Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

Mississippi State’s Ravern Johnson was suspended indefinitely this week.  Of course, at Mississippi State “indefinitely” generally means a game or two.  In this case, two.  This team was picked to win the SEC West, but talk about a team in turmoil.  Let’s take a look at the timeline:

  • Nov. 12 Mississippi State begins the season without point guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sidney.  The Bulldogs get a 75-65 win over Tennessee State. Record 1-0.
  • Dec. 18 Sidney plays in his first college basketball after a year and a half suspension.  The Bulldogs lose 88-57 to Virginia Tech. Record 7-3.
  • Dec. 21 Sidney is suspended for a game after playing in just one game for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
  • Dec. 23 Sidney returns and the Bulldogs defeat San Diego 69-52. Sidney and forward Elgin Bailey get in a fight in the stands after the game while watching Utah play Hawaii, because Elgin Bailey wouldn’t move his feet for Sidney to get through.  Record 8-4.
  • Dec. 24 Sidney and Bailey are suspended indefinitely.
  • Jan. 3 Mississippi State announces that Elgin Bailey will seek a transfer and has been granted a release.
  • Jan. 8 Sidney and Bost return from suspension and open SEC play with a 75-57 home loss to Alabama. Record 8-7 (0-1).
  • Feb. 4 Following a 75-61 loss to Alabama, Ravern Johnson sends “inappropriate tweets” and violates a class attendance policy.  He is suspended indefinitely. Record 11-10 (3-4).
  • Feb. 12 Johnson’s “indefinite” suspension ends after two games.  He returns just in time for the low point in the Bulldogs’ season, a 65-62 loss to SEC last place team Auburn in a game that MSU led 51-32 with 11:25 to go.

The reality here is that coach Rick Stansbury has completely lost control of this team both on and off the court.  This season is nothing short of a train wreck and I hope that this will be the last time that I write about the silliness that is Mississippi State basketball.

  • In less ridiculous news, Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology has six SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament.  If his prediction holds true and Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all make the tournament, that will be the best showing in the Big Dance for the SEC since 2008, when last place Georgia made a crazy run through the SEC tournament and became the sixth team to qualify along with Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

Power Rankings

1. Florida (20-5, 9-2) At this point, there can be no question that Florida should be in the top spot here.  While still having deficiencies, Florida by hook or by crook has managed to get to 20-5 overall and 9-2 in conference play by gutting out close ones whether at home or on the road.  Florida has won nine games decided by six points or less.  The Gators have also played in four overtime games this year, winning three of them.  Two of those overtime wins came on the road.  However, just when things are starting to look really good for the preseason SEC favorites, Chandler Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise and internal bleeding associated with it.  He is likely to miss the Gators’ game against LSU on Sunday.  If LSU were not on an eight-game losing streak, I might be a little concerned.

2. Alabama (16-8, 8-2) After a disappointing early season in which Alabama started 5-6, the Tide has become one of the best defensive teams in the nation holding teams to just 58.4 points per game.  Because of that defense and an improved offense, Alabama is 11-2 in its last 13 games.

3. Kentucky (17-7, 5-5) Right now, you have to ask whether this team is just not as good as we thought, or is it simply a bad road team?  Maybe it’s a little bit of both.  Kentucky still has good wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville, but that seems like a long time ago for a team that is 2-6 in true road games, with five of those losses coming in league play.  Lucky for Kentucky, only two of the Wildcats’ last six games are away.  The Wildcats should be safe this week as they don’t have to go on the road for their contests against Mississippi State and South Carolina.

4. Vanderbilt (18-6, 6-4) Vanderbilt had a great week after winning two close ones at home against Alabama and Kentucky.  Like Kentucky, Vandy has been weak on the road, going just 1-3 in conference road games.  Unlike Kentucky however, the Commodores must go on the road for four of their last six including games at Georgia, and Kentucky.

5. Georgia (17-7, 6-4) Georgia lost to Xavier early in the week in a game that was close throughout.  This was the first game between the two teams since 2008 when they met in the NCAA Tournament following Georgia’s Cinderella run through the Southeastern Conference tournament, winning three games in two days after a tornado at the Georgia Dome forced the league to move the games to Georgia Tech.  Xavier won that game in 2008, too.  Following their loss to the Musketeers, the Bulldogs held South Carolina to just 30.5% shooting and 4-23 from the field.

6. Arkansas (15-9, 5-6) After losing three straight to Georgia, Mississippi and Mississippi State, Arkansas finally got a win at home against Louisiana State.  Rotnei Clarke scored 25 points while going 5-6 from three.  More importantly though, the Razorbacks have now won 15 games for the first time in three seasons, having won 14 games in each of the past two seasons.

7. Tennessee (15-10, 5-5) It’s been an up-and-down year for the Volunteers, mostly down of late.  Coach Bruce Pearl made his return from suspension to face Kentucky in Lexington.  The result?  Tennessee was thoroughly outplayed in a game where Bruce Pearl said he didn’t help his team.  The Vols followed that up with a tough 61-60 home loss to Florida.

8. Mississippi (16-9, 4-6) Chris Warren tied his season high of 26 points in a win over LSU.  Speaking of Chris Warren, he’s made 29 of his last 31 free throws in Mississippi’s last three contests and leads the SEC in free throw shooting at 93.8 percent.  Not only that, but Warren now has 1,821 career points, good for fourth place on Ole Miss’ all-time scoring list.  It is all but a given that Warren will pass Carlos Clarke’s 1,822 points in the Rebels’ next game taking his place as Ole Miss’s third leading scorer.  It remains unlikely that Warren passes number one Jon Stroud (2,328 points) and number two Joe Harvell (2,078 points).

9. South Carolina (13-10, 4-6) Things haven’t gone well for the Gamecocks of late.  They started the conference season at 3-1 including wins over Vanderbilt and at Florida.  Now the Cocks are losers of five of their last six.  A terrible shooting night at home against Georgia this week only added to their woes.  In that game, Bruce Ellington shot just 1-12 from the floor.  But then again, he hasn’t shot at least 50 percent in a game since a January 12 loss at Alabama.

10. Mississippi State (13-11, 5-5) Look, it’s never good when you lose to Auburn, but when you blow a 19-point lead with 11:25 to go in the game, well that’s just completely unacceptable.  At one point Auburn went on a 17-0 run.  Really?  Auburn?  I don’t think Auburn’s gone on a 17-0 run in years.  How did they possibly manage it this year with such and offensively challenged team?  I’m sure Mississippi State’s utterly despicable play had a little something to do with it.  Really Bulldogs, this is just getting embarrassing.

11. Auburn (9-15, 2-8) With all of the players, that Auburn lost from last year’s team including 73 percent of the Tigers’ scoring and 62 percent of their rebounding  and then losing three freshman commits in Luke Cothron, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Josh Langford who were all expected to contribute right away, Auburn has more excuses than any other team in the league.  Add to that the fact that leading returning scorer Frankie Sullivan has only played in six games and you have a team that just can’t get a break.  So simply not being in last place for just one week is quite an accomplishment.

12. LSU (10-15, 2-8) Somehow, LSU has been able to wrest the bottom spot from Auburn and that is quite a feat.  LSU has now lost eight straight games, including an 80-61 loss this week at Arkansas.  LSU is one unusual team that seems to do really well or really bad.  Let’s look at how LSU has finished in each of the past five seasons.

  • 2006 – 27-.9 Won SEC, Final Four
  • 2007 – 17-15 Last in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2008 – 13-18 Fourth in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2009 – 27-8 Won SEC. Lost to UNC in second round of NCAA Tournament.
  • 2010 – 11-20 Last in SEC. No tournament.

The Week Ahead

  • Feb. 16 Vanderbilt @ Georgia I’m not convinced that Georgia is firmly entrenched in the NCAA Tournament just yet.  A win over the Commodores could go a long way towards cementing that spot.
  • Feb. 19 Georgia @ Tennessee Same story as above, except substitute Tennessee for Georgia.
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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

SEC East

  • T1. Florida (11-5)
  • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
  • T1. Georgia (11-5)
  • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
  • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
  • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

SEC West

  • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
  • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
  • T3. Alabama (7-9)
  • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
  • 4. LSU (4-12)
  • 5. Auburn (3-13)

All-Conference Team

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
  • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
  • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
  • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

6th Man

Travis Leslie – Georgia

Impact Newcomers

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
  • F Patric Young – Florida
  • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
  • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

What You Need To Know

  • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
  • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.

  • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.

  • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

Predicted Champion

Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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Re-assessing the Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

Just over a year ago, the NCAA Legislative Committee voted to scale back the amount of time that players who apply for early entry to the NBA Draft have to withdraw their names from the draft and retain their college eligibility, a change that went into effect this season. Where last year undergraduates who had not hired agents had until June 15 to pull back out of the NBA draft, this year the limit for such a decision is May 8, a deadline that, among other things, also conflicts with academic responsibilities (including finals) for many of those 80 U.S. collegiate undergraduates who have declared for the draft. With NBA teams only allowed to begin working out draft prospects beginning on April 29 and with undergraduates needing to come up with a final decision by May 8, many of the benefits of “testing the waters” rule have been eliminated.

Yes, Let's Make It Harder for Players to Get Informed

The theory behind the rule that allows for undergraduates to declare for the draft and then reconsider and return to school has been that the players will get a chance to work out for NBA teams, talk to general managers and scouts and get a feel for how the NBA perceives their game — what are their strength and weaknesses, what can they work on, and, perhaps most importantly, where they might get drafted. However, with the window for these players to get input from NBA teams reduced to just over a week, players may only get a chance or two to meet with NBA teams, if at all. According to an ESPN poll released last week, of the 19 NBA teams that responded, only two – the Lakers and the Blazers – had any plans to hold workouts for potential draftees prior to the May 8 deadline. And according to BYU head coach Dave Rose, whose star guard Jimmer Fredette is among those still weighing his draft options, “A lot of teams told us they’re going to start working out guys on the ninth of May,” the day after the deadline. Quite simply, for the players among the list of early entrants who have not yet hired agents and who are looking for a little guidance from NBA scouts on their decision, there is little or no help coming.

So, why was this rule even put in place? According to the NCAA, the extension of the deadline into June was “intrusive on academic performance during the spring and increased the potential for outside individuals to have a negative influence on the well-being of student-athletes.” However, for a player like Butler forward Gordon Hayward, who took final exams on Friday, Saturday and Monday, he had exactly four days to gauge the level of interest of NBA scouts. His plans: meet with a couple of agents to figure out the whole process and work out with a trainer in Indianapolis to get a little stronger. For Hayward, he is likely a first-round lock regardless of whether he does or does not work out for any NBA teams, but the point of the rule in the first place is to give guys like him an opportunity to gather as much information as possible in order to make his decision. Giving the kid four days directly after his finals wrap up neither eliminates the potential intrusion on his academics nor decreases outside influences from having a negative impact on his decision. In fact, it would seem that the limit on the amount of interaction that these players have with NBA talent evaluators would be more likely to have a negative impact, giving them less of a realistic look at their NBA chances and perhaps allowing them to fall back on the accolades of less-established talent evaluators (i.e., their family and friends) telling them that they are superstars.

We Thought the NCAA Wants Student-Athletes to Graduate?

The change in the rule began with a recommendation from ACC coaches last year, and coaches are the ones who this rule change benefits the most (although, frankly, it doesn’t really even benefit them much). The theory goes that if coaches can get a definite answer from players on the fence about going to the NBA, they can better plan for the next year, possibly recruiting additional players to take the place of early departees.  However,  even by May 8, the pickings for coaches that lose players early to the draft are slim at best. At this point, just five of the Scout’s Top 100 recruits for the 2010-11 season are still unsigned (two of whom, Terrence Jones and Luke Cothron have verbal commitments elsewhere, and at least one of the remainders, Kadeem Jack, now appears headed to prep school). Even if a coach gets bad news in late May that an undergraduate will indeed be staying in the draft, they’re not typically going to be able to replace a player with that kind of talent so late in the game. Andy Kennedy, the Ole Miss head coach whose Terrico White is among the early entry candidates, confirmed such a notion, saying “the shortened window isn’t going to help regardless” of whether he remains in the draft or not.

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