D.J. Gardner Learns the Reality of the Social Media Era the Hard Way

Posted by nvr1983 on August 27th, 2011

Over the past two years few programs have had to deal with as many major issues related to eligibility and suspensions as Mississippi State has had to. From the initial investigation and year-long suspension of Renardo Sidney to the nine-game suspension that Dee Bost had to serve last year and finally the ugly fight between Sidney and teammate Elgin Bailey in the stands at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii last December the program has had a difficult time getting out of its own way and putting its best possible team on the court. This time it involves a player, D.J. Gardner, who was not even going to be on the team this year.

Stansbury appears to be running a three-ring circus in Starkville

On Thursday, Rick Stansbury, announced that Gardner, a highly touted recruit who was considered a top 20 shooting guard in the class of 2011, would be redshirting. According to Gardner’s mother, her son approached the staff about redshirting after finding out that he would be part of a three-man shooting guard rotation rather than receiving the majority of the playing time that he had reportedly been promised during his recruitment to Starkville. In addition, she reports that the decision as to whether or not her son would be redshirting was not supposed to be decided on until November. However, when Stansbury announced that Gardner would be redshirting, D.J. fired off the following tweet (edited for our family audience):

These b***es tried to f**k me over.. That’s y I red shirted .. But I wish my homies a great as* season.. I don’t even know y I’m still here

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Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

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SEC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC. With tournament action set to tip from Atlanta on Thursday, get set with RTC’s regular season recap and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

Hottest Teams Going Into The Postseason:

  • FloridaPasting Alabama to close out the season is a really good sign.
  • KentuckyLooking good on a lot of people’s brackets after winning two tough ones and they’ve been top 10 at KenPom.com all season.

Tournament Sleeper: Mississippi State – Too much talent here to not be dangerous when push comes to shove.  The question is, will they play the way they’re capable or the way when they’ve fumbled?

Best First Round Matchup: Tennessee vs. Arkansas, Thursday - The South Carolina/Ole Miss game doesn’t carry much weight, and I don’t see Georgia having too much trouble with Auburn, nor Vanderbilt with LSUArkansas is the higher seeded team here due to the wackiness of the Southeastern Conference Tournament seeding (more on that later).  Arkansas won the previous meeting 68-65 in Fayetteville.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

Mississippi State’s Ravern Johnson was suspended indefinitely this week.  Of course, at Mississippi State “indefinitely” generally means a game or two.  In this case, two.  This team was picked to win the SEC West, but talk about a team in turmoil.  Let’s take a look at the timeline:

  • Nov. 12 Mississippi State begins the season without point guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sidney.  The Bulldogs get a 75-65 win over Tennessee State. Record 1-0.
  • Dec. 18 Sidney plays in his first college basketball after a year and a half suspension.  The Bulldogs lose 88-57 to Virginia Tech. Record 7-3.
  • Dec. 21 Sidney is suspended for a game after playing in just one game for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
  • Dec. 23 Sidney returns and the Bulldogs defeat San Diego 69-52. Sidney and forward Elgin Bailey get in a fight in the stands after the game while watching Utah play Hawaii, because Elgin Bailey wouldn’t move his feet for Sidney to get through.  Record 8-4.
  • Dec. 24 Sidney and Bailey are suspended indefinitely.
  • Jan. 3 Mississippi State announces that Elgin Bailey will seek a transfer and has been granted a release.
  • Jan. 8 Sidney and Bost return from suspension and open SEC play with a 75-57 home loss to Alabama. Record 8-7 (0-1).
  • Feb. 4 Following a 75-61 loss to Alabama, Ravern Johnson sends “inappropriate tweets” and violates a class attendance policy.  He is suspended indefinitely. Record 11-10 (3-4).
  • Feb. 12 Johnson’s “indefinite” suspension ends after two games.  He returns just in time for the low point in the Bulldogs’ season, a 65-62 loss to SEC last place team Auburn in a game that MSU led 51-32 with 11:25 to go.

The reality here is that coach Rick Stansbury has completely lost control of this team both on and off the court.  This season is nothing short of a train wreck and I hope that this will be the last time that I write about the silliness that is Mississippi State basketball.

  • In less ridiculous news, Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology has six SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament.  If his prediction holds true and Florida, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama all make the tournament, that will be the best showing in the Big Dance for the SEC since 2008, when last place Georgia made a crazy run through the SEC tournament and became the sixth team to qualify along with Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

Power Rankings

1. Florida (20-5, 9-2) At this point, there can be no question that Florida should be in the top spot here.  While still having deficiencies, Florida by hook or by crook has managed to get to 20-5 overall and 9-2 in conference play by gutting out close ones whether at home or on the road.  Florida has won nine games decided by six points or less.  The Gators have also played in four overtime games this year, winning three of them.  Two of those overtime wins came on the road.  However, just when things are starting to look really good for the preseason SEC favorites, Chandler Parsons sustained a deep thigh bruise and internal bleeding associated with it.  He is likely to miss the Gators’ game against LSU on Sunday.  If LSU were not on an eight-game losing streak, I might be a little concerned.

2. Alabama (16-8, 8-2) After a disappointing early season in which Alabama started 5-6, the Tide has become one of the best defensive teams in the nation holding teams to just 58.4 points per game.  Because of that defense and an improved offense, Alabama is 11-2 in its last 13 games.

3. Kentucky (17-7, 5-5) Right now, you have to ask whether this team is just not as good as we thought, or is it simply a bad road team?  Maybe it’s a little bit of both.  Kentucky still has good wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville, but that seems like a long time ago for a team that is 2-6 in true road games, with five of those losses coming in league play.  Lucky for Kentucky, only two of the Wildcats’ last six games are away.  The Wildcats should be safe this week as they don’t have to go on the road for their contests against Mississippi State and South Carolina.

4. Vanderbilt (18-6, 6-4) Vanderbilt had a great week after winning two close ones at home against Alabama and Kentucky.  Like Kentucky, Vandy has been weak on the road, going just 1-3 in conference road games.  Unlike Kentucky however, the Commodores must go on the road for four of their last six including games at Georgia, and Kentucky.

5. Georgia (17-7, 6-4) Georgia lost to Xavier early in the week in a game that was close throughout.  This was the first game between the two teams since 2008 when they met in the NCAA Tournament following Georgia’s Cinderella run through the Southeastern Conference tournament, winning three games in two days after a tornado at the Georgia Dome forced the league to move the games to Georgia Tech.  Xavier won that game in 2008, too.  Following their loss to the Musketeers, the Bulldogs held South Carolina to just 30.5% shooting and 4-23 from the field.

6. Arkansas (15-9, 5-6) After losing three straight to Georgia, Mississippi and Mississippi State, Arkansas finally got a win at home against Louisiana State.  Rotnei Clarke scored 25 points while going 5-6 from three.  More importantly though, the Razorbacks have now won 15 games for the first time in three seasons, having won 14 games in each of the past two seasons.

7. Tennessee (15-10, 5-5) It’s been an up-and-down year for the Volunteers, mostly down of late.  Coach Bruce Pearl made his return from suspension to face Kentucky in Lexington.  The result?  Tennessee was thoroughly outplayed in a game where Bruce Pearl said he didn’t help his team.  The Vols followed that up with a tough 61-60 home loss to Florida.

8. Mississippi (16-9, 4-6) Chris Warren tied his season high of 26 points in a win over LSU.  Speaking of Chris Warren, he’s made 29 of his last 31 free throws in Mississippi’s last three contests and leads the SEC in free throw shooting at 93.8 percent.  Not only that, but Warren now has 1,821 career points, good for fourth place on Ole Miss’ all-time scoring list.  It is all but a given that Warren will pass Carlos Clarke’s 1,822 points in the Rebels’ next game taking his place as Ole Miss’s third leading scorer.  It remains unlikely that Warren passes number one Jon Stroud (2,328 points) and number two Joe Harvell (2,078 points).

9. South Carolina (13-10, 4-6) Things haven’t gone well for the Gamecocks of late.  They started the conference season at 3-1 including wins over Vanderbilt and at Florida.  Now the Cocks are losers of five of their last six.  A terrible shooting night at home against Georgia this week only added to their woes.  In that game, Bruce Ellington shot just 1-12 from the floor.  But then again, he hasn’t shot at least 50 percent in a game since a January 12 loss at Alabama.

10. Mississippi State (13-11, 5-5) Look, it’s never good when you lose to Auburn, but when you blow a 19-point lead with 11:25 to go in the game, well that’s just completely unacceptable.  At one point Auburn went on a 17-0 run.  Really?  Auburn?  I don’t think Auburn’s gone on a 17-0 run in years.  How did they possibly manage it this year with such and offensively challenged team?  I’m sure Mississippi State’s utterly despicable play had a little something to do with it.  Really Bulldogs, this is just getting embarrassing.

11. Auburn (9-15, 2-8) With all of the players, that Auburn lost from last year’s team including 73 percent of the Tigers’ scoring and 62 percent of their rebounding  and then losing three freshman commits in Luke Cothron, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Josh Langford who were all expected to contribute right away, Auburn has more excuses than any other team in the league.  Add to that the fact that leading returning scorer Frankie Sullivan has only played in six games and you have a team that just can’t get a break.  So simply not being in last place for just one week is quite an accomplishment.

12. LSU (10-15, 2-8) Somehow, LSU has been able to wrest the bottom spot from Auburn and that is quite a feat.  LSU has now lost eight straight games, including an 80-61 loss this week at Arkansas.  LSU is one unusual team that seems to do really well or really bad.  Let’s look at how LSU has finished in each of the past five seasons.

  • 2006 – 27-.9 Won SEC, Final Four
  • 2007 – 17-15 Last in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2008 – 13-18 Fourth in SEC West. No tournament.
  • 2009 – 27-8 Won SEC. Lost to UNC in second round of NCAA Tournament.
  • 2010 – 11-20 Last in SEC. No tournament.

The Week Ahead

  • Feb. 16 Vanderbilt @ Georgia I’m not convinced that Georgia is firmly entrenched in the NCAA Tournament just yet.  A win over the Commodores could go a long way towards cementing that spot.
  • Feb. 19 Georgia @ Tennessee Same story as above, except substitute Tennessee for Georgia.
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RTC Live: Mississippi State @ Kentucky

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2011

Game #142: We head back to one of the great venues of the game for a late-season SEC match-up.

You don’t think guys like Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney and Ravern Johnson would relish a win at Rupp Arena, to be responsible for ruination of the second-longest home winning streak in college basketball, and the chance to play a spoiler role in the late-season SEC shakedown? Then you haven’t been following this conference at all this season. Kentucky is back home, and the Big Blue Nation is thankful for it. The Wildcats are well aware how every game, whether it ends in a win or a loss, is magnified at this time of year and they want to show the nation they’re still a bunch who will have to be taken very seriously in March. We can’t wait to see how UK defends Sidney, especially if John Calipari puts Terrence Jones on him for a trip or two. This is going to be a blast, and we’ll kick it off just before 7 PM ET. See you there.

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The Week That Was: Feb. 1-Feb. 7

Posted by jstevrtc on February 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

You know how ESPN loves doing college basketball marathons? The network put on 24 straight hours of hoops at the beginning of the season, and then ESPN aired four-straight games on MLK Day for your viewing pleasure. Well, why stop with those two days? Monday would have been the perfect day to sit on your coach all afternoon and watch some roundball. TWTW can’t think of a better way to nurse your Super Bowl hangover. Make it happen, ESPN. 

What We Learned

North Carolina’s 20-point loss at Georgia Tech over MLK Weekend might have been the best thing to happen to the Tar Heels this season. Since that embarrassing loss, the ’Heels have ripped off five straight wins in ACC play, outscoring opponents by at least 20 points in the last three. A lot of people will choose to single out Kendall Marshall’s insertion into the starting lineup as the turning point of the season, but it’s been Harrison Barnes’ improved play that’s catapulted UNC into the ranks of NCAA dark horse. Barnes has scored at least 17 points in three consecutive games for the first time in his career, and it’s no coincidence that UNC cruised in all three games. The Tar Heels already boast one of the better post duos with Tyler Zeller and John Henson, now they have the electric scorer they’ve missed since the 2009 title season. 

Is It Too Late For the Wildcats? (AP/N. Majamdar)

Baylor, Butler and Kansas State all went on the road Saturday and came away with mega wins as they attempt to remain in the discussion for NCAA Tournament bids. Baylor landed the most impressive W, riding Perry Jones III to an overtime win at Texas A&M. Butler got a boost with its 12-point win at Horizon League leader Cleveland State, and Kansas State avoided a crippling loss when it eked past Iowa State. It remains to be seen what these wins will do for them in the long run, though, as all three are firmly entrenched on the bubble. The Wildcats have the best RPI of the bunch, checking in at #31, and according to Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology, they appear to be in the best standing with the selection committee as an 11 seed, compared to Baylor (the last team in) and Butler (NIT bound). But anyone who feels secure in trusting Frank Martin’s team hasn’t watched any hoops this year.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume X

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 7th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse goes nuts (as did most people) on the whole Larry Drew II situation and claims Brandon Knight isn’t a real point guard (God help us), and then takes his place in the long line of Wild Bill fans.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..“Wild Bill” from the Utah State student section. Apparently I missed this guy last year, but you sure can’t miss him when you’re an opposing player at the free throw line. You get a couple options, too, when you’re playing the Aggies. Wild Bill could choose to expose his rather robust cleavage, or he might switch things up and don an elephant costume – like he did this last week against Nevada. Of course there’s also the Winnie the Pooh outfit, too. Personally I’m waiting for the first free-throw line victim that just starts cracking up. You know they want to, so I’d just let it loose for a few seconds so you could concentrate on the freebie.

How Can One Not Love This?

I LOVED…..three things that came out of Larry Drew II’s decision to quit on UNC (don’t worry, I rant about it in the HATE section, too). First off, UNC looked dynamite without him on Sunday against Florida State and showed again that the team is bigger than the decisions of one disgruntled player. Then there was Roy Williams, who said in the wake of Drew’s decision that “Z (7-footer Tyler Zeller) thinks that he can” be a factor at the point. And finally, check out Tar Heel swing man Dexter Strickland’s hilarious Tweet after realizing he’ll be the back-up point guard: “I gotta get on my Deron Williams swag for Sunday…lol @KButter5 (PG Kendall Marshall) I got u son!”

I LOVED…..some innovative expression from the Pac-10. This time it was Arizona point guard Lamont “MoMo” Jones, who went off for 27 points and hit multiple clutch shots in a dramatic 3OT-road win against Cal. “I’ve played like this my whole life,” said Jones. “To other people it might be something new, but to me it’s just another day in the life of MoMo Jones.” Players take note. If you want to be quoted, nothing does it faster than referring to yourself in the third person. Gets ‘em every time.

I LOVED…..that for all the talk of a weak SEC and a strong, dynamic Kentucky, the Wildcats are now 4-4 in conference play after taking a spill against Florida this weekend. Once again, that which we take for granted in college basketball comes back to bite us in the…whatever you call it. I stand by a statement I made after watching UK in Maui at the start of the season – Brandon Knight must become an actual point guard. Point guards don’t have assist-turnover ratios of 83-75. This UK team can make a run, but they need Knight to perhaps limit his scoring a bit (which is tough, since he’s a stud in that department) and get his teammates better looks on a consistent basis.

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Twitter Silence At Mississippi State

Posted by jstevrtc on February 3rd, 2011

Head coach Rick Stansbury has, as of this afternoon, imposed a Twitter ban on his players. The move comes hours after senior Ravern Johnson voiced…er, tweeted his displeasure about how little his talents are showcased, a sentiment retweeted by teammate Renardo Sidney.

Guards Also Need to Hit Shots

In its entirety, the missive from Johnson read thusly: “Starting to see why people transfer you can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because u watching someone else wit the ball the whole game shooters need to move not watch why other coaches get that do not make sense to me.”

The Bulldogs lost 75-61 at Alabama last night. Johnson played 40 minutes, scored ten points on 2-7 shooting, pulled three rebounds and added no assists.

Just as bad, from our view, is the retweet by Sidney. After a suspension for an outburst during practice, and then another short one that followed the program-embarassing fight Sidney got into with Elgin Bailey at the Diamond Head Classic around Christmastime (Bailey left the program in January) — an atrocity that was seen on national television, and only happened because Bailey wouldn’t move his feet – you’d think Sidney would eschew any anti-coach rhetoric. After the pains that MSU went through in terms of getting him enrolled and eligible, and then the suspensions and that horrible display in Hawaii, Sidney is lucky to be on the team or even enrolled as a college student.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 2nd, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

How the West Has Won: So I’ve been pretty rough on the SEC West, but after this week I think it’s time I let it go for a while.  Let’s briefly look at the turnaround in the SEC West.  Mississippi State, which I previously labeled as tied with Tennessee for biggest disappointment in the conference beat SEC East leader FloridaArkansas beat Vanderbilt in a game that the Hogs controlled throughout.  Auburn finally got a conference win this week when the Tigers beat South Carolina.  Mississippi beat Kentucky in a close one in Oxford and Alabama now sits solely in first place in the league at 5-1 with a win over Kentucky to boot.  Furthermore, Joe Lunardi has dropped Georgia from his latest Bracketology and replaced the Bulldogs with Alabama.  What a difference a week makes.

Power Rankings

  1. Kentucky (16-5, 4-3) Despite the three losses to Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, all on the road, the resume is still good with wins over Washington, Notre Dame and Louisville, but there are noticeable chinks in the armor here (depth) and an inability to win road games usually says something about the mental fortitude of a team.
  2. Florida (17-5, 6-2) Florida needed double-overtime to beat Georgia on the road and then lost to Mississippi State, and right now, it’s not good to be losing to Mississippi State.  The win over Vanderbilt helps, but then again, Vanderbilt seems to be slipping right now.
  3. Alabama (13-7, 5-1) After a dismal preseason, the Tide seem to be rolling.  Alabama has the best record in the league and is winning by increasingly greater margins.  Alabama beat Kentucky by two, Auburn by 10 and LSU by 24.  Coach Anthony Grant seems to have corrected his team’s problems, as he attributed early difficulties to players still learning their roles.  Alabama has enough talent to win the West and possibly challenge for the conference if Grant is right.
  4. Vanderbilt (15-6, 3-4) Vanderbilt is having a rough go of it of late, sitting at 3-4 in conference.  In a home game against Arkansas, Vanderbilt never looked good and the Commodores allowed Rotnei Clarke to make shots from everywhere, as he scored 36 points on 12-16 from the floor and 6-8 from three.  That’s not going to work.
  5. Tennessee (14-7, 4-2) Now that Tennessee is at 4-2 in conference with wins over Vanderbilt and at Georgia, I want to say that things are back on track in Knoxville, but many were fooled once before when the Volunteers knocked off then-#21 Memphis after losing four of six, so I’ll give it another week before I make up my mind on this one.
  6. Arkansas (14-6, 4-3) After a disappointing week where the Razorbacks lost at Georgia and got pummeled at Florida, they turned around and got wins over lowly Auburn and at Vanderbilt where they outrebounded the ‘Dores 26-21 and shot 57% from the field including Michael Sanchez‘s 8-12 for a career high 20 points.  He averages 4.1 a game.
  7. South Carolina (12-7, 2-2) Despite the fact that I don’t think we should compare Bruce Ellington to Devan Downey (he’s better than Downey), I will say that they do have one thing in common.  They both have low shooting percentages.  Ellington Is currently shooting 37 percent and shot only 4-12 in a loss to Auburn. But we shouldn’t single him out in this case.  The entire team was abysmal shooting 37 percent from the field, 21 percent from three and 57 percent from the line.  Time to work on squaring up to the basket.
  8. Georgia (14-6, 3-4) The Bulldogs have underperformed of late and their 3-4 SEC mark is an indicator of that.  The Dawgs finished a ten-game winning streak when they beat Kentucky in their SEC opener, but have now lost four of six, including two this week – one at Florida and the other at Kentucky.
  9. Mississippi State (11-9 3-3) The other Bulldogs lost at Vanderbilt and won at Florida.  I continually marvel that a team with Ravern Johnson, Kodi Augustus, Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney is still playing as poorly as they are.  This team has lost seven of its last 11 games.
  10. Mississippi (14-8 2-5) Things still are not going well for the Rebels, but the win over Kentucky is huge.  Maybe this will give this underperforming squad a little momentum against an improving Razorbacks squad in Fayetteville.
  11. LSU (10-11 2-4) With LSU’s four-game losing streak, the SEC now has two teams with overall losing records.  The Tigers have not scored more than 53 points in any of their last five contests and are losing by an average of 28 points over their four-game losing streak.
  12. Auburn (8-13 1-6) Well look who got a nice little conference win over a decent team.  As I mentioned above, the other Tigers held South Carolina to terrible shooting numbers but what’s more is they outrebounded the bigger Gamecocks 45-32.  Nice work, boys.

A Look Ahead

  • Feb. 5 Kentucky @ Florida. Kentucky is in the NCAA Tournament.  Now the Wildcats are playing for seeding.  The selection committee really cares about road wins and Kentucky doesn’t have a whole lot of those.  You see what I’m getting at here.
  • Feb. 10 Alabama @ Vanderbilt. If Alabama can get the win in Nashville on Vanderbilt’s weird court and get to 6-1 in conference, I don’t think anyone in the West can catch the Tide.  And with a favorable schedule after that, an SEC championship is not out of the question.  But this game is really big if that is to remain a possibility.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

  • Interestingly, Kentucky coach John Calipari cursed at Terrence Jones repeatedly during a time-out in Kentucky’s 66-68 loss to Alabama, and ESPN got the whole thing, audio not included.  While it was largely a non-issue until Calipari issued an apology, it was later discussed on “Around the Horn,” perhaps the most boring show in sports, and “Pardon the Interruption.”  While some have blown it out of proportion, others have regarded the whole situation as silly, saying that Calipari had no need to apologize.  That’s just coachspeak.
  • I have to appreciate what Coach Cal did.  His apology was completely unrequested and unforced, but he felt the need to say something and in this day and age of so much coarse language, unrepentant vitriol and media-induced faux-apologies, it is refreshing to see someone who realizes that he did something inappropriate giving a sincere apology without any pressure to do so simply because his conscience told him to do it.
  • More news from Vols camp involves Tennessee’s Renaldo Woolridge shooting his own music video at a bar and he not paying for the time that he was there filming, an action that could theoretically constitute an NCAA violation.  However, Woolridge was cleared of wrongdoing after an internal investigation into the matter. Tennessee isn’t exactly in the good graces of the NCAA right now, so this figures to be one less headache from the higher-ups.
  • To follow up on Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury’s comment last week that he doesn’t feel there is that much difference between the SEC East and West, the East is now 82-29 to the West’s 64-49 and is winning by an average margin of 9.2 points per game to the West’s 3.5.  Furthermore, the East is now 9-3 in head to head matchups against the West.

Power Rankings

  1. Kentucky (15-4, 3-2) Kentucky continues to have trouble on the road.  All four of the Wildcats’ losses have come at road or neutral sites, and while the Alabama loss doesn’t look good, they took care of business at South Carolina to get a good win in a tough environment.
  2. Vanderbilt (14-4, 2-2) Vanderbilt went 2-0 this week with an 84-74 win over Mississippi and a good win over West Coast Conference leader Saint Mary’s.  A great week for the Commodores, but not quite enough yet to knock Kentucky off its perch at the top of the power rankings.
  3. Florida (15-4, 4-1) I want to say that Florida is looking good at 4-1 in conference, especially after pasting Arkansas 75-43, but they only shot 28.3 percent from the field including 5-26 from three… against Auburn, and the game was tied with under two minutes to play.  Starting guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton combined to go just 6-28 from the field.  Not a good sign.  Auburn is probably the only BCS conference team in the country against whom you can shoot 28.3 percent and still win.  Step it up Gators.
  4. Georgia (14-4, 3-2) The Bulldogs posted a two-point loss to the ever-enigmatic Tennessee Volunteers and then pasted the mess that is Mississippi State.  1-1 against the two most disappointing teams in the SEC is nothing to get overly excited about, but nothing to panic over yet either as Joe Lunardi has Georgia in the NCAA Tournament in his latest bracketology.
  5. South Carolina (12-6, 3-2) The Gamecocks continue to be a feisty bunch getting a win over Arkansas and then forcing Kentucky to flinch by closing what was an 18-point second half deficit to just five with 1:16 to play.  And can I just say right now, Bruce Ellington is not the next Devan Downey.  Bruce is his own man, and though he posts near identical stats to Downey, when all is said and done, he will be the better player.  Coach Darrin Horn is putting things together in Columbia and his recruiting Ellington is just one piece of the puzzle.
  6. Alabama (12-7, 4-1) Alabama is certainly moving up after getting a nice win against Kentucky, but that loss to St. Peter’s might be too much for the selection committee to bear and right now, Joe Lunardi agrees.  Despite Alabama’s recent winning ways, it’s going to take some kind of a special conference season to make the NCAAs.
  7. Tennessee (12-7, 2-2) The win at Georgia is nice.  The loss to Connecticut is acceptable, but a win would have really helped to get the Volunteers’ minds back in the right place now that conference play is heating up.  The Volunteers did hold Kemba Walker to a season-low 16 points.  There’s something to be said for that I guess when you consider some of the teams Connecticut has played this year.
  8. Arkansas (12-4, 2-3) Conference play started well for the Razorbacks, but then they had to face a couple of SEC East teams.  This week, the Hogs posted a seven-point loss to South Carolina and an embarrassing thirty-two point loss to Florida in a game that was not entirely dissimilar to their ugly loss to Texas just prior to conference play.  It was tough to watch folks.
  9. Mississippi State (10-8, 2-2) With or without Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost, this team continues to disappoint.  There is plenty of talent here between Sidney, Bost, Kodi Augustus and Ravern Johnson, but the Bulldogs still posted an embarrassing 86-64 loss to Georgia in their only game last week.
  10. Mississippi (13-7, 1-4) Hey, look who got a conference win, and on the road, no less.  Of course it was at LSU, but if you’re Mississippi, you’re just repeating to yourself, “ A win is a win.”
  11. LSU (10-9, 2-2) The Tigers shot only 32.9 percent and were outrebounded 31-17 at home by Mississippi.  That doesn’t bode well for upcoming games against Tennessee and Alabama.  Of course both of those teams have shown they can beat or lose to any team in the nation, so maybe LSU goes 2-0 this week.
  12. Auburn (7-10, 0-5) Five straight losses is never fun.  Getting close against Florida after playing your best defense all year is a heartbreaker.  I’m rooting for the Tigers to get at least one win this week against Arkansas or South Carolina.

A Look Ahead

  • Florida @ Georgia, January 25.  Neither of these two teams shoot well, so this could get ugly, but both of these teams have some good wins, so there is potential for this to be a fun competitive game.
  • Georgia @ Kentucky, January 29.  This is the payback game.  I don’t expect to see the Wildcats come out as flat as they did against Georgia in Athens, but the one thing that gives Kentucky trouble more than anything else is a team with a quality big man.  Georgia just so happens to have one such big man in Trey Thompkins.
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ATB: Upset Night in the Mid-South

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2010

The Lede.  Is there such a thing as an RTC Jinx?  Some might think so after a couple of our recent feature articles.  On Monday, we wrote a piece discussing how a couple of coaches who endured fairly miserable offseasons have turned water to wine with their teams so far this year — Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl.  On Tuesday, Zach Hayes split the difference with his Contenders & Pretenders article, putting the Vols as a top contender while categorizing the Cards as a pretender.   Of course, the thematic logic behind these articles still hold — Pearl and Pitino are having good seasons and UT is still a contender — but with both teams suffering pronounced home upsets against true mid-majors tonight, we’re starting to wonder if the RTC jinx is in effect.

Tough Night in Knoxville (GoVolsXtra)

Your Watercooler MomentThe Burden of Expectations Doesn’t Suit Bruce Pearl.  There’s no doubt that Bruce Pearl is a phenomenal coach.  The fact that he’s made Tennessee basketball (on the men’s side) relevant in the sport is all anyone really needs to say.  He’s won 133 games in six years, put up a banner for an SEC regular season championship, gotten the Vols to an Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, and repeatedly knocked off elite teams in regular season matchups.  But he’s at his best when little is expected of him and his team.  During his first year in Knoxville, with UT coming off a 14-17 season the year before, the Vols throttled #2 Texas in an early-season matchup in Knoxville.  A couple of years later, his team went into #1 Memphis’ house and knocked the cocky Tigers off their perch.  Just last year, mere days after his team imploded as a result of the Tyler Smith guns/drugs fiasco, Tennessee knocked off #1 Kansas.  On Saturday, as we all still have fresh in our minds, the Vols blew up #3 Pittsburgh in their own backyard.  When Pearl can convince his team that they’re their backs are up against the wall, that nobody believes in them, that they’re the plucky little underdogs from down south… he’s fantastic.  When instead his team is suddenly thrust in the role of The Hunted, as the Vols are every time they defeat one of the above list of teams, they fall, and they fall hard.  Whether Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt, a bad Kentucky team or Oakland, Tennessee just isn’t comfortable playing the part of alpha dog.  And until they shed that mentality, they’ll never become a serious contender for the national championship.

Upset of the Night #1Oakland 89, Tennessee 82.  Obviously, any time a top ten team loses to a mid-major, even one with an NBA draft pick such as Keith Benson on its roster, it’s a major upset.  This had all the makings of a trap game, with Tennessee coming off its huge upset victory over Pittsburgh last weekend, and the Golden Grizzlies entering Knoxville as a two-time NCAA participant having already played the likes of Michigan State, West Virginia, Purdue and Illinois.  They hadn’t actually beaten any of those teams,  although Greg Kampe’s team came painfully close over the weekend against MSU.  Oakland wasn’t fazed when they found themselves down eleven at halftime tonight, nor did they get rattled when Benson cooled off after a 20-point first half (he finished with 26/10).  Instead, they actually got better, using the quickness of Ledrick Eackles and Larry Wright to break down the UT defense and get easy looks for everyone else.  A 13-0 Oakland run in the late second half put the GGs ahead for good, as a shocked Tennessee crowd endured both the men’s and women’s teams losing on the same dark, cold evening.  There are several reasons for this upset win on both sides, but if you wanted to point fingers at something other than the dreaded Letdown, try looking directly at Scotty Hopson.  The UT star who was transcendent on Saturday must have been reading about himself in the interim, because he played more like the same old inconsistent player of old (1-7 for seven points) than this year’s new, improved version.  The other issue tonight was Tennessee’s defense — the swarming spaghetti monster of arms and legs that we saw over the weekend looked frozen in place tonight, and Oakland exploited the Vol statues, hitting for 54%, the season high against the UT defense by far.  As UT’s Melvin Goins said after the game, “the hunger wasn’t there as much [as against Pitt].”  And therein lies the difference between a very good and a great team — the great ones stay hungry, even against schools named Oakland.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 8th, 2010

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

  • Count me as one who didn’t see Festus Ezeli coming.  Vanderbilt’s player with the coolest name in the Southeastern Conference was named SEC player of the week for his superior play against Western Kentucky and Belmont, averaging 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks including a 24/10 performance against Belmont.  He now sports numbers of 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and two blocks per game.   And he’s doing it in only 21.3 minutes an outing.   He also leads the SEC in field goal percentage at 67.7%.  No bad for a guy who last year averaged 3.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest.  I for one was critical of Vanderbilit in the preseason claiming they would be weak inside after losing AJ Ogilvy.  Uncle Festus has done a fantastic job thus far and will be pivotal in some of the close SEC contests that Vanderbilt is likely to face in the stacked SEC East.
  • Speaking of Vanderbilt, three different Vanderbilt players — Brad Tinsley, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli — have been named player of the week.  Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson is the only other player in the league to be given the honor.  Also, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones and Tennessee’s Tobias Harris have been trading off freshman of the week honors.  If the pattern holds, it’s Jones’ week, a sight Wildcats fans would welcome after Jones’ horrendous 3-17 foul-out performance against North Carolina on Saturday.
  • In other Wildcat news, after Auburn football’s Cam Newton was declared eligible by the NCAA, the University of Kentucky opted to re-submit their case for Enes Kanter’s eligibility from a different angle rather than go through the appeals process.  The NCAA explained their decision to allow Newton to play by stating that there was no evidence that Newton had any idea that his father was shopping his skills to universities for pay.  In the NCAA’s eyes, as Newton was unaware that there was any issue with his amateurism, he should remain eligible to play.  UK hopes that the NCAA will hold form in what it sees as a similar case with a precedent and pass down a favorable ruling on Kanter, who is a Turkish national that received benefits above expenses while playing for a professional team in his homeland.  Kanter, his family and the school maintain that Kanter intended to play college basketball all along and did not intentionally violate any rules.  The NCAA allows foreign players to play on professional teams and maintain their amateurism so long as they do not receive benefits above expenses.
  • Auburn and Missisippi State have yet to play a road game.  Auburn at least will head to Pittsburgh to play Rutgers in a neutral site game as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational.  Mississippi State, however, will be relaxing at home this week as they won’t hit the road until December 18, when they face Virginia Tech.  Hey, isn’t that when Renardo Sidney finally plays?

Power Rankings

  1. Tennessee (6-0): Tennessee is the lone undefeated team in the SEC.  Plus they didn’t play this week, which means their record went untarnished.  The Volunteers are taking an 11-day break while they prepare for Pittsburgh.  I guess it’s kind of tough to recover after facing Middle Tennessee at home.
  2. Vanderbilt (7-1): Vanderbilt just keeps climbing.  Their only loss is to West Virginia.  No shame in that, and should they beat Missouri on Wednesday, they are all but guaranteed a top 25 ranking – A pleasant surprise for a team that was picked to finish fifth in East by the media, this writer included.
  3. South Carolina (6-1): Like Vanderbilt, South Carolina continues to impress.  Their sole blemish is a hard-fought loss to Michigan State in their second game of the year.  Again, no shame in that.  This week, they beat Delaware State and then beat Clemson in a 64-60 thriller that came down to the final minute, just the way you like to beat an in-state rival.
  4. Georgia (6-2) After two straight tough losses to Notre Dame and Temple, Georgia has won three in a row.  One of those is a three-point win against Manhattan, a team that is now 2-6 and hasn’t made the Tournament since 2004.  Georgia followed that up with a 66-64 win over UAB and a 73-72 close call against rival Geogia Tech.  With Trey Thompkins playing better after a couple of unsteady early games, all should be back on track in Athens.  Thompkins is averaging 19.7 points and 7.7 rebounds and shooting well after scoring 13 in each of his first two games on 37% from the field.
  5. Kentucky (5-2): What to do with Kentucky?  They lost to North Carolina in their only game this week, so perhaps they should go lower than some other teams on this list, but to drop them to sixth or below seems absurd.  Kentucky had no answer for Tyler Zeller on Saturday and the hole inside became a gaping chasm on Saturday when big men Terrence Jones, Josh Harrellson and Eloy Vargas combined for 15 fouls, 3 turnovers, 1 assist and only 13 points on 5-19 shooting.  I can hear the “Free Enes” chants coming from UK’s campus even with my headphones blasting Smashing Pumpkins.  (Hey, I’m a nineties kid).
  6. Arkansas (5-1): Arkansas went 2-0 this week against Oklahoma and Troy.  But then again, who in the SEC hasn’t beaten these teams?  Kentucky beat Oklahoma and the Sooners have lost four since and the SEC is beating up on Troy left and right.  The Trojans have already taken their licks from Alabama and Mississippi State and now Arkansas.  Their lone win is against Division-II Huntington (AL).  Coach Pelphrey, I’d love to rank you higher this week, but I can’t against these teams.  Come back with a couple more wins next week and we’ll talk.
  7. Florida (6-2): The Gators lost to Central Florida after eking out a close one against Florida State.  I know they went and pummeled American just after that and I know UCF is now 7-0, but I also know that a team with Florida’s talent shouldn’t be dropping games like that.  When starting forwards Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons combine to go 1-14 against much smaller competition, there are problems.  Furthermore, I didn’t think it was possible, but Kenny Boynton is even worse from three this year than last year.  He is currently shooting 26.5 percent, compared to 29.4 percent in 2009-10.  Dreadful.  I wasn’t convinced this group of Gators was much better than last year’s, when the media was picking them to win the SEC and possibly make a Final Four run and they are proving me the wiser.  Step it up, Florida.  There’s a lot of work to be done before conference play starts.
  8. Mississippi (4-2): Luckily for the Rebels, Chris Warren can make those off-balance threes when they matter.  Well, at least against Southern Mississippi he can.  He’s only shooting 28 percent on the year from three, but he shot 4-9 from deep against Southern Miss in his best game this season.  That’s a good win for Mississippi against a quality opponent.  Look for Southern Mississippi to do good things in Conference USA this year.
  9. Mississippi State (4-1): The Bulldogs didn’t play this week, but Ravern Johnson still leads the SEC in scoring at 25.4 per game, and he’s got plenty of breathing room.  Kentucky’s Terrence Jones is second at 19.0 points per game.  Additionally, Kodi Augustus continues to lead the league in rebounding at 10.8 per game.
  10. LSU (5-2): Also didn’t play anyone this week.  The Tigers have been on the road exactly once so far, against South Alabama. They return to the Maravich to square off against the Central Michigan Chippewas in the second of seven straight home games. Show me something, Trent Johnson.
  11. Auburn (3-4) Well, this is the first week Auburn hasn’t been in last place.  I’m not totally sure they deserve the honor, if you want to call it that.  It’s never impressive to see a Division-II team on the schedule.  Auburn beat Georgia Southwestern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff this week, both at home.  I guess when you’re playing the tough ones, you want to give yourself that homecourt advantage.
  12. Alabama (4-4) The Tide beat South Alabama 72-50 and then got worked over by Purdue 66-47 in a game in which they went 0-9 from three.  I really thought Alabama was going to be better than this.  The three-point shooting is terrible and they turn the ball over too much.  And it’s not like they’ve played the toughest competition.  Purdue is the first team Alabama has played that should have had a shot at beating the Tide.  On the bright side, I’m sure they’ll jump back in front of in-state rival Auburn next week.

A Look Ahead

The SEC/Big East Invitational is this week and can I just say that this event has turned out to be a major disappointment on the part of the conference’s planners.  Here is the lineup this year:

  • 12/8: Arkansas vs. Seton Hall, Kentucky vs. Notre Dame
  • 12/11: Auburn vs. Rutgers, Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh

As my father used to say about my shoddy yardwork, “This ain’t cuttin’ it.”  Can we please get some kind of a legitimate invitational here?  The matchups in this series are continually disappointing.  We’re lucky that Notre Dame has been surprisingly good this year, or the Tennessee/Pitt game would be the only one worth watching.  There are 28 teams between these two conferences and these are the eight teams they schedule?  Where are Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt?  Where are Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Georgetown, and Villanova?  Instead of providing us with some marquee publicity-generating matchups, we are given perennial cellar dwellers Auburn, Rutgers and Seton Hall.  Really?  As I said, it ain’t cuttin’ it.

Other Important Games this Week

  • 12/8 – Vanderbilt at Missouri: If Vanderbilt picks up a win here and wins the games they are supposed to through the rest of the preseason, they’ve probably all but assured themselves an NCAA Tournament bid.  All that’s left is the seeding.
  • 12/11 – Kentucky vs. Indiana: Twelve championships between them and a long-standing history of hoops tradition. What’s not to like?
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