SEC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC. With tournament action set to tip from Atlanta on Thursday, get set with RTC’s regular season recap and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

Hottest Teams Going Into The Postseason:

  • FloridaPasting Alabama to close out the season is a really good sign.
  • KentuckyLooking good on a lot of people’s brackets after winning two tough ones and they’ve been top 10 at KenPom.com all season.

Tournament Sleeper: Mississippi State – Too much talent here to not be dangerous when push comes to shove.  The question is, will they play the way they’re capable or the way when they’ve fumbled?

Best First Round Matchup: Tennessee vs. Arkansas, Thursday - The South Carolina/Ole Miss game doesn’t carry much weight, and I don’t see Georgia having too much trouble with Auburn, nor Vanderbilt with LSUArkansas is the higher seeded team here due to the wackiness of the Southeastern Conference Tournament seeding (more on that later).  Arkansas won the previous meeting 68-65 in Fayetteville.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.03.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 3rd, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s a light night across the college basketball landscape but two teams will look to increase their NCAA chances with a win tonight. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Tennessee @ South Carolina – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

Hopson Should Have a Big Night Tonight

The Volunteers are likely in the NCAA Tournament with their quality wins against the second-ranked schedule, but it would be in their best interest to win at least one of their final two games. It’s possible that Tennessee could lose both and fall to 7-9 in SEC play heading into the conference tournament and therefore need at least a win or two. After tonight, the Vols host Kentucky in the regular season finale on Sunday.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

The NCAA Sitting on Their Thumbs: Am I the only one that finds the NCAA to be a little ridiculous?   This week, the omnipotent governing body of college athletics released its findings on Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl regarding his little BBQ incident with potential recruits.  I hope they were Memphis style ribs by the way — those are my favorite.  Anyway, while I’m not really interested in commenting on the findings as there really wasn’t anything here we weren’t already aware of, except for a previously undisclosed secondary infraction committed by Bruce Pearl and assistant Tony Jones.  Last summer they spoke with 2012 recruit Jordan Adams prior to the start of basketball practice.  That was a no-no, but secondary violations are of little consequence.

What I want to talk about is the 22-month investigation undertaken by the NCAA.  I mean really?  22 months to tell us what we already knew, that Bruce Pearl attempted to influence others to provide the NCAA and Tennessee “with false and misleading information concerning their involvement.”  I gotta ask; what the heck is the NCAA doing up in Indianapolis?  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Indianapolis, it’s a fine town, but surely at some point you can take a break from screwing around on the river next to your office and get some work done.  I mean, two years!  I guess I should give them some credit though.  I mean, they did waste about 11 months or so sitting on information about Enes Kanter trying to decide what to do about his eligibility and I’m sure that kept them pretty busy.  So maybe they just didn’t have time to work on Bruce Pearl’s case.

In the end, it worked out well for Tennessee as they followed this news with a win over Vanderbilt this week.  Whenever the Volunteers are faced with adversity, they just go ahead and win their next tough game.  Need I remind you of last year when half the team got suspended and Tennessee went out and beat number one ranked Kansas for good measure.  I’m telling you, if the NCAA really wants to punish Tennessee, the best thing they can do is just leave the whole matter alone.  The entire season will be a disaster.

A Lot of Politicking: Yesterday on the SEC Basketball coaches’ teleconference, multiple coaches were asked about the potential of reseeding the SEC tournament 1-12 instead of the current 1-6 divisional seeding.  I found the statements from coaches disappointing overall.  The question was dodged and deflected by SEC West coaches with political acumen.  They really held the party line which read, “I’m sure we’ll have some things to discuss when the coaches meet this spring,” and as Andy Kennedy put it, “I just want to do what’s best for the conference.”  In other words, “I don’t want to answer that question.  Doing so would reveal that I like the unfair system currently in place that benefits lower tier teams from the weaker West Division.”

Not surprisingly, East Division coaches were quite comfortable speaking on the matter.  Kentucky coach John Calipari noted that his team is 3-3 against SEC West teams and that he feels lucky to be 3-3.  As far as he’s concerned, however, if there was no SEC tournament, “I’d be fine with that too.”  Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings prefers reseeding, but Georgia coach Mark Fox was the most eloquent.  He suggested that if they can’t agree to reseeding altogether, perhaps they could go to a system where both division leaders still receive the top two seeds and the rest of the teams are seeded 3 through 12.

While Fox’s suggestion sounds nice and it’s probably a compromise that coaches would buy into, this RTC correspondent is still displeased.  A compromise here means that they’re still going to do something wrong, just not as wrong as before.  Such a compromise ignores the problem that the SEC is rewarding poorer performing teams by giving them with an easier path to the championship.  Get it right and move on.

 

Power Rankings

1. Florida (22-6, 11-3) The Gators beat Georgia at home and Chandler Parsons had 16 points in his return from injury.  By winning that game, the Gators clinched at least a share of the SEC East Division for the first time since 2007.  The Gators then fell to Kentucky in Lexington, but then again, nobody beats Kentucky in Lexington.  Due to the Gators’ conference record and the fact that they took the first meeting with the Wildcats in Gainesville, they easily maintain their spot atop the power rankings.

2. Alabama (19-9, 11-3) Is the Tide slipping?  A close game against SEC last place Auburn in which they just escaped with a 51-49 win followed by a 68-63 loss to Mississippi is not a good at this point in the season.  On the flip side you could say that Alabama had a good week by reaching 15-0 at home and beating Auburn despite shooting just 26 percent from the field.  A team that finds a way to win despite shooting that poorly is usually in a pretty good place.

3. Kentucky (20-8, 8-6) The Wildcats’ road woes continue.  They lost to Arkansas in Fayetteville bringing their conference road record to just 1-6.  This despite the fact they outshot the Razorbacks 42.3 percent to 38.4 percent, outrebounded them 43 to 35, allowed only seven assists to the Arkansas’ 10, blocked 11 shots to the Hogs’ six and committed 16 fouls to 18.  In other words, they won every statistic except for the one that matters, points.  The Cats followed that game with a win at home over Florida where John Calipari remains undefeated in his time in Lexington.  The game was also the 500th win of his career.  He is now 500-151.  Darius Miller had his second career high in three games with 24 points topping his previous high of 22 against South Carolina.  Brandon Knight scored a career high 26 points in the loss at Arkansas and was selected as freshman of the week by the SEC, his fifth such honor this season.  That was Knight’s 12th twenty-point game, a freshman record at UK.  Yes, that’s even more than a certain Mr. John Wall (who had eight of them)

4. Vanderbilt (21-7, 9-5) Vanderbilt lost to Tennessee at home.  That loss means that Vanderbilt can now at best win a share of the SEC.  After that loss, the Commodores took out their frustrations on the LSU Tigers winning 90-69.  Lance Goulbourne had 16 points and 17 rebounds, particularly impressive numbers after he scored a total of four points in his last four games.

5. Georgia (19-9, 8-6) The Bulldogs shot 60 percent from the field in the first half but still lost to Florida.  Georgia held South Carolina to just 28 percent from the field and 1 for 19 from three.  But more significant, the Dawgs got their 19th victory on the season, matching their highest win total since Jim Harrick Coach left the program in ruins after a scandal plagued 2003 season.  A win against LSU this week should be enough to get an at-large bid.

6. Tennessee (17-12, 7-7) Despite the win over Vanderbilt this week, I am feeling less and less confident about Tennessee’s tournament chances, especially after losing 70-69 to Mississippi State at home.  Tennessee is just 3-4 at home in conference play and has lost 5 of 7.  No worries, Tennessee still has a home date with Kentucky to close out the season, and Kentucky is terrible on the road.

7. Arkansas (18-10, 7-7) A single win over Kentucky at Bud Walton Arena may have saved coach John Pelphrey’s job.  Good for him as he has quite the class coming in next year with four players in the ESPN top 100.  That class is ranked sixth in the nation by ESPN and is certainly a sign of good things to come in Fayetteville if the fans can hold on just a little longer.  Pelphrey’s great class could also be a liability in some ways however as programs like to bring coaches in at a time when they can make a first year splash.  Rotnei Clarke was named SEC player of the week after scoring a career high 26 points in the win over Kentucky. Clarke is also just 6 three pointers away from passing Scotty Thurman, who is on the staff at Arkansas, for third on the Razorbacks’ all-time made three-pointers list.  He now has 262 in his three seasons at Arkansas.  It is likely that he will pass Pat Bradley some time next year becoming Arkansas’ all-time leader.  Bradley recorded 366 three pointers.

8. Mississippi (18-11, 6-8) The Rebels followed their worst loss of the year at South Carolina with their best win of the year over Alabama.  Chris Warren had 25 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals as Mississippi overcame an 11-point second half deficit to beat likely SEC champion Alabama.  But it’s too little too late for a team that came into the season looking like a potential at-large candidate.  Gonna take a conference tournament championship now.

9. South Carolina (14-12, 5-8) The Gamecocks were able to snap their five game losing streak by beating Mississippi 79-73 despite a career high 33 points by the Rebels’ Chris Warren.  There was simply too much Sam Muldrow for the Rebels to overcome as he came away with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.  The Cocks’ next game against Georgia, however, was dismal.  Only 48 points on 28 percent shooting can really get you down.

10. Mississippi State (18-11, 6-8) Despite shooting 56 percent from the field and outrebounding LSU 38-32, Mississippi State managed to lose 84-82 to the Tigers.  How you’re able to pull that off, I don’t know.  But it has been a season on weirdness in Starkville.  The Bulldogs followed that loss with a 70-69 win in Knoxville, their first at Tennessee since 1999.

11. Louisiana State (11-18, 8-9) The Tigers ended their ten-game losing streak, barely, by beating Mississippi State 84-82 in Starkville but quickly resumed their losing ways at home in an embarrassing 69-90 loss to Vanderbilt.  Don’t blame Storm Warren, though.  He had eight assists, no turnovers and a career-high 24 points (he averages 7) on 12-of-20 shooting in the loss.

12. Auburn (9-19, 2-12) The Tigers don’t have a lot of weapons and are very young, but they have played two of the best defensive games of any team in the SEC this season.  Earlier in the year the Tigers held SEC leading Florida to under 30 percent shooting overall and 20 percent from three in a 45-40 loss.  This week they did just that again in a 51-49 loss to SEC leading Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  The Tide’s Jamychal Green had to make a tip-in with .3 seconds to play for Alabama to get the win, but this game could very well have gone Auburn’s way.  In the Tigers next outing, Arkansas’ Delvon Johnson had to get a dunk with six seconds remaining to give the Hogs a 57-55 win in Auburn.  Credit coach Tony Barbee and his team for playing guts out defense.  That takes heart when you’re having such a tough season.  I see good things in Auburn’s future.

A Look Ahead

This time of year there’s always a lot of “Win and you’re in.”  Let’s take a look at the games of consequence this week.

  • March 1, Alabama @ Florida. No question, this is the game of the week.  There are still those that claim Alabama is on a soft bubble.  Getting the win at Gainesville all but guarantees the SEC crown and puts Alabama in “lock” status for the NCAA Tournament, a loss to St. Peter’s notwithstanding.  These are the top two teams in the conference peaking at just the right time.  Watch this game.
  • March 1, Vanderbilt @ Kentucky. As it stands Vanderbilt gets the number two seed out of the East.  If Wildcats win this one at Rupp, where John Calipari is undefeated in his two seasons at Kentucky, they have a shot to steal the number two seed.  Plenty at stake here between two teams that shoot the three very well.
  • March 5, Georgia @ Alabama. The Bulldogs probably still need a quality win to feel really comfortable about their at-large status.  This game has been gift-wrapped as a late season opportunity to stand out in the minds of the selection committee.  Win and they’re in.
  • March 5, Auburn @ LSU. There’s something special about battles in futility.  Here you have a clash of last place teams.  LSU needs this win to avoid sharing last place with Auburn.  Auburn needs it to avoid taking last place outright.  LSU won the previous meeting at Auburn 62-55.
  • March 5, Vanderbilt @ Florida. If Vanderbilt loses to Kentucky the Commodores can still hang onto the number two seed by beating Florida if Kentucky loses to Tennessee in Knoxville.  Wouldn’t hurt their seeding in the NCAA’s either.
  • March 6, Kentucky @ Tennessee. The Volunteers’ bubble is getting pretty soft despite their strong strength of schedule.  Win and they’re in.
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All in the Family: Episode 1

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2011

We’re not sure who coined the phrase, but we here at RTC like to talk about conference play as a “family” ordeal, and it’s an apt analogy.  For the power league schools who have spent the first half of the college basketball season traveling around to take part in various tournaments and other non-conference games against teams they’re generally going to beat, the new year brings with it better competition and recognition of those old familiar faces.  Not only is there an upshot in the talent level of the opposition on a nightly basis as well as a team’s oft-first exposure to a hostile road environment, but familiarity through wars of years past usually means that teams are no longer intimidated by the names on the front of the jersey.  Witness how Georgia beat Kentucky, Colorado knocked off Missouri and West Virginia downed Georgetown over the weekend — these teams see each other every year (often multiple times), so they’re familiar with all the beauty marks and warts, angels and skeletons, patterns and pretenses, associated with each.  Like we said, it’s akin to sitting down at the dinner table with your own family — there’s only so much BS you can throw before your big brother or mom will stare at you with an eye-roll and call your bluff.   

The Family Sits Together, Stays Together

With so much action every weekend the rest of the season, what we’d like to do with this column is briefly examine the major conferences post-mortem (probably Mondays) to see what important or interesting things happened that weekend.  This is not meant to supplant our After the Buzzer: Weekend Edition series nor encroach too heavily on our Checking In On… series for each of these leagues, but we feel that it’ll be an interesting way to track each conference race for those of us who might have a favorite league but want to lightly keep tabs on the others each week as well.   

Power Conference Rankings

1.  Big East.

  • The nation’s best conference now has ten teams rated in the top 32 of KenPom, eight in the AP Top 25, seven in the Coaches Poll, and six in the RTC poll.  Talk has already developed about all of those teams (plus St. John’s as an eleventh) making the NCAA Tournament’s expanded field, and if the Tourney were seeded today, that would be reasonable.  But what’s not being said is that one, two or possibly three of these teams will tank and tank hard.  We saw it with Georgetown a couple of seasons ago and UConn last year — the brutal scheduling that the Big East requires simply is too much for some teams to handle.
  • Georgetown is starting to look like one of those teams.  The Hoyas are at 1-3 with Saturday’s home loss to WVU with a home date against Pittsburgh looming on Wednesday night.  1-4 is nowhere you want to be in this league, especially with four games still to come against top ten teams Syracuse (twice), UConn and Villanova.  When the guards aren’t scoring, the Hoyas sputter.  Where’s Greg Monroe when you need him?
  • Perhaps no team has been more disappointing than Providence in the early going.  Keno Davis’ team got off to a nice 11-2 nonconference start with a close loss to BC and a stinker to LaSalle as the only blemishes.  Marshon Brooks has played great, upping his scoring average by nearly 10 PPG and doubling his rebounding numbers from a year ago.  But after a weekend loss to Rutgers on Saturday, the Friars are now 0-4, effectively a death sentence in this league.
  • To win this league, you need away wins to supplement a superb home record.  The top five teams — Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, Marquette — all have one, but oddly, a pair of mid-pack teams — St. John’s and West Virginia — already have two.  It’s worth mentioning to be wary of teams that only win at home — we’re looking at you, Notre Dame (3-2) and Cincinnati (2-1). 

2.  Big Ten.

  • Minnesota is the team in this league that the schedulers did no favors for this year.  After three road games to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, the Gophers are rather predictably 1-3.  They were competitive in each game, even missing a game-tying shot at the buzzer against OSU, but close only gets you so far.  Now they’ve learned that Trevor Mbakwe has gotten himself into hot water again and could potentially miss games just in time for a home game (and must-win) against 4-0 Purdue. 
  • Northwestern saved itself from a sure-fire road to nowhere by beating Indiana on Sunday to stave off an 0-4 league start.  Having done themselves few favors in the non-conference slate (Georgia Tech is their best win), you’d have to figure that a 10-8 conference record would be good enough, a 9-9 record would be borderline, and an 8-10 record would be suspect.  To get to 10-8 requires a 9-5 finish, a doable prospect considering that the schedule lightens up from here on out — the Wildcats are going to have to win some road games over bottom-half teams, though, starting tomorrow night at Iowa.
  • Penn State and Michigan this year appear to be the two teams that will cause numerous headaches for the elites as they claw over each other to try to win the Big Ten and earn a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Both teams proved capable last weekend with PSU defeating Michigan State and Michigan taking Kansas to overtime, so it behooves the Buckeyes, Illini and Boilermakers of the world to take these teams seriously, home or away.
  • Careful with Purdue.  Matt Painter is an exceptional coach and his team has handled the loss of Robbie Hummel (again) very well on the way to a 15-1 (4-0) start.  But the Big Ten schedule lays out nicely for the Boilers through the first seven games; if they can beat Minnesota without Mbakwe tomorrow night, they’ll have a great shot at going 7-0 prior to a late January trip to Columbus.  Then February is brutal. 

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on February 2nd, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
EAST
  1. Kentucky                          20-1  (5-1)
  2. Vanderbilt                        16-4   (5-1)
  3. Tennessee                        16-4  (4-2)
  4. Florida                                15-6  (4-3)
  5. South Carolina             13-8  (4-3)
  6. Georgia                                9-10 (1-5)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State           16-5  (4-2)
  2. Mississippi                        16-5  (4-3)
  3. Arkansas                             10-11 (3-3)
  4. Alabama                              13-8 (3-4)
  5. Auburn                                11-11 (2-5)
  6. LSU                                         9-12  (0-7)
Both races in the East and the West are shaping up to be fierce battles to the end, but the East is taking an especially entertaining turn.  Kentucky found out the perils of paying on the road as a number one team as their reign at number one lasted barely 24 hours, as South Carolina and Devan Downey knocked them from their throne, 68-62. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, pulled off a big upset at Knoxville and had a chance to take a two game lead in the East but could not handle the resurgent Wildcats at Rupp Arena, who forced a tie atop the East at 5-1.  Tennessee kept themselves in the race with a thrilling win over Florida on Sunday to remain just a game back. Kentucky fell to #3 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #4 in the AP Top 25 after their one-and-done turn at the top of the polls.  Tennessee also took a tumble to 14th in both polls after losing to Vanderbilt this week, and the Commodores are 18th in the AP Top 25 and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today.  Ole Miss fell out of the ESPN/Today poll after a shocking loss to Arkansas on Sunday and are clinging to the 25th spot in the AP Top 25.  In weekly honors, Arkansas’s Marshawn Powell took home SEC Freshman of the Week honors and South Carolina’s Devan Downey was named the SEC player of the week. GAMES OF THE WEEK
  • 2/2 – #25 Mississippi (16-5) @ #4 Kentucky (20-1) – 7 PM  ESPN
  • 2/3 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ #18 Vanderbilt (16-4) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/4 – Florida (15-6) @ Alabama (13-8) – 7 PM – ESPNU
  • 2/6 – Mississippi State (16-5) @ Florida (15-6) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 2/6 – Alabama (13-8) @ #25 Mississippi (16-5) – 6 PM
  • 2/6 – South Carolina (13-8) @ #14 Tennessee (16-4) – 6 PM – ESPN

TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25 – ESPN/Today polls)

EAST

Kentucky (#4, #3) — Kentucky played nothing like the #1 team in the country as they missed 18 layups and lost a 68-62 game on the road to South Carolina this past Tuesday.  DeMarcus Cousins had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead Kentucky, and John Wall added 19 points.  Those two accounted for 46 of the Wildcats’ 62 points, and that lack of a third scorer was a main reason UK fell. Kentucky bounced back from their loss to South Carolina with a convincing 85-72 win over the hot Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 13 point lead 10 minutes into the game and controlled the final 30 minutes, keeping the lead in double digits the entire way. Cousins had another double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Darnell Dodson scored 16 points while getting a rare start to lead UK.

Vanderbilt (#18, #20)Jermaine Beal scored 25 points and Vanderbilt won its 10th straight game with an 85-76 victory over No. 14 Tennessee on Wednesday night. It was Vandy’s first win in Knoxville in five tries and its first win over a ranked opponent this season.  A.J. Ogilvy added 12 points and three other Commodores hit double digits as Vandy shot 50.7% for the game.  Vanderbilt fell behind Kentucky early at Rupp Arena in that Saturday game  and could never regroup, falling 85-72 to the Wildcats.  The Commodores were outrebounded 39-21 by the Wildcats. Beal led the way for Vandy with 19 points and shot 4-8 from beyond the arc.  Ogilvy added 12 for the Commodores.

Tennessee (#14, #14)J.P Prince scored 22 points on 9-10 shooting but it was not enough for the Volunteers to defend their home court in a 85-76 loss to Vanderbilt.  Scotty Hopson and Bobby Maze added 14 and 12 points, respectively, as the Vols fell to 3-2 in the SEC.  Hopson hit a jumper with :17 remaining to give the Volunteers a thrilling 61-60 win over the Florida Gators on Sunday.  The shot allowed the Vols to notch their sixth straight win over the Gators.  Wayne Chism had 16 points and 11 boards to lead the Vols and help them avoid a three game losing streak.

FloridaAlex Tyus scored 23 points, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton added 21 apiece, and Florida beat Georgia on Wednesday, 87-71.  The Gators extended their winning streak to four and continued their recent domination in the series. Florida has won 12 of their last 13 meetings versus the Bulldogs. Tyus missed a short jumper with five seconds left and, in a game televised nationally on CBS this past Sunday, the Gators went down to a sixth straight loss in games against Tennessee.  Tyus led the Gators with 18 points, and Chandler Parsons added 14.  Parsons hit a late 3-pointer to give the Gators a lead, and was in a position to hit his third game-winning shot of the year.  A Scotty Hopson jumper dashed those dreams and gave UT the lead for good.

South Carolina — Devan Downey took nearly half his team’s shots and threw in 30 points to lead his Gamecocks to a 68-62 win over Kentucky.  Downey took over the game during the closing minutes and the Wildcats had no answer on covering him.  Brandis Raley-Ross added 17 points and gave the Gamecocks another scoring option they had been lacking recently.  Kentucky was the first #1 team that the  Gamecocks have defeated in eight attempts.  Downey had 33 points, including the driving basket with 50 seconds left, that gave South Carolina a 78-77 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Gamecocks trailed 63-54 with less than 10 minutes remaining but then Downey scored 12 out of the Gamecocks’ final 24 points down the stretch.  Sam Muldrow added 19 points and 11 boards for South Carolina.

Georgia —  Ricky McPhee drained five three pointers and scored 21 points on Wednesday, but the Bulldogs were still blown out by the Gators, 87-71.  The Bulldogs were, in effect, a three man team with Trey Thompkins scoring 24 and Travis Leslie adding 11/8/4 in the loss.  The two other players Georgia started scored a total of just eight points and the Bulldogs wasted a 59% shooting night in a 16 point loss.  Georgia’s had it’s share of tough losses this season, but the 78-77 loss at South Carolina on Saturday may have been its toughest.  The Bulldogs became the latest team that could not control Devan Downey down the stretch as he hit the game winner with :50 left.  Leslie and Thompkins had 21 and 18 points, respectively.

WEST

Mississippi StateRavern Johnson scored 19 points to lead Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs blew an 11 point lead and lost to Arkansas on Thursday night, 67-62.  Barry Stewart and Kodi Augustus respectively scored 11 and 10 points.  Augustus added 10 boards for the double-double and Jarvis Varnado grabbed 14 rebounds.  Three days later, the Bulldogs snapped a two game SEC skid as Mississippi State beat LSU, 67-51. Johnson led the way with 15 points and Varnado had another double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to aid the Bulldogs’ cause.  Phil Turner added 12 points off the bench for Mississippi State.

Mississippi (#25, –)Chris Warren scored 20 points, Terrico White had 19 and the Rebels weathered Auburn’s 3-point shooting before pulling out an 84-74 victory.  The Rebels shot 57% overall, and scored 46 points in the paint. They got 53 points from their three starting guards, including 14 from Eniel Polynice.  The Rebels won back to back road games in the SEC for the first time in nine seasons.  The Ole Miss Rebels lost a big chance to hold on to first place in the West as they were upset at home by the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday. Warren and Polynice had 17 and 15 points, respectively, but White suffered through a 3-14 shooting night.

ArkansasCourtney Fortson scored a career-high 35 points, carrying Arkansas through the second half as the Razorbacks rallied for a 67-62 win over Mississippi State this past Thursday.  Fortson scored 33 of his points in the second half, repeatedly drawing fouls and converting inside, despite his 5’11 frame. Arkansas trailed 49-38 at one point but came back to earn a much-needed victory.  Stefan Walsh hit three 3-pointers and added 12 points off the bench.   After winning two games in the Southeastern Conference last season, Arkansas is suddenly 3-3 and has notched back-to-back wins over Western Division-leading teams.  The latest upset came at Oxford on Sunday as Arkansas dumped the Ole Miss Rebels, 80-73.  Michael Washington scored 22 points, Marshawn Powell added 19, and Rotnei Clarke posted 18 for the Jekyl-and-Hyde Razorbacks.

Alabama —  The Crimson Tide held the toothless LSU Tigers to just 13 points in the second half on Wednesday and blew LSU out, 57-38.  Charvez Davis scored 15 points off the bench in just 18 minutes to lead the Crimson Tide while Mikhail Torrance and Tony Mitchell both scored 10 points.  Mitchell added 10 boards for a double-double in that one.  Everytime Alabama takes a step forward and seems like a contender in the West, they take a step or two back.  Such was the case in Alabama’s 58-57 loss to Auburn on Saturday. Torrance led the way with 13 points an  added 10 points. Auburn –  The Auburn Tigers hit 11 three-pointers, including five by Tay Waller, but it was not enough to hold off the Ole Miss Rebels on Thursday night.  Waller scored 21 points in the 84-74 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 15 points and Lucas Hargrove 10 as the Tigers dropped a tough one on their home court.  Hargrove hit a free throw with three seconds left on Saturday to lift Auburn to a 58-57 win over Alabama. The Crimson Tide led 55-51 with 2:58 left in the game, but Hargrove, who finished with 14 points, had a dunk and converted a three-point play to cut Alabama’s lead to 57-56. Waller hit 3 3-pointers and scored 20 points, continuing his hot play.

LSU – The Tigers had a dreadful night on Wednesday, shooting just 29.2% from the field and 11.1% from long range as LSU suffered a 57-38 loss to Alabama.  LSU scored just 13 points in the second half.  Tasmin Mitchell and Dennis Harris “led” the Tigers wiwth 8 points each.  LSU suffered through yet another horrid shooting stretch as they suffered a 67-51 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday.  The Tigers shot just 34% from the floor and Mitchell was the only Tiger in double digits with 26 points — more than half his team’s total.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 26th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
EAST
  1. Kentucky                   19-0  (4-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 15-3  (4-0)
  3. Tennessee                 15-3  (3-1)
  4. Florida                     14-5  (3-2)
  5. South Carolina           11-8  (2-3)
  6. Georgia                        9-8  (1-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State        15-4  (3-1)
  2. Mississippi                 15-4  (3-2)
  3. Alabama                   12-7   (2-3)
  4. Arkansas                    8-11  (1-3)
  5. Auburn                      10-10  (1-4)
  6. LSU                           9-10  (0-5)
Good Rankings Week in the SEC.  Kentucky finally ascended to the top of both the AP Top 25 and ESPN/USA Top 25 . The last SEC team ranked No. 1 in AP poll was Tennessee on Feb. 26, 2008. This is Kentucky’s first No. 1 AP ranking since March 18, 2003.  Kentucky also stands alone as the only undefeated team in college basketball with a 19-0 record. Kentucky was an unanimous choice to both sets of voters.  Tennessee fell from the top 10 in both polls as they landed at #14 in both.  The Ole Miss Rebels came in at #18 in the AP poll and #20 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Vanderbilt is now the fourth SEC team in both polls, coming in at #21 in the AP poll and #23 with the ESPN/USA Today voters.  Mississippi State continues to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.
Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He played just 17 minutes but had 16 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Arkansas.   Georgia’s Travis Leslie was named SEC Player of the Week. He had 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists in win over No. 8 Tennessee.
THE WEEK AHEAD:
1/26 – #1 Kentucky (19-0) (4-0) @ South Carolina (11-8) (2-3) – 9 PM – ESPN
1/27 – #23 Vanderbilt (15-3) (4-0) @ #14 Tennessee (15-3) (3-1)  – 7PM – ESPNU.
1/27 – Georgia (9-8) (1-3) @ Florida (14-5) (3-2) – 7 PM – ESPN  360
1/28 – #20 Mississippi (15-4) (3-2) @ Auburn (10-10) (1-4) 9 PM – ESPNU
1/28 – Mississippi State (15-4) (3-1) @ Arkansas (8-11) (1-3) – 9 PM – ESPN2
1/30 – #23 Vanderbilt (15-3) (4-0) @ #1 Kentucky (19-0) (4-0) – 4 PM – ESPN
1/30 – Arkansas (8-11) (1-3) @ #20 Mississippi (15-4) (3-2) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
1/31 – Florida (14-5) (3-2) @ #14 Tennessee (15-3) (3-1)
TEAM REPORTS (RANKINGS ARE AP TOP 25/ESPN – ESPN/USA Today)
EAST
Kentucky (#1 – #1) — Kentucky turned in their most complete game of the season with a 101-70 romp over the Arkansas Razorbacks this past Saturday.  The Wildcats jumped out o a 10-0 start and never looked back as they made their case for the number one ranking in the country.  Darius Miller had a career high 18 points and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins both chipped in 16.  Cousins added 14 rebounds.

Vanderbilt (#21, #23) —  Jeffrey Taylor scored all of his 18 points in the second half and Vanderbilt rallied for an 82-74 victory over Auburn.  John Jenkins‘ 3-pointer with 11:39 left gave Vanderbilt its first lead after the Commodores trailed by as many 16 in the first half. A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal and Brad Tinsley assisted the win with 17, 16, and 15 points, respectively.
Tennessee (#14, #14) — Wayne Chism scored all 11 of his points late in the game and Tennessee held off a determined Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, 63-56.  Scotty Hopson scored 17 and Kenny Hall 12 off the bench to pace the Vols who are 5-0 since the January 1 incident that led to Tyler Smith being kicked off the team. Then, on Saturday, Tennessee fell behind early to the Georgia Bulldogs and trailed at the half by 15 points.  The Vols could never get back into the game on the road and fell, 78-63.  Hopson led the Vols in scoring with 19 while Bobby Maze and Kenny Hall both conributed double digits in a game in which Georgia outplayed them in every aspect.
Florida —  Erving Walker scored 27 points, and Florida went on a 9-0 run late in the second half to pull away for a 71-66 win over Arkansas. Kenny Boynton added 13 points in the UF win, but the Gators bench only managed six points in the game.  Chandler Parsons hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, his second game-winning shot in three weeks, and Florida beat South Carolina 58-56 on Saturday night.  Parsons finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He missed his first three 3s, but hit the only one that mattered.  Boynton led the Gators with 14 points.
South Carolina —  Devan Downey scored 25 points but got very little help from his teammates as South Carolina fell to Mississippi on Wednesday, 66-57.  The Gamecocks did find a bit of hope as freshman Ramon Galloway had 11 points and is starting to emerge as a new scoring option.  The Devan Downey show continued in Gainesville on Saturday as Downey scored 36 of his team’s 56 points against the Gators.  That was almost enough for the win but a last second Gator 3-pointer finished the Gamecocks, 58-56.  Sam Muldrow was the next leading scorer with six points.
Georgia — The Bulldogs ended a ten game losing streak to the Tennessee Vols with a 78-63 upset on Saaturday.  Georgia hit 56% for the game, including 7 -12 3-pointers in the win.  The duo of Trey Thompkins (21 pts) and Travis Leslie (19 points) keyed the win.
WEST
Mississippi State — After a week off, the Bulldogs struggled through their worst shooting performance of the season on Saturday and hit just 2 -18 3-pointers resulting in a 62-57 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide.  The Bulldogs also shot just 31.7% from the floor and 65.2% from the line.  Even Jarvis Varnado was not immune to the bad shooting as he went 4-14.  Barry Stewart was their leading scorer with 13 points.
Mississippi (#18, ##20) — The Rebels evened their SEC record on Saturday with a tough 66-57 win over South Carolina.  The Rebels had to fight off a furious Gamecock rally after leading by 15 at half, but evened their SEC record at 2-2.  Chris Warren had 17 points and Murphy Holloway had 14 points and 12 boards.  On Wednesday, the LSU Tigers held Warren scoreless for 30 minutes, but Warren got loose for the last ten with 14 points, and helped the Rebels pull away from LSU, 73-63.  Warren was one of three Rebels (Terrance Henry, Eniel Polynice) with 14 points.
Alabama — The Crimson Tide found themselves in a 1-3 SEC hole after losing a tough 63-56 game to the Tennessee Vols on Tuesday.  Alabama appeared to be a darkhorse candidate for the SEC West title but now need to put together a nice winning streak to get their season back on track.  JaMychal Green had 16 to lead Alabama.  The Crimson Tide stopped their slide with a 62-57 upset of Mississippi State four days later.  Mikhail Torrance had 20 points and Green added 18 as the Tide came away with a big home court win.
ArkansasRotnei Clarke had five 3-pointers and scored 17 points to lead the Razorbacks but it was not enough to stop a late 9-0 run by Florida and an eventual 71-66 loss on Thursday.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson both had 14 points but this was another in a season of frustrating losses for Arkansas.  Less than 48 hours later, Arkansas went up to Rupp Arena in Lexington to try and prevent Kentucky from ascending to the number one ranking and came back the victim of a 101-70 beatdown.  Fortson scored 21 points to lead the Razorbacks and Clark managed 13 points even though he was harassed into 2-9 shooting from beyond the arc for the game.
Auburn —  DeWayne Reed scored 21 points on Wednesday and Auburn hit six of eight free throws in the final minute, sealing an 84-80 win over LSU.  Auburn had balanced scoring with five players in double digits scoring and was 10-22 on 3-point shooting.  The Tigers let a 16 point first half lead get away from them and they suffered a tough 82-74 loss at the hands of the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday.  Lucas Hargrove had 19 points for the Tigers while Reed and Frankie Sullivan added 16 and 14.
LSU —  LSU got 38 points and 10 rebounds from Tasmin Mitchell on Wednesday but that was not enough to beat the Auburn Tigers.  Storm Warren added 17 points and 12 boards and Bo Spencer added 12.  The rest of the Tigers could only muster 13 points as LSU fell, 80-67.   Spencer, Mitchell, and Warren scored 49 of the Tigers’ 63 points and once again it was too little as the Tigers fell 73-63 to Ole Miss on Saturday for their fifth straight loss. Michell had a double-double with 16 and 11 and Spencer added 22 points.  The Tigers are still winless in the conference and will try for their first again this Wednesday against Alabama.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST:
  1. Kentucky              17-0     (2-0)
  2. Vanderbilt             12-3     (1-0)
  3. South Carolina      10-5     (1-0)
  4. Tennessee            12-2        (0-0)
  5. Florida                  11-5     (0-2)
  6. Georgia                 8-6      (0-1)
WEST:
  1. Mississippi State  13-3     (1-0)
  2. Alabama                  11-4     (1-0)
  3. Arkansas               7-8      (0-0)
  4. Mississippi           12-3     (0-1)
  5. LSU                           9-6     (0-1)
  6. Auburn                  9-7     (0-1)
News & Notes

A couple of off-court situations were resolved for two SEC teams.  Courtney Fortson made his first appearance for the Arkansas Razorbacks as his long suspension is now over.  As for the other situation, all-SEC guard Tyler Smith was dismissed from the Tennessee Volunteers for drug and weapon charges and the fates of three other Vols still hang in the balance.

Speaking of Tennessee, you probably heard — they pulled off the upset of the week when they knocked off #1 Kansas 76-68 on Sunday afternoon.  They were not the only SEC team to pull off a big out-of-conference upset last week as the Georgia Bulldogs knocked off #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66.

Thanks to the Volunteers, Kentucky now occupies the #2 spot in both the AP Top 25  and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Tennessee, for their efforts, did creep back into the top 10 at #9 in the AP Top 25 and #10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Ole Miss continues to represent as the third SEC team in the Top 25 — #21st in AP Top 25, and 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today.  Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Florida continue to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.

Tennessee’s Bobby Maze was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 5.5 APG in wins over Charlotte and No. 1 Kansas.  Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 13.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in wins over Middle Tennessee and Florida.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:
  • 1/12 – #2 Kentucky (16-0) @ Florida (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN  (more on this in a moment)
  • 1/13 –  LSU (9-6) @ South Carolina (11-5) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/13 –  Vanderbilt (12-3) @ Alabama (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/14 – Auburn (9-7) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 7 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/16 – #21 Mississippi (12-3) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – Vanderbilt (12-3) @  South Carolina (10-5) – 6:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/16 – LSU (9-6) @ Florida (11-4) – 8 PM
TEAM UPDATES (rankings are AP, ESPN/USA Today):
EAST
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) — DeMarcus Cousins scored seven of his 16 points in the final three minutes as the Wildcats stayed unbeaten with a gritty 76-68 win over Georgia on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 21-10 lead and the Bulldogs responded with a 21-5 run and it was nip/tuck the rest of the way.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall also scored 17 points apiece for the Wildcats.  The came right back on Tuesday with a road game at the O-Dome in Gainesville and took out the Gators, 89-77.  Eric Bledsoe keyed the ‘Cats with an incredible 25/7/5 asst night on 10-13 shooting.  Wall added 19/4/6 assts and the always steady Patterson chipped in 15/7 as Kentucky had to hold off a Florida team that got hot from three midway through the second half.  We’ll have even more on this one in next week’s SEC summary.
  • VanderbiltA.J. Ogilvy responded to being back in the starting lineup and scored 24 points, and Vanderbilt opened the Southeastern Conference schedule beating Florida, 95-87, on Saturday for the Commodores’ sixth straight victory.  Jermaine Beal added 22 points and Jeffrey Taylor had a perfect shooting day (5-5 FG, 4-4 FT) to add 14 points for the Commodores.
  • South Carolina — The Gamecocks got exactly what the doctor ordered on Saturday with a 88-58 pounding of the Longwood Lancers as South Carolina readied for conference play.  Devan Downey scored 18 points but the Gamecocks also got 15 points from Evaldas Baniulus off the bench.  Ramon Galloway also hit double digits with 12 points.  Downey then poured in 33 points with four 3-pointers as the Gamecocks opened SEC play with a 80-71 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday.  South Carolina hit 11 3-pointers on the game and broke open a 52-all tie with an 8-0 run to break open the game.  Sam Muldrow added 12 points and 4 blocked shots.
  • Tennessee (#9, #10) — The Volunteers really did not know what to expect when they came into their game against Charlotte with four players suspended.  What the Vols found was new faces to step up as they breezed by the Charlotte 49ers, 88-71.  Wayne Chism scored 18 points and Scotty Hopson added 17 and the Vols, with just six scholarship players, shot 57.6% with all five starters scoring in double figures.  And of course Tennessee pulled off their second big win of the week with the 76-68 upset of #1 Kansas on Sunday.  Hopson had 17 and Bobby Maze added 16, but the lasting image of this game was walk-on Skylar McBee milking the shot clock late in the game and then delivering a duck-under three point dagger to the heart of the Kansas Jayhawks.
  • FloridaKenny Boynton scored 28 points (including six 3-pointers) and Erving Walker added 22 (with five treys) but it was not enough as the Gators fell 95-87 to the Vanderbilt Commodores despie tossing in 13 3-pointers for the game.  The Gators hadn’t lost an SEC opener since 2001 at South Carolina.  On Tuesday night the faced the formidable #2 Kentucky Wildcats and hoped to score a sixth straight home win over the Big Blue, but 20 points from Walker and 17/7 from Alex Tyus couldn’t propel the Gators past UK; the Rowdy Reptiles went home disappointed as Florida went down, 89-77.
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins scored 20 points, Ricky McPhee hit two key baskets near the end and Georgia pulled off its first big victory for new coach Mark Fox, knocking off  #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66, on Tuesday night. McPhee had four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.  The Bulldogs showed their win over Georgia Tech was not a fluke as they battled Kentucky to the wire on Saturday before losing, 76-68.  The Bulldogs cut the lead to two with 1:00 remaining but UK pulled away the last minute.  Travis Leslie scored the first 10 points of the game for Georgia and finished with 20.  Thompkins finished with 17.
WEST
  • Mississippi StateDee Bost tied a career high with 25 points and fueled Mississippi State’s 80-75 upset of #16 Mississippi on Saturday with fearless drives to the basket.  This was also a huge road win for the Bulldogs who opened SEC play against their biggest competition in the West.  Ravern Johnson added 15 and Kodi Augustus had a double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Alabama — Alabama looks to be the big surprise of the SEC as they continued their strong early play with a 66-49 win over LSU in the SEC opener for both teams.  JaMychal Green scored 14 points to lead Alabama, while Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance added 13  and 12 points, respectively.  Alabama now has a four game winning streak.
  • Arkansas — Courtney Fortson made his debut after a season long suspension and had 19 points/7 assists, but it was not enough to help his Razorbacks pull an upset over #2 Texas.  Arkansas hung tough for about 38 of the 40 minutes but Texas pulled away at the end to win, 96-85.  Rotnei Clarke added 24 points for the Razorbacks.
  • Mississippi (#21, #23) — Terrico White had five 3-pointers and scored 21 points to lead Ole Miss to a 84-56 thumping of the UCF Golden Knights.  Ole Miss jumped out early and had a 46-24 halftime lead and the Knights never had a chance.  Eniel Polynice had 16 points and Murphy Holloway had a double double with 11 points and 10 boards to help key the rout.  On Saturday, the Rebels suffered a key early season home SEC loss against bitter rival Mississippi State, 80-75.  Chris Warren led the Rebels with 15 points despite a 5-17 shooting night and Zach Graham and Terrance Henry had 14 points and 12 points, respectively, off the bench.
  • LSU — The troubles continue for LSU as they managed just 18 points in the first half against Alabama and lost their SEC opener 66-49 to the Crimson Tide.  Bo Spencer scored 13 points, and Dennis Harris and Tasmin Mitchell added 12 and 11, respectively.  Storm Warren got in early foul trouble and had just four points and a mere one rebound.
  • AuburnDeWayne Reed scored 20 points to lead Auburn to a 96-72 victory against Division II West Georgia on Tuesday night. Frankie Sullivan scored 17 points and Tay Waller added 16 for the Tigers, who shot 52% from the field and outrebounded the Wolves, 40-29.  Auburn could only manage two 3-pointers compared to South Carolina’s 11, and that was the difference in the game as Auburn dropped a tough game on Saturday, 80-71.  Reserve Brendon Knox led Auburn with 22 points, Reed scored 19, Lucas Hargrove had 12 and Sullivan added 10 in the loss.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 25th, 2009

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Road Warriors

A few BCS schools developed reputations for rarely venturing far from their home arenas during their out of conference seasons and relying on their conference’s RPI to bolster their resumes come Selection Sunday.  Coach Jim Calhoun masked the inexperience of his 2007 Huskies by keeping them at home from early November to late December where they ran off 11 straight wins and rose to #12 in the polls.  They opened the Big East season with a 10 point loss to West Virginia, and continued to implode with an 6-14 record through January, February and early March.  The 1st round of the Big East Tournament was their post-season.  Florida State’s Len Hamilton nursed his 2006 Seminole squads to an 9-1 OOC record, leaving home once before ACC conference play (a loss to in state rival Florida).  FSU finished with a 9-7 conference record, and despite a signature win over #1-ranked Duke at the end of the conference season, could not tease a dance bid out of the Selection Committee come Selection Sunday.

A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65.  While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume.  Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents.  How did the conference members do this OOC season?

The statistics, drawn from each team’s Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website, shows the team’s road (away and neutral site) record, the team’s efficiency (points per possession the team scored – offense and allowed – defense), the team’s shot efficiency (on offense and defense) and the estimated average possessions per game.

Temple looks better with each passing week.  The road wins in particular are very encouraging and suggest the Owls will be able to score and defend in hostile venues. Seton Hall is a resume win, and the 46-45 loss at Georgetown (provided the Hoyas don’t implode again in 2010…) will be a good loss.  The nucleus of Fernandez, Brooks, Allen and Guzman (see Temple Team Capsule below) are putting together a very nice run, which they may well be able to sustain going into conference play.  File Rhode Island and Charlotte under “Surprised in a Good Way” also.  Though the Rams’ slate is a bit light (they did not participate in any MTE tournaments this season), it does include a double-digit win over Boston College from the ACC and a 2 point loss to a well-regarded 7-2 Virginia Commonwealth team on 12/2.  Charlotte was torched early in the season by Duke at the Cameron, but has bounced back nicely with double-digit wins over Hofstra, Louisville of the Big East and Winthrop, each of whom has a record of .500 or better.

Filed under “Surprised in a Bad Way” — try Dayton, Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers participated in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and started strong, taking out Georgia Tech in their first round.  They dropped their next two games to two more BCS teams (Villanova and Kansas State) and have scraped by their two road opponents — Miami, OH and George Mason.  Mason having a down year, is teetering at .500 (5-5) at this point and will, should the trend continue, watch the post-season on CBS and ESPN.  Duquesne started out well, housing Iowa in their second game of the season, but the two-overtime, neutral court loss to Pittsburgh seems to have thrown the team out of synch. They were hammered by West Virginia and lost to UIPIU last weekend.  The Jaguars may be the pick of the litter in the Summit League, but they too have taken three double-digit beatings.  Hardly makes for a stirring endorsement of the Dukes.  Bolding’s return may spark the Dukes, but heading into conference play (they have 2 more OOC games left), Duquesne’s prospects for A10 road wins seem uncertain at best.  Taking South Carolina may have been a stretch for Richmond, but their losses to in-state rivals William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (both of the CAA) gives me pause to think.  Those games most resemble the conference road conditions Richmond will probably encounter in conference play.  Both may have been “close” losses, but they were losses nevertheless.

George Washington’s 4-0 road record may look impressive, but know the opponents were UNC – Wilmington, Boston University, Navy and Towson. Not a BCS team to be found in a group whose collective record is 15-24.  Their extended, post holiday trek through New England should provide a bit more insight into the state of the program and their prospects in conference road play.  The unimpressive road/neutral records posted by Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and St. Louis (a combined 3-18) maybe due in large measure to the youth of all three squads.  Ken Pomeroy ranks them by experience level as #259, #305, #156 and #346 respectively, out of D1’s 347 D1.

Standings as of – 12/21/09:

  1. Temple (9-2)
  2. Rhode Island (9-1)
  3. Charlotte (9-2)
  4. Dayton (9-2)
  5. Richmond (9-3)
  6. George Washington (8-2)
  7. Duquesne (8-4)
  8. La Salle (7-4)
  9. Xavier (7-4)
  10. St. Louis (8-4)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-6)
  14. Fordham (2-8)

Team Rundowns…

Charlotte

Taking to the road, the 49ers beat Winthrop by ten, 57-47, on Sunday (12/20).  Junior forward Shamari Spears delivered from the field, going 5-11 from the floor for 13 points (his 45.5% shooting percentage well ahead of the team’s overall 39.1%), while senior point guard DiJuan Harris delivered from the line, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to pace Charlotte to the win.  Junior center Phil Jones grabbed 11 rebounds as the taller, more physical 49er team dominated with inside play.  The A10 team received ten more free throw opportunities than the host, and made the most of the advantage by converting 13 more times, going 18-22, compared to 5-12 for the Eagles. There indeed was the margin of victory.  Charlotte has now won five straight, all by double-digits.  The Niners traveled to Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23) for one last game before the Holidays and got thumped, 81-48, after shooting 16% in the first half and appearing generally uninterested.  They resume their schedule when they host Mercer on the 29th.

Dayton

The Flyers beat Presbyterian by 19 (71-52) at the UD Arena on Saturday (12/19), paced by junior forward Chris Wright and senior back-up point guard Mickey Perry, each of whom scored 15 points.  Perry, normally in the rotation for about 17 minutes per game saw 25 minutes when off-guard Marcus Johnson went down with an ankle sprain in the 1st half.  Redshirt freshman Josh Benson scored 10 points, also in extended action, when starter Chris Johnson left the game after a blow to the head, also sustained in the 1st half.  Dayton beat Appalachian State, 65-49, on Monday night.  The Blue Hose and Mountaineers should have been double digit wins, and the Dayton team many expected in November appears to be rounding into form as the conference season approaches.  Wright and Perry led the team in scoring for both games, grossing 29 and 30 points apiece respectively for the two games.  The Flyers return to action after the Holidays with a game versus Boston University on the 29th.  They will ring in the New Year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as they take on the Lobos of New Mexico on New Year’s Day.

Duquesne

The Dukes needed two overtimes to put down the Griffins of Canisius 86-77 on Wednesday 12/16.  Duquesne used size and speed to force turnovers and alter shots, but they did not control the boards.  The game, played for 68 possessions (adjusted for the overtimes), was a bit low for Duquesne home games this season.  The Dukes’ offensive efficiency was about 1.00 (points per possession), very slightly above their home court average, the defense, at 0.90, was higher than the Dukes’ 0.81 home average, suggesting the stifling defense, especially on opponent’s shooting, was simply not there.  Duquesne dropped a nine point road game, 73-64, to IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN on Saturday 12/19.  Continuing a trend for road games, Duquesne’s defensive efficiency again turned in a >1.00 defensive effort, 1.05 this time.  The Iowa game in November aside, the Dukes have had problems keeping opponent’s points per possession under 1.00 this season.  The culprits appear to be shot defense (the Dukes let the Jaguars hit at a 56.5% eFG% clip) and rebounding.  Duquesne hosts St. Francis, PA on Tuesday 12/22, then break for Christmas. They finish their OOC schedule with a trip to Virginia to play the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday 12/30.

Fordham

The Rams “hosted” Villanova at the IZOD Center, in the New Jersey Meadowlands last Saturday.  Before a Villanova-friendly crowd, Fordham dropped a 96-53 decision to the #9-ranked Wildcats.  The good news has to be that forward Chris Gaston had another good day scoring.  Another Ram has to step into the vacuum left by Jio Fontan.  Fordham faced James Madison in Virginia on Wednesday and dropped a disappointing one, 85-73, after leading by nine at the half.  They now break for the Holiday.  They resume their pre-conference road trip with games against Kennesaw State (in Georgia, Tuesday 12/29) and Hampton (back to Virginia, Sunday 1/3) in the fortnight before they take on Massachusetts in their A10 opener.

George Washington

George Washington took a week to finish the fall semester.  They squeaked out an 84-80 victory at  East Carolina on Tuesday 12/22, led by Damian Hollis’ 21/3 and Tony Taylor’s 20/6/4.  They will take a New England road trip the week after Christmas, facing Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on Monday 12/28, then travelling east to Cambridge, MA to face Harvard on Wednesday 12/30.  They will return to Washington to face cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

The Explorers beat Bucknell, 83-70, at home on Saturday then dropped a road game to Oklahoma State 77-62, on Monday night.  The Explorers continue to feel the effects of being an undermanned squad.  With senior PG Ruben Guillandeaux out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot, and senior swingman Kimmani Barrett nursing a fractured middle finger on his non-shooting hand, La Salle needs to free Rodney Green to cut and shoot, rather than take over the ball-handling duties.  Green continues to lead the Explorers in points scored — he scored 22 in each of last week’s games (Barrett scored the team-high 23 points versus Bucknell), but needs to maintain his stamina through the end of the game.  La Salle will host Cornell on 12/29 in what may be their last best chance to score a signature win in the OOC. Cornell beat St. John’s to take the ECAC Holiday Festival on Monday (12/21) night.

Massachusetts

Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad scored their best win of the season Saturday night when they downed the Tigers of Memphis 73-72 in Boston.  Freshman Terrell Vinson scored a team-high 21 points on 8-13 (0-1, 8-12) and 5-7 shooting.  Vinson grabbed nine boards, missing the chance to log his second consecutive double-double.  The Minutemen headed out of town to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday night and were stifled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 3-21 (14.3%) resulting in a 67-79 loss to the Eagles.  After the Holiday break they conclude their OOC schedule with a trip into the South to play Davidson on Wednesday 12/30.

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning streak to five when they beat Fairfield 89-84 on Saturday (12/20).  Senior guard Keith Cochran stepped back a bit in this game, letting the forward tandem of Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer take the offensive lead.  The seniors did not disappoint, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.  James logged his first double-double of the season by grabbing 11 rebounds as well.  Marquis Jones and Stevie Mejia handled the point guard duties effectively, dishing ten assists (with only four turnovers) between them.  Rhode Island has three more OOC games before they commence conference play, the first coming next Tuesday (12/29) when they travel to Philadelphia to play Drexel.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped their road game to South Carolina last Wednesday (12/16), 76-58.  The result may not have surprised; after all, Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Brandis Raley-Ross can be a handful, especially in front of a Gamecock-friendly crowd.  The margin was troubling as the Spiders will — should their fortunes during conference play pan out —  be looking for an at-large bid from the selection committee come that Sunday in March.  Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Anderson took large amounts of the possessions when they were on the floor (29.5%, 28.4% and 30.0% respectively — Anderson played the entire game), but of that core only Harper converted efficiently.  With an eFG% of 54.2% and a PPWS of 1.16, Harper developed an offensive rating of 111.6; an offensive rating greater than 100 is good, greater than 110 is very good.  For Geriot and Anderson however, the numbers were not nearly as impressive.  Both converted (eFG%) in the high 30s to mid 40s, but worse, both lost high percentages of their possessions:  Geriot lost 30.4% of his possessions, while for Anderson the number was 26.1%.  Where was David Gonzalvez? Out of action with four fouls, for starters.  The senior guard logged only 65% of the minutes, in large measure because he picked up his second foul at the 12 minute mark of the first half, sat for five minutes, came back in for another five minutes before picking up his third foul for the half.  Gonzalvez picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, and found himself watching as the Spiders four point advantage became a five point deficit.  The Spiders managed to bring the score to a tie, 52-52, with eight minutes left, but the Gamecocks launched a 24-6 run over the last eight minutes, running away from the Spiders and handing them their third road loss of the season.  Richmond bounced back with a 56-53 win over #13 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.  The game, played at Sunrise, FL (and not Florida’s homecourt at Gainesville), found the Spiders paced by the backcourt duo of Gonzalvez (16 points) and Anderson (14 points).  The two minute mark of the 1st half found the Spiders down by 13 (32-19), but Gonzalvez and senior center Geriot scored five unanswered points.  Still trailing by eight (32-24), Coach Mooney and his squad took to the locker room to regroup.  A 22-5 run over the first nine minutes of the 2nd half saw the Spiders blow by the Gators and take a nine point lead.  The Gators scored six unanswered points (a jumper by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, two converted free throws by sophomore guard Erving Walker and a layup by senior forward Dan Werner) to cut the deficit to three over the next 90 seconds.  The two teams were locked in a tug-of-war, never separated by more than four points (and tied twice) for the last 9:30 of the game.  The Spiders took the lead for good on a Gonzalvez three-pointer at the 1:34 mark, and the Spiders hit their free throws down the stretch to bring home the win.  After beating UNC – Greensboro, 89-63 (David Gonzalves posted a season-high 25 points), the Spiders can now break for the holidays.  Richmond will return to action on the 28th against another North Carolina school, the Seahawks of UNC – Wilmington.  The Spiders will spend New Year’s Eve on the road with yet a third North Carolina school, the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks beat Lehigh 77-66 on Sunday (12/20) and are off until after Christmas.  Senior guard Darrin Govens paced the team with 15 points, while three others, starting sophomore guard Chris Prescott along with two freshmen, forward Carl Baptiste and guard Carl Jones chipped in 13 apiece.  Sophomore forward Bryant Irwin scored a career-high 11 points.  Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY and will face the Siena Saints on Tuesday (12/29).

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies dropped a 13-point decision to the Orange of Syracuse 85-72, Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson and senior guard Chris Matthew led the Bonnies with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Orange answered with 17, 18 and 17 points from junior forward Rick Jackson, transfer wing Wes Johnson and sophomore forward Kris Joseph, respectively.  St. Bonaventure traveled to Little Three rival Niagara on Tuesday (12/22) for one last game before Christmas, but couldn’t get the job done, losing 71-77.  They return to action on Wednesday the 30th, as they host Canisius.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad beat Belmont, 75-67, on Wednesday (12/16), then lost to Missouri State, 73-63, on Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell, poked in the right eye with 2:59 to go in the Belmont game, was held out of the Missouri State game.  The Billikens could have used his 14.3 PPG on Saturday.  After winning by seven (61-54) at home against Missour-Kansas City on Tuesday 12/22, the Billikens break for Christmas, and return to action against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday 12/29.  Let’s hope Mitchell’s recovery is swift and complete.

Temple

Looking for a definition for “on a roll?”  Check out the Owls!

After knocking off Villanova on the 13th, the Owls headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark and housed the Seton Hall Pirates in their downtown arena, the Rock.  Down by 13 twice early in the 2nd half, Temple took a 40-21 run in the last 16 minutes to hand yet another Big East team their first loss of the season.  The two game snapshot above suggests that a nucleus of Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen has taken the reins on offense and has efficiently converted possessions into points.  Fernandez and Brooks took turns having career games, but that each was able to step in is a very good sign going forward.  Scootie Randall and Craig Williams should see their minutes grow; Randall because he has provided timely offense in both games, and Williams has taken the injured Michael Eric’s spot in the rotation.  Of particular interest is the Owls’ rebounding.  They dominated both of their Big East opponents, a bit surprising given the Big East’s reputation for physical inside play.  Especially noteworthy is the defensive rebounding coach Fran Dunphy is getting from his backcourt and wing players (Brooks, Guzman, Moore and Di Leo); 15% is a good number for a front court player, the 14%+ the four are registering is terrific.  Allen and Williams’ DR% is phenomenal, but simply not sustainable.  Guzman’s turnovers are high, but he has brought the ball up against two teams known for their press and ability to harass ball handlers.  Like Allen and Williams’ defensive rebounding, the number will probably not hold.

Xavier

The Musketeers traveled to Indianapolis, IN to take on the Butler Bulldogs, losing a 69-68 nail-biter on an unusual clock malfunction.  Xavier trailed through the first half, dropping behind by double digits ranging out to 15. They closed the gap to seven before the break, then came out with an 11-0 run to overtake the Bulldogs.  Jason Love and Kenny Frase were beginning to control the paint, as Terrell Hollaway hit several critical threes from the outside.  The X-Men were held the lead for over 13 minutes in the second half, but a Butler surge tied the game at the four-minute mark, and the teams traded the lead (and tied) five more times over the last four minutes.  Jordan Crawford’s trey with 45 seconds left broke the fourth tie and gave Xavier a three point cushion.  Holloway’s fifth foul at the 39 second mark put Butler guard Shelvin Mack on the line.  Mack hit both free throws, but Xavier had possession with just over a shot clock’s worth of time left.  A steal by Butler guard/forward Gordon Hayward with 36 seconds left gave Butler three tries (two misses and offensive rebounds) before Hayward converted on a layup with an unknown amount of time left on the clock.  According to the clock itself there appeared to be 1.8 seconds left, but the time keeper reported an earlier malfunction had prevented the clock from starting properly earlier in the Butler possession.  The referees (D.J. Carstensen, Sid Rodeheffer and Bo Borowski) decided there was no time left and called the game.  Xavier then hosted in-state rival Miami, OH on Wednesday 12/23.  The Muskies almost fell victim once again to a clock-related question at the end of that one.  Xavier’s Dante Jackson stole an in-bounds pass with less than seven seconds left which would have sealed the Xavier victory, but the play was blown dead because one of the zebras was checking the clock.  On the re-do, Miami’s Kenny Hayes missed a long three at the buzzer that would have tied it and Xavier won, 70-67.  After breaking for the Holiday, the Musketeers will conclude the OOC portion of their season with two BCS opponents — LSU (at home) on Tuesday 12/29 and Wake Forest (in Winston-Salem) on Sunday 1/3.

Games to Catch

  • La Salle vs Cornell, Tuesday 12/29 — The Big Red are heavy favorites to grab the Ivy’s bid to the NCAA.  I am interested, given Cornell’s win over St. John’s (a team looking to improve it’s standing in the Big East this season) in the ECAC Holiday Festival, to see how the Explorers match up.
  • Xavier vs LSU, Tuesday 12/29 — The Musketeers host the Tigers during holiday week.  While LSU was not expected to be a force in the SEC West this season, Xavier has a good chance to match up (indirectly) with two BCS teams expected to make some noise in their respective conferences, Connecticut and Arizona State.  The Huskies beat the Tigers by 26 at the NIT Season Tip-Off (semifinal game), while the Sun Devils took LSU by 19 a round later.
  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — The Spiders get another road test, this time against ACC contender Wake. The Spiders’ front court contingent of Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — The Lobos are not a BCS power, nor are they favored to take their conference bid (the Mountain West) this season.  But their homecourt, an 18,000 seat hole-in-the-ground in Albuquerque, NM known simply as “The Pit,” is a legend.  A notoriously difficult place for visitors to win.  The Flyers are expected to win the A10 title this season, and The Pit will be a good place to get ready for hostile crowds, and lots of noise.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 22nd, 2009

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky 12-0
  2. Florida 8-2
  3. Tennessee 8-2
  4. South Carolina 8-3
  5. Vanderbilt 8-3
  6. Georgia 5-4

WEST

  1. Mississippi 10-1
  2. Mississippi State 9-2
  3. LSU 8-2
  4. Alabama 7-4
  5. Arkansas 6-5
  6. Auburn 5-6

Kentucky set a new standard in college basketball as they became the first program to win 2,000 wins in an 88-44 romp over Drexel.  John Calipari is more than exceeding expectations with a 12-0 record and a #3 ranking in both polls.  UK appears to be gelling right now and are clearly setting the standard in the SEC. Unfortunately, the UK game was about the only highlight in the SEC this week as both Florida and Tennessee suffered head scratching losses.  The two Mississippi schools are starting to rise and play very well and the SEC is turning into a five or six team race.

In the polls, the Wildcats hold on to the number 3 ranking in both polls.  Tennessee falls out of the top ten to 14 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top #25.  The Florida Gators fell to #18 in both polls after their second straight loss.  The Ole Miss Rebels did move up to #15 in the AP Top #25 but are at #21 in the ESPN/USA Today. Despite a few strong weeks, Mississippi State would appear logically to be the next SEC team to crack the polls but they are not getting much love from the voters and it may be a couple more weeks before a 5th team joins the rankings.

Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He averaged 9.5 PPG on 88.9 FG% to go with 5.0 RPG and 3.0 blocks in two wins.   Georgia’s Trey Thompkins named SEC Player of the Week.  He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in a victory over Illinois .

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:

Just a few stocking stuffers strewn through the week, but the real present of the week is the Mississippi/West Virginia matchup.  Here is a look at some of the key games this week:

12/22:  South Alabama (8-4) @ Florida (8-2) – 7 PM – ESPN 360

12/22:  Missouri State (10-0) @ Arkansas (6-5) – 8PM

12/22:  LSU (8-2) @ Washington State (9-2) – 10 PM

12/23:  Long Beach State (6-4) @ Kentucky (11-0) – 1 PM

12/23:  Mississippi (10-1) @ West Virginia (8-0) – 7:30PM – ESPN2

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST

Kentucky (#3, #3) — Kentucky, behind Patrick Patterson’s 21 points, overcame an overall sluggish performance and pulled away from the Austin Peay Governors late for a 90-69 win on Saturday.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and John Wall threw in 11 to lead the Wildcats.  With the 11-0 start, Calipari eclipsed Adolph Rupp’s record for best start by a first year coach.   UK was a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line in the game and that helped to thwart any Governor’s comebacks.  Two days later, UK assured there would be no drama in getting their 2,000th win as they jumped out to a 56-20 halftime lead en route to an 88-44 romp over Drexel.   Patterson and Cousins each had 18 points and Cousins grabbed 13 boards to lead UK.  An amazing stat from the week is that UK went 35-37 from the free throw line for the two games.

Florida (#18 , #18) — The Gators blew an eight point lead and were upset by the Richmond Spiders 56-53 on Saturday night.  This was the second straight loss for UF, who started the season 8-0 and reached #10 in the rankings.  It was a sloppy game as both teams shot 38% and despite having a 10 rebound advantage, the Gators were outhustled by the scrappy Spiders.

Tennessee (#16, #14) — Tennessee opened the SEC week Tuesday night with a 77-58 win over the Wyoming Cowboys.  The Vols only led by one at the half but had a very good defensive second half and pulled away for the win. Scotty Hopson continued to pace the Vols with 14 points and Wayne Chism had 13.  It does say something about the Vols overall strength when they can win by 19 despite being outrebounded and going 4-20 from beyond the 3 point line.  On Saturday, Bruce Pearl suffered his worse loss at Knoxville and the #8 Vols were routed 77-55 by the 4-4 USC Trojans.  Hopson was the only Vol that turned out to play and he had 16 points.  In comparison, the rest of the starting lineup scored just 23 points.  Tennessee could not mount any challenge to the Trojans with their 2-22 three-point shooting.

South Carolina — The Gamecocks broke open a 52-all tie with a 24-6 run to pull out a 76-58 win over the upset-minded Richmond Spiders last Wednesday.  Devan Downey led the way with 18 points and Johndre Jefferson had a nice performance off the bench (12 pts, 8 boards) to help South Carolina continue to win without Dominique Archie.  On Saturday the Gamecocks suffered a crushing lost to the Wofford Terriers, 68-61.  South Carolina had won the previous 21 meetings against Wofford, who have also beaten the Georgia Bulldogs this year.  Downey led the USC scoring with 17 and Brandis Raley-Ross had 14.  The Gamecocks rebounded from the devastating news that Archie is lost for the year by blasting the Furman Paladins 81-57 Monday night.  Sam Muldrow and Devan Downey both had 16 to lead the Gamecocks.

VanderbiltJeffrey Taylor had 20 points on white hot 10-11 shooting as Vanderbilt rebounded from a rough week last week with a 84-71 win over the Tennessee State Tigers.   A.J. Ogilvy, apparently relegated to the bench for now, added 11 points and 6 boards in just 15 minutes.   The Commodores had a great shooting night, hitting 67.9% from the field.  Then last night the Commodores used 60% shooting to blast the Mercer Bears 99-59.  This was a game where the Commodores got a lot of production off their bench with 17 points from John Jenkins and A.J. Ogilvy had 11 points in just 15 minutes.

GeorgiaTrey Thompkins hit four straight free throw attempts in the final 22.2 seconds to finish with 21 points and help Georgia beat Illinois 70-67 on Saturday night.  This was was the biggest win of the Mark Fox era as the Illini came into the game at 8-2.  Travis Leslie added 17 points as the Bulldogs improved to 5-4.

WEST

Mississippi (#15, #21) — The Ole Miss Rebels are becoming King of the Comeback as they came from behind in the third straight game to force OT vs the UTEP Miners on Wednesday, then dominated the extra period en route to a 91-81 victory.  Chris Warren had a career high 32 points and 5 3-pointers.  Terrico White added three treys and 19 points.  The Rebels won their 6th game in a row with a 108-64 romp over the Centenary Gentlemen on Saturday.  Ole Miss hardly broke a sweat in posting a 30 point halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way.   The Rebs were led by White’s 17 and the team nailed 11 treys to key the romp.

Mississippi State — Mississippi State used 63% shooting to put away the Wright State Raiders 80-69.  The Bulldogs got impressive showings from their guards rather than their forwards.   Barry Stewart hit five treys and had 21 points while Dee Bost had 11 assists to key the Bulldog win.   Jarvis Varnado, who entered the day leading the nation in blocks this season, added five more to help Mississippi State to its sixth-straight win in a 70-64 victory over Houston on Saturday.  If that is not enough, Varnado added 17 boards and 13 points.  Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost both added 15 points for the Bulldogs.

AlabamaMikhail Torrance scored 15 points and had seven assists, and JaMychal Green added 14 points to lead Alabama to a 60-45 victory over Samford.  The game only featured six free throws and a total of 15 fouls between the two teams.  In their other matchup, the Tide came out flat and were generally dominated in a 87-74 loss to #22 Kansas State.  Alabama did manage a late run that cut an 18 point deficit to seven, but ran out of gas as Kansas State pulled away again.  Torrance had 20 and Green added 17 for the Alabama cause.

LSUTasmin Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining in the game lifted LSU to a 63-60 victory over Nicholls State on Thursday night.  LSU continued it’s trend of struggling with lesser teams with the 3-9 Colonels.  Mitchell was 11-14 for the game and had 27 points and Storm Warren had a double double with 13 points and 11 boards.  Bo Spencer scored 22 points, including two important free throws in the final minute, to lead LSU to a 65-61 victory against Rice on Saturday.  Mitchell had a double double with 10 points and 12 boards as LSU improved to 8-0 at home.

Arkansas — On Wednesday, the shorthanded Razorbacks had to face Alabama State without the SEC’s leading scorer Rotnei Clarke (tendinitis) but still got a compete team effort to beat the Hornets, 76-51.  Michael Washington had 22 points and Marshawn Powell 13 to help the Hogs.  Washington scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Arkansas held off Stephen F. Austin 72-69 on Saturday.  Stefan Walsh added 13 points off the bench as the Hogs moved above .500 at 6-5.

Auburn — The Tigers let a great opportunity for a signature win slip through it’s fingers with a 76-72 loss at Florida State.  DeWayne Reed and Frankie Sullivan both scored 17 points and the Tigers nailed 13 treys but could not close the gap for the upset win.  On Sunday, the Tigers became a signature win for another program as they lost 107-89 to the Sam Houston State Bearkats.  Auburn became the first SEC victory for the Bearkats who threw 92 points up on Kentucky earlier this season.  Reed’s 19 led the way for the Tigers.

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on November 24th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

CURRENT SEC STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky   4-0
  2. Florida   3-0
  3. Tennessee   4-1
  4. South Carolina   3-1
  5. Vanderbilt   2-1
  6. Georgia   1-2

WEST

  1. LSU   3-0
  2. Mississippi   4-1
  3. Mississippi State   2-1
  4. Arkansas   2-1
  5. Alabama   2-1
  6. Auburn   2-3

Coming into this season, there were two main storylines to watch for the conference as a whole.  The first was if the SEC, after a down year and having only three NCAA teams last year, could rebound and regain its status as an elite conference.   The second one was if the influx of new talent in the SEC, both in the coaching and playing ranks, would help to raise the prestige level of the SEC.

The jury is out as to whether the SEC is going to be an elite conference this year.  So far, the SEC has an unimpressive 32-12 record so far.  There have been embarrassing losses, the key one being #19 Mississippi State losing to Rider by 14 points.  Add to this the fact that the SEC have not knocked off a “name team,” yet.  Just last night, #9 Tennessee lost to #6 Purdue and #24 Vanderbilt lost to Cincinnati.  The East division is clearly the class of the league with a 17-5 record and all three of the SEC’s ranked teams residing in that division.  So far, only Kentucky, Florida, and LSU have escaped the first two weeks of the season unscathed.

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