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SEC Hoops Roundup 3/8/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Kentucky at Florida

1. As the Gators go for perfection in conference play, this Florida senior class has racked up some amazing numbers.  Another major milestone awaits.

2. Kentucky coach John Calipari on the challenge facing his team: ”It’s not going to be easy. There is nothing that’s going to be easy about it.”

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss

3. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings can’t understand  why some of his players are hesitant to shoot the ball.  ”There is a reluctance and you’re not sure why it exists.”

4. The “Marshall Henderson Show” is almost over.  Last home game for the Ole Miss senior guard.

Auburn at Texas A&M

5. At one point the SEC’s leading scorer, Auburn guard Chris Denson has scored just nine points in his last two games.

6. Status of senior guard Fabyon Harris uncertain today.  Coach Billy Kennedy: ”He’s limited in what he can do, so we are still unsure what he will be able to do.”

Missouri at Tennessee

7. Sitting on the bubble, a victory at Tennessee would be huge for Missouri’s NCAA Tournament chances.  Coach Frank Haith: “They’re an NCAA Tournament team, so if you beat them twice it definitely helps you.”

8. Tennessee is playing some its best basketball of the year.  But is this a “play-out” game for both these teams?

South Carolina at Mississippi State

9. Suspended South Carolina coach Frank Martin apologized Friday afternoon. “I understand that I represent this university and I have a duty to conduct myself in a certain way.”

10. Mississippi State senior Colin Borchert on what he’s learned from coach Rick Ray: “The biggest thing I’m going to take from is how you can succeed when you come from nothing.”

Arkansas at Alabama

11. Streaking Arkansas trying to win its fourth straight SEC road game.  Best Razorbacks road team in 20 years?

12. Last home game for Alabama guard Trevor Releford.  Coach Anthony Grant: ”He’s 6-foot on the outside but he’s like 6-8 on the inside.”

Georgia at LSU

13. A win for Georgia locks down third place in the SEC and a double-bye in the conference tournament.

14. LSU senior guard Andre Stringer is “the final vestige of the Tigers’ failed resurrection plan four years ago under former coach Trent Johnson.”

Extra

15. The Antlers at Missouri and other student groups get attention from ESPN’s Outside The Lines this weekend.

 

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Basketball Media Days: Kentucky Coach John Calipari

Kentucky coach John Calipari answers questions at the SEC Basketball Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.


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Kentucky’s Calipari Not Talking About 40-0 Season With His Wildcats

john-calipari-would-you-trust-this-man-faceKentucky basketball coach John Calipari has made no bones about his desire to coach an undefeated basketball team.  Most pundits — and Wildcat fans — have looked at this year’s Wildcat roster and said, “This could be the year.”

Just don’t expect Calipari to talk 40-0 records with his latest stash of blue chip newcomers:

 

“I’ve said before I retire, I would love to coach a team that goes 40-0.  I’ve said it for 8-10 years.  Will that happen?  I don’t know… We don’t talk about it as a team.  It’s not like, ‘Oh, we’re going 40-0.’  We don’t.”

 

Ah, but as Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde points out today, as recently as May the Cats’ coach said, “We’re chasing perfection.”

So let’s all just face facts:

 

1.  Kentucky’s ability to go undefeated will likely be the top story in college basketball this season.

2.  The players and coaches will be asked about the possiblity ad nauseum.

3.  Eventually Calipari will reach the conclusion — and maybe he already has — that all the 40-0 talk isn’t good for his youthful squad.

4.  When that happens, Calipari will — as any coach would — blame the media for trying to create a story that he himself created.

 

UK fans, enjoy all the pressure that comes with talk of “undefeated” seasons.  Fans of everyone else, better run out an buy some earplugs if you’re not interested in hearing this discussion from now until April… or whenever Kentucky’s first loss comes.

 

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Wiltjer To Explore Other College Options

mrsec-breaking-newsForward Kyle Wiltjer will not play on the Kentucky basketball team next season and is considering transferring to another school.

Wiltjer, who averaged 10.2 points and 23.8 minutes a game as a sophomore last season, announced in a letter he plans to spend the next year working to develop his body and improve his game.

“I want to find a situation that will help me do this as well as play a more significant role, wherever that may be,” Wiltjer wrote. “Even though I might physically leave Lexington, I will never forget the support and kindness that everyone has shown my family and me.  It is difficult to put into words how hard it is to possibly leave BBN, yet I am confident that whatever I choose, I will give it my all. Regardless, I will always bleed blue and will never forget these amazing last two years at Kentucky.”

Wiltjer was expected to see a reduced role next season with the nation’s No. 1 signing class arriving in Lexington. But Kentucky will have to replace the outside shooting of Wiltjer, who made 36.7 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.

Kentucky coach John Calipari expressed disappointment in Wiltjer’s decision but left open the possibility of Wiltjer returning to the Wildcats.

“Kyle’s choice to explore options at another school disappoints me, but it’s his decision at the end of the day, and I fully support his decision,” Calipari wrote on his website. “I would love for him to go through this process and return to us, but I will support him and help him in any way I can. He’s a terrific young man, a great student, a tremendous basketball player and an excellent teammate. If he does choose to go somewhere else, that school will be very lucky.”

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Forbes: College Football Coaches Aren’t Overpaid

bag of moneyWe’ve gone down this road ourselves a time or two (or three) over the years, but it’s good to see others are in agreement: Good football coaches are worth the millions they are paid.

When it comes to football coaching salaries, yes, they may be too high in the grand scheme of things.  In a perfect world — at least in our view — educators and ministers and social workers and others who dedicate their lives to the well-being and growth of others should be paid more than a guy who draws Xs and Ox on a chalkboard.  But we don’t live in a perfect world.  We live in a world where colleges depend on multi-million dollar football programs for cash and exposure.  Because of that, successful college coaches aren’t overpaid at all.

Tom Van Riper of Forbes Magazine made that case yesterday when writing of Alabama’s Nick Saban:

 

“If you think that a top college football coach earning seven figures is overpaid, think again.  To appreciate just how modest Saban’s $5.3 million salary is, take a wider look around campus.  Since 2007, Tuscaloosa has swelled its undergraduate ranks by 33% to over 28,000 students.  Faculty count has kept pace: up 400 since 2007 to over 1,700.  But it’s more than growth — it’s where the growth is coming from.  According to the school, less than a third of the 2007 freshman class of 4,538 students hailed from out of state.  By the fall of 2012, more than half (52%) of a freshman class of 6,397 students did.  Various data from US News and The New York Times shows that the school’s out-of-state tuition cost — nearly three times higher than the rate for in-state students — rose from $18,000 to $22,950 a year during that period.

Add it up — more students from outside Alabama paying ever-increasing premium tuition bills — and the school realized $50 million more in out-of-state tuition revenue for last fall’s incoming class than it did for the same class in 2007 ($76 million vs. $26 million).  Kick in the additional $8.5 million in in-state tuition, which rose to $9,200 a year from $6,400 over the same period, and overall tuition revenue rose to $104 million from $46 million for the respective 2012 and 2007 freshman classes.  And to boot, the school’s most recent capital campaign (i.e. donations from alumni and others) raised $600 million for scholarship and facilities, the most ever.”

 

One can debate whether a school’s mission should be to educate the people of its area or to make more cash by luring in students from elsewhere.  One can also debate how much focus a school should place on athletics.

What’s not up for debate is the fact that successful coaches bring in more money — through increased ticket sales, increased merchandise sales, donations, exposure on national television, etc — than they are paid out.

That’s not just true of football coaches.  While the guys on the gridiron typically earn more, winning basketball coaches like Kentucky’s John Calipari can also up a school’s revenues.  And while a monocled professor of advanced themodynamics or Sanskrit might argue, those increased revenues do aid the school as a whole… not just its athletic department.

With athletics serving as the best advertisement for a school, hiring and paying a successful football or basketball coach is nothing more than an investment of the university’s funds.  Officials at Alabama and Kentucky can tell you that sometimes a big investment can result in big rewards.

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With The SEC Out, The Coaching Grades Are In

Report-Card-with-gradesFinally, with Florida’s suprisingly ugly loss to Michigan yesterday,  we can toss the last bit of dirt on the 2012-13 SEC basketball season.  It seems the league’s disappointing season had one last disappointment to deliver before we could lower it into the ground.

For those who care about such things, the Southeastern Conference has now fallen to 9th in conference RPI rank behind the Big Ten, Big East, Mountain West, ACC, Big XII, Pac-12, Atlantic 10, and Missouri Valley.  Ouch.

But despite a poor season on the whole, there were some solid coaching jobs turned in by a few of the league’s coaches.  In our view, offseason attrition — not poor coaching — should be counted as the main reason for the conference’s woes this past season.  That said, below are the final marks from MrSEC.com for all 14 of the conference’s head instructors.

 

Billy Donovan, Florida — A+

Record: 29-8 (14-4 in SEC)

RPI Rank: 9

Florida was picked to finish second in the SEC this year, but the Gators were in fact that cream of the conference.  Donovan’s squad — for much of the season — featured one of the nation’s most suffocating defenses.  At 6-5, the Gators were the only SEC team to finish with a plus-500 record against the RPI top 50.  The team wobbled a bit while sixth-man Will Yeguete was sidelined, but the Gators did reach their third consecutive Elite Eight.  UF fans are probably smarting today, but there’s no question Donovan still places among the top five or 10 coaches in all of college hoops.  Make the Elite Eight, get an A+ on the report card.

 

Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss — A

Record: 27-9 (12-6 in SEC)

RPI Rank: 45

This one was a toughie.  Kennedy took a chance on Marshall Henderson and, despite some bad pub, that worked out well.  His two forwards — Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner — made up one of the league’s best frontcourts.  The Rebels reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Kennedy and they guaranteed their slot in the field by getting hot in March and cutting down the nets at the SEC Tournament.  That’s all good.  But.  It must be stated that the Rebels had a horrible non-conference schedule and they suffered a pair of what could have been bubble-bursting losses to sub-200 RPI teams.  In the end, however, Kennedy managed the chemistry on his team well — no easy task with a lightning rod like Henderson present — and he led them past the opening round of the NCAA tourney.  That’s pretty good work from a guy who might have been fired had his team missed the tourney altogether.  Oh, and victory-wise it was Mississippi’s best record ever.  A solid A grade for Kennedy is the result.

 

Johnny Jones, LSU — B+

Record: 19-12 (9-9 in SEC)

RPI Rank: 93

The Tigers’ first-year coach left many on the Bayou wondering what he might have been able to do with the team Trent Johnson had a year earlier.  Jones’ team jumped out to a 9-2 start against so-so non-conference competition, but unlike so many other SEC squads, his team didn’t turn into a pumpkin when league play began.  After an 0-4 start, LSU finished 9-5 in its last 14 conference games (10-6 if you count the tourney) to finish mid-table in the SEC standings.  With a top recruiting class coming in, Tiger fans should be happy about what they’ve seen from their alumnus/coach in his first season.

 

Anthony Grant, Alabama — B

Record: 22-13 (12-6 in SEC)

RPI Rank: 64

Meh.  Solid, but not special.  Good, but not great.  It’s likely that had senior guard Andrew Steele been healthy all season, the Tide might have been an NCAA Tournament team.  But he was lost for the month of December and Alabama went 2-5 during that non-conference stretch.  He then missed eight of Alabama’s last 12 games and he was less than 100% in at least four more contests.  Despite Steele’s absence, Grant managed to work his team into the NIT where a one-point home loss to Maryland cost it a trip to Madison Square Garden.  Again, good, not great.

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NCAA Blocks Special Access For “Worldwide Wes”

Worldwide-Wes-jpg_234953GQ Magazine once called William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley the “most powerful man in sports.” That unofficial title apparently didn’t carry any weight with  NCAA officials in Indianapolis at the Midwest Regional semi-finals.

USA Today says a picture of Wesley was circulated to security guards at Lucas Oil Stadium Friday with instructions to keep him out of credentialed areas. “We were told to keep him out,” said a female security guard.

So why does the NCAA allow Wesley, known for his association with Kentucky coach John Calipari,  to spend time with prospects and roam the sidelines at events like the LeBron James Skill Academy?  CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish has a theory - “Probably because it’s terrified of upsetting Nike.”

Wesley did speak to Yahoo! Sports Friday night, confirming he was in the building for the Louisville-Oregon game. At the 2008 Final Four, Wesley had credentials as part of the Memphis contingent when the Tigers were coached by Calipari.

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Patches O’Calipari Uses Dodgeball To Prep His UK Team For VU

patches-ocalipariIn its pre-Vanderbilt walkthrough on Tuesday, John Calipari surprised his team with a new activity — dodgeball.  Following the loss of Nerlens Noel, two beatdowns at the hands of Florida and Tennessee, and plenty of media attention brought on by their coach briefly suggesting some of his players were “uncoachable,” Kentucky’s team certainly needed some stress relief.  An outside-the-box thinker, Calipari opted for a game in which his players and coaches could throw objects at one another.

Thankfully, he didn’t begin by throwing wrenches.

Before putting on a UK football helmet to protect his head and hair, the Wildcats’ coach told his team: “Look, I ain’t dumb.  I know some of you want to throw at me.  Don’t believe I don’t want to throw at some of you dudes, too.”

The game worked, sort of, as Kentucky held off struggling Vanderbilt 74-70 in Lexington last night.  You can watch highlights of last night’s game right here.  You can see highlights from the Cats’ dodgeball game here, complete with Calipari’s take on why the game was necessary:

 

“People watching my team are saying they look like their tentative.  Well, you feel the weight of the world.  I keep saying, ‘Don’t feel that way.  This isn’t life or death or we’d have died twice already.”

 

One can only hope that Calipari properly prepared his team for their dodgeball match with this officially-sanctioned how-to video from the American Dodgeball Association of America:

 

The 5 D's of Dodgeball

 

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WOW Headlines – 2/18/13

Florida and Missouri appear to be the only SEC teams currently ticketed to the NCAA Tournament
The SEC has only three teams in the RPI top 50 (Florida, Missouri and Kentucky) and three teams before #200
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel will work with a quarterback guru in California this offseason
The Heisman-winning Manziel wants to pass more and run less in 2013
Kentucky coach John Calipari has backed away from comments he made over the weekend, saying now that his players are not “uncoachable”
SEC basketball action on Tuesday: LSU at Tennessee… Florida at Missouri
Follow the SEC all year long on MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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Calipari Says He Has To Be Careful With What He Says In The Bluegrass State

As you saw in our headlines rundown today, John Calipari recently sat down for a Q&A with ESPN’s Andy Katz.  Love him or hate him — meaning Calipari, not Katz — it’s an interesting read.

The thing that stood out to us is what Kentucky’s hoops coach had to say about the attention focused on his Wildcat team in the Bluegrass State:

 

Katz:  What have you learned about coaching at Kentucky that you didn’t know four years ago?

Calipari:  Everybody want to say that Kentucky fans are vicious or obnoxious.  They’re not.  They’re crazy in that they watch the tape of our games more than I do.  But they’re passionate and smart.  Someone said, “I’ll bet your fans were mad that you lost to Duke (two weeks ago).”  They weren’t.  They said, “Hey, we’re young.  We’re gonna get better.”  What these fans want is for the program to be in the conversation as far as recruiting, national titles, all the other things.  It doesn’t mean we have to be the best at everything, just striving for it.  The students are the same way.  But everything you say and do is deciphered more here than anywhere else.  It’s almost like you’re the president, like anything you say is going to move the market.  So where before I could joke around, now I have to be careful, because anything I say takes on more meaning.

 

So do Calipari’s comments reveal a healthy passion for UK basketball?  Or an unhealthy obsession?

Or would we all be acting like Wildcat fans if we tried to read too much into his comments?

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