SEC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on October 24th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. The hype is so great around Kentucky that it seems newsworthy when someone doesn’t pick the Wildcats to win the SEC. Five voters in the preseason SEC media poll picked Florida to win the league, and one of them was former Wildcats assistant coach Joe Dean Jr. Dean likes Florida’s veteran edge, and anticipates two great games between the teams this season. Kentucky cruised to the SEC regular season crown in 2011-12 with a six-game lead, and Florida won last season with a two-game margin that was never really in doubt. Having both programs at the level they are expected to be at this season should make for a tighter race. This isn’t to say Tennessee, LSU or another school won’t be in contention too. Dean also had an interesting take on the potential risk of John Calipari adding Kentucky high school stars Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis to the class: “When I was there, there was a train of thought with Kentucky high school players that if you were going to bring them to Kentucky, they had to be capable of starting at Kentucky at some point in their career. If they were not, then the fan base in Maysville, Paducah, Danville, Pikeville would be upset because they think those kids are the greatest thing in the world.”
  2. Several national college basketball voices have highlighted the drastic difference in penalties handed out to Frank Haith and Bruce Pearl for what appears to be similar misconduct (lying to NCAA investigators). No one will likely ever know what happened in those respective meetings with the NCAA, and it’s possible Haith’s behavior wasn’t as comparatively bad as Pearl’s. Still, there’s no denying that Haith’s five-game suspension looks golden compared to Pearl’s multi-year show-cause penalty and subsequent absence from the sport. But Haith might not be totally free and clear of this scandal once he returns to the Tigers’ bench. His record at Missouri is excellent but he has yet to win an NCAA tournament game, and the lingering stigma of a #15 seed (Norfolk State) over a #2 seed is hard to escape. Haith is by no means on the hot seat, but if his teams continue to disappoint in postseason play, the Miami scandal could resurface as ammunition for boosters and fans that want him gone.
  3. Jarnell Stokes is taking to heart the feedback he received from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee after last season. “It wasn’t anything like you’re too short to play in the NBA or you just don’t have skills,” Stokes said. “They were basically saying you have to be able to run the floor better and find different ways to score, be able to show you can shoot the ball and improve my overall skills.” DraftExpress has Stokes as a late first round pick in its current 2014 mock draft. Like all coaches who have pro prospects on their teams, Cuonzo Martin faces the difficult situation of allowing his players to showcase the skills and development NBA scouts want to see while keeping with the overall team scheme. This is a fine line coaches must deal with since the statement “I can help get you to the next level” is undoubtedly a common refrain on recruiting visits.
  4. Julian Terrell will return to Vanderbilt to serve as the director of video operations on Kevin Stallings’ staff. Terrell played at Vanderbilt from 2002-06 and was a member of the Commodores’ 2004 Sweet Sixteen team. Since then he’s made numerous stops playing abroad. Kentucky video coordinator Tim Asher said that five SEC schools still don’t have positions dedicated to video operations, instead relegating these duties to graduate assistants. Given its importance to scouting, it seems almost irresponsible to not have a full-time staff member doing this type of work nowadays. One would think teams would want every possible advantage, and video wouldn’t seem to be the philosophical jump advanced metrics is for some coaches. However, this could also represent a budget issue for some schools.
  5. Kentucky and UTEP are set to play at Maryland in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 NCAA championship game between the two schools (UTEP was Texas Western at the time). The 1966 game, also the focus of the 2006 movie Glory Road, was historically significant because Texas Western started five African-American players versus the Wildcats, representing the first all-black team to play in a championship game. If it all works out, the game may even take place on Martin Luther King Day three seasons from now. Kudos to both schools for putting this game together; it’s a well-deserved homage to a college basketball game that transcended the sport. Pat Riley (a Kentucky forward in 1966) is the most famous person to have played in that game, so it’ll be interesting to see if he gets involved.
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Welcome to the Show: Identifying the Freshmen Primed to Make an Impact in the SEC “East”

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on October 23rd, 2013

Fall isn’t just for football in the Southeastern Conference – it also means the start of hardwood action for some of college basketball’s most powerful programs in the South. The SEC suffered through a rough patch in 2012-13. The league sent only three teams to the NCAA Tournament, and one of those – Ole Miss – happened to be a bubble team that blasted its way into the field thanks to a Marshall Henderson-led victory in the conference tournament. This year will be different. A talented group of recruits is ready to help guide the league back to national prominence. Eleven of the nation’s top 25 high school seniors chose conference schools last spring, and they’ll take the court looking to make an impact for their teams as non-conference play begins in November. Today, we’ll look at those difference-making newcomers, starting with the teams of the SEC “East.” We’ll run through each program, along with the one true freshman who is most likely to have a significant impact for his team in 2013-14.

John Calipari once again has plenty of talent to work with. (Getty)

John Calipari once again has plenty of talent to work with. (Getty)

  • KentuckyAndrew Harrison. With six five-star recruits to choose from, Harrison’s spot at the top of the list for Kentucky is a tenuous one. However, the return of players like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, along with John Calipari’s history of developing high-level guards, gives Harrison the edge for now. The Texan will step into Coach Cal’s long line of top-flight point guards with the Wildcats this season, joining luminaries such as Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and Eric Bledsoe. The departure of guards Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow, and Julius Mays should open up plenty of room in the UK backcourt for the nation’s top point guard recruit. Harrison has the size and athleticism to defend both guard positions and the basketball IQ to command an offense at the next level. He was especially proficient at running the fast break in high school, and he’ll look to push the tempo for the Cats this winter. He’ll have to improve his shooting to become a complete player, but he should have a successful freshman year with Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Tournament’s Semi-Permanent Move to Nashville Good For Some Schools

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2013

According to reports from sources within the SEC, the league will announce today that it plans on making Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena the semi-permanent home of the SEC men’s basketball tournament. Why is it semi-permanent? Because the conference has already awarded several upcoming years to Atlanta (2014, 2020), Saint Louis (2017) and Tampa (2018), to go along with previously-established plans for Nashville to host in 2015, 2016 and 2019. What today’s announcement changes is that the Music City will also host the league’s marquee basketball event for a six-year run from 2021-26, meaning that nine of the next 13 SEC Tournaments will take place on the banks of the Cumberland River. Semi-permanent, indeed.

Ole Miss Won Its 2013 Title In Front of a Sparse Crowd

Ole Miss Won Its 2013 Title In Front of a Sparse Crowd

SEC commissioner Mike Slive mentioned last spring that the conference was exploring the notion of holding the SEC Tournament at a “primary” location in much the same way that Atlanta hosts the annual SEC Championship in football, and Hoover, Alabama, hosts baseball’s version of the SEC Tournament. Athletic directors and league officials at the time pointed to the sustained success of those events as the driver toward consolidation of the event in a single, primary venue, but the league’s dirty little basketball secret remained unspoken among public officials. Unlike SEC football, whose cultural hegemony vacuums up year-round fan and media attention in the deep South from College Station eastward all the way to Columbia, SEC basketball outside of a few select schools remains mostly an afterthought. Nashville as the primary SEC Tourney site makes sense not only because the city really embraces the event and provides a superb downtown “fun zone” that allows fans a great weekend experience, but also because it’s a relatively easy driving trip for the few schools’ fans that will show up because they at least marginally care about basketball (we’re talking about Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and sometimes Tennessee and Arkansas here).

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Who’s Got Next? Kameron Chatman Heads to Ann Arbor, UNLV and Vanderbilt Rising Fast…

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2013

whos-got-next

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Chatman Leaving the West Coast for Ann Arbor

On October 2, four-star small forward Kameron Chatman committed to the Michigan Wolverines. At 6’7”, 195 pounds, Chatman is currently ranked as the 8th-best small forward and 23rd overall. He chose Michigan over three Pac-12 schools in Arizona, Oregon, and USC. Chatman is one of the more intriguing prospects in the class of 2014, which John Beilein and the Michigan coaching staff realized early on. The Michigan recruitment first began in the summer of 2012 with a phone conversation between Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer and Chatman’s father, Canaan. Subsequent to the phone conversation Michigan watched Chatman play in Vegas and then made him a top priority over the next year.

Chatman Is a Great National Get For Michigan

Chatman Is a Great National Get For Michigan

In 2012, the Portland native made his mark playing a year above his age group on the 17U Nike EYBL circuit with Inner City Portland Elite (ICP). He teamed up with current Pac-12 freshman Roshcon Prince (USC) and Jordan Bell (Oregon) and averaged 11.7 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 44% from the field. After the AAU season ended, Chatman decided to follow his ICP coach, Sharrief Metoyer, to California high school powerhouse Long Beach Poly. Unfortunately for Chatman, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) suspended him for the year based on this transfer. Despite the suspension, Chatman still practiced with the team and went up against Prince and Bell on a daily basis. After the one year suspension, Chatman decided to head home to Portland and will attend Columbia Christian School for his senior season.

Over the spring and summer, Chatman shook off his basketball rust and averaged 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for ICP under the watchful eye of Beilein and various Pac-12 coaches. At the end of his summer, Chatman cut his list down to the four schools mentioned above and took visits to all of them. His first visit came on September 6 to Michigan and then he traveled to Oregon, USC, and Arizona in the following weeks. Despite having the earliest visit, Michigan and Beilein impressed the Chatman family enough while providing Kameron with the chance to compete in the hyper-competitive Big Ten.

Overall, Chatman is a tall and talented multi-dimensional wing that oozes potential. He is still coming into his frame with a long 6’9.5” wing span. He is a strong rebounder as shown by his per-game averages despite mostly playing on the perimeter and can do a little bit of everything on the court. This commitment gives Michigan a player who can man different roles on the court and will clearly pay dividends for the Wolverines in the future.

Okonoboh Heads West

Dave Rice already had five-star forward Dwayne Morgan making the trek from the east coast out to Las Vegas. Now he also has Goodluck Okonoboh, a four-star center coming from Boston to the desert. Okonoboh is currently the 5th-ranked center in the class of 2014 and 37th overall. This past Thursday night, Okonoboh made his decision to attend UNLV live on ESPNU. The other two finalists for the center included Big Ten powers Ohio State and Indiana. Okonoboh noted, when asked why he decided on UNLV, “the relationship with Coach Rice. We have a great relationship on and off the court. They had the best blueprint for me.”

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Morning Five: 07.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 30th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday for Vanderbilt might have been as bad of a day as a program could have without a NCAA investigation. The big news from the program was that Kedren Johnson, its leading scorer last season, was suspended for the upcoming academic year. Johnson averaged 13.5 points, 3.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds leading a Commodore team that managed to go 16-17 last season despite losing its top three players from the previous season. The wording on Johnson’s apology (“It was a violation of the good conduct expected of all Vanderbilt students. I take full responsibility and now must begin working to regain the trust and respect of my school, the student body, our fans and especially my coaches and friends on the team.”) and the fact that this has not been reported in the mainstream media would argue against it being a serious legal matter and more likely something academic (perhaps like what Harvard experienced last season). If Johnson is able to atone for whatever he did, he should still have two more productive seasons remaining at Vanderbilt.
  2. One player who will apparently not be returning to Nashville is Kevin Bright, who has opted to pursue a pro basketball career in Germany after averaging 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a freshman. Normally we would consider such a move premature, but Bright was not your typical freshman. For one thing he is already 21 years old, but perhaps more interestingly he grew up in Germany and also played in a German youth program before coming over to Vanderbilt. Of course, that may not sit well with Vanderbilt’s staff as Kevin Stallings was not told by Bright of his decision to leave the school and to play internationally.
  3. Yesterday EA Sports filed a motion in federal court asking the judge to allow the company to respond to the plaintiff’s latest complaint in the notable Ed O’Bannon player likeness case. Using a recent Supreme Court decision as its authority (Comcast v. Behrend, decided in March 2013), attorneys for EA argued that the company has the right to “test the legal sufficiency of the complaint before a class is certified.” Since the court has not yet come to a decision on the issue of certifying the case as a class action (and correspondingly exposing the NCAA, EA and others to billions of dollars in liability), EA wants to have an opportunity to get out of the cross-hairs before that decision is made. According to the article, a sports law expert named Michael McCann believes that the judge will allow EA to make its response. Will it ultimately matter? Mostly this is a case of CYA, but given the huge potential numbers surrounding this case, it makes sense that EA Sports would give it a try.
  4. We would really like to be more excited about the announcement that Dereck Whittenburg is coming back to North Carolina State as an assistant coach, but it is kind of hard to do since this will be the third time he is doing so. Whittenburg is best known for the most famous air ball in basketball history also has served as an assistant at George Mason and Long Beach State before serving as a head coach at Wagner and Fordham. Although his head coaching career was less than distinguished he did manage to lead Wagner to the 2003 NCAA Tournament. It appears that Whittenburg’s primary role will be as director of player development at the school so we are not sure what his intentions are in terms of getting back into full-time coaching.
  5. It seems like show-cause penalties are not quite the death sentence they previously were as former Bruce Pearl assistant Jason Shay is on the verge of becoming the second of that staff to get a Division I job after receiving a show-cause. Shay has reportedly accepted a position at North Dakota. In Shay’s case like that of Steve Forbes (the first Pearl assistant to be hired again at the Division I level) the show-cause was only one year so he sat out an extra year before coming back to Division I. Pearl still has one more year left on his show-cause and although he is certainly a much bigger name than either of these two his hiring would attract much more scrutiny although we would not be shocked to see a desperate program go after him.
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Morning Five: 05.22.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 22nd, 2013

morning5

  1. Perhaps feeling green with envy that Louisville’s Rick Pitino (championship, tattoo, Derby) and Kentucky’s John Calipari (recruiting, NCAA) were receiving all the offseason college basketball attention, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski got himself back into the conversation this week with his comment to SI.com‘s Pete Thamel that he is considering a return to coach USA Basketball’s men’s national team again in 2014 (Worlds) and 2016 (Olympics). We’re kidding about the jealousy bit — sorta — but coaches gotta coach, and everyone has trouble stepping away from doing the thing they love most. Mike DeCourcy writes that the numerous Duke haters who simply cannot endure anything associated with the four-time national championship head coach miss the point — Coach K (and certainly Jerry Colangelo) made the concept of preparing and competing for Team USA cool again. Prior to their involvement, players showed up and expected to win simply because, well, because they thought they could. Miserable performances in the 2002 Worlds (sixth) and 2004 Olympics (third) led to the system we now have in place, and for that Krzyzewski should absolutely be lauded and celebrated by every American who cares about USA basketball.
  2. It certainly doesn’t have the ring or cachet of its predecessor at the Garden, but the inaugural AAC Tournament is beginning to look a lot like the old Conference USA Tournament (and the old Great Midwest Tournament; and the old Metro Tournament) in that it may be headed to Memphis. Don’t get us wrong, the city of Memphis has a tremendous local fan base that loves college basketball and will fill the FedEx Forum with their beloved Tigers now in the new league. But can we liven this thing up a little bit in its first go-round — how about slotting in the top four seeds into the conference semifinals and leaving it at that? A semifinal round of Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut next March wouldn’t be awful, and we’ll even allow you to throw in Temple in place of Cincy if the Bearcats falter. Deal?
  3. We’re a big believer in second chances, especially when someone who has done wrong can show that they’ve learned from their previous mistakes. Still, we believe there should be limitations to those reprisals, and we’re having a little trouble swallowing the Zay Jackson story at Murray State. You remember Jackson — he was the Racer guard who rather infamously ran over a man with his car in a Walmart parking lot last September — according to Andy Katz’s report earlier this week, after serving 49 days in jail for hit-and-run, MSU’s athletic department has decided to allow him back on the team. The school apparently (?) did not have a protocol to deal with situations like these, but how about a protocol of redemption and common sense? Again, we support the concept of a second chance. The young man served his time and by all indications hasn’t caused any problems since his release. But wouldn’t this be a situation where both parties would be better served by shaking hands with each other and walking away? Wouldn’t Jackson want to have a fresh start at another school? Does Steve Prohm really want to endure the endless mocking and jeering his team will suffer as a result of this decision? At a minimum, how about ensuring that Jackson can keep his nose clean for an entire year (just school and practice) before allowing him the privilege of playing college basketball again? Poor form here, we’re afraid.
  4. Depending on whom you ask, the voluminous and growing number of transfers is destroying the integrity of the collegiate game or finally shifting the balance of power back to the producers of all that money flowing to the schools — the players. But the coaches still have several dirty tricks up their sleeve when needed, and the power to “block” transfers from alighting to certain schools is one of the more nefarious ones. Sometimes the notion derives from a misguided but legitimate attempt to protect “trade secrets,” but more often it just seems that the coaches are vindictively limiting the players simply because they can. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings’ blockage of freshman Sheldon Jeter from transferring closer to his hometown school of Pittsburgh has the look and feel of exactly that. Pitt and Vandy are not in the same league, nor are they scheduled to play next season; in fact, they haven’t played in over two decades. So what’s the deal here? Why on earth would Vanderbilt care if a mediocre freshman wanted to play closer to home for the rest of his career — what possible reason could Stallings have other than “because he can.” Remember, college athletics is about the student-athletes.
  5. Remember the San Diego/Brandon Johnson bribery incident a couple of years ago? That’s OK, nobody else does either. For something that supposedly destroys the very integrity of a sport by its very existence, it sure seems as if incidents like these are quickly reported and summarily swept right on under the rug so as to not get in the way of moving right along. As this FBI narrative reports, Johnson was convicted of point shaving during four games in the 2009-10 season, and he was ultimately outed when the criminal enterprise that had recruited him was investigated for drug trafficking. The FBI report states that “tampering with sports events strikes at the integrity of the games; this kind of betrayal is not merely disappointing—it is criminal and worthy of prosecution,” but the greater public has largely not seemed to care all that much. They still attend and watch games, fill out brackets, and enjoy all the other accessories of being a college sports fan. Maybe we’re all so ambivalent to scandal that we’ve become accustomed to it — as a sort of new normalcy. Oh hey, IRS. How’s it going?
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SEC Grades: Recapping the SEC “East” Season That Was

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on April 22nd, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold. You can find him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

The 2012-13 NCAA basketball slate is firmly in our rear view, and with that comes some valuable perspective. The SEC struggled through one of its worst overall seasons in recent memory, but ultimately the year will be remembered more for Marshall Henderson’s theatrics and another Elite Eight appearance for Billy Donovan than it will be for Mississippi State’s rebuilding or Vanderbilt’s 50-33 loss to Marist. The league may have sputtered in its first season with Texas A&M and Missouri on board, but a slew of promising performances across the south suggests that 2013-14 will bring a return to high-major basketball for the conference.

The SEC Turned Out to be Open to Others This Year

The SEC Turned Out to be Open to Others This Year

With that in mind, let’s look back at how each team in the “East” finished out its season, and what hope may lie ahead for these seven programs. Several of the East’s programs have young cores that will return with valuable experience in 2013-14, and at least five of the division’s teams look like they’ll improve on lackluster seasons. For reference, our mid-season look at the East can be found here.

Vanderbilt

  • Season Summary: The Commodores got what they needed in 2013 – growth – even if it took a long and winding road to get there. Early in the season, Kevin Stallings’ team had been held to just 33 points on two separate occasions and was getting little from veterans Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller. Only Kedren Johnson displayed the proficiency to carry this team through stretches, and the bulk of his sophomore season was played under the stress of a nagging shoulder injury. In the season’s final weeks, things began to fall into place. Odom proved that he could be a key player on a winning team, while Fuller developed into a change-of-pace scorer off the bench. Freshmen Kevin Bright and Sheldon Jeter put together solid performances that showed that Stallings’ 2012 recruiting class may have been overlooked. In all, the ‘Dores finished light years from where they started, and that was the best fans in Nashville could have hoped for after losing their top six players from 2012.
  • Grade: C
  • Reason to be hopeful in 2013-14: Vanderbilt doesn’t lose anyone from its 16-17 squad, and will add four-star big man Damian Jones and former Tulsa guard Eric McClellan to the roster this fall. The Commodores are primed for a return to postseason play.

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SEC M5: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on April 4th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Freshman forward Alex Poythress announced his decision to return for his sophomore year at Kentucky on Tuesday. Poythress’ decision comes on the heels of freshman Willie Cauley-Stein and sophomore Kyle Wiltjer announcing their decisions to return to Lexington as well. Poythress isn’t returning just to improve his NBA Draft stock, but says that the team has unfinished business. ”This year didn’t end like we wanted it to,” Poythress said. ”I want to come back and do what we said we wanted to do and that’s win a national title. I want to develop more as a player and the competition coming in next year should help me do that.” Poythress, Cauley-Stein, and Wiltjer add a “veteran” presence for a UK team loaded in talent, similar to the dynamic created by Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb in the national championship year of 2011-12.
  2. Poythress admits he wasn’t prepared for the grind in college basketball, and says he is ready to put the work in to becoming a better player. “It starts in the weight room. We are going to be in there every day in the offseason,” he said. “We have to work on getting stronger and getting our bodies better. We did a great job last summer, but we have to pick it up and go harder. We can’t let this happen again. We have to focus on having a great season next year and if we feel like giving up (in the weight room) we just have to think about what happened this season and push through.” Wildcats coach John Calipari needed a leader in the locker room this season, and perhaps with another year of growth and maturity, Poythress can be that leader with a young team in 2013-14.
  3. Kentucky freshman guard Archie Goodwin has ended his college eligibility with the Wildcats by signing autographs for pay with a local sports company, Lexington Sports Cards. The company is pre-selling $15 tickets to receive an autograph from Goodwin, meaning he is no longer an amateur athlete. Goodwin lashed out at some of his fans on Twitter by saying, “If you can’t respect my decision then that’s your own problem. I’m still living life and blessed.” The backlash from UK fans is odd considering most in Lexington couldn’t wait to see Goodwin go. With as deep as Kentucky is next year, it’s possible Goodwin would not have gotten as much playing time or as many shots as he saw this season, making his decision a no-brainer so long as he remains a first rounder.
  4. Missouri freshman guards Negus Webster-Chan and Dominique Bull have announced they are transferring according to a team spokesman on Tuesday afternoon. Wesbter-Chan averaged 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds per game including two double digit point performances. However, the 6’7″ guard could have difficulty finding additional playing time next season with the returns of guards Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross and the addition of eligible Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson. Bull saw very little action last season, playing in just eight games and only 1.8 minutes per game.
  5. We’re a little late on this, but The Tennessean spent time with Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings and asked the head coach 20 questions following the end of the Commodores season. Stallings was excited about what the future, particularly the progress of one of his freshman. “I would say Sheldon Jeter was the guy that improved the most, because he was a guy that when we were in our early practice sessions that really did not… his performance in practice did not warrant being in the rotation. But he improved so much that he became a real factor on our team. I think he’s got a great future here.” Jeter started seven games for the Commodores, a team that should have a lot more experience next season. Vandy, void of any seniors on this year’s roster, won’t lose a single player to graduation.
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Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Vanderbilt 52

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after this afternoon’s SEC Tournament semifinal between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

  1. Vandy Goes Cold.  Vanderbilt was in control of the game for most of the first half, as they led by eight with just under four minutes remaining in the frame. After that, the Commodores went ice cold, particularly from three-point range. They were held scoreless for the last 3:49 of the first half and didn’t score their first basket in the second until the 17:35 mark. For the game, they shot just 33.9% from the field, and went 6-of-30 from three-point range. What Kevin Stallings did with this team was somewhat remarkable, as anyone who saw the Commodores two months ago never would have believed it could have performed the way it did in this tournament. But Vanderbilt clearly was bothered by Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway on the inside, and it was unable to get good looks or knock down enough shots on the perimeter. After playing the last two nights, it stands to reason the Commodores had tired legs, and it clearly showed in their performance Saturday.
  2. Marshall, Marshall, Marshall. Marshall Henderson has been, to say the least, a source of entertainment in Nashville this weekend, and much of the buzz among fans and the media has been about the Ole Miss junior. On Saturday, he was not quite as animated as he was in Friday night’s comeback over Missouri, but he still showed flashes of the personality that drives so many in the league crazy. What can’t be discounted is how important he is to his team. He led Ole Miss in scoring for for the second consecutive game, and, as he did Friday, hit key shots at important times. His play allowed the Rebels to extend their lead, which Vanderbilt was never able to overcome. If the Rebels are able to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in coach Andy Kennedy’s tenure, it’s no coincidence that it comes in Henderson’s first year in the program. Kennedy clearly decided to allow him to display antics that most coaches would not, and it may get the Rebels into the Big Dance. Henderson has deficiencies – he takes too many shots outside the flow of the offense and isn’t a particularly good defender – but he gives Ole Miss an element it hasn’t had in the past, and he was worth the risk for Kennedy.
  3. Is Ole Miss Safe? Andy Kennedy is convinced his team is in the NCAA Tournament, and Friday’s win over RPI No. 35 certainly helped the Rebels’ cause. But Saturday’s win over the Commodores likely did nothing to push Ole Miss closer to a tournament bid. Vanderbilt is outside the RPI top 100, and this committee will be given no real weight by the Selection Committee. The Rebels needed the win more from the standpoint that a loss would have severely damaged their cause, and more importantly, it now gives them a chance to take the decision out of the committee’s hands by beating Florida tomorrow. If they lose to the Gators, it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ve done enough to earn a bid. The only two top-50 wins they have came against Missouri, and they have ugly losses against sub-top-200 teams South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Rebels own 25 wins overall, so it won’t be surprising if they do receive a bid even if they aren’t able to beat the Gators, but Kennedy’s club would be well-served to take care of business tomorrow and earn the auto-bid.

Star of the Game. Marshall Henderson. Henderson went only 3-of-11 from three-point range, but did lead his team with a game-high 23 points. Again, though, it was the timing of his scoring that keyed the Rebels’ second-half run.

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Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Missouri 62

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Ole Miss-Missouri game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Takeaways:

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

  1. A Collapse Befitting Missouri. Missouri has had its trouble with closing out and giving away games throughout the season, but this one took the cake. The Tigers led by 14 in the second half and by 10 with 10 minutes to play. Somehow, they wilted down the stretch, even though Ole Miss never went on a particularly impressive run. With the game tied at 59 and less than a minute to play, Phil Pressey, whose late-game failures have been well chronicled, knocked down an open three from the top of the key to give the Tigers the lead. Derrick Millinghaus then tied the game with a three of his own with 31 seconds remaining. Missouri called timeout, and against the Ole Miss press, Laurence Bowers made an inexplicable pass towards no one in particular at mid-court, and Marshall Henderson got the ball.  After a timeout, Millinghaus hit a jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Rebels the win. 
  2. Millinghaus to the Rescue.  Early in the second half, Ole Miss point guard Jarvis Summers suffered an apparent concussion and was lost for the game. Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy turned to his backup, whom he referred to after the game as a “spot” player, and Millinghaus answered the call. In addition to knocking down the game-tying and game-winning shots, he didn’t turn the ball over, and played solid defense on Pressey. Without him, the Rebels would be going home. Now, to move on, they’ll need another strong performance from Millinghaus against Vanderbilt, as it’s unlikely Summers will be able to make a quick turnaround for tomorrow’s semifinal.  The diminutive freshman from New York stepped up in his team’s most important game of the season and at a time when it needed him most.
  3. Did Ole Miss Seal the Deal?  For most of the game, it looked like the Rebels would make yet another trip to the NIT, where they’ve been five of the past six years. Now, with another quality win on their resume – and their second over Missouri – a NCAA Tournament berth may be in the offing. Kennedy is convinced that his team has done enough. “No team in a BCS league has ever won 24 games and not made the NCAA Tournament,” he said.  The Rebels will be favored to advance to the championship game, and if they do, it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll punch their ticket to the Big Dance, especially given the failures of so many other teams who came into the week sitting on the bubble.  Even without a win over Vanderbilt tomorrow, Kennedy’s team’s chances to make the Big Dance drastically improved with this quality win, and the relief Kennedy felt after the game was evident in his mood.  

Star of the Game. Derrick Millinghaus.  While Henderson scored a game-high 27 points,  Ole Miss doesn’t win this game without Millinghaus’ heroic play. Tournament play often brings out the best in players in situations such as the one Ole Miss faced with Summers’ injury, and that was the case on Friday night.

Sights and Sounds.  After Kentucky filled Bridgestone Arena in the first game of the session, a letdown was to be expected for this game. But both teams had more fans that anticipated, and both sections were loud. In a league filled with apathetic fan bases, Missouri is a welcome addition, and the Tigers’ contingent trailed only those of Kentucky and Tennessee in terms of size.  Henderson’s taunting of the Missouri section late in the game got it particularly riled up.

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Rushed Reactions: Vanderbilt 64, Kentucky 48

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

  1. Bubble Trouble.  With all of the losses fellow bubble-dwellers have suffered, the path to the NCAA Tournament was clear for Kentucky. Most assumed the Wildcats would clinch a bid with a win over Vanderbilt, which came into the contest with an overall record of 15-16. Instead, they add another loss to a sub-top-100 team (the Commodores currently sit at No. 118 in the RPI). So instead of advancing to play either Missouri or Ole Miss, the Wildcats severely damaged their position with the Selection Committee. They must now wait and see what the committee will do, and whether their resume is enough to earn a bid to the Big Dance. Since Nerlens Noel went out with a season-ending injury, Kentucky is now 4-4, and a blowout loss to a heretofore mediocre Vanderbilt squad coupled with ugly losses at Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, may make it easy for the committee to conclude that the Wildcats don’t deserve a selection. Kentucky looked like anything but an NCAA Tournament team Friday night, trailing Vanderbilt from the outset and falling behind by 20 early in the second half.  The Wildcats looked listless on the offensive end and allowed Vanderbilt to control the game. The Commodores looked like the only NCAA Tournament-worthy squad in this contest.
  2. A Harrow-ing Tale. To figure out what has plagued Kentucky throughout this up-and-down, frustrating campaign, one need look no further than the play it has gotten from the point guard position. In the past John Calipari’s teams have had superb point guard play, from Derrick Rose to John Wall to Brandon Knight to Marquis Teague, but this team hasn’t gotten that. That glaring weakness was especially evident Friday, as Ryan Harrow was nothing short of atrocious. He went 2-of-15 from the field and turned the ball over four times, killing any chance Kentucky had of winning this game. Harrow has shown signs of what brought him so much acclaim when he transferred from NC State, but overall, has not played up to Calipari’s standards. If Kentucky doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, it can look no further than Harrow’s play for a reason why.
  3. Can Vanderbilt Steal a Bid? According to Commodore coach Kevin Stallings, his team is back to .500 for the first time “in about five months.” It may not have been that long, but it has been an uphill climb for his club. This was a team from which very little was expected, and Stallings said after the game that he couldn’t be more satisfied with the way his club has improved. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been as proud of a team as I am of this one,” he said.  The question for his club now becomes whether it can break through and steal a bid to the NCAA Tournament. After dismantling Kentucky, he likes how his club is playing, and what seemed like an impossibility just a few short weeks ago now is something to at least think about. The Commodores will face either Missouri or Ole Miss in tomorrow’s second semifinal. They were dismantled in Columbia in January, but would have beaten Ole Miss but for a 35-footer by Marshall Henderson that sent the game to overtime before the Rebels prevailed.  To just be in this position is quite an accomplishment, and anyone who has followed this team knows Stallings has done one of his best coaching jobs this season.

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RTC Bubble Watch: March 15 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 15th, 2013

bubble

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is RTC’s new resident bracketologist. According to Bracket Matrix, he ranks as one of the top several bracketologists among those who have produced brackets for more than three years, including two seasons with perfect bracket projections. He updates the field daily on his site, Bracketology Expert, and will be producing a weekly bracket update here at RTC on Fridays. RTC Bubble Watch will publish on Sunday nights and Thursday afternoons for the rest of the season.

F0r the last few days of the regular season, here is a whole new look bubble watch:

Bracket Math: Below there are 37 locks along the right column. Basically, that number means that if none of my “locks” clinches an automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament, there are zero at-large spots available. In most years, an average of around six “locks” win automatic bids, meaning there are six un-clinched spots for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, there aren’t any teams in the “should be in” category, or teams that I give a 70% chance or greater of making the Tournament. That means that of the teams below listed in the Bubble Watch, only five can get bids. Remember that bid stealers will potentially shrink that number.

LOCKS: 38
“SHOULD BE INS”: 0
TOTAL: 38 (minus six for projected auto bid winners = 32)
PROJECTED AT-LARGE SPOTS AVAILABLE: 5

BID STEALERS REMAINING:

  • ACC (quarterfinals): Boston College (vs. Miami), Maryland (vs. Duke), Florida State (vs. North Carolina)
  • Atlantic 10 (quarterfinals): Charlotte (vs. Saint Louis), Saint Joseph’s (vs. VCU), Massachusetts (vs. Temple)
  • Big Ten (quarterfinals): Nebraska (vs. Ohio State), Iowa (vs. Michigan State )
  • Conference USA (semifinals): Southern Miss/UTEP winner, Tulsa (vs. Memphis)
  • Pac-12 (semifinals): Utah (vs. Oregon)
  • SEC (quarterfinals): LSU (vs. Florida), Vanderbilt (vs. Kentucky)

THIS UPDATE:  I moved Minnesota to lock status, even with the Gophers’ last second loss to Illinois Thursday. At this point, it is almost impossible to see a team with the Gophers’ victories not getting into the field.

There are currently 20 teams fighting for 5 spots. If you believe (as I do) that Baylor, Louisiana Tech, Akron, and Charlotte are long shots at best (very small chance, if any, to make the field) you can bring the numbers down to 16 teams fighting for 5 spots.

———————————————————————-

ACC

LOCKS:
duke50x50miami50x50UNC50X50ncstate50x50

  • Virginia (21-10, 11-7; RPI: 67): The Cavaliers have been a strange bubble case all season. They have some of the worst losses a bubble team can have, but they also have six impressive wins. One of those wins is against Duke, who might be the nation’s best team now that Ryan Kelly is back. A win over Sunday against Maryland left the Cavs in position to play their way into the field in the ACC Tournament. They get dangerous North Carolina State on Friday in the ACC quarterfinals. AT-LARGE ODDS: 50%
  • Maryland (21-11, 8-10; RPI: 85): Maryland has two great wins (Duke, NC State) and absolutely nothing behind them. Thursday’s win against Wake Forest keeps the Terps alive, but they’ll have to replicate their February win against Duke to get serious at-large love.. AT-LARGE ODDS: 40%

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