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Here’s The Skinny On SEC Tourney Possibilities

SEC_MBBall2014_FulClrWith one week to play in the regular season there are some genuine surprises across the SEC basketball landscape:

 

* Florida remains undefeated at 16-0 in the league

* Kentucky — a preseason pick by some to go undefeated — now have five league losses and eight overall

*  After a 6-6 non-conference start, Georgia is in third place in the SEC just one game behind Kentucky

*  Arkansas, Missouri, LSU and Tennessee have all managed to land squarely on the NCAA bubble and no better

*  Alabama and Ole Miss have disappointed

*  Did we mention Georgia is in third place in the SEC?

 

Below are the current SEC standings with the current RPI and strength of schedule numbers tossed in for good measure:

 

  School   SEC Record   Overall Record   RPI Rank   SOS Rank
  Florida   16-0   27-2   3   14
  Kentucky   11-5   21-8   19   9
  Georgia   10-6   16-12   84   69
  Arkansas   9-7   20-9   57   75
  Tennessee   9-7   17-11   48   16
  LSU   8-8   17-11   63   54
  Missouri   8-8   20-9   49   78
  Ole Miss   8-8   17-12   92   88
  Texas A&M   8-8   17-12   113   107
  Alabama   7-9   12-16   104   4
  Vanderbilt   7-9   15-13   94   58
  Auburn   4-12   12-15   191   101
  S. Carolina   4-12   11-18   176   65
  Miss. State   3-13   13-16   227   148

 

Next Wednesday at the Georgia Dome, the SEC Tournament will commence with the bottom four teams in the league battling it out to reach the main body of the event.  The league won’t say it, but these two games amount to play-in games.  Three of those slots are already open and waiting for Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State.  The worst remaining record from the current bunch at 8-8 (LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss or Texas A&M) will join the other three on the tournament’s opening night.

On Thursday, the winner of the 12-13 game will face the league’s #5 seed.  As of today, that would be Arkansas.  The Razorbacks are currently tied with Tennessee, but the Volunteers beat the Razorbacks head-to-head in Knoxville to gain the tiebreaker.

Also, the 11-14 winner will battle the SEC’s #6 seed.  That could be almost anyone, but assuming Arkansas and Tennessee win out (which is a big assumption) the sixth seed will likely be one of those teams currently sitting at or 8-8.

Thursday also offers up an 8-9 game and a 7-10 game.  Again, those figure to match teams who are currently 8-8 or 7-9.

The top four teams in the SEC get double-byes into Friday’s action.  On the surface that’s a blessing, but the old Big East Tournament often saw lower-seeded teams get hot early and take down higher-seeded, double-bye teams that had gone a week between games.  That said, everyone wants a double-bye.

Florida has already secured the top seed overall.  For now, let’s keep the rest of the #2 through #4 battle simple.  If Kentucky wins one game this week — against Alabama or at Florida — the Wildcats will lock up the #2 seed regardless of Georgia’s finish.  The Wildcats knocked off the Bulldogs head-to-head.

Georgia can lock up the #3 slot if it wins out against Mississippi State and LSU on the road.  And as noted above, if Tennessee wins out at Auburn and at home against Missouri, the Vols will get the final double-bye.

But…

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SEC Hoops Roundup 3/1/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Vanderbilt at Tennessee

1. Former Tennessee star Dale Ellis will have his number retired before today’s game.  Will join a group that includes Allan Houston, Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld.

2. Vanderbilt freshman Damian Jones was recruited by several blue-chip schools.  Why Vanderbilt? “I saw more opportunity here for me to improve, to get on the court sooner and get more experience.”

Mississippi State at Missouri

3. Are Missouri guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson feeling the pressure?  Coach Frank Haith: “It’s because they want it so badly, and they’re pressing.”

4. Mississippi State streaking in the wrong direction.  Lost 10 straight, haven’t won a game on the road all year, and have never won a game in February under coach Rick Ray.

Auburn at Alabama

5. Auburn won the first round of the Iron Bowl of basketball.  Alabama coach Anthony Grant: “We weren’t happy with the last time we played them.”

6. At 20.4 points per game, Auburn’s Chris Denson leads the SEC in scoring.  ”I’m definitely overlooked, but I think it’s due to our record.”

Georgia at Arkansas

7. Both these times have won six of their last seven games.  Arkansas coach Mike Anderson: “Georgia’s a good basketball team. They’re playing for the same thing we’re playing for…”

8. What’s coach Mark Fox’s future at Georgia?  A.D. Greg McGarity: “I’m really not going to talk about any of that stuff until the season’s over.”

LSU at Florida

9. The strong get stronger.  Having already clinched the SEC title, Florida expects to get point guard Kasey Hill back today.From a health standpoint, Gators “as good as they can be right now.”

10. LSU freshman Jordan Mickey on Florida: “They hustle. They’re physical. You can see it’s going to be a test out there for us.”

Kentucky at South Carolina

11. Does Kentucky have the necessary sense of urgency? Willie Cauley-Stein: It’s a scary thing if you let it go south.”

12. South Carolina coach Frank Martin: “Our program is starting to get kids playing with the same physicality as our teams played with at Kansas State.”

Ole Miss at Texas A&M
13. Ole Miss one of four teams tied for fourth place in SEC - important because of double-bye in conference tournament.

14. Texas A&M junior Jamal Jones started his career at Ole Miss but was dismissed from the team.  Rebels coach Andy Kennedy: “There’s a process that I don’t feel like is needed to get into, but you get to the point of no return.”

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SEC Headlines 2/28/2014

headlines-friSEC Football

1. The post-Johnny Manziel era begins today at Texas A&M as spring practice gets underway.

2. Biggest storyline of the spring at Tennessee?  The four-man quarterback competition.

3. Bruce Feldman: : “I don’t know how much Mizzou pays strength coach Pat Ivey, but I’m pretty sure whatever it is, the school is getting a bargain.” (last item)

4. Should college football limit the amount of full-contact practices during the season?

5. Linebacker Kris Frost could be a key cog in Auburn’s defense this fall.

6. It’s official.  Bradley Dale Peveto is back on Les Miles’ staff.  Was special teams coordinator and a defensive assistant on LSU’s 2007-08 national championship team.

7. Georgia coach Mark Richt is…pure evil?

SEC/NFL

8. Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray will participate in Jon Gruden’s QB Camp on ESPN.

9. Forget “Johnny Football” – how about “Mr. Football?”

10. Mel Kiper on Auburn tackle Greg Robinson: “He shined as an athlete in Indy and is now a challenge to go No. 1 overall.”

11. Dismissed from team last summer after failing to become academically eligible for the second straight season, Nick Brasell is one of 19 scheduled participants for Ole Miss’ Pro Day Monday.

12. Former Ole Miss Rebel Greg Hardy: “If my hand was broken, I’d say I wasn’t playing. And they’d say it was a sprain and I’d be like, Nah, I’m getting my own opinion. They hated that with a passion.”

SEC Basketball

13. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings on speculation over Cuonzo Martin’s job status at  Tennessee: “I think for people to speculate on his job is absurd.”

14. Florida guard Kasey Hill’s status for Saturday against LSU is uncertain. Been bothered by a strained groin. Gators clinched SEC title for second straight year when Arkansas beat Kentucky Thursday night.

15. What do the computers think about Kentucky’s loss to Arkansas?

16. Did college football kill college basketball in the state of Alabama?

17. Missouri knows what it needs to do to get to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year.  Coach Frank Haith: “You’ve got to win.”

18. Georgia is one six conference schools where attendance has gone up this year.

19. Why was Auburn fan Chris Hardin ejected Wednesday night?   ”I told him ‘you got to blow your whistle (against South Carolina).’ He didn’t like that.”

Extras

20. Phillip Fulmer and the rebirth of East Tennessee State football.

21. Barry Switzer: ““I’ve always said I’d never recruit a white quarterback.”

22. Players and fans get into a fight at the end of the New Mexico State and Utah Valley basketball game Thursday night. New Mexico State player suspended after instigating brawl.

23. $60 million high school stadium in Texas closes over structural concerns.

24. Las Vegas bookmaker sets the odds for the Oscars – 12 Years a Slave overwhelming favorite for Best Picture.

Headline of the day

25. Mississippi man wakes up in body bag at funeral home

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SEC Hoops Roundup 2/27/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Tennessee 75 – Mississippi State 68. Video Highlights

1. After jumping out to 14-point first-half lead, Tennessee hangs on for the victory.  Second career double-double for Jordan McRae – 29 points and 10 rebounds.

2. Ten straight losses for Mississippi State. Coach Rick Ray now 0-16 at MSU in the month of February.

Ole Miss 79 – Alabama 67. Video Highlights

3. Ole Miss sophomore guard Martavious Newby sets career-highs with 15 points and 10 rebounds.  Marshall Henderson sets SEC record with 3-pointer in 61st straight game.

4. Alabama now 0-13 on the road this season.  Crimson Tide get a career-high 27 points from freshman Shannon Hale.

LSU 68 – Texas A&M 49

5. LSU goes on 21-0 first-half run.  Jarell Martin ties a career-high with 20 points.

6. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy:  ”LSU’s length and size really gave us problems.”

Auburn 83 – South Carolina 67. Video Highlights

7. Smallest crowd to ever watch SEC game at Auburn Arena sees the Tigers even their record at 13-13. Chris Denson led the Tigers with 22 points.

8. Auburn fan gets ejected after criticizing referee Ted Valentine.  Fifty-three fouls, including two technicals, were called against the two teams.

Thursday SEC Hoops

Arkansas at Kentucky

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Study Finds Ole Miss To Be The “Most Spread” Of SEC Spread Offenses

spread-offense-diagram-460A hat tip to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger for uncovering an interesting nugget regarding spread offenses.  And, no, this isn’t another up-tempo health argument, though one could probably spin it that way.  (Every other number is being spun for or against up-tempo offenses these days.)

Bill Connelly of the site FootballStudyHall.com has attempted to determine which spread offenses are actually the “spreadiest” for lack of a better word.  He’s used a simple technique — solo tackles.  By his way of thinking, if spread offenses are designed to get their ballcarriers into more open space, the percentage of solo tackles made against a particular spread offense will give a clue as to the effectiveness of that offense’s scheme.

As he points out, defenses can also skew those numbers.  ”A team that plays a soft, wide zone could swarm to the ball and make assisted tackles more than a Michigan State type that puts its defensive backs on islands more frequently.”  Still, in terms of an interesting discussion, Connelly has created one.

Below are the ranks for the SEC’s squads in terms of being the “spreadiest.”

 

  National Rank   School   % Solo Tackles Against
  12   Ole Miss   80.8%
  25   Kentucky   78.9%
  35   S. Carolina   77.7%
  36   Florida   77.5%
  38   Missouri   77.4%
  53   Georgia   75.2%
  61   Tennessee   74.5%
  66   Auburn   73.7%
  71   Miss. State   72.9%
  80   Texas A&M   72.3%
  91   Vanderbilt   69.7%
  93   Alabama   69.2%
  119   LSU   61.9%
  125   Arkansas   55.5%

 

Spot the flaw?  By this measure, Auburn would be just the eighth best team in the SEC at getting its players into space.  Auburn came within one minute of winning the national championship.

Florida on the other hand, ranked fourth best in the league and 36th nationally in terms of spreading the field.  By comparison, Oregon and Ohio State — one runs an uber-fast spread and the other’s spread is coached by former Gator coach Urban Meyer — ranked 48th and 49th nationally in terms of percentage-solo-tackles-against.

So this far from a perfect formula.  It’s still an interesting concept, though.

And the fact that Alabama, LSU and Arkansas (whose players were gang-tackled more than any other school’s in America) are at the bottom of the SEC list does lend some credence to the exercise.

For the record, the SEC ranked eighth out of the 10 FBS conference in terms of spreadiness.  Only Conference USA and the MAC saw lower percentages of solo-tackles-against.

Now, for those of you wanting to drag this into the up-tempo debate — as most up-tempo teams run a variation of the spread — it can be suggested that one-on-one solo tackles are less likely to produce injuries than gang tackles.  We’re sure, in fact, that someone somewhere will try to make that point.

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Top Five Running Back Signees For 2014

This was a difficult group to rank.

The SEC signed some of the nation’s top talent at running back, which is expected to happen each year. The 2014 class is no different.

The biggest upset of the list: Alabama isn’t represented. That doesn’t mean the Crimson Tide failed to sign a top back. Bo Scarbrough is one of the nation’s best and should make a big impact at Alabama.

His absence here shows the strength of the SEC’s 2014 running back class.

Here are the top five running back signees in the SEC in the 2014 class.

1. Leonard Fournette – LSU

Fournette (6-1, 224) is already talking about winning the Heisman Trophy his freshman season at LSU. He also mentioned the national championship as a goal for year one. Those are high expectations for a guy who’s still in high school, but there’s a reason he believes it. The hype surrounding Fournette has exploded. With Jeremy Hill gone to the NFL, Fournette will have a chance to start at LSU right away. He expects it to happen.

2. Sony Michel – Georgia

Michel has it all. He has size (5-10, 205) to go with his speed, which makes him a dangerous threat every time he touches the ball. Michel will have a chance to help Georgia right away. Todd Gurley will return for his junior year, but Keith Marshall is still recovering from a knee injury. Gurley won’t be able to do it all by himself.

3. Roc Thomas – Auburn

Thomas seems like the perfect replacement for Tre Mason, who left Auburn early for the NFL draft. Thomas (5-11, 202) is a big-play talent who will be able to help the Tigers as a runner and receiver. Auburn made a move for Thomas before in-state rival Alabama did. The move paid off for the Tigers.

4. Jalen Hurd – Tennessee

Did you see Derrick Henry against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl? Tennessee hopes Hurd (6-3, 227) can run like Henry (6-3, 238) from day one. Hurd enrolled early at Tennessee and will battle for the starting position this fall. He should be the home run back Tennessee’s offense has lacked in recent years.

5. Nick Chubb – Georgia

Chubb (5-10, 215) already looks like an SEC running back. He’ll have plenty of competition when he arrives on campus thanks to the Georgia running backs mentioned above. But Chubb has plenty of ability and at the very least can help the Bulldogs fight for tough yards. He has everything needed to be an every-down back in the SEC.

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SEC Hoops Roundup 2/22/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Florida at Ole Miss

1. Think Florida has forgotten Marshall Henderson doing the Gator Chomp after winning the SEC title game? “We have a video playing of him doing it over and over and over in the locker room.”

2. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy on Florida: “I think it’s Billy’s (Donovan) best job in the eight years I’ve been a part of the league, and one of those was a national championship team.”

Georgia at South Carolina

3. Other than Auburn’s Chris Denson, no one gets to the free throw line more in the SEC than Georgia guard Charles Mann Jr.

4. Team MVP at South Carolina?  The weather.  Gamecocks 3-0 in Columbia with snow on the ground.

Tennessee at Texas A&M

5. Motivation? Earlier matchup in Knoxville might have been the low point of the season for Tennessee.  Up 14 at half, Vols lost the game.

6. But Texas A&M remembers last season in College Station when Tennessee won in four overtimes.

Arkansas at Mississippi State

7. Starkville hasn’t been a pleasant travel destination for Arkansas. Razorbacks just 3-17 there since joining the conference – haven’t won since 2000 when Nolan Richardson was the coach.

8. Mississippi State freshman I.J. Ready grew up in Little Rock.“I saw that game on the schedule when I first got here…”

LSU at Kentucky

9. LSU’s Anthony Hickey is a former Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky.  This will be his final opportunity to play in Rupp Arena.

10. Plenty of motivation for Kentucky today. LSU won in Baton Rouge last time these two teams met.

Vanderbilt at Auburn

11. Fatigue setting in? Vanderbilt’s Rod Odom, Kyle Fuller and Dai-Jon Parker have logged a combined 1,503 minutes of a possible 1,575 in 13 conference games.

12. Auburn has two consistent scoring threats.  Coach Tony Barbee: “There is no secret what the scouting report is on this team; help off of everybody except for Chris Denson and KT Harrell and make other people beat you.”

Missouri at Alabama

13. Missouri’s Jabari Brown is averaging 1.2 points per field-goal attempt.  Among the nation’s top 50 scorers, no one does it better.

14. Alabama’s struggles have put an increasing burden on guard Trevor Releford.  Coach Anthony Grant’s team has lost eight of it last 10 games.

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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Early Commitments Keep Rolling In

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxLSU’s 2015 class became more athletic this week.

The Tigers received commitments from running back David Ducre from Lakeshore High School in Mandeville, La., and wide receiver Jazz Ferguson from West Feliciana High School in St. Francisville, La.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ferguson told TigerBait.com. “My parents knew since I was about seven or eight that I wanted to go there and they told me to go for it. I told Coach (Frank) Wilson I wanted to talk to Coach (Les) Miles and when I told him I was ready to commit, he said thank you and he was happy to have me.”

LSU has nine commitments for the 2015 class, which is tied with Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the Rivals Team Rankings.

The commitments from Ducre and Ferguson followed a pledge from defensive end Isaiah Washington from Edna Karr High School in New Orleans. Washington committed to the Tigers earlier than even he expected.

“At first when Les Miles offered me, I didn’t want to commit,” Washington told Tiger Bait. “But the longer I sat in there and thought about what I was going to be a part of, I was like, ‘I might as well.’ I like the surroundings and everything they have going on. I just committed. I’m a Tiger.”

Washington helped LSU end a short drought at Edna Karr. Highly-touted receiver Speedy Noil (Texas A&M) and defensive lineman Gerald Willis III (Florida) both left Edna Karr for out-of-state schools in the 2014 class. LSU was able to sign Edna Karr linebacker Donnie Alexander.

It’s a good start for LSU’s 2015 class, which has five commitments from in-state prospects. The state of Louisiana will continue to be a high priority for the Tigers.

 

Rivers switches to ‘dream school’ Georgia

An offer from Georgia was too much for Chauncey Rivers to pass up.

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SEC Headlines 2/20/2014

headlines-thuSEC Football

1. LSU quarterback Stephen Rivers is transferring.  He’s the younger brother of San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. At 6-8, believed to be tallest QB in LSU history.

2. Georgia freshman defensive lineman DeAndre “Moose” Johnson not expected to continue his career – medical reasons cited.

3. Alabama adds Louisiana-Monroe to its 2015 schedule.  The Warhawks beat the Crimson Tide back in 2007 – Nick Saban’s first season as coach.

4. Auburn has five empty spots on its support staff and coach Gus Malzhan may not fill them all.

5. How Missouri’s offensive line shapes up heading into spring practice.

6. Spring practice dates for all SEC teams. Here are some SEC quarterback battles to watch.

SEC/NFL

7. Brett Favre on watching Johnny Manziel:“I almost thought I was watching film of a young Brett Favre,”

8. NFL analyst Charles Davis on Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans: “I’ve been told — and we will see at the combine — that he could run a high 4.4 time. And if that’s the case, then game, set, match, off he goes.”

9. Josh Kendall on the expectations for Jadeveon Clowney -”everyone expects him to be an otherworldly freak.”

10. The Alabama players with the most to gain from the NFL Combine.

11.  Florida’s Dominique Easley a potential mid-round steal?

SEC Basketball

12. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy: “This may sound crazy, but we are real close to doing some special things with this team and with this program.”

13. The Texas A&M woman’s team has outdrawn the men’s team the last two home games.

14. Alabama forward Nick Jacobs has taken a leave of absence from the team.

15. ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes thinks four SEC teams will make the NCAA Tournament – Florida, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. Arguments for and against the Vols.

16. With Syracuse losing, is Florida the nation’s top team?

17. Kentucky coach John Calipari sounds off on other coaches’ opinions of social media.  ”They know nothing about social media. Nothing. They don’t do it.”

Extra

18. What’s the difference between NFL and college football?  Sports economist: ”The difference would be … the NFL pays their players.”

19. Judge dismisses lawsuit filed against Nick Saban’s daughter.

20. Football season (FCS variety) will kickoff August 23rd.

21. Never too early to start campaigning for the Heisman.

Heisman squirrel

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SEC Hoops Roundup 2/20/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Arkansas 71 – South Carolina 64. Video Highlights

1. Michael Qualls scores 20 points to lead the Razorbacks.  Arkansas has won four of its last five games.

2. South Carolina has now lost 17 straight road games.

LSU 92 – Mississippi State 81

3. LSU gets a career-high 20 points from Jarell Martin as Tigers break two-game losing streak.

4. Mississippi State loses eighth straight game despite a career-high 33 points from Craig Sword.

Missouri 67 – Vanderbilt 64. Video Highlights

5. Missouri bounces back in second half after scoring season-low 20 points in first half.  Jordan Clarkson scores a game-high 21 points.

6. Vanderbilt gets 19 points and seven rebounds from Damian Jones.  Commodores drop to 6-7 in SEC play.

Florida 71 – Auburn 66. Video Highlights

7. School record 18th straight win for Florida.  Gators remain perfect in SEC play as Patric Young scores all 17 of his game-high points in the second half.

8. Mistakes in the game’s final minute prove costly to Auburn.  Guard Chris Denson: “The No. 2 team, we just took them down to the wire. We beat ourselves at the end.”

Thursday Night SEC Hoops

Alabama at Texas A&M

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