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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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

The biggest story out of the SEC this week is the Southeastern Conference’s suspension of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl for the first eight games of conference play.  Pearl hosted recruit Aaron Craft at his home contrary to NCAA rules and misled investigators about a picture that was taken with Craft during the visit.  Pearl also admitted to making excessive recruiting phone calls.  For his sins, the Tennessee will reduce Pearl’s pay by a total of $1.5 million over the next five years and he is not allowed to recruit off campus for one year.  Pearl got a pretty stiff punishment here, but this should come as no surprise.  The NCAA is still considering the matter and may impose additional penalties in December when it releases its findings.

Tennessee has no desire to let Pearl go despite his misdeeds.  He has won a lot of games in Knoxville and he is a great recruiter.  The problem now is that there is a question mark as to how good he is at recruiting if he plays by the rules.  Pearl is on a short leash and the university has made it clear – any more violations, and he’s out.

Pearl should have known better from previous incidents and it is likely the NCAA will impose additional punishments.  There are two universal truths in this life: one, the NCAA hates being left out of the punishment game when a violation has occurred, particularly for repeat offenders, and two, the NCAA hates recruiting violations.  If you want to get your team in a heap of trouble, the fastest way to do it is through recruiting violations.  Indiana is still suffering from the Kelvin Sampson disaster, a fellow repeat offender.  Indiana is likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year due to Sampson’s cheating.  Time will tell if the NCAA’s sanctions will have such an effect on Tennessee.  The moral of the story, keep it clean out there, coaches.

In other news, Georgia is playing well despite the loss of star Trey Thompkins who is out with a high ankle sprain.  The Bulldogs got a good win against a talented Colorado team that should make the NCAA Tournament this year.  The Bulldogs are currently 4-0, but Thompkins was recently cleared to practice.

In the preseason primer, I predicted Enes Kanter would be eligible for Kentucky.  Seeking to make me look the fool, the NCAA saw otherwise.  While the NCAA and Kentucky do agree on the facts of the case, that Enes Kanter received payment for play while in his native Turkey, they disagree on the interpretation of NCAA rules, Kentucky obviously believing Kanter deserves to play.  The NCAA ruled that he received benefits over and above necessary expenses and declared him “permanently ineligible,” a big blow to the Wildcats’ plans to win a second straight SEC crown and an eighth National championship.  John Calipari stated that he was not happy with the NCAA’s decision but that he respected it.  Following Kentucky’s 88-65 win over East Tennessee State, Alan Cutler, a Lexington sports reporter, opened the press conference by asking Calipari’s opinion on the matter.  Calipari was noticeably frustrated and responded, “Didn’t we just play a game?”  The school will appeal the decision.

Power Rankings

    1. Kentucky (3-0) opened the season with a pasting of East Tennessee State 88-65 in which freshman Terrence Jones recorded a double-double scoring 25 points and collecting 12 rebounds.  On Monday night against Oklahoma, Jones recorded his second double-double by scoring 29 points and pulling down 13 rebounds to go along with 3 assists, two steals, and four blocks.  Apparently, Jones doesn’t like to see anyone else’s name on the stat sheet.  In between those two games, Kentucky trounced Portland 79-48 in a game in which the Wildcats scored the first 15 points of the game and were never challenged.  After three games, Kentucky leads the SEC in three-point field goal percentage and assist/turnover ratio, both weak points on last year’s squad.
    2. Arkansas (2-0) While I don’t expect the Razorbacks to remain at number two for very long, it’s hard to drop them lower than number two when they won their first two games against Grambling State and Florida Gulf Coast by an average margin of 33 points per game.  That’s the highest scoring margin in the SEC, and it’s not even close.  Guard Rotnei Clarke picked up right where he left off last year making five three pointers in his first game this season.  Through two games, Clarke is 10-23 from three point range and leads Arkansas in scoring at 17 points per game.
    3. Georgia is 3-0 record despite playing without preseason SEC POY pick Trey Thompkins.  Mark Fox can flat-out coach.  Underestimate him at your own peril.  He will have the Bulldogs competing all year long and no game against the ‘Dogs will be an easy one, with or without Thompkins.  In Thompkins’ absence, guard Travis Leslie has taken it upon himself to pick up the slack by leading Georgia in both points and rebounds at 18 and 8.3 per game, respectively.  Georgia will need Thompkins back soon, however, as the road gets tougher from here.  They next face Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic which also features Temple, Wisconsin, California and Texas A&M.
    4. Mississippi State’s (3-0) Kodi Augustus is leading the SEC in rebounds at 11.0 RPG and is second in scoring at 20.0 PPG behind fellow Bulldog Ravern Johnson’s 25.5 PPG.  While they didn’t win big against Tennessee State, Appalachian State or Detroit, whom they defeated 75-65, 76-74 and 82-76, respectively, the Bulldogs are playing without guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sydney.  Mississippi State will be very, very good once Sydney and Bost return and should be an exciting team to watch.
    5. Vanderbilt (3-1) whipped Presbyterian 88-47 in the Commodores season opener then beat Nebraska 59-49 and followed that up with a hard fought loss to West Virginia, 74-71.  The ‘Dores got what might have been a nice win against North Carolina if it had not been tainted by the fact that UNC had previously lost to Minnesota two days before.  Vanderbilt fans frequently chanted “overrated” as they taunted the Tar Heels in a game that Vandy led for all but a few moments.  The pollsters seemed to agree, dropping UNC to the 25 spot. Regardless, Vanderbilt made touted UNC freshman forward Harrison Barnes look bad as they held him to just 4-12 shooting.
    6. Tennessee (3-0)  Well, the Volunteers are undefeated but have yet to leave Knoxville.  They got a 20 point win over Chattanooga.  Beating Belmont by nine at home could be a little better, but it will do.  A lot of folks sounded alarm bells when the Vols lost their exhibition game against Indianapolis.  You can stop ringing the bells.  Exhibition wins and losses are meaningless.  These are tune-ups and coaches use them as such.  Tennessee’s real problems are off the court where Bruce Pearl’s indiscretions may prove costly down the road.  For now, Tennessee is playing well enough and should reach the finals of the NIT Preaseason Tip-Off following a win against VCU which I think they will get.  Oh, and that Tobias Harris kid is everything he was hyped up to be.  He currently leads Tennessee in scoring at 16.3 points per game, though he also leads in turnovers with 3.7 TPG.
    7. Florida (3-1).  How does the preseason SEC favorite end up number seven?  I think Doug Gottlieb summed it up well on Sunday when he said, “And then I saw them get pounded by Ohio State and I realized why all five starters returned.”  Florida easily handled UNC Wilmington, 77-60, in the Gators’ season opener but they followed it with an ugly loss to Ohio State in which they played the same uninspired defense that they played last year.  The Buckeyes easily beat Florida’s press and shot 62.9% in the game.  The Gators had no answer for Jared Sullinger inside who went 13-17 from the floor, nor for David Lighty who went 9-11.  You will recall that I expressed skepticism over Florida being tabbed as the SEC preseason favorite.  They appear to be the same team as last year in many respects, which makes sense as they have all the same players.  They still lack defensive intensity particularly inside.  Yes, they did pummel North Carolina A&T 105-55 following their loss to Ohio State and they got a quality win against NBA-bound Kenneth Faried’s Morehead State team, but I remain skeptical.  Florida shot only 26.3% from three point range and 38.9% overall in that game and Faried had his wicked way with Florida’s bigs scoring 20 points and pulling down 18 rebounds.  Patric Young was supposed to provide the inside game Florida was lacking but in four games for the Gators, he has yet to prove he is up to the job.  Get it together, Gators, or you’re going to make a lot of media folks feel very silly for picking you number one, not to mention those that picked the Gators as National Championship contenders.
    8. Mississippi (2-1) Ole Miss opened the year with a meaningless win over Arkansas State, which is currently 0-4 but then got a quality win over Ohio Valley Conference favorite Murray State behind guards Zach Graham‘s career high 22 points and Nick Williams’ 21 points.  The Rebels then lost a tough one against a quality Dayton team that came back from a 15 point second half deficit to win 78-71 by taking advantage of a 33 to 16 free throw opportunity disparity.  In the end I don’t expect this loss to cost Mississippi as a bad loss.  The problem, however, was this was Mississippi’s last chance to get a quality win against a non-conference opponent.  The rest of Ole Miss’s preseason schedule is cupcake city and since I expect the Rebels to be a bubble team this year, picking up another quality non-conference win was crucial.  It may take ten conference wins to make the Tournament now.  It sounds silly to say that so early, but that’s the situation that Mississippi puts itself in every year by continually playing one of weakest preseason schedules of any team in a major conference.
    9. South Carolina (2-1) After watching the Gamecocks lose to Michigan State 82-73 in a game they were never supposed to have a chance of winning anyway, I realized I really liked this team.  They played hard throughout and were never intimidated by the number two-ranked Spartans.  Michigan State forced them into 20 turnovers and the ‘Cocks shot poorly making only 35.7% from the field, but were able to get off 70 shots to State’s 53.  They battled and impressed me with their hunger.  The reality is that they just didn’t have the talent to keep up. Spartan’s loaded team.  This loss was sandwiched by dominating wins over Elon 95-79 and Radford 85-56.  If South Carolina continues to play this way, I may have to rethink the four SEC wins I predicted, even in the loaded SEC East.  Hard play always pays dividends.  Hey did anyone else notice that South Carolina replaced 5’9 leading scorer Devan Downey who shot 40% last year with 5’9 leading scorer Bruce Ellington, who is shoots 35.1% this year.  Ellington also averages three rebounds, 2.3 assists and four turnovers, nearly identical to Downey’s marks in the same categories.
    10. LSU (2-2) Well, it’s getting ugly down here towards the bottom.  What is there to say about LSU?  They opened with an 87-78 win over Northwestern State, and then lost to lowly Nicholls State 62-53.  LSU held Nicholls State to only 35.8% from the field and only seven assists, outrebounded the Colonels and blocked more shots, yet they still lost.  Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that NSU stole the ball from them 12 times.  When you can hold a team to only 35.8% and outrebound them by nine and still lose to that bad team, it’s going to be a long year.  There is some great young talent on this team in freshmen Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner who are leading the team in scoring at 15.8 and 12 points, respectively, but their shooting is horrendous at only 34 and 37%.  LSU managed to get a win over Tennessee-Martin 79-56 — no reason for excitement there — and a loss against Memphis.  It’s early, but I think the Tigers are still a year away.
    11. Alabama (2-3) While LSU is disappointing, Alabama is inexcusable.  Between talented players like JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Senario Hillman there is no reason Alabama should be on a three game losing streak to the likes of Seton Hall, Iowa and St. Peters.  Seton Hall was picked to finish seventh in the Big East and Iowa was picked last in the Big Ten in the Rush The Court conference primers.  Folks, I like Anthony Grant, but it’s getting ugly out there.  Alabama shot only 32.5% from the field in that loss to St. Peter’s, a game that was supposed to be a walk through.  Well, at least Alabama has wins against Florida A&M and Troy.  That’s got to count for something right?
    12. Auburn (1-3) When you open up with three straight losses to basketball giants like North Carolina-Asheville, Samford and Campbell, and your only win is a two point victory over a bad Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders team, it’s hard to find something to be positive about.  Because I like to find things to build on, I found something good. Sophomore guard Andre Malone is shooting lights-out from three point range, making 14-25 shots thus far.  Last year he shot a mere 20.7% from three.  After him, the Tigers are nothing to write home about.  Auburn is currently last in the SEC in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage and turnover margin, and are eleventh of twelve teams in field goal percentage defense, three point percentage defense, assists, steals, and turnover margin.  All of that amounts to Pomeroy’s lowest-ranked team in the Big Six conferences. Those numbers aren’t exactly against stellar teams.  Good luck to you Auburn, those predicted three SEC wins are all of a sudden looking pretty hard to come by.

      A Look Ahead

      Here are the key matchups for Southeastern Conference teams this week:

      • Georgia has a game they should win against Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic on Thursday.  Assuming they do, they will face the winner of Temple and California on Friday, a quality opponent either way.  If they lose they face the loser of that same game.  A good early test no matter the outcome, but the win is necessary as the Old Spice Classic is Georgia’s last chance for some good non-conference wins.
      • Tennessee next plays a tough VCU team on Wednesday at 7:00 Eastern.  Win that and they take on the winner of Villanova/UCLA, (likely ‘Nova) in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday.  These two wins are important for Tennessee to keep their momentum going and stay positive in the face of the punishments handed down against their coach.
      • Kentucky’s foe tonight is Washington, a team that surely will want vengeance against the Wildcats for stealing away Terrence Jones and the now ineligible Enes Kanter, both of whom had previously committed to Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar before backing out and pledging allegiance to Calipari.  It’s must-see hoops TV tonight at 9:30 Eastern.

      Other Points of Interest

      • The SEC named Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 21.7 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan in games against Nebraska, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
      • Tennessee’s Tobias Harris, was named SEC Freshman of the Week after leading the Volunteers in scoring and rebounding at 16 and 7 in wins against Belmont and Missouri State.
      • Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley just barely got the triple double against Presbyterian in Vandy’s season opener with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but it was good for Vanderbilt’s first one ever in its 110-year history.
      • There is a little disparity between the SEC East and the SEC West.  Maybe you’ve noticed.  Currently the SEC is 29-12 overall, but 17 of those wins and only three losses come from the SEC East against slightly superior competition than the West is playing.  The West is now 12-9. It’s time that the SEC adopt a conference tournament that seeds the best team against the worst rather than pitting the number one team in the East against the number six in the West.  This hurts the conference’s chances at getting five to six bids.  It also severely hurts the West’s chances of getting multiple bids as the top West teams must play the bottom East teams which while still at the bottom of the East are considerably better than the bottom of the West.  I am sure that come conference tournament time Mississippi State would much rather be facing off against the likes of Auburn or LSU than Vanderbilt or South Carolina, either of which could very well win a game or two in the conference tournament.
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      RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

      Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

      Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

      Predicted Order of Finish

      SEC East

      • T1. Florida (11-5)
      • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
      • T1. Georgia (11-5)
      • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
      • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
      • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

      SEC West

      • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
      • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
      • T3. Alabama (7-9)
      • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
      • 4. LSU (4-12)
      • 5. Auburn (3-13)

      All-Conference Team

      • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
      • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
      • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
      • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
      • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

      6th Man

      Travis Leslie – Georgia

      Impact Newcomers

      • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
      • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
      • F Patric Young – Florida
      • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
      • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

      Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

      What You Need To Know

      • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
      • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.

      • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.

      • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

      Predicted Champion

      Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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