Ten Tuesday (Wednesday) Scribbles: On Underwhelming Teams, Soft Schedules, Wisconsin and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 6th, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. The Super Bowl marks the beginning of a two month stretch where college basketball dominates the national sports scene. From now until April 8, the focus will be squarely on our terrific sport. Sure it can be frustrating for the diehard fans that have been following every game since early November but the attention of the casual fans is what drives coverage and television ratings. The unfortunate reality is that without casual fan interest, college basketball would exclusively be a niche sport. We all have had that NCAA Tournament pool experience where the person who starts watching in February or March and knows very little other than team names and rankings wins the pool while the person who studies the efficiency metrics and knows that Travis Trice is a great three point shooter but awful inside the arc (h/t Luke Winn) finishes near the bottom of the pool standings. Nevertheless, it is an exciting time of year as bubble talk, last four in and last four out quickly creep into the daily sports conversation. Games like Tuesday night’s Ohio State/Michigan classic are what drive interest in the sport. We’ve been treated to plenty of great games this season but this one couldn’t have come at a better time, a time when most of America is now squarely focused on college basketball. Strap in, it’s going to be really fun as we head into the part of the season where every game is so big and teams make their final push towards March.
  2. As we move into this crucial part of the season, the issue of teams peaking early can become a concern for some. The season is a process, an evolution if you will, and not every team is playing its best basketball come March. As I look across the nation, there are a few teams that may have already peaked or are peaking right now and may not be able to sustain their current level of play into March. Oregon, NC State, Miami and Butler come to mind. Two losses to the Bay Area schools have put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. Is it a short term blip or a sign of things to come for the Ducks? Their ability to score and propensity for turnovers are causes for concern but Oregon’s defense is surprisingly solid. NC State’s issue is just the opposite. The Wolfpack certainly can score, although their offense was shut down in losses to Maryland and Virginia. However, defense has been a problem all year and NC State’s efficiency, ranked #141 in the country, is simply not at a level where you can win games consistently. Chances are the Wolfpack have already peaked and their inability to stop teams will catch up to them eventually. Miami is a case of a team that may be peaking as we speak. The Hurricanes have won 10 consecutive games in a variety of different ways. This fact (meaning they can play different styles/speeds) combined with a defensive efficiency ranked fourth in the country suggest Miami can sustain this level of play. Concerns for the Hurricanes include three point shooting, free throw shooting and offensive rebounding but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miami hold steady, at least for the next few weeks. Butler is an interesting case. The Bulldogs are 18-4 (5-2) but have lost two of their four games since the emotional win over Gonzaga on January 19 while also struggling through a win over lowly Rhode Island. Butler’s league isn’t as tough as the other teams mentioned here so it will likely enter the NCAA Tournament with a very strong record. Of concern is the BU defense which is not at the elite level it was when the Bulldogs first went to the national title game three years ago. However, it would be foolish to doubt Brad Stevens and his group. With a soft schedule down the stretch, there is still time for Butler to pile up wins and gather confidence heading into the tournament. I would say Butler has not peaked yet despite some major wins already on its resume. Look out for the Bulldogs next month.

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

    C.J. Leslie and NC State may have peaked early (E. Hyman/RNO)

  3. As we head into February and the regular season begins to wind down, I figure this is a good time to look at a few of America’s underwhelming teams. There are teams out there with gaudy records but few quality wins or those who just haven’t gotten on track relative to preseason expectations. Notre Dame, UNLV, UCLA and Missouri come to mind immediately. Notre Dame is 18-5 and 6-4 in the Big East which appears good on the surface but this was a team many thought would finish third in that rugged conference. However, a closer inspection reveals the Irish have just two quality wins on their resume (Kentucky (maybe) and at Cincinnati). In Big East play, Notre Dame has lost twice on its home court, something that has been almost unheard of over the years in South Bend. Notre Dame has never been a defensive juggernaut under Mike Brey but this is arguably his worst defensive team in 13 years at the helm. UNLV is a team with lots of talent that always leaves you wanting more, always following up a stretch of good play with a disappointing loss. The Rebels struggle away from Vegas which is understandable but you would still like to see them beat a few good teams on the road. They have failed to do that. UNLV can still turn it around but I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Three consecutive first round NCAA flameouts show that UNLV isn’t quite ready for primetime. In fact, the Rebels have not won a postseason game since a first round victory over Kent State in 2008. UCLA is still a work in progress but there is no denying it has been underwhelming. The Bruins have lost three of their last four games since winning 10 straight games after a disappointing 5-3 start. Defense has been a concern all season long but it’s the offense that has scuttled of late. Five of UCLA’s final seven games are on the road and one of the home games is against Arizona. Things could get a little dicey down the stretch for the Bruins. Missouri is the team I feel is the most overrated of all. Despite a resume that lacks one single freaking SEC road win and non-conference wins over fading Illinois and mediocre Stanford, the Tigers continue to be ranked in both major polls. Missouri is not a good defensive team and has given up a lot of points to pretty much every good team it has played. Phil Pressey can be a great distributor but he’s also a turnover machine and a poor jump shooter. Mizzou will probably make the NCAA Tournament but an early departure is highly likely. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On The Mountain West, Ole Miss, Villanova and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 29th, 2013

tuesdayscribbles

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. A lot of people are pumping up the Mountain West Conference this season and rightly so. Trailing only the Big Ten and Big East in the Pomeroy ratings, the Mountain West has seven of its nine teams in the top 100. Two Mountain West teams made the AP top 25 this week (New Mexico and San Diego State) while another (UNLV) is knocking on the door. That said, I don’t believe there is a single elite team in this league. The parity in this league makes for great action night after night but I would be surprised if any of these teams makes a legitimate run at the Elite Eight or Final Four. San Diego State and UNLV probably have the best potential to advance in the NCAA Tournament but each has too many flaws to make a serious run in my opinion. San Diego State does a number of things well but I question its ability to score against good competition and get a bucket when it is really needed. I think the Aztecs are the best in the Mountain West but their lack of size and occasional scoring issues will be their downfall. As for UNLV, it may have the most talent of any team in the league. But talent doesn’t always equal wins. Anthony Bennett is a flat out stud but the Rebels struggle against teams that can match their athleticism but also against teams that can slow it down and make it a half court game. UNLV’s turnover issues and shaky play away from Las Vegas are also major causes for concern. It always seems that whenever the Rebels look like they’re about to turn the corner, they lose. The win at San Diego State was a positive but UNLV gave it right back by losing to Colorado State three days later. This has been a trend for UNLV over the years as it just can’t seem to sustain a high level of play. A questionable or disappointing loss always seems to follow a nice win. New Mexico is an interesting team. Steve Alford has built a nice program in Albuquerque but I have been down on this team for the better part of the season despite its record. The Lobos really struggle to score, as evidenced by the putrid 34 points they put up in Saturday’s blowout loss at San Diego State. It’s disappointing because they have talented guards and a solid big man in Alex Kirk. Similar to UNLV, New Mexico often has a letdown after a period of strong play. The Lobos started 12-0 then lost at home to South Dakota State. Then they went on the road and beat Cincinnati, only to lose the next game in uncompetitive fashion to St. Louis. Then they won four straight (including at Boise State and vs. Colorado State) before getting blown out by the Aztecs. Until New Mexico proves it can consistently beat good teams, I will have my doubts. The Mountain West is really fun to watch but don’t get carried away about the league’s postseason prospects.

    Steve Fisher, San Diego State

    Steve Fisher may have the best team in the Mountain West (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

  2. One team out west that I feel does have the potential to go deep is Gonzaga. I do have a few concerns about the Bulldogs but I really do believe this is the best team Mark Few has ever assembled in Spokane. The Zags have the perfect balance with talented guards and strong players around the rim. Kelly Olynyk is having a spectacular season coming off a redshirt year and he anchors a strong frontcourt that also features the uber-athletic Elias Harris. Gonzaga is tough to match up with because it can score in so many different ways. If you zone the Zags, you risk Kevin Pangos dropping a ton of threes on you while giving up a lot of offensive rebounds. If you play man-to-man, Pangos can penetrate and dish to the big men at will or Gonzaga will run him off ball screens for plenty of good looks from deep. Gonzaga, with the nation’s fourth-ranked offensive efficiency, is incredibly difficult to contain on that end of the floor. The Bulldogs have been held under 70 points only five times in 21 games. The way to beat Gonzaga is to be physical and take advantage of its very average defense. Few’s team struggles to defend ball screens and is vulnerable against teams with a rugged style of play. You often get a lot of rugged, slow it down games in the NCAA Tournament and Gonzaga is going to have to sure up its defense by March in order to survive. That said, Gonzaga’s offensive prowess is a huge asset and one that should carry it to at least two NCAA Tournament victories in a perfect world. Of course, the world isn’t perfect and basketball games, more than any other sport, are often determined by match-ups. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Set Your DVR: Week of 01.28.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 28th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Things are a little quiet this week with mostly match-ups between top and bottom teams in the conferences.  However, there are a few games that mean a lot to certain teams, including those in some of the smaller conferences. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Pittsburgh at #8 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

Pitino needs to stop the bleeding at Louisville (AP)

  • Louisville is in an absolute must-win situation. They have lost their last three games and have struggled at crunch time with opportunities to win. Everyone keeps saying the Cardinals still could be the team to beat in March. However, history shows that teams that lose three games in a row during the regular season rarely win the title. Only four teams since 1980 have lost three games in a row and still managed to win the whole thing – 1982-83 North Carolina State, 1984-85 Villanova, 1987-88 Kansas, and 2005-06 Florida. Only one team in history has lost four games in a row and still won the tourney – Danny Manning and the Miracles (Kansas actually lost five straight at one point that season). The reality is that Rick Pitino‘s team is a poor shooting team and unless they get that corrected quickly, Louisville should not be considered a threat to win it all. Pittsburgh on the other hand seems to be turning things around. After starting 1-3 in conference play, they have managed to rattle off four straight wins. Both teams need a win to stay within two games of Syracuse and Marquette in the Big East. Pitt has improved their shooting and offensive rebounding in the last four contests and has been able to play tough defense without putting teams on the line. Keep a close eye on how Pitt does in the paint against Louisville shot blocker Gorgui Dieng. The Panthers are not a threat from three, so most of their points will come from inside the arc. For Louisville, they need to convert their turnovers into points by simply hitting shots. While Pittsburgh is not as long as Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown, they are not short. So Pitino’s crew needs to get to the basket for lay-ups and dunks. Shooting over the top is not a great way to break a shooting slump. Watch Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, as their performance on the interior will be the key to Louisville breaking their losing streak.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Top 25: Week 11

Posted by KDoyle on January 28th, 2013

Six of the 10 teams in the top 10 of last week’s RTC25 tacked on a loss to their resume, or in Louisville’s and Minnesota’s cases, multiple losses. Fortunately for these two, Duke garnered much of the attention as they were absolutely thrashed by an upstart Miami team by 27 points. Duke rebounded with a win over Maryland though, unlike the preceding two teams who seem to be in a state of free fall as the Cards have lost three straight (after being ranked #1) and the Gophers four straight. Despite defeating two top 10 teams, Villanova didn’t even get a whiff of the RTC25— probably due to prior losses to Alabama, Columbia, and Providence — it has been that kind of year. Just another week in the world of college hoops where the only thing that is predictable are storylines surrounding the brand of backpack that Shabazz Muhammad carries around the UCLA campus.

The Quick n’ Dirty after the jump…

Week 11

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Florida, Illinois, Surprising Conference Leaders, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 22nd, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Saturday night’s epic Gonzaga vs. Butler game was everything college basketball is about and then some. The game had all the trappings: two great basketball teams, a national TV audience, a historic venue, two terrific (and classy) coaches, an electric atmosphere, 40 minutes of competitive action, and an indescribable finish to the game. This was college basketball in its purest form. Everything you could ask for in a game. The kind of game you would show someone who has never watched college basketball before. It was the game of the year to date, one that will be nearly impossible to top in the regular season (we know what the Tournament can do). This was a high-level game between two teams that have the potential to make deep runs in March and the top two “mid-major” programs of the last decade. Roosevelt Jones’ game-winner will be the lasting memory from this game but I hope people remember just how well it was played on both ends. In the final minute and a half, I don’t think either team missed a shot in those final 90 seconds and the only mistake was Alex Barlow’s turnover which, ironically, set up the memorable ending. Dick Vitale said it was one of the top five games he has seen since he started working for ESPN 34 years ago. I wouldn’t doubt it. The game was that good.

    Butler's contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

    Butler’s contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

  2. An important result from last week in the Big Ten was Wisconsin taking down Indiana on Tuesday night in Bloomington. That’s now 11 straight Badgers’ victories over the Hoosiers and it’s safe to say Bo Ryan owns Tom Crean. Even when Crean was at Marquette, he only won three games against Ryan’s Badgers in their annual intra-state rivalry making him 3-13 against Ryan in his career. “Tommy Basketball,” as Ryan once called him, didn’t have an answer for Wisconsin last week. The Badgers controlled the pace of the game from the opening tip and got physical with the more athletic and talented Hoosiers. Once again, Ryan overcame a talent disadvantage on the road to score a huge victory. He’s one of the best pure basketball coaches in the nation and it shows year after year no matter who is on his roster. Wisconsin let Cody Zeller do his thing in the first half but the Badgers really clamped down on him after halftime. A big key to the win was limiting Jordan Hulls. With Ben Brust glued to him most of the game, Hulls could only manage one three-point attempt. That’s outstanding defense and a great game plan against one of the best shooters in the country. Wisconsin limited everyone not named Zeller to 28.2% shooting, a remarkable accomplishment against one of the best offensive teams in the nation. It was a great win for the Badgers but, unfortunately for them, they followed it up with a road loss to Iowa on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is getting better. Never count out Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 11th, 2013

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

College football is officially in the books and that means college hoops takes center stage. It’s going to be a great weekend of action highlighted by two Big Ten showdowns and an ACC battle that will shape the national picture. Good luck deciding which game you are going to watch at 12:00 PM EST tomorrow. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#1 Duke at #21 North Carolina State – 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Mason Plumlee was hassled all night by Davidson's defense.

With the injury to Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee will need to muscle up on defense against NC State.

  • The ACC is starting to look like Duke, North Carolina State, Miami, and then everyone else. The big news for the Blue Devils going into Saturday is the loss of forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury for an indefinite period of time. Kelly’s loss appears to be significant for Duke but we really will not know the entire story until Saturday’s game is over. Kelly’s outside shooting and overall scoring threat will be missed, but it may be his size on defense that is missed most. Duke will be left with either freshmen Amile Jefferson and Alex Harris or junior Josh Hairston to help Mason Plumlee defend the interior. With an extremely athletic front line, NC State will test the Blue Devils’ resolve right away. Expect the Wolfpack to try to overwhelm Plumlee down low by attacking the inside. By doing this, they will attempt to put Plumlee in foul trouble and get to the line. If Plumlee gets into foul trouble, it will be a very long afternoon in Raleigh for the Dukies. The team that plays better defense will win this game.

#9 Minnesota at #4 Indiana– 12:00 PM EST, Saturday on BTN (*****)

  • Minnesota made a statement in its blowout win at Illinois this week. They are looking for the Big Ten title and it’s going to take a great team to beat them. What’s most impressive about the win is actually their lack of offensive rebounding. That may seem like a crazy statement but when you consider how good they are on the offensive boards it makes sense. The Gophers lead the country in offensive rebounding percentage (OR%) at 48.5%. They are absolutely dominating that statistic. So when their OR% dipped to 25% against Illinois, their worst performance of the year, and yet they still won by 17 points, it means this team can do a lot more than just grab boards. Shooting 61% eFG proved that. Interestingly enough, however, it could be rebounding that derails the Gophers against Indiana. Minnesota actually struggles on the defensive boards and Indiana is ranked in the top 10 nationally there. With the incredible offensive weapons that Indiana has at its disposal, grabbing a bunch of misses is just salt in its opponents’ wounds. This game is going to be a great spectacle with tremendous match-ups all over the floor. Trevor Mbakwe against Cody Zeller might be the best big man battle we will see all year. If Minnesota can make it two road wins a row against the best in the Big Ten, watch out for Tubby Smith’s team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Weekly Five: 06.08.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 8th, 2012

  1. Let’s talk scheduling, but enough about the soap opera between Kentucky and Indiana. There’s a new drama between Syracuse and Arkansas, and it turns out to be much ado about nothing. Syracuse originally refused to play in Fayetteville, but has relented to the powers that be and will play Mike Anderson‘s Razorbacks after all. “We discussed our concerns regarding Syracuse’s participation in the SEC/Big East Challenge with the conference and have come to an agreement on the logistics of the game,” Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said in a statement. “The Big East Conference will work with us to assist in our on-conference scheduling for the 2012-13 season.” Not sure that Syracuse ever had a choice in the matter, but good to see everyone in agreement.
  2. Guards Jelan Kendrick and Maurice Aniefiok are leaving the Ole Miss program, according to a spokesman for the Rebels. Aniefiok averaged just 1.5 points and 0.8 rebounds per game in only 6.9 minutes per game. He struggled from the field shooting just 25.8 percent. Kendrick, a former McDonald’s All American, averaged 5.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game off the bench. Kendrick showed promise on the court, but struggled with off the court issues and with his relationship with coach Andy Kennedy.
  3. Welcome to the SEC, Missouri and Texas A&M. And how does the conference ensure a collegial  environment? By throwing a party, of course. However, the official welcome is set to expire soon. Missouri opens up football play with Georgia on September 8, and Tigers head football coach Gary Pinkel provided advice that could be relevant in college basketball this season as well. “I understand everyone is going to want to watch how A&M and Missouri do, coming from the Big 12 into this league. My big thing, when you’re new like we are, you’ve got to earn respect. That’s what we’re going to try to do.” Missouri instantly joins Kentucky and Florida at the top of the SEC power rankings this year in basketball, so the respect factor may come much quicker on the hardwood for the Tigers.
  4. Tennessee standout Jarnell Stokes has been named as a finalist for the U18 USA Men’s Basketball National Team. Committee chair Jim Boeheim spoke of the difficulty in making selections saying, “You had 23 guys who all are really good players, there wasn’t a bad player here. To get down to 12 is going to be difficult but I think we’re going to end up with a really good athletic team that is going to be very well coached. I think we’ve got an unbelievable coaching staff. I think we’ve got guys that have won, been winners, won state championships, and I think they’ll represent USA Basketball extremely well in this tournament.” Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan serves as the head coach for the team, which will make its final roster cuts on June 12.
  5. If you were a head basketball coach and every SEC head coaching position was open and available to you, which would you choose? Well, ESPN’s college basketball gurus made their choices and Kentucky, Florida, and Missouri top the list as desirable positions while Ole Miss, Auburn, and South Carolina finish out the bottom of the pack. No major gripes here on the order, but the placement of one school, in particular, was interesting. Mississippi State has been relatively successful recently, yet they rank number 11 on the list. I agree with the reasoning behind the placement, but if this is all true, why chase off Rick Stansbury? He enabled the Bulldogs to compete in the SEC and he recruited well for what we are now calling a bottom tier SEC basketball job. Sounds like Mississippi State was exceeding expectations with a coach at the level of Stansbury.
Share this story

RTC Top 25: Week 13

Posted by KDoyle on February 6th, 2012

With the Super Bowl now behind us and the NBA being, well, the NBA, it is college basketball from here on out for the next two months. There was not a whole lot of movement inside the top five as Kentucky retained its position as the #1 team in the nation, while Missouri jumped to #4 after posting a win over Kansas. You may have missed it with the Super Bowl festivities, but a surprise loss at home to Miami (FL) has Duke outside of the Top 10 for the first time this season. The Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Bubble Trouble: Volume I

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 4th, 2012

In this weekly piece we will be comparing blind tournament résumés. Each week we will take three Pac-12 teams that are on the bubble and compare them to three national teams that are facing the same fate. Since the Pac-12 is in such a down year, we realize that we are going to run out of NCAA Tournament bubble teams pretty quickly. That’s why in the coming weeks you will see some NIT and even CBI bubble predictions. We know that we aren’t the only Pac-12 basketball degenerates around here, and we understand that most of you could easily guess the Pac-12 team by seeing their good wins, record, etc. That’s why we’re putting a new twist to these résumés; You won’t see any records or team names, instead, those will be replaced by winning percentage and the RPI rank of their opponents. If you’re confused, read on anyway. We’ll give you all the answers after revealing to whom the résumés really belong to.

*All numbers and rankings as of February 3

Team 1 Team 2
 Winning Percentage: .727  Winning Percentage: .760
 RPI: 89  RPI: 38
 SOS: 152  SOS: 58
 Quality Wins (Opponents’ RPI Rank): 18, 59, 81  Quality Wins (Opponents’ RPI Rank): 20
 Bad Losses (Opponents’ RPI Rank): 127, 144  Bad Losses (Opponents’ RPI Rank): 141, 110

 

Take a quick glance at both résumés and it appears that team two is the logical choice here. Their winning percentage is only slightly better, but the key lies in the RPI and SOS numbers. Team two boasts an RPI ranking that is 47 spots ahead of their counterpart, and their SOS is 94 spots better. The lack of quality wins is the only thing I have reservations about. Click the jump to see whom the résumés really belong to.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The State of the SEC Nation

Posted by EMoyer on January 24th, 2012

Tonight, President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address, and since the President is known for possessing a solid left-handed jumper, we found today as good a day as any to assess the positions of the 12 SEC basketball programs. Paraphrasing roughly every president ever: “I come to you tonight to report the state of our union is strong” (wait for prolonged applause). Now when speaking of the SEC as a whole, it would still hold true, as the league against boasts the #1 team in country, Kentucky, and has five teams solidly in the NCAA Tournament field as this moment. For some teams however, calling the state of their program “strong” would be in insult to their fan bases. For Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Florida, the three schools picked to finish atop the standings, each move into the final six weeks of the regular season looking to hold on or improve upon their NCAA statuses.

John Calipari Thinks The State Of The SEC Is Strong

In Kentucky, the lone blemish remains that buzzer-beating loss at Indiana. While the Hoosiers have dropped out of the Top 10 of late, no one can complain about year three of the Calipari era. Anthony Davis has become the most menacing defensive inside presence in the league since perhaps Shaquille O’Neal as the Cats eye a #1 seed in March.

Both the Gators and Commodores have two cracks at the Wildcats coming up. At Florida, the Gators missed scoring big non-conference wins at Ohio State and Syracuse then suffered questionable losses to Rutgers and Tennessee and the combined record of their first four SEC opponents is a meager 38-36.  Road games at Ole Miss, Alabama, and Arkansas could shape their NCAA future.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC Morning Five: 1.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 20th, 2012

  1. Head coach Anthony Grant questioned the team mentality of his Alabama squad after a 56-52 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday. “There’s a point in time when winning needs to take a priority over any individual things,” Grant said, “and I don’t think we understand that all the time.” If the Tide’s head man had questions over teamwork on Saturday, then he’s really going to ponder his club’s commitment following a 69-59 loss to Vanderbilt. Alabama trailed by as many as 23 in the second half, were outrebounded by 10, and shot just 33% as a team from the field. Rather than a lack of teamwork, maybe it’s a lack of shooting ability that has done the Crimson Tide in this season. Alabama is last in the SEC in made three-point field goals with under three per game.
  2. Forward Reginald Buckner was a huge factor in Mississippi’s first win over rival Mississippi State since January 31, 2009. Buckner pulled down 15 rebounds, blocked three shots, and scored a career-high 19 points. That’s a lot of production from the junior who averages 8.7 rebounds and just 6.8 points per game. “I thought he was tremendous,” Rebels coach Andy Kennedy said. “Obviously the difference in the game.” And not just any game — a much needed win for the up and down Rebels. “It was a statement game,” Buckner said. “We’re back in it. We’re back in the race.” Which race exactly is yet to be determined.
  3. Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost is an emotionally driven player who can trash talk with the best of them, but usually backs up his talk with positive play on the court. Bost made plenty of noise before the game, but came up short in the Bulldogs loss on Wednesday night. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy set out to frustrate Bost by defending him with the length of 6’10” forward Terrance Henry. And it worked. Bost was four of 15 from the field for 15 points, but scored a flurry of eight points in the final 42 seconds of the game after the final outcome was already decided. “We thought the length would bother him, which it did a little bit,” Kennedy said. Bost has been the key to Mississippi State’s five-game winning streak against Ole Miss prior to this loss. In the 69-64 win in Oxford last season, Bost came up huge for the Bulldogs with 25 points, six rebounds, and eight assists.
  4. Kentucky forward Terrence Jones credits a new attitude for his recent 13-point, nine-rebound performance against Arkansas. “I’m just not thinking as much,” Jones said. “Just being less conscious about my hand. Worrying about messing up because I wasn’t playing like I was as a freshman. Just thinking too much about every little play.” Jones refuses to use his finger injury as an excuse for his poor play, which is appropriate considering his struggles started well before the December 17th setback. The 6’8″ power forward has yet to record a double-double this season, despite reaching that mark thirteen times as a freshman.
  5. Billy Donovan is looking to his bench to fill the void left by the ankle injury of center Patric Young. “Pat is obviously a big part of our team,” Florida forward Erik Murphy said. “He’s going through a little bit of an injury, and we have got to pick up the slack, step up. All of us collectively as a group need to.” Young is expected to play on Saturday against LSU, but how much and how effective he is remains to be seen. If Young is unable to play significant minutes, Donovan could turn to freshman Cody Larson. “I’m gaining more and more confidence and trust in Cody,” Donovan said. “I’ve put him in now the last several games, and he’s given us some good minutes.” Young was limited to just 13 minutes in the Gators’ last game against South Carolina.
Share this story

SEC Full Court Press: The Dawn of A New Year

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 3rd, 2012

The SEC Full Court Press is a quick hitting review of my thoughts and observations from the last week, as well as a look ahead.

The Week That Was:

  • Anthony Davis scored all 18 of his points and grabbed six of his rebounds in the second half of Kentucky’s win over Louisville.
  • Kentucky shot 29.8% and turned the ball over 21 times in that game. And the Wildcats still won.
  • 52 fouls were called in the annual rivalry game making the game choppy from start to end.
  • Florida lost to Rutgers on Thursday night, and the Scarlet Knights turned around and lost to USF on Sunday. That’s just how college basketball goes.
  • Is it ever too early to start the Bubble Watch? At least two surprise SEC teams could be in contention for an NCAA bid with a couple of quality wins. LSU currently has an RPI of #79 while Ole Miss is at #42. You may remember that Alabama was left out last year with an RPI of #80. LSU and Ole Miss have significant work left to do, but will have plenty of chances in conference play.
  • Vanderbilt held Marquette to 32.2% shooting in its 74-57 win. And people (myself included) said the Commodores couldn’t play defense? They obviously can, but will they show up every game?
  • Vanderbilt’s Jeffery Taylor has performed well above his averages in the month of December. This past month, Taylor averaged 23 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game. Can he keep it up?
  • The Commodores beat top-15 team Marquette last week, and turned around and struggled at home against 4-8 Miami of Ohio. It appears that this is just the type of team that Vanderbilt will be this year — terribly inconsistent. That’s a bad habit to have going into NCAA tournament time.
  • Renardo Sidney was 5-of-6 from the field when he was on the court for Mississippi State against Baylor on December 28. He was limited to only 19 minutes of action. As has been said all season long, Sidney needs to find a way to be in the game for his team but that means overcoming both conditioning and attitude issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story