RTC 2013-14 Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25

Posted by KDoyle on April 30th, 2013

Although we are less than a month removed from Louisville’s win over Michigan in the National Championship game, it certainly isn’t too soon to look ahead to what the 2013-14 season has in store. With this past Sunday the deadline to declare for the June NBA Draft, we now have a much better idea who the top teams in the country should be once the ball is tipped again in November. In looking at the top of our Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25, there are three teams bunched together separated by just three votes — in fact, Louisville and Michigan State are knotted together at the top. It isn’t all too often that a team wins it all, graduates its starting point guard, has its best frontcourt player leave for the NBA, and is still perhaps the top team in the nation, but that’s the case for Rick Pitino and his Cardinals. With Russ Smith and Chane Behanan returning, Louisville will be the early favorites to win the AAC — the ACC, keep in mind, doesn’t come for UofL until 2014. Michigan State received good news on Sunday when Adreian Payne announced he would be returning to East Lansing for his senior season. Payne’s return, coupled with the return of Gary Harris — the Big Ten Freshman of the Year — and Keith Appling, make the Spartans a legitimate championship contender next season. Lastly, there’s Kentucky. Did you really think Cal & Co. weren’t going to be up there? They may not be ranked #1 at this point, but with a downright scary recruiting class incoming boasted by the Harrison twins and Julius Randle — perhaps the top Class of 2013 recruit — the Wildcats’ expectations are sky high. Despite not finishing in the Top 25 and losing at Robert Morris in the NIT, Kentucky will enter 2013-14 as a top three team in the RTC .

The usual Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

2013-14 RTC Top 25

Quick n’ Dirty:

Whether it is through an exceptional recruiting class, or an impressive finish to the 2012-13 season coupled with a strong nucleus returning, the following four teams surged upward — and for good reason.

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SEC M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 2nd, 2013

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  1. The big news over the weekend from the SEC was the departure of the last remaining conference team from the NCAA Tournament, the Florida Gators. One of the notable struggles for the Gators in its 79-59 loss to Michigan was the interior play of Patric Young, who was outplayed and outmuscled by Michigan freshman Mitch McGary. Young has a decision to make this summer as he has long been considered a potential second round NBA Draft pick. However, many are disappointed with his lack of progress this season. Young, a junior, averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game which are almost identical to his output from his sophomore year (10.2 PPG; 6.4 RPG). In addition, his free throw shooting declined from 59.5 percent last season to 48.9 percent this year. It seems more and more likely that Young could end up back in Gainesville again next season to work on his game with a flux of incoming talent on its way.
  2. Kentucky guard Ryan Harrow won’t be in Lexington next season as he has made a decision to transfer to Georgia State. Harrow was the starting point guard for the Wildcats, but after a s0-so year in 2012-13, he would have sat on the bench behind talented incoming guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Kentucky coach John Calipari says that Harrow is transferring to move closer to his ill father. “Given the health of his dad, we fully support Ryan’s decision to transfer to Georgia State to be closer to his family in Atlanta,” Calipari said. “Ryan was a vital part of this year’s team and an important player in practice during our 2011-12 national championship run.” One has to wonder if he stayed at UK how much playing time would be available for the junior-to-be. Probably not much.
  3. Two other Kentucky players have announced they will return, while one freshman is heading pro. Willie Cauley-Stein, who played additional minutes in Nerlens Noel’s absence after injury, and Kyle Wiltjer will return to play with a loaded recruiting class in 2013-14. “I’m excited that Willie and Kyle have decided to return for next season,” Calipari said. “When we talk about a players-first program, our goal is for each player to reach his dreams. Willie and Kyle believe it is in their best interest to return to Kentucky next season to achieve those dreams, and I fully support their decisions.” However, freshman guard Archie Goodwin is putting his name into the NBA Draft. “Although I really wanted Archie to return for his sophomore season, I fully support him choosing to pursue his dreams. He has the drive and desire to be great and I will continue to do everything I can to make sure he succeeds in life both on and off the court.” Kentucky now awaits decisions from Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel, but they have until April 16 to make a final choice.
  4. You probably don’t need anybody to tell you this, but the 2012-13 version of the Kentucky Wildcats were, statistically speaking, John Calipari’s worst team since arriving at UK. Both the offensive and defensive units were the worst of Cal’s four UK teams in offensive and defensive efficiency. They were also the lowest ranked of Calipari’s four teams in scoring, three point field goals made, three point percentage defense, free throw percentage, steals per game, turnover margin, and assist to turnover margin. These end of year statistics only justify what Kentucky fans witnessed on the court all season. One has to assume that with the incoming class of freshman on next year’s roster, Calipari’s program won’t be missing another NCAA Tournament in 2013-14.
  5. Tennessee appears to be over the limit on scholarships next season after a commitment from Murfreesboro High School senior Darius Thompson. With the addition of Thompson it appears that the Vols and coach Cuonzo Martin now have 14 players for next season, but that likely means that one of its potential early draft entrants will go pro. Both Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes are exploring their options'; if both return, Martin will have a decision to make to determine how to get back down to the 13 allowed scholarships for next year.
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Morning Five: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. We are nearly at the finish line as we have whittled the field down to four. The Regional games were not exactly things of beauty as outside of two games (Michigan-Kansas and Ohio State-Arizona) the games were not particularly exciting. Hopefully next weekend provides a little more drama, but there should be no shortage of story lines with one semifinal pitting Syracuse against Michigan (possibly Boeheim’s last run and Michigan’s first trip since the Fab 5) and Louisville against Wichita State (winning for Kevin Ware and the Cinderella trying to make history). We are sure that more story lines will come out as the week progresses, but we hope that they aren’t in the form of investigative journalism revealing some scandal.
  2. And the coaching carousel goes around and around. The big domino from the weekend was Steve Alford backing out of his brand new 10-year extension at New Mexico to take over at UCLA. Of course, that opens up a spot at New Mexico where the school is looking for a replacement. If Alex Kirk has any say in it the next coach of the Lobos will be Craig Neal as Kirk has reportedly threatened to graduate over the summer and transfer to UCLA if Neal is not named the next coach of the Lobos. UCLA may have landed its man, but Minnesota has not found a coach yet as they were rebuffed by Flip Sanders.  Meanwhile former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith is reportedly under consideration to be the next coach at Texas Tech (must have something for former Kentucky coaches). With USC reportedly targeting Andy Enfield we could likely see another spot open up although we doubt that Dunk City will be that attractive of an opening despite their run this year.
  3. The coaching carousel may have dominated the off-court news, but the bombshell of the weekend came from Arsalan Kazemi who claimed that Rice Athletic Director Rick Greenspan repeatedly directed racist comments at Kazemi and two other players from the Middle East while Kazemi was at Rice. That treatment was reportedly the basis for the hardship waivers that Kazemi and another player (Omar Oraby) used transfer to Oregon and USC respectively without having to sit out a year. Kazemi is not talking about those comments at this time, but in documents obtained by Sports Illustrated he claimed that Greenspan repeatedly referred to the Axis of Evil and Al-Queda when talking to the players. Rice, which obviously didn’t support the hardship waivers, has come out and strongly denied these claims, but it is not a good look for any organization much less an institution of higher learning. The NCAA has also refused to discuss the case citing privacy concerns, but we would hope that they did a decent amount of investigating before granting a waiver for such a claim.
  4. The decision by Ryan Harrow to transfer from Kentucky should not come as much of a surprise given his poor play this season and the tsunami of talent coming into Lexington next season that would essentially eliminate his minutes. While Harrow’s decision to transfer to Georgia State raised a few eyebrows initially it made much more sense when he revealed his reason for transferring there was to be closer to his father who is still recovering from a stroke. Harrow will reportedly attempt to use a family hardship waiver to avoid sitting out a year before playing for Georgia State. While we wish Harrow the best in his career and more importantly his father’s recovery the use of hardship waivers in situations like this feels strange to us. If your family member is doing so poorly that you need to move closer to assist with their care we aren’t sure how playing college basketball is going to help them recover.
  5. The college basketball epicenter of the universe has probably been somewhere around Louisville, but if you are looking for the epicenter of college basketball recruiting you need to head east to Washington, DC as the area has produced a ridiculous amount of talent recently. The article focuses quite a bit on the famed 2004 All-Met team, but the talent extends well beyond that year. The amount of talent and the lack of success of some college teams in the area has become a hot button topic and is probably responsible for the firings of some coaches in the area. The level of talent also probably means that some potential sleepers could be found there who may not be quite NBA-level talents, but certainly good enough to play Division I and will have had experience playing against great talent even before they get to college.
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Rushed Reactions: Vanderbilt 64, Kentucky 48

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

  1. Bubble Trouble.  With all of the losses fellow bubble-dwellers have suffered, the path to the NCAA Tournament was clear for Kentucky. Most assumed the Wildcats would clinch a bid with a win over Vanderbilt, which came into the contest with an overall record of 15-16. Instead, they add another loss to a sub-top-100 team (the Commodores currently sit at No. 118 in the RPI). So instead of advancing to play either Missouri or Ole Miss, the Wildcats severely damaged their position with the Selection Committee. They must now wait and see what the committee will do, and whether their resume is enough to earn a bid to the Big Dance. Since Nerlens Noel went out with a season-ending injury, Kentucky is now 4-4, and a blowout loss to a heretofore mediocre Vanderbilt squad coupled with ugly losses at Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, may make it easy for the committee to conclude that the Wildcats don’t deserve a selection. Kentucky looked like anything but an NCAA Tournament team Friday night, trailing Vanderbilt from the outset and falling behind by 20 early in the second half.  The Wildcats looked listless on the offensive end and allowed Vanderbilt to control the game. The Commodores looked like the only NCAA Tournament-worthy squad in this contest.
  2. A Harrow-ing Tale. To figure out what has plagued Kentucky throughout this up-and-down, frustrating campaign, one need look no further than the play it has gotten from the point guard position. In the past John Calipari’s teams have had superb point guard play, from Derrick Rose to John Wall to Brandon Knight to Marquis Teague, but this team hasn’t gotten that. That glaring weakness was especially evident Friday, as Ryan Harrow was nothing short of atrocious. He went 2-of-15 from the field and turned the ball over four times, killing any chance Kentucky had of winning this game. Harrow has shown signs of what brought him so much acclaim when he transferred from NC State, but overall, has not played up to Calipari’s standards. If Kentucky doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, it can look no further than Harrow’s play for a reason why.
  3. Can Vanderbilt Steal a Bid? According to Commodore coach Kevin Stallings, his team is back to .500 for the first time “in about five months.” It may not have been that long, but it has been an uphill climb for his club. This was a team from which very little was expected, and Stallings said after the game that he couldn’t be more satisfied with the way his club has improved. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been as proud of a team as I am of this one,” he said.  The question for his club now becomes whether it can break through and steal a bid to the NCAA Tournament. After dismantling Kentucky, he likes how his club is playing, and what seemed like an impossibility just a few short weeks ago now is something to at least think about. The Commodores will face either Missouri or Ole Miss in tomorrow’s second semifinal. They were dismantled in Columbia in January, but would have beaten Ole Miss but for a 35-footer by Marshall Henderson that sent the game to overtime before the Rebels prevailed.  To just be in this position is quite an accomplishment, and anyone who has followed this team knows Stallings has done one of his best coaching jobs this season.

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A Forgotten Senior the Key to Kentucky’s Resurgence

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 26th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

When Kentucky lost its best player in a February 12 loss to Florida, the following contest at Tennessee on Saturday wasn’t pretty. The young Wildcats reached a fork in the road after that 30-point embarrassment — give up or keep fighting. But to keep fighting UK needed veteran leadership, a factor it had desperately and unsuccessfully sought throughout the entire season.  In freshman center Nerlens Noel’s absence, a new leader has emerged. Senior Julius Mays stepped up and provided that leadership at just the right time, the point at which the Wildcats needed it most.

Kentucky needed Julius Mays to step in, and he has over Kentucky's last seven games. (Getty)

Kentucky needed Julius Mays to step up, and he has over Kentucky’s last seven games. (Getty)

The Wildcats faced a must-win situation on Saturday, and coach John Calipari turned to a player he could rely on. Mays played 44 of an available 45 minutes in an overtime win against Missouri Saturday night, and Calipari and Big Blue Nation were not disappointed. Thirteen of his season high 24 points came in the final 3:37 of regulation and the extra period. “Julius was terrific, the shots he made and the leadership,” Calipari said. The transfer student has quietly developed consistency as the season progressed — in UK’s last seven games, he hasn’t had an offensive rating below 100.0 and he’s scored in double figures in six of those games. He is without question hitting his stride at just the right time.

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SEC M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 25th, 2013

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  1. Kentucky rose to the occasion for ESPN’s GameDay, knocking off Missouri Saturday night in overtime. The Wildcats have taken a ton of heat over the past week following assertions from John Calipari that some his players were “uncoachable” following a blowout loss to Tennessee. Two of the assumed targets of the comments came up big against the Tigers. Point guard Ryan Harrow scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, while Archie Goodwin scored all 18 of his after the break. “Oh man, I mean we fought hard,” said Goodwin. “That is ultimately what it came down to. We made a lot of mistakes, but in the end we just wanted it more than they did.” Saturday’s performance served as a huge statement from a few players who have had their effort widely questioned throughout the year.
  2. The elder statesman of this Kentucky squad had himself quite a game as well. Wright State transfer Julius Mays led the Wildcats in scoring with 24, including six game-icing free throws in overtime. Mays has done his best to seize a leadership role for Kentucky, and his efforts looked to pay dividends against Mizzou. “He’s a great leader and he’s a great big brother for me,” Goodwin said. “He’s like my best friend. He’s just always there for encouragement. Sometimes when things are not going our way, he’s always the person that pulls me aside and just tries to get my head back right.” With his more talented teammates singing his praises, “Uncle Julius” hopes his teammates will get on board for an NCAA Tournament push.
  3. Florida got the revenge it craved in Saturday’s easy win over Arkansas, but it came at a high price. The Gators lost reserve forward Michael Frazier II to a concussion after the freshman guard collided with Scottie Wilbekin chasing a loose ball. “I don’t know when he’ll be back. He was knocked out on the floor,” said Florida coach Billy Donovan. “It could be a week, it could be 10 days, it could be two weeks – I don’t know.” With Will Yeguete already sidelined, Donovan is down to only six regular rotation players and says he will turn to Braxton Ogbueze, Dillon Graham or DeVon Walker to pick up the spare minutes.
  4. Even a good night on offense rarely leads to victory for the road team at the O’Connell Center, but Arkansas’ two big shots didn’t give the Razorbacks much of a chance. BJ Young and Marshawn Powell, who led a balanced Arkansas attack in scoring in their upset of Florida in the first meeting, were held to only 10 points, with Young in particular being shut out from the field. A big night from Coty Clarke (8-of-8 from the field) kept Arkansas in the game in the first half before the Gators pulled away after the break. “It was a tale of two halves,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “We scratched and clawed and gave ourselves a chance, even with some adversity with the early fouls. In the second half, Florida really attacked the glass and we didn’t make shots.
  5. They’ve been so hot over the past few weeks, 40 minutes wasn’t enough basketball for Tennessee on Saturday. Tied at 62 after regulation in College Station, Texas A&M and the Volunteers decided to play another two halves of hoops, resulting in a fifth straight victory for the visitors. Trae Golden led the way with 32 points, with both Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae eclipsing the 20-point mark in the longest game in Tennessee history. Cuonzo Martin’s team is getting hot at exactly the right time, and an upset victory over a depleted Florida team on Tuesday would really make the “at-large” whispers that much louder in Knoxville.
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SEC M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 22nd, 2013

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  1. Ryan Harrow was a big part of Kentucky’s 74-70 win over Vanderbilt, partly because he stepped out of his comfort zone. After coming off the bench against Tennessee, Harrow went to coach John Calipari to ask to be inserted in the starting lineup. His teammates recognize what a big step that was for the quiet-natured point guard. That was a big step for Ryan,” freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein said. “We need him to be more vocal like that; get it within himself and express how he feels to coach. It’s all about growing up and starting to be a man like that. That’s what they express to us every day.” The leadership moment off the court translated to success on it, as Harrow finished with 12 points, four assists, zero turnovers, and a much better command of the offense. 
  2. As Kevin Stallings’ club staged a comeback against the Wildcats on Wednesday night, it was a shot blocking center for Kentucky that came up with two big blocks on defense. Willie Cauley-Stein filled in right where Nerlens Noel left off, but it wasn’t just his defense that impressed. “We gave up 20 points to a guy who’s not averaging 20,” said Stallings. “That will usually get you beat.” The Vanderbilt coach was, of course, referring to Cauley-Stein’s season-high 20 points that went along with his seven rebounds and three blocks on the night. Cauley-Stein seems to be hitting his stride since returning from injury. He has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, and will likely continue to see big minutes with UK’s thin frontcourt.
  3. Sometimes teams just need to loosen up a bit. That’s the approach Kentucky and Calipari took when the players took on the coaches in a friendly game of dodgeball. “We’ve got to lighten this mood up,” Calipari said. “These guys are playing with the weight of the world on their shoulders, let’s do something.” After a big win Wednesday over the Commodores, Calipari plans to continue keeping the mood light. “We’re going to play wiffle ball Friday,” the head coach quipped. “I promise they will lose Friday.” And he probably hopes a fun time leads to a win on Saturday.
  4. Jordan McRae was 6-6 from three point land on his way to 34 points in a Tennessee win over LSU, but the coaching staff sees his performance as a credit to the entire offense. “It’s contagious,” assistant coach Kent Williams said. “When some other guys are shooting well, you tend to shoot well with them. You feel good as a team.” The hot shooting has the Vols on a four game winning streak to bring their record to 7-6 in the conference. Tennessee won eight of its last nine games to end the regular season last year, so be on the lookout for a repeat.
  5. Florida continues to look for answers as to why it has experienced several late game collapses in single digit games this season. Missed free throws contributed not only to the Gators three point loss to Missouri, but in an earlier loss to Arizona. “It’s hard to explain,” senior guard Mike Rosario said. “Normally, we step up to the line and make those with confidence.” Several Florida players are not strong free throw shooters. Three players seeing significant minutes this season (Casey Prather, Patric Young, and Will Yeguete) shoot below 60 percent from the charity stripe. Florida’s point guard, Scottie Wilbekin, the player likely to have the ball in his hands in end game situations, shoots 64.5 percent. If Florida is to reverse its misfortunes in close games, improving its free throw shooting is a good place to start.
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College Basketball by the Tweets: The Harlem Shake, Bob Knight and Alan Crabbe…

Posted by Nick Fasulo on February 20th, 2013

bythetweets

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

So this Harlem Shake viral phenomenon. You’ve heard of it. I shouldn’t have to explain it. Heck, there’s a chance you’ve made one or been forced to watch your co-workers’ rendition in the last seven days. Anyway… from the Soulja Boy Superman to the Dougie to Gangnam Style, college basketball always has a say in the direction and popularity of dance crazes. So with the latest flash in the pan fad reaching its apex over the weekend, naturally it pervaded DI to NAIA gyms and arenas over the weekend. Like, literally.

Based on my observations, Colin is not exaggerating.

Mike Montgomery Shoves Alan Crabbe

In sports today, almost any altercation, whether physical or verbal, is going to spark conversation on Twitter. Drama moves the needle, and the latest occurrence of that was Saturday when Cal head coach Mike Montgomery shoved his star player, Alan Crabbe. Video shows nothing too aggressive, but a love jolt enough to upset Crabbe and cause a bit of short-lived dissent among the team. Some quickly compared the act to that of Morehead State’s Sean Woods, who verbally abused a player earlier this season The difference is that Sean Woods humiliated his player because of how personal Morehead’s game against Kentucky was. Woods is a former Wildcats star whose jersey hangs in the Rupp Arena rafters, now coaching against his alma mater and trying to squeeze as much out of his players as he could. But only for his own good. Montgomery was passionate and truly trying to motivate, unfortunately displaying that passion in a not-so-ideal manner. Many people saw it the same way.

So I think we can agree that the action was understandable. We can give Montgomery a pass. But what he said in his postgame press conference probably didn’t award him a get-out-of-jail free card, thus leading to the undisclosed punishment.

Oh yeah, and, Montgomery’s act sort of worked, as Crabbe led the Golden Bears’ comeback against the Trojans, and also this…

Assuming Montgomery has spoken to Crabbe privately about this, I’ll tip my cap to the heady coach.

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SEC M5: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 5th, 2013

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  1. Is Florida the nation’s best team? The Gators checked in at number one in the RTC weekly poll, but number two in the AP poll and USA Today/Coaches poll. But NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster says it doesn’t matter what the rankings say, Florida is the best team. As Dauster points out, “if the season ended today, Florida would be the best defensive team of the past decade, and they do it playing man, zone and pressing, depending on who they’re playing. But Florida also happens to be the nation’s second-most powerful offense, sliding in between Michigan and Indiana. In other words, Florida is what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team.” Florida’s combination of offensive and defensive efficiency gives it a net difference of +43.3, which would also be the highest mark in the KenPom era. On paper, the Gators certainly have the look of a champion and its defense is becoming more and more impressive as the season goes on.
  2. The #2 ranking for Florida is its highest ranking since coming in first in the 2007 AP poll, but of course the Gators are not alluding to the high praise as changing anything in their preparation. “It just means that we’re on the right track,” UF center Patric Young said. “We just need to keep working and improving and not take any games for granted. We can’t lose any games right now.” If the Gators weren’t already circled on the calendar by other SEC teams, they surely are now. “Getting more recognition means that we have to be ready for everybody bringing their best shot at us,” Young said. “We’ve just got to take care of what we can control coming in and trying to get better each and every day.” UF travels to Arkansas on Tuesday, where the Razorbacks have only lost to Syracuse this season at Bud Walton Arena.
  3. In their last two losses, the Tennessee Volunteers have amassed over 20 turnovers per game, causing head coach Cuonzo Martin to talk about taking care of the ball. “We have to do a better job of finding shooters and that dribble penetration,” Martin said. “Because eight assists and 20 turnovers – we have to turn that thing around.” It probably didn’t help that UT was without Trae Golden in its most recent loss to Arkansas. Golden was the starting point guard entering the season for the Vols, but he hasn’t started a game since January 9. He has played well coming off the bench, though, and says he will “be back on the court in no time,” (via Twitter).
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari is looking forward to a couple of games at home this week for his road-weary Wildcats. “I was surprised we were at home this week. We’ve been on the road four of five games. I thought we were just a road team. I didn’t think we played home games, but it’s good to be back. We’re playing two scrappy teams. When you watch them, they fight like heck.” Calipari was referring to Frank Martin’s Gamecocks of South Carolina and former Calipari assistant Tony Barbee’s Auburn Tigers. Both teams will likely get physical with the Wildcats, a style of play that has caused Kentucky a fair amount of trouble this season.
  5. Calipari explained during Monday’s SEC teleconference that point guard Ryan Harrow may begin to lose playing time once center Willie Cauley-Stein returns from injury. On Cauley-Stein’s return, Cal said, “Well, Kyle (Wiltjer) needs to play and Alex (Poythress) needs to play so it will probably take minutes away from Ryan (Harrow) and probably some minutes away from Archie (Goodwin) because if Alex and Kyle deserve to play more because of how they’re playing, well then who’s not… you’ve got to take somebody else out.” But Calipari seemed frustrated when trying to explain what has happened to Harrow recently. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Just gonna keep working with him.” Harrow has averaged almost three turnovers per game since the start of SEC play, and his 26 percent shooting from beyond the arc certainly isn’t helping his case either.
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Uncertainties About Guard Play Remain After Kentucky Escapes LSU

Posted by Will Tucker on January 27th, 2013

Will Tucker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s Kentucky-LSU game in Lexington.

The name on the lips of everyone in Rupp Arena on Saturday was that of Alex Poythress, after his Wildcats dispatched a slumping LSU team, 75-70. The mercurial forward, whose production and motor had yet to match the expectations set by his high draft stock, notched his first college double-double with 20 point and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. The performance absolved him of the forgettable 15 minutes he logged before fouling out in last week’s loss to Alabama. It also discouraged much discussion of the somewhat perplexing showing from Kentucky’s backcourt trio of Ryan Harrow, Julius Mays, and Archie Goodwin. While John Calipari’s guards each put together efficient stat lines and rebounded from a (generally) dismal game in Tuscaloosa, their disjointed half court execution left several lingering questions about Kentucky’s guard play.

(Credit Clay Jackson)

The backcourt is still a source of headaches for Calipari (Credit Clay Jackson)

While there was plenty of blame to go around after Kentucky’s ugly 59-55 loss to Alabama, much of it laid with Harrow and Goodwin for shooting their team out of the game. The two combined to score 13 points on 5-24 shooting (20.8%), and dished out as many turnovers as assists (4). For his part, Mays hit four of his five three-point attempts and was the only Wildcat with a positive +/- rating in what was only the second time he had scored in double digits since mid-December. John Calipari’s backcourt triumvirate was as much of a wildcard heading into yesterday’s game as Poythress. That former Kentucky Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey would be looking to exact revenge on his home turf for two losses against Kentucky last year placed even more pressure on his would-be defenders.

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SEC M5: 01.22.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 22nd, 2013

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  1. The NCAA’s investigation of the University of Miami program is expected to be released as early as this week, and it doesn’t sound like good news for one of the SEC’s newest coaches. Missouri coach Frank Haith is expected to be charged with “unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance,” according to a report by Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports. Haith has been linked to well-known Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, who sold out the program while currently serving out a prison term for a $930 million Ponzi scheme. According to Goodman, “Haith will be charged with unethical conduct because the NCAA did not believe his story that payments to his assistants intended for camp money did not wind up going to repay Shapiro.” Haith is also linked to impermissible benefits because of airline tickets given to family members of players. He could potentially receive a show-cause penalty similar to the three-year ban former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl received in 2011, but will have 90 days to respond to the allegations once they are released by the NCAA.
  2. The fellas over at A Sea of Blue have the good, the bad, and the ugly for their beloved Wildcats in UK’s four SEC games thus far. ASoB mentions Ryan Harrow’s excellent assist-to-turnover ratio (also Julius Mays with just two turnovers in the previous four games), as he has just five turnovers over the last two games compared to 13 assists, but the Cats have struggled overall with a 20.7 percent turnover ratio in conference play. If not the point guard Harrow, who is coughing up the ball? That honor would go to, well, everybody else. Archie Goodwin leads the way with 13 turnovers over the last four games, for an average of 3.3 turnovers per game. Alex Poythress is averaging 2.3, Kyle Wiltjer with 2.0, and Nerlens Noel also with 2.0 turnovers per game. Kentucky’s primary ball-handler is taking care of the rock, but everybody else needs to follow suit for the Cats to be successful. The Wildcats’ next three opponents rank no lower than 63rd in defensive turnover percentage.
  3. We all knew Nerlens Noel had big shoes to fill when he replaced the number one pick in the NBA Draft in Kentucky’s starting lineup, but he’s only worried about his own development. “I’m not trying to live up to him,” Noel said, referring to former Wildcat center Anthony Davis. “I’m trying to be my own player and set my own mark and play for my team.” And his development is going better than expected, even with incredibly high expectations in the offseason. “Defensively, I think I’ve got a lot better,” Noel said. “Coach Cal has made sure I’ve stayed disciplined defensively, staying on my feet. It’s helped me. I’m not going after every ball like I was earlier in the season. I’m blocking a higher (percentage) of shots. Offensively, just Coach Payne, just everything on the block, just working on my touches and things like that.”  Noel’s work is paying off, as he was named SEC freshman of the week on Monday and is among the nation’s leaders in blocks, rebounds, and steals.
  4. Mississippi State‘s lack of depth is continuing to prove difficult in practice situations, as the Bulldogs are attempting to simulate Arkansas’ famous full-court pressure. “It’s going to be difficult for us to simulate what Arkansas is going to bring with their pressure defense with all their different presses,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “We’re trying to find a way with managers, athletic trainers, coaches and things like that just to get bodies out on the court to try to simulate that. Even with those guys being out there, the problem is still simulating what Arkansas does with their length and athleticism with those pressures.” Mississippi State is one of the worst teams in the nation in turnover percentage at 25.2 percent (339th in the country). On the flip side, the Razorbacks force turnovers on just over 24 percent of opponents’ possessions. If you thought Kentucky’s freshmen turnover averages were bad, Mississippi State guard Craig Sword is averaging four turnovers a game in conference play, including seven miscues against South Carolina. So with all these factors in play, it could be a long night on Wednesday for the Bulldogs.
  5. The Rowdy Reptiles got their groove on during a timeout of the Missouri-Florida game on Saturday. Though I’m not a fan of the flash mob or synchronized dance movement, there wasn’t much else for the student section to do in the wake of an almost 30-point blowout. But seriously, can we move on from this horrendous point in American history when we feel like we have to do jazz fingers in perfect harmony with hundreds or thousands of our closest friends for an event to be meaningful? Enough already. Turn down your blasted pop music. And get off my damn lawn while you’re at it, you good-for-nothing kids. If you’re still reading at this point, here’s a video of the flash mob routine in the O’Connell Center from Saturday:

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SEC M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 1st, 2013

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  1. If I told you before the season that Kentucky would lose to fierce rival Louisville but the Big Blue Nation would be generally happy with the performance, you would call me crazy, right? Well, that is exactly what has happened. The Wildcats have not lived up to preseason expectations through non-conference play, but their effort at the Yum! Center on Saturday revealed a different team, and a new level of offensive efficiency was the impetus. The Cardinals boast one of the most fearsome defensive units in the country, allowing only 81 points for every 100 possessions (good for 6th nationally), but the Wildcats exposed them, tallying a single-game offensive efficiency of 107.1.
  2. The biggest negative to come out of the loss for Kentucky fans is the worrying play of freshman Alex Poythress. The talented forward has a polished post game for such a young player, but he’s come up very small in some big spots for the Wildcats. Against Louisville, he played just 15 minutes, giving way to classmate Willie Cauley-Stein, who, despite struggling from the free-throw line, exhibited a much higher work rate. Coach John Calipari revealed yesterday that Poythress might have to get used to watching the game from the sideline if he didn’t increase his intensity. Point guard Ryan Harrow’s work ethic was widely questioned early in the season, but his recent play has quieted those concerns, and Calipari will hope his young post player will follow suit.
  3. The SEC continued their awful season over the weekend, with Alabama’s home loss to Tulane standing out as the worst of the bunch. “Tonight, what cost us the game was our inability to have success on the offensive end,” coach Anthony Grant said after the loss. The Crimson Tide shot under 40% from the field and converted only 3 of their 15 attempts from long range. Early in the season, Alabama emerged as a surprise contender to save the SEC from a down season, starting 6-0, but they have won only one game in six tries in December. Hopefully, January will bring back the Tide’s shooting stroke, a necessary improvement for a team with so little inside depth.
  4. Jeronne Maymon remains on the bench, but Tennessee got an infusion of size over the weekend in the form of Derek Reese. The freshman tore his labrum lifting weights before the season started, and there were questions over whether he could return to help the Vols in 2012-13. Reese was not highly recruited, but with a guard’s skill set in a 6’8″ frame, coach Cuonzo Martin is confident that he can contribute. “In our offense, when you run motion, guys like Derek at the four position and Jeronne Maymon, you can facilitate your offense through those guys,” Martin said. “Because Derek can make shots and make plays off the dribble and Jeronne can make plays off the dribble, and your offense flows. When you don’t have guys like that, things can become stagnant on offense.” For a team ranked 166th in the nation in offensive efficiency, they’ll take help in any way they can.
  5. Auburn nearly pulled off one of the conference’s most unlikely results of the season over the weekend, taking 12th-ranked Illinois down to the wire in Chicago. “There is no such thing as a moral victory,” said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. “We came in here to get this job done, and we didn’t. We gave ourselves some opportunities. Like I told the guys, we have one game left in the first stage of the season in the non-conference schedule. We have to move on past this, and we have to go get that, but the first thing we have to do is address why we didn’t get this one today.” That sort of reaction is expected from a coach of course, but the close loss the Illini is easily Auburn’s most impressive effort on the season. It does not change their disappointing season, but in the tightly packed basement of the SEC, performances like this indicate that the Tigers might finish closer to the middle of the pack than the conference cellar.
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