N.C. State Learning to Live Without T.J. Warren

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 24th, 2014

Coming into the 2014-15 season, N.C. State’s biggest issue was to replace the scoring of T.J. Warren, last year’s ACC Player of the Year. With four games now under their belt, the Wolfpack are starting to give us some clues as to how they are going to try and compensate for the almost 25 points per game that Warren put up last year. A look at how Mark Gottfried and the N.C. State administration set up this season’s early schedule reveals a distinct plan of starting cautiously but challenging this young team afterwards. The first three contests were all against teams not in the nation’s top-250 and, as expected, the Wolfpack won each comfortably. On Sunday night, South Florida proved much more of a challenge in the season’s fourth game, as N.C. State led by around six to eight points for most of the way but had to survive a potential game-tying three at the buzzer to hold off the Bulls, 68-65.

N.C. State's Trevor Lacey has led the Wolfpack with good all-around play. (Photo: Ethan Hyman - newsobserver.com)

N.C. State’s Trevor Lacey has led the Wolfpack with good all-around play.
(Ethan Hyman/newsobserver)

Now the schedule really toughens as even before January the Wolfpack will face eight non-conference opponents that are currently ranked in KenPom’s top 90. Ironically, the only one that’s not in that highly rated group is Charleston Southern (#191) who somehow is #65 currently in the RPI. Of course that points out the ridiculousness that the RPI is still the primary metric that the NCAA Selection Committee uses to sort teams. Any system that at any point of the season has Charleston Southern ahead of Wisconsin (RPI #71) is a joke. But let’s get back to N.C. State and how they are compensating without T.J. Warren around. Read the rest of this entry »

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One on One: An ACC Preview With Bret Strelow

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the ACC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an ACC expert in Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow), the ACC basketball reporter for The Fayetteville Observer.

Rush the Court: Duke was an extremely talented unit last season, but it was ultimately done in by its defensive deficiencies in its stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer. The Blue Devils once again have a talented roster and are widely projected to win the league. Will this season be any different than last when it comes to the defensive end of the floor?

Bret Strelow: It would be hard to get much worse. The Blue Devils ranked in the 100s in defensive efficiency, which is a far cry from what a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team usually is. With Jabari Parker, defense was not his calling card. Rodney Hood took on some tough assignments and struggled at times. The current thought around the Duke camp is that Jahlil Okafor at 6’11” and 270 pounds is a legitimate rim-protector. Duke can clean up some of its mistakes and pressure the ball a little bit more with Okafor back there. I think Duke should ultimately be a better defensive team, but we will see how much of a difference that will make.

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

RTC: Marcus Paige alone can probably keep North Carolina competitive in the ACC, but if the Tar Heels want to compete for the league crown, they are going to need a supporting cast to step forward. What Tar Heels can you see breaking out this season?

Strelow: It really might be a little bit of everybody. If Marcus Paige has to carry the load like he did for much of last season, North Carolina is probably not going to reach the goal that it has of contending for a Final Four and a national title. I think you can expect a little bit from everybody. Brice Johnson was extremely efficient last season in a secondary role behind James Michael McAdoo. If Johnson can stay out of foul trouble and guard well enough, I think his offense will be there. Kennedy Meeks has slimmed down. His offense has never been a problem. With Johnson and Meeks, you have two solid front line guys. When you look at the North Carolina freshmen class, Justin Jackson is a guy who has the uncanny ability to score. He has a way of scoring quickly and scoring in a way that does not require a lot of dribbles. I think he can really have a big year. He is probably more of an offensive threat than fellow freshmen Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II. I think outside shooting might still be an issue for North Carolina outside of Paige and if Jackson can hit a few. When you look at a guy like J.P. Tokoto, outside shooting is not his game. I think the Tar Heels have enough inside and with Jackson coming along, they are going to have enough to help Paige carry the load this season.

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ACC Preview: NC State’s Burning Question

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 3rd, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Cat Barber run this team effectively?

NC State made its third NCAA Tournament appearance in a row last season as head coach Mark Gottfried cajoled his team to a surprising 22-14 record. The Wolfpack were immensely reliant on ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren to get there, as he accounted for 34 percent of the team’s scoring and 32 percent of its shot attempts. Warren has since departed as a lottery pick of the Phoenix Suns, so NC State will put its hopes on a balanced scoring effort this season to make up for his lost production. That will start with sophomore point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber. His ability to protect the basketball and facilitate the offense while also looking for his own shot will largely determine his team’s fate this season.

Barber needs to utilize his speed but keep turnovers low to help move NC State along (credit: wralsportsfan.com)

Barber (#2) needs to utilize his speed but keep turnovers low to help move NC State along. (AP)

Barber was erratic in the early going last year, largely because he had been a score-first point guard in high school who was suddenly asked to find good shots for his teammates (primarily, Warren). Those struggles to run the offense led to Tyler Lewis earning a large share of the available minutes at the point, with the team often looking significantly more fluid with him running the show. That won’t be an option this year, as Lewis has since transferred to Butler. Barber’s improvement during conference play, where his assist-to-turnover ratio was just a tick above 2-to-1, could be a precursor for the floor leader’s 2014-15 campaign. If the sophomore can cut down on turnovers while improving his overall scoring (8.5 PPG) and three-point shooting (26.1%), he’ll be able to keep defenses honest and make the game much easier for his supporting cast. Read the rest of this entry »

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Channeling His Childress: TJ Warren Leads NC State into Rematch with Syracuse

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

The ACC Tournament finally came to life Thursday night when NC State took the floor against Miami. The Raleigh contingent was boosted by departing Maryland fans, as Wolfpack red bled into nearly every section at the Greensboro Coliseum. NC State still held on to the NCAA Tournament bubble, but desperately needed at least one marquee win to have a chance. Miami looked to play spoiler. Durham native TJ Warren had other ideas.

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse. (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse.
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Warren is the best scorer in the ACC. Good luck finding someone to play devil’s advocate. He scores off the dribble, in the post, spotting up, you name it. Watching the Wolfpack grind out a win over Miami tonight, it was clear how Warren held his efficiency despite taking on nearly twice as many possessions. He picks his spots really well and has a great handle. Miami threw the book at NC State to stop him. Surprisingly, Jim Larranaga opened the game in man-to-man, switching to a zone before opting for a triangle-and-two as Ralston Turner found his groove. None worked. In the first half Miami did a good job playing Warren physically and switching on everything, but between Warren’s constant off-the-ball movement and Turner’s threes, the Hurricanes eventually wore down.

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Impact of Transfers on the ACC Narrative

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on January 9th, 2014

There has been a multitude of change in the college basketball landscape this season and the ACC is no exception. Incoming teams Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame have had good to great success in their inaugural ACC seasons, with the Orange and Panthers looking like two of the conference’s most elite teams. Even Notre Dame, likely the weakest of the three after losing star guard Jerian Grant, has had its shining moment in defeating Duke last weekend. While the ACC has taken some hits and cannot lay claim as one of even the best two conferences in the nation, those three teams have done their fair share to elevate the overall profile and are not to blame. And as the college basketball landscape shifts, so too do the tactics and strategies used by coaches and programs to keep up with competitive trends. The utilization of transfers was once something of a rarity among power conference teams and an equalizer for mid-major programs, but it is now becoming a more widespread commodity. The ACC is not unique in that regard, as the league has its fair share of transfers playing major roles on its teams this year.

Rodney Hood drives past two Kansas defenders (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Rodney Hood drives past two Kansas defenders (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Transfers can often be viewed as damaged goods, and some people tend to shy away from them as a result. But with many young athletes bouncing between high schools for various reasons, it has become more of a collegiate trend in recent years for players to seek instant gratification elsewhere. Coaches have learned that some transfers can bring an instant dose of maturity to a team and provide leadership and experience to propel a team to the next level. Many successful programs today have used that to great effect, including 14-0 Iowa State and 13-1 Oregon. It is difficult for a coach bring in new players and get them to mesh properly, and sometimes it backfires. UMass senior guard Chaz Williams is a great example of a successful transfer on an Atlantic 10 contender who has played a large role in turning Derek Kellogg’s program around. While the ACC doesn’t have any of those this season, the seven ACC transfers listed below have been meaningful contributors and are not too shabby in their own right.

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ACC M5: 11.11.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 11th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Boston Globe: You can tell that Steve Donahue believes in his team if you just look at how he scheduled this season. Unlike the cream-puff schedules of the past, Donahue decided to take the RPI head on this season. That means five non-conference road games along with four neutral games. But more interesting than his scheduling considerations are a motive beyond making the Big Dance: “I think it’s important that we separate ourselves somehow. […] Why would kids choose us? Why would fans be excited?” It’s very interesting that Donahue is already looking to carve out a niche in a bigger league where it certainly looks possible to get lost among the giants.
  2. Sports Illustrated: Donahue’s RPI experiment got off to an ugly start with an overtime loss at Providence thanks to the new rule changes. 55 fouls in 45 minutes. Six players fouled out. And like Pete Thamel points out, Boston College wasn’t known for committing lots of fouls last season (in fact quite the obvious), though the team certainly played physically. Here’s to hoping coaches and players adjust quickly so we can avoid anymore games like this one.
  3. Testudo Times: Here’s a good tempo-free heavy preview of Maryland this season. I’m most interested in the battle between Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell for minutes. Here’s to hoping Maryland runs a twin towers line-up at least a little this season. This year Mark Turgeon has to get over the hump. I doubt his seat is hot (or even warm), as the athletic department probably wants some continuity going into the Big Ten–especially after the personnel nightmare following Gary Williams`s departure. But if Turgeon can’t get this team to the NCAA Tournament this season, red flags will start going up and he risks losing interest of a fan base that he’ll desperately need fully engaged as the Terrapins move to their new conference.
  4. Run The Floor: Michael Rogner is very high on Duke this season (and he has every right to be if the Blue Devils continue shooting better than 70% from the floor). He`s also very high on Virginia, a team many are snubbing in favor of the gravitas that comes with the North Carolina and Syracuse programs. The only starter Virginia has to replace this season is the offensively challenged Jontel Evans. Sure his on-ball defense will be missed, but opponents will also miss being able to ignore one player as long as he wasn’t at the rim. Sophomores Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey also look ready to make the sophomore leap.
  5. Burlington Times-News: NC State fans should be really happy about newcomer Desmond Lee`s play in its opener. While Cat Barber was getting most of the press this off-season, Lee looked like the second-best player behind TJ Warren (who was very quiet for half the game). If Lee, Barber, and transfer Ralston Turner all pan out, the Wolfpack will be a lot better than many predicted before the season.
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ACC Team Preview: North Carolina State Wolfpack

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 6th, 2013

North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried’s squad entered last season with the loftiest expectations the program had seen in some time. His Wolfpack was ranked as high as #6 in preseason national polls and was chosen as the odds-on favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. Instead, immaturity and inconsistency from a team loaded with talent landed the team in a fourth-place tie after the conference regular season.  NC State finished 24-11 and bowed out of its first-round NCAA Tournament match-up with Temple.

NC State Preview 2013

This year, expectations are drastically lower for Gottfried’s squad. Significant departures decimated his roster and left him with a very young team entering his third season in Raleigh. Gone are starters Richard Howell  and Scott Wood to graduation and C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown to early entry. Add to that the transfer to Connecticut of highly-touted freshman Rodney Purvis, who had an up-and-down first season at NC State, and the Wolfpack find themselves down all five starters from a year ago. Gottfried has assembled an impressive recruiting class for 2013-14 (though it may pale in comparison to the one he’ll have next year), but replacing all of that scoring and experience will be a mighty task for this year’s team. Gottfried’s returnees this year have experience, but much of it was in reserve situations and in spare minutes giving the aforementioned starters a breather.

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SEC Weekly Five: 05.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on May 11th, 2012

  1. The New York Times reports that incoming Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is being investigated by the NCAA for relationships among his inner circle. While some point fingers of allegations because of John Calipari and Kentucky’s involvement, CBSSports.com reminds us that this issue will continue to be a problem with many of the top recruits regardless of school affiliation. “Just change the name and you’ve got a new story,” a high-major assistant coach said to Jeff Borzello this week. But coaches like Bob Knight (long-time Calipari critic) and media members like Pete Thamel (author of the NYT story) continue to point to Calipari as what is wrong in college sports. “People want to say Calipari is the problem with the system,” said an SEC assistant coach. “They want to point their finger at him. But he’s no different than any of these other guys.”
  2. Despite the buzz of allegations, Noel feels very confident that he will be eligible to play for Kentucky next season. He says that at this point the NCAA has not contacted him or his immediate family, and he feels that he is in a “great position to qualify,” even though he is aware of the investigation. “I don’t want to be too specific, but I’m in a good position to qualify,” Noel said in response to the NYT story. A Kentucky spokesman declined to comment, but Noel’s confidence has to be good news for the Cats.
  3. While many of the nation’s top recruits end up in Lexington, Wright State transfer shooting guard Julius Mays may end up rejecting Cal’s Cats. Mays shot an impressive 42.4% from beyond the arc last season, but rather than use those talents for Kentucky he is looking instead at Matt Painter’s Purdue squad. “I would have a chance to score the ball and play guard with a great group of guys,” Mays said. “I feel like I could play for coach (Matt) Painter. I watch a lot of basketball, and any time Purdue is on, I watch them. You never know if this is my last visit. If I’m ready to choose, that’s what I will do.” Kentucky needs depth for next year’s team, and of course, a deadeye shooter wouldn’t hurt either.
  4. Big guard Ralston Turner is considering a transfer and has been granted a release from LSU’s new coach Johnny Jones, who was hired to replace Trent Johnson this offseason. Turner indicated that he would like to take some time to think about his decision, but his release does not necessarily mean that he is leaving the Tigers. “I have been given my release and I will be taking a visit (to another school),” Turner said. “That’s all. I didn’t say I was 100 percent leaving (LSU). It’s something I have thought about for a while and Coach Jones is allowing me to do it. I am going to take a visit and when it’s over I will weigh my options.” Turner averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in his sophomore year with the Tigers, and would be a solid returning player for Jones in his first year on the bench for LSU.
  5. A lot of talk has centered around non-traditional schedules and Calipari’s desire to play at neutral sites, and now Indiana coach Tom Crean is defending his position regarding the recently dropped rivalry between the Hoosiers and the Wildcats. “First off, someone asked me do you not want to play neutral sites? We have neutral sites,” Crean told reporters. “When the Crossroads Classic came in, that became something that was going to be locked in every year. Even though it’s in Indianapolis, it’s a neutral site. It’s not a home site. You always want to have the ability to play in exempt tournaments. We’ve done that in the past. We have it this year, playing in New York. So there’s three right there.” It is a shame that Indiana and Kentucky cannot find a way to play considering the history and tradition that goes into that rivalry, but ultimately Calipari and Crean (and obviously the rest of the athletics staff involved) have to do what is perceived to be in the best interest of their program. Both head coaches have done enough recently (Cal with a National Championship and Crean with rebuilding IU from shambles) that trust in terms of whether or not each program is going in the right direction should not be an issue.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.02.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s a relatively light night of hoops but two interesting games in the South should have your attention this evening.

Texas A&M at #5 Baylor – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • The Baylor Bears keep winning as they head into a conference showdown with in-state rival Texas A&M tonight. This figures to be a good match-up for Baylor although it needs to ensure it controls the pace. Texas A&M gets 65.2% of its points from two-point range (third in the nation) but interior defense happens to be Baylor’s biggest strength. The Bears allow only 39.3% shooting from inside the arc with Perry Jones III and company patrolling the paint. Defensively, look for Scott Drew’s team to try to pick up the pace and pressure Texas A&M’s guards. The Bears force a turnover 24.6% of the time although both teams don’t handle the ball particularly well.
  • Texas A&M is not comfortable playing at a faster pace but therein lies the dilemma. The Aggies don’t run efficient enough half court offense to succeed in a slower-paced game, especially against the strong Baylor defense. Billy Kennedy’s team should take a page out of Louisville’s playbook against Kentucky. A&M should pressure Baylor and try to get turnovers at certain times, but not throughout the entire game. Texas A&M may actually hurt itself while trying to force Baylor into turnovers, something that will speed up the game where the Bears’ superior athletes can take over. Texas A&M has to establish Ray Turner and David Loubeau inside while Khris Middleton uses his versatility to stretch Baylor’s defense, opening up seams. Getting Elston Turner going from long range would also be advantageous for A&M, a team that doesn’t rely much at all on the trifecta. Turner had 20 points on 3-5 shooting from deep in a loss against Florida last month.
  • For Texas A&M to have a chance on the road, it must rebound, rebound, and rebound some more in addition to controlling pace. If the Aggies don’t score inside off second chance opportunities or in transition, Baylor will win this game easily. Keep an eye on Baylor’s perimeter shooting. Texas A&M ranks #6 in three-point defense and will look to shut down Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson. Even if the Aggies are successful in that regard, they need to do a whole lot more to pull the upset.

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SEC Morning Five: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 28th, 2011

  1. SEC Men’s Player of the Week honors went to LSU’s Ralston Turner this week for his impressive play in beating 10th ranked Marquette. He scored 22 points on 4-of-5 three-point shooting. For the week, Turner averaged 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and one steal per game. Florida’s Bradley Beal took home another SEC Freshman of the Week award for his 21-point performance against Florida State. He averaged 17 points, six rebounds, two steals and one assist per game for the week. This was the third time Beal has won the award, which is especially impressive considering the freshmen class in the SEC this year.
  2. Kentucky’s Eloy Vargas is patiently biding his time until he gets an opportunity to play significant minutes for the Wildcats. “Coach is telling me I will get my time to shine,” Vargas said. “I am thinking about the future because some people will be in foul trouble, be hurt or not be tough enough and this is how you will come out for a big game. My chance will come. I just have to be ready for it.” Vargas has accepted his role as a rebounder and defensive presence on Kentucky’s front line. He grabbed seven rebounds against Samford last week while power forward Terrence Jones was out with an injury. Somewhat surprisingly, Vargas is Kentucky’s highest ranked player in both offensive (13.5%) and defensive rebounding (24.5%) percentage.
  3. Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist received a police escort after the Wildcats’ game against Loyola on Thursday to make a flight to be home with his ill mother who was hospitalized on Wednesday evening. Kidd-Gilchrist and Kentucky coach John Calipari decided that he would stay in Lexington to play the game and then go home, but Kidd-Gilchrist says he was thinking about being in New Jersey. “It was hard. I mean, it’s my mother,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “But it’s fine now, so it’s all good.” When you are as talented as Kidd-Gilchrist, perhaps it is easier to mentally check out but still score 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists as he did on Thursday.
  4. Kentucky would like to renew its series with Indiana so long as the series returns to neutral site games. Prior to 2006, the series alternated between Indianapolis and Louisville, and that is UK’s preference at this time. You may remember that the UK head coach has publicly questioned if Kentucky will be able to continue all of its current rivalries. Next year, both Texas A&M and Missouri join the SEC (wait, Missouri DID finally confirm its acceptance into the SEC, right?) and that means that the conference could add additional conference games into the regular season schedule. Calipari hinted that Kentucky will likely drop one of its highly competitive non-conference games (Louisville, North Carolina or Indiana), and it appears that Indiana is not at this time one of the dropped teams.
  5. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin says that SEC teams shouldn’t be sleeping on the Volunteers this season. “You’ve got a team here that’s trying to find it’s way; you can’t overlook anyone,” Martin said. “I don’t think we’ve hit our stride as a unit.” In the Volunteers’ six losses, their largest loss was to Duke in the Maui Invitational by 10. UT has been competitive in every games this year. And help is on the way. Martin expects mid-season signee Jarnell Stokes to qualify academically, and to begin playing immediately. “It’s coming in here, and making sure his conditioning is where it needs to be,” Martin said. “As a coach it’s my responsibility to put him in situations where he can be successful. So you see where he does well and what his strengths are. He’s hungry to play.” Stokes is the 14th ranked prospect in RSCI’s Class of 2012 rankings, and is sure to help the Vols overcome many of these close losses. While Tennessee may still finish near the bottom of the conference standings, it would be short-sighted to think the Vols won’t pull a major upset or two in conference play.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 20th, 2011

  1. It’s time again for the SEC Men’s Basketball Weekly Awards. The SEC Player of the Week award went to Florida’s Kenny Boynton who played well in his only game last week with 22 points and two assists as his Gators beat Texas A&M. Boynton hit six of 12 three-point shots, tying his season high for threes in a game this season. Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was named SEC Freshman of the Week as he poured in 21 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in the Bulldogs’ win over Southern California. Caldwell-Pope is settling in as a consistent scorer as he leads Georgia with 14.2 points per game so far this season.
  2. The elder statesman of SEC basketball will be sticking around for a few more years. Florida coach Billy Donovan signed a three-year contract extension with the Gators, keeping him at the helm in Gainesville until the end of the 2015-16 season. Donovan is 46 years old, and has coached Florida to 16 successful seasons including two national titles, three Final Fours and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. “Billy Donovan has built one of the elite programs in the country at the University of Florida,” Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said. This year, Donovan has led the Gators to a 9-2 record and a #11 ranking in the current AP poll (#9 ranking in the current RTC poll). Many of you may remember Donovan’s flirtation with the Orlando Magic several years ago, and it is great to keep one of college basketball’s best where they belong.
  3. Louisville freshman Chane Behanan says that his Louisville Cardinals will go undefeated this year. Behanan boldly and confidently stated, “we’re the number one team in the country in my eyes, and like I said, we’re going undefeated. Point blank, period.” While the Cards are one of only six unbeaten teams left in college basketball this year, there are a lot of games left to play. Wait, why are we talking about the Cardinals on the SEC microsite? Well, that would be because Louisville plays its bitter and hated rival, the Kentucky Wildcats on December 31 in Rupp Arena. This statement by one of Louisville’s freshmen is sure to provide some bulletin board material for a UK squad that will already be fired up. We’re sure you didn’t need any more reasons to watch this clash on New Year’s Eve, but it is shaping up to be a good one and we’re still 11 days away.
  4. Speaking of Kentucky, the Wildcats play Samford tonight and it appears that they will be without  forward Terrence Jones. Jones dislocated his finger on Saturday against UT-Chattanooga and was unable to practice on Monday. “I don’t know yet. We’ll see,” coach John Calipari said when asked whether his star forward would play. “I don’t expect him to start if he doesn’t practice today, but I don’t know.” The preseason All American struggled against Indiana, and has to be eager to get back on the court to put this situation behind him. Are some of you wondering how a 6’9″ power forward can be held out of multiple games because of a pinky finger? Check out this picture of Jones’ finger and we think you will know why. You might want to finish your breakfast before clicking on that link.
  5. LSU will take the good with the bad as the Tigers defeated #10 Marquette 67-59 on Monday night without leading scorer Andre Stringer. Marquette jumped out to a 13-0 lead, but the Tigers fought back only to almost give the game away in the second half when their shooters struggled to convert from the free throw line. The Tigers finished a dismal 14-27 from the charity stripe. However, LSU was hot from several feet behind the foul stripe as Trent Johnson’s club made 7 of 11 three point shots. Ralston Turner led the charge with 22 points, including four three-pointers, but it was the Tigers’ defense that has them rolling with five wins in a row and a 7-3 record. LSU ranks #42 in adjusted defensive efficiency (kenpom.com)with a 91.9 rating, holding opponents to a 45.1% effective field goal percentage.  LSU’s defense held Marquette to 36.2% shooting from the field. It will be interesting to see if good or bad will prevail for Johnson’s team as they look to build upon this quality win with two tough home games coming up against Virginia and Ole Miss in the next several weeks.
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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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