SEC M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 16th, 2012

  1. LSU went immediately to work this week with new coach Johnny Jones, but without the aid of a cadre of experienced big men. 6’9″ forward Johnny O’Bryant, who averaged 8.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season, will be counted on to lead the way on the low blocks this season. Other than O’Bryant, the Tigers are fairly thin in the frontcourt. A pair of junior college transfers, Shavon Coleman and Calvin Godfrey, could be counted upon to provide quality minutes. And so far in practice reports, Coleman, who has drawn the task of defending O’Bryant, has “held up well.” Coleman stands at just 6’6″, but will likely spend a majority of minutes guarding larger opponents at the power forward slot.
  2. Tony Barbee is feeling confident with his new-look Tigers, but if he is going to get Auburn over the .500 hump he will have to do so with six new faces this season. One of the less heralded freshmen, 6’3″ guard Brian Greene, Jr., could end up being the most productive. The freshman is considered a strong candidate for the open point guard position, and he has drawn praise from returning guard Frankie Sullivan. “It is just not that he stands out, but you always see the guy,” Sullivan said. “Even in the drills, he is the one who is catching on the quickest.” Sullivan will likely start at the two guard spot. He led the Tigers in scoring last year with 12.6 points per game, but still wasn’t 100 percent because of a knee injury that sidelined him during the 2010-11 season.
  3. Want to know why Kentucky has been so good in the Calipari era? They score more points than the other team. And that is not purely because of offense, but because the Wildcats have been a lockdown defensive squad under Coach Cal. For three years running, the Cats have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in three defensive categories: effective field goal percentage, two point percentage, and blocks. According to Glenn Logan at ASoB, “Kentucky has been #1 in the nation in blocks three years running – an impressive statistic that very few people mention when analyzing the Wildcats.” But likely because of that strong protection around the rim, Kentucky has given up a higher percentage of three-point attempts and subsequently a higher percentage of three-point field goals. As Logan points out, “If you’re taking 3′s, you’re not taking 2′s closer to the basket.” With top defender and shot blocker Nerlens Noel guarding the basket, that might just be the plan.
  4. The Arkansas faithful hasn’t exactly witnessed the football success it had hoped for, but there is a certain optimism towards year two of the Mike Anderson era in Fayetteville. And according to Doc Harper of ArkansasExpats.com, the Hogs should be in the NCAA Tournament. “Bottom line, if BJ Young is deserving of all the hype he’s getting, Arkansas will be in the tournament in March,” Harper says. “Any NBA lottery pick should be able to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament on his own.” The Razorbacks should be much improved from a 6-10 SEC mark last season, but it won’t be Young alone that gets them there. Arkansas’ depth should be enough to unleash a full 40 minutes of Anderson’s fast paced system.
  5. Uni watch 2012 is in full effect. With a number of departures from a solid team last season, we are not certain what the Crimson Tide will look like on the court. But we do know that they will be doing it in style. Alabama joined the Nike Hyper Elite team with basketball stalwarts Duke, Kentucky, Syracuse, and North Carolina. The current Tide players showcased the new slimmer look with the Alabama specific print on the back. Alabama lost leading scorers JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell , but return enough talent to make a splash in the SEC standings.

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.

Share this story

SEC Weekly Five: 07.27.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on July 27th, 2012

  1. Florida moved to the top of the early rankings charts as the Gators scored a verbal commitment from Chris Walker (No. 6 on the Rivals 150), joining his AAU teammate, Kasey Hill (No. 7). Walker declared, “Together we will be the best duo in college and we will win a national championship. You heard it here first.” Walker is the highest rated player on the Rivals 150 list to have already given a verbal commitment. Walker picked the Gators over Louisville, Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State and Baylor.
  2. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis came out this week in support of an effort to honor the 50-year anniversary of a historic contest between Mississippi State and Loyola (Chicago). The two played at Michigan State’s Jenison Field House in a 1963 NCAA tournament Mideast Regional semifinal game that holds civil rights significance because “Mississippi State’s all-white squad defied a court injunction, sneaking out of the state to East Lansing to face a Loyola team with four black starters.” Hollis said, “The historical significance of that game needs to be recognized. I don’t think a lot of people in Michigan are aware that game was played there and we want to make sure that story is told.”
  3. ESPN’s Summer Shootaround series hit the SEC this week and Doug Gottlieb’s preseason power rankings might raise a few eyebrows. He did not place the defending national champions, Kentucky, atop his list, but rather one of the league’s newbies, Missouri, was there. Among his reasons, “[Phil] Pressey should start the season as the best point guard in the SEC, so his return is huge for Mizzou…Alex Oriakhi should be far better outside of the toxic environment of last season’s Connecticut Huskies club, and he also provides championship experience…and the rabid Missouri fan base shows up consistently, the Tigers will be close to unbeatable at home.”
  4. CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish published a story on Tuesday about how next year’s SEC schedules were changed from what was discussed in early June. In his account, he wrote, “”I got an email from the SEC office, and my four [home-and-home] opponents … were changed,” one SEC coach told CBSSports.com. “There was no discussion or phone call. I just got an email of our league schedule, and the league schedule wasn’t the league schedule they told me I’d have last month. It’s crazy.” Parrish went on to write, “To help you better understand exactly what happened, consider that Vanderbilt was supposed to have Tennessee as its constant rival and Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri and Ole Miss as its home-and-home opponents, but sources told CBSSports.com that Vanderbilt now has Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas and Auburn as its home-and-home opponents. Meantime, Ole Miss was supposed to have Mississippi State as its constant rival and Auburn, Florida, Vanderbilt and Arkansas as its home-and-home opponents, but sources told CBSSports.com that Ole Miss now has Auburn, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas A&M as its home-and-home opponents. Sources said Georgia’s schedule got harder. Sources said Alabama’s schedule got easier.”
  5. Two SEC Tiger schools were involved in a coaching change recently as Missouri’s Ryan Miller left Frank Haith’s staff after only two months to join Tony Barbee’s staff at Auburn. Miller is the younger brother of Miami Heat forward Mike Miller and worked with Barbee as the video coordinator at Memphis while Barbee was an assistant under John Calipari. According to the CBSSports.com report, “Calipari pushed hard for Miller to join Barbee down in Auburn, where he would also receive a significant pay raise.”
Share this story

SEC Transition Basketball: Auburn Tigers

Posted by Brian Joyce on July 18th, 2012

It’s hot out there, and to many of us, college basketball is the last thing on our minds. But here at the SEC Microsite, we’re going to be rolling out mid-summer resets of each of the (now) 14 basketball programs in our league. We’re calling it Transition Basketball, and you can expect we’ll cover three or four teams a week until we’re done. By that time, we’ll actually start to be turning the slight corner into the fall, and from there it’s a smooth slope down to Midnight Madness in mid-October. Today’s update: Auburn.

State of the Program

Auburn was host to a losing record, the worst adjusted offensive efficiency rating in the SEC (and one of the worst in all of the six power conferences), and a point shaving scandal in 2011-12. Not exactly the signs of a team on the rise to success. Eight players are gone from a team that went 15-16 overall and 5-11 in conference play, yet coach Tony Barbee has reason for optimism. “In these first couple years, because of the strength of the other teams in the league, it was going to be tough to crack the top half of this league,” Barbee said. “Now I think with the group of seniors we’ve got coming back, the influx of talent we’ve got coming in, we’re a team that’s going to transition from the bottom half of the league to the upper half of the league. That’s my perspective.”

Tony Barbee is confident with his team for next season

Barbee’s Tigers are slowly making progress, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Auburn notched four SEC wins in 2011. Barbee took another step forward with five conference wins in 2012. Though the Tigers last achieved a winning record in 2009, Auburn hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. Barbee’s goal of moving into the upper half of a deep SEC means competing with the likes of powers Kentucky and Florida. Auburn hasn’t beaten Florida since the SEC Tournament in 2009 and hasn’t beaten Kentucky since 2000. With the amount of change the team has undergone in such a short time period, it is hard to fully buy into Barbee’s lofty goals.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 6th, 2012

  1. Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes earned his first SEC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week award for averaging 14.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, three blocks, and 1.5 steals on the week. St0kes put together an 18-point, seven-rebound performance in a win over LSU. The freshman forward hit 9 of 10 from the field against the Tigers. National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis was named the SEC Freshman of the Week. The 6’11″ center averaged 15.5 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks while recording his 14th double double on the season. Davis moved up the ladder to eighth on Kentucky’s all time blocks list.
  2. Auburn’s offensive struggles resurfaced in the second half against LSU on Saturday, but the Tigers built up a large enough lead to carry them to victory. “What happens to us is, we let down defensively when we get up 10, 12, 15, whatever the case my be,” Auburn head coach Tony Barbee said. “That’s what happened today. We just got lax … But we used a couple timeouts and just told those guys, ‘We got to get back to staying persistent and guard, regardless if we make shots or not.’” And Auburn’s defense rose to the occasion. The Tigers held LSU to just over 30% shooting in the second half. Now if Barbee can find a little offense, the Tigers would feel a lot more confident going into Thursday.
  3. Another team from the state of Alabama is struggling on offense. The Alabama Crimson Tide scored just 17 first half points in a 60-51 defeat to Ole Miss. When asked about his team’s performance, Tide coach Anthony Grant was critical of the team and himself. “Disappointing,” Grant said to describe Alabama’s game. “My job is to make sure our team is prepared. We were not.” Similar to Auburn, Alabama’s defense played well limiting the Rebels to just 42.9% shooting. The problem for the Tide is they aren’t going to win any games when they shoot 34.5% no matter how stifling the defense plays.
  4. Florida couldn’t pull off the victory on Sunday over number one ranked Kentucky, but Billy Donovan knows what it will take to beat the Wildcats. “A real, real physical team,” Donovan said. “There would have to be a presence at the basket constantly in post-ups and duck-ins. Three out (on the perimeter), two in. Straight smash-mouth basketball. … I don’t think a finesse team.” Who would Donovan suggest could pull off such a feat? He thinks North Carolina or Vanderbilt has what it takes to take down the Cats. Kentucky has beaten both teams this year (Kentucky took down Vanderbilt twice), but I’m sure the Cats would love to see UNC grab a #1 seed in order to avoid a potential re-match until the Final Four in New Orleans.
  5. Despite not falling far from preseason expectations, the Arkansas faithful are disappointed in the outcome for the Razorbacks under first year coach Mike Anderson. Razorbacks blog, Arkansas Expats, reluctantly admits, “now that the regular season is over, I have to admit, I’m disappointed. I’m pretty sure it’s unfair to feel that way considering youth, injuries, coaching transition, preseason predictions, etc, but I am.” Should Arkansas fans be disappointed this season? It’s hard not to be disappointed with what could have been, but as it was pointed out, it’s unfair to make a judgement just yet. Anderson needs a deeper bench to run his patented style, and it will take time to build that kind of depth. And time is exactly what Razorback fans need to give Anderson and the new coaching regime.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 02.29.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 29th, 2012

  1. Kentucky head coach John Calipari has become the face of coaches recruiting college players who stay for only one year.  Recently, one of his star freshman, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, said he “wasn’t going anywhere” after this season. Despite that comment, Calipari defended his actions, “It’s not my rule. I don’t even like the rule one-and-done.” Calipari continued by saying, “Whether it’s Carolina, Duke, Florida, we’re all in the same boat. If a kid plays really well and that’s what he chooses to do, you can either try to talk him out of it or the (other) option is, don’t recruit good enough players that can be drafted.”
  2. Auburn head coach Tony Barbee set his deadline for when he would decide if Varez Ward and Chris Denson would return for Wednesday’s game with Alabama: “Before we get on the bus for Tuscaloosa.” Both were suspended for Saturday against Arkansas.
  3. The AP wrote Tuesday that Alabama’s JaMychal Green was “expected to return to the starting lineup” for Wednesday’s contest against Auburn. In his absence, he saw the Crimson Tide improve their NCAA Tournament outlook, defeating Tennessee, Mississippi State and Arkansas. “It’d be pretty big,” said Green, who came off the bench against the Bulldogs. “I’ve never been there. It’d be a great experience for everybody on the team. It’s just the way I want to go out.”
  4. For a team picked 11th in the preseason, Tennessee remains alive for finishing as high as the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament. For that scenario to play out, the Volunteers must win out and Florida must most lose to Kentucky on Saturday. They enter the final week of the regular season tied with Alabama for the fourth and final bye position. “We are fighting for our lives,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “You have to get better every day. There’s plenty of work to do. Our guys are hungry right now.We’re fighting. We don’t have any luxury or margin for any error to be happy or be successful or think we’ve done something special. But we have every right just like everyone else to win ball games.”
  5. In winning six of their last seven games, players on Tennessee credit team chemistry as one of the reasons for the improved play. “We didn’t have a level of team togetherness, passion for one another,” head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Where you say, ‘I really wanna see my teammate be successful before I see myself have success. You start to play together, you don’t worry about if your shot is falling or not; you’re just playing basketball.”
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 17th, 2012

  1. The SEC announced the 2012 Allstate® SEC Basketball Legends. The 12-man class will be honored at the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament March 8-11 at the New Orleans Arena. The 2012 class includes Jack Kubiszyn (Alabama), Nolan Richardson (Arkansas), Chris Morris (Auburn), Mike Miller (Florida),  Willie Anderson (Georgia), Adrian “Odie” Smith (Kentucky), Jack Waters (Ole Miss), Chuck Evans (Mississippi State), Henry Martin (South Carolina), Gene Tormohlen (Tennessee), and Drew Maddux (Vanderbilt). Each SEC Basketball Legend will be recognized at halftime of his institution’s first game at the tournament.
  2. While Vanderbilt was throttling Ole Miss, 102-76, on Thursday, much of the drama came outside the lines. In the game, the Rebels received three technical fouls, one because of some fans throwing ice on the floor for a second time. Andy Kennedy and Terrance Henry also received technical fouls by the end of the night. After the game, teammates Reginald Buckner and Jelan Kendrick had to be separated by the coaching staff after an argument. “When you played like we played there’s a lot of frustration to go around,” Kennedy said. “I’m sure some of that got misguided.” Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger filed this video regarding the altercation.
  3. In that win, Jeffery Taylor scored 28 points as he continued his ascension up the Vanderbilt scoring chart. At Taylor’s current average, Vanderbilt would need to make the SEC Tournament championship game, and the NCAA championship game for him to pass Foster.  The Tennessean’s Mike Organ spoke to Taylor and his teammates about his chances of taking down Shan Foster of the school’s all-time leading scorer. “I’ve always been among the top scorers on the team, but we’ve always had good scorers and we’ve always had a balanced team,” Taylor said. “But where I am on the (all-time) scoring list is nothing that I’ve ever really had that great an interest in.” Organ writes that “at Taylor’s current average, Vanderbilt would need to make the SEC Tournament championship game, and the NCAA championship game for him to pass Foster.
  4. As Auburn basketball is starting to see a uptick under Tony Barbee, the story of Tigers’ walk-on starting point guard Josh Wallace has picked up steam. Evan Woodbery writes how Wallace, the owner of a 4.45 GPA in high school, can balance his book studies with his playbook studies. “Engineering is a pretty tough major, and I guess to balance that and play a sport is pretty demanding on both ends,” Wallace said with a shrug. “So I guess people want talk about it a lot.”
  5. Jack Blankenship, the subject of the “SEC basketball photo of the year” has seen the popularity of the picture grow to the point where ESPN’s Dave Wilsonwrote about Blankenship’s sudden stardom. “I thought it’d be cool to find a way to get a picture of myself and bring it to the games and hold it up,” Blankenship said. “It’s been amazing. I’ve always wanted to be famous.”
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 02.06.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 6th, 2012

  1. Vanderbilt again found itself unable to solve a pressing team, losing at Florida, 73-65, and committing 17 turnovers in the process. In the Commodores’ 16 wins, they have turned it over an average of 13.4 times (compared to 13.7 assists in those games). In the six losses, they have committed an average of 16.1 turnovers against just 12.0 assists per game. “We didn’t do a very good job of attacking (the press),” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said in the Tennessean. “It was disruptive, and we did a poor job with our spacing. We did a poor job with our ball handling. It caused problems.” The Gators also continued a growing concern for the Commodores. They shot 11-of-24 from beyond the arc meaning that in four of Vandy’s last five games (taking away the win vs Tennessee), the other four teams have shot 46.3% from the three-point arc.
  2. Arnett Moultrie’s controversial transfer from UTEP to Mississippi State returned to the headlines this weekend when the Bulldogs faced and defeated Moultrie’s old coach, Tony Barbee, now at Auburn. In Saturday’s Birmingham News: “In an interview with a small group of reporters, Barbee declined to utter more than a few words when asked about Moultrie or his background, nor did he even use Moultrie’s name. On one point, however, he was adamant: Contrary to some published reports at the time, UTEP had in fact released Moultrie to come to Auburn.” In his first game against his old coach, Moultrie scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 91-88 Bulldogs win.
  3. Kentucky fans have long earned the distinction as of possessing the most most basketball-crazed fans in the SEC, if not the country, but as John Clay wrote in the Lexington Herald-Leader after the Wildcats’ dismantling of South Carolina that Columbia was just the latest ‘Big Blue Occupy Movement.’ He quotes head coach John Calipari in the article: “Today when I walked out in that building, I was like ‘What in the world?’” he said. “It looked like half the building was blue. Our fans treat these guys like rock stars. I didn’t come out, but they told me they circled the court when they were warming up, taking pictures like they were Bon Jovi or somebody.”
  4. Former Ole Miss basketball player and the adoptive father of Michael Oher, Sean Tuohy, openly lobbied for the Rebel Athletic Director job in a Memphis Commercial Appeal story that ran over the weekend. The article states that Tuohy owns and operates 70 fast food locations with a “total annual budget of $60 million, [surpassing] the Ole Miss athletic department of $48 million. “I’m proud that I started successful companies and businesses,” Tuohy said. “But someday, I’m going to have to face my dad in heaven, and I think he’d be more interested in what I did as athletic director of Ole Miss more than any of my business stuff.”
  5. Georgia’s season of frustration spilled out of head coach Mark Fox late Saturday in the Bulldogs’ 73-62 loss at Tennessee. He drew a pair of technical fouls after a non-call within five seconds to garner an ejection with 19 seconds  left to play.  “I have no comment on that,” Fox said a few minutes later. “Not to be disrespectful to you, I know you’ve gotta ask that question.”
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on February 2nd, 2012

  1. Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post spotlighted Florida forward Will Yeguete in advance of Thursday’s contest with South Carolina. Yeguete has moved into the starting lineup after Patric Young’s injured ankle forced him to come off the bench. Last year, Yeguete averaged 3.4 turnovers per 40 minutes played; this year, that ratio is down to 1.2 turnovers per 40 minutes. “It became very difficult to play him because when he touched the ball, there was a good chance he was going to turn it over,” said coach Billy Donovan.
  2. At DeathValleyVoice.com, a Wednesday story wondered aloud if a 3-6 finish and a 15-15 season would put LSU head coach Trent Johnson on the hot seat. While asking the question, the article does take the time to point out that this year’s squad has shown marked improvement in the national rankings in scoring, scoring defense, rebounding margin, turnover margin and free-throw percentage.
  3. In three of their last four games, Vanderbilt has been hurt by its opponent’s three-point shooting. Arkansas and Mississippi State combined to shoot 19-of-43 (44.2%) in defeating the Commodores while Middle Tennessee almost pulled off the upset on Saturday thanks in part to connecting on 7-of-13 from beyond the arc. None of those teams rank in the top 100 in three-point percentage. However, the next team on the Commodores’ schedule, Florida, leads the nation in three-pointers made per game.
  4. For the second consecutive weekend, Florida will be part of the controversial Thursday-Saturday scheduling as the Gators host South Carolina today followed by welcoming in Vanderbilt on Saturday. In the last three years, Florida has gone 11-1 in Thursday-Saturday matchups and as Erving Walker said last week,  “The coaches just prepare us well. We’re young kids. We shouldn’t be worn down with a day of rest. We had a day of rest and we were ready to go. We like to play.”
  5. In an Opelika Auburn News story, Auburn head coach Tony Barbee anticipated Noel Johnson, the transfer from Clemson, having an immediate impact on Auburn. Instead, over his first nine games as a  new Tiger, Johnson has not met expectations, averaging just 1.2 points in 11.4 minutes per game. Worse, he has shot only 15.6% from the floor. Johnson remained invisible in Auburn’s win against Georgia as he missed his only shot in six minutes of action.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 11th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie has experienced a decline in points over the last three games. The power forward averaging 16.2 points per game has also grabbed 2.1 fewer offensive rebounds per game during this stretch. Coaches are keyed in on Moultrie’s ability to get second-chance opportunities in close range for the Bulldogs, and they’re scheming to keep him off the rim. The Bulldogs’ next opponent, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin, discussed his strategy saying, “The way he rebounds the basketball, the way he scores on the block, you want to try to get him off the block. You want to try to keep him off the glass.” That strategy is certainly easier said than done, but it again reiterates the importance of forward Renardo Sidney’s play down low. Sidney needs to continue to stay in the ballgame by improving his conditioning and avoiding foul trouble so that he can help take pressure off Moultrie in the post. Moultrie only attempted six shots in the Bulldogs’ weekend loss to Arkansas.
  2. His star player hasn’t been as effective, but Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury isn’t panicking just yet. The players, however, believe that SEC teams have their gameplan for attacking the Bulldogs. “Pressure us and run us,” freshman Rodney Hood said. Moultrie added, “I think pretty much every team is going to come in and try to press us.” The strategy certainly worked for Arkansas. The Razorbacks forced 18 turnovers. But the Bulldogs’ head coach is more concerned with the 98 points the defense allowed, the most points a Stansbury coached team has ever given up. “They hit us in the mouth early and I don’t know if we ever recovered from it,” Stansbury said. The 56.5% field goal percentage is the only time a team has shot above 50% on the Bulldogs’ defense all season.
  3. Tony Barbee is finally under contract with the Auburn Tigers, signing a seven-year deal with the team he’s already been coaching for 22 months. Barbee and Auburn had been operating on a letter of understanding since March 24, 2010. “I’m glad it’s signed,” Barbee said. “The contract was a bigger deal for everybody else but Auburn and me. I was very comfortable with the letter of agreement we were working under… Auburn had committed to me. I had committed to them.” Barbee is 10-5 in his second year as head coach of the Tigers, and faces John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats on Wednesday night.
  4. Forward Murphy Holloway may be ready to to go for the Ole Miss Rebels after being sidelined with an injury sustained on December 21. “[He's] probable for tomorrow,” Rebels’ coach Andy Kennedy said. “The pain he feels is from that bone bruise. That tendon, the ligament is all pretty stable. For him, he’s still having some pain — which you can see in his gait. Some of it may be anticipatory, some of it may be in his mind.” (Ok, who had to google the word “gait?” Kennedy always keeps us on our toes.) Holloway’s return should provide a boost on offense for a team without leading scorer Dundrecous Nelson. Ole Miss has lost four of its last five games heading into a home matchup with the red-hot Razorbacks.
  5. Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn’t at all happy with the Gators’ defensive effort against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday. “We didn’t play hard at all, on both ends of the floor,” freshman Bradley Beal said. “Our defense, we didn’t play great help defense, we didn’t guard the ball well. Our transition defense wasn’t good. We had too many breakdowns during the game. I mean, it really cost us.” The Gators allowed the Vols to shoot 51%, the highest percentage Florida has allowed all year. Florida isn’t a strong enough defensive squad to have off shooting nights, and Donovan’s three-point bombers weren’t hitting with their normal efficiency. The Gators shot 31.8% from beyond the arc, spelling a recipe for disaster on the road. Donovan needs to shore up Florida’s defensive effort to  protect his team against another bad shooting night, whether on the road or on a neutral site court deep during a tournament run in March.
Share this story

Morning Five: 01.11.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 11th, 2012

  1. Most of the nation seems to believe that this year’s championship will probably come down to Syracuse, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Ohio State, but one team you would be wise to keep an eye on is Michigan State. As we noted around New Year’s their only two losses were their opening two games in extraordinary circumstances (playing UNC on a naval carrier and Duke on #903K). If you don’t believe us, perhaps you would listen to Tom Izzo who says he is so excited about this team that he is having trouble sleeping at night. If you are looking for potential NBA lottery picks you should probably look elsewhere, but after a down year this is looking a lot like your typical Spartan team that is always dangerous in March.
  2. Tennessee got its first look at new recruit Jarnell Stokes in action on campus yesterday. Stokes, a top 20 recruit in the class of 2012, elected to enter college early and was cleared by the NCAA to play for the Volunteers. So far Tennessee has not given any indication of when or even if they will use Stokes this season. Given the current status of this Volunteer team we could not come up with a single reason for Stokes to play this year. He is not the type of player that we would expect to be one-and-done especially with about half of the season remaining. He could certainly make Tennessee a better team this year, but to what end? A NIT trip? It doesn’t seem to be worth it for a year of Stokes’ eligibility.
  3. We are always surprised when coaches accept a job without signing or reviewing a contract, but it continues to happen. The latest example is Auburn coach Tony Barbee who worked for two years without having a formal contract before he signed an extension last month. Barbee’s extension, which runs through 2017, will pay him $1.5 million per year and includes various bonuses and buyout clauses. The most interesting part of Barbee’s new contract is the clause on NCAA compliance that he shares with football coach Gene Chizik that essentially allows the school to stop paying a coach if they were involved in any NCAA violations.
  4. In November in the wake of their recruiting scandal that got buried underneath the circus in Happy Valley, UCF cleaned house and fired their athletic director Keith Tribble. Yesterday, they announced his replacement would be Todd Stansbury, who had previously worked as an executive associate athletic director at Oregon State. We have heard plenty of talk about coaches or administrators inheriting difficult situations, but the one that Stansbury could make nearly any of those situations seem simple. While the situation lacks the watchful eye of a nation that Penn State will have, we expect that UCF will have significant NCAA sanctions headed its way based on the 16-page notice of allegations it received in November from the NCAA.
  5. If you are going through withdrawal from college football and are missing the ridiculousness of the BCS, we have something for you: the latest RTC BCS Top 25. In addition to the theoretical BCS bowl match-ups, politics, and snubs it also provides an interesting look at how the different computer polls rank the teams. In the end what it is really about is being thankful that we use a court instead of some convoluted formula to decide who gets to play for our championship.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 1.04.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 4th, 2012

 

 

 

  1.  Kentucky fans may compare Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Superman, but he’s not completely immune to injury. Kentucky coach John Calipari says that Kidd-Gilchrist went to the locker room with a chest injury that he sustained during the Louisville game. “I don’t know if it is a pulled muscle or what in his chest area,” Calipari said in his postgame press conference. “It was last game that it happened but we are going to get him checked up and he didn’t feel right at halftime. I told them to give him some medicine to see if they could loosen it up. We will check on him tomorrow, but I think he will be fine.” Kidd-Gilchrist was injured in the Louisville game, but still suited up to play against Arkansas-Little Rock last night. The Superman comparison may not be too off base.
  2. Made free throws were a huge factor in Kentucky’s 69-62 win over Louisville. The Wildcats are not normally known for their accuracy at the charity stripe, but Calipari has made the team run sprints for every missed free throw the Cats shoot in a game. It obviously worked as Kentucky was a solid 32-42 from the line against the Cardinals. Over the last four games, the fear of running has propelled the Cats to shoot 77.2% from the stripe. An Achilles heel for almost every Calipari-coached team has turned into a positive for UK as of late. With Calipari’s critics no longer able to make fun of Kentucky’s free throw shooting, they are frantically writing new jokes as you read this.
  3. LSU lost on Monday night to a Top 25 Virginia team, but the Tigers received good news with the return of senior guard Andre Stringer. Stringer had sat out the previous five games with a head injury sustained in practice three weeks ago. He started the game, but was somewhat limited with 24 minutes of play and just eight points. “It was great to get back,” Stringer said. “I felt great afterward, but obviously it doesn’t feel too good right now.” Stringer admitted to feeling winded, and will work on improving his conditioning before SEC play. Stringer was LSU’s leading scorer before his departure. He is averaging 11.7 points, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
  4. Somewhat quietly, Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli recently broke the school record for career blocks. Ezeli broke former Commodore Will Perdue’s former mark with the 158th block of his career against Miami (Ohio). Last season, Ezeli averaged 2.6 blocks per game, setting the single season record for the Commodores with 87. His defense will have a major impact on Vanderbilt’s ability to rebound, guard the post, and alter shots in the lane. Ezeli could give the ‘Dores some much needed consistency on both ends of the court as he is slowly working his way back into the lineup.
  5. Kenny Gabriel’s career night was mentioned in yesterday’s M5, but his 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocked shots deserves some more love here today. Gabriel accomplished a feat that nobody at Auburn before him has been able to do. “It’s pretty special, a triple-double,” coach Tony Barbee said. “When you consider the type of talent that has come out of this program, the Chuck Persons, the Charles Barkleys, the Wesley Persons, the Mike Mitchells, you can go down the line and this is the first triple-double in Auburn history? It’s special.” And to think, Gabriel almost didn’t play because of stomach issues. His 24 points and 13 rebounds both tied his career highs, and his 10 blocks was a career high by itself. Gabriel is averaging 12.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game on the season.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 01.03.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 3rd, 2012

  1. Kenny Gabriel had 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 blocks for the first triple-double in Auburn history. Gabriel added three assists and four steals in the Tigers’ 67-41 win over Bethune Cookman. Gabriel’s 24 points were a career-high that he achieved on an 11-13 shooting night. The triple-double occurred with seven minutes remaining in the game. Auburn has improved tremendously from last season, but finishes up non-conference play with a big test against Florida State on Wednesday. The match-up with the Seminoles should be a good indicator of how far Tony Barbee’s team has come.
  2. A new SEC Player of the Week was crowned this week, and the honors go to Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist has elevated his play to a whole new level this week. First, he scored a career-high 18 points against Lamar. Then, he topped that by adding 24 points and 19 rebounds against rival Louisville. His 19 records was a new record in the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry series. On the week, Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 21 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Anthony Davis was named SEC Freshman of the Week giving Kentucky a sweep of the awards this week. Davis averaged 14 points, 11.5 rebounds, six blocks, 1.5 steals, and 1 assist. Davis had 18 points and 6 rebounds in the second half of the Louisville game.
  3. Alabama guard Andrew Steele has been medically cleared to rejoin the team and will begin playing as soon as tonight against Georgia Tech. The junior suffered four concussions in his football and basketball career, but feels as though the lingering symptoms have disappeared. “I’m excited to finally get back on the court,” Steele said. “At one point, I thought I might not get the chance again, so to get back out there with my teammates and do something I love to do is one of the best feelings ever.” Steele averaged 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game last season in limited action. The big question for Crimson Tide fans has to be can Steele hit a three-pointer for Alabama’s struggling perimeter game? Steele was 5-19 (26.3%) last year from beyond the arc.
  4. Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway will not play against Southern Methodist on Tuesday as  he is still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered on December 21. “He’s progressing about as well as we would have hoped,” coach Andy Kennedy said. “It’s been 11 days and our hope is that he continues to improve and we’ll have him when we start SEC play.” Holloway is averaging 9.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. His 9.6 rebounds is good enough for third in the SEC. The Rebels have lost three games in a row and look to break the streak without their leading rebounder in the lineup again.
  5. Kentucky plays its annual game in Louisville on Tuesday night, and no we’re not talking about a game against the Cardinals. Kentucky plays Arkansas-Little Rock in Freedom Hall, but coach John Calipari is not sure how long the Wildcats will continue to play a game outside the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. “People have got to come to it and make it something they want us to do,” Calipari said. “I know this, Little Rock at home, there would be 24,000 people there.” Kentucky had a near sellout in Freedom Hall in 2004-05 against Indiana, but other games have left plenty of seats. You may remember that Kentucky has expressed its desire to shift the annual home-and-home series with Indiana to neutral sites alternating between Indianapolis and Louisville beginning next season.
Share this story