SEC M5: 01.24.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 24th, 2014

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  1. This isn’t the time or place, and I’m not the writer, to rehash the one-and-done debate. But Alex Poythress’ recent string of good games shows that development is more than a buzzword, and patience can be rewarding. The sophomore essentially separated the Wildcats from Texas A&M in the second half of what was a sloppy game. The Louisville Courier Journal‘s Kyle Tucker writes, “In both the way he talks and the way he’s suddenly playing, it seems Poythress is just now figuring out exactly what his 6-foot-8, 240-pound body can do. While he hasn’t started a single game this season — after starting 31 in a somewhat disappointing freshman year — Poythress has become the Cats’ go-to energy source lately.” There are a lot of factors involved (playing time, for example) and it’s not that simple, but Archie Goodwin has played 20 total minutes over the last two weeks for the Phoenix Suns, while Poythress has emerged at Kentucky. Who knows if Goodwin would’ve been better off staying at Kentucky; what is clear is that Poythress’ decision to stay and develop might have been right for him.
  2. The usually-bland Mike Anderson had strong words to say after Arkansas‘ not-so-surprising road loss to Tennessee. “McRae played well, but the MVP was the flagrant foul call,” he said after the game, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel. “You get in two or three minutes and that’s one that should play on. I thought it just changed the whole dynamic of how the game was going.” The flagrant foul Anderson is referring to was called on Kikko Haydar’s wrap up of Jeronne Maymon with 2:52 left and the Razorbacks up by eight. NBCSports.com‘s Rob Dauster has a good screen shot of the foul, and thinks the refs got it right, and I’m inclined to agree. Anytime you blatantly do not “play the ball” you open yourself up to flagrant calls. Haydar is considerably smaller then Maymon and was contesting from behind leaving little chance his challenge could be seen as “playing the ball.” The senior has to be more aware of the risk involved in wrapping someone up, especially late in such an important game.
  3. Here’s an alarming stat for Missouri fans from the Kansas City Star‘s Tod Palmer: no Tiger other than the Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown, or Earnest Ross has reached double figures since Jonathan Williams scored 10 points against North Carolina state on December 28. Missouri’s uber-reliance on their starting back court for offense came to a head against LSU, where the three players accounted for 88.7 percent of the Tigers points (another stat from Palmer). “We’ll have to figure that out in practice,” Clarkson said. “We’ll be all right. We’ll go back to the drawing board and fix some things.” The problem is Missouri just doesn’t currently have the pieces to complement those three guards offensively. Ryan Rosburg has improved since his freshman season, but is nothing more than a “garbage man-type” big guy right now. Torren Jones and Keanau Post are raw offensively, and Wes Clark can’t find his outside shot. The key is Williams, who has shown strong offensive moves when going to his left, and was assertive last Saturday against Alabama in the second half. Consistency, however, is a lot to ask from a freshman.
  4. It wouldn’t be a proper week on this microsite without Luke Winn’s power rankings making an appearance. He has Florida #5 in his latest edition, and writes the following about Casey Prather‘s return from injury against Auburn. “That Prather has shot 64.2 percent from inside the arc this season is remarkable, since he’s doing plenty of his work as a slasher and making tough finishes around the rim, rather than simply dunking drop-off passes from his guards.” It’s hard to argue Prather’s meteoric rise is an anomaly anymore since it’s the end of January and he’s still scoring in bunches. And it shouldn’t fade anytime soon. Even if he is making difficult shots, his offensive game has been predicated on generally-more-reliable shots at the rim (60.3 percent of his shots have been taken at the rim).
  5. Florida beat Alabama last night in a game that followed a familiar script for both teams. The Tide battled hard but came out on the losing end as Florida won its tenth straight game. Perhaps more interesting is the Jacob Kurtz story, which has been there all year but floated largely under-the-radar. Kurtz is a former team manager, and discussed his previous team contributions with the Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway. “I did laundry, water bottles, wiped the floor — all that. Then they had walk-on tryouts and now we’re here,” Kurtz said. The student manager component is obviously what makes this story eye-catching. Kurtz clearly has game: he’s averaging 12.1 minutes per game on a top five team with legitimate national championship aspirations. Yet he swallowed his pride and did what was necessary to get in with the Florida program. That kind of dedication is impressive.
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Arkansas Rejuvenates Its Program With Buzzer-Beating Dunk and Win

Posted by Eli Linton on January 15th, 2014

Arkansas could not have asked for a more timely victory than the one it got in front of a national audience on Tuesday night. The Razorbacks took a top-15 opponent to overtime for a second game in a row, this time earning a win over Kentucky thanks to the instant-wow rebound and face-melting dunk by Michael Qualls as time expired. The win has put Arkansas squarely on the bubble, and for the time being at the very least, gets the Razorbacks into the conversation for an eventual at-large bid.

The Razorbacks had plenty to celebrate about Tuesday evening. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The Razorbacks had plenty to celebrate about Tuesday evening. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

It’s been a year since we last visited Bud Walton Arena to take in a Razorback game. Then it was for Arkansas’ loss to Michael Carter-Williams and the Syracuse Orange. Despite the loss a season ago, you could already see the Razorbacks’ promise under new head coach Mike Anderson, and since then they have taken huge strides toward once again becoming a premier SEC program. Watching Arkansas hang tough against Florida last week, you knew they were getting close, and needed just one big win to earn some respect and possibly emerge as a major conference threat. They got it in a big way on Tuesday, thanks in large part to their defensive play and veteran leadership. A team that has experienced its share of hard times and disappointment is now using that to fuel its way to what they hope is a little bit of March glory. “The way the team was celebrating in the locker room, you could tell we needed it,” said Qualls. “Hopefully that will give us a boost on through the next game.”

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My 2014 SEC New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 4th, 2014

As 2013 was coming to a close, my wife and I made the decision to allow our nine-year-old son to stay up and participate in the annual tradition of Ryan Seacrest counting down until midnight as Miley Cyrus stuck her tongue out. Well, we could have done without Ryan Seacrest, but we brought in 2014 with a toast of sparkling cider, a riveting game of Monopoly, and a conversation about New Year’s resolutions. I won the game of Monopoly in decidedly dominating fashion, as my wife eloquently explained the meaning and purpose of resolutions. After taking it all in, our son declared that he would like to save his weekly allowance and donate it each month to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, better known as the ASPCA. I was too busy ruthlessly and strategically acquiring properties and constructing monstrosities of hotels to truly appreciate the sacrifice my son had just made.

My son made a resolution to give his allowance to the ASPCA to save dogs like this one. (Photo courtesy of the ASPCA website)

My son made a resolution to give his allowance to the ASPCA to save dogs like this one (Credit: ASPCA)

Now that I have had a few days to reflect, I came to two conclusions. First, I’m amazed at the miracle that occurred. For those of you with kids you know that convincing your child to give you one lone and measly M&M from an entire wealth of stockpiled chocolates from their rich and bountiful Christmas stocking can be a chore, let alone having them complete a thoroughly selfless action like donating money that could be used for toys and video games to save animals from abuse. In all seriousness, I am genuinely thankful, proud, and inspired by the commitment he made. And second, I also realized I was too wrapped up in winning a completely meaningful and rewarding board game to make resolutions for myself, so I am going back a couple of days later to make some 2014 resolutions of my own. Here goes…

1. I resolve… to start believing in LSU as the SEC’s third best team. There’s Missouri. There’s Tennessee. Even Arkansas can make a case. But I think LSU will be the surprise team in the conference once the chips fall where they may. With a win over Rhode Island on Saturday, the Tigers can enter conference play at 10-2 with only road or neutral court losses to UMass and Memphis. Coach Johnny Jones currently lays claim to Ken Pomeroy’s second-ranked defense in the Southeastern Conference and I think that gives his team the identity it needs to succeed. If you need further proof, look at the Tigers’ interior defense trends over the last five years and you will see that Jones has this team looking very different from the past.

LSU's interior defense is significantly improved, and among the best in the country.

LSU’s interior defense is significantly improved, and among the best in the country.

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SEC M5: 12.30.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on December 30th, 2013

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  1. Kentucky‘s starting trio of guards closed out the Wildcats win against Louisville, showing why they were such highly-regarded recruits. It has been a largely inconsistent first two months for the Harrison twins and James Young, with some good moments and some bad. But with Julius Randle out of the game and Louisville taking the lead in the second half, the trio took over. CBSSports‘s Jeff Borzello writes, “The shooting numbers won’t look great (16 for 45 from the field, 3 for 12 from 3, 11 for 21 on free throws), but one has to look past that in order to see the impact the Harrison-Harrison-Young trio made in the final 20 minutes. Those three scored 25 of the Wildcats’ 30 second-half points — including 14 points during a game-changing 15-4 run after Jones’ three-point play.” This collective performance comes just weeks after the Wildcats attitude and “togetherness” was questioned. It’s thus encouraging for John Calipari and Big Blue Nation that it was in a close rivalry game with Randle on the bench that the Widlcat guards took over. If they can show that sort of resolve in a situation like that, there’s no reason they can’t show it in March too.
  2. True road wins were hard to come by for Missouri last season, as the Tigers only picked up two of them. Frank Haith is already halfway to that total this season after Missouri’s win at North Carolina State on Saturday night. Most impressive was that the Tigers executed (for the most part) down the stretch and won a close game. They were not able to do this in a similar situation against Illinois the week before. “Our guys showed great character and great toughness after getting down 10 in both halves,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “Everything wasn’t pretty, but I thought we were gritty and we made big plays.” This isn’t the first time the Tigers have shown resilience this season, as they fought back from several big runs and ten plus point deficits to beat UCLA. It’s definitely been an overall positive non-conference season for Missouri.
  3. Anthony Hickey moved to 11th all-time on LSU’s assists list in the Tigers win against McNeese State last Saturday. The guy he passed was the one giving him directions from the sideline, Johnny Jones. “I’m not exactly sure where I was on the list, but he better get a lot better because I was probably down the list,” Jones said with a proud smile. “Anthony has done a tremendous job for us leading our basketball team.” Hickey has indeed quietly had a solid season alongside the great starts from Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey. Hickey has kept his assist numbers consistent (3.5 per game, 21.3% assist percentage) while turning the ball over less than he did last season (1 per game this season v. 1.8 last season). He’s also doing a good spacing the floor for LSU’s bigs by hitting a career best 39% from three.
  4. Mike Anderson must be having fun this season. Not only is Arkansas 10-2, but he has the Razorbacks playing fast (32nd in the country with 75.2 possessions per game) and is using nearly every able body on his bench. Anderson played 12 players at least 12 minutes in the Razorbacks’ win against High Point last Saturday. The “40 Minutes of Hell” system presents a number of interesting angles. On one hand, players that go to Arkansas will play fast and often get playing time early in their career. But on the other hand, that playing time may be limited, and by nature will generally be less than it would be elsewhere. Sophomore guard Michael Qualls is having a break out season, but is only playing 25 minutes a game. That’s still a significant chunk, but should he be playing more? Or are his solid numbers a product of not being over-exposed? Again, there are a lot of interesting aspects to Anderson’s system.
  5. There was a moment late in Alabama’s loss to UCLA that it appeared Trevor Releford (34 points) was about to will the Tide to a win. He sunk a three-pointer to pull Alabama within two, then stole the ball and tied the game with a layup. But the Tide wouldn’t score again and lost yet another close game to a good team. Anthony Grant’s team sits at 5-7 (the first time that Grant has been two games under .500 at Alabama) and has to be considered the biggest disappointment in the SEC. Hard-fought losses to Oklahoma, Duke, Drexel, Wichita State, and now UCLA are commendable, but nothing more than losses in the end. Given their talent and Releford’s ability to take over, the Tide should threaten in games against the conference’s upper tier. But it doesn’t appear they will threaten for a NCAA Tournament invite after how the non-conference season has unfolded.
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SEC M5: 12.20.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on December 20th, 2013

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  1. Tennessee stubbed its toe against North Carolina State at home on Wednesday, and it will now need a spectacular conference record to get into the NCAA Tournament this season. Rocky Top Talk‘s Will Shelton points out that the SEC will likely offer few opportunities for signature wins, putting the Volunteers in an all too familiar tough early spot for head coach Cuonzo Martin. The last two years it has taken frantic finishes from the Vols to generate NCAA consideration, but this hasn’t led to anything substantive for Tennessee’s postseason. Shelton writes, “those 8-1 runs were indeed special during every second of them, right up until the moment we didn’t hear our name called because we screwed it up just bad enough beforehand to miss out.” The Vols can pull themselves out of their 6-4 hole, of course, but there’s simply no room to drop another winnable game at home. There are wins to be had in the soft underbelly of the SEC but at this point it will take a lot of wins to avoid another disappointing Selection Sunday in Knoxville. The shame is that Tennessee’s schedule hasn’t been brutal. Xavier looks like a solid team, but is only #57 in Kenpom‘s ratings; outside of Wichita State, the Vols shouldn’t have run into the problems that they have.
  2. For what seems like the first time this season, Auburn is in the SEC M5 with some positive news. The Tigers picked up their biggest win of the season over Clemson, beating the (other) Tigers 66-64 last night. The picture isn’t yet clear on Clemson this season, but they stood at 8-2 before the game with reasonable losses against UMass and at Arkansas. Auburn was outclassed against Iowa State and Illinois, so getting a win against another power conference team should be a confidence booster for Tony Barbee’s squad. Chris Denson again led the Tigers in scoring and only committed one turnover despite playing 33 minutes and constantly handling the ball. Right now he’s in serious contention for an all-SEC spot and he might in fact be the most improved player in the conference. A lot of it has to do with the loss of Frankie Sullivan, but Denson’s scoring average is up nearly nine points per game along with his other averages as well.
  3. Mike Anderson’s pair of highly-touted freshmen forwards lived up to the hype last night, and that could be the key for better times away from Fayetteville this year for the Razorbacks. It was a night of highs for Moses Kingsley in a win against Tennessee-Martin, as he played the most minutes (20), scored the most points (12), and grabbed the most rebounds (12) of his young career. Bobby Portis also continued his steady improvement, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds of his own. The development of these big men is important not only because they’re talented, but also because Anderson’s teams have historically had rebounding issues. If these two can help reverse that trend, Arkansas could actually get enough wins away from Bud Walton Arena to truly be in the NCAA tournament discussion later this winter.
  4. Mississippi State conquered the remnants of Dunk City last night, beating Florida Gulf Coast 66-53 at home. The win runs the Bulldogs’ record to 8-2, which has reached a level that merits some attention. Mississippi State is still probably a lower-third SEC team when it’s all said and done, but through 10 games last year, Rick Ray’s team stood at 4-6 (albeit with a much tougher schedule). Even if the Bulldogs own no notable wins and barely hung on against a couple of low-major teams, that’s still a drastically different record. Ray needs to build momentum for this program and piling up wins no matter how it’s done or who it’s against is important. This is especially so because the major contributors will all be back next year and, in some cases, beyond: I.J. Ready is a freshman; Craig Sword, Fred Thomas and Gavin Ware are sophomores; Roquez Johnson is a junior.
  5. This was a disastrous week for South Carolina, and that might be sugarcoating it. The Gamecocks fell to Manhattan on Sunday then followed that up with a loss to 6-5 USC Upstate last night. Both of these losses happened at home. To be fair, USC Upstate has beaten Virginia Tech (so Carolina is not its first power conference victim), but you can only make so many excuses for a loss like this. The Gamecocks have a long ways to go, and maybe this isn’t surprising given the program Frank Martin inherited. Michael Carrera was suspended for the game because of an “altercation” following the Manhattan loss, and although it’s good to see passion in players, Carrera didn’t help his team by sitting at home last night. The Carolina guards outside of Sindarius Thornwell didn’t help much either. Brenton Williams, Bruce Ellington and Tyrone Johnson went a combined 8-of-28 from the field.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.02.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 2nd, 2013

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  1. Out of all the preseason preview publications out there, the highest praise rained upon an incoming transfer from Moberly Area Community College was “brings scoring potential.” That was via Athlon Sports, and boy has junior guard Mike Anderson showed some scoring potential this season for Washington. He led the Huskies to a 92-89 double overtime win Saturday against Long Beach State, scoring 19 points and grabbing a ridiculous 16 rebounds in the victory. Head coach Lorenzo Romar has not run out of good things to say about the junior college transfer, telling reporters that while he expected him to be a jack-of-all-trades type of player, this goes above and beyond that description. Anderson is playing out of position and is excelling at it, adding a nice complement in the Huskies’ three-guard lineup to C.J. Wilcox and Nigel Williams-Goss. The Huskies will play San Diego State on the road Sunday and need a win to stay above the .500 mark.
  2. Feast Week came to a close yesterday, and Washington State went cold down the stretch in Lake Buena Vista to fall to St. Joseph’s, 72-67. The Cougars led 65-63 with three-plus minutes remaining, but a 9-2 Hawks’ run to cap the game sent Ken Bone’s team home with a 1-2 record in the Old Spice Classic. “We didn’t execute as well as we needed to win the game,” said Bone. Second half execution has been a recurring problem for the Cougs, something he’ll need to figure out if he wants to stick around much longer in Pullman.
  3. While Stanford has faced some solid opponents thus far in the 2013-14 campaign, the Cardinal played their first high-profile, “nationally relevant” games during Feast Week at the Legends Classic. Golden Gate Sports breaks down what we learned about Stanford in its two regional round wins and 1-1 championship round record. As the piece points out, the Pittsburgh game wasn’t a bad loss because of the quality of the opponent, but rather because it turned out to be a blowout and the Cardinal were never really in the game. Stanford will get a chance to prove it can play with quality competition outside of the Pac-12 when it meets Connecticut and Michigan in back-to-back games away from home later this month. Meanwhile in Palo Alto, Johnny Dawkins’ seat gets warmer.
  4. Former USC coach and current head man at UTEP, Tim Floyd, says the verbal feuding between himself and current Trojans’ coach Andy Enfield, is over. The bad-mouthing began in April when Floyd thought Enfield was tampering with the recruitment of guard Isaac Hamilton, who was originally supposed to be a Miner (eventually landing at UCLA). The altercations came to a head earlier this week with both teams playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, Bahamas, with the respective coaching staffs exchanging heated words following the publication of this feature two weeks ago.
  5. One of the quietest 7-0 records in the country belongs to Dana Altman and Oregon. Ever since the Ducks topped Georgetown on opening night, they have flown under the radar with a soft schedule and without the play-making abilities of starting sophomore point guard Dominic Artis, who was suspended after it was discovered he had been selling his team-issued shoes. Since that first week, the Ducks have used fast starts in most of their contests to jump ahead of their lesser opponents. They did just that again on Sunday night, taking an early 36-18 advantage against Cal Poly before rolling to a 21-point victory. Things get considerably tougher for Oregon now, though, as it faces Mississippi, Illinois, UC Irvine, and BYU in its next four games, the first two of which will be played away from the friendly confines of Matthew Knight Arena.
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Early Returns: Arkansas Razorbacks

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 25th, 2013

Arkansas leaves the comfort of Bud Walton Arena and heads to Maui this week for a stretch of games that will define its non-conference season. The road hasn’t been kind to the Razorbacks under Mike Anderson, so getting some neutral site wins would be a nice confidence booster. Reaching potential later round games with teams like Syracuse, Gonzaga, and/or Baylor is also important because the rest of Arkansas’ non-conference schedule is devoid of quality opponents. They also won’t play another game away from Bud Walton Arena until their SEC season begins in College Station on January 8 against Texas A&M.

No surprise: Mike Anderson's Razorbacks are turning opponents over at a high rate. (AP)

No surprise: Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks are turning opponents over at a high rate. (AP)

Here’s a look at what the Razorbacks have shown in their first three games:

Wins: (plus KenPom rating) Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (#329), Louisiana-Lafayette (#170), SMU (#67)

The Good: Turning the opponent over and defending the three. It’s not a big surprise when it comes to forcing turnovers because that is what Anderson’s teams do. The Razorbacks have forced 61 turnovers in only three games, and currently hold a 19-turnover advantage over their opponents in that area. They are also doing a good job pressuring opposing three-point shooters, allowing a meager 28 percent from beyond the arc. Contrast that with the 41 percent Arkansas has shot from three and you’ve got a recipe for success. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is It Time For Washington to Embrace a Four-Guard Lineup?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 22nd, 2013

Things have not started well for Washington. After being on the outside looking in the last two seasons come NCAA Tournament time, there was quite a bit of optimism around the program, what with a McDonald’s All-American coming in at point guard, a big-time scorer on the wing returning for his senior season, and a whole host of big men up front to interchange. Now here we are, a couple weeks into the year and the Huskies already have a couple of losses, including an 18-point blowout last night against Indiana, as well as some injury issues along the frontcourt. Right now this team doesn’t look like a squad anywhere near the top of the Pac-12.

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Short A Couple of Frontcourt Players And With Shaky Perimeter Defense, Lorenzo Romar And Washington Are Off To A Slow Start (Pac-12)

Certainly the injuries are part of the issue. Veteran forward Desmond Simmons is out until Christmas shopping is well underway following a knee surgery, while versatile sophomore big man Jernard Jarreau is out for the year after tearing his ACL two minutes into the season. After those setbacks, Lorenzo Romar was left with just three options up front: senior center Perris Blackwell, junior forward Shawn Kemp, Jr., and sophomore center Gilles Dierickx. Blackwell, a transfer from San Francisco, is a good, skilled post man, but at the end of the day he’s an earthbound 6’8” center. Kemp is nice in theory, but his production has never begun to approach the hype generated by his name. And Dierickx? This isn’t a guy meant to be on the court at this point in his career in big-time college basketball, as his offense lags significantly behind his defense. Thursday night against Indiana, the weaknesses of those three were made abundantly clear. Kemp fouled out in nine minutes, Blackwell had a double-double but was regularly abused by the more athletic Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh, and the team as a whole grabbed a woeful 41.2 percent of their opponent’s missed shots. And despite seven blocked shots, there isn’t a great rim protector on this team.

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SEC M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 14th, 2013

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  1. While you were watching the action at the United Center, Jordan Clarkson had a giant game for Missouri against Southern Illinois, scoring an efficient 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting and handing out five assists. What must be refreshing for Missouri fans is that he didn’t commit a turnover despite playing all 40 minutes and initiating the offense most of the game. Phil Pressey did a lot of great things for Missouri last year, but he had the second most turnovers (120) in the SECand too many of these came in crucial late-game situations. Clarkson has had three turnovers in 63 minutes this season and Wes Clark has just one in 38 minutes. These numbers won’t hold up over the course of an entire season, but it’s an encouraging start for a team that had problems coughing the ball up at the point guard position a season ago.
  2. Florida’s loss to Wisconsin Tuesday isn’t one the Gators should hang their heads over, but given how the game began it feels like a missed opportunity. The Gators had a 16-4 lead with under 12 minutes to go in the first half, but as the linked article points out, Kasey Hill‘s second foul and removal from the game led to a stagnant Florida offense. After getting punched back by Wisconsin and falling behind 47-36, the Gators were able to recover and make the game come down to the final minute. But like Alabama against Oklahoma last Friday, Florida wasted a big lead against a quality non-conference opponent. Scottie Wilbekin’s suspension makes the loss all the more frustrating because with another point guard the Florida offense will be less prone to stagnation due to foul trouble.
  3. ESPN‘s Eamonn Brennan wrote about Julius Randle and Kentucky’s cold start against Michigan State saying, “the Spartans forced five steals in the first five minutes, and opened a 10-0 run on the easy (and sometimes spectacular) baskets that ensued. Kentucky’s offense stood stagnant. Randle, UK’s undisputed star, was frustrated by both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. Randle had 27 touches in the first 6:30, according to STATS LLC, and exactly zero points from them.” This statistic obviously has to be considered in light of Randle’s eventual 27 points in the game. His physical talent is undeniable and has been raved about ad nauseam on all corners of the internet over the last 36 hours, but the mindset he showed Tuesday night was also impressive. He was flustered to begin the game, continually receiving the ball far from the basket and turning it over multiple times. Despite all of this, Randle recovered to not only have a good game, but a great game. This sort of competitiveness and confidence paired with elite abilities is why he’ll be such a high pick in next year’s NBA draft. It should also carry Kentucky far into the NCAA Tournament next spring.
  4. Rocky Top Talk points out that Tennessee’s inability to get to line against Xavier, and the team’s inability to do anything productive when it got there, was an especially frustrating part of the Volunteers’ season opening loss. Tennessee took only 19 attempts, and shot a paltry 38 percent while there (7-of-19). Jarnell Stokes was particularly disappointing as he didn’t get to the foul line at all. Even though he struggled with foul trouble (eventually fouling out) the Preseason Wooden Award nominee still played 20 minutes and should have been able to get to the line more often. With offensive low post talent and power like Stokes and Jeronne Maymon inside, the Volunteers need to use other teams’ scrambling to leverage the new hand-checking rules to their advantage. Whether they have the ability to cash in on extra opportunities, however, remains to be seen.
  5. Arkansas announced Tuesday that it’ll break ground in December on a basketball-exclusive practice facility that is scheduled to open in 2015. Interestingly, the Razorbacks are the only team in the SEC without a dedicated basketball practice facility, despite one of the biggest college basketball arenas in the country and arguably the second-most enthusiastic SEC basketball fan base. Mike Anderson was promised the new facility during his negotiations with Arkansas in 2011. The new building could be a potent recruiting tool for him, but success on the court is the best recruiting tool. Given the middling results in his first two years on the job, it’ll be interesting to see if he’s still the coach when the first Razorback practice takes place in the new facility in 2015.
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Jarreau Injury Exposes Shallowness of Washington Frontcourt

Posted by Kellen Carpenter (@kellenlc) on November 11th, 2013

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday night’s Washington vs. Seattle game. 

The Washington Huskies’ season did not start auspiciously: Perris Blackwell, the intended starting center and star of their exhibition game (21 points and nine rebounds) was held out for the opener against Seattle University due to lingering concussion symptoms. Desmond Simmons, another potential frontcourt starter, had already been shelved earlier due to a knee surgery. So, when forward Jernard Jarreau landed on the floor with a sickening thud less than two minutes into Sunday night’s game, it must have felt like more than bad luck for head coach Lorenzo Romar.

Jernard Jarreau

Jernard Jarreau’s Condition Was Unknown at the Time of this Writing

Jarreau was one of the stars of Washington’s exhibition against Central Washington, scoring 17 points and pulling down nine rebounds. So when a potential highlight fast break bucket was interrupted by an Isiah Umipig flagrant foul that sent Jarreau to the floor for several minutes before the training staff could help him up and to the locker room, Romar had to refashion a plan of attack that didn’t involve his three primary frontcourt rotation players. He just barely pulled it off. Midway through the first half, it looked like Seattle was ready to capitalize on the misfortune. The Huskies were ineffective on both ends and Seattle seized the lead. Umipig’s quickness was carving the Huskies to pieces on his way to leading all scorers with 15 points at the half. Eventually Washington’s depth was too much for the overmatched Redhawks, and indeed, the short-handedness of the Huskies gave a couple new faces a chance to shine.

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Pac-12 M5: Veteran’s Day Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 11th, 2013

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  1. Washington knocked off a game Seattle squad on Sunday night in its season opener, but the win may turn out to be something of a Pyrrhic victory as sophomore forward Jernard Jarreau left with a knee injury just two minutes into the season. As of this writing, there is no news on the severity of the injury, but Jarreau is expected to undergo an MRI today. With senior center Perris Blackwell already out after suffering a concussion in their exhibition game last Wednesday, and with junior Desmond Simmons out for up to two months following knee surgery, the Huskies were forced to even turn to sophomore center Gilles Dierickx (sure, just when I figured out how to spell Krystkowiak without thinking twice, you break out this name on me) for frontcourt depth. But, it was mostly newcomer wings like 6’5” JuCo transfer Mike Anderson and 6’4” freshman Darin Johnson who helped the Huskies compete on the glass, as they grabbed 15 rebounds between them.
  2. While the Huskies evaded a potential upset on Sunday night despite being shorthanded, Oregon State wasn’t so lucky. Playing without suspended forwards Devon Collier and Eric Moreland, the Beavers fell to Coppin State despite a career-high 36 points from senior guard Roberto Nelson. Given that the MEAC, Coppin State’s conference, is a mere 1-89 against power conference teams in the last two seasons, this is not a good sign for head coach Craig Robinson in his quest to keep his job. Luckily, Collier will be back in the next game, but Moreland won’t be back until conference play kicks off. Coppin State comes out of a brief weekend as an honorary member of the Pac-12 with a 1-1 record, after California handled them on Friday night.
  3. Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins got excellent news on Friday afternoon when 6’7” 2014 recruit Reid Travis committed to the Cardinal early in the day. He’s a bit undersized for a frontcourt prospect, but he can score in the post and hit the face-up jumper. He’s presently the highlight of a three-man Stanford recruiting class that consists entirely of players ranked in the top 100 in ESPN’s 2014 rankings. Now, all Dawkins needs to do is get his team into the NCAA Tournament in order to earn the right to coach those guys next season; if his team fails to make the Dance this season, expectations are that this will be his last season on The Farm. The Cardinal got off to a sketchy start on Friday night, needing to hold off a pesky Bucknell team on the way to a four-point win, but will have a chance  to earn a solid non-conference win tonight at home against BYU.
  4. Aaron Gordon officially began his career at Arizona on Friday night, and we’ll have some thoughts about his and the Wildcats’ performance later today. But, in the meantime, Anthony Gimino of the Tucson Citizen has a timeline of Gordon’s first game with the Wildcats. While he did plenty of things very well, let me just give you a hint that the form on his shot causes me quite a bit of distress.
  5. Lastly, while there weren’t a ton of blowouts on behalf of Pac-12 teams this weekend, Arizona State did crush its first bit of competition, as they handed UMBC a 35-point defeat on Friday night. Jahii Carson led the way with 19 points and five boards, but the highlight was the fact that everybody in the Sun Devil starting lineup got into double figures, while the bench added an additional 25 points. We’ll see how much this remains a theme as the season goes on, but the Sun Devils drew 30 foul calls from their opponent, getting to the line for 44 free throw attempts. With a guy like Carson, nobody really expects to be able to guard him at all, but with fouls actually being called now, his offensive effectiveness could skyrocket.
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Welcome to the Show: Identifying the Impact Freshman for Each Team in the SEC “West”

Posted by Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) on October 29th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor and Managing Editor of Vanderbilt’s SB Nation site Anchor of Gold.

After suffering through one of the worst overall seasons in conference history, the Southeastern Conference is ready to rebound behind a strong group of freshman newcomers. SEC teams constituted six of ESPN’s Top 25 recruiting classes for 2013, and that includes Arkansas and LSU, two “West” programs that are looking to regain past glory after a disappointing start to this decade. Four and five-star big men like Jarrell Martin, Bobby Portis, Jordan Mickey and Moses Kingsley will join a league that seems to be shifting away from the small-ball lineups that dominated most of the conference’s rosters in 2012-13.

Mike Anderson now has an intriguing young duo to work with. (AP)

Mike Anderson now has an intriguing young duo to work with. (AP)

Last week, we took a look at the incoming players who could lift their squads to new heights in the former SEC “East.” Today, we’ll take a look at the new guys who will be cutting their teeth on the other side of the conference. Here are the true freshmen – one per team – who are slated to have a major impact for their new teams this winter.

Alabama: Jimmie Taylor. Anthony Grant had very little to rely on up front in 2012-13, but he still guided the Crimson Tide to the NIT with an unorthodox four-guard lineup last winter. Now, raw center Moussa Gueye has transferred to Valparaiso, giving 6’10” forward/center Taylor the chance to play a major role for Alabama from the outset. The in-state recruit is a long, lean player who has great instincts for shot-blocking and solid athleticism for a big man. He should provide a consistent presence in the paint and on the boards for a team that was hurting for rebounds in conference play.

Arkansas: Bobby Portis. Mike Anderson’s 2013 haul was small, but potent. The Razorbacks added two big men who combined to receive nine stars between them from both ESPN and Rivals last spring. That’s a huge boost for a team whose best rebounder was 6’7″ combo forward Marshawn Powell, pulling down fewer than six rebounds per game in 2012-13. Portis, a five-star power forward, will give the Hogs some much-needed bulk up front, and 6’10” center Moses Kingsley will provide an imposing presence next to him. Anderson was forced to play plenty of small-ball last season, but the addition of two impact players who can thrive in the paint will give Arkansas some much needed flexibility. While the team will still feel the sting of losing Powell and B.J. Young to NBA Draft declarations, the future is bright in Fayetteville.

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