Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

The biggest story out of the SEC this week is the Southeastern Conference’s suspension of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl for the first eight games of conference play.  Pearl hosted recruit Aaron Craft at his home contrary to NCAA rules and misled investigators about a picture that was taken with Craft during the visit.  Pearl also admitted to making excessive recruiting phone calls.  For his sins, the Tennessee will reduce Pearl’s pay by a total of $1.5 million over the next five years and he is not allowed to recruit off campus for one year.  Pearl got a pretty stiff punishment here, but this should come as no surprise.  The NCAA is still considering the matter and may impose additional penalties in December when it releases its findings.

Tennessee has no desire to let Pearl go despite his misdeeds.  He has won a lot of games in Knoxville and he is a great recruiter.  The problem now is that there is a question mark as to how good he is at recruiting if he plays by the rules.  Pearl is on a short leash and the university has made it clear – any more violations, and he’s out.

Pearl should have known better from previous incidents and it is likely the NCAA will impose additional punishments.  There are two universal truths in this life: one, the NCAA hates being left out of the punishment game when a violation has occurred, particularly for repeat offenders, and two, the NCAA hates recruiting violations.  If you want to get your team in a heap of trouble, the fastest way to do it is through recruiting violations.  Indiana is still suffering from the Kelvin Sampson disaster, a fellow repeat offender.  Indiana is likely to miss the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year due to Sampson’s cheating.  Time will tell if the NCAA’s sanctions will have such an effect on Tennessee.  The moral of the story, keep it clean out there, coaches.

In other news, Georgia is playing well despite the loss of star Trey Thompkins who is out with a high ankle sprain.  The Bulldogs got a good win against a talented Colorado team that should make the NCAA Tournament this year.  The Bulldogs are currently 4-0, but Thompkins was recently cleared to practice.

In the preseason primer, I predicted Enes Kanter would be eligible for Kentucky.  Seeking to make me look the fool, the NCAA saw otherwise.  While the NCAA and Kentucky do agree on the facts of the case, that Enes Kanter received payment for play while in his native Turkey, they disagree on the interpretation of NCAA rules, Kentucky obviously believing Kanter deserves to play.  The NCAA ruled that he received benefits over and above necessary expenses and declared him “permanently ineligible,” a big blow to the Wildcats’ plans to win a second straight SEC crown and an eighth National championship.  John Calipari stated that he was not happy with the NCAA’s decision but that he respected it.  Following Kentucky’s 88-65 win over East Tennessee State, Alan Cutler, a Lexington sports reporter, opened the press conference by asking Calipari’s opinion on the matter.  Calipari was noticeably frustrated and responded, “Didn’t we just play a game?”  The school will appeal the decision.

Power Rankings

    1. Kentucky (3-0) opened the season with a pasting of East Tennessee State 88-65 in which freshman Terrence Jones recorded a double-double scoring 25 points and collecting 12 rebounds.  On Monday night against Oklahoma, Jones recorded his second double-double by scoring 29 points and pulling down 13 rebounds to go along with 3 assists, two steals, and four blocks.  Apparently, Jones doesn’t like to see anyone else’s name on the stat sheet.  In between those two games, Kentucky trounced Portland 79-48 in a game in which the Wildcats scored the first 15 points of the game and were never challenged.  After three games, Kentucky leads the SEC in three-point field goal percentage and assist/turnover ratio, both weak points on last year’s squad.
    2. Arkansas (2-0) While I don’t expect the Razorbacks to remain at number two for very long, it’s hard to drop them lower than number two when they won their first two games against Grambling State and Florida Gulf Coast by an average margin of 33 points per game.  That’s the highest scoring margin in the SEC, and it’s not even close.  Guard Rotnei Clarke picked up right where he left off last year making five three pointers in his first game this season.  Through two games, Clarke is 10-23 from three point range and leads Arkansas in scoring at 17 points per game.
    3. Georgia is 3-0 record despite playing without preseason SEC POY pick Trey Thompkins.  Mark Fox can flat-out coach.  Underestimate him at your own peril.  He will have the Bulldogs competing all year long and no game against the ‘Dogs will be an easy one, with or without Thompkins.  In Thompkins’ absence, guard Travis Leslie has taken it upon himself to pick up the slack by leading Georgia in both points and rebounds at 18 and 8.3 per game, respectively.  Georgia will need Thompkins back soon, however, as the road gets tougher from here.  They next face Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic which also features Temple, Wisconsin, California and Texas A&M.
    4. Mississippi State’s (3-0) Kodi Augustus is leading the SEC in rebounds at 11.0 RPG and is second in scoring at 20.0 PPG behind fellow Bulldog Ravern Johnson’s 25.5 PPG.  While they didn’t win big against Tennessee State, Appalachian State or Detroit, whom they defeated 75-65, 76-74 and 82-76, respectively, the Bulldogs are playing without guard Dee Bost and power forward Renardo Sydney.  Mississippi State will be very, very good once Sydney and Bost return and should be an exciting team to watch.
    5. Vanderbilt (3-1) whipped Presbyterian 88-47 in the Commodores season opener then beat Nebraska 59-49 and followed that up with a hard fought loss to West Virginia, 74-71.  The ‘Dores got what might have been a nice win against North Carolina if it had not been tainted by the fact that UNC had previously lost to Minnesota two days before.  Vanderbilt fans frequently chanted “overrated” as they taunted the Tar Heels in a game that Vandy led for all but a few moments.  The pollsters seemed to agree, dropping UNC to the 25 spot. Regardless, Vanderbilt made touted UNC freshman forward Harrison Barnes look bad as they held him to just 4-12 shooting.
    6. Tennessee (3-0)  Well, the Volunteers are undefeated but have yet to leave Knoxville.  They got a 20 point win over Chattanooga.  Beating Belmont by nine at home could be a little better, but it will do.  A lot of folks sounded alarm bells when the Vols lost their exhibition game against Indianapolis.  You can stop ringing the bells.  Exhibition wins and losses are meaningless.  These are tune-ups and coaches use them as such.  Tennessee’s real problems are off the court where Bruce Pearl’s indiscretions may prove costly down the road.  For now, Tennessee is playing well enough and should reach the finals of the NIT Preaseason Tip-Off following a win against VCU which I think they will get.  Oh, and that Tobias Harris kid is everything he was hyped up to be.  He currently leads Tennessee in scoring at 16.3 points per game, though he also leads in turnovers with 3.7 TPG.
    7. Florida (3-1).  How does the preseason SEC favorite end up number seven?  I think Doug Gottlieb summed it up well on Sunday when he said, “And then I saw them get pounded by Ohio State and I realized why all five starters returned.”  Florida easily handled UNC Wilmington, 77-60, in the Gators’ season opener but they followed it with an ugly loss to Ohio State in which they played the same uninspired defense that they played last year.  The Buckeyes easily beat Florida’s press and shot 62.9% in the game.  The Gators had no answer for Jared Sullinger inside who went 13-17 from the floor, nor for David Lighty who went 9-11.  You will recall that I expressed skepticism over Florida being tabbed as the SEC preseason favorite.  They appear to be the same team as last year in many respects, which makes sense as they have all the same players.  They still lack defensive intensity particularly inside.  Yes, they did pummel North Carolina A&T 105-55 following their loss to Ohio State and they got a quality win against NBA-bound Kenneth Faried’s Morehead State team, but I remain skeptical.  Florida shot only 26.3% from three point range and 38.9% overall in that game and Faried had his wicked way with Florida’s bigs scoring 20 points and pulling down 18 rebounds.  Patric Young was supposed to provide the inside game Florida was lacking but in four games for the Gators, he has yet to prove he is up to the job.  Get it together, Gators, or you’re going to make a lot of media folks feel very silly for picking you number one, not to mention those that picked the Gators as National Championship contenders.
    8. Mississippi (2-1) Ole Miss opened the year with a meaningless win over Arkansas State, which is currently 0-4 but then got a quality win over Ohio Valley Conference favorite Murray State behind guards Zach Graham‘s career high 22 points and Nick Williams’ 21 points.  The Rebels then lost a tough one against a quality Dayton team that came back from a 15 point second half deficit to win 78-71 by taking advantage of a 33 to 16 free throw opportunity disparity.  In the end I don’t expect this loss to cost Mississippi as a bad loss.  The problem, however, was this was Mississippi’s last chance to get a quality win against a non-conference opponent.  The rest of Ole Miss’s preseason schedule is cupcake city and since I expect the Rebels to be a bubble team this year, picking up another quality non-conference win was crucial.  It may take ten conference wins to make the Tournament now.  It sounds silly to say that so early, but that’s the situation that Mississippi puts itself in every year by continually playing one of weakest preseason schedules of any team in a major conference.
    9. South Carolina (2-1) After watching the Gamecocks lose to Michigan State 82-73 in a game they were never supposed to have a chance of winning anyway, I realized I really liked this team.  They played hard throughout and were never intimidated by the number two-ranked Spartans.  Michigan State forced them into 20 turnovers and the ‘Cocks shot poorly making only 35.7% from the field, but were able to get off 70 shots to State’s 53.  They battled and impressed me with their hunger.  The reality is that they just didn’t have the talent to keep up. Spartan’s loaded team.  This loss was sandwiched by dominating wins over Elon 95-79 and Radford 85-56.  If South Carolina continues to play this way, I may have to rethink the four SEC wins I predicted, even in the loaded SEC East.  Hard play always pays dividends.  Hey did anyone else notice that South Carolina replaced 5’9 leading scorer Devan Downey who shot 40% last year with 5’9 leading scorer Bruce Ellington, who is shoots 35.1% this year.  Ellington also averages three rebounds, 2.3 assists and four turnovers, nearly identical to Downey’s marks in the same categories.
    10. LSU (2-2) Well, it’s getting ugly down here towards the bottom.  What is there to say about LSU?  They opened with an 87-78 win over Northwestern State, and then lost to lowly Nicholls State 62-53.  LSU held Nicholls State to only 35.8% from the field and only seven assists, outrebounded the Colonels and blocked more shots, yet they still lost.  Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that NSU stole the ball from them 12 times.  When you can hold a team to only 35.8% and outrebound them by nine and still lose to that bad team, it’s going to be a long year.  There is some great young talent on this team in freshmen Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner who are leading the team in scoring at 15.8 and 12 points, respectively, but their shooting is horrendous at only 34 and 37%.  LSU managed to get a win over Tennessee-Martin 79-56 — no reason for excitement there — and a loss against Memphis.  It’s early, but I think the Tigers are still a year away.
    11. Alabama (2-3) While LSU is disappointing, Alabama is inexcusable.  Between talented players like JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Senario Hillman there is no reason Alabama should be on a three game losing streak to the likes of Seton Hall, Iowa and St. Peters.  Seton Hall was picked to finish seventh in the Big East and Iowa was picked last in the Big Ten in the Rush The Court conference primers.  Folks, I like Anthony Grant, but it’s getting ugly out there.  Alabama shot only 32.5% from the field in that loss to St. Peter’s, a game that was supposed to be a walk through.  Well, at least Alabama has wins against Florida A&M and Troy.  That’s got to count for something right?
    12. Auburn (1-3) When you open up with three straight losses to basketball giants like North Carolina-Asheville, Samford and Campbell, and your only win is a two point victory over a bad Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders team, it’s hard to find something to be positive about.  Because I like to find things to build on, I found something good. Sophomore guard Andre Malone is shooting lights-out from three point range, making 14-25 shots thus far.  Last year he shot a mere 20.7% from three.  After him, the Tigers are nothing to write home about.  Auburn is currently last in the SEC in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage and turnover margin, and are eleventh of twelve teams in field goal percentage defense, three point percentage defense, assists, steals, and turnover margin.  All of that amounts to Pomeroy’s lowest-ranked team in the Big Six conferences. Those numbers aren’t exactly against stellar teams.  Good luck to you Auburn, those predicted three SEC wins are all of a sudden looking pretty hard to come by.

      A Look Ahead

      Here are the key matchups for Southeastern Conference teams this week:

      • Georgia has a game they should win against Notre Dame in the Old Spice Classic on Thursday.  Assuming they do, they will face the winner of Temple and California on Friday, a quality opponent either way.  If they lose they face the loser of that same game.  A good early test no matter the outcome, but the win is necessary as the Old Spice Classic is Georgia’s last chance for some good non-conference wins.
      • Tennessee next plays a tough VCU team on Wednesday at 7:00 Eastern.  Win that and they take on the winner of Villanova/UCLA, (likely ‘Nova) in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Friday.  These two wins are important for Tennessee to keep their momentum going and stay positive in the face of the punishments handed down against their coach.
      • Kentucky’s foe tonight is Washington, a team that surely will want vengeance against the Wildcats for stealing away Terrence Jones and the now ineligible Enes Kanter, both of whom had previously committed to Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar before backing out and pledging allegiance to Calipari.  It’s must-see hoops TV tonight at 9:30 Eastern.

      Other Points of Interest

      • The SEC named Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 21.7 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan in games against Nebraska, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
      • Tennessee’s Tobias Harris, was named SEC Freshman of the Week after leading the Volunteers in scoring and rebounding at 16 and 7 in wins against Belmont and Missouri State.
      • Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley just barely got the triple double against Presbyterian in Vandy’s season opener with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but it was good for Vanderbilt’s first one ever in its 110-year history.
      • There is a little disparity between the SEC East and the SEC West.  Maybe you’ve noticed.  Currently the SEC is 29-12 overall, but 17 of those wins and only three losses come from the SEC East against slightly superior competition than the West is playing.  The West is now 12-9. It’s time that the SEC adopt a conference tournament that seeds the best team against the worst rather than pitting the number one team in the East against the number six in the West.  This hurts the conference’s chances at getting five to six bids.  It also severely hurts the West’s chances of getting multiple bids as the top West teams must play the bottom East teams which while still at the bottom of the East are considerably better than the bottom of the West.  I am sure that come conference tournament time Mississippi State would much rather be facing off against the likes of Auburn or LSU than Vanderbilt or South Carolina, either of which could very well win a game or two in the conference tournament.
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      RTC Live: Georgia @ St. Louis

      Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2010

      Game #21.  RTC Live travels to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi for an interesting intersectional clash between the A-10 and the SEC.

      During the first three years of the Rick Majerus era, Saint Louis has hosted just two major-conference opponents at Chaifetz Arena. Tonight, the Georgia Bulldogs of the SEC become the third.  After showing signs of improvement during coach Mark Fox’s first season in 2009-10, Georgia enters the year as America’s favorite sleeper in the SEC thanks to the decision of juniors Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to pass on the NBA. The Bulldogs’ season already hit a roadblock, though, when Thompkins suffered a high ankle sprain last month. It’s still unclear when he’ll return, and without him, UGa survived a 72-70 nail-biter over Mississippi Valley State in the season opener before earning a solid home win against Colorado Tuesday night.  Georgia’s personnel issues with the Thompkins’ injury is minor compared to what Majerus dealt with this off-season. An impending sexual assault case involving point guard Kwamain Mitchell and center Willie Reed has left them suspended. Reed won’t return to Saint Louis and is rumored to enroll at Kansas State for the second semester, while Mitchell wants to return to SLU after winter break. Without their two leading scorers, the Billikens dropped their opener to Austin Peay at home before rolling D-II Rockhurst.  We’ll be watching the battle in the frontcourt tonight. Emerging sophomore Cody Ellis and highly touted freshman Rob Loe are versatile scorers for SLU, but can they match Georgia’s bulk defensively and score in the post against a beefy front line? The Billikens may also have issues defending Leslie—but then again, he’s a match-up nightmare for everybody.  SLU plays four freshmen extensively and still relies on a ton of youth. Without Mitchell and Reed, there’s no playmaker to take the reins offensively. Even without Thompkins, Georgia’s the favorite tonight thanks to its clear advantage in size, athleticism and experience.

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      RTC 2010-11 Impact Players: National Wrap-Up

      Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

      Over the past month-plus, we’ve been presenting our RTC Impact Players for the 2010-11 season. From coast to coast and the Canadian border down to Mexico, we’ve selected the sixty players nationally who we believe will have the most impact on the game this year.  Each of the ten geographic regions was allotted five “starters” and a “sixth man,” an artificial construct that was easy to fill in some areas while much more difficult in some of the others.  In case you’ve missed the series along the way, this post will serve as your wrap-up.  We’re rank-ordering the ten “teams” by geographic region and list some of the near-miss players in each one.  Each regional post has a much more extensive writeup on each player chosen, so be sure to click on its respective link if you’re looking for additional information.  Here’s the view of the 2010-11 college basketball world from 500,000 feet.

      The 2010-11 RTC Impact Players Map

      The Ten Regions

      (* denotes current injury, suspension or ineligibility)

      1. Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL). Wow, and imagine if Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt.  Another group of first-rounders has everything, but what really sets this team apart is the inside dominance that Sullinger and Johnson can impose.  There isn’t a region on our list this year that would be able to stay out of foul trouble against those two, especially with the heady play of Mack, McCamey and Moore finding the big men in the right spots time and time again.  It’s no coincidence that the nation’s best conference — the Big 10 — has its footprint located here.

      • Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
      • E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
      • Chris Wright, F, Dayton
      • Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
      • JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
      • Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois (6th)

      Near Misses: William Buford, Ohio State; Maurice Creek, G, Indiana; John Shurna, Northwestern

      2. South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC). Obviously, if you can’t find a space for a likely all-american like Nolan Smith, this is a sick team.  Its only weakness is that other than Tracy Smith, it is extremely perimeter-oriented.  Granted, nobody can put a more talented five on the floor, but if a team like the above can pound the ball inside on them, that could make the difference.

      • Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
      • Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech
      • Kevin Anderson, G, Richmond
      • Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
      • Kyle Singler, F, Duke
      • Tracy Smith, F, NC State (6th)

      Near Misses: Nolan Smith, Duke; Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

      3. Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX). This is a ridiculously talented region, with first-rounders everywhere on the floor.  The only possible issue would be who would be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, but if Selby is eligible to run the show, we’re not sure there’s a much better group anywhere else in America.  This region is so strong we had to leave a high-major conference POY (Culpepper) off the team.  Wow.

      • LaceDarius Dunn*, G, Baylor
      • Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State
      • Perry Jones, F, Baylor
      • Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
      • Cory Higgins, F, Colorado
      • Josh Selby*, Kansas (6th)

      Near Misses: Alec Burks, Colorado; Gary Johnson, Texas; Randy Culpepper, UTEP

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      Your 2010-11 RTC All American Teams

      Posted by zhayes9 on November 4th, 2010

      Zach Hayes is an RTC editor, contributor and bracketologist.

      The AP has weighed in with their preseason All-American teams. Now it’s our turn at Rush the Court to identify the 15 players on three top teams that will dominate the headlines in college basketball in 2010-11. From seasoned seniors to impact freshmen, our teams are littered with names prepared to fill up the box scores, carry their teams to unforeseen heights and enter the annals of the sport’s history. Through a simple voting process among the powers-that-be here at RTC, these are the 15 players we identified as the class of college hoops this upcoming season:

      Singler is the easy choice for preseason RTC POY

      First Team

      G- Jacob Pullen, Kansas State, Sr. (19.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 42% FG, 82% FT, 40% 3pt) – Behind pinpoint shooting and a beard that took on cult status by the end of his breakout junior season, Pullen established himself as one of the best off-guards in the country scoring the basketball. With former backcourt mate Denis Clemente no longer in Manhattan, Pullen must pull double duty, continuing his scoring prowess while also balancing the responsibility of distributing to an array of talented big men. Pullen is a candidate to lead the Big 12 in scoring and propel his Wildcats to a Final Four berth.

      G- Jimmer Fredette, BYU, Sr. (22.1 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 46% FG, 89% FT, 44% 3pt) – One of the more crafty scorers in college basketball, Fredette operates with such smoothness and efficiency, it’s almost impossible to prevent him from finding a spot on the floor to put points on the board. Fredette is one of the highest-usage players in the nation, ranking at the top in assist rate, fouls drawn per 40 minutes, offensive rating and percentage of shots taken. He’s the early favorite to lead the nation in scoring during a senior season that the Cougars hope takes them into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

      F- Kyle Singler, Duke, Sr. (17.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 42% FG, 80% FT, 40% 3pt) – The AP and RTC both agreed on this point — Kyle Singler is the preseason national player of the year. Fresh off of garnering MOP of the Final Four and leading Duke to their first title since 2001, Singler passed on a near-certain first round selection to experience all the goodness of a senior season on a #1-ranked team. Singler is a versatile and skilled forward that can operate around the perimeter or get dirty inside. He’s the MVP of the best team in the country.

      F- Harrison Barnes, North Carolina, Fr. (ranked #1 overall in 2010 ESPNU100) – How good can Harrison Barnes be? Here’s two clues: 1) he is the first freshman EVER to earn AP All-American status in the preseason; and 2) he’s projected by nearly every NBA Draft prognosticator to be chosen #1 overall in June 2011. Barnes could be the best newcomer to college hoops since Kevin Durant. He excels in the mid-range, rebounds, possesses an otherworldly basketball IQ for an 18-year old and makes his teammates better. Simply, he’s the savior for Carolina.

      F- JaJuan Johnson, Purdue, Sr. (15.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 51% FG, 72% FT) – Johnson isn’t necessarily a dominating big man. In fact, he’s battled some inconsistencies during his time at Purdue. Still, he earned this spot based on what most project as a ceiling that keeps getting higher. He displayed that skill in the NCAA Tournament and is a defensive presence that can also score from the mid-range or paint. Johnson should pile up the double-doubles for a Purdue squad that needs him to be a constant force in 2010-11.

      Second Team

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      Morning Five: 10.28.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2010

      1. For some strange reason, the preseason all-SEC first team has nine players on it and Kentucky’s Brandon Knight is not a member.  Here’s your list, as voted on by the coaches: Dee Bost (Mississippi State); JaMychal Green (Alabama); Scotty Hopson (Tennessee); Travis Leslie (Georgia); Chandler Parsons (Florida); Marshawn Powell (Arkansas); Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt); Trey Thompkins (Georgia); Chris Warren (Ole Miss).  We won’t list the second team, but it had another eight players on it, amounting to a total of seventeen all-SEC preseason players.  Is it really so hard, SEC brass, to do three five-person teams?  Who is the genius who thought of this and why does it continue to happen?
      2. Pitt junior forward Nasir Robinson had surgery on Wednesday for a torn meniscus in his right knee after injuring it in practice on Monday of this week.  There was no long-term damage and the prognosis is that Robinson will be back in action in the next three to six weeks.  He was a full-time starter last season in his role as a mop-up man to the tune of 7/6 per game.  The best case scenario is that he would be back in the Panther lineup against Maryland at MSG in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on November 18.  Luckily for Jamie Dixon, he has plenty of frontcourt depth (Gary McGhee, Dante Taylor) to lean on in the interim.
      3. Things just got a lot tougher for new Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery, as his star player Matt Gatens injured his left hand and had surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn tendon.  His layoff is currently indeterminate in length, but goodness, the Hawkeyes, coming off a 10-22 (4-14 B10) disaster last season, surely could have used some better news going into the start of the year.
      4. It appears that current WAC members Nevada and Fresno State will not bail from the conference in 2011 to go to the Mountain West as they’ve repeatedly threatened to do — it will instead happen in 2012.  A teleconference has been announced for today and the WAC is expected to declare that the feuding parties have come to an agreement where they will pay reduced walkaway fees in exchange for sticking around an additional year.  We’re actually kind of excited to see some of the clever signage that students at some of the remaining WAC schools might come up with this year and next when the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs visit town.
      5. We mentioned that this would ultimately happen in a M5 over the summer, and it’s now come to fruition — John Wooden’s den is now on permanent display at the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, just a few paces away from the House that Wooden Built, Pauley Pavilion.  This is something that we’re most definitely planning on visiting the next time were down in LA.  When we do, expect a full report on the place.
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      Morning Five: 10.25.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2010

      1. Injury watch — two more players received bad news over the weekend, as Xavier backup guard Brad Redford tore his ACL and will miss the entire season as a result.  Redford is a dead-eye three-point shooter (career: 44.7%) who shot fourteen treys for every two he attempted last season —  in fact, in a total of 417 minutes played in 2009-10, he took a mere eight shots from inside the arc all season.  His ability to stretch the defense will definitely be missed by Chris Mack’s team this year.  In other news perhaps less hurtful to his team’s fortunes, New Mexico’s expected starting center Drew Gordon will have surgery to repair the same meniscus that he injured two years ago at UCLA.  Because he was a mid-year transfer, he wasn’t going to be able to suit up for the Lobos anyway until the semester break in mid-December, but this injury also means that he cannot practice for the next four weeks.  He is, however, expected to recover in time to play in December.
      2. Oklahoma State’s Matt Pilgrim has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Travis Ford for an undisclosed violation of team rules, as he was in street clothes during OSU’s “Homecoming and Hoops” event on Friday night.  Ford characterized Pilgrim’s possibility of getting back on the team as “maybe” and “we’ll see.”  Last May, Pilgrim was accused of rape by a woman who also served him with a protective order, but that order was dismissed in September and charges were never brought against him due to a lack of evidence.  It seems as if trouble isn’t having difficulty finding the 6’8 senior who averaged 8/7  in only 18 minutes per game last year for the Pokes, but we hope for his sake that he gets things together and finishes out his final season in Stillwater strong.
      3. We were wondering why LeBryan Nash committed to Oklahoma State last week — no disrespect intended, but OSU basketball typically doesn’t appeal to out-of-state top ten recruits in the same way that some other schools do.  Well, we thought that until we saw this feature describing the new hoops facilities at the school.  We dunno about you, but the hairdryers built exclusively into the wall at a certain height for big men would do it for us [ed. note: Nash is 6'7, so maybe that was the clincher for him too?].
      4. Gary Parrish gives us his top ten big men in America, and we have to say that we completely agree with who he chooses at #1.  The national media is fixated on Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving with good reason, but Jared Sullinger is going to be just as big a name as the others in very short order.  As for the rest of his list, the only quibbles we have are that Marcus Morris seems a few spots too high, while Trey Thompkins and Perry Jones seem too low.  Oh, and in case you missed it from last week and speaking of Mr. Barnes, here are Parrish’s top ten wing players.
      5. Mike DeCourcy writes a great article examining the timeline for the Bruce Pearl revelations that came out last Thursday night and subsequently taking Tennessee officials to task for being dishonest, misleading and otherwise having engaged in gross misconduct.  Despite all of the top bigwigs in the school and athletic department having full knowledge that Pearl’s contract had been voided on September 9 of this year, not a single person in the room mentioned it during Pearl’s mea culpa press conference on September 10.  Have you ever watched an out-of-control child going berserk and wonder how he could be so obnoxious… that is, until you see how the parents handle themselves?  We shouldn’t wonder why Pearl felt like he could so willfully flout the rules there in Knoxville anymore — wethinks that mystery is solved.
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      Morning Five: 10.19.10 Edition

      Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2010

      1. Binghamton University announced that the NCAA found no major and only two secondary violations as a result of its investigation into the basketball program.   The two minor violations related to an assistant coach providing impermissible travel to members of the team.  How the school got around a purported email uncovered by the NYT discussing “cash payments and academic fraud,” we’re not sure; but apparently the NCAA was satisfied with what it found (or didn’t find).  Former head coach Kevin Broadus has been on administrative leave for a year as all this played out — Mark Macon took the reins in 2009-10 and led the team to a 13-18 (8-8 Am East) season — but we’d be highly, highly shocked and awed if he got his old job back.
      2. Former Michigan team captain CJ Lee (2007-09) might be taking after former Dookie Reggie Love by finding a role in politics after graduation.  The guard who topped out at 16.5 minutes per game during his senior season when Michigan went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament is highlighted in a television spot supporting Michigan gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder (R) that debuted last week (see ad here).  According to Nate Silver’s aggregate model, Snyder has a 95% chance of winning the position, which means we’ll probably see Lee moving to Lansing sometime this winter.
      3. Former Wake Forest center Tony Woods appears to be set for a transfer to Louisville.  He would begin taking classes there in January and would expect to become eligible to play at the semester break of the 2011-12 season.  Woods of course has to first complete 100 hours of community service in Winston-Salem as a result of a guilty plea to assault for pushing his girlfriend and seriously injuring her during a dispute last month.  All we can say is that we hope Woods has learned his lesson here, and we’ll never feel the need to speak of him again except for his performance on the court.
      4. Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski, one of the best three-point shooters in the ACC last season, has injured his knee and will be out for an undetermined amount of time.  He’s set to have surgery to deal with what is being characterized as “cartilage work” today and the school won’t know the length of his rehabilitation until after the procedure is completed.  Here’s wishing the guard and Virginia fans good fortune on that surgery.
      5. The SEC media picked Florida to win the conference yesterday, garnering eight of the 16 first-place votes cast.  We’re not so sure.  Sure, the Gators return all five starters and bring in a nice recruiting class, but lest we forget that those same five players lost thirteen games in 2009-10 including five of six down the stretch.  KenPom rated UF as the #45 team in America last year mostly due to a suspect defense, and we’re not convinced that another year in Gainesville automatically means that the Gators are ready to crash the top ten (as many publications and pundits are picking).  Granted, the rest of the SEC East also has question marks.  Kentucky and Tennessee took significant personnel losses, and the up-and-coming Georgia Bulldogs are in the same spot as Florida, just worse (Georgia won five SEC games last year).  Vandy is picked fifth and we can’t figure out how a team that won 24 games (including 12 SEC wins) and brings back a  talented duo like Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins is getting no love whatsoever.  As for the SEC West, we agree with the media that Mississippi State with Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney eligible should run away with that division.  Of course, this is the same media who last year picked Kevin Stallings over John Calipari  for SEC Coach of the Year — all due respect to the season Vandy put together, but give us a break. As for this year’s individual awards, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins received 18 of the 20 first-place votes for preseason SEC POY.  Vanderbilt’s Taylor, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Ole Miss’ Chris Warren rounded out the first team.
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      RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Deep South Region

      Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2010

      It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials headfirst.  For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

      You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

      Deep South Region (GA, FL, AL, MS, LA)

      • Chris Warren – Sr, G – Ole Miss. Returning from a torn ACL he suffered just 12 games into his sophomore season in 2008-09, Ole Miss’ Chris Warren had some folks concerned after his first game back last season when he played only 27 minutes, scored just nine points, and struggled with a 3-11 shooting night against Arkansas-Little Rock. Six days later, though, he and his fellow Rebels cruised down to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, where Warren scored 16, 27 and 24 points, respectively, in wins against Indiana and Kansas State and a loss in the final to Villanova. He averaged just under 32 minutes over those three contests and shot a combined 23-45, and, perhaps more importantly, put to bed any remaining fears about the status of that knee. Warren would go on to start all 35 games last year, average 32.9 MPG (tops on his team) and put up only two other single-digit scoring efforts for the whole season. His 17.2 PPG from last season means he’s the second-leading returning scorer in the SEC, trailing only Georgia’s Trey Thompkins by half of a point. When you hear numbers like this, it’s easy to forget that the guy’s doing all this as a 5’10 point guard, another testament to his toughness. Despite his role at the point, ignoring his outside shot isn’t recommended, either; he finished 14th in the nation with 3.4 threes per game, and led the SEC in three-point shooting in league games at 43.8%. Warren’s achievements earned him an all-SEC second team slot last year and we’re certain to see him on the Bob Cousy Award nominee list (again), and wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a finalist. If Mississippi is to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years, head coach Andy Kennedy will need that kind of final season from his floor leader.

      You May Not Yet Know Thompkins, But You Will

      • Trey Thompkins – Jr, F – Georgia. After toiling behind Florida and Kentucky for years in the SEC, Mark Fox has the Bulldogs poised for a resurgence. While many Georgia fans are focused on the recruitment of Kentavious Caldwell and Julian Royal this year, Thompkins along with Travis Leslie (below) could lead the Bulldogs back to the NCAA Tournament. After an exceptional sophomore season where he averaged 17.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG and briefly considered leaving Athens to enter the NBA Draft, Thompkins has a legitimate chance at being a 20/10 player this year, which is something that only Artsiom Parakhouski and Omar Samhan did last year and neither Radford nor St. Mary’s play in the SEC. Most NBA Draft experts already had Thompkins pegged as a borderline first round pick after last season and he should only improve on that as he continues to refine his game. With his combination of a solid outside game to match a developing inside game Thompkins has more than made up for his primary weakness—his relative lack of explosiveness—to become one of the top power forwards in the country. Unfortunately that was hidden from most of the country as the Bulldogs were buried on regional coverage as they managed a meager five SEC wins last season. If Leslie learns to translate some of that athleticism into a more complete overall game and Fox is able to get production out of freshman Marcus Thornton and transfer Gerald Robinson, the Bulldogs could be in the second tier of SEC teams this year just being UF and UK, but still in the spotlight enough that we get to see much more of Thompkins. Although you will probably see more of Leslie on ESPN’s highlight reel-laden recaps on television, if you look at the box score you will end up seeing that it is more likely that Thompkins did the majority of the hard work. Now that Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins have left Kentucky, Thompkins should be the top inside player in the SEC (at least until the NCAA figures out what to do with Enes Kanter) and has a chance to contend for SEC Player of the Year.

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      2010-11 RTC Class Schedule: Florida Gators

      Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2010

      Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.  To see the entire group of 2010-11 Class Schedules, click here.

      Two NIT berths and one questionable NCAA bid following the first back-to-back title run since the Laettner and Hurley-led Dukies of the early 1990’s, Billy Donovan can finally approach a season without the sour taste of an early NBA/overseas defection, instead focusing on the welcomed expectation of an SEC title. Just as we did with conference rival Kentucky last week, here’s a breakdown of the Florida Gators schedule in their quest to return to the pinnacle of college basketball.

      Team Outlook: The moment 6’8 junior forward Alex Tyus opted to complete his four years in Gainesville rather than enter the NBA Draft early, Billy Donovan knew he had a team that could compete for an SEC crown on his hands. Blindsided by the sudden departures of Marreese Speights and Nick Calathes in recent years, Donovan’s only loss would be that of role player Dan Werner. Adding a talented recruiting class led by rugged forward Patric Young and versatile wing Casey Prather to a core returning all five starters meant Donovan finally had some continuity with his program. The group returning isn’t exactly that of Duke, Purdue or Michigan State, though. After all, the Gators finished a mediocre 9-7 in SEC play and lost four of five down the stretch, putting their eventual NCAA Tournament bid in serious jeopardy. Donovan hopes that another year of development for blue chip recruit Kenny Boynton will pay dividends, Tyus and Vernon Macklin can hold down the middle, Erving Walker continues to dish out assists at a high rate and Chandler Parsons pulls some more late-game heroics out of his hat. A successful season followed by Mike Rosario and Bradley Beal entering the fray in 2011 could vault the Gators back to the hoops elite after a three year hiatus.

      Donovan Returns All Five Starters From an NCAA Team

      Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8. Coach Donovan struck an appropriate balance of challenging non-conference games and SEC warm-ups for his Gators. Florida will participate in the ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon with a primetime battle at home against Ohio State. They might be drawing the Buckeyes at the right time with their point guard situation in flux and the Buckeyes looking to form an identity post-Evan Turner. The Florida-Florida State series continues in late November with the Gators traveling to Tallahassee to take on a talented Seminoles team with, once again, NCAA Tournament expectations. Chris Singleton should be a difficult matchup for the Florida frontline. Similar to their December contest with Syracuse in Tampa last year, Donovan scheduled a top-five preseason team in Kansas State in what should be one of the most anticipated non-conference games around the country. A New Year’s Eve trip to the Queen City to face a Xavier team that returns three starters from a Sweet 16 qualifier should prove another stiff test.

      Cupcake City: The Gators did apply some frosting to their schedule, but they didn’t go overboard. A few of the games should be relative cakewalks — UNC-Wilmington, North Carolina A&T, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville and Radford have the makings of easy Gator victories (don’t tell Donovan that after Florida’s stunning home loss to South Alabama last season). There are some sneaky challenges thrown in, too. Morehead State and double-double machine Kenneth Faried will be Murray State’s biggest challenger in the OVC again; they visit Gainesville on November 21. Kent State recoups three of their top four scorers from a team that won the MAC regular season title. With Siena losing talented seniors and their coach, it is Fairfield expected to take the crown in the MAAC. Rhode Island returns enough of a core to contend in the competitive Atlantic 10. The Gators also have tricky road trips to nearby Orlando to take on UCF and Washington, D.C., to face American.

      Toughest Early Season Test: The neutral site meeting with Kansas State on December 18 has all the makings to be Florida’s toughest non-conference test and a meeting of two top-ten teams. The Wildcats enter the season with some questions, notably how Jacob Pullen will handle pulling double duty with Denis Clemente no longer around to run the offense and how much the loss of Dominique Sutton to transfer will affect their interior presence and physicality. Even so, most prognosticators would peg K-State to take the Big 12 title with Pullen returning and a breakout expected from forward Curtis Kelly. Frank Martin also trots out a deep frontline that will test Parsons, Tyus, Macklin and the freshman Young inside early in his college career. How Erving Walker defends Pullen on the perimeter could also determine the outcome in front of what should be a primarily pro-Gator crowd.

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      20 At The Top: SEC Player Rankings

      Posted by zhayes9 on August 13th, 2010

      Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

      For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

      As long as the coaching spectrum around the SEC remains stable, there’s little reason to believe that the conference should ever experience a disastrous season similar to what occurred three years ago when a 4-12 Georgia team won four games in four days to take the tournament crown. The main reasons: coaching and recruiting. Since that time, John Calipari replaced Billy Gillispie as the head honcho at Kentucky and has immediately pulled off previously unforeseen recruiting escapades. Mark Gottfried has been let go and young Anthony Grant with his string of success at VCU has a bright future. Jeff Lebo is gone for Tony Barbee, a Calipari disciple. Exit: Dennis Felton. Enter: Mark Fox, who has already lured a top-15 player for 2011 to Athens. Veterans Bruce Pearl and Billy Donovan can recruit and coach toe-to-toe with the best in the business. Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt is one of the best X’s and O’s coaches around and just two summers ago talked John Jenkins into a commitment. Trent Johnson, Billy Kennedy, Rick Stansbury, Darrin Horn and John Pelphrey (right now his inclusion might be a stretch) are not exactly slouches either. This collection of intelligent, charismatic and successful coaches should keep SEC basketball respected somewhere in the vicinity of its football brethren for the near future.

      Warren enters 2010-11 as the best player in the SEC

      1. Chris Warren, Mississippi- Warren has been the focal point of an Ole Miss attack from the moment he stepped on the hardwood in Oxford and averaged 4.5 APG as a freshman. Warren now enters a crucial senior season on a Rebel team devoid of a reliable second option (unless freshman Demarco Cox is the real deal or Reginald Buckner makes the leap) with Terrico White leaving for the NBA and Eniel Polynice transferring. While these defections could lead to a season at the bottom of the SEC, Warren will have ample opportunity to show off his skill set scoring the basketball during a season where he could average 20+ PPG. Warren is a 40% three-point shooter and has sunk a trey in a school record 45 consecutive games, a mark good for third in SEC history. The 5’10 point guard excels in spot-up opportunities and can also explode to the tin in transition. While evaluators shouldn’t be too harsh to judge based on his lackluster supporting cast, Warren shows pro-ready court vision and he does  a tremendous job finding passing angles and setting up teammates for open opportunities. Although a bit undersized, Warren is a complete, refined point guard with leadership qualities and is my preseason pick to take home SEC Player of the Year honors.

      2. Trey Thompkins, Georgia- I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that Trey Thompkins is one of the most complete players in the nation. Asked to carry an extraordinarily heavy load in Mark Fox’s first year at the helm, the Georgia native responded with an 18/8 average, 48% FG, 76% FT and 38% 3pt. How many players average over eight rebounds per game and shoot 38% from behind the arc? Thompkins also saved his magic for the Bulldogs marquee games, scoring 20 vs. Georgia Tech, 21 vs. Illinois, 17/12 in the tight loss at Kentucky and 21 on 9-13 FG in the win over Tennessee. Thompkins has the ability to stretch the defense with a solid mid-range game that extends to the perimeter. He’s a gifted ballhandler, a 6’9 forward with guard skills, that can also utilize his frame to corral defensive rebounds at a superb rate. Thompkins now enters his junior season with expectations, albeit moderate, surrounding the Georgia program with sidekick Travis Leslie, Georgia Mr. Basketball Marcus Thornton and an under-appreciated secondary cast. The opportunity is there to become a national name.

      3. Enes Kanter, Kentucky- Ever since I saw Kanter single-handedly take over the third quarter of a World Select Team game last April, I’ve been anticipating the day he’ll step on the Rupp Arena floor and star for coach Cal and the Wildcats. While he may not be as powerful, efficient or productive as DeMarcus Cousins, Kanter’s emergence shouldn’t result in much of a drop-off at the center position for Big Blue. Kanter is savvy and intelligent on the low block beyond his years. Watching his vast array of post moves and that indescribable feel for the game he possesses actually reminded me of the clips I’ve seen of a young Bill Walton at UCLA (slow down, I’m not saying he’s the next Bill Walton). Sprinkle in a growing mid-range jumper that Cousins didn’t have and you could have an even more complete player from the outset. One area where Kanter is the polar opposite of Cousins is demeanor, displaying a calm, steady head during his time on the floor. His eligibility remains slightly in limbo, but once Calipari gets this uber-talented Swiss/Turkish big man on the floor, college basketball fans will be amazed by his pure skill level.

      4. Brandon Knight, Kentucky- Knight is the next in line of famous Calipari one-and-done point guards, from Derrick Rose to Tyreke Evans to John Wall and now Knight. While they were all thrust into the same position, their repertoires are actually quite varied. One could see Rose’s gift of court vision and passing ability beyond his years. Evans was lanky and needed the ball to be effective. Wall relied on penetration. What Knight has that these other top picks didn’t as college freshmen is the ability to explode for 35 points on any given night. Knight is a truly gifted scorer, whether it’s spotting up from deep, pulling up in the mid-range or relying on his quickness to explode to the rim. Much like Evans, there are questions surrounding whether Knight can run an effective point for Calipari as a freshman. Knight is more of scoring combo guard that needs a high volume of shots rather than a comfortable creator for teammates. Whether or not Knight is able to mature and grow in this area — and it would be stupid not to believe he’ll only improve from November to March — Calipari has another gem on his hands.

      5. Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt- While the Swedish import didn’t improve much from his freshman to sophomore campaigns, most feel Taylor has the untapped potential to really take off this season and mold into a potential first round selection in the 2011 Draft. What jumps out most about Taylor are his length, perimeter defense and ability to get to the charity stripe (78th in fouls drawn per 40 minutes in the nation). He can lock up two or three positions on the floor and is a solid rebounder for a 6’7 wing. Taylor’s shooting must improve mightily as defenders really don’t have to pay attention to him beyond the three-point line. 1-11 from downtown on the season is quite poor for a small forward and Taylor can disappear for chunks of time in games. With Jermaine Beal and A.J. Ogilvy gone, the onus is on Taylor to become more of a consistent weapon and send Vanderbilt back to the NCAA Tournament to avenge last season’s disappointing finish.

      Will Hopson make the leap to stardom?

      6. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee- Hopson is a rare talent, someone that just needs to play at 100% for more than half of his teams’ possessions, the Matt Kemp of the SEC, if you will. Bruce Pearl is certainly hoping that it’s Hopson’s junior campaign where the light bulb clicks on and he molds into the can’t-miss talent only expected to spend one year in college coming out of high school. Hopson is an elite athlete with a versatile offensive game and great length. Hopson clearly has the athletic gifts to be more aggressive offensively, but he can become way too in love with hanging out around the perimeter and chucking up jumpers. The mid-range shot needs some fine tuning, but Hopson did post a respectable 45% FG as a sophomore. Still, there’s that feeling he can do more. Pearl hopes inconsistency and spotty effort is a thing of the past when November rolls around. He needs Hopson to step up since Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince are no longer singing Rocky Top. It’s entirely possible Hopson is just a late bloomer and the best is yet to come.

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      Team USA Select Team Chosen: Get to Know Them

      Posted by rtmsf on August 4th, 2010

      This news almost slipped past us, but that’s why we wear those specially-made stick-em gloves everywhere we go.  You know the ones.  Anyway, with the US men’s national team preparing for the 2010 World Championships later this month in Turkey, players like Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Durant need someone to scrimmage against.  That’s where the collegians come in.  On Monday, USA Basketball selected ten of the best rising juniors and seniors from the collegiate ranks to provide competition for the NBA stars in a series of practice games to be played next week.  The final list is below:

      2010 USA Basketball Select Team – New York
      NAME POS HT WT YEAR COLLEGE / HOMETOWN
      JaJuan Johnson F 6-10 216 2011 Purdue / Indianapolis, Ind.
      Jon Leuer C 6-10 230 2011 Wisconsin / Orono, Minn.
      Shelvin Mack G 6-3 215 2012 Butler / Lexington, Kent.
      Kyle Singler F 6-8 230 2011 Duke / Medford, Ore.
      Chris Singleton F 6-9 227 2012 Florida State / Canton, Ga.
      Nolan Smith G 6-2 185 2011 Duke / Upper Marlboro, Mary.
      Howard Thompkins F 6-10 247 2012 Georgia / Lithonia, Ga.
      Mike Tisdale C 7-1 235 2011 Illinois / Riverton, Ill.
      Kemba Walker G 6-1 172 2012 Connecticut / Bronx, N.Y.
      Chris Wright F 6-8 226 2012 Dayton / Trotwood, OH
      Head Coach: Jay Wright, Villanova

      The original group of twenty candidates was whittled in half with the above selections, and the remainder gives a fair representation of some of the strength of college basketball next season.  Two Dookies (Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith) and three Big Ten players (Jon Leuer, JaJuan Johnson and Mike Tisdale) lead the way, but the list also shows just how much these two classes have been raided by the NBA Draft.  In fact, three of the players on the national team roster — Kevin Love, Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon — would have been seniors in the Class of 2011 had they remained in school.

      Admit It: You Wouldn't Be Able To Pick Leuer Out of a Lineup

      Still, there are several players on the Select Team who may be poised to break out in a big way next season.  Johnson, Mack, Walker, Singler, Smith and Wright are known commodities, but few people outside of the Big Ten know who Jon Leuer plays for, much less that he dropped 15/6 in a very productive season at Wisconsin last year.  Or that Georgia’s Trey Thompkins (with his 18/8 averages) is the only all-SEC first teamer who will return in that league next season.  What about the Illini’s Mike Tisdale, a true seven-footer who dropped 12/6 last year while leading  the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 59%?  Or FSU’s Chris Singleton, who effectively uses his long, wiry frame to shut down just about everyone he guards in the ACC?

      We’d love to get our hands on some of the footage of next week’s scrimmages, but regardless of that, the names above are without question several of the upperclassmen that you should either re-acquaint yourselves with or get to know.  You’ll be hearing from them a lot more this coming year.

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      SEC Media Notes: 06.29.10

      Posted by nvr1983 on June 29th, 2010

      As part of our attempt to continue to provide you with the best independent college basketball information on the Internet we will periodically bring you information from conference media calls. Today’s entry comes from the SEC, which amazingly was not affected what could have been a massive conference shake-up.

      Ed. Note: The conference call actually took place on Monday, but I had an ophthalmologist appointment and I’m pretty sure that they used just about the entire bottle of eye drops to dilate my eyes so I’m just starting to see straight again. The below entries are my some of the key points the coaches made, but are not direct quotes. If you want to listen to the coaches speak directly, click on the link next to their name.

      Anthony Grant (Alabama)Audio
      – Defense: Last year their defense gave them a chance to be in every game that they played, but they had to have that solid defense because their offense was not always there.
      – Returning players: Senario Hillman one of elite athletes in the SEC and can guard multiple positions. He will need to improve shot selection and decision-making, but is making strides. JaMychal Green adds size and strength to the frontcourt, which is as good as any team in the SEC. Should improve with an extra year of experience. Tony Mitchell had a very good freshman year and being named to SEC All-Freshman team was an accomplishment. Grant is looking for the players to make a jump between their first and second year in the Alabama program.

      Tony Barbee (Auburn)Audio / Key Quotes
      – Lack of Experience: Starting over is exciting because you get to mold a new group of players. It will be hard to judge what he has until he sees the team together in the Fall.
      – Plan: Focus on defense because they could be “offensively challenged” because they don’t know what they have outside of Frankie Sullivan. Given their lack of size on the inside they might have to focus on their offense around the 3-point line.

      John Pelphrey (Arkansas)Audio
      – Frontcourt: They have Marshawn Powell on the inside, but will need to develop more on the inside to help support him.
      – APR: We’re all working very hard. We want to see these young men improve in the classroom and on the court. He isn’t sure statistics over the short-term can adequately reflect the academic performance of a program, but is open to more long-term measures.
      Andre Clark: Aware of the transfer to TCU and does talk with players who have transferred if they contact him about an issue.

      Billy Donovan (Florida)Audio
      – Backcourt: Didn’t know what to expect coming into last season having lost Nick Calathes. Irving Walker played his freshman year at 2 guard spot. Kenny Boynton came in with huge reputation out of high school, but you’re never sure with them making the jump. Limited depth in the backcourt meant those two played more minutes than they probably should have, which meant they couldn’t do some of the stuff they would have otherwise done such as press. Coming into this year with the experience should be helpful for those two coming into this season. Still some issues with depth in the backcourt this year although they are adding freshmen Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather to the backcourt.
      Alex Tyus: First UF player to put his name in the NBA Draft and return to UF. It was Alex’s decision. He worked out with a couple of NBA teams and listened to what NBA had to say about where he might go. No pressure from UF to come back. Donovan feels that process is only going to help the Gators going forward.
      Patric Young: Very physical and aggressive player, but needs some work on the inside. In the near term he will bring energy and a great rebounding presence to the Gators.

      Mark Fox (Georgia)Audio
      Marcus Thornton: Really big boost after picking him up following his release from his letter of intent from Clemson. Gives Georgia a lot of options because of his versatility.
      Trey Thompkins: Had discussion with family and got info from NBA. Felt it wasn’t appropriate. Only would be able to work out for 1 or 2 days due to final exams and the new NBA Draft withdrawal deadlines.
      Turnovers: Feels they will take better care of the ball and they should also be able to create more turnovers on the defensive end, which should create more easy baskets.

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