SEC M5: 01.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 8th, 2013


  1. X-rays conducted on Erik Murphy confirmed that the Gators’ forward suffered a fractured rib last week. Florida coach Billy Donovan is hoping Murphy can return to action soon, but the team’s second leading scorer is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s SEC opener against Georgia. “It’s in a really bad spot. It’s right by his lat [muscle],” Donovan said. “Any time he raises his arms up or reaches his arms up, there’s a significant amount of pain.” The Florida coaching staff will make a final determination on Murphy’s status on Wednesday. If the starter is unable to go, expect forwards Will Yeguete and Casey Prather to see additional playing time. Yeguete scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Yale in Murphy’s absence, while Prather came off the bench for nine points and six boards.
  2. Missouri received a rather large commitment from JuCo center Keanau Post. Post is coming to Columbia from Southwestern Illinois College where he averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. “As soon as I get there working with the strength and conditioning coach, I think my upside is real good and I can fit in,” said Post. “I know they’re looking for me to be a bit of a scorer, which I know I can do with all the work I’ll be doing in the weight room to get myself stronger. They want me to rebound which I know I can do. I can run the floor very well. The other day when I was up there, Alex (Oriakhi) did a great job of that. I think I’ll put up the same kind of effort. Blocking shots, being there to clean up.” But the post player is seriously a big guy, standing at 6’11” and weighing in at 260 pounds. He will give the Tigers some depth in the post next season after the losses of both Oriakhi and forward Laurence Bowers.
  3. Guard Phil Pressey has practically done it all for Missouri this season, but coach Frank Haith doesn’t want his superstar point guard to force shots. “Phil just needs to be Phil,” Haith said. “Phil doesn’t have to be more than Phil Pressey, and I think that he’s hearing that too much, and I don’t like that because I think that makes him feel like he has to do more. He doesn’t. He has to just be Phil Pressey. He doesn’t have to take 25 shots. He doesn’t have to. […] He really doesn’t.” With the loss of guard Mike Dixon earlier this year, Pressey has been forced to play 34.1 minutes per game for the Tigers. He leads the SEC in percentage of possible minutes played at 85.3 percent. Only five other SEC players exceed 80 percent.
  4. Yesterday’s SEC M5 talked about the decision of Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon to take a medical redshirt this season in order to return for a final year of eligibility in 2013-14. Would Maymon’s return this season disrupt some positive momentum the Vols have going? The power forward didn’t want to chance it. “I didn’t want to miss too many games,” Maymon admitted. “I didn’t want to come back and be a distraction and have coach try to put me in there where other guys have paved the way for themselves to play this year. I’m just going to take the backseat and let guys do what they have to do.” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin confirmed that Maymon would likely be able to return from the injury later this month, but both the player and coach agreed that a few late season games weren’t worth risking his health or a full year of eligibility. “I knew at some point, if it got this late, I wasn’t about to put the kid on the court and try to win a few games and he’s not 100 percent,” Martin said. Tennessee carries on without the preseason all-SEC selection on Wednesday in its SEC opener against Ole Miss.
  5. Every team needs some experience and Alabama is happy to welcome its lone senior, Andrew Steele, back after six missed games with an injury. Steele scored just two points in his first game back, but the Tide broke a losing streak that included losses in five of their last six games. And perhaps the senior’s addition had a little something to do with the change. “The complexion of our team has changed a little bit,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We look forward to starting conference play. He affected the game in a variety of ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.” The youthful Tide started four sophomores and a junior in their last outing, so Steele’s return gives Grant’s squad a leader to turn to on the court.
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Why it’s a Travesty OU’s Sam Grooms Isn’t Seeing More Time

Posted by dnspewak on January 7th, 2013

When the Big 12 released its 2011-12 All-Conference teams last March, it included a who’s who of elite, nationally-recognized point guards. Tyshawn Taylor of the national runner-up Kansas Jayhawks made the first team. The dynamic Pierre Jackson of Baylor made the second team. Missouri’s Phil Pressey, the league’s leader in assists, made the third team, star Texas freshman Myck Kabongo earned an honorable mention, and the voters even named MU’s Michael Dixon the Sixth Man of the Year.

Why Has Grooms' Time Decreased This Season?

Why Has Grooms’ Time Decreased This Season?

Sam Grooms did not make that list. At all. Not even an honorable mention for the Oklahoma point guard. And when the 2012-13 preseason awards came out this fall, he didn’t make that list, either. Jackson and Kabongo did, but the Big 12’s returning leader in assists was nowhere to be found. Entering this season, it seemed perplexing how much people ignored Grooms and discarded him as a second-rate point guard in this league. Other than Pressey, who moved on to the SEC and was named that league’s preseason Player of the Year, no player in the Big 12 averaged more assists than Grooms a year ago when he dropped six dimes per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio was a stunning 3:1. When Big 12 play heated up, the junior college transfer emerged as a true floor general in spite of his team’s inability to win a basketball game. The statistics tell the entire story. In a five-game stretch last February against the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Texas, he dished out 43 assists against 11 turnovers and even notched a career-high 17 points against the Tigers. Lon Kruger told a local newspaper Grooms was doing a “terrific job.” Even though Oklahoma’s season ended with a thud with a loss in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament, it was clear Grooms had nothing to do with the Sooners’ slide. On the contrary: He was the bright spot on a 15-16 team. His command for the point guard position and feel for the game was all so promising as Kruger attempted to build for the future. Nobody knew much about Grooms, but we did. I even named him the eighth-best player in the entire conference as he entered his senior year.

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Resetting the SEC Race: A Look at the Seven “East” Teams

Posted by CNguon on January 4th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC Microsite writer and can be found @TrainIsland on Twitter. 

Non-conference play is wrapping up in the Southeastern Conference, and that means that the battle for SEC supremacy is about to begin. We’re two months into the college basketball season, and several teams are vying to be crowned as the SEC’s king. Florida and Missouri have carried the banner early in the season, but a talented program lies in wait in Lexington. Behind them, quietly successful squads like LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Texas A&M are also waiting to prove that their inflated records aren’t just the products of careful scheduling. This week, we’ll break down how each member of the SEC has started its 2012-13 campaigns, who their key players may be going forward, and whether they can carry their current pace into conference play. Today, we’ll start by looking at the conference known during football season as the SEC East:

Florida – Flaws May be Surfacing; The Gators are 2-2 after a 7-0 Start

  • The Good: The Gators have shown off a balanced attack and are playing great team defense to start their season. Opponents are shooting woefully against them, averaging just 52 points per game through Florida’s first 11 match-ups. No team has scored more than 67 points against UF so far in 2012-13. Kenny Boynton is still around and doing Kenny Boynton things. This can be recorded as either as positive or a negative for the Gators. He’s leading the team in scoring and swagger, but like a 6’2” Antoine Walker he’s shooting over six three-pointers per game and making fewer than 30 percent of them. He’s regressed since a strong junior season, but he’s still clearly this team’s general when it comes down to on-court leadership.

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

  • The Bad: Florida’s balance comes at the expense of not having an alpha dog to take over in tight situations. Boynton’s poor shooting tempers his status as a go-to player, while Erik Murphy and Patric Young have yet to prove themselves as consistent threats when the pressure is on. This is something that could fluster coach Billy Donovan when conference play brings more high-pressure situations.
  • Player to Watch: Erik Murphy. Murphy, the pride of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, has come into his own as a senior, shooting a stellar 57 percent from the field and 45 percent from long range. The 6’10” forward is an inside-out presence who can stretch opposing defenses and use his length to provide passable defense in the interior. His ability to draw defenders away from the hoop helps provide openings for a strong backcourt led by Boynton and Rosario. If he can maintain this level of play, he’ll give the Gators plenty of options on offense.
  • Can it Last? Yes, but… the Gators have been solid and have the talent to make a deep postseason run, but recent losses bring this team’s makeup and stability into question. Florida gave up the comeback of the 2012-13 season so far when turnovers and a missed Boynton free throw helped Arizona overcome a six-point deficit with 57 seconds left in the game. Two games later, they couldn’t get past a sneaky-good Kansas State team in Kansas City. The Gators have all the strength they need to get past the SEC’s lower-level teams, but they’ve still got to prove that they can handle the best the conference has to offer. Their reign at the top of the conference may be short lived.

Missouri – Their Talent Has Led to a 10-2 Record, But Can They Continue to Play as a Team?

  • The Good: Laurence Bowers has returned stronger than ever from last season’s ACL tear, and a Missouri team filled with transfers have helped place the Tigers among the NCAA’s elite in 2013. Jabari Brown (Oregon), Alex Oriakhi (UConn), Earnest Ross (Auburn), and Keion Bell (Pepperdine) have all played well in their new hometown of Columbia, Missouri. The Tigers have nine players that have earned 10 minutes per game or more this year; of those, only Phil Pressey suited up for Mizzou in 2011-12. Point guard Pressey has proven to be an excellent distributor, leading the SEC with 7.3 assists per game. He sprung for an insane 19-of-19 line against UCLA in an overtime loss and has stepped forward as this team’s leader out of the backcourt. Oriakhi has been just as good at Mizzou as he had been at UConn, and Brown has shown off the chops that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school. A talented roster has given this team a potent inside-out attack and the depth to hang with any opponent they’ll face in 2013. Additionally, they lead the NCAA in rebounds through a dozen games this season, pulling down 47.4 per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 4th, 2013


  1. Tennessee’s premier non-conference rivalry continues today when Memphis travels to Thompson-Boling Arena to take on the Vols. The match-up will bring an eight-year contract between the schools to a close, and with the two schools unable to come to an agreement for future games, we may not see these in-state rivals face each other in the near future. It’s a shame really, as Tennessee-Memphis has been one of the most exciting rivalries in recent years. Bruce Pearl and John Calipari were instrumental in reigniting the rivalry, but even with new coaches Cuonzo Martin and Josh Pastner now on board, the two schools have remained competitive. Last November, in an unplanned game in the Maui Invitational, Memphis held off the Vols in double overtime in what turned out to be one of the most memorable early games of the season. A renewal of this rivalry seems unlikely in the near future, but we can always hope.
  2. John Calipari acknowledges his team’s occasional lack of effort. A special freshman class can break the mold (i.e., his 2011 class), but a group of stars coming from the high school ranks frequently struggles with motivation. How does Calipari combat this problem? Cold hard numbers. The UK training staff is employing a device (the specifics of which have not been disclosed) that gives them “the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time. Because we are able to read their heart rates, now we know who is maxing out in practice and who is hiding, who thinks they’re going hard and who isn’t, who is able to push themselves through pain, and who has mental toughness to be special.” Interesting.
  3. Auburn basketball. Anyone care to explain? I sure can’t. The Tigers have been a conference bottom-feeder for years, but at least one conference prognosticator (OK… me) thought that the Tigers would experience at least a mild renaissance this season. However, after a 2-5 start that included losses to Boston College and Rhode Island, I’d lost faith. However (yes, another “however”, it’s appropriate), the Tigers might have turned things around. Tony Barbee’s squad traveled to Chicago over the weekend and almost pulled off a massive upset over the 12th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini, and in their non-conference finale, the Tigers upset Florida State, a talented team despite not meeting its own preseason expectations. Auburn is entering SEC play on a high note, and with a relatively soft opening conference schedule, the Tigers will look to compile some momentum before matching up against the SEC’s elite.
  4. A quick look at its non-conference schedule shows UCLA as Missouri’s last quality opponent, but true college basketball connoisseurs will note that Bucknell shouldn’t be counted as one of the Tiger’s cupcakes. The SEC is in an obvious down year, but the newcomers from Columbia have made an impression in the young season. Despite the loss of a key contributor in shooting guard Michael Dixon, the Tigers still have arguably the nation’s top point guard in Phil Pressey, who shouldn’t have much of a problem dominating the weak defenses that populate much of the SEC. A home-and-home with Florida and a trip to Rupp Arena loom large, but Missouri boasts the quality of talent to become the conference’s premier team in its first season.
  5. We’re about a third of the way through the college basketball season, and South Carolina sits in the top half of the SEC. Impressive, right? Maybe not, if you look at the schedule. The Gamecocks have lost only three games to this point, but when your most impressive win is at home against Rider (ranked 207th by Ken Pomeroy), you take that record with a massive block of salt. The Gamecocks will be looking to establish more of a trustworthy record as we approach the SEC season, but in their last  non-conference game, they’ll be without several key contributors against South Carolina State over the weekend. Second-leading scorer Lashay Page, Outback Bowl hero Bruce Ellington, and freshman forward Michael Carrera will watch Saturday’s game from the sidelines, but as the Bulldogs rank 346th of 347 teams (according to Mr. Pomeroy), we won’t be surprised to see South Carolina escape without any trouble.
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Resetting the SEC at the Midpoint: A Three-Bid League?

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 2nd, 2013

Many of us are aware that a significant portion of our SEC brethren pay more attention to the football field than the hardwood during November and December. Yeah, football’s alright, but think of all the great moments those poor sports fans have missed thus far during this college basketball season. Okay, maybe not from SEC basketball, but the sport as a whole has been great. At least nobody can argue that action from the SEC hasn’t been, well, eventful. And now we’re here to catch you up with what’s happened in the league and throughout the SEC microsite during the early part of this 2012-13 season:

November and December has been tough for Rick Ray and the rest of the SEC coaching brethren.

November and December has been tough for Rick Ray and the rest of the SEC coaching brethren.

Conference Recap

Well, things aren’t going as planned around here. SEC schools have lost to the likes of Troy, Alabama A&M, Winthrop, and Marist just to name a few. Barring a huge collapse, just a few SEC squads should hear their names in March (Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky), but the rest of the teams in the conference have significant work to do. As a whole, the conference has been downright wretched. And that’s the nice version. On the bright side, it has been fun, and it’s only the beginning. We have a lot of catching up to do, so let’s get right down to it.

All SEC Non-Conference Performers

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 97, #9 Missouri 94 (OT)

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2012


It was one of the more thrilling games of the young season, an up-and-down affair featuring great individual performances, scoring in bunches, and little of that pesky defense that can serve just to ugly things up. No, this was a track meet, a sprint. And one that needed some extra distance to decide a winner.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. This is What The Buzz Was About. We spent much of the offseason hearing about how great this UCLA recruiting class was and just how high the ceiling was for this team, but for much of the first month and a half of the season, the Bruins just didn’t live up to the hype. But quietly over the last couple weeks, UCLA has gotten on an offensive roll, racking up efficient offensive performances against questionable competition. Leading the way has been Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top two recruits in this year’s freshman class, depending on whom you ask. Tonight was his, and really, the entire UCLA team’s chance to show the strides that they have made. Muhammad poured in 27 points, including seven of UCLA’s nine points in overtime, and flashed the athleticism and killer instinct that was long rumored about him. While there is still plenty of room for improvement (case in point, he grabbed just one rebound in 34 minutes of play), we’re starting to see what we expected to see. And in proximity to the rumors that had been swirling about Ben Howland’s job being in jeopardy, this win may have come at just the right time.
  2. Phil Pressey. He Good. Phil Pressey, on the other hand, was a guy who had been largely living up to the high standards that he had previously set for himself. Tonight, he found himself facing a team with an up-tempo, minimal defense in which he can thrive. And thrive he did, wowing Tiger and Bruin fans alike to the tune of 19 points and 19 assists, setting a Missouri record for dimes in a game. The assists are the big story, and they came in a variety of ways: whip-aheads on the fast break; drive-and-dish jobs creating easy looks for big guys like Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers; and crisp passes to spot-up shooters for threes. And when he wasn’t handing out assists, he was creating for himself. He knocked down a late three (one of three on the night) in the face of Larry Drew II, he got into the lane and flipped in runners, and he knocked down pull-up jumpers. Just looking at the 8-for-22 effort in the box score could give one pause, but he was everything for the Tigers, accounting for 67 of their 94 points on just his shots and assists alone.
  3. Defense? What Defense? Much of the talk during the game on Twitter was about the lack of defense being played. And, yeah, there is little arguing that this was not exactly a fine example of defensive basketball. When all was said and done, the two teams combined to give up 1.18 points per possession. But you know what? At least for UCLA, that’s something to be okay with — at least there were signs of improvement. While they allowed far too much dribble penetration, at least it was to a point guard the quality of Pressey. And UCLA forced 17 turnovers (five from Pressey) which led to 36 points, quite possibly the difference in the game. At no point is this UCLA team going to be a shining example of Howland’s great defensive coaching, but if the Bruins can bolster its already potent offense by forcing turnovers and creating fast break opportunities, at least that can help to mitigate some of the easy points they give up.

Stars of the GameThe Wear Twins. Yeah, this should probably go to Pressey. Or maybe if you really want to hand it out to a player on the winning team, Muhammad. But I’ve already talked plenty about those two. How about the Wear twins though? Though they are a pair much maligned by large fan bases on both coasts, they were both excellent tonight. Travis Wear set a new career high, knocking in 22 points, grabbing nine boards and swatting a couple of shots. His brother, despite some early foul trouble, made all seven of the shots he attempted from the field on his way to 16 points and six boards. And, while a guy like Alex Oriakhi will get more attention as the big athletic dude in the middle, the Wears outplayed him, frustrated him, and, frankly, out-toughed him. Now there’s a sentiment I never thought I’d have. And, finally, with the game on the line, it was not Muhammad, it was not Jordan Adams (who was on the bench with leg cramps after being the guy called on at the end of regulation), it was not Kyle Anderson to whom the Bruins turned in the final moments of overtime. It was Travis Wear, who responded with a nice turnaround jumper to put UCLA up three with 13 seconds remaining.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Missouri at UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2012

As conference plays looms around the corner, the last real big game on the Pac-12 non-conference schedule tips off tonight at 7:00 PM PST on ESPN2 as the as-yet underachieving Bruins take on the Tigers, currently ranked #9 in the RTC Top 25. I’ll (@AMurawa) be on hand at Pauley Pavilion to report on the action, but in advance, let’s run down what to keep an eye on tonight.

Why It’s Important: While Missouri may have some solid wins on their non-conference resume (Virginia Commonwealth, Illinois and Stanford), UCLA is very much in need of heading into conference play with something positive in the rear view mirror. While they’re riding a four-game winning streak now and the offense has picked up over most of that stretch, defensively they are still struggling. And Missouri’s efficient offensive, run by playmaker par excellence Phil Pressey, is going to give the Bruins all the test they want. The hyped freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams has been explosive, but they’ll need to prove their toughness tonight in order to establish any national cred.

Phil Pressey's Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA's Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Phil Pressey’s Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA’s Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Missouri Player to Watch – Phil Pressey: The point has been made before, but I don’t mind repeating it: Pressey is the type of player who can, even in the midst of a poor shooting night, have a positive effect on his team on both ends of the court. The most recent example of such came on Saturday when Pressey missed his first 15 shots, wound up just 3-of-19 from the field (and an oh-fer from behind the arc) and yet was still almost universally regarded as the most important player in the Tigers’ nine-point win over Illinois. Why? Because his ability to create good looks for his teammates (and yes, part of that is being a constant threat to shoot the ball) is almost unparalleled. He hands out assists on better than 32% of his teammates baskets, good for better than six assists per night. Given UCLA’s record of struggling to stop penetration, priority number one for Ben Howland and his senior point guard Larry Drew II will be slowing Pressey, forcing bad shots and making other players beat them.

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SEC M5: 12.26.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 26th, 2012


  1. Happy holidays everyone. While Ole Miss was the lone SEC team in action on Christmas Day, all of the other teams spent time at home with their families. When Kentucky players in particular looked under the tree, they found that Santa was especially good to the Wildcats. Kentucky basketball didn\’t receive new socks or a tacky Christmas sweater, rather a brand new state of the art locker room at Rupp Arena. The new basketball suite, funded by private donors, includes a lounge, a dining area, a locker room, cold and hot tubs, a training room, a video room, and coaches\’ offices. And you thought your presents this year were cool?
  2. Missouri point guard Phil Pressey shot a forgettable 3-of-19 from the field on Saturday in the Tigers\’ win over Illinois, but he was still the most important player on the court. Pressey fueled Mizzou in other areas with 11 assists and seven rebounds. “He’s a valuable guy,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “Obviously he was at a level where I couldn’t afford to take him out.” Even though he missed his first 15 shots, Pressey played all but about one minute. His play against the Illini shows just how valuable Pressey is for Haith\’s squad, and he doesn\’t have to score a lot of points to remain the team\’s key cog.
  3. After a banner year in 2011-12 when he shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, Florida guard Kenny Boynton is experiencing the worst shooting slump of his four-year career at Florida. Boynton is just 17-of-61 from behind the arc on the season, going 1-of-5 in the Gators\’ most recent loss to Kansas State. But Boynton isn\’t letting the dry spell get to him. “I’m good,” Boynton said. “I’m not pressing. I know it’s going to come. Coach (Billy Donovan) told me to take open looks and that’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to do.” The slump hasn\’t affected all of his shooting, though. Boynton\’s free throw rate sits at 85 percent, the highest such clip of his career.
  4. Nerlens Noel has been one of the most reliable players for Kentucky\’s John Calipari, and he probably owes a lot of his toughness to his older brothers. Home pickup games with Noel\’s big brothers, both of whom are Division I football players, prepared him to absorb contact when going up around the rim. Older brother Rodman Noel said the siblings were rough on Nerlens \”to make him tougher.  At first, he didn\’t like how we operated things with him. He always used to tell my mom and complain. Over time, he started to adapt to it.\” The younger Noel is seeing the benefits of those backyard pickup games by getting to the free throw line regularly for 45 attempts already this season. But as far as running to tell his mom? \”Nah, nah,\” he said. \”I\’d never go to my mom. I was little, so I\’d start whining and stuff. And I wouldn\’t give them the ball back till I got the call.\”
  5. Alabama is down to eight scholarship players, but that is no excuse for Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant. After the Tide suffered a collapse in a seven-point loss to Mercer over the weekend — a team with an RPI of #228 — Grant had a meltdown of his own. “Let’s just be real about it,” he said. “We didn’t show up to play for 40 minutes today. We didn’t… Let’s not sugarcoat it.” Grant knows this loss was because of effort. “You saw the game. You see the results: 50-50 balls, when you get out-hustled to, that has nothing to do with talent. When you have breakdown after breakdown that cause bad offensive possessions, or for them to get success on their offensive end… That was more effort, focus and pride in performance. It’s frustrating right now as a coach to admit that. It’s embarrassing, really, to admit that.” Grant\’s club has been outplayed a lot over the past month. The Tide have lost four of their last five games, with just two more non-conference games left on the schedule.
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Braggin’ Rights Win Over Illini Reveals a Different Missouri Team

Posted by dnspewak on December 23rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report from the Scottrade Center following Missouri’s 82-73 victory over Illinois Saturday night. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

It was an unfamiliar sight. The big, bad Missouri Tigers ferociously attacked the offensive glass on Saturday, flying over Illinois at every opportunity and bullying the Fighting Illini with their size and strength. Phil Pressey, who missed his first 15 shots from the field, could have missed 100 shots for all he cared. Every time Pressey clanked another floater off the rim, Alex Oriakhi was there to clean up the mess. By the end of Missouri’s 82-73 Braggin’ Rights victory at the Scottrade Center, he’d tallied 14 rebounds — seven on the offensive end – and cemented himself as the face of the Tigers’ new identity.“Alex is just a monster on the glass. We see that every day in practice. We call it eating,” senior forward Laurence Bowers said. “That’s how Alex eats.” His diet is starting to rub off on his teammates. Bowers grabbed 10 rebounds, too, and scored a game-high 23 points in a contest that featured a near-brawl in the first half during a tie-up. In fact, the game teetered on the brink of an all-out brawl for 40 minutes. The officiating crew rarely blew the whistle. As the second half wore on, Oriakhi and the Tigers clamped up defensively, out-rebounded the Illini by 22 and powered their way to a fourth straight victory in the Braggin’ Rights series.

Missouri v. Illionis

Missouri Showed Some Real Toughness Saturday Night (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star)

Notice the key word here: “powered.” In every way, the Tigers flashed their new identity as a tough, in-your-face squad who will fight you for loose balls and make you miserable on the offensive glass. That’s an absurd and fairly unbelievable identity for this program, considering the team has seemed to perpetually lack size for several years. When MU hired Mike Anderson in 2006, he implemented a style of play tailored toward speed, quickness and guard play. He recruited tough kids who could guard, and he recruited forwards who could run the floor, but he never recruited a traditional big man. For five seasons, Missouri compensated for an inability to rebound by forcing turnovers and scoring in transition. Sometimes, it worked, like during a run to the Elite Eight in 2009. Other times, though, it left Missouri fans shaking their heads when opponents would manhandle the Tigers on the boards and in the paint. When Anderson left for Arkansas, he left Frank Haith with a terrific set of guards, which he coached to 30 wins using a four-guard attack. They were fun. They were gunners. They won by outscoring you. But Kyle O’Quinn and Norfolk State eventually exposed the guard-heavy attack in the NCAA Tournament.

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SEC M5: 12.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 12th, 2012

  1. The NCAA honored the 2006-07 Florida Gators by naming them one of the top 25 teams in NCAA Tournament history, and Joakhim Noah as one of the top 75 players to ever play in the Tournament. The back-to-back Gators ran through the regular season and NCAA Tournament on their way to a 35-5 record and a repeat performance as National Champions. Dick Vitale spoke about where Florida ranked in terms of all-time great teams. “They rank very high to me in terms of their loyalty factor,” Vitale said. “In today’s day and age, everyone runs for the quick buck, have visions of grandeur and the dollar. Those kids have to be commended, Noah and (Al) Horford and (Corey) Brewer could have taken a lot of cash. But it’s a tribute to the school, tribute to the coaches and it certainly was an outstanding team defensively.” Two Kentucky teams (1995-96 and 2011-12) also made the list, as well as several SEC players, but what about the 1993-94 Arkansas Razorbacks? Nolan Richardson’s team went 31-3 on the year, beating Duke for the 1994 National Championship. For a complete list of the NCAA’s all-time teams, players, and moments from the NCAA Tournament, be sure to click here.
  2. Auburn lost four games in a row before Tuesday’s bounce-back game against winless Grambling. Including Tuesday night’s victory, the Tigers have four home games in a row where they are hoping to build back a winning attitude. “We just have to be more confident with the ball,” freshman guard Jordan Price said. “At the end of the game, we have a lot of turnovers, defensive breakdowns, offensive breakdowns, so we have to be more confident.” Like several SEC teams, Auburn coach Tony Barbee is trying to blend a lot of  newcomers. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and old faces, particularly new faces, trying to fit into the program,” center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum said. “We’ve had some miscommunication, but everything seems to be falling into place.” It needs to fall into place quickly for the Tigers. They play Illinois and Florida State before beginning conference play.
  3. The search for what ails the Kentucky Wildcats continues to fall short. ESPN took a stab, and so did our friends at CollegeBasketballTalk, but both missed the most detrimental factor of the Wildcats’ shortcomings. Myron Medcalf wrote, “So Kentucky doesn’t have a talent problem. It has a youth problem, a point guard problem, an inexperience problem. The Cats were not as good as they thought they were and now they know it.” Youth has never been an issue. The 2011-12 Kentucky squad proved that. Point guard play and inexperience rear their ugly head consistently, but Medcalf and CBT miss one of the biggest issues. Defense is one of the largest ailments for the 2012-13 Wildcats. Kentucky’s effective field goal percentage defense ranks 52nd in the country. Last year, John Calipari’s team was number one in that category. The problem is partly because Kentucky gives up too many shots at the rim (34% of the overall opponents shots are taken at the rim), and too often don’t get back on defense after missed shots.
  4. Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer has always been a liability on the defensive end, but who would have thought the three-point marksman would hurt the Wildcats on offense? With the exception of two games where Wiltjer played well and caught fire from beyond the arc against weaker competition, the sharpshooting forward hasn’t made more than one three-pointer in any other game. And overall, Wiltjer is shooting eight fewer percentage points from outside than he did last season. Players are supposed to increase their shooting numbers as they get older and more experienced, right? Wiltjer’s difficulties on the offensive end are in part because the rest of Kentucky’s offensive threats aren’t drawing double teams like last year’s stars. Last year, Kentucky’s penetration into the lane caused defenders to sag down to help leaving Wiltjer wide open for the jumper. Kentucky’s slashers don’t draw as much attention this year which leaves Wiltjer to create his own shot, which is not his forte.
  5. Missouri is ready to welcome in some help in transfer Jabari Brown, who is expected to be cleared to play by the end of this week. Frank Haith is looking forward to what Brown will contribute to the Tigers. “We need him to be Jabari Brown — not to be Mike Dixon, not to be Marcus Denmon,” Haith said. But teammates say Brown will be just fine being himself, and bringing some much needed shooting to the roster. “He can shoot the ball,” point guard Phil Pressey said. “He’s hit a couple in my face, so I know he can shoot the ball.” Forward Laurence Bowers was even more direct about Brown’s impact. “He’s definitely, I would say, probably the best shooter on our team. From practice, it’s been pretty clear,” Bowers said. Missouri isn’t exactly shooting lights out, and with the loss of Dixon, the Tigers will certainly benefit from Brown’s addition to the team.
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