The Ultimate Breakdown: Kentucky vs. Louisville

Posted by zhayes9 on March 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

The hysteria leading up to Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky national semifinal will be unprecedented.

The mutual loathing between legends John Calipari and Rick Pitino is only matched by the contempt between the two fan bases. Such a passionate and deep-seeded rivalry playing out on the grandest of stages is tantalizing to even the most casual observer. But once the smoke clears and the ball is tipped, those juicy storylines all become secondary, fading into the background with the hype and frenzy. Suddenly all that’s relevant is Peyton Siva’s speed, Kyle Kuric’s smooth jumper, Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the open floor.

For the lowdown on what to expect from the biggest basketball game in the history of the commonwealth, here’s a full-fledged Dr. Jack-style breakdown covering every aspect of Saturday’s opener:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist celebrating Kentucky's regional final win

Backcourt- It’s no accident that Peyton Siva’s remarkable late-season turnaround has coincided with Louisville’s spurt from a seventh place finish in the Big East to the Final Four in New Orleans. Russ Smith is an irrepressible, confident ball stopper just as prone to a mindless turnover as he to is scoring 10 points in the blink of an eye. Siva and Smith provide the engine to Louisville’s attack, while athletic two-guard Chris Smith and long-range marksman Kyle Kuric are Pitino’s steady cogs. Kentucky’s Achilles heel was long considered freshman point Marquis Teague, but he’s significantly cut down on his turnovers and can pack an unexpected scoring punch. Doron Lamb is a superior gunner to Kuric, shooting a fantastic 47% over his career from three. Look for Calipari to plug versatile swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Siva to stifle the Cardinals’ offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is a standout defender and the best collegiate player in transition since Derrick Rose. Edge: Kentucky.

Frontcourt- The progression of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng from a raw, bungling, and clumsy big man to a premier post defender and competent scoring threat in just two seasons has been nothing short of incredible. The popular crutch that freshmen are sophomores by the time March rolls around is often untrue, but it applies in the case of Chane Behanan, a gifted offensive rebounder who will be asked to contain Terrence Jones. When Jones is engaged, active and filling up the stat sheet, Kentucky is unstoppable. Anthony Davis has had an OK year: number one high school recruit, starting center for top-ranked Kentucky, national freshman of the year, likely national player of the year, and future top overall pick in the NBA Draft. Only North Carolina can come close to matching Kentucky’s weaponry down low. Edge: Kentucky.

Bench- Neither team extends very deep into their bench, yet both boast a de facto starter in Russ Smith and Darius Miller. At just 38% from two and 31% from three, Smith isn’t exactly the pillar of efficiency, but for a team that didn’t finish in the top 100 in offensive efficiency and scored less than 60 points in five of their final six conference games, Pitino will gladly accept the good with the bad (per Luke Winn, Pitino likes to say Smith “makes coffee nervous”). Any coach in America would love to have Darius Miller on their team, a steady wing defender equally adept at attacking off the dribble or firing from deep. Louisville steady defender Jared Swopshire and Kentucky pick-and-pop threat Kyle Wiltjer also see limited time off the pine. Slight Edge: Louisville.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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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, 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, 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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