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LSU Gets Praise From ESPN, Marquette

Fresh off their upset victory over Marquette on Monday, LSU is getting some love on a national level.  ESPN’s Andy Katz writes today that “LSU is not a fluke.”

Marquette assistant Tony Benford said of the Tigers: “They are a very good defensive team and they have four quality big guys and if their guards are making shots they can beat a lot of teams.  They are very physical and they do a great job on the offensive glass.”

Indeed, Trent Johnson’s team might have bigger teeth than initially believed (to borrow a line we used yesterday).  But the Tigers also have losses to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern and South Alabama on their resume.  Their five-game winning streak includes — in addition to the win over 10th-ranked Marquette — a one-point win over Houston (RPI #207) and victories over Rutgers (RPI #270), Boise State (RPI #129), and Cal-Irvine (RPI #262). 

Could the Tigers jell and reach NCAA bubble status?  Yes.  Especially playing an old SEC West schedule and not having to tangle with Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt twice each.  But we think it’s still a bit early to start printing dance cards.

Credit Johnson, however, with getting his team off the deck after a 3-3 start.  With North Texas, Grambling State and Virginia up next, it’s possible the Tigers could enter SEC play with an 11-3 or 10-4 record.  That would be a major improvement over the past two seasons’ work.

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SEC Headlines 12/12/11

1.  After dropping back-to-back games, Alabama got back in the win column with a 63-54 victory over Detroit yesterday.

2.  With Mike Dyer suspended, Auburn has but only two scholarship backs with carries this season.

3.  Bobby Petrino has restocked the coaching cupboard at Arkansas.

4.  LSU is exploring an expansion of Tiger Stadium (and the plans look mighty slick).

5.  It’s looking more and more like Duke O-line coach Matt Luke will join the staff at Ole Miss.

6.  MSU is using the early part of bowl practice to work with the Bulldogs’ younger players.

7.  Florida, meanwhile, its using bowl practices to get tougher… by holding another training camp in December.

8.  The Georgia football has handed out its awards for 2011.

9.  Kentucky is 8-1 and the one loss came on a buzzer-beating shot by undefeated Indiana on Saturday… but the Cats “problems” are fixable.  (Oh, what team wouldn’t trade for UK’s problems?)

10.  South Carolina assistants Steve Spurrier Jr. and Shawn Elliott are rumored to be head coaching candidates at Coastal Carolina.

11.  Cuonzo Martin is planning to use Tennessee’s loss to Austin Peay as a painful lesson to his team.

12.  Bob Shoop turned down overtures regarding Richmond’s head coaching job to remain in Nashville as Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator.

13.  The SEC has named its Players of the Week in basketball.

14.  Kentucky falls to #3 in the latest polls, which include four other SEC teams in the Top 25… six if you count soon-to-be-members Missouri and Texas A&M.

15.  The Sports Business Journal has listed Mike Slive as the 35th most influential person in sports.

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SEC Goes 3-1 On The Court

First, Happy Thanksgiving.  Second, here’s your wrap of SEC hoops action from last night:

Tennessee 86, Chaminade 60

After coming up short against #6 Duke and #8 Memphis, the Volunteers went long to knock off Maui Invitational host Chaminade.  UT dropped 15 3-pointers on the Silverswords to move to 3-2 on the season.

Kentucky 88, Radford 40

Kentucky won its 35th straight home game under John Calipari last night, sweeping aside Radford with ease.  Freshman point guard Marquis Teague had his most efficient game of the season with 13 points, five assists and — more importantly — just two turnovers.

Alabama 82, Alabama A&M 45

Like Tennessee and Kentucky, Alabama also feasted on a pre-Thanksgiving turkey.  Five players hit double-figures for the Tide as Bama won its 23rd home game in a row.

South Alabama 79, LSU 75

Trent Johnson’s team dropped to 3-3 on the year with a homecourt, overtime loss last night.  The Tigers have now lost to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern and South Alabama… none of which will help Johnson keep his job at the end of the season.

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5 Games, 2 Wins (1 Big) For SEC In Hoops

It wasn’t the best of nights for the SEC in basketball on Tuesday.  Two ranked teams won.  One lost to a Top 10 foe.  And two, well, two seemed to pick up where they left off last year.

Here’s a quick re-cap of all last night’s action:

Kentucky 75, Kansas 65

Another year, another class of freshmen ready to compete immediately with the best teams in the country.  But last night, it was a pair of sophomores who led UK to victory.  Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones poured in 17 and 15, respectively, as the Cats clawed past the Jayhawks with an early second-half spurt at Madison Square Garden.

“We don’t believe we have to truly play together yet,” John Calipari said of his ever-young team.  “It’s not talent that wins, it’s good teams that win.  This is not a good team yet.  We’re not bad, but we’re not a good team yet.  We’ve got good players, but we broke off every play.” 

And yet they still beat the #12 team in the country by double-digits.  If Calipari wants his freshmen to learn to play as a team, a loss might have actually been better in the long run, because last night will only give positive reinforcement to what Coach Cal believes is “not good” play.

Vanderbilt 80, Bucknell 68

That’s more like it.  With two starters out with injuries, the Commodores bounced back from this weekend’s upset loss to Cleveland State with a homecourt victory.  Last night Vandy had to play without John Jenkins, the SEC’s leading scorer a year ago.

“It was a huge game for us after the performance against Cleveland State,” Jeffery Taylor said after scoring a team-high 14 points.  “We were all real disappointed, kind of ashamed of it.  So we put an emphasis on this game to just play hard and kind of let everything else take care of itself.  We feel we’re talented enough offensively that if we play hard, then we’ll take care of most games.”

Five players hit double-figures for the Dores.

Ohio State 81, Florida 74

After a quick start, #7 Florida fell behind big to #3 Ohio State on the road.  As in 16 points big.  But facing a hostile crowd, the Gators managed to shoot themselves back to within five in the final minute of play.  Freshman star Bradley Beal led the Gators with 17 points.  Kenny Boynton added 15.

“Obviously, we got off to a really good start, which I think you want to do on the road,” Billy Donovan said.  “The difference was our defense in the first half was really, really good.  For a period of time there, shots were not going in for us and we needed to have a better resiliency in terms of understanding that we have to go back and play defense.

Coastal Carolina 71, LSU 63

Traveling to Coastal Carolina last night, Trent Johnson’s team looked no better equipped to handle the pressure of the road this year than last.  The Tigers were owned on the glass — despite a size advantage — as the Chanticleers pulled away with a 23-6 first-half run.

Coastal Carolina won in Baton Rouge last year, but three players who led the team in scoring in that game are no longer on the Chanticleers’ team.  With new faces, they still managed to outrebound the Tigers 53-34 and pull away for an eight-point win.

“It’s hard to win when you get outrebounded by 20,” Trent Johnson said.  Yes, and it’s hard to keep your job when you keep losing to Coastal Carolina.

Elon 58, South Carolina 53

Usually in the case of early-season losses, we say “pay no mind.”  Teams often look a lot differently in February than they do in November.  We don’t say, “pay no mind,” when the coach is trying to win back his fanbase and hold onto his job.  In those cases, early-season losses do hurt.  An losing to Elon is a bad early-season loss.

South Carolina became the first power-conference team to travel to and lose at Elon.  The Gamecocks — without footballing Bruce Ellington — missed all 12 of their 3-points shots in the first half and shot a chilly 31% from the floor on the night. 

USC did recover long enough to lead for one possession in the first half, but that was it.  Twice more Carolina closed to within a point in the second half, but they couldn’t get over the hump.

“I thought it would have changed things for both teams (if we could have gone ahead),” Darrin Horn said.  “Credit them; thy made some big shots when they had them.”

So Kentucky tops Kansas and Calipari says his Cats aren’t very good.  Florida and Vandy look as though they’ll be able to give UK a bit of a run in the SEC (depending on injuries).  And Johnson and Horn see their teams drop games to Coastal Carolina and Elon.

Is this a new season or just an extension of 2010-2011?

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SEC Headlines 9/17/2011 Part One

Auburn at Clemson

1. Jon Solomon: “Auburn’s streak, on the line today at Clemson, represents one of the most mind-boggling runs in recent college football history.”

2. Last two Auburn-Clemson games have gone to overtime and have been decided on the final play.

3. The experts think Clemson.  Logic points to Auburn. Barrett Trotter welcomes a road challenge:“I kind of enjoy road games.”

Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

4. Is wide receiver Chris Boyd the perfect poster child for Vanderbilt football?

5. Dominated late last year, Vandy has outscored opponents 31-8 in the fourth quarter this season.

6. Vanderbilt has won four of the last six meetings against Ole Miss.  Why?

Coastal Carolina at Georgia

7. Time to include another freshman receiver in the conversation at Georgia.

8. Is Brandon Boykin the next Champ Bailey for the Bulldogs?

Tennessee at Florida

9. Tyler Bray’s gifts give Tennessee hope.

10. David Climer: Is UT’s tall boy ready for big boy ball?

11. After sharing the same sideline for years, Will Muschamp faces off against Derek Dooley for the first time today.

12, Florida has red zone concerns.

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SEC Game Projections For Saturday 9/17/11

Below is a full rundown of this weekend’s SEC action, including television information (all times Eastern), the latest odds from Las Vegas, and our own predictions, prognostications and projections.  Have at it…


Auburn at Clemson

12:00pm on ABC

Why It Matters:  The nation’s longest win streak (17 games in a row) is on the line in this one.  And while the outcome will have no bearing on the SEC race, a win at Clemson would only further lift the confidence level of Gene Chizik’s young team.

What Vegas Says:  Clemson by 3.5 (opened at -3)

What We Say:  On paper, Clemson should probably be the pick.  After all, Utah State and Mississippi State have shown that Auburn’s defense can be run over and run through.  But it’s one thing to put up more yards than Auburn… it’s something else entirely to put up more points.

Prediction:  Auburn 34, Clemson 31


Ole Miss at Vanderbilt

12:00pm on SEC Network

Why It Matters:  Wouldyabelieve Vandy has won four of its last six against the Rebels?  Or that Ole Miss has lost 16 of its last 18 Southeastern Conference openers?  Well just as he couldn’t afford another loss to an FCS squad last week, Houston Nutt can’t afford his second loss in two seasons to Vandy.

What Vegas Says:  Ole Miss by 2.5 (opened at -2)

What We Say:  If Vanderbilt gets past Mississippi, we’ll go all-in with James Franklin’s club.  As it stands, we’ll go with the school that’s signed Top 20 recruiting classes in each of the last three years.  UM should have more talent than Vandy.  Shouldn’t it?

Prediction:  Ole Miss 28, Vanderbilt 20


Coastal Carolina at Georgia

1:00pm on PPV

Why It Matters:  Because if Mark Richt somehow loses this one, he’ll be run out of Athens on a rail… Homer Stokes-style.

What Vegas Says:  No Line, FCS Opponent

What We Say:  Georgia gets a much needed blowout win, but we do they come through it unscathed?  UGA sure can’t afford any more injuries.

Prediction:  Georgia 44, Coastal Carolina 10


Tennessee at Florida

3:30pm on CBS

Why It Matters:  Old friends Derek Dooley and Will Muschamp are trying to prove to pollsters and recruits that it’s back to normal at two of the SEC’s traditional powers.  Both teams have looked good so far.  But both are stepping way up in competition on Saturday.

What Vegas Says:  Florida by 9.5 (opened at -10)

What We Say:  UT has the passing attack to challenge Florida’s secondary.  But the Vols have given up 4.9 yards per rush attempt to Montana and Cincinnati.  That doesn’t bode well going against a run-first Gator team that’s averaged right at 250 yards per contest (even if it came against FAU and UAB).  As long as John Brantley avoids major mistakes, UF should run to victory.

Prediction:  Florida 34, Tennessee 24


Navy at South Carolina

6:00pm on ESPN2

Why It Matters:  Carolina hasn’t looked great so far — just ask Steve Spurrier – but the Gamecocks are still undefeated and still in the Top 10.  As nutty as it sounds, BCS hopes are still alive in Columbia.

What Vegas Says:  South Carolina by 17 (opened at -16.5)

What We Say:  Navy’s triple-option is not what a team with tackling woes wants to see rolling into town.  Carolina should be able to put up points on offense and avoid a repeat of its famous upset loss to the Midshipmen in 1984.  But they’ll get a scare.  SEC teams just aren’t used to seeing a well-executed triple-option game.

Prediction:  South Carolina 37, Navy 30


Louisville at Kentucky

7:00pm on ESPNU

Why It Matters:  We can probably repeat this line all season — Because Joker Phillips needs to start winning over the UK fanbase.

What Vegas Says:  Kentucky by 6 (opened at -7.5)

What We Say:  Kentucky has looked pretty rough in wins over Western Kentucky and Central Michigan.  But better to be 2-0 with two ugly wins than 1-1 with a loss to Florida International… which is what’s on Louisville’s resume.  Look for Morgan Newton and Josh Clemons to get the Cats’ run game going.

Prediction:  Kentucky 21, Louisville 17


North Texas at Alabama

7:30pm on FSN

Why It Matters:  I got nothing.  This will be a rout and everyone knows it.  Why even play this game?

What Vegas Says:  Alabama by 47 (opened at -43.5)

What We Say:  At least Nick Saban will be able to get Phillip Sims some mop-up duty.

Prediction:  Alabama 50, North Texas 3


Troy at Arkansas

7:30pm on CSS

Why It Matters:  Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson will be back in the lineup after taking a blow to the head last week.  Two other Hog starters were injured last week, too.  So we’ll go the injury route on this one — The game matters because Arkansas doesn’t want any more injuries against outmanned opponents.

What Vegas Says:  Arkansas by 23 (opened at -26.5)

What We Say:  Troy has given SEC teams trouble in the past.  But Bobby Petrino’s just got too many weapons.  The Trojans won’t be able to keep pace tomorrow.

Prediction:  Arkansas 41, Troy 17

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