SEC M5: 01.05.15 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 5th, 2015


  1. South Carolina’s win over Iowa State in Brooklyn on Saturday was significant for several reasons. First, it was easily the biggest victory of Frank Martin’s tenure in Columbia, and, second, it was a boost for the conference’s reputation as a whole. Remember the last time time the SEC put a league representative in front of the Cyclones? Needless to say that it didn’t end well. But as Garnet and Black Attack writes, it was also an important victory because the Gamecocks have so few chances left on the schedule for another marquee win. Two cracks at Kentucky could be the extent of it, but now South Carolina doesn’t necessarily need to win one of those two games to get some national attention. A good conference record (e.g., 11-7) even without a Kentucky win could be enough to garner some late season NCAA Tournament chatter — since the Gamecocks’ resume is now buoyed by the victory over Iowa State.
  2. With the Carolina win on our minds, is the SEC quietly improving? While only one team is currently ranked, the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton writes that, “10 SEC teams are in the top 104, six in the top 53 and four (UK, Georgia, LSU and Arkansas) in the top 28 of the RPI.” RPI, especially at this time of year, isn’t necessarily the best barometer, but if nothing else this suggests that the depth of the league is better than it was last year. Take Georgia and Alabama, for example. Neither might be viable NCAA Tournament teams, but both have shown enough fight against other major conference opponents that they won’t be pushovers either. This quiet league-wide improvement is also taking place as Florida undergoes an understandable rebuilding period, which should be encouraging to conference fans as a whole.
  3. Vanderbilt’s double-overtime win over Yale on Saturday may not have been pretty, but it pushed the Commodores’ non-conference record to 10-3, representing great progress over recent seasons. Kevin Stallings’ team should be fun to watch grow throughout SEC play, and their future promise screams from the box score, as all five players who reached double figures against Yale are either sophomores (Damian Jones, Luke Kornet) or freshmen (Riley Lachance, Shelton Mitchell, Matthew Fisher-Davis). A January 10 visit to Fayetteville will be a good test to determine how Kevin Stallings’ young team handles one of the league’s toughest environments.
  4. LSU got a late Christmas present late last week when five-star guard Antonio Blakeney committed to the Tigers. It has already been written on all corners of the Internet, but LSU will be overflowing with talent next season if Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey stick around with Blakeney and super-prospect Ben Simmons arriving on campus. But even if Mickey and Martin both leave for the NBA, the Tigers would still be able to field a competitive, NCAA Tournament-caliber team given how Josh Gray, Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman have grown this season. Gray and Hornsby have been a complementary three-point shooting backcourt and Quarterman has been a unique, jack-of-all trades swingman. In this worst-case scenario for LSU, the team’s two new elite prospects would still be entering a team with a solid foundation.
  5. Missouri has had a frustrating season, and conference play could be much more difficult should Teki Gill-Caesar miss any time. The freshman, who has averaged 11.5 points per game this season, left the Tigers’ recent win over Lipscomb in the first half with a back injury and did not return. Kim Anderson said afterward that he wasn’t sure how serious his injury actually is. Gill-Caesar’s scoring has dipped recently as defenses focus their attention on him, but he’s a key piece to a team that showed some promise in close losses to Illinois and Oklahoma State. Missouri has an opportunity against a surging LSU team to open league play on Thursday night, but the Tigers from Columbia will be hard-pressed to win that game if Gill-Caesar is on the bench.
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SEC Preview Post: Vanderbilt Commodores

Posted by David Changas on November 13th, 2014

The SEC microsite will preview each of the league teams over the next week, continuing today with Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Commodores

Strengths. In a league full of teams facing a lot of uncertainty, Vanderbilt is no exception. The return of sophomore forward Damian Jones, a preseason first-team all-SEC selection by the coaches, is something Kevin Stallings should be happy about. As a freshman, Jones averaged 11.3 points per game and led the team in rebounding, pulling down 5.7 caroms per contest. With a year of experience under his belt, Jones should blossom to fulfill the expectations that have been placed on him. While the backcourt is exceptionally young following last season’s dismissals of Kedren Johnson and Dai-Jon Parker, as well as the graduation of Kyle Fuller, Stallings is excited about freshman Shelton Mitchell, who looks to have the starting point guard spot locked down. Mitchell originally signed with Wake Forest but decided to re-open his recruitment when coach Jeff Bzdelik was fired. The Commodores are the beneficiaries, and the Oak Hill Academy product has impressed so far.

Kevin Stallings will need a big season from Damian Jones for Vanderbilt to be successful. (AP/Mark Zaleski)

Kevin Stallings will need a big season from Damian Jones for Vanderbilt to have success. (AP/Mark Zaleski)

Weaknesses. While Mitchell appears to be a real find and there is good young talent in the backcourt, there is also virtually no returning experience. Only walk-on Carter Josephs saw action last year, and Stallings would prefer that he does not have to do so again. Wade BaldwinMatthew Fisher-Davis and Riley LaChance were all Rivals 150 recruits, and all will have to contribute immediately. Up front, Vanderbilt returns senior center Josh Henderson, who was injured early last season with a torn ACL, as well as forwards James SiakamLuke Kornet and Shelby Moats, all of whom are limited and will struggle against the better frontcourts.

Toughest Non-Conference Test. The Commodores’ non-conference schedule is not terribly challenging this season. Stallings, knowing he would have a very young team certainly planned that. Vanderbilt does, however, face, Baylor in Nashville on December 4 as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Road trips later in the month to Georgia Tech and St. Louis should also be good early tests for Stallings’ squad.

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One on One: An SEC Preview With Chris Dortch

Posted by Walker Carey on November 4th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the SEC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an SEC expert in Blue Ribbon College Yearbook editor Chris Dortch (@cdortch).

Rush the Court: How good is Kentucky and what makes it that good? The Wildcats begin the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC title. Do you expect them to win both the conference title and the national title?

Chris Dortch: It would not surprise me at all if Kentucky wins both the SEC title and the national title. I think the team is so good that you can rank both its first five and its second five in the Top 25. The team has nine McDonald’s All-Americans and more talent than I can remember any team in the SEC possibly ever having. Having said that, the Wildcats do have a weakness or two. They have to prove that, other than Aaron Harrison, they have someone who can make outside shots. If they cannot do that, teams are going to try to pack it in the lane and negate their size and dribble-drive. I have said this a few times on some radio shows: If Kentucky shoots 35 percent or better from the three-point line for the season, I think the Wildcats will be undefeated going into the Final Four.

It's Gators and Wildcats at the Top of the SEC, Again

It’s Gators and Wildcats at the Top of the SEC, Again

RTC: Florida’s personnel losses are notable with Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete all moving on from Gainesville. However, Billy Donovan’s squad seems primed to have another impressive season. What is it about this year’s Gators that will make them a force to be reckoned with in the conference?

Dortch: I think Florida has some experienced personnel and some young guys who I believe are ready to step. Someone like Kasey Hill, who understudied Wilbekin last season, seems poised to take over the point guard position. I think Michael Frazier is one of the best shooters in the country and he is ready to take the next step in his development. Dorian Finney-Smith, who was eligible last season after transferring from Virginia Tech, is so versatile that he was used at the point a few times. He is going to be a guy who is going to be asked to do a lot more than he was last year. There are also a couple transfers who will help. Jon Horford comes over as a fifth-year eligible from Michigan and Alex Murphy comes over from Duke. I think those two will help fortify the team’s front line.

RTC: Arkansas is still waiting on its breakthrough campaign in the Mike Anderson era. With a talented team featuring star big man Bobby Portis, will this finally be the season that the Razorbacks find a way back to the NCAA Tournament?

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Morning Five: 05.01.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 1st, 2014


  1. Yesterday was a surprisingly busy day on the coaching carousel. The big news came out late last night when Southern Mississippi filled its coaching vacancy by hiring Doc Sadler. The Southern Miss spot opened up when Donnie Tyndall moved to Tennessee, but he did leave a fairly good program for Sadler as the team went 56-17 in the past two seasons although they did not make the NCAA Tournament either season. Sadler compiled a 149-107 record at UTEP and Nebraska, but was fired in 2012 at Nebraska after going 12-18. It was just yesterday that the job was reportedly offered to Brad Underwood, who “decided” to stay at Stephen F. Austin just a few hours before the Sadler hiring was announced so we suspect that his decision may have been impacted by Southern Mississippi’s decision. The other announcement was that Tom Izzo intends to stay at Michigan State rather than pursuing a NBA job. In our opinion, this really isn’t particularly newsworthy although with coaches of Izzo’s caliber we always assume that some NBA team will have interest in Izzo. While Izzo stated that he plans on staying at Michigan State he noted that if the right offer comes up he might reconsider and he did mention the Lakers as such a job. And Mike D’Antoni did resign yesterday…
  2. It wasn’t that long ago that Rick Barnes was on the “hot seat”. After a surprisingly good season last season, Barnes appeared to be in good shape heading into next season with most of last year’s team returning. On top of that, he added Myles Turner, who committed to Texas yesterday essentially ending this recruiting season (at least for high school recruits). Turner, the consensus #2 recruit in the class of 2014, announced that he was heading to Texas in a press conference that was televised on ESPNU. For a more thorough breakdown of what Turner’s commitment means, check out Jeff Borzello’s excellent breakdown.
  3. We aren’t sure if one coach needs to replace another on the hot seat, but if he does then we would nominate Mark Turgeon. He already lost three players to transfer this off-season (more on one below) and now according to some reports both Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell have both asked for their release from the program. Maryland is denying these reports, but if true we cannot imagine how much longer Turgeon can stay on board. It is too late in the coaching carousel cycle for the school to get rid of him and look for a new coach and with their upcoming move to the Big Ten they need some stability, but they need to be looking in another direction. Last season, Allen averaged 13.4 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds per game while Mitchell averaged 6.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. If they do leave, Maryland will have lost five of its top eight players from last season to transfer.
  4. With most of his production from last year leaving and an undistinguished freshman class coming in we knew that Craig Robinson needed to do something significant if he wanted to keep his job. It appears that he has in the transfer market. Yesterday, Maryland transfer Nick Faust announced that he would be headed to Oregon State. Faust, who averaged 9.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, will have to sit out this season and has one more year of eligibility left. According to reports, Oregon State is also active in reaching out to several other prominent transfers. This method probably isn’t what Oregon State needs for long-term success, but it might be enough to let Robinson keep his job for a few more years.
  5. Danny Manning hasn’t had his first practice at Wake Forest, but his tenure is already off to a rough start. Yesterday, Shelton Mitchell, the team’s top incoming recruit, received his release from Wake Forest. Mitchell, a four-star point guard, is recovering from an ACL tear is reportedly still considering Wake Forest, but is keeping his options open now that Jeff Bzdelik, the coach who recruited him, is no longer there. At this point, the only class of 2014 commit that Manning has is two-star shooting guard Rondale Watson. Manning might turn out to be a better coach than Bzdelik, but with that recruiting class it will be very hard to prove it in the ACC.
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