SEC M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 22nd, 2013

SEC_morning5

  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.
Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC M5: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 5th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  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.
Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC M5: 01.22.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 22nd, 2013

SEC_morning5

  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:

Share this story

SEC M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  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.
Share this story

Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 28th, 2012

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are headed into the final weekend of 2012, which means conference season is just about here. There are a few teams playing this weekend that could use one more strong non-conference win for their NCAA Tourney resumes. However, there is one game this weekend that takes center stage in the Bluegrass State. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend

#24 Kentucky at #3 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (*****)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

  • The Louisville-Kentucky series is starting to develop a pattern. Since the 2002-03 season, the Cardinals have won two in a row then dropped three in a row, won two in a row and then dropped three in a row. Rick Pitino and company are in the midst of another three-game slide to their in-state rival, so if the pattern holds, Louisville is due for a win on Saturday. The big news this week that may help secure that victory is the return of Gorgui Dieng from a wrist injury. Dieng has been out since before the Duke game and should have a significant impact against the Wildcats. While he may be a bit rusty, his defense is crucial against the UK frontcourt of Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein. Defense in general will be key for Louisville in this game. Watch Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin closely to see how he handles the Pitino press. In general, the Wildcats have not turned the ball over a great deal, but this is by far the best defense they have played all season long. Also, watch the rebounding numbers closely. Kentucky has a significant size advantage but the Cardinals have been better on the boards overall. This is where Dieng will make a huge difference. Without him, the Cards have little to no size. The question will be if he can play up to his pre-injury level without any major issues.
  • Kentucky’s three losses this season have been also been their worst turnover performances of the the year (on a per possession basis). Goodwin is turning the ball over at a rate of about 20%, so it will be interesting to see how John Calipari has the offense bring the ball upcourt. Let’s see if they utilize their big men and size advantage to advance the ball. If you see a lot of dribbling in the backcourt by Kentucky, it will probably result in too many turnovers. The Wildcats have shown a more balanced offense against weaker opponents since their last loss to Baylor, but again, they will be facing what could be the best defense in the country, so they must continue to get contribution from a lot of sources. Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiljter haven proven they can put up 20+ points any given night. Unfortunately, they both can disappear from the offense as well. Both players need to have their best games of the season for Kentucky to win on the road.
  • Dieng looks like he could be the difference in this game. Unfortunately, we do not know where he is at in terms of game stamina. If he can stay on the court and play defense and rebound at a reasonable pace, Louisville should be able to stop its three-game losing streak to Kentucky. If he gets tired or gets into foul trouble, the Wildcats can take advantage of their size and athleticism inside. However, they still need scoring from players like Harrow and Wiltjer if they plan to pull the road upset.

More Great Games

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Power Rankings: Week Five

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 21st, 2012

Another week of the SEC Power Rankings, and another week of Florida sitting in the top spot.

1. Florida (-): The Gators lost to Arizona on Saturday, but that’s not enough to drop them from the top spot. Saturday’s letdown was the first time this defense allowed more than 1.0 points per possessions (1.08 PPP). Part of the reason Billy Donovan’s defense is so effective is because Florida doesn’t allow easy baskets.

Florida\'s defensive summary for this season.

Florida’s defensive summary for this season (credit: hoop-math.com)

Florida is only giving up 24 percent of opposing shots at the rim (tied for 20th in the nation), forcing opponents to take more difficult attempts. Our Freeze Frame edition from Tuesday shows how quickly the Florida defense is rotating to keep players from penetrating into the lane. And then of course if they make it to the rim, Patric Young is waiting for them with outstretched arms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC M5: 12.17.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 17th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida did a lot of things right in its match-up with Arizona over the weekend. Mike Rosario had his best game as a Gator, Erik Murphy found his scoring touch again, and the team defense looked ferocious at times. However, 38 minutes of a performance wasn’t good enough as the last two minutes saw the Gators give away the game through a comedy of errors, with Kenny Boynton serving as the primary culprit. In addition to two Rosario turnovers, Boynton missed two three-pointers, committed a turnover, and missed the front end of a crucial 1-and-1. Florida appeared to have the game comfortably in hand, but only managed four shots in the final five minutes, allowing the host Wildcats back in the game. “I told our guys at halftime, if we’re going to lose, let’s at least make them beat us,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “We beat ourselves tonight.”
  2. Missouri will gain a welcome addition to its backcourt rotation tonight when the Tigers take on South Carolina State. Jabari Brown, a highly touted recruit from the class of 2012, initially attended Oregon, but after only two appearances for the Ducks, announced his intention to transfer. The circumstances around the decision remain a mystery, but Missouri fans will quickly forget that if he can help solidify the two-guard slot for Frank Haith’s team in the wake of Michael Dixon’s departure. “I feel I’m ready to jump in, but that’s not my call,” Brown said. “Whatever coach Haith says, I’m going to roll with it. I might have to take on a little larger role. I’m not saying I have to score ‘x’ amount of points. I just know Mike was a great player, so everyone has to step up collectively.” Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Negus Webster-Chan have struggled on the offensive end of the court so far, so Tiger fans will be hoping that Brown’s offensive pedigree isn’t just hype.
  3. When Kentucky fans see a player make an obvious mistake on the court, they next thing they often see is a replacement Wildcat jogging from the bench to the scorer’s table. John Calipari doesn’t have a very deep stable of reserve options, but that certainly doesn’t stop him from substituting liberally when he sees something he doesn’t like. “If we don’t start changing, we’re going to struggle,” Calipari said. “You either want to change or you have your excuses of why it’s happening. Let’s just change. That’s my thing.” There were some positive signs for Calipari’s squad against Lipscomb over the weekend. Ryan Harrow, starting his first game since the season opener, looked more aggressive and Kyle Wiltjer finally busted out of a shooting slump and even added an unexpected presence on the glass.
  4. A road loss to VCU in Anthony Grant’s return to Richmond isn’t too shocking as the Rams are a quality team, but the 19-point margin of defeat is a bit of a surprise. Personally, I give up trying to analyze this team. The lack of frontcourt options has been Alabama’s weakness so far, but when freshman forward Devonta Pollard finally had a game that displayed his considerable ability, the usually strong backcourt couldn’t hold up its end. Pollard came off the bench to contribute 13 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. “This is a tough loss,” said Grant after the game. “We’ve lost three in a row here. When you win your first six, you always say it’s never as good as it seems. When you lose three in a row, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems. I’ve got to go back and look at the film.”
  5. The SEC lost another undefeated team over the weekend, though LSU’s loss to Boise State was met with a lot less fanfare. Freshman guard Corban Collins was a bright spot for the Tigers, scoring a career-high 19 points. But the LSU defense wasn’t up to the task, allowing 89 points to the Broncos, including eight three-pointers and 23 free throws. The trip to Boise was the first of three straight road games for Johnny Jones’ team, who will travel to UC Irvine and Marquette before they see their home court again.
Share this story

The RTC Podcast: Episode Two

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2012

Holidays, travel and other nonsense got the best of us for a couple of weeks, but the RTC Podcast is back in action with a look back at the first few weeks of the season. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts our discussion which includes this week a discussion of the top four teams in the polls, some of our hits-and-misses from the preseason, and a look at some of the surprising teams of the first month of action.

This full podcast will suffice for this week but we’ll back with our regular schedule next week, with a full podcast on Tuesday followed by our shorter (~15-20 minutes) podblast on Friday taking a quick look at the intervening week’s worth of news and action. Feel free to jump around using the outline below.

Also make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

0:00-2:30 – Duke’s great November.
2:30-4:20 – Why can’t there be more good games in December?
4:20-12:00 – Duke/Indiana/Michigan/Florida impressing the most early on.
12:00-17:30 – What’s wrong with UCLA?
17:30-21:30 – Can Kentucky rally for a third straight Final Four run?
21:30-26:15 – NC State leads the disappointments in the ACC.
26:15-29:15 – John Groce finds early success with Illinois.
29:15-31:45 – Minnesota another Big 10 surprise.
31:45-33:45 – Quick Big 10 power rankings.
33:45-35:50 – Back pats – what we got right in the preseason (Michigan/Ryan Harrow).
35:50-40:15 – Back tracks – what we got wrong (DeShaun Thomas/Tennessee).
40:15-45:00 – Weekend preview and wrap up.

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up atrushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

Share this story

Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Canadian Imports, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. When the AP Top 25 was released Monday afternoon, Kentucky wound up unranked for the first time in the John Calipari era after a blowout loss to Notre Dame and a home setback to Baylor, UK’s first loss at Rupp Arena under Calipari (UK remains ranked at #20 here at RTC). Kentucky’s drop from #8 to unranked was the largest in AP poll history since the poll expanded to include 25 teams in 1990. Now we all know college basketball polls don’t really matter (unlike a certain other collegiate sport) so this is just something to discuss among basketball junkies. But seriously, do people really believe this isn’t one of the Top 25 teams in the country? I guess it depends on your philosophy when it comes to filling out a ballot. If you’re going purely by record, sure the Wildcats shouldn’t be ranked at 4-3. But a deeper inspection reveals a team with a win over Maryland, one that could turn into a very good win if the Terrapins sustain their early season level of play, and three losses to very good basketball teams (Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor). The Wildcats aren’t anywhere near last year’s juggernaut but until they lose to a bad team or the losses to good teams keep piling up, I’ll continue to rank Kentucky and won’t overreact. What are the issues Calipari faces? Number one, Ryan Harrow has proven not to be the answer at point guard. Archie Goodwin has been forced to be the primary ballhandler and is turning the ball over more than three times per game. Second, Kentucky’s rebounding and defense has taken a dip from last year but who didn’t expect that? Anthony Davis is in New Orleans now, not Lexington. Third, the team is relying exclusively on freshmen, one sophomore (Kyle Wiltjer, who does need to pick his game up) and two transfers. There is no veteran presence who has been through the SEC wars like Doron Lamb and Darius Miller had been last season. While Cal’s teams have had tremendous freshmen talent, the presence of Miller and Lamb pushed the team over the top last year. Without that crucial element, Kentucky will continue to struggle with immature plays and poor decision-making. However, I’m sure that Calipari will find a way to make things work eventually. Let’s not panic in early December because Kentucky lost three games to Top 25 teams.

    Coach Cal’s Team Is Now Unranked, But Don’t Panic Yet

  2. With Kentucky struggling to find its way right now, Florida has emerged as the early favorite in the SEC. The Gators are 6-0 with a pair of blowout wins over Wisconsin and Marquette and a nice “neutral” court win over a good Middle Tennessee team. It’s pretty clear that Florida is for real but the schedule ramps up in a big way this month with tomorrow’s road trip to rival Florida State followed 10 days later by a visit to Arizona and a quasi-road game against Kansas State in Kansas City on December 22. Everyone knows about Florida’s high-powered offensive attack but the most astonishing thing about this team has been its defense. This could very well be Billy Donovan’s best defensive team in Gainesville. Florida leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 48.5 PPG to date. The Gators are fourth in defensive efficiency and have also improved their rebounding from a year ago with Patric Young and Will Yeguete doing most of the work on the boards but even UF’s guards are contributing to that effort as well. Florida is just as efficient on the offensive end of the floor with balanced scoring and depth. Seven Gators are averaging at least seven points per game, led by Kenny Boynton. Donovan has to be thrilled with senior Erik Murphy, someone who is an absolute match-up nightmare for almost every opponent because of his length, versatility and ability to stretch defenses. When Murphy hangs out on the perimeter he can hit shots or open up gaps for his teammates to drive and score, or get to the line as Florida has done so well this year. His numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet at you but he’s such a valuable asset to this team. Murphy has had his share of off-court problems and here’s to hoping he’s learned from that and takes on a leadership role for his team as a senior. He’s off to a great start and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Florida in the top 10 all year long. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

SEC M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 3rd, 2012

  1. Is Kentucky is a potential juggernaut just waiting for their kids to grow up or does this group have more serious flaws? The narrative is murky at best. Last week’s losses to Notre Dame and Baylor (the latter ending the nation’s longest home winning streak) made for the ugliest stretch of John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington, with questions over the Wildcats’ point guard play again playing a major role. Archie Goodwin saw most of the time at point, but he committed five turnovers and frequently looked out of control when attacking the basket. Ryan Harrow had a promising stretch toward the end of the game, providing fans with a minor positive talking point, but Calipari probably wouldn’t agree with that assessment, though. After being asked about the transfer point guard on Saturday, he said “We are happy he’s on the court. He was 1-for-9.”
  2. Last week’s biggest off-the-court news from SEC country came out of Columbia, Missouri, as senior guard Michael Dixon announced his intention to transfer. Dixon had not played this season because of a violation of team rules, the details of which had not be released, but it appears that allegations of forcible rape from two separate accusers (one in 2010) are driving the situation. Many questions remain, however, as Missouri officials aren’t eager to talk about Dixon’s departure. The circumstances surrounding the case may be drastically different, but the Dez Wells fiasco at Xavier is tough to ignore when considering Missouri’s actions. Over the summer, Wells was expelled from school for a similar accusation, although he was cleared of all criminal charges (and even earned an impassioned public defense from the local district attorney).
  3. Arkansas fans came out in droves to support their Razorbacks against Big East power Syracuse, leaving Jim Boeheim very impressed with the atmosphere in Bud Walton Arena. “This is a tough, tough place,” he told reporters. “You have to play 40 minutes. You have to play every minute. You make a couple of mistakes and they’re going to take it away from you.” BJ Young and Marshawn Powell combined for 44 points to give #6 Syracuse a scare, but a monster night off the bench from James Southerland ensured that there would be no upset in Fayetteville. The senior forward was unstoppable, scoring 35 points on a 9-13 effort from long range.
  4. Few can argue that Florida is the class of the SEC, but the battle for the position of conference cellar-dweller is a tight one, and Vanderbilt has a pretty compelling case. The Commodores have only two wins, and can point to a résumé-bolstering 17-point loss to the MAAC’s mighty Marist Red Foxes. Coach Kevin Stallings believes offensive deficiencies are to blame. “I thought the difference was their ability to generate more easy baskets than we could generate,” Stallings said after Saturday’s home loss to Villanova. “We didn’t run very crisp offense, and when we did run crisp offense, we missed quite a few open looks that we certainly could have made.” Against the Wildcats, Vanderbilt wasn’t shy about shooting from distance, putting up 26 attempts. They’ll have to make more than nine though to give themselves a chance to steal wins in conference.
  5. The 2012 SEC/Big East Challenge was tied at two apiece after the event’s opening night, but the Big East went on a tear on Friday and Saturday, finishing with a 9-3 edge. The SEC’s only victory on those two days came out of Oxford, Mississippi, as Marshall Henderson continued his blistering pace to start his Ole Miss career. The JuCo transfer has transformed the Rebel offense, providing deadly outside shooting for a team that desperately needed it. Henderson is averaging almost four made three-pointers per game, while the entire Ole Miss team averaged only 4.4 makes last season. The senior frontcourt duo of Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner were expected to be one of the league’s strongest, but Henderson’s presence diversifies the offense, which will make the Rebels much tougher to defend when conference play rolls around.
Share this story