SEC M5: 02.12.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 12th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida may have sealed its last two wins as much at the beginning of those two games than at the end of them. Against Tennessee, an early 10-0 run by the Gators allowed them to stabilize an otherwise lackluster first half (36.4% FG) and only trail a hot-shooting Vols team by one at halftime. To be sure, a couple of late threes from Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin put the game out of reach, but the Gators might not have been in that position if not for that early turnover-fueled surge. The same can be said for their game last Saturday against Alabama. The Gators had an 8-0 lead before the Tide had even gotten the ball across midcourt. This early surge similarly allowed them to withstand some frustration with Alabama’s zone and 16 first half points from Trevor Releford. Sometimes it’s not only about how you finish, but also how you start. Where does Tennessee go from here? The Vols are out of chances for a sparkling Florida/Kentucky resume-enhancing win, but their NCAA Tournament situation is far from dire. They should be favored in all of their remaining SEC games other than next weekend’s contest at Missouri, and currently at 6-5, they could be in good position to rack up an impressive conference record. Pair this with their solid overall RPI and a win or two in the SEC Tournament, and Cuonzo Martin may get his first invitation to March Madness while living in Knoxville.
  2. Momentum was there for Ole Miss to grab. The Rebels had beaten a fellow bubble buddy in Missouri, and then faced manageable road games against Alabama and Georgia before massive back-to-back home dates with Kentucky and Florida. A three-game winning streak followed by a statement win would surely have been what the resume doctor ordered. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Tide upended Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa last night. Trevor Releford (26 points on 8-of-16 shooting) refused to let another game slip away for the Tide when the Rebels regained the lead with just under 10 minutes left. The senior went on to score 14 of the Tide’s last 16 points, including a game-winning three with under a second left. He won’t be playing in the NCAA Tournament (or NIT, barring a minor miracle) in his final amateur season, but he can contribute to Anthony Grant’s program in a big way by playing hard and showing leadership despite the team’s struggles. There aren’t many young players on Alabama’s roster (just two freshmen and a sophomore), but he has set a great example nonetheless. The Rebels, for their part, essentially face a must-win game in Athens on Saturday. If they were to lose that one they could conceivably be stuck with a 7-7 record after the Kentucky/Florida gauntlet. That’s not a good look for a team that appears to be on the outside looking in right now. It’ll help if Jarvis Summers, who has had an excellent season, breaks out of his mini-road slump. In the Rebels’ last two losses at Kentucky and Alabama, he’s only 6-of-22 from the field and 1-of-6 from three despite shooting 50 percent (and that’s not a typo) from distance on the season. Marshall Henderson may be the Ole Miss wildcard, but Summers has been the steady hand that Andy Kennedy needs to return sooner than later.
  3. Johnny Jones has to plug a hole in his rotation after losing Malik Morgan for the rest of the season. The sophomore injured his knee during LSU’s weekend win over Auburn, and had surgery Monday evening. “It’s certainly a blow to us,” Jones said. “That’s an area we are certainly going to have to look at and find out exactly how we will dispatch those minutes. He was able to give us positive minutes.” Jones indicated that freshmen Tim Quarterman (12.5 MPG) and Shane Hammink (6.3 MPG) will be counted on to replace Morgan’s 15.5 minutes per game. This isn’t a crushing blow to LSU since Morgan wasn’t relied on heavily on either end of the floor. But it does limit Jones’ options, and takes away a high energy player and occasional starter. Morgan’s length (6’4’’) and energy was valuable when the Tigers went to a zone look. Quarterman and Hammink do both have length, which is good for Jones. The other angle to this injury is how it’ll affect Morgan’s development. Andre Stringer and Shavon Coleman are seniors so there will be an openings on the perimeter next season, and a full season of games would’ve been ideal for Morgan and LSU.
  4. Kentucky has won three straight games. Up next is an Auburn team against which the Wildcats own a 15-game winning streak. And after them? The third-ranked team in the country and the SEC’s biggest game to date. That game would lose a tiny bit of luster if the Wildcats are caught overlooking Auburn and suffer a letdown. “There’s no risk in overlooking Auburn. We all know that Auburn can beat us. We know that we’re going to get their best game. We know that they’re a very, very good team who has two guards who are really playing well,” said Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne. Count tonight as an unexpected measuring stick in the great experiment that is the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats. It’d be hard not to be excited for the upcoming game against Florida at home, and how hard the Wildcats play against Auburn will reveal a lot about their team maturity and development. It’s an easy game to look past, but Kentucky has already been burned on the road by a tandem of high-scoring guards. KT Harrell and Chris Denson average more combined points per game (39.6) than Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown, who went for 61 against the Wildcats. This also might be another good chance for John Calipari to work on the zone defense he’s flashed recently. Harrell has been effective from deep this season (39.1 3P%) but that’s been it for the Tigers. As a team they’ve shot 31.9% from three, and two of the three players that dominate the ball (Denson and Tahj Shamsid-Deen) shoot under 30.7%. A final interesting angle to a game that looks mundane on the surface is the relationship between Calipari and Tony Barbee, who got his coaching start as a graduate assistant under Calipari at UMass, and was on his Memphis staff for six years. Since Barbee is sitting on the hot seat, this could be the last time the two face off in the SEC.
  5. There were some upgrades for the SEC this season after Mike Slive mandated tougher scheduling outside conference play. For one, despite not actually winning any of its tough games, Alabama did jump from the 69th toughest nonconference schedule in 2012-13 to the ninth toughest this season. They weren’t the only teams to upgrade. According to the Associated Press, “Kentucky (59th to 14th), Mississippi (271st to 103rd) and LSU (234th to 137th) are also among the teams who made big leaps in strength of nonconference schedule.” This still wasn’t enough, as the SEC nonconferene RPI on the whole was bad, and only Kentucky and Florida have tournament spots seemingly locked up. Slive’s policy should start to see greater returns over the next few years when coaches have greater flexibility to add more name-brand opponents. It’s unlikely anyone schedules like the Tide this year: they played Wichita State, Duke, UCLA, Oklahoma and Xavier. But their fate shouldn’t be a cautionary tale that scares off other SEC coaches. Had the Tide won even one of those difficult games (and they were close) their season could’ve taken on a different feel RPI- and momentum-wise. The SEC doesn’t currently have the cache to get their teams in based on conference play alone. Risks like Anthony Grant’s aggressive nonconference schedule need to be taken to build national respect.
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More TV Money for the Nation’s Most Powerful Conference: Surprise, Surprise…

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 3rd, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Because once-meaningful concepts like academic and cultural similarity, geographical proximity and longstanding tradition no longer control how or why college athletic conferences exist, and because television, you know, does – Thursday’s news out of SEC headquarters is a very big deal, both for  league directly involved, the SEC, along with every other college sports conference. The South Eastern Conference announced a 20-year agreement with ESPN Thursday to air a 24/7 all-encompassing sports network beginning in 2014, with programming that includes 45 football games and more than 100 men’s basketball games annually, plus “selected events” from non-revenue sports and other important offseason dates such as football pro-days and national signing day.

An expansive new TV contract will grow the SEC's already monumental annual financial take (AP Photo).

An expansive new TV contract will grow the SEC’s already monumental annual financial take (AP Photo).

This is a very big deal. It is not mars-landing breaking news. Here’s why: the SEC exists in an entirely different plane of football competitiveness and import, stuffed to the hilt with NFL-bound talent and a fervent pigskin culture not seen in any other league across the country, but they were a step or two behind on this conference-specific television fad. The Big Ten and Pac-12 networks already have their own networks, which promise (alongside nonstop league-centric coverage) exorbitant annual sums, serve to expand the otherwise lesser profile of lower-tier programs and clearly represent the way of the future in a bountiful college sports television frontier.

The more subscribers there are in different regions of the country, the more fans that are eager to watch Washington State play Utah on a Thursday night, for example, the more money falls into league coffers and the more other schools – we’re looking at you, AAC – want a piece of the pie. These were the logistical league-hopping dynamics behind much of the recent conference realignment wave (go watch Maryland’s astonishingly candid introductory Big Ten press conference), and they will continue to drive the ship in league membership decisions, even if the ACC’s recent grant of rights deal appears to have ensured at least temporary realignment calm among the major conferences.

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With Kentucky Loss, SEC Fan Apathy For Basketball Exposed Again

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report while covering the SEC Tournament in Nashville this weekend.

You’ve heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” When it comes to Kentucky fans and the SEC Tournament, it goes more like this: “Wherever you hold it, they will come.” Everyone knows that the Wildcats have struggled all season with almost an entirely new team, and chances are, they will miss out on the NCAA Tournament. But if you happened to be in downtown Nashville Friday evening, you would think John Calipari’s team was a prime contender for the national championship. For Friday’s blowout loss to Vanderbilt, whose campus is two miles from Bridgestone Arena, the SEC Tournament drew its largest crowd of the weekend, and of the 18,000+ in attendance, at least 15,000 were part of the “Blue Mist,” the affectionate name given to Wildcat fans who take over whatever city the annual extravaganza is being held in. The Commodores would have felt more at home if the game had been in Rupp Arena, not that it was evident from their play.

uk fans nashville

Kentucky’s surprising ouster from this tournament was not only bad for the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, which was looking forward to a St. Patrick’s Day weekend with thousands of Wildcat fans in town, but it once again brought to light an embarrassing issue for the SEC.  Bridgestone Arena had plenty of empty seats for Saturday’s semifinals, and Sunday’s championship likely will be no different.  Mike Slive has made more money for this league since he took over as commissioner in 2002 than you can count. He’s overseen expansion into Texas and Missouri, massive television contracts, and rumor has it that he’s on the verge of announcing the formation of the SEC Network, expected to launch in August 2014.  But make no mistake: That money has been made because of football. It is the cash cow of college sports in every league, but there’s no question that the pigskin is more important to the SEC than any other. And there’s no clearer of example of that than the conference’s dominance of the BCS, which it was won seven consecutive times.

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Finally Official: Missouri to Depart Big 12 For SEC

Posted by dnspewak on November 7th, 2011

As thousands of fans chanted “M-I-Z, S-E-C” during the SEC’s official welcoming reception at the University of Missouri on Sunday afternoon, it was apparent that the MU crowd had no qualms with leaving the Big 12 behind. The Tigers are off to the SEC — league commissioner Mike Slive certainly sounded happy about it, as did MU chancellor Brady Deaton. But what about the Big 12 offices? We’re guessing the reaction isn’t quite as celebratory there.

Missouri Fans Were Excited to Leave the Big 12 Today

Yes, the league has moved on. Despite its legal situation with the Big East, West Virginia looks like a good bet to replace Missouri at some point, and the Mountaineers’ athletics are more than comparable to MU’s. However, losing Missouri is still a blow to the league both geographically and academically. Columbia, Missouri, is in the heart of Big 12 country; Morgantown, West Virginia, not so much. It’s a long plane ride out there, that’s for sure. You could even use the term “misfit.” Academically, MU is ranked significantly higher than West Virginia in various college publications. MU is an AAU member; West Virginia is not.

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Catching Our Breath: Conference Realignment Scenarios as of Tuesday Morning

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences and a frequent contributor.

With this weekend’s out-of-the-blue bombshell that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were leaving the Big East behind in order to accept membership in the ACC, the wave of conference realignment that is sweeping the nation has reached critical mass. Even with last year’s moves turning the Pac-10 into the Pac-12, adding a twelfth team to the Big Ten (among other things), and this summer’s talk of Texas A&M bolting for the SEC, there was still a chance that all of this would settle down and we’d be looking at a conference landscape that mostly looked pretty similar. No more. While the Big 12 has been on a death watch for weeks now, all of a sudden the Big East has jumped its place in line and the conference is scrambling to maintain some sense of order while its member institutions look for soft landing spots.  And with A&M to the SEC seemingly an inevitability, and with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at least (if not Texas and Texas Tech as well) likely headed to the Pac-(fill-in-your-choice-of-numbers-here), the era of superconferences appears to be upon us. So, before things change again, let’s take a quick look around the nation at the conferences as they stand today, how they could change tomorrow and how that will effectively alter the college basketball landscape.

courtesy: The Football God

Big East

Today: TCU joins the conference next season (although apparently TCU and the Mountain West have had a conversation or two in recent days about how good they had things before the Big East got in the way), with Pittsburgh and Syracuse as of now bound to the conference for this year and the next two (with buyout negotiations likely still to be considered), putting the league at 17 basketball teams (nine in football) for 2012-13 and 2013-14, then down to 15 (seven in football) starting in 2014-15.

Tomorrow: Those numbers above are assuming that the ACC doesn’t snap up Connecticut and Rutgers (the two most mentioned names) and West Virginia isn’t able to find safe refuge as the 14th member of the SEC. In short, football in the Big East is in severe trouble, as are some of the historic rivalries in one of the nation’s premier college basketball conferences. If the ACC picks off a couple more Big East football programs, the conference has to start over more or less from scratch, with Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati left scrambling for a home. If there is a way for the Big East to stave off football extinction, it is likely at the hands of the death of the Big 12. If Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech take up with the Pacific Coast, maybe the Big East snaps up Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri, and can carry on as a (hopefully) rebranded league.

Basketball: Nevertheless, there could still be a strong basketball conference here, regardless of what happens to Big East football. If Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul, and Notre Dame want, they could maintain a pretty solid eight-team conference among themselves, (provided ND isn’t somehow pressured into joining the Big Ten), or even snap up a handful of teams from the Atlantic 10 (Xavier, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, etc.) and carry on that way. Still, while hoops fans can console themselves with the prospect of North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke and Pittsburgh matching up with each other on Semifinal Saturday of the ACC Tournament, the sad fact is that the spectacle that is the Big East Tournament at the Garden is about to take a major hit.

ACC

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Morning Five: 04.19.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 19th, 2011

  1. The biggest news on Monday was that UNC’s Harrison Barnes announced that he would return to Chapel Hill for his sophomore season.  His decision makes UNC the presumptive #1 team in most prognosticators’ preseason top 25s, but the real winner of his and others’ (notably Perry Jones and Jared Sullinger) returns might just be the sport of college basketball in general.  With these stars joining a strong freshman group from the Class of 2011, many teams will be considerably stronger than they otherwise might normally be in a year without an NBA lockout looming, and if you’re not already excited for a possible blockbuster rematch of bluebloods UNC and UK  in Lexington next December, then you should have your motor checked.
  2. In keeping with the theme of Barnes return to the Research Triangle, Luke Winn goes one step further (when doesn’t he?) and analyzes the relative impact of the player who got progressively better as the year went on in 2010-11.  He points out that the Heels with Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and James McAdoo in the lineup next season could join only 1999 Duke and 2005 UNC as two schools with four lottery picks on the roster — it says here that while an extremely impressive feat if it occurs, the 2012 Heels will be nowhere as good as either of those other two teams were (and he points out why in the later part of the column, weaknesses of their guard play).
  3. Over the weekend, Winthrop mascot Big Stuff — a bird representing the Winthrop Eagle — walked “basketball-mad” fan Johannes Schneider down the aisle of his wedding to marry bride-to-be Michelle Waters.  While mascots getting involved in superfan nuptials is nothing new, the best part of this story relates to the mascot asking a date to the wedding and how he tried to describe that he would be acting as Big Stuff in the proceedings.  Great stuff, Big Stuff.
  4. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive spoke in an informal Q&A on Monday about the logic behind the unprecedented eight-game suspension he placed on Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl last season as a result of NCAA and SEC violations.  He also said that the conference had no role in Pearl’s dismissal from UT (“sole purview of the institution”), and that he still keeps a good relationship intact with the now-unemployed coach.  Obviously, you can believe what you want, but a quick review of the comments at the bottom of that article certainly relates a general feeling that most UT fans do not particularly care for Mr. Slive nor his logic.
  5. As top dog at Indiana for three decades, Bob Knight was rarely on the Christmas list of the blue-and-white faithful living one state to the south.  But the Sweatered One has reserved a special place in hell for John Calipari, as he has used his bully pulpit as Crotchety Commentator in Chief to repeatedly goad and rip the current Kentucky head coach as pretty much a horrendous person with no ethical compass whatsoever.  The latest incident occurred during a speech over the weekend in Wabash, Indiana, where Knight referred to UK’s 2009-10 team as having “started five players…who had not been to class that semester.”  He’s referring in vague terms to the four one-and-done players (plus junior Patrick Patterson) whom Kentucky put into the NBA Draft last summer.  UK fired back almost immediately, stating that “every starter from the 2010 season finished the spring semester in good academic standing,” but the damage was once again already done.  Whether fair or not, Knight expressed the perception that many (most?) sports fans around the country have about Calipari, and it’s an open question to us if he or Kentucky can do anything to change that (erroneous?) sentiment.  Here’s the clip from the speech:

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The Week That Was: December 11-17

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

It’s the holiday season, and this past week teams in the top 25 definitely got into the spirit of giving. Now these squads weren’t giving away toys to needy girls and boys. Instead #4 Tennessee, #20 Louisville and #21 UNLV gave the gift of an RPI-boosting upset, and in the college hoops world that’s a pretty nice present. TWTW hopes that Oakland, Drexel and UC Santa Barbara enjoyed their gifts this week, they certainly came at a hefty price — a chance to be the last undefeated squad standing. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, and we’re sure that deep down our ranked friends knew they did the right thing given the season.

Now if only #22 Memphis wasn’t such a Grinch …

Is the Presumptive Puerto Rican Olympic Coach's Louisville Team Legit?

What We Learned

  • Last week we openly wondered if Notre Dame’s hot start was an aberration or the start of a strong season for the Irish, and their loss to Kentucky made TWTW more inclined to label them a fraud rather than a legit power. This week we get to dissect another Big East squad that just suffered its first loss of the season — Louisville. The Cardinals’ eight-game winning streak to open the season came ended in disastrous fashion Tuesday night when Louisville fell 52-46 to Drexel. Yes, you read that correctly. The Cardinals could only muster 46 points against Drexel of all teams. Louisville connected on only 15 of 47 shots from the floor and struggled to adjust once it was apparently the Dragons weren’t going to let the Cardinals get out and run up and down the court. While shooting 33.3% is bad, what’s more troubling is Louisville’s 12-25 effort at the free throw line, and its -20 rebound loss on the boards. Those two things could haunt the Cardinals in Big East play and make TWTW hesitant to think they’re dramatically better than last year’s team that lost to Cal in the first round of the NCAAs.
  • What a week for Tennessee. On Saturday the Vols scored arguably the best win of the young season when they traveled to Pittsburgh and beat Jamie Dixon’s squad at the “neutral” Consol Energy Center. TWTW was ready to join the rest of the nation in singing Bruce Pearl’s praises and declaring the Vols the team to beat in a down SEC. While UT still may be the top dog down South, TWTW can’t fully endorse Tennessee right now. Not after the Vols lost at home to Oakland 89-82 on Tuesday night. That’s no knock against the Golden Grizzlies, who made the NCAA Tournament out of the Summit League last year and fell one point short of beating Michigan State this past weekend. Oakland is good, but we expect more from Tennessee. And we at least expect better defense. The Vols shouldn’t give up 89 points to any squad, especially not at home, and Oakland hit 54% of its shots (30-56) led by Keith Benson’s 26. Pearl better hope this loss refocuses his squad. Tennessee will definitely need all the mental strength it can muster when he begins his eight-game suspension at the start of conference play.
  • Gonzaga just might have overextended itself with its scheduling. Mark Few at least is entertaining that idea after his Bulldogs’ 4-5 start to the season, the worst record in Few’s 12-year tenure at Gonzaga. Four of Gonzaga’s five losses came in games against teams currently ranked in RTC’s top 25 (San Diego State, Kansas State, Illinois and Notre Dame), and the Bulldogs still have to play Baylor on Saturday and Memphis in February. TWTW wonders why that kind of scheduling is necessary for a team with Gonzaga’s cache. It’s tough to think of the Zags as a mid-major anymore based on their 12 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, and their consistent presence in the top 25 (at least until this year). Gonzaga doesn’t need to prove itself with a murderers’ row schedule. Sure, schedule a couple of games against elite competition, but there’s no need to have a slate of games that could shatter a team’s confidence. Gonzaga isn’t a program that’s used to struggling in December, it will be interesting to see how the Zags respond to this adversity once play begins in the WCC.
  • Think you know all there is about Coach K? Think all of your hate is justified? Well you should do yourself a favor and sit down and read the first two parts of Dan Wiederer’s mega-feature in the Fayetteville Observer. Part one delves into K off the court and his family life. It includes this incredible anecdote of the Duke coach at the beach during a family vacation and declaring that he’s the “Black Mamba of Beach Bocce” after pulling off a game-winning bocce toss. The second part discusses all the hate Coach K and the Duke program endures from the rest of the nation. While that angle has been written before, Wiederer’s piece comes off fresh because of all of his great tidbits and inside access. And there’s more to come with Part 3 scheduled to run this Sunday. So check it out. TWTW guarantees you’ll learn something new about K, and maybe it will open your mind to the notion that he’s not that bad of a guy. After all, with Krzyzewski likely to become college basketball’s all-time wins leader either this season or early next year, it’s the perfect time to dissect one of the most polarizing characters in the sport.

Media Blackout

The three pieces of news to know if you’ve been living in complete isolation all week.

  • Like many of you out there, TWTW watched the basketball competition during 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and thought, “Boy this is great. But you know what’s missing? Rick Pitino.” We kid, we kid. But it looks like there’s a real possibility Pitino will coach the Puerto Rican nation team during next summer’s pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Argentina. Carlos J. Beltran, president of the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation, said the national team is in “very advanced talks” with Pitino, and J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks told ESPNDallas.com that he and fellow nation team member Carlos Arroyo would meet with Pitino on Sunday if any deal with the Louisville coach is finalized. With Pitino on board, Puerto Rico would instantly become one of the most compelling squads in the Olympics should it qualify. That’s a big if, though. Puerto Rico failed to qualify for the 2008 Games and was eliminated in the first round during this summer’s World Championships in Turkey. Should a Pitino-led Puerto Rico squad make the Olympics, TWTW has but one request. Puerto Rico must face Team USA (and Coach K) at some point in round-robin play.
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SEC Considering No Divisions in Hoops…

Posted by rtmsf on June 1st, 2010

Since the SEC expanded to twelve teams in 1991, it has utilized the two-division format, with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in the East and Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and LSU in the West.  Each team plays a home-and-home series with the other members of its division annually, and switches home games every other year with the six teams in the other division, making for a fairly clean sixteen-game conference schedule.  According to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, though, the league is considering doing away with the two divisions altogether (as it has already done in women’s basketball), or at a minimum, keeping the divisions intact but seeding the postseason SEC Tournament according to overall W/L records. 

This SEC Cheerleader is a Fan of Slive's Idea

The driving force for this is the current perception that the SEC East is the varsity squad to the SEC West’s JV group.  Last season, with Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt leading the way, the SEC East went 27-9 (.750) against the other division, and those same three teams represented three-quarters of the semifinal round in the SEC Tournament.  In the past four seasons, thirteen of the eighteen SEC teams to make the NCAA Tournament came from the East, and all four SEC participants in the 2010 NCAA Tourney were from that division.  So long as coaches such as John Calipari (or whoever is at Kentucky), Bruce Pearl and Billy Donovan are in the same division, it’s difficult to argue that this is a cyclical thing where the SEC West will eventually rise to equal or better standing that its eastern counterparts.  The last true powerhouse program in the West was Nolan Richardson’s Arkansas teams of the early to mid-90s, with the other five programs since making short-term claims but none truly rising to seize the mantle.  For what it’s worth, it should also be noted that the twelve-team ACC and Big 12 conferences have successfully utilized the no-division basketball/two-division football formats for some time now and it seems to work well enough for them. 

Maybe we’re becoming overly cynical and paranoid in our old age, but we wonder if this talk belies something else going on with the conference realignment debate and is actually a pre-emptive maneuver by the SEC brass to prepare for expansion of some sort.  Consider that if the SEC raids the ACC and/or Big 12, as described in options here, what defines a school as eastern or western may suddenly shift a couple hundred miles on the map.  By removing the divisions in basketball and testing possibilities with respect to scheduling and so forth, the SEC would be in better organizational position to accept its new members if or when that ever comes to pass.  If you’re Florida State fan or Texas fan hoping that the call comes from the SEC someday, this seemingly small initiative could actually signal much greater changes down the line. 

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The Big 12 And Pac-10 — An Alliance?

Posted by jstevrtc on May 12th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Much has been made of the Big Ten’s interest in expanding beyond their current 11 teams and all the consequences that such expansion could have on other conferences throughout the country. But, given that the other BCS conferences are multi-million dollar organizations and that the continued competitiveness and even existence of these organizations may depend on their actions both before and after the Big Ten comes to its decision, it should come as no surprise that conference commissioners and athletic directors of their respective member institutions are considering their options in a game of moves and countermoves. It is probably no coincidence that the first speculative report to surface indicating that the Big Ten has made its choices and offered up its first invitations came on the heels of reports at the end of last week that the Big 12 and Pac-10 had met to discuss a possible alliance, a big innovation that makes a lot of sense for both conferences.

Big 12/Pac-10

Representatives from the two conferences met in Phoenix last Wednesday in what Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe described as “an informal meeting” to discuss a possible alliance. The two main planks of this possible alliance are rumored to be scheduling preferences in the future and, most importantly, joint television negotiations and ventures. As rumors have swirled of the Big Ten and possibly SEC poaching some Big 12 teams, and with the Pac-10 exploring its own expansion options, a “strategic alliance,” between the two conferences, as Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott put it, could be a boon to both.

The conference generals will do what they have to do in the spirit of self-preservation.

Aside from the potential benefits that an alliance between the conferences could bring, there is a lot of common ground between the two, as they are the only two BCS conferences made up entirely of member schools located west of the Mississippi and Pac-10 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg was Beebe’s predecessor at the Big 12. Weiberg was also instrumental in helping launch the Big Ten Network, a bit of experience that may come in handy as these two conferences discuss possibly launching a network of their own, a joint venture between the two that would allow them to show more (or potentially all) of their football and basketball games that don’t get picked up by national or regional networks.

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SEC Commissioner Slive Questions Wall’s Eligibility

Posted by jstevrtc on October 22nd, 2009

There aren’t many things these days that could spoil the tidal wave of hope and anticipation that has consumed the entire state of Kentucky and Wildcat supporters the world over.  But this is definitely one of them. 

ESPN.com is reporting that issues have been raised regarding the recruitment and signing of presumptive freshman superstar John Wall.  Evidently, SEC commissioner Mike Slive has confirmed to ESPN that the eligibility questions are centered around Wall’s having played AAU ball for coach Brian Clifton, who was once a certified agent.  By NCAA rule, playing for an agent implies that you accepted illegal benefits from them.  It is being investigated how much — if anything at all — Wall would be responsible for.  Things are a little vague at this point, but Wall’s eligibility for any or all games would be affected by the amount of benefits he is deemed to have accepted, which he would have to repay.  It should be noted that Mr. Clifton claims that, though he admits he was at one time a licensed and certified agent, he forfeited his agent’s license in August of 2008 to commit all of his energies to his AAU teams. 

In the early going, there are two questions at the forefront of this:  first, if you play for someone, is it to be assumed that you accepted illegal benefits from them?  Second, if you technically have an agent’s license but aren’t acting as an agent, are your players violating NCAA rules?  Given the NCAA’s, er, interesting way of interpreting the rules, it will be interesting to see where, if anywhere, this goes.

More on this as events unfold.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 14th, 2009

dynamiteWelcome back to the weekend edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. First off I’d like to commend rtmsf for his strong work on yesterday’s BGtD. You guys really have no idea how exhausting it is doing a full day’s worth of this is and he managed to do it with only a short break although it almost caused me to give up working on the site after being forced to endure the American-Holy Cross game yesterday. As he outlined in his After the Buzzer post last night/this morning, there are 12 conference championship games today. For the sake of maintaining our sanity and having enough energy in the tank for our huge March Madness preview, we’ll be taking multiple shifts but we promise to coordinate it so you won’t miss anything during our handoffs.

6:00 AM: Yes. That’s actually the time I’m starting this thanks to a “short nap” that ended up going from 9 PM to 5 AM. Obviously my posts will be infrequent in the early morning hours, but I’ll be passing along some news and links to you before the games start at 11 AM. The New York Times has been stepping it up with their college sports blog “The Quad” recently and has an interesting post on Louisville‘s Terrence Williams and his pre-game ritual of the giving himself a pep talk during the national anthem. Before anybody thinks this might be a Chris Jackson Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf situation, it should be noted that Williams actually stands during the anthem and is supposedly talking about family members that he has lost and asking that everyone on the court avoids injuries. Of course, we can’t verify this, but if we have any lip-readers in our vast legion of RTC readers, we would love hear your take on this particularly if you have seen this is in person.

7:00 AM: Before I head out for a few minutes to take care of some errands like stocking up on groceries for the coming storm where I probably won’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks. I thought I would pass along one of my favorite things we are doing at RTC right now. We enlisted the help of our correspondents and got them to send us their favorite March memories. We narrowed down the submissions to the 16 best entries and are counting down to #1, which will be revealed on Wednesday (the day before the tournament starts). I’d encourage you to check out the entries we have so far and keep on coming back throughout the day to see what they selected as their favorite March memories and then chime in with your memories on those moments.

8:45 AM: Ok. False alarm on that grocery run. Apparently Costco doesn’t open until 9:30 so after this post I’ll be on a short break. So today’s RTC East breakfast is brought to you by Flour Bakery and consists of their Bobby Flay-slaying “Sticky Buns” and a twice-baked brioche. Here’s a quick run-down of the games (title game in red–there’s a lot of red) that I will be focusing on today:

Early Games

  • UMBC vs. Binghamton at 11 AM on ESPN2 for the America East title
  • Memphis vs. #3 Tulsa at 11:35 AM on CBS for the Conference USA title

Afternoon Games

  • Mississippi State vs. #16 LSU at 1 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • #6 Michigan State vs. Ohio State at 1:30 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals
  • #1 UNC vs. #22 FSU at 1:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • Tennessee vs. Auburn at 3 PM on ESPN2 and Raycom in the SEC semifinals
  • Maryland vs. #8 Duke at 3:30 PM on ESPN and Raycom in the ACC semifinals
  • #25 Illinois vs. #24 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS in the Big 10 semifinals

Evening Games

  • #23 Arizona State vs. USC at 6 PM on CBS for the Pac-10 title
  • Baylor vs. #15 Missouri at 6 PM on ESPN for the Big 12 title
  • Temple vs. Duquesne at 6 PM on ESPN2 for the Atlantic 10 title

Late Night Games

  • San Diego State vs. Utah at 7 PM on Versus for the Moutain West title
  • Morgan State vs. Norfolk State at 7 PM on ESPNU for the MEAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Buffalo vs. Akron at 8 PM on ESPN2 for the MAC title
  • #5 Louisville vs. #20 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN for the Big East title
  • Jackson State vs. Alabama State at 9 PM on ESPNU for the SWAC title (Periodic score updates for this one)
  • Utah State vs. Nevada at 10 PM on ESPN2 for the WAC title
  • Cal State-Northridge vs. Pacific at 11:59 PM on ESPN2 for the Big West title (This one is questionable)

10:55 AM: Ok. I’m back from my extended Costco run and have enough food to last me through the week. A quick summary on the early games. In the America East, Binghamton is a 5-6 point favorite (depending on your gambling establishment of choice). Honestly, I’m surprised that they aren’t bigger favorites since they come in at 22-8 while UMBC comes in 15-16 and the game is at Binghamton. It could be interesting though as they split the season series in the regular season with Binghamton winning the last game of the regular season at home against UMBC 71-51. I’m guessing the America East commissioner is rooting for UMBC to avoid the embarrassment of the CBS announcers having to explain why the conference’s regular season leading scorer (D.J Rivera) was left off the all-conference team. In Conference USA, Memphis is a 14-point favorite against Tulsa. Memphis might be playing for a #1 seed even with their ridiculously easy schedule. We’re hoping this game is more like the first time they met (a 55-54 Memphis win) rather the last time they met (a 63-37 Memphis win). I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be more like the latter, but we’ll be following it anyways to get a last look at Memphis before CBS’s new Billy Packer rips the NCAA selection committee for putting them over a Big East team.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 02.14.09 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 14th, 2009

bgtd

Good afternoon, college hoops fans, and welcome to another version of Boom Goes The Dynamite.  What does that mean?  If there’s a game on my television, I’m watching it.  I’m even monitoring games on about five different online game-trackers.  John Stevens, here, holed-up in the RTC Midwestern Compound.  Normally you have to wait until Tuesday for me to force my opinions and exert my influence on you in my weekly column; on this particular Saturday, NVR1983 (the Zelig of college basketball fandom — the man can literally pop up anywhere in the country with a press pass and do a live broadcast and duck out before you’ve noticed he’s been there, and probably eaten half your food) is probably somewhere setting himself on press row for a game tonight, and RTMSF (the guru of RTC) is, from what I understand, probably laying under a big pink blanket watching Mad About You or Sex And The City DVDs with his wife at a spa somewhere.  Poor b—ard.

(Just kidding, Mrs. RTMSF…)

Anyway, where I am in the Midwest, it’s cold again, it’s grey, and it’s starting to snow.  Sounds like good basketball-watching weather (but what isn’t?).  I’ve got a television, I’ve got a cooler, and I’ve got a couch.  Let’s watch some hoops.  I invite you to join me. 

We’re getting a little bit of a delayed start because of a techincal difficulty on my end (long story — suffice to say, I am easily distracted and/or confused by things like shapes and colors), but now that we’re up and rolling, in a moment we’ll catch up on what’s happened so far in today’s games.  Welcome!

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