SEC M5: 01.07.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 7th, 2013

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  1. The biggest news of the weekend came with the announcement that Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon will redshirt for the 2012-13 season. Maymon intends to give his left knee time to recuperate so that he can make a full return to the court in 2013-14. ”It’s really tough to know that I can’t be on the court with my teammates this season,” Maymon said. “But I have confidence in them, just like I have confidence in these coaches and our medical staff. I know this is in my best interest, and I am going to work incredibly hard to come back as an even better player and teammate next season. I love Tennessee.” Maymon averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season, and would have been a huge boost to a struggling offense that has put up point totals of 36 and 38 points already this year. He led the team last year in effective field goal percentage at 55.8 percent, and the Vols could certainly use a low post threat to help out sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes. Maybe next year will be the year, assuming Stokes decides to suit up one more season in Knoxville.
  2. Another SEC school lost one of its top scorers over the weekend as well. South Carolina guard LaShay Page has been ruled academically ineligible because of what Gamecocks coach Frank Martin is calling an “academic glitch.” Page is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.7 points per game. Similar to Tennessee, USC has not exactly put on a clinic on the offensive end this season, so any personnel losses hurt — Page took over 30 percent of the Gamecocks’ shots, so he won’t be easy to replace even though he wasn’t exactly the most efficient scorer with a 41.9% effective field goal rate. The backcourt should get somewhat of a boost with guard Bruce Ellington’s return from the football field and freshman Michael Carrera’s return from injury, but Page’s loss will no doubt be a huge blow for a team on the upswing.
  3. Florida forward Erik Murphy is out again, this time missing Sunday’s game against Yale because of bruised ribs sustained in practice. Murphy will undergo x-rays to determine if any further damage has been done when the team returns to Gainesville on Monday. “It’s tough for us and certainly disappointing for him,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. Murphy averages 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, and is the most offensively efficient player on the Gators’ roster (fifth in the nation). Though Murphy was surely missed on the court against the Bulldogs, this is especially disappointing because the game was somewhat of a homecoming for the senior. He grew up about an hour from the Yale campus in Kingstown, Rhode Island.
  4. This season hasn’t exactly gone as planned for John Calipari and UK, but next season could be his most talented roster yet. And that’s without knowing which of his current superstars will return. Kentucky received another commitment from a high school senior over the weekend, the number one rated center in the country, Dakari Johnson. Coach Cal is waiting on decisions from another pair of high schoolers (Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins), of which he will likely land one. Once finalized, some are calling this the greatest recruiting class of all-time. Not just at Kentucky, which would be quite the feat since Cal has been at the helm, but the best anywhere at any time. That’s impressive, but think of the talent that could return to help lead this group of fab freshmen. Kentucky could end up with a collection of starters in 2012-13 who may be sitting on the bench to make room for a new group of starters in 2013-14. Could be an interesting dynamic, but Calipari has made it work before.
  5. Speaking of super recruit Andrew Wiggins, after a string of top ranked recruits selecting the Wildcats, could Calipari and Kentucky actually lose a recruit? It seems so. Evan Daniels, Fox recruiting analyst, thinks Wiggins will choose the Seminoles of Florida State over the stacked Wildcats. The number of available shots in a loaded Wildcats’ lineup could be a factor in Wiggins’ decision. The Wildcats will likely play similar to last season, where minutes and shots are spread fairly evenly among six to eight talented players. If Wiggins wants the ball in his hands, then Lexington may not be the spot for him.
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SEC M5: 01.04.13 Edition

Posted by DPerry on January 4th, 2013

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  1. Tennessee’s premier non-conference rivalry continues today when Memphis travels to Thompson-Boling Arena to take on the Vols. The match-up will bring an eight-year contract between the schools to a close, and with the two schools unable to come to an agreement for future games, we may not see these in-state rivals face each other in the near future. It’s a shame really, as Tennessee-Memphis has been one of the most exciting rivalries in recent years. Bruce Pearl and John Calipari were instrumental in reigniting the rivalry, but even with new coaches Cuonzo Martin and Josh Pastner now on board, the two schools have remained competitive. Last November, in an unplanned game in the Maui Invitational, Memphis held off the Vols in double overtime in what turned out to be one of the most memorable early games of the season. A renewal of this rivalry seems unlikely in the near future, but we can always hope.
  2. John Calipari acknowledges his team’s occasional lack of effort. A special freshman class can break the mold (i.e., his 2011 class), but a group of stars coming from the high school ranks frequently struggles with motivation. How does Calipari combat this problem? Cold hard numbers. The UK training staff is employing a device (the specifics of which have not been disclosed) that gives them ”the ability to monitor and check how much effort players are giving in real time. Because we are able to read their heart rates, now we know who is maxing out in practice and who is hiding, who thinks they’re going hard and who isn’t, who is able to push themselves through pain, and who has mental toughness to be special.” Interesting.
  3. Auburn basketball. Anyone care to explain? I sure can’t. The Tigers have been a conference bottom-feeder for years, but at least one conference prognosticator (OK… me) thought that the Tigers would experience at least a mild renaissance this season. However, after a 2-5 start that included losses to Boston College and Rhode Island, I’d lost faith. However (yes, another “however”, it’s appropriate), the Tigers might have turned things around. Tony Barbee’s squad traveled to Chicago over the weekend and almost pulled off a massive upset over the 12th-ranked Illinois Fighting Illini, and in their non-conference finale, the Tigers upset Florida State, a talented team despite not meeting its own preseason expectations. Auburn is entering SEC play on a high note, and with a relatively soft opening conference schedule, the Tigers will look to compile some momentum before matching up against the SEC’s elite.
  4. A quick look at its non-conference schedule shows UCLA as Missouri’s last quality opponent, but true college basketball connoisseurs will note that Bucknell shouldn’t be counted as one of the Tiger’s cupcakes. The SEC is in an obvious down year, but the newcomers from Columbia have made an impression in the young season. Despite the loss of a key contributor in shooting guard Michael Dixon, the Tigers still have arguably the nation’s top point guard in Phil Pressey, who shouldn’t have much of a problem dominating the weak defenses that populate much of the SEC. A home-and-home with Florida and a trip to Rupp Arena loom large, but Missouri boasts the quality of talent to become the conference’s premier team in its first season.
  5. We’re about a third of the way through the college basketball season, and South Carolina sits in the top half of the SEC. Impressive, right? Maybe not, if you look at the schedule. The Gamecocks have lost only three games to this point, but when your most impressive win is at home against Rider (ranked 207th by Ken Pomeroy), you take that record with a massive block of salt. The Gamecocks will be looking to establish more of a trustworthy record as we approach the SEC season, but in their last  non-conference game, they’ll be without several key contributors against South Carolina State over the weekend. Second-leading scorer Lashay Page, Outback Bowl hero Bruce Ellington, and freshman forward Michael Carrera will watch Saturday’s game from the sidelines, but as the Bulldogs rank 346th of 347 teams (according to Mr. Pomeroy), we won’t be surprised to see South Carolina escape without any trouble.
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SEC M5: Halloween Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 31st, 2012

  1. That, my friends, is the sound of basketball. The squeak of tennis shoes, the bounce of the ball, and the whistle of the referee suggests that exhibition games have officially begun, with the newest member of the SEC — the Missouri Tigers — up first. Former Auburn Tiger Earnest Ross made quite the impression on his new team and new coach in their blowout win over Northwest Missouri State on Monday.“He can shoot for a guy his size, and, with his physique, you wouldn’t know that he could have that kind of touch,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “He can shoot the ball. He’s worked really hard at it too.” Ross averaged 13.1 points and an impressive 6.6 rebounds per game for Auburn in 2010-11. He finished Mizzou’s exhibition with 22 points on six three-pointers. With guard Mike Dixon currently suspended by Haith, Ross will have a nice opportunity to showcase his skills.
  2. South Carolina is hobbling through the preseason with only a fraction of its full roster. Four members of the team miss its exhibition action against Kentucky Wesleyan last night because of injury. Sophomore forward Carlton Geathers (knee), sophomore guard Damien Leonard (broken nose), senior guard LaShay Page (hamstring), and freshman forward Mindaugas Kacinas (ankle) were on the sidelines last night, and it showed as the Gamecocks barely snuck past the D-II team, 68-67. Frank Martin will need a healthy team to run the gauntlet of SEC play, but a light non-conference schedule allows for USC to ease into this season with a new coach and new system. Page, a transfer from Southern Miss, scored 11.6 points per game last year for the Golden Eagles, and could be an impact player for Martin.
  3. Speaking of LaShay Page, Martin sees a lot of potential and leadership for the 6’2″ guard in his first year in a South Carolina uniform. “I can’t place the responsibility of leadership on someone who doesn’t want that job,” Martin said. “He’s kind of evolved into that himself.” Page is confident he can make the transition to the SEC and become a leader for Martin’s club. “It’s different players, a different staff, but the same me,” he said. “My leadership, leading the younger guys. I really look forward to that.” In addition to leadership, Martin and the Gamecocks need scoring. Leading scorer Malik Cooke departed from Columbia, taking over 12 points per game with him. Page will need to step into that role for South Carolina to be competitive.
  4. The love-fest for Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein continues. And what is Halloween without a little scare, so want to know a frightening thought? Cauley-Stein is the least hyped freshmen of all Cal’s newcomers. The part of his game that has coaches and critics raving is his hustle. After a 14-point, 12-rebound, and five-block performance in the Blue-White scrimmage, Cauley-Stein talked about his game and coach John Calipari’s philosophy on effort. “He preaches every day once he sees you take one play off you are coming out, because obviously you are tired and are not going hard enough,” he said. “He keeps saying at the game you will only be able to play three minutes and you are coming out. He says that to everybody because everybody will be tired. So once we get out of the grind of things and you get in your mind that you can go harder than a few minutes, that is when your game will escalate.” It is clear that Cauley-Stein has worked his way into the rotation for the early part of this season, and it is equally certain that effort and hustle on both ends of the floor will be the attribute that keeps him there.
  5. A lot of debate has gone into who will start in the backcourt for Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators. And for that matter, there was a question of how many guards would start out on the floor. For now, Donovan has an answer, settling into a three-guard lineup with senior Mike Rosario joining  point guard Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton. “Mike has done a good job,” Donovan said. “I think, as far as my trust level for him on the court, it’s growing and growing because he’s taking care of his responsibilities.” Rosario did not always make great decisions with a turnover rate of 16.7 percent in 2011-12, creating some of the trust issues that Donovan spoke about. The 6’3″ guard should also be charged with accounting for lost rebounding produced by NBA draft pick, Bradley Beal. Beal grabbed 6.7 rebounds per game last season from the wing spot.

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

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Night Line: Larry Eustachy Has Southern Miss On Track For Its First NCAA Bid in 21 Years

Posted by EJacoby on February 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Head coach Larry Eustachy hasn’t led a team to the NCAA Tournament since his two-seed Iowa State Cyclones were upset in the first round of 2001. But the Southern Miss basketball program has waited even longer, as it’s been 21 years since the Golden Eagles went dancing. This season, the combination of Eustachy’s guidance and a collection of veteran players have USM in prime position to earn a ticket to the Big Dance, whether as the champion of their league or an at-large selection. On Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles snapped a 17-game losing streak against Memphis by defeating the Tigers, 75-72, to earn sole possession of first place in Conference USA. A program that has never won an NCAA Tournament game is well on their way to having a chance to do so this season.

Larry Eustachy is Back in Control of a Potential NCAA Tournament Team (AP/S. Coleman)

Southern Miss (20-3, 7-1 C-USA) has quietly put together a solid resume this season, and Wednesday’s win was the signature victory they needed to justify their sparkling record. The Golden Eagles have only lost to undefeated Murray State in Alaska, at Denver in its first ‘real’ game, and at Memphis by two points earlier in the season. The Denver loss appears rough, but the Pioneers are actually a top 100 RPI team at 16-6, 6-3 in the Sun Belt, and it’s never easy to play a true road game at the start of the season. Meanwhile, Southern Miss has been flawless in the rest of its conference games and also boasts road wins at Colorado State and Arizona State and home victories over Ole Miss and South Florida, both of which are above .500 in the SEC and Big East, respectively. Tally it all up and the Golden Eagles have a spectacular RPI of #11, which is music to the NCAA Tournament committee’s ears.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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