Morning Five: 02.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 26th, 2013

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  1. It has been a week since the NCAA released the external report it received regarding its lack of institutional oversight the misconduct of a few individuals, but Dennis Dodd is one the first national media member we have seen who took the time to pick it apart to point out the sheer ridiculousness of some of the stuff that the NCAA did. While this information is embarrassing for the NCAA and points to the fact that some more people than just Julie Roe Lach should have gotten fired, the NCAA always makes us cynical and we have a hard time believing that the NCAA revealed all of the bad stuff it did and exactly how high up the chair this type of behavior went. Unfortunately in the end the administrators at the NCAA will probably walk away unscathed.
  2. While many writers watched the Oscars on Sunday night, Dan Spears was busy putting together his mock bracket, but unlike nearly every bracket you will see his is tailored around storylines. We are not sure that this would necessarily boost ratings since it seems like a large portion of the country shuts down for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Still we suspect that every writer would love for this to happen for the overload of storylines to choose from.
  3. We have mentioned the peculiar case of Ryan Evans‘ free throw shooting as the Wisconsin senior has gone from a fairly reliable (70%+) free throw shooter to an awful one (40%). It appears that Evans and the Wisconsin staff are experimenting with all kinds of potential solutions as he may even start taking jump shots for his free throw attempts. If Evans were do so he would not be first player to take such an approach as the article points out that NBA legend Hal Greer took a similar approach and in more recent times Nick Van Exel who opted to shoot his free throws from 17 feet instead of the customary 15 feet. Of course both Greer and Van Exel were outstanding free and we doubt that even a normal method of shooting would have made either of them 40% shooters.
  4. After becoming a media darling with their early domination of the SEC Florida has fallen under the radar following losses at Arkansas and Missouri. However, several analysts still consider the Gators to be on the short list of top contenders to cut down the nets in Atlanta. The likelihood of that happening may increase on Saturday when they are expected to get Will Yeguete (knee) and Michael Frazier II (concussion) back. The news of their return will be overshadowed by the imminent return of Ryan Kelly (as all non-Duke news does), but in terms of the national title picture the impact could be similar. Yeguete gives Patric Young some much needed support on the inside and Frazier is actually the Gators’ best three-point shooter connecting 48.9 percent of the time. The Gators finish the regular season with a relatively easy stretch (and yes, we are counting the SEC Tournament) so they should have plenty of time to get these two back into the regular rotation without too much difficulty.
  5. With Kansas’ win at Iowa State last night Bill Self won his 500th game as a head coach, which is an impressive total, but still leaves him outside of the top 20 winningest coaches in Division I history. That doesn’t stop Jeff Goodman from joining Andy Glockner in pointing out that Self may have the best chance of any current coach of breaking Mike Krzyzewski’s eventual wins record. It is worth pointing out that Self has mocked Glockner’s idea when it was mentioned to him some time later. As Goodman points out with (basic?) statistics, Self has won 33 games per year over the past six seasons and if he does that for “just” 15 more seasons he would be approaching 1,000 victories. While we appreciate Goodman breaking out the calculator it is worth pointing out that the run Self has been on the past six years is one of the more impressive runs in NCAA history (Krzyzewski has never had a six-year run that was as successful if we are just going by overall wins as his best six-year stretch averaged 31.667 wins per year). Honestly the only way we see Self or any other current coach approaching Krzyzewski’s record is if the NCAA adds more games to the season.
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SEC M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 25th, 2013

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  1. Kentucky rose to the occasion for ESPN’s GameDay, knocking off Missouri Saturday night in overtime. The Wildcats have taken a ton of heat over the past week following assertions from John Calipari that some his players were “uncoachable” following a blowout loss to Tennessee. Two of the assumed targets of the comments came up big against the Tigers. Point guard Ryan Harrow scored 12 of his 16 points in the first half, while Archie Goodwin scored all 18 of his after the break. “Oh man, I mean we fought hard,” said Goodwin. “That is ultimately what it came down to. We made a lot of mistakes, but in the end we just wanted it more than they did.” Saturday’s performance served as a huge statement from a few players who have had their effort widely questioned throughout the year.
  2. The elder statesman of this Kentucky squad had himself quite a game as well. Wright State transfer Julius Mays led the Wildcats in scoring with 24, including six game-icing free throws in overtime. Mays has done his best to seize a leadership role for Kentucky, and his efforts looked to pay dividends against Mizzou. “He’s a great leader and he’s a great big brother for me,” Goodwin said. “He’s like my best friend. He’s just always there for encouragement. Sometimes when things are not going our way, he’s always the person that pulls me aside and just tries to get my head back right.” With his more talented teammates singing his praises, “Uncle Julius” hopes his teammates will get on board for an NCAA Tournament push.
  3. Florida got the revenge it craved in Saturday’s easy win over Arkansas, but it came at a high price. The Gators lost reserve forward Michael Frazier II to a concussion after the freshman guard collided with Scottie Wilbekin chasing a loose ball. “I don’t know when he’ll be back. He was knocked out on the floor,” said Florida coach Billy Donovan. “It could be a week, it could be 10 days, it could be two weeks – I don’t know.” With Will Yeguete already sidelined, Donovan is down to only six regular rotation players and says he will turn to Braxton Ogbueze, Dillon Graham or DeVon Walker to pick up the spare minutes.
  4. Even a good night on offense rarely leads to victory for the road team at the O’Connell Center, but Arkansas’ two big shots didn’t give the Razorbacks much of a chance. BJ Young and Marshawn Powell, who led a balanced Arkansas attack in scoring in their upset of Florida in the first meeting, were held to only 10 points, with Young in particular being shut out from the field. A big night from Coty Clarke (8-of-8 from the field) kept Arkansas in the game in the first half before the Gators pulled away after the break. “It was a tale of two halves,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “We scratched and clawed and gave ourselves a chance, even with some adversity with the early fouls. In the second half, Florida really attacked the glass and we didn’t make shots.
  5. They’ve been so hot over the past few weeks, 40 minutes wasn’t enough basketball for Tennessee on Saturday. Tied at 62 after regulation in College Station, Texas A&M and the Volunteers decided to play another two halves of hoops, resulting in a fifth straight victory for the visitors. Trae Golden led the way with 32 points, with both Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae eclipsing the 20-point mark in the longest game in Tennessee history. Cuonzo Martin’s team is getting hot at exactly the right time, and an upset victory over a depleted Florida team on Tuesday would really make the “at-large” whispers that much louder in Knoxville.
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SEC M5: 02.14.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on February 14th, 2013

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  1. Shot-blocking extraordinaire Nerlens Noel won’t be patrolling the paint for Kentucky again this season. On Wednesday, an MRI revealed a torn ACL, confirming what everyone assumed after seeing the freshman center crumble to the ground and scream in pain after a great hustle play Tuesday night in Gainesville. “I’ve been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we’ve had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating,” head coach John Calipari said. Despite the impending long rehabilitation process, Noel remains in good spirits, calling the injury “a minor setback for a MAJOR comeback” from his Twitter account.
  2. Questions about how Noel’s injury would affect his draft stock popped up even before the MRI. Noel was a sure-fire top five NBA Draft pick (and one of the few contenders to go first overall) before this setback, and SI‘s Michael Rosenberg believes that’s still the case. “Guys who are going to be top five picks tend to leave, and Noel will still go that high,” Rosenberg writes. “The only difference is that he might need crutches to walk over and shake David Stern’s hand.” I remain bullish on his draft stock. The injury brings up comparisons to Greg Oden, but it shouldn’t. Noel’s slight lower frame certainly didn’t do him any favors, but one awkward landing into the basket support shouldn’t indicate that he’s in for the same type of chronic knee problems as Oden. He still projects as the top defensive big man in the draft, and if a team like Cleveland or Orlando in need of a rim protector wins the lottery, don’t be surprised to see Noel follow in Anthony Davis’ footsteps as the top overall pick.
  3. So where does Kentucky go from here? (Insert super original NIT joke). “It’s not a question of, how do we replace Nerlens?” Jay Bilas said Wednesday. “It’s, how do we adapt to what we have?” The Wildcats’ remaining strengths aren’t immediately clear. Lost in the Noel commotion is the fact that the Wildcats didn’t belong on the floor with Florida. Outside of a bright opening few minutes, Kentucky’s ball-handlers looked incapable of dealing with the Gators’ full-court pressure. Even when they broke through, the UK offense lacked composure and creativity. Noel was never the focal point when Kentucky had the ball, but without their dominant defensive presence, the Wildcats need to make up some of that lost value on the offensive end. Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t too dissimilar to Noel in his playing style and should see his minutes increase drastically.
  4. Casey Prather has been little more than an energy guy during his time in Gainesville, but with his improved play in the absence of Will Yeguete, he’s showing that he can be much more valuable. Against Kentucky, the junior tallied 12 points, three boards, two blocks, and three charges drawn (of course, few players make drawing charges as easy as Archie Goodwin does). “I would just say I was trying to give the team a big boost, a big energy boost, and so I was just glad to help the team out any way I could,” says Prather, spoken like a true energy guy. The 6’6″ swingman can guard multiple positions, affording Florida flexibility in its defensive assignments, and rebounds well for his size. Yeguete could return for the postseason, but he may find minutes tough to come by if Prather continues to excel.
  5. Missouri finally earned its first road win of the season, and did so in emphatic fashion. Keion Bell tied a career-high with 24 points to lead the Tigers to a 78-36 win over Mississippi State. “I think Keion in the last four, five ball games has been outstanding,” coach Frank Haith said in a radio interview after the game. “We love to see him coming along because it gives him a chance to spell (Pressey) more.” Phil Pressey, who has struggled to score efficiently this season, was back in true point guard mode, taking only one shot (which he made) and adding eight assists. The junior would be wise to commit to this style. He’s averaging 14.5 shots per game in losses, while only putting up 10 per game in Missouri’s 18 wins.
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SEC M5: 02.08.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 8th, 2013

SEC_morning5

  1. Florida’s Will Yeguete will undergo surgery to repair loose pieces of cartilage in his right knee. The devastating news means Yeguete will be out for four to six weeks, meaning it’s possible he could return in time for the NCAA Tournament. “It’s Will’s decision,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He wants to do what he can to play this season.” The forward has been a huge boost for the Gators this season, acting as the second leading rebounder with 6.3 rebounds per game and providing excellent defense. His defensive rebounding percentage is the best on the team and ranks in the top 100 in the nation. This is a bad loss for Florida, which didn’t at all look like itself without Yeguete in a road loss to Arkansas on Tuesday.
  2. That sound you heard last night was the pop of Alabama‘s thin NCAA bubble bursting after a 49-37 loss to rival Auburn. The Crimson Tide managed just 37 points in the game after leading at halftime by the score of 23-13. Coach Anthony Grant had no explanation. “I can’t explain it,” he said. “I can’t. I have no explanation for that.” A performance like that has to bring about disappointment. “I’m concerned about my team,” Grant added. “The opportunities that we had in front of us, to come out – I expect more out of our guys.” Any chances of an NCAA berth just went out the window with this embarrassing loss, and has to be of concern moving forward.
  3. Ole Miss announced that center Demarco Cox, who hasn’t played since December 23, will be out for the rest of the season after a stress fracture in his foot hasn’t healed properly. This announcement comes on the heels (no pun intended) of 6’9″ sophomore Aaron Jones also announcing he would miss the remainder of the year with a torn ACL. Head coach Andy Kennedy has an issue in the frontcourt if he has to go to his bench. “I told Reg (Buckner) and Murph (Holloway) that they got to be prepared to play 40 minutes,” Kennedy said. With any additional injuries, he may no longer be joking.
  4. Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope always finds a way to get his points, but he insists that Georgia’s recent four-game winning streak isn’t about him. “The difference is we’re playing together,” Caldwell-Pope said. “We’re helping each other through adversity when we’re down, when we’re not playing well. Our defense got better. We’ve just been finishing out games.” KCP still found the bucket, scoring 24 on 9-of-12 shooting, but it’s clear he’s now getting help. Tennessee’s Jordan McRae noticed the other players surrounding Caldwell-Pope. “We didn’t expect everybody else to shoot as well as they did,” McRae said. “We knew Caldwell-Pope, he could shoot.” The Bulldogs haven’t won four straight SEC games since winning the SEC Tournament in March 2009 and haven’t put together a streak this long in the regular season since 2003.
  5. One of Kentucky’s undergraduate assistants isn’t just a young college student taking game notes for coach John Calipari, but he has a wealth of experience to draw from and teach Kentucky’s young roster. Former Wildcat Marquis Estill, who played for former coach Tubby Smith at UK from 1999-2003, is finishing up his degree and helping Calipari as an undergraduate student assistant coach. Estill’s relationship with Calipari has the potential to create an eventual opening for him. “I would like to stay around here,” he said, “but Cal knows a lot of people and has great connections.” But perhaps before talking about a job in the future, Estill and Calipari can start at the beginning. “He actually knows my name now, which is a good sign,” Estill joked.
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Morning Five: 02.08.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 8th, 2013

morning5

  1. With all of the movement caused by conference realignment it is nice to see schools not move every once in a while even if it is only for one more year as Notre Dame appears to be doing with the announcement that it will stay in the Big East through the 2013-14 season. Now we will not pretend this was some noble gesture as we are aware of the fact that if the Irish had been able to get out of their 27-month notice period they would have. Perhaps more interestingly Notre Dame also says that the other members of the “Catholic 7″ also intend to stay in the Big East for one more season making the conference more than just an also-ran even if one for a short period of time.
  2. It has only been 8.5 months since Sports Illustrated came out with its cover story calling Jabari Parker the best high school basketball player since LeBron so it is somewhat amusing that they are ready to hype another recruit, Andrew Wiggins, as the best recruit in this class as the “Michael Jordan of Canada”. Some apologists may try to explain this away by noting that Parker recently joined this year’s senior class, but we are having a hard time explaining this coincidence of having the two best players in the past decade in the same senior class as nothing more than useless hype. We have seen Wiggins play on several occasions and while we think he is a better prospect than Parker primarily because of his explosiveness we wonder why the media is so eager to hype someone as “the next big thing”.
  3. Most years the contenders for national player of the year honors are fairly predictable and this year isn’t that different with one notable exception: Victor Oladipo. While it may be hard to make a case for anybody on the preseason #1 team being under the radar Oladipo was not even considered a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate coming into the season as you would not have found anybody outside of his immediate family who would have considered him anywhere close to Indiana’s best player (that distinction would have went to Cody Zeller). Yet with a little over a month left in the regular season Oladipo is up to fourth in ESPN’s straw poll, which is one spot ahead of his more highly regarded teammate. As for the actual award, it appears as if Trey Burke and Doug McDermott with the eventual winner most likely being the one who finishes the strongest over the next month.
  4. Just a few days ago it seemed as if nothing could go wrong for the Florida Gators. They were having one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory before getting blown out by Arkansas on Tuesday. Now they will have to play at least for at least a month without the services of Will Yeguete after they announced that the junior forward will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. At this point the Gator are hoping to get Yeguete back in time for the SEC Tournament, but it is possible that he could be out for the season if they expect him to be out that long. Yeguete doess not put up huge stats, but if the Gaotrs are going to make a run in March Yeguete’s contributions on the glass could be key as the Gators lack a significant interior presence outside of Patric Young, who will need some help if the Gators are planning on making a trip to Atlanta.
  5. There was plenty of controversy around National Signing Day with the most prominent ones involving a player who committed to Alabama despite getting an Auburn tattoo and another recruit who had commitment put into limbo after his mother absconded with his National Letter of Intent after she disagreed with his choice. While Jeff Borzello’s  “biggest commitment flips in recent history” may lack the absurdity of those two examples it is an interesting reminder not to rely on these commitments until the player has officially signed or in some cases actually arrived on campus. We remember most of these recent flips, but we had forgotten about some of them (particularly those listed in the “others” category).
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SEC M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 18th, 2013

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  1. If you’re a fan of an SEC team not named Ole Miss, than chances are high that you entered this season with no idea who Marshall Henderson is. But I bet you know who he is after Tuesday night. Grantland says we need more passion and unpredictability in college basketball these days, like the type of raw emotion that Henderson displayed against Vanderbilt. Of course, the guard contributed more than just energy and on-court antics. He scored 26 points, including a memorable game-tying three in regulation. Henderson, along with the Rebels’ current winning streak, should place Ole Miss as must-see TV in the next couple of weeks with important games with Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
  2. Everybody wants to talk about Henderson’s game-tying shot and the emotion with which he plays the game, including Andy Kennedy, but Ole Miss’ head coach cautioned his junior guard. “Marshall Henderson without that edge isn’t the Marshall Henderson that leads the SEC in scoring,” Kennedy said. “He needs that edge, but it has to fuel him in a positive way.” Henderson had some off the court issues in several previous stops before Oxford, but Kennedy said he hasn’t had any trouble with the Rebels. “There’s a fine line,” Kennedy added. “I want kids to play with passion, and his passion is genuine, but we have to make sure it doesn’t turn into emotion that doesn’t help him or our team.” Kennedy has taken chances on troubled guards before (see: Jelan Kendrick), but it seems this gamble might just pay off.
  3. Rebounding was one of the major concerns for Florida coming into the season, but a team effort has made that area a strength for the Gators. Coach Billy Donovan attributes some of the improvement to going to a bigger lineup that is more focused on the boards. “When you have [Casey] Prather out there and you have [Will] Yeguete out there and you have Mike Frazier out there at the small forward spot, we’re a team that can compete on the glass,” Donovan said. Florida’s poor rebounding numbers last season (2012: 33.7% offensive rebounding rate, 69.7% defensive rebounding rate), are significantly improved in 2012-13 (2013: 38.4% offensive rebounding rate, 73.5% defensive rebounding rate), putting the Gators in the top 25 in both categories.
  4. After a 15-point loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, Mizzou coach Frank Haith is questioning the Tigers’ toughness. “Emotions and toughness, they’re two different things,” Haith said. “I want emotion. I want passion. I want energy. I want all those things. But that to me isn’t toughness.” Missouri rebounded for a victory over Georgia on Wednesday night, though the game was played in the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena. Haith hinted at a related issue for the Tigers – winning on the road. “Because you don’t let the environment make you do something you’re not supposed to do. That’s how I define toughness,” Haith said. Missouri has yet to win a road game this season in just two attempts.
  5. Kentucky coach John Calipari still loves his team, but he also accepts what they are capable and not capable of doing. And he warns UK fans to buckle up for a bumpy ride. “I have coached teams that have absolutely whomped on people, and this ain’t one of ‘em,” said Calipari. “And every game, we are going to be in is going to be a dogfight, and instead of going crazy about it, how about just accept it.” Calipari also cited toughness as a reason the Cats aren’t running away with games. “You’ve got to be a man. This is a man’s game and this is a man’s league we play in. You have to play through bumps. Quit crying about fouls. Everybody is fouling everybody.” Like Missouri, Kentucky has struggled on the road. The Wildcats travel to Auburn on Saturday for a showdown with the 8-8 Tigers.
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Banged Up Florida Not Getting Any Healthier

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 15th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

The SEC regular season race is Florida‘s to lose. Kentucky can’t win at home, much less on the road. Missouri lost to Ole Miss, albeit it without its leading scorer. And don’t even get us started on the rest of the conference. The Gators are in prime position to win their first conference regular season championship since 2011. That is, if they can stay healthy.

Casey Prather went down with an ankle injury against LSU on Saturday. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Casey Prather went down with an ankle injury against LSU on Saturday. (Credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The backcourt situation has had its share of injuries as Mike Rosario sat out against LSU with an ankle sprain and Scottie Wilbekin sat out three games due to a suspension, but then played through a broken finger on his right hand. The frontcourt has not been any better as Will Yeguete underwent x-rays on his knee for tendinitis. Then, recent starter Casey Prather suffered a high ankle sprain in the first half in Florida’s victory over LSU. After he was sidelined with a knee injury, Erik Murphy suffered a fractured rib against Air Force. Then, he re-aggravated his left rib in practice. Now, we learned that Prather is sidelined for 10 to 14 days with an ankle injury further adding to the Gators’ recent string of bad luck.

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Kenny Boynton Shoots Florida Out Of a Sluggish Start at Yale

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC correspondent who also writes for Syracuse blog “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Sunday’s match-up between Florida and Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.

Sunday’s trip to New Haven to take on the Yale Bulldogs was supposed to be a homecoming game for Florida senior Erik Murphy, who grew up in nearby South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Unfortunately for Murphy’s New England-based friends and family, he was sidelined with bruised ribs after an injury in practice. Luckily for Gator fans, who flocked to Payne Whitney Gymnasium in what was deemed a sellout by Yale, fellow senior Kenny Boynton put on an incredible performance from deep, sinking 8-of-10 three pointers and finishing with 28 points, tying a career-high. Boynton’s 23-point second half also broke him out of a personal slump, clinching a 79-58 win for Florida against a scrappy-if-overmatched Yale team looking to win back its home court.

Florida guard Kenny Boynton broke Lee Humphrey's school record for made three-pointers with eight shots on Sunday at Yale.  Boynton now has 289 made threes in his career.

Florida guard Kenny Boynton broke Lee Humphrey’s school record for made three-pointers by hitting eight shots on Sunday against Yale. Boynton now has 289 made threes in his career.

From the opening tip, Yale tried to run with Florida, which led to a sloppy and frenetic first half.  The Bulldogs did a decent job breaking the Gator press early, often using center Jeremiah Kreisberg at the half-court line to advance the ball.  However, Florida’s length disrupted Yale’s half-court sets, leading to nine first half turnovers for the Bulldogs. Yale was able to stick around for the first 15 minutes of the game, in large part due to success on the boards where they edged the Gators by one in the first half. Florida also struggled to score outside of the paint early on, and only led by one point with just over five minutes remaining in the half.  Despite keeping the game close, Yale was never able to get its own offense going, shooting 9-of-25 in the first half, and eventually Florida’s star guards took over. The Gators closed the half on a 14-3 run, spurred by a late three-pointer by Boynton, and three successful free throws from freshman Michael Frazier II, who was fouled while shooting a three of his own.

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SEC M5: 11.30.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 30th, 2012

  1. Michael Dixon is leaving the Missouri Tigers basketball team. News broke Thursday afternoon regarding another unrelated accusation made in 2010 against the Missouri guard purporting his involvement in a forcible rape case. The new information, found in a university police incident report, detailed Dixon’s alleged involvement but no charges were filed against him at the time. Later Thursday evening, a text message from Dixon to a friend of his revealed his intention of leaving the team because of the firestorm surrounding the player. There is no official word from coach Frank Haith regarding his dismissal from the team or if Dixon will remain a student at Missouri. Dixon had been suspended since October for a ‘team violation.’
  2. How bad is the bottom of the SEC this season? Bad enough that Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger is already worried about Ole Miss’ RPI rating come March. Kellenberger notes that five SEC teams are outside the top 200 in the RealTimeRPI.com rankings right now, and head coach Andy Kennedy is well aware that he has to play all five schools — Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State, Georgia, and South Carolina — a total of six times. While the RPI is not the primary factor for seeds in the NCAA Tournament, the numbers are given quite a bit of consideration. Many teams with quality in-conference resumes have been left out of the Big Dance because of their RPI, so Ole Miss needs a few upsets and quality wins to ensure an at-large berth and avoid the wrath of the bubble on Selection Sunday.
  3. The Mayans can claim their infamous ‘end of the world’ hoax centered on the year 2012, which many people still believe (not sure why). Many Kentucky fans might take the years 2018 or 2019 a bit more seriously, though. In an article for ESPN the Magazine, head coach John Calipari stated that he plans on being in Lexington for six to seven more years, a date many of the Wildcat faithful hope will never come. When then-head coach Tubby Smith left Kentucky for Minnesota in 2007, Calipari told ESPN he was “waiting on a phone call” but felt the timing was better in 2009 when he ultimately decided to leave Memphis for Kentucky. Calipari’s current contract ends in 2019.
  4. LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant III strongly believes that his team is not getting the recognition that they should be receiving this year. As seen in this video in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, O’Bryant says that the Tigers are “a lot deeper than most people think.” He certainly has a right to stand up for his teammates, as LSU is now 5-0 on the season, led by O’Bryant with a double-double in each of his last two games.
  5. There was a lot of hype headed into the Florida-Marquette SEC/Big East Challenge game on Thursday night. Marquette was entering its first true road test of the season as well as a rematch of the Sweet Sixteen game (won by the Gators) from last year’s NCAA Tournament. Florida easily won the battle again, 82-49. The story that caught a lot of attention though was the move by coach Billy Donovan to keep Patric Young on the bench last night. Donovan did not start Young because of his “attitude” in practice and thus gave more playing time for Will Yeguete. Young was able to contribute off the bench however, recording three blocks in Florida’s rout.
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Night Line: Is Florida a Better Offensive Team This Season?

Posted by EJacoby on November 15th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

The #12 Florida Gators have high expectations this season, as usual, with a loaded starting lineup that features two returning SEC stars and a bevy of other talented scorers. But Billy Donovan’s team lost much of its backcourt production from last season in Erving Walker and Bradley Beal, the second- and third-leading scorers on last year’s team who also accounted for over 40% of the squad’s total assists. Those 2011-12 Gators ranked sixth in the nation in overall offensive efficiency and came just a few plays away from reaching a Final Four. Yet does this season’s version of Florida have an even higher ceiling? Conventional wisdom would say no given the loss of its two perimeter leaders, but a strong recruiting class joins a healthier team this year, most notably a much improved senior forward Erik Murphy. Wednesday night’s 74-56 victory over defensive stalwart Wisconsin, featuring a perfect shooting night from Murphy, provided a glimpse of UF’s offensive upside that few teams in the country can match.

Erik Murphy led Florida with a perfect shooting night on Wednesday (AP Photo)

The Gators attempted and made the most three-point shots in all of Division I last season (9.6 makes per game), a crucial element to the team’s conversion of 1.15 points per possession, good for fifth in the country. While Walker and Beal’s 132 three-point makes are gone, don’t be so sure that Florida will fall off in the long-range shooting department. Preseason all-SEC senior guard Kenny Boynton and the aforementioned Murphy return 169 makes of their own, sparkplug sixth man Mike Rosario hit over one trey per game last year as well, and a loaded recruiting class of shooters joins the fold. Braxton Ogbueze headlines the freshman class as a heady point guard, while fellow newcomers Michael Frazier II, Devon Walker, and Dillon Graham all specialize as three-point bombers. Graham models his game after J.J. Redick, Walker has unlimited range from outside, and UF assistant coach Mike McCall noted this preseason of Frazier, “Every time [the ball] leaves his hand, you think it’s going in.” The Gators are already scoring at a more consistent rate this year with a 1.18 points per possession ratio. While only two games is an extremely small sample size, Wednesday’s game came against Bo Ryan’s Badgers; a masterful defensive team that finished seventh in total defensive efficiency last season.

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Scottie Wilbekin’s Suspension Leaves Florida In a Tough Spot

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 8th, 2012

Scottie Wilbekin, Florida’s starting point guard, has been suspended indefinitely by Gators’ coach Billy Donovan for an undisclosed reason. And now might not be the best time for Florida to lose a starting point guard as Donovan isn’t the type of coach to take it easy in the early going of the non-conference schedule. Florida plays in the Carrier Classic on the USS Bataan on Friday, November 9, against Georgetown.

Gametime experience is crucial for Florida in adjusting to Scottie Wilbekin at the point.

“Scottie is a great kid who made some choices and did some things that I am not going to have him be a part of (this team),” Donovan said. “How long it lasts, I don’t know. But right now, I just felt like he didn’t need to be here.” When asked whether or not this was a serious violation involving NCAA violations or anything illegal, Donovan responded that, “Not, right now, nothing criminal or anything like that.”

The loss of Wilbekin could be a major setback for the Gators. Donovan was in the process of breaking in his new point guard with an otherwise experienced roster that went to the Elite Eight last year. Wilbekin is taking over the reins for departed senior Erving Walker, who was a three-year starter at point guard. A proper adjustment period during the early non-conference schedule could be crucial for Florida’s development as a team and for its trust in a new leader.

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Rebounding Troubles Raise Red Flag in Florida’s Exhibition Game

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 4th, 2012

Most often, exhibition games can serve as glorified practices or tune-ups for upcoming regular season foes, while not much can be extrapolated from a lopsided victory over an outmanned opponent. But occasionally, critical issues may emerge that need immediate attention. Florida’s Billy Donovan liked the effort he saw from his his freshmen in the Gators 101-71 win over Division II Nebraska-Kearney late last week, but he wasn’t pleased with the rebounding effort he saw from his veterans. “I question our older guys’ commitment to defending and rebounding like we need to,” Donovan lamented. “That was the disappointing thing to me. I’d rather have the young guys out there making mistakes, really getting after it, giving all they have.”

Where can Donovan find consistent rebounding?

Despite having a major height advantage over the Lopers, the Gators only out-rebounded the opponent by a margin of 32-29. While UF was armed with 6’10” Erik Murphy, 6’9″ Patric Young, 6’7″ Will Yeguete, and 6’6″ Casey Prather, Nebraska-Kearney didn’t possess a single player on the roster above 6’7″. Exhibition game or not, that represents an area of concern for the Gators moving forward.

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