One on One: An ACC Preview With Bret Strelow

Posted by Walker Carey on November 5th, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

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

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the ACC, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with an ACC expert in Bret Strelow (@bretstrelow), the ACC basketball reporter for The Fayetteville Observer.

Rush the Court: Duke was an extremely talented unit last season, but it was ultimately done in by its defensive deficiencies in its stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer. The Blue Devils once again have a talented roster and are widely projected to win the league. Will this season be any different than last when it comes to the defensive end of the floor?

Bret Strelow: It would be hard to get much worse. The Blue Devils ranked in the 100s in defensive efficiency, which is a far cry from what a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team usually is. With Jabari Parker, defense was not his calling card. Rodney Hood took on some tough assignments and struggled at times. The current thought around the Duke camp is that Jahlil Okafor at 6’11” and 270 pounds is a legitimate rim-protector. Duke can clean up some of its mistakes and pressure the ball a little bit more with Okafor back there. I think Duke should ultimately be a better defensive team, but we will see how much of a difference that will make.

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

Marcus Paige could be NPOY This Sesason. (credit: Ethan Hyman / Raleigh News & Observer)

RTC: Marcus Paige alone can probably keep North Carolina competitive in the ACC, but if the Tar Heels want to compete for the league crown, they are going to need a supporting cast to step forward. What Tar Heels can you see breaking out this season?

Strelow: It really might be a little bit of everybody. If Marcus Paige has to carry the load like he did for much of last season, North Carolina is probably not going to reach the goal that it has of contending for a Final Four and a national title. I think you can expect a little bit from everybody. Brice Johnson was extremely efficient last season in a secondary role behind James Michael McAdoo. If Johnson can stay out of foul trouble and guard well enough, I think his offense will be there. Kennedy Meeks has slimmed down. His offense has never been a problem. With Johnson and Meeks, you have two solid front line guys. When you look at the North Carolina freshmen class, Justin Jackson is a guy who has the uncanny ability to score. He has a way of scoring quickly and scoring in a way that does not require a lot of dribbles. I think he can really have a big year. He is probably more of an offensive threat than fellow freshmen Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II. I think outside shooting might still be an issue for North Carolina outside of Paige and if Jackson can hit a few. When you look at a guy like J.P. Tokoto, outside shooting is not his game. I think the Tar Heels have enough inside and with Jackson coming along, they are going to have enough to help Paige carry the load this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Preview: NC State’s Burning Question

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 3rd, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Cat Barber run this team effectively?

NC State made its third NCAA Tournament appearance in a row last season as head coach Mark Gottfried cajoled his team to a surprising 22-14 record. The Wolfpack were immensely reliant on ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren to get there, as he accounted for 34 percent of the team’s scoring and 32 percent of its shot attempts. Warren has since departed as a lottery pick of the Phoenix Suns, so NC State will put its hopes on a balanced scoring effort this season to make up for his lost production. That will start with sophomore point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber. His ability to protect the basketball and facilitate the offense while also looking for his own shot will largely determine his team’s fate this season.

Barber needs to utilize his speed but keep turnovers low to help move NC State along (credit: wralsportsfan.com)

Barber (#2) needs to utilize his speed but keep turnovers low to help move NC State along. (AP)

Barber was erratic in the early going last year, largely because he had been a score-first point guard in high school who was suddenly asked to find good shots for his teammates (primarily, Warren). Those struggles to run the offense led to Tyler Lewis earning a large share of the available minutes at the point, with the team often looking significantly more fluid with him running the show. That won’t be an option this year, as Lewis has since transferred to Butler. Barber’s improvement during conference play, where his assist-to-turnover ratio was just a tick above 2-to-1, could be a precursor for the floor leader’s 2014-15 campaign. If the sophomore can cut down on turnovers while improving his overall scoring (8.5 PPG) and three-point shooting (26.1%), he’ll be able to keep defenses honest and make the game much easier for his supporting cast. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

What’s on the Mind of the 15 ACC Programs Right Now

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 17th, 2014

With the start of the ACC college basketball season rapidly approaching, allow us to put on our psychoanalyst’s hat to determine what’s on the mind of each of its 15 member programs right now. Some are of the optimistic variety, while others are fearful at what they see lying ahead. All of them, though, are hoping to contribute to discussions lauding the ACC as the nation’s preeminent college basketball conference this year. Let’s jump into each program alphabetically.

  • Boston College: Blind optimism. The reality is that the Eagles, even with an all-ACC caliber star in Olivier Hanlan, are likely one of the three worst teams in the conference. But there’s a new coach around in Jim Christian, and thanks to the usual roster turnover, few remaining pieces to recall the 8-24 debacle of a year ago. Buying in to a new coach and system may not be a problem, but production on the court will continue to be.
  • Clemson: Loss. That loss is a huge one, in the departure of NBA draft pick K.J. McDaniels, who was their best player on both sides of the ball last year and led the team in four statistical categories. A 10-win improvement from the year before earned Brad Brownell a six-year contract extension, but how will this team score enough to win even if it replicates its defensive success of a year ago?
Jim Christian's hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC's fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

Jim Christian hopes a clean slate and overhauled roster reverses BC’s fortunes (credit: bostonherald.com)

  • Duke: Motivation. Not just because of a stellar recruiting class that includes their first dominant center in some time in Jahlil Okafor and the overall potential to be in the mix for a championship. There’s also the internal motivation for Quinn Cook to keep a hold on the starting point guard role in light of the arrival of stud freshman Tyus Jones, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s motivation to show that an early-season slump last year (temporarily earning him a place in Coach K’s doghouse) was an aberration. Oh, and that first round NCAA Tournament loss to Mercer could light a fire of some sort, too.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 09.26.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 26th, 2014

morning5

  1. What was a promising string of recruits for Larry Brown has continued to dwindle as former SMU commit Matt McQuaid announced his commitment to Michigan State yesterday. McQuaid, a four-star shooting guard out of Texas, backed out of his commitment to SMU in late July and also was courted heavily by Indiana, Texas and Creighton. In the end, McQuaid said it was the relationship that he developed with Tom Izzo, cemented by an official visit to East Lansing this past weekend, that led him to commit to play for the Spartans. Michigan State picks up one of the best shooters in the country to add to two other four-star commits in Deyonta Davis and Kyle Ahrens.
  2. North Carolina State junior guard Trevor Lacey was arrested last Friday for failing to show up for a court date related to a February speeding ticket. Lacey, who sat out last season after transferring from Alabama (averaging 9.3 points per game while there), was stopped for riding a moped without a helmet a little after midnight, but was arrested for missing an April 4 court date for a February 23 speeding ticket. Lacey is now scheduled to appear in court on Monday for the February ticket and also has a November 13 court date for last Friday’s clinic. While we don’t want to minimize an arrest, this is one that we feel will lead to nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the athletic department.
  3. South Carolina has joined a growing list of schools that will offer four-year guaranteed scholarships. The school will reportedly give these scholarships to players in football, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s tennis and volleyball. Athletes in other sports will have to divide up a predetermined number of four-year guaranteed scholarships with the allocations within each team to be determined by the coach. According to the school these guaranteed scholarships can only be revoked “if the student-athlete 1) decides to leave the team; 2) becomes ineligible; or 3) violates University or athletics department policies.” Although many schools have launched similar programs it is far from universal so we will be interested to see if the schools that do gain any kind of recruiting advantage.
  4. One of the most exciting things about the start of each season is waiting to see which player will be ready to make the leap to become a household name. Obviously, some of the incoming freshmen stars will make that leap, but other times it is players who have been around, but now are given the opportunity to shine. Monte Morris could be a prime example of that with DeAndre Kane no longer in Ames. Morris put up an NCAA record with a 4.79 assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman including 6.9 in Big 12 games so he obviously has the tools to guide the Cyclones. As Dana O’Neill notes Morris also an interesting back story that we think you will hear repeated on telecasts quite a bit this season.
  5. Basketball doesn’t lend itself to advanced statistical analysis the way that baseball does due to the nature of the game, but it has come a long way in a relatively short period of time and has gained acceptance by many fans. At this point nearly every baseball fan has heard of Bill James, but we doubt that many have heard of Dean Oliver, who is basically the Bill James of advanced basketball statistical analysis. Even those who know of Oliver are not that familiar with his background, which Adam Rosenfield does a good job of covering in his article on Oliver. We are not sure that we necessarily agree with Oliver that today’s traditional stats will become extinct as we believe the more useful ones will survive and be used with the similarly useful advanced metrics.
Share this story

Morning Five: 06.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 18th, 2013

morning5

  1. There are a lot of appealing things about Miami. Outside of the great weather, beaches, warm weather, “scenery”, and the best pro basketball team on the planet there is also plenty of playing time available after the Hurricanes lost their six leading scorers from last year’s ACC Championship team. The latest player to decide to pack his bags for Coral Gables is Sheldon McClellan, who chose Miami over Oregon, Marquette, and LSU. Unlike Donovan Kirk (graduate student waiver) and Angel Rodriguez (seeking a hardship waiver), McClellan will have to sit out next season. When McClellan is able to play, he and Rodriguez could form one of the more potent backcourts in college basketball although McClellan will need to become a more efficient player (shot just 38.2 percent from the field while scoring 13.2 points per game last season) if the Hurricanes are to come close to the success they experienced this past season.
  2. It has been several weeks since news broke that Trevor Lacey was transferring to North Carolina State, but Lacey insisted it was not a done deal. Now it appears that Lacey is officially headed there as sources told CBS Sports that Lacey had sent in his paperwork to North Carolina State. Lacey may have some holes in his game, but he is about as close to a sure thing as you can have for a transfer as he averaged 11.3 points and 3.2 assists per game playing for Alabama. The timing of Lacey’s transfer should work out well for the Wolfpack who are expected to be down next year, but should return most of their team for the 2014-15 season when Lacey will be eligible again.
  3. It seems like we have a weird transfer story fairly frequently in the off-season, but Jermaine Marshall‘s tale is unique even among the those stories. In May, Marshall left Penn State saying that he was planning on pursuing a career overseas. Yesterday, he announced that he will actually be looking to transfer to another school for his final year of eligibility. Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game last season, should be a hot commodity on the transfer market even if he put up his numbers on a bad team.
  4. Many consider the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats one of the best teams in college basketball history and a good case can be made for them being the best team of the post-Wooden era. While there were many memorable players on that team one of the most popular among fans was Walter McCarty. So when McCarty’s NCAA Championship and special commemorative ring from that team appeared on eBay it surprised many Kentucky fans. It turns out that the rings ended up on the site in what has been described as a “Misunderstanding with [a] family member”[Ed. Note: I hate when that happens.] Although we would assume that McCarty’s career NBA salary of $15,217,495 would be more than enough to sustain him to this point we have seen many athletes (and individuals from other endeavors) blow through ten times that money. We hope the reports are true and McCarty is not trying to unload the rings for financial reasons.
  5. We were a bit surprised to see Andy Glockner write a pair of columns about luck without utilizing Ken Pomeroy’s “Luck” data heavily, but his columns on the teams that he expect to have better luck and worse luck next season is still an interesting read. Although the column does not rely on advanced metric it does go into detail about why the teams should expect to have a better or worse record next season even if it has nothing to do with fortune or misfortune.
Share this story

Morning Five: 04.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2013

morning5

  1.  As we approach the only NBA Draft early entry deadline that actually matters — in other words, the Association’s draft deadline on Sunday, April 28 — several prominent underclassmen have yet to make their final decisions. With a couple of announcements expected later today, USA Today‘s Scott Gleeson gives a nice rundown of the pros and cons for five notable players — Louisville’s Russ Smith, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Miami’s Shane Larkin, and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Smith, who met with his head coach to discuss his decision on Tuesday, says that he has been losing sleep over the choice to stay or leave Louisville, and that he’s been riding the fence on the topic for the two weeks since the Cardinals won the national title. None of this group is a certain lottery pick, so the question of improvement next season versus a deeper draft is surely weighing heavily on all of their minds. 
  2. There’s been quite a bit of chatter this week about shortening the length of the collegiate shot clock as a mechanism to improve the offensive ineptness that has infected the game in recent seasons — those oft-derided 39-38 games and such. Andy Katz polled a number of high-major Division I coaches and found widespread support for a 30-second shot clock, which makes sense at a certain level. Coaches with generally more talent on their rosters are always going to argue for a faster pace — when things break down, pure talent and athleticism take over (similar arguments were made when the clock was reduced from 45 seconds to its current 35 in 1993). As Mike DeCourcy correctly notes, scoring has plummeted to its current level as a result of numerous factors (Louisville coach Rick Pitino has his own ideas) but the shot clock likely isn’t one of them. In fact, when you mix inexperienced and, frankly, less talented players with improved defensive strategies as a result of advanced scouting techniques (Synergy and the like), what you’re likely to be left with is a devil’s concoction of even more sloppy play as college teams rush to get a shot at the basket. Reducing the shot clock to improve scoring sounds great in theory, but what the NCAA Rules Committee should be discussing are ways to clean up the same game that once regularly produced average team scoring in the 70s (1964-81 with no shot clock; 1987-2003 with a 45- and 35-second shot clock) rather than the 60s (2004-present).
  3. As everyone knows, it’s transfer season, and a few notable names came across the wires yesterday.Marshall’s DeAndre Kane is expected to finish his degree this summer and will use the one-year graduate transfer rule to find (presumably) a higher-major program to showcase his wares for a year. Whoever gets him will receive a high-volume shooter (26.3% of all possessions) who also brings a solid assist (42.0%) and steals (2.8%) rates to bear — quite the free agent pick-up if you ask us. Alabama’s Trevor Lacey, a two-year starter at the point guard position who led the Tide in assists and was second in scoring last year, is also moving on to another as-yet-undetermined program. And then there’s this story about Purdue’s Sandi Marcius, who planned to graduate this summer and himself take advantage of the graduate transfer rule — that is, before he realized that the school wasn’t going to pay for the $7,000 he’d need to actually finish that degree. Stay tuned on this one — it’s likely to get weird.
  4. Let’s all take a moment to welcome new Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan back to college basketball. The longtime NBA coach hasn’t really been around the sport in over two decades, but at least the former Scarlet Knight (Class of 1977) actually wants to be there in the wake of the Mike Rice fiasco. He was introduced at a news conference yesterday and seemed very excited to get started on his new five-year, $6.25 million contract. He’s going to need to earn every penny of it. With massive player defections, substandard facilities, a move to the best basketball conference in America, and the stink of an amateur hour coaching fiasco still fresh on everyone’s minds, the rebuild at Rutgers will be monumental.
  5. This is a neat story by Eric Prisbell at USA Today about recruiting wunderkind Alex Kline, the now-18-year old who goes by the handle @therecruitscoop on Twitter and who those of us who follow such things have known about for a few years now. As it turns out, Kline is now finishing up his freshman year at Syracuse and his life has become a whirlwind of tips, networking, writing, and homework assignments mixed in with a little bit of fun now and again. Perhaps the most compelling part of his story, though, is his founding of the Mary Kline Classic, a prep all-star event each spring that raises money for cancer research and honors the life of his mother, who passed away from a brain tumor when he was only 10 years old. Keep on keepin’ on, Alex, you’re already doing great things, but it’s obvious much, much more is coming.
Share this story

Rushed Reactions: Florida 61, Alabama 51

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the SEC Tournament semifinal game between Florida and Alabama in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways:

fla alabama sec tourney 13

The Gators Survived Alabama’s Upset Bid on Saturday

  1. Florida Run.  The Gators trailed by 10 early in the second half before going on a 13-0 run to completely change the momentum of the game. Florida looked lethargic at that point, and it appeared they may be heading home a day earlier than most expected. However, led by senior point guard Kenny Boynton, the Gators made their run in less than three minutes, and Alabama never got closer than three the rest of the way. Florida outscored the Crimson Tide 34-14 after trailing by 10. “Boynton stepped up to the plate.  He gave them that spark and they kept building on that,” Alabama guard Trevor Releford said after the game. The run the Gators made was similar to the one they made two weeks ago in Gainesville, where they also trailed by 10 to the Tide in the second half. And that was certainly on Alabama players’ minds. Guard Trevor Lacey admitted that he discussed it with his teammates. “We knew we needed to keep attacking them,” he said.  The Gators clearly were not deterred when they fell behind, and showed again why they won the league’s regular season title.
  2. Good Kenny Boynton.  There is no shortage of enigmatic point guards in the SEC, and Boynton may be the leader of that club. The senior often takes shots out of the offensive flow, and has hit only 32.5% of his three-point attempts on the year. As the Gators practiced this week, coach Billy Donovan advised Boynton and fellow senior Mike Rosario to let the game come to them and to take shots only within the flow of the offense. While Donovan has expressed concern with the way Rosario has responded to that admonition, Boynton appears to have taken his coach’s advice. Even though he struggled shooting the ball in Friday’s blowout win over LSU, Donovan was pleased that Boynton dished out seven assists, and didn’t force anything on the offensive end. In this game, Boynton’s play sparked the Gators’ run, as Boynton scored seven of their 15 points. On the day, he led Florida with 16 points, and Donovan has made it clear that he has no problem with Boynton continuing to shoot the ball when he gets good looks, and if he continues to do that, the Gators chances to make a deep March run in a wide-open field are pretty good.
  3. Did Alabama’s Bubble Burst?  With Kentucky falling outside the RPI top 50 after last night’s loss to Vanderbilt, Alabama owns no wins over top-50 teams.  When compared to other bubble teams, that may do in the Crimson Tide. In most years, their resume wouldn’t even merit contention for a spot. But this year, given that the committee is considering so many unimpressive resumes, there’s always a chance. Alabama coach Anthony Grant was quick to point out when asked about the Tide’s chances after the game that whether his team has done enough to make the Big Dance is not his concern. “I don’t deal in that.  [The committee has] a tough enough job,” he said. Instead, he’ll sit back and wait to see what happens, but it’s much more likely that his team will be hosting a first-round NIT game than playing in the Big Dance.

Star of the Game.  Kenny Boynton.   Gators center Patric Young was too much for Alabama to handle, but Boynton keyed their turnaround, and sent Donovan’s team to the championship game for only the second time in six years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC M5: 01.24.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 24th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. What is wrong with Kentucky? That’s the question on everyone’s mind following a 59-55 loss at Alabama. The success of similar John Calipari coached teams make this situation even more baffling. For whatever reason, Calipari made past freshmen look like upperclassmen with years of experience, but his magic wand isn’t working on this new crop of players in Lexington. The inconsistency in play this season should at least create more of an appreciation of the tremendous coaching job Calipari and his staff completed over each of the past three seasons. As ESPN’s Eammon Brennan points out, “each new UK game seems to bring with it new obstacles.” That’s the challenge of a team filled with freshmen. Calipari made it look easy in year’s past, but now we’re seeing the flip side of what an inexperienced team can look like.
  2. Calipari was fairly clear in his assessment of the reason the Cats lost the game on Tuesday night. “Our guard play was not near their guard play,” Calipari said. “It just wasn’t. We reverted back to just throwing it to Kyle Wiltjer in the post to try to keep the game close to give us a chance to win.” Kentucky’s guards, Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin, combined for just 13 points on five of 22 shooting. “We played not to lose, which young guys do on the road at times,” Coach Cal said. Kentucky has six road games on the schedule remaining in SEC play. In five true road games so far this season, the Cats are just 2-3, spelling trouble for the remainder of the season.
  3. Kevin Stallings typically doesn’t play freshmen in his system, but this season he has no other choice. After losing six players, three of whom went to the NBA, Stallings is going a little deeper on the bench to find role players to make the Commodores competitive. And now he’s found a freshman in Sheldon Jeter, whom he trusts enough to place in the starting lineup. “Sheldon wants to get better,” Stallings said. “And he does have some talent. He does have some ability to make shots and finish plays around the rim. And for a team that’s challenged sometimes offensively like we are, that’s a good thing.” It was important for Vanderbilt to find a third offensive option to take some of the load off of Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller, and Jeter may be that guy.
  4.  Trevor Lacey was just one of eight from the field Tuesday night, before a drive to the lane with 4:26 left in the game and Alabama clinging to a one point lead over Kentucky. He made the layup, but went down to the floor with a leg injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the close win over the Wildcats. “I think he’s fine,” said Alabama coach Anthony Grant, who came onto the court to check on the sophomore guard. “He’s got cramps in both calves. He was obviously unavailable to finish the game, but I think he’ll be fine.” Lacey’s three point shooting has been a significant area of improvement for the sophomore guard. He had made a three in all but three games prior to Tuesday, but was 0-3 against Kentucky, adding to that total.
  5. South Carolina had an opportunity to win a big one at Missouri on Tuesday night, but failed to capitalize on its chances. When asked about a free throw discrepancy that gave Missouri 36 free throws as compared to the Gamecocks’ 17 attempts, coach Frank Martin said, “I ain’t going there. You ask me to talk about the economy, I’ll give you whatever you want. I’ll give you my opinions on whatever.” Martin added, “Don’t make me go there because it won’t be good for me, my school. Definitely my wife will be (angry) at me because you know what comes after I go there.” Martin’s team gave up a 13 point second half lead, but it sounds like he has some strong opinions on how that occurred.
Share this story

SEC M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 27th, 2012

  1. After a disastrous showing in the Maui Invitational, Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray has spent the last few days reflecting on his team’s performance in Hawaii. Ray, who also battled a stomach virus while on the trip, discussed several reasons why the Bulldogs underperformed in the tournament. Ray said that his squad, while losing by an average of 29 points per game, “played harder than the other teams for the most part” and a lot of the second-chance opportunities for opponents came from MSU’s rebounding woes. He also noted that the team’s assist-to-turnover ratio (1:2) “needs to be rectified before beating anybody that’s a quality opponent.”
  2. Tennessee got into the Cyber Monday/holiday spirit yesterday by offering $7 tickets to any men’s or women’s basketball home game other than those versus Kentucky for the rest of the season. The promotion, while ending at 7 pm on Monday (sorry), was good for any seat in the 300-level section of Thompson-Boling Arena. There is no official word on whether the online deal resulted in an increase in ticket sales, but such a promotion on Cyber Monday surely could not have hurt the Vols’ chances of packing the arena for their remaining games — especially with great games ahead including Wichita State, Memphis, Xavier, Alabama, Florida, and Missouri all coming to Knoxville this season.
  3. How has Alabama grown this season? The work of veterans Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele, and Trevor Lacey have combined for 37.8 points per game (54% of the team’s scoring) along with an outstanding 2.57 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. With Rodney Cooper (15 PPG/4 RPG) currently out due to shoulder tendinitis, heralded freshman Devonta Pollard emerged as a fourth contributor in keeping the Crimson Tide undefeated, and was listed as one of Al.com‘s three points of the game regarding Alabama’s win over Charleston Southern last weekend. Pollard, who came into that game averaging only four points per outing, was able to control the game to the point where he “could take advantage of his God-given talents”, as stated by coach Anthony Grant. With a healthy Cooper expected back in the lineup as well as a star freshman quickly learning the college game through ample playing time, the Tide could become another legitimate contender for the SEC title.
  4. It seems to be exact opposites in the state of Mississippi this year: Ole Miss has the advantage over in-state rival Mississippi State in basketball while the Bulldogs hold the upper hand on the gridiron. Ole Miss already has five wins in its first five games this season on the hardwood compared to the Bulldogs’ single victory. Of course, Ole Miss has the advantage of not enduring the change of leadership and player exodus that has occurred in Starkville over the last few seasons. The Rebels’ Murphy Holloway was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday, and even while winning versus low-quality opponents, Ole Miss still has a projected higher season win total (22-7, 12-6) than Mississippi State (9-21, 3-15), according to KenPom.com. Regardless of the quality of opponents and game results, the momentum on the hardwood is clearly in Oxford this season.
  5. The learning curve in the SEC might come quicker than imagined for South Carolina‘s Frank Martin.  The Gamecocks concluded their holiday festivities by winning the Hoops for Hope Classic over Arkansas-Little Rock in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, last weekend. Martin’s squad, now 5-1 on the season, is quickly gaining confidence with each win they accrue in the non-conference schedule. A win over St. John’s this week in the SEC/Big East Challenge could give the Gamecocks the momentum they need as they face rival Clemson next week. Wins over both teams could serve to propel South Carolina to an outstanding 12-1 non-conference record before playing Mississippi State in its first SEC game in early January. As the games will become more difficult in the waning months of the season, more wins now could help ease the pain later on for Martin and his young, inexperienced squad.
Share this story

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. MissouriFrank 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 »
Share this story

SEC M5: 11.19.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 19th, 2012

  1. Florida’s Scotty Wilbekin was reinstated for Sunday’s game against Middle Tennessee State after missing the first three games of the season because of a suspension. Billy Donovan felt that Wilbekin had suffered enough, though both still refuse to cite the reason the point guard was suspended. “I think he certainly paid the price of missing three games, three pretty big games to start his junior season,” Donovan said. “I think he missed out on the opportunity to play on the ship (versus Georgetown), and then the home opener against Alabama State and then playing the other night against Wisconsin. I think he has definitely paid the price.” In Wilbekin’s return, he came off the bench to add eight points, three rebounds, and three assists in the Gators’ 66-45 victory.
  2. Prior to playing the Blue Raiders on Sunday, The Gators were impressive in a 74-56 win over Wisconsin on Wednesday. Winning by 18 over a Top 25 team shouldn’t draw many complaints, but Donovan had one area of concern. After a full season of struggling to get the ball to center Patric Young in 2011-12, Florida is still struggling to feed the post again this year. Donovan said many of Florida’s 12 first half turnovers were because of poor passes down low. “We’ve got to do a better job in practice,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to work on that because there are times Patric has got great post position and we are not getting him the ball and then we did throw it, we turn the ball over.” In looking at this situation another way, Young also contributed five of the Gators’ 20 turnovers in the contest. If Florida’s guards get the big man the ball, he needs to take better care of it.
  3. In an impressive 77-55 win over Villanova over the weekend, Alabama again showed that its three-point struggles from a season ago may be a thing of the past. In 2011-12, the Crimson Tide shot just 28 percent from beyond the arc, but are knocking them down at above a 40 percent rate in four games this year. In fact, against Villanova the Tide shot better from behind the three point line (9-15 for 60%) than they did at the charity stripe (18-31 for 58.1%). Sophomore Trevor Lacey, who already has a game-winning three-pointer on his resume this season, has been the most consistent shooter connecting on 11-of-18 (61%) from downtown. If the Tide can continue to shoot their way through the schedule, Anthony Grant’s 2-3 zone can keep Alabama in almost any game.
  4. Speaking of lights-out three-point shooting, Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer has been on fire behind the arc. Wiltjer knocked down a career-high seven three pointers on Friday night against Lafayette, after struggling to score just five points against Duke in the previous game. After watching his forward’s shots taken away by the Blue Devils, head coach John Calipari issued him a challenge. “He has to work hard to create the shot before he catches,” Calipari said. “If he doesn’t, I’m going to play Willie (Cauley-Stein). That’s just how it is. I’m telling you what I told him. If you don’t work hard to create space and a shot for yourself — before you catch the ball, and I’m watching, you’re out. So (Friday) what he did, he is personally in the second half, he saw gaps, erased to those gaps and guys found him also, and he made shots.” Obviously, Wiltjer could be a huge difference maker in Kentucky’s offensive game plan if he does the work to become a major part of it.
  5. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin didn’t panic after Tennessee made a startlingly low 13 field goals in a loss to Oklahoma State on Friday. It is November, after all. “It’s early and that was just one of those days,” Martin said. And one of Martin’s starting forwards, Jeronne Maymon, is sidelined with a knee injury meaning the coach is looking for answers. “We make subtle adjustments as a staff to better suit our personnel and help those guys grow and get better in those roles. Now, all the sudden those guys are playing more minutes. You’ve got to identify your bench and rotations and the guys have to make basketball plays.” Of course, Martin’s relaxed nature paid off as the Volunteers rebounded to beat Massachusetts 83-69 on Sunday behind a career-high 24 points from Jarnell Stokes.
Share this story

In Their Own Words, SEC Edition: 11.16.12

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 16th, 2012

In Their Own Words, SEC Edition is a compilation of what coaches, players, media, and fans are talking about via Twitter. Some tweets are informative, some funny, and some are just plain interesting. This week’s edition looks at some star performers, takes a few jabs, and focuses on the poor play at the bottom of the conference this week:

https://twitter.com/cdortch/status/269048725651988480

Whoa, we see you Erik Murphy. Man, if only he play defense. #AllSECPerformer

https://twitter.com/NotJerryTipton/status/269184099716059137

Well, he’s not really Jerry Tipton, but that doesn’t mean he’s not right. We would ask John Calipari if he actually said that, but he would probably claim he couldn’t remember and then make us repeat the quote word for word. We’re just not prepared for that. But unlike Duke reporters, we can take a joke, and that’s a good one.

https://twitter.com/BFQuinn/status/269186521008058368

This soothes the loss of injured Jeronne Maymon for now. The big fella finished with 12 points and eight boards against UNC Asheville. When Maymon returns, Hall’s emergence gives the Vols a quality rotation to work with in the frontcourt.

https://twitter.com/AlabamaMBB/status/269251860001587203

That’s what the Tide needed. Where was that shooting last year? Lacey shot 30 percent from beyond the arc last season, but is hitting for 70 percent in the first two games this year. He is also averaging 19 points per game. Somebody figure out his offseason workout routine.

https://twitter.com/JeffEisenberg/status/269254217468891136

Hard to argue with that. But really we just feel bad for these three teams at this point. It’s not even funny anymore. Okay, maybe a little, but it’s definitely not fair. It is hard to believe that Mississippi State cancelled its basketball team this year, and decided to painfully injure each of its remaining players.

https://twitter.com/SethEmerson/status/269255109052071937

That’s one way to lose a game. Mark Fox should really consider a new strategy. Layups are so much easier than three-pointers. Maybe that’s why the Bulldogs are losing so often these days. Or maybe it’s because they’ve been playing one-on-five. That’s difficult too.

https://twitter.com/ESPNDanaOneil/status/269260634955329536

Speaking of going one-on-five, Murray State point guard Isaiah Canaan took on the entire Auburn team. And he won. Auburn might want to guard him. Or perhaps the Tigers should put five new players on the court.

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