Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #15 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2013

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Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#15 – Where You Hate To See This Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

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Bilas Pumps A Few More Nails Into NCAA’s Coffin

Posted by BHayes on August 8th, 2013

The NCAA has taken a pretty solid beating over the past year or two, but the compromised state of college athletics’ governing body did not stop ESPN’s Jay Bilas from helping himself to a few good hacks at the association earlier this week. Oh, and I should add that said hacks were not the kind you would see outside a bar at three in the morning; these were well-reasoned, deserved punches thrown at a group becoming increasingly defined by their hypocrisy.

These Instructions Wouldn't Have Worked A Few Hours After Jay Bilas Tweeted Them Out, But Look What Randomly Emerges When Searching For "Nerlens Noel" On The NCAA Store's Site!

These Instructions Wouldn’t Have Worked A Few Hours After Jay Bilas Tweeted Them Out, But Look What Randomly Emerges When Searching For “Nerlens Noel” On The NCAA Store’s Site!

You may be best served by simply scrolling back through Bilas’ twitter feed to Tuesday evening, but to paraphrase his discoveries, if you entered the name of a recent college sports star (say Nerlens Noel, or Denard Robinson) in the search bar at shopNCAAsports.com, the site would lead you to a very specific set of results. In the case of Noel, the result was a page full of #3 Kentucky jerseys.  For Robinson, it was a collection of #16 Michigan jerseys that appeared on the screen. Of course, fans are encouraged to buy this memorabilia from the “NCAA store” because they know which players wore these jerseys in real life, but the NCAA’s infamous stance is that they jerseys numbers are random, unattached to any particular student-athlete. In fact, as this USA Today article points out, one of the defendants in the suite of lawsuits pertaining to the NCAA’s use of college athletes’ names and likenesses said in a court filing that “products bearing college athletes’ jersey numbers do not represent actual college athletes.” Hmmmm, then is this a case of a really smart search function, or a really tone deaf NCAA? Well, the NCAA seemed to agree that it was the latter; the search capability was disabled just hours after Bilas fired his first shots.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Nerlens Noel

Posted by BHayes on June 27th, 2013

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The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Nerlens Noel

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’11”/205 lbs.

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Range: Top Two

Is Nerlens Noel deserving of the top pick in Thursday's NBA draft?

Is Nerlens Noel deserving of the top pick in Thursday’s NBA draft?

Overview: Nerlens Noel’s freshman season was cut short by a February ACL injury suffered in a game at Florida, but he still had plenty of time to stake his claim to the #1 pick in this draft. Unlike other names mentioned as a possible first pick in this year’s draft last summer (Muhammad, Zeller names that pop to mind), Noel’s individual season did little to take the luster off of his draft stock. Sure, Kentucky endured a historically bad season and Noel won’t be ready for live action until at least December, but when it comes to his future, this season went pretty well for Noel. He showed off the shot-blocking prowess that made him the most sought-after recruit in the country a year ago (4.4 blocks per game), rebounded at an efficient clip (9.5 boards a game), and even found ways to contribute on the offensive end, averaging double figure in the 24 games he played. Throw in an impressively high steals number – 2.1 a game – and you can begin to gather just how disruptive Noel was when healthy. Now, disruptive is great, and NBA teams can expect that defensive activity to continue at the next level for Noel. But with the specter of the top pick potentially looming over his early years in the NBA, there will be plenty of pressure on Nerlens to become more than just a great defender. Only time will tell if he has room for growth on the offensive end, and let’s remember – he did only turn 19 two months ago. For now, Noel has plenty of that one thing that teams crave and analysts blabber about this time of year – upside.

Will Translate to the NBA: Don’t hold your breath: Nerlens Noel is going to have himself a block party or two when he finally makes his NBA debut. With pogo sticks for legs, Noel became one of college basketball’s premier rim protectors a season ago, filling the space that Anthony Davis vacated in Lexington quite nicely. And like Davis, Noel’s length and timing will allow him to continue his shot-blocking ways in the NBA. Noel is a more explosive athlete than Davis, owner of a suddenness that will surprise even NBA-caliber athlete. Shot blocking is Noel’s one bonafide elite skill at this point, and you better believe it will be on full display from day one on.

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RTC 2013-14 Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25

Posted by KDoyle on April 30th, 2013

Although we are less than a month removed from Louisville’s win over Michigan in the National Championship game, it certainly isn’t too soon to look ahead to what the 2013-14 season has in store. With this past Sunday the deadline to declare for the June NBA Draft, we now have a much better idea who the top teams in the country should be once the ball is tipped again in November. In looking at the top of our Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25, there are three teams bunched together separated by just three votes — in fact, Louisville and Michigan State are knotted together at the top. It isn’t all too often that a team wins it all, graduates its starting point guard, has its best frontcourt player leave for the NBA, and is still perhaps the top team in the nation, but that’s the case for Rick Pitino and his Cardinals. With Russ Smith and Chane Behanan returning, Louisville will be the early favorites to win the AAC — the ACC, keep in mind, doesn’t come for UofL until 2014. Michigan State received good news on Sunday when Adreian Payne announced he would be returning to East Lansing for his senior season. Payne’s return, coupled with the return of Gary Harris — the Big Ten Freshman of the Year — and Keith Appling, make the Spartans a legitimate championship contender next season. Lastly, there’s Kentucky. Did you really think Cal & Co. weren’t going to be up there? They may not be ranked #1 at this point, but with a downright scary recruiting class incoming boasted by the Harrison twins and Julius Randle — perhaps the top Class of 2013 recruit — the Wildcats’ expectations are sky high. Despite not finishing in the Top 25 and losing at Robert Morris in the NIT, Kentucky will enter 2013-14 as a top three team in the RTC .

The usual Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

2013-14 RTC Top 25

Quick n’ Dirty:

Whether it is through an exceptional recruiting class, or an impressive finish to the 2012-13 season coupled with a strong nucleus returning, the following four teams surged upward — and for good reason.

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Morning Five: 04.16.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 16th, 2013

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  1. I will start off today with a few words about Boston. We have been running this site for approximately six years now and there have been plenty of significant events/tragedies that we have not really talked about in this space for a variety of reasons, but this one hit closer to home for the primary reason that Boston was actually our home (at least for one of the two of us that run this site) for 11 years. I have not been back since leaving at the end of June for a new job, but was already planning on doing so this coming June well before the tragedy that transpired yesterday. I just want to send my condolences to those who lost loved ones yesterday and wish for a speedy recovery for all of those who were injured.
  2. We knew it was coming, but yesterday Nerlens Noel made it official that he would be entering the NBA Draft. Some pundits may argue that Noel should spend an extra year in college to rehab from a torn left ACL, but we do not see the benefit. Noel, who was considered by many to be the #1 pick before he tore his ACL, is still considered a potential #1 overall pick depending on which team gets that pick. As crazy as it sounds the potential #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft might get overshadowed on next year’s Kentucky team particularly if he is not 100% when he returns. There have not been many cases where an underclassman leaves early with such a significant injury, but these are exceptional circumstances.
  3. Plenty of people have mocked the NCAA’s new academic standards, but for many recruits those numbers can be hard to meet, which has led to a rise in the number of recruits who pursue alternative routes to college including junior college. As the article points out New York City only produced one Division I men’s basketball player who was academically eligible and the standards are about to get tougher. As John Infante points out the new standards will also alter the calculus of eligibility for players who do not go straight from high school to Division I basketball. This might seem like a small story now, but it could become a big issue once the new standards go into effect.
  4. Last season the Missouri Valley Conference was one of the best conferences in the country, but after it was announced that Creighton would be leaving we knew they were set for a downgrade. Yesterday we found out it would be a big downgrade as it was announced that Loyola (IL) would be replacing Creighton. Nothing against Loyola, which appears to be making attempts at improving its program by upgrading its facilities and hiring new coaches (unfortunately we are more familiar with their women’s coach than their men’s coach), but going from one of the top “mid-major” teams in the country to a 5-11 Horizon League team is a huge drop-off. Now the conference still has its fair share of heavyweights, but with this type of replacement we would not be surprised to see some other conferences try to poach some of the Missouri Valley Conference’s top programs.
  5. One of the few bright spots for Purdue last season was how young they were. Their fans could ignore their 8-10 Big Ten record as merely growing pains for an extremely young team. They can still have those hopes, but while they maintain their top underclassmen the Boilermakers have been losing quite a bit of their supporting cast with the most recent departure being Anthony Johnson who asked for and was granted a release by the school. Johnson put up decent numbers as a sophomore (4.9 points and 2.9 rebounds), but shot a putrid 36.2 percent from the floor and was expected to see his minutes decrease with most of the team’s top players returning.
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SEC M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 2nd, 2013

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  1. The big news over the weekend from the SEC was the departure of the last remaining conference team from the NCAA Tournament, the Florida Gators. One of the notable struggles for the Gators in its 79-59 loss to Michigan was the interior play of Patric Young, who was outplayed and outmuscled by Michigan freshman Mitch McGary. Young has a decision to make this summer as he has long been considered a potential second round NBA Draft pick. However, many are disappointed with his lack of progress this season. Young, a junior, averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game which are almost identical to his output from his sophomore year (10.2 PPG; 6.4 RPG). In addition, his free throw shooting declined from 59.5 percent last season to 48.9 percent this year. It seems more and more likely that Young could end up back in Gainesville again next season to work on his game with a flux of incoming talent on its way.
  2. Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow won’t be in Lexington next season as he has made a decision to transfer to Georgia State. Harrow was the starting point guard for the Wildcats, but after a s0-so year in 2012-13, he would have sat on the bench behind talented incoming guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Kentucky coach John Calipari says that Harrow is transferring to move closer to his ill father. “Given the health of his dad, we fully support Ryan’s decision to transfer to Georgia State to be closer to his family in Atlanta,” Calipari said. “Ryan was a vital part of this year’s team and an important player in practice during our 2011-12 national championship run.” One has to wonder if he stayed at UK how much playing time would be available for the junior-to-be. Probably not much.
  3. Two other Kentucky players have announced they will return, while one freshman is heading pro. Willie Cauley-Stein, who played additional minutes in Nerlens Noel’s absence after injury, and Kyle Wiltjer will return to play with a loaded recruiting class in 2013-14. “I’m excited that Willie and Kyle have decided to return for next season,” Calipari said. “When we talk about a players-first program, our goal is for each player to reach his dreams. Willie and Kyle believe it is in their best interest to return to Kentucky next season to achieve those dreams, and I fully support their decisions.” However, freshman guard Archie Goodwin is putting his name into the NBA Draft. “Although I really wanted Archie to return for his sophomore season, I fully support him choosing to pursue his dreams. He has the drive and desire to be great and I will continue to do everything I can to make sure he succeeds in life both on and off the court.” Kentucky now awaits decisions from Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel, but they have until April 16 to make a final choice.
  4. You probably don’t need anybody to tell you this, but the 2012-13 version of the Kentucky Wildcats were, statistically speaking, John Calipari’s worst team since arriving at UK. Both the offensive and defensive units were the worst of Cal’s four UK teams in offensive and defensive efficiency. They were also the lowest ranked of Calipari’s four teams in scoring, three point field goals made, three point percentage defense, free throw percentage, steals per game, turnover margin, and assist to turnover margin. These end of year statistics only justify what Kentucky fans witnessed on the court all season. One has to assume that with the incoming class of freshman on next year’s roster, Calipari’s program won’t be missing another NCAA Tournament in 2013-14.
  5. Tennessee appears to be over the limit on scholarships next season after a commitment from Murfreesboro High School senior Darius Thompson. With the addition of Thompson it appears that the Vols and coach Cuonzo Martin now have 14 players for next season, but that likely means that one of its potential early draft entrants will go pro. Both Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes are exploring their options'; if both return, Martin will have a decision to make to determine how to get back down to the 13 allowed scholarships for next year.
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Rushed Reactions: Vanderbilt 64, Kentucky 48

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

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David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

  1. Bubble Trouble.  With all of the losses fellow bubble-dwellers have suffered, the path to the NCAA Tournament was clear for Kentucky. Most assumed the Wildcats would clinch a bid with a win over Vanderbilt, which came into the contest with an overall record of 15-16. Instead, they add another loss to a sub-top-100 team (the Commodores currently sit at No. 118 in the RPI). So instead of advancing to play either Missouri or Ole Miss, the Wildcats severely damaged their position with the Selection Committee. They must now wait and see what the committee will do, and whether their resume is enough to earn a bid to the Big Dance. Since Nerlens Noel went out with a season-ending injury, Kentucky is now 4-4, and a blowout loss to a heretofore mediocre Vanderbilt squad coupled with ugly losses at Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, may make it easy for the committee to conclude that the Wildcats don’t deserve a selection. Kentucky looked like anything but an NCAA Tournament team Friday night, trailing Vanderbilt from the outset and falling behind by 20 early in the second half.  The Wildcats looked listless on the offensive end and allowed Vanderbilt to control the game. The Commodores looked like the only NCAA Tournament-worthy squad in this contest.
  2. A Harrow-ing Tale. To figure out what has plagued Kentucky throughout this up-and-down, frustrating campaign, one need look no further than the play it has gotten from the point guard position. In the past John Calipari’s teams have had superb point guard play, from Derrick Rose to John Wall to Brandon Knight to Marquis Teague, but this team hasn’t gotten that. That glaring weakness was especially evident Friday, as Ryan Harrow was nothing short of atrocious. He went 2-of-15 from the field and turned the ball over four times, killing any chance Kentucky had of winning this game. Harrow has shown signs of what brought him so much acclaim when he transferred from NC State, but overall, has not played up to Calipari’s standards. If Kentucky doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, it can look no further than Harrow’s play for a reason why.
  3. Can Vanderbilt Steal a Bid? According to Commodore coach Kevin Stallings, his team is back to .500 for the first time “in about five months.” It may not have been that long, but it has been an uphill climb for his club. This was a team from which very little was expected, and Stallings said after the game that he couldn’t be more satisfied with the way his club has improved. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been as proud of a team as I am of this one,” he said.  The question for his club now becomes whether it can break through and steal a bid to the NCAA Tournament. After dismantling Kentucky, he likes how his club is playing, and what seemed like an impossibility just a few short weeks ago now is something to at least think about. The Commodores will face either Missouri or Ole Miss in tomorrow’s second semifinal. They were dismantled in Columbia in January, but would have beaten Ole Miss but for a 35-footer by Marshall Henderson that sent the game to overtime before the Rebels prevailed.  To just be in this position is quite an accomplishment, and anyone who has followed this team knows Stallings has done one of his best coaching jobs this season.

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SEC M5: 03.13.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on March 13th, 2013

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  1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been named the SEC Player of the Year. Coaches bucked the trend of only selecting candidates from the conference’s top teams, instead choosing to recognize how truly valuable the Georgia guard is to his team. Caldwell-Pope averaged 18 points per game (almost 10 more than the next closest Bulldog), and even led Georgia in rebounds despite standing at only 6’5″. The sophomore from Greenville, Georgia, appeared to be leading a bottom-conference team through the opening months of the season, but Mark Fox’s team turned it around in league play, finishing with a .500 record. Barring a miraculous run in the SEC Tournament, Georgia fans’ attention will turn to hoping their star resists the draw of the NBA and returns for another season.
  2. Billy Donovan has been named SEC Coach of the Year. He led Florida to its third outright SEC title in a season where his senior-led Gators have clearly been the class of the conference. His team enters postseason play on a bit of a sour note, having blown another late lead over the weekend to Kentucky. Donovan had developed a reputation of not putting great defensive teams on the floor, but that assertion should be put to rest after this season. Florida is the nation’s second most efficient defensive team, as only Louisville ranks ahead of the Gators in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive rankings.
  3. Despite not seeing the court for a month now, Nerlens Noel took home a lot of hardware. Kentucky’s freshman center was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, the SEC Freshman of the Year, and earned a spot on the all-SEC first team. He is the Wildcats’ only representative out of the 16 players named SEC first or second team this season. Noel might have been one of the last members of Big Blue Nation to learn of his accomplishments, however, as he spent Tuesday having his torn ACL operated on by the notorious Dr. James Andrews.
  4. One SEC bubble team may not have its full arsenal this week in Nashville. Ole Miss starting big men Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner have been playing in pain all season, and backup Anthony Perez has missed the last three games with a knee injury. “We really don’t have a (full) front line, so it makes it difficult to practice,” assistant coach Bill Armstrong said. “We’ll just continue to stay the course and prepare the way that we’ve prepared over the last month or so. And just get ready mentally, more than anything else, for Friday.” A likely match-up with Missouri, an SEC team with the personnel to attack a weakened front line, looms on Friday.
  5. Is the end near for Tony Barbee at Auburn? The Tigers underachieved this season, riding a nine-game losing streak to a last place SEC finish. Athletic Director Jay Jacobs, however, has been quiet on the issue. “We haven’t had conversations about that,” Barbee said. “(We talk) about where the team is right now, about how we’re going to play against Texas A&M.” In addition to the Tigers’ poor performance on the court, there seems to be some dissent within the ranks as well. Junior guard Chris Denson revealed that players haven’t responded well to Barbee’s “hard coaching” style. “People are just not buying into what Coach Barbee is talking about,” Denson said. “I mean, he’s a great coach, and people just aren’t buying into what he’s saying.”
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SEC M5: 03.12.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on March 12th, 2013

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  1. It’s been exactly one month since Nerlens Noel last suited up for Kentucky, but his time on the sidelines couldn’t keep him off ofthe Sporting News All-Freshman team. Despite playing 6-7 fewer games than most of his competitors, Noel still finished the regular season as the nation’s fifth-leading shot swatter with 106. He exhibited an unpolished (at best) offensive game, but he still scored 10.5 points per game to go along with his 9.5 boards. Marcus Smart (Freshman of the Year), Shabazz Muhammad, Ben McLemore, and Anthony Bennett join Noel on the All-Freshman team, a quintet that comprises 5 of the top 6 picks in NBADraft.net’s most recent mock draft.
  2. Just as the case may be when the real bracket is revealed, the SEC is struggling for representation in Grantland’s yearly alternate bracket. That may not be so bad though. In “The Most Hated College Basketball Players of the Last 30 Years” bracket, Florida‘s Joakim Noah is the only SEC player judged to have been loathsome enough to make the field, “earning” a 2 seed in the 2000’s region. The ponytailed, headstrong Noah didn’t endear himself to opposing fans as he led the Gators to consecutive championships in 2006 and 2007. Let’s break down his chances, based almost solely on personal biases: Noah is a heavy favorite over Aaron Craft, the bracket’s only active player, in the first round. Either Adam Morrison or Luke Walton await in the Sweet 16, but their current irrelevance will hand Noah a victory. Next, we’re in for a clash of titans as Tyler Hansbrough and Joakim Noah meet for the right to go to the Final Four. It’s too close to call for me, but if Noah advances, he’ll challenge Jalen Rose or Larry Johnson for the right to lose to the Duke representative in the final.
  3. Tennessee‘s Jarnell Stokes earned his second SEC Player of the Week honor of the season, tallying two double-doubles in must-win games. Stokes led the way for the Volunteers as they outrebounded Missouri (ranked 6th in rebound rate nationally) by a count of 40-27. He is the only SEC player to average at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in conference play. Elsewhere, Mississippi State’s Craig Sword was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his instrumental role in the Bulldogs’ regular season-ending OT win against Auburn. Sword tallied 19 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds and made two crucial free-throws in the extra period to keep Mississippi State out of the SEC basement.
  4. Florida looked like the SEC’s lone Final Four threat through much of the year, but Billy Donovan isn’t a fan of his team’s current trajectory. “I’m disappointed, to be honest with you, in our team’s fire,” he said Monday. “I don’t see it. I don’t see it. That’s concerning to me.” Donovan also noted that he had been far from impressed with his team’s effort in practice leading up to the trip to Lexington. The Gators limped to the regular season finish line, winning only three of their last six games. Although they remain atop Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, recent poor performances from perimeter scorers Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario are contributing to Florida coming up short in regards to the so-called eye test.
  5. Alabama has struggled to get any production from their frontcourt for most of the season. Carl Engstrom was lost to an early injury, highly-touted frosh Devonta Pollard has failed to live up to expectations, and Moussa Gueye has zero offensive touch. Sophomore forward Nick Jacobs, however, has stepped up for the Tide when they needed it the most. “Nick has shown improvement,” says coach Anthony Grant. “His play is showing that. He’s more mentally and physically ready to handle what he needs to be able to handle.” Jacobs didn’t see many minutes at the start of the season, failing to reach double-digit points until the last game of 2012. He’s rounded into form over the past month, including a career-high 18 points against Ole Miss. Alabama will most likely face Tennessee in their first SEC Tournament game, and given Jarnell Stokes’ recent play, Jacobs will be counted on to match some of that offensive output.
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SEC M5: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 8th, 2013

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  1. Tempers flared on Tuesday night when Arkansas squared off against Missouri, but the real showdown was between coaches. Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson returned to Columbia for the first time since leaving the Tigers, and current Missouri coach Frank Haith apparently hasn’t taken too kindly to some of the credit Anderson has placed upon himself for Haith’s recent success. Anderson made no secret that he felt he left the program in great shape for Haith two seasons ago. “That was a team that probably could have contended for a Final Four. I really thought that. … So you ask me what kind of shape it was in? … It was in great shape. Most guys don’t inherit a team like that.” Did Haith take that statement personally? Perhaps he did take offense, based on the altercation during one of the timeouts of Missouri’s thumping of Arkansas.  So  it just might make you giddy to know that there is still a possibility that Missouri and Arkansas could face off once more in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, if a couple of things go the right way for both teams this weekend.
  2. There has been a lot of bubble chatter on this site, nationally, and among anyone who follows college basketball even moderately. The stakes were clear for both Ole Miss and Alabama, two teams widely considered among the first four out or close thereafter,  going into Tuesday’s game. Win, and live to see another day. Lose, and the bubble would burst. But according to at least one opinion, all of the excitement over the bubble was for naught because ultimately, “this Alabama team is not an NCAA Tournament team. Over and out.” Alabama has wins over Villanova, Tennessee, and Kentucky, but none of those are victories are likely to impress the committee too much. With three losses in their last four games, it is probably time for the Tide to focus their efforts on the postseason, but perhaps the NIT is a more appropriate goal at this point.
  3. Auburn senior guard Frankie Sullivan finally broke out of a severe slump on Wednesday night against the Tennessee Volunteers. He scored 24 points, his largest contribution since a 26 point effort against Arkansas on January 16. Following that double overtime loss in Bud Walton Arena, Sullivan was averaging almost 18 points per game, but from that point on, he managed just 9.7 points per game on 31 percent shooting from the field. Head coach Tony Barbee thinks it’s all in Sullivan’s head. “This stretch right here is as mind-boggling as anything I’ve seen,” Barbee said. “Those are shots that are as automatic as automatic can be for a guy. He’s just struggling mentally right now.” Unfortunately, Sullivan’s resurgence against the Vols is too late for the Tigers to make an impact in the league after losing fourteen of their last fifteen games.
  4. Florida is still experiencing some gaps during stretches on offense, but the Gators continue to rely on defense to win games. “Defense got it done for us tonight,” UF forward Erik Murphy said. “We weren’t clicking on offense early and it allowed us to overcome some things before we got into a rhythm.” Coach Billy Donovan said the Gators’ level of defensive efficiency against Vanderbilt is the way it should always be. “We need to do that to all the teams we play,” Donovan said. “They were a team that, scouting them, definitely was playing better and making shots from the 3-point line. We really collectively, I thought, did a good job there and didn’t give them too many easy layups.” Florida held Vandy to just 40 points on 26.9 percent shooting from the field. If UF continues to be inconsistent on offense, its defense will be forced to lead the way.
  5. Nerlens Noel is filling up his free time by dropping rhymes for his new rap, and it was actually pretty good. The real kicker came towards the end when Noel teases Kentucky fans with the line,  “I might come back — but I don’t know yet.” Check out the video for yourself. Enjoy on this Friday morning:

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SEC M5: 03.06.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 6th, 2013

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  1. Several SEC bubble teams on Saturday made it extremely difficult to make a case for their inclusion into the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, all bubble teams desperate for a win, couldn’t pull through when another victory would have really helped their resumes. The Rebels lost to Mississippi State, a team with just eight wins all year. Alabama had a golden opportunity for a quality win against Florida, but came up short in the last 10 minutes. Tennessee’s loss at Georgia stopped a six-game winning streak that had worked the Volunteers into the bubble conversation as one of the hottest teams in the nation. And Kentucky looked lost against the pressure of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Now, the SEC Tournament is becoming more and more important for teams on the bubble that are not feeling completely confident in their standing for an NCAA berth.
  2. Is Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy back on the hot seat after a loss to Mississippi State on Saturday? The defeat at the hands of the Rebels’ bitter rival has put Kennedy’s team in a situation where they need to win out in the SEC Tournament to feel comfortable with their standing on Selection Sunday. It also put Kennedy in a position where he could be watching the Big Dance from home, a spot he has been in for the previous seven seasons in Oxford. Kennedy admits he understands the frustration, but deferred any conversation about his job status to another point in time. “I understand the frustration of fans. I feel that same frustration. You’re talking about a guy who has blood, sweat and tears in this for seven years. I’ve been dancing on this fence for a long time. All I do, I control what I can control. All of those questions, all of that speculation, should be answered by the person that has the ability to make those decisions. Not by me.” It is clear that Kennedy’s seat is warming up after a loss to the Bulldogs.
  3. Billy Donovan praised the play of junior forward Casey Prather in the Gators’ comeback win over Alabama on Saturday. “He was the only guy that had a level of energy,” the head coach said of Prather. “If he didn’t play well, we probably would have had a hard time winning the game. I thought Alabama outplayed us. They were more prepared than us.” The Gators have struggled on the road of late, losing three of their last four away games. Donovan’s club has just one road game remaining, a Saturday showdown with rival Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Florida hasn’t won in Lexington since February 10, 2008, so rest assured that the Gators will see an opportunity to capitalize on a down year for the Wildcats.
  4. John Calipari is still troubled by the inconsistency of his young Wildcats. “I wake up every day and don’t know how the team will play,” said Calipari. “I hoped that (we were past this) but…” Kentucky had beaten Vanderbilt, Missouri, and Mississippi State in succession at home, but went on the road and showed very little fight in a loss to Arkansas. Calipari attributes some of the behavior he has noticed on his team’s youth. “We’ve got a couple of guys who are overwhelmed by stuff, and that’s typical freshmen,” Calipari said. “When you get overwhelmed, you get anxiety and you back up.” But with inconsistency, there are ups and downs, and Cal’s Cats may turn it on with two important games left in the regular season. Or they might not. We will have to wait and see.
  5. Kentucky assistant John Robic stressed the importance of finishing out the season on a positive note for Kentucky’s chances at an NCAA Tournament bid, considering UK is without freshman center Nerlens Noel. “We’ve been without Nerlens (Noel) for five games now. We took some lumps there without him and then played well with him,” Robic said. “I think there’s still a lot of teams out there that are still being evaluated. You look back at the Arkansas game and there’s only one team that’s gone in there and won this year, and that was Syracuse. There have been a lot of good teams that have not won on the road. We have won four league games on the road. I think it will come down to the remaining games on our schedule. I know the committee takes a lot of things into factor when they make decisions.” Noel’s absence will certainly be taken into account, and the Cats are 3-2 since losing him in a loss at Florida. Finishing the season on a strong note is crucial at this point to prove to the committee that UK can be successful without the super freshman in the middle.
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Did Black Saturday Sink the SEC’s NCAA Tournament Chances?

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on March 5th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold and Nashville Sports Hub. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

There’s no way around it – the SEC is having one of its worst basketball seasons in recent history. If it holds up, the conference might get lapped by the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, and Mountain West Conferences in 2013. Only Florida has survived as a top 25 staple as talented but unproven teams like Kentucky and Missouri fell from the national rankings as the season wore on. The Wildcats have struggled to replace the game-altering defense and efficient offense of Nerlens Noel while Frank Haith’s Tigers have failed to gel as a unit despite boasting one of the country’s most talented rosters. Behind them, Ole Miss rose to the national consciousness thanks to Marshall Henderson and a 17-2 opening record. Then, they fell back to earth nearly as quickly while the cocksure guard struggled to make more than 35 percent of his shots in deflating losses. Even Alabama, with an 11-5 conference record and a top 50 RPI, has struggled to prove that their solid record passes the smell test in 2013.

The Gators and.... Who Else From the SEC... WIll Be Dancing?

The Gators and Who Else From the SEC Will Be Dancing?

Then, on March 2, with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee intently watching, all four teams lost. It started when Alabama, who needed a big win against Florida just to make it to the Tournament bubble, fell by a dozen points on the road. Then Tennessee, who was riding high after its own Gator upset, lost against a better-than-advertised Georgia team that was playing angry after an upset loss to Vanderbilt. Kentucky followed that up by allowing Arkansas to a 26-shot advantage in a 13-point defeat in Fayetteville. Then, most inexplicably of all, Ole Miss lost its Egg Bowl showdown with 7-20 Mississippi State, snapping the Bulldogs’ 13-game losing streak and completing the Rebels’ drop from potential NCAA Tournament #4-seed to NIT participant. There’s no sugar-coating how destructive this loss was – the Bulldogs had lost their previous two games by a combined 71 points. Marshall Henderson’s 3-of-18 performance from three-point range painted him less as a Chris Lofton-style savior and more as a late-era Antoine Walker chucker.

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