SEC M5: 11.01.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 1st, 2012

  1. Jeronne Maymon sitting on the bench isn’t the ideal situation for the Tennessee Volunteers, but it might be the best case scenario for redshirt freshman guard Quinton Chievous. “He’s 6’5″, a perimeter player, but him playing at the four for us, it’s tough for big guys to guard him because he moves and has spacing and you have to guard him at the 3-point line,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “He’s also a better post player than most guys in terms of offensive production. He creates a lot of mismatches for big guys, especially when his shot is going.” Chievous is making a name for himself in the post, creating a possibility for playing time since he is slightly lower on the depth chart in the backcourt. Though he may be pleasantly surprised with Chievous’ progress, Martin would certainly prefer to be at full strength at the forward position when the 6’7″ Maymon returns from a “minor setback” with a previous knee injury.
  2. John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats take on the number one team in the country in an exhibition game on Thursday. No, Cal hasn’t changed his mind on playing Indiana and isn’t ready to take on rival Louisville just yet. The Cats are taking on the NAIA’s top-ranked team Northwood, and Calipari says his team’s defense isn’t up to par yet. “We’ve just got a long way to go. Defensively, we’re just awful right now. We don’t stay in front of everybody and we got guys stopping left and right and think it’s OK or, ‘It wasn’t my man.’ Stuff like that,” Calipari said. But he is looking forward to seeing his team improve. “The greatest thing about playing a team like this… is that the weaknesses or the things we’re not doing well will be glaring.” An interesting side note for this game is that former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino is the head coach for Northwood, turning the Seahawks into an NAIA powerhouse in his six years there. Northwood may provide a quality exhibition test for the Cats after proving itself earlier in the week by trailing Michigan State by only six points at halftime.
  3. Much has been made about Calipari experimenting with various lineup possibilities, but you would have to assume that he has made a decision concerning his starting lineup for Thursday’s game. Wrong. “Don’t know who is going to start yet,” Calipari said. “Don’t know, still trying to figure some stuff out. What I’m tinkering with is combinations. I’m trying to figure out, when these guys are in together how do we play, when that group is in together how do we play. That’s what we are trying to do.” Regardless of whether or not you believe that is the truth, it is clear that the coach has been extremely vocal about his opinion concerning starting lineups. “It doesn’t matter who starts, it’s who’s going to finish,” Cal said. Remember, senior Darius Miller came off the bench despite playing 25-35 minutes during the NCAA Tournament run last season.
  4. After a successful 10-day trip in Italy this summer, it is clear that Georgia is ready to make a move up in the SEC landscape. “We have more pieces this year,” coach Mark Fox said. “We’re a deeper basketball team. We’re more athletic than we were, we’re a more physical group and certainly a more experienced group than last year.” Fox’s Bulldogs return four starters, including guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who averaged 13.2 points per game last year. In order to take a step forward, Caldwell-Pope will need to improve upon his field goal percentage which finished under 40 percent a season ago. Finding another scorer to help the 6’5″ star should help free him up for better looks.
  5. Alabama lost two big scorers in JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, but the Crimson Tide realize they will need to be a different type of team this year in order to be successful. “I think last year when we had someone like JaMychal down low, we focused a lot of our offense on him, which was understandable because he was such a dominant threat,” guard Andrew Steele said. “I think when you look at our team this year, our biggest strength will be opening up the court a little bit more and I think we’ll be a little more perimeter oriented. We still have confidence in our bigs, but our strength will be how we attack people off the dribble and space people.” Bama was not an effective perimeter-oriented team in 2011-12. The Tide shot just 28.9 percent from beyond the arc, which put them at a paltry 328th in the nation. The guards will have to knock down more open shots from long range in order for the offense to open up like Steele envisions.
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SEC M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 12th, 2012

  1. While Kentucky coach John Calipari on Thursday added James Young for the 2013-14 season, he is still concerned about one player in particular for this season: Center Nerlens Noel has not yet been cleared to play by the NCAA. A source told SNY.tv‘s Adam Zagoria that Noel’s situation is still unclear. “The case status is fluid and may change this week,” the source said. “Will it be resolved by Midnight Madness? Or even by the season opener? No one knows at this point. UK is downplaying it publicly but I’m sure they’re a bit concerned.” Kentucky center Enes Kanter was deemed ineligible two seasons ago and the Cats went on a somewhat surprising run to the 2011 Final Four in Houston. However, I am certain that UK fans don’t want to find out if Calipari can pull a similar run this year without Noel.
  2. Opposing teams might want to consider how to limit Calipari’s time on an airplane in the near future. Kentucky junior Jon Hood revealed that Coach Cal comes back from long plane rides with new ideas and inspiration for practices and game plans. “He always seems to come back to us with, ‘I was thinking about you while I was on the plane and this is what I thought,’ ” Hood said. “Every off day he’ll go recruiting and he’ll come back, say we have an off day Wednesday, he’ll come back that Thursday with, ‘Well, we’re going to put this in now or we’re going to change this.’” Want to slow Kentucky down? Find a way to make sure the annoying guy in seat 13A sits next to the Wildcats’ head coach on the next flight.
  3. Georgia coach Mark Fox knows a winner when he sees one, and he has observed the success of the Bulldogs’ football team up close and personal. Maybe that’s why Fox is interested in tight end Jay Rome joining his team at the conclusion of the college football season. But after Rome told him about shooting jumpers recently, Fox had a warning for the big guy. “I said, ‘Well, you won’t shoot any for our team. You’re going to rebound,’” Fox said. “We were just joking because he is a pretty good shooter.’” But no, seriously — have you ever heard of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Shooting is covered. Rome, you better get down there and rebound.
  4. Speaking of the Bulldogs, Georgia had a 10-day trip in Italy that led to some team bonding, and evidently the trip paid off. “I think it did wonders for the team,” Georgia forward Marcus Thornton said. “As a cultural experience, it was great for all these guys. But more than that, it was a team bonding and building experience. While you’re over there, you don’t have all the distractions and the computers and all that other stuff with the social media age. So we got to spend a lot of time with each other. That’s fun, being around with each other. It was good for the team because we’re a group of guys who like to be around each other.” What? They don’t have social media in Italy? Who knew other countries already beat us to the ban on Instagram? What’s next, no pinning? Touche, Italy. Touche.
  5. Rebounding was an area of struggle for the Florida Gators last season, but second year strength coach Preston Greene stepped up the strength and conditioning plan for the low post players this season. Forwards Will Yeguete and Erik Murphy have already benefited. “We were pushing trucks, flipping tires, running around with a boxing bag,” Yeguete said. “It was crazy but we got through it. We all got better, we all got bigger and I think it’s going to help us this season.” Yeguete and Murphy beefed up to about 240 pounds each. A little extra bulk should help, especially for Murphy who is not exactly known  for his rebounding prowess. Yeguete led the team last season in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages, but neither player will have the added benefit of the extra rebounds from Erving Walker missing unnecessary shots from several feet beyond the three-point line.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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SEC Transition Basketball: Georgia Bulldogs

Posted by Brian Joyce on July 17th, 2012

It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Georgia.

State of the Program

The Georgia Bulldogs earned an at large NCAA bid in 2011, making a repeat performance very difficult for Mark Fox and company last season. The Bulldogs welcomed in prize recruit Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a McDonalds All-American guard (Georgia’s first Burger Boy since 1992) with NBA potential, but too often they struggled to put points on the board. Georgia showed potential with victories against Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Florida and even a close loss against Cincinnati, but overall the defeats piled up. Fox’s squad ended up tied for 10th in the conference with a 5-11 SEC mark, a long fall from an NCAA Tournament appearance just the year before.

It is time for the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope show this season in Athens. (photo from Georgia 247 sports)

Caldwell-Pope comes back to Athens this season, bringing with him a hope that the Bulldogs can rise out of the depths of the SEC cellar. “If you look at our team, we have finally the athleticism and size that we want,” Fox said. “We have guys that will be able to win and graduate. You know, playing at Georgia, going to school at Georgia isn’t for everybody. … This will be the first team we’ll have [where] it should be a pretty complete roster. We should have a deep team. We won’t feel like we’re having to put a band-aid on a certain position.” Fox should be able to slide Caldwell-Pope back over to the two-guard position, a more natural fit then the small forward slot he was forced into last year. Guard Vincent Williams has  presumably earned the start at point guard giving the Bulldogs the benefit of another senior leader running the show in the backcourt. However, a front line that struggled to rebound last season again enters next season as a big question mark in a pivotal year for Fox. Finding consistency down low will prove to be a big key to Georgia’s fate.

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SEC Weekly Five: 05.03.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on May 3rd, 2012

  1. Due to a rash of injuries that has hit four of Team USA men’s basketball Olympic team original 20 finalists, recent Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis is reportedly set to be added as a finalist. He will join another former Wildcat, the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, plus Piston center Greg Monroe and Jazz center Al Jefferson. “We’ve said that the strength of the team is going to be athleticism, wing players, the backcourt, but we’ll see,” Jerry Colangelo told SI.com on Saturday. “We’re going to have to consider a lot of things. The good news is that so many people wish and desire to play that we will be very deep regardless of what happens here — unless there’s another rash of things happening here. I pray that it’s over.”
  2. Davis and the rest of the national champion Wildcats will meet the most powerful college basketball fan in land on Friday as President Barack Obama invited the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team to the White House to celebrate its 2012 NCAA championship.  “The amazing thing is the first thing that was said when the horn sounded in New Orleans was, ‘We’re going to the White House!'” UK Coach John Calipari said in a statement. “I’m excited about the opportunity for them to meet the President of the United States, the leader of the free world and someone who is trying to make a difference in their lives.”
  3. In the wake of the growing transfer controversy/discussion, Georgia head coach Mark Fox – who has an “open release policy” that allows players to transfer within the SEC – offered his thoughts. Among the highlights: “I think as coaches, as long as there hasn’t been tampering, I don’t see why you should preclude a kid on going somewhere where they can pursue their lifelong goals.” On the perceived injustice that players must sit out a year while coaches can move freely: “That’s not true. Coaches can’t move around freely. Coaches are bound by buyout agreements and everything else. That’s not accurate. If I wanted to leave Georgia, which I don’t and never want to … there’s a buyout in my contract that discourages that from occurring. For those who say coaches go wherever they want to go, that’s not true.”
  4. Among the remaining high-profile transfers is former Xavier guard Mark Lyons. He has three traditional powers on his short list: Kansas, Arizona, and Kentucky. He visited Kentucky on Monday. “I’m looking for a program that wins where I could play a major role,” Lyons said. While Lyons had a tumultuous season last year and Kentucky has no shortage of talented players, picking up a player with the experience and talent of Lyons would be a major boost for another title run in Lexington.
  5. According to a study by Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, that ranked the nation’s college basketball programs by their “intrinsic value” and Kentucky placed only 16th… and more surprisingly, Louisville topped the report. “When you look at the revenue being produced from men’s basketball, the University of Louisville is far outperforming everyone else,” Brewer said. “It’s not just Kentucky. Kentucky spends a lot, too. In my evaluation, that (negatively) impacted their standing.” As you would expect Louisville fans are taking quite a bit of pride in this result. Kentucky fans will have to settle for their national championship trophy.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.08.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 8th, 2012

  1. In a Wednesday teleconference to preview Sunday’s release of the NCAA Tournament pairings, committee chairman Jeff Hathaway all but handed two of the four top seeds to Kentucky and Syracuse, each of whom entered their conference tournaments with a record of 30-1. “I think we all agree that if the season ended today, we know who the two best teams are,” he said. “If you’re looking at 3 and 4 on the first line and the entire second line, we have the same handful of teams in mind but where they would be laced will be a tremendous debate.”
  2. Georgia head coach Mark Fox took his team on a brief detour upon the Bulldogs’ arrival in New Orleans on Wednesday. He had the bus travel through the city’s Ninth Ward. “It’s one thing to see it on TV or hear about it from somebody else,” sophomore forward Marcus Thornton said. “But to actually see some of the damage yourself and see some of the places — there used to be a lot of homes that just aren’t there anymore. It kind of makes you stop for a second and be thankful for everything that’s fortunate in your life. I think it was a good experience for us all to see that.” Fox, who has a had a brother that used to live in New Orleans, did the same thing with his Nevada team in 2007 when they were in town for the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Mississippi State’s Rodney Hood declared himself “100 percent” healthy in advance of the Bulldogs’ SEC Tournament opener against Georgia. Hood, who suffered a deep bone bruise in his left knee late in the first half of a 73-64 loss to No. 1 Kentucky on Feb. 21, participated in a practice and shootaround yesterday without a brace protecting his knee. He played a total of 34 minutes in the Bulldogs’ two contests last week.
  4. LSU forward Malcolm White spent part of Wednesday answering questions about his takedown of Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in their January 28 meeting. “It was out of character,” White said. “I just made a bad play. I should have made a play on the ball.” White grabbed Davis from behind, and “flung him down to the ground” late the Wildcats’ 74-50 victory. The story goes on to say “As Davis sprawled in the lane, White walked away… and kept walking to the locker room. The referees called a flagrant foul and ejected White.”
  5. More and more of the holiday tournaments for next season have announced their fields. On Wednesday, the Gazelle Group announced the four participants of the “Champions Round” of the Legends Classic. Joining Indiana, UCLA and Georgetown will be Georgia. The four will meet at Brooklyn’s brand new Barclays Center, on November 19-20. Georgia participated in the CBE Classic this past November, losing to California and beating Notre Dame in Kansas City. Two seasons ago, the Bulldogs went 1-2 at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
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SEC Morning Five: 2.22.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 22nd, 2012

  1. Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators are trying to take things one game at a time, but it is proving difficult as Florida fights for a higher seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. “I don’t really talk to them about the seeding and those kind of things,” Donovan said. “I’ve always been a big believer you kind of take care what’s in front of you right then, and now and talking about something that’s going to be two or three weeks down the road, that will come.” Florida insists it is focusing on Auburn, but even point guard Erving Walker admits he “sometimes” checks mock tournament websites like brackets produced by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. And what is his opinion of Florida’s current placement on those websites? “Joe Lunardi is wrong sometimes,” Walker said.
  2. One team that needs to begin peeking at mock NCAA Tournament sites if it is not already doing so is the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are currently on the bubble according to USA Today’s latest bracketology. “What’s going on with the Bulldogs,” asks USA Today writer Nicole Auerbach. “Three not-great losses in a row. Need to turn things around quick, but for now, MSU stays in the field because of those three Top 50 wins.” After a tough home loss to Kentucky on Tuesday night, Mississippi State has another chance for a big win against Alabama that could propel the Bulldogs onto solid ground.
  3. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury prepared for his team’s matchup with Kentucky on Tuesday by taking a shot at former player Twany Beckham who transferred to Kentucky. “I saw his stats the other day in SEC play. Did he make one or attempt one shot,” asked Stansbury. “He’s seeing some pretty good basketball. He’s getting a front-row ticket every night. Yes, sir.” But Beckham fired right back via his Twitter account saying, “that dude wanna coach where I’m playin at…not worried at all”. Although Beckham didn’t play against the Bulldogs on Tuesday night, it certainly added fuel to an already heated rivalry.
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari played a game of his own, as he praised Stansbury’s Bulldogs relentlessly prior to Tuesday’s showdown.Dee Bost is good. You’ve got guys that could go for 30 (points),” Calipari said. “You’ve got five of them that could go for 30. All the sudden, you’re not just, ‘Stop this guy.’ You can’t do it that way. You’ve got to play basketball and try to make it difficult for them.” While Calipari’s point about the strength of the Bulldogs roster was not lost, not a single player on the Bulldogs roster has scored 30 points all season. But Calipari zeroed in on the most likely player to do so, and the one who has come the closest, Arnett Moultrie. “Arnett could go for 35 or 40 (points),” Calipari said. “It could happen, just like (Jeffery) Taylor went for whatever he went for (23 first-half points) against Mississippi.” Calipari’s motivation tactics worked yet again for the Wildcats as they rallied in the second half on Tuesday night, while not allowing a single Mississippi State player to get to 30 points during the game.
  5. Georgia coach Mark Fox had high praise for Vanderbilt shooting guard John Jenkins after the Commodores defeated the Dogs 61-52 on Sunday. Jenkins buried six of eight three point shots on his way to 28 points.“He’s the best shooter I’ve ever coached against,” Fox said about the reigning SEC Player of the Week. “I mean he’s phenomenal. He really is.” On the season, the Bulldogs have been a fairly strong team in guarding the perimeter shot. The 10 made threes by the Commodores were tied for the most Georgia has given up all season. Then again, it is difficult to defend Jenkins, who is a special player with an incredible outside shot. “We didn’t defend him well today all around,” Georgia guard Gerald Robinson said. “Everybody got a piece, got a taste in zone. The guy can shoot, flat-out shoot it. No ands, ifs or buts about it.”
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SEC Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 16th, 2012

  1. Arkansas remained one of three power conference schools (joining Boston College and Utah) to not own a road victory in Division I after being clubbed by Tennessee in Knoxville on Wednesday night. Among the 74 current power conference coaches, none of them owns a worse road record over the past two seasons than Mike Anderson. Anderson at Missouri went only 2-7 last year and this year’s Razorbacks are 0-8 so that porous road record could easily be reason #1 why they are likely NIT-bound and not returning the NCAAs for a fourth straight year, matching the program’s longest drought since the 1970s.
  2. Anderson and Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin, the SEC’s two first-year coaches, met for the first time on Wednesday night. Knoxville News Sentinel‘s Mike Strange writes that  the schools that hired these two coaches, both leaving schools in Missouri (and in Martin’s case at least a rumored candidate to replace Anderson), are satisfied with their respective choices.
  3. South Carolina’s Malik Cooke and Georgia head coach Mark Fox already knew each other quite well when the two schools met on Wednesday. Cooke played for Fox at Nevada for two years so of course when the Gamecocks and Bulldogs met for the first of two times this season Cooke took advantage of his chance to beat his former coach for the first time in three tries. He hit the game-winning shot with 20 seconds left. “He’s just a winner,” Fox said. “I hate to see the ball in his hands.” “I respect him a lot,” Cooke said about Fox, “but I was just trying to get a win for South Carolina because we really needed one.”
  4. Kentucky opened up its practice to the public on Wednesday, allowing students, faculty, staff and a national television audience in on the top-ranked Wildcats’ preparation as they seek to become the first team since 2003 to finish the Southeastern Conference undefeated.”I want the students into it, I want the players alert and focused through the week,” head coach John Calipari said. “Our practices are pretty consistent in how we go about it, then it turns into … `Why don’t we call ESPN?’ Then it was like, ‘I bet it rates higher than games.’ It’s Kentucky. That’s the Kentucky Effect.”
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s Zac Ellis found former Tennessee Athletic Director Mike Hamilton and his new career path he has charted for himself since resigning in June. Hamilton began work in October as the president of U.S. Operations for Blood:Water Mission, “a non-profit organization based in Nashville that addresses Africa’s clean water and HIV/AIDS crises, two of the leading causes of orphanage in sub-Saharan Africa.” Hamilton has three adopted children from Africa, one of whom, five-month-old Kalu,  is HIV-positive. There are certainly worse things he could be doing with his time.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.06.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 6th, 2012

  1. Vanderbilt again found itself unable to solve a pressing team, losing at Florida, 73-65, and committing 17 turnovers in the process. In the Commodores’ 16 wins, they have turned it over an average of 13.4 times (compared to 13.7 assists in those games). In the six losses, they have committed an average of 16.1 turnovers against just 12.0 assists per game. “We didn’t do a very good job of attacking (the press),” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said in the Tennessean. “It was disruptive, and we did a poor job with our spacing. We did a poor job with our ball handling. It caused problems.” The Gators also continued a growing concern for the Commodores. They shot 11-of-24 from beyond the arc meaning that in four of Vandy’s last five games (taking away the win vs Tennessee), the other four teams have shot 46.3% from the three-point arc.
  2. Arnett Moultrie’s controversial transfer from UTEP to Mississippi State returned to the headlines this weekend when the Bulldogs faced and defeated Moultrie’s old coach, Tony Barbee, now at Auburn. In Saturday’s Birmingham News: “In an interview with a small group of reporters, Barbee declined to utter more than a few words when asked about Moultrie or his background, nor did he even use Moultrie’s name. On one point, however, he was adamant: Contrary to some published reports at the time, UTEP had in fact released Moultrie to come to Auburn.” In his first game against his old coach, Moultrie scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 91-88 Bulldogs win.
  3. Kentucky fans have long earned the distinction as of possessing the most most basketball-crazed fans in the SEC, if not the country, but as John Clay wrote in the Lexington Herald-Leader after the Wildcats’ dismantling of South Carolina that Columbia was just the latest ‘Big Blue Occupy Movement.’ He quotes head coach John Calipari in the article: “Today when I walked out in that building, I was like ‘What in the world?'” he said. “It looked like half the building was blue. Our fans treat these guys like rock stars. I didn’t come out, but they told me they circled the court when they were warming up, taking pictures like they were Bon Jovi or somebody.”
  4. Former Ole Miss basketball player and the adoptive father of Michael Oher, Sean Tuohy, openly lobbied for the Rebel Athletic Director job in a Memphis Commercial Appeal story that ran over the weekend. The article states that Tuohy owns and operates 70 fast food locations with a “total annual budget of $60 million, [surpassing] the Ole Miss athletic department of $48 million. “I’m proud that I started successful companies and businesses,” Tuohy said. “But someday, I’m going to have to face my dad in heaven, and I think he’d be more interested in what I did as athletic director of Ole Miss more than any of my business stuff.”
  5. Georgia’s season of frustration spilled out of head coach Mark Fox late Saturday in the Bulldogs’ 73-62 loss at Tennessee. He drew a pair of technical fouls after a non-call within five seconds to garner an ejection with 19 seconds  left to play.  “I have no comment on that,” Fox said a few minutes later. “Not to be disrespectful to you, I know you’ve gotta ask that question.”
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Kentucky’s Youth and Inexperience: Does It Matter?

Posted by KDoyle on January 25th, 2012

Kevin Doyle is an RTC correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @KLDoyle11. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Georgia game in Athens Tuesday night.

Shortly after the Top 25 poll was released for the week of January 23, Kentucky head coach John Calipari was no doubt a bit uneasy seeing his Wildcats perched atop of the rankings. In Kentucky’s first stint as the #1-ranked team in America back in December, they fell to an upstart Indiana team in what has been, without question, the game of the season to date. The Wildcats led in the final minute, but two late missed free throws allowed the Hoosiers to have one final shot to win it and the rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward a month and a half and 11 games — all UK victories, by the way — and Kentucky found themselves in a similar position. In an article released by The Louisville Courier-Journal recently, Calipari explains how experiencing adversity and knowing what it feels like to lose again may not be the worst thing in the world:

I did tell them the way this is going, we probably need a loss so that we’ll come together and say, ‘We’re not losing like this.’ In other words, getting manhandled. We’re getting manhandled and winning close games, so they think it’s OK. So my thing is, let’s take it on the chin. Now whatcha gonna do? You going to say it’s OK? I don’t think they’re going to say it’s OK.

In last night’s contest at Stegeman Coliseum before a sold-out crowd of Georgia fans (although Big Blue Nation certainly made their presence felt), Kentucky was the team that did, as Calipari would call it, “the manhandling.” It was not the most aesthetically pleasing basketball game to watch as the teams combined for a mere 101 points, but Kentucky powered their way to a comfortable 13-point victory, 57-44. Georgia hung around for much of the first half, but after the under-four media timeout Kentucky exerted their will and coasted. The Bulldogs never got within single digits in the second half.

The Unibrow Is a Dominant Defender Only Scratching the Surface of His Ability

Looking back at Cal’s remarks, it is easy to side with him and say that a tough loss may be good for team morale as it would ostensibly rally the squad together and force them to refocus. He can say that the target is even bigger on their backs now since they are riding a 12-game winning streak, undefeated in the SEC, one of only three 20+ game winners, and the #1 team in the country. But, let’s be honest, they are the University of Kentucky — Big Blue Nation — the target is always on their back and every time they step on the floor the spotlight is squarely on Cal & Co. Would a loss change Kentucky’s mindset as to how they approach a future game?

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SEC Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 24th, 2012

  1. Ole Miss forward Terrance Henry was named SEC Player of the Week after his first double-double of the season. Henry played well in the Rebels’ win over Georgia with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He averaged 18 points, 6.5 rebounds and two assists on the week. While Henry scored 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in Ole Miss’ win over Mississippi State, it was his defense on point guard Dee Bost that helped stifle the Bulldogs’ offense. Tennessee freshman Jarnell Stokes was named SEC Freshman of the Week in just his second week with the Volunteers. He helped UT beat defending national champion Connecticut by averaging 13.5 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, one assist and one steal. For Stokes to accomplish that in his second and third games of the season is even more impressive.
  2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope must have great timing. He called to commit to the Georgia Bulldogs while coach Mark Fox was on an airplane ready for take-off. “He called me, I looked at my phone, and I said I better answer this,” Fox said. “So I answered my phone, and this flight attendant was saying: ‘You have to hang up your phone.'” As the plane took off, Fox lost the connection before Caldwell-Pope could finish the call. So when the freshman guard called back later that week, Fox was at dinner. The head coach knew exactly what to do though. “Left the table,” Fox said.  Caldwell-Pope’s 14.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game so far this season probably made that an easy decision for Fox.
  3. Guard Mike Rosario has helped turned the Gators’ bench from a liability in SEC play to a positive. Everyone is aware of Rosario’s offensive firepower, but he is getting additional playing time because of his commitment to the defensive end of the court. “Coach told me to stick my nose in there whenever I can to try to slap the ball and try to get a steal,” Rosario said. The strategy worked for the 6’3″ guard as he has four steals in his past three games. Prior to that, Rosario had not recorded a steal since December 17.
  4. First Kevin Stallings cried foul, and now Florida coach Billy Donovan is following suit. The Gators’ head man, just like Vanderbilt’s coach last week, is upset that Kentucky doesn’t go through the same rigors of conference scheduling as the rest of the SEC. “My problem with it is if you want to get more teams in the NCAA Tournament… our league should not put teams at a disadvantage competitively,” Donovan said. “I don’t think that’s right to the players, to the teams that are playing. I think we all agree that we need to play Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday. We’ve done it. But I think everybody needs to do it.” As mentioned last week in the SEC Morning Five, Kentucky is one of only three SEC teams that didn’t have the back-to-back scheduling issue that Florida and Vanderbilt (among others) had to endure. But if Donovan wants to argue that the SEC needs additional teams in the NCAA Tournament, then he also must understand that exposure helps in that endeavor. And the best exposure for the SEC is a TV deal with the Worldwide Leader, and the Kentucky Wildcats are the basketball reason that deal is a reality.
  5. Former Oklahoma State starter Fred Gulley plans to join the University of Arkansas basketball team next season. He will sit out one year based on NCAA transfer rules, and will be eligible in the spring of the 2012-13 season. Prior to leaving the Cowboys this season, Gulley averaged 4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in eight games. He is a 6’2″ guard, and is originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Arkansas will welcome the help. While the Razorbacks could use additional depth in the low post, coach Mike Anderson’s fast-paced style of play means that the Hogs can use healthy bodies at any position.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2011

  1. Mississippi received a nice present under the tree as forward Murphy Holloway‘s MRI revealed that his injury against Middle Tennessee State University was only a bad high ankle sprainAndy Kennedy said that Holloway can return to practice as soon as he regains “strength and mobility.” Kennedy and the Rebels will need Holloway back as soon as possible. Holloway is the team’s leading rebounder with 9.6 rebounds per game, and he adds in 9.9 points. The Rebs have lost their last two games in a row, and hit the road to face a tough Dayton team that already knocked off Alabama earlier in the year.
  2. Mississippi State freshman Rodney Hood may not have come in with the hype that many SEC freshmen had, but his play is making quite the statement. Hood has come along quickly averaging 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He has focused his practice on mid-range jumpers and it shows. Hood has connected on 62% of his two point field goals this year. “The first part of the season, I was just finding my way,” Hood said. “Now I’m coming into my own.” Rick Stansbury obviously likes what he sees as Hood leads the team in minutes at 33.2 minutes per game.
  3. Georgia has struggled in the second half of games this year, blowing halftime leads against Colorado, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech. Just when it looked like the Bulldogs may let another lead slip out of their grasp, the players dug a little deeper to put together a non-conference win against Furman. “Our team executed very well tonight,” coach Mark Fox said. Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped up big, showing a major display of leadership. “I realized that we were starting to slack on defense,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So I just tried to help my team by creating steals, help on the drive, and rebound and I did that.” Georgia will need more than just Caldwell-Pope to step up though. The Bulldogs have struggled on offense (131st in adjusted offensive efficiency) with only one other player averaging double figures in scoring (senior Gerald Robinson at 13.6 PPG).
  4. Patric Young is a freak of nature. We all know that, right? But did you see his block on Thursday night? It is clear that Young is beginning to turn some heads with his tremendous play as of late. It is clear that he is a much better player this year than the developing freshman that averaged 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year. Sometimes, a SportsCenter type highlight is all we need to remind us of that. “Whenever you block somebody’s shot and pull it down with one hand, that’s making ‘SportsCenter,'” Young said. Yes, it will. The highlight reels are nice, but I think Billy Donovan will be more impressed with Young connecting on 63.3% effective field goal percentage, and snagging a solid 11.6 offensive rebounding percentage. Those numbers should lead to Young getting more than the 18.9% of shots (sixth on the team) that he takes in the Florida offense.
  5. LSU‘s play of late is putting the team in good company. The last time a Tigers’ team won three road wins in non-conference play was 1985-86. You may remember that LSU team was the lowest seeded team at the time (#11 — now tied with VCU and George Mason) to go to a Final Four. The Tigers have won on the road against Houston, Rutgers, and North Texas. Defense has been the key to the Tigers’ successful run. LSU has held six straight opponents under 60 points, in what is believed to be the first time since the 1952-53 Tigers held six straight teams under 60. This team also has a couple of bad losses to go with those wins — a loss at Coastal Carolina and at home against South Alabama. Which version of Trent Johnson‘s squad will show up when the Tigers get the opportunity for quality RPI games against Virginia, Ole Miss, and Alabama in the next two and a half weeks will be a big determinant in how successful the Tigers are this season.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 15th, 2011

  1. How did Festus Ezeli cope with watching his team lose two close overtime games in a row on November 28 to Xavier and December 2 against Louisville while he was out with an injury that sidelined him for Vanderbilt’s first eight games of the season? While the rest of us throw every item within arm’s reach at the TV during our favorite team’s close games, it sounds as though Ezeli has kept his cool watching in street clothes on the bench. “It’s just tough. I’m an emotional person and when the games start, I get into it a lot,” Ezeli said. “It’s just hard being on the bench and not being able to help, because I know I can help a lot. It’s tough. Just little stuff. I feel like I’m very good at helping them in the paint, especially on defense and protecting the rim and stuff like that. I feel like I could have helped a lot, especially in the last two minutes of the games – both games in overtime.” Ezeli returned to action last week against Davidson with 21 minutes of play, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds. The big man is not at 100% just yet, but the Commodores will certainly be a different team once he is at full speed.
  2. Alabama‘s Anthony Grant realizes that the Crimson Tide will see a lot of zone after Georgetown used a 2-3 zone so effectively in Bama’s 57-55 loss to the Hoyas on December 1st. The Tide settled for outside shots against the Hoyas’ zone, going 3 of 16 (18.8%) from beyond the arc. “I think the fallacy there is people think you’ve got to shoot the ball from the perimeter,” Grant said. “I disagree with that. I think there’s obviously a lot of different ways, but no matter what you’re doing, the ball has to work inside down, no matter if it’s a man or a zone.” The Tide have not shot well from three-point range on the season shooting only 25.3% (37 of 146). Yep, the Tide are going to see more zone this year, and they will need to find better quality shots then what they have settled for thus far.
  3. Andy Kennedy has a good problem to have for his Ole Miss Rebels–too many guards! The Rebs have seven scholarship guards, including McDonald’s All American Jelan Kendrick who became eligible for his first game Wednesday night against Louisiana-Lafayette, but did not play due to a decision by Kennedy. Freshman LaDarius White played his first game for Ole Miss on Saturday, and he played well coming off the bench with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes. Finding room for White and Kendrick could be a fix for many of the Rebels issues this season. “We’ve been terribly inconsistent in a lot of areas,” Kennedy said. “Twenty-three turnovers (on Saturday) is laughable. Our ball security needs a lot of work, but we continue to defend.” That is if Kendrick can make his way on the court this season.
  4. Maybe this isn’t interesting to anybody but Georgia fans, but they will be traveling to Italy next year to play from August 3-12, 2012. The interesting aspect to me is that young teams need the advantage of being together and playing earlier, and the Bulldogs seem to fit the mold of a team that could benefit from the extra time together. Georgia has a good freshmen and sophomore class that could make noise in the SEC next year if they keep their nucleus intact. The trip to Italy seems to be the right move at the right time for Mark Fox and his young Bulldogs, but Fox needs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the roster for one more year to be able to have the firepower to make a splash next year.
  5. Georgia is using its week off to find a solution to its second half woes. The Bulldogs have lost four games in a row, in three of which they blew a halftime lead. “We didn’t come out in the second half, and I think it’s just us needing to get ready to come out and play hard,” Caldwell-Pope said after the Georgia Tech game. “We haven’t had the mindset that we need to come out and just play as hard.” In the Bulldogs’ last two games, they were outscored by 15 (against Cincinnati) and 16 (against Georgia Tech) in the second half. Georgia has five more non-conference games to figure out what is going on before they open up SEC play on January 7 against Alabama. The Bulldogs have been tied or led going into the half in seven of their nine contests yet are currently 4-5 going into Saturday’s match-up with the USC Trojans.
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