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SEC Headlines 4/10/2014

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. Are Columbia police having difficulty getting cooperation from a victim or witness in a case potentially involving Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham? Update: Investigation complete – no arrests will be made. Update II: Victim and roommate feared retaliation.  Girlfriend text:  ”The coaches talked to me and explained to (me) how serious this is and there’s no time to waste at this point.”

2. Certain people who show up for Mississippi State’s spring game may get dinner with coach Dan Mullen.

3. Is Alabama running back Derrick Henry poised for a breakout season? “During the Oklahoma game, I could tell that they didn’t want to tackle me.”

4. Alabama coach Nick Saban on his quarterbacks: “Cooper Bateman and Blake Sims have both done a nice job this spring and are improving very nicely.”

5. Position battle to watch at Georgia’s spring game?  Left guard.

6. Florida wide receiver Chris Thompson had only two catches last season but has been a standout performer this spring.

7. More debate over Vanderbilt’s decision to move its game against Ole Miss to LP Field.

8. More than 1.2 million fans watched Auburn play football in 2013 - more than any other team in the country.

9. South Carolina defensive tackle J.T. Surratt: “I wasn’t too boisterous last year, but this year I gotta step up into that roll and say more things now.”

10. Arkansas names Southeastern Louisiana associate head coach E.K. Franks as the program’s recruiting director.

11. With its entire starting group gone, plenty of opportunities along Tennessee’s offensive line.

12. Tennessee will have a flag football game for former Vols at halftime of the spring game.

SEC/NFL

13. Zach Mettenberger on his performance at LSU’s Pro Day: ”I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that I’m healthy, and good enough to go, and I don’t think all of y’all believed me. ”

SEC Basketball

14. The mother of Kentucky star Julius Randle denies an ESPN report that her son has decided to declare for the NBA draft.

15. Kentucky coach John Calipari on the NCAA: “The situation reminds me a little of the Soviet Union in its last years.”

16. Florida forward Chris Walker says he’s returning for sophomore year.

17. Ole Miss guard Derrick Millinghaus is planning to transfer.

18. Former Texas Tech guard Dusty Hannahs is transferring to Arkansas.

19. Former Missouri player Earnest Ross filed a restraining order against teammate Zach Price a before Price was arrested twice for assault.

20. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl has one more spot to fill on his staff.  Interviewed 12 candidates during the Final Four.

SEC History

21. How much did Bear Bryant make when he coached Texas A&M?  $15,000 plus 1% of the gate.

Extras

22. This is how you become a college football bag man.

23. Big Ten opening an office in New York City.

24. David Letterman’s replacement is Stephen Colbert.

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Saban Says Alabama Lost Its Identity Last Year

fake-id-mcLovinAlabama won BCS championships in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.  In 2013, the Crimson Tide came within one second — literally — of perhaps punching a ticket back to the SEC title game which could have propelled them back to another BCS title clash.  After Bama’s loss to Auburn, however, the team got scorched by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Now at most schools a 12-2 season would be a pretty darn good year.  But that’s not the case at Alabama where Nick Saban says his program lost its identity last year and will have to struggle to get it back:

 

“Alabama football’s supposed to be a tough, physical team that nobody really like to play against.  That’s been our identity.  We’ve lost that identity a little bit, I think, the way we finished the year last year.  That’s something that we’ve got to get back, and it’s hard, and you really can’t make it easy…

You have to start all over to reestablish it.  It’s not easy.  It’s not easy.  It’s difficult.  It’s tough.  To have the psychological toughness to sustain the season to play the kind of football that we’ve won playing around here, you have to pound.  You have to pound your hand in the sand until it’s tough enough to go through it.

I don’t know that we every paid that price last year, and I think it’s important that our players understand why we do the things we do so they can make it through the season and play the kind of football that we want to play.”

 

Is that an overall mental state Saban’s referring to or an actual style of play?  Let’s look at some Alabama stats from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons:

 

  Year   Rush Offense   Rush Defense   Pass Offense   Pass Defense
  2011   2788 yds (508 carries)   938 yds allowed (2.43 ypca)   2797 yds (357 attempts)   1449 yds allowed (4.3 ypa)
  2012   3185 yds (570 carries)   1069 yds allowed (2.43 ypca)   3052 yds (328 attempts)   2431 yds allowed (6.1 ypa)
  2013   2673 yds (461 carries)   1381 yds allowed (3.32 ypca)   3230 yds (365 attempts)   2344 yds allowed (6.6 ypa)

 

Saban may be referring to an overall attitude with his team, but the numbers suggest that attitude is tied directly to being a “tough, physical team” that can control a game on the ground..

The Tide ran the ball fewer times last year for fewer yards than it had the two previous seasons.  Look at the passing offense numbers and it’s easy to see that senior quarterback AJ McCarron was called on to put the ball in the air more often, making good with more yards through the air.  But did that decision to throw the ball a bit more and run the ball a bit less contribute to Alabama’s late-season stumbles?  Saban seems to think so.

On defense there’s a more obvious trend — giving up more yards on the ground.  Bama allowed almost a full yard per carry more on the ground last year than it had the previous two seasons.  The Alabama secondary (and pass rush) allowed more yards per attempt than it had the previous two years as well, but the bigger decline is in the run game.

Saban’s comments and a quick look at the stat book suggest that new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will be instructed to pound the ball more than his predecessor, Doug Nussmeier, did a season ago.  Breaking in a new quarterback that would be a smart tack anyway.  Also, it’s a probably a safe bet that Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are putting an added emphasis on stopping the run this spring.

Run the ball; stop the run.  That was the “identity” of Alabama’s football teams in 2011 and 2012.  The 2013 team slipped a hair in those areas last season.  It slipped enough, at least, to lose two whole ballgames.

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SEC Headlines 4/9/2014

headlines-wedSEC Football

1. Tennessee coach Butch Jones on the team’s Sunday night opener against Utah State: “We’re very, very excited about that. It’s also a great opportunity to perform on the SEC Network.”

2. Tennessee quarterbacks Justin Worley and Riley Ferguson took first- and second-team reps, respectively, on Tuesday.

3. Georgia and Notre Dame reportedly working on a home-and-home series starting in 2018. A.D. Greg McGarity: “We talk with a lot of institutions about future scheduling and Notre Dame is one of them.”

4. Bulldogs turn to fans for playcalling help?

5. Judge says Auburn fan was guilty of disorderly conduct when he stormed the field following the Iron Bowl. His attorney asks why his behavior was any different than thousands of others.

6. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn’s message to his team: “The big thing is we needed to be more physical.”

7. Florida coach Will Muschamp on quarterback Jeff Driskel: “He’s throwing the ball very accurately.”

8. Over the weekend, Alabama coach Nick Saban mentioned three quarterbacks by name.  Yesterday, he left one of them out.

9. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason on Aaron Murray: “I think one of the great things is he kind of just passed the torch,”

10. Injuries taking their toll on spring practice at Missouri.  Coach Gary Pinkel: “We had to cut our reps back a little bit…”

11. South Carolina All-SEC freshman kicker Elliot Fry is now on scholarship. ”It’s awesome, obviously. Love it.”

12. Mississippi State’s Justin Cox is moving back to safety.  “I can see the field. Free safety was my first love.”

13. Arkansas linebacker Otha Peters is changing numbers.  “Five, I felt like, was a curse,”

14. Ole Miss had its spring game early in order to get a full month with the strength and conditioning coordinator.

15. The long-time PA announcer at Neyland Stadium has died.  Bobby Denton had been battling cancer.

16. Steve Spurrier and the advantages of living close to Augusta, Georgia.

SEC/NFL

17. Big turnout expected today at LSU’s pro day. Seventeen players on display with all 32 NFL teams expected in attendance.

SEC Basketball

18. Tim Sullivan on John Calipari rumors: “Was Rex Chapman wrong? Too soon to say.”

19. Regardless of how many players Kentucky loses to the NBA draft, expectations will still be high in Lexington next season. Wildcats at 12-1 to win it all in 2015.  Arizona the favorite at 6-1.

20. Arkansas guard Dee Wagner is transferring.

21. Missouri assistant coach Mark Phelps leaving for a job on the Marquette staff.

Extra

22. UMass guard Derrick Gordon says he’s gay.

23. Are you ready for the AJ McCarron/Katherine Webb reality television show?  

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Missouri And Texas A&M Worth $41 Million To The SEC In Year One

offering-cashAccording to the SEC’s federal tax return for 2012, the conference saw its revenue grow by $41 million dollars in its first year as a 14-school league.  USA Today requested the return which shows the SEC took in $314.5 million in 2012.  Missouri and Texas A&M were welcomed into the Southeastern Conference in the summer of 2012.

Interestingly, the SEC showed an overall deficit for its fiscal year which ended on August 31st, 2013.  While the league brought in $314.5 million, it spent $317.9 million.  Most of that money went back to the member institutions in the form of annual payments.  The league will hand out new checks next month during the SEC Meetings in Destin, Florida.

The SEC’s tax return also shows:

 

*  Missouri and Texas A&M each made about $19.5 million in their first year in the SEC.  The two schools made a little more than $12 million in their final year in the Big 12.

*  Mike Slive’s base pay increased to nearly $1.2.  His overall income was down from 2011 when he received more than half a million dollars in bonuses.

*  Slive’s base salary in 2012 was less than what fellow commissioners John Swofford (ACC), Jim Delany (Big Ten) and Larry Scott (Pac-12) made in 2011.

 

The Southeastern Conference fell $1 million shy of the Big Ten’s revenue total ($315.5 million) from the previous year.  When compared to all other conferences, the SEC and Big Ten are still dominant financially.  For example, the ACC ranked third in revenue in 2011, making $223.3 million.

The SEC’s revenue will continue to rise over the next few seasons as the new playoff system will debut, new bowl partnerships will kick off and the SEC Network will launch.

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SEC Commitment Comparator – 4/9/13

blue_poker_chipsYou know what today is?  It’s exactly 44 weeks from National Signing Day 2015.  So why the heck not compare the league recruiting classes to date?

As usual, we’ve used Rivals.com’s star rankings as our foundation.  For each star they award a prospect, we assign one point.  We also give a point to the 0-star recruits who’ve yet to be graded by Rivals.  Toward the right of the table below you’ll see the total points amassed by each SEC program up until now.  On the far right you’ll also see the average points per commit for each school.

It’s early — obviously — but as the recruiting process begins earlier and earlier each year, it’s not too early to begin to draw a few conclusions.  Over the past few years we’ve seen that those programs that can lasso a large number of commitments early create a momentum that’s hard to stop.  In the age of social media, committed prospects serve as additional recruiters.  And those players who’ve already committed will have the opportunity to woo other prospects at various camps and combines this summer.

In most cases it pays to get the ball rolling early.  The table below will give you an idea of who’s done just that…

 

  School   Commits   5-stars   4-stars   3-stars   2-stars   1- & 0-stars   Total Points   Avg. Pts/Commit
  Alabama   9   0   8   1   0   0   35   3.88
  Texas A&M   9   0   8   1   0   0   35   3.88
  Tennessee   10   0   5   4   1   0   34   3.40
  LSU   9   2   1   5   1   0   31   3.44
  Miss. State   9   0   2   5   0   2   25   2.77
  S. Carolina   7   1   3   2   0   1   24   3.42
  Arkansas   7   0   4   2   0   1   23   3.28
  Georgia   5   0   4   0   0   1   17   3.40
  Kentucky   6   0   0   5   0   1   16   2.66
  Ole Miss   4   0   1   3   0   0   13   3.25
  Auburn   5   0   1   2   0   2   12   2.40
  Missouri   4   0   2   1   0   1   12   3.00
  Florida   5   0   0   3   0   2   11   2.20
  Vanderbilt   2   0   1   0   0   1   5   2.50

 

As you can see, Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M — as usual — are off to good starts.  Ditto Tennessee where Butch Jones is off to a hot start for the second year in a row.  Dan Mullen and Mississippi State are racking up commitments as well.  And while MSU’s point total isn’t quite as high as those mentioned ahead of them, there is reason for optimism in Starkville.

At the other end of the spectrum, Auburn, Georgia and Florida all have just five commitments to this point.  For Auburn and Georgia, there’s little reason to worry as those schools typically finish strong.  The same can typically be said for Florida, but the temperature of Will Muschamp’s seat leaves us wondering: Are the Gators just taking their time or are prospects leery of committing to a coach who might not be in Gainesville a year from now?  Time will tell.

Missouri, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt all have four or fewer commitments.  Derek Mason is just getting his feet beneath him at Vandy.  Hugh Freeze has shown that he can recruit, though his most successful class — a top five class two years ago — benefited from a hot start.  Missouri fans — as one pointed out via email today — can be pleased with the fact that Missouri has two four-star prospects out of its four-person class.  Last year the Tigers signed just two four-star prospects in their 28-man haul.

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Kentucky Falls Just Short Of National Crown & Other Basketball Notes (Part 2)

BioIBjOCEAABT9ZThe three SEC squads that did make this year’s NCAA Tournament each had a nice run.  Tennessee reached the Sweet Sixteen and was three missed free throws away from making the Midwest Regional final and SEC versus SEC showdown.  Kentucky went on to win that regional and advance all the way to the national title game before finally running out of steam.  And on the other side of the bracket, Florida cruised all the way to the Final Four before falling to eventual national champ, UConn.

Will that success lead next year’s NCAA Tournament selection committee to send the SEC a few more invitations to the Big Dance?  Probably not.

Hey, in theory, impressing in this year’s tourney could sway next year’s panel when it comes to SEC teams on the bubble.  But the committee doesn’t often take last year’s success/failure into account when doling out at-large bids.  First example: After winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, Florida’s bubble was popped two years in a row sending the Gators to the NIT.  In 2012, Kentucky won the national title.  In 2013, UK was given a thumbs-down on Selection Sunday, dropping them into the NIT.  One year’s success or failure doesn’t have much impact on who the committee picks and doesn’t pick for its tournament the following year.

On the flipside, perhaps the tournament runs by UF, UK and UT will have a positive impact on the SEC’s overall conference RPI ranking.  That might not guarantee more bids in 2015, but it couldn’t hurt.

 

Early top 25 rankings look awfully familiar

Will the SEC be better next season?  Not in the eyes of a couple of national hoops writers.  ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan posted an early top 25 preview for next season.  He has Kentucky — with a new batch of highly-touted freshmen — ranked #3 in the nation and Florida ranked #8.  That’s it.  Two ranked teams.  He does mention Tennessee among his group of 15 teams that “may crack the list at some point before November.”

Meanwhile, Rob Dauster of NBC and College Basketball Talk has posted his own early top 25 rankings.  Kentucky is ranked #5.  Florida is ranked #14.  And that’s it.  No other Southeastern Conference squad earns a mention from Dauster.

 

UConn’s basketball success doesn’t mean much in a football-crazed culture

Connecticut’s men’s basketball team has won four national championships in 16 seasons.  Over that same span the UConn women’s team has won seven national crowns and will be playing for their eighth tonight.  If there’s a D-I campus where basketball is king, it’s the one in Storrs, Connecticut.

And that fact hasn’t helped the Huskies one bit in terms of conference affiliation opportunities.

UConn has campaigned try and gain inclusion in the ACC.  No dice.  Boston College wants to be the New England team in John Swofford’s conference.  For that reason, Louisville — hardly a team located on the Atlantic Coast — got the nod to replace Maryland over UConn and others.

Connecticut hasn’t had much luck talking their way into the Big Ten, either.  UConn lacks the resume — meaning a membership in the Association of American Universities — for which Jim Delany’s league lusts.  Maryland and Rutgers received Big Ten invitations instead.

Conference expansion/realignment has been driven by just about every factor out there except basketball.  And that’s a shame for Connecticut because UConn is fast becoming Basketball U with both its men’s and women’s teams.

 

What would a big game be without a few couch fires

Pity the poor, innocent couches.  It’s become commonplace in recent years for college students to burn couches after big losses (Ohio State).  They also light ‘em up after big wins (West Virginia).  Mostly they just burn them when they’re feeling good and liquored up, regardless of a big game’s outcome.  Last night, Kentuckians got in on the act.

According to The Lexington Herald Leader, there were 19 couch fires, several small trash fires, 31 arrests, and 23 injuries after Connecticut topped Kentucky 60-54.  It was a disappointing, immature reaction that’s made news all across the web, the nation and the world.

There are worse things, however.  Like being stuck with a tattoo bearing the words “2014 National Champions” above the UK logo.  For the record, Tyler Austin Black says he’s going to keep the tattoo.

Betcha he has some work done to cover up the “2014″ at least.

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Kentucky Falls Just Short Of National Crown & Other Basketball Notes (Part 1)

Kentucky-DejectedConnecticut’s 60-54 win in last night’s NCAA Tournament final accomplished two things.  First, it gave the Huskies their fourth national championship since 1999.  That’s two more titles than Duke, Florida and North Carolina won over that stretch and three more than champs Michigan State, Maryland, Syracuse, Kentucky and Louisville.  If there’s a dominant program in the land right now, it’s Connecticut.

Second, the UConn win blocked John Calipari’s trip to the winners’ circle.  Kentucky won the national crown in 2012 and was aiming for its second title in three years.  Instead, Wildcat fans will have to “settle” for this remarkable run of success for Coach Cal and his youth-driven program: one national championship, one NCAA tourney runner-up, one Final Four loss, one Elite Eight loss and one NIT trip.  That’s one championship banner, three Final Fours, and four Elite Eights in five years.  If there’s a UK fan out there who feels the need to complain about the Cats’ coach, he’s probably sipped a tad too much Kentucky bourbon.

 

Live by the guards, die by the guards

Over the course of UK’s last nine games, Aaron and Andrew Harrison elevated their play.  No wonder then that a UK squad that went 22-9 (.709 winning percentage) in the regular season went 7-2 (.777) in tournament play.  The Wildcats’ only two losses were to Florida (who reached the Final Four) in the SEC Tournament finals and to UConn in last night’s tourney finals.

On Monday night, the 6-6 Harrison twins were outplayed by their small UConn counterparts, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier.  Kentucky’s guards scored 15 points on six-of-15 shooting, put up five assists and turned the ball over seven times.

Boatright and Napier, on the other hand, combined for 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting with six assists and seven turnovers.  Boatright is a 6-0.  Napier is a 6-1.  In last night’s game, speed and quickness got the better of the size and strength.

 

Calipari downplays rumored tie to the Los Angeles Lakers

Former Kentucky star Rex Chapman didn’t make any new friends in the Bluegrass State last night.  A little less two hours before game time, Chapman tweeted about a rumor he’d heard — one would think — in NBA circles:

 

tweet one

 

After getting e-flogged on Twitter, Chapman returned to say: “I don’t live in some dream world & have alwys called it straight.”  He also posted this zinger: “Let’s not 4get, 6-wks ago many in BBN would’ve walked Cal 2 LA.”  True, plenty in the Big Blue Nation were calling for Calipari’s head as his teams slogged its way through a regular season that didn’t live up to preseason hype.

After the game, Calipari said that his team was unaware of the tweet before the game, so no one can blame Chapman for Monday’s loss.  It was still clear the coach wasn’t happy with the rumor being passed around when he said: “The Lakers have a coach.  Kentucky has a basketball coach.  I got the best job in the country.  I’m not going to even dignify that stuff.”  That’s two statements of fact, one opinion, and a non-denial denial.  (Just found a Dan Wetzel piece that shows that writer viewed Calipari’s statement in almost the exact same way we did.)

UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart never gave a specific “He’ll be back” after the game, either.  According to SI.com, Barnhart said:

 

“Cal’s been great, he’s been a great ambassador for this program and he cares a lot about Kentucky.  So clearly we love how he represents what we do.  He looks great in blue.  You live day to day with people and you trust what they do.  For five years now, I think I know him fairly well.  If there was anything I need to concerned with, he and I have had conversations, and in those conversations he’s been very, very focused on this tournament.  His total focus this season, especially this last month and a half, have been to get the team to a spot where we could compete for something like this.  I think he’s done a marvelous job doing that.”

 

He has.  But that, too, is a non-denial denial.

Do we believe Calipari will head to the Lakers or another NBA team this offseason?  No.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect time for UK’s coach to play a little footsie with some pro franchise in order to remind Kentucky fans to appreciate what he and his teams are achieving.

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SEC Headlines 4/8/2014

headlines-tueSEC Football

1. Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been indefinitely suspended ”for a violation of undisclosed team policies.”

2. What helped Amari Cooper have a big scrimmage on Saturday? The Alabama receiver credited Lane Kiffin’s offense.

3. Here’s a practice report from Alabama’s workout on Monday.

4. Auburn offensive tackle Avery Young is back after suffering a painful broken hand injury in the BCS title game.

5. Jonathan Mincy and Jermaine Whitehead are two leaders in Auburn’s secondary.

6. The LSU quarterback job is freshman Brandon Harris’ to lose, writes Barrett Sallee.

7. Here are five Ole Miss players who showed up as surprises this spring.

8. Kelvin Taylor appears to be “The Guy” at tailback for Florida.

9. Georgia has high hopes for linebacker Leonard Floyd as a pass rusher this fall.

10. Georgia’s coaches have challenged running back Todd Gurley to give it his all on the field.

NCAA Championship Game

11. UConn winning the national title proves the regular season doesn’t mean much, writes Pat Dooley.

12. UConn’s men drew inspiration from the women in their lives, writes Nicole Auerbach.

13. Kentucky fan Tyler Austin Black is keeping the “2014 Nati9nal Champions” tattoo he got before the tournament began.

14. Kentucky’s group of freshmen is already a thing of the past as several are expected to leave for the NBA.

SEC Basketball

15. Bruce Pearl says there have already been some “cultural changes” with Auburn’s approach to practice.

16. Auburn legend Chuck Person has joined Pearl’s staff. Pearl: “This is a pretty special day for Auburn basketball and the Auburn family.”

SEC/NFL Draft

17. Offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and his former teammates are preparing for Tuesday’s Pro Day at Alabama.

18. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger will visit several NFL teams following LSU’s Pro Day.

19. Safety Craig Loston wants to show NFL teams he can cover as well as hit.

Extra

20. Former NFL linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo believes Nick Saban traded him from the Miami Dolphins because he took paternity leave.

21. An Ohio bill says college athletes aren’t employees under state law.

22. UConn star guard Shabazz Napier said “there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.”

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Next Hoops Season, Just Focus On Your Team’s RPI And Ignore The Game-To-Game Analysis

see_the_big_picture_260The big picture.

In college basketball the big picture is all that matters.  Is your favorite team’s resume good enough to earn it an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament?  The rest of it — the yo-yo, see-saw, roller-coaster, up and down, back and forth freak outs — is meaningless.

Don’t believe us?  OK, then how many Kentucky fans do you think are still sweating the Wildcats’ 72-67 March 1st road loss to South Carolina?  Anyone?

Kentucky began the 2013-14 season with dreams of an undefeated season.  As those dreams quickly disappeared thanks to November and December losses to Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina, Big Blue Nation had a Big Blue Conniption.  From messageboards to Twitter, John Calipari was taken to task for not getting the most out of what was basically the world’s best AAU team.  So what if Coach Cal’s players were young and green?  Many UK backers simply weren’t accepting excuses (even legitimate ones).

Things only got worse as the Cats proved themselves to be inconsistent throughout SEC play.  There were two losses to Arkansas.  There was the South Carolina disaster.  There was a 3-4 stretch to end the regular season.  There also was a tie for second place in the SEC with Georgia.

That’s not at all what Kentucky fans and most media members expected to see as the regular season transitioned into tourney season.

Yet here we are, once again reminded that tourney season is really the only season that matters when it comes to college basketball.  The regular season is nothing more than a means of selecting 68 teams for the NCAA Tournament.  The regular-season games themselves?  They mean zip.  Kentucky lost three times to Florida this year.  But who’s in the national title game?  Kentucky, not Florida.

Tennessee lost to a seven-man Vanderbilt squad and lost twice to Texas A&M.  But the Vols still got into the tournament, they reached the Sweet Sixteen and they were just three missed free throws from reaching the Elite Eight.  The regular season that so angered the “Bring Back Bruce” crowd in Knoxville really meant little by season’s end.  The Vols did what they had to do to get in the field and then they took advantage of matchups to keep playing long after Kansas, Ohio State, Duke and Syracuse went home (despite those schools having better regular seasons).

Florida had a magnificent regular season losing just twice.  They were undefeated in SEC play and then they took their in-league record to a sizzling 21-0 in the SEC Tournament.  They were given the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.  But the Gators drew a bad matchup in the national semifinal game and fell to UConn, one of the two teams that beat UF back in the regular season.  So for all those regular-season wins and that top overall seed, UF will still be watching tonight’s championship game along with 349 other D-I schools.

At MrSEC.com, we vow never to go too overboard over the seeding implications of regular-season wins and losses, either.  Once a team is in the field, it’s all a question of matchups.  Matchups mean more than seeds.  Kentucky and UConn were seeded eighth and seventh in their respective regions.  One 10 seed and two 11 seeds reached the Sweet Sixteen this year.  One 11 seed (Dayton) advanced all the way to the Elite Eight.  And obviously none of the 1 seeds made it to tonight’s title bout.

So next basketball season, follow our lead and focus only on three things from November to March:

 

1.  What is my team’s RPI?

2.  What is my team’s strength of schedule?

3.  How close to 20 wins are we and do we still have time to hit that mark?

 

It’s all about being good enough to earn one of the 36 at-large bids handed out by the selection committee.  And all things being equal, that means your favorite squad will probably need to win 20 games, have an RPI inside the top 40 and a SOS rank of 100 or better.  Follow that.  Pay attention to that.  And get off the roller-coaster.

A December loss to North Carolina?  A march loss to South Carolina?  Unless one or the other prevents your team from winning 20 or ranking in the top 40 of the RPI… those regular-season games should be taken with a grain of salt.  It’s time to just admit that fact and focus on the big picture instead.

That’s what we do on this site each year.  And you can bet we’re going to keep doing it moving forward.

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Saban Liking His 2014 Alabama Team So Far

gfx-they-said-it4When you win a national championship, it’s only natural to become a bit complacent.  When you win two in a row, it’s even easier to take the foot off the accelerator.  ”We got this,” the mind assures.

So it was little wonder that Nick Saban’s 2013 team — a squad going for a third crown in a row — failed to improve after an emotional win over LSU.  ”We got this,” they must have thought.  Instead, Auburn got them on the weirdest final play this side of a Cal/Stanford game.  And then Oklahoma got all over the Crimson Tide in a Sugar Bowl rout.

This year’s Bama players have no reason to believe they can just roll their helmets out onto the turf scaring their foes into a pregame surrender.  And one scrimmage into spring practice, Nick Saban says he likes his team’s attitude:

 

“I thought that for the first scrimmage (on Saturday), I was really pleased with the effort and intensity that the players had.  I really like the attitude of this team, in terms of how they go about what they try to do, how they word and the effort they give, the mental and physical toughness they play with.  A lot of guys come out and be conscientious to do a good job, and I think it shows in the way we play and the way we compete.”

 

That’s about as effusive as Saban gets when it comes to praise.  Let’s see if Saban is still just as happy when the curtain falls on his team’s spring drills.

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