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: 12.19.12 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: 12.18.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 18th, 2012

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  1. Playing in his first competitive game in 13 months, Missouri transfer Jabari Brown gave Tiger fans reason for optimism heading into the conference season. The sophomore guard kicked off his career in Columbia with 12 points in only 20 minutes against South Carolina State last night. “He played great,” coach Frank Haith said. “He was 1-for 7 from three, but that doesn’t concern me because I know that he’s going to make threes. What Jabari brings is basketball IQ, moves well without the ball. He passes the ball. He’s patient offensively, and I think that’s needed with this team.” Brown’s shooting woes aside, he showed an ability to draw contact when attacking the rim. Missouri had no trouble with the Bulldogs in their 102-51 win, meaning Brown will still need to prove himself in more meaningful minutes. He’ll get that opportunity this weekend in the annual Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois.
  2. Tennessee junior Trae Golden earned SEC Player of the Week honors for his performance against Wichita State last Thursday. The Shockers had no answer for the opposing ball-handler, allowing Golden to tally 25 points and five assists in the key win. One of the few positives so far this season for the Volunteers has been their ability to get to the free throw line (ranking 25th in the country in free throws per offensive play), and Golden is the key. He stands only 6’1″, but he leads the team with 47 trips to the foul line this season. His free-throw percentage is down from the previous two seasons, but after going 13-of-16 against Wichita State, he looks to have rediscovered his stroke.
  3. In what will undoubtedly be a long season for Auburn, the Tigers received some good news yesterday when guard Jordan Price was named SEC Freshman of the Week. Price is a serious threat from long range, shooting an amazing 8-of-8 from three-point land in games against Grambling and Furman, helping Auburn to their first winning streak of this season. He believes that he wasn’t completely ready for the rigors of a college season when he initially arrived on campus, and he’s still adjusting to the game at this level. “It started real fast, and I wasn’t really ready,” Price said. “As time goes on, and this Christmas break really helped me out, I’m getting in better shape. I’m getting more accustomed with the game and the speed of the game.”
  4. LSU will take the court tonight for the first time without being able to point to its undefeated record. The competition won’t be as tough as Boise State was, but the Tigers’ coach knows the UC Irvine Anteaters aren’t pushovers. “They are a good basketball team,” Johnny Jones said of his opponent. “They played UCLA to overtime. They beat Nevada and that win Saturday night at Fresno. So we will be playing a confident basketball team coming in on Tuesday so it will be a great challenge to us.” Jones also appears ready to play the hot hand. He announced that regular reserve Corban Collins, who has hit seven three-pointers in the last two games, may get the chance to enter the starting lineup.
  5. Georgia will host Mercer this morning at 11:30 AM, in what is being called the “Businessfan’s Special.” Four thousand students and teachers from the Athens area will be in attendance as well. The Bulldogs’ athletic department is getting creative to solve their attendance problem, but fans will be more interested to see if Mark Fox has anything up his sleeve to solve his 265th-ranked offense. Mercer has already beaten Florida State this season and won’t be intimidated by a power conference school, especially one with losses to Iona and Youngstown State already on its resume. Georgia couldn’t pull off the victory last time out, but Donte Williams and Charles Mann racked up 16 and 18 points, respectively. We’ll see if one of these players can step up and fill the role of secondary scorer that Georgia so desperately needs.
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SEC Power Rankings: Week Four

Posted by DPerry on December 14th, 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. Here are Week Four’s SEC Power Rankings (all statistics via TeamRankings).

The Gators Are the Class of the SEC (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

The Gators Are the Class of the SEC (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

  1. Florida- There’s not a lot missing from the Gators’ resume. They’ve beaten every opponent by double figures, while playing the nation’s 13th toughest schedule. As of the release of last week’s rankings, however, they hadn’t had the chance to prove their mettle in a true road game, a situation in which they struggled last season (losing their first four). After their trip to Tallahassee last week, consider that mettle proven. The Gators embarrassed rival Florida State in a 72-47 win, holding the Seminoles to only 15 first-half points. Florida’s ability to win away from the O-Dome will be crucial over the rest of the season. In addition to this Saturday’s trip to Arizona, the Gators will have road games at Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, all among the more hostile environments in the SEC.
  2. Missouri- Do I have to put a team here? There’s a massive gap between Florida and the rest of the conference, but the Tigers are the choice at #2. Missouri hasn’t been tested against quality competition since they left the Bahamas, but their performances against smaller conference foes have been far from convincing. A nasty little habit of starting slow has been their biggest problem. The Tigers trailed Southeast Missouri State by 10 at the half, and only held a three-point advantage over Tennessee State after 20 minutes. In fact, Mizzou ranks 101st nationally in first half scoring margin, at only +3.1 points. Big second half scoring outputs have saved Frank Haith’s team, but with Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini looming next week, another slow start may be too much to overcome.
  3. Kentucky- After consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, the Wildcats made history when they dropped out of the rankings from the #8 spot, receiving only 186 votes, the largest single-week drop in AP poll history. Kentucky proceeded to easily handle its next two opponents in Samford and Portland, but somehow fell even further in the next AP poll, garnering only 44 votes. I’m not claiming that the Wildcats deserve to be ranked, but why would they lose ground after two convincing victories? It appears that quite a few voters realized a week too late that they were allowed to leave Kentucky off their ballots. Read the rest of this entry »
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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Needs Help, But From Whom?

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 5th, 2012

As pointed out in this Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s SEC M5, Georgia’s offensive ineptitude is prohibiting Mark Fox’s squad from winning games. The Bulldogs haven’t topped 68 points all year, and they are shooting 38.8 percent on the season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been the only reliable scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game, but the next highest scorer averages 7.8 points per contest. Georgia needs someone to step up on the offensive end, but who is capable?

Will Somebody Please Help Kentavious Caldwell-Pope?

The Georgia offense is horrid. The Bulldogs rank 266th in effective field goal percentage, 231st in turnover percentage, 225th in offensive rebounding percentage, and 208th in free throw rate. When a team can’t break into the top 200 on any of the offensive four factors, it is not likely to win many games. And the Bulldogs have only been able to win twice this season. In both of their two victories, Georgia held the opposing offense to under 38 percent shooting. Even when winning, it hasn’t necessarily been the offense doing the dirty work. Georgia has players ready to shoot the ball, but perhaps they are not the ones Fox needs carrying the offensive load. Is there someone on the team who could take on a bigger role in the offense to take some of the pressure off KCP? We’ll turn to advanced statistics to find out.

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Georgia Tech Takes Control of Peach State Rivalry

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2012

Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Tuesday night’s Georgia-Georgia Tech game in Atlanta.

When the college basketball season tipped off a month ago, Georgia and Georgia Tech found themselves facing similar expectations. Neither program appeared to be sporting a team capable of making the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but there was hope that both might be improved enough to escape the SEC and ACC cellars, respectively. While the 2-5 Dawgs had slogged their way through the season’s first month (with only wins over Jacksonville and East Tennessee State to brag about), early returns had been slightly more promising for the 5-2 Yellow Jackets, and Tuesday night’s rivalry game in Atlanta only served to further differentiate the Peach State’s two pre-eminent basketball programs.

Georgia Tech Appears to be Headed in the Right Direction (AP)

Mark Fox will surely write off Tuesday’s 62-54 loss as simply another missed opportunity for his team, but boy, this one seemed to resonate on levels far beyond tonight’s 40 minutes of hoops. Maybe that added significance stems from Brian Gregory running his record to 2-0 against Fox and Georgia in his short tenure in Atlanta. Or perhaps it’s due to the fact that, for the first time in 19 years, Tech has won back-to-back games against UGA. Or maybe, just maybe, this one matters more because Gregory seems to have the best Georgia high school basketball talent headed again to Georgia Tech — and far, far away from Athens. All those elements seemed to linger in the backdrop of this one, and the frenzied energy of the sellout crowd of 8,600 at the shiny, new (the three-game old kind of new) McCamish Pavilion drove home the largest message loud and clear — Gregory and Tech are seizing firm control of college basketball in Georgia.

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SEC M5: 12.05.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 5th, 2012

  1. Karl Towns Jr., the top recruit in the class of 2015, committed to Kentucky on Tuesday, a development that surprised almost no one. However, his announcement that he would be reclassifying to join the class of 2014 was definitely a curve ball. John Calipari is on the verge of signing a historic class next season, and with Towns coming to Lexington the year after that, he’s well on his way toward a high ranking in 2014 as well. The 6’11” center’s commitment was considered a formality because of his experience with the Calipari-led Dominican Republic national team this past summer. “Towns has a unique skill set,” writes ESPN’s Dave Telep. “Blessed with great size and agility, he’s a strong perimeter player, especially for a big man. Also a shot blocker and rebounder, Towns is a unique big who’ll be projected to bring an impactful scoring touch to the Kentucky lineup as a freshman.”
  2. Alabama will be without two key contributors when the Crimson Tide take the court Wednesday night against Dayton. Junior center Carl Engstrom is sidelined after injuring his knee early in Saturday’s game at Cincinnati, while senior guard Andrew Steele, suffering from a possible sports hernia, will miss his third straight game. The loss of Engstrom is more important in the short term. In Josh Benson and Devin Oliver, the Flyers have two post players who are averaging over 10 points per game, and the loss of the big Swede depletes an already thin Alabama frontcourt. Fortunately, after their date with Dayton, Anthony Grant’s crew has 10 days before they take the court again, a convenient opportunity to get healthier.
  3. The inept offense of the Georgia Bulldogs, mentioned in yesterday’s M5, did little to dispel their reputation in Tuesday night’s 62-52 loss to rival Georgia Tech. The visiting Bulldogs went a woeful 18-of-57 from the field, including only 2-of-17 from beyond the arc. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope again led the way with 16 points, but it’s tough to believe that, despite the lack of options around him, the sophomore guard is making the right decision in throwing up shots from long distance all night. He went just 1-of-8 against the Yellow Jackets, and is averaging only three three-pointers per game on almost nine attempts. The one-man show strategy hasn’t paid dividends yet, and for a coach in the hot seat like Mark Fox, it may be time to try a new approach.
  4. Missouri guard Keion Bell knows what it’s like to be a one-man show, but the Pepperdine transfer is leaving those days behind him. He racked up 1,365 points with the Waves in three seasons, but decided to transfer in hopes of finding more team-oriented success. “I knew my scoring was going to take a hit when I transferred, but it’s something I wanted to happen,” Bell told the St. Louis Dispatch. “I was at a university where I had to take a scoring role and it didn’t work out so well. Sacrificing to win is one thing I looked at with (Mizzou).” There were concerns over whether Bell could drop the gunner’s mentality after years of being the offense’s focal point, but early returns are positive. Bell’s most valuable skill is his ability to get to the free throw line. He’s only sixth on the team in minutes played, but ranks second with 24 free-throw attempts (of which he’s made 23).
  5. Michael Anderson, Arkansas‘ video coordinator and son of head coach Mike Anderson, has been suspended indefinitely after a DWI arrest. He was booked in Fayetteville Sunday morning after he failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a breathalyzer test. This is Anderson’s third DWI arrest, including one earlier this year, but there is no indication that the younger Anderson will be let go. Hopefully, this latest incident will be a successful wake-up call, as Razorback fans have had more than their fair share of their coaches getting in trouble behind the wheel. Boom! Bobby Petrino slam! In related-but-unrelated news, best of luck to new Hogs football coach Bret Bielema.
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SEC M5: 12.04.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 4th, 2012

  1. Florida may be without break-out forward Erik Murphy this Wednesday when the Gators travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State. Murphy suffered a “bad hip pointer” against Marquette in the SEC/Big East Challenge, and hasn’t yet fully recovered. The senior forward made national headlines after a 10-10 shooting performance against Wisconsin earlier this season, and while he’s slowed down since, he still serves as the Gators primary frontcourt scoring option. In the event of his absence, Patric Young should be handed some greater offensive responsibility. The available minutes from Scottie Wilbekin’s early-season suspension seem to have provided Mike Rosario with invaluable confidence in his second season in Gainesville, and maybe Murphy’s brief absence can do the same for Young.
  2. In another in-state, out-of-conference SEC showdown this week, Georgia takes on rival Georgia Tech tonight, with the visiting Bulldogs desperate for a win. Mark Fox’s crew has only tallied victories against Jacksonville and East Tennessee State so far this season, doing very little to cool the coach’s hot seat. “It’s easy to be frustrated, in any endeavor that you have,” Fox said. “It’s your reaction to frustration that’s really critical. I think we are improving, I think we’re getting better in certain areas. I want it to be faster than it has, but we are where we are. We’ve gotta keep focusing on it and get better.” An inept offense is the primary culprit for Georgia’s struggles. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the only legitimate scorer on the roster, but he’s shooting the ball at well under 40% from the field. No other player averages more than nine points per game, and until a reliable second option emerges, Caldwell-Pope will continue to be forced into taking bad shots.
  3. On Monday, LSU’s Shavon Coleman was named SEC Player of the Week. Coleman put on a second-half show when the Tigers hosted Seton Hall this past Thursday, scoring 14 of his 18 points as LSU overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Pirates. The JuCo transfer also added six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks on the night. The undersized forward has combined with Johnny O’Bryant III to form a lethal rebounding tandem, a big reason why the Tigers are ranked 15th in the nation in rebounding rate.
  4. Frank Martin’s career at South Carolina hasn’t gotten off to the smoothest of starts, but NBC Sports’ Vin Parise warns against impatience. Martin took over a shaky program at Kansas State and had the Wildcats playing in the Elite Eight within three seasons. Jacob Pullen, a middling recruit, blossomed into a superstar under the tutelage of the fiery coach. His coaching style is certainly abrasive, but his track record of success in Manhattan, Kansas, is tough to ignore. An early season loss to Elon is never a good sign for an SEC team, though it’s far from the worst loss that the conference has endured. Big success isn’t in the cards for Martin in his first season, but a repeat finish at the bottom of the SEC seems unlikely as they’ll face stiff competition from a number of other teams in the conference.
  5. Monday’s new AP poll featured a little bit of history. Kentucky, ranked #8 last week, can no longer be found in the Top 25, the largest single-week drop in the history of the rankings. It also marked the first time that the Wildcats aren’t represented in the poll since John Calipari took over in Lexington. How much has the college basketball landscape changed since the last time Kentucky wasn’t in the AP poll? At the end of the 2008-09 season, LSU was the SEC’s lone representative in the Top 25, while current ACC doormat Wake Forest was ranked #8.
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Rushed Reactions: #7 UCLA 60, Georgia 56

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from UCLA’s victory over Georgia on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts from UCLA’s close call against Georgia…

  1. UCLA defended better, but it wasn’t a consistent effort. After last night’s poor defensive showing, UCLA looked much the same in the first half. Georgia came out and was able to get multiple easy baskets in the paint. That led to a five-point Bulldogs halftime lead but Ben Howland’s Bruins reversed the trend after the break. UCLA held Georgia to 30% shooting and just 26 points in the second half. Howland mixed in some zone but played predominantly man defense tonight. After the game he admitted his team couldn’t stop Georgia in the man defense, but prefers that defense as opposed to zone. UCLA’s on-ball pressure was improved and they rebounded better after halftime. It was a tale of two halves for the Bruins, but the second half eventually won out and UCLA leaves Brooklyn with a split, something Howland acknowledged was very important. He didn’t want that long plane ride home to LA to be for naught. It’s not the way they wanted it to happen but a split is what most people expected.
  2. Shabazz had 21 points, but Travis Wear was UCLA’s MVP tonight. Wear posted 10 points and eight rebounds, but it seemed like a lot more. He was everywhere around the rim on both ends of the floor and his rebounding was extremely valuable in the second half when Georgia was missing shots. With his brother David out due to injury, Wear stepped up when others like Josh Smith could only manage four boards. Going up against a strong rebounder in Georgia’s Marcus Thornton is never easy but Wear excelled tonight. Both Wear twins have been described as role players once they transferred from North Carolina but they’re both showing signs of improvement. They will be hugely important players for UCLA because Smith has shown little signs of improvement (or a will to improve) in his time in Westwood.
  3. Georgia is 1-4, but it should improve. I’m not sure what happened in the Youngstown State and Southern Miss losses but I have a hard time believing Georgia is as bad as its record indicates. The Bulldogs aren’t the 22 to 25-win team Indiana coach Tom Crean talked about last night but I don’t think they’re a terrible basketball team. Georgia has pieces to build around, especially Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Thornton. Mark Fox has a very good track record at Nevada and, while it’ll be hard to move up the SEC ladder, Georgia has the potential to do so. The Bulldogs will see their share of rough losses but don’t expect them to be a total doormat for the SEC like, say, Mississippi State.
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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 66, Georgia 53

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from Indiana’s victory over Georgia on Monday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts from Indiana’s closer-than-expected victory over Georgia in Brooklyn tonight.

  1. Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo provided Indiana with the lift it needed in the second half. After the game, Tom Crean said his team had a lot of energy sources tonight. Of those, nobody provided a bigger lift to the Hoosiers than Hulls and Oladipo. Hulls looked hesitant to shoot early in the game but got himself into a rhythm after halftime. The senior gunner from Bloomington knocked down four of six triples and sparked Indiana in transition. Oladipo, who blossomed into a major contributor for the Hoosiers last season, was a high flyer around the rim with a couple of athletic dunks and was a force defensively. Crean said his team had a tough time amping up the pace and getting out in transition, but Indiana was able to do that over the final 10-12 minutes of the game.
  2. Cody Zeller wasn’t Cody Zeller but Indiana was able to overcome it. Zeller struggled all night after being saddled with early foul trouble and wound up taking only four shots. Without the Big Handsome in the middle, it’s clear that Indiana is a different team. The Hoosiers struggled mightily in the first half in running their offense and not having their seven-footer in the middle to run things through was the primary reason why. Zeller scored only six points, the second-lowest point total of his Indiana career. Indiana needs him on the floor to run its offense at the level Crean expects, but Zeller also has to demand the ball more. That was an issue at times last season. Bank on a better night for the sophomore stud tomorrow against Georgetown.
  3. Georgia slowed the game successfully in the first half but couldn’t keep it up. While it wasn’t pretty to watch, Georgia did a great job slowing the pace and turning it into a half-court game. Unfortunately for Mark Fox and the Bulldogs, Hulls and Oladipo were able to fuel Indiana’s transition game in the second half. One key reason why the pace quickened was Georgia’s awful shot selection. Fox admitted in the post-game press conference that his guys had some “immature possessions,” but that’s putting it mildly. Georgia’s shot selection, particularly those of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, got worse as the game progressed. Fox said Caldwell-Pope was “a little wound up” and it showed. He’s clearly Georgia’s prime offensive threat, but taking 15 shots, most of them highly inefficient, is not the way to win games.

Bonus thought: Indiana fans turned Barclays Center into Assembly Hall East. IU loves Brooklyn? It sure seemed like it as droves of Hoosier fans made their way to New York for this game. Expect them to be back in even stronger numbers tomorrow evening for the championship game of the Legends Classic. A job well done by the folks in red, one of the very best fan bases in the entire country.

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SEC M5: 11.12.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 13th, 2012

  1. In recognition of their stellar opening performances, the SEC named Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer as the conference’s Player of the Week, while South Carolina forward Michael Carrera earned Freshman of the Week honors. As his team’s only returning contributor, Wiltjer’s 19 points, six boards and three blocks were invaluable in Kentucky’s nail-biter win over Maryland. The Oregon native has a reputation as a soft big man, but he showed signs that he may have made considerable strides in his defense and rebounding. Carrera’s stat line in his debut performance was shocking. The undersized forward displayed a nonstop motor in contributing 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Gamecocks’ overtime victory against Milwaukee-Wisconsin. He’ll need to maintain that aggression for South Carolina to compete on the glass in SEC play.
  2. The Johnny Jones era at LSU began with a win, but with forward Johnny O’Bryant III going down with an injury, we doubt the new coach could fully celebrate. O’Bryant headed to the locker room only 11 minutes into the Tigers’ opener against UCSB, and his status remains in doubt moving forward. The Tigers are another SEC team that lacks much inside punch, and O’Bryant was expected to handle the bulk of the frontcourt’s production. Fortunately, Anthony Hickey realizes that adjustments are necessary. “All five of us have to rebound,” the sophomore point guard told reporters, “We’re all crashing the boards hard.”
  3. The history of the Duke-Kentucky rivalry isn’t a long one, but it certainly doesn’t lack for highlights. The 1992 East Regional Final is the most notable, as any NCAA Tournament pre-game highlight montage would have you know. However, Kentucky fans are quick to point to the 17-point second half comeback from Tubby Smith’s 1998 national champions against Duke in the Elite Eight as another highlight. In the last match-up between the two bluebloods in 2001, the defending national champion Blue Devils were taken to overtime by a Rashaad Carruth-led Kentucky squad. Tonight’s match-up in Atlanta features two top teams who employ very different styles, and should provide some very compelling basketball. One bold prediction: The announcers will inform the audience, without noting which team is responsible for two-thirds of them, that Duke and Kentucky have combined for 12 national titles.
  4. Tennessee fans received bad news on Monday, with the school revealing that forward Jeronne Maymon will likely remain sidelined through the end of November as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. The senior forward had a breakout junior season and is projected to form one of the conference’s most potent frontcourts with Jarnell Stokes inside. The Volunteers barely missed a beat without him in their opening win against Kennesaw State, but with possible games against NC State, Oklahoma State, and a match-up at Georgetown before the end of the month, the competition will get tougher. Kenny Hall is a quality deputy for Maymon, while Yemi Makanjuola could provide a rebounding boost against bigger lineups.
  5. If a mediocre Horizon League foe blows out an SEC team on its home floor, and no one was there to see it, did it really happen? Well, yes. as Georgia fell to 1-1 with a 68-56 loss to Youngstown State on Monday. The Bulldogs were outrebounded 42-31, and shot a dreadful 3-24 from the field in the first half. Coach Mark Fox didn’t mince words in the post-game press conference, admitting that his team “set the game back 10 years” with its putrid offensive performance. An embarrassingly small and lifeless crowd only contributed to an evening that the Bulldogs hope will be the low point of their season. As a meeting with top-ranked Indiana looms just a week away, Georgia will need to make drastic improvements to keep that game respectable.
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Preseason SEC Power Rankings

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 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. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.

Kentucky tops the first Rush the Court: SEC power rankings (Washington Post)

  1. Kentucky – The playlist is set on repeat as long as Calipari is in Lexington; raw freshmen talent comes in, matures, performs at their highest peak in March, and gets drafted. Don’t expect this year’s squad to match last year’s numbers or expectations. However, Calipari will find a way to get these Cats to mature quickly and be in the hunt for their 48th SEC crown and another Final Four run.
  2. Florida – The Gators return quite a bit from their second Elite Eight run in as many seasons. Their expectations are to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007. While the veteran leadership of Kenny Boynton is a positive, the Gators must get more consistent play from several key role players, including Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario, to reach their goals. The pieces are in place for another deep Gator run.
  3. Missouri –  The island of misfit transfers is located in Columbia, Missouri. Newcomers such as Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriahki (Connecticut), and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all come to Missouri to find a new and hopefully winning experience in the Tigers’ first year in the SEC. With preseason SEC Player of the Year Phil Pressey leading the backcourt as well as Laurence Bowers in the post, Missouri should not only come close to their success of last year but also vie for the school’s first Final Four appearance in history.
  4. Tennessee –  The Volunteers won nearly 20 games last year and earned a postseason NIT berth with first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Adding freshman phenom forward Jarnell Stokes in January resulted in at least four more wins in the second half of the season. Martin’s defensive style of play, plus Stokes on the team for a full year and senior Jeronne Maymon guarding the post, should cause hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC title. Read the rest of this entry »
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