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ESPN’s Katz Has Praise For UT’s Martin

When Andy Katz tosses praise toward the SEC is usually flows in the direction of Lexington, Kentucky and John Calipari (and why not, all he does is win and sign the top class in the nation annually).  But in recent weeks he’s shown a little love to two ex-Purdue assistants… Rick Ray of Mississippi State and, today, Cuonzo Martin of Tennessee.

Katz had this to say just one day after the Vols and Martin landed a commitment from a five-star West Tennessee prospect whom Duke and Kentucky were also chasing:

 

“Cuonzo Martin is doing a tremendous job of increasing the talent and perception of Tennessee basketball.  Martin secured another commitment Monday for 2013 in landing 6-5 shooting guard Robert Hubbs.  The Vols will be just fine going forward in the SEC under Martin.”

 

After inheriting a messy situation from Bruce Pearl and the NCAA, Martin got off to a wretched start last season before his squad finally bought into his defense-first system.  When they did, he led Tennessee to a surprising #2 seed in the SEC Tournament in New Orleans before losing in the NIT.

In addition to securing a commitment from Hubbs in Monday’s daylight hours, Martin also got a commitment from the son of 13-year NBA vet Antonio Davis last night. 

He might not have Pearl’s style, flash and flair — and it seems some Vol fans miss that — but Martin seems to be doing everything else right.  Including “increasing the talent and perception” of the Vol hoops program.

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SEC Headlines 3/25/2012

1. Gators come up short.  Louisville 72 – Florida 68. Billy Donovan now 0-7 against Rick Pitino.

2. Pitino: “They outplayed us for 32 minutes.” Florida outscored 18-3 in final eight minutes.

3. Bradley Beal deflects question about his potential future NBA career: “I’m really not focusing on next year right now.”

4. Pitino on potential Louisville-Kentucky matchup.  ”Awesome.”

5. Kentucky vs. Baylor today:  ”This current Kentucky team’s coronation — what will legitimize and commemorate this roster as one of the greatest ever — only comes with a championship.”

6. Senior Darius Miller has gone from Billy Gillespie and the NIT to John Calipari and the NCAA Tourney.

7. Calipari:  ”I’m not watching any other games. Why do I care?”

8. Kentucky’s Terrance Jones and Baylor’s Perry Jones III know each other from AAU basketball.

9. Gregg Marshall is staying at Wichita State.  Unclear if he was a serious candidate at South Carolina.

10. Frank Martin talks about the South Carolina rumors.

11. Month-by-month – Cuonzo Martin’s first year at Tennessee.

12. Kevin Scarbinsky on basketball in Alabama: “Basketball has never mattered as much as football in this state, but basketball used to matter here, and it used to really matter in March. It’s been years.”

13. Les Mile on LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger:  “I think Zach is a real leader for us, and he enjoys that role.” Also likes what he sees from running back Jeremy Hill.

14. Gunner Kiel responds to Miles: “I’m just going to use it as fuel.”

15. Linebacker Jarvis Jones leads what should be a very good Georgia defense this fall.

16. Twitter post: “Alec Ogletree bodyslams Isaiah Crowell. “

17. With Alshon Jeffery and Bruce Ellington watching, South Carolina’s young receivers got their chance on Saturday.  DeAngelo Smith could be a key weapon this fall.

18. Tennessee’s spring camp opens on Monday.

19. Lou Holtz on the 2011 Bama defense: Clemson gave up 10 touchdowns in one bowl game, Alabama defense gave up 9 touchdowns all year.

20. Who will catch AJ McCarron’s passes this fall?  Kevin Norwood, for one.

21. Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones has spent the last two spring breaks in Haiti.

22. Auburn QB Kiehl Frazier: “I feel a lot more comfortable this year.”

23. Keep your eye on Mississippi State wide receiver Joe Morrow.

24. Early impressions are favorable for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace.

25. Joker Phillips likes what he sees from his Wildcats after their first day in pads.

Extra

26. End of an era.  The shrinking importance of high school basketball in Indiana.

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UT’s Martin Ix-Nays Illinois Rumor

Not surprisingly, Cuonzo Martin has reiterated what a Tennessee spokesman said last night: He’s not leaving Knoxville for Illinois:


“We’re building something special here.  I enjoy my job at Tennessee, and I’m looking forward to bigger things next season.”


And about that CSNChicago report he and Illinois shared mutual interest?  “There was never anything to it,” he told The Knoxville News Sentinel.

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SEC Headlines – 3/21/12 Part One

1.  Here’s more on the promotion of Greg Sankey to Executive Associate Commissioner and COO of the SEC.  (Along with word that future scheduling formats for sports not named football and basketball should come out soon.)

2.  Florida’s Billy Donovan is proving again that he’s among college basketball’s coaching elite.

3.  Mike Gillislee is working on his pass protection skills while readying to be the Gators’ top running back this fall.

4.  The legal issues of Georgia starting corner Sanders Commings have been resolved.  (Probation, small fine.)

5.  With all eyes on UGA’s running backs position, Isaiah Crowell is the #1 back and he wants to make “a Heisman run.”

6.  Here are five questions about Kentucky as the Cats open spring drills.

7.  With UK preparing for a rematch with Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen, this writer looks back at how the Big Blue lost to the Hoosiers in December.

8.  Uh, wow.  Like Bobby Knight actually uttered the word “Kentucky” and Twitter shook.

9.  The results of South Carolina AD Eric Hyman’s previous coaching searches: Mixed.  (Of course, that’s pretty much the case with every other AD out there.  Hush Gator fans… remember Ron Zook?)

10.  Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall reportedly turned down a Nebraska offer worth nearly $2 million per year.  (And that type money might take him out of the Gamecocks’ price range.)

11.  With the season complete, Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon had knee surgery yesterday.

12.  Renaldo Woolridge received a medical redshirt from the NCAA, but he’s leaving UT (and another spot is about to open up on Cuonzo Martin’s roster).

13.  Missouri’s Gary Pinkel says he’s not worried about what quarterback James Franklin’s health will be come fall.

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UT’s Martin Not Bummed By NIT Appearance… This Year

Tennessee saw a six-year NCAA Tournament streak come to an end yesterday, but Cuonzo Martin isn’t complaining about it.  That’s because he knows that he took over a program in disarray.

Bruce Pearl had shockingly turned the Vol program into a national power, but through a series of bad decisions he brought the roof down on himself over what would have been — if handled properly — a secondary NCAA violation. 

In turn, Martin was left with a thin roster comprised of players who — for the most part — hadn’t played much or hadn’t played well under Pearl last season.  On top of that, Martin had to get those players to buy in to a completely different style of basketball than the one they’d signed on to play.

That starting point has apparently helped Martin deal with the fact that his team isn’t going to the Big Dance:


“I go back to the fact that it’s a body of work.  We got out of the gates slow, did a great job down the stretch (and) for me as a coach, I can’t be upset with our guys because I saw the progress they made.  Unfortunately we didn’t do the job up front, and I say unfortunate because we didn’t win games.  (The players) were also learning in the system trying to find their way how to compete and how to play hard, so it’s hard as a coach to be upset with your guys.

Now you bring me a year from now and we’re standing here and that happens, it’d be a problem.  Those guys understand the system, they know what’s expected and the level we have to play to.  Barring injury, we should be an NCAA Tournament team next year.”


There’s no danger in Martin saying that, in raising expectations for himself in 2013.  Tennessee fans will no doubt have an “NCAAs or bust” mentality next year anyway.

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SEC Headlines – 3/1/12

Much of my day will be spent on our nation’s interstates today, so let’s just jump right into Thursday’s headlines…


1.  The SEC ADs didn’t announce any schedule plans yet (and you shouldn’t expect them to).

2.  Unless Alabama gets bounced to the NIT again, JaMychal Green’s final home game was a success.

3.  Auburn’s defensive effort was undone by the Tigers’ poor offense.

4.  Look away, Barners… the Bammers and Nick Saban accepted the Iron Bowl trophy at last night’s basketball game.

5. Whether they’re playing Texas A&M or not, Arkansas definitely wants to keep playing games at Cowboys Stadium in the fertile Dallas area.

6.  LSU and Florida want to stop playing each other.

7.  The Tigers’ two-game losing streak in hoops has probably doomed them to the NIT.

8.  Following last night’s overtime win at South Carolina, Arnett Moultrie is now saying Mississippi State’s team is “together.”

9.  Florida’s got a tough regular-season finale against Kentucky on Sunday.

10.  Tonight, Georgia will try to repeat their 2009 win at UK’s Senior Night.

11.  Folks in the Peach State are already trying to get to know Missouri.

12.  UK’s John Calipari will start seniors Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas tonight.

13.  Kentucky basketball has changed a lot since Billy Gillispie’s team lost to UGA back in ’09.

14.  A buzzer-beating loss at home to MSU?  Just more agony for Carolina.

15.  Cuonzo Martin thinks Tennessee is “an NCAA Tournament team.”  (If the season had started in January, he’d be right.)

16.  Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings wants to coach for a minimum of seven more years.

17.  Here’s a look at each school’s spring practice dates… LSU kicks things off tomorrow.

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UT’s Martin Happy With Vols’ Current Standing

When Tennessee visits LSU tomorrow night, the Vols will enter the game in a tie for fourth-place in the SEC.  If Vanderbilt can knock off Florida tonight in Nashville, the Vols will also have an outside chance of actually landing the #2 seed in next week’s SEC Tournament.

Head coach Cuonzo Martin is good with his team’s current position… especially considering the low preseason expectations:


“We’re in a good place right now as a team because we continue to get better, and that’s a good sign.  We didn’t have the luxury with a new coach of getting out of the gates with some confidence, getting your head up.  We had to have some tough losses, and eventually we started to learn from it…

We are fighting for our lives.  You have to get better every day.  There’s plenty of work to do.  Our guys are hungry right now.

We’re fighting.  We don’t have any luxury or margin for any error to be happy or be successful or thing we’ve done something special.  But we have every right just like everyone else to win ball games.”


The Vols are out of the NCAA Tournament hunt, but are still playing for an NIT bid.

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SEC Headlines – 2/28/12

1.  Tony Barbee wants his Auburn basketball team to toughen up.

2.  The Tigers could be without two suspended guards tomorrow in Tuscaloosa.

3.  Will the injured ankle of Alabama’s Trevor Lacey allow him to play against the Tigers?

4.  A tougher Tide team has emerged after multiple suspensions to key players.

5.  Arkansas hopes to send its seniors off in style when Ole Miss visits tonight.

6.  LSU will try to bounce back from a Rebel beatdown when Tennessee arrives for senior night tomorrow.

7.  The first hurdle has been cleared in LSU’s push to expand Tiger Stadium’s south end zone.

8.  Mississippi is aiming for a season sweep of Arkansas tonight.

9.  UM is also looking for some consistency.

10.  Florida starts the final week of the regular season with a tough road trip to Vanderbilt.

11.  A win locks up the #2 seed in the SEC tourney for the Gators.

12.  Here’s a breakdown of Georgia’s tournament outlook.

13.  Kentucky has made the hire of receivers coach Pat Washington official.

14.  South Carolina fans haven’t exactly been filling up Colonial Life Arena.

15.  Cuonzo Martin’s steady leadership is paying dividends for Tennessee.

16.  Vandy’s veterans will try to keep their emotions in check when Florida visits on senior night tonight.

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UT-Memphis Rivalry Could Come To A Close

Tennessee likes playing Memphis in basketball for recruiting purposes, but they don’t like playing the Tigers in football (there’s more to lose than to gain).

Memphis likes playing Tennessee in football for financial reasons, but they don’t like playing the Vols in basketball (because it gives UT a recruiting foothold in the Bluff City).

With Memphis joining the Big East, the two cross-state schools may finally be axing their relationship.  Tiger hoops coach Josh Pastner wants to kill the series and further build a wall around Memphis.  He also wants to avoid playing Arkansas in Memphis.  Why let nearby schools woo his local talent?

In the past, UT has told the Memphians that if they continue to want to get nice paydays from Vol football games, they would have to keep scheduling the Vols in hoops.  For that reason, Memphis AD RC Johnson has always kept both series alive.  But Johnson is now stepping down and the Tigers are entering a BCS-level — read: more monied — conference.  So he’s tune is changing:

 

“Particularly now with the Big East, I think that should be a decision now between Josh and the next athletic director. That’s changed a lot now.  We used to worry about our (nonconference) schedule for name and RPI. Now, that’s basically been a role reversal. It’s not nearly as significant.

I don’t have any influence on whatever the next athletics director decides he or she wants to do. But from a personal standpoint and as an AD, I always felt it was to our advantage. Every coach I worked with didn’t want to play them, and I understand that. But the in-state thing I always thought was kind of a special thing.”

 

Pastner’s take is written in stone:

 

“I do know that the Tennessee series needs to be cut after next year. Whether we’re going into the Big East, Conference USA, any other league, we don’t need to play that series. No disrespect to Cuonzo Martin, because I think he’s a heck of a person and he’s done a great job. This is just strictly about I believe what (former Tigers) Coach (John) Calipari felt about it. There’s no need to play it, and I’ve not wavered on that stance since Day One I got the job.

So next year is the last year of the contract. I expect and hope that we are done with them in terms of playing them in the nonconference, obviously unless the Big East-SEC Challenge forces you to do that. That’d be out of our control.”

 

Calipari actually suggested the game be played in Nashville each year as part of a “Governor’s Cup” type series.  Anything to keep the Vols out of Memphis.  Pastner wants the rivalry dead, period.

And if he gets his wish, new Tennessee AD Dave Hart should scratch Memphis from his list of potential non-conference opponents for his football Vols.

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SEC Headlines – 1/30/12

Signing day is coming up on Wednesday and we’ll be prepping for our coverage of that event today.  We’ll also be putting together a special schedule-related piece for your viewing this week.

With less time on our hands, we jam the day’s headlines into a single post.  As usual, there will be a number of additional stories over on our Recruiting Page.  Here goes…


1.  SEC schools are learning to live with the league’s new soft 25-man signing cap.

2.  The SEC has named its basketball Players of the Week.

3.  Auburn got outhustled at Tennessee over the weekend.

4.  Gene Chizik’s seen a lot of attrition from two of his Tiger signing classes.

5.  ESPN will premier it’s documentary “40 Minutes of Hell” on February 11th after Arkansas plays South Carolina.

6.  Following a report yesterday that Renardo Sidney might leave MSU at the end of the season, Rick Stansbury says he’s not talked about the future with his controversial big man.

7.  Florida got an RPI boost by sweeping Ole Miss and Mississippi State last week.

8.  Is Georgia’s hoops team a bigger disappointment than Georgia Tech?

9.  Kentucky is still a clear-cut #1, but their RPI is hurt by the Cats’ strength of schedule.

10.  Cuonzo Martin says Tennessee is “a better team” as it prepares to face Kentucky for the second time.

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