SEC Pick ‘Em: Week of November 13-19

Posted by DPerry on November 13th, 2012

Every Tuesday, the SEC microsite writers will post their picks for the week’s top games involving SEC teams. Keep up with them to determine if we actually know what we’re talking about when it comes to basketball.

Tuesday- Duke vs. Kentucky (in Atlanta) – Verdict: Kentucky (2-1)

  • Brian- Kentucky 72-70: While inexperienced and playing as such on Friday against Maryland, UK has too much athleticism to lose this one.
  • Doug- Duke 74-69: The Wildcats’ young frontcourt will struggle to keep Mason Plumlee off the boards and this Blue Devils team has the athleticism to at least keep up with Kentucky.
  • Kyle- Kentucky 73-69: Kentucky wins another squeaker. Both teams will live and die by their strengths — Kentucky’s transition game and Duke’s outside shooting. Interior presence wins this matchup.

Wednesday- Wisconsin at Florida – Verdict: Florida (3-0)

Kenny Boynton, Florida

It Says Here That Kenny Boynton Leads UF to a Victory Wednesday (credit: Kim Klement, US Presswire)

  • Brian- Florida 66-59: Florida is tough to beat at home, and I think the Gators are the better team in this one.
  • Doug- Florida 65-62: The Scottie Wilbekin suspension hurts, but The Swamp will be rocking and the Gators will use a balanced attack to wear down the Badgers.
  • Kyle- Florida 77-62:  Florida is too well-rounded for a defensive-minded Badger team who still barely scores any points per game. Look for Kenny Boynton to show his leadership down the stretch.
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Running Down the Top Pac-12 Non-Conference Games: Take Three

Posted by AMurawa on October 16th, 2012

Last week, a pair of my colleagues here posted their lists of five non-conference games featuring Pac-12 teams to watch. To be clear, Connor Pelton’s list was of the five most watchable games on the slate, while Kevin Danna’s list was the five most important games. Today I’ll tell you the games that Connor and Kevin missed on their respective lists and tell you why these games need to be right there among the best of the Pac-12’s non-conference games.

First, Kevin picked the following five games as the most important non-conference games:

  1. USC vs. Illinois
  2. UCLA vs. Georgetown
  3. Stanford vs. Missouri
  4. California at Wisconsin
  5. Florida at Arizona

Now, to be sure, those are by no means a bad slate of games. And, given the state in which we last saw Pac-12 basketball, any games its member institutions play in the non-conference should be considered very important, as the league tries to re-establish its national credibility. That being said, I’m looking for one of two things in ranking the importance of non-conference games: Either match-ups of elite teams against teams that figure to be highly ranked come March, or match-ups of middle-of-the-Pac teams against other potential bubblicious teams. Kevin nailed a couple of the first type here, especially with the UCLA/Georgetown Legends Classic semifinal that will not only give the Bruins a chance to score a solid win over a solid Big East team, but could also give the squad a chance to score a major RPI booster against Indiana in the final of that tournament. Likewise, if Arizona can take care of Florida, that should be a nice feather in the Wildcats’ cap come Selection Sunday, especially considering their otherwise ordinary (at best) non-conference slate.

Kevin does a great job picking out a couple other key early season tournament games, with USC needing to open its run in the Maui Invitational with a win over Illinois in order to give the Trojans a chance at other big names deeper in that tourney. Stanford is in a similar situation in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tourney. Really, there’s not a lot on his list to argue with, but I’d pick out a couple other games that could be harbingers of what is to come on Selection Sunday.

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Pac-12′s Five Most Important Non-Conference Games

Posted by KDanna on October 10th, 2012

The best thing about October isn’t watching football or the MLB playoffs; no, it’s all about analyzing college basketball non-conference schedules. Where are the potential RPI boosts? Trap games? Guarantee ones? So many possibilities for those ’12 or ’13 tilts!

But way out west, promise has quickly turned into embarrassment in November and December for the Pac-12 in recent years. Last season, the Pac went 9-38 against teams that finished the regular season in the RPI Top-100 and 3-28 against those finishing 50th or above, according to realtimerpi.com. Numbers like those are why Washington didn’t get an at-large bid even as the conference’s regular-season champion. So, it goes without saying that the first two months of the season are HUGE for a conference like the Pac-12 to regain respect around the college basketball world. With that in mind, we’re ready to begin circling some dates to keep an eye on in the conference calendar. Here are my choices for the five most important non-conference games for the Pac in 2012-13, in order of appearance:

Maui Invitational

USC Will Represent The Pac-12 At The Maui Invitational This Year (Alex Prosperi, EA Sports Maui Invitational)

1. USC vs. Illinois (November 19) - Talk about the ultimate RPI-boost game. Illinois is the Trojans’ first-round opponent of the Maui Invitational, which means a certain D-II team will be lurking in the consolation bracket. If the Trojans beat the Illini, they get to play Texas, another high-quality RPI opponent. If the Trojans lose… that’s right, Chaminade is up next (assuming Texas doesn’t Oklahoma 2010-11 it). In case you were wondering, the Silverswords are not a high-quality RPI opponent. Neither the Trojans nor the Illini are coming off storybook seasons (USC went 1-17 in an extremely down Pac-12, while Illinois absolutely imploded, finishing the season 2-12 after a 15-3 start), but a little early-season karma can do a body of work good. And, we’ll get a chance to see just how much difference USC’s new faces (like Ari Stewart, J.T. Terrell and Eric Wise) and newly healthy returnees (with senior point guard Jio Fontan exhibit A) can make.

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Calipari Pushes ‘Nontraditional’ Scheduling Agenda, A Loss For Everyone Involved

Posted by EJacoby on May 8th, 2012

By now, you’ve heard that two of college basketball’s traditional powerhouses have decided to end their annual tradition of playing each other. Kentucky and Indiana have combined for 13 national championships, are two of the strongest and historic programs in basketball history, and could easily both be ranked in the top five to begin next season. Last year they played in two classic games that included some of the best moments of the entire season. Yet, at the height of the rivalry in many years, the schools could not come to an agreement on how to continue their games. While fans on both sides continue to voice their displeasure (synopsis: IU says “convenient”; UK says “trust in Cal”) , the Kentucky coach has now explained his side of the story. Feeling emboldened by his newly-minted national championship, John Calipari wrote an extended blog post over the weekend about his scheduling needs and why they contradict with the purpose of the UK-IU rivalry. While Calipari should be praised for his direct communication with fans and refreshing transparency, his actual argument doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He states that his primary focus is to best prepare his team for the NCAA Tournament, but in his new “nontraditional” approach he’s stripping his players of valuable competition and fans of exciting matchups to look forward to. Calipari stresses that UK is a players-first program, but the agenda that he’s pushing doesn’t actually seem more beneficial for the players, and it’s not good for college basketball fans, either.

Coach Calipari Directed a Message to UK Fans About Kentucky's Scheduling Tactics (ESPN Photo)

Calipari’s post reinforces the idea that his scheduling desires are motivated by what’s best for his team during each individual season. He says that Kentucky is “going through things that no other program in the history of college basketball has gone through. No other program is losing five or six players a year.” While this is technically true, it’s not logical to give up long-term scheduling deals with other schools just because his team will look different every year. The fact that his team does in fact look different each season (presumably filled with blue-chippers as long as he’s around) would instead lead us to believe that he needs to challenge his teams right away in order to prepare the Wildcats for the rigors of March. Kentucky may still have won the title last season if it hadn’t played a challenging non-conference schedule, but early games against Kansas (neutral), Louisville (home), North Carolina (home), and Indiana (road) seemed to help speed up the learning curve of his precocious freshmen.

No head coach, including Calipari, wants to lose non-conference games. Losing those games can severely impact the RPI, which – as flawed of a measure as we all know it to be – is still the underlying metric that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee uses to compare and contrast teams. For years fans around the country (with UK fans especially vocal) have decried the “Coach K Method” of scheduling, questioning why Duke rarely challenges itself in the non-conference season to play true road games in an opponent’s building. There’s truth to the criticism – outside of the ACC/Big Ten mandate, Duke might play one other “road” game each season, usually confined to the Duke-friendly alumni corridor of the Mid-Atlantic from DC (Georgetown) through Philadelphia (Temple) to New York (St. John’s). These look like hostile road trips on paper, but plenty of Duke fans who live nearby scoop up tickets to support the Blue Devils, making those games more neutral than you might think. Duke then fills the rest of its non-conference schedule with other neutral site games against teams it should beat and home games against solid mid-majors like Belmont and Davidson, earning wins and good RPI juice in the process.

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