ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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SEC Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 16th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury announced his retirement after 14 years in Starkville. Stansbury will continue to work at MSU in a yet-to-be-determined position, said athletic director Scott Stricklin. Accoring to the Clarion-Ledger report, Stricklin “didn’t rule out interviewing current MSU assistants for the job. ‘We’ll see; we’re wide open. I wouldn’t dismiss that idea.’” In that same piece, Dee Bost, the Bulldogs’ departing senior point guard, tweeted out an endorsement for long-time assistant coach Phil Cunningham. “Coach Stans retired,” tweeted Bost. “I think all alumni and fans should try to get Coach Cunningham as coach.”
  2. Vanderbilt won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2007. In a Tennesseean article by Michael Cass, he writes of a “banner year” for the Commodores and of some of the possible ramifications this year’s SEC title could bring. One Nashville native said, “For high school players, I don’t see how you can watch that (SEC championship game) and see the collection of talent Coach Stallings has put together and not want to be a part of it.” Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said, “On such a big national stage, to have Vanderbilt, obviously one of the greatest academic institutions in the world, beat the No. 1 team, win a championship in the greatest athletic conference in the country, it brings a lot of benefit to the university.”
  3. Alabama‘s Friday opponent, Creighton, utilized a popular practice technique to help prepare for the Crimson’s Tides press defense.  “There’s times when we’ve had seven defenders out there guarding five,” said Doug McDermott, the Bluejays’ All-America sophomore forward. “Our scout team guys probably aren’t as athletic and don’t have as much length as their guys do.”
  4. Like Dwight Howard announced today, another big man from the Sunshine State announced he would be staying for additional year when Florida sophomore center Patric Young said in the locker room Thursday that he intends to come back for his junior season. “That’s the first that I heard of that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “So that’s always great news. I think Patric has learned a lot this year. I don’t think this year was as easy for him as he thought it was going to be.”
  5. Western Kentucky head coach Ray Harper pointed out a facet of the game where the Kentucky Wildcats will have to improve if it hopes to win an eighth national title. “If they want to advance and win a national championship, they’re going to have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter,” Harper said. “They’re going to have to find somebody else that can make a shot from the perimeter.” The Wildcats have shot just 23.8% from the three-point arc going back to the start of the SEC Tournament and have not shot better than 30% in any of those four games. Doron Lamb is 4-for-15 in that stretch; Darius Miller is 2-for-12; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague are a combined 0-6.
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Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 2nd, 2012


  1. With all of the scandals in college sports that seem to occur without the schools suffering significant on-the-field repercussions it is sometimes hard to remember that sometimes programs actually do suffer. Such is the case for Binghamton as Pete Thamel notes. Thamel goes through the program’s decision to chase Division I glory and looks at the result for a program that earned a NCAA bid by winning the America East Tournament leading their fans to rush the court and our site to get its first on-air mention later that night on SportsCenter. This year, the students rushed the court again, but instead of doing it for a coveted NCAA bid it was for their first win of the year after losing their first 27 games.
  2. For college basketball fans, Perry Jones III is one of the most enigmatic players in the country. But as Jason King writes there is more to the Perry Jones story than just what you see on the court. King tells the fascinating story of Jones including his time bouncing between cheap hotels during his senior year of high school because his family could not afford a house. After reading this piece you may still struggle to understand Perry Jones the player, but you will have a greater appreciation of Perry Jones the person.
  3. No coach at a major program utilizes social media quite like John Calipari and his post on “The great myth of our program” is an excellent example. After taking some heat for being labeled as a “one-and-done factory” Calipari took to his blog on his personal site to defend his program and more importantly his kids. We are sure that fans of rival programs will inevitably find a few parts to take issue with, but Calipari’s ability to sell his program is phenomenal. If you want to know why he cleans up on the recruiting trail, you could do a lot worse than to start by reading this piece and getting a sense of how he promotes his program.
  4. In this week’s edition of his power rankings, Luke Winn takes a look at many of the statistics he has tracked all season giving a few interesting updates. However, the one statistic that he cites that is the most interesting to us is one regarding Kentucky and Marquis Teague that he mentioned in a post the day before. All season long, fans and analysts have pointed to Teague’s play as the key to Kentucky’s long-term success. Along with that there has been a sense Kentucky is at its best when they are using their athleticism and getting out and running rather than playing at a slower pace. So it would seem to make sense that Teague and Kentucky would be at their best when they got out and ran except that it does not appear to be the case for Teague. As Winn notes, an analysis done last year showed a similar trend for Brandon Knight so perhaps it is more a reflection of the team, position, and opposition, but it is something worth watching over the next month to see if the narrative fits reality.
  5. Most of the major recruits in the class of 2012 have already committed to their schools and fans of most teams will soon be looking forward to next season. Fans of course are asking the natural questions: what impact will these new faces have and how long will they stay? Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus takes a look at the latter by looking at the relationship between class rank and transfer rates. Looking at top 100 recruits from classes from 2002 to 2009, Cannon analyzes how long players who are on their team by the end of their freshmen year stay at the school. While there are a lot of factors involved in these decisions, it is interesting to look at the analysis and the accompanying chart to get a better sense of what you can expect.
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Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2012


  1. The big news yesterday the story by Sports Illustrated on the issues at UCLA including rampant drug use and multiple anecdotes about questionable behavior by Ben Howland. While the story is not explosive as many of the articles we have read about issues at other major programs, the reports on Howland’s behavior would concern us more because it would scare away more recruits since they are, at least theoretically, adults who make their own decisions about whether or not to use drugs although some would argue that your environment plays some role in those decisions particularly at the age of these recruits. However, from what we have heard most of their recruits remain committed to the program and Howland has issued a statement saying that if it is warranted he will change his ways.
  2. The most hyped of those recruits,  Shabazz Muhammad, may have his own issues to attend to as the NCAA has reportedly warned teams that Muhammad’s eligibility may be in question due to connections between two financial advisers and his family. Muhammad’s father acknowledges knowing both of these men and that one has has paid for at least two of Muhammad’s unofficial college visits and the other sponsors Muhammad’s summer league team, but claims that their relationship began before Muhammad was a highly recruited prospect. He has also hired legal counsel to help deal with the NCAA’s investigation, but this could turn into yet another drawn out process that we have become all too familiar with over the past few years.
  3. Perhaps we were busy in the middle of the day and missed the discussion on this topic on Twitter, but it appears that there was some confusion regarding Bob Knight and his feelings toward Kentucky. We do not have access to the original draft of the article by Gregg Doyel, but according to Kentucky Sports Radio Doyel claimed that Knight listed the top five teams in the country and omitted Kentucky. However, when you look at Doyel’s current post, released at 11:33 AM before being edited at 3:50 PM, the section quoted on Kentucky Sports Radio has undergone a significant revision. Since we do not have access to the original post by Doyel that ran for over four hours before being edited, we are assuming the copy/paste skills of the people at KSR are functional. And when you listen to the podcast of the Mike and Mike interview that Doyel was referencing, Knight doesn’t list the top teams in the country and is just answering a question that is posed to him. While we respect Doyel’s ability as a writer, this seems highly questionable and possibly deceitful. While everybody who has written articles frequently online has gone back and edited a piece, it is generally accepted that those changes will be relatively minor revisions (like a typo or messing up a fact) and except in a few cases it would usually warrant an editor’s note or a correction, but in this case that isn’t given. When you actually listen to the interview, Knight does not list his top teams at no point in the conversation. He was asked about Syracuse and after being asked about them he is asked to name some favorites and in a roundabout way he says that Syracuse should be one of the favorites without naming another team. We love page views as much as the next site, but we think Doyel has some explaining to do here — did he actually listen to the clip before writing the article?
  4. With March Madness having already started even before March officially began Luke Winn takes a look at the nation’s top point guards and specifically their turnover habits. Looking at Kendall Marshall, Tyshawn Taylor, Jordan Taylor, and Marquis Teague (the four most frequently discussed point guards in the country) Winn breaks down their strengths and weaknesses in this area, which can become a major issue in March, in a level of detail that you will not find on any other free sites. We would love to see Luke’s raw data on this to see if it could be broken down further though at a certain level you are analyzing such small pieces that the results may not be meaningful, which is a level that Luke’s analysis does not appear to stray towards here.
  5. With the regular season winding down, the discussion of the National Player of the Year award becomes a little more heated. Heading into this week there was some discussion about this being a three-man race with Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, and Draymond Green. If the ESPN’s national straw poll is any indication, it is more like a two-man race between Davis and Robinson with Green a clear #3. As Mike Rothstein notes, this would indicate that the national awards will probably be split between Davis and Robinson due to extremely tight nature of the voting and the fact that the votes for different awards have different submission dates ranging from March 4 to March 19.
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How Historically Great is This Year’s Kentucky Team?

Posted by EJacoby on February 27th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

Last week included much debate about some of the all-time great teams in college basketball. First, we released our RTC Mount Rushmore of the most significant people in NCAA basketball history, which featured discussion about the leaders of several great programs. Then, CBSSports.com released their ballots ranking the 16 greatest teams in college history, followed by our own Joshua Weill highlighting Rodrick Rhodes and his (lack of) impact on the 1996 Kentucky ‘Untouchables,’ the team ranked third all-time by CBS. Meanwhile, this year’s Kentucky Wildcats won another impressive conference road game over Mississippi State and outlasted Vanderbilt on Saturday to improve its record to 28-1 overall and 14-0 in SEC play. All of this got us to thinking: How historically great is this year’s Kentucky squad compared to some of its contemporaries? Let’s take a look at how John Calipari’s team matches up to some dominant modern teams.

How Strong is this Year's Kentucky Team, Historically? (AP Photo/ J. Crisp)

If it weren’t for Christian Watford’s buzzer-beating three on December 10, Kentucky would be 28-0 right now and in the discussion to go undefeated. Instead, Indiana got the win that day and quieted the Wildcats’ buzz for an extended period. Forward Terrence Jones had just four points, one rebound, and six turnovers in that game, concerning many fans that the team could not reach its potential without its go-to offensive guy playing at his highest level. But since that game, UK has cruised in its 14 conference games and Jones has been just fine, averaging 12.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in SEC play. Those numbers are way down from last season and far from the dominance we all expected, but with five other stars on the team this hasn’t been an issue. Shooting 49.6% with just 1.8 turnovers per game, Jones has been quite alright.

The rest of this Kentucky lineup is filled with pros at every position. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller all average double-figure scoring on the season, while freshman point guard Marquis Teague is at 9.6 points and 4.7 assists per game on the year. The three freshmen — Davis, Gilchrist, and Teague — are all projected NBA lottery picks according to DraftExpress.com, while sophomores Jones and Lamb are expected to be selected in the first round as well whenever they declare. The senior leader Miller may very well find his way onto an NBA roster too, as he is currently a top 25 available senior as ranked by DraftExpress.

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SEC Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 15th, 2012

  1. Georgia’s Gerald Robinson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague were honored with SEC Men’s Player of the Week awards. Robinson was named the SEC Men’s Player of the Week after averaging 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, and three assists this week. The Bulldogs won both games with victories over 20th-ranked Mississippi State and Arkansas, in which Robinson added a career-high 27 points. Teague has steadily improved as point guard for the top-ranked Wildcats, and was named Freshman of the Week.  Teague contributed 12.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds and achieved his first double-double in Kentucky’s win over Florida.
  2. The Wildcats have run the table twice in the SEC, going a perfect 16-0, and could do it again this year. “When one of the ways (of winning) is not working for you, you can rely on something else,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ” … What makes a really, really special team is when you have a variety of ways to win. (The Cats) can win almost any kind of situation they’re in.” Wildcats coach John Calipari isn’t as concerned with a 16-0 record as he is with improvement. “My concern is, are we improving as a team?” Calipari said. “What I’m seeing right now is we are.” The only two teams since the 1956 season to go undefeated through league play were Kentucky’s 1995-96 team and the Wildcats again in 2002-03. The 1996 team, of course, won the National Championship for then coach Rick Pitino, and that is a very realistic goal for the 2012 version of Kentucky, regardless of the final conference record.
  3. It may be hard to define what swagger is, but a coach will know it when he sees it.  “When players walk with a certain type of swagger, a level of confidence — not cockiness, not arrogance — they can play, and they can compete,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said after a win at Florida. “Before, we just weren’t mentally ready.” Tennessee knows it is a much better team than the 11th place finish that was predicted in the preseason, and two wins over Florida along with playing close with Kentucky prove Martin has the Vols playing to win. However, the Vols need help. “We need our fans, and we need their support to help get us over the hump,” Martin said. “If our guys are giving effort, and they are leaving everything out on the floor, they deserve that support.”
  4. Depth is a major concern for Florida and coach Billy Donovan. “Dire is probably a pretty good word,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively, certainly going into Alabama without Will (Yeguete) being there. There is a tremendous void for us defensively at the basket.” In fact, the Gators are without their two leading scorers off the bench in Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario. The Gators will be ready to respond. “We just have to react appropriately and come together as a team,” guard Scottie Wilbekin said. And after two straight losses, Florida needs to come together quickly.
  5. The Gators are not the only team dealing with depth issues. Alabama, Florida’s opponent on Tuesday night, welcomed back Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele after suspensions from the team for a violation of team rules.  “When you look at Andrew Steele — he’s been probably the finest student-athlete that I’ve coached — he made a mistake,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “His body of work speaks for itself in terms of who he is as a person and what he’s been all about. I was a former student-athlete. You are faced with a lot of different things and you have to make decisions. Sometimes you make the wrong one. I don’t think that’s any indication of who he is as a person. Same thing with Trevor Releford. He’s a young man that’s in his sophomore year in college and made a bad choice. I think his teammates understand that. Certainly as a coach, I don’t condone it, but I’m not going to condemn him as a human being for making a bad decision. We will move on and get ready to play.” Grant has continued the suspensions for forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, the team’s top two leading scorers. When asked about those situations, Grant responded that the situations were “different.”
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SEC Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 14th, 2012

  1. He may not be the next John Wall or Brandon Knight, but freshman Marquis Teague is transforming into the type of point guard coach John Calipari is looking for to run his Kentucky Wildcats. “He’s transformed into what one of our typical point guards plays like,” Calipari said. “I’ve been really pleased. But it took a while to get where he is right now.” Over the last six games, Teague has 36 assists and just 11 turnovers. While many headlines focus on the other star-studded freshmen on the Wildcats roster, one needs to look no further than Teague to see the key to a deep run in March.
  2. Speaking of Kentucky’s chances in March, the Eye on College Basketball blog sees the Wildcats going into the tournament without another loss. Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello write, “the Wildcats only have incalculable Miss State and flaky Florida left to play on the road. Then comes the SEC tournament, where Kentucky fans will smother the joint. The chances this team gets to the NCAA tournament 33-1 are better than not, even if Ken Pomeroy is telling us otherwise.” Calipari has taken teams into the NCAA Tournament with one loss twice in his career. Once with Massachusetts in 1996, and once with Memphis in 2008. You may remember both teams advanced to at least a Final Four. Well, at least I thought they did, but I can’t seem to find any evidence to prove those claims.
  3. Mississippi State has struggled on the road this season in the SEC. The Bulldogs are 1-3 away from home after losing to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. “If you go on the road and that team wasn’t very good, hey, the crowd wouldn’t be a factor but the one constant when you go on the road is everybody is good,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “It’s just the way it is. There’s a fine line, a very, very fine line in this league — home or away.” The Bulldogs play at LSU on Tuesday night in what will be an imporant game for both teams. Luckily for Mississippi State, it won’t be playing on the road in the NCAA Tournament in a couple of weeks.
  4. LSU is still hoping to make the NCAA Tournament after a win over an incomplete Alabama team. And The Valley Shook says, “20 wins would definitely put LSU in the NIT, and if they could somehow creep higher than that the NCAA’s remain a possibility if other teams drop some games.” The aforementioned game against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge is shaping up to be an imprtant game for both teams.
  5. Will Yeguete’s injury was mentioned in Monday’s Morning Five, and now both Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario are out for the the Gators’ game on Tuesday night. Yeguete is out with a concussion sustained on Saturday, and Rosario is sidelined by a hip pointer. The Gators also played without Cody Larson on Saturday because of the flu. Florida has lost back to back games for the first time this season, and looks to regain its momentum against Alabama, a team with issues of its own.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 9th, 2012

  1. After witnessing his team getting dismantled in Lexington by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida coach Billy Donovan had high praise for coach John Calipari’s squad. “The one thing I like about their team is I love their disposition on the floor,” he said. “There’s a certain disposition you have to have and I’m not talking about an arrogance or a cockiness, but there’s like a focus level in terms of what really goes into winning at that level. There’s a mentality there.” Donovan is a good source on this year’s championship. Not only did he lead the Gators to two straight national championships in 2006 and 2007, but Florida has played the top three teams in the country, all on the road. He even offered up a nice prediction for basketball fans in April. Billy the Kid says he would love to see Kentucky and Syracuse play in the title game. “It would be a heck of a game,” Donovan said. And after last year’s anti-climatic performance, it’s a game that would be great for the sport of college basketball as well.
  2. Anybody who watched Kentucky’s rout of the seventh-ranked Gators on Tuesday can attest that this could be a championship year for the Cats. Despite being loaded with talent throughout his college coaching career, including making a Final Four run last year, this is John Calipari’s best team. The different between this team, and say, Calipari’s 2009-10 club that had five first round NBA draft picks, is that Kentucky has players experienced in Cal’s system. Calipari is well-known for his utilization of freshmen players who bolt for the NBA after one season. He has a couple of likely 1-and-dones in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who happen to be two of the best players in the nation, but he adds a level of comfort and experience that his previous teams have not typically possessed. Three returning players (Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones) give Calipari a complete team that knows his expectations and appears to be coming together at just the right time.
  3. Another key to the Wildcats’ latest successes has been the development of freshman point guard Marquis Teague. Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated charts how Teague’s shot and turnover percentages have declined over the course of the season. Against Florida on Tuesday, Teague finished with 12 points, 10 assists and five turnovers. His recent success, and thus the improvement of Kentucky’s offense, is attributed to him finding a comfortable role as a supporting player. “We enjoy winning, so if I’ve got to take less shots for us to win, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. And as long as he continues to find open teammates and improve his shot selection, Kentucky won’t just continue winning, but will continue winning big.
  4. Just when it appeared that Vanderbilt was hitting its stride after some early season struggles, the Commodores have lost three of their last four SEC games. And with a tough stretch ahead, including a College Gameday matchup with Kentucky on Saturday, there is at least some question as to whether or not the ‘Dores are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.“We’re not playing great right now, but I definitely think we’re a tournament team,” forward Jeffery Taylor said. Coach Kevin Stallings agreed. “If we stay healthy enough and we do what we’re supposed to do in our preparation, then we’ll be in the tournament,” he said. For the record, I think Vandy will make the Tournament, and I even think they will finally make it out of the first round. However, the fact that we are even having this conversation indicates just how far the Commodores have fallen from lofty preseason expectations that had them competing for an SEC title and contending for a Final Four in March.
  5. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t necessarily need forward Jeronne Maymon to score points. Martin is looking for an increased toughness from his leader, and the numbers will follow. “I don’t think it’s so much being asked to score,” Maymon said. “I just think it’s about going out there and trying to lead, in a way. Play tough defense, talk and be vocal — that’s all Coach [Cuonzo] Martin really stresses. He really doesn’t stress point totals.” Maymon’s 19 rebounds against Auburn signify exactly the sort of toughness that his coach is looking for. “Coach Martin loves tough guys and guys that go out there and play their heart out,” he said. “That’s mainly what I’m about.”
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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: 01.19.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 19th, 2012

  1. Florida’s Billy Donovan received good news on center Patric Young’sankle injury as no structural damage was done. “He’s just got some pretty significant inflammation in the area that’s causing the problem with it and I think the best thing for him now is rest,” Donovan said. “But there’s nothing there for him that’s going to keep him out of games.” Young played just 13 minutes against South Carolina, limiting him to four points. He has been held out of practice so far this week, but is expected to play Saturday against LSU. Florida will need quality minutes from its big man against the Tigers’ seven footer, Justin Hamilton. Hamilton is one of the most underrated players in the conference, averaging 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season.
  2. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings isn’t happy with a scheduling inequality in the SEC. Stallings claims Kentucky gets an extra boost from the league that simply isn’t fair to the other teams. Nine conference teams go through at least one stretch of having to play a Thursday game followed by a Saturday game in the same week. The quick turnaround is difficult on players and coaching staffs, but Kentucky doesn’t play a Thursday-Saturday combo for the second straight year. In addition, the Wildcats get the added benefit of playing four SEC opponents coming off a Thursday night game. “Go figure that one out for me, would you?” Stallings said. “We all agreed to do it, so if you have one, like we have one, I’m not going to complain. To not have any and to be able to play four teams that have to do it to play you… that’s not right.” Stallings does enjoy having his Commodores on TV, correct? It seems much ado about nothing to us. LSU and Auburn don’t have to play through one of these quick stretches of games, but nobody complains about that. Because it’s Kentucky, Stallings wants to call foul, which seems hypocritical considering Vanderbilt has just one Thursday-Saturday combo this season.
  3. Speaking of Kentucky, center Anthony Davisbroke the Cats’ single season blocks record on Tuesday night against Arkansas. Davis now sits with 89 blocks just 19 games into his first collegiate season. The shot blocker extraordinaire is ahead of all but 34 TEAMS in NCAA Division I, all by himself. Given the shot blocking pace of Davis and the rest of the Wildcats, Kentucky should break the NCAA team record for blocked shots in a season currently set by Connecticut at 315. Although Davis is the best interior defender the college game has seen in many years, he is not likely to break the all-time single season block record set by Navy’s David Robinson in 1986. Davis also has a developing offensive game that has improved drastically over the last couple of weeks. He has scored in double figures in his last eight games, including a 27-point performance on 10-of-12 shooting against the Razorbacks.
  4. Arkansas played its patented uptempo game Tuesday night, but it played perfectly into Kentucky’s strengths. The Wildcats shot 57.1% helped out by their up and down point guard Marquis Teague. “Unbelievable floor game,” head coach John Calipari said. “The best he’s played all year. Nothing was forced. Didn’t make any crazy plays.” Teague dished out a season-high nine assists in the victory. Because of their effectiveness in the open court, Calipari would welcome other teams to play uptempo against the Wildcats. “Obviously I would love to play fast the whole game,” Calipari said, “but you’ve got to be able to play in the half court.” The Cats scored a very effective 1.23 points per possession, and what seemed like three lobs per minute to Anthony Davis.
  5. The SEC appears to have five solid teams (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State and Alabama) in the NCAA Tournament, but Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin isn’t convinced that the bubble will burst on his Volunteers. “Like I told our guys,” Martin said, “from Florida up until now, you say [we’re] one of the 65 or 68 teams, I would say yes. But you have to put a lot of work to cover some ground. I would definitely say from the time we started league play up until now, when you pick 65 or 33, 35 [at-large] teams, I would say yes.” Martin must not be aware that the selection committee typically doesn’t allow sub .500 teams or RPIs of #180 into the Big Dance. But then again, we admire the confidence Martin has in his squad. Keep the dream alive.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 18th, 2012

  1. History is not on Ole Miss’ side on Wednesday. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury has a sizable advantage in the rivalry. Stansbury is 20-7 in his career over the Rebels, and his Bulldogs have won five straight in the series. “I’ve never thought about it and I still don’t think about it,” Stansbury said. “You guys think about it more than I do, trust me.” If Stansbury doesn’t think about it, I wonder if Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has nightmares about it? “I don’t know what goes on as it relates to our players’ heads but, for us, it’s about trying to get the bad taste of Saturday out of your mouth when you battle and battle, and you have a chance to win one on the road and you come up a little bit short,” Kennedy said. Ole Miss is desperately seeking a little offense, but it won’t come easy. In its last two games, Mississippi State held Tennessee to 58 points on 42.6% shooting and Alabama to 52 points on 45.1% from the field.
  2. The addition of Missouri and Texas A&M into the conference next year has the SEC looking at Kansas City as a possible future destination for the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. “We have a history of moving the basketball tournament,” said Larry Templeton, head of the SEC transition team. “We’ve played our tournament in Tampa. We’ve played our tournament in Memphis.” The next three years will bring three different tournament sites. 2012 is hosted by the city of New Orleans, with Nashville the destination in 2013, and Atlanta in 2014.
  3. Tennessee is looking for its first road win of the season when it travels to Athens to meet up with the Georgia Bulldogs. Vols coach Cuonzo Martin knows his team has to cut down on turnovers if it will compete in a hostile environment. “We’ve had 13, 14 and 15 (turnovers) the last three games,” Martin said. “They are really unforced turnovers. That’s an area we have to get better.” The Vols rank last in the SEC in turnover margin. Point guard Trae Golden leads the way in the miscues category with three turnovers per game.
  4. Cuonzo Martin was happy to have over 21,000 people in the seats for Tennessee’s close game with Kentucky on Saturday, but he wishes that more would have actually been Volunteers’ fans. “We see 21,000 there, but we’d like to see the 21,000-plus in orange, especially when you say you’re going up against a rival,” Martin said. “If the upper bowl is not packed (with orange), it’s one thing, but you have the lower bowl …” There was an awful lot of blue in Thompson Boling Arena, but now Martin wants to get even. “Now, I’d like to see a lot of orange in Lexington (Kentucky),” he said.
  5. Kentucky has been called for 39 charging calls this season while only drawing nine charges on the defensive end. In fact, UK point guard Marquis Teague was called for charging three times by himself in the Tennessee game on Saturday. Wildcats coach John Calipari seems to have an answer. “Either these guys — when we leave our feet — are unbelievably quick to get into position,” Calipari said of the number of charges against Kentucky “Or some of them should be blocks.” Ding. Ding. Ding. I happen to agree with what some have already written on the matter, and the matter is not unique to Kentucky. The charge circle has made the call more difficult for referees. Officials seem to focus on whether or not the collision took place within the circle, and not whether or not the collision was a charge or block.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 9th, 2012

  1. Much of Kentucky’s championship hopes depend on the progress of Marquis Teague, the freshman point guard who some think is beginning to come into his own. Against South Carolina, Teague scored 17 points and had four assists with just two turnovers. “Yeah, this probably was my best overall game so far,” Teague said. “I was just slowing it down more, looking to get my teammates involved more.” His teammates have taken notice of his improved play. “He’s started listening,” fellow freshman Anthony Davis said. “And when he starts listening, great things start to happen.” UK coach John Calipari must appreciate Teague’s play too, as the freshman tied his career-high with 36 minutes against the Gamecocks. While Teague’s play was much improved, he was coming off two games in which he struggled with four points and four turnovers against Louisville and six points on 2-7 shooting against Arkansas-Little Rock. He has hardly provided consistent play for the Wildcats at their most crucial position.
  2. Speaking of struggling this year, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones has rarely looked like the preseason SEC Player of the Year. In his first SEC game, Jones returned to form by scoring 20 points on 8-9 shooting. “That’s the Terrence Jones we know,” Calipari said. “He took that last three, which made me angry, but short of that I wanted him to get a couple of more rebounds. But I wanted him to get aggressive offensively and make baskets and free throws. …That’s who he is.” While Saturday’s game was a significant improvement for Jones, the sophomore hasn’t recorded a double-double yet this year. Last season, Jones had 13 double-doubles including hitting the mark six times by this point in the year. While Jones finally got going on the offensive end, he grabbed just three rebounds in the game. The Wildcats don’t necessarily need the power forward to score 20 every night, but they definitely need more than three rebounds from him.
  3. Florida freshman Bradley Beal struggled to open up conference play on Saturday. In his SEC debut, Beal shot 4-12 scoring just nine points. He also turned the ball over five times. “With turnovers, that I think he has to get better with that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “But he’s gotta go through it, he’s got to learn. As good and talented as he is, he’s gonna kind of have those ups and downs and he’s gotta learn and grow from it.” Despite the off night, the freshman guard is having a stellar season. Beal is averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Gators. He has failed to reach double figures in scoring in only four games this season, including the last two games.
  4. Arkansas’ “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” turned into “40 minutes of hell” for Mississippi State. Bulldogs’ coach Rick Stansbury admitted the Razorbacks style was difficult to prepare for. “Arkansas is totally different the way they play,” Stansbury said. “It’s just different. You can’t simulate it. It’s different. We didn’t do a very good job guarding it.” The Hogs forced Mississippi State into 18 turnovers on the night, which quickly became the difference in the game. Arkansas scored 23 points off those turnovers, forcing the Dogs to play a much faster pace than they were accustomed. Mississippi State will get another crack at the fast paced play of Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks in the regular season finale on March 3 in Starkville.
  5. Ole Miss continued to struggle as it opened up SEC play with an 81-55 loss against LSU. The Rebels are without their leading scorer and leading rebounder as Dundrecous Nelson was kicked off the team for a run in with the law earlier this week while leading rebounder Murphy Holloway is still recovering from a minor injury. Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy doesn’t have excuses though. “It’s easy for us to use excuses, that we lost our leading scorer and our leading rebounder,” Kennedy said. “But that doesn’t, in my mind, justify the inability to compete at an SEC level. In my mind, this team does not compete 1-10. All 10 guys got in the game. All 10 guys have to compete at an SEC level for us to have a chance.” Ole Miss is in somewhat of a free fall after starting out the year at 9-1. Since, the Rebels have lost four of their last five, and in that stretch, have scored more than 56 points in a game just once.
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