitation will provide another strong body in the post, a piece the Tigers desperately missed at times last year as when they were bounced in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament against Norfolk State. Bowers will join transfer Alex Oriahki from Connecticut (more on him in a moment) as a dynamic tandem in the Tigers’ frontcourt.
  5. USA Today released an article late Tuesday describing college basketball’s “free agency era,” a situation slowly gaining popularity with programs across the country. The article mentions former Connecticut Huskies forward Alex Oriahki, now with the Missouri Tigers because of the unique situation UConn was in last season regarding academic APR sanctions and including a postseason ban. As the APR takes greater effect with a higher threshold in the future, many more high-caliber players could follow suit, leaving schools to play for programs not similarly restricted. Could this usher in a new free agency system that directs certain recruits to certain schools? Oriahki has set the model in play for a potential change with the NCAA rulebook.
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ACL Well: Analyzing Six Huge Returnees From ACL Injuries

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 29th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The fickle nature of college hoops owes itself to a number of different factors. Every year there are a handful of teams that underperform or overperform versus expectations for various reasons, from team chemistry to coaching philosophy to collective work ethic. Perhaps the most uncontrollable element of a team’s performance is injury, the sudden and often catastrophic medical ailments that – in the blink of one single cut to the hoop, defensive rotation or hard sprint down the court – dramatically alter teams’ seasons and programs’ trajectories. Last season we saw several injuries to key players, some more impactful than others, fundamentally shift the competitive balance in various leagues. For those players, the situational outlook was bleak: not playing competitively with the team you’ve spent all summer practicing with just plain stinks. But for the most part, their departures faded into the periphery as the season wore on, players began furiously rehabbing their various injuries, teams adapted and college hoops rolled along with minimal fuss.

If Mbakwe can return to form, the Gophers could be poised for an NCAA Tournament berth (Photo credit: Tom Olmscheid/AP Photo)

There was a strikingly large proportion of one particular injury last season, or at least it seemed that way for several of the sport’s most influential medical breakdowns. It’s known as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, and it’s one of the most common and oft-repeated of all athletic detriments. A complete recovery normally requires major surgery, between six and nine months worth of substantial rehabilitation and a cautious return to athletic activity. I’ve identified six instrumental players who experienced this very process after tearing their ACLs last season and all of them are expected to return – rehabbed and ready to go – for a redeeming 2012-13 campaign. Each player is rejoining their teams (or in some cases, new teams) under slightly different circumstances from which he left, with situational and rotational specifics dictating the terms of their returns. I’ve tried to dig into some of the circumstantial elements playing into these players’ comeback seasons and how you should expect them to fare this season. Here are the results of my research, a full-fledged breakdown of college hoops’ big-name torn ACL-returnees. Enjoy… and try your best to avoid a similar fate.

Trevor Mbakwe (sixth-year senior, Minnesota)

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for Mbakwe. Way back when he still played for Marquette – the same year (2007-08) Mario Chalmers’ legendary three-point shot KO’d a high-powered Derrick Rose-led Memphis team in the national finals – Mbakwe missed the majority of the season with a knee injury. He recovered, packed his bags and moved on to Miami Dade Community College, where he averaged a modest 16.3 PPG/13.2 RPG double-double while earning Southern Conference Player of the Year Honors. When he eventually made his way to Minnesota, after sitting out the 2009-10 season while awaiting trial for a felony assault charge, Mbakwe unleashed the ferocious rebounding and inside scoring touch he demonstrated in the JuCo ranks on Big Ten forwards. Much to the chagrin of Tubby Smith’s middling program, Mbawke had only played one full season and six full games last year before going down with an ACL tear.

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SEC Weekly Five: 08.03.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on August 3rd, 2012

  1. Kentucky basketball special assistant Rod Strickland was arrested Thursday morning for charges including driving on a suspended license, failure to signal, and having no vehicle registration. The university sent out a statement issued by UK athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy. “Rod Strickland was pulled over this morning in Lexington on a routine traffic stop on the way to the office,” the statement said. “According to police reports, he was pulled over for failure to signal and for driving with a suspended license. According to Strickland, his vehicle was properly registered and he produced his driver’s license at the scene. We are currently gathering information on whether his license was suspended due to a clerical error which led to his arrest.” Strickland was last arrested in April of 2010 for a DUI while a Kentucky assistant.
  2. John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats worked hard for their national championship rings. And now they have given one to UK basketball fan and hip hop star Drake. Really? “They gave me a chance to actually come in and talk to them early in the season,” Drake told in 2010. “Just them listening to me, I think we all connected. They’re all my boys. This is my family.” That’s understandable, but giving the guy a championship ring after he’s been a fan for three years? Come on. Give one to Ashley Judd, coach! Or find a way to reward the loyal fans who camp out for weeks to receive Big Blue Madness tickets. The ring was even etched with Drake’s nickname, “Drizzy”.
  3. Speaking of head coaches making friends with music stars, new South Carolina head coach Frank Martin is now friends with Pitbull. Martin sent out this tweet stating, “On my way 2 Atlanta 2 c the best performer that’s our there @pitbull . I want our players 2 play w the same passion w which he petforms.” What’s next? How about Kevin Stallings going to a Reba McEntire performance? Maybe Mike Anderson taking in a Coldplay show? Steven Tyler could befriend Billy Donovan and start attending games in Gainesville. Who knows, maybe John Calipari will give Drake his national championship ring. Oh wait, maybe that’s not quite out there enough. Deadspin calls the relationship “weird,” but I say it’s awesome. I’m not sure how much inspiration the Gamecocks can seek from Pitbull’s performances, but I like a little celebrity action when I take in college basketball. I just don’t think any fan deserves a championship ring that the players and coaches earned.
  4. Laurence Bowers, the 6’8″ Missouri Tigers forward who sat out all of last season with an ACL injury, has been cleared for full contact. Bowers averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in his junior season for the Tigers in 2010-11. Frank Haith missed Bowers’ size last season, as he was forced into playing a four-guard lineup. With Bowers’ return, Missouri immediately becomes a major threat at the top of the conference, and for that matter, the nation.
  5. Rob Dauster of NBC’s College Basketball Talk wrote a post on how “sleaze is alive and well in the recruiting world.” In his article, he utilized a picture of Kentucky’s John Calipari on the cover, even though Calipari wasn’t involved in any of the implications. Oh uh. As you might expect, Kentucky fans responded. As our friends at A Sea of Blue point out, “The article does look a little bit like an attack, even though I’m pretty sure Calipari wasn’t the intended target, but “sleaze” in general. Sadly, for many, Calpari is the poster boy for that word. Yes, that’s unfair, but since when was life fair?”
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Morning Five: 07.09.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 9th, 2012

  1. Kentucky head coach John Calipari will not be adding an Olympic medal to his trophy case in London this year after his Dominican Republic team lost to Nigeria at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela, over the weekend. Interestingly enough, it was former Arizona State All-American Ike Diogu who pushed the Nigerians past the Dominicans, scoring 25 points including some key threes to earn the most valuable player award in the tournament. Although we can’t envision a scenario where Calipari could actually improve his recruiting pitch, UK fans are no doubt privately happy that Coach Cal will now have the next month available to get out on the road and evaluate future prospects. Louisville an former Puerto Rico head coach Rick Pitino, on the other hand, is quite clearly enjoying his summer vacation.
  2. While on the subject of the Louisville coach, WDRB’s Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich recently published a March interview transcript with the Cardinals’ talented-and-getting-better center Gorgui Dieng. The article — a notebook style commentary on area schools — also revealed that Indiana NPOY candidate Cody Zeller doesn’t think it’s a “big deal” that the UK-IU series has ended, and some discussion about the most indispensable players in college basketball next season. Worth a read if you have a few minutes.
  3. Missouri is a team that seemingly lost several indispensables in the forms of Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe. But with a number of key contributors returning, several elite transfers, and the return of Laurence Bowers from injury, Missouri insiders think that next year’s squad might be in even better position to make a run at the Final Four. Prior to last October’s injury, Bowers was widely considered the Tigers’ best returning player — if he returns his confidence and game from the latter part of 2010-11 and all the newcomers mesh with waterbug Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon, the SEC might get taken by storm in much the same way Arkansas entered the league some 20 years ago.
  4. It didn’t take long for South Florida head coach Stan Heath to cash in on his program’s success last season, where the Bulls won 22 games including the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament wins (over California and Temple). Heath’s contract was extended by the school for three more years to 2017-18, and he now takes home a crisp $1.19 million annually (representing a 32% raise). Without question, Heath entered last season at USF on the hot seat, but with a number of returnees expected from one of the most efficient lockdown defensive teams in America, the Bulls could be on the verge of a sustained multi-year run of success. This is especially true with the overall downgrade in basketball talent that the Big East losses of West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will enable — some program will happily fill that void.
  5. Old Dominion received some good news late last week when NC State transfer DeShawn Painter was ruled eligible by the NCAA to compete for the Monarchs next season. The rising senior moved back to the Hampton Roads area to be closer to his family and ailing great-grandmother, the woman who essentially raised him. ODU is in a tough spot next year as it has been banned from competing in the CAA Tournament, meaning that it will have to perform exceptionally well throughout the regular season to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Monarchs have been involved in the NCAAs in four of the last seven seasons, and the addition of Painter as a beast on the low blocks will help toward that end. Last season on NC State’s Sweet Sixteen team, he averaged 6/4 in about 20 minutes per game, and his size and maturity will be a tremendous boon for Blaine Taylor’s team on the inside next year.
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