SEC Stock Watch: 12.07.17 Edition

Posted by David Changas on December 7th, 2017

Now that the season is nearly a month old, it’s time to take stock of where the league stands. This is the debut of SEC Stock Watch for the 2017-18 season.

Trending Up

  • An Improved SEC. There was considerable discussion about SEC basketball being better this season, and so far, it has been. Improved coaching and recruiting has led to better depth across the league, and the number of quality wins in the non-conference season has correspondingly grown. Despite a few setbacks, all 14 SEC teams currently sit in the KenPom top 100, and Texas A&M, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi State have all been early surprises.

Tyler Davis has led the way for Texas A&M so far this season (San Antonio Express-News).

  • Texas A&M as a contender. Much was also made of the Aggies in the preseason, and despite Wednesday night’s loss to Arizona in the desert, Billy Kennedy‘s club has been even better than expected. Texas A&M’s opening-night blowout of West Virginia in Germany remains the biggest win for the league thus far. If the Aggies can get preseason all-conference forward Robert Williams going soon, look out.
  • Missouri without MPJ. Assuming Michael Porter, Jr. does not return to the Tigers this season, his career likely will go down as one of the shortest in the history of college basketball. The devastating loss of a player who many pundits considered the best freshman in the country is an indescribably difficult blow for first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, but the Tigers have righted the ship on their way to a 7-2 start. There is no reason to think Missouri can’t be pretty good even without the services of Porter.

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Morning Five: 11.22.17 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 22nd, 2017

morning5

  1. Coming into the season we were worried about the ongoing FBI investigation leading to some of the top freshmen in the country to miss considerable parts of the season, but yesterday we may have lost the best freshman in the country as Missouri announced that Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss the season after undergoing lower back surgery. It is a huge blow for a Missouri program that has struggled to be nationally relevant for the past twenty seasons outside of a pair of Elite Eight appearances and another that ended with a loss to Norfolk State. Even though we were more measured in our expectations for what Missouri could achieve with Porter (borderline NCAA Tournament team) his absence means that Cuonzo Martin’s first season at Missouri will likely end with a quiet Selection Sunday.
  2. Last Thursday, NBA commisioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts met with the newly formed Commission on College Basketball to discuss a variety of issues affecting the NBA and college basketball. The most important for the college basketball was the discussion of the one-and-done rule and the potential for changing it significantly. There has been some speculation as to whether or how the NBA will change the rule and there have been some criticisms of the Committee that the NCAA put together, but the reality is that they will have no say in what the NBA does.
  3. The debate around eliminating the one-and-done rule has been going on for sometime and the last Thursday’s meeting just reignited the debate on both sides. We tend to agree with Dan Greene, who believes that changing the one-and-done rule will make college basketball worse. While most people are focusing on the players who would be trying to skip college experience, Greene is also worried that some players will enter the NBA Draft rather than face being required to stay in college for two years instead of one year if they do not enter the NBA Draft immediately after high school.
  4. On Tuesday, Bol Bol announced that he was committing to Oregon in an article for The Player’s Tribune. Bol, a 7’2″ consensus top-five player in his class best known as the son of former NBA star Manute Bol, cited his relationship with the Oregon staff as the reason for picking them. While the Oregon class will never be confused with that of Duke or Kentucky (Bol’s two other suitors), Dana Altman does have a nice class developing with another five-star recruit in Louis King already committed.
  5. With Bol’s commitment there are only a few more top-25 recruits who remain uncommitted. One of the most prominent of those is Anfernee Simons, a consensus top-10 recruit, but you shouldn’t expect an announcement any time soon. According to a report from Jonathan Givony, Simons is considering skipping college and entering the NBA Draft. Simons would be able to do this because he is in a post-graduate year (his fifth year in high school) and will turn 19 in June, which would make him eligible for the Draft. We don’t expect his to become a trend, but if the one-and-done rule gets changed it is something that college coaches might have to worry about more in the future.
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SEC Weekend Preview: Opening Night Edition

Posted by David Changas on November 10th, 2017

It has been a long time since there has been so much excitement surrounding the start of SEC basketball. With so many of the league’s football programs struggling and the promise of widespread improvement across the conference on the hardwood — not to mention the specter of an ongoing FBI investigation hanging over a few schools — everyone is ready to start playing. As we open the season at 13 of the SEC’s 14 schools tonight, let’s look ahead to this evening’s most intriguing match-ups:

  • Texas A&M vs. West Virginia – ESPN, 6:00 PM. This is the marquee game of opening night, as the #25 Aggies take on Bob Huggins’ #11 Mountaineers at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Texas A&M gets an early chance to show that last season’s downturn was a momentary blip on its long-term trajectory, but it will have to do so without potential lottery pick Robert Williams, who is serving a two-game suspension for a violation of university policy. Freshman point guard JJ Caldwell is also suspended for the team’s first five games after an offseason arrest charge that was later dropped. That leaves it up to junior forward Tyler Davis to lead the Aggies in what promises to be a very difficult match-up with a Big 12 heavyweight.

Alabama received the good news that Collin Sexton will return next week against Lipscomb (rolltide.com)

  • Memphis vs. Alabama, 6:30 PM. The Crimson Tide will also get an early test against a rebuilding Memphis team at the Veterans Classic in Annapolis. Although Alabama got news late Thursday that highly acclaimed freshman Collin Sexton will only sit out tonight’s game and can return on Tuesday against Lipscomb, Memphis is a dangerous team to play at less than full strength. Still, this is a major development for Avery Johnson as it appeared earlier in the week that Sexton, a consensus top-10 player in the class of 2017, may not ever suit up for the Tide.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 10th, 2017

As the regular season tips off a little later today, here are 10 things worth asking about this weekend and beyond.

  1. Who takes a step forward for North Carolina? With Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley all gone — not to mention Joel Berry injured — North Carolina will be looking to replace a total of 64.4 points per game. The Tar Heels begin the season against a Northern Iowa team that likes to slow the pace and limit possessions. North Carolina cannot afford to be careless with the ball tonight.

    All eyes will be on Michael Porter Jr. this season. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

  2. What will Gonzaga be this season? The ‘Zags have won at least a share of the WCC regular season title in each of the past five seasons, yet they received only one of the 10 first place votes in the WCC preseason coaches poll. Three of its four double-figure scorers from last season are now gone — who will step up?
  3. How far can Michael Porter Jr. carry Missouri?: Missouri finished last season 3-20 against teams ranked in the KenPom top 100. The Tigers get an immediate chance to reverse that trend against Iowa State tonight with freshman sensation Michael Porter, Jr., who recently became only the fifth true freshman voted on to the preseason AP All-American team. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Team Capsules: Bottom Tier (#14-#10)

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 4th, 2016

With Halloween still fresh on our minds, there is nothing scarier than the bottom tier of the SEC. There are tigers, tigers, even more tigers, and there is nothing more frightening than a grumpy Frank Martin or a Johnny Jones-led offense without the services of Ben Simmons. If none of that sends chills up your spine, just think about Missouri basketball. If you were lucky enough to get through Halloween night with some leftover candy, the days that follow usually involve filtering through your stash to devour the best of the rest. Sometimes you are lucky enough to find a full size candy bar or those Halloween Kit-Kats (which are the best, by the way) hiding near the bottom. But more often than not, you end up with a skeleton pencil or those disgusting brown globs of goo wrapped in black and orange wrappers. This post is less of the delicious Kit-Kats that disappeared within seconds of returning back home, and more of the box of raisins that sat in the old lady down the street’s pantry for a decade. Let’s unveil our series of team previews beginning with the bottom tier of the SEC (#14-#10).

AT A GLANCE

#14 Missouri Tigers

Kim Anderson Has a Lot of Work Still Ahead in Columbia (USA Today Images)

Kim Anderson Has a Lot of Work Still Ahead in Columbia (USA Today Images)

  • 2015-16 overall record (SEC) – 10-21 (3-15)
  • Key Returnee – Kevin Puryear, 11.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG
  • Key Newcomer – Willie Jackson, 6’6” freshman forward
  • Team Analysis: Wes Clark was dismissed; Namon Wright, Tramaine Isabell and Jakeenan Gant transferred; and Ryan Rosburg graduated, pretty much leaving the cupboard bare for Kim Anderson’s third year. Missouri’s defense was bad and its offense was even worse. There is nothing to suggest that this year will be any better in Columbia.
  • Burning Question: Can Missouri protect its home floor in non-conference games? Last season, the Tigers won seven of their eight non-conference games at Mizzou Arena (losing only to NC State). The home slate wasn’t exactly a murderer’s row of college basketball powerhouses (with Wofford, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Arkansas State, Northern Illinois, Nebraska-Omaha, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Savannah State making the trip), but neither is the 2016-17 schedule. Missouri welcomes Alabama A&M, Northwestern State, North Carolina Central, Western Kentucky, Miami (OH), Arizona (well, they can’t all be cupcakes), Eastern Illinois, and Lipscomb to Columbia, meaning that if Anderson’s squad has any hopes of getting to double-figure wins this season it has to enter January without any embarrassing losses. Something about this team suggests that won’t happen.

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64 Thoughts on the 2016-17 SEC Season: Part I

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 26th, 2016

The beginning of another college basketball season is already in progress, and with it an opportunity to start talking about SEC hoops again. The SEC last season managed just three bids to the NCAA Tournament, but with a new year brings optimism that more teams can break into the First Round field of 64. To tip off the SEC microsite, here are 64 musings, opinions, thoughts, predictions, questions, and observations about the 2016-17 season [Ed. Note: Technically, 32 since this is part one of two with the second part coming tomorrow]:

John Calipari is confident once again as Kentucky shapes up to be the head of the SEC in 2016-17 (AP).

John Calipari is confident once again as Kentucky shapes up to be the head of the SEC in 2016-17. (AP)

  1. Kentucky is the clear favorite to win the SEC this year, but the big question mark about the Wildcats in the preseason revolves around their three-point accuracy. It says here that this will be the best perimeter shooting squad John Calipari has put on the court in Lexington since his 2011 Final Four team.
  2. Wildcat sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe shot just 13.5 percent from beyond the arc last year, allowing opposing defenses to sag to the middle on him. But the limited sample of shooting we have seen so far suggests that he will no longer be an offensive liability shooting the ball this season.
  3. Briscoe was also 9-of-12 from the free throw line in Friday night’s Blue-White game, indicating that his 46 percent accuracy from the stripe last season could also be a thing of the past. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 08.03.16 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on August 3rd, 2016

morning5

  1. Yesterday, North Carolina released the latest statement in its seemingly never-ending battle with the NCAA regarding allegations of academic fraud at the university. At this point, the school has basically admitted that there was academic fraud committed although they are still fighting the charges of failure to monitor, but now they are challenging the NCAA’s authority to punish it for academic fraud saying it should be done at the discretion of the school’s accrediting agency and not the NCAA. As much as we have criticized North Carolina for the massive academic fraud at the school, we have to agree with them (and we have pointed out as much in previous posts in this space–much like we had an issue with the NCAA doling out a punishment to Penn State for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky case). We will have to see how the NCAA responds to UNC’s statement, but as we have been saying for a while with this case: we don’t see it ending any time soon and based on how the NCAA has treated UNC compared to other schools who self-imposed it seems like UNC may have chosen the right course of action.
  2. One of the biggest criticisms of UNC’s decision to fight the NCAA on this has been the shadow it cast on them in recruiting circles with Brandon Ingram even saying that the threat of NCAA sanctions was a big reason he did not go to UNC. That cloud makes Coby White‘s commitment to play at UNC even more significant. The commitment of White, a top-5 point guard in the class of 2018, gives the Tar Heels three top-30 recruits in the class of 2018. While it is still very early in the recruiting cycle for a class that is two full academic years away from matriculating to college, it is a great start for the Tar Heels.
  3. Meanwhile, at Missouri, which can probably be best described as a dumpster fire of an athletic department, the NCAA added a year of probation to Missouri’s self-imposed punishment (full statement here) after finding that the school had provided players and their families with $11,402 in impermissible benefits between 2011 and 2014. While most of the violations occurred while Frank Haith was there some also occurred under Kim Anderson, but the NCAA decided that neither coach was responsible for the lapses at their program. For his part, Haith (or more specifically his lawyer) issued a statement (included in this article) essentially reminding everybody that Haith was not found to be responsible for any violations and that the school/institution was solely responsible for the failures while he was leading the program. We wonder if Haith’s lawyer charged him the full rate for his services or if he gave Haith a discount since it could have been able to recycle seems like he has been getting a lot of use of out of these types of letters for Haith he could have just reused the letter for Haith’s role in the scandal at Miami just a few years earlier.
  4. The strange saga of Nick Marshall at Memphis appears to have come to an end. The 6’11” sophomore forward left the program under circumstances that can best be described as unusual (according to Gary Parrish he reportedly left under false pretenses in this series of tweets: 1, 2, 3, and 4). Marshall, who averaged 3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game last season, but was expected to play a much bigger role this season, has committed to play at Motlow State Community College. If Marshall can get his act together, he has the talent to play at the high-major level again as he was a borderline top-50 recruit coming out of high school.
  5. In one of the more interesting moves we have seen, Brenda Tracy, who says she was raped in 1998 by four men including two Oregon State football players, and her son are putting forth a petition to the NCAA asking them to ban sexually violent athletes. The actual petition, written by her son, does not specify exactly what qualifies someone as a “violent athlete”. As much as we would like to see more strict penalties for people who commit crimes (especially sexual assault and other violent crimes) it seems like the NCAA would run into a a long line of lawsuits if it tried to enforce a strict ban on individuals especially if the legal system had deemed that person to be fit to not be incarcerated.
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Saturday SEC Storylines: Vanderbilt’s Big Blue Opportunity

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 27th, 2016

The bubble is becoming overcrowded with SEC schools. Feel safe, Alabama? Turned your season around, LSU? Not so fast. If nothing else, all of the desperate teams in the conference could set up an intriguing final regular season stretch and SEC Tournament. With that in mind, here are three storylines to watch this weekend:

Damian Jones has been on top of his game lately (sportsandentertainmentnashville.com).

Damian Jones has been on top of his game lately. (sportsandentertainmentnashville.com)

  1. Will Vanderbilt put a bow on its NCAA Tournament bid? The Commodores have won four of their last five games and are on the path toward another late season surge. Damian Jones is arguably playing the best basketball of his career, combing for 42 points on 18-of-23 shooting and 23 rebounds over the past two games. Lo and behold, Vanderbilt gets the best shot the league can give it for a marquee win: Kentucky. Nothing could be better for a team trying to put the final stamp on a resume that isn’t as strong as many expected it to be. The Wildcats did a great job containing Vanderbilt’s guards in the first meeting, and they’ll need to do that again to make sure Vanderbilt doesn’t build momentum from three early. The Tyler UlisWade Baldwin match up is must watch TV, and good material for those wondering if Ulis can match up with the size and athleticism he’d face in the NBA. It’ll also be interesting to see how Kentucky deals with a confident Jones, especially since Alex Poythress played just 17 minutes in his return against Alabama. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Rundown: Volume XII

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 16th, 2016

Kentucky and LSU separated themselves from the pack on a pivotal weekend in the SEC title race. If both teams hold steady the rest of the way, we could have a gigantic game between the pair in Rupp Arena to close out the regular season. Plenty of drama is also heating up near the bubble, with Alabama staking a claim to a spot in the conversation. Here’s what went down last week in the SEC and what to look for in the week ahead.

Retin Obasohan and Alabama won in Gainesville for the first time since 1995 (rolltide.com).

Retin Obasohan and Alabama won in Gainesville for the first time since 1995 (rolltide.com).

Trending Up. Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s RPI surged up to #37 after four straight wins, including two victories last week over likely tournament teams (Texas A&M and Florida). It’s easy to forget that Avery Johnson’s club started SEC play at 1-4, but that looks understandable in hindsight, considering those games included losses to Kentucky, Vanderbilt and LSU. The fourth loss (at Auburn) is really the only dark spot on the resume, although the Tigers had the services of Kareem Canty in that one. Welcome to the bubble, Alabama.

Trending DownTexas A&M‘s seed. Just a few weeks ago the Aggies looked like a solid #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, with a realistic shot of climbing up to the top line if things broke their way. Their recent four-game losing streak hasn’t put an invitation at risk, but it has done great damage to what could have been a historic placement for the program. With the exception of a home game against Kentucky, the schedule eases up quite a bit and should allow A&M to build some confidence before heading to Nashville.

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SEC Rundown: Volume XI

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 9th, 2016

What a difference a few weeks can make. It wasn’t too long ago that the big mystery in the SEC was which team would finish second to Texas A&M. Instead, LSU now finds itself in sole possession of first place, and the Aggies’ defense has shown some cracks during a three-game conference losing streak. Here’s what happened last week in SEC hoops and what to look for in the week ahead.

Antonio Blakeney had the best game of his young college career against Mississippi State (theadvocate.com).

Antonio Blakeney had the best game of his young college career against Mississippi State (theadvocate.com).

  • Trending Up. Antonio Blakeney, LSU. Even when his shots weren’t falling early in the season, Blakeney was still playing hard and bringing value on defense. In SEC play, the shots have been falling more frequently (+5.5% eFG), however, and the freshman put together his best game to date (31 points on 4-of-8 from three) last week against Mississippi State. If he continues to cash in on his lofty potential, defenses will have one more dynamic playmaker to contend with along with Ben Simmons.
  • Trending Down. Confidence that the SEC will have many teams playing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Texas A&M, LSU, Kentucky and Florida all showed potential against high quality opponents in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Yet last week the Aggies dropped two games, Florida’s normally stout defense was lit up twice, and the Wildcats coughed up a 21-point lead in a loss to Tennessee. These teams’ potential is there, but there’s plenty of inconsistency right alongside it.

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