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 M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 17th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida did a lot of things right in its match-up with Arizona over the weekend. Mike Rosario had his best game as a Gator, Erik Murphy found his scoring touch again, and the team defense looked ferocious at times. However, 38 minutes of a performance wasn’t good enough as the last two minutes saw the Gators give away the game through a comedy of errors, with Kenny Boynton serving as the primary culprit. In addition to two Rosario turnovers, Boynton missed two three-pointers, committed a turnover, and missed the front end of a crucial 1-and-1. Florida appeared to have the game comfortably in hand, but only managed four shots in the final five minutes, allowing the host Wildcats back in the game. “I told our guys at halftime, if we’re going to lose, let’s at least make them beat us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We beat ourselves tonight.”
  2. Missouri will gain a welcome addition to its backcourt rotation tonight when the Tigers take on South Carolina State. Jabari Brown, a highly touted recruit from the class of 2012, initially attended Oregon, but after only two appearances for the Ducks, announced his intention to transfer. The circumstances around the decision remain a mystery, but Missouri fans will quickly forget that if he can help solidify the two-guard slot for Frank Haith’s team in the wake of Michael Dixon’s departure. “I feel I’m ready to jump in, but that’s not my call,” Brown said. “Whatever coach Haith says, I’m going to roll with it. I might have to take on a little larger role. I’m not saying I have to score ‘x’ amount of points. I just know Mike was a great player, so everyone has to step up collectively.” Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Negus Webster-Chan have struggled on the offensive end of the court so far, so Tiger fans will be hoping that Brown’s offensive pedigree isn’t just hype.
  3. When Kentucky fans see a player make an obvious mistake on the court, they next thing they often see is a replacement Wildcat jogging from the bench to the scorer’s table. John Calipari doesn’t have a very deep stable of reserve options, but that certainly doesn’t stop him from substituting liberally when he sees something he doesn’t like. “If we don’t start changing, we’re going to struggle,” Calipari said. “You either want to change or you have your excuses of why it’s happening. Let’s just change. That’s my thing.” There were some positive signs for Calipari’s squad against Lipscomb over the weekend. Ryan Harrow, starting his first game since the season opener, looked more aggressive and Kyle Wiltjer finally busted out of a shooting slump and even added an unexpected presence on the glass.
  4. A road loss to VCU in Anthony Grant’s return to Richmond isn’t too shocking as the Rams are a quality team, but the 19-point margin of defeat is a bit of a surprise. Personally, I give up trying to analyze this team. The lack of frontcourt options has been Alabama’s weakness so far, but when freshman forward Devonta Pollard finally had a game that displayed his considerable ability, the usually strong backcourt couldn’t hold up its end. Pollard came off the bench to contribute 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. “This is a tough loss,” said Grant after the game. “We’ve lost three in a row here. When you win your first six, you always say it’s never as good as it seems. When you lose three in a row, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve got to go back and look at the film.”
  5. The SEC lost another undefeated team over the weekend, though LSU’s loss to Boise State was met with a lot less fanfare. Freshman guard Corban Collins was a bright spot for the Tigers, scoring a career-high 19 points. But the LSU defense wasn’t up to the task, allowing 89 points to the Broncos, including eight three-pointers and 23 free throws. The trip to Boise was the first of three straight road games for Johnny Jones’ team, who will travel to UC Irvine and Marquette before they see their home court again.
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#5 Florida at #9 Arizona: Keys to the Game

Posted by DPerry on December 15th, 2012

In a Pac-12/SEC microsite joint venture, contributors Andrew Murawa and Doug Perry tell us what the Wildcats and Gators need to do to gain the upper hand in this weekend’s premier matchup.

Arizona will win if…

Lyons Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

Lyons’ Handling the Ball Will Be Key Tonight (US Presswire)

  1. They can limit turnovers. Arizona’s turnover numbers look real bad (they’re averaging turnovers on 22.2% of all their possessions), but the fact is, they’ve been inflated by a couple horrific games. Against Southern Miss, they gave it up on better than 38% of their possessions, and against UTEP it was turnovers on 30% of possessions. But, in their biggest game to date last weekend at Clemson, they only turned it over 11 times. Most concerning, however, is the fact that Solomon Hill, the player most responsible for getting the Wildcat halfcourt offense into gear, was responsible for five of those turnovers. Florida does a great job of pressuring opposing ball-handlers, with Scottie Wilbekin in particular harassing opponents into turnovers on a regular basis, so if Arizona can make solid decisions and take care of the ball, that will be a major first step in securing the big win.
  2. They can force bad shots. Florida doesn’t really have a ton of weaknesses, but historically, guys like Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario have been known to go into chucker mode from time to time and throw up baffling shots. While the seniors won’t necessarily be rattled by the spectacle of the McKale Center and the national stage, Arizona can help them along the way to bad shots by using their length to dissuade post-entry passes, by employing physical perimeter defense, and by, perhaps most importantly, sticking with Erik Murphy through picks and pops and rolls and whatever else he does, limiting his good looks at the hoop. If the Wildcats can do their best to limit the impact of guys like Murphy and Patric Young on the offensive end, Boynton and Rosario will have to take it upon themselves to win this game. And frankly, Sean Miller would likely rather take a chance getting beat by those guys than getting beat by the Florida bigs.
  3. The veterans play like veterans. Arizona’s freshman trio of big guys – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – are serious gonna-bes. They are all gonna be major players, not only at their current level of basketball but likely at the next level. And, while they’ve shown the ability to make a major impact on the outcome of the current season, this is, in reality, their first big-time game. As such, while each of those guys needs to live up to the responsibilities that the Arizona coaching staff tasks them with, the eventual outcome of this game will be determined by whether Arizona’s vets – seniors Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and, to a lesser extent, sophomore Nick Johnson – live up to their ends of the bargain. Each of them have been very good this season, but this is the first real test. Not only are these guys going to need to knock down shots, make smart plays, and sell out defensively, they’re going to need to provide a positive example for the youngsters as to how games of this caliber should be approached. If the vets can play as vets should, it will not only bode well for Arizona’s chances in this big game, but it will be the first positive step towards success in the following big games.

Florida will win if…

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

Can Patric Young have another monster game against the Wildcats?

  1. They limit Arizona’s three-point shots. The Wildcats aren’t shy about putting up shots from long range. Arizona ranks in the top 15 nationally in three-point percentage (40.5%) and three-pointers/game (8.6), and defending perimeter shots is not Florida’s specialty (132nd in opponent three-point percentage). The Gators have a propensity to be aggressive in passing lanes, earning steals on 12.7% of their opponent’s possessions, but they should be careful not to overplay against a team that’s so dangerous from long distance. The McKale Center will be bumping, and a parade of made threes is exactly what Arizona will want to keep their fans as loud as possible. Florida is one of the most experienced teams you’ll see in college basketball’s elite tier, but a passionate fan base eager to see the Wildcats thrust into the national title conversation can rattle even the most seasoned team.
  2. They don’t forget about the big guys. Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario are great perimeter scoring threats, but they aren’t exactly famous for their discerning taste in shot selection. If the two gunners spend the night forcing shots that they shouldn’t, I can’t see the Gators flying back east with a victory. Patric Young has been somewhat of an afterthought in Florida’s offense this season, but I guarantee that Arizona isn’t overlooking him. The junior center had the best game of his career against the Wildcats last season, racking up 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Admittedly, Arizona’s frontcourt has added a ton of size since last season, so Young’s massive frame won’t be as great of an advantage, but he’s an option that Billy Donovan would be foolish to ignore. Forward Erik Murphy has cooled off a bit since his hot start, but he’s capable of a monster game.
  3. They can handle Mark Lyons. Arizona’s stellar freshman class steals the headlines, and they’ve shown flashes so far, but Sean Miller’s crew can’t hang with Florida on youthful talent alone. No, the Wildcats will go as far as their upperclassmen will take them, and Mark Lyons is the best of the bunch. He isn’t a model of consistency (0-7 from the field against Southern Miss), but the Xavier transfer is coming off his best game of the season, scoring 20 points and adding four rebounds and four assists in a tough road environment at Clemson. He’ll have the home crowd’s support on Saturday night, but the Gators’ defense presents a much tougher challenge. Guards have an especially tough time scoring on Donovan’s sound defense, but outside of maybe FSU guard Michael Snaer, they haven’t yet faced a perimeter scoring threat with the big-game pedigree of Lyons.
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SEC M5: 11.28.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 28th, 2012

  1. There has been a lot of speculation and curiosity as to why Missouri‘s Michael Dixon was suspended indefinitely without reason a few months ago. On Tuesday, the Kansas City Star reported that the star Tigers guard had been accused of forcible rape on August 20 but not charged by the district attorney due to insufficient evidence. The police report, disclosed earlier this month, states that the case was “a thorough investigation” and that it “was determined that the evidence was not sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury,” according to Tracy Gonzalez of the Boone County (MO) Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Dixon, who is still serving his team suspension, will not be punished criminally, but he could face additional consequences from the school after decisions are made by the Student Conduct Committee and the Chancellor (see: Dez Wells).
  2. After putting a terrible Maui Invitational performance behind them and accepting the changes needed to make from the trip, Rick Ray and the Mississippi State Bulldogs are looking forward. The first step is to get players (and coaches) back healthy. Ray returned to the sidelines Tuesday night versus Alcorn State after battling a stomach virus that kept him ill during the trip to Maui. Also, the Bulldogs got forward Colin Borchert back from a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Borchert contributed six points on 2-of-5 shooting in the Bulldogs’ 60-44 win. While only scoring 60 points, the Dogs held ASU to only 28.3% shooting and 18 rebounds, a subtle move in the right direction.
  3. Veteran head coach Billy Donovan knows when to turn a negative situation into a teaching lesson. It has been two weeks since Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin was reinstated by the university but the savvy coach will still not yet start Wilbekin in his normal place in the lineup. Wilbekin was replaced by veteran Mike Rosario due to Wilbekin’s suspension and will continue to come off the bench until otherwise determined. Rosario has averaged 11 points a game in his place, compared to only nine points a game for Wilbekin off the bench. Donovan is using this situation as a teaching moment for Wilbekin until he can earn his spot back in the starting rotation.
  4. There isn’t much hype about Arkansas shooters in the SEC when they have to contend with the likes of Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee, but Sports Illustrated‘s Luke Winn is determined to make sure one of the Razorbacks’ top scorers receives some publicity this season. Junior Mardracus Wade was recently named one of the 16 best shooters in the country by Winn in an SI.com slideshow. Wade leads the Hogs in minutes played this season and he is shooting 40% from beyond the arc. The recent high praise for Wade and his team hopefully proves true soon, especially with a brutal non-conference slate still ahead on the menu. If things work out, Wade could join stellar sophomore BJ Young as another solid scoring option and could help lead Arkansas to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons.
  5. With talk about Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele as major contributors to Alabama‘s offense, the star veteran guards had to sit out Tuesday’s game versus Lamar due to injury and illness. Luckily, the Crimson Tide did not need them as they routed Lamar, 75-47. While a win over lowly Lamar was expected, what was more interesting was coach Anthony Grant‘s positive comments regarding his bench players who played significant minutes tonight. Grant was quoted in saying that he “believes in each and every one of these guys that we coach on a daily basis” and that’s the “motivation for me is to try to help them achieve the things they want to achieve and help our team achieve the things we want to achieve.” Grant’s mindset and coaching ability will help maximize the potential from these bench players who would not normally get time if Releford and Steele were healthy. Hopefully, Alabama can get both Releford (stomach virus) and Steele (groin) back quickly as they have to face #17 Cincinnati, Dayton, and VCU all within the next three weeks.
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Night Line: Is Florida a Better Offensive Team This Season?

Posted by EJacoby on November 15th, 2012

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

The #12 Florida Gators have high expectations this season, as usual, with a loaded starting lineup that features two returning SEC stars and a bevy of other talented scorers. But Billy Donovan’s team lost much of its backcourt production from last season in Erving Walker and Bradley Beal, the second- and third-leading scorers on last year’s team who also accounted for over 40% of the squad’s total assists. Those 2011-12 Gators ranked sixth in the nation in overall offensive efficiency and came just a few plays away from reaching a Final Four. Yet does this season’s version of Florida have an even higher ceiling? Conventional wisdom would say no given the loss of its two perimeter leaders, but a strong recruiting class joins a healthier team this year, most notably a much improved senior forward Erik Murphy. Wednesday night’s 74-56 victory over defensive stalwart Wisconsin, featuring a perfect shooting night from Murphy, provided a glimpse of UF’s offensive upside that few teams in the country can match.

Erik Murphy led Florida with a perfect shooting night on Wednesday (AP Photo)

The Gators attempted and made the most three-point shots in all of Division I last season (9.6 makes per game), a crucial element to the team’s conversion of 1.15 points per possession, good for fifth in the country. While Walker and Beal’s 132 three-point makes are gone, don’t be so sure that Florida will fall off in the long-range shooting department. Preseason all-SEC senior guard Kenny Boynton and the aforementioned Murphy return 169 makes of their own, sparkplug sixth man Mike Rosario hit over one trey per game last year as well, and a loaded recruiting class of shooters joins the fold. Braxton Ogbueze headlines the freshman class as a heady point guard, while fellow newcomers Michael Frazier II, Devon Walker, and Dillon Graham all specialize as three-point bombers. Graham models his game after J.J. Redick, Walker has unlimited range from outside, and UF assistant coach Mike McCall noted this preseason of Frazier, “Every time [the ball] leaves his hand, you think it’s going in.” The Gators are already scoring at a more consistent rate this year with a 1.18 points per possession ratio. While only two games is an extremely small sample size, Wednesday’s game came against Bo Ryan’s Badgers; a masterful defensive team that finished seventh in total defensive efficiency last season.

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Set Your DVR: Opening Weekend

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The college basketball season is finally here! This season Set Your DVR (ed. note: sadly, nobody has TiVos anymore) will be a twice-weekly column outlining the must-see games for the upcoming week and weekend.  This column will lay out the key factors in each game to focus on and how those factors could affect the outcome. It’s a military-themed weekend of hoops with three games taking place on aircraft carriers and one game taking place at a military base located across the Atlantic Ocean.  Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#16 San Diego State vs. #5 Syracuse – 4:00 PM EST, 11/11/12 on FSN HD (*****)

Jim Boeheim takes the Orange to the USS Midway to take on San Diego State

  • The USS Midway provides the backdrop for an exciting opener between Syracuse and San Diego State. SDSU returns four starters including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin as well as Chase Tapley, James Rahon, and Xavier Thomas. Keep a close eye on the match-up between the Aztec guards and Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche. Triche is taking over for Scoop Jardine and faces a tough test against this crew. Steve Fisher’s squad will have to improve in two areas if they are going to start beating top-tier programs like Syracuse – shooting and offensive rebounding. The Aztecs grabbed only 30.8% of their offensive rebound opportunities last season, so if they are only going to hit 33% of their three-point attempts and 49.8% of their two-point attempts like they did in 2011-12, it’s going to be difficult to beat the best teams in the country. Watch to see if transfers Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O’Brien can help the Aztecs grab more of those missed shots.
  • After losing four starters to graduation and the NBA Draft, Syracuse is in a much different place than SDSU. Jim Boeheim’s ability to fill the talent void will be a key factor in determining if this Orange team can beat an experienced Aztec team. The ‘Cuse returns two significant contributors from last year’s team – C.J. Fair and Triche. Both players need to improve their sub-50% eFG in order to prevent the team from taking a step backwards.  The key to the Orange’s success in this game and in the future, however, may be 6’8” senior forward James Southerland. In a somewhat limited role last year, Southerland put up some impressive shooting numbers from inside the arc. Keep a close eye on Southerland’s ability to take advantage of his size inside the three-point line. Syracuse will also be able to throw additional size at the Aztecs with 6’9” sophomore Rakeem Christmas, 6’10” junior Baye Keita, and 6’7” 275 lb. wide-body freshman, DaJuan Coleman. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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SEC M5: Halloween Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 31st, 2012

  1. That, my friends, is the sound of basketball. The squeak of tennis shoes, the bounce of the ball, and the whistle of the referee suggests that exhibition games have officially begun, with the newest member of the SEC — the Missouri Tigers — up first. Former Auburn Tiger Earnest Ross made quite the impression on his new team and new coach in their blowout win over Northwest Missouri State on Monday.“He can shoot for a guy his size, and, with his physique, you wouldn’t know that he could have that kind of touch,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “He can shoot the ball. He’s worked really hard at it too.” Ross averaged 13.1 points and an impressive 6.6 rebounds per game for Auburn in 2010-11. He finished Mizzou’s exhibition with 22 points on six three-pointers. With guard Mike Dixon currently suspended by Haith, Ross will have a nice opportunity to showcase his skills.
  2. South Carolina is hobbling through the preseason with only a fraction of its full roster. Four members of the team miss its exhibition action against Kentucky Wesleyan last night because of injury. Sophomore forward Carlton Geathers (knee), sophomore guard Damien Leonard (broken nose), senior guard LaShay Page (hamstring), and freshman forward Mindaugas Kacinas (ankle) were on the sidelines last night, and it showed as the Gamecocks barely snuck past the D-II team, 68-67. Frank Martin will need a healthy team to run the gauntlet of SEC play, but a light non-conference schedule allows for USC to ease into this season with a new coach and new system. Page, a transfer from Southern Miss, scored 11.6 points per game last year for the Golden Eagles, and could be an impact player for Martin.
  3. Speaking of LaShay Page, Martin sees a lot of potential and leadership for the 6’2″ guard in his first year in a South Carolina uniform. “I can’t place the responsibility of leadership on someone who doesn’t want that job,” Martin said. “He’s kind of evolved into that himself.” Page is confident he can make the transition to the SEC and become a leader for Martin’s club. “It’s different players, a different staff, but the same me,” he said. “My leadership, leading the younger guys. I really look forward to that.” In addition to leadership, Martin and the Gamecocks need scoring. Leading scorer Malik Cooke departed from Columbia, taking over 12 points per game with him. Page will need to step into that role for South Carolina to be competitive.
  4. The love-fest for Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein continues. And what is Halloween without a little scare, so want to know a frightening thought? Cauley-Stein is the least hyped freshmen of all Cal’s newcomers. The part of his game that has coaches and critics raving is his hustle. After a 14-point, 12-rebound, and five-block performance in the Blue-White scrimmage, Cauley-Stein talked about his game and coach John Calipari’s philosophy on effort. “He preaches every day once he sees you take one play off you are coming out, because obviously you are tired and are not going hard enough,” he said. “He keeps saying at the game you will only be able to play three minutes and you are coming out. He says that to everybody because everybody will be tired. So once we get out of the grind of things and you get in your mind that you can go harder than a few minutes, that is when your game will escalate.” It is clear that Cauley-Stein has worked his way into the rotation for the early part of this season, and it is equally certain that effort and hustle on both ends of the floor will be the attribute that keeps him there.
  5. A lot of debate has gone into who will start in the backcourt for Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators. And for that matter, there was a question of how many guards would start out on the floor. For now, Donovan has an answer, settling into a three-guard lineup with senior Mike Rosario joining  point guard Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton. “Mike has done a good job,” Donovan said. “I think, as far as my trust level for him on the court, it’s growing and growing because he’s taking care of his responsibilities.” Rosario did not always make great decisions with a turnover rate of 16.7 percent in 2011-12, creating some of the trust issues that Donovan spoke about. The 6’3″ guard should also be charged with accounting for lost rebounding produced by NBA draft pick, Bradley Beal. Beal grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game last season from the wing spot.

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

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SEC M5: 10.22.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on October 22nd, 2012

  1. After the 2009-10 season, high-scoring Rutgers guard Mike Rosario was one of the top prizes of the transfer market. He committed to play for Billy Donovan at Florida, but largely disappointed in his debut campaign with the Gators. How can he ensure a bounce-back year? Consistency. Says Donovan, “His biggest issue – and No. 1 issue – is inconsistency. And not only on the court; everywhere he’s inconsistent”. With the departures of Bradley Beal and Erving Walker leaving the backcourt thin, Florida can’t afford another season of Rosario providing few minutes and low shooting percentages. Motivating a player through public comments isn’t ideal, but if Rosario takes the message to heart, he has the potential to be a dangerous scoring threat off the Florida bench.
  2. Donovan isn’t the only coach counting on a senior guard to come up big. Skylar McBee was a pleasant surprise in coach Cuonzo Martin’s first season, nearly doubling his minutes and scoring totals, and the Tennessee coach expects his role to expand even more. The Volunteers enter the season with high expectations based primarily on a potentially dominant frontcourt, but Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon will need quality shooting from deep to carve out the kind of space they need. Several candidates will be competing for playing time in the backcourt beside point guard Trae Golden, and McBee’s stroke should earn him a plenty of minutes.
  3. After leading Missouri to a 30-5 record and scooping up multiple national coach of the year awards, you might think Frank Haith would be a little cocky heading into the new season. Think again. In front of a crowd of alumni and boosters last week, Haith did his best to temper expectations, pointing out that the Tigers only return two key contributors from last year’s team. Missouri could struggle early as Haith works to assemble all his new parts, but with All-America candidate Phil Pressey manning the point, don’t be surprised if the adjustment period is brief.
  4. Texas A&M kicked off its season Friday with the annual Maroon & White scrimmage. The Aggie faithful saw freshman point guard J’Mychal Reese put up 15 points in the game, while Elston Turner and Ray Turner chipped in with 14 apiece. Coach Billy Kennedy’s team enters the SEC without a lot of hype, but A&M should be significantly improved from last year. The Turners (no relation) should serve as the two main offensive threats, and if the talented Reese can provide some scoring punch from the point, a finish in the top half of the league is an attainable goal.
  5. Willie Cauley-Stein was the least-hyped member of coach John Calipari’s uber-recruiting class, but after posterizing Nerlens Noel at Midnight Madness, the 7-footer has developed quite a buzz. According to reports, that momentum is carrying over into practice. The former high school wide receiver is showing soft hands and an ability to run the floor. Noel, a more polished defender, will see more playing time, but Cauley-Stein should get his fair share, forming an especially imposing frontline when they’re on the court together.
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SEC Transition Basketball: Florida Gators

Posted by Brian Joyce on September 10th, 2012

Let’s finish these off this week with the last few of what we’re calling it Transition Basketball, an offseason look at each of the 14 SEC basketball programs. Today’s update: Florida.

State of the Program

Billy Donovan has elevated the Florida program to the status of perennial contender and national powerhouse. Once again last season, his stockpile of talent and aggressive non-conference scheduling paid off. Despite early season losses to Ohio State and Syracuse, the Gators’ high-powered offense tested themselves on the road in some of the most hostile environments but demonstrated improvement throughout the experience. In the end, it was worth it. Though struggling on the defensive end of the court for most of the year, the Gators marched all the way to the Elite Eight, only a couple of made baskets away from another Final Four. But this should almost be expected by now, as Donovan took Florida to the Elite Eight just one year before and won championships in the back-to-back years of 2006 and 2007.

Patric Young will be a beast down low for opposing SEC frontlines this season (Getty)

The scary part is that Donovan has the firepower to make a similar run again this season. Improvement is evident in returning players Kenny Boynton, who is back with his 15.9 points per game at guard, and forward/center Patric Young who brings his 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game back to the low post. Boynton improved his overall field goal percentage from 38.5 percent in 2010-11 to 44.0 percent last year, and his shooting from beyond the arc by seven percent last season. Smooth shooting wing Erik Murphy averaged over 10 points per game last season on 42.1 percent shooting from outside, providing additional stability on the offensive end for the Gators. Will Yeguete returns from injury to improve on his 6.3 rebounds per game. Mike Rosario could make the leap this year from role player to a more significant part of the Florida offense. The transfer from Rutgers averaged over 16 points per game in each of his first two seasons for the Scarlet Knights, but dipped to just 6.6 points per game in his first year with the Gators. He could be called upon to do more in his senior year. It might also be a case of addition by subtraction for Florida as senior guard Erving Walker had never seen a shot he wasn’t willing to take. His 39.4 percent field goal shooting and 2.1 turnovers per game hurt the Gators just as often as he helped.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 20th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

South Region

Midwest Region

  • Fans and media aren’t the only ones caught up in great performances by major talent among the mid-major ranks. It was recently revealed that in 2010, Baylor coach Scott Drew and then-Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl allegedly contacted Ohio‘s D.J. Cooper about transferring, which would constitute NCAA violations if the allegations are true. It will be interesting to see whether the subject is raised during Baylor’s media session this week.
  • Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde opines that even if North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall returns to the fold for a potential regional final, the odds are stacked heavily against the Heels.
  • The Tar Heels’ aren’t the only team from the state recovering from some health concerns. N.C. State will face Kansas Friday, and C.J. Williams and C.J. Leslie are recovering from fatigue. The severity isn’t even comparable to North Carolina’s situation, but a few days of rest will be especially helpful to the Wolfpack.
  • Basketball Prospectus’ C.J. Moore breaks down how Kansas topped Purdue on Sunday, from Elijah Johnson‘s fortitude to Bill Self‘s halftime adjustments.
  • There are already two coaching vacancies in the Big Ten, and Ohio coach John Groce could fit the bill at either Nebraska or Illinois after the season. Groce’s Big Ten connections, when combined with his team’s head-turning performance this postseason, make him appealing to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is a tough job, but with a heavy commitment to hoops, Athletic Director Tom Osborne could find a catch.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 19th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

East

  • After an atrocious opening game where they nearly became the first #1 seed to a #16 seed, Syracuse rebounded with a solid performance that helped remind some people why they were a #1 seed in the first place.
  • One of the keys to Wisconsin‘s consistent play in the postseason has been there tendency to never be satisfied. The Badgers should not have much difficulty finding motivation on Thursday against what should be a pro-Syracuse crowd in Boston.
  • John Gasser was feeling the effects of a gastrointestinal illness on Saturday, but that did not prevent him giving the Badgers what they needed to beat Vanderbilt despite playing limited minutes.
  • With their win on Sunday night Cincinnati advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and set up one of the more intriguing match-ups with an in-state showdown against Ohio State. The Buckeyes hold a 5-4 series edge, but outside of a game in 2006 the last game between the two schools was in 1962 when they played for the second year in a row in the National Championship Game.
  • Hardcore college basketball fans have known about the importance of Aaron Craft all season, but that point was driven home with his actions on and off the court over the weekend.
  • Of course, glossing over the play of Jared Sullinger in the team’s win over Gonzaga would be a major oversight. When the Buckeyes needed big plays it was their big man who came up with exactly what the team needed.

South

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