SEC Morning Five: 02.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 9th, 2012

  1. After witnessing his team getting dismantled in Lexington by the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida coach Billy Donovan had high praise for coach John Calipari’s squad. “The one thing I like about their team is I love their disposition on the floor,” he said. “There’s a certain disposition you have to have and I’m not talking about an arrogance or a cockiness, but there’s like a focus level in terms of what really goes into winning at that level. There’s a mentality there.” Donovan is a good source on this year’s championship. Not only did he lead the Gators to two straight national championships in 2006 and 2007, but Florida has played the top three teams in the country, all on the road. He even offered up a nice prediction for basketball fans in April. Billy the Kid says he would love to see Kentucky and Syracuse play in the title game. “It would be a heck of a game,” Donovan said. And after last year’s anti-climatic performance, it’s a game that would be great for the sport of college basketball as well.
  2. Anybody who watched Kentucky’s rout of the seventh-ranked Gators on Tuesday can attest that this could be a championship year for the Cats. Despite being loaded with talent throughout his college coaching career, including making a Final Four run last year, this is John Calipari’s best team. The different between this team, and say, Calipari’s 2009-10 club that had five first round NBA draft picks, is that Kentucky has players experienced in Cal’s system. Calipari is well-known for his utilization of freshmen players who bolt for the NBA after one season. He has a couple of likely 1-and-dones in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who happen to be two of the best players in the nation, but he adds a level of comfort and experience that his previous teams have not typically possessed. Three returning players (Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones) give Calipari a complete team that knows his expectations and appears to be coming together at just the right time.
  3. Another key to the Wildcats’ latest successes has been the development of freshman point guard Marquis Teague. Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated charts how Teague’s shot and turnover percentages have declined over the course of the season. Against Florida on Tuesday, Teague finished with 12 points, 10 assists and five turnovers. His recent success, and thus the improvement of Kentucky’s offense, is attributed to him finding a comfortable role as a supporting player. “We enjoy winning, so if I’ve got to take less shots for us to win, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. And as long as he continues to find open teammates and improve his shot selection, Kentucky won’t just continue winning, but will continue winning big.
  4. Just when it appeared that Vanderbilt was hitting its stride after some early season struggles, the Commodores have lost three of their last four SEC games. And with a tough stretch ahead, including a College Gameday matchup with Kentucky on Saturday, there is at least some question as to whether or not the ‘Dores are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.“We’re not playing great right now, but I definitely think we’re a tournament team,” forward Jeffery Taylor said. Coach Kevin Stallings agreed. “If we stay healthy enough and we do what we’re supposed to do in our preparation, then we’ll be in the tournament,” he said. For the record, I think Vandy will make the Tournament, and I even think they will finally make it out of the first round. However, the fact that we are even having this conversation indicates just how far the Commodores have fallen from lofty preseason expectations that had them competing for an SEC title and contending for a Final Four in March.
  5. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t necessarily need forward Jeronne Maymon to score points. Martin is looking for an increased toughness from his leader, and the numbers will follow. “I don’t think it’s so much being asked to score,” Maymon said. “I just think it’s about going out there and trying to lead, in a way. Play tough defense, talk and be vocal — that’s all Coach [Cuonzo] Martin really stresses. He really doesn’t stress point totals.” Maymon’s 19 rebounds against Auburn signify exactly the sort of toughness that his coach is looking for. “Coach Martin loves tough guys and guys that go out there and play their heart out,” he said. “That’s mainly what I’m about.”
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SEC Morning Five: 02.08.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 8th, 2012

  1. In their first game without Tony Mitchell, Alabama handled Auburn, winning the first round of basketball version of the Iron Bowl. On CapstoneReport.com, one writer praises the move by head coach Anthony Grant: “Mitchell is the Tide’s second leading scorer and second on the team in rebounds. But Mitchell leads the team and possibly the SEC in several other undesirable categories: Like pouting when something doesn’t go his way; Playing soft defense, if he plays it at all; Flailing around on the floor like a soccer player after receiving just a bump or scratch; And in making a jackass of himself in front of thousands of onlookers.”
  2. Shuan Smith’s recovery from major hip surgery at Mississippi State has head coach Rick Stansbury looking to give Smith more quality minutes over the final two months of the season. “There’s no reason he can’t (give five to eight minutes a game) against everybody,” Stansbury said Monday in the Commercial Dispatch. “If he hadn’t been hurt, I think we’d be way beyond that point, but just because of his situation that’s where we’re at right now.”
  3. Even before Kentucky throttled Florida on Tuesday, Mike Miller of NBCSports.com wrote about the ever-improving Wildcats. He writes “the ‘Cats are outscoring opponents by an average of .28 points per possession, meaning they basically beat everyone by about 18 points…It starts with the defense. Kentucky has the game’s most intimidating shot-blocker (Anthony Davis, with apologies to Fab Melo), its most versatile defender (freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), a bruiser who does a little of everything (Terrence Jones) and guys who can fill roles as needed (everyone needs a Darius Miller).”
  4. Already moving on to Saturday’s showdown in Nashvillle, David Boclair writes about the contrasting philosophies between Kentucky and Vanderbilt. “Vanderbilt, after all, has put together its most promising team in decades with patience and persistence. Players have stayed in the program, so the current roster includes five scholarship seniors (one of them in his fifth year) and a junior…Kentucky, conversely, likes to rely on one-and-done superstars. Under current coach John Calipari, one of the sport’s legendary programs has made great use of players such as John Wall, Brandon Knight, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, who show up, play one season and promptly jump to the NBA.”
  5. A FoxSportsTennessee.com stories analyzes how turnovers have put the  Commodores in a difficult spot following back-to-back losses. “We didn’t do a very good job of attacking their press, and it was disruptive,” coach Kevin Stallings said of Vandy’s play against the Gators. “We did a poor job with our spacing and our ball-handling, and it caused problems.” Home games vs LSU, and of course Kentucky, could put Vanderbilt back on track to locking up a first-round bye in next month’s SEC Championship.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.07.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 7th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Florida at Kentucky – 7:00PM EST on ESPN HD (*****)

The biggest SEC showdown of the season is upon us. Football is done and college hoops takes center stage until the end of March. Hold on to your hats folks, it’s going to be awesome!

How will Patric Young fair against the best shot blocker in the nation, Anthony Davis?

  • There has been a lot of chatter recently about whether or not Florida is overrated. Tonight will determine if that talk comes to an end, as they face the best team in the SEC and the number one ranked team in the country in Lexington. One area in which the Gators are not overrated is on offense. They are second in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, #4 in eFG%, and #9 in offensive turnover rate. If you can hit shots and limit turnovers, you can beat anybody. Interestingly, Florida’s four losses were also their four highest turnover games (based on turnover rate). Keep a close eye on Kentucky’s ability to turn the Gators over. As good as the Wildcat defense is, it does not frequently cause turnovers. Less turnovers will certainly mean more three-point attempts for the Gators, who are taking 44% of their shots from downtown. If the Gators can convert threes with those added opportunities, they have a chance to take down the top team in the nation.
  • Kentucky is #1 for a reason. They are third in adjusted offensive efficiency and seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency in the nation, and they have only gotten better in conference play. Their only loss on the season was a buzzer-beater on the road at Indiana. The match-up between Anthony Davis of Kentucky and Patric Young of Florida will get a great deal of attention, as it should. The battle down low will certainly be fun to watch. Keep an eye on the overall edge in size that Kentucky has on Florida. While Young is certainly a beast, Kentucky can throw size at the Gators all day with the likes of 6’9” Terrence Jones, 6’9” Kyle Wiltjer, 6’8” Darius Miller, and 6’7” Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
  • The difference in the game will be on the defensive end. Kentucky has one of the top defenses in the country and Florida does not. It will take a special performance from the Gator defense to stop Kentucky on offense. As long as the Wildcats can play strong half court defense as they have all season, they will remain undefeated in the SEC after tonight.

Other Games to Watch:

Do yourself a favor and focus on Florida and Kentucky.

***** – 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 2014

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SEC Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on January 31st, 2012

  1. Vanderbilt returned to the AP top 25 rankings, checking in at #25 after a week that saw the Commodores defeat a pair of in-state foes – Tennessee on Tuesday and 20-3 Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Their stay inside the top 25 will depend on how they fare in a pair of tough road contests this week. First, Vanderbilt travels to Fayetteville for their one regular-season meeting with Arkansas then follow up that trip with a road contest at #12 Florida on Saturday. Combined, the Razorbacks and Gators own a 27-1 mark on their home floors.
  2. Tuesday also gives a chance to react to the many bracketology projections around the web. Here on RushTheCourt.net, Zach Hayes gave six SEC schools dance invitations: Kentucky as a #1; Florida and Vanderbilt #4s, Mississippi State a #6, Alabama a #11, and Ole Miss a #12 playing in one of the “First Four” contests. He put Arkansas as one of his last four out. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi puts five SEC teams in the field, led by Kentucky as a #1. Vanderbilt and Florida received #4 seeds, Alabama drew a #7 seed, Mississippi State garnered a #8 seed. He put Ole Miss as one of his “Next Four Out.” On SBNation.com, the same five Lunardi put in the field earned spots: Kentucky a #1, Vanderbilt a #4, Florida a #5, Mississippi State a #6, and Alabama a #10. Ole Miss ranked as one of Chris Dobbertean’s Next Four Out.
  3. On the SEC coaches teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury was asked by Brad Locke, of the NEMS Daily Journal about the Sunday report that had Renardo Sidney considering leaving Bulldogs either for the NBA or as a transfer. “Not at all. I don’t know where all those reports come from. No discussion at any time,” Stansbury said. He also asked if the two had discussed Sidney’s future at all. Stansbury: “We haven’t talked one bit about his future plans at all. We’re just trying to get through this season.”
  4. Tuesday’s other SEC contest features a rematch between Tennessee and Kentucky. The Volunteers led by six at halftime and nearly stunned the now top-ranked Wildcats before losing 65-62. Terrence Jones made some interesting comments to Lexington Herald-Leader in regards to Jarnell Stokes. Stokes, who made his collegiate debut in the first Kentucky game, drew a pair of fouls on Jones and finished with nine points and four rebounds in 17 minutes. Despite that, Jones said “I don’t think he really made that big an impact.” In other quotes, Volunteer head coach Cuonzo Martin said “We’re a better team, but now you have to go on the road in a hostile environment and prove it.” Kentucky has won 47 straight at home and hasn’t lost to Tennessee at Rupp Arena since Chris Lofton scored 31 points in a 75-67 win on Feb. 7, 2006.
  5. The third installment of ESPN’s SEC Storied series will premiere on Saturday, February 11. It features Nolan Richardson and his famed “40 Minutes of Hell” style of basketball that culminated in a national championship in 1994. Arkansas fans will be able to catch a screening before the 9 p.m. airing on ESPNU as it will air on the Bud Walton Arena video boards. From the ArkansasSports360.com account, the movie “produced by NASCAR Media Group and directed by Kenan Harris-Holley, includes interviews with former President of the United States Bill Clinton, Richardson himself, former Arkansas Chancellor John White and current Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. Players Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Al Dillard, Ken Biley and John Engskov contribute to the film, as well as radio announcer Mike Nail, author Rus Bradburd and ESPN’s Dick Vitale and Ryan McGee.” You can watch the trailer here.
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ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.

In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:

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Kentucky’s Youth and Inexperience: Does It Matter?

Posted by KDoyle on January 25th, 2012

Kevin Doyle is an RTC correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @KLDoyle11. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Georgia game in Athens Tuesday night.

Shortly after the Top 25 poll was released for the week of January 23, Kentucky head coach John Calipari was no doubt a bit uneasy seeing his Wildcats perched atop of the rankings. In Kentucky’s first stint as the #1-ranked team in America back in December, they fell to an upstart Indiana team in what has been, without question, the game of the season to date. The Wildcats led in the final minute, but two late missed free throws allowed the Hoosiers to have one final shot to win it and the rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward a month and a half and 11 games — all UK victories, by the way — and Kentucky found themselves in a similar position. In an article released by The Louisville Courier-Journal recently, Calipari explains how experiencing adversity and knowing what it feels like to lose again may not be the worst thing in the world:

I did tell them the way this is going, we probably need a loss so that we’ll come together and say, ‘We’re not losing like this.’ In other words, getting manhandled. We’re getting manhandled and winning close games, so they think it’s OK. So my thing is, let’s take it on the chin. Now whatcha gonna do? You going to say it’s OK? I don’t think they’re going to say it’s OK.

In last night’s contest at Stegeman Coliseum before a sold-out crowd of Georgia fans (although Big Blue Nation certainly made their presence felt), Kentucky was the team that did, as Calipari would call it, “the manhandling.” It was not the most aesthetically pleasing basketball game to watch as the teams combined for a mere 101 points, but Kentucky powered their way to a comfortable 13-point victory, 57-44. Georgia hung around for much of the first half, but after the under-four media timeout Kentucky exerted their will and coasted. The Bulldogs never got within single digits in the second half.

The Unibrow Is a Dominant Defender Only Scratching the Surface of His Ability

Looking back at Cal’s remarks, it is easy to side with him and say that a tough loss may be good for team morale as it would ostensibly rally the squad together and force them to refocus. He can say that the target is even bigger on their backs now since they are riding a 12-game winning streak, undefeated in the SEC, one of only three 20+ game winners, and the #1 team in the country. But, let’s be honest, they are the University of Kentucky — Big Blue Nation — the target is always on their back and every time they step on the floor the spotlight is squarely on Cal & Co. Would a loss change Kentucky’s mindset as to how they approach a future game?

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SEC Morning Five: 1.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 20th, 2012

  1. Head coach Anthony Grant questioned the team mentality of his Alabama squad after a 56-52 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday. “There’s a point in time when winning needs to take a priority over any individual things,” Grant said, “and I don’t think we understand that all the time.” If the Tide’s head man had questions over teamwork on Saturday, then he’s really going to ponder his club’s commitment following a 69-59 loss to Vanderbilt. Alabama trailed by as many as 23 in the second half, were outrebounded by 10, and shot just 33% as a team from the field. Rather than a lack of teamwork, maybe it’s a lack of shooting ability that has done the Crimson Tide in this season. Alabama is last in the SEC in made three-point field goals with under three per game.
  2. Forward Reginald Buckner was a huge factor in Mississippi’s first win over rival Mississippi State since January 31, 2009. Buckner pulled down 15 rebounds, blocked three shots, and scored a career-high 19 points. That’s a lot of production from the junior who averages 8.7 rebounds and just 6.8 points per game. “I thought he was tremendous,” Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said. “Obviously the difference in the game.” And not just any game — a much needed win for the up and down Rebels. “It was a statement game,” Buckner said. “We’re back in it. We’re back in the race.” Which race exactly is yet to be determined.
  3. Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost is an emotionally driven player who can trash talk with the best of them, but usually backs up his talk with positive play on the court. Bost made plenty of noise before the game, but came up short in the Bulldogs loss on Wednesday night. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy set out to frustrate Bost by defending him with the length of 6’10” forward Terrance Henry. And it worked. Bost was four of 15 from the field for 15 points, but scored a flurry of eight points in the final 42 seconds of the game after the final outcome was already decided. “We thought the length would bother him, which it did a little bit,” Kennedy said. Bost has been the key to Mississippi State’s five-game winning streak against Ole Miss prior to this loss. In the 69-64 win in Oxford last season, Bost came up huge for the Bulldogs with 25 points, six rebounds, and eight assists.
  4. Kentucky forward Terrence Jones credits a new attitude for his recent 13-point, nine-rebound performance against Arkansas. “I’m just not thinking as much,” Jones said. “Just being less conscious about my hand. Worrying about messing up because I wasn’t playing like I was as a freshman. Just thinking too much about every little play.” Jones refuses to use his finger injury as an excuse for his poor play, which is appropriate considering his struggles started well before the December 17th setback. The 6’8″ power forward has yet to record a double-double this season, despite reaching that mark thirteen times as a freshman.
  5. Billy Donovan is looking to his bench to fill the void left by the ankle injury of center Patric Young. “Pat is obviously a big part of our team,” Florida forward Erik Murphy said. “He’s going through a little bit of an injury, and we have got to pick up the slack, step up. All of us collectively as a group need to.” Young is expected to play on Saturday against LSU, but how much and how effective he is remains to be seen. If Young is unable to play significant minutes, Donovan could turn to freshman Cody Larson. “I’m gaining more and more confidence and trust in Cody,” Donovan said. “I’ve put him in now the last several games, and he’s given us some good minutes.” Young was limited to just 13 minutes in the Gators’ last game against South Carolina.
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Terrence Jones Falling Short in Year Two

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 13th, 2012

Kentucky is extremely talented. Absurdly so, in fact. The Wildcats are so talented that sometimes we begin to nitpick the small holes in their game that could prevent them from reaching their national title aspirations in April. Two aspects of Kentucky’s game could keep the Cats from cutting down the nets this season. Kentucky needs a go-to offensive player when the Cats are down by one and need a bucket with precious time clicking off the clock. And the Wildcats need a dominant defensive rebounding force to assure the Cats’ stingy defensive pressure isn’t for naught. 6’9″ forward Terrence Jones can, and should, be able to provide both for Kentucky. Up to this point, he hasn’t come close.

Terrence Jones is not contributing like the star player the Cats thought they were getting this year

Jones’ offensive game has been disappointing. His scoring, assists, free throw percentage, and minutes per game have all taken a slight dip this year. In big games this season, Jones has all but disappeared. In Bloomington, Jones scored just four points on only three shots in the Kentucky’s loss to Indiana. In its win over archrival Louisville, Jones shot 1-9, scoring just two points. Those aren’t the stats of a go-to guy in the waning seconds of a must-win game.

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SEC Morning Five: 01.10.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 10th, 2012

  1. The SEC named LSU’s Justin Hamilton as the SEC Player of the Week. Hamilton led LSU to an 81-55 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday. He averaged 22 points, 12.5 rebounds, three blocks and 1.5 steals this week. The seven-foot transfer grabbed 10 offensive rebounds over the past two games. The SEC freshman of the Week went to Arkansas’ BJ Young. Young led the Razorbacks to a win over Mississippi State this past week averaging 20.5 points, three rebounds, one steal and one assist per game. Against the Bulldogs, Young contributed 24 points on 10-13 shooting.
  2. Has Terrence Jones brought himself out of a month-long slump with his 20-point performance against South Carolina? Although Jones contributed far more than he has in recent games, he still only managed to snag three rebounds for the Wildcats. That won’t earn the power forward much praise from us here at Rush the Court or the guys over at A Sea of Blue, but perhaps Jones’ issue is more mental than anything else. Glenn Logan writes, “Jones frequently looks, and plays, like his mind is on anything but the game.” The 6’9″ sophomore has reached double figures in rebounding just once this season, and it could be exactly this sort of aloof behavior and attitude that is the difference between this season and last year when he averaged 8.8 rebounds per game.
  3. Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson’s son, Michael Anderson Jr., was arrested Sunday morning for driving while under the influence. Anderson, Jr., is the video coordinator on his father’s staff at Arkansas. “All of our (staff) members are expected to make the right decision on and off the floor,” Anderson said about his son’s arrest. “I expect that. Unfortunately some individuals don’t always make the right decision. But as a father, I will support Mike and hopefully help him learn from this situation.” The elder Anderson has to be disappointed with the distraction coming off Arkansas’ biggest win of the year over Mississippi State. This is not the first DWI arrest for Anderson, Jr. He was arrested while on the Missouri basketball team during his father’s first season as the Tigers’ head coach.
  4. Diminutive point guard Cory Stanton announced that he is transferring from Lipscomb to Tennessee to join the Vols as a walk-on this season. Stanton is sitting out this season with Lipscomb after transferring from Clemson. He averaged 2.4 points per game while at Clemson last season, including  a nine-point game against Michigan. Coming out of high school, Stanton was the No. 7 player in the state of Tennessee. Vols’ coach Cuonzo Martin has already grabbed some extra help this season, getting a commitment from 6’8″ forward Jarnell Stokes to begin play immediately. Stanton should be able to practice and begin playing for the Vols’ backcourt as well.
  5. Martin adjusted the starting lineup for the Vols in their 67-56 win over Florida, and grabbed the attention of some of the guys on the bench. One of those players was former starter Jordan McRae, who sat out 12 minutes of the first half, only to return with a vengeance. He came back in the game to hold Florida’s leading scorer Kenny Boynton in check. “I definitely needed Coach to do what he did,” McRae said. “It definitely sent a message; it’s a reality check. The whole time I was sitting over there, I was just thinking, ‘when I get in, I’m not going to worry about scoring, I’m just going to guard my man.’ ” Martin’s message was received loud and clear with improved play propelling Tennessee to its signature win so far this season.
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SEC Full Court Press: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 9th, 2012

The familiarity amongst teams once conference play begins creates an atmosphere that is truly hard to predict. The SEC experienced some ups and downs as some teams didn’t play as expected while others rose to the occasion. The first week of SEC play was nothing if not unpredictable, and it’s only the beginning of what is to come.

The Week That Was:

  • The Ole Miss Rebels haven’t shot at least 45% from the field and at least 30% from three-point range since a December 17 loss to Southern Miss.
  • Meanwhile, the LSU Tigers, which beat the Rebels 81-55, have won eight of their last nine games.
  • Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is closing in on the single season blocks record for the school. He has 74 so far this season, just 10 away from the all-time best mark of 84 set by Andre Riddick in 1993-94 and Melvin Turpin in 1982-83.
  • Mississippi State allowed Arkansas to shoot 56.5% from the field on Saturday. Previously, the Bulldogs hadn’t allowed an opponent to shoot above 50% all season.
  • The Razorbacks’ Julysses Nobles came up with a huge game on Saturday. The junior guard had 24 points and seven assists in by far his best game of the season.
  • Coming off an 18-point loss to Memphis, the Tennessee defense held Florida to 56 points on 35.7% shooting. Both the point total and the shooting percentage were season lows for the Gators.
  • Billy Donovan won’t want to pack his bags and leave Gainesville again this season. The Gators are 0-4 on the road this year, losing at Ohio State, Syracuse, Rutgers and Tennessee.
  • Was that a Terrence Jones sighting? The Kentucky power forward had his best game in over a month with a 20-point performance on 8-9 shooting against South Carolina.
  • Auburn mustered up 35 points in its game against Vanderbilt. The ‘Dores scored 38 in the first half.
  • After accomplishing Auburn’s first ever triple-double this week, Kenny Gabriel tallied just two points, three rebounds and one block against the Commodores. It might be safe to say that Gabriel won’t secure the Tigers’ second triple-double in history while he’s playing against SEC competition.

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SEC Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 9th, 2012

  1. Much of Kentucky’s championship hopes depend on the progress of Marquis Teague, the freshman point guard who some think is beginning to come into his own. Against South Carolina, Teague scored 17 points and had four assists with just two turnovers. “Yeah, this probably was my best overall game so far,” Teague said. “I was just slowing it down more, looking to get my teammates involved more.” His teammates have taken notice of his improved play. “He’s started listening,” fellow freshman Anthony Davis said. “And when he starts listening, great things start to happen.” UK coach John Calipari must appreciate Teague’s play too, as the freshman tied his career-high with 36 minutes against the Gamecocks. While Teague’s play was much improved, he was coming off two games in which he struggled with four points and four turnovers against Louisville and six points on 2-7 shooting against Arkansas-Little Rock. He has hardly provided consistent play for the Wildcats at their most crucial position.
  2. Speaking of struggling this year, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones has rarely looked like the preseason SEC Player of the Year. In his first SEC game, Jones returned to form by scoring 20 points on 8-9 shooting. “That’s the Terrence Jones we know,” Calipari said. “He took that last three, which made me angry, but short of that I wanted him to get a couple of more rebounds. But I wanted him to get aggressive offensively and make baskets and free throws. …That’s who he is.” While Saturday’s game was a significant improvement for Jones, the sophomore hasn’t recorded a double-double yet this year. Last season, Jones had 13 double-doubles including hitting the mark six times by this point in the year. While Jones finally got going on the offensive end, he grabbed just three rebounds in the game. The Wildcats don’t necessarily need the power forward to score 20 every night, but they definitely need more than three rebounds from him.
  3. Florida freshman Bradley Beal struggled to open up conference play on Saturday. In his SEC debut, Beal shot 4-12 scoring just nine points. He also turned the ball over five times. “With turnovers, that I think he has to get better with that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “But he’s gotta go through it, he’s got to learn. As good and talented as he is, he’s gonna kind of have those ups and downs and he’s gotta learn and grow from it.” Despite the off night, the freshman guard is having a stellar season. Beal is averaging 14.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Gators. He has failed to reach double figures in scoring in only four games this season, including the last two games.
  4. Arkansas’ “fastest 40 minutes in basketball” turned into “40 minutes of hell” for Mississippi State. Bulldogs’ coach Rick Stansbury admitted the Razorbacks style was difficult to prepare for. “Arkansas is totally different the way they play,” Stansbury said. “It’s just different. You can’t simulate it. It’s different. We didn’t do a very good job guarding it.” The Hogs forced Mississippi State into 18 turnovers on the night, which quickly became the difference in the game. Arkansas scored 23 points off those turnovers, forcing the Dogs to play a much faster pace than they were accustomed. Mississippi State will get another crack at the fast paced play of Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks in the regular season finale on March 3 in Starkville.
  5. Ole Miss continued to struggle as it opened up SEC play with an 81-55 loss against LSU. The Rebels are without their leading scorer and leading rebounder as Dundrecous Nelson was kicked off the team for a run in with the law earlier this week while leading rebounder Murphy Holloway is still recovering from a minor injury. Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy doesn’t have excuses though. “It’s easy for us to use excuses, that we lost our leading scorer and our leading rebounder,” Kennedy said. “But that doesn’t, in my mind, justify the inability to compete at an SEC level. In my mind, this team does not compete 1-10. All 10 guys got in the game. All 10 guys have to compete at an SEC level for us to have a chance.” Ole Miss is in somewhat of a free fall after starting out the year at 9-1. Since, the Rebels have lost four of their last five, and in that stretch, have scored more than 56 points in a game just once.
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Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the official RTC Star System.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
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