SEC M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 25th, 2013

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  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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SEC M5: 02.21.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 21st, 2013

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  1. Have Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks worked their way onto the NCAA bubble? Arkansas’ resume is considerably better at home than it is on the road, but as ESPN.com points out, “Since Febuary 2, the Razorbacks are 4-1 with wins over Florida and, most recently, Missouri. They also — in typical fashion — lost 67-49 at Vanderbilt. On January 26, they lost 75-54 at South Carolina. So, yeah, there’s plenty of work to do here.” But unfortunately for the Hogs, NCAA Tournament games aren’t played at home, and they just haven’t been the same team away from Bud Walton Arena. 
  2. Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden isn’t abandoning Tigers coach Frank Haith in the wake of potential NCAA violations. ”You know, I’m looking forward to working with Frank for a long time. And he’s done great things here with us, and we look forward to continuing to do great things,” Alden said. At this point, however, the AD doesn’t know the extent to which Haith will be punished for the alleged violations. While a show of confidence is important at this stage in the game, it doesn’t really mean much if bad news is pending. If penalties are imposed on him at some point down the road, a statement of full confidence at that point will be far more telling.
  3. Florida blew a 13-point second half lead against Missouri on Tuesday night, and it’s time to start pointing the finger to locate the problems. The Florida Times Union points to an ill-advised three pointer by Kenny Boynton, costly turnovers by Mike Rosario, and key missed free throws by Patric Young as reasons for the demise. And as the author points out, this isn’t the first time the Gators have unraveled during a close game. Three turnovers and a missed free throw during the final minute cost UF a six-point lead at Arizona, and Florida was within one point against Kansas State but it just couldn’t close out with a win. Billy Donovan’s squad has reason for concern as it is 0-3 in games this season decided by single figures.
  4. Florida’s late-game struggles have a common theme — the head coach. While Donovan is the greatest head coach ever to stand on the sidelines at the University of Florida, his winning percentage in games decided by five points or fewer doesn’t stack up to that of his national championship-winning peers. The most recent three-point loss to Missouri gave the accomplished Donovan a mere 57-75 record in games with the outcome at five points or fewer, which is just a .469 winning percentage. In comparison, just to name a few, Donovan’s mentor Rick Pitino sits at .503, John Calipari is at .570, and Jim Boeheim is the leader among active national championship winners at .628. Donovan’s record is in fact the worst among active national championship-winning coaches, and he is the only coach with that criteria with a losing record in close games.
  5. Rick Ray just can’t catch a break. The Mississippi State coach suspended sophomore forward Roquez Johnson for an unspecified violation of team rules, leaving him with just five scholarship players. But Ray didn’t back off of his zero tolerance approach to discipline. “What they’re trying to figure out is… how much can they get away with without getting punished?” Ray said. “I think there’s a little bit with this situation with those older guys. ‘Hey, how much can I get away with without getting punished?’ And the answer is: nothing.” If this basketball coaching gig doesn’t work out for Ray, he joked that he has enough material from this first year on the job with the Bulldogs to write a book.
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SEC M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 20th, 2013

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  1. After commenting over the weekend that his players are uncoachable, John Calipari backed off those comments slightly this week. He was still upset about bad habits, but remained cautiously optimistic. “All that aside, we can make what we want of this season,” he said. “We could be the story of the year, of recovery and all that. We can do that if they choose to do that.” The Wildcats, however, are running out of time. Calipari and company may have to rely upon the SEC Tournament of which he hasn’t placed much value on the last several years. This year, it may be UK’s only realistic shot at an NCAA Tournament bid.
  2. After a somewhat frustrating and disappointing year last season, Mike Rosario has become a huge part of Florida’s dominance this season. Part of the turnaround is that the guard received a lot of guidance from his coach. “Part of the reason I challenged him so much was when he’s focused on and locked in, he seems to play his best basketball,” coach Billy Donovan said. “When he’s loose, relaxed and not on edge or really ready, he gets a little carefree.” Some balance in the offense has benefited Rosario. His offensive rating is more than 10 points higher while his percentage of possessions and shots are both the lowest they have been in his entire career.
  3. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy insists that guard Marshall Henderson isn’t a distraction. “Marshall and I have constant dialogue about making good decisions,” Kennedy said. “That was all in fun. He just has fun with a lot of things. Sometimes, I’m envious of his nature. He seems to be enjoying it a lot more than I am.” Kennedy’s comments continue to confirm his unwavering support of Henderson, which has to be comforting for players in the Rebels’ program. And with six games left and the SEC Tournament to follow, what more of the legend of Marshall Henderson do we have yet to come?
  4. After just two points and 10 turnovers in the first match-up with Florida, Missouri’s Phil Pressey played better in the rematch last night (seven points, 10 assists, five turnovers). Frank Haith has faith in his junior point guard. “He’s our guy, love him, and we’re going to continue to help him through it and help ourselves,” he said, “We’ve got to show him confidence and our belief in him. That’s all we can do. I’m not going to shred his confidence by taking the ball out of his hands, for sure. He’s going to be out there at the end of games.” With the best win of Missouri’s season now on the resume, Pressey and the rest of the Tigers have to feel better about the remainder of the season.
  5. The Clarion Ledger makes the case for Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the SEC Player of the Year. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson agrees. “He’s a big guard that can rebound the basketball,” he said. “He’s a guy that can take over the game. And (Georgia coach Mark Fox) said he has taken over this team. As a sophomore, that tells you what kind of player he is.” Caldwell-Pope is averaging 17.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and has scored in double figures in every game this season. His play had led the Bulldogs to five straight wins in SEC play before a recent two-game skid.
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Meet the New SEC Hoops Rivalry: Missouri vs. Arkansas

Posted by dnspewak on February 19th, 2013

Danny Spewak is an RTC contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak. He filed this report after a weekend trip to Fayetteville for an SEC clash between Arkansas and Missouri.

The University of Arkansas campus sits in the northern tip of the state, just a short freeway cruise from the southern border of Missouri. It’s an easy, five-hour drive from Columbia to Fayetteville, and yet it took conference realignment for Missouri and Arkansas to finally play each other in basketball. The first meeting between the two teams since 2007 made up for lost time on Saturday afternoon. The atmosphere and game were terrific— a 73-71 Razorback victory complete with a late-game comeback, officiating controversies, and the birth of a star named B.J. Young. It didn’t feel like just another February conference game between two unranked SEC teams.

B.J. Young Was The Hero This Weekend(Photo credit: AP Photo).

B.J. Young Was The Hero This Weekend(Photo credit: AP Photo).

It felt like a rivalry. Right, Earnest Ross? “Not really,” the Tiger guard said. “It was just a game on our schedule.” That’s the sting of defeat talking. The 19,000 rabid fans at Bud Walton Arena offered a completely different picture. You could feel the buzz in pregame warm-ups, when a few Arkansas students taunted MU’s Jabari Brown and dared him to laugh at their Norfolk State jokes. The intensity of the game heightened with every passing minute, starting with Missouri’s hot start and eventually culminating into a down-to-the-wire thriller. It was physical. Loud. And it really meant something, especially considering MU’s Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers were playing against Mike Anderson, their former head coach and a man who left the Tigers in the dust in 2011.

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SEC M5: 02.11.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 11th, 2013

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  1. Missouri took advantage of some hot shooting in the first half to wrap up a much needed win over the weekend against Ole Miss. The Tigers’ starting backcourt combined for 57 points, but Alex Oriakhi was the headlining story. The low post force had his most productive game of the season with 22 point, 18 boards, and 1 melee instigation. Oriakhi was immediately hit with a flagrant, and Reginald Buckner was ejected in the aftermath after throwing a punch. A Twitter exchange between the two schools’ SB Nation sites proclaimed that a rivalry had just been created, which, unless I’m mistaken, is legally binding. Rebels and Tigers, let the hate commence.
  2. Missouri proved their home mettle again this weekend with their resounding win over Ole Miss, but every positive in Columbia just highlights the Tigers’ astounding road troubles. Why can’t a team with talent in spades beat up a weak SEC? “That is the $50-million question,” says Frank Haith. He’d be wise to find an answer soon, as Missouri finishes with five of eight on the road. The thought of a disappointed Tigers team on Selection Sunday hadn’t even crossed my mind through the first few months of the season, but several more road losses (in addition to a likely home defeat to Florida) would likely leave the Tigers on the outside looking in come March 17th.
  3. On the topic of winless road teams, Arkansas celebrated their massive win over Florida in the most Arkansas way possible: being dismantled by Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks, who had 37 points by the third TV timeout against the Gators, scored their 37th point at 11:44 of the second half. “You have to give credit to Vanderbilt, but when you go on the road you have to make shots,” said Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson.  “When you are on the road, you have to match your opponents’ intensity.” The Commodores, no stranger to offensive meltdowns, were pretty impressive on that end of the floor. Kevin Stallings‘ team shot 50% from the floor and spread shots around nicely, with five players tallying at least eight points.
  4. The Wildcat bench stole the spotlight in Saturday’s win over Auburn, but a tough outing for Archie Goodwin is raising some concerns in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky‘s leading scorer played a season-low 17 minutes, scoring only 3 points on 1-6 shooting. “I’m trying to get Archie to zone in on his team, what he’s got to do for his team and get out of how he’s playing because then you can’t make a shot, you’re afraid to make a play because you’re afraid you are going to screw up, versus I’m playing for the team, I know what the team needs me to do, they need me to drive,” stream of consciousness expert John Calipari told reporters. Goodwin has practically eliminated the 3-point shot from his offensive arsenal (a great decision), but he seems to oscillate on his commitment to attacking the basket.
  5. One of the league’s greenest teams will be without their most experienced players for a while, as Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Coach Rick Ray has declined to give further details after announcing the decision before the Bulldogs’ trip to Florida over the weekend. After starting 2-0 in SEC play, Mississippi State has lost 8 straight by a margin of 21 points per game.
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Night Line: Dominating Display From Arkansas Revives Tournament Hopes

Posted by BHayes on February 6th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

About a year and two weeks ago, Mike Anderson’s Arkansas team took down Michigan in a nationally-televised game at Bud Walton Arena. The Arkansas faithful had long waited for a win like this — their native son back and at the helm, famed arena alive again. The Razorbacks also walked off the floor with a 14-5 record and tentative March reservations, but the next two months would show why rebuilding jobs rarely happen overnight. Arkansas went just 4-9 after Trey Burke missed that three at the buzzer, finishing the season with an underwhelming 6-10 SEC record. Flash forward to this season, and this Tuesday night: Another marquee opponent in Fayetteville, national TV audience again watching at home, and Mike Anderson’s team in dire need of a signature victory. They got the massive win once again, this time dismantling #2 Florida — yes, that #2 Florida, who entered the night winners of 10 straight games. The Gators left Fayetteville losers of one straight game, and the Razorbacks are proud new owners of one of the single best victories of the season. It’s a win that will shine come Selection Sunday, but the Razorbacks have plenty of work to do to make that day even matter. The challenge is not just avoiding the late-year collapse of a season ago, but actually making a February push for inclusion in the field of 68.

BJ Young And The Razorbacks Were Dynamite On Tuesday Night

BJ Young And The Razorbacks Were Dynamite On Tuesday Night

Tonight, Arkansas accomplished many things that Mike Anderson preaches on a nightly basis. First and foremost for Anderson is forcing turnovers, and the Hawgs’ frenetic defense caused 16 Florida giveaways tonight. Many of the miscues resulted in transition opportunities for the home team, and Coty Clarke and company did well in turning those opportunities into finishes — many of them of the emphatic variety. Arkansas also did a serviceable job on the glass, ending the game essentially even in the category with the bigger, more physical Gators. The Razorbacks were the aggressor from the opening tip, and only a late Florida push made this final score respectable.

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SEC M5: 01.23.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 23rd, 2013

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  1. Scottie Wilbekin is probably not the first player you think of on the Florida roster, but he is emerging as a superstar on defense. ”He’s always hung his hat on being a great defender,” coach Billy Donovan said about his starting point guard. “That’s always been important to him. Our defense has gotten better and he’s got a lot to do with that. As a point guard, it’s probably somewhat changed our team’s mentality a little bit going out there and defending the way we have.” Wilbekin’s lock-down defense held Texas A&M’s Elston Turner to four points (a season low) on 1-of-10 shooting after a superb 40-point performance against Kentucky. Then, he held consensus preseason SEC player of the year Phil Pressey to two points (a season low) and 10 turnovers (season high) over the weekend.
  2. It seems like Florida Gator Erik Murphy has been playing through one injury or another all season long. But Murphy admits he’s playing through some pain caused by a broken rib. “Duke [Florida trainer Dave "Duke" Werner] pads it up pretty good, so it doesn’t really hurt that much when I get hit on it,” Murphy said. “Just trying to take care of it every day. Ice it. It’s getting better. The longer I wait, the better it’ll get. It’s healing over time, feeling better. But it’s not that bad when I’m playing.” The casual observer might not even notice a difference. Murphy’s statistics haven’t dropped off since missing his only game of the year on January 6 at Yale. He’s scored in double figures in each of the four games he’s played since.
  3. Kentucky won big at Auburn on Saturday, and coach John Calipari said that he saw something during that game that he’s “been waiting all year for.” It wasn’t necessarily the victory that got Coach Cal riled up. “See, I’m trying to convince them that the wins and losses, they come and go. You’re not going to be judged just by that. You’re going to be judged by your effort, your fight, your scrappiness. At the end of your career, that’s what they’re going to look at. Did you have it or not?” Cal’s corps of freshmen might not have it yet, but sometimes it takes a reminder that many of the Wildcats’ core group of leaders are just 17 games into their college careers and it takes more time than that to develop a cohesive team.
  4. Is Arkansas a football state or is there a possibility that fans of the flagship university can support basketball along with their love for football? Mike Anderson was brought in to save the Razorback program with a fast-paced (and winning) brand of basketball, but is it working? There seems to be more questions than answers regarding its current state, but fan support remains an important component to the measure of success. It was, in large part, a portion of the reason John Pelphrey was dismissed from the program. And right now, fan support in Arkansas is dwindling. Is that because of a lack of institutional support or is it because Anderson simply isn’t getting it done? He still has time to turn things around, but how much of a leash he has may be the most important question of all.
  5. On the flip side, Auburn sees its fan base growing in large part because of its belief in third year coach Tony Barbee’s ability to win games. A sold-out crowd against Kentucky on Saturday night showed the coaching staff that the fans are behind them and the team. ”The excitement around Auburn basketball is the highest it’s been since we’ve been here,” assistant coach Randall Dickey said. And the interest in the team coincides with improved play from the Tigers. Auburn has a losing overall record, but wins over Florida State and LSU, along with a positive effort against the Wildcats, has Auburn seemingly headed in the right direction.
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SEC Freshmen Report: Volume I

Posted by CNguon on December 21st, 2012

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC microsite contributor. He can be reached on Twitter @anchorofgold.

The SEC has always been home to some of the NCAA’s most talented newcomers. Much of that has to do with Kentucky’s one-and-done superstars, but Lexington’s five-star recruits aren’t the only players making an impact for Southeastern Conference teams. Several under-the-radar prospects – and some of them big names – are starting to get the feel for the NCAA game and bringing value to their programs early in their careers. As a result, teams like South Carolina and Auburn can put a little extra confidence behind their rebuilding efforts.

Nerlens Noel,

Nerlens Noel (Ken), Michael Carrera (SC) and Negus Webster-Chan (Missou) are just three of many freshmen making an impact this season in the SEC East

So who should SEC basketball fans be looking out for with conference play looming? Every week, we’ll look at how the best freshmen in the SEC have performed in their inaugural seasons. We’ll break the league down football-style into East and West divisions to provide an in-depth look at the young guns that may end up dotting all-SEC teams for years to come. This week, we’ll start with the East by introducing you to the most talented first-year players that the conference has to offer. While a team led by newcomers has carried Kentucky through an up-and-down first two months, teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri are also leaning on rookies to carry them to the postseason. Here’s a breakdown on those fresh faces in the (former) SEC East and how they’ve impacted their teams so far.

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Kentucky: Kentucky, a team replacing all of its starters in 2012-13, has easily gotten the strongest return from its freshman play-makers this winter. Nerlens Noel has been as good as advertised, and Willie Cauley-Stein has shown a combination of size and skill that suggests that he’d be a starter for almost any other team in the SEC this winter. The two have combined for 18 points, 14 rebounds, and nearly six blocks per game as the Wildcats’ primary big men. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have carried the ‘Cats offensively. Both have shown well-rounded offensive play, while Poythress in particular has shown some defensive chops that could make him a nightmare matchup (a 7’1” wingspan and the size and strength to cover both forward positions) as the season wears on. However, both have struggled with turnovers early in the year, and their talent hasn’t been enough to cover up UK’s relative inexperience in three early losses. Kentucky may have gotten off to an unexpected start thanks to those losses, but they’re also playing on a steeper learning curve than most teams in the SEC. The development of their freshman class will be one of the conference’s biggest stories to watch once league play unfolds.

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SEC M5: 12.20.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 20th, 2012

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  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 M5: 12.19.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 19th, 2012

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  1. Several members of the national media have been quick to criticize Kenny Boynton in the days following his disappointing performance at Arizona. The criticism is hard to argue with, as the senior guard scored only five points on 10 attempts from the field. SI‘s Andy Glockner got in on the act, publishing an article in which he asks whether Boynton will be a help or hindrance for Florida come Tournament time. I fall squarely in the former camp. His high-volume three-point shot totals aren’t as reliable as a what a dominant post player or steady ball-handler brings to the table, but Boynton is the type of player who has the ability to win you games in March that you otherwise have no business winning. He hit the 20 point-mark in 12 games last year, not to mention the three times thus far in his senior season. Boynton could very well be the culprit in an early postseason defeat for the Gators, but without him in the picture, Florida simply isn’t a team with realistic Final Four aspirations.
  2. Georgia didn’t make much progress toward finding a secondary offensive option last night, but the Bulldogs did enough of the defensive end to earn their third win of the season over Mercer, 58-49. The visiting Bears mustered only 16 field goals, including a miserable 6-of-26 from beyond the arc. ”Today was important and we needed to win,” said head coach Mark Fox. “We won the game today because we played such a physical schedule early. We had to be sound for 40 minutes to win this game because [Mercer isn't] making very many mistakes.” Fox is certainly still tinkering with his rotation, as 11 players saw the court for 10 minutes or more in Tuesday’s victory.
  3. The cupcake-heavy home schedule bothers the season ticket holders in Lexington, but Jerry Tipton believes that Kentucky will ultimately benefit from these breather games. Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson, who played at Rupp last Saturday, agrees. “The chance to work on execution without the distracting consideration of winning or losing,” says Sanderson. “The label of ‘guarantee games’ refers to a payment the lesser team receives for its service as a sacrificial lamb. But the greater team in these match-ups is all but guaranteed of a victory.” While I believe that the Wildcats probably needed to recalibrate some things after losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, I think a nearly month-long break from quality competition is too long. A mentally-prepared Kentucky team doesn’t stand much of a chance at the Yum! Center in Louisville anyway — I won’t be surprised if the young and rusty ‘Cats struggle mightily against the tested Cardinals.
  4. Jabari Brown stole the headlines in his first game in a Missouri uniform, but it was a big night for Laurence Bowers as well, as the senior forward joined the Tigers’ 1,000 point club. Bowers is especially pleased to now be mentioned in the same class as former teammates Kim English and Marcus Denmon. “I’m kind of in competition with those guys, to be honest,” Bowers said. “I know that I might not surpass them as far as scoring points, but I definitely want to surpass them as far as the season they had.” Team success will be harder to guarantee than points, however. Bowers combines with Alex Oriakhi to form a fearsome frontcourt, and point guard Phil Pressey is one of the nation’s best lead guards, but no wing player has stepped up and shown any consistency through the early part of the schedule.
  5. Mike Anderson and his high-intensity style produces the need for a lot of bodies, but Arkansas won’t be able to count on Brandon Mitchell this season. The two-sport football star would have served as an athletic backcourt option off the bench, but with new football coach Bret Bielema converting Mitchell from wide receiver to quarterback, basketball will have to take the back seat. “He told me his focus is on football right now,” Anderson said. “It makes sense. We have got a new coaching staff and he has got to get ready for Coach B. He did a good job for us but football is what he is here for.”
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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: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 10th, 2012

  1. Camp Cal, as coach John Calipari affectionately termed his boot camp with the Wildcats, is more about thinking than it is conditioning. “For the next two weeks, we’ll be going at least five of the days three times a day,” Calipari said. “I’m fine. I’ll be exhausted, but what the heck. The whole point is to help these young people think differently. They’ve got to think differently than they’re thinking.” The change in thinking hasn’t yet made its way into the full 40 minutes of game play, although the Cats were victorious over Portland by 28. “I had to coax them into playing,” Calipari said. “I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t be on a guy, ‘Play, scramble, stay down.’ What? What is that, strategy? I mean, that’s basically how I’m coaching right now.” The Cats are still making mistakes made by inexperienced teams, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has reviewed the Wildcats’ roster. They have two more home games over the next two weeks before meeting Louisville in the Yum! Center on December 29. Three weeks is a long way away, so expect Kentucky to look significantly improved by the time its intrastate showdown with the Cards roll around.
  2. Another SEC guard has been suspended, and this time it’s LSU’s Anthony Hickey. LSU coach Johnny Jones cited a violation of athletic department and university rules as the reason for the suspension. “We will cooperate fully with the Athletic Department and University on the matter,” said Jones. “There is a responsibility that comes with playing college basketball. If a player doesn’t take care of his responsibilities, then he loses the privilege of being able to play. We look forward to continuing to focus on our upcoming game Tuesday and our three-game road trip that follows.” At this point, there is no timetable for Hickey’s return to the court. The Tigers are 5-0 with Hickey in the lineup, fueled by his 10.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game. However, this is not the first time the point guard has found himself in trouble.
  3. The Arkansas media is calling for Mardracus Wade to be more aggressive on offense after the Hogs lost to Michigan in Ann Arbor by 13 points. Wade scored five points on just five shots from the field despite playing 34 minutes. Wade has the third best effective field goal percentage on the team, but is ninth in percentage of shots and is 10th in percentage of possessions. The Razorbacks could have used his help on Saturday. Wade is extremely effective at getting to the free throw line (76.3% free throw rate), but Arkansas didn’t shoot a free throw until six minutes left in the game. Mike Anderson’s squad has lost four of its last five contests, with three of those losses away from home. The Hogs are typically very strong at Bud Walton Arena, and they begin a five-game home stand on Saturday. That should give Anderson time to work out a few of the kinks.
  4. Who loves statistics? We do! And so does John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader who provides us with 20 stats you need to know from Kentucky’s win on Saturday. A lot of good information here about the Cats’ recent performances including a snippet about the play of freshman Alex Poythress. Poythress has scored in double figures in seven of the first nine games of his college career, including his 15 points on Saturday. Most importantly, he is 13-of-17 from the field in the last two games, including three of four from beyond the arc. Poythress’ efficient play has put him as an early member of a prestigious grouping that Luke Winn often refers to in his power rankings called the 70/50/20 club. Only four players possess membership at this point in the season. The club is reserved for players who shoot an effective field goal percentage of at least 70 percent, play in at least 50 percent of available minutes, and take at least 20 percent of his team’s shots when he is on the floor. Poythress is shooting 72.2 percent, playing in 73.1 percent of available minutes, and shooting 21.5 percent of the Wildcats’ shots. He joins Belmont’s Ian Clarke, UC Davis’ Ryan Sypkens, and Syracuse’s James Southerland as the only current members. With efficiency numbers like that, Poythress can’t shy away from the basketball as he did against Notre Dame.
  5. Tennessee’s Skylar McBee’s jersey will hang in the rafters at Grainger High School after he scored 2,362 points during his high school career. McBee was honored Saturday when his number four jersey was retired. “I’m very proud of where I come from,” McBee said. “And it’s an honor that all these people back home think that highly of me that they want to retire my number. It’s very humbling, and it means a lot to me.” McBee started as a walk-on for Tennessee, but was given a scholarship by previous coach Bruce Pearl. The guard is averaging 7.3 points per game for the Vols this season in his senior year.
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