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Ruminations On The SEC Tourney, Auburn, And Pearl

Rodin-the-ThinkerJust some random thoughts and observations as we enter Day Three of the 2014 SEC Tournament…

 

*  Yesterday wasn’t the best day for the SEC’s remaining NCAA bubble teams.  Arkansas fell to South Carolina, which according to our numbers, should just about dump them from the Big Dance.  Missouri won, but the Tigers needed double-overtime to escape Texas A&M.  The committee likely won’t be too impressed with that, either.  Finally, by virtue of their win over the Razorbacks, Carolina now draws Tennessee this afternoon.  Win the Vols are probably in the tourney.  Lose to a team with RPI #150 and it’s right back onto the middle of the bubble.  In other words, UT could have better survived a loss to Arkansas than one to Frank Martin’s suddenly hot bunch from USC.

*  On the positive side for UT, MU and UA, a number of bubble squads (RPI 40ish-60ish) from other leagues lost yesterday: Oklahoma State, Iowa, SMU, Kansas State, St. John’s, and California.  Those help.  The bubble winners were Dayton, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Xavier, Providence, MTSU, and Florida State.  Those don’t.

*  The first two days of the SEC tourney have done little to convince anyone that the Southeastern Conference iss better than they might have thought.  Mississippi State — a team with three league wins from 18 regular-season games — bounced Vanderbilt.  South Carolina snuffed out higher-seeded Auburn.  Fifth-seeded Arkansas was evicted by Carolina.  Missouri needed double-OT versus Texas A&M.  The evening session last night — LSU over Alabama and Ole Miss over Mississippi State — restored some order, but the cream hasn’t exactly risen to the top in Atlanta yet.  Maybe today.

*  The Bruce Pearl debate rages on.  It seems the majority of Auburn fans want the ex-Tennessee coach, but there are still many who feel he’ll “Bobby Petrino” them and jet at the first opportunity.  Maybe so, but if he leaves the program better than he found it wouldn’t that still make Pearl a good hire?  If he left the program better than he found it.

*  What’s amusing is the usual Our Guy vs. Your Guy double-standard that exists in Fan World.  When Pearl lost his job at Tennessee and was hit with a three-year show-cause penalty, the vast majority of rival SEC fans rejoiced.  They Pearl a cheater.  Some said he should be “banned” longer for lying to the NCAA.  Now that Pearl’s penalty has almost been paid — the show-cause ends in August — he suddenly “didn’t do anything serious.”  At least that’s the take of many on the AU messageboards.  The flip-flop from “cheater” to over-penalized Robin Hood has less to do with forgiveness and more to do with the fact now he can coach at Auburn.  At Tennessee: Big, mean, dirty, lying cheater.  At Auburn: A guy who lied about a barbecue… “and that’s not even a violation anymore!”  (Love that bit of spin.  As if lying to the NCAA and calling the parent of a player to coax him into covering up a violation weren’t the bigger issues.)

*  If Pearl were to land on the Plains, you can be sure the inverse of the Our Guy vs. Your Guy double-standard would play out in the Volunteer State.  Let Pearl beat Tennessee in an important game or — try not to gasp — win big at Auburn and many UT fans who once shared the “Aw, it was just a barbecue” defense will begin to say, “He had to have cheated down there!”  Mark.  My.  Words.  (Some, of course, would just use Pearl’s success to hammer the Tennessee administration for not firing Cuonzo Martin and replacing him with Pearl before Auburn had a chance.)

*  At MrSEC.com, we’re big fans of second chances.  We hope Pearl gets one.  And if it’s at Auburn, we hope he walks the straight and narrow and scrubs clean his reputation once and for all.  But there’s one thing that still feels a bit icky about the possibility of Pearl coaching Auburn.  As Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News pointed out this week, Auburn associate AD Dave Didion was the lead investigator on the Tennessee case that cost Pearl his job.  So who better to say his sins were small, right?  Wrong.  If Didion was one of the investigators who was lied to point-blank and he turned that information over to the NCAA only to watch the NCAA smack Pearl — and basically force Tennessee to fire him or get smacked its ownself — then it’d be a little sketchy for the same man to say, “Yeah, but he’s clean enough for us here at Auburn!”  Maybe he’s as big a fan of redemption stories as we are, but we’re not going to buy the “who better to re-hire him?” narrative that will be spun from Birmingham to Ashford.

*  Speaking of Tennessee, let’s say Martin and the Vols escape an upset bid by South Carolina today.  Then let’s imagine that they somehow find a way to upset Florida and reach Sunday’s SEC Tournament finals.  Further, let’s say the Vols get a nice draw in the NCAA Tournament and win a game or two.  Who’s to say Martin won’t leave Tennessee for another gig?  If Jarnell Stokes turns pro this summer the Volunteers will enter next season with little optimism.  Martin has listened to three years of “Bring Back Bruce” talk and he’s a smart enough man to know that next year will be a step back, at least on paper.  While many Vol fans view him simply as “Not Pearl,” another school might see Martin as a guy who runs a tight ship, never has a player in off-the-court trouble, survived in the shadow of Pearl, and won 24, 26, 19, 20 and 20+ games over his last five years at two different schools.  Worst case scenario for UT: Pearl lands at an SEC rival, Martin jets, and the AD Dave Hart is forced to roll the dice on yet another up-and-comer.

*  There are a pair of coaches — aside from Pearl — who Auburn AD Jay Jacobs should take into consideration.  First is 56-year-old Ben Howland.  He won at Northern Arizona, he then won big at Pittsburgh (two Sweet Sixteen trips), and he then won even bigger at UCLA (three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006 through 2008).  Here are the post-Final Four records that cost him his job with the Bruins: 26-9, 14-18, 23-11, 19-14 and 25-9.  Auburn fans would take those records in a heartbeat.  The other guy actually wants the Tigers’ job — if rumors are to be believed.  Rick Stansbury, 54, should be looked at long and hard by Jacobs.  If Auburn won’t/can’t hire Pearl, Stansbury would have better odds of success than an up-and-comer from a smaller league.  How do we know this?  Because he’s already won in the SEC at Mississippi State.  Stansbury blew up his own regime by signing and then catering to Renardo Sidney, yes, but while Auburn was flopping around at the bottom of the league standings like a dying fish, MSU was posting these records: 20-13, 14-16, 18-13, 27-8, 21-10, 26-4, 23-11, 15-15, 21-14, 23-11, 23-13, 24-12, 17-13, 21-12.  That is an overall record of 293-165 with a .641 winning percentage.  There were six NCAA trips and five NIT trips thrown in for good measure.  Know what Auburn’s done since Stansbury took over at State in 98-99?  They’ve gone 264-237 (.526) with three NCAA trips, two NIT trips, and soon-to-be four coaches.  Stansbury might not be a sexy hire, but here’s guessing AU fans would be satisfied if he averaged 21 wins a year for them as he did the rival Bulldogs.

*  Every SEC fan outside of the Sunshine State is probably pulling for Billy Donovan’s squad to take it on the chin at some point over the next three days.  No one likes Goliath.  But here at MrSEC.com, we think it would be pretty darn incredible to see an SEC team go a perfect 21-0 in league play.  Hey, we like upsets as much as the next bunch of guys and we really don’t care one way or another who cuts down the nets in Atlanta, but if history is made, we’re gonna savor seeing it.

*  Good luck to Missouri, Florida, Carolina, Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Georgia today.

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SEC Hoops Roundup: Auburn Fires Coach Tony Barbee

gfx-hoops-round-up2South Carolina 74 – Auburn 56. Video Highlights

1. Tony Barbee coaches his last game for the Tigers.  Auburn A.D. Jay Jacobs: “I feel this is best for the program.”

2. Here are nine potential candidates to replace Barbee - including former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury and former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.

3. Kevin Scarbinsky: “Pearl seems like a sucker for a challenge like Auburn.”

4. South Carolina wins its first SEC Tournament game since 2008. Gamecocks make 11-of-15 three-point shots.

Mississippi State 82 – Vanderbilt 68.Video Highlights

5. Mississippi State snaps 13-game losing streak.  Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy: “It would be their Super Bowl in that they could … put us out of our misery.”

6. Vanderbilt finishes at 15-16, the program’s first back-to-back losing campaigns since 1984-1986.

Thursday SEC Tournament Schedule

Texas A&M vs Missouri

South Carolina vs Arkansas

Alabama vs LSU

Mississippi State vs Ole Miss

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Mississippi State 82 – Vanderbilt 68

Video highlights of the Mississippi State 82-68 win over Vanderbilt Wednesday night in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

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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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SEC Hoops Roundup: Frank Martin Suspended

South Carolina coach Frank Martin won’t be on the bench when the Gamecocks play Mississippi State Saturday. A.D. Ray Tanner suspended him following a verbal altercation with a player during Tuesday’s loss to Florida.

Cameras caught Martin screaming at freshman point guard Duane Notice during a timeout.

Associate head coach Matt Figger will be in charge Saturday at Mississippi State. Martin won’t travel with the team.

LSU 57 – Vanderbilt 51

1. Trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half,  LSU rallies to break seven-game road losing streak.

2. Vanderbilt has no answer for LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant who scores 25 points and grabs 10 rebounds.

Saturday SEC Hoops Schedule

Kentucky at Florida

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss

Auburn at Texas A&M

Missouri at Tennessee

South Carolina at Mississippi State

Arkansas at Alabama

Georgia at LSU

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SEC Hoops Roundup 3/6/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Missouri 57 – Texas A&M 56. Video Highlights

1. Earnest Ross gets two steals and scores Missouri’s final seven points in the last 1:06 of the game.

2. Texas A&M is 16-2 at home.  Aggies now just 1-11 away from Reed Arena.

Arkansas 110 – Ole Miss 80. Video Highlights

3. Razorbacks connect on 17 three-point shots.  Arkansas has now won six straight games. 110 most ever for Arkansas at home in conference play.

4. The Arkansas bench outscores Ole Miss bench 71-26.

Tennessee 82 – Auburn 54. Video Highlights

5. First three-game conference winning streak of the season for Tennessee.  In back-to-back games, Vols beat Vandy and Auburn by a combined 66 points.

6. Did Tony Barbee coach his final home game at Auburn? “I’m proud of the guys, the way they’re fighting and looking forward to coaching against Texas A&M.”

Georgia 66 – Mississippi State 45.

7. Georgia just a win away from wrappping up third place in the SEC.  But Bulldogs would lose tiebreaker to both Tennessee and Arkansas and fall to fifth place if they lose and those two win on Saturday.

8. Mississippi State will finish season with no true road game victories.  Bulldogs losing streak now at 12 games.

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SEC Hoops Roundup 2/28/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Arkansas 71 – Kentucky 67 (overtime). Video Highlights

1. Arkansas now a serious NCAA Tournament contender?  Razorbacks complete season sweep of Kentucky and have now won six of seven games.

2. “I think we might have found our frontrunner for the coveted third SEC bid.”

3. Kentucky led 60-56 with a minute to go in regulation.  Coach John Calipari: “We took two steps back tonight.”

4. Mark Story: “There’s no tangible sign at this point that John Calipari’s 2014 Cats have a magical march through March in them.”

Saturday SEC Hoops Schedule

Vanderbilt at Tennessee

Mississippi State at Missouri

Auburn at Alabama

Georgia at Arkansas

LSU at Florida

Kentucky at South Carolina

Ole Miss at Texas A&M

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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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SEC Hoops Roundup 2/23/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Florida 75 – Ole Miss 71. Video Highlights

1. Florida positioned for No. 1 ranking in polls after 19th straight win.  Tied at 59 in the second half, Gators took control of the game with a 7-0 run.

2. Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson scores 22 points in the first half.  Shutout in the second half.

Georgia 73 – South Carolina 56

3. Georgia matches its victory total for all of last year.  Bulldogs get a career-high 27 points from guard Kenny Gaines.

4. Tied at half, South Carolina starts second half with an 0-for-16 stretch from the floor.

Texas A&M 68 – Tennessee 65 (OT). Video Highlights

5. For the second time this year against Tennessee, Antwan Space is the hero.  His 3-pointer with four seconds left in overtime delivers the win for the Aggies.

6. Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon: “It was kind of heartbreaking, the way we lost in Knoxville, [to] come down here to lose the same way.”

Kentucky 77 – LSU 76 (OT). Video Highlights

7. Kentucky gets the win after Julius Randle scores with 3.9 seconds left in overtime. “That was the basketball gods.”

8. Kentucky native Anthony Hickey scored 20 points and had eight assists for LSU.

Arkansas 73 – Mississippi State 69

9. Arkansas sophomore guard Anthlon Bell scores a career-high 19 points.  MSU coach Rick Ray: “He wasn’t on the scouting report.”

10. Late rally falls short for the Bulldogs.  Colin Borchert led Mississippi State with 21 points.

Vanderbilt 67 – Auburn 59

11. Vanderbilt rallies from 16-point deficit.  Commodores get a career-high 21 points from Dai-Jon Parker.

12. Auburn’s scoring duo of Chris Denson and KT Harrell combine to shoot just 7-of-30 from the field.

Alabama 80 – Missouri 73. Video Highlights

13. Alabama gets a career-high 33 points from Levi Randolph.  Previous high was 20 points.

14. Missouri coach Frank Haith: “We didn’t defend at all. The leaders of our team — Jabari (Brown) and Jordan (Clarkson), those guys have got to defend.”

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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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