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Basketball Media Days: Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings answers questions at SEC Basketball Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.

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Vandy Hoopster Astroth To Transfer

NOSTALGIA © 1998 PhotoSpin www.powerphotos.comLittle used in his first season at Vanderbilt, guard AJ Astroth has decided there’s no need for a second go-round.  The 6-6 Astroth will transfer, according to a university press release.

“He is looking for an opportunity to play more and we understand that,” Commodore coach Kevin Stallings said in the statement.  “We wish him the best as he continues his playing and educational career.”

Astroth found the floor in just nine games last season, contributing 0.4 and 0.6 rebounds per game.

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Stallings Gets Emotional After Vandy’s Tourney Title

When the 2013 SEC Tournament begins next year in Nashville — with 14 teams — expect to see that image at left over and over and over again in television opens and in “this is what the tourney means” montage pieces produced by ESPN/ABC.

Kevin Stallings’ surprising show of emotion prompted David Climer of The Tennessean to write: “… we saw a coach who cares very, very deeply about his players, his program, his university.  And the feeling is mutual.”

Indeed, back in 2009 Stallings’ turned down a $100,000 salary bump that was due him so Vanderbilt could use that cash for an offseason basketball tour of Australia for his team instead.  The guys cares about his players and his program.

As for his emotions on Sunday, Stallings said:

“When you invest a lot, you care a lot.  What I’m most proud of is the investment that’s occurred by this group of young men in our program.  To see those guys get to experience what they experienced, that was a great feeling for me.”

Stallings also had to be feeling a bit of relief.

In 12 seasons at VU, the coach has led the Commodores to five NCAA Tournaments.  Twice they made the Sweet Sixteen.  Three times — including the last two seasons — they’d gone one-and-done in March Madness.

Vandy fans wanted more from a veteran squad that was projected as a Top 10 team in the preseason.  Throughout the regular season, they failed to live up to expectations.  But yesterday in New Orleans, Stallings and his players showed their potential.

We have no doubts that Stallings wept for his players’ joy.  But finally experiencing a “breakthrough” tourney moment of his own had to play some role in his emotional display as well.

Congrats to him and to Vanderbilt for their upset and their SEC Tournament crown.

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SEC Headlines – 3/8/12 Part Two

1.  Can anyone — including Florida — challenge Kentucky this week in New Orleans?

2.  Here’s a breakdown of the Gators’ tourney chances.

3.  Georgia should be used to late night tip-offs by now.

4.  With 16 points against MSU tonight, Dustin Ware would join UGA’s 1,000-point club. 

5.  No surprise, the NCAA selection committee chair says Kentucky’s on its way to a #1 seed.

6.  Everybody seems to agree that the Cats look unbeatable right now.  (As a Patriots fan, I can looking unbeatable doesn’t mean you are unbeatable.)

7.  Joker Phillips says more NFL scouts at UK’s Pro Day proves the program’s improving.

8.  Embattled coach Darrin Horn wants his South Carolina team to ignore distractions this week.  (In New Orleans?  Obviously he’s never been to The Tropical Isle… or The Old Absinthe House… or…)

9.  Besides, Georgia’s 2008 team proved “anything is possible.”

10.  Nobody expected Tennessee to have an “excused absence” from the first day of the SEC tourney.

11.  The Vols want the chalk to win in all the other league tournaments this week.

12.  Vanderbilt fans want some March success from Kevin Stallings.

13.  It took him a while to learn it, but Vandy’s John Jenkins now sees that “the ball goes in more when I shoot good shots.”

14.  Missouri is gung-ho to join the SEC — ugly uniforms in tow — but are they ready for the transition?

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More Complaints About SEC Hoops Scheduling, But Nothing Can Be Done Now

A quick rundown on how things in the media cycle work:

* Coach says X.

* Media members ask local coaches about X.

* Some local coaches — not all, but some — discuss X.

* Media members now have a column topic for days on end… good ol’ Topic X.

That’s what’s happening now with complaints about the SEC’s basketball schedule.  Kevin Stallings got the ball rolling, pointing out that Kentucky is not having to play a Thursday-Saturday turnaround for the second year in a row.

Billy Donovan then said that some teams like Alabama — coached by his old friend Anthony Grant — are at a disadvantage having to play on a Thursday night and then early on a Saturday.  (Agreed.)

For his part, Grant simply said, “It is what it is.”  But Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury also says the league needs to make the schedule balanced for everyone.  “You all research where Kentucky’s at,” he said.  (Auburn and LSU also avoided Thursday-Saturday matchups this year, but no one seems to mention them.)

On the media front, columnist Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News — one of the SEC’s top scribes, by the way — went so far as to say that the current set up “is patently unfair.”

As for the fans, well, many fans are always up for a good conspiracy theory and if it’s possible in any way — right or wrong — to say that their team is getting screwed, they’ll say it.

So the SEC office is under fire.  A better schedule, equal to all must be created!

A good goal, no doubt.  But an impossible one to reach.  There are 12 teams — soon to be 14 — having to play 16 games — soon to be 18 — over the course of nine weeks.  That’s tricky enough.  But ESPN is also paying the league $155 million a year to get top-flight games and top-flight games usually involve Kentucky.

So just as there are more Alabama, Florida and LSU football games at 3:30 on Saturdays (which leaves the Kentuckys, Mississippis and Vanderbilts to play at 11am in syndication, at 9pm on ESPNU, or on Thursdays), in basketball there will be more Tuesday and Saturday night games featuring UK.

I’m not saying it’s right.  Don’t put words in my mouth.  I’m just not a fan of whining over things that will never be viewed as being fair to all.  In a nine-week schedule, for example, it would be awfully difficult to line up all 14 teams for Thursday-Saturday games.  Someone will always complain.

A “fair” schedule is a myth.  Fairer?  Okay, go for it.  Here’s hoping that the league can come up with a plan that makes all coaches happy (good luck) and ESPN happy as well.

But if that’s going to happen, it won’t occur during the current basketball season.  Mike Slive isn’t going to start shuffling game dates on January 25th.  To bark, bitch and moan now is to waste energy and to shine a bad light on the league itself.

A better option?  Slive might want to contact the league’s presidents and have them encourage their coaches to pipe down on the “what about Kentucky?” talk until the SEC convenes its spring meetings in Destin.  The coaches will be there.  The ADs will be there.  The commissioner and the schedule-makers will be there.  Save the airing of grievances for Destin (or Festivus). 

At that point, everyone’s voice can be heard and the media — folks like me — won’t be around to rant and rave that School X is getting jobbed… which only leads some fans to believe the whole league is somehow against their favorite school.  (And trust me, dealing with all 12 schools, I know that fans of all 12 truly believe Slive and the SEC have it in for them and them alone.)

In 2009, Slive had to start tossing out fines to coaches who fired barbs at one another or at the conference’s officials.  (That’s standard operating procedure in most conferences and pro leagues.)  Perhaps it’s time he put forth the same kind of edict regarding schedule moans.

If the commissioner doesn’t do that, then we’re probably going to continue to hear this topic right on up through March.  When there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it before the SEC Meetings anyway.

Fix it, find a solution, please all.  But until the league’s in a position to do so, its coaches should start adhering to the same words so many of them have for their players: “No excuses.”

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SEC Headlines – 1/10/12 Part One

With the sports world still buzzing over Alabama’s performance in the BCS title game last night, we pause to take a quick look at the stories making news elsewhere around the SEC:

1.  The Florida basketball team will play host to Georgia tonight.

2.  Seven UF early enrollees are already on campus.

3.  Georgia has lost nine straight games in Gainesville.

4.  The football Dawgs have now turned their focus to the offseason.

5.  Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is a shot-blocking beast.

6.  Joker Phillips’ job status will be the top football story in Lexington next fall.

7.  Darrin Horn wants his Gamecocks to play better defense when Vanderbilt visits tonight.

8.  It’s another first for South Carolina football — a Top 10 finish.

9.  Jarnell Stokes is now practicing with Tennessee and Cuonzo Martin expects him to pick up the offense and defense quickly.

10.  NFL assistant Rich Bisaccia is considering the special teams coordinator job at UT.  Again.

11.  Kevin Stallings is happy with Lance Goulbourne’s defense at Vandy.

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SEC Headlines – 1/3/12 Part Two

1.  Florida wraps up its pre-SEC hoops slate against UAB tonight.

2.  A pair of special teams’ TDs help Florida pull off a Gator Bowl win and now things seem a little bit better in Gainesville.

3.  Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray says his team “could have pulled out a couple more wins,” including yesterday’s Outback Bowl.

4.  Several Bulldogs now need to make decisions about the NFL.

5.  John Calipari believes Kentucky’s Terrence Jones needs to start having more fun on the court.

6.  UK’s coach also wants his team to be more unselfish.

7.  Following a Capital One Bowl victory over Nebraska, safety DJ Swearinger said, “We go down in history as the best team to play at Carolina.”

8.  Receiver Alshon Jeffery was at his best in earning MVP honors yesterday in Orlando.  Oddly, he was also ejected for fighting making him the first ejected MVP I have ever seen.

9.  Derek Dooley said today that the worst is behind Tennessee and now the progress begins.

10.  The Vol basketball team fired up 39 3-pointers in a 76-63 win over Chattanooga last night.

11.  Speaking of shooting threes, John Jenkins scored 26 points to lead Vanderbilt to a 69-62 win over Miami (Ohio).

12.  Kevin Stallings said his team has developed a habit of playing poor second-half defense.

UPDATE – Florida has hired Jeff Dillman as the football program’s new strength coach.

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SEC Headlines – 11/8/11 Part One

1.  Florida’s John Brantley missed practice yesterday, but he is expected to be 100% on Saturday.

2.  The Gators are aware of South Carolina’s quarterback issues, too.

3.  Brandon Harton might have earned more playing time at Georgia after his 98-yard performance against New Mexico State on Saturday.

4.  Georgia AD Greg McGarity says he’s been told the SEC will have an eight-game schedule next year.  (Next year… maybe.  But we’ll continue to say it’s going to a nine-game docket long-term.)

5.  Kentucky will need a solid effort to knock off an improved Vanderbilt on Saturday.

6.  The Wildcats roasted Morehouse College 125-40 in a hoops exhibition last night and John Calipari even admitted that his team “looked like a pretty good zone team.”

7.  South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw has been medically cleared and is expected to play Saturday after experiencing a concussion last weekend.

8.  Steve Spurrier says his seventh game against Florida will be just another game.

9.  Tennessee’s Tyler Bray had the cast removed from his broken thumb, but he still appeared unable to rip a football this morning.

10.  The basketball Vols held of a rally from Division II LMU to win their final exhibition game 76-67 last night.

11.  Mike Slive is trying to put together a meeting to discuss schedules, but Vandy’s de facto AD says he believes the league will stick with an eight-game league schedule.

12.  Kevin Stallings used a number of lineups in a 102-62 exhibition win over Xavier of Louisiana last night.

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SEC Headlines – 11/2/11 Part Two

1.  Tennessee coaches like Justin Worley’s ability to throw the deep ball.

2.  Injured Vol linebacker Herman Lathers is back at practice, but he’s still not ready to play.

3.  Vanderbilt’s trick-play offense is no joke.

4.  Kevin Stallings will be leaning on this three point guards early this basketball season.

5.  Two Auburn basketball players have been indefinitely suspended due to violations of team rules.

6.  But the Tigers still won their exhibition opener last night.

7.  Tight end Chris Gragg is becoming a bigger part of Arkansas’ offense.

8.  This writer hopes Arkansas can replace South Carolina with Missouri on its schedule.  (We still think Mizzou is likely to ask for Texas A&M as its permanent rival for recruiting reasons.)

9.  Ole Miss might put two true freshmen into its defensive line-up on Saturday.

10.  A win over Kentucky wouldn’t cure all that ails in Oxford, but it would sure alleviate some pain in the short run.

11.  How’s this for a stat: MSU is averaging 204 passing yards per game… and that’s the best average for the Bulldogs in eight seasons.  (State fan: “What is this forward pass concept, of which you speak?”)

12.  Still, Dan Mullen says Tyler Russell has no advantage in the battle for the Bulldogs’ starting spot in 2012.

13.  Nick Bell — the Mississippi State player who passed away last fall — has not been forgotten in Starkville.

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18-Game Schedule The Best Plan For SEC

The hot topic on yesterday’s SEC basketball teleconference was scheduling.  Specifically how the SEC’s plan to do away with divisions will affect the league’s schedule.

The options are to move forward with a 16-game schedule as is currently the case, move to an 18-game schedule, or expand to a full round-robin 22-game league schedule.

Mike Slive seems to be in favor of the 18-game plan and, therefore, we’d put our money on that option eventually being chosen.  The 16-game schedule would mean that the league simply did away with divisional standings without making any schedule changes.  And the 22-game plan has few supporters.

“We feel drug through Armageddon after 16 games,” Kevin Stallings said.  “I don’t think (22 games) has got a lot of traction.  But I thought it was worth bringing up and discussing.”  Vandy’s coach pitched the idea of a 22-game schedule at the SEC Meetings in Destin just a few weeks ago.

Auburn’s Tony Barbee is at least glad that the division standings have been dumped.  “(The Big 12) before their turnover always scheduled in the North-South football conference kind of way, but they didn’t advertise it in terms of two separate divisions.  I think the perception has been that we’ve had two separate leagues and that hasn’t helped the league as a whole.”

“There’s no way that an Alabama team — that if we were one division or one conference last year — that would have finished second behind Florida, I’m not convinced they would not have been in the NCAA Tournament coming in second place in the SEC if people would have looked at it in that format.”


As we have stated before, we at favor an 18-game league schedule:

* To preserve rivalries, the East and West teams (in football terms) would continue to face one another twice per season on a home-and-home basis. 

* Teams from the East (in football) would play four teams from the West (again, in football terms) once per year.

* But each team would also play two teams from the other division (in football terms) on a home-and-home basis.  These two opponents would rotate each season.

Yes, that would create an unbalanced schedule, but technically that’s what the SEC has now anyway.

The league’s coaches will discuss the options again in August before the conference makes a final decision later this year.

We’ll allow Alice Cooper to reiterate our position:

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