Putting Together the SEC Puzzle, Knockoff Style

Posted by Greg Mitchell on February 22nd, 2014

Seth Davis has the Jigsaw Man, his alter ego that finds unheralded players and plugs them into more high-profile teams with a distinct need. I don’t have a creative nickname for this, but I do have some SEC puzzles to solve and following Davis’ lead sounds like a good idea. Joe Lunardi currently lists Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee in his field of 68. Each team has its holes, so to get creative, I tried to plug them with one player from a conference foe that won’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Saying something like “Missouri can’t score inside, add Julius Randle” is too easy, though, and the knockoff Jigsaw Man likes to challenge himself. Here goes…

Florida gets: Brenton Williams, South Carolina

Billy Donovan could use Brenton Williams free throw prowess at the end of games in March (beachcarolina.com).

Billy Donovan could use Brenton Williams free throw prowess at the end of games in March (beachcarolina.com).

You have to search high and low to find something Florida doesn’t do well. One thing that stands out, however, is the Gators’ relatively poor team free throw shooting percentage (67.6%, ninth in the SEC). Foul shots become trickier in postseason play as the pressure of closing out a game intensifies. Florida doesn’t have anyone other than Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin who Billy Donovan can feel confident about taking those big shots. Those limited options could make inbounding the ball to a reliable shooter at the end of a close game difficult. So why not give the Gators a player who has only missed three foul shots all season? Brenton Williams has not only been the best foul shooter in the SEC (78-of-81, 96.3%) but he is also a senior who fits Florida’s experienced theme. He’s also one of the best three-point shooters in the conference (42.8%) which addresses another area of relative weakness for the Gators. Let Casey Prather inbound the ball at the end of close games, and with Williams, Wilbekin, and Frazier making cuts, he’s sure to find a guy among the trio who can seal a win.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Weekday Primer: Road Tests Await NCAA Hopefuls

Posted by Greg Mitchell on January 21st, 2014

The third week of SEC play is upon us after a Saturday in which the standings started to morph into what many thought they’d be. Florida (4-0) and Kentucky (3-1) survived close games to inch toward the top, while surprise front runner Texas A&M (3-1) lost an overtime affair in Starkville. The weekday slate has a couple games that could play a big role in the SEC’s desperate quest for non-Gator-and-Wildcat NCAA bids.

Mike Anderson and Arkansas will, yet again, try to make a statement on the road against Tennessee (foxnews.com).

Mike Anderson and Arkansas will, yet again, try to make a statement on the road against Tennessee. (foxnews.com)

Don’t Miss This One, Part IArkansas @ Tennessee (Wednesday, 8:00 PM ET)

The Razorbacks are right back where they want to be after a loss in Athens: on the road. That’s sarcasm, of course, but Arkansas needs a win in the worst way, especially away from home. If they lose Wednesday they’ll fall to 1-4 in league play which is no place for a team with tournament hopes, regardless of how dazzling that one conference win was. But the Vols, however, aren’t the match up Mike Anderson is looking for. Tennessee has the third best offensive rebounding percentage in the country, and the Razorbacks have struggled to keep teams off the offensive glass this season. The Vols are also coming off a game in which they handedly beat Kentucky’s talented front court on the boards. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC M5: 01.13.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 13th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  1. Missouri, LSU, and Arkansas all took hits to their tournament resumes in their first SEC games. Tennessee now belongs on that inglorious list after blowing a 14-point first half lead and losing to Texas A&M. The Aggies have thrown a wrench into both the Vols’ and Razorbacks’ tournament hopes in less than a week. Alex Caruso is off to a scorching start in SEC play, with 19 assists against 4 turnovers in the Aggies’ two wins. As the folks at Good Bull Hunting write, Texas A&M should continue to cause problems because of their defense. “The season may be pretty ugly thus far, but with A&M’s play on defense, they can never be taken lightly, as Arkansas just experienced.” That was on display in Knoxville, as the Aggies held both Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes in single figures. Billy Kennedy’s squad is the early leader for SEC Spoiler of the Year.
  2. Starkville hasn’t been kind to Ole Miss, where they’ve now lost 15 of their last 16 game against their biggest rival. For the Rebels it was yet another close game they weren’t able to close out, similar to losses against Kansas State, Oregon, and Dayton. ”Our guys scrap and fight and it’s not always the most pleasing to watch from any vantage point, but we stay in games,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “Then it comes down to the stretch and you’ve got to make plays. The games we’ve made plays — like (Auburn on Thursday) — we win. The games we don’t make the plays and Mississippi State does, they win.” At this point the Rebels simply aren’t in the NCAA tournament conversation, especially after losing to RPI #156. For Mississippi State, the win moved them to 11-4, surpassing their win total from last season. Even though their fans didn’t get a chance to boo the suspended Marshall Henderson, the win still must have been satisfying.
  3. Julius Randle was limited to 25 minutes in Kentucky’s win against Vanderbilt because of cramping, which he struggled with against Louisville as well. Randle has the Wildcats’ highest usage rate (27.9%) and is the focus of every opposing defense. John Calipari talked about the toll this is taking on the freshman. ”You have to understand, he’s in a dogfight,” Calipari said in his post game news conference. “I think he is the only college player when he catches the ball, he’s got three guys on him. He’s not just running up and down the court. He’s, like, in a football game.” Randle’s conditioning will be something to watch going forward, and the onus falls on Alex Poythress, among others, to keep the power forward position afloat. Poythress has played reasonably well in the 41 minutes he’s logged in SEC play (21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks).
  4. Missouri‘s front court rotation has suddenly grown since the Tigers entered SEC playTorren Jones (13 minutes) and Keanau Post (14 minutes) saw extended minutes against Auburn after both played sparingly during the non-conference season. They combined for 17 rebounds, and this was important because senior Tony Criswell was benched for an undisclosed team violation. Criswell began the year suspended so his absence could easily snowball into more games, and Frank Haith will need to keep relying on Jones and Post. Starting center Ryan Rosburg was in foul trouble much of the game, so it’s encouraging for Missouri that they were still able to win the rebounding battle (44 to 28).
  5. Scottie Wilbekin says his ankle is feeling good, and that’s obviously great news for Florida. “I think (I was) 100 percent, maybe 90 percent, 85,” Wilbekin said. “It wasn’t really hurting that bad. It was just range of motion. It was good. It was all right.” The senior point guard was able to play 35 mostly effective minutes in the Gators’ overtime time in Fayetteville. Injuries appear to be an inevitable part of Florida’s 2013-14 season after early ankle injuries to Wilbekin and Kasey Hill, and the current injuries faced by Wilbekin, Patric Young and Casey Prather. Young was able to play 21 minutes despite knee tendinitis, but Prather sat out and is the major concern for Billy Donovan. It’s always hard to lose a senior starter, but Prather is a little different because, foremost, he’s having a SEC POY-type season and no one else on the roster has his combination of size, length and ball-handling. The status of his knee has become a key to Florida’s season.
Share this story

The New Hand-Check Rule and Its Probable Effect on SEC Teams

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 7th, 2013

Larry Brown calls it “scary.” Herb Sendek thinks it’ll be “revolutionary.” These longtime and venerable coaches are talking about the NCAA’s new hand-check rule, which will no doubt be a nagging storyline throughout the upcoming season. Many believe that an increased emphasis on hand checks will lead to more fouls. ”Tons of fouls, a lot of free throws, long, ugly games. Hopefully fans can prepare for that. It is going to be frustrating.” That’s Lon Kruger’s take on the effect of the new rules. Given the concern that many coaches have about the change, it’s worth looking at which SEC teams and players could be affected most by the difference.

Craig Sword had the third-most fouls in the SEC last year and the new hand-check rule could be tough on him (photo courtesy bigstory.ap.com).

Craig Sword had the third-most fouls in the SEC last year and the new hand-check rule could be tough on him (photo courtesy bigstory.ap.com).

Fouls: The following players led the league in fouls last year, and could be in for even more foul trouble and time off the court if they don’t show more discipline to adapt to the new rules:

  • Dont’e Williams, Georgia, 98 total fouls
  • Alex Caruso, Texas A&M, 93 total fouls
  • Craig Sword, Mississippi State, 92 total fouls
  • Rodney Cooper, Alabama, 91 total fouls
  • Allen Payne, Auburn, 89 total fouls
  • Johnny O’Bryant, LSU, 89 total fouls
  • Alex Poythress, Kentucky, 88 total fouls
  • Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss, 87 total fouls
  • Michael Carrera, South Carolina, 85 total fouls
  • Patric Young, Florida, 85 total fouls

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Billy Kennedy Is Running Out of Players to Start a Crucial Season

Posted by Greg Mitchell on November 5th, 2013

Billy Kennedy faces a pivotal year at Texas A&M. The Houston Chronicle reported last week that Aggies’ athletic director Eric Hyman recently told Kennedy that he must make the postseason to keep his job. This comes after a 31-32 overall record with no postseason appearances in his first two years. Everything is on the line now for the third-year coach, and he’s been put in an even tighter spot as two players he is counting on for big contributions in 2013-14 will miss the start of the season. Sophomore guard J-Mychal Reese was suspended by the school last week for a violation of athletic department rules, and CBSSports‘ Jeff Borzello reports that Reese is expected to miss three games. As a freshman, Reese didn’t play particularly well last year, but he has the third highest assist percentage of returning Texas A&M players (a pedestrian 15.2 percent). His three-point percentage was a solid 36 percent on 55 attempts, but his field goal percentage (also 36 percent) leaves something to be desired. Still, he earned considerable experience (26.2 minutes per game) on a team where only four returning guards averaged over 12 minutes per game.

Billy Kennedy is down two important players in what is an important year for Texas A&M (photo courtesy usatoday.com).

Billy Kennedy is down two important players in what is an important year for Texas A&M (photo courtesy usatoday.com).

The Aggies are already without junior forward Kourtney Roberson, who is out indefinitely after experiencing a rapid heart rate last week. Fortunately, the condition doesn’t appear to be career or life-threatening, and he is expected to return to basketball activities in only a few weeks. The big man is an important part of the plan for the 2013-14 Aggies. He has excellent rebounding potential, as exhibited by a season in which he posted a defensive rebounding percentage of 20.8 percent and an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.8 percent. Roberson paired this with a solid 116.0 offensive rating, and he is tasked with replacing the production of Ray Turner.

There is some reason for optimism despite these early setbacks. Kennedy has length and athleticism that could be difficult for other teams to match. When Roberson returns, the head coach could run a lineup of the junior big man along with guards Alex Caruso (6’5”), Jamal Jones (6’8”), forward Antwan Space (6’8”), without a major sacrifice in ball-handling or quickness. Caruso and Jones are the keys to this idea. Caruso showed that he could distribute the ball as a freshman (27.9% assist percentage) but he turned it over too much (2.3 turnovers/game). Jones has offensive promise, averaging 18 points per game at the junior college level last year. If Caruso shows better discipline and Jones adjusts quickly to the next level, Kennedy will find himself in a good place with his backcourt.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Transition Basketball: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by Brian Joyce on September 6th, 2012

Let’s finish these off this week with the last few of what we’re calling it Transition Basketball, an offseason look at each of the 14 SEC basketball programs. Today’s update: Texas A&M.

State of the Program

Billy Kennedy’s first season in College Station came with high expectations. The Aggies were on a roll, making the NCAA Tournament in the previous five seasons, with junior Khris Middleton back to lead the way along with seniors David Loubeau and Dash Harris. Texas A&M was a consensus top 25 pick in the preseason, and a popular choice to finish in the top echelon of the Big 12 with national powerhouses Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri. However, the popular pick isn’t always the right pick. Mark Turgeon left the cupboard fully stocked with athleticism and experience, but after an 8-1 start, the Aggies fell flat the rest of the way going 6-17 the remainder of the season. Bad fortune struck the Aggies when 6’9″ forward Kourtney Roberson went down in late December with an ankle injury and freshman Jamal Branch decided mid-season that he wanted to transfer to St. Johns. Harris and Middleton were both slowed by injuries. Unfortunately for A&M fans, even with a little luck on their side, it’s not likely the team’s win column will improve drastically in its first season in the SEC.

Kennedy can’t afford another disappointing effort in College Station

Though three key pieces (Middleton, Loubeau, and Harris) from last year are gone, several role players could step up to fill those roles. There is promise down low in 6’9″ forwards Ray Turner (9.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG) and Roberson (4.6 PPG and 4.9 RPG) who is back along with a bill of good health after he was granted a medical hardship for his injury last season. 6’5″ guard Elston Turner scored a solid 13.8 points per game in his first year in College Station and will likely need to score with even more efficiency this year for the Ags to be successful. But is that enough for Kennedy’s club to make significant improvement?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who’s Got Next? UConn Grabs Calhoun, Tough Week For Tech, & Teague Carries Indiana…

Posted by Josh Paunil on June 14th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

Freshmen and sophomores dominated in Colorado Springs last week during the USA U-16 developmental team training camp while the best point guard in the Class of 2011 hit a buzzer beater to win a fiercely competitive interstate all-star game. A few top ten stars in the Class of 2012 also announced new lists, new visits and new favorites as Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies continued their dominance on the recruiting trail. An article on the fastest rising junior in the country was another must-read as we take you into this edition of Who’s Got Next?

What They’re Saying

Kaleb Tarczewski (#6) spoke about his Kansas visit. (NY2LA Sports)

  • Junior Kaleb Tarczewski (#6) on his Kansas visit: “It was really good, I really like it there. This trip was really for my mom. She hadn’t been there yet and I wanted her to see it.”
  • Sophomore standout Allerik Freeman on some schools on his list: “Florida is a great program with a great staff. NC State is on the right tracking trying to get back to the national spotlight. Georgetown has a rich tradition, and great staff with a nice offense. Tennessee is a place where my game fits in great.”
  • Omar Calhoun, Sr., on his son, junior Omar Calhoun, Jr., committing to Connecticut: “After spending time with [head] coach [Jim] Calhoun and the rest of the coaching staff, we felt it was a place we needed to be. He believes he fits well… coach Calhoun has had a tremendous amount of success with NYC guards.”
  • Junior Ricardo Ledo (#9) on what’s factoring in on his decision: “I want to go somewhere I can win. Playing time is also important.”
  • Junior Rodney Purvis (#7) on his Missouri visit: “It was great and fun. The visit was not what I expected!”
  • Junior Archie Goodwin (#19) on Kentucky head coach John Calipari: “He’s just a great person. He helps people excel and fulfill their dreams.”
  • Junior Jordan Price on his commitment to Auburn: “I just felt like it was the best fit for me and my family. It’s not too far away from my home so family and friends can come watch.”
  • Class of 2012 center Landen Lucas on his Kansas visit: “Loved it! [Assistant] coach [Danny] Manning stood out because of how well he develops bigs and gets them to the next level.”
  • Don Showalter on players who stood out at the USA U-16 Developmental Team tryouts: “[Class of 2013 Watch List power forwards Jabari] Parker and [Aaron] Gordon really stood out, they are really, really good players. They are going to be the best players in the tournament, no question. We started there and built around them.”
  • Senior Norvel Pelle on why he committed to St. John’s: “I wanted to get the best of both worlds. It’s a perfect opportunity with their new class of freshman and being in New York. I have a good relationship with the whole coaching staff and we try to connect on a daily basis. They’re all down to earth and chill.”

What We Learned

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Who’s Got Next? Pangos All-American Camp, Perry Ellis News, Archie Goodwin Injury and More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on June 7th, 2011

Who’s Got Next? is a bi-weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Twice a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are in the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we’re missing, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Introduction

The stars were out to shine this weekend as the best players in the country went at it during the Pangos All-American Camp. The top two prep players in the country, centers Andre Drummond (#1) and Isaiah Austin (#2 — Baylor) put on a show Friday and two of the best power forwards in the country, Mitch McGary and Robert Carter (#34), battled it out at the Under Armour Best of the Best Camp. However, amidst all the big men competing against each other, one wing player stole the show at Pangos and showed why he could be considered the best player in the Class of 2012. There is also a lot of new news today regarding new lists, new timetables and when top prospects will take visits so make sure you don’t miss the latest Who’s Got Next? column.

What They’re Saying

Five-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson has many great things to say about Archie Goodwin (#19).

  • Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson on junior Archie Goodwin (#19): “Archie’s gonna be a special player. I think he’s far ahead of where I was going into the 12th grade, so I was really surprised. He makes great plays that can’t be taught. The sky’s gonna be the limit.”
  • Sonny Parker on where his son, sophomore Jabari Parker (Watch List), wants to play college: “I asked him if he had a top five, and he said, ‘Dad, wherever I’m going to get an opportunity to play.’ Let’s put it this way, he’s an elite player, and he’s going to go to an elite school. Whatever school he goes to, I know he wants to win a national championship.”
  • Junior Justin Anderson (#45) who he’s recruiting: “I’m really working on [class of 2012 point guard] L.J. Rose (#20)… we’re trying to get him at my high school (Montrose Christian) and at UVA. Right now, we’re really pushing for him.”
  • Junior Shabazz Muhammad (#3) on who he’s been talking to lately: “I talked to [Arizona head] coach [Sean] Miller two days ago, I talked to [Duke head] coach [Mike] Krzyzewski two days ago, I’ve been e-mailing [Kentucky head] coach [John] Calipari, I talked to [UCLA head] coach [Ben] Howland, I talked to Memphis.” On his visit to Arizona: “I enjoyed myself a lot, it was a great experience for me. All in all it was a great time and I had a great experience their.”
  • Junior Anthony Bennett on the schools that are recruiting him the hardest: “Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, West Virginia, Florida.” On when he will make a decision: “Probably late next year.”
  • Sophomore star Nerlens Noel (Watch List) on a timetable for hist list: “I think I’m going to put out a list by the fall, maybe after this summer.”

What the Ellis Family is Saying

Do you see the resemblance between Grant Hill and Perry Ellis (#10)? Coach K does.

Fonda Ellis, the mother of Class of 2012 power forward Perry Ellis (#10) said many interesting things a couple of days ago when she talked to National Recruiting Spotlight about her son’s interest in Duke (to see more analysis of this make sure you check out the “What You Missed” section). Perry also said a couple of noteworthy things so we compiled the best quotes that the two recently said.

Share this story