SEC Morning Five: 12.30.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 30th, 2011

  1. The plan going into Vanderbilt’s win over Marquette on Thursday night was to ease Festus Ezeli into action. Ezeli played limited minutes (17), but looked good scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds. Despite his positive play, head coach Kevin Stallings says that Ezeli isn’t yet at 100%. “[Festus] has looked better the last few days,” Stallings said. “I would probably say he’s at about 75% and may be starting to inch above that. We’ll just keep trying to give Festus some time and see how it goes.” The play of both Ezeli and the entire Commodores team last night has again brought up the question of who this Vandy team really is. Vanderbilt hasn’t looked the part of a Top 25 team for most of the year, but lived up to its preseason hype in the win over the Golden Eagles. The Commodores’ inconsistent play and the return of Ezeli to full health remains the most intriguing storyline going into conference play in the SEC.
  2. Louisville plans to put Kentucky’s freshman point guard Marquis Teague to the test on Saturday. Although Teague had begun to play better of late, he reverted to his old ways in committing six turnovers in UK’s win over Lamar on Wednesday. Before he started talking about turkeys during the Marquette and Vanderbilt game, ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said, “Louisville will extend pressure and try to wear down Marquis Teague. They’ll try to get into Teague.” Teague, of course, thinks he knows how to handle the pressure. “The easiest thing with the press is if you pass through it, you don’t have to waste energy,” he said. “It’s when you try to dribble through it that you get tired.” Which version of Teague will show up? We will find out on Saturday if the young point guard is up to the test against what is likely the best defensive pressure the Cats will face all season long.
  3. The guys at A Sea of Blue make the case that the Kentucky and Louisville rivalry is the best in the nation. While conventional wisdom says North Carolina and Duke create the premier matchup of the college basketball season, they also meet two to three times per season. In a typical year, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils split the season series, and go forward without real bragging rights over the other fan base. But with Kentucky and Louisville, “you have 365 days, more or less, to suffer at the hands of your rivals. If this all sounds extreme, it is, and insanely exciting. And that’s why this rivalry is the best. There are no half-measures, no splits, no draws — only victory, and defeat.” And as ASoB points out, “being the loser is P-A-I-N-F-U-L, especially when you live behind enemy lines.” A lot is on the line on Saturday, and we will all benefit by witnessing a great game filled with the emotion and passion of a true rivalry.
  4. Auburn coach Tony Barbee has been pleased with the Tigers’ defensive effort , but acknowledges a lot of work needs to be done on the offensive end. “Offensively, we were anemic tonight,” Barbee said. “Hopefully, we can chalk it up to being an off night. More of a concern was we didn’t have guys make plays when they had an opportunity to make plays.” Unfortunately for Auburn, the offensive struggles are more of a season long trend than simply an off night. The Tigers are currently shooting 44.8% from the field, and just 33.8% from beyond the arc on the season. Barbee’s squad ranks #233 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is the worst in the SEC. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for Auburn fans, but the Tigers’ defense isn’t that good either, ranking 11th out of 12 teams in the SEC in adjusted defensive efficiency. Not a good sign heading into SEC play.
  5. Jarnell Stokes has reached celebrity status in Knoxville, and he hasn’t even played his first game yet. After spending the day signing autographs and talking with Volunteer fans, Stokes said, “I’m no savior, I’m a basketball player. But I’ve always been a winner, and I plan on being a piece of what Coach [Cuonzo] Martin is putting together here. The fans here, man, they’re great. Today was awesome.” The Vols could use a little extra boost to push them over the edge. All six of Tennessee’s losses this season have been by 10 points or less. Four of the losses were decided by less than five points. One little addition (or one major addition in the case of Stokes) could be the difference between a win or another close loss for Tennessee.
Share this story

Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Other Friday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 2nd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Auburn vs. Seton Hall and Louisville vs. Vanderbilt. 

Vanderbilt v. Louisville

Vanderbilt and Louisville will feature two top 25 teams facing off in the KFC Yum! Center.

Mike: The matchup has all the makings of a classic offense v. defense battle. Even without senior center Festus Ezeli, the Commodores are a prolific scoring team (#23 in adjusted offense) and swingmen John Jenkins (20.2 PPG) and Jeffery Taylor (15.4 PPG) can fill it up in a hurry. Of course they haven’t played a team as talented as Louisville. Even with the injuries to Wayne BlackshearMike MarraStephan Van Treese, and Rakeem Buckles, the Cardinals are still undefeated and the main reason why is they play suffocating defense (#3 in adjusted defense). However, with apologies to Butler, Louisville has played a relatively easy opening slate, and their depth will be tested against Vanderbilt’s talented lineup. Offensively the Cardinals don’t have a go-to scorer per se, but they do have seven players who average at least seven points per game, led by sweet-shooting forward Kyle Kuric (12.5 PPG). They also have a rugged, albeit thin, frontcourt which is led by talented freshman Chase Behanan (9.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and center Gorgui Dieng (8.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG) who has been one of the best shotblockers in the country thus far and is a big reason why Louisville is so successful on defense. But as balanced as Rick Pitino’s club is, star guard Peyton Siva is still what makes the team go, and he hasn’t quite found his comfort zone yet, missing two games with an ankle injury. Siva had 11 points, five assists and five steals in the team’s last game, a win over Long Beach State, but he also turned the ball over six times. No matter how good Louisville’s defense might be, Siva and fellow guard Chris Smith cannot be careless with the ball, because Vanderbilt is too efficient on offense to be gifted with so many extra possessions. What do you think, Brian?

Will Rick Pitino employ his full court press against Vanderbilt's struggling guards

Brian: I agree that this should be a great one. I think Vanderbilt will really be tested in this matchup. The Commodores haven’t taken good care of the basketball, and Louisville is a team that uses a full court press and creates lots of turnovers. Brad Tinsley has struggled when pressured, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Cardinals’ defense. You pointed out Vandy’s efficient offense, but you were nice by not mentioning its struggling defense. The ‘Dores have struggled to cut off opponent’s three-point shot allowing three teams to shoot at least 40 percent from outside the arc so far this year. Louisville loves to shoot the three, so it could be a long night for coach Kevin Stallings if his team lets the Cardinals get hot. It will be interesting to see how Stallings handles the defensive assignment for Siva. Siva is a player who could really hurt Vanderbilt with his penetration. He can score, as you point out, and he can also find open teammates. And one of the teammates he may find in this one is Dieng. Dieng is still developing his offensive skills, but his 6’11” frame could be difficult for Vanderbilt’s post players to defend. 6’9″ Steve Tchiengang and 6’8″ Lance Goulbourne will be down low for Vandy, but they will have to box out better than they did against Xavier when the Musketeers grabbed 25 offensive rebounds.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 11.28.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 28th, 2011

 

 

 

 

  1. The injuries keep coming for the SEC and college basketball. Florida‘s starting forward Erik Murphy has a torn meniscus in his right knee and will be out indefinitely according to The Gainesville Sun. Murphy injured his knee in practice on Thursday. “It does appear he has some form of a meniscus tear,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “How severe or how long he will be out, we’d probably find out a lot more on Monday. He’s out for the game (against Stetson) Monday and I’d assume he would be out for the next week as well.” Florida has a big game this week against Syracuse in the Big East/SEC challenge on Friday. The Gators played Ohio State earlier this season in an another top 10 match-up, and Murphy was crucial to Florida’s offense. He scored 14 points and grabbed three rebounds in 24 minutes of play against the Buckeyes. Donovan seems optimistic that Murphy will return soon.
  2. Another SEC team that has been hit hard with injuries is looking to its freshmen to lead the way. BJ Young, Rashad Madden, Hunter Mickelson, and Devonta Abron combined to score 53 points for Arkansas in their win over Grambling State. All four posted career-highs in points, and Mickelson grabbed a career-high eight rebounds as well. “When those guys came off the bench, I thought they took the tempo up a notch for us and really got us into our transition game,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “They got the most minutes of any of the guys out there, so to me, that’s a reflection of their play. I thought they were at times pretty impressive.” The development of the Hogs’ four freshmen is key as Arkansas is left with only nine scholarship players this season. All four will get plenty of opportunities moving forward as the Razorbacks’ leading scorer and rebounder, Marshawn Powell, is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ligaments in his knee.
  3. Kentucky recorded only four turnovers in an 87-63 win over Portland on Saturday night. The four turnovers are the lowest for the Wildcats since a 1993 NCAA Tournament game against Utah (two turnovers). Much has been made of freshman Marquis Teague‘s ability to lead Kentucky at the point guard position, but he led the way with eight assists and zero turnovers. Teague added 14 points and four steals, and looked increasingly more comfortable in his role. That is a good sign for the Wildcats as they prepare for a big week with a matchup against St. John’s on Thursday and the much anticipated game against North Carolina on Saturday.
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari sent out shock waves in Big Blue Nation on Sunday as he asked a (hypothetical?) question to Cats’ fans. Calipari asked via his website CoachCal.com which non-conference team the Kentucky faithful would like to see dropped from the schedule if necessary. The SEC could add two additional conference games to each team’s schedule with the addition of two league members beginning next season. Calipari writes, “If we had to – and this doesn’t mean we have to at this point because we still have 16 league games – but if we had to drop one series and there were no other options, who would it be? Would it be North Carolina, Indiana or Louisville?” For what it’s worth, college basketball is better with these high powered non-conference games, but it’s understandable if that is not in the best interests of Kentucky basketball. Regardless, Kentucky and Louisville is one of the best rivalries in the game, and it has to keep going if for nothing more than the drama of Calipari vs. Rick Pitino.
  5. Auburn set a school record with 17 blocked shots in their win on Friday night against Nicholls State.  Rob Chubb and Willy Kouassi led the way with five blocks each. Kenny Gabriel blocked four more. The 17 blocks put Tigers tied for second with Kentucky (17 blocks against Morehead State in 1998) for the all-time single-game SEC list. Auburn head coach Tony Barbee was impressed, but wants to keep seeing improvement. “We still, as a program, have to grow and develop that confidence,” Barbee said. “The only way you do that is by winning. These guys are hungry, but I want them to be better and they know that. We can be better.” The Tigers improved to 3-0 with this win, and face a rebuilding Seton Hall team on Friday. The Tigers have been a solid club defensively, but offensively are still a work in progress. According to KenPom.com, Auburn ranks 170th in adjusted offensive efficiency. Barbee will have to find some scoring to continue to see his team accumulate victories.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 11.17.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 17th, 2011

  1. Georgia won its first two games of the season against Wofford and Bowling Green, but there are some concerns for the Dawgs moving forward. The University of Georgia student newspaper points out that the Bulldogs have been outrebounded in three of the four halves they have played thus far this season. “It was definitely frustrating, especially coming from a team last year we were really good in that area,” said senior guard Dustin Ware. “It’s something we’re definitely going to address and we’re just going to keep getting better at.” Rebounding was an area that Georgia expected to experience problems in after the Bulldogs lost big men Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins. However, being outrebounded 43-28 by Bowling Green is a major sign of trouble ahead for when Mark Fox’s team plays bigger and stronger teams in the front court.
  2. I feel like I’ve heard this story before: An SEC big man goes through a physical transformation in the offseason and plans to contribute more to his team this season. Unlike Renardo Sidney’s supposed improvements, this time, it sounds like reports of better conditioning and a new look seem to be true. Ole Miss sophomore Demarco Cox has worked his way into the starting lineup for the Rebels after dropping 40 pounds over the summer. He’s running every day and changed his diet and the hard work seems to be paying off. Cox started on Monday night against Grambling State, and the big man grabbed ten rebounds in 35 minutes of play. The Rebels will need Cox’s continued improvement in order to provide additional depth to a front line that is already one of the best in the SEC.
  3. Speaking of Renardo Sidney, Andy Katz points out how detrimental he can be to Mississippi State’s on-court chemistry. Sidney is expected to play Thursday night against Texas A&M after missing the last game with a groin injury. Coach Rick Stansbury is hoping to get to a point where he can play Sidney alongside transfer Arnett Moultrie. “There’s no question they can play together,” Stansbury said. “Arnett can play inside and out. There is plenty of room on and off the court. Arnett is a terrific rebounder. And the two of them would be tough to handle in there. But our challenge is not about minutes together but to have [Sidney] have productive minutes. We hope it gets better.” The Bulldogs need to right the ship after an early season loss to Akron, and any corrective measures begin with Sidney. Sidney and Moultrie could be one of the SEC’s most dominant frontcourts, but Sidney just can’t seem to get to a point where he helps MSU more than he hurts them.
  4. SEC basketball is accustomed to playing second fiddle to football season, especially in pigskin-crazed Florida. But it seems that in the midst of a mediocre college football season, Gator fans are beginning to turn to basketball much earlier than usual for a reprieve. The University of Florida student newspaper, The Alligator, writes that Billy Ball (referring to Billy Donovan’s typically fast and exciting style of play) is the perfect cure for those needing to turn their eyes from the football field. Donovan’s team this year likes to run with the potential to win frequently. And the author even thinks a Final Four year could be in store. Based on their play against Ohio State Tuesday night, Florida needs to figure out a way to involve their low post players more and begin playing unselfishly if the Gators are going to satisfy their fans. Florida has a difficult schedule coming up with games against Syracuse, Arizona and Texas A&M. While those will be exciting, the ultimate excitement comes with winning big games and not simply playing in them.
  5. Auburn fans are satisfied with the progress on the court for second year coach Tony Barbee. The Auburn Plainsman writes that improvements are already evident. The author points out that “the team played with as much heart as any in the country, and that shows effective coaching.” The Tigers are 2-0 to start the new season, and the effectiveness of the Tigers appears to lie with the progress of junior center Rob Chubb. Chubb is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds per game in 24 minutes of action. Auburn will continue to rely on a solid post game from Chubb and the contributions of 6’1″ guard Frankie Sullivan, who sat out last year with an injury. After struggling a bit against McNeese State, Sullivan came back to score 22 points and grab five rebounds against Kennesaw State.
Share this story

SEC Make or Break: Auburn Tigers

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 4th, 2011

The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. The next team in the series is the Auburn Tigers.

The Auburn Tigers look to improve on what was a dismal 2010-11 season. Last season, the Tigers went 4-12 in SEC play, and were a forgettable 11-20 overall. In Tony Barbee’s first season as head coach, his team was known for its tough, hard-nosed play. But Auburn ranked second to last in the SEC in scoring offense (62.4 PPG), field goal percentage (39.8%) and 10th in rebounding margin (-0.9). The Tigers have a promising roster coming back this season, however, as they return 6’1″ guard Frankie Sullivan after a season-ending injury last year. Sullivan only played in six games last season, but averaged over 12 points per game in his freshman year. Barbee has also secured a couple of impact transfers in former Texas guard Varez Ward and former Clemson guard Noel Johnson, who will be eligible in December. If Auburn can continue its gritty play, and find a consistent offensive presence somewhere on the court, then year two under Barbee will be a lot better than the first.

Tony Barbee should see signs of improvements this season from the Tigers

The three key non-conference games that will make or break the Tigers schedule this season:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 11.04.11 Edition

Posted by Gerald Smith on November 4th, 2011

  1. Exhibition Fever: Catch it! This part of the season ramps up the scrimmages that aren’t secret and that make money for the athletic department. Exhibition results aren’t meant to be true measures of a team’s effectiveness but usually fans can glean one or two interesting items from the results. On Tuesday Auburn beat Paine College, 86-60. Sophomore guard Chris Denson’s team-high 21 points was complemented by junior center Rob Chubb’s 14 points and 8 rebounds. Head coach Tony Barbee expressed his pleasure with the exhibition results post-game: “I like that we outrebounded them by 17. I was proud that we had a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. Those are goals of ours for every game.” Now every TV commentator has their Auburn Keys of the Game written for them. Thanks, coach!
  2. Yesterday Billy Donovan scored 13 points in a losing effort against Billy Donovan. No, they have not made a cloning breakthrough at the University of Florida; Coach Donovan’s son Billy plays for Division III Catholic University. As the exhibition opponent, the younger Billy’s team was drummed to the score of 114-57 at the O’Connell Center Thursday evening. The Cardinals were overwhelmed by the Gators’ relentless press (50 points off 23 turnovers) and long-range shooting (20-40 three-pointers). Freshman guard Bradley Beal scored 20 points and redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario scored 18 in their first exhibition game as Gators.
  3. A little further north, Division II Kentucky Wesleyan College suffered a similar but less-intense three-point storm from South Carolina. In Wednesday night’s exhibition game, the Gamecocks made it rain with 10-of-19 three-point shooting and thundered to a 69-59 victory. Freshman forward Anthony Gill led all scorers with 14 points. Sophomore forward Damontre Harris tallied five blocks helping USC’s zone bother KWC’s shooting. Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn focused on the surprising positives after the game: “I think our guys are confident in each other. And that’s why you see 14 assists on 23 buckets the first time out.”
  4. Tennessee’s Jordan McRae is a key component for his already-limited team. If McRae can contribute at both ends of the floor, the Volunteers will have a successful and entertaining transition into the Cuonzo Martin era. During yesterday’s 73-52 victory over Carson-Newman College, McRae led all scorers with 17 points and added three blocks and two steals. Former Marquette player Jeronne Maymon pulled down 15 rebounds with ten points. Renaldo “Swiperboy” Woolridge had four points, two assists and two blocks in just 18 minutes of play. We wonder if he’ll play better once his official Swiperboy shoes are on store shelves across Knoxville.
  5. With the loss of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA, one would expect Georgia coach Mark Fox’s biggest worry would be replacing those two forwards. Thompkins and Leslie provided roughly 43% of the Bulldog’s points, 47% of all offensive rebounds and 40% of all defensive rebounds last season. Instead of finding the next Trey and Travis, the current crop of Bulldogs are focusing on using the frontcourt players they have: Junior John Florveus and freshmen John Cannon and Nemanja Djurisic. Fox said in a Wednesday interview session, “they all have different traits that you like. But none of them are complete yet, and they just have so much to learn and experience as they start to get their feet wet.” While we don’t expect any of Georgia’s frontcourt players to contribute heavily in offensive sets, they will need to approximate Leslie’s and Thompkins’ rebounding productivity to regain their 32nd-best national rebounding margin ranking from the end of the 2010-11 season.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 11.02.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 2nd, 2011

  1. Rumors are circulating in Lexington that guard Stacey Poole, Jr., is frustrated and considering transferring from the University of Kentucky. Stacey’s father got involved saying, “I can’t confirm the rumor at this time.” Poole didn’t receive much playing time last year for the Cats, and with star recruit after star recruit committing to John Calipari’s team, it’s not likely that his court time will increase in the future. Reports indicate that Poole has not impressed coach John Calipari in practice thus far this year, and the player has become increasingly disappointed with his role.
  2. Reports out of Vanderbilt’s practices are that freshman guard Dai Jon Parker is going to help tremendously with the Commodores’ shaky perimeter defense. Vanderbilt struggled mightily last year in that area, especially with the defensive liability of starting point guard Brad Tinsley. Kevin Stallings’ team ranked ninth in points allowed last year in the SEC. If Parker can provide shutdown defense on the speedy backcourts populating the SEC, he could see significant playing time in his first year with the ‘Dores.
  3. Speaking of the Commodores, Vandy coach Kevin Stallings feels somewhat fortunate that injured center Festus Ezeli wasn’t out longer than the expected six to eight weeks on his sprained MCL. “Anytime a guy (gets hurt) in the knee area, the first thing you think of is he done for the season?” Stallings said. “Fortunately that was not the case.” Stallings knows that not having Ezeli manning in the post for a while will have a huge effect on his team’s play. Anticipating early season tests against Louisville, Xavier, and several other ranked teams, Stallings said, “we’re not the team that’s picked in the Top 10 without him.”
  4. We mentioned this yesterday, but Chris Herren’s inspiring documentary, UnGuardable, aired on ESPN on Tuesday night chronicling his ugly battle with drug addiction. The story hits very close to home for Florida Gators forward Erik Murphy, according to the Gainesville Sun. Murphy’s father asked Herren to mentor his son after Murphy had some troubles of his own last season. Murphy learned a lot from Herren both on and off the court, and here’s hoping the lessons will leave a lasting positive impression to keep him out of trouble and playing basketball.
  5. Speaking of trouble, Auburn announced that head coach Tony Barbee has suspended a pair of players for a violation of team rules. There is no word yet on the rules broken by guards Tony Neysmith and Josh Langford, nor is there information about how long the suspension will run. Neysmith averaged 2.4 points and 1.3 assists per game while Langford averaged 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game last season. Auburn, a team rebuilding after a 4-12 SEC record in Barbee’s first season on the Plains, really just needs as many live bodies as it can suit up at this point, so this is rather unfortunate news for Tiger fans.
Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 10.27.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 27th, 2011

  1. In last night’s annual Kentucky Blue vs. White game, Sophomore Terrence Jones went off for 52 points setting a record for most points scored in the intra-squad scrimmage. While just an exhibition game, the barrage of points has to be encouraging for Wildcat fans hoping for a new and improved Jones. Freshman Anthony Davis guarded Jones for most of the evening, but it didn’t seem to matter who was on him as he scored from just about everywhere on the court. Jones was 24-31 from the field, finishing with 16 rebounds and six assists. Scrimmage or not, 52 points is impressive. Jones displayed an ability to score in a variety of ways — knocking down threes, taking it strong to the rim and even finishing with his much-discussed right hand. Eight Kentucky players scored in double figures overall as freshman Kyle Wiltjer finished with 27 points on 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc and sophomore, Doron Lamb also scored 31 points.
  2. Memphis coach Josh Pastner has a message for all SEC teams — don’t ask to play his Memphis Tigers in a non-conference game. Pastner says it won’t happen on his watch. He singled out Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Florida as teams he does not want to play in order to avoid giving a recruiting advantage for those looking to recruit in Memphis. He says the solution, however, is simple. Invite Memphis to play in the SEC. Pastner says, “That will solve everything. You don’t have to ask me; we would play twice. If you’re coming in here, if you want to play Memphis, go to your presidents and vote Memphis in the SEC. That’s the easiest way to do it. If you’re asking me for a non-conference game, it’s not going to happen.” Pastner is either making a good case for Memphis to be considered for expansion to the SEC or he is setting the Tigers up to be the most hated non-conference rival by the entire league.
  3. Several SEC teams will be taking part in secret scrimmages over the next couple of weeks to prepare for opening games. Why the secrecy? Well, nobody seems to know, but you may want to delete your browser history if you click on the link. Better safe than sorry. The SEC teams taking part in the secrecy and their mysterious opponents are: Virginia @ Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech @ South Carolina, LSU @ Rice, Arkansas-Little Rock @ Ole Miss, Georgia @ Clemson, UCF @ Florida and Western Kentucky vs Alabama. Anybody with super-spy abilities, we need video and/or pictures. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.
  4. Ole Miss junior Murphy Holloway has been cleared to play immediately for the Rebel Black Bears. Holloway played two seasons for the Rebs before transferring to South Carolina to care for his daughter. After sitting out a year with the Gamecocks, Holloway decided to transfer back to Mississippi. He had to apply for a waiver with the NCAA to avoid having to sit out another year. The waiver was granted and Holloway will be allowed to play this season. He provides an immediate post presence for Ole Miss as he averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in his sophomore year. Andy Kennedy’s squad will get an impact player with SEC experience.
  5. Tennessee‘s athletic program boasts that their men’s basketball coaching staff has more than 5,000 career college basketball points during their playing careers. In fact, they claim to have more than 1,000 more college points than any other Division I staff. Here’s to hoping that this sets up an SEC coaching staff battle between former players. Rod Strickland vs. Anthony Grant. Orlando Antigua vs. Cuonzo Martin. Billy Donovan vs. John Calipari. John Pelphrey vs. Darrin Horn. Tony Barbee vs. Tracy Webster. Rick Stansbury vs. Kevin Stallings… Okay, maybe not that last one. Having a coaching staff with this much experience can give the Tennessee players a slight boost of confidence, but shouldn’t be much of an advantage otherwise. It is fun to think about a pick-up game of epic proportions at the next SEC media days. Battle royale style.
Share this story

SEC Practice Reports: Post-Madness Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 17th, 2011

Midnight Madness* (9 PM Madness just doesn’t have the same ring to it) brings excitement and fanfare, but more importantly, it symbolizes the beginning of the college basketball season. Two-a-days have officially begun, and the only thing sweeter than the return of basketball is knowing that you don’t have to run wind sprints tomorrow at 6 AM. And if by some odd circumstance you do find yourself running drills early in the morning, at least you don’t have to do it again in the afternoon like all twelve of our SEC basketball teams.  Here is an initial report from basketball practices around the SEC:

  • Florida coach Billy Donovan has been impressed with the decision making from 6’6” Casey Prather. Donovan said, “He’s made more of an impact the first two days of practices and really hasn’t even looked to score. He’s actually been more productive in practice offensively by taking a whole less amount of shots.” He also believes that 6’7” Will Yeguete’s rebounding skills will be key for the Gator’s frontline this year. Donovan said, “Will continues to be a guy that’s going to have to help us on the backboard rebounding-wise. I think I said the first day I thought one of my concerns was losing Chandler (Parsons), Vern (Macklin) and Alex (Tyus), we lost a lot of rebounding. And we’ve got to be scrappy around the glass.”
  • Kentucky coach John Calipari stressed using the floater as an effective tool in the UK offense. Even in the case of a miss, it draws the defender up and leaves a big man open for the rebound. Cal said, “It’s the best shot in the Dribble Drive. That’s a great shot for us.” Everyone knows the Cats have athleticism, but it sounds like Kentucky will be blessed with some good shooters as well. CoachCal.com editor Eric Lindsey wrote, “Saturday was the best I’ve seen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist shoot the ball. During a timed drill, he frequently strung together streaks of five or more 3-pointers.” And even more encouraging for Cat fans, Lindsey wrote, “in that same drill, Darius Miller hardly missed. I didn’t see what the clock was set to -– it was only a few minutes -– but it sounded like Miller led everyone with 61 makes.” And if you like watching players get “posterized,” then there’s UK’s athletic freshmen Anthony Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist taking turns dunking on each other. First Davis dunks on Kidd-Gilchrist:

And then Kidd-Gilchrist returns the favor:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at halftimeadjustment.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? - Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies - Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Could Miami Hire A Coach Without Contacting Frank Martin?

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2011

When Missouri shocked the college basketball world with its announcement that it had selected Frank Haith to replace Mike Anderson most writers believed that the Miami administration would instinctively look to Manhattan, Kansas to find a replacement for Haith in Frank Martin, who grew up in Miami and still has strong ties down there. It was widely expected that the Hurricane administration would make a hard push at bring the Kansas State coach to Coral Gables where he could rejuvenate a program that has had few bright spots in its uninspiring history. Hurricane fans, long a fickle fan base even in football where they had a 20-year run that rivals anything done in that sport, even expressed a modicum of excitement at the possibility that their basketball program could finally become relevant even if it would take some work to catch ACC stalwarts like Duke and UNC. Yet it has been a week since Haith left Miami and according to Martin they have not even contacted him or anybody representing him.

We can't believe Miami hasn't contacted you either, Frank

Much has been made of the fact that Martin reportedly made significantly more than Haith ($1.55 million per year vs $1 million per year for Haith), but according to Martin that figure is if he hits all of his incentives and his actual base salary is “only” $1.1 million per year, which is essentially the same as Haith’s salary. The Miami administration has a well-earned reputation of not being willing to open up their checkbook for big-name coaching hires and the fact that they are without an athletic director at the present time (their prior athletic director Kirby Hocutt left for Texas Tech) may limit their ability to spend a few extra dollars even if they wanted too. In the end, that–either Miami’s incorrect assumption on Martin’s salary or inability to offer up more money without an athletic director–may end up costing the Hurricanes a golden opportunity to become relevant as they reportedly have their sights set on Tommy Amaker and have offered him “roughly $1.1 million for five years”, the same as Martin’s base salary. Amaker is said to be interested in the job, but has some reservations due to the effect it might have on his wife’s career (she is an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School). Amaker has clearly done a good job turning around the Harvard program from 8-22 to 23-7 and brought them to the verge of the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid, but you would have hard time finding someone connected with basketball who would put Amaker at the same level as Martin.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story