Baylor Preserves Its Undefeated Record, But Hardly in Encouraging Fashion

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

Baylor beat a top-15 team on Wednesday night, and that’s terrific. The undefeated Bears locked down Mississippi State on the final possession of the game to ice the win, holding the Bulldogs to 41% from the field and they actually won the rebounding battle for a change. For good measure, they even threw down a few electric dunks in the second half to give a partisan crowd in Dallas something to cheer about. But this 54-52 win wasn’t anything for Baylor to brag about. In fact, the play on the court at the American Airlines Center hardly resembled a marquee matchup between two ranked squads. After Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson combined for five three-pointers in the first half, the Bears failed to make a trey after halftime and finished with almost twice as many turnovers (15) as team assists (8). With scouts from nearly every NBA franchise in the building, star Perry Jones scored just eight points, and Baylor’s big men looked frustrated all night against the beef and length of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. Scott Drew‘s halfcourt offense was not pretty in the second half, and that was punctuated by several missed layups, missed free throws and silly turnovers near the end of the game.

Baylor Knocked Off Mississippi State, But It Wasn't Pretty (credit: Austin Statesman)

You think that’s bad? Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney committed a technical foul with his team leading by two points in the final minute, and after BU took the lead, the Bulldogs’ final possession consisted of a few passes 30 feet from the basket and a wild, contested mid-range attempt by Rodney Hood to end the game. It was blocked, but you could have guessed that. The Bulldogs scored just 19 points in the second half, one less than Baylor’s 20. Point guard Dee Bost‘s struggles from three-point land continued with a 1-5 effort, and as usual, Sidney dominated when he played but only logged 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Rick Stansbury‘s team shot seven free throws but made just three, and it also finished with just nine team assists.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.28.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 28th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See the bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tonight’s action offers a variety of 4-star matchups, including some exciting conference openers and one of the last top-25 non-conference showdowns. Carve out some time tonight to catch these great games.

Perry Jones and Undefeated Baylor Face Their Final Non-Conference Test Tonight Against Mississippi State (AP/T. Gutierrez)

#12 Georgetown at #10 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

  • One of the biggest surprises in the country thus far, Georgetown is now looking to prove it can hang with the top teams in the Big East. Given how the Hoyas have played recently, they should have a great chance to add another impressive win to their resume tonight in the KFC Yum! Center. Georgetown has already won a true road game over then-top-15 Alabama, and tonight it heads west looking to rely on a veteran big three that have been consistent all year. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are getting it done from the perimeter, each averaging about 15 points per game and hitting exactly two three-pointers per game to lead the team from deep. Henry Sims, the most unlikely assist man in the nation, has executed his point forward role to perfection in Coach Thompson III’s Princeton-style offense. Sims leads the team with 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while continuing his low-post impact to the tune of 12.5 points and 5.5 boards per contest. If Georgetown can continue its current pace of 1.16 points per possession, which is ninth best in the country, then they will have a shot to pull off the road win tonight.
  • Before taking on Kentucky later this week in a massive in-state powerhouse showdown, Louisville has this fierce test to begin Big East play. Rick Pitino’s team has been well-prepared all season leading to an undefeated record, but they have been vulnerable at home and have nearly been upset several times at the Yum! Center. The Cardinals, though, continue to collect wins thanks to a spectacular defensive effort. Louisville’s defensive efficiency of 83.0 is the fifth-best number in the nation, and they are also ranked top-10 defensively in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per possession, and rebounding. Coach Pitino will run out a nine- or ten-man rotation and look to speed up the Hoyas’ efficient offense by implementing high pressure and different defensive looks throughout the night. How guards Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, and Peyton Siva shoot from behind the arc will be the key to the Cardinals’ offense.
  • This should be a tremendous game, as two red-hot conference foes do battle with their conflicting styles of play. Louisville is a five-point favorite at home, and their depth across the board will give them an advantage tonight. But the Hoyas are able to counteract any opponent’s strengths when their offense is clicking. Keep an eye on who can establish their style of play early in the game.
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: December 28-29

Posted by dnspewak on December 28th, 2011

GAME OF THE WEEK

  • #11 Mississippi State at #6 Baylor, Wednesday, 8 PM CT in Dallas (ESPN2)

Scott Drew's Team Is Flying High Heading Into Tonight's Game

At 12-0 and fresh off a Las Vegas Classic sweep of St. Mary’s and West Virginia, there’s not a whole lot left for Baylor to prove. The 6th-ranked Bears seem to have it all: dominant bigs, freakish athleticism, terrific dunkers and, most importantly, steady guard play. Junior college All-American Pierre Jackson, Boston College transfer Brady Heslip and junior A.J. Walton have formed a strong trio in the backcourt, and they’re helping Perry Jones and the crew lead the way in the paint. Cal transfer Gary Franklin has also impressed since gaining eligibility, as he’s turned the ball over just once in four games. That’s a striking contrast from last season, when Scott Drew wasted a boatload of NBA talent due to poor guard play and other issues. Baylor still has some work to do in the rebounding department, and it also turns the ball over a bit too much at times. But those are kinks Drew will work out during the course of the season, and they shouldn’t hold Baylor back against Mississippi State. In many ways, the Bulldogs are a mirror image of Baylor. They have a dangerous frontcourt duo in Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney, but Rick Stansbury’s guards have stepped up to help the Bulldogs to a 12-1 start. Dee Bost may be this team’s most important player as both a scorer and leader of the offense, and it’s going to be up to him to make smart decisions on a semi-neutral floor in Dallas tonight. Let’s not be silly here, though. This game will be won in the paint, and it all depends on which stars show up to play. Jones had a lot of questions to answer this season after a somewhat disappointing freshman season, but he has looked like a new man so far in 2011-12. That’s also an accurate description for Moultrie, who has embraced his role as the enforcer in Starkville after two modest seasons at UTEP. In his first year of eligibility, Moultrie has already recorded seven double-doubles, and he’s both getting to the line (6.0 attempts per game) and converting his free throws (88.3 percent). Against Jones, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and the other forwards with giant wingspans on the Baylor roster, Moultrie has a chance to prove his worth on national television.

The key individual matchup is… Dee Bost vs. A.J. Walton/Pierre Jackson/Gary Franklin. Jackson has not started a game this year, and Franklin just became eligible four games ago, but they’re both stealing time away from starter A.J. Walton at the point. It’s not a bad problem for Drew to have, since all three are playing reasonably well. It’s no secret who runs the show for Mississippi State, though. Dee Bost will likely attempt the most shots for the Bulldogs tonight, he’ll lead the team in assists and he will also be the most disruptive defensive presence on the floor. After all, he’s in the top-10 all-time in steals at Mississippi State, which means Walton, Jackson and Franklin better take care of the basketball. The elite forwards in this game cannot get to work unless the point guards play well. For Bost, that means taking good shots. When MSU plays well, it’s usually because Bost finds a groove and plays within the offense. But when Bost struggles– say, like his 2-9 effort in a loss to Akron or a 4-16 performance in a near-collapse at Detroit– this team is in trouble. It will be interesting to see who Drew leans on at his point guard spot. Franklin and Jackson actually played more minutes than Walton in the team’s overtime win against West Virginia, and Jackson starred in that game with 23 points and a tying three-point in the final minute.

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SEC Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2011

  1. Mississippi received a nice present under the tree as forward Murphy Holloway‘s MRI revealed that his injury against Middle Tennessee State University was only a bad high ankle sprainAndy Kennedy said that Holloway can return to practice as soon as he regains “strength and mobility.” Kennedy and the Rebels will need Holloway back as soon as possible. Holloway is the team’s leading rebounder with 9.6 rebounds per game, and he adds in 9.9 points. The Rebs have lost their last two games in a row, and hit the road to face a tough Dayton team that already knocked off Alabama earlier in the year.
  2. Mississippi State freshman Rodney Hood may not have come in with the hype that many SEC freshmen had, but his play is making quite the statement. Hood has come along quickly averaging 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He has focused his practice on mid-range jumpers and it shows. Hood has connected on 62% of his two point field goals this year. “The first part of the season, I was just finding my way,” Hood said. “Now I’m coming into my own.” Rick Stansbury obviously likes what he sees as Hood leads the team in minutes at 33.2 minutes per game.
  3. Georgia has struggled in the second half of games this year, blowing halftime leads against Colorado, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech. Just when it looked like the Bulldogs may let another lead slip out of their grasp, the players dug a little deeper to put together a non-conference win against Furman. “Our team executed very well tonight,” coach Mark Fox said. Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped up big, showing a major display of leadership. “I realized that we were starting to slack on defense,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So I just tried to help my team by creating steals, help on the drive, and rebound and I did that.” Georgia will need more than just Caldwell-Pope to step up though. The Bulldogs have struggled on offense (131st in adjusted offensive efficiency) with only one other player averaging double figures in scoring (senior Gerald Robinson at 13.6 PPG).
  4. Patric Young is a freak of nature. We all know that, right? But did you see his block on Thursday night? It is clear that Young is beginning to turn some heads with his tremendous play as of late. It is clear that he is a much better player this year than the developing freshman that averaged 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year. Sometimes, a SportsCenter type highlight is all we need to remind us of that. “Whenever you block somebody’s shot and pull it down with one hand, that’s making ‘SportsCenter,'” Young said. Yes, it will. The highlight reels are nice, but I think Billy Donovan will be more impressed with Young connecting on 63.3% effective field goal percentage, and snagging a solid 11.6 offensive rebounding percentage. Those numbers should lead to Young getting more than the 18.9% of shots (sixth on the team) that he takes in the Florida offense.
  5. LSU‘s play of late is putting the team in good company. The last time a Tigers’ team won three road wins in non-conference play was 1985-86. You may remember that LSU team was the lowest seeded team at the time (#11 — now tied with VCU and George Mason) to go to a Final Four. The Tigers have won on the road against Houston, Rutgers, and North Texas. Defense has been the key to the Tigers’ successful run. LSU has held six straight opponents under 60 points, in what is believed to be the first time since the 1952-53 Tigers held six straight teams under 60. This team also has a couple of bad losses to go with those wins — a loss at Coastal Carolina and at home against South Alabama. Which version of Trent Johnson‘s squad will show up when the Tigers get the opportunity for quality RPI games against Virginia, Ole Miss, and Alabama in the next two and a half weeks will be a big determinant in how successful the Tigers are this season.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.23.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 23rd, 2011

  1.  In Mississippi’s 68-56 loss to Middle Tennessee State, the Rebels’ guards failed to take care of the basketball turning it over 21 times. Freshman Jelan Kendrick, playing in just his second collegiate game ever, might be the answer Andy Kennedy needs at point guard. Kendrick turned the ball over just one time while scoring eight points, dishing out three assists, grabbing four steals, and securing three rebounds.”I’m just looking for somebody that doesn’t throw it to the other team,” Kennedy said. “I don’t mean that flippantly, but that’s the truth.” Although that might be the first time we have ever heard a coach use the term “flippantly”, the point, both literally and figuratively, is not lost. Kennedy gave Kendrick a chance to restore his troubled career, and he may give the 6’7″ guard a chance to run this Rebels team at the point guard position.
  2. Kenny Boynton‘s increases in field goal and three point shooting percentages are not by chance or simply another year of experience. Boynton reviews film after each game to improve upon his shot selection. “I watch the whole game,” Boynton said. “Every game. I’m looking at the shots I’ve taken. Were they open shots or tough shots? I didn’t do that my first two years. It’s really helped me a lot, because it’s helped me learn about shot selection.” Boynton is averaging 18.3 points and 3.0 assists per game. His extra time has not only made him a better player, but has made Florida a legitimate SEC title contender.
  3. It’s the holiday season, and what Florida really needs in its stocking is a focus on entry passes to the low block for its big man Patric Young. Young is currently shooting 63.3% from the field, but his touches have been limited by an abundance of overzealous shooting guards on the perimeter. He is highly efficient and helps open up the three point shot in the inside-out game. Young’s best game of the year came against Arizona when he took 15 shots, converting on 12, to score 25 points and grab 10 rebounds. Now Florida’s guards need to make sure those kind of performances come more often for the center. And if it isn’t too much to ask, all I really want for Christmas is for Young to keep wearing those protective glasses. He is so much more intimidating in a cool pair of shades.
  4. Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney continues to make strides on the basketball court, and he is now making solid contributions for the Bulldogs. In his last three games, Sidney has averaged 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. “I’d like to still get more minutes from him but, again, I’ll take less minutes as long as they’re more productive,” Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. “There have been signs of him getting better.” While Sidney still breathes towards the end of games like a dog in 110 degree heat, he is averaging 21.8 minutes this season. Sidney’s increased presence in the post could give Mississippi State one of the most dominant frontlines in the country as forward Arnett Moultrie continues to be one of the most consistent performers in the SEC. Moultrie got his seventh double-double of the season against Northwestern State on Thursday.
  5. Speaking of Mississippi State, senior point guard Dee Bost still feels like the Bulldogs are underrated despite staking a solid spot in the polls. “I feel like people don’t respect us enough,” Bost said. “We just have to keep winning to get people’s respect. With polls, that’s people’s opinions. We have to keep winning because that’s all we can control.” MSU is playing top-10 ranked Baylor next week, and Bost, for one, is looking forward to the opportunity to knock off a talented team. “We have another chance to prove where we are in the nation. People don’t respect us. If we win that game, people will respect us.” Alright Bost, it’s a deal. Beat Baylor next week and you will have our respect. Fall short, and we reserve the right to keep questioning the Bulldogs’ legitimacy.
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Does Mississippi State Belong in the Top Tier of the SEC?

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 15th, 2011

The SEC has been firmly divided into three solid groups all season. There were four upper echelon SEC teams (Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Alabama) all ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason (three of which were in the Top 10), and they are generally considered amongst the best teams in the country. Even Vanderbilt critics have to admit that with injured center Festus Ezeli back in the lineup, the Commodores are a Top 25 mainstay and a tough team to beat in the regular season (the NCAA Tournament is a different beast and I think we have to disregard their lack of postseason success in a discussion on regular season supremacy). The lower tier (all the other SEC teams) consists of teams that can barely make an argument to be in a power conference, much less the upper tier of one. With losses to Elon, Coastal Carolina, and Austin Peay (just to name a few), the bottom seven teams in the SEC won’t sniff the Top 50 this year, much less the Top 25. But then there’s Mississippi State in a class by itself. Are the Bulldogs in a third tier in the SEC all by themselves? Or have the Bulldogs done enough to be considered amongst the SEC’s top tier teams this year?

The Bulldogs' inconsistencies make it difficult to know their potential

The Bulldogs have risen into the Top 25 (20th in the RTC Top 25, 17th in the AP Top 25, and 16th in the ESPN/USA Today poll) with a 10-1 record and wins over West Virginia, Arizona, and Texas A&M. Both Arizona and A&M were ranked at the time, but the Aggies were playing without star forward Khris Middleton and Arizona might have been slightly over-ranked (no bad losses, but no good wins either – the point is, like Mississippi State, we don’t know a lot about the Wildcats at this point). West Virginia has an early loss to Kent State, so it is uncertain how much of a quality win that was for the Bulldogs. We must give credit where credit is due, the Bulldogs needed to win those games and they did. But are they quality wins? There is a lot of uncertainty about this Mississippi State team, and that leaves more questions than answers.

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SEC Morning Five: 12.14.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 14th, 2011

  1. Is 2011 the worst year in the history of Tennessee athletics? Bruce Pearl resurrected a Tennessee basketball program from the depths of the SEC, building the program from the ground up, only to singlehandedly burn it to the ground with a BBQ in his backyard. As much good as Pearl did for the state of UT basketball, he did far more to tear it down after the NCAA forced the Volunteers’ hand in firing him. The state of the Tennessee basketball program has fallen to the point where the Vols lost to a 1-9 Austin Peay team last week, and nobody gave the box score a second look. New coach Cuonzo Martin will restore Tennessee to a place where it has become accustomed, but it cannot be stressed enough just how far the Volunteers have fallen.
  2. Kentucky’s loss to Indiana on Saturday was an instant classic. The atmosphere in Bloomington, the buzzer-beating shot to win it all and the fall of the number one program in the land made for must-see TV. The game drew 3.5 million viewers, which is impressive, but as Gary Parrish points out, the series could be canceled because of the imminent addition of two SEC games to UK’s schedule. My knee jerk reaction is the same as Parrish’s — college basketball is better because of home-and-home series with bitter rivals. And so are the teams that get the experience of playing on the road in a hostile environment. Kentucky may have lost the game last Saturday, but the Cats will likely be a better team come March because of it.
  3. Much has been made over the last several days on the microsite regarding Terrence Jones‘ disappearance in Kentucky’s last game. Jones didn’t show up, and nobody, including Jones, is arguing that point. But it wasn’t just fans and overzealous bloggers who took notice of his disappointing play. Several NBA scouts are divided on where to take Jones in the next NBA Draft. Some indicate they would take him in the top half of the lottery while other scouts would pass on Jones altogether. The sophomore forward returned to Kentucky to win a National Championship and to raise his stock in the NBA Draft, and he can’t continue to play with the poor attitude he displayed on Saturday if he wants to reach either of those goals.
  4. Florida Atlantic gave Mississippi State everything the Bulldogs could handle Tuesday night until MSU pulled away in the final minute for a 75-68 win. Rick Stansbury’s club obviously missed the production of forward Arnett Moultrie, who sat out with knee tendinitis. Moultrie averages 17.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game on the season. Overweight forward Renardo Sidney did everything he could to fill in for Moultrie with 10 points and eight rebounds, but looked exhausted in the final few minutes. Sidney walked up and down the court in the second half, and still doesn’t have the conditioning or desire to be a star for the Bulldogs. Instead he has settled in nicely as a role player that complements Moultrie’s production. However, it is clear that Sidney doesn’t have the motor to provide the hustle and effort that Moultrie gives day in and day out for Mississippi State.
  5. South Carolina got a much needed 66-55 win over Presbyterian College on Tuesday night. Bruce Ellington came off the bench to give a steady influence the Gamecocks need at the guard position. Ellington scored 15 points and committed only two turnovers in 25 minutes of play. The Gamecocks have won two games in a row after a three-point win over Clemson on December 4. But wait… do the Gamecocks really think they can beat Ohio State on Saturday if they play like they did in the second half of the PC game? To be fair, the author says USC has “a proverbial puncher’s chance” and Ellington’s return has South Carolina looking like a much better team. At this point, there is no word on Jared Sullinger’s return from a back injury that sidelined him for the Buckeyes’ loss last weekend to Kansas. Maybe South Carolina’s chances aren’t such a longshot after all.
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SEC Set Yer TiVo: Dead Week Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 13th, 2011

Students across SEC schools are finishing up their term papers and cramming for finals before the Christmas break. To help their students, most schools have scheduled a bunch of high-calorie cupcakes for this week’s game. Beware of the sugar crash! A team might sleep through their on-court exam and end up with an embarrassing grade.

Which games are worth the extra case of Red Bull, and which you should just sleep through?

Tennessee at Charleston — Wednesday, December 14 at 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN3 (***)

In the midst of a three-game losing streak — including an embarrassing 74-70 home loss to Austin Peay last Saturday — Tennessee has squandered a scrappy, feel-good start to the season. In order to build any momentum for being included on the NCAA Tournament bubble come March, Cuonzo Martin‘s team must stop the slide in the Carolina First Center. The College of Charleston has racked up an impressive 7-1 record this season with wins at Clemson and on a neutral court against UMass. They should win the Southern Conference and by extension make a potential win by Tennessee look especially good to the NCAA Selection Committee.

Tennessee Is the Only SEC Team Facing A Legitimate Threat This Week

Tennessee will need to find the defensive pressure of olden times to pull off the upset. For the season the Cougars are shooting 46.6% from the field and all five starters shoot better than 45%. Tennessee is 0-4 when allowing their opponents to shoot better than 43% from the field. Charleston is getting out-rebounded by their opponents by an average of three per game. If Tennessee can use their athleticism and length to contest shots and dominate the defensive glass, it will fuel their transition game and possibly help them avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.

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SEC Morning Five: 12.09.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 9th, 2011

  1. Sebastian Pruiti wrote an excellent piece on the pros and cons of Kentucky‘s Anthony Davis, complete with boxes and arrows. Pruiti breaks down how Davis has been able to excel at offensive rebounding, while remaining somewhat limited in defensive rebounding. Davis averages almost three offensive rebounds per game, using his speed and athleticism to chase down the Wildcats’ missed shots on the offensive end. However, those are not the same skills needed to box out an opposing player. Davis’ improvement was noted in the article by showcasing his effort against North Carolina, but effort doesn’t always grab defensive rebounds. Look for Davis to continue to improve over the course of this season as he is tested by stronger low post threats.
  2. Florida may have beaten Arizona 78-72, but the game easily could have gone the other way. Up three with 3.9 seconds left, Billy Donovan instructed Gator forward Casey Prather to foul Arizona forward Solomon Hill for a one-and-one situation. Instead, Hill was ruled to be in the act of shooting and was given three free throws to tie the game.  “He did exactly what we wanted to do,” Donovan said. But of course Donovan and the Gators didn’t agree with the call. “Nobody agreed with the call but you just have to turn around and start focusing on overtime,” Florida guard Brad Beal said. “Basically, just staying composed and playing basketball.”
  3. Freshman BJ Young has stepped in to fill much of the scoring void left by injured Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell. Young scored a career-high 28 points against defending national champion Connecticut. He is averaging 15.4 points per game thus far this year, while shooting an even 50% from the field. Coach Mike Anderson is hoping opposing defenses don’t just zero in on Young. “We have some other options,” Anderson said. “And so hopefully those other options are clicking like he was clicking the other night.” So far for the Razorbacks, those other options haven’t been able to get going on the offensive end.
  4. John Calipari has coached a number of talented teams in his career, but this year’s Cats may be Cal’s best. A rundown of Kentucky’s roster is enough evidence, but it’s Kentucky’s team defense that makes this claim legitimate. The Cats are holding opposing offenses to 32% shooting from the field, and easily outrebounding opponents on the season. While the author calls Kentucky’s game with Indiana on Saturday a “test”, it might be more of a practice run for the true test at the end of this month with in-state rival and top 10 team, the Louisville Cardinals.
  5. Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury has to be happy with the production off the bench from forward Wendell Lewis. Lewis averaged 3.7 points and 3.8 rebounds a game last year, but has increased his numbers to 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds this year. Bulldogs’ forward Arnett Moultrie gave Lewis some confidence when Lewis needed to step in for the injured Moultrie. “This is your time to step and show the coaches you can play,” Moultrie told Lewis, who showed what he was capable of with 11 points and 11 rebounds, which was good enough for his first career double-double. Lewis has to be knocking on the door of a starting role with starter Renardo Sidney struggling to find his role. Sidney is averaging 8.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for the 8-1 Bulldogs.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.2.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

  1. In Arkansas’ win over Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday, guard Mardracus Wade had a career night. Wade hit six of seven shots in the first half on his way to 20 points for the game. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” head coach Mike Anderson said. “He puts the time in, so he’s having an opportunity. If you notice, the shots he’s getting he’s in rhythm. We’re making that extra pass and we’re getting him in positions where he can knock the shots down. Good players, they knock it down.” Anderson’s Razorbacks could use some offensive help as they currently rank 86th in offensive efficiency in spite of a fast-paced style of play. Leading scorer and rebounder Marshawn Powell went down with a season-ending injury earlier in the year, but Arkansas takes on Connecticut Saturday and will need to find consistent scoring before it expects to hang with a Top 10 team.
  2. LSU has found some offensive firepower in an unlikely spot. 5’11” freshman guard Anthony Hickey leads Trent Johnson’s Tigers in assists (4.0 APG) and steals (2.6 SPG), and is second on the team in points (11.6 PPG). His teammates have noticed his outstanding play thus far this year. “He’s getting everybody fired up [on the court], but he backs up that intensity when he’s diving for loose balls and pushing the ball hard up the floor,” sophomore guard Andre Stringer said. “Everything runs through him on the floor. He is our point guard and our floor general. That’s something you have to earn with us, but Anthony’s effort is something we’ve all noticed.” With three early season losses to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern and South Alabama already on its record, LSU will take all the contributions it can get from its freshmen class.
  3. Vanderbilt is concentrating on trying to avoid turnovers on Saturday against one of the best defenses in the country in Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals will likely employ a full court press to frustrate Vanderbilt’s guards. “They take your mistakes and turn them into points,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “They have a strength that’s a weakness to us.” The Commodores turned the ball over 18 times in their loss against Xavier, and Vandy is currently averaging 15 turnovers and twice this season has recorded over 20 miscues in a game.
  4. College basketball is too unpredicable night-to-night to play the comparison game. If “Team A” beats “Team B” and “Team C” beats “Team A”, then “Team C” can easily beat “Team B”, right? Well, it’s this scenario that has Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury concerned about his upcoming match with West Virginia. “The first thing you need to know about them is the team that beat us (Akron), they had them down 23 at halftime and beat them by 21 for the game,” Stansbury said. “Akron was playing without its starting point guard but, still, again, you get that team down 23 points at halftime, you’re pretty good.” This game is sure to be another tough early test for the Bulldogs who sit at #21 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
  5. Kentucky overpowered St. John’s on Thursday night to the tune of 81-59 at Rupp Arena. Freshman Anthony Davis scored 15 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and tied a school record with eight blocks. “Without him, we probably lose the game,” head coach John Calipari said. “He changed everything about the game.” Davis’ eight blocks also contributed to a school-record 18 team blocks. But it was the offense that wasn’t quite as impressive for the Cats. “We were just inept offensively,” Calipari said, as the Cats begin to look forward to Saturday’s showdown with the North Carolina Tar Heels. “If we play like tonight? I’d be a very sad coach after the game.” Kentucky hasn’t lost a home game with Calipari as coach, going 37-0 during his tenure.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.29.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 29th, 2011

 

 

 

 

  1. The Florida Gators beat Stetson on Monday night for head coach Billy Donovan’s 400th career victory. However, the Orlando Sentinel says Billy the kid has a new nickname — Billy the Forgotten. Despite being the youngest active Division I coach to reach 400 wins, Donovan’s milestone victory was overshadowed and overlooked. Donovan is ready to move past this achievement and just get back to work.  “I think as it relates to fanfare, attention or exposure or things like that I just feel like that’s probably for other people to talk about. I just have a job to do,” Donovan said. “I have respect for Tom [Izzo], certainly what [Mike] Krzyzewski’s done, [Jim] Calhoun, [Jim] Boeheim and those guys, but I think if you’re coaching good enough players, you’re going to eventually win at that level.” Donovan would sure like to get win #401 on Friday when the Gators take on #4 Syracuse. That one might mean a lot more than win #400.
  2. The SEC honored Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway as the SEC Player of the Week. Holloway led the Rebels to wins over TCU and the University of Miami this week. Holloway scored 20 points and four rebounds against TCU, and came back with 13 points and 17 rebounds against Miami. He averaged 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in this stretch. Florida’s freshman guard Bradley Beal took home SEC Freshman of the Week honors after he averaged 18.5 points and seven rebounds while leading the Gators to victories over Wright State and Jacksonville. Beal scored a team-high 22 points against Wright State. Congrats to both players for their outstanding performances.
  3. Mississippi State played with their full line-up with the return of big men Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie. Conditioning was again an issue as the Bulldogs ran away from North Texas. “I played them until they couldn’t play,” said head coach Rick Stansbury. “One of them was wanting to come out of the game and we just turned our heads and let him stay in the game. We gave up some points in that stretch but he (Sidney) needed that.” Moultrie finished with 20 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Sidney continued to struggle as he only managed nine points and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes. Sidney will have to find ways to contribute without being a liability on both ends of the court because of his lack of conditioning. It doesn’t seem that Stansbury is ready to give up on Sidney just yet.
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari is critical of his team’s slow starts so far this season. On Saturday, Portland led the Cats 7-6 going into the first TV timeout four minutes into the game. “The first play was great,” Calipari said. “Then we had about five plays after that (that) were just sloppy.” Calipari’s plea for better play coincides with a big week for the Cats as they face St. John’s on Thursday night and a huge test against North Carolina on Saturday. Kentucky was able to overcome sloppy play against Marist, Portland, and Radford, but North Carolina will require a full 40 minutes of the team’s attention. Despite the slow starts, the Cats opened the week as the #1 team in the country.
  5. Tennessee arrived back in Knoxville Friday night after a good effort in Maui. But head coach Cuonzo Martin didn’t expect a letdown against Oakland on Monday night. “We aren’t going to get caught up in any jet lag — Hawaii is in the wind,” Martin said. “This is an important game, and we’re going to have to be focused to win on the road.” Perhaps it wasn’t jet lag, but it could have been that the Volunteers were looking forward to a big game this weekend with Pittsburgh. Regardless of the reasons, the Vols dropped a big one to Oakland by the score of 89-81. Oakland is a strong team at home having won 41 of its past 43 home games. The Vols lost to the Golden Grizzlies by an almost identical 89-82 score last year.
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SEC Morning Five: 11.22.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 22nd, 2011

  1. Alabama‘s Tony Mitchell was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 17.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. The Crimson Tide won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off classic with wins over Maryland, Wichita State and Purdue, and also beat Oakland earlier in the week. Mitchell scored 26 points in the win over Wichita State, but his evening was highlighted with two monstrous dunks showcasing his amazing athletic ability. Mitchell’s play has elevated Alabama to not only one of the best teams in the SEC, but in the nation as well. Mississippi State freshman Rodney Hood was named SEC Freshman of the Week. Hood contributed to wins over #19 ranked Texas A&M and #15 ranked Arizona with 9.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. The freshman has drawn the praise of coach Rick Stansbury and will continue to see increased playing time with efforts like this week. Hood may be on his way to winning the award again next week as he added a career-high 20 points last night in Mississippi State’s game against Louisiana-Monroe. Congratulations to both players for their outstanding play this week.
  2. The SEC has already won four preseason tournaments so far this month. Kentucky won the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off with a blowout win over Penn State and a tough victory over Old Dominion. Alabama won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with impressive wins over Maryland, Wichita State and Purdue. Mississippi State upset two ranked opponents in No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 15 Arizona on their way to win the 2K Sports Classic. Finally, Vanderbilt won the TicketCity Legends Classic on Monday night with a wins over Oregon State after beating North Carolina State over the weekend. After a couple of surprising early season losses, the SEC has recovered to play solid basketball over the past week. Ironically, a couple of those losses belong to Mississippi State (against Akron) and Vanderbilt (against Cleveland State) and would have kept them from winning their tournaments if it was a true win and advance style of play.
  3. In a win over Wright State, Florida center Patric Young sat out most of the game with a swollen right eye. Young was poked in the eye in the first half. He was limited to 21 minutes in the game, and did not start the second half. With their lack of depth on the inside, the Gators cannot afford to lose Young’s scoring and rebounding. Florida beat Wright State 78-65, but the game was much closer than expected as result of Young’s absence from most of the game. Luckily for the Gators, Young is okay and will return to full strength (and increased minutes) for Florida’s next game against Jacksonville on Friday.
  4. With Young playing limited minutes, Florida was forced to again rely heavily on their outside shooting. This strategy is not much different from previous games as Florida is a guard-oriented team that plays primarily on the perimeter. Florida hit double-digit threes for the fourth consecutive game this season. They are shooting over 43% on the season from beyond the arc. While they are extremely proficient shooting from distance, the Gators will have to develop an inside game to take the pressure off their erratic guards. Young is key to the Gators’ success, and will have to be more of a factor going forward.
  5. The injury bug hit Mississippi State even harder, as both Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie were held out of action against Louisiana-Monroe. Sidney was sidelined with a sprained left hand and Moultrie had tendinitis in both knees. The Bulldogs have dealt with Sidney being out of action as he was hampered by a groin injury against South Alabama. Mississippi State had difficult without their low-post threats against ULM before pulling away for a 15-point win. The Bulldogs need to put everything (and everyone) together before a big match-up in Starkville with West Virginia on December 3.
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