Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

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

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

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

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

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

Power Rankings

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

      A Look Ahead

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

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

      Other Points of Interest

      • The SEC named Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins SEC Player of the Week after he averaged 21.7 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan in games against Nebraska, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
      • Tennessee’s Tobias Harris, was named SEC Freshman of the Week after leading the Volunteers in scoring and rebounding at 16 and 7 in wins against Belmont and Missouri State.
      • Vanderbilt’s Brad Tinsley just barely got the triple double against Presbyterian in Vandy’s season opener with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, but it was good for Vanderbilt’s first one ever in its 110-year history.
      • There is a little disparity between the SEC East and the SEC West.  Maybe you’ve noticed.  Currently the SEC is 29-12 overall, but 17 of those wins and only three losses come from the SEC East against slightly superior competition than the West is playing.  The West is now 12-9. It’s time that the SEC adopt a conference tournament that seeds the best team against the worst rather than pitting the number one team in the East against the number six in the West.  This hurts the conference’s chances at getting five to six bids.  It also severely hurts the West’s chances of getting multiple bids as the top West teams must play the bottom East teams which while still at the bottom of the East are considerably better than the bottom of the West.  I am sure that come conference tournament time Mississippi State would much rather be facing off against the likes of Auburn or LSU than Vanderbilt or South Carolina, either of which could very well win a game or two in the conference tournament.
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      Set Your Tivo: 11.20.10

      Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2010

      ***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
      **** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
      *** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
      ** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
      * – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

      Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

      Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

      #22 Wisconsin @ UNLV – 7 pm on Versus (****)

      Take This Man Lightly At Your Own Risk

      Bo Ryan’s Badgers always seem to fly under the radar but you can bet UNLV won’t be taking them lightly. Tre’Von Hughes is back for the Rebels after a suspension and will play a key role going up against a strong Wisconsin backcourt led by Jordan Taylor. UNLV does a lot of things well but one thing they haven’t been successful at so far this year is three point shooting (ranked #241). They make up for that on defense, ranking first in the country in two point FG% defense. That defense will be put to the test against an incredibly efficient Wisconsin offense. All-American candidate Jon Leuer has been on fire to start the season. Leuer leads an offense ranked sixth in efficiency and first in offensive rebounds, not to mention being highly ranked in other offensive categories. Wisconsin’s problem is three point defense. The good thing for them, as we mentioned, is that UNLV is not a good shooting team from behind the arc. Will that change? The teams will probably meet in the middle. We can’t wait to see the matchups in the backcourt between Taylor/Keaton Nankivil/Josh Gasser for Wisconsin and Willis/Anthony Marshall/Oscar Bellfield for UNLV. There’s also a pretty good front court matchup going as Leuer and Chace Stanback go head to head. This is one of the better games of November and will look great on the winner’s resume come March.

      Dayton @ Mississippi – 7 pm (no TV) (**)

      This is a rematch of a game from last season’s NIT, won by the eventual champion Flyers of Dayton. Both could use a win here to enhance their resume in hopes of moving up to the big tournament this year. Dayton returns three of its top five scorers from a year ago led by senior Chris Wright. The 6’8 forward should have an advantage going up against a relatively thin Rebel front line but he was held to 1-9 shooting in last season’s matchup, though he did pull down 11 rebounds. Chris Johnson led all scorers last year with 22/10 but he’s struggled so far, scoring only nine points in two games. Dayton is going to have to do a nice job defending a fairly efficient Mississippi offense led by Chris Warren (is everybody playing in this game named Chris?) and Zach Graham. Graham had 22 points in a good win over Murray State on Wednesday night, a game many including yours truly thought Ole Miss could lose. Mississippi is not a very good defensive team but Dayton lacks offensive punch. The Flyers have struggled in a few offensive areas, especially free throw and three point shooting. The good news is that Mississippi doesn’t defend the three well so if someone can get hot from deep for Dayton they may be able to parlay that into a victory. Mississippi doesn’t have many opportunities for quality non-conference wins on their schedule but we think they’ll get this one and avenge last season’s loss to Dayton.

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      Set Your Tivo: 11.17.10

      Posted by Brian Otskey on November 17th, 2010

      ***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
      **** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
      *** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
      ** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
      * – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

      Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

      The college basketball world can relax a bit tonight after a full day of hoops yesterday. The action picks up in full force again on Thursday and Friday after two fairly interesting games this evening. All times eastern.

      Murray State @ Mississippi – 8 pm on ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)

      The Racers of Murray State knocked off Vanderbilt in a memorable first round NCAA Tournament game last season so Mississippi better be on full alert tonight. Murray State is being talked about again as a possible mid-major surprise again in the tournament and why not? They return five of their seven top scorers from last year’s team that won 31 games and the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State only lost by two to national runner-up Butler, certainly an impressive showing for a #13 seed. They also played a good California team tight on the road, falling by only five in their season opener last year. They are coming off a 50-39 victory over East Tennessee State on Monday night in which they held the Buccaneers to 33% from the floor and 10% from three. B.J. Jenkins led all scorers with 14 points and shot 3-4 from deep. The Rebels are 1-0 though they struggled a bit with Arkansas State in their season opener. Star senior Chris Warren is back and hopes to lead Ole Miss to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. Gone from last year’s team, however, are Terrico White, Eniel Polynice and Murphy Holloway. Those three combined to average 34/16/6 for Andy Kennedy last season so players like Zach Graham and Terrance Henry are going to have to step into primary roles for the Rebels this year. Warren had to will his team to victory the other night by scoring 20 of his 26 points after halftime as Ole Miss was down eight at the break. Mississippi is not a particularly good defensive team while Murray State is just that. On offense it’s quite the opposite as Murray struggles to score and the Rebels rank #29 in offensive efficiency. Something has to give tonight and usually (but not always) defense wins out. Ole Miss is going to have to control the boards and minimize turnovers in order to win. The Racers were outrebounded by ETSU and generally are not that good on the glass. The Rebels need to exploit that advantage in order to create more possessions and therefore more opportunities to score. Conversely, Murray excels at creating turnovers which will get them some extra possessions that they may lose in the rebounding battle. The Racers were #16 in turnover percentage last year and currently lead the nation in that category so far this season. This game figures to be very close as the teams are opposites of each other and will try to go after each other’s weaknesses. Mississippi prefers to play with a fairly quick pace while Murray is content with a slow, grinding game. Whichever team imposes their style for the majority of the game stands a good chance of winning. We just might pick Murray State to come up with a nice road victory (and RPI booster) this evening.

      Utah State @ BYU – 9 pm on The Mtn. (Mountain West Sports Network) (***)

      This Game, Won by USU Last Year, is Always a War

      If you look at the statistics on Ken Pomeroy’s site from last season, these two teams were remarkably similar. They were two of the top three 3-point shooting teams in the entire country last year and both were in the top 12 in effective field goal percentage as well. BYU also led the nation in free throw shooting while Utah State wasn’t far behind, ranking #12. Dave Rose leads his BYU team into another season of high expectations behind do-it-all player Jimmer Fredette. Fredette averaged 22 PPG last season leading the Cougars to a thrilling first round win over Florida in the NCAA Tournament. Key players Jackson Emery and Noah Hartsock also return for the men from Provo, Utah. The Aggies return two of their best players as well in Tai Wesley and Pooh Williams. Each team is 1-0 on the young season but Utah State struggled against another in-state rival over the weekend, Weber State. It is always difficult to win at the Marriott Center as the crowd is about as raucous as it gets in college basketball. They’ll most certainly be up and ready for this battle for the state of Utah. These two teams have played 226 times with BYU holding a 135-91 edge. However, Utah State won the last meeting on its home floor in Logan. Trying to contain Fredette will be paramount for the Aggies and coach Stew Morrill but hardly any team has been able to do that recently. Utah State did hold him to 5-15 shooting last year but he still managed to score 19 points. Expect a lot of threes to go up and to be made in this game tonight, though each team struggled mightily from the arc in their first game. When a lot of threes are attempted, long rebounds often result. BYU is not a good offensive rebounding team because of that so if Utah State can control the defensive boards they will have many more opportunities to score. The keys for the Aggies in last year’s win were getting to the line (+10 points there) and rebounding (+6). Everything else was fairly even and USU won by ten points, the margin from the foul line. BYU is favored at home, though only by six and a half points. We expect this to be a close game for 30 minutes with the Cougars gradually pulling away from the Aggies down the stretch. That isn’t to say Utah State can’t win (they certainly can), but winning on the road at BYU is something that rarely happens.

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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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      Checking in on… the SEC

      Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2010

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

      EAST:
      1. Kentucky              17-0     (2-0)
      2. Vanderbilt             12-3     (1-0)
      3. South Carolina      10-5     (1-0)
      4. Tennessee            12-2        (0-0)
      5. Florida                  11-5     (0-2)
      6. Georgia                 8-6      (0-1)
      WEST:
      1. Mississippi State  13-3     (1-0)
      2. Alabama                  11-4     (1-0)
      3. Arkansas               7-8      (0-0)
      4. Mississippi           12-3     (0-1)
      5. LSU                           9-6     (0-1)
      6. Auburn                  9-7     (0-1)
      News & Notes

      A couple of off-court situations were resolved for two SEC teams.  Courtney Fortson made his first appearance for the Arkansas Razorbacks as his long suspension is now over.  As for the other situation, all-SEC guard Tyler Smith was dismissed from the Tennessee Volunteers for drug and weapon charges and the fates of three other Vols still hang in the balance.

      Speaking of Tennessee, you probably heard — they pulled off the upset of the week when they knocked off #1 Kansas 76-68 on Sunday afternoon.  They were not the only SEC team to pull off a big out-of-conference upset last week as the Georgia Bulldogs knocked off #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66.

      Thanks to the Volunteers, Kentucky now occupies the #2 spot in both the AP Top 25  and the ESPN/USA Today polls.  Tennessee, for their efforts, did creep back into the top 10 at #9 in the AP Top 25 and #10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Ole Miss continues to represent as the third SEC team in the Top 25 — #21st in AP Top 25, and 23rd in the ESPN/USA Today.  Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Florida continue to swim in the “receiving votes” pool.

      Tennessee’s Bobby Maze was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 5.5 APG in wins over Charlotte and No. 1 Kansas.  Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins named SEC Freshman of the Week after he averaged 13.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in wins over Middle Tennessee and Florida.

      WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:
      • 1/12 – #2 Kentucky (16-0) @ Florida (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN  (more on this in a moment)
      • 1/13 -  LSU (9-6) @ South Carolina (11-5) – 8 PM – ESPN 360
      • 1/13 -  Vanderbilt (12-3) @ Alabama (11-4) – 9 PM – ESPN 360
      • 1/14 – Auburn (9-7) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) - 7 PM – ESPN2
      • 1/16 – #21 Mississippi (12-3) @ #9 Tennessee (12-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN 360
      • 1/16 – Vanderbilt (12-3) @  South Carolina (10-5) – 6:30 PM – ESPN 360
      • 1/16 – LSU (9-6) @ Florida (11-4) – 8 PM
      TEAM UPDATES (rankings are AP, ESPN/USA Today):
      EAST
      • Kentucky (#2, #2) — DeMarcus Cousins scored seven of his 16 points in the final three minutes as the Wildcats stayed unbeaten with a gritty 76-68 win over Georgia on Saturday.  UK jumped out to a 21-10 lead and the Bulldogs responded with a 21-5 run and it was nip/tuck the rest of the way.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall also scored 17 points apiece for the Wildcats.  The came right back on Tuesday with a road game at the O-Dome in Gainesville and took out the Gators, 89-77.  Eric Bledsoe keyed the ‘Cats with an incredible 25/7/5 asst night on 10-13 shooting.  Wall added 19/4/6 assts and the always steady Patterson chipped in 15/7 as Kentucky had to hold off a Florida team that got hot from three midway through the second half.  We’ll have even more on this one in next week’s SEC summary.
      • VanderbiltA.J. Ogilvy responded to being back in the starting lineup and scored 24 points, and Vanderbilt opened the Southeastern Conference schedule beating Florida, 95-87, on Saturday for the Commodores’ sixth straight victory.  Jermaine Beal added 22 points and Jeffrey Taylor had a perfect shooting day (5-5 FG, 4-4 FT) to add 14 points for the Commodores.
      • South Carolina — The Gamecocks got exactly what the doctor ordered on Saturday with a 88-58 pounding of the Longwood Lancers as South Carolina readied for conference play.  Devan Downey scored 18 points but the Gamecocks also got 15 points from Evaldas Baniulus off the bench.  Ramon Galloway also hit double digits with 12 points.  Downey then poured in 33 points with four 3-pointers as the Gamecocks opened SEC play with a 80-71 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday.  South Carolina hit 11 3-pointers on the game and broke open a 52-all tie with an 8-0 run to break open the game.  Sam Muldrow added 12 points and 4 blocked shots.
      • Tennessee (#9, #10) — The Volunteers really did not know what to expect when they came into their game against Charlotte with four players suspended.  What the Vols found was new faces to step up as they breezed by the Charlotte 49ers, 88-71.  Wayne Chism scored 18 points and Scotty Hopson added 17 and the Vols, with just six scholarship players, shot 57.6% with all five starters scoring in double figures.  And of course Tennessee pulled off their second big win of the week with the 76-68 upset of #1 Kansas on Sunday.  Hopson had 17 and Bobby Maze added 16, but the lasting image of this game was walk-on Skylar McBee milking the shot clock late in the game and then delivering a duck-under three point dagger to the heart of the Kansas Jayhawks.
      • FloridaKenny Boynton scored 28 points (including six 3-pointers) and Erving Walker added 22 (with five treys) but it was not enough as the Gators fell 95-87 to the Vanderbilt Commodores despie tossing in 13 3-pointers for the game.  The Gators hadn’t lost an SEC opener since 2001 at South Carolina.  On Tuesday night the faced the formidable #2 Kentucky Wildcats and hoped to score a sixth straight home win over the Big Blue, but 20 points from Walker and 17/7 from Alex Tyus couldn’t propel the Gators past UK; the Rowdy Reptiles went home disappointed as Florida went down, 89-77.
      • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins scored 20 points, Ricky McPhee hit two key baskets near the end and Georgia pulled off its first big victory for new coach Mark Fox, knocking off  #17 Georgia Tech, 73-66, on Tuesday night. McPhee had four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.  The Bulldogs showed their win over Georgia Tech was not a fluke as they battled Kentucky to the wire on Saturday before losing, 76-68.  The Bulldogs cut the lead to two with 1:00 remaining but UK pulled away the last minute.  Travis Leslie scored the first 10 points of the game for Georgia and finished with 20.  Thompkins finished with 17.
      WEST
      • Mississippi StateDee Bost tied a career high with 25 points and fueled Mississippi State’s 80-75 upset of #16 Mississippi on Saturday with fearless drives to the basket.  This was also a huge road win for the Bulldogs who opened SEC play against their biggest competition in the West.  Ravern Johnson added 15 and Kodi Augustus had a double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
      • Alabama — Alabama looks to be the big surprise of the SEC as they continued their strong early play with a 66-49 win over LSU in the SEC opener for both teams.  JaMychal Green scored 14 points to lead Alabama, while Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance added 13  and 12 points, respectively.  Alabama now has a four game winning streak.
      • Arkansas — Courtney Fortson made his debut after a season long suspension and had 19 points/7 assists, but it was not enough to help his Razorbacks pull an upset over #2 Texas.  Arkansas hung tough for about 38 of the 40 minutes but Texas pulled away at the end to win, 96-85.  Rotnei Clarke added 24 points for the Razorbacks.
      • Mississippi (#21, #23) — Terrico White had five 3-pointers and scored 21 points to lead Ole Miss to a 84-56 thumping of the UCF Golden Knights.  Ole Miss jumped out early and had a 46-24 halftime lead and the Knights never had a chance.  Eniel Polynice had 16 points and Murphy Holloway had a double double with 11 points and 10 boards to help key the rout.  On Saturday, the Rebels suffered a key early season home SEC loss against bitter rival Mississippi State, 80-75.  Chris Warren led the Rebels with 15 points despite a 5-17 shooting night and Zach Graham and Terrance Henry had 14 points and 12 points, respectively, off the bench.
      • LSU — The troubles continue for LSU as they managed just 18 points in the first half against Alabama and lost their SEC opener 66-49 to the Crimson Tide.  Bo Spencer scored 13 points, and Dennis Harris and Tasmin Mitchell added 12 and 11, respectively.  Storm Warren got in early foul trouble and had just four points and a mere one rebound.
      • AuburnDeWayne Reed scored 20 points to lead Auburn to a 96-72 victory against Division II West Georgia on Tuesday night. Frankie Sullivan scored 17 points and Tay Waller added 16 for the Tigers, who shot 52% from the field and outrebounded the Wolves, 40-29.  Auburn could only manage two 3-pointers compared to South Carolina’s 11, and that was the difference in the game as Auburn dropped a tough game on Saturday, 80-71.  Reserve Brendon Knox led Auburn with 22 points, Reed scored 19, Lucas Hargrove had 12 and Sullivan added 10 in the loss.
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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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      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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      Checking in on… the SEC

      Posted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2009

      checkinginon

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

      CURRENT STANDINGS

      EAST

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

      WEST

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

      It was a very slow week in the SEC as three teams did not see any action at all.  Kentucky and Mississippi State represented the SEC well in the SEC/Big East Invitational while Florida and Georgia lost their matchups.  Both Mississippi teams have been coming on strong and supplying some firepower to the West; Tennessee has only one setback and they should challenge UK all season.  The big story for the rest of the year will be the race to 2000 wins between UK and North Carolina.  Kentucky has pretty much assured themselves of being the first team to break the 2000-win plateau as they currently have 1998 wins to 1992 for UNC.

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      Checking in on… the SEC

      Posted by jstevrtc on December 8th, 2009

      checkinginon

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

      EAST

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

      WEST

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

      Anyone doubting the SEC’s resurgence this season had to be pouring themselves a big glass of “hater-ade” after taking a look at the weekly Top 25 polls.  The SEC, which sent only three teams to the NCAA Tourney last season now has three teams perched in the Top 10 and four teams are among the Top 25 in the nation.

      Kentucky used a win over North Carolina to leapfrog Purdue into the #4 spot in the AP Top 25 and now have that spot in both polls.  Tennessee only had one game last week, but moved to #9 in both polls due to other teams’ misfortunes, and the resurgent Florida Gators now occupy the #10 spot in the AP Top 25 and the 11th spot in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.  Mississippi debuted in the AP Poll at #25 and fell just outside the top 25 at #29 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  In contrast to that, Vanderbilt was #24th in the ESPN poll and #28 in the AP Poll.

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