Set Your TiVo: 01.27 – 01.29

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 27th, 2012

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

There aren’t too many big time matchups on the schedule this weekend but it’s still a decent slate of games to keep you occupied.

Mississippi State @ #12 Florida – 1:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com  (***)

Florida May Struggle to Contain the Mississippi State Big Men

  • It has gone largely unnoticed but Florida has won six of its past seven games since losing at Rutgers in December. The Gators bring the top-rated offensive efficiency to the table and are a threat to win any game they play because of it. However, Billy Donovan’s team is thin up front and lacks the lockdown defense elite teams exhibit. Against Mississippi State, Florida could very have major problems dealing with the Bulldogs’ front line. Patric Young attempted double figure shots for only the fifth time this season against Mississippi on Thursday. Without a go-to guy in the post, Florida’s offense revolves around Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Brad Beal and forward Erik Murphy, a pick-and-pop specialist. Florida will attempt plenty of threes, connecting 40.7% of the time. Scoring from outside shouldn’t be a major problem against Mississippi State but stopping the Bulldogs inside will be.
  • Rick Stansbury has a huge advantage in this game with Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney in his frontcourt. Florida can’t match those two players and the Bulldogs should be pounding the ball inside all day long on Saturday. However, Dee Bost has to be able to create and get into the lane in order to get Moultrie and Sidney going early and often. If Bost isn’t able to penetrate Florida’s defense, the Gators can pack it in and dare Mississippi State to beat them from the outside. Of more concern to Stansbury has to be his defense. In SEC play, the Bulldogs are allowing opponents to shoot 43.4% from beyond the three point arc. If Florida shoots anywhere near that percentage, it’s likely going to be a long afternoon at the O-Dome for the visitors from Starkville.
  • In order to steal an important road win, the Bulldogs have to rebound and score in the paint as well as in transition off long rebounds since neither team turns the ball over much. Fast break points will be at a premium in this game but whichever team wins that category will have an advantage. However, the most important part of Mississippi State’s game plan has to be defending the three point line. If the Bulldogs can’t, they won’t win in Gainesville. Even with all that said, this is a game Mississippi State can win with a strong effort. Florida needed a second half rally to defeat Ole Miss in its last game and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Mississippi State could spring the upset.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 27th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele knows his role on the team, as do his teammates and coaches. “I’ve always said that Jalen (Steele) is the one guy that does something different on this basketball team,” coach Rick Stansbury said. “He is capable of doing what he did, jump up and make shots. He’s the one guy, if you ask me what his role is — it is to make shots.” And that is exactly what Steele did on Wednesday night against LSU. While the Bulldogs were just five of 14 from beyond the arc, Steele contributed to more than half of MSU’s outside points going three of four from three-point land. The Bulldogs are solid in the frontcourt, but could use a consistent outside threat as they are fifth in the conference with a 35.3% three-point accuracy. Not bad, but not terribly threatening either. Steele becomes even more valuable for the Bulldogs if he can continue to knock shots down from long range.
  2. LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant was medically cleared to play on Tuesday for his first action since the beginning of January. O’Bryant suffered a fractured hand in practice on January 4, which kept him on the sidelines for five straight games. He saw playing time on Wednesday night against Mississippi State and its formidable frontline of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. And it looks like O’Bryant will need a few more games to get back in the swing of things. He played a solid 20 minutes, but finished with just six points and four rebounds. The key to the game was rebounds, and LSU wasn’t able to keep up with Mississippi State. The Tigers had a 51.4% defensive rebounding percentage and just 21.6% on the offensive end. LSU will need O’Bryant and the rest of the LSU frontcourt to shore up its rebounding to stay competitive in the conference.
  3. With Wednesday’s win over Alabama, South Carolina avoided an 0-5 start in SEC play. It would have been their worst start in the conference since an 0-6 start in 1998-99. Coach Darrin Horn admits his Gamecocks need the kind of atmosphere that was displayed in the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night. “We need our fans,” Horn said. “We need some atmosphere. I appreciate them finally getting up and doing that.” South Carolina also needed a little Bruce Ellington. The sophomore guard hit the game-winner with 1.3 seconds remaining. He finished with 12 points for the Gamecocks, but more importantly, appears to be getting into a solid groove as he becomes more comfortable on the basketball court (after playing football for Steve Spurrier through early January). Ellington has averaged 14.5 points and three assists over his last four games, and will need to continue to be a focal point for South Carolina to win another conference game (or two).
  4. After a four game losing streak, Alabama has gone from SEC title contender to no longer even a lock to make the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide’s only win over an RPI top 25 opponent came against Wichita State in mid-November. For a team with an RPI of 40, the problem is that there aren’t too many more opportunities for that big victory. The Tide have Florida and Mississippi State at home, as well as two games against Ole Miss. Anthony Grant‘s squad was left out of last year’s Big Dance because of a low RPI and very few marquee wins. It would be a shame for a team that started out so strong in 2011-12 to meet the same fate. It is, of course, very early to be talking about which teams are in and which ones are out, but isn’t that part of what makes college basketball so fun? However. there won’t be anything fun about March for Grant and company unless Alabama is able to  string together wins in the SEC.
  5. Florida freshman Bradley Beal played poorly over two consecutive games in early January shooting 6-27 without scoring in double figures. After three solid games in a row, Beal says his slump is over. “He’s got a better feel and understanding of when and where shots are coming for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “I don’t know if he ever really felt comfortable with that. I think he’s getting better at that. I think he’s understanding when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive, but he’s not allowing some missed shots or plays that maybe don’t go his way to affect him on the next play.” Even with a couple of difficult games mixed in, Beal has had a terrific first (and maybe only) year for the Gators. He has managed to score 14.1 points per game playing in a backcourt with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Mike Rosario coming off the bench. That is impressive for anyone, but especially a freshman.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 23rd, 2012

  1. Jarnell Stokes has already been a huge factor for the Tennessee Volunteers, just three games into his collegiate career. It was Stokes’ 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks that helped the Vols defeat the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies on Saturday. Teammates certainly see the benefit of having him around. “Oh, gosh,” said junior guard Skylar McBee. “It’s great having Jarnell. He’s such a big presence in there.” Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin saw enough in Stokes’ first two games to grant him his first career start against UConn. “He had some breakdowns defensively,” said Martin, “which is expected because he’s learning as we go. But I thought his energy, his toughness, his will to receive the ball and desire to score the ball really helped us get over the hump.” The addition of Stokes could be too late to gain any traction for the NCAA Tournament this season. The Vols are 9-10 overall, and 1-3 in conference play. However can Martin and Tennessee talk Stokes into one more year in Knoxville with all the attention he is receiving for his positive play?
  2. Senior Darius Miller has proven to be a reliable free throw shooter in the clutch for John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. Miller was 4-of-4 in the final minute of Kentucky’s 77-71 win over Alabama Saturday, making him a perfect 6-of-6 in the final three minutes on the season. Freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had nothing but praise for the veteran. “He is everything. He is [one of] the only seniors on this team, and he means a lot.” Miller picked a great game to step up at the charity stripe. Kentucky shot just 36.4% from the free throw line in the first half.
  3. Free throws were a big factor in another SEC game this weekend. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury felt the number of free throw attempts by his Bulldogs were key in their overtime win against Vanderbilt. “They shoot nine free throws and make five and we shoot 21 free throws,” Stansbury said. “That tells you that ball is being drove to the paint and thrown to the paint. We’re playing without creating a bunch of silly fouls. You’ve got to do that on the road to have a chance.” The Bulldogs finished with 14 points from the foul line, which was nine more than Vanderbilt.
  4. While there was a large discrepancy in made free throws, Vanderbilt had an opportunity to beat Mississippi State in overtime. Actually, they had three opportunities. Point guard Brad Tinsley was forced into two ill-advised shots because of the Bulldogs’ ability to cover up offensive threats John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor. First, Tinsley took a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and then drove into the lane for a possession that the Commodores would love to have back. Tinsley shouldn’t receive all of the blame here though. The Vanderbilt blog, Anchor of Gold, says, “The ultimate failure here was pushing forward with a bad shot rather than resetting, regrouping, and using the team’s final timeout.” This isn’t the first time Kevin Stallings‘ management of late-game situations has been questioned. And for good reason. Vandy has lost its last six overtime games. Perhaps declaring the Commodores’ turnaround as an elite team was slightly premature.
  5. Arkansas‘ victory over Michigan was quite the statement for the Razorbacks, but the home court advantage provided by Bud Walton Arena makes the Razorbacks tough to beat at home. The atmosphere at Saturday’s game had to give Razorbacks fans visions of the mid-1990s. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson agrees that Bud Walton provides an automatic advantage. “That atmosphere, with our players it takes us up eight or 10 points,” Anderson said. Arkansas is 14-0 at home this season, with home games against Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama coming up in the month of conference play.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.20 – 01.22

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2012

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

Cincinnati and Vanderbilt will look to keep rolling but a Big 12 clash highlights Saturday’s slate.

#5 Missouri @ #3 Baylor – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

This Clash Between Big 12 Powers Offers a Contrast in Strengths

  • This game could really come down to which team imposes its will. For Missouri, it would love nothing more than to speed the game up, force turnovers and not let Baylor get set in its half court defense. Missouri’s strength is its guard play. Frank Haith employs a four-guard lineup and it has worked wonders this season. The Tigers have shot the ball very well this season and that’s going to have to continue on the road in Waco. Missouri has struggled against teams with bigger front lines so its guards must shoot well if penetration is cut off and Ricardo Ratliffe is limited inside by Baylor’s trees. Kim English, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon can flat out shoot the basketball and Haith will need all three contributing in order to beat Baylor. It will be a bonus if Ratliffe can get anything going inside but Mizzou’s guards must continue to make shots in a tough environment.
  • Baylor is the stronger team inside and Scott Drew knows it. Getting Perry Jones III to assert himself in the paint along with Quincy Acy could be the key for the Bears in this game. Baylor will have the home crowd and energy behind itself and capitalizing on that is going to be very important against a team that loves to speed you up and force turnovers. In order for Jones and Acy to get the ball, Baylor’s guard play must be up to the task. Missouri will pressure Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton all game because the Tigers need to run up the turnovers and transition points in order to offset what should be a significant Baylor edge on the glass. If Baylor can slow the game down a bit, limit turnovers and get the ball inside, it should be on its way to a win. If Jones III and Acy are hot in the paint, that will open up Brady Heslip and Jackson from deep. Jackson does so much for this team with penetration, passing and shooting ability but Heslip is great spotting up or coming off a screen. Baylor has multiple weapons of varying height, something Missouri may have a very hard time dealing with.
  • As we said, Missouri must speed the game up and create turnovers against the turnover-prone Bears. Ratliffe is a very good post player but we’re not sure if he’s going to be able to score consistently as the only Mizzou big man against Baylor’s immense height in the paint. If Missouri can’t get anything inside it must knock down deep shots and get to the free throw line. The Tigers shoot 77.6% from the charity stripe and that could end up being their most efficient way of scoring against Baylor aside from the three ball. Baylor didn’t defend well against Kansas but Missouri was exposed in a tough environment at Kansas State. If Baylor is physical and sticks to the game plan of good half court offense, the Bears should win. Missouri should play better in its second time on the road against a very good team but you have to favor Baylor at home given the size mismatch.

Cincinnati @ West Virginia – 3:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPNU (****)

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SEC Morning Five: 01.18.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 18th, 2012

  1. History is not on Ole Miss’ side on Wednesday. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury has a sizable advantage in the rivalry. Stansbury is 20-7 in his career over the Rebels, and his Bulldogs have won five straight in the series. “I’ve never thought about it and I still don’t think about it,” Stansbury said. “You guys think about it more than I do, trust me.” If Stansbury doesn’t think about it, I wonder if Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy has nightmares about it? “I don’t know what goes on as it relates to our players’ heads but, for us, it’s about trying to get the bad taste of Saturday out of your mouth when you battle and battle, and you have a chance to win one on the road and you come up a little bit short,” Kennedy said. Ole Miss is desperately seeking a little offense, but it won’t come easy. In its last two games, Mississippi State held Tennessee to 58 points on 42.6% shooting and Alabama to 52 points on 45.1% from the field.
  2. The addition of Missouri and Texas A&M into the conference next year has the SEC looking at Kansas City as a possible future destination for the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. “We have a history of moving the basketball tournament,” said Larry Templeton, head of the SEC transition team. “We’ve played our tournament in Tampa. We’ve played our tournament in Memphis.” The next three years will bring three different tournament sites. 2012 is hosted by the city of New Orleans, with Nashville the destination in 2013, and Atlanta in 2014.
  3. Tennessee is looking for its first road win of the season when it travels to Athens to meet up with the Georgia Bulldogs. Vols coach Cuonzo Martin knows his team has to cut down on turnovers if it will compete in a hostile environment. “We’ve had 13, 14 and 15 (turnovers) the last three games,” Martin said. “They are really unforced turnovers. That’s an area we have to get better.” The Vols rank last in the SEC in turnover margin. Point guard Trae Golden leads the way in the miscues category with three turnovers per game.
  4. Cuonzo Martin was happy to have over 21,000 people in the seats for Tennessee’s close game with Kentucky on Saturday, but he wishes that more would have actually been Volunteers’ fans. “We see 21,000 there, but we’d like to see the 21,000-plus in orange, especially when you say you’re going up against a rival,” Martin said. “If the upper bowl is not packed (with orange), it’s one thing, but you have the lower bowl …” There was an awful lot of blue in Thompson Boling Arena, but now Martin wants to get even. “Now, I’d like to see a lot of orange in Lexington (Kentucky),” he said.
  5. Kentucky has been called for 39 charging calls this season while only drawing nine charges on the defensive end. In fact, UK point guard Marquis Teague was called for charging three times by himself in the Tennessee game on Saturday. Wildcats coach John Calipari seems to have an answer. “Either these guys — when we leave our feet — are unbelievably quick to get into position,” Calipari said of the number of charges against Kentucky “Or some of them should be blocks.” Ding. Ding. Ding. I happen to agree with what some have already written on the matter, and the matter is not unique to Kentucky. The charge circle has made the call more difficult for referees. Officials seem to focus on whether or not the collision took place within the circle, and not whether or not the collision was a charge or block.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.13-01.15

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 13th, 2012

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

A couple of Mountain West battles highlight Saturday’s action but the big one is late Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten.

#14 Connecticut @ Notre Dame – 11:00 AM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Led by Andre Drummond’s 20/11 on 9-11 FG, Connecticut got back on track by defeating West Virginia on Monday night. To win on the road, the Huskies will need quality efforts from most of their roster. That starts with Shabazz Napier protecting the basketball. Jim Calhoun’s sophomore point guard sets the tone for this team, good or bad. Napier (and UConn as a whole) has struggled with turnovers, especially in Big East play. On the road against a team looking to make its mark in the middle of the conference, the Huskies have to do a better job handing the ball if they are to win this one. The more possessions UConn can earn by using its strong rebounding advantage while minimizing turnovers, the more opportunities there will be for talented players such as Drummond, Jeremy Lamb (25 points vs. WVU) and Ryan Boatright to score.

    Can Napier Step Up To Lead The Huskies?

  • Believe it or not, Notre Dame actually has an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament. 37 at-large bids have to come from somewhere and the Fighting Irish are on the bubble according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. This will be a tall order for Notre Dame, even at home. The Irish have won 29 consecutive home games but that will be tested mightily against the Huskies. The emergence of Jack Cooley in the paint could be the biggest reason why Notre Dame has a chance to upset UConn. Cooley has averaged 16.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG over his last eight games, the latest Notre Dame big man to develop nicely under Mike Brey. However, Cooley will likely have a more difficult time against Connecticut’s stifling interior defense. The Huskies have always owned the paint under Calhoun and this year is no different. Notre Dame has to make outside shots in order to win because it can’t count on Cooley alone inside. Jerian Grant has turned into a consistent scorer but the Irish need a third option. Brey had hoped Scott Martin would be that guy but he has really struggled. However, Martin is impacting the game in other ways, rebounding well even when the shots aren’t falling. Notre Dame must try to get to the foul line as well. UConn historically doesn’t foul often so this could be difficult even at home.
  • If Drummond plays like he did against West Virginia, the Huskies will be a strong favorite. UConn must rebound aggressively to counteract any turnover problems it may have. The Irish have struggled shooting the three ball this year and Connecticut ranks second in interior defense. If those statistics hold true, Notre Dame will have an incredibly difficult time scoring. The good news for the Irish? They have been the best team defending the triple in Big East play (20.9%). For UConn, it’s simple. Protect the ball, rebound, and defend the paint. If the Huskies do that, they will snap ND’s 29-game home winning streak. Easier said than done, of course.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 12th, 2012

  1. ESPNU will debut the latest in the SEC “Storied” documentary series on February 11 with 40 Minutes of Hell. The film goes behind the scenes on former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson‘s success with the Razorbacks in the early 1990s. The “40 minutes of hell” fast paced and pressing style that Richardson employed in the SEC won him the National Championship in 1994. Richardson’s separation from the university was anything but amicable as he slapped Arkansas with a wrongful termination lawsuit. The Razorbacks hired Richardson’s protege, Mike Anderson, as head coach helping to bring the former coach closer to fans, players, and the University of Arkansas. Not to mention, the hire also brought back a style of play that is modeled after Richardson’s championship winning system.
  2. Senior forward Lance Goulbourne has found his role on Vanderbilt’s roster, and he is making his impact felt on the defensive end. Goulbourne has limited the role of several prominent big men in recent games, holding Marquette’s Jae Crowder to 30.8% shooting and Auburn’s Kenny Gabriel (just to name a couple) to just 2 points on 1-7 shooting. “He’s done an unbelievable job about three games in a row where the team’s best player was the four man,” Vanderbilt guard Brad Tinsley said. “He’s really figured out how to take what the coaches tell him and put that out on the court.” With the return of center Festus Ezeli and solid defense from Jeffery Taylor, Goulbourne’s defense is an added plus for a team known more for its offense. The Commodores’ commitment to the defensive end has their defense ranked ahead of their offense in latest Pomeroy efficiency rankings.
  3. Kentucky coach John Calipari has a theory for why his Wildcats haven’t been effective on the road in the last couple of years. He says the SEC is not an easy league to compete in, and declares that the league could have as many as five teams competing in the Sweet Sixteen. “This league, with the top five teams that we have, that are all NCAA Tournament teams, and really,” said Calipari. “I’ll make a prediction, other than us, of those five, I would say four of those, without us, will be Sweet 16 teams. How about that?” It’s not that far-fetched of a prediction. Vanderbilt and Florida have the talent to compete with anybody in the nation, and Alabama and Mississippi State have both proven its legitimacy within the top 25 teams in the country. And of course, Kentucky, which Calipari didn’t put as a Sweet 16 team, will be competing well into March and most likely early April.
  4. Billy Donovan wasn’t happy with Florida’s defense in its loss against Tennessee, but the Gators played with much more intensity in their win Tuesday night over the Georgia Bulldogs. With all eyes on the defensive end, Florida held the Dogs to just 36.4 percent shooting on the night. Donovan was satisfied this time around. “I thought we defended them very, very well,” Donovan said. “We held them to 48 points. I think if you hold any team to 48 points you’ve done a pretty good job defensively.” The Gators, however, continued to neglect Patric Young in the post, as Young attempted just five shots on the night. If Florida can continue to hold opponents to 48 points, the lack of a post game may be a moot point.
  5. Mississippi State’s big man Renardo Sidney didn’t start on Saturday for the Bulldogs because of a coach’s decision. “I wanted to save him some foul trouble,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “He had two fouls early in all those games.” The strategy wasn’t very effective as Sidney still committed three fouls in the first half. The fast paced action perpetuated by Arkansas’ full court pressure limited Sidney’s effectiveness. He scored just six points and four rebounds in 22 minutes of play. His replacement in the starting lineup, Wendell Lewis had similar issues. Lewis was limited to two points in 14 minutes of action.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 11th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie has experienced a decline in points over the last three games. The power forward averaging 16.2 points per game has also grabbed 2.1 fewer offensive rebounds per game during this stretch. Coaches are keyed in on Moultrie’s ability to get second-chance opportunities in close range for the Bulldogs, and they’re scheming to keep him off the rim. The Bulldogs’ next opponent, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, discussed his strategy saying, “The way he rebounds the basketball, the way he scores on the block, you want to try to get him off the block. You want to try to keep him off the glass.” That strategy is certainly easier said than done, but it again reiterates the importance of forward Renardo Sidney’s play down low. Sidney needs to continue to stay in the ballgame by improving his conditioning and avoiding foul trouble so that he can help take pressure off Moultrie in the post. Moultrie only attempted six shots in the Bulldogs’ weekend loss to Arkansas.
  2. His star player hasn’t been as effective, but Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury isn’t panicking just yet. The players, however, believe that SEC teams have their gameplan for attacking the Bulldogs. “Pressure us and run us,” freshman Rodney Hood said. Moultrie added, “I think pretty much every team is going to come in and try to press us.” The strategy certainly worked for Arkansas. The Razorbacks forced 18 turnovers. But the Bulldogs’ head coach is more concerned with the 98 points the defense allowed, the most points a Stansbury coached team has ever given up. “They hit us in the mouth early and I don’t know if we ever recovered from it,” Stansbury said. The 56.5% field goal percentage is the only time a team has shot above 50% on the Bulldogs’ defense all season.
  3. Tony Barbee is finally under contract with the Auburn Tigers, signing a seven-year deal with the team he’s already been coaching for 22 months. Barbee and Auburn had been operating on a letter of understanding since March 24, 2010. “I’m glad it’s signed,” Barbee said. “The contract was a bigger deal for everybody else but Auburn and me. I was very comfortable with the letter of agreement we were working under… Auburn had committed to me. I had committed to them.” Barbee is 10-5 in his second year as head coach of the Tigers, and faces John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats on Wednesday night.
  4. Forward Murphy Holloway may be ready to to go for the Ole Miss Rebels after being sidelined with an injury sustained on December 21. “[He's] probable for tomorrow,” Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy said. “The pain he feels is from that bone bruise. That tendon, the ligament is all pretty stable. For him, he’s still having some pain — which you can see in his gait. Some of it may be anticipatory, some of it may be in his mind.” (Ok, who had to google the word “gait?” Kennedy always keeps us on our toes.) Holloway’s return should provide a boost on offense for a team without leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson. Ole Miss has lost four of its last five games heading into a home matchup with the red-hot Razorbacks.
  5. Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn’t at all happy with the Gators’ defensive effort against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday. “We didn’t play hard at all, on both ends of the floor,” freshman Bradley Beal said. “Our defense, we didn’t play great help defense, we didn’t guard the ball well. Our transition defense wasn’t good. We had too many breakdowns during the game. I mean, it really cost us.” The Gators allowed the Vols to shoot 51%, the highest percentage Florida has allowed all year. Florida isn’t a strong enough defensive squad to have off shooting nights, and Donovan’s three-point bombers weren’t hitting with their normal efficiency. The Gators shot 31.8% from beyond the arc, spelling a recipe for disaster on the road. Donovan needs to shore up Florida’s defensive effort to  protect his team against another bad shooting night, whether on the road or on a neutral site court deep during a tournament run in March.
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Freeze Frame: Attacking Arkansas’ Full Court Press

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 10th, 2012

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is known for his patented full court pressure, and that defensive intensity caused a headache for the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday. The Razorbacks scored 23 points off turnovers, pressuring the Bulldogs into 18 miscues for the game. Mississippi State looked flustered all night, making a parody of costly errors. Today’s version of Freeze Frame will look at where coach Rick Stansbury’s squad went wrong on Saturday. We’ll also discuss how HD channels should be a prerequisite for watching college basketball. Watching ESPN Full Court’s free preview this week is like watching an old Atari game on your 1980s television complete with drunk goggles. Not good.

Play 1 (14:05 remaining in the first half):

The first rule of attacking Arkansas’ press is you don’t talk about the press. The second rule of beating the press is you DO NOT talk about the press. Ok, the third rule is you don’t try to dribble through it. Freshman guard Deville Smith received the ball in the corner as two Arkansas guards closed in on him.

Don't dribble towards the baseline!

He committed another cardinal sin by dribbling towards the baseline (That’s the fourth rule, by the way). With nowhere to go, Smith’s best option is a skip pass to a streaking offensive player near the half-court line. Read the rest of this entry »

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SEC Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 9th, 2012

  1. Much of Kentucky’s championship hopes depend on the progress of Marquis Teague, the freshman point guard who some think is beginning to come into his own. Against South Carolina, Teague scored 17 points and had four assists with just two turnovers. “Yeah, this probably was my best overall game so far,” Teague said. “I was just slowing it down more, looking to get my teammates involved more.” His teammates have taken notice of his improved play. “He’s started listening,” fellow freshman Anthony Davis said. “And when he starts listening, great things start to happen.” UK coach John Calipari must appreciate Teague’s play too, as the freshman tied his career-high with 36 minutes against the Gamecocks. While Teague’s play was much improved, he was coming off two games in which he struggled with four points and four turnovers against Louisville and six points on 2-7 shooting against Arkansas-Little Rock. He has hardly provided consistent play for the Wildcats at their most crucial position.
  2. Speaking of struggling this year, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones has rarely looked like the preseason SEC Player of the Year. In his first SEC game, Jones returned to form by scoring 20 points on 8-9 shooting. “That’s the Terrence Jones we know,” Calipari said. “He took that last three, which made me angry, but short of that I wanted him to get a couple of more rebounds. But I wanted him to get aggressive offensively and make baskets and free throws. …That’s who he is.” While Saturday’s game was a significant improvement for Jones, the sophomore hasn’t recorded a double-double yet this year. Last season, Jones had 13 double-doubles including hitting the mark six times by this point in the year. While Jones finally got going on the offensive end, he grabbed just three rebounds in the game. The Wildcats don’t necessarily need the power forward to score 20 every night, but they definitely need more than three rebounds from him.
  3. Florida freshman Bradley Beal struggled to open up conference play on Saturday. In his SEC debut, Beal shot 4-12 scoring just nine points. He also turned the ball over five times. “With turnovers, that I think he has to get better with that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “But he’s gotta go through it, he’s got to learn. As good and talented as he is, he’s gonna kind of have those ups and downs and he’s gotta learn and grow from it.” Despite the off night, the freshman guard is having a stellar season. Beal is averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Gators. He has failed to reach double figures in scoring in only four games this season, including the last two games.
  4. Arkansas’ “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” turned into “40 minutes of hell” for Mississippi State. Bulldogs’ coach Rick Stansbury admitted the Razorbacks style was difficult to prepare for. “Arkansas is totally different the way they play,” Stansbury said. “It’s just different. You can’t simulate it. It’s different. We didn’t do a very good job guarding it.” The Hogs forced Mississippi State into 18 turnovers on the night, which quickly became the difference in the game. Arkansas scored 23 points off those turnovers, forcing the Dogs to play a much faster pace than they were accustomed. Mississippi State will get another crack at the fast paced play of Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks in the regular season finale on March 3 in Starkville.
  5. Ole Miss continued to struggle as it opened up SEC play with an 81-55 loss against LSU. The Rebels are without their leading scorer and leading rebounder as Dundrecous Nelson was kicked off the team for a run in with the law earlier this week while leading rebounder Murphy Holloway is still recovering from a minor injury. Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy doesn’t have excuses though. “It’s easy for us to use excuses, that we lost our leading scorer and our leading rebounder,” Kennedy said. “But that doesn’t, in my mind, justify the inability to compete at an SEC level. In my mind, this team does not compete 1-10. All 10 guys got in the game. All 10 guys have to compete at an SEC level for us to have a chance.” Ole Miss is in somewhat of a free fall after starting out the year at 9-1. Since, the Rebels have lost four of their last five, and in that stretch, have scored more than 56 points in a game just once.
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SEC Morning Five: New Year’s Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 2nd, 2012

  1. Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost broke the school’s all-time assist record on Saturday. Bost recorded four assists in the two=point win over Utah State giving him 515 in his career. He broke the career mark set by former Bulldog Derrick Zimmerman. “That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider all the guys that have played at Mississippi State,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. Otherwise, it wasn’t a banner night for Bost. He was just 1-10 from the field scoring just five points as the Bulldogs struggled to put the Aggies away.
  2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist thrived in a physical and rough win for Kentucky as the Wildcats defeated intra-state rival Louisville Cardinals. “He wasn’t bothered as much as some of the other players by the physical play,” coach John Calipari said. “He almost relished it and just went after it, and that’s why he played the way he did. […] He was vicious today.” Kidd-Gilchrist agreed with Calipari’s assessment. “I’m built for this,” he said after Kentucky’s 69-62 victory. “I just love the challenge. I’ve always been that way. I’ve got a lot of heart.” Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 24 points and 19 rebounds, both career highs, in 39 minutes of play. Kidd-Gilchrist has showed up for big games. He scored 17 points and 11 rebounds against UNC, and 18 points and nine rebounds in a one-point loss at Indiana. He is quickly becoming not only the best freshman in the country, but one of the best players overall in the nation.
  3. The Lexington Herald Leader had more love for Kidd-Gilchrist, but Kidd-Gilchrist was giving all his love to his mother. She was in the hospital last week, but was healthy enough to make it to Lexington to watch her son play. “My mom was here,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “She smiled at me,” he said admitting he was looking at her in the stands. “I had to smile back.” With the way he played on Saturday, Calipari should find a way to get Kidd-Gilchrist’s mother in Rupp Arena more often. Kentucky won by seven despite shooting just 29.8%. Kidd-Gilchrist’s play was a big reason why the Wildcats were able to preserve the victory.
  4. Tennessee’s coach Cuonzo Martin turned to the bench on Saturday to beat The Citadel. Reserve center Yemi Makanjuola had a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. His coach knew it was possible. “I’m not surprised. I knew eventually it would come at some point, maybe next year,” Martin said. “I just think you’re happy for a guy who puts the work in and doesn’t complain and puts his head down and works every day and doesn’t make excuses.” The Citadel’s coach may have been a bit surprised by Makanjuola’s performance. He didn’t even know his name. “The guy coming off the bench killed us. We did not expect that,” coach Chuck Driesell said. The Volunteers needed a comfortable victory after several close calls. This 86-55 win gives Tennessee a three-game winning streak
  5. Vanderbilt’s defense is usually the subject of scorn and criticism, but in the their win over Marquette it was the defense that led the way. Vanderbilt switched its defenses several times confusing the Golden Eagles’ offense. Marquette was held to 32.2& shooting, a season’s best for the Commodores’ defense. In fact, they have only held one other opponent under 40% percent on the season, a 37.8% shooting night for Xavier in an 82-70 Musketeers win. Vanderbilt’s backcourt, not normally known for its stellar perimeter defense, held its own against Golden Eagles’ guard Vander Blue. The sophomore guard averages 9.4 points per game, but was held to one of seven shooting for only three points.
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Pierre Jackson: Baylor’s Unlikely Answer in the Clutch

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 29th, 2011

On a team with pre-season All American Perry Jones III, senior Quincy Acy, and heralded freshman Quincy Miller (one of the nation’s most talked about frontlines), Baylor relied on 5’10” junior college transfer Pierre Jackson to beat Mississippi State on Wednesday night. Beating the Bulldogs did not come easily as the Bears struggled to find their shooting stroke in the midst of a defensive slugfest. The #5 team in the country shot 21.4% from the field in the last 20 minutes, but somehow, Baylor found a way to win. The Bears found Jackson.

Pierre Jackson goes up for two to win the game for Baylor (Credit: AP photo/Matt Strasen)

Jackson started out the game with 10 points on four of six shooting, but would miss his first six shots of the second half including a layup that would have tied the game with 2:25 on the clock. Even after his poor start in the last twenty minutes of the game, he wasn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands with under a minute to play and a tie ball game. Neither was his coach.

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