SEC M5: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 5th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. College basketball conversation in March is typically dominated by who’s in and who’s out, and this season is certainly no exception. This year, however, the SEC is central to the bubble conversation. Missouri and Florida appear by all accounts to be in. After that, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss all appear to be heading into the final week of the season and the SEC Tournament holding their collective breath. The latest bracket projections over with our friends at College Basketball Talk on NBC Sports have the SEC on the wrong side of the bubble. Tennessee, despite a road loss to Georgia, is among the last five teams in. Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas are listed as among the last five teams out. And moving further and further away at this point is Ole Miss. The Rebels are now listed among the next five teams out, a spot typically reserved for at-large teams needing to win their conference tournament to work their way back into the conversation. The SEC bubble crew needs a quality win this week, or else.
  2. While the SEC may be downtrodden this year, Florida’s claim to the regular season SEC championship is still quite an accomplishment, according to the Gainesville Sun.  Prior to coach Billy Donovan’s arrival in Gainesville, Florida had won a single SEC regular season title. Under Donovan’s 17-year reign as head coach, the Gators have now won or shared five SEC regular season championships. That is an impressive feat, and as the Sun points out, “I’m not sure there has been a more impressive SEC title than this one because of all the injuries the Gators have endured.” The Gators haven’t been at full strength in quite some time, and it will be interesting to see how the committee seeds UF taking that fact into account. Is a number one seed in the cards for Florida?
  3. Yahoo Sports takes into account Florida‘s injuries throughout the year, and makes the case that the Gators lack the quality road wins needed to make their resume worthy of a number one seed. “Florida has only lost five games all season but all five of its losses have come when the Gators have gone on the road to face a quality opponent, or in the case of Arkansas, a so-so opponent. The Gators lost at Arizona and Kansas State back in December and have lost three times this month on the road in SEC to Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee.” Florida has one remaining road game on its schedule, and beating Kentucky could give the Gators the last and necessary piece of the puzzle for a top seed.
  4. We talked yesterday about the potential for Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy to be on the hot seat after what could be another year of not making the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork remains supportive despite an ugly recent loss to Mississippi State. “My position hasn’t changed despite how painful it was (Saturday) night,” Bjork said after watching the short-handed Bulldogs defeat his Rebels. Then again, what athletic director expresses disgust in his head coach two games before the end of the regular season? These matters are generally best left for the offseason. Replacing the head coach in Oxford seems drastic considering the positive direction in which the Rebels have moved over the past several years. Kennedy is now the all-time winningest coach in Ole Miss history, and it is not as though he took over a program that was accustomed to annual trips to the Big Dance. The Rebels haven’t tasted the NCAA Tourney since a 22-point loss to UCLA in 2002. Replacing him now only seems to stall the progress that has been made.
  5. Two weeks ago, the SEC microsite published a piece examining the likelihood of Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel winning the SEC freshman of the year award. The answer was a resounding yes at the time, and now Noel has been named a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award honoring the nation’s best freshman. Before his injury, Noel turned in one of the all-time best single season performances for a Kentucky freshman, but he also has the numbers to be competitive for the national award. As WKYT in Lexington points out, “Noel led the nation in blocks per game, while also ranking among the top-30 nationally in rebounds and steals per game. He was the only player standing 6’5″ or taller who ranked in the top-30 for steals.” Despite playing in just 24 games, his defense certainly puts him in the conversation, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if he takes home the hardware.
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SEC M5: 2.26.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 26th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. After scoring 20 and 32 points against LSU and Texas A&M respectively Tennessee junior Trae Golden was been named the SEC Player of the Week. The Volunteer point guard has struggled through an up and down season, struggling to find consistency with his shot and decision-making. That wasn’t the case last week however as he shot  almost 50% from the field and a cool 19 for 20 from the free throw line. “He’s like the leader of our team, especially from the standpoint that he can get his own shot and create for others,” junior guard Jordan McRae said. “If you don’t have your floor general out there, it’s kind of hard for someone else to step in and duplicate what he’s been doing for us.” It’s no coincidence that Tennessee’s best stretch of the season has come at a time when Golden and sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes are playing their best basketball.
  2. Tennessee has a chance at a huge resume-padding win tonight when Florida comes to town. The Gators have absolutely dominated the SEC this season, with a scoring margin of over 20 points/game, but the Volunteers may have caught Billy Donovan’s team at the right time. Michael Frazier II will miss out with a concussion he suffered over the weekend, and Will Yeguete won’t yet be back from knee surgery. However, both could be healthy for the Gators home game against Alabama this weekend. ”Frazier’s going to come back at some point. So is Will Yeguete,” Donovan said. “When that actually is, no one really knows right now but I think they’ll be a point where we have our team fully back and we’ll have a full complement of players.” The Gators finish out the season with Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
  3. Willie Cauley-Stein followed in the footsteps of his fallen frontcourt mate and was named SEC Freshman of the Week. The freshman from Kansas put together his best two-game stretch of the season, scoring 20 against Vanderbilt midweek before grabbing 12 rebounds and swatting 7 shots against Missouri on Saturday night. Kentucky looked helpless against Tennessee without Nerlens Noel patrolling the paint, but Cauley-Stein has proved to be a decent replacement for Noel’s lost production. The recognition is Cauley-Stein’s second of the season, his first coming after posting a double-double against Eastern Michigan heading into conference play.
  4. LSU doesn’t have many periods of sustained success in their basketball program’s history, but Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times thinks that may change under the guidance of first-year head coach Johnny Jones. Jones was involved in the program during its best years, as a player for the 1981 Final Four team, and as an assistant for the successful run from 1985-87, all under coach Dale Brown. “Jones’ team plays a lot like most of Brown’s teams — fast and high scoring with hustle and opportunistic defenses that tend to “freak” opponents,” writes Guilbeau. “It’s fun to watch, and people are gradually returning to the Assembly Center. There were 8,200 — a good crowd this century — on a beautiful Saturday with LSU coming off a loss, below .500 in the SEC and neither team ranked.” Jones is making progress on the recruiting trail as well. He’s making sure that his pitches are heard outside of LSU’s immediate surroundings, and has had his hard work rewarded with a commitment from McDonald’s All-American Jarell Martin, only the second to head to Baton Rouge since 2005.
  5. Trevor Releford has been Alabama‘s go-to guy much of the season, but should he be shooting even more? Probably. Trevor Lacey and Rodney Cooper are threats to score from the perimeter as well, but neither is nearly as efficient as Releford. The junior guard is shooting 49% from the field (trailing only reserve forward Nick Jacobs) and leads the team in shooting 42% from distance. “I’ve said this before: When he’s locked in, he’s as good as any guard in our league or across the country,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said Monday. “Here lately, he’s really been playing his best basketball, and we need him to continue.” Despite the heartbreaking loss to LSU over the weekend, Releford was in top form, scoring 36 on 14-18 shooting. The Tide are currently outside the tournament according to most bracket projections, but they have the opportunity for quality wins, with road trips to Florida and Ole Miss before the end of the year.
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Can Nerlens Noel Still Win SEC FrOY? A Look at the League’s Race

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on February 21st, 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. You can find past editions of the SEC Freshman Watch here (East) and here (West).

Handicapping the SEC’s Freshman of the Year race didn’t take much effort back on February 10. Nerlens Noel was fresh off of his third straight double-double and was the anchor behind Kentucky’s rise from the NCAA Tournament bubble to the Top 25. In 10 SEC games, he had averaged 10.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.7 blocks per game to lead the Wildcats to an 8-2 conference record. More than halfway through the season, the award was his to lose. Through no fault of his own, he may have.

Can Noel Still Win SEC FrOY Despite His Injury?

Can Noel Still Win SEC FrOY Despite His Injury?

Noel tore the ACL of his left knee in the middle of a loss to Florida last week, ending his season and possibly his SEC career. His absence has left a big hole around the rim for Kentucky and created a void at the top of the league’s freshman pecking order. With Noel out for the final four weeks of conference play, the Freshman of the Year (FrOY) award is seemingly up for grabs. However, a lackluster crop of first-year players means that UK’s injured center might still be the league’s best bet to win the honors.

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The RTC Podcast: Episode Fourteen

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2013

We made it through one of the weaker weekends of action in college basketball this season, but the band is back together for another edition of the RTC Podcast. Hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), the guys delve into what was the biggest surprise (?) of the weekend with Maryland shredding the Duke defense to the tune of 60% shooting while also turning the ball over on nearly every other possession. We also found time to discuss the situation with Mike Montgomery pushing his star guard, Allen Crabbe, and touched on other topics such as the “soft” bubble, Gonzaga as a top-five team, and Kentucky’s strategies with their remaining presumptive one-and-doners.

Check back on Friday of this week for our shorter RTC Podblast, which will run down some of the action from this week and look ahead to the weekend’s biggest games. And don’t forget to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

  • 0:00-11:20 – Maryland Knocks Off Duke
  • 11:20-16:25 – Mike Montgomery Pushes Allen Crabbe in the Chest and Cal to Victory
  • 16:25-21:52 – Lessons Learned From the 2012 Mock Selection Committee
  • 21:51-28:30 – Gonzaga Needs Glasses- They Fail the Eye Test
  • 28:30-35:35 – Kentucky in a Post-Nerlens Noel World
  • 35:35-47:25 – Weekday Games Preview and Wrap

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On the Big East Race, Duke, Michigan and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 19th, 2013

tuesdayscribbles

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. As we hit the stretch run of the college basketball season, tight conference races begin to captivate the nation. There are terrific regular season title races going on in a bunch of conferences, including the Atlantic 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten but the best race is happening in the Big East. In the conference’s final season as we have come to know it, three teams are tied atop the league standings at 9-3 heading into Tuesday’s action with three more nipping at their heels. It’s only fitting that two of the Big East’s heavyweight rivals, Syracuse and Georgetown, are among the group at 9-3. Joining them is an upstart Marquette team, picked seventh in the 15-team conference. Right behind the leaders is a team some seem to have forgotten about at 9-4, the Louisville Cardinals. Notre Dame at 9-5 after an important win at Pittsburgh last night and 7-5 Connecticut round out the teams within two games in the loss column. The great thing about this race is the best games are still to come. Syracuse and Georgetown hook up twice down the stretch, including on the final day of the regular season. The Orange have the toughest schedule with the aforementioned games against the Hoyas plus a trip to Marquette and a visit to the Carrier Dome from Louisville still on tap. Marquette plays four of its final six games on the road beginning this evening but gets Syracuse and Notre Dame at home where the Golden Eagles have won 23-straight games since a loss to Vanderbilt last season. Luckily for Marquette, its four road games are against a hit-and-miss Villanova team, St. John’s and two of the teams near the bottom of the league standings. It’s never easy to win on the road but Marquette has a somewhat favorable schedule. In the end, my money would be on a 13-5 logjam between Syracuse, Georgetown and Louisville with tiebreakers determining the team that gets the top seed at Madison Square Garden next month.

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

  2. For the final time this Saturday, ESPN’s BracketBusters event will pit non-power league teams against one another, some in major need of a resume-building win as the regular season begins to wind down. Denver against Northern Iowa and Ohio at Belmont are solid matchups but the best game by far is Creighton visiting St. Mary’s on Saturday.The Bluejays have lost five of their past nine games heading into tonight’s game with Southern Illinois, one they should win, after a 17-1 start to the season. Quality non-conference wins against Wisconsin, Arizona State and California (all away from Omaha), plus a good home win over a solid Akron club, have Creighton in a pretty good spot for a bid relative to other teams in the mix. The problem for Greg McDermott’s squad is that it hasn’t done much of anything in calendar year 2013. The good news for Creighton is the NCAA Selection Committee says wins in November and December mean just as much as February and March. As long as Creighton splits its upcoming games with St. Mary’s and Wichita State, I feel that should be good enough to merit an NCAA berth no matter what happens in the Missouri Valley Tournament. As for St. Mary’s, it is even more desperate. The only semblance of a quality win on the Gaels’ resume are wins at BYU and Santa Clara, the former coming thanks to Matthew Dellavedova’s miracle buzzer beater in Provo. To have a chance at the NCAA’s I feel St. Mary’s has to beat Creighton and run the West Coast table while making the finals of the conference tournament. There just isn’t enough meat on its resume to justify a bid despite having one of the nation’s strongest offensive attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 19th, 2013

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  1. Nerlens Noel’s high school coach said his torn ACL injury on February 12 at Florida could have occurred in large part because an injury during his sophomore year of high school did not fully heal. Noel rushed back to play basketball in the spring on the recommendation of his advisors despite being told to rest through the summer. “If the leg healed awkwardly and (Noel) had a malalignment in that knee,” Dr. Robin West, orthopedic surgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers said, “that could predispose him to future injuries in that leg.” It’s certain those same advisors are now trying to get a piece of the pie if Noel can maintain his NBA Draft position throughout this process.
  2. Tennessee beat Kentucky by 30 points on Saturday, and now the Vols are feeling confident heading into the last portion of the season. “It’s amazing what confidence can do for you,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “It’s the same team. We haven’t changed anything, outside of tweaks here and there. It’s the same system.” The Volunteers are now on a three-game winning streak, but a blowout win over the Wildcats may be more about the hardships of UK than it is about Tennessee.
  3. Frank Martin’s first season in Columbia has been less than superb, but the fellas at Garnet and Black Attack say don’t blame Martin for that. Former coach Darrin Horn left the cupboard bare, but this year isn’t when the first-year coach will be judged. “This season isn’t the real test for Martin. It would have been fantastic for him to have managed to make something happen with this team, but barring a miracle, that’s off the table now. The test for Martin is to build a program where one wasn’t before. That’s going to require recruiting and getting talented players to buy into his philosophy.” And Martin is already well on his way to building a future with recruiting more talented players for the Gamecocks.
  4. It seemed clear that the NCAA had botched its investigation into current Missouri coach Frank Haith, but now it’s official. An external review of the NCAA’s investigation techniques revealed several missteps and insufficient oversight during an inquiry into Haith’s time at Miami. “With the completion of the external enforcement review, we recognize that certain investigative tactics used in portions of the University of Miami case failed our membership,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said. In other news, nobody, including the NCAA itself, was actually surprised that the governing body made errors during its own investigation.
  5. Are five Florida players actually better than Michael Jordan? Well, no, but five Gators currently have offensive ratings higher than Jordan’s rating his junior year at North Carolina. But college basketball is arguably more of a team game than it was in Jordan’s era, and the Gators are one heck of an efficient team. Florida’s offensive balance is extraordinary, as seven Gators have a possession percentage above 18 percent. UF is shooting a solid 40 percent from beyond the arc while taking 41 percent of its shots from three-point range, contributing to its outstanding overall efficiency.
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SEC M5: 02.18.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 18th, 2013

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  1. Kentucky coach John Calipari simply wants his players to play hard, and that certainly didn’t happen for the majority of Wildcats in their 30-point loss to Tennessee on Saturday. When asked about junior guard Jarrod Polson, “He fought,” Calipari said. “He and Julius (Mays) fought. Two guys. Battled. Two guys.” Calipari pointed to experience as being a factor in his team’s response to the pleas for effort. ”Julius is a veteran. (He and Polson) understand you can’t put your head down. You have to compete.” The Cats will have enough trouble winning games without superstar freshman Nerlens Noel in the lineup without having to battle a lack of effort too.
  2. Unfortunately for Kentucky, that was the nicest thing its coach had to say on Saturday. Calipari had more critical comments after his team effectively quit in Thompson-Boling Arena in its first game since Noel’s injury. ”We’ve got a couple of guys that are basically not real coachable,” said Calipari. “You tell them over and over what we want to do, what we have to do, and they do their own thing. That’s where we are.” Frustration may have boiled over after the Wildcats’ worst loss in the Calipari era, but if the showing on Saturday was any indication, life after Noel will not be easy. And Calipari will probably have a lot to say about it.
  3. The St. Louis Post Dispatch officially put the SEC on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. With the exception of Florida, no SEC team has done what it takes to feel safe on Selection Sunday. As the author hypothesizes, “Will the SEC get just three NCAA bids? Will it get four? Could disaster strike and limit the league to just two berths? The SEC is a bubble conference. It lacks the depth and non-conference victory list of the other major conferences.” Two bids? At this point the SEC would be lucky to find itself with anything more than one. Kentucky is on a downward spiral, Ole Miss doesn’t have a single quality win, and Missouri can’t win a road game, of which it has three remaining. And beating up on each other doesn’t mean much for the league’s overall resume at this point.
  4. Disappointing loss after disappointing loss, the SEC could become the first power conference to send just one team to the Big Dance since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Though SEC teams like Kentucky and Missouri don’t currently pass the eye test, other teams don’t either. ”The issue is not so much ‘Is Missouri great?’ because they are flawed with their résumé,” said the Tournament bracketologist for USA Today Sports. “But who else are you going to put in ahead of them? Can you find me 37 (at-large) teams you can put in ahead of them?” Teams like the Wildcats and Tigers simply can’t afford a bad loss, and there are lots of ill-timed traps lurking in late February. However, Saturday’s showdown in Lexington between the two bubble teams could end up as something of a play-in game for the SEC’s second bid.
  5. The legend of Marshall Henderson never ceases to amaze. Though Henderson has captivated the nation with his last second shots and difficult three-pointers, it’s been his gestures, antics, off-the-wall comments, and obscenities that have made him an Internet sensation. And his latest headline-grabbing quote just adds to his repertoire. After putting in 25 points in an overtime win against Georgia, Henderson brought the postgame press conference to a halt with this gem. “If it’s all the same, it’s Saturday night. I’m out,” Henderson said. The man. The myth. The legend.
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Award Tour: Mason Plumlee Back at No. 1; A Farewell to Nerlens Noel

Posted by DCassilo on February 15th, 2013

awardtour

David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

College basketball suffered a devastating loss when news broke that Nerlens Noel had torn his ACL in Tuesday’s game against Florida. Perhaps the best defender in the country, Noel was starting to come into his own offensively. The injury has once again sparked the debate about the one-and-done rule. First of all, know your target with this debate. It’s the NBA, not the NCAA. David Stern came up with the rule, but the biggest effects have been seen in college basketball. The positive for the NCAA has been increased exposure. Everyone wants a chance to see players like Noel before they hit the big show. But on the flip side, it’s tough on coaches who can’t plan their recruiting as easily as they used to. And finally, there’s the health risk for the player. This is another reason why I think there needs to be some sort of union-like body watching out for college athletes’ interest. If we knew a player like Noel would be taken care of financially in the event of an injury, I don’t think people would have as big a problem with the one-and-done rule.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

10. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last week – NR)
2012-13 stats: 17.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG

The big man for Gonzaga is as consistent as they come, seemingly giving the Bulldogs somewhere between 15 and 20 points every single night. Some say this is the best Gonzaga team ever, and he deserves much of the credit for that. This week: February 16 at San Francisco, February 20 vs. Santa Clara

9. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 16.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG

The drop for McLemore is mostly because of the terrific weeks by other players on this list. The freshman didn’t do too badly himself, as he poured in 30 points in a win over Kansas State. This week: February 16 vs. Texas, February 20 at Oklahoma State

8. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

Deshaun Thomas Makes the Buckeyes Very Tough to Beat

As one of the few Buckeyes that can score, Thomas keeps posting 20-point games because he keeps getting a lot of shots. The junior has taken at least 15 shots in each of his last five games and fewer than 11 just once all season. This week: February 17 at Wisconsin, February 20 vs. Minnesota

7. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 23 PPG, 7.7 RPG

Losers of three straight and perhaps headed for a seat on the bubble, McDermott’s team is playing him out of the Player of the Year race. While he has played well, he’s missing the memorable performances he needs to overcome everything working against him. This week: February 16 at Evansville, February 19 vs. Southern Illinois Read the rest of this entry »

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Kentucky Can Replace 10 Points Per Game, But Cats Can’t Replace Noel

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 15th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

Kentucky lost its leader in minutes, rebounds, steals, and blocks per game on Tuesday night to a tragic torn ACL. Nerlens Noel started every game this season for the Wildcats. He averaged double figures in points while shooting almost 60 percent from the field, and that from a player largely considered to be a project offensively. But UK lost so much more on Tuesday night than simply its best all-around player. John Calipari and his team lost the very intangible product on the court and in the locker room it searched for all season. Kentucky lost a big piece of its roster on Tuesday night, but statistics are replaceable. Kentucky lost its heart and soul. And the Wildcats aren’t likely to find that again this season.

Nerlens Noel's impact on Kentucky reaches far beyond the stat line.

Nerlens Noel’s impact on Kentucky reaches far beyond the stat line.

The real tragedy here is not in the hit on Kentucky’s NCAA chances, but for the student-athlete who must endure surgery and this unfortunate threat to his career. Kentucky’s ability to win basketball games is important to all of us who live and breathe college basketball every day, but we must remind ourselves that the players on that court are real people. They have real futures. And this particular person has a future that involves playing professional basketball. That point is not lost here, but was covered so well by ESPN.com writer Dana O’Neil’s coverage that doing lip service here just doesn’t do Noel justice. Read O’Neil’s piece as that echoes our sentiments of Noel the person, not just Noel the basketball player. The focus of this piece is on Noel the basketball player and his impact on Kentucky, and that impact reaches far beyond what you read in the box score.

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SEC M5: 02.14.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 14th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Shot-blocking extraordinaire Nerlens Noel won’t be patrolling the paint for Kentucky again this season. On Wednesday, an MRI revealed a torn ACL, confirming what everyone assumed after seeing the freshman center crumble to the ground and scream in pain after a great hustle play Tuesday night in Gainesville. “I’ve been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we’ve had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating,” head coach John Calipari said. Despite the impending long rehabilitation process, Noel remains in good spirits, calling the injury “a minor setback for a MAJOR comeback” from his Twitter account.
  2. Questions about how Noel’s injury would affect his draft stock popped up even before the MRI. Noel was a sure-fire top five NBA Draft pick (and one of the few contenders to go first overall) before this setback, and SI‘s Michael Rosenberg believes that’s still the case. “Guys who are going to be top five picks tend to leave, and Noel will still go that high,” Rosenberg writes. “The only difference is that he might need crutches to walk over and shake David Stern’s hand.” I remain bullish on his draft stock. The injury brings up comparisons to Greg Oden, but it shouldn’t. Noel’s slight lower frame certainly didn’t do him any favors, but one awkward landing into the basket support shouldn’t indicate that he’s in for the same type of chronic knee problems as Oden. He still projects as the top defensive big man in the draft, and if a team like Cleveland or Orlando in need of a rim protector wins the lottery, don’t be surprised to see Noel follow in Anthony Davis’ footsteps as the top overall pick.
  3. So where does Kentucky go from here? (Insert super original NIT joke). “It’s not a question of, how do we replace Nerlens?” Jay Bilas said Wednesday. “It’s, how do we adapt to what we have?” The Wildcats’ remaining strengths aren’t immediately clear. Lost in the Noel commotion is the fact that the Wildcats didn’t belong on the floor with Florida. Outside of a bright opening few minutes, Kentucky’s ball-handlers looked incapable of dealing with the Gators’ full-court pressure. Even when they broke through, the UK offense lacked composure and creativity. Noel was never the focal point when Kentucky had the ball, but without their dominant defensive presence, the Wildcats need to make up some of that lost value on the offensive end. Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t too dissimilar to Noel in his playing style and should see his minutes increase drastically.
  4. Casey Prather has been little more than an energy guy during his time in Gainesville, but with his improved play in the absence of Will Yeguete, he’s showing that he can be much more valuable. Against Kentucky, the junior tallied 12 points, three boards, two blocks, and three charges drawn (of course, few players make drawing charges as easy as Archie Goodwin does). ”I would just say I was trying to give the team a big boost, a big energy boost, and so I was just glad to help the team out any way I could,” says Prather, spoken like a true energy guy. The 6’6″ swingman can guard multiple positions, affording Florida flexibility in its defensive assignments, and rebounds well for his size. Yeguete could return for the postseason, but he may find minutes tough to come by if Prather continues to excel.
  5. Missouri finally earned its first road win of the season, and did so in emphatic fashion. Keion Bell tied a career-high with 24 points to lead the Tigers to a 78-36 win over Mississippi State. ”I think Keion in the last four, five ball games has been outstanding,” coach Frank Haith said in a radio interview after the game. “We love to see him coming along because it gives him a chance to spell (Pressey) more.” Phil Pressey, who has struggled to score efficiently this season, was back in true point guard mode, taking only one shot (which he made) and adding eight assists. The junior would be wise to commit to this style. He’s averaging 14.5 shots per game in losses, while only putting up 10 per game in Missouri’s 18 wins.
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Morning Five: 02.14.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 14th, 2013

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  1. Our fears from yesterday’s Morning Five were realized as an MRI revealed that Nerlens Noel had torn the ACL in his left knee and would miss the remainder of the season. According to the school’s press release they expect he will undergo surgery on his left knee within the next two to three weeks with an expected recovery of six to eight months, but as we all know much of that depends on how the surgery and rehabilitation go. Outside of the obvious impact on Kentucky (hello, bubble), this is a big blow to the young center who was a potential #1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The injury has also led several individuals to question the “one-and-done” rule suggesting that if it had not been in place Noel would at least have had a multimillion dollar contract in place. It has also led a few individuals to speculate that Noel might come back for another year since this hurts his Draft stock although many sources indicate that Noel will still be a top-5 pick. We will table both discussions for another day (the latter is ridiculous) and just wish Noel the best in his recovery.
  2. This week’s edition of Luke Winn’s power rankings are less GIF heavy than some previous versions, but as usual it packs a ton of information including an interesting analysis of team free throws rates at home and on the road. And it isn’t Duke that leads in disparity (ok, I guess you can argue that Duke gets calls both at home on the road). Outside of that perhaps the most interesting thing in this week’s column is that Winn questions the findings of the Ken Pomeroy analysis of late game situations that we linked to in yesterday’s Morning Five. As usual we tend to agree with Winn here although this “nerd on nerd” makes us wonder which side those on different sides of the analytic aisle will take.
  3. We normally find court case involving college sports extremely boring, but the case involving Dominic Hardie, who along with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is suing the NCAA challenging a rule that bars felons from coaching NCAA-sanctioned events, is somewhat intriguing partly because we never knew such a rule existed. Hardie and his team are claiming that the rule violates the Civil Rights Act and unfairly discriminates against minorities[Ed. Note: We will leave the sociopolitical implications to others who want to open that can of worms.] Hardie was trying to coach in a NCAA-certified basketball tournament, but was not allowed to after a 2011 rule change barred all individuals previously convicted of felonies, which is a change from previous policy that only barred individuals convicted of violent felonies within the past seven years. The interesting part of this is just how far this would go since depending on the jurisdiction charges such as assault, fraud, and perjury could be felonies. Given the amount of trouble some coaches have been finding themselves in lately there could be some that would be barred although we aren’t sure if this rule pertains just to the youth events or also actual NCAA games.
  4. It must be something in the Connecticut media room that brings out the vitriol in some coaches as last night Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called ESPN’s Andy Katz an “idiot” and “disloyal” (more details including a brief transcript of the interaction and some background).  Outside of his team’s ugly loss we are not sure what set off Boeheim (there has been some speculation that it was related to some columns or information that Katz had released, but it should make for some interesting interactions between the two of them going forward. To be fair to Katz, he is not the first media member that Boeheim has feuded with; he is just the most well-known national media member that has felt Boeheim’s wrath.
  5. It wasn’t that long ago that we called out Andy Glockner for how stingy he was with handing out “Locks” for the NCAA Tournament, but looking at this week’s Bracket Watch we have to agree with him. When you look through the list the most jarring examples are in the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley Conference where he doesn’t have a single lock. A week ago we would have said he was crazy, but after some recent results we have to agree with him here. Having said that we think that there are more than a few of his “Should Be In” teams that are probably more like “Locks” at this point.
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Morning Five: 02.13.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2013

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  1. The college basketball community was abuzz last night discussing the gruesome-looking knees injury suffered by Kentucky center Nerlens Noel during the second half of the Wildcats’ loss to Florida in Gainesville. At the time of this writing, no official news has been released as to the severity of the injury, but as you can see from this video and this photo, the star freshman’s knee buckled in a way that caused him quite a bit of pain. Afterward, head coach John Calipari said that he feared the worst but hoped for the best, but the collective mood around Big Blue Nation suggests that Noel may not be coming back this season. You hate to see a player of any kind suffer a serious injury, and this is especially so when it involves a player with the talent, skill and future of Noel. Let’s all hope that by the time you’re reading this on Wednesday morning that Calipari’s hopes for only a sprain have rendered true.
  2. From a potential season-ending injury to a definite one, Northwestern forward Jared Swopshire‘s career is officially over after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday. The Louisville transfer graduate student had hoped to spend his only year in Evanston contributing toward the Wildcats’ first-ever run to the NCAA Tournament, but the snake-bitten team that has suffered multiple key injuries this year now sits at 13-11 and 4-7 in the Big Ten with a Thursday trip to Ohio State looming. Without the team’s best rebounder available, Bill Carmody’s squad expects to now have only seven scholarship players available for that game. Ouch.
  3. While on the subject of bad news, a bizarre and sad story is developing in the Philadelphia area this week as Maria Reyes Garcia-Pellon, the wife of former Penn starting center and 1979 Final Four participant Matthew White, was arrested on charges of murdering her husband with a pair of kitchen knives. She claimed to police that she found White “looking at pornography, young girls,” which caused her to attack him as he slept, but it’s unclear whether White was actually doing so. According to a written statement from a spokesperson for the county attorney’s office, “there is no indication that [what White was looking at] was child pornography,” but we’re sure that the specific details will come out if such an accusation is true. The last Ivy League team to make the Final Four was White’s Quakers, who lost to eventual national champion Michigan State in the Final Four.
  4. You’re up three points with eight seconds left and the opponent heading your way — do you foul or choose to defend? This strategic discussion has been bandied about for the last several years among the punditocracy, with a data-driven cabal arguing that fouling is the proper decision — that the likelihood of the sequence of events that will cause your team to lose is even smaller than forcing a tough contested three. Ken Pomeroy begs to differ. Looking at three years worth of data, he found that defending the three results in a win 94.0% of the time, while putting your opponent on the line produces a victory 92.7% of the time — a minor difference, to be sure, but a difference over a data set of 804 instances nevertheless. Considering the margin of error, perhaps there’s no meaningful difference between the two strategies, but Pomeroy argues that the preponderance of game-tying threes (witness: Wisconsin’s buzzer-beater versus Michigan over the weekend) compared with instances of  successful fouling strategies gives a false impression of one solution preferred over the other. It’s a fair point — perception drives reality for most — but we also wonder if the answer here might be mostly driven by the personnel on the floor analyzed through a matrix of three-point shooting, foul shooting, and rebounding prowess.
  5. It’s the end of the Big East as we know it, and Grantland‘s Charles Pierce does not feel fine. In a wide-ranging piece that focuses on ancient Eastern basketball rivalries, anti-Catholic nativism in the South (read: Tobacco Road), and somehow, a sluggishly-paced game between Georgetown and Marquette, Pierce laments the loss of one of the great college basketball leagues there ever was. While we’re just as torn up as anybody with the implosion of the venerable conference, we also recognize that the league really did this to itself. And when given the opportunity to shore up its ranks by getting back to what made the Big East relevant in the first place — basketball — the conference instead made a mockery of itself by reaching near and wide to schools like TCU, Boise State and (egads) Tulane and expected everyone to keep a straight face. Well, there is that new NBC Sports television contract, we suppose.
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