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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Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the official RTC Star System.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 30th, 2011

  1. The plan going into Vanderbilt’s win over Marquette on Thursday night was to ease Festus Ezeli into action. Ezeli played limited minutes (17), but looked good scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. Despite his positive play, head coach Kevin Stallings says that Ezeli isn’t yet at 100%. “[Festus] has looked better the last few days,” Stallings said. “I would probably say he’s at about 75% and may be starting to inch above that. We’ll just keep trying to give Festus some time and see how it goes.” The play of both Ezeli and the entire Commodores team last night has again brought up the question of who this Vandy team really is. Vanderbilt hasn’t looked the part of a Top 25 team for most of the year, but lived up to its preseason hype in the win over the Golden Eagles. The Commodores’ inconsistent play and the return of Ezeli to full health remains the most intriguing storyline going into conference play in the SEC.
  2. Louisville plans to put Kentucky’s freshman point guard Marquis Teague to the test on Saturday. Although Teague had begun to play better of late, he reverted to his old ways in committing six turnovers in UK’s win over Lamar on Wednesday. Before he started talking about turkeys during the Marquette and Vanderbilt game, ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said, “Louisville will extend pressure and try to wear down Marquis Teague. They’ll try to get into Teague.” Teague, of course, thinks he knows how to handle the pressure. “The easiest thing with the press is if you pass through it, you don’t have to waste energy,” he said. “It’s when you try to dribble through it that you get tired.” Which version of Teague will show up? We will find out on Saturday if the young point guard is up to the test against what is likely the best defensive pressure the Cats will face all season long.
  3. The guys at A Sea of Blue make the case that the Kentucky and Louisville rivalry is the best in the nation. While conventional wisdom says North Carolina and Duke create the premier matchup of the college basketball season, they also meet two to three times per season. In a typical year, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils split the season series, and go forward without real bragging rights over the other fan base. But with Kentucky and Louisville, “you have 365 days, more or less, to suffer at the hands of your rivals. If this all sounds extreme, it is, and insanely exciting. And that’s why this rivalry is the best. There are no half-measures, no splits, no draws — only victory, and defeat.” And as ASoB points out, “being the loser is P-A-I-N-F-U-L, especially when you live behind enemy lines.” A lot is on the line on Saturday, and we will all benefit by witnessing a great game filled with the emotion and passion of a true rivalry.
  4. Auburn coach Tony Barbee has been pleased with the Tigers’ defensive effort , but acknowledges a lot of work needs to be done on the offensive end. “Offensively, we were anemic tonight,” Barbee said. “Hopefully, we can chalk it up to being an off night. More of a concern was we didn’t have guys make plays when they had an opportunity to make plays.” Unfortunately for Auburn, the offensive struggles are more of a season long trend than simply an off night. The Tigers are currently shooting 44.8% from the field, and just 33.8% from beyond the arc on the season. Barbee’s squad ranks #233 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is the worst in the SEC. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for Auburn fans, but the Tigers’ defense isn’t that good either, ranking 11th out of 12 teams in the SEC in adjusted defensive efficiency. Not a good sign heading into SEC play.
  5. Jarnell Stokes has reached celebrity status in Knoxville, and he hasn’t even played his first game yet. After spending the day signing autographs and talking with Volunteer fans, Stokes said, “I’m no savior, I’m a basketball player. But I’ve always been a winner, and I plan on being a piece of what Coach [Cuonzo] Martin is putting together here. The fans here, man, they’re great. Today was awesome.” The Vols could use a little extra boost to push them over the edge. All six of Tennessee’s losses this season have been by 10 points or less. Four of the losses were decided by less than five points. One little addition (or one major addition in the case of Stokes) could be the difference between a win or another close loss for Tennessee.
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Handing Out Christmas Season Awards in the SEC

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 23rd, 2011

It seems imperative that we conclude 2011 with some sort of cliched wrap-up. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without some kind of superlatives, a top 10 list or summary of the year. So, this is our SEC version. Without further ado, here are the mid-season All-SEC Rush The Court teams and awards:

First team All-SEC:

  • C Anthony Davis (Kentucky) – 11.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 4.5 BPG, 1.6 SPG
  • F Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State) – 17.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG
  • G Kenny Boynton (Florida) – 18.7 PPG, 3.0 APG, 46.6% 3FG
  • G John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) – 20.6 PPG, 43.8% 3FG
  • G Dee Bost (Mississippi State) – 18.0 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.3 SPG

Analysis: This is the who’s who of SEC performers. The numbers speak for themselves as these guys have stuffed the stat sheets all season long. Moultrie and Bost have elevated Mississippi State into the Top 25 with their solid play. Davis is the lone freshman on the list. He does a little bit of everything for Kentucky, and his impact is felt in every game. Boynton’s offensive game is much improved from last year, as he is taking better shots and looking more controlled on offense. Finally, Jenkins has been able to put up over 20 points per game without a post presence in the Commodores’ frontcourt.

Is Jenkins still the best player in the SEC?

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SEC Morning Five: 12.19.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 19th, 2011

  1. Terrence Jones worked hard in practice this week to prove doubters wrong after a four-point performance against Indiana, but Jones’ bounce back game was ruined by a dislocated finger. “It bothered him the whole game,” center Anthony Davis said. “He’s going to come out next game with even more of a vengeance to prove people wrong.” Jones is listed as day-to-day right now, but it is likely that he will miss Kentucky’s game on Tuesday with Samford. Jones has drawn the ire of some UK fans who expect more leadership and consistency from the sophomore superstar.
  2. The Florida Gators can make three-pointers from just about anywhere in the gym, but free throws have been a consistent struggle for the Gators’ shooters. The Gators were shooting 59.6% from the charity stripe going into Saturday’s matchup with Texas A&M despite being one of the best prolific offensive teams in the country. “I think it’s something we’ve got to get better at,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s something we spend time on and it’s an area of the game we’ve underachieved in right now just because we’ve got guys who are better shooters than what they’ve displayed to this point in time.” Against the Aggies, Florida went 23-30 from the free throw line for a season’s best 76.7%. The 23 makes were the most the Gators have made this season.
  3. Alabama basketball is just painful to watch. At least according to an Alabama blogger who must not watch much Auburn basketball. We don’t happen to agree (ok, we could have done without the losses to Dayton and Kansas State!), but the author hits on a point that bears mentioning again — the Crimson Tide struggles shooting from behind the arc. Until Anthony Grant’s team can find a consistent perimeter shooter, they will continue to see packed-in zones that take away the athleticism and strength of Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green inside. Surprisingly, Mitchell is the team’s best three-point shooter so far at 34% (12-35). The next on the list is Rodney Cooper, a 6’6″ freshman who has made six of 22 threes (27%). As a team, the Crimson Tide are shooting a feeble 24% on the year, a percentage that lands them at 342nd in the nation. Ok, that is pretty painful.
  4. Speaking of painful, Vanderbilt loses another game at home to a team it should have beaten. Indiana State won 61-55 against the Commodores. This loss happened at Memorial Gym, with Festus Ezeli back in the starting lineup for the ‘Dores. THAT is painful. “I think it’s just more of a mentality than anything,” Vandy guard Brad Tinsley said. “We have the talent and we have the experience to (finish games). We have almost the exact same team as last year when we finished a lot of games.” Vanderbilt has almost exactly the same team as last year, but last year’s team let leads slip away then too. The Commodores lost second half leads in five of their 11 losses in 2010-11, a reason many analysts thought Kevin Stallings’ team may have been overrated coming into this season. Vanderbilt’s issues seem to be more mental than anything else because Vandy simply has not shown a winning attitude.
  5. While Kentucky won by 25 against UT Chattanooga on Saturday night, John Calipari was not happy with the lack of physical play from his Wildcats. “I look at us right now and say, ‘OK, you know, what are we going to have to do to take this to another level,'” Calipari said. “What do we have to do to get guys to understand, let’s just be a vicious team, let’s go out and fight. We are just not that right now.”  Point guard Marquis Teague agreed with his coach saying, “we’re still going for rebounds one-handed and not diving for a few loose balls.” Kentucky has a few warm-up games before a huge clash with Louisville on New Year’s Eve. The Cardinals are one of the best defensive teams in the country and the close rivalry between the nearby schools could create a physical atmosphere. You may remember, Louisville and Kentucky got a little rough with each other two years ago. It will be interesting to see how the 2011-12 version of Kentucky responds without a physical player like Demarcus Cousins to set the tone.
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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 14th, 2011

Gerald Smith (@fakegimel) is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference. 

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • That’s Why You’re Mad: Kentucky was seeing red on Saturday as they dropped a game to Indiana. Coaches across the country (especially in the SEC) had a good look at the blueprint to upset Big Blue: Hot outside shooting, strong post play, and good interior defensive positioning to take charges on driving Wildcats. Much has been made about Terrence Jones‘ malaise and Marquis Teague‘s resurgence. Although the Wildcats have plenty of time to lick their wounds the pride of being the last undefeated SEC team was trampled by the Hoosier faithful rushing their court.
  • Desperately Seeking 3-Goggles: Another SEC power-team also had its pride damaged last week. Dayton exploited Alabama’s weakness — awful three-point shooting — to pull off a 74-62 upset. Though the Crimson Tide’s next game yielded a better result (64-52 win over Detroit), the three-point shooting woes continued (2-15 vs. Detroit, 10-58 the last four games). Coach Anthony Grant was counting on one or more of his freshmen guards — Trevor Lacey, Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph — to provide the outside shooting. None of them have risen to the challenge yet. Alabama will be particularly vulnerable to upsets from streaky-shooting teams until they find a solution to their outside shooting woes.

The Iron Has Been Unkind To Trevor Lacey's Three-point Shooting. (Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE)

  • Big: A pleasant surprise in the SEC this season has been the play of Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie. The transfer from UTEP, averaging 17.1 PPG and 11.2 RPG, is exceeding the expectations set for him. Unfortunately the 6’11” forward is battling with knee tendinitis. He has missed three games for the Bulldogs, including yesterday’s 75-68 victory over FAU. Moultrie will hopefully be ready for Mississippi State’s next series of games which include two away games, including a tilt at #6 Baylor.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.12.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 12th, 2011

  1. Kentucky played really well on Saturday considering it was without its best player playing in a hostile environment against Indiana. Ok, so technically Terrence Jones played for the Wildcats, but he performed quite a disappearing act. “These guys are not machines, guys,” John Calipari said. “They’re not computers. They have bad games. You move on. Hopefully he plays better from here on. Maybe five games from now he has another bad game. You try to win without him.” In the end, the Hoosiers were too much to handle for the Cats with Jones playing the worst game of his career. Jones was limited to 28 minutes, four points on only three shot attempts, one rebound, and six turnovers. He failed to hedge on pick-and-roll situations multiple times leaving his teammates out of position on penetration. Jones’ defensive deficiencies helped create a 10-point deficit mid-way through the second half. What was even more alarming was Jones’ attitude as he sulked his way through almost the entire second half.
  2. The sky isn’t completely falling in Lexington. There were some positives from the Indiana loss for the young Wildcats, mainly the emergence of Marquis Teague in the second half. Teague played about as badly as I have seen a point guard play in the first half. He missed several open layups, he turned the ball over, and he failed once again to lead his team. But the second half was a different story. During the second 20 minutes, Teague was 6-6 for 15 points and one assist in 16 solid minutes. Anyone can see that Teague’s development at point guard is key to Kentucky’s play this season.
  3. Florida coach Billy Donovan had a heart-to-heart with his starting guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton regarding ill-advised shot selection following a combined 5-27 shooting night against Arizona. Walker and Boynton received the message loud and clear as both responded with improved play on Friday night against Rider. “I think sometimes those two guys get misconstrued of what they are about,” Donovan said. “They want to win and they have a strong desire to win. I do think that’s what makes them both great players is there is a fearlessness there of wanting to go out there and do it.” Boynton finished with a season-high 26 points and Walker added 12 points and four assists. Florida’s guard play has been both a strength and a weakness at times this year. The Gators have the talent to be a team that could win the SEC, but their guards can be overly selfish and can rely too heavily on outside shooting.
  4. Andy Kennedy‘s Mississippi Rebels have been a surprise so far this season at 8-1 overall, but the Rebels still have to work on their offensive efficiency. Ole Miss is shooting 27% from three-point range and 59% from the free throw line. “We’ve really struggled,” Kennedy said about Ole Miss’ offensive struggles. The Rebels currently average 69.3 points per game which is 153rd in the country and an adjusted offensive efficiency of 99.7 for 171st in the country. 5’11” guard Dundrecous Nelson takes 31.4% of the Rebels shots, but he has an effective field goal percentage of just 43%. Look for Kennedy to work forward Murphy Holloway more into the Rebels offense as his efficiency is much higher than the remainder of his teammates, yet he is only averaging just over 11 points per game.
  5. Mississippi State enjoyed a 106-68 blowout win over Troy on Saturday. Despite their usual reliance on the inside game, the Bulldogs tied a school record with 16 three-pointers. Forward Arnett Moultrie still did plenty to establish himself on the low block with 20 points and 12 rebounds, but it was the outside shooters who helped MSU run away with this one. Senior Dee Bost was 7 for 13 from beyond the arc on his way to 28 points. Even Renardo Sidney got in on the action with a three of his own, his first of the season, mid-way through the first half. The 51.6% shooting clip was the first time Mississippi State has shot over 50% from three-point range this year. The Bulldogs are now 9-1 on the season. Not coincidentally, in their lone loss this year against Akron, the Dogs shot 2 of 13 (15.4%) from three.
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