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Marshall Henderson Will Return To Ole Miss

mrsec-breaking-newsOle Miss guard Marshall Henderson announced Wednesday he will return for his senior season.

Henderson announced his decision through a letter on the school’s official website:

“First, I would like to thank the Ole Miss fans for their support this season. It was a lot of fun even though we didn’t make it to the Sweet Sixteen in L.A. It was our goal this season to get Reggie, Murph and Nick to the Big Dance and we did that. It is my goal to make next season even better.

With only nine hours left to earn my degree, I want to help build this program and that means I need to be a leader for my teammates both on and off the court. The spotlight on the court means my actions affect more than just me, and I need to show my teammates that I can be a leader for this team.

I play the game with a lot of passion, and sometimes that passion boils over. I take responsibility for my actions this season and apologize to anyone I offended. However, my edge on the court has made me the player that I am. I can’t change that, but I do understand that I can take things too far.

I have come to understand this year that I represent this team and this university, and I have to hold myself to a higher standard than people in the stands, because I am a student-athlete at Ole Miss.

Hotty Toddy,

Marshall Henderson”

Henderson’s 20.1 points per game led Ole Miss in scoring this season. But it was the personality Henderson referenced in his letter that brought him so much attention and at times criticism.

Will we see a calmer Henderson on the floor in 2013-14? It looks like we’ll find out.

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Nonsense Alert: Five SEC Teams Picked For 2013 NCAA Tourney Field’s resident Bracketologist Joe Lunardi is pretty good at what he does.  In fact, like Mel Kiper, he’s kind of created his own field in which to star.  But even for a master bracket-predictor, lining up the 2013 NCAA Tournament field 11 months in advance might be just a tad silly.

Still, Lunardi’s done just that and he expects to see five SEC schools in the Big Dance next year:

Kentucky — a #1 seed in the West

Florida — a #2 seed in the Midwest

Missouri — a #5 seed in the East

Tennessee — a #9 seed in the South

Ole Miss — a #13 seed in a play-in game in the Midwest

Uh, yeah.  Mark it down.

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UK’s Calipari Pushes Assistant Payne For MSU Job

While Murray State’s Steve Prohm has been mentioned most prominently in connection with the head coaching vacancy at Mississippi State, the name of a current SEC assistant has also been kicked around a bit.  Yesterday, John Calipari did some of the kicking.

Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne is a Mississippi native and Coach Cal thinks his aide would be a good fit at MSU:

“You’re not ready to be a head coach unless you’re ready to say no and ready to create discipline in these kids’ lives, and (Payne) is.  He’s probably tougher on our kids than I am and recruiting speaks for itself.  And he grew up there.  He would be a good choice…

He’s going to have opportunities… Someone is going to say, you know what, we need this program to go to another level.”

Calipari already has a number of ex-assistants who’ve moved on to coach elsewhere.  Bruiser Flint washed out at UMass but he almost got Drexel into the NCAA tourney this year.  Josh Pastner did get Memphis to the Big Dance this year, though they washed out in the first round.  And Tony Barbee is about to begin his third year of rebuilding at Auburn.

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Stansbury Admits Motivation Will Be An Issue For MSU

Rick Stansbury knows that UMass will provide a challenge for his Mississippi State team when they visit for a #4 versus #5 NIT matchup tonight.  He’s also aware of the fact that an even bigger task might be just getting his team up for the game:

“It’ll be a huge challenge for us, but there is no one to blame but us.  We had our opportunities.  Most of the time this time of the year you’re trying to play your way in (to the NCAA Tournament) and we basically played our way out.”

Indeed.  State comes in having lost six of its last eight games.  The Bulldogs — a dysfunctional bunch to begin with — fell short of preseason expectations that had them ticketed for the Big Dance.  Effort and team unity issues came to light late in the season.

Toss in the fact that some Bulldogs might just want the season to be over and it’s easy to see why Stansbury is worried about his team’s attitude.

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How Would The Tourney Look If We Just BCS’d It

When you have eight hours of programming to fill, the best way to do it is to get about 15 people, put ‘em in a room, and let ‘em bicker over how the NCAA selection committee screwed up.

Last year it was Jay Bilas enraged over VCU’s invite to the Big Dance.  (The fact that the Rams went on to reach the Final Four did nothing to change Bilas’ opinion of their selection and seed, by the way.)

This year it was the CBS crew mystified as to how Iona could grab an at-large bid over Drexel.  Iona over Drexel?  Come on!

If you’re sharp enough to know the following things, you don’t get too hung up on all this:

1.  The networks are trying to put anything NCAA-related on the screen on Selection Sunday because it draws eyeballs.

2.  The whole selection process is highly subjective and therefore nits can always picked.

3.  Teams that are riding that “can we get in?” bubble have failed throughout the regular season to put together a body of work that guarantees them a bid.  If a school leaves room for debate, that school and its fans shouldn’t complain when it’s left out of the party.

4.  Don’t we hate the BCS process, too?

And that’s the rub for this writer.  With talk of a revamped college football postseason in the news of late, many have said it’s time to dump the blasted computers and pollsters and formulas and instead bring in a blue ribbon panel of football folks to select the teams who’ll go playoffing.  “You need to have a selection committee like basketball.”

But year after year after year people yelp about the job of basketball’s selection committee.  Why is one better than the other?  They’re both subjective — whose computer rankings do you use, what formula does their system use, who do you put on your selection panel, what biases do they have?

Just look at the NIT and NCAA selection committees.  The NCAA is made up mainly of athletic directors and conference muckety-mucks.  The NIT’s is made up of ex-coaches.  They’re both given the exact same data and given the exact same instructions.

Yet one group pays little attention to who gets hot at season’s end while the other puts a lot of weight on that category.

The point?  There will always be complaining.  (Especially since we’ve become a nation of anonymous online critics, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)  Even if ESPN’s Bilas were declared Grand Poobah High Exalted of Tournament Selections, there would be crying and weeping and wailing from North to South and from East to West over who the man handpicked for inclusion in the Big Dance.

Remember this the next time you hear someone yapping about creating a selection committee for football.  Apparently people hate the committee in March but by January of the following year they’ve forgotten how much they griped 10 months prior.

So instead of hiring a panel to pick a four-team football playoff poll, why not go the other way and just BCS the NCAA Tournament?  Turn the thing over to the computers and get out of the way.  When it comes to bracketing the teams selected, just use a straight S-curve and forget worrying about separating conference mates and handing out homecourt advantages.

This year — using the numbers provided by as of 10:30am ET — we’ve put together a BCS’d version of the bracket.  On a standard bracket the first-round seeds should equal 17 (1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, etc).  In a top-to-bottom S-curve bracket, each bracket would equal 65 (1 vs 64, 2 vs 63, 3 vs 62, etc).  That’s what you’ve got below.  We list two numbers beside each team… their seed within their region and their overall seed based on RPI and nothing more. 

Oh yeah, to heck with the automatic conference tourney bids, too.  Why let a lucky weekend muck up a true bracket?


1  Syracuse (1 overall)
16  N. Mexico State / Davidson (64)

8  New Mexico (32)
9  Iowa State (33)

5  UNLV (17)
12  Oral Roberts (48)

4  Memphis (16)
13  Kansas State (49

6  San Diego State (24)
11  Xavier (41)

3  Marquette (9)
14  Middle Tenn. State (56)

7  Creighton (25)
10  Iona (40)

2  Baylor (8)
15  West Virginia (57)


1  N. Carolina (4 overall)
16  Miami (Fla) / St. Joseph’s (61)

8  Florida (29)
9  California (36)

5  Indiana (20)
12  BYU (45)

4  Michigan (13)
13  S. Floirda (52)

6  Southern Miss (21)
11  Marshall (44)

3  Wichita State (12)
14  Virginia (53)

7  St. Mary’s (28)
10  Notre Dame (37)

2  Duke (5)
15  Colorado (60)


1  Kentucky (2 overall)
16  Northwestern / Nevada (63)

8  UConn (31)
9  Harvard (34)

5  Vanderbilt (18)
12  Purdue (47)

4  Georgetown (15)
13  NC State (50)

6  Wisconsin (23)
11  S. Dakota State (42)

3  Missouri (10)
14  Akron (55)

7  Gonzaga (26)
10  Long Beach State (39)

2  Ohio State (7)
15  Belmont (58)


1  Michigan State (3 overall)
16  Oregon / Seton Hall (62)

8  St. Louis (30)
9  Alabama (35)

5  Temple (19)
12  Ohio (46)

4  Louisville (14)
13  Texas (51)

6  Murray State (22)
11  Cincinnati (43)

3  Florida State (11)
14  UCF (54)

7  Colorado State (27)
10  VCU (38)

2  Kansas (6)
15  Ole Miss (59)

Now, is that better than what we got from a blue ribbon panel?  Is it worse?  Better yet, would you still have arguments and complaints about such a computer-centric system?

Stop.  I already know that answer to that.  And that’s the point.  There is no perfect system for selection playoff teams be it in basketball or football.

Until the NCAA breaks off into conferences of equal numbers that play balanced schedules like the pro leagues — and that’s not going to happen anytime soon — subjectivity will remain a big, big party of the selection process.

Best just get used to it.  In both major NCAA sports.

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UM’s Nelson Arrested After Win Over SMU

The end could be near for Ole Miss’ Andy Kennedy.  The fates seem to be aligned against him.

With his team showing promise midway through its non-conference slate, leading rebounder Murphy Holloway went down with a high ankle sprain.  A three-game losing streak followed.

That streak was snapped on Tuesday night with a 50-48 homecourt win over SMU.  But it’s now been learned that after the game, sophomore Rebel guard Dundrecous Nelson was arrested at his home and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.  Nelson is UM’s leading scorer at 11.6 points-per-game.

Kennedy said he learned of the arrest yesterday afternoon and he is currently doing his “due diligence” on the issue.

Minus his leading rebounder and scorer, it’s doubtful Kennedy can rally his team to the point of earning an NCAA Tournament bid.  Heading into the season, the feeling in Oxford was that only an invitation to the Big Dance would save his job.

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Media Members Roll Into Indy To Take Part In Mock NCAA Enforcement Hearing

A few years ago, the NCAA had the good idea to allow media members to take part in a mock tournament selection exercise in order for fans to develop a better understanding of how hoops teams are picked for the annual Big Dance.  That process has worked so well that the NCAA is now expanding the idea to cover its rules enforcement procedures.

More than 30 media members are in Indianapolis today to participate in “the Enforcement Experience.”  While it sounds like an incredibly unpopular ride at Disney World, the NCAA describes the project as follows: “a day-long session that will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the complex task of holding institutions, administrators, coaches and student-athletes accountable for NCAA rules that are intended to promote education and fair play.”

It’s a wise move by the NCAA.  The internet has provided an outlet for conspiracy theorists that is unmatched in the annals of human history.  So the decision to try to fend off “the NCAA hates my school” type attacks is a sound one.

However, unlike the NCAA basketball tournament, enforcement cases are like criminal trials — no two are the same.  In this case, a coach may be forthcoming.  In that case, he may not.  In this case, a booster might have acted on his own.  In that case, the school might’ve done a better job of reining in its boosters.

For that reason, we expect this exercise to be somewhat less successful long-term than the March Madness sessions.  While we applaud the NCAA’s attempt at transparency, there’s just no way that every possible scenario can be covered in a one-day session. 

And moving forward, those who’ve gone through the process — as well as those who read the works of those who’ve one through the process — might be more confused when School A receives a real-life punishment stiffer than what School B received during this mock hearing.

The verdict: A good idea, but the results could be mixed.

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Bama Heads To NIT Final Four

A 79-64 victory at home over Miami last night has earned Alabama a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals.  The win pushed Bama’s record at Coleman Coliseum to a sterling 19-0 this season.

Once again, Alabama’s defense was the difference.

“With what these guys have accomplished all year, we couldn’t accept anything less than finishing it out the right way,” Anthony Grant said.  “When we did not get invited to the NCAA (tournament), it was painful for our seniors.  So to see those guys so happy a week-and-a-half later, I am excited for them.”

So does a trip to New York prove that Alabama should have been invited to the Big Dance all along?  Only if you’re ready to say Washington State, Wichita State and Colorado — who’ll all join UA in NYC — deserved bids, too. 

For every argument in favor to the Tide getting in, there was an equal argument for keeping them out: their RPI, their strength of schedule, their 5-11 road record.

No, what this NIT run proves is that Grant’s team improved as the season went along and continues to do so.  The coach deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that.  It also proves that Bama has some darn good on-court leaders who have been able to rise above the frustration and disappointment of not getting an NCAA bid to focus on the task and opportunity set before them.

As Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News writes today, the run will also certainly up the expectations for Crimson Tide basketball in 2011-12, whether that’s fair or not:

History tells us the odds are 50-50 of turning the Big Apple into the Big Dance.  It’s even less for SEC teams, who have gone to the NIT Final Four seven times in the past seven years, more than any conference.

Since 1985, when the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, 48 percent of NIT Final Four participants reached the NCAAs the following season.  The odds are much lower among SEC teams (31 percent).

In other words, it’s best for Bama to keep focusing on the present.  And up next for the Tide will be a game with Colorado at 9pm ET on Tuesday.

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From Best To Worst, A Comparison Of SEC Hoops Teams In 2010-11

Looking forward to the NCAA Tournament, we wanted to provide you with a team-by-team comparison of all the current SEC hoops resumes.  Below you’ll see the league’s NCAA hopefuls as well as the NIT wannabes… all the way down to the duds of the league in 2010-11.

You’ll be able to find each SEC squad’s:

* Overall record
* SEC record
* Current RPI
* Current strength of schedule
* Current computer rating (from Ken Pomeroy)
* Record over their last 10 games
* Record versus RPI Top 50 teams
* Record versus RPI Top 100 teams
* Record versus RPI Top 200 teams
* Losses Outside the Top 100

Teams are listed below according to their current RPI:

Comp. Rat.
Last 10
Vs Top 50
Vs Top 100
Vs Top 200
Bad Losses
Ole Miss
Miss. St.
S. Carolina

At this point Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee are all expected to be in the NCAA Tournament.  Bracket masters Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm and Andy Glockner place all four in their latest mock-ups.

But Tennessee is an unusual case.  They have some very good wins (Villanova, Pittsburgh, at Vanderbilt) and they would get credit for two more wins versus Top 50 RPI squads if Belmont were to move up a slot from #51.

But the Vols have struggled down the stretch losing six of their last nine games.  Against RPI Top 50 squads, UT has lost four of its last five. 

Thursday, they face Arkansas in the first round of the SEC Tournament, a team that beat UT in Fayetteville in January.  A win would definitely secure an at-large bid for Tennessee, but a loss?  The Vols are probably in the field now, but to be safe, they can’t afford to tank against the Hogs.

Georgia is in the field according to Palm, but not according to Lunardi and Glockner.  Lunardi has UGA as one of his “first four out” meaning they just miss his cut.

When you look at the other teams on the bubble from across the country — as we did here — you’ll find that the Dawgs stack up quite well.  But they still have to do work in Atlanta to lock up a bid.  First, UGA must face improving Auburn.  The Tigers’ won’t help Georgia’s RPI or strength of the schedule, they’ll just be an added victory (if, of course, Mark Fox’s team gets by them).  Beat Auburn and the Dawgs will face a potential play-in game with Alabama — another bubble team — in the second round.

UGA has a better resume than Alabama, but if they lose twice to the Tide in the final seven days of the season, will they get a bid over Bama?  While most forecasters projected six SEC teams into the Big Dance for much of the year, we’ve sat patiently at five.  Now that two gurus have dropped the SEC to four teams, we’re feeling even better about our prediction of five teams.  UGA needs to beat Auburn and Alabama to feel secure about grabbing that fifth slot.

Alabama is the true wild card in all of this.  They have finished strong, yes, but their strength of schedule (#125) is one of the worst among bubble teams.  Even their nifty SEC record (12-4) was dampened by a 2-3 record against RPI Top 50 foes.

The Crimson Tide are the only SEC bubble team with a big reason not to include them — that strength of schedule.  We spend so much time talking about why teams deserve to be in, occasionally we should reverse our thinking.  Which team’s have a reason to be left out?  If the selection committee takes that approach, then it’s hard to imagine Alabama getting a bid.

That said, could the committee ignore the fact that Bama would have beaten Georgia twice in seven days (if they defeat them in the SEC tourney’s second round)?  Tough call.

To be safe, Alabama needs to put together a strong, deep SEC tourney run.  In fact, they probably need to win at least two games and reach the league finals to earn an at-large bid.  And even then things could still get tricky.

Our projections going into the SEC tourney:

Florida is a #3 seed in the Big Dance and could possibly grab a #2 seed if it wins the SEC tourney.

Kentucky is a #4 seed, but the Wildcats’ consecutive wins over Vanderbilt, Florida and Tennessee (on the road) have them on the rise.

Vanderbilt is in and likely headed toward a #6 seed, depending on their play in Atlanta.

Tennessee is in, but they can’t afford a bad loss to Arkansas in the SEC tourney.  If they get in, they’re looking at anything from a #9 seed to a #12 seed.

Georgia and Alabama need to take care of business at the Georgia Dome to secure bids.  More than likely, they’ll wind up playing in the second round for the SEC’s final berth.  And that’s if UGA gets by Auburn.

UPDATE – Misters Glockner, Lunardi and Palm will update their brackets all week.  This report was based upon their Monday night brackets.

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SEC Headlines – 3/7/11 Part Two

1.  Gene Chizik says he’ll keep his Auburn team on an even keel after its BCS championship.

2.  Will Alabama make it to the Big Dance?

3.  Tennessee is moving into the unknown after yesterday’s 64-58 home loss to Kentucky.

4.  Bruce Pearl says his team is “close.”  This writer asks, “Close to what?”

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