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/ 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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Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Arizona at Florida

Posted by AMurawa on December 7th, 2011

While Washington has a couple of big challenges this week in New York City, we’ve chosen Arizona’s trip to Florida as the Pac-12 game of the week, largely for the contrast in styles and the expectation that these Wildcats are getting close to turning it on. There were high expectations for the freshman backcourt duo of Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson coming into the season, with both players regarded as top 25 recruits. But, as is often the case, both players took some time adjusting to their new surroundings. Johnson has had some ups and down, but has been a pretty consistent scorer for the Wildcats, averaging 10.8 points per game and earning his first start of the season a week ago against New Mexico State. The odds are good that he may never leave the starting five again. Turner, meanwhile, started the opener against Valparaiso, but lost his job to sophomore Jordin Mayes. Just yesterday, however, Sean Miller was hinting that Turner could earn his way back into the starting lineup as early as tonight’s game. Of course, that was all before Turner missed the final practice before the team’s trip to Gainesville and was suspended. With Turner out, sophomore Mayes will retain his starting spot and be called upon to put in plenty of extra minutes against a talented Gator backcourt.

Kenny Boynton, Florida

Kenny Boynton Has Been Hot For Florida And Arizona Will Need To Cool Him Down To Stand A Chance (Credit: Kim Klement, US Presswire)

Even with Turner in the backcourt, the Wildcats were bound to have their hands full with Florida’s athletic and dymanic quartet of guards: Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and Bradley Beal. All four are capable of knocking down shots from increasingly improbable range, while sure to keep the defense honest with a quickness off the bounce that could earn them easy hoops in the lane or free throw opportunities. Boynton has been criticized at times for being a little too loose with his shot selection, but so far this year he has been knocking down shots at such a high rate (47.3% from three, with an effective shooting percentage of 65.9%) that his green light from Gator coach Billy Donovan has been justified. Walker, the senior point guard, is playing the best ball of his career thus far, handing out assists on over 30% of his team’s hoops while he’s in the game, and knocking down his own shots at a pretty good clip as well (56.6% eFG). Then there’s the freshman, Beal, who may be the best of all of them, despite struggling with his shot at Syracuse this past weekend. A major bonus out of the 6’3” Beal has been his ability to rebound with the big boys while often playing out of position at the three, grabbing double-digit rebounds three times in his seven games and averaging seven rebounds per game.

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SEC Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 5th, 2011

  1. Kentucky and North Carolina played in one of the best regular season college games in quite some time. For a game with an extreme amount of hype coming in, this one lived up to all of the hype and more. It seemed from my Twitter timeline, that most fans, analysts and writers wished for five more minutes of these two heavyweights going at it. We may get forty more minutes in March or April. Here’s the roundup of everyone’s reactions to this instant classic: Jeff Goodman wrote that this one sure felt like March. CBS Sports graded each player based on their NBA prospects. Seth Davis wrote that he hopes UNC and Kentucky meet again. The Lexington Herald Leader talked about Anthony Davis’ signature moment. More on Davis’ incredible block from The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy. More from DeCourcy on how proud Calipari is of his freshmen. Rob Dauster of Beyond the Arc wrote that the game lived up to its hype. Jason King of ESPN wrote about how special this game really was. The guys at a Sea of Blue look at the good and the bad for the Cats. And finally, our national overlords at Rush the Court say that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a star among stars.
  2. In its 62-60 loss to Louisville on Friday night, Vanderbilt made only eight two-point field goals in the entire game. Half of its points came from threes, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, outscoring Louisville 30-15 from beyond the arc. John Jenkins is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch coming off screens for a three point shot, especially when he is hot. However, the Commodores have become too reliant on the outside shot, even considering that their biggest inside threat, Festus Ezeli, continues to be sidelined by an injury.  The fewest three-point shots that Vandy has hoisted up so far this season is 17, in a loss to Cleveland State. Despite throwing up more than 20 three-point shots in six of their eight games, the Commodores have only shot over 40 percent once, an 11-25 (44%) effort against Monmouth.
  3. Speaking of three-point shots sinking a team, Alabama lost a thriller on Thursday night to Georgetown on a last second three by Hollis Thompson. With the 57-55 victory, Georgetown snapped a 24-game home winning streak for the Tide in Coleman Coliseum. Potentially more detrimental, the Hoyas might have laid the blueprint to beating Alabama with an aggressive sagging 2-3 zone. It was Alabama’s inability to convert from three that caused its offense to stall. The Tide shot 3-16 from beyond the arc beginning with missing their first 11 three-% on 23 attempts on the season.
  4. Mike Rosario, the Florida’s fourth leading scorer this season, played a season-low six minutes in a loss to Syracuse on Friday night. Rosario came in averaging over 10 points per game, but coach Billy Donovan made the decision to sit him on the bench throughout the entire second half. “The last couple days, I think emotionally, he just hasn’t been there,” said Donovan. “I tried to use him a little bit and he just did not seem himself. It was more my decision not to play him. I actually felt like we needed defense because I knew we were going to have a hard time scoring with Patric (Young) off the floor.” Guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker stepped up in his place with a combined 9-19 from three-point land. Boynton finished with 22 points, while Walker added 17 points and five assists. Rosario disappeared in Florida’s last top five match-up in Columbus against Ohio State. Rosario played 19 minutes, but only added five points. Rosario’s play in marquee games should be something to keep an eye on for the Gators.
  5. If I had to choose a team that could ill afford an injury to a frontcourt player at this point, I would probably choose Vanderbilt. With starting center Festus Ezeli still out, the Commodores received more bad news as they have lost 6’11” center Josh Henderson with a stress fracture in his left foot. He will be sidelined for eight to 12 weeks. Henderson was averaging three points and three rebounds in limited minutes, however, was beginning to gain confidence with a 10-point, five-rebound performance against Monmouth. Henderson played a season-high 18 minutes against Xavier. Henderson’s injury should not be much of an issue once Ezeli returns to action in a couple of weeks, but will further hamper the Commodores until that time.
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A Quick Fake Summary: Florida Heard the Sound of Inevitablity

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 2nd, 2011

In order to beat the Syracuse system, Florida needed to come out guns blazing. Specifically they needed their big forward Patric Young to be enough of a post threat to score and draw collapsing Orange defenders. They also needed their collection of long-range snipers — both old (junior Kenny Boynton, senior Erving Walker) and new (junior Mike Rosario, freshman Brad Beal) — to exploit the seams in Agent Orange’s zone defense.

Boynton (22 points) and Walker (17 points, five assists) did their part. Young (six points, five rebounds) was pinned down, controlled by Syracuse’s interior defenders and played just 25 minutes. Rosario (six points) and Beal (seven points on 2-9 FG, 0-5 3FG) just didn’t bring enough bullets. The Syracuse defense bent and contorted, wasting Florida possessions (20 turnovers) and forcing the Gators to withdraw in defeat.

Syracuse wins 72-68. Tell me, Mr. Donovan, what good is good defensive pressure when you are unable to three?

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