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SEC: Is Cameron Newton the greatest collegian ever?

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

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Gators drop in men’s basketball polls

Florida
Content provided by Swamp Things – Gators Blog.

Florida coach Billy Donovan wasn't sure his team deserved a top-15 ranking at the start of the season. (AP photo)

After a couple close wins, Florida again fell in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls.

The Gators beat Florida Atlantic 79-66 on Tuesday and won at Florida State, 55-51, on Sunday before dropping in both polls. Florida fell from 16th to 18th in the AP Poll and from 14th to 16th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

Florida (5-1, 0-0 SEC) was top-15 in the preseason polls. The AP Poll had the Gators ranked ninth and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll had Florida 11th.

The Gators’ lone loss came to then-No. 4 Ohio State in the second game in the season.


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Rankings Released: Commodores Remain Unranked in Coaches Poll/AP

Vanderbilt
Content provided by Vanderbilt Sports Line.

Commodores are 30th in the USA Today/Coaches Poll, and 31st in the AP. Among those ahead of the 5-1 Commodores is North Carolina, a team I’m pretty sure we beat.

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AP ballot: reward UConn, dip UK, give Purdue props

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

Keeping in mind that The Associated Press encourages free expression in its top 25 balloting, Connecticut made a big splash on my ballot this week.

I had not included UConn in my top 25 until seeing them win the EA Sports Maui Invitational last week. To show you how thin a line there is between winning and losing, the Huskies trailed Wichita State much of that first-round game before — who else? — Kemba Walker led a late second-half charge.

UConn got stronger as the tournament unfolded and ranked No. 8 on my ballot.

I dropped Kentucky three spots (from 10 to 13).

Unbeaten Notre Dame — a future UK foe — got on my ballot. So did Wichita State, which went to Maui intent on winning the tournament and showed the talent to validate those ambitions.

The other team of note on this week’s ballot is Purdue. Or should I say PURDUE?

I put the Boilers in all caps as a salute to their fans, who flooded my e-mail with protests when I did not include Purdue on previous ballots. Robbie Hummel’s season-ending torn ACL put me off Purdue.

It didn’t help that Purdue’s strength of schedule was not in the top 200. But as a reward to that keyboard-loving fan base, and ignoring the loss against Richmond in nearby Chicago, I put PURDUE at No. 25.

Here’s this week’s ballot:

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  1. Duke
  2. Ohio State
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Kansas State
  5. Kansas
  6. Syracuse
  7. Missouri
  8. Connecticut
  9. Michigan State
  10. Minnesota
  11. Texas
  12. Illinois
  13. Kentucky
  14. West Virginia
  15. Memphis
  16. Florida
  17. Georgetown
  18. San Diego State
  19. Notre Dame
  20. Vanderbilt
  21. North Carolina
  22. UNLV/Virginia Tech winner
  23. Tennessee
  24. Wichita State
  25. PURDUE

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Football National Rankings Released Sunday

BATON ROUGE — At the end of its 10-win regular-season, the LSU football team was ranked 11th in the AP and Harris Interactive polls, and 12th by the Coaches. The Bowl Championship Series standings will be released later Sunday.
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SEC: Arkansas is sweet; Georgia survives; Florida flops

Kentucky
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(AP photo/Danny Johnston)

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Florida drops to No. 16 in AP basketball poll, 14th in coaches poll

Florida
Content provided by Swamp Things – Gators Blog.

Florida coach Billy Donovan has questioned his team's top-15 ranking since the preseason. (AP photo)

Since the preseason, Florida coach Billy Donovan has questioned whether his Gators were worthy of their preseason top-15 ranking. With five returning starters and a highly touted freshman class coming in, Florida started the year at No. 9 in the AP Poll and No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

After a 3-1 start, the voters agree with him. Florida  dropped to No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 14 in the coaches poll after losing by 18 at home to then-No. 4 Ohio State and struggling with Morehead State this week.

With C Vernon Macklin struggling with a knee injury and F Alex Tyus coming off a short week of practice because of a concussion he suffered against Ohio State, the Gators nearly allowed Morehead State to comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit. Kenneth Faried had 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Eagles.


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The EA Sports Maui Invitational: Looking at UK’s First Two Opponents

Kentucky
Content provided by A Sea Of Blue.

If the 'Cats are to come home happy, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones will lead the way.

Greg Wahl-Stephens – AP

If the ‘Cats are to come home happy, Darius Miller and Terrence Jones will lead the way.

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Will Maui become a Kentucky Wildcats (No. 12 AP; No. 13 ESPN) paradise for only the second time in five tries?  The boys in blue will begin to find the answer to that question on Monday at 5:30 EST against the Oklahoma Sooners on ESPN2.

Having won only a single Maui Invitational tournament title (1993 on a Jeff Brassow last mili-second put-back; fast forward to the seven-minute mark) in four previous appearances (’93, ’97, ’02, ’06), the ‘Cats will look to exit paradise with a duffel bag full of shiny new hardware.  But more importantly, coach John Calipari should have a good idea of how far his team has come since the beginning of practice in mid-October.  For the competition has more experience, more size, and the talent to send the ‘Cats home with their tail between their legs … or, will the ‘Cats claw their way up the Maui ladder and put the nation on notice?

Regardless, it should be an exciting tournament.  For the particulars of UK’s initial opponent, and the second round  possibilities, follow me after the jump.   

First up for the ‘Cats are the …

Oklahoma Sooners — Go here for my pregame look at Jeff Capel’s squad for CoachCal.com.

Next up for Kentucky will either be the University of Washington Huskies, or the University of Virginia Cavaliers.  Let’s begin with the …

Washington Huskies (No. 17 AP; No. 15 ESPN/Coach’s) 

Results: Beat McNeese State, 118-64; beat Eastern Washington, 98-72.

Selected by most prognosticators to win the Pac 10 this season, UW returns several key contributors from last season’s 26-10 (11-7) third place Pac 10 squad.  But Lorenzo Romar’s team lost its leading scorer to the NBA in the form of Quincy Pondexter (19.3 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game), an athletic, 6-6, 225 lb swingman. 

Picking up the slack for the Huskies in 2010-2011 is 6-9, 240 lb senior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  Bryan-Amaning is averaging 21.0 points and 11.5 rebounds per game (5.5 offensive rpg) for UW after putting up 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last year.  The solid shooting frontcourt player is making 61.5% of his shots from the floor (16-26) and provides Romar with a physical presence in the paint.  Helping out in the Huskie frontcourt is 6-6, 180 lb senior forward Justin Holiday.  Holiday, who averaged only 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season, has raised his scoring average to 14.5 points per game so far this year.  Not the physical player Bryan-Amaning is, Holiday will drift out beyond the arc and take a three-pointer (3-9 on the year), but still rebound the ball effectively (4.0 rpg).

Adding depth and bulk to the Huskie front line is 6-8, 225 lb forward Darnell Gant.  Gant, who doesn’t shoot the ball often (4-13 from the field; 30.8%), does provide Washington with rebounding (3.5 pg).  Gant is averaging 5.5 points per contest.

Freshman swing Terrence Ross, an athletic, 6-6, 180 lb freshman, is being looked at to provide immediate help, and has so far come through for Romar — Ross is averaging 7.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.  A strong shooter from outside, Ross has yet to find his range at the collegiate level: Ross has made only six of 16 shots from the field (37.5%) and 2-9 long range tries (22.2%).

The spark plug, the man who makes the Huskies go, is 5-8, 185 lb junior point guard Isaiah Thomas.  A 1st Team All-Pac 10 selection last year, Thomas is super quick, both offensively and defensively.  He is averaging 13.0 points and 3.5 assists per game, and shooting the ball quite well, making 47.1% of his shots from the floor, and 62.5% of his trey tries (5-8).  Pondexter was the unquestioned leader of last season’s Huskies team, and his absence opens the door for Thomas to take over the leadership mantel. 

Abdul Gaddy, a 6-3, 190 lb sophomore guard, has been very solid in the early going of the 2011 season, averaging 11.5 points per game, and leading the squad in assists with 5.5 per contest.  Gaddy is shooting the ball extremely well, making 9-14 shots overall (64.3%), and 4-6 three-point attempts (66.7%).  Adding depth, experience, and a fearsome defensive presence to the Huskie backcourt is 5-11 senior guard Venoy Overton.  While not averaging a ton of points (5.5 pg), he provides Washington with great court vision (team-leading 7.0 apg) and a toughness all good teams need (4.0 rebounds & 3.5 steals pg).

Rounding out the UW rotation is redshirt freshman C. J. Wilcox (10.5 ppg & 4.5 rpg).  Possibly the team’s best three-point shooter, Wilcox has made 5-11 trey attempts (45.5%) and six of 13 shots overall (46.2%).  Six-six, 185 lb junior guard Scott Suggs will also see plenty of floor time, and is so far averaging 10.0 points and 3.0 assists per game.  Another outside threat, Suggs is making 38.5% of his shots behind the line.

Romar also has at his disposal 7-0 sophomore transfer (College of Southern Idaho) center Aziz N’Diaye.  N’Diaye, a shot-blocker extraordinaire, has yet to play much this season.

The other possible second round Wildcat opponent are the …

Virginia Cavaliers

Results: Beat William & Mary, 76-52, beat South Carolina Upstate, 74-54, lost @ Stanford, 81-60.

Second-year Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett is firmly in rebuilding mode.  After posting a better-than-expected 15-16 (5-11) record last season, Bennett returns only five scholarship players to campus this year, and making a bad situation worse, he lost his best player in highly touted swingman Sylven Landesberg (17.3 points & 4.9 rebounds pg), and experienced guard Jeff Jones (7.3 ppg)  Bennett, though, hit the recruiting trail, and reeled in some big fish who will contribute to this year’s Cavalier effort.  But, despite Bennett’s recruiting haul, the Cavaliers are picked by most to come in last in the 12-team ACC.

Virginia is led this year by 6-8, 240 lb senior forward Mike Scott (a blast from the UK past).  Scott averages 15.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest.  He has become a solid shooter in the paint area, evidenced by his 15-27 accuracy from the field (55.6%), and Scott is solid from the free throw line, having made 15-17 charity tosses (88.2%).  A ferocious rebounder, Scott will sorely test the the big blue big men if the two teams face one another.  Assane Sene, a 7-0, 234 lb junior center starts for the Cavs but plays only 12.7 minutes per game.  In the game primarily as a defender, Sene has yet to block a shot, and averages only 1.3 rebounds per game. 

Also manning the frontcourt for Virginia is 6-9, 217 lb senior forward Will Sherrill.  Sherrill, a big man who will pop-out and take the occasional three-pointer (3-6 on the year), will also mix it up under the basket, grabbing 4.0 rebounds per game.  Overall from the field, Sherrill is 5-11 (45.5%).

Running the show for the Cavaliers is 5-11, 185 lb point guard Jontel Evans.  While only a sophomore, Evans gained valuable experience last season as a rookie, and has displayed a defensive intensity unusual for a player so young, a commodity coach Bennett looks for in his players.  Evans has shot and distributed the ball very keenly thus far; he has made 11-20 field goals (55.0%), and he’s averaging 4.3 assists per game (13 assists to only four turnovers).  The other starting guard is 6-4, 175 lb senior Mustapha Farrakhan.  Farrakhan is averaging 11.7 points per game, and 1.7 assists per game.  Not shooting the ball with efficiency so far this year (11-26 field goal attempts for 42.3%; 6-18 three-point tries for 33.3%), he’s been a dead-eye at the free throw line where he’s made 7-8.

The future of the Virginia basketball program, though, lies with the three super freshmen Bennett brought to the Cavalier campus: The 4A Alabama Player of the Year, 6-5, 200 lb guard K. T. Harrell.  Harrell has found himself playing a key role this season, and is averaging 7.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.  He’s not shooting the ball with great confidence yet, having made only eight of 21 shots (38.1%), but he seems to be finding the range on the long bombs; Harrell is 4-10 from beyond the arc (40.0%).  The next, next great Cavalier is 6-2, 188 guard Billy Baron.  The son of Rhode Island coach Jim Baron, Billy prepped last season at Worcester (MA) Academy, and his time their seems to have been well spent.  This season, Baron is averaging 11.7 points per game, and sports an 8-1 assist to turnover ratio.  Baron’s shooting from the field has also been solid — 10-17 overall for 58.8%; 7-13 from long-range good for 53.8% — and like many coach’s sons, he brings enthusiasm to the defensive end of the floor. 

Rounding out the super frosh Cav contributors is 6-6, 202 lb guard Joe Harris.  Harris has provided Bennett with depth in the backcourt, as well as a knack for scoring (7.3 ppg).  He is shooting the rock pretty well early on (8-17, 47.1%), especially from three-point range where he’s made five of 13 attempts (38.5%).

Kentucky 81  Notre Dame 76

A big congratulations to UK Hoops, aka, the No. 9 ranked Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team for their epic win over No. 12 ranked Notre Dame on Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum.  Coach Matthew Mitchell’s Wildcats are working on a 20-game Memorial winning streak.

Thanks for reading, and Go ‘Cats!


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AP ballot: reward UK, drop UNC

Kentucky
Content provided by Jerry Tipton on UK basketball.

This week’s ballot for The Associated Press top 25 rewards Kentucky for its good start and drops North Carolina after the Tar Heels lost twice last week.

Keep in mind that wire service encourages volatility in the voting. Minnesota (with ex-UK coach Tubby Smith at the helm) came out of no where to No. 11 on my ballot. It helped that the Gophers won the tournament in Puerto Rico, beating UNC and West Virginia en route.

After hearing Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo lament his team’s injuries, I decided to flip the  Spartans with Duke at the top two spots.

Here’s my ballot:
1. Duke
2. Michigan State
3. Kansas State
4. Ohio State
5. Pittsburgh
6. Kansas
7. Villanova
8. Washington
9. Syracuse
10. Kentucky
11. Minnesota
12. West Virginia
13. Texas
14. Illinois
15. Memphis
16. Florida State
17. Missouri
18. North Carolina
19. San Diego State
20. Gonzaga
21. Georgetown
22. Vanderbilt
23. Virginia Tech
24. Tennessee
25. Brigham Young

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SEC: Some close calls, but lot of hoops wins

Kentucky
Content provided by John Clay’s Sidelines.

Tennessee's Tobias Harris. (AP photo/Wade Payne)

Tennessee's Tobias Harris. (AP photo/Wade Payne)

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