Checking in on.. the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 1st, 2010

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

  • So Bruce Pearl gets slapped with an eight game suspension and what does Tennessee do but turn around and win the NIT Tip-Off championship.  Last year, Bruce Pearl dismissed Tyler Smith from the team after he was arrested on misdemeanor gun and drug charges and suspended Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams, who were all arrested with Smith.  How did Tennessee respond then?  They held #1 Kansas to 38 percent shooting and beat the Jayhawks 76-68.  Tatum, Goins and Williams were reinstated and Tennessee went on to the NCAA Elite Eight, the Volunteers’ best finish in the NCAA Tournament in the history of the program.  Talk about responding to adversity.  Hey, maybe if Tennessee fields an all walk-on team with Richard Simmons as head coach they’ll make a Final Four appearance.
  • NBA scouts are abuzz about Kentucky’s Terrence Jones who has probably played his way into top five pick status.  He handles the ball as well as any big man in America and in three games against Oklahoma, Washington, and Connecticut he averaged 23 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, good enough for SEC freshman of the week honors.
  • As I have said before, the East is much stronger than the West and I’m going to continue to harp on it.  The East has three teams in the RTC top 25 (Kentucky #14, Tennessee #15, Florida #19).  The West has none.  While I do expect Mississippi State to enter the top 25 at some point, I’m not sure if any other team from the West will get a sniff at it.
  • As of now the SEC East is 29-6 (.829) with no bad losses.  By way of contrast, the SEC West is 19-12 (.613).  Ok so they’re not the NFC West, but they definitely need to step it up.  The West already has the following losses:

Bad

  • LSU 53 Nicholls State 62
  • Arkansas 65 UAB 70
  • Alabama 78 Seton Hall 83
  • Alabama 47 Iowa 55

Dreadful

  • LSU 53 Nicholls State 62
  • Alabama 49 St. Peters 50 (St Who?)
  • Auburn 69 UNC Asheville 70
  • Auburn 68 Samford (and son?) 79
  • Auburn 54 Campbell 61
  • Auburn 55 Jacksonville 55
  • Mississippi State 59 Florida Atlantic 61

I’m not giving Mississippi State a bye on their loss to Florida Atlantic even if they’re playing shorthanded.  There should still be plenty of talent here to beat a team that lost to American University.

  • Time will tell if Mississippi’s loss to Dayton will look bad as the season progresses.  It’s not looking good right now though.  A week after beating Mississippi, the Flyers were doubled up by Cincinnati 68-34 in a mercy killing.  Losing to a very average Miami (FL) team doesn’t help the Rebels either.  Mississippi’s 78-71 win over Murray State is the West’s best win so far.  Murray State is now 3-3 and will have to win a lot of games the rest of the way to help Mississippi’s reputation.

Power Rankings

So let’s get down to business here.

  1. Tennessee (5-0): Can there be any question here?  Scotty Hopson was named the SEC’s Player of the Week as he averaged 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while leading the Volunteers to the NIT Tip-Off championship.  He was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, leading his team to victories over VCU and then seventh ranked Villanova, whom they held to 34.5 percent.  If history holds, Tennessee will probably be holding teams to 25 percent once Brucey’s suspension begins.
  2. Florida (5-1): took care of business this week getting wins against in-state foes Florida Atlantic at home and Florida State away.  The 55-51 win over the Seminoles wasn’t pretty, though.  The Gators shot only 38.1 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers to only 8 assists.  You’re usually lucky to come away with the win in a game like that, especially on the road.  But a good road win it is for the Gators.
  3. Vanderbilt (5-1): Unfortunately, the shine on that win over North Carolina is already coming off.  UNC played a close one against College of Charleston this week and then lost in a game that they never even showed up for at Illinois.  All Vanderbilt did this week was trample one of the worst teams in the country, Grambling State, 92-59 in a game in which they outrebounded the Tigers 60-21.  They followed that up with an 86-73 win over Appalachian State.  Not bad for a week’s work.
  4. Kentucky (4-1): Well, the Wildcats got a great win over Washington 74-67, but they laid an egg the next night against a surprising Connecticut team that had beaten then-#2 Michigan State the previous night.  Kentucky allowed Connecticut to shoot 57.7 percent while only shooting 36.7 percent themselves.  After the Wildcats’ first game, Doron Lamb stated that the Cats hoped to be the best shooting team in the nation.  I guess he wasn’t talking about free throw shooting.  Prior to Kentucky’s game against Boston the Cats were shooting an embarrassing 59.7 percent from the line.  Insert Calipari teams’ free throw shooting comment here.  Against Boston, the Wildcats shot 59.3 percent from the field, 62.5 percent from three and 70.8 percent from the line.
  5. LSU (5-2): Three wins this week, albeit against Centenary, South Alabama and Houston, is good enough to be the highest ranked team out of the West.  LSU doubled up Centenary 78-36.  Now I don’t care if Centenary’s 0-6, anytime you double up a team and hold them to 28.3 percent shooting, you’ve played well.   LSU beat the teams they were supposed to beat, soundly.
  6. South Carolina (4-1): The Gamecocks picked up a couple of wins this week by beating South Carolina Upstate 57-41 and Western Kentucky 87-85.  I’ve said it before.  I like these Cocks.  They are leading the nation in rebounding at 49.2 per game.  Rebounding comes down to hustle and this team has it.  Who knows, keep winning in the preseason and maybe there is a tournament bid for this team, but it’s an uphill battle in the stacked East.
  7. Mississippi State (4-1): An overtime win over lowly Troy (1-4) this week isn’t anything to write home about, especially since the Bulldogs took their first lead in the game against the Trojans with only 4:54 to play.  The Trojans also had a 51-38 rebounding advantage over State and that’s just unacceptable, I don’t care who is missing from your starting lineup.  And apparently there aren’t enough guns on this team to get past the likes of Florida Atlantic. After losing to FAU, it looks like the Bulldogs need Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney more than we thought.  In the mean time, Ravern Johnson is playing like a star and never getting a breather.  Prior to the loss to Florida Atlantic, Johnson was averaging 27.3 points per game, good enough for first in the SEC and fifth in the nation.  Johnson is also averaging 38.3 minutes, 4.5 rebounds and shooting 56.3 percent from three.
  8. Alabama (3-3): Well, at least they didn’t have to face St. Peter’s again this week.  Alabama beat Alabama A&M 76-50.  Here’s a tidbit. Tony Mitchell is the model of consistency.  He’s had between 12 and 15 points in all five games this season and had a 12/15 night against A&M.  Despite losing three games early this is still a team that I think will pull themselves together and finish strong.  A dominating win over the Bulldogs was a step in the right direction.
  9. Arkansas (4-1): Not much exciting going on here.  They beat Southeast Missouri State, a team that is now 0-6, and then lost to UAB.  What I do find interesting is that coach John Pelphrey is playing eleven guys at least eleven minutes a game.  Now that’s going deep.
  10. Mississippi (5-2): I’ve already picked on Mississippi, so there’s no need to get into that further except for to say that when you play a weak preseason schedule, coach Andy Kennedy, you really pay the price when you lose to those same weak teams.  Especially when there are no opportunities to make up for those losses with a quality win or two.
  11. Georgia (4-2): came out and got what looked like a good win against Colorado without Trey Thompkins and then it turned out that Colorado’s not any good.  So all they have to hang their hat on now is a hard fought loss to Old Spice Classic champion Notre Dame. They followed that loss with a loss to Temple.  At least they beat Manhattan (2-4) by three.  Thompkins just hasn’t been himself since returning from injury.  He’s shooting only 40 percent from the field and scoring 14.7 per game.  That’s 3 points less than his average last year.  Prior to his return, the Bulldogs were 3-0, since returning, 2-1.  I don’t get it.  This guy was the media’s pick for preseason conference player of the year.
  12. Auburn (2-4): I feel for Auburn.  I really do.  They lost their entire team from last year, and they weren’t any good last year.  And then this year, they lost their top two recruits, Shawn Kemp Jr. and Luke Cothron, to ineligibility.  That said, there is a time and a place to play Division II teams and it’s called practice.  There is nothing to be gained by beating Georgia Southwestern.  It doesn’t help your team gain confidence to beat a D-II team and it does nothing for the selection committee at the end of the year as they don’t factor in wins against lower division schools.  Furthermore, if you do lose to a lower division team, you look awful.  Don’t do it again, Coach Barbee.

A Look Ahead

  • Kentucky takes on North Carolina on Saturday, and even though UNC is looking pretty weak as of late, this is one of those games that both teams really want and when you’ve got two of the all-time winningest programs on the same court, you watch, period.
  • Alabama plays Purdue on Saturday.  If the Tide want to salvage their preseason, this is the game to do it.  Beat Purdue, and there’s still an outside chance at an NCAA berth, lose and they may have to get 12 wins in conference play.
  • Like Georgia against Colorado, Arkansas vs. Oklahoma Wednesday night is a game that has less value today than it did when it was announced, with Oklahoma going through a nightmare in Maui. Creampuffs dilute the rest of the action this week, but next week will see some fantastic SEC basketball.
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Summer School in the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 7th, 2010

Jared Quillen from Big Blue Cats is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

News: At the spring meetings in Destin, Florida, SEC officials discussed scrapping the divisional format in conference tournament play. Under the current system, the top two teams in each division get a bye in the opening round of the SEC tournament. Going to a one-through-twelve seeding instead of two groups of one-through-six would effectively protect the top teams in the SEC, and increase the likelihood of the SEC getting five, six, or even seven teams in the NCAA tournament (the goal should be eight). Last year Mississippi State and Mississippi finished first and second, respectively, in the Western division, but only fifth and sixth overall in the conference behind Eastern division teams Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Florida, yet both teams were awarded opening round byes in the conference tournament and still missed the NCAA Tournament.

The West as a whole finished a putrid 9-27 against the East. Take away the West’s five wins against Georgia and it gets really ugly. Despite the uneven seeding the Eastern division managed to go 8-3 in the SEC tournament, so there is a strong case for going to a one-through-twelve tournament.

As you might expect, SEC West coaches wanted to keep the status quo. As Arkansas coach John Pelphrey put it, “There was a lot of discussion about it. I was for the way things are right now. Year in and year out, the fairest way to do it was to seed it by how you fare in your division,” which is pretty much what you would expect from a coach whose team finished third in the West but only seventh overall. “The problem is….you could have a team in the East that has a similar or same record as a team in the West, but it’s really a different record because of the teams you’re playing.” SEC teams play teams in their division twice and non-division opponents once. “What happens when you have two teams vying for a bye, and they have the same record?” as Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s where we came to a stalemate. We didn’t know what direction to go.”

Donovan highlights a good point as all of the coaches prefer keeping the current divisional format for league play and, as Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl explained, “There was some concern that if they re-seeded the SEC tournament one through twelve (like the Big 12), it would be the first step to doing away with the divisions.” In the end the SEC opted to do just as they did when other conferences were trading teams — nothing. It remains the opinion of Rush The Court, however, that the best and fairest system is to reward the teams with the best records and play a one through twelve tournament.

Coaching Carousel: On March 24th Tony Barbee was hired to replace Jeff Lebo at Auburn whose teams went 96-93 during Lebo’s six-year tenure. Barbee will be one of six coaches in the SEC with three years or less in the league, a list that includes up-and-comers Pelphrey (three years), Anthony Grant (two), Darrin Horn (two), Trent Johnson (two), and Mark Fox (one). With this crew in place, the SEC has a glut of rising coaches equaled by no conference in America.  The sad reality, however, is that there are only so many wins to go around, and some of these coaches are going to lose their up-and-coming status just as Kentucky’s Billy Gillispie and Georgia’s Dennis Felton did.

Recruiting: The SEC boasts 18 players in ESPN’s top 100, a number matched only by the ACC. Indeed, five of twelve SEC teams brought in at least two players in the top 100, including Kentucky with five. That’s the kind of talent the SEC’s going to need if the league is to reestablish itself as a dominant basketball conference.

Trent Johnson Has His Work Cut Out...

Power Rankings The following rankings are not necessarily a prediction of order of finish as much as an indicator of which teams have done the most to improve and to address deficiencies in the off-season.

  1. Kentucky – Kentucky’s entire team (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Pattrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton) went to the NBA. Kentucky also lost Perry Stevenson, Ramon Harris and Mark Krebs to graduation, and Darnell Dodson is gone for the season for undisclosed reasons. So what did John Calipari do? He signed the number one class in the America, again. Calipari’s haul includes five top 50 players in point guard Brandon Knight, shooting guard Doron Lamb, small forward Stacey Poole, power forwards Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter, and center Eloy Vargas who comes to Kentucky after playing one year at Florida and one year at Miami Dade College. The new Cats will be asked to contribute immediately as Kentucky will enter the 2010-11 season with only four returning scholarship players, two of which played less than five minutes per game last year. Time will tell, however, if number one in the summer power rankings translates into another SEC championship and deep NCAA run.
  2. Tennessee – Tennessee had as turbulent a season as any team in America last year, losing Tyler Smith for the season and Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams to suspension early in the year. After the Volunteers barely lost to Michigan State — just missing their first Final Four in the process — they also lost seniors Bobby Maze, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince. Coach Bruce Pearl has proven himself one of the better recruiters in the nation, however, and this year is no different. Pearl brings in top flight power forward Tobias Harris and talented shooting guards Jordan McRae and Trae Golden. Pearl also adds John Fields, a transfer from UNC Wilmington. Fields, a 6’9” forward who played one year after Wilmington after playing two years at East Carolina, will have one year of eligibility remaining and should be able to play immediately as NCAA rules allow a transfer player who has graduated to play immediately if he is enrolling in graduate school. Last year Fields averaged 10.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds in one season at Wilmington where he also set the school single game rebounding record with 21 against Towson.
  3. Florida – Florida could use a little depth up front and that’s about it. The Gators return their entire starting five and all but five of their 72 points per game. After just slipping into the NCAA Tournament last year, Florida enters the 2010-11 season as the SEC favorite and a legitimate top ten team. With no significant losses, freshmen power forwards Patric Young, Will Yeguete, and Cody Larsen will fill the final pieces in Florida’s march back to relevance after three less-than-stellar years following its two championships. Coach Donovan also brings in shooting guard Casey Prather and early high school graduate Scottie Wilbekin at point guard. Donovan is already adding talent for 2011, as well. Rutgers’ leading scorer Mike Rosario will sit out this season and be eligible for next year. Look for Donovan’s critics to hush now that the Gators are back on track. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 05.25.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 25th, 2010

  1. Some transfer news from the weekend…  Two of the bigger names in college basketball from a celebrity perspective are leaving their respective schools.  Guard Jeff Jordan (MJ’s son, in case you hadn’t heard) is leaving Illinois for his senior season a mere year after he quit the team and returned the first time.  We’re not sure what exactly the deal is with the somewhat indecisive Jordan, but the word is that he’s looking for more PT than the fourteen minutes per game he received last year for the Illini.  The other big transfer name belongs to Percy Miller, aka Lil Romeo, the hip-hop star who presumably sold a lot more albums than he scored points (5) in his two-year USC Trojan career.  The subject of one of RTC’s first-ever posts (#3 actually), it’s not clear whether he will try to continue playing college basketball elsewhere or give it up completely.
  2. Moving to players that actually matter at this level, former Washington guard Elston Turner will re-surface at Texas A&M beginning in 2011-12 and LSU star guard Bo Spencer will be ineligible for the fall semester next season as a result of academic problems.  Turner will have two years of eligibility in College Station, while Spencer will have an opportunity to return to his team next winter if he can get his books in order.
  3. The final notable piece of news with players leaving is that Florida’s Nimrod Tishman is leaving the Gator program after only one year in Gainesville.  He is returning to Israel to play professionally, causing mass lamentations throughout the SEC fanbases from Fayetteville to Columbia.
  4. Is the one-year renewable scholarship a bigger problem than we, or anyone, knows?  If you buy USA Today’s report that over 20% of athletes on the 65 NCAA teams leave the program in a given year, it just might be.  We’d never really given it much thought other than when a new coach comes into town and runs everyone off (see: Calipari, John), but maybe we should start paying attention to this a little more.
  5. We always thought something didn’t smell quite right with the universally-liked and respected Tyler Smith being caught with a firearm in a rental car on New Year’s Day.  Smith finally came out and said that he purchased the gun based on death threats that he was receiving about his three-year old son.  He didn’t go into details as to whom was making the threats or why they would be making them, but he’s now back in Tennessee after playing professionally in Turkey for a few months and waiting to see if his name is called next month in the NBA Draft.
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ATB: Tennessee Vanquishes Sweet Sixteen Demons and Evan Turner

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2010

Blah Night of Games.  So given the way this Tournament has gone through the first three rounds, we should be heading into two classics on Saturday evening in the West following by the East Regional finals.  On consecutive Thursdays we had an incredible set of games followed by a rather pedestrian Friday set.  Last Saturday was another blockbuster, while Sunday was relatively tame.  Don’t let us down, K-State, Butler, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Midwest Region

NPOY Evan Turner Couldn't Get His Three to Tie Off (AP/J. Roberson)

Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73.  On Selection Sunday, every pundit talked about how great the teams were at the top of the Midwest Region, but they may have forgotten the Volunteers who were grossly underseeded. Now they are showing the Selection Committee and the rest of the nation just how good they are. In a rematch of a 2007 Sweet 16 game that ended with Greg Oden blocking a shot by Ramar Smith that could have won the game for UT, the Volunteers got their revenge in a similar fashion. This time it was Tennessee’s J.P Prince who saved the day, blocking a desperation off-balance three by NPOY Evan Turner that could have tied the game at the buzzer. While this game wasn’t quite as spectacular as the Kansas State-Butler game last night, it certainly lived up to the expectations we would have of a Sweet 16 game as neither team was able to open up more than a seven-point lead and for most of the last 35 minutes of the game it was a one-possession difference. Thanks to a strong performance by Wayne Chism who had 22 points (18 in the second half) and 11 rebounds the Volunteers were able to overcome another phenomenal performance by Turner who finished with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Unfortunately for Turner, Thad Matta was unable to coax similar performances out of any of Turner’s teammates who were 3-16 from the field during the second half when Turner scored 21 of his 31 points. Perhaps it was the ridiculous minutes that Matta made his rotation play recently, but the Buckeyes just didn’t see to have the necessary spark. Without the necessary support, Turner was forced to try win the game in the final minutes when David Lighty hit consecutive baskets to give OSU a 70-68 lead. After Chism responded with four straight to give the Vols a 72-70 lead, Turner hit a three that put OSU up one and had everybody believing that maybe, just maybe, he could be enough to carry his team to Indianapolis. Those hopes were dashed when Brian Williams converted a tip-in with 32 seconds to go and Turner was unable to make a driving layup with the ensuing loose ball ending up in Tennessee’s hands. After Tennessee converted a pair of free throws, the stage was set for Turner to etch his name into Tournament lore, but after missing a good look with a little over five seconds left he chased down the ball only to have an off-balance shot blocked by Prince. Despite the disappointing finish, this year will go down as Turner’s year in the minds of everyone who watched him this season. Although Turner says he isn’t sure what he will do with regards to the NBA Draft, we suspect that he will be headed toward NBA millions very soon. Next up for the Volunteers (playing in their first Elite Eight in school history) will be Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. With the Vols on the verge of a Final Four trip less than three months after their season fell apart on New Year’s Day during the Tyler Smith fiasco, we have to ask the question that we asked almost a month ago: How is Bruce Pearl not mentioned as a legitimate National Coach of the Year candidate? Nobody has overcome more adversity than the Vol coach and yet he didn’t even finish in the top two in his own conference voting (behind Kevin Stallings and John Calipari).

MSU Just Squeezes the Life Out of Teams in March (AP)

Izzo Does It Again. #5 Michigan State 59, #9 Northern Iowa 52.  It’s starting to feel like Tom Izzo could take a group of circus animals, screw around with them for a few months and then have them all come together just in time to make a run to the Final Four.  With tonight’s win over Cinderella and Kansas-slayer Northern Iowa, Izzo’s team will return to the Elite Eight for the seventh time in his fifteen years at the schools (he’s 5-1 in this round).  It’s especially amazing considering just how banged up his Spartans are and how inconsistent they’ve been throughout this season.  But MSU did what they do, which is play inspired defense, make just enough plays on offense to put together a mini-run and squeeze the life out of the game in the final minutes to seal the victory.  Northern Iowa is just another victim on a long, long list of teams that have fallen as a result of this strategy.  As usual, the Spartans shut down the key players for UNI, with last weekend’s hero shooting a rough 2-9 from the field and contributing only nine points, Adam Koch struggling to get the ball in the right places and adding only 13 in 18 foul-plagued minutes, and Jordan Eglseder coming up with only nine himself.  The Panthers shot only 39% from the field, which is on par with what they were able to hit against Kansas last weekend, but they were unable to force as many turnovers against MSU and they were absolutely ice cold during the last quarter of the game (zero FGs in the last ten minutes of action).  Northern Iowa was undoubtedly one of the best stories of this year’s Tournament, and they have nothing to be ashamed of in losing a defensive grinder with the team that wrote the template.  Any of a number of other surviving teams in the Elite Eight could have been challenged by the Panther defense and style of play, but it was quite simply a bad matchup for them.  Even a battered and beat up Michigan State team isn’t going to allow another team to out-Izzo them, which is what would have had to happen for UNI to win this game tonight.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 19th, 2010

 
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST
  1. Kentucky                  18-0         (3-0)
  2. Vanderbilt                 14-3         (3-0)
  3. Tennessee                14-2        (2-0)
  4. South Carolina           11-6        (2-1)
  5. Florida                      12-5         (1-2)
  6. Georgia                      8-8         (0-3)
WEST
  1. Mississippi State     15-3          (3-0)
  2. Arkansas                  8-9          (1-1)
  3. Mississippi              13-4          (1-2)
  4. Alabama                 11-6          (1-2)
  5. LSU                        9-8           (0-3)
  6. Auburn                    9-9           (0-3)

The talk of the SEC being a vastly improved conference may have been a bit premature once we got into conference play.  I still think the SEC will have five sure-fire seeds in the NCAA Tournament (Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Mississippi) with Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama being bubble teams at this time.  Mississippi had two losses to ranked teams, but I still think they are tournament-worthy.

The Tennessee situation got a little more resolved this week as it was announced that Melvin Goins and Cameron Tatum will be rejoining the Vols but Brian Williams still remains on suspension indefinitely.  The trio were suspended because of a January 1st arrest on guns and drug charges.  Tyler Smith was dismissed from the team.

Speaking of the Vols, they have now solidified themselves inside top 10 as they find themselves as the #8 team in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Kentucky still holds onto the #2 spot in each of the polls this week — for now.  Mississippi is still hanging around in the polls at #22 in the AP Top 25 and #24 in the ESPN/USA Today and Mississippi State re-enters the AP at #23.  Vanderbilt is on the verge of entering both polls also.

Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe was named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in wins at Florida and at Auburn.  Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado named SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 15.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 blocks in wins over Arkansas and Georgia.

MUST-SEE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • 1/19 – Tennessee (14-2) @ Alabama (11-6) – 7 PM – ESPN
  • 1/20 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Mississippi (13-4) – 9PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/21 – Florida (12-5) @ Arkansas (8-9) – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 1/23 – Mississippi State (15-3) @ Alabama (11-6) – 12PM – CBS; Mississippi (13-4) @ LSU (9-8) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – Arkansas (8-9) @ Kentucky (18-0) – 4 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/23 – South Carolina (11-6) @ Florida (12-5) – 6 PM – ESPN
TEAM UPDATES (Rankings are AP Top 25, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST:
  • Kentucky (#2, #2) -  On Tuesday, Kentucky used a 17-4 run over the last 5:00 to put away the Florida Gators in Gainesville, 89-77.  This was the first win for Kentucky at Gainesville since 2004.  UK was led by Eric Bledsoe’s 25 points.  John Wall added 17 points and Patrick Patterson 15.  Three days later, Kentucky built an early 19 point lead on Auburn but the Tigers gave UK their best shot and chipped away to eventually tie the game at 60.  Kentucky pulled away over the last 6:00 or so to win their second straight road game, 72-67, and remain perfect on the season.  Kentucky was led by 16 points and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins and 13 points each from Wall and Bledsoe.
  • VanderbiltJeffery Taylor broke open a tie game with :06 left by hitting one of two free throws and Vanderbilt held off Alabama to win 65-64 at Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.  A.J. Ogilvy and Taylor scored 13 points to lead Vandy and freshman John Jenkins hit three of four 3-pointers to finish with 11 off the bench.  It was a battle of 2-0 SEC teams on Saturday as Vanderbilt traveled to South Carolina.  Ogilvy scored 18 of 22 points in the second half as Vanderbilt won their eighth straight game with an 89-79 victory over South Carolina.  Taylor led with 16 for the Commodores.
  • Tennessee – Starting center Wayne Chism scored 12 points, not to mention 12 rebounds and six steals as Tennessee (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) shook off a slow start to beat Auburn on Thursday, 81-55.  Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince both had 14 points for the Volunteers, while Scotty Hopson chipped in 11 and Kenny Hall added ten.  Chism played 41 minutes and scored 26 points, including six consecutive free throws in overtime, to bail Tennessee out as the Volunteers beat Mississippi 71-69 just two days later.  Prince added 13 points as the Vols won their sixth straight game.
  • South CarolinaDevan Downey scored 29 points and had seven rebounds to lead South Carolina to a 67-58 win over LSU on Wednesday.  The Gamecocks trailed 49-47 with about 9:00 remaining when they went on a 17-1 streak that sealed the game.  Downey was 6-12 on 3-pointers and Brandis Raley-Ross also put in 12 for the Gamecocks.  On Saturday, Downey had 35 points and 6 steals but that was not enough to prevent a home court 89-79 loss to Vanderbilt.  Raley-Ross and Lakeem Jackson also put in 11 points apiece.
  • Florida -  The Gators dropped to 0-2 conference play for the first time in the Billy Donovan era on Tuesday with their 89-77 loss to Kentucky.  Erving Walker nailed four 3-pointers and had 20 points, and Alex Tyus added 17.  The last time UF was 0-2 in conference play was 1996 — the year before Donovan arrived.  On Saturday, Kenny Boynton had 18 points as the Gators won a battle of winless SEC teams over LSU, 72-58.  Chandler Parsons had 11 points as he moved into the starting lineup and all five Gator starters scored in double figures.  On the downside, the Gator bench only managed four points in the win.
  • Georgia -  The Bulldogs gave the 23rd-ranked Ole Miss Rebels all they wanted on Wednesday night, but fell short in a 80-76 loss.  The Bulldogs, who were coming off an eight point loss at #2 Kentucky last Saturday, were in this game until the final seconds.  Trey Thompkins led the Bulldogs scoring with 21 points and Travis Leslie added 17 for Georgia.  Georgia then took another tough loss on Saturday as they fell 72-69 to Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs had leads of 41-30 and 64-51 but could not maintain.  Thompkins and Leslie led the way with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
WEST:
  • Mississippi State -  Jarvis Varnado  had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks for his second triple-double, and Mississippi State just held on to beat Arkansas 82-80 on Thursday night.  The Bulldogs opened an early 19-point lead, but had to repel a late rally by the Razorbacks who cut it to three with 32 seconds left.  Dee Bost had 20 to lead the Bulldogs, and Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart also scored in double digits.  Bost and Phil Turner each scored 15 points to lead Mississippi State to a 72-69 victory over Georgia on Saturday.  The Bulldogs had to overcome a pair of 10-point deficits in beating the Bulldogs.
  • Arkansas – On Thursday night the Razorbacks mounted a furious second half rally but fell just short at Starkville, losing 82-80 to Mississippi State.  The Hogs fought back from 19 down but could not complete the comeback.  Marshawn Powell and Courtney Fortson had 25 and 20 points, respectively, to help the Razorbacks fight back.  On Saturday the Razorbacks were feeling it, as three players posted double-doubles in a 71-59 win over Alabama. Powell had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Washington scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Razorbacks. Fortson  had 12 points and 10 assists, and Rotnei Clarke also scored 17.
  • MississippiEniel Polynice scored off an inbounds pass to himself with 11.3 seconds remaining on Wednesday night, and Mississippi (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) handed Georgia another tough loss, 80-76.  Polynice finished with 10 and Chris Warren added 12 to lead the Rebels.  Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham each scored 11 off the bench to aid the Rebel cause.  Then on Saturday Ole Miss led most of the second half but could not hold off the Volunteers in Knoxville losing in OT, 71-69.  Warren and Terrico White led the Rebels with 19 and 17 points, respectively, and Graham scored 16 off the bench.
  • Alabama – The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early 10 point lead and led most of the game on Wednesday evening, but could not hold on in a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to Vanderbilt.  Mikhail Torrance had 23 points on 9-13 shooting and Tony Mitchell added ten points off the bench for Alabama.  ‘Bama’s tough start in the SEC continued on Saturday with a loss to Arkansas, 71-59.  Torrance led the way with 15 points and JaMychal Green added 13 as the Tide lost their second straight.
  • LSU – The Tigers led most of the game against South Carolina but fell apart the last 9:00 as the Gamecocks stormed back for a 67-58 win.  LSU is not getting much production from any players not named Storm Warren (19 points), Bo Spencer (14) or Tasmin Mitchell (13).  Those three scored 47 of the Tiger’s 58 points.  The Tigers’ rough season got rougher as they were dumped by the Gators at Gainesville by a score of 72-58.  Mitchell was the only Tiger with more than 8 points as LSU’s season seems to be in freefall.
  • Auburn – Traveling to Knoxville on Thursday, the Tigers battled with the Tennessee Vols in the first half and trailed just 38-37 at the break, but Auburn could not keep up with the Vols in the second half and suffered a 81-55 loss.  DeWayne Reed had 19 points and Frankie Sullivan contributed 14 to lead the Tigers.  At home against Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, Auburn came back from a 19-point deficit and eventually tied UK at 60 late in the second half, but went cold from the field over the last few minutes as the Wildcats pulled away for a 72-67 win.  Auburn was led by Reed with 19 points and Frankie Sullivan’s 15.
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What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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Tyler Smith Dismissed From Tennessee

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2010

The first shoe dropped today in the Tennessee basketball players New Year’s Day fiasco, as star forward Tyler Smith was dismissed from the Tennessee basketball team in a statement released by Bruce Pearl:

We felt we had enough information at this time to dismiss Tyler Smith from the team.  I am deeply troubled and saddened. Playing basketball at the University of Tennessee is a privilege, and where conduct is displayed that is detrimental to the team and the university, this discipline is required. Tyler has accomplished a great deal and we are all disappointed his playing career at the University of Tennessee will end this way.

Disappointment, Thy Name is Tyler

The three other players involved in the incident — Melvin Goins, Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum — remain indefinitely suspended as #1 Kansas visits Knoxville this weekend.  The twitterati and message board chatter yesterday implied that this decision was coming, as allegedly Smith was found to be the owner of the two guns found in the rental car where the four players were riding. 

This is obviously a huge blow to the Tennessee team this year as well as to Bruce Pearl’s program in general.  Smith was generally viewed as a success story around the SEC, as the local kid had returned home from Iowa after his freshman year to be with his sick father and help Pearl rebuild the UT program.  He was all-SEC first team as a sophomore and junior, and helped lead UT to its second straight Sweet Sixteen in 2008 for the first time in program history.  Furthermore, the perception that Pearl only has loose control of his players is exacerbated by this situation, and it may ultimately impact his recruiting to Knoxville. 

Smith, to his credit, said in a statement that he’s only a dozen hours short of his degree and he intends on finishing it, but what on earth was he thinking here?  If he really feels such imminent danger on a daily basis that he needs to have not one, but two, weapons near him at all times, then it’s probably for the best that he’s no longer staining Tennessee athletics with whatever he’s involved in; but if he’s just trying to act hard by brandishing guns in a way that really isn’t necessary given his lifestyle and status as a star UT athlete, then he may want to give Gilbert Arenas a text to see how that’s working out for him these days. 

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky       15-0    
  2. Tennessee      10-2
  3. Florida       11-3
  4. Vanderbilt         11-3
  5. South Carolina       8-5
  6. Georgia         7-5

WEST

  1. Mississippi State      12-3
  2. Mississippi      11-2
  3. Alabama      10-4
  4. LSU        9-5
  5. Auburn         8-6
  6. Arkansas       7-7

NEWS & NOTES

  • The big story in the SEC this week was the arrest and indefinite suspension of four Tennessee basketball players — Tyler Smith, Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams.  The group was arrested on a myriad of drug and weapon charges.  Some of the charges were felonies, and given the recent problems with UT’s football program, it is hard to imagine any scenario in which the players may step back on the court this season.  It is a big loss for the Vols, as the players had accounted for 33 points a game.  Elsewhere, South Carolina dismissed forward Mike Holmes from the team for repeated rule violations.  Holmes is the second starter lost this season for the Gamecocks as Dominique Archie was also lost for the season due to injury. 
  • Kentucky continues to be the class of the SEC in the rankings, holding onto their #3 ranking in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Tennessee is #15 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top 25.  Mississippi remains the third ranked team at #14 in the AP poll and #16 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Florida is hovering just outside the top 25 and may re-emerge with another strong week or two. 
  • Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Player of the Week again after averaging 18.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in two Wildcat wins.  Cousins also won the Freshman of the Week award last week for his double-double performances against Drexel and Long Beach State.  This week, that honor goes to Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, who averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a pair of Commodore wins.  

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK

The parade of cupcakes ends later this week as SEC play officially gets underway.  What else really needs to be said?  As of right now, the SEC has seven teams with 10 wins already, and you have to consider each strong tournament teams right now.  Let’s see how these teams hold up as it goes within the conference from here on out.

  • 1/5 – #2 Texas (13-0) @ Arkansas (7-7) – 7:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/5 – #17 Georgia Tech (11-2) @ Georgia (7-5) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/6 – Charlotte (10-3) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Florida (11-3) @ Vanderbilt (11-3) – 12:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/9 – Mississippi State (12-3) @ #16 Mississippi (11-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Alabama (10-4) @ LSU (9-5) – 5:00 PM
  • 1/10 – #1 Kansas (13-0) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 4:30 PM – CBS

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)
 
EAST

  • Kentucky (#3, #3)John Wall set a UK record for assists with 16 as UK crushed the Hartford Hawks 104-61 on Tuesday night.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and 12 boards and Darius Miller scored a season high 16 points to key the  ’Cats win.  On Saturday, Kentucky endured a sluggish first half and then pulled away in the second half to defeat bitter in-state rival Louisville 71-62.  Cousins led the way with 18 points and 18 rebounds.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall both had 17 points.  Kentucky, at 15-0, is off to their best start in 40 years. 
  • Tennessee (#16, #15)Wayne Chism had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Tennessee dominated inside for a 66-59 victory over Memphis on New Year’s Eve.  JP Prince and Tyler Smith had 12 and 11 to lead the Vols in the rivalry game.
  • Florida—Florida breezed to a 43-13 halftime lead against Presbyterian and then coasted for a 79-38 win.  The Gators outrebounded the Blue Hose, yes, the Blue Hose, by a 48-24 margin.  Chandler Parsons led the way with 21 points off the bench and Alex Tyus had 16 points and 13 boards while Erik Murphy had a double-double (16 pts, 11 boards) off the bench.  Chandler Parsons hit a dramatic 75-foot shot as time expired in OT to give the Gators a 62-61 win over NC State.  The three-pointer was Parson’s only FG of the game.  Vernon Macklin had 14 points and Erving Walker 13 to lead the Gators in scoring. 
  • Vanderbilt—Freshman reserve John Jenkins scored 15 points to lead Vanderbilt to an 86-48 victory over Manhattan.  Eleven players scored for the Commodores, the third straight game that Vanderbilt had at least 10 players score.  AJ Ogilvy also came off the bench to add 12 points.  John Jenkins scored a career-high 20 points to lead Vanderbilt in an 82-46 rout of Southern Mississippi.  The freshman guard was 6-of-6 from 3-point range and the Commodores shot a season-high 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from beyond the arc. Jeffery Taylor had 14 points off the bench and Ogilvy had 10 points in his return to the starting lineup as Vandy blasted Middle Tennessee 73-53.  Vanderbilt proves to be one of the SEC’s deeper teams as five players scored in double figures. 
  • South Carolina—The Gamecocks battled back from a 21-point halftime deficit, but it was not enough as they fell short to the Boston College Eagles 85-76.  Devan Downey had 29 points and Brandis Raley-Ross 13, but SC fell to 8-4 on the season.  Baylor made a clean sweep of its two games in the SEC, this time stopping the Gamecocks 85-74.  Downey had 20 points and Lakeem Jackson 19 but it was not enough to stop the Gamecocks’ second loss of the week.   
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulldogs dusted the Pepperdine Waves 64-47.  Travis Leslie and Ricky McPhee also scored in double digits for the Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs were no match for the Missouri Tigers on Saturday as they were routed 89-61.  Leslie was the only Bulldog in double digits with 18 points as the Bulldogs had only 6 assists against 23 turnovers.

WEST

  • Mississippi (#14, #16)—Ole Miss set a school record for three-pointers with 14 as they beat Jackson State 90-75.  Terrico White hit 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and scored 29 points to lead the Rebels.  Zach Graham added 14 points. 
  • Mississippi State—Jarvis Varnado scored a season-high 23 points and tied his career-best 17 rebounds as Mississippi State won its ninth straight with a 77-68 victory over San Diego on New Year’s Eve.  The Bulldogs used their superior inside game to take control of the game late in the first half and maintained its lead throughout the game.  Kodi Augustus added 17 points.  MSU also suffered a tough loss at the hand of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 55-52.  Jarvis Varnado had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs and Dee Bost added 13 off the bench. 
  • AlabamaJaMychal Green scored 19 points and had eight rebounds to lead Alabama to a 77-65 victory over Tennessee State.  Senario Hillman added 15 points and six assists for the Crimson Tide, who have won three of their past four games.  Mikhail Torrance scored 19 points to lead Alabama over Toledo 67-50 on Monday night for their third straight win. Justin Knox added 14 points and Green had 12 for the Crimson Tide who have put together a three-game winning streak for the third time this season.
  • LSU—LSU is starting to look like a team that will not be able to compete in the SEC as they got thumped by Xavier 89-65.  LSU has gotten blown out of a couple of matchups against NCAA-level teams so far this season.  Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Storm Warren accounted for 49 of the Tigers 65 points.  The Tigers also blew a 12-point second half lead in the second half and went down to Utah, 61-59.  Warren (21 points) and Mitchell (19 points) accounted for over two-thirds of the Tiger’s points.  LSU snapped their three game losing streak with a 83-60 romp over McNeese State.  Mitchell and Spencer had 19 and 18 points, respectively, to lead the Tigers. 
  • AuburnLucas Hargrove had 20 points and 13 rebounds as Auburn overcame a sluggish start to beat Charleston Southern 77-62 on Tuesday night.  The Tigers fell behind 22-15, but turned up the pressure and forced 22 turnovers.  Frankie Sullivan added 10 points and six steals for Auburn.  Brendon Knox scored 18 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double and Auburn defeated Georgia Southern 95-75.  The Tigers shot a season-high 54.2 percent from three-point range (13 of 24), including a 4-5 effort by Sullivan who finished with 15 points.
  • Arkansas—The Razorbacks had a chance to get a good statement win but were blown out at home by Baylor, 70-47.  Jemal Farmer, Rotnei Clark and Marshawn Powell were the only Razorbacks to show up as they scored 38 of Arkansas’s 47 points.  Arkansas had a chance to redeem themselves against #24 UAB but suffered a heartbreaking 73-72 loss as UAB scored at the buzzer.  The Hogs got good games from Powell (22), Washington (18), and Clark (16) but those three accounted for 56 of Arkansas’ 72 points. 
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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Morning Five: 01.05.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

  1. Joe Dumars’ son, 6’5 freshman forward Jordan (is that a joke?), has already left the South Florida program and enrolled at Michigan for the remainder of his career.  He’s only played 27 minutes so far this season, scoring all six of his points in a single game against Kent State.
  2. Oklahoma State’s Marshall Moses was suspended for one game almost immediately after his arrest for possession of marijuana and driving on a suspended license.  Averaging 11/10 on the season, he will miss tonight’s game against Coppin State.
  3. Tennessee update from the AD himself:  “we start at dismissal and work our way backwards.”  Sounds about right.  Let’s hope he means it.
  4. USC’s Kevin O’Neill said that delivering the news to his seniors that they would not have a chance to play in the postseason was much harder than ever getting fired (and he would know!).
  5. Here’s Seth Davis‘ annual Stock Report.  This is always a fun read, and his UNC “sell” looks particularly prescient after last night’s loss to Charleston, but there will always be a few quibbles on something like this.  We will not, for example, be buying anything Florida is selling, and we are definitely unloading what little Louisville stock we still have lying around, but overall, pretty good assessment.
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Tennessee Players Celebrate the New Year By Destroying Their Team

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

The hits keep on coming for the University of Tennessee athletic department.  Just seven weeks after three Vol football players were arrested for attempted armed robbery of a local convenience store, four hoopsters were arrested this morning (at 11:30 am) during a traffic stop where a baggy of marijuana and two guns were found in a rental car Cameron Tatum was driving.  From the police report:

According to the incident report, one KPD officer immediately requested backup and a K-9 officer after approaching the vehicle, driven by Tatum, and smelling a “strong odor of marijuana.”  The four players then were removed from the vehicle so it could be searched, and officers found two handguns, drugs and an open container of alcohol. One weapon was discovered under each of the front seats, and the one discovered under Smith’s passenger seat had an altered serial number, the report said. That led to felony charges at first, but all charges were misdemeanors later in the evening, according to multiple sources.

Smith, Tatum, Williams, Goins

These weren’t just any average players, either.  The arrested players were forward Tyler Smith, UT’s best all-around player, along with fellow starting forward Tatum, key reserve guard Melvin Goins and center Brian Williams — the four represent 41% of the team’s point production, 47% of the rebounds, 50% of the assists and 40% of the team’s minutes.In other words, this is a HUGE problem for Bruce Pearl.  As of Friday night, Pearl has indefinitely suspended all four players and will gather more details before making a decision as to their futures with the program.

Of particular concern are the guns found under the seats.  None of the four has taken credit for the ownership of these yet, and with good reason, as those weapons could be linked to other crimes.  But, it creates an interesting prisoner’s dilemma situation, where if any player realistically wants to have a chance to continue his career at UT, he should come clean about another player’s ownership of the guns to save himself; otherwise, all four players could be charged with possession of the firearms.  Will the code of the street/team take precedence over one’s self-interest and individual survival?  You would have to believe that one or more will finger the others in order to absolve themselves of responsibility for the whole mess.  But we ask again – WHY do players need to have guns lying around (see: Agent Zero and Javaris Crittenton)?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

It will be very interesting to see how this ultimately shakes out, but things are not looking very good at all in Knoxville, a mere 24 hours after UT took it to Memphis in a huge win over their rival in the FedEx Forum, and only a few days prior to big games at home against visiting Charlotte and #1 Kansas.  It appeared that Bruce Pearl’s team might have been turning the corner after some early struggles, but the only corner that may be in the future for much of his team at this point is looking more like something out of “The Wire” rather than at Thompson-Boling Arena.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 29th, 2009

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Standings:

EAST

  1. Kentucky 13-0
  2. Tennessee 9-2
  3. Florida 9-3
  4. South Carolina 8-3
  5. Vanderbilt 8-3
  6. Georgia 6-4

WEST

  1. Mississippi State 11-2
  2. Mississippi 10-2
  3. LSU 8-3
  4. Alabama 8-4
  5. Arkansas 7-5
  6. Auburn 6-6

Kentucky remains the highest rated SEC team as they held on to the 3rd spot in both the AP Top 25 poll and the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Tennessee has locked down the #14 spot in both polls while Mississippi comes in at the 16th spot in the AP Top 25, and the ESPN/USA Today voters have the Rebels at 21st.   Florida has fallen out of the Top 25 in both polls but has votes in both polls still.  Mississippi State is getting votes in the AP.

Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Freshman of the Week.  This was the first week he’s won the honor and he averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in UK wins over Drexel and Long Beach State.  Alabama’s JaMychal Green was named the SEC Player of the Week.  He had 27 pts, 13 rebs, 3 block and 1 steal in a victory over Mercer last week.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:

Finally!   College basketball is back in the SEC after a couple of weeks of finals (and the holidays) and it is back with a vengeance with two bitter in-state rivalries for both Kentucky and Tennessee.  Aside from that, Baylor does a curious double dip in the SEC and most of the good action is actually televised this week:

  • 12/29 – LSU (8-3) @ Xavier (7-4) – 7 PM – ESPN-U
  • 12/30 – Baylor (9-1) @ Arkansas (7-5) – 9PM – ESPN2
  • 12/30 – South Carolina (8-3) @ Boston College (8-4) -9PM – ESPN-U
  • 12/31 – Tennessee (9-2) @ Memphis (8-2) – 4:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/2 – UAB (11-1) @ Arkansas (7-5) – 12:00 PM
  • 1/2 – Baylor (9-1) @ South Carolina (8-3) – 12:00 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/2 – Southern Mississippi (8-3) @ Vanderbilt (8-3) – 3:00 PM- ESPN 360
  • 1/2 – Louisville (9-3) @ Kentucky (13-0) – 3:30PM – CBS
  • 1/2 – Georgia (6-4) @ Missouri (9-3) – 4:00 PM – ESPN 360
  • 1/3 – Florida (9-3) @ NC State (8-3) – 3:00 PM – FSN
  • 1/4 – Mississippi State (10-2) @ Western Kentucky (6-4) – 8 PM

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST

Kentucky (#3, #3) – Not even a 1PM start time on the Wednesday before Christmas vacation could slow UK from a 13-0 start.  After a sluggish first half, UK pulled away from the Long Beach State 49ers for a 86-73 win at Rupp Arena on Wednesday.  John Wall led the Cats with 19 points and DeMarcus Cousins played just 13 minutes but had 15 points and 10 boards.

Tennessee (#14, #14) – On the 23rd, the Volunteers jumped out to a 22-0 lead over North Carolina A&T and never relented, winning 99-78.  Tyler Smith and Kenny Hall had 16 points to lead the Vols while freshman walk-on guard Skylar McBee scored 12 points in 17 minutes.

Florida – The Gators continued their freefall after an 8-0 start.  This time, it was the South Alabama Jaguars putting in a tipped shot with 1.8 seconds left to nip the Gators, 67-66.  The Gators hit just 3-22 three-point attempts and were led by Alex Tyus, who poured in 16 points.  Kenny Boynton added 14 as the Gators lost at home in the month of December for the first time in five years.  Tyus had 20 points and nine rebounds, Boynton added 19 points and Florida snapped a three-game losing streak in a 76-60 victory over American University back on Monday night.  Vernon Macklin added a career high 18 points in that one.

South Carolina – No game last week.

Vanderbilt – No game last week.

GeorgiaTrey Thompkins scored a career-high 35 points and claimed 15 rebounds, leading Georgia to a 77-60 victory over Florida Atlantic on Wednesday night.  Dustin Ware was the only other Bulldog in double digits with 12 points.

WEST

Mississippi StateRavern Johnson scored 20 points and Barry Stewart added 14 and Mississippi State beat Centenary 88-51 on Tuesday night.  The Bulldogs went 14-27 from beyond the three-point line and won their seventh straight game.  Johnson continued his torrid play with 22 points, including 5 3-pointers, as the Bulldogs crushed the Mississippi Valley State Delta Demons 73-45 last night.  Phil Turner added 12 for the Bulldogs.

Mississippi (#16, #21) – Ole Miss hung with the #6 West Virginia Mountaineers for a half, but then WVU got hot from 3-point range and dumped the Rebels, 76-66.  Zach Graham had 14 points off the bench in just 19 minutes to lead the Rebels and Murphy Holloway and Eniel Polynice each had 13.

Alabama – Sophomore forward JaMychal Green scored a career-high 27 points and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the Alabama to a 90-71 win over Mercer on Wednesday night.  The Crimson Tide opened the game with a 22-2 run, holding the Bears (4-7) scoreless for the first 6:50.  Mikhail Torrance and Senario Hillman each had 14.

LSUBo Spencer missed a contested 3-pointer in the closing seconds, and Washington State held on to defeat LSU 72-70 in overtime in the Cougar Hardwood Classic.  Spencer scored 23 to lead LSU and Tasmin Mitchell added 18 points and 14 boards.

Auburn – The Tigers evened their record at 6-6 with a 94-78 victory over the Alabama State Hornets.   Brendon Knox scored 18 points on 7-9 shooting in just 25 minutes off the bench to lead the Tigers while DeWayne Reed had 15 points.

ArkansasRotnei Clarke drained a three-pointer with 18 seconds left in overtime and then hit two free throws to seal Arkansas’ 66-62 victory over previously undefeated Missouri State on Tuesday night.  The win was the Hogs’ fifth straight victory.  Clarke finished with 19 points and Marshawn Powell added 17.

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