SEC M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 25th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Kentucky rose to the occasion for ESPN’s GameDay, knocking off Missouri Saturday night in overtime. The Wildcats have taken a ton of heat over the past week following assertions from John Calipari that some his players were “uncoachable” following a blowout loss to Tennessee. Two of the assumed targets of the comments came up big against the Tigers. Point guard Ryan Harrow scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, while Archie Goodwin scored all 18 of his after the break. “Oh man, I mean we fought hard,” said Goodwin. “That is ultimately what it came down to. We made a lot of mistakes, but in the end we just wanted it more than they did.” Saturday’s performance served as a huge statement from a few players who have had their effort widely questioned throughout the year.
  2. The elder statesman of this Kentucky squad had himself quite a game as well. Wright State transfer Julius Mays led the Wildcats in scoring with 24, including six game-icing free throws in overtime. Mays has done his best to seize a leadership role for Kentucky, and his efforts looked to pay dividends against Mizzou. “He’s a great leader and he’s a great big brother for me,” Goodwin said. “He’s like my best friend. He’s just always there for encouragement. Sometimes when things are not going our way, he’s always the person that pulls me aside and just tries to get my head back right.” With his more talented teammates singing his praises, “Uncle Julius” hopes his teammates will get on board for an NCAA Tournament push.
  3. Florida got the revenge it craved in Saturday’s easy win over Arkansas, but it came at a high price. The Gators lost reserve forward Michael Frazier II to a concussion after the freshman guard collided with Scottie Wilbekin chasing a loose ball. “I don’t know when he’ll be back. He was knocked out on the floor,” said Florida coach Billy Donovan. “It could be a week, it could be 10 days, it could be two weeks – I don’t know.” With Will Yeguete already sidelined, Donovan is down to only six regular rotation players and says he will turn to Braxton Ogbueze, Dillon Graham or DeVon Walker to pick up the spare minutes.
  4. Even a good night on offense rarely leads to victory for the road team at the O’Connell Center, but Arkansas’ two big shots didn’t give the Razorbacks much of a chance. BJ Young and Marshawn Powell, who led a balanced Arkansas attack in scoring in their upset of Florida in the first meeting, were held to only 10 points, with Young in particular being shut out from the field. A big night from Coty Clarke (8-of-8 from the field) kept Arkansas in the game in the first half before the Gators pulled away after the break. “It was a tale of two halves,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “We scratched and clawed and gave ourselves a chance, even with some adversity with the early fouls. In the second half, Florida really attacked the glass and we didn’t make shots.
  5. They’ve been so hot over the past few weeks, 40 minutes wasn’t enough basketball for Tennessee on Saturday. Tied at 62 after regulation in College Station, Texas A&M and the Volunteers decided to play another two halves of hoops, resulting in a fifth straight victory for the visitors. Trae Golden led the way with 32 points, with both Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae eclipsing the 20-point mark in the longest game in Tennessee history. Cuonzo Martin’s team is getting hot at exactly the right time, and an upset victory over a depleted Florida team on Tuesday would really make the “at-large” whispers that much louder in Knoxville.
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Resetting The SEC Race: A Look At The Seven “West” Teams

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 9th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC microsite contributor and an editor at Nashville Sports Hub. You can find him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

Conference play began for Alabama and Missouri last night, and soon after the rest of the SEC will fall in line. The SEC East has carried the conference banner over the first third of the NCAA basketball season, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t “West” schools that will be vying for postseason bids when March rolls around. The state of the former division has been muddled by a throng of underwhelming non-conference schedules, but it’s almost a lock that at least one of these teams will surprise their opponents en route to a NCAA Tournament berth. Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas, and Texas A&M have all gotten out to hot starts in 2012-13. Can they sustain them?

Let’s take a closer look at each program in what was once known as the SEC West:

Texas A&M – The Aggies Are Headed Into Their First Season of SEC Play, But a Weak Non-Conference Schedule May Have Masked Their Flaws.

  • The good: Texas A&M will enter the SEC with a 10-3 record thanks to head coach Billy Kennedy’s deliberately-paced play-calling. This team has used spacing, shooting, and patience to create open looks and bring inferior opponents down to their level. Senior Elston Turner Jr. has benefited the most from the Aggies’ new style of play, leading the team with 15.5 points per game thanks to a stellar performance from behind the arc.Kennedy’s preference is to grind down opponents, and it’s worked for TAMU so far. Only four opponents have cracked the 60-point barrier on the Aggies this season, and much of that success comes from a team defense that is helping to hold opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field. However, it’s a big question mark as to whether or not these trends can continue when the team’s schedule dives into more hostile waters during SEC play.
  • Elston Turner Jr. has one of the smoothest strokes in the game (AP)

    Elston Turner Jr. (31) has one of the smoothest strokes in the game (AP)

  • The bad: A&M has played a cupcake schedule so far, and its three losses have come with varying degrees of disappointment. Their only win over a team ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s top 100 came in a 55-54 squeaker over Washington State, and that has been tempered by losses to Saint Louis, Oklahoma, and Southern.They’ll have to shape up quickly if they want to stay afloat in the SEC. They’ll open with Arkansas before traveling to Kentucky and then hosting Florida in their first three games. These showdowns will give the Aggies a chance to prove themselves, but it could also give this team a big hole to climb out of just two weeks into conference play.
  • Player to watch: Elston Turner Jr. The Washington transfer has one of the smoothest shooting strokes in the game, and he’ll carry on a tradition of behind-the-arc dominance that SEC gunners John Jenkins and Rotnei Clarke have left behind in recent years. He’s become a more complete player in his second year at A&M, and he’ll be driven to make his transfer a prudent choice by leading his team to the postseason.
  • Can it last? No. The Aggies have played just two teams from power conferences, beating a mediocre Washington State team and losing by double-digits to a better but still underwhelming Oklahoma squad. They’ve proven that they’d be able to burn through the Sun Belt, but haven’t shown enough through an easy non-conference schedule to prove that they can hack it in their first year of SEC play. Billy Kennedy’s team will have some success in league games, but their current pace looks unsustainable.

Ole Miss – The Rebels Are Scoring and Have the Best Record in the SEC at 11-2, But Who Have They Played?

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SEC Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 21st, 2012

Another week of the SEC Power Rankings, and another week of Florida sitting in the top spot.

1. Florida (-): The Gators lost to Arizona on Saturday, but that’s not enough to drop them from the top spot. Saturday’s letdown was the first time this defense allowed more than 1.0 points per possessions (1.08 PPP). Part of the reason Billy Donovan’s defense is so effective is because Florida doesn’t allow easy baskets.

Florida\'s defensive summary for this season.

Florida’s defensive summary for this season (credit: hoop-math.com)

Florida is only giving up 24 percent of opposing shots at the rim (tied for 20th in the nation), forcing opponents to take more difficult attempts. Our Freeze Frame edition from Tuesday shows how quickly the Florida defense is rotating to keep players from penetrating into the lane. And then of course if they make it to the rim, Patric Young is waiting for them with outstretched arms.

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SEC M5: 12.20.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 20th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida had no problem keeping its losing streak at one as they bested Southeastern Louisiana last night, but star guard Kenny Boynton didn’t have as much luck emerging from his personal slump. After struggling against Arizona in the Gators’ biggest game of the season, the senior guard went just 1-of-7 for seven points against the Lions. It was backcourt companion Mike Rosario who took home the plaudits instead, scoring 20 points including four made three-pointers. “I think he’s conformed. He’s been more disciplined, more responsible and more accountable,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I feel like I know what I’m getting from him every day.” Both of the Gator guards are streaky players, and while Rosario is choosing a fortunate time to get hot, Boynton should retake the reins in the coming few games.
  2. The attendance problem isn’t just striking the teams at the bottom of the SEC. The conference’s premier team, Florida, is struggling to fill its seats on a game-by-game basis as well. The crowd was understandably sparse Wednesday night as students are home for winter break, but Florida’s hosted some marquee non-conference games against Wisconsin and Marquette that have failed to sell out. Donovan isn’t worried, however. “I never really get involved in that stuff at all,” Donovan said. “Here’s my thing, I think the two most important commodities people have in their life is their time and their money. And for anybody to determine what they should do with their time and their money to me would be a great injustice.” Sounds noble, but I’m guessing Donovan wouldn’t mind it if his elite basketball team got a little bit of the publicity reserved for the gridiron in Gainesville.
  3. The cupcake-heavy schedule that Kentucky has faced over the last few weeks doesn’t exactly lend itself to hard-hitting analysis, so the articles written about the Wildcats over that period have been a revolving door of reasons why the team isn’t up to par. The latest explanation is that Kentucky’s current group of players don’t have the same fear of failure that previous John Calipari teams held. The story of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and his “Breakfast Club” workout regimen keeps popping up, and this writer questions the fairness of that comparison. MKG certainly improved throughout the season, but Kentucky fans seem to forget that he was already pretty damn good when he came to Lexington. He actually got to the line (one of his premier skills) at a higher pace at the start of the season than he did at the end.
  4. When Marshawn Powell went down with a torn ACL early in the 2011-12 season, Arkansas never really recovered from the loss. The Razorbacks barely finished over .500 and didn’t appear in the postseason. Powell has made amends this season, though, returning to the court with an added skill: the ability to shoot from outside. Coach Mike Anderson is appreciative. “I think what (the three-point shooting) does, it presents problems for people.” Anderson said. “You’ve got to figure out how you want to play him. I think it helps us from the standpoint, now we can really space the floor. We don’t have to just clog the offensive lanes up, but at the same time we’ve got a guy we can get it to that can make some things happens.” Powell has more than doubled his three-point attempts per game this season (2.4), and he’s hitting them at a 50% clip. His newfound ability to play outside the paint has meshed well with BJ Young’s aggressive off-the-dribble scoring, and is one of the most important reasons that Arkansas’ offense has been so fearsome this season.
  5. Auburn won its third straight game Tuesday against Tennessee Tech, as reigning conference Freshman of the Week Jordan Price stayed red-hot from long distance. Price hit three three-pointers in an individual 12-point, 90-second outburst, capped off with a technical for taunting the Tech bench after his last make. “Bad players do what he did,” coach Tony Barbee said. “You’re hot, you’re making shots, and now you’re barking at the other team’s coach — that’s what bad players do. Good players know how good they are, and they let their game do the talking.” Price is currently sporting a streak of 11 straight made three-pointers, four away from the record set by Northwestern’s Todd Leslie in 1990.
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SEC Power Rankings: Week Four

Posted by DPerry on December 14th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Here are Week Four’s SEC Power Rankings (all statistics via TeamRankings).

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

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

  1. Florida- There’s not a lot missing from the Gators’ resume. They’ve beaten every opponent by double figures, while playing the nation’s 13th toughest schedule. As of the release of last week’s rankings, however, they hadn’t had the chance to prove their mettle in a true road game, a situation in which they struggled last season (losing their first four). After their trip to Tallahassee last week, consider that mettle proven. The Gators embarrassed rival Florida State in a 72-47 win, holding the Seminoles to only 15 first-half points. Florida’s ability to win away from the O-Dome will be crucial over the rest of the season. In addition to this Saturday’s trip to Arizona, the Gators will have road games at Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, all among the more hostile environments in the SEC.
  2. Missouri- Do I have to put a team here? There’s a massive gap between Florida and the rest of the conference, but the Tigers are the choice at #2. Missouri hasn’t been tested against quality competition since they left the Bahamas, but their performances against smaller conference foes have been far from convincing. A nasty little habit of starting slow has been their biggest problem. The Tigers trailed Southeast Missouri State by 10 at the half, and only held a three-point advantage over Tennessee State after 20 minutes. In fact, Mizzou ranks 101st nationally in first half scoring margin, at only +3.1 points. Big second half scoring outputs have saved Frank Haith’s team, but with Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini looming next week, another slow start may be too much to overcome.
  3. Kentucky- After consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, the Wildcats made history when they dropped out of the rankings from the #8 spot, receiving only 186 votes, the largest single-week drop in AP poll history. Kentucky proceeded to easily handle its next two opponents in Samford and Portland, but somehow fell even further in the next AP poll, garnering only 44 votes. I’m not claiming that the Wildcats deserve to be ranked, but why would they lose ground after two convincing victories? It appears that quite a few voters realized a week too late that they were allowed to leave Kentucky off their ballots. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 3rd, 2012

  1. Is Kentucky is a potential juggernaut just waiting for their kids to grow up or does this group have more serious flaws? The narrative is murky at best. Last week’s losses to Notre Dame and Baylor (the latter ending the nation’s longest home winning streak) made for the ugliest stretch of John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington, with questions over the Wildcats’ point guard play again playing a major role. Archie Goodwin saw most of the time at point, but he committed five turnovers and frequently looked out of control when attacking the basket. Ryan Harrow had a promising stretch toward the end of the game, providing fans with a minor positive talking point, but Calipari probably wouldn’t agree with that assessment, though. After being asked about the transfer point guard on Saturday, he said “We are happy he’s on the court. He was 1-for-9.”
  2. Last week’s biggest off-the-court news from SEC country came out of Columbia, Missouri, as senior guard Michael Dixon announced his intention to transfer. Dixon had not played this season because of a violation of team rules, the details of which had not be released, but it appears that allegations of forcible rape from two separate accusers (one in 2010) are driving the situation. Many questions remain, however, as Missouri officials aren’t eager to talk about Dixon’s departure. The circumstances surrounding the case may be drastically different, but the Dez Wells fiasco at Xavier is tough to ignore when considering Missouri’s actions. Over the summer, Wells was expelled from school for a similar accusation, although he was cleared of all criminal charges (and even earned an impassioned public defense from the local district attorney).
  3. Arkansas fans came out in droves to support their Razorbacks against Big East power Syracuse, leaving Jim Boeheim very impressed with the atmosphere in Bud Walton Arena. “This is a tough, tough place,” he told reporters. “You have to play 40 minutes. You have to play every minute. You make a couple of mistakes and they’re going to take it away from you.” BJ Young and Marshawn Powell combined for 44 points to give #6 Syracuse a scare, but a monster night off the bench from James Southerland ensured that there would be no upset in Fayetteville. The senior forward was unstoppable, scoring 35 points on a 9-13 effort from long range.
  4. Few can argue that Florida is the class of the SEC, but the battle for the position of conference cellar-dweller is a tight one, and Vanderbilt has a pretty compelling case. The Commodores have only two wins, and can point to a résumé-bolstering 17-point loss to the MAAC’s mighty Marist Red Foxes. Coach Kevin Stallings believes offensive deficiencies are to blame. “I thought the difference was their ability to generate more easy baskets than we could generate,” Stallings said after Saturday’s home loss to Villanova. “We didn’t run very crisp offense, and when we did run crisp offense, we missed quite a few open looks that we certainly could have made.” Against the Wildcats, Vanderbilt wasn’t shy about shooting from distance, putting up 26 attempts. They’ll have to make more than nine though to give themselves a chance to steal wins in conference.
  5. The 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge was tied at two apiece after the event’s opening night, but the Big East went on a tear on Friday and Saturday, finishing with a 9-3 edge. The SEC’s only victory on those two days came out of Oxford, Mississippi, as Marshall Henderson continued his blistering pace to start his Ole Miss career. The JuCo transfer has transformed the Rebel offense, providing deadly outside shooting for a team that desperately needed it. Henderson is averaging almost four made three-pointers per game, while the entire Ole Miss team averaged only 4.4 makes last season. The senior frontcourt duo of Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner were expected to be one of the league’s strongest, but Henderson’s presence diversifies the offense, which will make the Rebels much tougher to defend when conference play rolls around.
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SEC Coaches and RTC Staff Select All-SEC Teams

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 9th, 2012

The college hoops season is underway today and there were still a few preseason lists left to be voted upon. The SEC coaches selected their first and second team all-SEC squads earlier at the SEC Headquarters in Birmingham. Ten different schools were represented in the process, with Tennessee leading with three selections. Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Florida were represented with two selections apiece. The results can be found below.

Jeronne Maymon is one of three Volunteers represented on the preseason Coaches’ All-Conference squads.

First-Team All-SEC
Name, School Pos. Ht. Wt. Class Hometown
Trevor Releford, Alabama G 6-0 195 Jr. Kansas City, Mo.
B.J. Young, Arkansas G 6-3 180 So. St. Louis, Mo.
Kenny Boynton, Florida G 6-2 190 Sr. Pompano Beach, Fla.
Patric Young, Florida C 6-9 249 Jr. Jacksonville, Fla.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia G 6-5 205 So. Greenville, Ga.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky F 6-10 228 Fr. Everett, Mass.
Phil Pressey, Missouri G 5-11 175 Jr. Dallas, Texas
Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee F 6-7 260 Sr. Madison, Wis.
Second-Team All-SEC
Name, School Pos. Ht. Wt. Class Hometown
Marshawn Powell, Arkansas F 6-7 240 Jr. Newport News, Va.
Alex Poythress, Kentucky F 6-7 239 Fr. Clarksville, Tenn.
Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU F 6-9 256 So. Cleveland, Miss.
Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss F 6-9 225 Sr. Memphis, Tenn.
Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss F 6-7 240 Sr. Irmo, S.C.
Trae Golden, Tennessee G 6-1 205 Jr. Powder Springs, Ga.
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee F 6-8 270 So. Memphis, Tenn.
Elston Turner, Texas A&M G 6-5 212 Sr. Sacramento. Calif.

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Preseason SEC Power Rankings

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.

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

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

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 22nd, 2012

No surprises here: The SEC media has chosen the Kentucky Wildcats to repeat as SEC champs. John Calipari’s team, coming off the first perfect season in conference regular season play since they last accomplished the feat in the 2002-03 campaign, received 328 total votes, including 17 first place selections. Florida finished second in the voting with 310 votes (five first place votes), Missouri third (286, one) and Tennessee fourth (269, one). Mississippi State, with new head coach Rick Ray and the loss of stars Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney, and Arnett Moultrie, was picked dead last with 37 votes, over 150 votes below the Bulldogs’ preseason ranking last year. The Vanderbilt Commodores, after surprisingly winning the 2012 SEC Tournament last season, also lost nearly the same number of votes as Mississippi State because of a similarly large personnel losses. The full preseason poll is listed below.

Kentucky was picked to repeat as SEC Champs by the media on Monday

SEC Preseason Media Poll

  1. Kentucky (17)  328
  2. Florida (5)         310
  3. Missouri (1)      286
  4. Tennessee (1)   269
  5. Arkansas            226
  6. Alabama             222
  7. Ole Miss              186
  8. Georgia               149
  9. Texas A&M        122
  10. Vanderbilt         120
  11. LSU                       116
  12. Auburn               95
  13. South Carolina 54
  14. Mississippi State 37
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SEC Transition Basketball: Arkansas Razorbacks

Posted by Brian Joyce on August 21st, 2012

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

State of the Program

In year one of the homecoming of Mike Anderson, he had the Razorbacks on the brink of returning to the NCAA Tournament as they stood 16-6 on February 1 with an RPI inside the top 50. The final month doomed the squad, however as they won only two of their final 10 games. After starting 16-1 at home, they limped in with a 1-3 record in front of the home faithful, defeating only bottom-dweller South Carolina in that stretch. Inexperience and untimely injuries proved too much for the Razorbacks to overcome.

Mike Anderson is back in Fayetteville with enough talent to make the Razorbacks a contender in the SEC

The young Hogs return eight players from last season’s team including junior Marshawn Powell, who was averaging 19.5 points and 6.0 rebounds before suffering a season-ending knee injury, and second-team All-SEC sophomore guard B.J. Young, who led SEC freshmen in scoring.  The Razorbacks return 69 percent of their offense and 55 percent of their rebounding from a year ago. Returners made 125 of the 160 starts with only Marvelle Waithe (eight starts) and Michael Sanchez (27 starts) graduating. Many thought that Arkansas’ talent and new style could push the Razorbacks into the surprise team of the SEC last season. While the Hogs never made that push, the secret is out, and they won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season.

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Big 12 Weekend Games Primer

Posted by dnspewak on December 9th, 2011

GAME OF THE WEEKEND

  • Ohio State (8-0) at Kansas (6-2), Saturday 2:15 PM CT

Bill Self has gained a reputation during his long career for producing some of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, but his 2011-12 team hasn’t performed up to his expectations quite yet. “Our offense sucks,” Self said. “It’s ridiculous to watch.” That’s a harsh statement to make in public, but Self has a point. Kansas turned the ball over 22 times in a win over Long Beach State this week, although it did tally 16 assists and hung 88 on the Big West favorites. To put Self’s comments into perspective, however, consider his team’s three games against Kentucky, Georgetown and Duke. The Jayhawks shot 28 percent from three-point land in those contests, and they totaled more than 10 team assists just once. Right now, much of the problem stems from the lackluster play of point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 1.0. He turned the ball over 11 times against the Blue Devils on national television last month in the Maui Invitational title game, and his subpar efforts seem to have major implications on the way KU runs its offense. But don’t give up on the senior point guard just yet. He has a chance for redemption against a smothering Ohio State defense, and in particular, he’ll need to rise to the occassion against the feisty Aaron Craft. The matchup at point guard will to some extent determine the outcome of this game, especially since star center Jared Sullinger‘s status is in question for the Buckeyes due to back spasms. If he plays opposite of KU’s Thomas Robinson, we’ll be treated to two of the best rebounders in America on Saturday afternoon.

If Jared Sullinger Plays, KU Is In Trouble

The key individual match-up isAaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor. It doesn’t take long to recognize Craft’s impact on a basketball game. Making his mark as a distributor and defender, Craft may actually be the most publicized player in college basketball who does not average double figures in scoring. He has the ability to frustrate Taylor with his intensity and aggressiveness, but it’d be silly to write off Taylor in this match-up. Craft is a sophomore; Taylor, on the other hand, is a senior who’s never turned the ball over at this rate (4.0 TPG) at any point in his career. As long as he takes care of the ball, Taylor is a good enough player to hold his own here.

Kansas wins if… It executes better offensively. You heard Bill Self — the offense “sucks” right now. With Self’s track record, that shouldn’t last for long. If the Jayhawks share the ball better and limit turnovers, they have more than enough scoring options to hang with the Buckeyes at Allen Fieldhouse.

Ohio State wins if… Jared Sullinger plays– and dominates. With Robinson and Jeff Withey, Kansas has the interior defense to contain Sullinger… sort of. No matter who he faces, Sullinger finds a way to score by playing within the offense and making high-percentage shots. If Thad Matta slots him in the starting lineup, it won’t matter who guards him.

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE

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SEC Morning Five: 12.2.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

  1. In Arkansas’ win over Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday, guard Mardracus Wade had a career night. Wade hit six of seven shots in the first half on his way to 20 points for the game. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” head coach Mike Anderson said. “He puts the time in, so he’s having an opportunity. If you notice, the shots he’s getting he’s in rhythm. We’re making that extra pass and we’re getting him in positions where he can knock the shots down. Good players, they knock it down.” Anderson’s Razorbacks could use some offensive help as they currently rank 86th in offensive efficiency in spite of a fast-paced style of play. Leading scorer and rebounder Marshawn Powell went down with a season-ending injury earlier in the year, but Arkansas takes on Connecticut Saturday and will need to find consistent scoring before it expects to hang with a Top 10 team.
  2. LSU has found some offensive firepower in an unlikely spot. 5’11” freshman guard Anthony Hickey leads Trent Johnson’s Tigers in assists (4.0 APG) and steals (2.6 SPG), and is second on the team in points (11.6 PPG). His teammates have noticed his outstanding play thus far this year. “He’s getting everybody fired up [on the court], but he backs up that intensity when he’s diving for loose balls and pushing the ball hard up the floor,” sophomore guard Andre Stringer said. “Everything runs through him on the floor. He is our point guard and our floor general. That’s something you have to earn with us, but Anthony’s effort is something we’ve all noticed.” With three early season losses to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern and South Alabama already on its record, LSU will take all the contributions it can get from its freshmen class.
  3. Vanderbilt is concentrating on trying to avoid turnovers on Saturday against one of the best defenses in the country in Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals will likely employ a full court press to frustrate Vanderbilt’s guards. “They take your mistakes and turn them into points,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “They have a strength that’s a weakness to us.” The Commodores turned the ball over 18 times in their loss against Xavier, and Vandy is currently averaging 15 turnovers and twice this season has recorded over 20 miscues in a game.
  4. College basketball is too unpredicable night-to-night to play the comparison game. If “Team A” beats “Team B” and “Team C” beats “Team A”, then “Team C” can easily beat “Team B”, right? Well, it’s this scenario that has Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury concerned about his upcoming match with West Virginia. “The first thing you need to know about them is the team that beat us (Akron), they had them down 23 at halftime and beat them by 21 for the game,” Stansbury said. “Akron was playing without its starting point guard but, still, again, you get that team down 23 points at halftime, you’re pretty good.” This game is sure to be another tough early test for the Bulldogs who sit at #21 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
  5. Kentucky overpowered St. John’s on Thursday night to the tune of 81-59 at Rupp Arena. Freshman Anthony Davis scored 15 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and tied a school record with eight blocks. “Without him, we probably lose the game,” head coach John Calipari said. “He changed everything about the game.” Davis’ eight blocks also contributed to a school-record 18 team blocks. But it was the offense that wasn’t quite as impressive for the Cats. “We were just inept offensively,” Calipari said, as the Cats begin to look forward to Saturday’s showdown with the North Carolina Tar Heels. “If we play like tonight? I’d be a very sad coach after the game.” Kentucky hasn’t lost a home game with Calipari as coach, going 37-0 during his tenure.
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