SEC Morning Five: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 21st, 2012

  1. The final two Alabama players enduring suspensions, senior JaMychal Green and junior Tony Mitchell, reached some level of closure as Green, who has missed the past three games, was reinstated to return to practice. Mitchell, who has missed the past four games after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, will remain suspended for the rest of the season, head coach Anthony Grant said on Monday.
  2. Kentucky hosted the newly reclassified star recruit Nerlens Noel during Saturday’s 77-62 victory against Ole Miss. On Twitter (@NerlensNoel3) he said “Kentucky trip went well. Them fans are suttin else, showed alot of love.” Noel took an unofficial visit to Syracuse last weekend for the Orange’s 85-67 win over Connecticut. He’s also slated to make upcoming trips to Florida , Georgetown and North Carolina.
  3. In his weekly teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said Renardo Sidney might sit out his second consecutive game with back spasms when Mississippi State hosts No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday.“I’ll probably know at game time, if you want to know the truth,” Stansbury said. “It’s very obvious we need his big body out there, especially with our lack of depth. That’s the thing. We missed him over there Saturday with just giving us another guy you can throw in the block who can score. We need that depth defensively in there, body-wise. It’s very obvious — against a Kentucky team, as talented as they are — you need everybody you can possibly get. We don’t just need his body, we need his body to play well for us to have any chance at all.”
  4. Florida head coach Billy Donovan said he’s hopeful Mike Rosario will return for Tuesday’s game with Auburn. “I would say that he can sometimes be a little bit over-cautious, whether it be his lower back dealing with a disk problem or a sprained ankle,” Donovan said. “He gets worried a lot of times mentally, himself, that he’s going to re-injure himself or hurt himself where he doesn’t feel right.” Rosario, who has missed six games this season, returned to practice last week but pulled himself out when the hip pointer started to bother him.
  5. The SEC announced its weekly awards with Vanderbilt junior John Jenkins earning his third career Player of the Week award (his first of 2011-12) and Florida’s Bradley Beal claiming his sixth Freshman of the Week honor. Jenkins, who won twice during his sophomore campaign, averaged 27.0 points per game in wins at Ole Miss and Georgia. He shot 81.3% from the floor (13-16), 83.3% from three (10-12), and 85.7% from the free throw line (18-21).  Beal averaged 17.5 points per game in helping the Gators score a pair of road wins at Alabama and Arkansas. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.
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Morning Five: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 21st, 2012

  1. While Seth Davis is one of the better college basketball journalists out there he normally is not one that you find taking controversial stances, but this week he decided to shake the hornets’ nest by doing the unthinkable–defending the RPI. Seth’s defense is not an attempt to say that the RPI is a perfect tool as it is far from it, but he believes it is a solid tool that should be used with a variety of other tools including your own eyes when judging a team. Still Seth’s column generated quite a bit of discussion on Twitter yesterday, which for the most part was fairly civil. We are sure that this will continue to be a point of contention going forward, but with the way many bubble teams are playing late in the season if they don’t make the cut they have no reason to complain.
  2. In his latest blog post, Nerlens Noel talked about his recent visits to Syracuse and Kentucky and his impressions of those visits, but the bigger news is that he has still not officially reclassified as a member of the class of 2012. He says that his paperwork should be finalized by early March. Other than that it is mostly a couple of anecdotes, talking about visiting schools in the future, and his decision to turn down an invitation from Duke, which is what most Kentucky fans will probably fixate on.
  3. With the season winding down and their NCAA fate hanging in the balance, Anthony Grant finally made a decision on his two leading scorers/rebounds. Yesterday, Alabama announced that it was suspending Tony Mitchell for the rest of the season while allowing JaMychal Green return to practice. We still do not know what Mitchell did that led to his eventual dismissal for conduct detrimental to the team while Green, who has been suspended twice before, was allowed to return after being held out for three games for violating unspecified team rules. Although Green is able to practice with the team he will not play on Thursday at Arkansas so the earliest he would return to action would be this Saturday against Mississippi State.
  4. Florida, which has struggled to find enough guards to fill their minutes, may get Mike Rosario back for their game tonight against Auburn. Rosario has missed the last three games after sustaining a hip pointer in practice. We are not sure what Rosario’s role is on this team going forward as he is probably their 7th man and he was pretty far behind the top three guards even before he was injured. Perhaps he can fill in when he has a hot hand or if they have foul trouble, but we would not expect too much out of Rosario going down the stretch.
  5. Since this past October, Connecticut has been waiting to hear from the NCAA on its potential 2013 NCAA Tournament ban due to its low APR score. The committee that would make that ruling met yesterday and. . .they pushed it off to the next meeting, which is from April 23 to 25. The decision is particularly big for the Huskies because they already had their waiver brushed aside and a postseason ban would probably mean a departure for several key figures including Jim Calhoun, Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, and Alex Oriakhi.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 15th, 2012

  1. Georgia’s Gerald Robinson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague were honored with SEC Men’s Player of the Week awards. Robinson was named the SEC Men’s Player of the Week after averaging 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, and three assists this week. The Bulldogs won both games with victories over 20th-ranked Mississippi State and Arkansas, in which Robinson added a career-high 27 points. Teague has steadily improved as point guard for the top-ranked Wildcats, and was named Freshman of the Week.  Teague contributed 12.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds and achieved his first double-double in Kentucky’s win over Florida.
  2. The Wildcats have run the table twice in the SEC, going a perfect 16-0, and could do it again this year. “When one of the ways (of winning) is not working for you, you can rely on something else,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ” … What makes a really, really special team is when you have a variety of ways to win. (The Cats) can win almost any kind of situation they’re in.” Wildcats coach John Calipari isn’t as concerned with a 16-0 record as he is with improvement. “My concern is, are we improving as a team?” Calipari said. “What I’m seeing right now is we are.” The only two teams since the 1956 season to go undefeated through league play were Kentucky’s 1995-96 team and the Wildcats again in 2002-03. The 1996 team, of course, won the National Championship for then coach Rick Pitino, and that is a very realistic goal for the 2012 version of Kentucky, regardless of the final conference record.
  3. It may be hard to define what swagger is, but a coach will know it when he sees it.  “When players walk with a certain type of swagger, a level of confidence — not cockiness, not arrogance — they can play, and they can compete,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said after a win at Florida. “Before, we just weren’t mentally ready.” Tennessee knows it is a much better team than the 11th place finish that was predicted in the preseason, and two wins over Florida along with playing close with Kentucky prove Martin has the Vols playing to win. However, the Vols need help. “We need our fans, and we need their support to help get us over the hump,” Martin said. “If our guys are giving effort, and they are leaving everything out on the floor, they deserve that support.”
  4. Depth is a major concern for Florida and coach Billy Donovan. “Dire is probably a pretty good word,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively, certainly going into Alabama without Will (Yeguete) being there. There is a tremendous void for us defensively at the basket.” In fact, the Gators are without their two leading scorers off the bench in Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario. The Gators will be ready to respond. “We just have to react appropriately and come together as a team,” guard Scottie Wilbekin said. And after two straight losses, Florida needs to come together quickly.
  5. The Gators are not the only team dealing with depth issues. Alabama, Florida’s opponent on Tuesday night, welcomed back Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele after suspensions from the team for a violation of team rules.  “When you look at Andrew Steele — he’s been probably the finest student-athlete that I’ve coached — he made a mistake,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “His body of work speaks for itself in terms of who he is as a person and what he’s been all about. I was a former student-athlete. You are faced with a lot of different things and you have to make decisions. Sometimes you make the wrong one. I don’t think that’s any indication of who he is as a person. Same thing with Trevor Releford. He’s a young man that’s in his sophomore year in college and made a bad choice. I think his teammates understand that. Certainly as a coach, I don’t condone it, but I’m not going to condemn him as a human being for making a bad decision. We will move on and get ready to play.” Grant has continued the suspensions for forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, the team’s top two leading scorers. When asked about those situations, Grant responded that the situations were “different.”
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SEC Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 14th, 2012

  1. He may not be the next John Wall or Brandon Knight, but freshman Marquis Teague is transforming into the type of point guard coach John Calipari is looking for to run his Kentucky Wildcats. “He’s transformed into what one of our typical point guards plays like,” Calipari said. “I’ve been really pleased. But it took a while to get where he is right now.” Over the last six games, Teague has 36 assists and just 11 turnovers. While many headlines focus on the other star-studded freshmen on the Wildcats roster, one needs to look no further than Teague to see the key to a deep run in March.
  2. Speaking of Kentucky’s chances in March, the Eye on College Basketball blog sees the Wildcats going into the tournament without another loss. Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello write, “the Wildcats only have incalculable Miss State and flaky Florida left to play on the road. Then comes the SEC tournament, where Kentucky fans will smother the joint. The chances this team gets to the NCAA tournament 33-1 are better than not, even if Ken Pomeroy is telling us otherwise.” Calipari has taken teams into the NCAA Tournament with one loss twice in his career. Once with Massachusetts in 1996, and once with Memphis in 2008. You may remember both teams advanced to at least a Final Four. Well, at least I thought they did, but I can’t seem to find any evidence to prove those claims.
  3. Mississippi State has struggled on the road this season in the SEC. The Bulldogs are 1-3 away from home after losing to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. “If you go on the road and that team wasn’t very good, hey, the crowd wouldn’t be a factor but the one constant when you go on the road is everybody is good,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “It’s just the way it is. There’s a fine line, a very, very fine line in this league — home or away.” The Bulldogs play at LSU on Tuesday night in what will be an imporant game for both teams. Luckily for Mississippi State, it won’t be playing on the road in the NCAA Tournament in a couple of weeks.
  4. LSU is still hoping to make the NCAA Tournament after a win over an incomplete Alabama team. And The Valley Shook says, “20 wins would definitely put LSU in the NIT, and if they could somehow creep higher than that the NCAA’s remain a possibility if other teams drop some games.” The aforementioned game against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge is shaping up to be an imprtant game for both teams.
  5. Will Yeguete’s injury was mentioned in Monday’s Morning Five, and now both Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario are out for the the Gators’ game on Tuesday night. Yeguete is out with a concussion sustained on Saturday, and Rosario is sidelined by a hip pointer. The Gators also played without Cody Larson on Saturday because of the flu. Florida has lost back to back games for the first time this season, and looks to regain its momentum against Alabama, a team with issues of its own.
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Morning Five: Valentine’s Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 14th, 2012

  1. Last week we mentioned the possibility of a Mountain West/Conference USA merger and yesterday the two sides moved closer to “a new association” with the start of combined play happening as early as the 2013-14 season. With both conferences seeing a significant number of their former constituents departing for greener pastures the move is one of self-preservation. This move probably will not have the domino effect that other major moves have had, but should take some potentially interesting target schools off the market for the time being.
  2. Santa Clara has suspended Kevin Foster, the West Coast Conference’s leading scorer (17.8 PPG), for the remainder of the season after his arrest for driving under the influence. Foster has been suspended by the team following his arrest in the early morning on January 22. Since that time he has missed seven games with the Broncos losing all seven. To be fair, the team was only 8-10 with him on the court. Since this is Foster’s junior season, there is a possibility that the team could bring him back next season, but now he will have to deal with the legal system first as he is scheduled to be arraigned March 7 as he has been charged with a misdemeanor.
  3. With Connecticut sitting on the NCAA bubble and its Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun still on an indefinite medical leave our faith in a rally by the Huskies is fading by the day. While Calhoun could theoretically come back any day now, it looks like that day will not be tomorrow when UConn plays DePaul. In fact, it could be quite a while as according to reports Calhoun is still meeting with medical specialists to get second- and third-opinions on how to manage his spinal stenosis. Calhoun is apparently still deciding whether to go with conservative management or undergo a surgical procedure, which would probably keep him out for the rest of the season. With just six games left in the regular season and the hopes of a promising season growing bleaker with every game, we would expect Calhoun to make a decision in the near-future.
  4. It was not quite like Larry Bird calling his Celtic teammates “sissies” in the 1984 NBA Finals, but after looking at tape of their home loss to Michigan State, Jared Sullinger criticized the entire team for playing like “spoiled brats” for their constant arguing with each other and the officials. Sullinger was careful not to simply call out his teammates as he included himself in the comment since along with his impressive totals of 17 points and 16 rebounds he also had 10 turnovers. It will be interesting to see how the Buckeyes respond to the loss moving forward as they have the potential to stay a #1 seed or drop down to a #3 seed with a tricky close to the regular season.
  5. Tonight’s Florida-Alabama game will have a vastly different look than what we expected coming into the weekend. Coming off back-to-back losses the Gators will be without the services of Will Yeguete after he suffered a concussion and required 10 stitches as the result of  a fall in Saturday’s loss against Tennessee and will also be without Mike Rosario as he continues to deal with a hip injury. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide will welcome back two of the four players who had been suspended last week for the catch-all conduct detrimental to the team. While Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green will continue to serve their suspensions, the team will “most likely” have Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele back for tonight’s game. Anthony Grant has not released any more information about if and when Mitchell and Green would return, but if he wants to avoid being on the bubble on Selection Sunday he might want to consider reinstating them fairly soon.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 24th, 2012

  1. Ole Miss forward Terrance Henry was named SEC Player of the Week after his first double-double of the season. Henry played well in the Rebels’ win over Georgia with 24 points and 10 rebounds. He averaged 18 points, 6.5 rebounds and two assists on the week. While Henry scored 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in Ole Miss’ win over Mississippi State, it was his defense on point guard Dee Bost that helped stifle the Bulldogs’ offense. Tennessee freshman Jarnell Stokes was named SEC Freshman of the Week in just his second week with the Volunteers. He helped UT beat defending national champion Connecticut by averaging 13.5 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, one assist and one steal. For Stokes to accomplish that in his second and third games of the season is even more impressive.
  2. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope must have great timing. He called to commit to the Georgia Bulldogs while coach Mark Fox was on an airplane ready for take-off. “He called me, I looked at my phone, and I said I better answer this,” Fox said. “So I answered my phone, and this flight attendant was saying: ‘You have to hang up your phone.'” As the plane took off, Fox lost the connection before Caldwell-Pope could finish the call. So when the freshman guard called back later that week, Fox was at dinner. The head coach knew exactly what to do though. “Left the table,” Fox said.  Caldwell-Pope’s 14.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game so far this season probably made that an easy decision for Fox.
  3. Guard Mike Rosario has helped turned the Gators’ bench from a liability in SEC play to a positive. Everyone is aware of Rosario’s offensive firepower, but he is getting additional playing time because of his commitment to the defensive end of the court. “Coach told me to stick my nose in there whenever I can to try to slap the ball and try to get a steal,” Rosario said. The strategy worked for the 6’3″ guard as he has four steals in his past three games. Prior to that, Rosario had not recorded a steal since December 17.
  4. First Kevin Stallings cried foul, and now Florida coach Billy Donovan is following suit. The Gators’ head man, just like Vanderbilt’s coach last week, is upset that Kentucky doesn’t go through the same rigors of conference scheduling as the rest of the SEC. “My problem with it is if you want to get more teams in the NCAA Tournament… our league should not put teams at a disadvantage competitively,” Donovan said. “I don’t think that’s right to the players, to the teams that are playing. I think we all agree that we need to play Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday. We’ve done it. But I think everybody needs to do it.” As mentioned last week in the SEC Morning Five, Kentucky is one of only three SEC teams that didn’t have the back-to-back scheduling issue that Florida and Vanderbilt (among others) had to endure. But if Donovan wants to argue that the SEC needs additional teams in the NCAA Tournament, then he also must understand that exposure helps in that endeavor. And the best exposure for the SEC is a TV deal with the Worldwide Leader, and the Kentucky Wildcats are the basketball reason that deal is a reality.
  5. Former Oklahoma State starter Fred Gulley plans to join the University of Arkansas basketball team next season. He will sit out one year based on NCAA transfer rules, and will be eligible in the spring of the 2012-13 season. Prior to leaving the Cowboys this season, Gulley averaged 4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in eight games. He is a 6’2″ guard, and is originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Arkansas will welcome the help. While the Razorbacks could use additional depth in the low post, coach Mike Anderson’s fast-paced style of play means that the Hogs can use healthy bodies at any position.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.13.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 13th, 2012

  1. Forward Murphy Holloway picked up right where he left off for the Ole Miss Rebels.  Ole Miss was on a downward spiral losing four of its last five games, but Holloway’s 19 points and 14 rebounds propelled the Rebels over Arkansas on Wednesday. “Sometimes you wonder, ‘Boy, you’ve lost four out of five. What’s wrong?'” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He wasn’t playing. That’s what’s wrong. Good players make good coaches. With him back we dominate the glass, it’s the reason we win the game.” Holloway helped the Rebels control the rebounding advantage by a margin of 22.
  2. Transfer guard Mike Rosario is finally healthy, but he is still learning to adjust to a new role within the Florida offense. Rosario scored seven straight points for the Gators against Georgia on Wednesday, but coach Billy Donovan is still expecting to see some improvement from his top bench player. “Getting those seven points in the first half, that helps your team,” Donovan said. “It’s interesting because I feel like people look at us as being this great scoring team. When you talk about scoring — guys that can put the ball in their hands, guys that can score — we’re a really, really good shooting team, but what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to understand we have to utilize our shooting.” One of Donovan’s greatest challenges with this Florida backcourt will be quality shot selection. Rosario went 3-9 against the Bulldogs. There is no doubt Rosario can score, but can he eliminate mistakes and bad shots and still accumulate points?
  3. John Calipari wasn’t so sure his Kentucky Wildcats were going to pull off the win on Wednesday night over Auburn. “They wanted it worse than we did,” Calipari said. “They played with a desire that we didn’t have. I’m telling you, if we don’t understand going in we’ve got to go and just from start to finish play like a team that’s on a mission, then we’re going to lose games. Because every team is going to give us their best shot.” The Wildcats certainly didn’t give their best effort. Kentucky shot just 40.4% on the night, and were outrebounded 35-29 by the Tigers. The Cats were 2-6 on the road in the SEC last year, and they hit Thompson Boling Arena on Saturday for a showdown with the defensive minded Tennessee Volunteers.
  4. Rebounding played a major factor in Auburn’s near upset of Kentucky. The Tigers outrebounded the Cats 31-14 in the first 30 minutes of the game, but something clicked with the Wildcats in the last 10 minutes as they snagged 15 of the 19 available rebounds. UK scored 21 points in the last half of the second half as Auburn only managed to score six down the stretch. Kentucky was awakened just in time to win the game, but the Cats gave Calipari quite a scare. “At one point I looked at the staff and said, ‘this has nothing to do with X’s and O’s, boys. We could be going down,'” Calipari said. Whatever the reasoning for the Cats’ resurgence in the second half, UK couldn’t afford a collapse to Auburn, so kudos to the Cats for winning on the road despite their poor play.
  5. Alabama forward JaMychal Green started for the first time in five games after suffering from a shoulder injury earlier in the year. Green played 27 minutes against LSU, grabbing three rebounds and scoring nine points on 4-9 shooting. Through shuffling the lineup around in Green’s absence, coach Anthony Grant may have found the right combination of players going forward. The Birmingham News says that the combination of Green, Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey, and Levi Randolph should be the lineup that Grant sticks with moving forward. This was the first time this combination had started together.
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Big East Morning Five: Rutgers v. Florida Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 30th, 2011

  1.  There were just three games involving Big East teams played last night but, with apologies to Vanderbilt‘s surprising shellacking of Marquette, there was one game that stood out and that was the stunning upset Rutgers pulled off last night when they beat #9 Florida in double overtime. The victory was monumental enough that we figured we should devote a full post to what we learned about Mike Rice’s young team last night and what it means. So enjoy our Morning Five…er, Six.
  2. In the case of Rutgers and former guard Mike Rosario, the Scarlet Knights got the last laugh. As we noted yesterday, Rosario left Rutgers because he wanted to put himself in a position to win games quickly, and yesterday was supposed to be his vindication. Well, he only played 14 minutes, scoring five points on six shots, and he left with some crow to eat on the trip back to Gainesville. Sure, the game seems more like an aberration than a burgeoning trend and Florida is probably still a better bet to win more games while Rosario is still in school, but it must be nice for Rutgers’ fans who called Rosario a “bum” during pre-game warmups and serenaded the local product with chants of “Jersey hates you”. Rosario was supposed to be the savior of the Scarlet Knights’ program, but it looks like the program will be just fine without him.
  3. Rutgers freshman Eli Carter might not be Bernard King, but he is going to be really good. Classmate and teammate Jerome Seagears said Carter reminded him of the Knicks’ great and despite the obvious size differences and small sample size, Carter certainly did his best impression last night, finishing with 31 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds. It did take him 24 shots to score his points, but he played a whopping 46 minutes and the 6-foot-2 combo guard could not be stopped by anyone Billy Donovan tried to put on him. Carter wasn’t the most heralded guard in Rice’s ballyhooed recruiting class, but he has now scored double-digit points in all but two games this season and he is chipping in nearly three rebounds per game to boot. He also seems to be more assertive when it comes to taking shots, and while this could backfire if the freshman gets too confident, he has the ability to take over games when he is hot — like he was last night. He is still learning, and his assist-to-turnover ratio leaves a lot to be desired, but he still doesn’t have 15 collegiate games under his belt and he just carried his team to its biggest win its years on national television against a Top-10 opponent. Not that it really needs to be said anymore, but keep an eye on this kid.
  4. On this night, the Scarlet Knights were the embodiment of their coach’s spirit. Much has been made of Mike Rice’s decision to come to Piscataway and try to rebuild a program with barely any notable basketball history. But Rice has attacked the job with seemingly limitless energy and determination and there is now reason to believe his vision is beginning to take shape on the court. His team showed a similar work ethic and never-say-die attitude last night, coming back from not one but two deficits in regulation and the first overtime, including a seven-point gap in the final 2:48 of regulation. Every coach in any sport tries to give his team an identity but Rice has molded his team in his own identity. The Scarlet Knights are still very young and still don’t look like a tournament team quite yet, but I seriously doubt anyone will overlook the team full of overachievers and scrappers again this season. Rice has practically made a past time of playing up his team’s underdog role and his team has embraced it. The Gators are a legitimate contender this season and every time it looked like they would use their superior talent to pull away, Rutgers kept the game within reach, and a lot of that has to do with the mentality their coach has instilled in them since the start of his tenure.
  5. Speaking of Rice’s rebuilding efforts, his plan appears to be ahead of schedule. Don’t look now but the Scarlet Knights have won their last four games after last night’s thriller and their young players are starting to gel together just in time for conference play. There aren’t many teams in the conference with an exciting trio of freshman guards like Carter, Seagears, and Myles Mack, all of whom played more than 30 minutes in the win. And redshirt freshman Kadeem Jack might be the most talented of all of Rice’s young players, and he is just now getting back onto the court after injury sidelined him for all of last year. If he can pick things up quickly and play at 100 percent, the Scarlet Knights have a really nice nucleus to build around, and you better bet Rice plans to keep building as fast as possible. The team doesn’t have any committed recruits for the Class of 2012 yet, but Rice doesn’t have many scholarships to hand out and he does get the services of Kansas State transfer Wally Judge next season as well. A quick look at the box score from Rutgers’ games show that the team will return every meaningful contributor from this year’s team and Rice is too good a coach to let the team rest on its laurels now. The victory over Villanova last season was nice but this win over a team as talented as Florida is a real statement victory that Rice can now hang his hat on and point to when he tells recruits that Rutgers is ready to compete on a national level.
  6. But let’s also remember not to get ahead of ourselves. If you looked when I told you not to, you will see that while Rutgers has indeed strung together four consecutive wins, opponents like Stony Brook and New Jersey Institute of Technology aren’t exactly worthwhile competition. If you kept looking, you will also see that Rutgers has losses to perennial powerhouses like Illinois State and Princeton on their resume. The win over Florida shows that the inexperienced team has plenty of potential, but this season has proven that potential isn’t always realized every game of the season. The Scarlet Knights played a rather mediocre non-conference schedule, and now they have the luxury of playing three ranked teams and West Virginia twice before the calendar even hits February, and it won’t get easier after that either. Freshmen, especially ones called upon to play as many minutes as Seagears, Mack, and Carter play, are prone to mercurial moments. One game Carter is going off for 31 points, but two games before against Stony Brook, he scored just 11 points and had five turnovers to one assist. Rutgers can play with anyone in the country because they work hard and they fight for the entire game, but they still aren’t deep enough or experienced enough to make the NCAA Tournament, no matter how watered down the Big East is this season.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 29th, 2011

  1. Mississippi State met sixth ranked Baylor on Wednesday night in Dallas, Texas. The most anticipated matchup was in the post where Bulldogs’ forward Arnett Moultrie got the best of NBA prospect and Baylor sophomore Perry Jones III. “He was a good player,” Moultrie said. “My goal was to lock him down defensively. I think I did pretty good. I don’t think he was the reason they won the game.” Moultrie grabbed 10 rebounds and scored eight points, while holding Jones III to eight points and six rebounds on 4-13 shooting. Jones III looked out of sync offensively, and was not able to establish position on Moultrie in the post all night. Despite shutting down Baylor’s top offensive option, the Bulldogs lost 54-52.
  2. It appears as though Florida guard Mike Rosario will make his return from a back strain that has caused him to miss the past two games. The team that Florida plays on Thursday? Rutgers, Rosario’s former team, where he spent his freshman and sophomore years. Rosario is averaging 9.4 points per game coming off the bench for the Gators. He averaged 16.2 and 16.7 points per game in his first two years at Rutgers, and expect Rosario to give a little extra effort to put up those kind of numbers on Thursday. It should be an emotional game for the junior transfer, but regardless of the opponent, it is good to see him return to action.
  3. Kentucky’s Terrence Jones isn’t ready to offer any insight into his poor performance against Indiana a couple of weeks ago. “It happened,” Jones said. “The game is over. We just have to move on. There’s nothing I can do to change what happened.” Not that you need a reminder, but Jones scored four points, grabbed one rebound and committed six turnovers in the Wildcats’ loss in Bloomington. “It’s tough because we lost,” Jones added. “Anything else doesn’t matter to me.” Jones returned to action against Lamar on Wednesday night, adding nine points and six rebounds in 27 minutes. Emotions will be high when Louisville comes to Rupp Arena on Saturday, and Kentucky will need Jones at 100 percent both physically and mentally.
  4. Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist compared himself to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow when asked about being the Wildcats’ MVP so far this season. Blasphemy! Nobody is like Tebow. Although Kidd-Gilchrist has achieved a cult-like status in Lexington with his hard work and tremendous effort on the court. Wildcat fans have taken a liking to his production too, as Kidd-Gilchrist averages 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Kentucky retailers have even created a MKG for MVP t-shirt. “I don’t get into all that,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I’m just a winner. That’s it. I’m like Tebow. I just want to win the games. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”
  5. ESPN’s Andy Katz took a look at the SEC in his conference power rankings. While Kentucky and Florida topped the list, the most interesting and difficult team to rank is Vanderbilt. Katz writes, “It’s hard to push the Commodores down too far, even though this team has struggled mightily during the early part of the season. The Dores get yet another challenge this week at Marquette.” Vandy’s matchup with Marquette on Thursday night is about redemption. The Commodores have fallen significantly from their top 10 ranking in the preseason, and it is becoming more and more difficult to leave Vandy at the top of the rankings in the SEC. The 2011-12 ‘Dores just don’t look like a team that will be able to break coach Kevin Stallings’ losing streak in the NCAA Tournament.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.29.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 29th, 2011

  1. As discussed here yesterday, Rick Pitino made headlines when he stated he would not continue coaching once his contract expires after the 2016-17 season.  We linked to the ESPN story in that post and have done so again here because it is important to highlight Pitino’s quote.  He said, “My contract’s going to run out in 2017. I’m not coaching anymore after that.”  Yes, we have to break out the Lee Corso voice here…”NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”  Just a day later on ESPN’s air during Louisville’s game against Georgetown, announcers John Sciambi and Dick Vitale discussed the matter, saying they spoke to Pitino about it prior to the game.  According to Sciambi, Pitino said his comments were “misconstrued,” and that they were a “tongue-in-cheek type of thing.”  Further Sciambi said Pitino indicated he “never alluded to retirement” and “in no way was he implying that we was going to stop coaching.”  OK then.  While his backtracking is not a surprise, his explanation is a bit of a head scratcher.  Either Pitino was misquoted by just about every news outlet in the world the other day, or he as a great future in politics whenever he does decide to hang up the whistle.
  2. In a continued homage to Lee Corso, when # 4 Louisville dropped its first game of the season, a 71-68 home loss to #12 Georgetown, Cardinals’ freshman Chane Behanan was rendered incorrect.  Behanan predicted an undefeated Louisville season a week-and-a-half ago following an eight-point victory over Memphis.  Behanan said at the time, “We’re the number one team in the country in my eyes. We’re going undefeated. Point blank, period.”   Clearly no one, including us, took Behanan’s comments all that seriously, nor was anyone holding him to his bravado.  He must have been somewhat convincing though.  Two people actually bought in and gave Louisville first place votes in this week’s Associated Press Poll.  In a related story, RTC’s crack team of investigators is reviewing Behanan’s family tree for college basketball writers.  However what Behanan, his teammates, and the Louisville faithful may have been guilty of last night is complacence. Louisville has a huge game coming up on New Year’s Eve at #3 Kentucky, and dare we say they may have looked past Georgetown a bit?  There was even a comment during the ESPN broadcast that the KFC Yum! Center seemed somewhat low key. Whether Louisville let down their guard a bit or not, take nothing away from the Hoyas (12-1).  They are rolling.  Since their four-point loss to #17 Kansas on November 21, Georgetown has won nine in a row including three over teams that were ranked at the time.
  3. While West Virginia won its game on the court last night (83-69 over Villanova) they lost a decision in the court on Tuesday.  Providence (RI) County Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein said “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND” to the university’s desire to have decisions regarding the timing of their official defection to the Big 12 rendered outside of Rhode Island.  ” (Hey, it may be lame, but it’s a theme.  At least I did not emerge and put on one of those old colonial judge wigs. See… you chuckled just then.) Rhode Island is the location of Big East headquarters, and a darn fine state in its own right. The court also denied West Virginia’s request that a suit filed against them by the Big East be rejected.  Big East bylaws stipulate that any school electing to leave the conference must wait 27 months before it can formally do so.  West Virginia filed suit against the conference challenging the rule, as it wants to enter the Big 12 in time for the 2012 football season.  The Big East then quickly filed the aforementioned countersuit saying that West Virginia’s suit is baseless and they must abide by the rules they previously agreed to.
  4. Fab Melo’s development and credibility took a nice leap forward last night as he notched his first career double-double, hitting career-highs in scoring with 12 points and blocks with 10 in a 75-49 rout of Seton Hall.  The 10 blocks also set a Syracuse record and he missed a triple-double by just three rebounds.  As noted here yesterday, a key indicator in the maturation of Melo would be his performance against the type of frontcourt competition the Big East brings night in and night out.  So far, so good.  Seton Hall came into the game at 11-1 with some nice wins over the likes of Virginia Commonwealth, St. Joseph’s, Auburn and Dayton.  Check.  Seton Hall has Herb Pope who is a beast and came into the game averaging 20.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest.  Pope finished last night’s game with four points, nine rebounds and six turnovers.  Check.  It has been well documented that Melo came into this season in much better shape, which is helping him to stay on the floor and concentrate on basketball over fitness.  With the fitness hurdle cleared, his confidence is growing which can only help.  “I wasn’t surprised,” Melo said after the game “I’ve put a lot of work in. I’m still working hard to get better and I’m sure you’ll see better things from me. You’re going to be more surprised.”
  5. When the schedule came out, Rutgers fans certainly had today’s date circled on their calendars as the Scarlet Knights will be hosting #10 Florida tonight.  While it is always great to welcome one of the country’s top programs into your arena for a non-conference game, the cherry on top in this one is the return of Mike Rosario. Rosario starred at Rutgers for two years, scoring over 1,000 points in a Scarlet Knight uniform before transferring to Florida.  He is a hometown kid who played for legendary coach Bob Hurley, Sr., at Jersey City’s equally legendary St. Anthony’s High School.  Despite Rosario’s individual success at Rutgers, as a fine Star-Ledger/NJ.com piece by Brendan Prunty points out, he did not see a near-term opportunity to win in Piscataway.  That, coupled with the departure of Fred Hill, the head coach who recruited him, prompted Rosario to explore his options and ultimately head south to Gainesville.  Rosario (9.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG this season) has missed the Gators’ last two games with a nagging back injury and his status for tonight’s game is questionable, but he says he is ‘100 percent right now’ and will play in the game.
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Big East Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 27th, 2011

  1. We ate.  We drank.  We were merry.  We took some TUMS and are back.  Hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday weekend.
  2. While we are not necessarily looking at marquee matchups, Big East conference play kicks off tonight and that is a good thing!  There are two games on the docket this evening to get things started and despite a lack of glitter, there is intrigue.  #22 Pittsburgh (11-2) heads to South Bend, Indiana, to take on Notre Dame (8-5).  The Tim Abromaitis-less Irish would love a signature victory to get things rolling but this one may end up occurring game late as the Panthers will not be in letdown mode after getting beaten by Wagner at home last Friday.   The other contest features two squads looking to answer questions as St. John’s (6-5) hosts Providence (11-2).  The Red Storm have battled on and off the court from the sudden departure of guard Nurideen Lindsey to head coach Steve Lavin’s recovery from prostate cancer.  They are a young team and hope the second semester addition of talented freshman Amir Garrett gives them a boost in conference play.  The Friars are feeling good at 11-2 under first-year head coach Ed Cooley, but know the competition is going to increase dramatically as league action begins. Although Cooley was not around Providence the last couple of years, it is a virtual certainty he will be reminding his crew of their back-to-back four win Big East campaigns often as this year progresses. The new tag for Friar point guard Vincent Council is “underrated.”  Maybe if enough people call him underrated he will get sufficient attention so as to not be any longer.  There is no predicting the result of this game, but one thing you can bet on is that the Red Storm will not be sleeping on ‘VC’, and that the growing chip on Council’s shoulder does not bode well for opposing defenders.
  3. As noted above, Big East play begins tonight but this week also brings some notable non-conference matchups involving Big East teams.  #10 Florida heads north to battle Rutgers at the RAC in a game that features a couple of notable Big East connections.  Florida’s Mike Rosario is a 1,000 point scorer… at Rutgers.  Rosario transferred to the Gators and it was certainly understandable he would be looking forward to facing his old team, but it appears he will not be able to play due to a nagging back injury.  Florida head coach Billy Donovan has tremendous Big East memories as he led Providence to the 1987 Final Four while playing for Rick Pitino.  Cincinnati, who has taken out their aggression on soft assortment of cream pies since brawling with cross-town rival Xavier a couple of weeks ago, will face a test when they host Oklahoma.   Marquette faces an SEC rubber match when they host Vanderbilt on Friday.  The Golden Eagles beat Mississippi in the Big East – SEC challenge in November and then lost to Louisiana State last week.  Finally, in the main event, #4 Louisville will travel to Lexington to take on bitter in-state rival and #3 ranked Kentucky on Saturday.  Both teams play on Wednesday but while Kentucky fattens up against Lamar, Louisville will have to stay focused against #12 Georgetown.
  4. The Big East is back with its weekly honors and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones has earned last week’s Player of the Week award.  Jones, who now leads the Big East in scoring (21.0 PPG) and rebounding (11.9 RPG), put up beastly numbers (23.0 PPG, 14.7 RPG) in a 2-1 week for the Mountaineers including a career-high 28 points to go with 17 boards in a loss to Baylor.  Once again, Connecticut’s Andre Drummond is the Big East Rookie of the Week.  Drummond had 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in UConn’s lone game, a 79-71 victory over in-state foe Fairfield.  This is Drummond’s second consecutive Rookie of the Week honor, and third for the season.  Weekly Honor Roll recipients: Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley on the merits of his 19-point, eight-rebound performance in a drubbing of Sacred Heart; Providence guard Vincent Council who averaged 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in Friar victories over New Hampshire and in-state rival Rhode Island; Louisville forward Kyle Kuric who averaged 16.0 points and five assists in two wins, including 17 points and eight rebounds in the Cardinals’ seven-point win over the College of Charleston; Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier who netted 24 points to go with five assists and six rebounds in the Fairfield win and Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore who averaged 20.0 points and seven assists in a 2-0 week for the Pirates, including a season-high 26 points versus Longwood. In related news, Seton Hall’s Herb Pope was not among the honorees for the first time this season.
  5. The polls are out this week and as expected Marquette and Pittsburgh slipped in the rankings due to losses suffered last week.  Marquette (11-1) dropped four spots to #14 as it lost for the first time this year, a 67-59 defeat on the road against Louisiana State.  Pittsburgh (11-2) plummeted from #15 to #22 on the heels of its 59-54 upset loss at home to Wagner.  Syracuse (13-0) kept it rolling and remained the nation’s top team.  Georgetown (10-1) showed some upward mobility as it beat Memphis for the second time this year and leaped four spots to #12.  Louisville (12-0) is still undefeated and #4 as it gets ready for the previously mentioned home showdown against Georgetown on Wednesday.  It should also be noted that the Cardinals garnered two first place votes this week. Connecticut (10-1) held off a second half surge from Fairfield that the pollsters apparently did not like as the Huskies slipped a notch to #9.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.21.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 21st, 2011

  1. “The Breakfast Club” has started at the University of Kentucky, and this version has nothing to do with Molly Ringwald. Without class or other obligations to worry about over the holiday break, several players have taken it upon themselves to lift weights, eat breakfast together, and practice for the remainder of the morning. “Michael Jordan did that Breakfast Club,” head coach John Calipari said. “They met at 6 a.m., they trained, they stretched, they had a personal trainer and then they ate breakfast and then they went to practice. They did it every day, including game day. So we have four guys doing it right now. Hopefully, a couple more guys will step up and start doing the breakfast club.” While Calipari declined at first to say who the four were, he did say, “It is a good group of guys and the guys that you expect to be in it are in it. Hopefully, the other guys will join in and do it.” Kentucky beat Samford on Tuesday night and will play again on Thursday night against Loyola (Md). The Wildcats are hoping the hard work and extra effort will pay off before next week’s showdown against Louisville on New Year’s Eve.
  2. Florida freshman Bradley Beal is becoming more comfortable on the court, and that is a bad sign for opposing defenses that felt Beal has scored points at ease 11 games into his college career. “I’m not as nervous as I was,” Beal said. “Basically, it’s starting to come natural and I’m playing within the flow of the game, not really forcing anything. Just relaxing and enjoying the flow of the game.” Beal is averaging 15 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, but is only shooting 33.9% from beyond the arc. If Beal settles into the college game, and improves his shooting averages (45.8 FG% and 69.4 FT%), he could be a superstar in the Gators’ backcourt. Beal has plenty of competition for shots as guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker average 18.7 and 14.5 points per game respectively.
  3. After starting out as one of the hottest teams in the country, Alabama has lost three of its last four games. However, a tough non-conference schedule will benefit the Tide in the long run. “I don’t think it can do anything but help us,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “We’ve been faced with a lot of different styles of play, a lot of different challenges in terms of matchups and things that we’ve had to go against both offensively and defensively. Any time you play against quality competition, it can’t do anything but help you.” But the Tide’s three-point shooting won’t improve simply from playing better competition. The Tide are shooting a dismal 24.4% from beyond the arc, only making an average of three long distance shots per game. Its three-point shooting has to get better for Alabama to move past this losing streak.
  4. Florida may be a little under-manned in its game with Florida State on Thursday. Mike Rosario and Cody Larson, both of whom missed the Gators’ victory over Mississippi Valley State, are doubtful. “I would say that probably both those guys are doubtful. Could that change? Yes,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m not ready to say that they’re not playing, but Mike’s back has flared up and Cody’s got strep throat so we’re probably not going to find anymore out, probably until see what happens in practice on Wednesday.” Rosario is averaging 9.4 points per game while Larson is scoring 1.3 per game. The Gators won last year’s match-up with FSU 55-51 in Tallahassee. Florida hasn’t lost a home game in the O’Connell Center since a 72-69 loss to South Carolina on January 15, 2011.
  5. Kentucky’s freshman walk-on Sam Malone suffered a torn ACL in the team’s win over UT Chattanooga on Saturday. Calipari tweeted Tuesday afternoon with his thoughts on the guard. “Losing Sam Malone to an ACL injury is heartbreaking,” Calipari said. “He has been a great teammate and an even better person. You never want to hear someone is injured, but for Sam to go through his fourth knee injury is especially tough because he’s worked so hard to get where he is. He has become a valuable member of our team and quickly became a fan favorite. We look forward to Sam making a full recovery.” Malone has quickly become a fan favorite in Lexington for his fearlessness in firing up shots late in blowout wins. There is no word yet on when or if Malone will be able to return.
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