SEC M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 1st, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. If I told you before the season that Kentucky would lose to fierce rival Louisville but the Big Blue Nation would be generally happy with the performance, you would call me crazy, right? Well, that is exactly what has happened. The Wildcats have not lived up to preseason expectations through non-conference play, but their effort at the Yum! Center on Saturday revealed a different team, and a new level of offensive efficiency was the impetus. The Cardinals boast one of the most fearsome defensive units in the country, allowing only 81 points for every 100 possessions (good for 6th nationally), but the Wildcats exposed them, tallying a single-game offensive efficiency of 107.1.
  2. The biggest negative to come out of the loss for Kentucky fans is the worrying play of freshman Alex Poythress. The talented forward has a polished post game for such a young player, but he’s come up very small in some big spots for the Wildcats. Against Louisville, he played just 15 minutes, giving way to classmate Willie Cauley-Stein, who, despite struggling from the free-throw line, exhibited a much higher work rate. Coach John Calipari revealed yesterday that Poythress might have to get used to watching the game from the sideline if he didn’t increase his intensity. Point guard Ryan Harrow’s work ethic was widely questioned early in the season, but his recent play has quieted those concerns, and Calipari will hope his young post player will follow suit.
  3. The SEC continued their awful season over the weekend, with Alabama’s home loss to Tulane standing out as the worst of the bunch. “Tonight, what cost us the game was our inability to have success on the offensive end,” coach Anthony Grant said after the loss. The Crimson Tide shot under 40% from the field and converted only 3 of their 15 attempts from long range. Early in the season, Alabama emerged as a surprise contender to save the SEC from a down season, starting 6-0, but they have won only one game in six tries in December. Hopefully, January will bring back the Tide’s shooting stroke, a necessary improvement for a team with so little inside depth.
  4. Jeronne Maymon remains on the bench, but Tennessee got an infusion of size over the weekend in the form of Derek Reese. The freshman tore his labrum lifting weights before the season started, and there were questions over whether he could return to help the Vols in 2012-13. Reese was not highly recruited, but with a guard’s skill set in a 6’8″ frame, coach Cuonzo Martin is confident that he can contribute. “In our offense, when you run motion, guys like Derek at the four position and Jeronne Maymon, you can facilitate your offense through those guys,” Martin said. “Because Derek can make shots and make plays off the dribble and Jeronne can make plays off the dribble, and your offense flows. When you don’t have guys like that, things can become stagnant on offense.” For a team ranked 166th in the nation in offensive efficiency, they’ll take help in any way they can.
  5. Auburn nearly pulled off one of the conference’s most unlikely results of the season over the weekend, taking 12th-ranked Illinois down to the wire in Chicago. “There is no such thing as a moral victory,” said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. “We came in here to get this job done, and we didn’t. We gave ourselves some opportunities. Like I told the guys, we have one game left in the first stage of the season in the non-conference schedule. We have to move on past this, and we have to go get that, but the first thing we have to do is address why we didn’t get this one today.” That sort of reaction is expected from a coach of course, but the close loss the Illini is easily Auburn’s most impressive effort on the season. It does not change their disappointing season, but in the tightly packed basement of the SEC, performances like this indicate that the Tigers might finish closer to the middle of the pack than the conference cellar.
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SEC M5: 12.20.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 20th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida had no problem keeping its losing streak at one as they bested Southeastern Louisiana last night, but star guard Kenny Boynton didn’t have as much luck emerging from his personal slump. After struggling against Arizona in the Gators’ biggest game of the season, the senior guard went just 1-of-7 for seven points against the Lions. It was backcourt companion Mike Rosario who took home the plaudits instead, scoring 20 points including four made three-pointers. “I think he’s conformed. He’s been more disciplined, more responsible and more accountable,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “I feel like I know what I’m getting from him every day.” Both of the Gator guards are streaky players, and while Rosario is choosing a fortunate time to get hot, Boynton should retake the reins in the coming few games.
  2. The attendance problem isn’t just striking the teams at the bottom of the SEC. The conference’s premier team, Florida, is struggling to fill its seats on a game-by-game basis as well. The crowd was understandably sparse Wednesday night as students are home for winter break, but Florida’s hosted some marquee non-conference games against Wisconsin and Marquette that have failed to sell out. Donovan isn’t worried, however. “I never really get involved in that stuff at all,” Donovan said. “Here’s my thing, I think the two most important commodities people have in their life is their time and their money. And for anybody to determine what they should do with their time and their money to me would be a great injustice.” Sounds noble, but I’m guessing Donovan wouldn’t mind it if his elite basketball team got a little bit of the publicity reserved for the gridiron in Gainesville.
  3. The cupcake-heavy schedule that Kentucky has faced over the last few weeks doesn’t exactly lend itself to hard-hitting analysis, so the articles written about the Wildcats over that period have been a revolving door of reasons why the team isn’t up to par. The latest explanation is that Kentucky’s current group of players don’t have the same fear of failure that previous John Calipari teams held. The story of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and his “Breakfast Club” workout regimen keeps popping up, and this writer questions the fairness of that comparison. MKG certainly improved throughout the season, but Kentucky fans seem to forget that he was already pretty damn good when he came to Lexington. He actually got to the line (one of his premier skills) at a higher pace at the start of the season than he did at the end.
  4. When Marshawn Powell went down with a torn ACL early in the 2011-12 season, Arkansas never really recovered from the loss. The Razorbacks barely finished over .500 and didn’t appear in the postseason. Powell has made amends this season, though, returning to the court with an added skill: the ability to shoot from outside. Coach Mike Anderson is appreciative. “I think what (the three-point shooting) does, it presents problems for people.” Anderson said. “You’ve got to figure out how you want to play him. I think it helps us from the standpoint, now we can really space the floor. We don’t have to just clog the offensive lanes up, but at the same time we’ve got a guy we can get it to that can make some things happens.” Powell has more than doubled his three-point attempts per game this season (2.4), and he’s hitting them at a 50% clip. His newfound ability to play outside the paint has meshed well with BJ Young’s aggressive off-the-dribble scoring, and is one of the most important reasons that Arkansas’ offense has been so fearsome this season.
  5. Auburn won its third straight game Tuesday against Tennessee Tech, as reigning conference Freshman of the Week Jordan Price stayed red-hot from long distance. Price hit three three-pointers in an individual 12-point, 90-second outburst, capped off with a technical for taunting the Tech bench after his last make. “Bad players do what he did,” coach Tony Barbee said. “You’re hot, you’re making shots, and now you’re barking at the other team’s coach — that’s what bad players do. Good players know how good they are, and they let their game do the talking.” Price is currently sporting a streak of 11 straight made three-pointers, four away from the record set by Northwestern’s Todd Leslie in 1990.
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SEC Power Rankings: Week Four

Posted by DPerry on December 14th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. Here are Week Four’s SEC Power Rankings (all statistics via TeamRankings).

The Gators Are the Class of the SEC (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

The Gators Are the Class of the SEC (Photo via John Raoux / AP)

  1. Florida- There’s not a lot missing from the Gators’ resume. They’ve beaten every opponent by double figures, while playing the nation’s 13th toughest schedule. As of the release of last week’s rankings, however, they hadn’t had the chance to prove their mettle in a true road game, a situation in which they struggled last season (losing their first four). After their trip to Tallahassee last week, consider that mettle proven. The Gators embarrassed rival Florida State in a 72-47 win, holding the Seminoles to only 15 first-half points. Florida’s ability to win away from the O-Dome will be crucial over the rest of the season. In addition to this Saturday’s trip to Arizona, the Gators will have road games at Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, all among the more hostile environments in the SEC.
  2. Missouri- Do I have to put a team here? There’s a massive gap between Florida and the rest of the conference, but the Tigers are the choice at #2. Missouri hasn’t been tested against quality competition since they left the Bahamas, but their performances against smaller conference foes have been far from convincing. A nasty little habit of starting slow has been their biggest problem. The Tigers trailed Southeast Missouri State by 10 at the half, and only held a three-point advantage over Tennessee State after 20 minutes. In fact, Mizzou ranks 101st nationally in first half scoring margin, at only +3.1 points. Big second half scoring outputs have saved Frank Haith’s team, but with Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini looming next week, another slow start may be too much to overcome.
  3. Kentucky- After consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Baylor, the Wildcats made history when they dropped out of the rankings from the #8 spot, receiving only 186 votes, the largest single-week drop in AP poll history. Kentucky proceeded to easily handle its next two opponents in Samford and Portland, but somehow fell even further in the next AP poll, garnering only 44 votes. I’m not claiming that the Wildcats deserve to be ranked, but why would they lose ground after two convincing victories? It appears that quite a few voters realized a week too late that they were allowed to leave Kentucky off their ballots. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 12.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 12th, 2012

  1. The NCAA honored the 2006-07 Florida Gators by naming them one of the top 25 teams in NCAA Tournament history, and Joakhim Noah as one of the top 75 players to ever play in the Tournament. The back-to-back Gators ran through the regular season and NCAA Tournament on their way to a 35-5 record and a repeat performance as National Champions. Dick Vitale spoke about where Florida ranked in terms of all-time great teams. “They rank very high to me in terms of their loyalty factor,” Vitale said. “In today’s day and age, everyone runs for the quick buck, have visions of grandeur and the dollar. Those kids have to be commended, Noah and (Al) Horford and (Corey) Brewer could have taken a lot of cash. But it’s a tribute to the school, tribute to the coaches and it certainly was an outstanding team defensively.” Two Kentucky teams (1995-96 and 2011-12) also made the list, as well as several SEC players, but what about the 1993-94 Arkansas Razorbacks? Nolan Richardson’s team went 31-3 on the year, beating Duke for the 1994 National Championship. For a complete list of the NCAA’s all-time teams, players, and moments from the NCAA Tournament, be sure to click here.
  2. Auburn lost four games in a row before Tuesday’s bounce-back game against winless Grambling. Including Tuesday night’s victory, the Tigers have four home games in a row where they are hoping to build back a winning attitude. “We just have to be more confident with the ball,” freshman guard Jordan Price said. “At the end of the game, we have a lot of turnovers, defensive breakdowns, offensive breakdowns, so we have to be more confident.” Like several SEC teams, Auburn coach Tony Barbee is trying to blend a lot of  newcomers. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and old faces, particularly new faces, trying to fit into the program,” center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum said. “We’ve had some miscommunication, but everything seems to be falling into place.” It needs to fall into place quickly for the Tigers. They play Illinois and Florida State before beginning conference play.
  3. The search for what ails the Kentucky Wildcats continues to fall short. ESPN took a stab, and so did our friends at CollegeBasketballTalk, but both missed the most detrimental factor of the Wildcats’ shortcomings. Myron Medcalf wrote, “So Kentucky doesn’t have a talent problem. It has a youth problem, a point guard problem, an inexperience problem. The Cats were not as good as they thought they were and now they know it.” Youth has never been an issue. The 2011-12 Kentucky squad proved that. Point guard play and inexperience rear their ugly head consistently, but Medcalf and CBT miss one of the biggest issues. Defense is one of the largest ailments for the 2012-13 Wildcats. Kentucky’s effective field goal percentage defense ranks 52nd in the country. Last year, John Calipari’s team was number one in that category. The problem is partly because Kentucky gives up too many shots at the rim (34% of the overall opponents shots are taken at the rim), and too often don’t get back on defense after missed shots.
  4. Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer has always been a liability on the defensive end, but who would have thought the three-point marksman would hurt the Wildcats on offense? With the exception of two games where Wiltjer played well and caught fire from beyond the arc against weaker competition, the sharpshooting forward hasn’t made more than one three-pointer in any other game. And overall, Wiltjer is shooting eight fewer percentage points from outside than he did last season. Players are supposed to increase their shooting numbers as they get older and more experienced, right? Wiltjer’s difficulties on the offensive end are in part because the rest of Kentucky’s offensive threats aren’t drawing double teams like last year’s stars. Last year, Kentucky’s penetration into the lane caused defenders to sag down to help leaving Wiltjer wide open for the jumper. Kentucky’s slashers don’t draw as much attention this year which leaves Wiltjer to create his own shot, which is not his forte.
  5. Missouri is ready to welcome in some help in transfer Jabari Brown, who is expected to be cleared to play by the end of this week. Frank Haith is looking forward to what Brown will contribute to the Tigers. “We need him to be Jabari Brown — not to be Mike Dixon, not to be Marcus Denmon,” Haith said. But teammates say Brown will be just fine being himself, and bringing some much needed shooting to the roster. “He can shoot the ball,” point guard Phil Pressey said. “He’s hit a couple in my face, so I know he can shoot the ball.” Forward Laurence Bowers was even more direct about Brown’s impact. “He’s definitely, I would say, probably the best shooter on our team. From practice, it’s been pretty clear,” Bowers said. Missouri isn’t exactly shooting lights out, and with the loss of Dixon, the Tigers will certainly benefit from Brown’s addition to the team.
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SEC M5: 12.07.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 7th, 2012

  1. Thursday night was a light one for SEC basketball, but the one game on the schedule did not disappoint. Vanderbilt traveled north to take on Xavier and was able to pull out a 66-64 overtime victory in Cincinnati. Earlier in the week, coach Kevin Stallings told media that he needed his team to be more aggressive. “I don’t know that people are trying to define their roles anymore,” he said. “I think that we just have to have guys that are aggressive.” Kyle Fuller was listening. The junior guard scored a career-high 25 points on 8-16 shooting. His resolute play also earned him 10 trips to the line. Xavier, implementing an entirely new starting lineup this season (like Vandy), isn’t as good as they have been in recent seasons, but a road win against a top 100 team (according to Ken Pomeroy) is exactly what the struggling Commodores needed.
  2. Breaking news: This year’s Kentucky team isn’t as impressive as the 2011-12 Wildcats. Beyond the clear disparity in talent, the current players’ commitment to their workouts has been called in to question. However, Willie Cauley-Stein (who has apparently become the spokesman for this freshman class despite being its least important player) believes that his team is starting to turn it around. “There are four of us in the gym and it carried over. Before it was one guy in the gym. It was Archie. Then Julius was in there. Then Alex was in there. Then I was in there,” Cauley-Stein said. “Now it is just collective and everybody is going to start going in there.” Kentucky’s apparently poor work ethic might have gone undetected if they hadn’t put in such a spiritless display last week against Notre Dame. John Calipari’s team has three cupcake home games over the next few weeks as a warm-up for the trip to Louisville on December 29.
  3. Alabama dropped its second straight game this week (at home against Dayton), leading coach Anthony Grant to question his team’s toughness. The words seem pretty harsh for a team that’s started its season brightly, but with the Crimson Tide giving up 81 points (the most they’ve allowed in a home defeat in Grant’s tenure), it’s tough to blame him. “At some point as a basketball player, as a team, you have to have a toughness about you,” he said. “Whether that’s something that can be developed, we’ll find out.” The Flyers made eight three-pointers in 19 attempts against Alabama, and shot almost 50% from the field overall. Point guard Kevin Dillard was the star, scoring 25 points and dishing out eight assists. A weak Alabama interior would be understandable given its lack of depth and injury troubles, but for a team so stacked on the perimeter, the Crimson Tide should be winning the backcourt battle almost every night.
  4. You couldn’t fault Missouri’s Negus Webster-Chan for being a little loud these days. The freshman came to Colombia without a lot of hype, but is now an unexpected starter for the 12th-ranked team in the country. That’s not his style though. “I was mostly quiet on the floor and let my game speak,” he told the News Tribune. “Coach likes his players to talk and I’m talking now.” Webster-Chan’s sub-30% field goal percentage indicates that he needs to work on his shot (or his shot selection), but he’s an energetic player who fits in a Tiger offense that has plenty of other scoring options around him.
  5. In what seems like a daily topic on the M5, let’s talk about another terrible SEC team at the bottom of the conference. Today’s “winner”: Auburn. The Auburn Villager‘s Griffin Gotta published an intelligent piece analyzing the Tigers’ struggles this season. He writes that coach Tony Barbee’s team has been in most of their games at the end, but aren’t able to execute in “winning time” (an expression I’ve only heard of in reference to the fantastic 30 for 30 documentary). Auburn ranks 323rd nationally in three-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot almost 40% from beyond the arc. In an end-of-game situation, allowing open long-range looks can let a trailing and desperate opponent back in to the game quickly and, when the Tigers are on the comeback trail, a conceded three can completely kill momentum.
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SEC Power Rankings: Week One

Posted by DPerry on November 19th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. We’ve been able to see each team in action, but with vastly different degrees of difficulty as far as scheduling, we’ll need to see more before the rankings truly take form.

A perfect night for Erik Murphy propels the Gators to the top spot.

  1. Florida- The Gators’ offense has shown the potential to be dominant. The lineup is bursting at the seams with skilled scorers, both in the frontcourt and backcourt. In going 10-10 from the field, we’ve probably seen senior Erik Murphy‘s best performance of the season, but he should have no problem improving on last year’s breakout campaign. Turnovers have been a concern, but with the reinstatement of point guard Scottie Wilbekin allowing Kenny Boynton to move to the two, Florida should be able to take better care of the ball.
  2. Kentucky- The loss to Duke isn’t a huge concern. The Blue Devils are a quality, veteran team. No, the real problem with the Wildcats so far is the lack of depth. Jarrod Polson, a star against Maryland, was completely ineffective against a more disciplined defense, and John Calipari only trusted Willie Cauley-Stein enough to give him six minutes. The continued absence of Ryan Harrow leaves Kentucky without a true point guard, a role not suited for Archie Goodwin or Julius Mays. Still, in watching the young Wildcats play, it’s tough to argue that they have the highest ceiling of any SEC team.
  3. Missouri- Frank Haith has used his first few games to assess all the new talent that arrived in Columbia this offseason. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross and freshman Negus Webster-Chan have been particularly impressive. We’ll know a lot more about the Tigers after the face three quality opponents in the Battle 4 Atlantis this week. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on November 15th, 2012

  1. Preseason tournaments aren’t always just about the basketball, as teams travel to exciting destinations like Maui, Puerto Rico, or New York City. So is Anthony Grant planning anything fun for his team’s visit to the Big Apple for the 2KSports Classic this weekend? “Yes,” claims the Alabama coach. “We are going to play basketball.” The Crimson Tide are all business on this trip. Oregon State will be joining them at Madison Square Garden, and although the Beavers don’t have a history of scaring anyone, they appear to have their best team in years. The Pac-12 foe has a post game that can exploit Alabama’s interior weakness, but their lax perimeter defense should provide the Crimson Tide with plenty of open looks from deep. These contrasting strengths will produce some open-ended basketball. Maybe the Crimson Tide will even be allowed some off-the-court fun in the big city if they can take care of the Beavers Thursday night.
  2. I wrote yesterday that Florida’s offense could struggle against Wisconsin with star guard Kenny Boynton playing out of position, creating a mini-ballhandling crisis. The Gators did have trouble in taking care of the ball by committing 20 turnovers against the Badgers, but you don’t need to make the most of your possessions when you shoot as well as Florida did in its 74-56 win. Erik Murphy in particular put in a masterful performance — the senior forward, still recovering from an illness, shot a perfect 10-for-10 from the field for 24 points, not to mention the eight boards (four offensive) he tallied. Murphy’s offensive versatility was on full display against a Badger team that ranked 7th nationally in defensive efficiency last season. The Gators’ 62% field goal percentage clearly isn’t sustainable for the long haul of the season, but when suspended point guard Scottie Wilbekin regains his eligibility, the Florida offense has all the pieces to become a juggernaut.
  3. Kentucky’s vaunted 2013 recruiting class moved a few steps closer to becoming official yesterday, as Marcus Lee and Derek Willis signed national letters of intent. But the good news didn’t stop there. Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who had originally intended to wait until April to sign, will instead sign with the Wildcats before the end of signing period, according to the twins’ father, and James Young is expected to follow suit. While there was no reason to think that the Harrison twins were wavering in their decision to come to Lexington, Wildcat fans will love to see the pen hit paper. Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is already being touted as one of the best ever, and Calipari is still in the running for almost every other top uncommitted player.
  4. In AJ Ogilvy and Festus Ezeli, Kevin Stallings has become accustomed to having a reliable center patrolling the paint at Memorial Gym. He may have to do without that this season, but he won’t wait much longer than that after Damian Jones became Vanderbilt’s first 2013 commitment. The 6’9” defensive specialist from Baton Rouge spurned nearby LSU to sign with the Commodores. “I really like the coaches and players, and they have a really good work ethic,” Jones said when asked what attracted him to Vanderbilt. “That’s what I like and what I’m used to. Coach Stallings makes sure they work hard.” According to 247Sports recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer, Jones may not have the offensive skill set of Ogilvy or Ezeli, but he is an elite athlete who will be a dominant rebounder. Stallings doesn’t have a ton of talent in Nashville at the moment, but Jones makes for a great start in his efforts to fix that with his next recruiting class.
  5. Auburn will face several quality players in the conference season, but they might just have their toughest individual test of the year against Isaiah Canaan and Murray State tonight. Coach Tony Barbee isn’t taking the challenge lightly. “Murray State is a very talented team. The guys they have returning with Isaiah Canaan being a preseason first-team All-American and how great he was last year from the point guard position. He has the ability to score and get everyone involved.” Dexter Fields and Stacy Wilson join Canaan in a backcourt that will have a distinct advantage over the Tigers, so don’t be surprised if Barbee encourages his team to feed center Rob Chubb early and often. The 6’10″ senior will enjoy a height advantage over the Racers’ frontcourt, and has shown that he can score if his guards can find him in advantageous positions. With an off shooting night from Canaan and Barbee finding the right matchups to exploit, the Tigers could give themselves some momentum early in the season.
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Preseason SEC Power Rankings

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012

Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.

Kentucky tops the first Rush the Court: SEC power rankings (Washington Post)

  1. Kentucky – The playlist is set on repeat as long as Calipari is in Lexington; raw freshmen talent comes in, matures, performs at their highest peak in March, and gets drafted. Don’t expect this year’s squad to match last year’s numbers or expectations. However, Calipari will find a way to get these Cats to mature quickly and be in the hunt for their 48th SEC crown and another Final Four run.
  2. Florida – The Gators return quite a bit from their second Elite Eight run in as many seasons. Their expectations are to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007. While the veteran leadership of Kenny Boynton is a positive, the Gators must get more consistent play from several key role players, including Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario, to reach their goals. The pieces are in place for another deep Gator run.
  3. Missouri –  The island of misfit transfers is located in Columbia, Missouri. Newcomers such as Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriahki (Connecticut), and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all come to Missouri to find a new and hopefully winning experience in the Tigers’ first year in the SEC. With preseason SEC Player of the Year Phil Pressey leading the backcourt as well as Laurence Bowers in the post, Missouri should not only come close to their success of last year but also vie for the school’s first Final Four appearance in history.
  4. Tennessee –  The Volunteers won nearly 20 games last year and earned a postseason NIT berth with first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Adding freshman phenom forward Jarnell Stokes in January resulted in at least four more wins in the second half of the season. Martin’s defensive style of play, plus Stokes on the team for a full year and senior Jeronne Maymon guarding the post, should cause hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC title. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 11.02.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 2nd, 2012

  1. Remember those god-awful camouflage uniforms that North Carolina and Michigan State wore last season during the Carrier Classic game? Yes, the ones that gave you the second worst headache of your life after the Baylor highlighter yellow unis? Well, Florida has leaked its version to be worn on November 9 against Georgetown in the second Carrier Classic in Jacksonville, Florida. When Alligator Army reached out to a Florida spokesperson, they commented that the leaked version of orange camo are “an early rendering of the uniform concept. The final look may vary from that photo.” While we prefer to focus on basketball, the early uniform watch can be fun for one reason — to spark some good ole’ fashioned debate. So, RTC community, what do you say about the orange camouflage that Florida will wear for its Carrier Classic matchup? Like? Dislike? Don’t care?
  2. Not much of significance can be extrapolated from a 91-58 exhibition beatdown, but that won’t stop us from trying. The blog site for KBIA 91.3 FM in Missouri liked what they saw from guards Earnest Ross and Keion Bell in their Tiger debut. We talked about Ross’ lights-out shooting in the Halloween edition of the SEC M5, but Bell’s impact was equally as impressive, as the athletic guard scored 20 points in 29 minutes of play. KBIA brings up an interesting question of whether Bell could be an effective backup point guard to spell Phil Pressey for brief periods this year. In his three seasons at Pepperdine before transferring to Mizzou, Bell was among the nation’s leaders in turnovers, ranking as high as fourth in the nation in turnovers per game in 2010-11. He dished out just one assist with three turnovers against Northwest Missouri State.
  3. Many believed former Connecticut forward Alex Oriakhi might still be with the Huskies if not for a postseason ban, but Oriakhi says that is not the case. “I would have still left,” Oriakhi said. It seems that Oriakhi was seeking a level of happiness that he has found with his new teammates and coaching staff at Missouri. “The chemistry is unbelievable,” he went on to say. “Everybody has a general liking for each other. Anytime I walk into the locker room, it’s just straight jokes. I can’t wait to get in there. The relationship with the coaching staff, I’ve never had that type of relationship before. It’s honestly a joy to come in here and work every day.” Missouri fans have to like the sound of that. Oriakhi obviously can be a tremendous asset for Frank Haith and the Tigers, but his statistics took a dip in the year after winning a national championship after averaging 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in his sophomore year with the Huskies. Perhaps his satisfaction played a role in that, and his new surroundings could mean Missouri will get him at his full potential.
  4. The Auburn Villager sees Auburn basketball in a position that it hasn’t been in before and may never be in again. As the post points out, “basketball is in a position — however ultimately unfortunate for Auburn fans as a whole — that it doesn’t always find itself in on the Plains. Basketball could provide a reprieve from all the losing and one-step-forward, entire-mudslides-back that have occurred so far on the football field.” Gene Chizik’s squad is in unfamiliar territory, trudging along with an 0-6 conference record and a 1-7 mark overall. Meanwhile, hope is high for Tony Barbee and the basketball team. Auburn put up 108 points in its first exhibition game by showcasing a much improved offense, and with an area normally captivated and concerned only with football, this is a great opportunity for the basketball team to seize some momentum going forward.
  5. Florida’s Billy Donovan has some concerns heading into the start of the season. In the Gators’ scrimmage last weekend against Rollins College, Donovan thought rebounding was a major issue for his team. “Because it was Rollins and clearly we had a size advantage for us in the scrimmage, we outrebounded them by a large margin,” Donovan said. “But I still didn’t think we rebounded the ball well in the game.” Currently, Donovan plans to go with a three-guard lineup becauase his roster is thin in the frontcourt. Look for Donovan to find ways to keep forward Will Yeguete on the floor. While Erik Murphy is likely to gain the nod in the starting lineup because of his offensive efficiency, Yeguete is the far better rebounder of the two forwards at 6.3 rebounds per game last season.

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

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Happy Halloween From the SEC: Which School Represents Which Candy?

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 31st, 2012

As we preview the SEC this season, the focus this week is on Halloween, the junk food-centered holiday predominantly celebrated by children or college kids, who both have different motives when this date comes around on the calendar every year. While the ghosts and goblins knock on doors asking for their sweet tooth tithes tonight, we pose the question: Which Halloween candy represents each SEC school? The analogies might surprise you.

What Kinds of Candy Are the 12 SEC Schools This Year?

  • Alabama – M&M’s. The always consistent M&M’s can never disappoint, even with variable options such as peanut butter and peanut. This year marks Year Four of the Anthony Grant Experience in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide are coming off consecutive 20-win seasons and are building a case to challenge more prominent schools for their place in the SEC pecking order. Returning senior Jalen Steele, sophomore sharpshooter Trevor Lacey and skilled freshman Devonta Pollard will provide skill and reliability for Anthony Grant as the Tide battles a tough non-conference slate, including Purdue, Villanova, Cincinnati, and Grant’s previous school, VCU. A 2o-plus win season in Alabama, coming off another dominant season on the gridiron, will have fans in Tuscaloosa cheering all season long.
  • ArkansasMilky Way. Like the Milky Way bar in its history, Arkansas basketball has lost some luster from its national championship ways in the early 1990s. Over time, better teams and chocolate bars have gained popularity while leaving little respect for this program and its chocolate. Arkansas has not been to the NCAA Tournament in four years and is 17 years removed from its last Final Four appearance. Now on their third coach since Nolan Richardson’s firing in 2002, head coach Mike Anderson is working to reinvigorate the “40 minutes of hell” style of play that his mentor used to gain attention almost two decades ago. The Milky Way bar has done the same; changes to the texture, size, and taste to attract more buyers might have done more harm than good. Maybe a trip back to their standard will be more profitable too.
  • AuburnSmarties. The Smarties are the consistently bad candy; they can always be found in a jumbo pack of other powder-type candies for cheap and are always the last Halloween candy eaten — usually on the day after Thanksgiving. Auburn basketball has consistently been the Smarties of the SEC. Since the 2003-04 season, Auburn has finished in the bottom three of the conference standings in all but one year. Fans no doubt see basketball as the dead period between fall football games and spring football practice. There is some hope on the horizon, however, as Auburn is in the mix with ESPN Top 100 recruit Austin Nichols and was quoted to say he “wanted to be the face of the program.” Head coach Tony Barbee, his staff, and players hosted a  free “Barbee-Q” for all Auburn students on Monday night. Maybe weekly free food and an elite recruit could help invigorate some life into the basketball program; or maybe just feed some college kids so they take a break from eating ramen every night. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC M5: 10.29.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 29th, 2012

  1. Kentucky coach John Calipari gave some updates after practice, and it seems he is prepared to experiment with several different line-up combinations. “Every time I make a substitution this team is going to be drastically different,” Calipari said. “From Ryan (Harrow) at point guard to Archie (Goodwin) at point guard. Totally different. From Alex at the four, to Kyle at the four. One is a stretch four, one is a power four. To playing both big guys at a time.” The most interesting comment is the potential to play two guard Archie Goodwin some at the point. Calipari has struggled with depth at the point guard position, sometimes asking 6’7″ forward Darius Miller or shooting guard Doron Lamb to bring the ball up last season. However, more often than not, starting point guard Marquis Teague stayed on the floor. It will be interesting to see if Cal does the same with sophomore Ryan Harrow.
  2. Tennessee freshman Derek Reese may redshirt due to a shoulder injury he suffered leading up to the team’s trip to Italy over the summer. Reese experienced a torn labrum in his right shoulder. “You’re either going to come out stronger than you were before the injury or you can end up weaker,” Reese said. “It’s all about your mindset.” Following his surgery in August, Reese was expected to be out approximately six months, but UT staff held off on making a decision until they saw his progress. He was not expected to be a major contributor in the backcourt this year regardless.
  3. Tony Barbee’s Auburn squad struggled to put the ball in the basket last season, but he doesn’t think that will be as much of an issue this year. A couple of highly ranked freshmen, Jordan Price and Shaquille Johnson, led the way for the Tigers in their first intra-squad scrimmage. Price knocked down all three of his three-point attempts in the game. “We’ve been really high-level defensively in the past,” Barbee said. “Because of some of the talent and attributes we’ve gotten in recruiting, and some of the hard work by returning players, we’ve got a chance to do that at a better level.” With the depth and talent Barbee has this season, expect his team to push the tempo more than they have done in the past.  Auburn scored just 62.6 points per game last season.
  4. While we are not sure why, Missouri coach Frank Haith is excited about the athleticism his Tigers are preparing to face in the SEC. “One thing that really stands out is the athleticism in this league. It’s a very athletic league. I also think they play a style, in terms of tempo defensively, that’s a little different than the Big 12; there’s more pressing, there’s more aggressive play, and extending your defense in this league than there was in the Big 12. That’s something we’ve got to get used to.” Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was probably looking forward to the athleticism on the football field in the SEC too, and well, we know how that worked out. Then again, SEC basketball is not the same as SEC football.
  5. Gamecocks coach Frank Martin is looking forward to returning the passion for college basketball back to Columbia. “People tend to forget you couldn’t get a seat in the Frank McGuire Coliseum back in the day,” Martin said at SEC media day Thursday. “We’re kind of rekindling that passion, reconnecting that great past with the present.” But Martin knows that winning will fill the seats, and with a soft non-conference schedule this season, he may be able to stockpile some victories up front. The biggest question moving forward is how long will it take Martin and company to win in the SEC, not against the likes of Presbyterian College or South Carolina State.

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

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SEC M5: 10.23.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on October 23rd, 2012

  1. The SEC media’s preseason predictions were revealed Monday, and it’s clear that members of the press see a gap between the top four and the rest of the conference. Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, and Tennessee all received at least one first-place vote in addition to two representatives on the all-SEC teams. If you’re looking for a team to try to break into the upper tier, look no further than Arkansas, the only other school with two all-SEC representatives. Sophomore BJ Young had a stellar freshman campaign, but he was overshadowed by the young stars at Kentucky. Consider him the favorite for the league scoring title. Add in Marshawn Powell and a deep recruiting class, and Mike Anderson’s team should be in position to challenge if one of the top four slips up.
  2. Monday was a big day for newly minted preseason SEC player of the year Phil Pressey. The conference media wasn’t the only source praising him as CBS Sports released its preseason list of the top 50 point guards, ranking the Tigers floor general second only behind Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. Pressey and Canaan are hardly the only two candidates who can make a claim for that top spot, but striking differences in their respective styles of play make comparisons tough. Pressey barely averaged double-figure points last season, and because of the talent around him, there are no guarantees he’ll improve those totals. Canaan, however, is a point guard in name only. The senior averaged fewer than four assists per game last season, and with his three highest scoring teammates departing, he’ll have even less of a reason to pass. The casual fan may take a quick glance at Canaan’s numbers and see the superior player, but Pressey’s multi-faceted game shouldn’t be ignored.
  3. Power forward recruit Torren Jones committed to Missouri on Monday, adding to an already impressive 2013 class. Frank Haith has shown a deft recruiting touch in his short time in Columbia. This past spring, he utilized the transfer market for short-term fixes that will keep his team competitive despite losing stars such as Kim English, Marcus Denmon, and Ricardo Ratliffe to graduation. However, his efforts in the 2013 high school recruiting class are much more important to the long-term health of the program. Missouri enters the SEC as a title contender in their first season, and if Haith maintains his momentum, the Tigers will be a mainstay in the top tier of the conference for years to come.
  4. Vanderbilt isn’t short on question marks entering the new season, but finding a replacement for center Festus Ezeli may be the most pressing. 6’11” sophomore Josh Henderson was expected to fill the role, but after experiencing problems in his recovery from foot surgery, the Virginia native won’t be ready for the start of the season. According to the Tennessean, Shelby Moats is next in line. The 6’8” sophomore isn’t criminally undersized, but as a perimeter-oriented big man, he could have trouble adjusting to a new role focusing on the paint. Henderson should return in time for conference play, but we’ll see if head coach Kevin Stallings can keep his team afloat through the first few weeks with a severely limited frontcourt rotation.
  5. With the football team mired in its worst season in over a half century, will Auburn fans turn their attention to basketball? Unlikely, but Tony Barbee and his team are doing all they can to drum up some excitement. The Tigers basketball squad will host a pep rally this Friday, and are even providing free food to early-arriving fans, with an intrasquad scrimmage will be open to the public on Saturday. Auburn boasts a talented freshman class and could surprise a few teams, but complimentary refreshments may be necessary to fill Auburn Arena after the Tigers inevitably once again fall out of contention.
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