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What Are Georgia’s Tourney Chances?

After the season sweep of Missouri, what are Georgia’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament?  A discussion of coach Mark Fox’s team and their surprising season.

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Basketball Media Days: Georgia Coach Mark Fox

Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox answers questions at the SEC Basketball Media Days In Hoover, Alabama.


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Georgia’s Richt And Fox Get Buddy-Buddy Playing Paper Airplane

Now this is one you won’t hear see very often — two multimillionaires playing with paper airplanes.  In public.

mark-richt-and-mark-foxGeorgia football coach Mark Richt and Bulldog basketball coach Mark Fox have become pretty good friends it seems.  Not only have the two — as The Athens Banner-Herald reports — “been known to hit the local Waffle House a time or two,” but they entered a Georgia booster event last night playing a game of paper airplane.  The loser had to buy the next dinner.

“I lost,” Fox told the paper.  “I told him he could not keep it in the air for seven seconds.  He tried 10 times when we got out of the car.  I think the fact he’s one for 20 gives him the win.”

Richt later said of Fox, “This guy is quality, believe me.”

There are plenty of successful coaches who work at the same university yet can’t stand one another.  Geno Auriemma and Jim Calhoun famously feuded for years.  (Calhoun once went so far as to say that UConn’s women’s fanbase was “the world’s largest nursing home.”)  So interoffice relationships really aren’t a great indicator of success or failure.

Still, as the fan of a school, wouldn’t you prefer it if two of your most important coaches liked to pal around with one another?  There’s something oddly “feel good” about Richt and Fox tossing paper airplanes and grabbing a bite at the Waffle House together.

But to bring things back to reality, if Fox doesn’t improve on back-to-back 15-17 hoops seasons this winter, his friendship with Richt might become a long-distance relationship.

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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 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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Texas To Hire Director Of Player Personnel As Mack Brown Concedes: “Alabama Is Ahead Of All Of Us”

Texas coach Mack BrownEveryone, it seems, has an opinion on looming deregulation in recruiting.  Georgia A.D. Greg McGarity, Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox and Tennessee football coach Butch Jones have all come out in recent days voicing concern on that proposals that would lift restrictions on communicating with recruits and allow schools to hire as many people to help with on-campus recruiting as they like.

And then there’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room – Alabama.  South Carolina recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier, Jr. specifically mentioned the Crimson Tide when asked about recruiting changes earlier this month.  Nick Saban’s decision to bring in Kevin Steele as director of player personnel and bring in an army of experienced heavyweight recruiters has caught the attention of competitors – in and out of the conference.

Texas coach Mack Brown is the latest to take note.  The Longhorns football coach said Thursday he’ll create a director of player personnel that will oversee recruiting.  Like Spurrier, Jr., he specifically mentioned one SEC team in his decision-making process.


“Alabama is ahead of all of us with the number of personnel they’ve hired, and that’s something everybody’s looking very closely at…

“I can’t blame Alabama for doing what they need to do to be successful. The thing you’ve got to look at, if you’re looking at college football, is can everybody do that? And is that fair? It’s fair for Alabama because they’ve made it work for them. I would not be critical of them at all.”


Brown adds he expects that analyst/quality control positions will eventually be restricted by the NCAA.   ” I don’t think we’ll have unlimited numbers this time next year.”

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SEC Headlines 2/9/2013

headlines-sat1. 17 years after he shot and wounded then 18-month old Reuben Foster and his mother - the father of the Alabama signeee apprehended by U.S. Marshals. Danny Foster escaped from an Alabama jail in 1996.

2. Alabama high school football coach Kerry Stevenson has resigned from his job - expected to land support staff role with the Crimson Tide.

3. Cam Cameron’s agent was asked Friday about multiple reports that his client had been hired as the offensive coordinator at LSU.  ”I don’t think that’s true.”  Then he hung up the phone.

4. Did Georgia defensive coordinator  Todd Grantham withdrew his name from consideration with the New Orleans Saints because he knew he wasn’t getting the job?  Draw you own conclusions.

5. Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Tyler Siskey says head coach Hugh Freeze is ”a machine in the home – the best I’ve ever seen.”

6. How does Alabama sign four running backs Wednesday?  Tennessee running backs coach Jay Graham: “The thing about running backs, they have confidence,”

7. “Texas A&M is cool, Texas is stale and the gap is only widening.”

8. Six Aggies invited to NFL combine, Seven former South Carolina players invited to NFL combine.

9. Former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore expects to play NFL football this fall.

10. South Carolina receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. says he not worried that the Gamecocks didn’t sign a receiver in this year’s recruiting class.

11. With a 4-2-5 defense, signing bigger and physical safeties a priority at Auburn this year.

12. Here are 10 true freshman expected to make an impact in 2013 - three of them will play in the SEC.

13. Arkansas athletics generates $150 million annually for the state economy, according to a study released Friday.

SEC Basketball

14. Florida giving up 52.4 points per game – second best in the country, but coach Billy Donovan doesn’t want to hear it: “As of today, we are a really bad defensive team,

15. Kentucky freshman Willie Cauley-Stein: “There’s no chance to hit a freshman wall here.”

16, If Auburn players admitted they were “scared” when they played Kentucky at home, what’s it going to be like at Rupp Arena?

17, Georgia coach Mark Fox on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: “He rebounds, he defends, he gets steals. He’s a more complete player.”

18, Why is Missouri so bad on the road?  One reason is horrendous defense.

19. Strange things opposing fans have said to Missouri players.

20. NCAA Tournament wide open this year?  Not so fast.  ”The truth is that for as much as we love Cinderella, she never gets to put on the lost glass slipper that makes dreams come true.”


21, The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue – hitting newstands next week - is a billion dollar empire. Kate Upton will grace the cover.

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SEC Headlines 2/2/2013

headlines-satSEC Football

1. The nation’s number one recruit is at LSU this weekend.  Robert Nkemdiche met Shaq during the visit.  Here’s the picture.  

2. It’s official at LSU. The university’s board of supervisors approves Les Miles’ new pay package - $4.3 million annual salary represents a 15% increase.  He’s signed through 2019.

3. Not everyone is happy about the raise.  LSU associate librarian: ”LSU is known nationally as a football team, not as an institution of higher learning.”

4. Texas A&M made the hire of linebackers coach Mark Hagen official on Friday.

5. South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney tweeted a few weeks ago “two more years of college” - but it’s not fooling coach Steve Spurrier. ” I think he’s just trying to get the fans to love him a little bit more. That’s not the smart thing for him to do. He knows that.”

6. Tennessee’s 2012 recruiting class is known for its attrition.  But what’s left could have a big impact on 2013.

7. Mississippi State guard Tobias Smith granted sixth year of eligibility by NCAA.  Hasn’t decided if he’ll come back in the fall.

8. What Gus Malzahn should be selling at Auburn.

9. When you rank the SEC signing classes by NFL draftees - here’s your top 10 of the past ten years.

SEC Basketball

10. On the eve of the Super Bowl, Georgia coach Mark Fox recalls his time at Nevada with quarterback Colin Kaepernick and why he wants running back Todd Gurley at practice.  ” I told Gurley: ‘You run over people for a living, you need to come over here and go practice the charge drill.’ ”

11, The SEC used to be an up-tempo run-and-gun league.  No more.  “A 54-53 game was once unthinkable. Now, it’s routine.”

12. SEC winning percentage against non-conference opponents is 66.6 percent – the worst since the league started tracking it.

13. Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin on Texas A&M’s Elston Turner’s performance at Rupp: “(A) guy that scores 40 on a team as good as we are, that’s just an embarrassment to our team. We shouldn’t let that happen. I can’t wait to play him because I know that I’m not going to let it happen again.”

14. Turner: “I know I’m not going to have 40 again. But it’s going to be a great game.”

15. Florida guard Kenny Boynton on facing Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson: I heard he’s a good scorer. I’m not worried. We’re going to come ready to play.” Keep your eye on the Scott Wilkebin-Marshall matchup.

16. Auburn coach Tony Barbee on Missouri: “They’re probably the most complete team in the league.”

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SEC Headlines – 5/5/12

1.  Wanna buy Nick Saban’s $10.95 million lakefront Georgia mansion?  It’s being listed.  And, yep, that’s it at left.

2.  It’s being reported that Auburn O-lineman Thomas O’Reilly will transfer to Georgia Tech.

3.  LSU’s basketball team is adding 6-8 forward Calvin Godfrey who is transferring from Iowa State.  (Justin Hamilton — the last Tiger hoopster to transfer in from Ames – turned out pretty well.)

4.  New Tiger coach Johnny Jones has announced the hire of assistant coach Tom Kelsey.

5.  The top fundraiser for the Ole Miss athletic department is headed to Buffalo as that school’s new AD.

6.  New MSU coach Rick Ray is quickly restocking the Bulldogs’ hoops roster.  (The turnover in Starkville this year will be Calipari-esque in terms of numbers.)

7.  Outgoing AD Bill Byrne oversaw a whole lot of success at Texas A&M.  (Link fixed.)

8.  Florida will head into the fall with two quarterbacks running neck-and-neck for the starting job.  (That’s rarely a good thing.)

9.  Mark Fox continues to put this season’s basketball schedule together at Georgia.

10.  Steve Spurrier and Frank Martin hit the road to Myrtle Beach to meet with South Carolina fans yesterday.

11.  Tennessee’s Derek Dooley will be holding his breath until he sees the results of his team’s work in the classroom this spring.

12.  6-4 point guard Eric McClellan is transferring from Tulsa to Vanderbilt.  (VU’s yet another program that’s going through Calipari-esque turnover this offseason.)

13.  This writer says the addition of ex-UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi will make Missouri Kentucky’s biggest SEC hoops threat next season.

14.  6-4 guard Jordan Clarkson — who scored 16.5 points per game for Tulsa last season — will also transfer to Mizzou… though he’ll have to sit out a year.

15.  If you’re looking for a full wrap up of SEC spring drills, complete with notes on all 14 squads, the SEC’s media wing has got you covered.

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UGA’s Fox Tries To Ac-Cent-Chu-Ate The Positive In Athens

Following a homecourt loss to Vanderbilt yesterday, Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox was looking for positives.  In fact, he was sharing several of them with the press and with Bulldog fans:


“We’ve played 12 league games and we’ve made more baskets than our opponent.  We’ve had fewer turnovers in league play.  We have more offensive rebounds.  We’re getting beaten at the foul line — we’re not physical enough to draw free throw attempts but we’re close.  If we make free throws and finish better around the basket, this game (against Vandy) comes down to the wire.”


Whether or not Dawg fans want to hear all that from their third-year coach is another matter.  Georgia is currently 3-9 in SEC play and 12-14 overall.  They are one game ahead of last-place South Carolina in the league standings and lost to the Gamecocks last week.  In a sport dominated by the home team, UGA is just 2-4 at Stegeman Coliseum this year.

Fox may be speaking the gospel truth, but it’s unlikely he’ll be getting any amens from the congregation.

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Martin Asks For Patience At UT

Looks like we could have dropped another coach’s name into our “patience” post from earlier today.  And this one’s smack dab in his very first season.

Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin — like Darrin Horn at South Carolina and Mark Fox at Georgia — is trying to rebuild a program.  Like Horn and Fox he’s trying to do so with a schedule that features two games per year against Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt. 

Not easy.

Last night, Martin’s Vols got clubbed by cross-state rival Vandy 65-47.  It was the latest down in a series of up-and-down efforts from UT.  At home, they’ve knocked off Florida, UConn and battled valiantly against top-ranked Kentucky over the past three weeks.  On the road, they’re oh-for-the-season. 

Tennessee’s coach is asking for a little perspective:

“You have to be patient.  They are getting better and making progress.  I don’t get caught up in the final score.  We played a physical, experienced team tonight.”

Ya know how to get fans riled up?  Have a coach say after an 18-point loss that he doesn’t get caught up in the final score.

As was the case with Fox and Horn, Martin took over a program with a number of issues — few scorers, no true point guard, little experience, in Martin’s case.  All deserve time to fix the woes of their programs.

But if Martin is telling people they have to have patience midway through his first year — when his team was already picked to finish 11th in a 12-team conference — it further reveals just how little patience there is to be found around SEC programs these days.

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