Checking in on.. the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2010

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

  • So Bruce Pearl gets slapped with an eight game suspension and what does Tennessee do but turn around and win the NIT Tip-Off championship.  Last year, Bruce Pearl dismissed Tyler Smith from the team after he was arrested on misdemeanor gun and drug charges and suspended Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams, who were all arrested with Smith.  How did Tennessee respond then?  They held #1 Kansas to 38 percent shooting and beat the Jayhawks 76-68.  Tatum, Goins and Williams were reinstated and Tennessee went on to the NCAA Elite Eight, the Volunteers’ best finish in the NCAA Tournament in the history of the program.  Talk about responding to adversity.  Hey, maybe if Tennessee fields an all walk-on team with Richard Simmons as head coach they’ll make a Final Four appearance.
  • NBA scouts are abuzz about Kentucky’s Terrence Jones who has probably played his way into top five pick status.  He handles the ball as well as any big man in America and in three games against Oklahoma, Washington, and Connecticut he averaged 23 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, good enough for SEC freshman of the week honors.
  • As I have said before, the East is much stronger than the West and I’m going to continue to harp on it.  The East has three teams in the RTC top 25 (Kentucky #14, Tennessee #15, Florida #19).  The West has none.  While I do expect Mississippi State to enter the top 25 at some point, I’m not sure if any other team from the West will get a sniff at it.
  • As of now the SEC East is 29-6 (.829) with no bad losses.  By way of contrast, the SEC West is 19-12 (.613).  Ok so they’re not the NFC West, but they definitely need to step it up.  The West already has the following losses:

Bad

  • LSU 53 Nicholls State 62
  • Arkansas 65 UAB 70
  • Alabama 78 Seton Hall 83
  • Alabama 47 Iowa 55

Dreadful

  • LSU 53 Nicholls State 62
  • Alabama 49 St. Peters 50 (St Who?)
  • Auburn 69 UNC Asheville 70
  • Auburn 68 Samford (and son?) 79
  • Auburn 54 Campbell 61
  • Auburn 55 Jacksonville 55
  • Mississippi State 59 Florida Atlantic 61

I’m not giving Mississippi State a bye on their loss to Florida Atlantic even if they’re playing shorthanded.  There should still be plenty of talent here to beat a team that lost to American University.

  • Time will tell if Mississippi’s loss to Dayton will look bad as the season progresses.  It’s not looking good right now though.  A week after beating Mississippi, the Flyers were doubled up by Cincinnati 68-34 in a mercy killing.  Losing to a very average Miami (FL) team doesn’t help the Rebels either.  Mississippi’s 78-71 win over Murray State is the West’s best win so far.  Murray State is now 3-3 and will have to win a lot of games the rest of the way to help Mississippi’s reputation.

Power Rankings

So let’s get down to business here.

  1. Tennessee (5-0): Can there be any question here?  Scotty Hopson was named the SEC’s Player of the Week as he averaged 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while leading the Volunteers to the NIT Tip-Off championship.  He was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, leading his team to victories over VCU and then seventh ranked Villanova, whom they held to 34.5 percent.  If history holds, Tennessee will probably be holding teams to 25 percent once Brucey’s suspension begins.
  2. Florida (5-1): took care of business this week getting wins against in-state foes Florida Atlantic at home and Florida State away.  The 55-51 win over the Seminoles wasn’t pretty, though.  The Gators shot only 38.1 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers to only 8 assists.  You’re usually lucky to come away with the win in a game like that, especially on the road.  But a good road win it is for the Gators.
  3. Vanderbilt (5-1): Unfortunately, the shine on that win over North Carolina is already coming off.  UNC played a close one against College of Charleston this week and then lost in a game that they never even showed up for at Illinois.  All Vanderbilt did this week was trample one of the worst teams in the country, Grambling State, 92-59 in a game in which they outrebounded the Tigers 60-21.  They followed that up with an 86-73 win over Appalachian State.  Not bad for a week’s work.
  4. Kentucky (4-1): Well, the Wildcats got a great win over Washington 74-67, but they laid an egg the next night against a surprising Connecticut team that had beaten then-#2 Michigan State the previous night.  Kentucky allowed Connecticut to shoot 57.7 percent while only shooting 36.7 percent themselves.  After the Wildcats’ first game, Doron Lamb stated that the Cats hoped to be the best shooting team in the nation.  I guess he wasn’t talking about free throw shooting.  Prior to Kentucky’s game against Boston the Cats were shooting an embarrassing 59.7 percent from the line.  Insert Calipari teams’ free throw shooting comment here.  Against Boston, the Wildcats shot 59.3 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from three and 70.8 percent from the line.
  5. LSU (5-2): Three wins this week, albeit against Centenary, South Alabama and Houston, is good enough to be the highest ranked team out of the West.  LSU doubled up Centenary 78-36.  Now I don’t care if Centenary’s 0-6, anytime you double up a team and hold them to 28.3 percent shooting, you’ve played well.   LSU beat the teams they were supposed to beat, soundly.
  6. South Carolina (4-1): The Gamecocks picked up a couple of wins this week by beating South Carolina Upstate 57-41 and Western Kentucky 87-85.  I’ve said it before.  I like these Cocks.  They are leading the nation in rebounding at 49.2 per game.  Rebounding comes down to hustle and this team has it.  Who knows, keep winning in the preseason and maybe there is a tournament bid for this team, but it’s an uphill battle in the stacked East.
  7. Mississippi State (4-1): An overtime win over lowly Troy (1-4) this week isn’t anything to write home about, especially since the Bulldogs took their first lead in the game against the Trojans with only 4:54 to play.  The Trojans also had a 51-38 rebounding advantage over State and that’s just unacceptable, I don’t care who is missing from your starting lineup.  And apparently there aren’t enough guns on this team to get past the likes of Florida Atlantic. After losing to FAU, it looks like the Bulldogs need Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney more than we thought.  In the mean time, Ravern Johnson is playing like a star and never getting a breather.  Prior to the loss to Florida Atlantic, Johnson was averaging 27.3 points per game, good enough for first in the SEC and fifth in the nation.  Johnson is also averaging 38.3 minutes, 4.5 rebounds and shooting 56.3 percent from three.
  8. Alabama (3-3): Well, at least they didn’t have to face St. Peter’s again this week.  Alabama beat Alabama A&M 76-50.  Here’s a tidbit. Tony Mitchell is the model of consistency.  He’s had between 12 and 15 points in all five games this season and had a 12/15 night against A&M.  Despite losing three games early this is still a team that I think will pull themselves together and finish strong.  A dominating win over the Bulldogs was a step in the right direction.
  9. Arkansas (4-1): Not much exciting going on here.  They beat Southeast Missouri State, a team that is now 0-6, and then lost to UAB.  What I do find interesting is that coach John Pelphrey is playing eleven guys at least eleven minutes a game.  Now that’s going deep.
  10. Mississippi (5-2): I’ve already picked on Mississippi, so there’s no need to get into that further except for to say that when you play a weak preseason schedule, coach Andy Kennedy, you really pay the price when you lose to those same weak teams.  Especially when there are no opportunities to make up for those losses with a quality win or two.
  11. Georgia (4-2): came out and got what looked like a good win against Colorado without Trey Thompkins and then it turned out that Colorado’s not any good.  So all they have to hang their hat on now is a hard fought loss to Old Spice Classic champion Notre Dame. They followed that loss with a loss to Temple.  At least they beat Manhattan (2-4) by three.  Thompkins just hasn’t been himself since returning from injury.  He’s shooting only 40 percent from the field and scoring 14.7 per game.  That’s 3 points less than his average last year.  Prior to his return, the Bulldogs were 3-0, since returning, 2-1.  I don’t get it.  This guy was the media’s pick for preseason conference player of the year.
  12. Auburn (2-4): I feel for Auburn.  I really do.  They lost their entire team from last year, and they weren’t any good last year.  And then this year, they lost their top two recruits, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Luke Cothron, to ineligibility.  That said, there is a time and a place to play Division II teams and it’s called practice.  There is nothing to be gained by beating Georgia Southwestern.  It doesn’t help your team gain confidence to beat a D-II team and it does nothing for the selection committee at the end of the year as they don’t factor in wins against lower division schools.  Furthermore, if you do lose to a lower division team, you look awful.  Don’t do it again, Coach Barbee.

A Look Ahead

  • Kentucky takes on North Carolina on Saturday, and even though UNC is looking pretty weak as of late, this is one of those games that both teams really want and when you’ve got two of the all-time winningest programs on the same court, you watch, period.
  • Alabama plays Purdue on Saturday.  If the Tide want to salvage their preseason, this is the game to do it.  Beat Purdue, and there’s still an outside chance at an NCAA berth, lose and they may have to get 12 wins in conference play.
  • Like Georgia against Colorado, Arkansas vs. Oklahoma Wednesday night is a game that has less value today than it did when it was announced, with Oklahoma going through a nightmare in Maui. Creampuffs dilute the rest of the action this week, but next week will see some fantastic SEC 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.

      Read the rest of this entry »

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      RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Deep South Region

      Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2010

      It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials headfirst.  For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

      You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

      Deep South Region (GA, FL, AL, MS, LA)

      • Chris Warren – Sr, G – Ole Miss. Returning from a torn ACL he suffered just 12 games into his sophomore season in 2008-09, Ole Miss’ Chris Warren had some folks concerned after his first game back last season when he played only 27 minutes, scored just nine points, and struggled with a 3-11 shooting night against Arkansas-Little Rock. Six days later, though, he and his fellow Rebels cruised down to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, where Warren scored 16, 27 and 24 points, respectively, in wins against Indiana and Kansas State and a loss in the final to Villanova. He averaged just under 32 minutes over those three contests and shot a combined 23-45, and, perhaps more importantly, put to bed any remaining fears about the status of that knee. Warren would go on to start all 35 games last year, average 32.9 MPG (tops on his team) and put up only two other single-digit scoring efforts for the whole season. His 17.2 PPG from last season means he’s the second-leading returning scorer in the SEC, trailing only Georgia’s Trey Thompkins by half of a point. When you hear numbers like this, it’s easy to forget that the guy’s doing all this as a 5’10 point guard, another testament to his toughness. Despite his role at the point, ignoring his outside shot isn’t recommended, either; he finished 14th in the nation with 3.4 threes per game, and led the SEC in three-point shooting in league games at 43.8%. Warren’s achievements earned him an all-SEC second team slot last year and we’re certain to see him on the Bob Cousy Award nominee list (again), and wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a finalist. If Mississippi is to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years, head coach Andy Kennedy will need that kind of final season from his floor leader.

      You May Not Yet Know Thompkins, But You Will

      • Trey Thompkins - Jr, F – Georgia. After toiling behind Florida and Kentucky for years in the SEC, Mark Fox has the Bulldogs poised for a resurgence. While many Georgia fans are focused on the recruitment of Kentavious Caldwell and Julian Royal this year, Thompkins along with Travis Leslie (below) could lead the Bulldogs back to the NCAA Tournament. After an exceptional sophomore season where he averaged 17.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG and briefly considered leaving Athens to enter the NBA Draft, Thompkins has a legitimate chance at being a 20/10 player this year, which is something that only Artsiom Parakhouski and Omar Samhan did last year and neither Radford nor St. Mary’s play in the SEC. Most NBA Draft experts already had Thompkins pegged as a borderline first round pick after last season and he should only improve on that as he continues to refine his game. With his combination of a solid outside game to match a developing inside game Thompkins has more than made up for his primary weakness—his relative lack of explosiveness—to become one of the top power forwards in the country. Unfortunately that was hidden from most of the country as the Bulldogs were buried on regional coverage as they managed a meager five SEC wins last season. If Leslie learns to translate some of that athleticism into a more complete overall game and Fox is able to get production out of freshman Marcus Thornton and transfer Gerald Robinson, the Bulldogs could be in the second tier of SEC teams this year just being UF and UK, but still in the spotlight enough that we get to see much more of Thompkins. Although you will probably see more of Leslie on ESPN’s highlight reel-laden recaps on television, if you look at the box score you will end up seeing that it is more likely that Thompkins did the majority of the hard work. Now that Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins have left Kentucky, Thompkins should be the top inside player in the SEC (at least until the NCAA figures out what to do with Enes Kanter) and has a chance to contend for SEC Player of the Year.

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      Let’s Kick It Off: Observing a College Football Weekend Through A Hoops Lens

      Posted by rtmsf on September 2nd, 2010

      Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and an occasional contributor.

      Hooray! Today is the official end of the Great Sports Desert – you know, that period of time between the first Monday in April and the first weekend of the college football season. Beginning tonight, there are actual meaningful sporting events that I am interested in. Let’s be clear, I love college football. Easily my second favorite sport. But, I’m a college hoops junkie first and foremost, and part of the reason I love the start of college football season is because that means that the start of college basketball is within shouting distance from here. And, while looking over the slate of college football games this weekend, I couldn’t help but imagine some of these matchups as college basketball games. So, here I have, in reverse order, the ten most intriguing matchups of the college football weekend, provided they are re-imagined as season openers in basketball season.  (ed. note: yes, he is sick, but we love him for it)

      College Sports is Back on the Calendar!

      First, a nod to a handful of games which, being a junkie and all, definitely appeal to me, but were just a bit off of my top-10 list:

      • Pittsburgh @ Utah – on Thursday night, with only six other games on. If this was basketball season, and there were only six other games on, you could bet I’d watch some of this. Sure, Utah isn’t going to be very good, but it would be interesting to see Pitt go on the road early into a hostile environment.
      • Murray State @ Kent State – a very good mid-major matchup between one of last season’s Cinderellas and one of the MAC’s always competitive teams.
      • Connecticut @ Michigan – this game just sounds really good, but in reality, UConn is down and Michigan is, well, I would say Michigan is down, but its been awhile since they’ve been up.
      • Richmond @ Virginia – a big intrastate matchup between the A-10 and the ACC. If Virginia was just a little bit better, this may have made the cut, because UR will be very good again, but a road trip into the John Paul Jones Arena would be a good early test for Kevin Anderson and company.
      • Northwestern @ Vanderbilt – as enticing as this Wildcat/Commodore matchup would be between two talented teams with NCAA Tournament hopes, this just misses the cut.

      And on to the top 10:

      • #10 – Washington State @ Oklahoma StateKlay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto invade the Gallagher-Iba Arena to provide a good early season test for a young Cowboy squad minus last season’s two leading scorers. While the young Cowboy guards Ray Penn and Keiton Page keep this close throughout, too much Thompson eventually does them in.

      Predicted Football Score: Oklahoma State 31 Washington State 10

      Predicted Basketball Score: Washington State 72 Oklahoma State 66

      • #9 – UCLA @ Kansas State – Kansas State is one of the teams on the short list of national title contenders. UCLA is, well, honestly, not very good at least judging by last season’s performance. But, they’re still UCLA. And their frontline of Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith and Tyler Honeycutt will test Curtis Kelly, Wally Judge and company, perhaps even to a draw. We’ll also get a first chance to see if the Bruins have even remotely solved their problems at the point, an area of concern that will eventually be the deciding factor in this matchup as Jacob Pullen eventually gets over on Malcolm Lee and the Wildcats pull away in the second half.

      Pullen is Back With Another Strong Team

      Predicted Football Score: UCLA 23 Kansas State 17

      Predicted Basketball Score: Kansas State 70 UCLA 60

      • #8 – Syracuse @ AkronJim Boeheim taking his Orange on the road early against a Midwest mid-major? Sure, that’ll happen. But, if it did, I’d be thrilled to see my first glimpse of Syracuse freshman center Fab Melo battling the Zips own young center, sophomore seven-footer Zeke Marshall. Sure, the Orange’s talent would probably win out in the end with Akron not having an answer for Kris Joseph, but I’m pretty sure that we’d get at least 30 minutes of pretty compelling basketball here.

      Predicted Football Score: Syracuse 24, Akron 20

      Predicted Basketball Score: Syracuse 67 Akron 55

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      20 At The Top: SEC Player Rankings

      Posted by zhayes9 on August 13th, 2010

      Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

      For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

      As long as the coaching spectrum around the SEC remains stable, there’s little reason to believe that the conference should ever experience a disastrous season similar to what occurred three years ago when a 4-12 Georgia team won four games in four days to take the tournament crown. The main reasons: coaching and recruiting. Since that time, John Calipari replaced Billy Gillispie as the head honcho at Kentucky and has immediately pulled off previously unforeseen recruiting escapades. Mark Gottfried has been let go and young Anthony Grant with his string of success at VCU has a bright future. Jeff Lebo is gone for Tony Barbee, a Calipari disciple. Exit: Dennis Felton. Enter: Mark Fox, who has already lured a top-15 player for 2011 to Athens. Veterans Bruce Pearl and Billy Donovan can recruit and coach toe-to-toe with the best in the business. Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt is one of the best X’s and O’s coaches around and just two summers ago talked John Jenkins into a commitment. Trent Johnson, Billy Kennedy, Rick Stansbury, Darrin Horn and John Pelphrey (right now his inclusion might be a stretch) are not exactly slouches either. This collection of intelligent, charismatic and successful coaches should keep SEC basketball respected somewhere in the vicinity of its football brethren for the near future.

      Warren enters 2010-11 as the best player in the SEC

      1. Chris Warren, Mississippi- Warren has been the focal point of an Ole Miss attack from the moment he stepped on the hardwood in Oxford and averaged 4.5 APG as a freshman. Warren now enters a crucial senior season on a Rebel team devoid of a reliable second option (unless freshman Demarco Cox is the real deal or Reginald Buckner makes the leap) with Terrico White leaving for the NBA and Eniel Polynice transferring. While these defections could lead to a season at the bottom of the SEC, Warren will have ample opportunity to show off his skill set scoring the basketball during a season where he could average 20+ PPG. Warren is a 40% three-point shooter and has sunk a trey in a school record 45 consecutive games, a mark good for third in SEC history. The 5’10 point guard excels in spot-up opportunities and can also explode to the tin in transition. While evaluators shouldn’t be too harsh to judge based on his lackluster supporting cast, Warren shows pro-ready court vision and he does  a tremendous job finding passing angles and setting up teammates for open opportunities. Although a bit undersized, Warren is a complete, refined point guard with leadership qualities and is my preseason pick to take home SEC Player of the Year honors.

      2. Trey Thompkins, Georgia- I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that Trey Thompkins is one of the most complete players in the nation. Asked to carry an extraordinarily heavy load in Mark Fox’s first year at the helm, the Georgia native responded with an 18/8 average, 48% FG, 76% FT and 38% 3pt. How many players average over eight rebounds per game and shoot 38% from behind the arc? Thompkins also saved his magic for the Bulldogs marquee games, scoring 20 vs. Georgia Tech, 21 vs. Illinois, 17/12 in the tight loss at Kentucky and 21 on 9-13 FG in the win over Tennessee. Thompkins has the ability to stretch the defense with a solid mid-range game that extends to the perimeter. He’s a gifted ballhandler, a 6’9 forward with guard skills, that can also utilize his frame to corral defensive rebounds at a superb rate. Thompkins now enters his junior season with expectations, albeit moderate, surrounding the Georgia program with sidekick Travis Leslie, Georgia Mr. Basketball Marcus Thornton and an under-appreciated secondary cast. The opportunity is there to become a national name.

      3. Enes Kanter, Kentucky- Ever since I saw Kanter single-handedly take over the third quarter of a World Select Team game last April, I’ve been anticipating the day he’ll step on the Rupp Arena floor and star for coach Cal and the Wildcats. While he may not be as powerful, efficient or productive as DeMarcus Cousins, Kanter’s emergence shouldn’t result in much of a drop-off at the center position for Big Blue. Kanter is savvy and intelligent on the low block beyond his years. Watching his vast array of post moves and that indescribable feel for the game he possesses actually reminded me of the clips I’ve seen of a young Bill Walton at UCLA (slow down, I’m not saying he’s the next Bill Walton). Sprinkle in a growing mid-range jumper that Cousins didn’t have and you could have an even more complete player from the outset. One area where Kanter is the polar opposite of Cousins is demeanor, displaying a calm, steady head during his time on the floor. His eligibility remains slightly in limbo, but once Calipari gets this uber-talented Swiss/Turkish big man on the floor, college basketball fans will be amazed by his pure skill level.

      4. Brandon Knight, Kentucky- Knight is the next in line of famous Calipari one-and-done point guards, from Derrick Rose to Tyreke Evans to John Wall and now Knight. While they were all thrust into the same position, their repertoires are actually quite varied. One could see Rose’s gift of court vision and passing ability beyond his years. Evans was lanky and needed the ball to be effective. Wall relied on penetration. What Knight has that these other top picks didn’t as college freshmen is the ability to explode for 35 points on any given night. Knight is a truly gifted scorer, whether it’s spotting up from deep, pulling up in the mid-range or relying on his quickness to explode to the rim. Much like Evans, there are questions surrounding whether Knight can run an effective point for Calipari as a freshman. Knight is more of scoring combo guard that needs a high volume of shots rather than a comfortable creator for teammates. Whether or not Knight is able to mature and grow in this area — and it would be stupid not to believe he’ll only improve from November to March — Calipari has another gem on his hands.

      5. Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt- While the Swedish import didn’t improve much from his freshman to sophomore campaigns, most feel Taylor has the untapped potential to really take off this season and mold into a potential first round selection in the 2011 Draft. What jumps out most about Taylor are his length, perimeter defense and ability to get to the charity stripe (78th in fouls drawn per 40 minutes in the nation). He can lock up two or three positions on the floor and is a solid rebounder for a 6’7 wing. Taylor’s shooting must improve mightily as defenders really don’t have to pay attention to him beyond the three-point line. 1-11 from downtown on the season is quite poor for a small forward and Taylor can disappear for chunks of time in games. With Jermaine Beal and A.J. Ogilvy gone, the onus is on Taylor to become more of a consistent weapon and send Vanderbilt back to the NCAA Tournament to avenge last season’s disappointing finish.

      Will Hopson make the leap to stardom?

      6. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee- Hopson is a rare talent, someone that just needs to play at 100% for more than half of his teams’ possessions, the Matt Kemp of the SEC, if you will. Bruce Pearl is certainly hoping that it’s Hopson’s junior campaign where the light bulb clicks on and he molds into the can’t-miss talent only expected to spend one year in college coming out of high school. Hopson is an elite athlete with a versatile offensive game and great length. Hopson clearly has the athletic gifts to be more aggressive offensively, but he can become way too in love with hanging out around the perimeter and chucking up jumpers. The mid-range shot needs some fine tuning, but Hopson did post a respectable 45% FG as a sophomore. Still, there’s that feeling he can do more. Pearl hopes inconsistency and spotty effort is a thing of the past when November rolls around. He needs Hopson to step up since Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince are no longer singing Rocky Top. It’s entirely possible Hopson is just a late bloomer and the best is yet to come.

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      Morning Five: 05.10.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2010

      1. We hope to have a post up later today evaluating the winners and losers from the NBA Draft early entry withdrawal deadline on Saturday, but for now, here’s what you need to know.  Leaving: Dee Bost (Mississippi State), Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky), Daniel Orton (Kentucky), Dominique Jones (South Florida), Darington Hobson (New Mexico), Willie Warren (Oklahoma), Jordan Crawford (Xavier).  Staying: Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech), Ravern Johnson (Mississippi State), Talor Battle (Penn State), Lavoy Allen (Temple), Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Alex Tyus (Florida), E’Twaun Moore (Purdue), JaJuan Johnson (Purdue), Demetri McCamey (Illinois), Mike Davis (Illinois), Kevin Anderson (Richmond).
      2. The fact that former Baylor coach Dave Bliss — you remember, the guy who tried to posthumously frame his murdered player as a drug dealer to save his own arsecan get a job teaching young men about the value of hard work, ethics and morality at Allen Academy in Texas proves that we are a very forgiving society.  Wow.  Just, wow.
      3. Tony Barbee has hit the ground running at Auburn, and has very high hopes for his program there.  With a new arena and a fertile recruiting base, AU could be poised as a sleeping giant for the right coach, but the uniform lack of interest in roundball at the school makes things very difficult.  Here are a couple of recent interviews with him about how he plans to handle life in the SEC West.
      4. Arizona’s new law dealing with immigration (SB 1070) may impact the recruiting of international student-athletes to the major D1 schools in the state, according to this article.  It makes sense, given that opposing schools will use anything to make a competitor look bad in comparison, and especially if out-of-state students are passing on Arizona schools based on the law.
      5. Bob Knight gave the commencement address Saturday to the graduating students at Trine University, a small private school in northeastern Indiana.  How a school nobody has ever heard of got a hold of him we’ll never know, but we assume it involves some hunting buddy with a connection to Trine.  If you’re into this kind of thing, his entire speech is embedded below (in five parts).

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      Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape

      Posted by zhayes9 on April 30th, 2010

      With the NBA Draft deadline moved up to May 8 this year, we’ll be able to formulate next year’s college basketball landscape sooner than ever before. The decision of many on the fence could dramatically alter the style, roster and makeup of everyone from Kentucky to Richmond. For many of these super-talents such as North Carolina’s Ed Davis, the decision was probably made a long time ago. But for those like fellow ACC foe Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech, their status is very much up in the air for 2010-11. He’s just one of many upcoming decisions that could change the outlook of an entire conference.

      Many columns dealing with early entries dissect whether the decision was smart or short-sighted, whether the choice to enter their name was the proper call for their careers. Personally, I don’t care so much about their personal career paths, but about how their decision affects college basketball. Instead, the focus of this column will be on how each early entry to put their name in the draft changes their respective schools’ chances when winter approaches.

      Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky)- Many around the Kentucky program believe Orton and Bledsoe are history, but refraining from signing with an agent leaves the door slightly ajar. If one or both return to Lexington, the Wildcats vault ahead of Tennessee as the SEC favorites. Returning to school would be even more beneficial to Orton, a player that didn’t establish himself playing behind Cousins and Patterson, but only showed glimpses of his superb athleticism, defensive prowess and developing low-post moves. Pair Orton in the post with Swiss import Enes Kanter and John Calipari is in business. Put Bledsoe with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb or Darius Miller and the same holds true. Calipari’s loaded class certainly screams reload rather than rebuild, but the returns of Bledsoe and/or Orton would vault expectations even higher.

      Gordon Hayward (Butler)- The “babyfaced assassin” (h/t Gus Johnson) might have the toughest call of any early entry this spring. A relative unknown to casual fans just one year ago, Hayward burst onto the scene with a stellar NCAA Tournament, leading the charge behind Butler’s miraculous run to the national title game. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Hayward possesses guard skills in a 6’9 frame and may even go in the latter half of the lottery should he keep his name in the field. Butler would also drop to a ranking similar to the one they enjoyed in October last year. If Hayward returns, it would be a crying shame if Butler isn’t the #2 team ranked preseason behind Duke. The only starter departing is glue guy Willie Veasley. That’s right: Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard would all return to school for another March push.

      Avery Bradley (Texas)- Sources told Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman that Bradley was likely to stay in the Draft, and quite honestly I can see why. Teams that are looking for a backup point guard with the ability to defend and attack the basket will be flocking towards Bradley near the mid-first round. Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph committing to Texas last week takes some pressure off of Rick Barnes if Bradley should opt to stay in the draft. The Longhorns grossly underachieved with Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James; with all three departing, expectations can’t possibly be sky high for Texas, although Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor should all take steps back this season. Texas is a top-15 team regardless of last season should Bradley, Joseph, Dogus Balbay, J’Covan Brown and Jai Lucas round out a loaded backcourt. I suspect Bradley has played his last game in burnt orange, though.

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      ATB: DeMarcus Cousins Laughs Last, Laughs Best…

      Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

      Kentucky Survives in Raucous Starkville.  #2 Kentucky 81, Mississippi State 75 (OT).  After several days of fielding phone calls from Mississippi State fans who ranged in temperament from delusional to deranged, DeMarcus Cousins and his team had the last laugh tonight in Starkville as water bottles and sodas rained down on the court in the closing minutes of this one.  Coach John Calipari was so giddy afterward that he even played up the hostility of the situation in his interview with Jeannine Edwards, ducking for cover at one point and running over to corral his players at another (wow, consider just how different things were last year at this time with respect to UK’s head coach and Miss Edwards).  The story of this game, however, was in the way that Kentucky was able to overcome a seven-point deficit in the last three minutes after having looked shaken and stirred in the previous few as MSU built its lead with inside star Jarvis Varnado on the bench fouled out.  Cousins held up his end of the bargain with MSU fans by dropping 19/14/3 assts, including seven huge offensive rebounds, several of which he converted at key points in the second half to keep the Cats afloat.  Patrick Patterson added a dub-dub himself (19/10), while John Wall ended up just shy of a triple-double with 18/10/8 assts/3 stls.  Come March, when the rest of the country decides to tune back into college basketball, all anyone is going to hear about is the mercurial Wall; but to those of us who know better, it will be Cousins that makes the difference if Kentucky is to make a serious run at the national title.  He has a knack for corralling the ball on the offensive end of the court (the #1 offensive rebounder in America), but he’s probably just as effective at converting those extra possessions into points with his soft touch around the bucket (note: if anyone has hard stats on this, we’d love to see them).  MSU had numerous chances to put a signature win on their NCAA resume, but like much of their season this year, they were close but not close enough.  The Bulldogs played the game without leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who was suspended for conduct detrimental prior to his team’s biggest game of the season, and Varnado had at least two silly fouls that would have allowed his presence to stay on the court longer than 23 semi-effective minutes (10/5/2 blks).  If any one of those decisions were different, perhaps MSU wins the game and we’d have a photo of their fans RTCing underneath this writeup.  But as it happened, Bulldog fans will instead by remembered for their unsportsmanlike behavior, and they’ll have to settle for screaming into DeMarcus Cousins’ voicemail as he moves on to the more important things like winning SEC titles and gunning for the Final Four.

      Holla Back At Ya!

      Regular Season Champs. Two clinchers tonight…

      • #24 Northern Iowa 70, Creighton 52.  No Jordan Eglseder, no problem.  Even without the big man who was suspended for three games after his arrest for DWI over the weekend, UNI clinches its first outright MVC regular season title with an easy win over the Bluejays.  The Panthers hit thirteen treys for the game, including a 5-10 effort from Ali Farokhmanesh.  It will be a very interesting Bracketbuster game on Friday night when UNI hosts the co-leader of the CAA, Old Dominion.
      • Murray State 80, Southeast Missouri State 62.  Murray moved to 16-0 in the OVC tonight, clinching their 21st regular season title and the top seed in the OVC Tournament next month.  The Racers now have the nation’s longest winning streak (at sixteen) and put twelve players into the scoring column this evening.  This is a team that has six players averaging between 9.5 – 10.8 points per game that nobody will want to see as their first round opponent on March 14.

      Other Games of National Interest.

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      Checking in on… the SEC

      Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2010

      EAST

      1. Kentucky 22-1 (7-1)
      2. Tennessee 18-4 (6-2)
      3. Vanderbilt 17-5 (6-2)
      4. Florida 17-6 (6-3)
      5. South Carolina 13-9 (4-4)
      6. Georgia 10-11 (2-6)

      WEST

      1. Arkansas 12-11 (5-3)
      2. Mississippi 17-6 (5-4)
      3. Mississippi State 16-7 (4-4)
      4. Alabama 13-10 (3-6)
      5. Auburn 11-12 (2-6)
      6. LSU 9-14 (0-9)

      Thanks to Villanova’s loss, Kentucky inched nearer the top of the polls again, moving to #2 in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 and #3 in the AP Top 25. Tennessee moved up a couple of spots to #12 in both polls, while Vanderbilt fell to #22 in the AP and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Mississippi and Florida are still getting votes, but the SEC is looking like a three-team race in the East and it appears no one wants to win the West. Arkansas leads the West and critics may point at their 12-11 overall record as a negative, but this is a totally different team with Courtney Fortson in the lineup.  Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season and Arkansas’s Courtney Fortson took player of the week honors.

      GAMES OF THE WEEK

      • 2/9 -#12 Tennessee @ #24 Vanderbilt – 7PM – ESPN
      • 2/9 – Alabama @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPNU
      • 2/10 – Florida at South Carolina – 8 PM – ESPN 360
      • 2/10 – LSU @ Arkansas – 8 PM – ESPN 360
      • 2/11 – Mississippi @ Mississippi State – 9 PM – ESPN
      • 2/13 – Xavier @ Florida – 6 PM – ESPN
      • 2/13 – #12 Tennessee @ #2 Kentucky – 9 PM – ESPN

      THE WEEK THAT WAS

      MISSISSIPPI (4-3) @ KENTUCKY (5-1)

      Kentucky jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead over the Rebels and never looked back en route to a 85-75 victory. The Wildcats never trailed in the game and built the lead to 27-9 just ten minutes into the game. A big part of the Wildcats’ plan was to frustrate Mississippi guard Chris Warren and it worked as UK played tough defense throughout the game. Ole Miss would make runs and cut the lead to three on a couple of occasions but UK responded by pushing the lead to double digits where it remained. DeMarcus Cousins led the way for Kentucky with 18 points, 13 boards and 4 blocks. John Wall added 17 points and 7 assists and put aside any concerns of a rift with UK coach John Calipari. Darnell Dodson moved into the starting lineup for UK and had 14 points on 4-5 three-point shooting. The Rebels were led by Terrico White with 19 points and Eniel Polynice added 14 as the three Ole Miss guards (including Warren’s 15) accounted for 48 of Ole Miss’s 75 points.

      MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-2) @ VANDERBILT (5-1)

      The Commodores were dominating the Bulldogs early and at one point had built a 14-point lead, but Mississippi State cut into that lead at 73-72 with 28 seconds left when Dee Bost nailed a three-pointer. Vandy’s John Jenkins then hit two free throws with :06 left and Dee Bost missed a potential game-tying trey as Vanderbilt hung on for the 75-72 win. The win was the Commodore’s 16th straight home win. Jermaine Beal led Vandy with 17 points and A.J. Ogilvy added 16 as VU won their 11th game out of 12. Kodi Augustus led Mississippi State with 15 points and Jarvis Varnado had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

      ARKANSAS (3-3) @ GEORGIA (1-5)

      Georgia pretty much had their way in the first half of the game with the Razorbacks as they built a 37-22 halftime lead. The Bulldogs came out cold in the second half with only two FG’s in the first ten minutes and Arkansas used a 26-8 run to pull away for a 72-68 win. Arkansas’ Courtney Fortson sealed the deal with five FT’s in the last forty seconds. He led the Hogs with 27 points and hit 12-16 FTs in the game. Michael Washingon and Marshawn Powell had complete games for Arkansas with 15 points/8 boards and 11 points/9 boards. Trey Thompkins had 21 points for the Bulldogs and Travis Leslie chipped in with 14 points for the Bulldogs.

      TENNESSEE (4-2) @ LSU (0-7)

      The Volunteers seemed to have their game with LSU firmly in control as they led the Tigers 51-37 with about eight minutes remaining. At that point, the Tigers mounted a furious rally and the Volunteers could only manage eight points the rest of the way. LSU pulled within a point at 55-54 with seventeen seconds remaining but Bobby Maze calmly sunk a pair of FTs and the Vols held on for a 58-54 victory. Wayne Chism was the only Vol in double digits as he scored 20 points and hauled in 7 rebounds. For the Tigers, it was another dismal shooting night as they sank just 30.5% of their shots and were held to just 16 points in the first half. Bo Spencer hit 4 3-pointers and scored 25 points to lead the Tigers. Tasmin Mitchell added 13 points and 17 rebounds.

      FLORIDA (4-3) @ ALABAMA (3-4)

      Florida held a 64-60 lead over Alabama with 1:59 remaining but the Crimson Tide were not finished fighting. Alabama’s Anthony Brock stole the ball and scored on a three-point play and Mikhail Torrance hit a jumper to give Alabama a 65-64 lead with forty-nine seconds left. Florida’s Erving Walker then hit a jumper to give the Gators a 66-65 lead and Florida’s defense denied a couple of Alabama chances to seal the Gator win. Alex Tyus led the Gators with 19 points on 8-10 shooting and he pulled down 7 boards. Walker finished with 16 points and Kenny Boynton 15 as the Florida starters accounted for all but two of the Gator points. Torrance led Alabama with 22 points and hit five threes. JaMychal Green added 14 points for Alabama. This game was the first SEC meeting between UF coach Billy Donovan and former Florida assistant Anthony Grant.

      KENTUCKY (6-1) @ LSU (0-8)

      Kentucky was wary of a “trap game” heading into LSU just two days after the Tigers gave Tennessee all they wanted. The Tigers jumped out to a 6-1 lead over UK and were trailing just 12-10 with 10:44 left in the first half. Any thoughts of a LSU upset were dashed as UK went on a 22-0 run and took a 42-14 lead in at halftime. Kentucky coasted the second half and never let the Tigers get within 20 and won the interdivisional matchup 81-55. The game marked the sixth straight double-double for DeMarcus Cousins who poured in 19 points and 13 rebounds. Patrick Patterson added 16 and Eric Bledsoe and UK is now 22-1 on the season. Bo Spencer scored 25 points and Tasmin Mitchell added 10 as the Tigers shot just 31.8% for the game.

      SOUTH CAROLINA (4-3) @ TENNESSEE (5-2)

      Devan Downey may be the Southeastern Conference’s most dangerous shooter, but Tennessee’s Wayne Chism stole the show from him for at least one night. Chism scored a career-high 30 points as #14 Tennessee limited Downey’s scoring opportunities in a 79-53 rout of South Carolina. Tennessee held USC to just 16 points and led at the break 30-16. Bobby Maze and Scotty Hopson both had 11 points to pace the Vols. Downey did score 26 points, albeit on a 5-20 shooting night. He was 13-14 from the line. Brandis Raley-Ross threw in 12 for the Gamecocks.

      VANDERBILT (6-1) @ GEORGIA (1-6)

      The Georgia Bulldogs shocked the SEC when they outscored the Vanderbilt Commodores 49-32 in the second half en route to a 72-58 win. Vandy led 36-28 in the second half, but Georgia figured out the Vandy press and used a 14-21 shooting second half to spring the upset. Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie both had 17 points for the Bulldogs and Dustin Ware added 10. Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley were the only two Commdores to show up with 21 and 18 points.

      AUBURN (2-5) @ ARKANSAS (4-3)

      Courtney Fortson scored 24 points — including nine in a row late in overtime — to lead Arkansas over Auburn 82-79. Fortson’s 3-pointer broke a 71-71 tie, and he later hit from the perimeter and made two free throws with 40.6 seconds left to make it 78-73. After an Auburn miss, Fortson made a layup for a seven-point lead. Auburn had forced overtime with Andre Malone’s layup on wild play in the final seconds of regulation. Marshawn Powell had 19 for Arkansas and Rotnei Clarke, added 12. Frankie Sullivan and Tay Waller both led Auburn with 18 apiece.

      MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-3) @ FLORIDA (5-3)

      Florida seemed to have the game in hand, leading the Bulldogs by 12 with 2:38 left, but the Gators had problems putting the Bulldogs away. The Bulldogs scored seven straight points and even got to within four at 66-62 before Florida closed the game out with free throws to win 69-62. Vernon Macklin scored 20 points for Florida and Chandler Parsons added 18 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Parsons was pressed into service as an emergency PG as Erving Walker was benched temporarily during a 2-14 shooting night. Ravern Johnson scored 20 for Mississippi State and Jarvis Varnado had 16 points and 13 boards.

      ALABAMA (3-5) @ MISSISSIPPI (4-4)

      Chris Warren scored 21 points, and Terrence Henry had 18 points and eight rebounds to help Mississippi come back to beat Alabama 74-67 and stay a half-game behind Arkansas in the SEC West. Mississippi trailed by 23 points in the second half but outscored the Crimson Tide 54-27 in the second half. Alabama dominated the first half 40-20. Terrence Henry added 18 for the Rebels. JaMychal Green scored 18 points for Alabama and Tony Mitchell pitched in 16.

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      Checking in on… the SEC

      Posted by jstevrtc on February 2nd, 2010

      Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
      EAST
      1. Kentucky                          20-1  (5-1)
      2. Vanderbilt                        16-4   (5-1)
      3. Tennessee                        16-4  (4-2)
      4. Florida                                15-6  (4-3)
      5. South Carolina             13-8  (4-3)
      6. Georgia                                9-10 (1-5)
      WEST
      1. Mississippi State           16-5  (4-2)
      2. Mississippi                        16-5  (4-3)
      3. Arkansas                             10-11 (3-3)
      4. Alabama                              13-8 (3-4)
      5. Auburn                                11-11 (2-5)
      6. LSU                                         9-12  (0-7)
      Both races in the East and the West are shaping up to be fierce battles to the end, but the East is taking an especially entertaining turn.  Kentucky found out the perils of paying on the road as a number one team as their reign at number one lasted barely 24 hours, as South Carolina and Devan Downey knocked them from their throne, 68-62. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, pulled off a big upset at Knoxville and had a chance to take a two game lead in the East but could not handle the resurgent Wildcats at Rupp Arena, who forced a tie atop the East at 5-1.  Tennessee kept themselves in the race with a thrilling win over Florida on Sunday to remain just a game back. Kentucky fell to #3 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #4 in the AP Top 25 after their one-and-done turn at the top of the polls.  Tennessee also took a tumble to 14th in both polls after losing to Vanderbilt this week, and the Commodores are 18th in the AP Top 25 and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today.  Ole Miss fell out of the ESPN/Today poll after a shocking loss to Arkansas on Sunday and are clinging to the 25th spot in the AP Top 25.  In weekly honors, Arkansas’s Marshawn Powell took home SEC Freshman of the Week honors and South Carolina’s Devan Downey was named the SEC player of the week. GAMES OF THE WEEK
      • 2/2 – #25 Mississippi (16-5) @ #4 Kentucky (20-1) – 7 PM  ESPN
      • 2/3 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ #18 Vanderbilt (16-4) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
      • 2/4 – Florida (15-6) @ Alabama (13-8) – 7 PM – ESPNU
      • 2/6 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ Florida (15-6) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
      • 2/6 – Alabama (13-8) @ #25 Mississippi (16-5) – 6 PM
      • 2/6 – South Carolina (13-8) @ #14 Tennessee (16-4) – 6 PM – ESPN

      TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25 – ESPN/Today polls)

      EAST

      Kentucky (#4, #3) — Kentucky played nothing like the #1 team in the country as they missed 18 layups and lost a 68-62 game on the road to South Carolina this past Tuesday.  DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead Kentucky, and John Wall added 19 points.  Those two accounted for 46 of the Wildcats’ 62 points, and that lack of a third scorer was a main reason UK fell. Kentucky bounced back from their loss to South Carolina with a convincing 85-72 win over the hot Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 13 point lead 10 minutes into the game and controlled the final 30 minutes, keeping the lead in double digits the entire way. Cousins had another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Darnell Dodson scored 16 points while getting a rare start to lead UK.

      Vanderbilt (#18, #20)Jermaine Beal scored 25 points and Vanderbilt won its 10th straight game with an 85-76 victory over No. 14 Tennessee on Wednesday night. It was Vandy’s first win in Knoxville in five tries and its first win over a ranked opponent this season.  A.J. Ogilvy added 12 points and three other Commodores hit double digits as Vandy shot 50.7% for the game.  Vanderbilt fell behind Kentucky early at Rupp Arena in that Saturday game  and could never regroup, falling 85-72 to the Wildcats.  The Commodores were outrebounded 39-21 by the Wildcats. Beal led the way for Vandy with 19 points and shot 4-8 from beyond the arc.  Ogilvy added 12 for the Commodores.

      Tennessee (#14, #14)J.P Prince scored 22 points on 9-10 shooting but it was not enough for the Volunteers to defend their home court in a 85-76 loss to Vanderbilt.  Scotty Hopson and Bobby Maze added 14 and 12 points, respectively, as the Vols fell to 3-2 in the SEC.  Hopson hit a jumper with :17 remaining to give the Volunteers a thrilling 61-60 win over the Florida Gators on Sunday.  The shot allowed the Vols to notch their sixth straight win over the Gators.  Wayne Chism had 16 points and 11 boards to lead the Vols and help them avoid a three game losing streak.

      FloridaAlex Tyus scored 23 points, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton added 21 apiece, and Florida beat Georgia on Wednesday, 87-71.  The Gators extended their winning streak to four and continued their recent domination in the series. Florida has won 12 of their last 13 meetings versus the Bulldogs. Tyus missed a short jumper with five seconds left and, in a game televised nationally on CBS this past Sunday, the Gators went down to a sixth straight loss in games against Tennessee.  Tyus led the Gators with 18 points, and Chandler Parsons added 14.  Parsons hit a late 3-pointer to give the Gators a lead, and was in a position to hit his third game-winning shot of the year.  A Scotty Hopson jumper dashed those dreams and gave UT the lead for good.

      South Carolina — Devan Downey took nearly half his team’s shots and threw in 30 points to lead his Gamecocks to a 68-62 win over Kentucky.  Downey took over the game during the closing minutes and the Wildcats had no answer on covering him.  Brandis Raley-Ross added 17 points and gave the Gamecocks another scoring option they had been lacking recently.  Kentucky was the first #1 team that the  Gamecocks have defeated in eight attempts.  Downey had 33 points, including the driving basket with 50 seconds left, that gave South Carolina a 78-77 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Gamecocks trailed 63-54 with less than 10 minutes remaining but then Downey scored 12 out of the Gamecocks’ final 24 points down the stretch.  Sam Muldrow added 19 points and 11 boards for South Carolina.

      Georgia –  Ricky McPhee drained five three pointers and scored 21 points on Wednesday, but the Bulldogs were still blown out by the Gators, 87-71.  The Bulldogs were, in effect, a three man team with Trey Thompkins scoring 24 and Travis Leslie adding 11/8/4 in the loss.  The two other players Georgia started scored a total of just eight points and the Bulldogs wasted a 59% shooting night in a 16 point loss.  Georgia’s had it’s share of tough losses this season, but the 78-77 loss at South Carolina on Saturday may have been its toughest.  The Bulldogs became the latest team that could not control Devan Downey down the stretch as he hit the game winner with :50 left.  Leslie and Thompkins had 21 and 18 points, respectively.

      WEST

      Mississippi StateRavern Johnson scored 19 points to lead Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs blew an 11 point lead and lost to Arkansas on Thursday night, 67-62.  Barry Stewart and Kodi Augustus respectively scored 11 and 10 points.  Augustus added 10 boards for the double-double and Jarvis Varnado grabbed 14 rebounds.  Three days later, the Bulldogs snapped a two game SEC skid as Mississippi State beat LSU, 67-51. Johnson led the way with 15 points and Varnado had another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to aid the Bulldogs’ cause.  Phil Turner added 12 points off the bench for Mississippi State.

      Mississippi (#25, –)Chris Warren scored 20 points, Terrico White had 19 and the Rebels weathered Auburn’s 3-point shooting before pulling out an 84-74 victory.  The Rebels shot 57% overall, and scored 46 points in the paint. They got 53 points from their three starting guards, including 14 from Eniel Polynice.  The Rebels won back to back road games in the SEC for the first time in nine seasons.  The Ole Miss Rebels lost a big chance to hold on to first place in the West as they were upset at home by the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday. Warren and Polynice had 17 and 15 points, respectively, but White suffered through a 3-14 shooting night.

      ArkansasCourtney Fortson scored a career-high 35 points, carrying Arkansas through the second half as the Razorbacks rallied for a 67-62 win over Mississippi State this past Thursday.  Fortson scored 33 of his points in the second half, repeatedly drawing fouls and converting inside, despite his 5’11 frame. Arkansas trailed 49-38 at one point but came back to earn a much-needed victory.  Stefan Walsh hit three 3-pointers and added 12 points off the bench.   After winning two games in the Southeastern Conference last season, Arkansas is suddenly 3-3 and has notched back-to-back wins over Western Division-leading teams.  The latest upset came at Oxford on Sunday as Arkansas dumped the Ole Miss Rebels, 80-73.  Michael Washington scored 22 points, Marshawn Powell added 19, and Rotnei Clarke posted 18 for the Jekyl-and-Hyde Razorbacks.

      Alabama –  The Crimson Tide held the toothless LSU Tigers to just 13 points in the second half on Wednesday and blew LSU out, 57-38.  Charvez Davis scored 15 points off the bench in just 18 minutes to lead the Crimson Tide while Mikhail Torrance and Tony Mitchell both scored 10 points.  Mitchell added 10 boards for a double-double in that one.  Everytime Alabama takes a step forward and seems like a contender in the West, they take a step or two back.  Such was the case in Alabama’s 58-57 loss to Auburn on Saturday. Torrance led the way with 13 points an  added 10 points. Auburn -  The Auburn Tigers hit 11 three-pointers, including five by Tay Waller, but it was not enough to hold off the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night.  Waller scored 21 points in the 84-74 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 15 points and Lucas Hargrove 10 as the Tigers dropped a tough one on their home court.  Hargrove hit a free throw with three seconds left on Saturday to lift Auburn to a 58-57 win over Alabama. The Crimson Tide led 55-51 with 2:58 left in the game, but Hargrove, who finished with 14 points, had a dunk and converted a three-point play to cut Alabama’s lead to 57-56. Waller hit 3 3-pointers and scored 20 points, continuing his hot play.

      LSU – The Tigers had a dreadful night on Wednesday, shooting just 29.2% from the field and 11.1% from long range as LSU suffered a 57-38 loss to Alabama.  LSU scored just 13 points in the second half.  Tasmin Mitchell and Dennis Harris “led” the Tigers wiwth 8 points each.  LSU suffered through yet another horrid shooting stretch as they suffered a 67-51 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday.  The Tigers shot just 34% from the floor and Mitchell was the only Tiger in double digits with 26 points — more than half his team’s total.

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      Checking in on… the SEC

      Posted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010

       
      Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

      EAST
      1. Kentucky                  18-0         (3-0)
      2. Vanderbilt                 14-3         (3-0)
      3. Tennessee                14-2        (2-0)
      4. South Carolina           11-6        (2-1)
      5. Florida                      12-5         (1-2)
      6. Georgia                      8-8         (0-3)
      WEST
      1. Mississippi State     15-3          (3-0)
      2. Arkansas                  8-9          (1-1)
      3. Mississippi              13-4          (1-2)
      4. Alabama                 11-6          (1-2)
      5. LSU                        9-8           (0-3)
      6. Auburn                    9-9           (0-3)

      The talk of the SEC being a vastly improved conference may have been a bit premature once we got into conference play.  I still think the SEC will have five sure-fire seeds in the NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Mississippi) with Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama being bubble teams at this time.  Mississippi had two losses to ranked teams, but I still think they are tournament-worthy.

      The Tennessee situation got a little more resolved this week as it was announced that Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum will be rejoining the Vols but Brian Williams still remains on suspension indefinitely.  The trio were suspended because of a January 1st arrest on guns and drug charges.  Tyler Smith was dismissed from the team.

      Speaking of the Vols, they have now solidified themselves inside top 10 as they find themselves as the #8 team in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Kentucky still holds onto the #2 spot in each of the polls this week — for now.  Mississippi is still hanging around in the polls at #22 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today and Mississippi State re-enters the AP at #23.  Vanderbilt is on the verge of entering both polls also.

      Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe was named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in wins at Florida and at Auburn.  Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado named SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks in wins over Arkansas and Georgia.

      MUST-SEE GAMES OF THE WEEK

      • 1/19 – Tennessee (14-2) @ Alabama (11-6) – 7 PM – ESPN
      • 1/20 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Mississippi (13-4) – 9PM – ESPN 360
      • 1/21 – Florida (12-5) @ Arkansas (8-9) – 9 PM – ESPN
      • 1/23 – Mississippi State (15-3) @ Alabama (11-6) – 12PM – CBS; Mississippi (13-4) @ LSU (9-8) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
      • 1/23 – Arkansas (8-9) @ Kentucky (18-0) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
      • 1/23 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Florida (12-5) – 6 PM – ESPN
      TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25, ESPN/USA Today)

      EAST:
      • Kentucky (#2, #2) -  On Tuesday, Kentucky used a 17-4 run over the last 5:00 to put away the Florida Gators in Gainesville, 89-77.  This was the first win for Kentucky at Gainesville since 2004.  UK was led by Eric Bledsoe’s 25 points.  John Wall added 17 points and Patrick Patterson 15.  Three days later, Kentucky built an early 19 point lead on Auburn but the Tigers gave UK their best shot and chipped away to eventually tie the game at 60.  Kentucky pulled away over the last 6:00 or so to win their second straight road game, 72-67, and remain perfect on the season.  Kentucky was led by 16 points and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins and 13 points each from Wall and Bledsoe.
      • VanderbiltJeffery Taylor broke open a tie game with :06 left by hitting one of two free throws and Vanderbilt held off Alabama to win 65-64 at Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.  A.J. Ogilvy and Taylor scored 13 points to lead Vandy and freshman John Jenkins hit three of four 3-pointers to finish with 11 off the bench.  It was a battle of 2-0 SEC teams on Saturday as Vanderbilt traveled to South Carolina.  Ogilvy scored 18 of 22 points in the second half as Vanderbilt won their eighth straight game with an 89-79 victory over South Carolina.  Taylor led with 16 for the Commodores.
      • Tennessee – Starting center Wayne Chism scored 12 points, not to mention 12 rebounds and six steals as Tennessee (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) shook off a slow start to beat Auburn on Thursday, 81-55.  Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince both had 14 points for the Volunteers, while Scotty Hopson chipped in 11 and Kenny Hall added ten.  Chism played 41 minutes and scored 26 points, including six consecutive free throws in overtime, to bail Tennessee out as the Volunteers beat Mississippi 71-69 just two days later.  Prince added 13 points as the Vols won their sixth straight game.
      • South CarolinaDevan Downey scored 29 points and had seven rebounds to lead South Carolina to a 67-58 win over LSU on Wednesday.  The Gamecocks trailed 49-47 with about 9:00 remaining when they went on a 17-1 streak that sealed the game.  Downey was 6-12 on 3-pointers and Brandis Raley-Ross also put in 12 for the Gamecocks.  On Saturday, Downey had 35 points and 6 steals but that was not enough to prevent a home court 89-79 loss to Vanderbilt.  Raley-Ross and Lakeem Jackson also put in 11 points apiece.
      • Florida -  The Gators dropped to 0-2 conference play for the first time in the Billy Donovan era on Tuesday with their 89-77 loss to Kentucky.  Erving Walker nailed four 3-pointers and had 20 points, and Alex Tyus added 17.  The last time UF was 0-2 in conference play was 1996 — the year before Donovan arrived.  On Saturday, Kenny Boynton had 18 points as the Gators won a battle of winless SEC teams over LSU, 72-58.  Chandler Parsons had 11 points as he moved into the starting lineup and all five Gator starters scored in double figures.  On the downside, the Gator bench only managed four points in the win.
      • Georgia -  The Bulldogs gave the 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels all they wanted on Wednesday night, but fell short in a 80-76 loss.  The Bulldogs, who were coming off an eight point loss at #2 Kentucky last Saturday, were in this game until the final seconds.  Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs scoring with 21 points and Travis Leslie added 17 for Georgia.  Georgia then took another tough loss on Saturday as they fell 72-69 to Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs had leads of 41-30 and 64-51 but could not maintain.  Thompkins and Leslie led the way with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
      WEST:
      • Mississippi State -  Jarvis Varnado  had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks for his second triple-double, and Mississippi State just held on to beat Arkansas 82-80 on Thursday night.  The Bulldogs opened an early 19-point lead, but had to repel a late rally by the Razorbacks who cut it to three with 32 seconds left.  Dee Bost had 20 to lead the Bulldogs, and Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart also scored in double digits.  Bost and Phil Turner each scored 15 points to lead Mississippi State to a 72-69 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Bulldogs had to overcome a pair of 10-point deficits in beating the Bulldogs.
      • Arkansas – On Thursday night the Razorbacks mounted a furious second half rally but fell just short at Starkville, losing 82-80 to Mississippi State.  The Hogs fought back from 19 down but could not complete the comeback.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson had 25 and 20 points, respectively, to help the Razorbacks fight back.  On Saturday the Razorbacks were feeling it, as three players posted double-doubles in a 71-59 win over Alabama. Powell had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Washington scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Razorbacks. Fortson  had 12 points and 10 assists, and Rotnei Clarke also scored 17.
      • MississippiEniel Polynice scored off an inbounds pass to himself with 11.3 seconds remaining on Wednesday night, and Mississippi (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) handed Georgia another tough loss, 80-76.  Polynice finished with 10 and Chris Warren added 12 to lead the Rebels.  Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham each scored 11 off the bench to aid the Rebel cause.  Then on Saturday Ole Miss led most of the second half but could not hold off the Volunteers in Knoxville losing in OT, 71-69.  Warren and Terrico White led the Rebels with 19 and 17 points, respectively, and Graham scored 16 off the bench.
      • Alabama – The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early 10 point lead and led most of the game on Wednesday evening, but could not hold on in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Vanderbilt.  Mikhail Torrance had 23 points on 9-13 shooting and Tony Mitchell added ten points off the bench for Alabama.  ‘Bama’s tough start in the SEC continued on Saturday with a loss to Arkansas, 71-59.  Torrance led the way with 15 points and JaMychal Green added 13 as the Tide lost their second straight.
      • LSU – The Tigers led most of the game against South Carolina but fell apart the last 9:00 as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 67-58 win.  LSU is not getting much production from any players not named Storm Warren (19 points), Bo Spencer (14) or Tasmin Mitchell (13).  Those three scored 47 of the Tiger’s 58 points.  The Tigers’ rough season got rougher as they were dumped by the Gators at Gainesville by a score of 72-58.  Mitchell was the only Tiger with more than 8 points as LSU’s season seems to be in freefall.
      • Auburn – Traveling to Knoxville on Thursday, the Tigers battled with the Tennessee Vols in the first half and trailed just 38-37 at the break, but Auburn could not keep up with the Vols in the second half and suffered a 81-55 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 19 points and Frankie Sullivan contributed 14 to lead the Tigers.  At home against Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Auburn came back from a 19-point deficit and eventually tied UK at 60 late in the second half, but went cold from the field over the last few minutes as the Wildcats pulled away for a 72-67 win.  Auburn was led by Reed with 19 points and Frankie Sullivan’s 15.
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