SEC Weekly Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 8th, 2012

  1. Let’s talk scheduling, but enough about the soap opera between Kentucky and Indiana. There’s a new drama between Syracuse and Arkansas, and it turns out to be much ado about nothing. Syracuse originally refused to play in Fayetteville, but has relented to the powers that be and will play Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks after all. “We discussed our concerns regarding Syracuse’s participation in the SEC/Big East Challenge with the conference and have come to an agreement on the logistics of the game,” Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said in a statement. “The Big East Conference will work with us to assist in our on-conference scheduling for the 2012-13 season.” Not sure that Syracuse ever had a choice in the matter, but good to see everyone in agreement.
  2. Guards Jelan Kendrick and Maurice Aniefiok are leaving the Ole Miss program, according to a spokesman for the Rebels. Aniefiok averaged just 1.5 points and 0.8 rebounds per game in only 6.9 minutes per game. He struggled from the field shooting just 25.8 percent. Kendrick, a former McDonald’s All American, averaged 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game off the bench. Kendrick showed promise on the court, but struggled with off the court issues and with his relationship with coach Andy Kennedy.
  3. Welcome to the SEC, Missouri and Texas A&M. And how does the conference ensure a collegial  environment? By throwing a party, of course. However, the official welcome is set to expire soon. Missouri opens up football play with Georgia on September 8, and Tigers head football coach Gary Pinkel provided advice that could be relevant in college basketball this season as well. “I understand everyone is going to want to watch how A&M and Missouri do, coming from the Big 12 into this league. My big thing, when you’re new like we are, you’ve got to earn respect. That’s what we’re going to try to do.” Missouri instantly joins Kentucky and Florida at the top of the SEC power rankings this year in basketball, so the respect factor may come much quicker on the hardwood for the Tigers.
  4. Tennessee standout Jarnell Stokes has been named as a finalist for the U18 USA Men’s Basketball National Team. Committee chair Jim Boeheim spoke of the difficulty in making selections saying, “You had 23 guys who all are really good players, there wasn’t a bad player here. To get down to 12 is going to be difficult but I think we’re going to end up with a really good athletic team that is going to be very well coached. I think we’ve got an unbelievable coaching staff. I think we’ve got guys that have won, been winners, won state championships, and I think they’ll represent USA Basketball extremely well in this tournament.” Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan serves as the head coach for the team, which will make its final roster cuts on June 12.
  5. If you were a head basketball coach and every SEC head coaching position was open and available to you, which would you choose? Well, ESPN’s college basketball gurus made their choices and Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri top the list as desirable positions while Ole Miss, Auburn, and South Carolina finish out the bottom of the pack. No major gripes here on the order, but the placement of one school, in particular, was interesting. Mississippi State has been relatively successful recently, yet they rank number 11 on the list. I agree with the reasoning behind the placement, but if this is all true, why chase off Rick Stansbury? He enabled the Bulldogs to compete in the SEC and he recruited well for what we are now calling a bottom tier SEC basketball job. Sounds like Mississippi State was exceeding expectations with a coach at the level of Stansbury.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 16th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury announced his retirement after 14 years in Starkville. Stansbury will continue to work at MSU in a yet-to-be-determined position, said athletic director Scott Stricklin. Accoring to the Clarion-Ledger report, Stricklin “didn’t rule out interviewing current MSU assistants for the job. ’We’ll see; we’re wide open. I wouldn’t dismiss that idea.’” In that same piece, Dee Bost, the Bulldogs’ departing senior point guard, tweeted out an endorsement for long-time assistant coach Phil Cunningham. “Coach Stans retired,” tweeted Bost. “I think all alumni and fans should try to get Coach Cunningham as coach.”
  2. Vanderbilt won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2007. In a Tennesseean article by Michael Cass, he writes of a “banner year” for the Commodores and of some of the possible ramifications this year’s SEC title could bring. One Nashville native said, “For high school players, I don’t see how you can watch that (SEC championship game) and see the collection of talent Coach Stallings has put together and not want to be a part of it.” Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said, “On such a big national stage, to have Vanderbilt, obviously one of the greatest academic institutions in the world, beat the No. 1 team, win a championship in the greatest athletic conference in the country, it brings a lot of benefit to the university.”
  3. Alabama‘s Friday opponent, Creighton, utilized a popular practice technique to help prepare for the Crimson’s Tides press defense.  ”There’s times when we’ve had seven defenders out there guarding five,” said Doug McDermott, the Bluejays’ All-America sophomore forward. ”Our scout team guys probably aren’t as athletic and don’t have as much length as their guys do.”
  4. Like Dwight Howard announced today, another big man from the Sunshine State announced he would be staying for additional year when Florida sophomore center Patric Young said in the locker room Thursday that he intends to come back for his junior season. “That’s the first that I heard of that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “So that’s always great news. I think Patric has learned a lot this year. I don’t think this year was as easy for him as he thought it was going to be.”
  5. Western Kentucky head coach Ray Harper pointed out a facet of the game where the Kentucky Wildcats will have to improve if it hopes to win an eighth national title. ”If they want to advance and win a national championship, they’re going to have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter,” Harper said. ”They’re going to have to find somebody else that can make a shot from the perimeter.” The Wildcats have shot just 23.8% from the three-point arc going back to the start of the SEC Tournament and have not shot better than 30% in any of those four games. Doron Lamb is 4-for-15 in that stretch; Darius Miller is 2-for-12; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague are a combined 0-6.
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Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2012

  1. With how his team has performed this season we figured it would only be a matter of time before something and in the end it was the coach who made the first move. Yesterday, Rick Stansbury announced that he was stepping down as coach at Mississippi State. To those who followed the program it should not be that much of a surprise despite Stansbury’s 293-165 record in 14 seasons at the school. Despite loading up on enough talent to easily make the NCAA Tournament, Stansbury could not coax his team to play well. At the end of the season one of the team’s stars stated that he did not think that his team had the resolve to bounce back to make the NCAA Tournament. Fittingly, Stansbury’s career ended with his team playing uninspired during a home loss in the first round of the NIT.
  2. It was 23 years ago that Rumeal Robinson sank two of the biggest free throws in college basketball history to give Michigan a national championship. Since that time his life has been a little less than ideal. Most people who frequent this site are aware of his relatively uninspiring pro career and his legal troubles, but we have not seen a story that detailed his life as well as the one in the upcoming issue of ESPN The Magazine. You are probably going to spend most of your day looking over the carnage that is your bracket and planted on a couch watching TV, but if you are going to read one article today that isn’t directly related to the NCAA Tournament this would be an excellent one to pick.
  3. With the season nearing its conclusion (yes, we know it is awful) John Gasaway takes a look back at 12 proposed “fixes” for college basketball that he came up with in 2010 and proposes some updates. Some of the proposals have already been implemented, which John no doubt takes credit for, but some of them appear to be a long way away. Some of them are a little ridiculous (he was probably straining to get to 12 back in 2010), but there are several that we would like to see. Which ones do you think are the most reasonable to implement?
  4. Corey Schmidt, Gasaway’s colleague at Basketball Prospectus, goes with someone a little more in their site’s wheelhouse–analyzing whether or not you need a go-to player to win a national championship. After looking at the data, we are not sure that the data says a lot other than you can win it different ways. While the raw data in the post is interesting we would like to see someone provide some work with a “control” (or case control) team that did not win the championship. The data set being used is obviously too small to come to any legitimate conclusions, but it could serve as a nice starting point for someone to build on for a bigger project.
  5. If you were overwhelmed by all the action yesterday and need to catch up, we have you covered. Outside of our interview with Charles Barkley we also filed our new “Rushed Reaction” from courtside of every single game yesterday. We plan on doing the latter again today and if you are looking for more direct interaction beyond our national Twitter feed, we suggest you check out our feeds for the East, South, Midwest, and West regions. Our correspondents will be filing direct reports from all the locations within the region including pictures and answering any questions you may have.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 15th, 2012

  1. Alabama’s first round opponent will feature a clash in style from the Crimson Tide’s defensive philosophy. Creighton, the #9 seed matched up with Alabama in the round of 64, features a fast-paced offense ranked fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency and the third highest scorer in the nation in Doug McDermott. “Their defensive numbers are very impressive, holding teams to under 30 percent from the 3-point line and under 40 percent shooting for the year,” said Creighton coach Greg McDermott. “They are obviously are going to provide some difficulties for us as we try to get into our offense and try to score at the rim. Anthony Grant has done a great job wherever he’s been and, obviously, what he’s done with the Alabama program in a short period of time is no exception.” Alabama may be a well oiled machine on defense, but its offensive numbers are the largest concern. The Tide are shooting 45.2 percent from the field and an alarming 28.5 percent from beyond the arc. Alabama’s defense has to be good to overcome those abysmal statistics.
  2. After 14 seasons with the Bulldogs, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury may be on the hot seat for his team’s performance over the last two years. After an infamous fight amongst teammates in the Diamondhead Classic last year in Hawaii, the conflict didn’t improve much this year for the disappointing Bulldogs. After starting out at 19-5 and climbing as high as #15 in the AP poll, Mississippi State imploded on its way to losing seven of its last nine games. In response to being on the hot seat, Stansbury said, “You know, I haven’t given it any thought and I think you know this: what we’ve done through 14 years speaks for itself. That’s all I can say about it.” Too often, unrealistic expectations fail to take into account a successful history and reputation. It is a shame to see long term success at one school go out the window in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society that focuses on the immediate past.
  3. Vanderbilt enjoyed unprecedented success with its second SEC Tournament championship ever. After hitting an emotional high on Sunday with their win over the Kentucky Wildcats, many wonder if the Commodores will be able to regain their composure and focus for the NCAA Tournament. Kevin Stallings is feeling good with where his team is at mentally. “We had a long talk about the need to do just that, the need to refocus our energy and refocus our minds,” Stallings said. “We were off (Monday), so we just got finished practicing (Tuesday morning). They’ve had a good focus about them. They weren’t hung over from Sunday, I don’t think.” Vanderbilt opens tournament play with #12 seed Harvard. Harvard is a good defensive team, holding opponents to a 40.6 percent field goal percentage on the year, but the Commodores’ porous defense of year’s past is much improved as they held Kentucky to just 35.9 percent shooting from the field during Sunday’s victory.
  4. One doesn’t need to be a basketball expert to decipher that Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis is good at basketball, but analyst Jay Bilas saw Davis’ potential at a Nike skills camp and came away most impressed with his hands. Davis attributes his time playing as a guard before hitting a growth spurt as the key to his soft touch.  “When you’re a guard, you’re going to have great hands,” Davis said. “Most ‘bigs’ will not have great hands. That’s a great attribute I have. It really helps, especially when they throw lobs or quick passes. To be able to catch it and finish around the rim.” While Bilas is impressed with Davis’ hands, I am impressed with the development of his offensive game throughout the course of the season, in some part due to his soft touch around the rim. The freshman center went from scoring almost exclusively on lobs and offensive rebounds to where he establishes himself on the low block with a variety of post moves. Davis has scored in double digits in 12 of his past 13 games and 21 of the past 23, including a double double in six of the last seven games.
  5. Tennessee won its first NIT game against Savannah State even with forward Jeronne Maymon not playing. “You’re talking about an all-league player, a guy who rebounds, a guy who posts really strong, a guy who helps facilitate the offense,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martinsaid. “You’re talking about your team leader.” Maymon averages 12.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game and is currently being evaluated on a day-to-day basis. The Vols face a tough Middle Tennessee State team in the next round in Knoxville, and will need Maymon’s rebounding ability after he grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in his last game against Ole Miss. Tennessee finished on Tuesday with an offensive rebounding percentage of 22.9 percent, which was its third lowest output on the season.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.13.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 13th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State is disappointed with being on the outside of the bubble, but it must find the will to play against Massachusetts in the NIT Tournament on Tuesday. “It’ll be a huge challenge for us, as you well know, but there is no one to blame but us,” Rick Stansbury said. “We had our opportunities. Most of the time this time of the year you’re trying to play your way in and we basically played our way out. We had a bad two-and-a-half week stretch and lose five in a row, and, again, had plenty of opportunities in all those games to close it out. And then we don’t close it out against Georgia down there.” The Bulldogs have lost six of their last eight, obviously heading in the opposite direction from the team that cracked the top 25 and looked as though they would be a tough out in March.
  2. Vanderbilt was able to secure its second conference tournament title through defense and hot shooting, but its coach attributes a lot of their success to caring about each other. “When you invest a lot, you care a lot,” Kevin Stallings said. “What I’m most proud of is the investment that’s occurred by this group of young men in our program. To see those guys get to experience what they experienced, that was a great feeling for me.” While this sounds more like a Dove for Men commercial, the Commodores have had the same core together for three to four years and it’s starting to pay dividends after several disappointing years.
  3. Tennessee is excited to continue playing even if it fell short of the ultimate goal of making the NCAA Tournament. “As a coach, I can’t be upset because of the progress we made,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Our goal is to make the NCAA tournament every year, and barring injuries, we have the talent to do that every year. But this isn’t disappointing this season considering where we started from.” Former Tennessee coach and current NIT Selection Committee member Don Devoe believes that the NIT is a building block for next season. “I know a lot of people are disappointed they lost to Ole Miss, but this can be a really special thing for the team and a springboard into the future.” The Volunteers will bring their pesky defense to a first round matchup with Savannah State in the NIT on Tuesday night in Thompson Boling Arena.
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari has faith in Tennessee’s success in the NIT — if it puts its mind to it. “I would suggest they will have a good run in the NIT — if they choose that,’’ Calipari said. “A lot of teams go in there and they’re mad about having to play in the NIT. I’ve had teams (at Memphis) that loved it, because of where we were at that time.” Was this a classic Calipari dig at an old rival or genuine belief in a team that gave Cal’s Wildcats a true test on the road? The Vols certainly have something to prove and will compete for much more than NIT titles once Martin replenishes the talent in Knoxville.
  5. Speaking of Kentucky’s outspoken coach, Calipari wasn’t exactly thrilled with his team’s draw in the South region. “The only thing I was happy about is I heard (the committee) was trying to get an exemption for the (Miami) Heat to be the second seed in our bracket, and they weren’t allowed to get that, so they couldn’t put them in there, too,” Calipari said. It certainly seems that for the #1 overall seed, the Wildcats drew an awfully tough bracket. However, there is not one team in Kentucky’s region that seems to be a true roadblock to UK’s fifteenth Final Four appearance.
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RTC’s 2012 SEC Tournament Preview

Posted by EMoyer on March 8th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Tournament Preview

Tournament Tidbits

  • Kentucky is the top seed in the modified SEC Tournament. After 20 years of seeding based on divisional finishes, the 12 teams were seeded #1 through #12. This change allowed for four former “Eastern Division” schools (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida) to claim the first-round byes. In previous years, the Commodores and Gators would have had to play first round games and the 9-7 Alabama and 8-8 Mississippi State squads would have had byes.
  • Anthony Davis swept the SEC year-end awards, claiming Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year. There exists some history of SEC Players of the Year leading his team to a tournament title and claiming Tournament MVP honors in the process. In 25 years of the Coaches SEC Player of the Year, five have doubled up with Tournament MVP honors. Four of those players came from Kentucky (Ron Mercer, 1997; Tayshaun Prince, 2001; Keith Bogans, 2003; John Wall, 2010). Only one Defensive Player of the Year, Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnadoin 2009, went on to earn Tournament MVP honors (the award began in 2004). No SEC Freshman of the Year has won Tournament MVP honors in the same season (that award began in 2001).

    Anthony Davis Swept The SEC's Three Major Postseason Awards. Will The Dynamic Davis Add A Tournament MVP To His Growing List Of Accolades? (AP)

  • The Wildcats will go for its fourth “three-peat.” Kentucky won SEC Tournament titles from 1944-50, 1992-95 and from 1997-99. The only other programs to win three straight SEC titles are Alabama (1989-91) and Florida (2005-07).
  • Kentucky enters the SEC Tournament off a perfect 16-0 record in league games. In nine previous seasons, the Wildcats also posted perfect conference records leading up the conference tournament. Kentucky has gone on to win seven of those tournament titles, losing to Vanderbilt in 1951 and Mississippi State in 1996. The loss to the Bulldogs also came in New Orleans

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SEC Morning Five: 2.22.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 22nd, 2012

  1. Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators are trying to take things one game at a time, but it is proving difficult as Florida fights for a higher seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. “I don’t really talk to them about the seeding and those kind of things,” Donovan said. “I’ve always been a big believer you kind of take care what’s in front of you right then, and now and talking about something that’s going to be two or three weeks down the road, that will come.” Florida insists it is focusing on Auburn, but even point guard Erving Walker admits he “sometimes” checks mock tournament websites like brackets produced by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. And what is his opinion of Florida’s current placement on those websites? “Joe Lunardi is wrong sometimes,” Walker said.
  2. One team that needs to begin peeking at mock NCAA Tournament sites if it is not already doing so is the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are currently on the bubble according to USA Today’s latest bracketology. “What’s going on with the Bulldogs,” asks USA Today writer Nicole Auerbach. “Three not-great losses in a row. Need to turn things around quick, but for now, MSU stays in the field because of those three Top 50 wins.” After a tough home loss to Kentucky on Tuesday night, Mississippi State has another chance for a big win against Alabama that could propel the Bulldogs onto solid ground.
  3. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury prepared for his team’s matchup with Kentucky on Tuesday by taking a shot at former player Twany Beckham who transferred to Kentucky. “I saw his stats the other day in SEC play. Did he make one or attempt one shot,” asked Stansbury. “He’s seeing some pretty good basketball. He’s getting a front-row ticket every night. Yes, sir.” But Beckham fired right back via his Twitter account saying, “that dude wanna coach where I’m playin at…not worried at all”. Although Beckham didn’t play against the Bulldogs on Tuesday night, it certainly added fuel to an already heated rivalry.
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari played a game of his own, as he praised Stansbury’s Bulldogs relentlessly prior to Tuesday’s showdown.Dee Bost is good. You’ve got guys that could go for 30 (points),” Calipari said. “You’ve got five of them that could go for 30. All the sudden, you’re not just, ‘Stop this guy.’ You can’t do it that way. You’ve got to play basketball and try to make it difficult for them.” While Calipari’s point about the strength of the Bulldogs roster was not lost, not a single player on the Bulldogs roster has scored 30 points all season. But Calipari zeroed in on the most likely player to do so, and the one who has come the closest, Arnett Moultrie. “Arnett could go for 35 or 40 (points),” Calipari said. “It could happen, just like (Jeffery) Taylor went for whatever he went for (23 first-half points) against Mississippi.” Calipari’s motivation tactics worked yet again for the Wildcats as they rallied in the second half on Tuesday night, while not allowing a single Mississippi State player to get to 30 points during the game.
  5. Georgia coach Mark Fox had high praise for Vanderbilt shooting guard John Jenkins after the Commodores defeated the Dogs 61-52 on Sunday. Jenkins buried six of eight three point shots on his way to 28 points.“He’s the best shooter I’ve ever coached against,” Fox said about the reigning SEC Player of the Week. “I mean he’s phenomenal. He really is.” On the season, the Bulldogs have been a fairly strong team in guarding the perimeter shot. The 10 made threes by the Commodores were tied for the most Georgia has given up all season. Then again, it is difficult to defend Jenkins, who is a special player with an incredible outside shot. “We didn’t defend him well today all around,” Georgia guard Gerald Robinson said. “Everybody got a piece, got a taste in zone. The guy can shoot, flat-out shoot it. No ands, ifs or buts about it.”
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SEC Morning Five: 02.21.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 21st, 2012

  1. The final two Alabama players enduring suspensions, senior JaMychal Green and junior Tony Mitchell, reached some level of closure as Green, who has missed the past three games, was reinstated to return to practice. Mitchell, who has missed the past four games after being suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, will remain suspended for the rest of the season, head coach Anthony Grant said on Monday.
  2. Kentucky hosted the newly reclassified star recruit Nerlens Noel during Saturday’s 77-62 victory against Ole Miss. On Twitter (@NerlensNoel3) he said “Kentucky trip went well. Them fans are suttin else, showed alot of love.” Noel took an unofficial visit to Syracuse last weekend for the Orange’s 85-67 win over Connecticut. He’s also slated to make upcoming trips to Florida , Georgetown and North Carolina.
  3. In his weekly teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said Renardo Sidney might sit out his second consecutive game with back spasms when Mississippi State hosts No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday.“I’ll probably know at game time, if you want to know the truth,” Stansbury said. “It’s very obvious we need his big body out there, especially with our lack of depth. That’s the thing. We missed him over there Saturday with just giving us another guy you can throw in the block who can score. We need that depth defensively in there, body-wise. It’s very obvious — against a Kentucky team, as talented as they are — you need everybody you can possibly get. We don’t just need his body, we need his body to play well for us to have any chance at all.”
  4. Florida head coach Billy Donovan said he’s hopeful Mike Rosario will return for Tuesday’s game with Auburn. “I would say that he can sometimes be a little bit over-cautious, whether it be his lower back dealing with a disk problem or a sprained ankle,” Donovan said. “He gets worried a lot of times mentally, himself, that he’s going to re-injure himself or hurt himself where he doesn’t feel right.” Rosario, who has missed six games this season, returned to practice last week but pulled himself out when the hip pointer started to bother him.
  5. The SEC announced its weekly awards with Vanderbilt junior John Jenkins earning his third career Player of the Week award (his first of 2011-12) and Florida’s Bradley Beal claiming his sixth Freshman of the Week honor. Jenkins, who won twice during his sophomore campaign, averaged 27.0 points per game in wins at Ole Miss and Georgia. He shot 81.3% from the floor (13-16), 83.3% from three (10-12), and 85.7% from the free throw line (18-21).  Beal averaged 17.5 points per game in helping the Gators score a pair of road wins at Alabama and Arkansas. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 20th, 2012

  1. With Anthony Davis on the bench in foul trouble during the first half of Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss, the Cats needed another game changer. Kentucky received a boost from freshman Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer scored 13 points, his SEC high on five of six shooting, including three of four three point shooting. “I really (give) credit to my hard work this week,” Wiltjer said. “I’ve really put in a lot of time getting extra reps because I really feel that pays off and builds confidence.” Wiltjer must continue improving on rebounding and defense in order to keep getting playing time down the stretch.
  2. Another Wildcat had to step up because of Davis’ absence in the first half. Terrence Jones recorded his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. But coach John Calipari wants this every game. “Terrence, this is what you should be every game we play,” Calipari said. “It should be a double-double. Without an excuse. I don’t want to hear it. You should be a double-double. You’re a top five player.” Jones’ numbers have slipped significantly from his freshman year. Last season, Jones finished with 13 double-doubles on the season.
  3. Mississippi State is 1-5 on the road in the SEC, and after losing to both LSU and Auburn, the Bulldogs have dropped three games in a row. Rick Stansbury‘s squad is looking forward to being back in Starkville as they need a big win over top-ranked Kentucky. “I don’t know if your back is against the wall,” Stansbury said. “You have the best team in the country coming to your place. That’s all you need to feel. That’s all that matters. If you don’t feel that, you don’t feel anything. It’s an opportunity for us. That’s what it is. We’re not worried about our backs. We have a great opportunity ahead of us on Tuesday night. That’s the way we’re going to look at it.” Mississippi State could certainly use the boost. After these recent losses, the Bulldogs have fallen to 57th in the current RPI rankings.
  4. One possible reason for the Bulldogs’ struggles is the absence of forward Renardo Sidney. Sidney sat out Mississippi State’s loss on Saturday due to back spasms. “He said he couldn’t go, so that’s kind of where we left it at,” Stansbury said. Sidney’s presence will be crucial if the Bulldogs have a chance to beat Kentucky on Tuesday. In last season’s game in Lexington, Sidney added 11 points and eight rebounds in an 85-79 loss.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal received a technical foul after a highlight worthy dunk against Alabama. After rising over seven-foot tall Moussa Gueye. Beal and Gators’ center Patric Young, turned to each other, put their hands together and bowed. The referee saw this as a sign of showing off, but was this action really excessive? The Gators were up 12 at the time, giving the Crimson Tide an opportunity to fight back with 1:16 left to play. Luckily for Beal the Gators held on to win, and he didn’t have to feel the wrath of coach Billy Donovan if that play let Alabama back in the game.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.14.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 14th, 2012

  1. He may not be the next John Wall or Brandon Knight, but freshman Marquis Teague is transforming into the type of point guard coach John Calipari is looking for to run his Kentucky Wildcats. “He’s transformed into what one of our typical point guards plays like,” Calipari said. “I’ve been really pleased. But it took a while to get where he is right now.” Over the last six games, Teague has 36 assists and just 11 turnovers. While many headlines focus on the other star-studded freshmen on the Wildcats roster, one needs to look no further than Teague to see the key to a deep run in March.
  2. Speaking of Kentucky’s chances in March, the Eye on College Basketball blog sees the Wildcats going into the tournament without another loss. Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello write, “the Wildcats only have incalculable Miss State and flaky Florida left to play on the road. Then comes the SEC tournament, where Kentucky fans will smother the joint. The chances this team gets to the NCAA tournament 33-1 are better than not, even if Ken Pomeroy is telling us otherwise.” Calipari has taken teams into the NCAA Tournament with one loss twice in his career. Once with Massachusetts in 1996, and once with Memphis in 2008. You may remember both teams advanced to at least a Final Four. Well, at least I thought they did, but I can’t seem to find any evidence to prove those claims.
  3. Mississippi State has struggled on the road this season in the SEC. The Bulldogs are 1-3 away from home after losing to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. “If you go on the road and that team wasn’t very good, hey, the crowd wouldn’t be a factor but the one constant when you go on the road is everybody is good,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “It’s just the way it is. There’s a fine line, a very, very fine line in this league — home or away.” The Bulldogs play at LSU on Tuesday night in what will be an imporant game for both teams. Luckily for Mississippi State, it won’t be playing on the road in the NCAA Tournament in a couple of weeks.
  4. LSU is still hoping to make the NCAA Tournament after a win over an incomplete Alabama team. And The Valley Shook says, “20 wins would definitely put LSU in the NIT, and if they could somehow creep higher than that the NCAA’s remain a possibility if other teams drop some games.” The aforementioned game against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge is shaping up to be an imprtant game for both teams.
  5. Will Yeguete’s injury was mentioned in Monday’s Morning Five, and now both Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario are out for the the Gators’ game on Tuesday night. Yeguete is out with a concussion sustained on Saturday, and Rosario is sidelined by a hip pointer. The Gators also played without Cody Larson on Saturday because of the flu. Florida has lost back to back games for the first time this season, and looks to regain its momentum against Alabama, a team with issues of its own.
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SEC Morning Five: 02.08.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 8th, 2012

  1. In their first game without Tony Mitchell, Alabama handled Auburn, winning the first round of basketball version of the Iron Bowl. On CapstoneReport.com, one writer praises the move by head coach Anthony Grant: “Mitchell is the Tide’s second leading scorer and second on the team in rebounds. But Mitchell leads the team and possibly the SEC in several other undesirable categories: Like pouting when something doesn’t go his way; Playing soft defense, if he plays it at all; Flailing around on the floor like a soccer player after receiving just a bump or scratch; And in making a jackass of himself in front of thousands of onlookers.”
  2. Shuan Smith’s recovery from major hip surgery at Mississippi State has head coach Rick Stansbury looking to give Smith more quality minutes over the final two months of the season. ”There’s no reason he can’t (give five to eight minutes a game) against everybody,” Stansbury said Monday in the Commercial Dispatch. “If he hadn’t been hurt, I think we’d be way beyond that point, but just because of his situation that’s where we’re at right now.”
  3. Even before Kentucky throttled Florida on Tuesday, Mike Miller of NBCSports.com wrote about the ever-improving Wildcats. He writes ”the ‘Cats are outscoring opponents by an average of .28 points per possession, meaning they basically beat everyone by about 18 points…It starts with the defense. Kentucky has the game’s most intimidating shot-blocker (Anthony Davis, with apologies to Fab Melo), its most versatile defender (freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), a bruiser who does a little of everything (Terrence Jones) and guys who can fill roles as needed (everyone needs a Darius Miller).”
  4. Already moving on to Saturday’s showdown in Nashvillle, David Boclair writes about the contrasting philosophies between Kentucky and Vanderbilt. “Vanderbilt, after all, has put together its most promising team in decades with patience and persistence. Players have stayed in the program, so the current roster includes five scholarship seniors (one of them in his fifth year) and a junior…Kentucky, conversely, likes to rely on one-and-done superstars. Under current coach John Calipari, one of the sport’s legendary programs has made great use of players such as John Wall, Brandon Knight, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, who show up, play one season and promptly jump to the NBA.”
  5. A FoxSportsTennessee.com stories analyzes how turnovers have put the  Commodores in a difficult spot following back-to-back losses. “We didn’t do a very good job of attacking their press, and it was disruptive,” coach Kevin Stallings said of Vandy’s play against the Gators. “We did a poor job with our spacing and our ball-handling, and it caused problems.” Home games vs LSU, and of course Kentucky, could put Vanderbilt back on track to locking up a first-round bye in next month’s SEC Championship.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on January 31st, 2012

  1. Vanderbilt returned to the AP top 25 rankings, checking in at #25 after a week that saw the Commodores defeat a pair of in-state foes – Tennessee on Tuesday and 20-3 Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Their stay inside the top 25 will depend on how they fare in a pair of tough road contests this week. First, Vanderbilt travels to Fayetteville for their one regular-season meeting with Arkansas then follow up that trip with a road contest at #12 Florida on Saturday. Combined, the Razorbacks and Gators own a 27-1 mark on their home floors.
  2. Tuesday also gives a chance to react to the many bracketology projections around the web. Here on RushTheCourt.net, Zach Hayes gave six SEC schools dance invitations: Kentucky as a #1; Florida and Vanderbilt #4s, Mississippi State a #6, Alabama a #11, and Ole Miss a #12 playing in one of the “First Four” contests. He put Arkansas as one of his last four out. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi puts five SEC teams in the field, led by Kentucky as a #1. Vanderbilt and Florida received #4 seeds, Alabama drew a #7 seed, Mississippi State garnered a #8 seed. He put Ole Miss as one of his “Next Four Out.” On SBNation.com, the same five Lunardi put in the field earned spots: Kentucky a #1, Vanderbilt a #4, Florida a #5, Mississippi State a #6, and Alabama a #10. Ole Miss ranked as one of Chris Dobbertean’s Next Four Out.
  3. On the SEC coaches teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury was asked by Brad Locke, of the NEMS Daily Journal about the Sunday report that had Renardo Sidney considering leaving Bulldogs either for the NBA or as a transfer. “Not at all. I don’t know where all those reports come from. No discussion at any time,” Stansbury said. He also asked if the two had discussed Sidney’s future at all. Stansbury: “We haven’t talked one bit about his future plans at all. We’re just trying to get through this season.”
  4. Tuesday’s other SEC contest features a rematch between Tennessee and Kentucky. The Volunteers led by six at halftime and nearly stunned the now top-ranked Wildcats before losing 65-62. Terrence Jones made some interesting comments to Lexington Herald-Leader in regards to Jarnell Stokes. Stokes, who made his collegiate debut in the first Kentucky game, drew a pair of fouls on Jones and finished with nine points and four rebounds in 17 minutes. Despite that, Jones said “I don’t think he really made that big an impact.” In other quotes, Volunteer head coach Cuonzo Martin said “We’re a better team, but now you have to go on the road in a hostile environment and prove it.” Kentucky has won 47 straight at home and hasn’t lost to Tennessee at Rupp Arena since Chris Lofton scored 31 points in a 75-67 win on Feb. 7, 2006.
  5. The third installment of ESPN’s SEC Storied series will premiere on Saturday, February 11. It features Nolan Richardson and his famed “40 Minutes of Hell” style of basketball that culminated in a national championship in 1994. Arkansas fans will be able to catch a screening before the 9 p.m. airing on ESPNU as it will air on the Bud Walton Arena video boards. From the ArkansasSports360.com account, the movie “produced by NASCAR Media Group and directed by Kenan Harris-Holley, includes interviews with former President of the United States Bill Clinton, Richardson himself, former Arkansas Chancellor John White and current Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. Players Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Al Dillard, Ken Biley and John Engskov contribute to the film, as well as radio announcer Mike Nail, author Rus Bradburd and ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Ryan McGee.” You can watch the trailer here.
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