SEC M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on November 8th, 2012

  1. The opening game in last year’s season between Michigan State and North Carolina took place on the deck of an aircraft carrier, an unprecedented location for a college basketball game in the history of the sport. Back by popular demand and the opportunities it provides to our military personnel, many more college basketball games (and practices) are taking place at military bases or other aircraft carriers across the world this year. On Friday, Florida will become the first SEC school to take place in one of these military-themed games against Georgetown on the deck of the USS Bataan in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic in Jacksonville. When asked about the specifics, coach Billy Donovan stated that the outdoor temperature, unusual sight lines, and unique atmosphere of the game will not affect the Gators’ game plan at all. The temperatures will be a bit cooler in this year’s game, hopefully avoiding a condensation problem similar to what arose during the game action in San Diego last year.
  2. So what happened Tuesday night at Ole Miss? In non-basketball related news, Twitter conversations in Oxford regarding the presidential election results triggered university police to convene at the student union on campus to disperse an angry group of protesting students, some of whom were shouting racially-charged epithets according to a statement from the school. The result? Two arrests for disorderly conduct, one for public intoxication, and another for failure to comply with police orders were handed out. The university issued a statement stating the campus was ‘a normal day’ on Wednesday and all campus related events will go on as planned. Let’s hope so — Mississippi doesn’t have a history of racial enlightenment to fall back on here.
  3. Can Tennessee make it nine straight wins versus UNC-Asheville next week in Puerto Rico? The Volunteers have history on their side, but the Bulldogs want to schedule a home-and-home series with the Vols and hopefully end the streak that way. Separated by only 117 miles across the Smoky Mountains, both Tennessee and UNC-Asheville ironically will travel 1550 miles to Puerto Rico for their latest game in the series. UNC-Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach is hopeful that a new arena on his side of the divide could trigger a local rivalry with the Vols, but there were no comments from Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on the subject. Also, Volunteers freshman Derek Reese began basketball activities again on Tuesday after tearing his right labrum over the summer. Reese participated in layup drills using only his left hand.
  4. Mark your calendars appropriately: ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan has compiled a list of the must-see non-conference games before New Year’s Day. Which SEC schools frequent the list? Kentucky and Florida, of course. Kentucky and Florida have four games each on the list, followed by Missouri with two games and Arkansas with one. The only two games that are not on campus locations include Missouri’s games in the difficult Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament and Florida’s match-up with Georgetown on the USS Bataan, off the coast of Jacksonville. These games will not only make for great viewing but also good early tests for all clubs before conference play.
  5. What makes Kentucky coach John Calipari so successful? He has proven that he can corral the egos of mega-talented freshmen and mold them into a national championship squad using a style of play that best fits that specific team’s needs. In the 2010-11 season, Calipari used the reliable shooting of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb to push his team to a surprise Final Four run. The previous team was centered around the play-making of John Wall and the size of DeMarcus Cousins. But how do these recruits end up at Kentucky and why does the Big Blue Nation adore their coach so much? Jason King of ESPN.com dubs the Calipari persona almost ‘gospel-like,’ breaking down Calipari’s unbelievable ways of operating a blue-blooded powerhouse, including recruiting, his relationships with hip-hop moguls such as Jay-Z and Drake, and his uncanny ability to make time (when he has none) to raise a million dollars via a telethon for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
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Can All Six Expected Kentucky Draftees Find NBA Success? History Shows It’s Unlikely…

Posted by EJacoby on June 27th, 2012

At this Thursday’s NBA Draft, expect to hear six former Kentucky players’ names called. But what are the chances that all six end up having strong pro careers? Four of the UK players are locks to go in the first round while two others are fringe picks, so there are high expectations for this group of newcomers. Has any past college team ever produced four or even five solid pros in the same draft? It turns out that 12 different college teams have seen at least four of their players get selected in a draft since 1989, when the draft shrunk from seven rounds to two. Unfortunately, none of these teams produced more than three successful pros, though the most recent examples include small sample sizes and show some promise. The bottom line is that history is working against the six former Wildcats, and it would be unprecedented for even five of them to pan out. Kentucky basketball has had a way of setting records recently, though, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if most or all of Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller eventually become strong NBA players.

Can at least five Kentucky players from the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft end up having strong careers? (AP Photo)

Since the draft shrunk to only two rounds back in 1989, no college team has ever had six players drafted in the same year. It goes to show just how talented the 2011-12 Wildcats were, starting at the top with the expected #1 pick Anthony Davis.  The 2006 Connecticut, 2007 Florida, 2008 Kansas, and 2010 Kentucky teams are the only others to produce as many as five NBA draft picks, so the trend has been pointing toward this day.

Today we’ll break down the teams that have come closest to producing four quality pros, including the most recent teams which still have a chance to do so. In order to qualify as a successful pro, our criteria requires players to have enjoyed extended, productive NBA careers. Career scoring averages of around 10 points per game is a general floor. Statistics don’t always tell the tale, so minutes played and games started are also considered to generally mean that a player was useful to his team. A one-stop statistic is Win Shares, which calculates the value a player adds over accumulated time and can be easily accessed through Basketball Reference’s database. Players who aren’t ranked in the top 20 Win Shares of their draft class generally don’t qualify as contributors. We’ll note if exceptions apply for certain players.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Doron Lamb

Posted by KDoyle on June 5th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Doron Lamb

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’4” / 210 lbs.

NBA Position: Guard

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Lamb Routinely Hit Big Threes Throughout His UK Career

Overview: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, and Darius Miller — it is easy to see why Lamb may be slightly overlooked entering the NBA Draft. Not overlooked by the experts and general managers, mind you, but a tad overlooked by the fans. Just how much individual attention can be given to a roster where at least five players project as first round selections? Doron Lamb proved to be Kentucky’s most reliable outside threat throughout last season averaging nearly 14 points and shooting a scorching 46.6% from beyond the arc. Despite having a good handle and being a smart decision-maker with the basketball, Lamb is a natural two guard at the next level, and would complement any established point guard very nicely. Surrounded by a roster full of future NBA players, Lamb was forced to simply become another piece in the offense rather than the focal point; at about 340 other schools in America, Lamb would have taken on the role of “go-to scorer.” As such, Lamb will have a more natural transition to the next level as he already is accustomed to playing within himself and the flow of the offense.

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Won and Done… Kentucky Roster Undergoes Yearly Overhaul

Posted by EMoyer on April 18th, 2012

On Tuesday evening, the worst kept secret was revealed as Kentucky’s five heralded underclassmen, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague all declared for June’s NBA Draft. The five brings the total to 15 of John Calipari recruits to leave early since 2008.

It Was All Smiles For This Group in Lexington

Eight of the previous 10 went on to become first round picks and two (John Wall and Derrick Rose) went No. 1 overall. Both the mock drafts at NBADraft.net and on ESPN.com have all five Wildcats going in the first round. DraftExpress.com lists four Wildcats going in the first round with Lamb currently an early second-round choice. According to all three sites, Davis will join Wall and Rose as top overall picks. They also agree that Kidd-Gilchrist projects as a top three pick and two (ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com) put Jones in the lottery.

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Morning Five: Tax Day Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 17th, 2012

  1. Three sophomores from the Big Ten announced that they were moving on from their current locations. The big move is comes from Ann Arbor where Evan Smotrycz announced that he was transferring from Michigan to Maryland. During his sophomore season, Smotrycz averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game including making 43.5% of his three-pointers. Having a big man who can grab a few rebounds and step out to hit outside shots should be a big addition for Mark Turgeon’s squad that lacked size last season. The other moves should have a much smaller impact as Ohio State announced that two sophomore would be transferring: J.D. Weatherspoon and Jordan Sibert. Weatherspoon only averaged 3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game while Siebert averaged 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game last year so their numbers should not be missed too much. No information has been released about where either player is planning on going so where they will end up is anyone’s guess.
  2. Even with those transfers the Big Ten got a little tougher next season as Trevor Mbakwe was granted a sixth year of eligibility and will be returning to Minnesota. Mbakwe, who went down with a knee injury last season, was expected to consider entering the NBA Draft, but decided to return to handle “some unfinished business” (or his questionable NBA Draft stock). In either case, Mbakwe’s return should make the Gophers one of the better teams in the conference even if they are still probably just below the absolute upper-tier of the conference. At the very least, his return does mean that there should be some pressure on Tubby Smith to guide the Gophers back into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. The face of the SEC could change drastically over a 24-hour period. Well sort of. Yesterday, Alabama junior/transfer Tony Mitchell announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. Mitchell is certainly athletic enough to get the attention of NBA scouts, but there are enough questions about his maturity and his all-around play that he is probably looking at a second round spot. As for that other team in the SEC–Kentucky–they will have a press conference tomorrow at 2 PM ET where five of their underclassman (Anthony DavisMichael Kidd-GilchristTerrence JonesDoron Lamb, and Marquis Teague) will announce their decision as to whether or not they will enter the NBA Draft. The first three players have always seemed like sure things to enter the NBA Draft, but the latter two seemed to be a little less clear. Now that they are announcing at the same time it seems almost certain that all of them will head to the NBA. This will be a huge loss for Kentucky who should feel the effects all the way until their next ridiculous recruiting class comes in.
  4. While the rumors surrounding a potential move that would bring Larry Brown to Southern Methodist persist we know that at least one member of his coaching tree will not be on his potential staff as Buzz Peterson announced that he will be staying on as head coach at UNC-Wilmington. Peterson, who will probably go down in history as Michael Jordan’s roommate at UNC, will remain a head coach for his 15th season during which time he has only been to the NCAA Tournament once (back in 2000 with Appalachian State). With Peterson firmly in place in Wilmington it seems like the new issue will be who Brown will bring along with him if he does indeed head to SMU.
  5. Two of the most successful programs in  college basketball had freshmen announce that they would be transferring and the effect should be negligible. Even though there should be a little more playing time available in the Duke backcourt next season Michael Gbinije has decided to transferring from Duke. Gbinije, who was a top 30 recruit coming in, only averaged 1.8 points and 0.9 rebounds while playing 5.8 minutes per game. Given his pedigree and the type of teams that were recruiting him he should have plenty of suitors. On the other hand Merv Lindsay may have a harder time finding minutes at a school of the caliber of Kansas after deciding to transfer from Kansas. Lindsay, who was much less hyped as a 3-star recruit, managed to land a scholarship at the school, but only averaged 0.9 points and 0.3 rebounds in 2.2 minutes per game this season. While most freshmen transfers from a program as prominent as Kansas who leave without injuries or significant behavioral issues would usually be guaranteed a spot at another major Division I program that may not be the case for Lindsay who had few suitors of the caliber of Kansas prior to matriculating there.
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He Won’t Admit It, But Kentucky’s National Title is Calipari’s Coronation

Posted by EJacoby on April 3rd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

After the Kentucky Wildcats captured their program’s eighth National Championship with a 67-59 victory over Kansas on Monday night, an unfazed coach John Calipari sat at the postgame podium and deflected all attention away from himself. “This is about them. It’s not about me. [...] I can just coach now. I don’t have to worry. If you want to know the truth, it’s almost like – done, let me move on.” Sounding more relieved than excited, the coach claims that nothing will change about his mentality or coaching style now that he’s finally a national champion. Whether fans believe him or not is up to them, but one thing remains clear: John Calipari has now elevated to the top step in college basketball coaching. As he tries to not make the victory about himself, we can take a moment to reflect on the significance of the 2012 National Championship and what it means for Calipari.

Coach Calipari Doesn't Want the Praise for the 2012 National Title, But He's Most Deserving of Such (AP Photo/D. Philip)

With the national title now under his belt, Calipari has validated everything he worked for in choosing to leave Memphis for Kentucky and recruiting the one-and-done type of players whom he encourages to leave for the NBA as soon as they’re ready. Cal still has his haters and doubters, such as this AP sports writer who can’t buy into the coach’s recruiting tactics. But those who watch the games understand that you don’t win national titles by letting top recruits play free-form basketball. There’s a reason why hoops is a thinking man’s game filled with elite athletes but only the most well-adjusted players succeed at the highest level. When Anthony Davis shoots 1-10 from the field and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t score a single point in the second half, they still have enormous impacts on the game because of their defensive prowess, how hard they play, and buy-in to the team game plan. It’s not easy to get 18- and 19-year-olds to reach their basketball potential in less than a year at a program, but Calipari got it done with this group in a big way.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: The National Championship Game

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

College basketball fans, this is it. A champion will be crowned tonight in front of 70,000+ people packed into the Superdome. Savor it because this beautiful sport of ours won’t be seen again for seven long and painful months. Between tonight and early November, many things will happen. Baseball and football will begin new seasons. The NBA will end one season and begin another. A long, hot summer will come and go. A presidential election will be held. All of this before we see another college basketball game that matters, after tonight’s phenomenal finale of course.

#1 Kentucky vs. #2 Kansas – National Championship (at New Orleans, LA) – 9:23 PM ET on CBS

It’s not often when the consensus top two players meet in the final game of the season, but that’s exactly what we have as Anthony Davis and Kentucky face Thomas Robinson and Kansas. You could make an argument that Bill Self and John Calipari are the best coaches in the sport as well, matched up in a battle between the two winningest programs in NCAA history. This has the makings of a special night, one that might trump them all in terms of the pregame storylines. Kentucky enters the game as a solid favorite (six points in Las Vegas) and won the first meeting by 10 points on November 15 at Madison Square Garden. Who had that as the national championship preview after watching it? Maybe you had the Kentucky half, but you certainly did not have the Kansas half of the equation. Plenty has changed since then, but there are a few things we can glean from that game. Kansas jumped out to an early lead before Kentucky rallied to tie it at the half and took control after the break. The Wildcats shot 51% but committed 19 turnovers (25.6% of possessions, their fifth highest total of the season). There were 45 fouls called in the game and Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor went to the line 17 times as a result. Kentucky’s defense was outstanding, limiting Kansas to 34% shooting and 4-15 from deep. The Wildcats blocked 13 shots (seven courtesy of Davis) and won the game in comfortable fashion.

Anthony Davis Will Need To Show Thomas Robinson Why He Is The National Player Of The Year

Tonight’s contest is a matchup between two elite defensive teams, tied for the national lead in defensive two-point percentage  (39.8%). The battles at the power forward and center positions are absolutely fantastic. Davis and Terrence Jones go up against Jeff Withey and Robinson, four outstanding defensive players and three who can change the game offensively as well. Robinson is the best defensive rebounder in the nation while Davis and Withey are the top two shot blockers. Jones can electrify the crowd with his athleticism and can also stretch his game to the three-point line. Kentucky is the more talented team, but Kansas has shown an incredible level of grit and toughness throughout the season, never more so than in the NCAA Tournament. Overcoming deficits against Purdue and Ohio State, plus putting away NC State and North Carolina late in the game has shown us this Kansas team is no fluke. The Jayhawks have absolutely nothing to lose in this game and are the more experienced team by a wide margin. On the other hand, Kentucky has one more game to go in order to live up to the preseason expectation of winning the program’s eighth national championship.

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The Ultimate Breakdown: Kentucky vs. Louisville

Posted by zhayes9 on March 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

The hysteria leading up to Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky national semifinal will be unprecedented.

The mutual loathing between legends John Calipari and Rick Pitino is only matched by the contempt between the two fan bases. Such a passionate and deep-seeded rivalry playing out on the grandest of stages is tantalizing to even the most casual observer. But once the smoke clears and the ball is tipped, those juicy storylines all become secondary, fading into the background with the hype and frenzy. Suddenly all that’s relevant is Peyton Siva’s speed, Kyle Kuric’s smooth jumper, Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the open floor.

For the lowdown on what to expect from the biggest basketball game in the history of the commonwealth, here’s a full-fledged Dr. Jack-style breakdown covering every aspect of Saturday’s opener:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist celebrating Kentucky's regional final win

Backcourt- It’s no accident that Peyton Siva’s remarkable late-season turnaround has coincided with Louisville’s spurt from a seventh place finish in the Big East to the Final Four in New Orleans. Russ Smith is an irrepressible, confident ball stopper just as prone to a mindless turnover as he to is scoring 10 points in the blink of an eye. Siva and Smith provide the engine to Louisville’s attack, while athletic two-guard Chris Smith and long-range marksman Kyle Kuric are Pitino’s steady cogs. Kentucky’s Achilles heel was long considered freshman point Marquis Teague, but he’s significantly cut down on his turnovers and can pack an unexpected scoring punch. Doron Lamb is a superior gunner to Kuric, shooting a fantastic 47% over his career from three. Look for Calipari to plug versatile swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Siva to stifle the Cardinals’ offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is a standout defender and the best collegiate player in transition since Derrick Rose. Edge: Kentucky.

Frontcourt- The progression of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng from a raw, bungling, and clumsy big man to a premier post defender and competent scoring threat in just two seasons has been nothing short of incredible. The popular crutch that freshmen are sophomores by the time March rolls around is often untrue, but it applies in the case of Chane Behanan, a gifted offensive rebounder who will be asked to contain Terrence Jones. When Jones is engaged, active and filling up the stat sheet, Kentucky is unstoppable. Anthony Davis has had an OK year: number one high school recruit, starting center for top-ranked Kentucky, national freshman of the year, likely national player of the year, and future top overall pick in the NBA Draft. Only North Carolina can come close to matching Kentucky’s weaponry down low. Edge: Kentucky.

Bench- Neither team extends very deep into their bench, yet both boast a de facto starter in Russ Smith and Darius Miller. At just 38% from two and 31% from three, Smith isn’t exactly the pillar of efficiency, but for a team that didn’t finish in the top 100 in offensive efficiency and scored less than 60 points in five of their final six conference games, Pitino will gladly accept the good with the bad (per Luke Winn, Pitino likes to say Smith “makes coffee nervous”). Any coach in America would love to have Darius Miller on their team, a steady wing defender equally adept at attacking off the dribble or firing from deep. Louisville steady defender Jared Swopshire and Kentucky pick-and-pop threat Kyle Wiltjer also see limited time off the pine. Slight Edge: Louisville.

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Rushed Reaction: #1 Kentucky 82, #3 Baylor 70

Posted by KDoyle on March 25th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Rebound, Pass, Score. Maybe ESPN’s Sport Science can help me out with this: I would love to learn how long it takes Kentucky to grab a rebound and then reverse the ball to the other side of the court. I cannot recall a team that fills the running lanes and pushes the ball better than Kentucky does. A big reason for their exceptional transition play is how well Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones get up and down the floor. Not to mention, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finishes around the rim as well as anybody in the game.
  2. Why Run with Kentucky? Playing off of the preceding point, why would any team try to run up and down the floor with Kentucky? It is hard to fault Baylor for doing so because so much of their game is predicated on transition offense, but other teams would be much better served to turn their game against Kentucky into a half-court affair. Force the Cats to defend for upwards of 20-25 seconds on the defensive end, and really make them work for buckets on the offensive end. Obviously, this is much easier said than done, but methinks Rick Pitino and Louisville will employ such a strategy. According to Kenpom.com, Louisville is the top defensive team in the nation, and dating back to the beginning of the Big East Tournament they are allowing just 56 PPG. However, the Cardinals have not faced an offense like Kentucky during that period.
  3. Lockdown Defense. As impressive as the Cats’ high flying offense is, their defense ain’t too shabby either. Anthony Davis’ shot blocking and altering ability has been well-documented, but Kentucky’s perimeter defense should not go unnoticed either. Opponents are shooting just a shade over 30% from distance against them; Baylor was a mediocre 4-14 this afternoon. Sharpshooter Brady Heslip was never able to get going as he knocked down just one triple on two attempts. For the game, Baylor shot 39%, and never recovered after Kentucky went on a 25-5 run midway through the first half.

Star of the Game. Anthony Davis, Kentucky. The conversation throughout the rest of the day and during the week will no doubt surround Anthony Davis’ knee, but that aside Davis was tremendous against an exceptionally talented Baylor frontcourt. Davis played a much smarter game today than he did against Indiana where he picked up two quick fouls and was forced to sit for much of the opening half. Against Baylor, Davis was not nearly as overanxious—remember, this is the biggest stage he has played on in his young career—but still was his usual imposing self. He turned aside seven shots, while also ripping down 11 rebounds and dropping in 18 points.

Quotable. “The knees doing fine, I just bumped knees with Perry Jones, but it is okay now…I knew I needed to get back into the game to help my team get to the Final Four.” - Anthony Davis on colliding with Perry Jones III and hitting his knee. This was one everyone’s minds in the media room and, not surprisingly, it was the very first question asked. Although Davis was limping after the collision, he did play considerable minutes and did not appear to be hindered by the knee. While many may try to make this into a story throughout the week, it looks as if it is a non-issue.

Sights & Sounds. Kentucky certainly made their mark on the city of Atlanta throughout the entire weekend. They were loud, widespread, and pretty knowledgeable based on the fans I spoke to this weekend. For the game this afternoon, however, there were several Baylor supporters seated behind me that threw out some priceless one liners. After a flagrant foul was called against Baylor early in the first half: “Just because CBS wants them (Kentucky) in New Orleans, doesn’t mean you can do that!” And another gem: “Put in RG3 (Robert Griffin III)! He can throw the ball into the basket from full-court.”

Wildcard: South Regional All-Tournament Team: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Quincy Acy (Baylor), and Christian Watford (Indiana) 

What’s Next? Kentucky will meet Louisville down in New Orleans in the Final Four. This has got to be one of the most highly anticipated and hyped Final Four matchup in history. The media will have an absolute field day with this one and you can bet there will be plenty of questions asked of the coaches about each other.

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SEC Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 16th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury announced his retirement after 14 years in Starkville. Stansbury will continue to work at MSU in a yet-to-be-determined position, said athletic director Scott Stricklin. Accoring to the Clarion-Ledger report, Stricklin “didn’t rule out interviewing current MSU assistants for the job. ’We’ll see; we’re wide open. I wouldn’t dismiss that idea.’” In that same piece, Dee Bost, the Bulldogs’ departing senior point guard, tweeted out an endorsement for long-time assistant coach Phil Cunningham. “Coach Stans retired,” tweeted Bost. “I think all alumni and fans should try to get Coach Cunningham as coach.”
  2. Vanderbilt won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2007. In a Tennesseean article by Michael Cass, he writes of a “banner year” for the Commodores and of some of the possible ramifications this year’s SEC title could bring. One Nashville native said, “For high school players, I don’t see how you can watch that (SEC championship game) and see the collection of talent Coach Stallings has put together and not want to be a part of it.” Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said, “On such a big national stage, to have Vanderbilt, obviously one of the greatest academic institutions in the world, beat the No. 1 team, win a championship in the greatest athletic conference in the country, it brings a lot of benefit to the university.”
  3. Alabama‘s Friday opponent, Creighton, utilized a popular practice technique to help prepare for the Crimson’s Tides press defense.  ”There’s times when we’ve had seven defenders out there guarding five,” said Doug McDermott, the Bluejays’ All-America sophomore forward. ”Our scout team guys probably aren’t as athletic and don’t have as much length as their guys do.”
  4. Like Dwight Howard announced today, another big man from the Sunshine State announced he would be staying for additional year when Florida sophomore center Patric Young said in the locker room Thursday that he intends to come back for his junior season. “That’s the first that I heard of that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “So that’s always great news. I think Patric has learned a lot this year. I don’t think this year was as easy for him as he thought it was going to be.”
  5. Western Kentucky head coach Ray Harper pointed out a facet of the game where the Kentucky Wildcats will have to improve if it hopes to win an eighth national title. ”If they want to advance and win a national championship, they’re going to have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter,” Harper said. ”They’re going to have to find somebody else that can make a shot from the perimeter.” The Wildcats have shot just 23.8% from the three-point arc going back to the start of the SEC Tournament and have not shot better than 30% in any of those four games. Doron Lamb is 4-for-15 in that stretch; Darius Miller is 2-for-12; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague are a combined 0-6.
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SEC Morning Five: 03.1.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 1st, 2012

  1. After losing two games in a row and four of its last seven, it is time to start wondering what is happening to Florida. In the case of Tuesday’s loss to Vanderbilt, it was simply a matter of not being aware of where the Commodores’ top player and ridiculously good shooter, John Jenkins, was on the floor. “I thought we had a couple of breakdowns where in the zone a couple of times we let Jenkins get loose which is really uncalled for because it’s not hard to locate where he’s at,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “And then there was a couple of plays where there were offensive rebounds thrown back out to him. I thought our rebounding to start the second half really, really hurt us.” Jenkins was the catalyst for Vanderbilt, torching the Gators on six of nine shooting from beyond the arc for 22 points on the night. Defensive pressure remains the key for the Gators as they have lost every game in which they allowed their opponent to shoot over 50% from the field.
  2. The guys at Alligator Army have succumbed to the thought that this is who the Florida Gators are this season, for better or for worse. They zeroed in on the aforementioned defensive troubles, but also discussed a couple of offensive struggles. The lack of a post presence has affected other areas of the offense, severely diminishing Florida’s three-point accuracy. The Gators were eight of 24 from three point land, and got very little production from center Patric Young. Young scored just four points in 25 minutes on Tuesday night. In order for Florida to regain its offensive firepower, it will have to figure out how to replace Will Yeguete‘s intensity and toughness and find a way to get Young more involved in the game plan offensively.
  3. Florida’s loss is Vanderbilt’s gain. The Commodores have been in hot pursuit of another marquee win to add to their resume, and their victory over the Gators prove they are peaking at just the right time. Vanderbilt blog, Anchor of Gold, found solace in the fact that the Commodores won this one with grit and determination. “It’s only one game, but it’s the kind of game that this team has found ways to lose in the past.” With the NCAA Tournament on the horizon, and Vanderbilt’s biggest question mark being its confidence, this win couldn’t have come at a better time.
  4. A Sea of Blue took a fantastic look at what Kentucky did to limit John Jenkins’ looks in the Cats victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Kentucky guard Doron Lamb was active in chasing Jenkins off screens and curls making it difficult for Jenkins to get an open look at the basket. Stats are not everything as the guys at A Sea of Blue point out. “It would be tempting to say that Lamb had a bad defensive game – Jenkins did score 18 points and shoot 44.4% (4 of 9) on his threes. But a lot of what Lamb did so well was in preventing shots – an aspect of defense that is more difficult to account for systematically.” In light of Jenkins’ performance on Tuesday against Florida, it’s an interesting read and great analysis as always.
  5. John Clay of the Lexington Herald Leader makes the case that Kentucky coach John Calipari should win the conference Coach of the Year honors. As Clay points out before mentioning others in the league worthy of consideration, “John Calipari should win SEC Coach of the Year honors — his team is unbeaten in the league, for heaven’s sake.” Of course, Cal’s Cats haven’t run the table yet. On Thursday, Kentucky faces Georgia, fresh off a win over Florida, and then the Cats travel to Gainesville for an always difficult matchup with Florida. If the Wildcats finish a perfect 16-0, it will be interesting to see if Calipari makes a strong run at the NCAA Coach of the Year award. This could serve as somewhat of a test of how the rest of the country views this accomplishment in terms of the perception of the strength of the SEC.
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How Historically Great is This Year’s Kentucky Team?

Posted by EJacoby on February 27th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

Last week included much debate about some of the all-time great teams in college basketball. First, we released our RTC Mount Rushmore of the most significant people in NCAA basketball history, which featured discussion about the leaders of several great programs. Then, CBSSports.com released their ballots ranking the 16 greatest teams in college history, followed by our own Joshua Weill highlighting Rodrick Rhodes and his (lack of) impact on the 1996 Kentucky ‘Untouchables,’ the team ranked third all-time by CBS. Meanwhile, this year’s Kentucky Wildcats won another impressive conference road game over Mississippi State and outlasted Vanderbilt on Saturday to improve its record to 28-1 overall and 14-0 in SEC play. All of this got us to thinking: How historically great is this year’s Kentucky squad compared to some of its contemporaries? Let’s take a look at how John Calipari’s team matches up to some dominant modern teams.

How Strong is this Year's Kentucky Team, Historically? (AP Photo/ J. Crisp)

If it weren’t for Christian Watford’s buzzer-beating three on December 10, Kentucky would be 28-0 right now and in the discussion to go undefeated. Instead, Indiana got the win that day and quieted the Wildcats’ buzz for an extended period. Forward Terrence Jones had just four points, one rebound, and six turnovers in that game, concerning many fans that the team could not reach its potential without its go-to offensive guy playing at his highest level. But since that game, UK has cruised in its 14 conference games and Jones has been just fine, averaging 12.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in SEC play. Those numbers are way down from last season and far from the dominance we all expected, but with five other stars on the team this hasn’t been an issue. Shooting 49.6% with just 1.8 turnovers per game, Jones has been quite alright.

The rest of this Kentucky lineup is filled with pros at every position. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller all average double-figure scoring on the season, while freshman point guard Marquis Teague is at 9.6 points and 4.7 assists per game on the year. The three freshmen — Davis, Gilchrist, and Teague — are all projected NBA lottery picks according to DraftExpress.com, while sophomores Jones and Lamb are expected to be selected in the first round as well whenever they declare. The senior leader Miller may very well find his way onto an NBA roster too, as he is currently a top 25 available senior as ranked by DraftExpress.

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