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SEC Headlines 11/18/2013

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1. Alabama turned the ball over four times against Mississippi State. Here’s a look at the Crimson Tide’s turnover issue.

2. Nick Saban (unhappily) explained why he didn’t challenge an interception thrown by AJ McCarron on Saturday night.

3. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall’s miracle throw against Georgia wasn’t the first of his career.

4. Auburn’s offense has made a big leap since its first bye week.

5. It hasn’t been the lead story, but Johnny Manziel keeps making spectacular plays.

6. Georgia coach Mark Richt didn’t second guess the Bulldogs’ call on Auburn’s miracle touchdown play.

7. Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor has stepped up for Florida during a disappointing season for the Gators.

8. Steve Spurrier promises South Carolina won’t overlook Coastal Carolina. “This is a huge game” Spurrier said.

9. Tennessee once again needs to win out against Vanderbilt and Kentucky to become bowl eligible.

10. Vanderbilt will need to keep forcing turnovers to give itself a chance to win at Tennessee.

11. Barrett Sallee takes a look back at what we learned in the SEC in week 12.

12. Gary Pinkel is doing what he does as Missouri is back to winning again, writes Bernie Miklasz.

13. There will be plenty on the line when Alabama and Auburn play in two weeks.

14. South Carolina fans were quite excited on Saturday when they saw Auburn’s last-minute touchdown to beat Georgia.

SEC Basketball

15. Former LSU basketball star Joe Dean died Sunday at age 83.

16. Kentucky dominated Robert Morris on Sunday, winning 87-49 at Rupp Arena.

17. Here are some news and notes from Kentucky’s win over Robert Morris.

18. Clemson handled South Carolina on Sunday with a 71-57 win at home over the Gamecocks.

19. Forward Casey Prather has provided an early spark for Florida.

20. Arkansas expects to be tested as it prepares to host Larry Brown’s Southern Methodist on Monday night.

Extra

21. The race for No. 3 in the BCS standings should be a good one between Baylor and Ohio State.

22. The Denver Broncos confirmed defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio interviewed last week for the Southern California job.

23. Here’s a look at Jerry Palm’s latest bowl projections. The Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Central Florida.

24. The attorney of Jameis Winston was critical of the state attorney for his public comments regarding the ongoing investigation.

25. A final-minute three-pointer helped Belmont pull off the upset of North Carolina.

UPDATE — Meet the SEC’s football Players of the Week.

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SEC Hoops Roundup: Alabama, Mississippi State Get Wins

gfx-hoops-round-upAlabama 76 – Texas Tech 64. Trevor Releford scores 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting.

Mississippi State 78 – Kennesaw State 55. Bulldogs go to 2-0 on the season for the first time since 2010-2011 season.  Game-high 17 points for Fred Thomas.

Weekend Hoops Schedule:

Friday Night

Georgia Tech at Georgia

UL-Lafayette at Arkansas

Lipscomb at Vanderbilt

Northwestern State at Auburn

Rice at Texas A&M

Saturday

UALR at Florida

Missouri vs Hawaii (Kansas City)

Ole Miss at Coastal Carolina

USC Upstate at Tennessee

Northwestern State at LSU

Sunday

South Carolina at Clemson

Robert Morris at Kentucky

 

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UK Hoops Signees Talking Big, But Is Perfection A Legitimate Goal?

mr-perfect-blueLast week, Kentucky basketball signee Marcus Lee made his goal for the 2013-14 season crystal clear — perfection.

 

“I think that’s what we’re all thinking right now.  One of my goals is to go flat-out undefeated.  That is my goal — to be the best team out there, hands down…

I think my class is just a team full of non-quitters.  They just refuse to lose and refuse to quit, especially with the twins (Andrew and Aaron Harrison), Julius Randle.  They just refuse to lose.”

 

Sounds good, but you have to wonder how the holdovers from UK’s 2013 class will react to those words.  Were some members of that class “quitters?”

Randle, another one of the six McDonald’s All-Americans John Calipari is adding this offseason answered “Why not?” when asked if 40-0 is a goal for Kentucky next season.

Well, what else is he going to say?  Trying to win every game should be the goal of every team in the country.  Randle also added that he and his fellow signees “haven’t done anything or proven anything” yet.  The aforementioned Aaron Harrison said his team would “proclaim” that a national title is on the way, “but it is not about words…. it is about what you do out there on the court.”

That’s a better approach than Lee’s.  Especially considering that UK’s last class of guaranteed winners didn’t guarantee on-court wins at all.  In fact, a first-round NIT loss at Robert Morris served as the ultimate comeuppance for a group that never seemed to realize that listening to Calipari is part of what helped Kentucky’s three previous teams reach the Elite Eight, the Final Four, and then the national championship.

That loss at Robert Morris should also serve as a scarecrow moving forward.  It should ward off the slightest bit of overconfidence.  Hell, it should be the first thing Calipari shows his new recruits when practice starts later this year.

All that said, for Lee and for Big Blue fans who are already dreaming of a perfect season, just how realistic are the Wildcats’ chances?

If you go by history… not very.

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More Bids And Better Seeds For The SEC? The League So Far Has Proven The Committee Correct

gfx - honest opinionThe Southeastern Conference has played four postseason games so far.  Kentucky lost at tiny Robert Morris.  Tennessee lost at home to tiny Mercer.  Missouri was about as much challenge to Colorado State last night as a tiny mouse to a big cat.

Half the SEC teams invited into the NCAA Tournament or NIT have been booted in their tourney’s first round.  (Sorry, NCAA, but we’re not going to call what’s really the first round the second just because you’ve stuck four play-in games in front of it.)

Ah, but Alabama knocked off Northeastern at home in its first NIT game.  Hurrah!  That’s the lone positive so far for the SEC.

Like it or not, unless Ole Miss and Florida both go on long, long tourney runs the rest of the nation will have its perception of the SEC — that it’s down — reinforced.  I would throw Alabama onto that list, but upsets make more of an impression on fans’ minds than who actually wins the NIT.  Can you even name last year’s champ?  (Stanford.)

Granted, Kentucky and Tennessee clearly had no interest of playing in a secondary tourney once their NCAA bubbles burst.  Unfortunately for them that point isn’t bolted to the box scores that have now been posted for all-time on hundreds of sports websites.  No one cares why they lost… just that they lost… to Robert Morris and Mercer.

Mizzou, well, it had no excuse.  The Tigers made the dance.  They faced a team from the Mountain West, a league that many of us down South said wasn’t worthy of five bids.  Well, as Charles Barkley said last night, the MWC was better at the top than the SEC this year.  Hell, it was probably better at the bottom, too, but that’s beside the point.  Missouri didn’t even bother to lead for 37 minutes and then choke the game away.  The Tigers looked like the lesser team from first tip to final buzzer.  So much for the SEC deserving one or two of the bids Mountain West teams received.

Amazingly, in our comment boxes have appeared this week suggestions that the NCAA selection committee chose to keep SEC teams out of the tourney because of a Northern bias.  We’ve also seen it proposed that dissing the SEC is a way for the NCAA to send money to other conferences who don’t win in football.  Riiiiiight.

Odd that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva — who was on this year’s committee — would help cover up such an anti-SEC conspiracy.  It’s equally odd that the last time the SEC got only three NCAA bids was in 2009 when league commissioner Mike Slive actually chaired the selection panel.  His response then: “We’ve got to schedule better.”

Clearly Slive must be a double-agent.  Perhaps he’s even a double-naught.  Probably got those Cuban cigars he loves from Castro his own self.

Hey, the SEC was shafted this season because it deserved the shaft.  A fourth SEC team could have gotten into the tourney.  Tennessee’s numbers made it bubble-worthy.  But Tennessee and the SEC didn’t get that fourth bid.  And Tennessee certainly didn’t set out to prove the committee wrong as it yawned its way through an embarrassing home loss in front of 5,000 people and a handful of crickets.

So let’s just stop all the whining and whimpering.  The SEC’s lack of bids doesn’t trace to a Free Masons plot.  It traces to a crummy non-conference schedule trumped only by a crummier non-conference record.

As for the NIT, sorry Arkansas fans, but the SEC’s overall suckitude in 2012-13 and so far in the postseason suggests once more that the Hogs shouldn’t be squealing about their omission from that tourney, either.  You guys finished behind the three SEC squads who’ve already slipped on banana peels.

If SEC fans want the league’s bid odds to improve next year, you better be pulling hard for Ole Miss today at 12:40pm ET (against Wisconsin) and for Florida tonight at 7:27pm ET (against Northwestern State).  So far the perception of a weak SEC has been reinforced in tournament play.  There’s only one way to change that perception going into next season — win some games with America watching.

Rebels and Gators, the SEC banner is in your hands.

 

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What Does Last Night’s NIT Loss Mean For Kentucky? Not Much

john-calipariFirst, if you needed further proof that the SEC was down this year, the University of Kentucky’s loss at Robert Morris last night is the smoking gun.  A UK roster stacked with future pros should have been able to beat the Colonials just by exiting their team bus.  It didn’t.

The SEC could have gotten four teams into the NCAA Tournament, but there’s no strong argument that it should have.  And for all the barking that this or that SEC team was better than La Salle or MTSU, the fact is a team that tied for second place in the conference just lost to Robert Morris in the NIT.

Now, what does that loss mean for Kentucky hoops moving forward?  Probably not a lot.

John Calipari has landed four signing classes in a row that were historically good.  The first three helped him lead the Wildcats to an Elite Eight, then to a Final Four, and then to a national title.  This year’s class never jelled — even before Nerlens Noel’s season-ending injury — but that’s not going to change UK’s build-it-up-tear-it-down-build-it-up approach.  Calipari already has another deep, stellar class on the hook.

Some have suggested that this year’s team lacked the leadership provided by one or two veterans, something last year’s banner-raising squad had in sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.  Senior Darius Miller was in many ways last year’s team’s glue.

With the Wildcats’ lack of success this year, Kentucky might have a more few returnees than expected next year and that could provide the experience this year’s squad lacked.  At least that’s the theory.  While Noel is still expected to be a top five NBA pick even with his ACL tear, guys like Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Archie Goodwin said after last night’s loss that they don’t feel ready for the next level.  So there you have it.

But if several players do return and Calipari inks five or six new all-everything players, who’ll get the minutes next season?

Before yesterday’s game, UK’s coach said he wasn’t worried about that:

 

“This may be a group of four-year players.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Why is everybody panicked?  So they’re four-year players?  So?  You move, you get another group and now you have a nice big team and you take on the world.”

 

But when asked specifically if some of the players who didn’t listen and didn’t play well this year might be shown the door, the coach said:

 

“Well, we’ll sit down and all that stuff when the time is right and that’s when the season is over.”

 

Shockingly, the season is now over just one game into Kentucky’s NIT run.  Who returns and who signs will be the most followed story in the Bluegrass State this offseason.  Calipari could find himself in a bit of a pickle on that front.

If the coach runs some of this year’s players off, it might make some star five-star players leery of joining his program in the future.  And if he keeps everyone and simply buries a few players on the bench, you can bet that rival coaches will tell future recruits that Lexington no longer provides a guaranteed path to the National Basketball Association.

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SEC Hoops: Kentucky Goes Down, Alabama Advances In NIT

basketballsRobert Morris 59 – Kentucky 57

1. A one-and-done NIT for Kentucky.  Season comes to an end in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.   John Calipari: “It’s a humbling experience — but also a learning experience.”

2. Freshmen Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein indicate they’re coming back. Stein on whether or not he’s ready to go to the NBA: Nobody’s ready for it. I don’t think anybody’s ready for it mentality-wise, body-wise, athletic-wise.”

3. What about point guard Ryan Harrow? “I can’t go anywhere (would have to sit out a year if he transferred). So I’ll be here next year and just getting ready for next year.”

Alabama 62 – Northeastern 43

4. Levi Randolph sparks Crimson Tide to victory – leads Alabama with a game high 13 points.

5. Announced crowd of 2,889. “Alabama players seem more enthusiastic about playing in the NIT than fans.”

6. Alabama will play Stanford next.

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Boxscore Breakdown: Robert Morris 59 – Kentucky 57

NIT LogoThe defending national champs make a quick exit from the NIT.  Kentucky made a late run against Robert Morris but the Colonials prevailed 59-57. A wild final few minutes that saw Robert Morris player Lucky Jones ejected after a flagrant foul on Archie Goodwin came down to a foul against Kentucky following an inbound pass.  Tied at 57, The Colonials’ Mike McFadden made both free throws, the last two points of  the game.

A last-second three-pointer from Kyle Wiltjer bounced off the rim and Robert Morris fans stormed the court.

- Kentucky shot 53.8% from the field (21-39) while Robert Morris shot 45.5% (20-44).

- Robert Morris connected on five three-pointers.  Kentucky made just 2 of 10 shot from three-point range.

- Kentucky turned the ball over 14 times, Robert Morris nine times.

Potential good news for Kentucky?  Prep star Julius Randle, a top target in the 2013 class for the Cats,  will make his college announcement tomorrow.  As ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes said in the broadcast, if Randle pickes Kentucky. John Calipari could have the greatest recruiting class in the history of college basketball.

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WOW Headlines – 3/18/13

Three SEC teams grabbed NCAA bids: Florida, Missouri, and Ole Miss
Three SEC teams landed NIT bids: Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee
NIT Tuesday: 1 seed Kentucky at 8 seed Robert Morris
NIT Tuesday: 8 seed Northeastern at 1 seed Alabama
NIT Wednesday: 7 seed Mercer at 2 seed Tennessee
NCAA Thursday: 9 seed Missouri vs 8 seed Colorado State in Lexington, KY
NCAA Thursday: 12 seed Ole Miss vs 5 seed Wisconsin in Kansas City, MO
NCAA Thursday: 14 seed Northwestern St. vs 3 seed Florida in Austin, TX
Ole Miss won the SEC Tournament 66-63 over Florida on Sunday
Tourney MVP Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss on SEC coaches who didn’t vote him onto All-SEC team: “They’re losers.”
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Trouble in Paradise. It’s Ebb Tide as Bama brings up the rear

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Content provided by Alabama Basketball Blog.

The bad news, we finished dead last in a tournament of 8 teams that did not even feature a single top 25 team. I’m trying to find some good news, but frankly from an Alabama basketball perspective that is a difficult task right now. The best I can come up with is that I’m on a tropical island typing the post while overlooking the beach, and you are not; but that probably doesn’t make you feel any better.

We had no business losing to Iowa. St. Peter’s returned 4 starters from one of the best defensive teams in the country last year, but still, they lost by 25 to Robert Morris. We had no business losing to them too.

I’ve been reluctant to post because I’m honestly at a loss for words right now. We played hard and competed against Seton Hall. I really felt bad for the guys after that game, as you could see the anguish and disgust on every player’s face after that game. We didn’t show up for the Iowa game. Coach Grant was more animated and vocal than I have ever seen him during the St. Peter’s game. Nevertheless, it was the same situation as the Iowa game, we settled for too many jump shots, played a slower place game that favors St. Peters, and ended up getting beat.

I do not know the answer. Coach Grant’s style of play requires a deep bench. We need 10-11 guys who can contribute. Right now, we have 4 players getting significant playing time who at this point in their career should not be seeing the court in a D1 game. The 7 players who are legitimate contributers are better suited to playing the type of game we are trying to run. I don’t know what we should do, if you slow it down you go away from the strength of the players in the game, but what we are doing obviously leaves us with huge liabilities. For now, trust Coach Grant and hope that he gets the horses he needs soon.

Other than the horrible basketball, it’s been a great trip. The U.S. Virgin Islands are beautiful. We took a ferry to St. John’s a couple of days and had a great time. There are some beautiful beaches on St. Thomas, and a fun bar scene at Red Hook. We met Bryan Passink and his wife, and they are great people who love UA even more than we do, which I didn’t think was possible. The arena here is small, much like Maui’s, and would pass for an average at best high school arena back home. That being said, you can get much closer to the action with a general admission ticket than anywhere back home. Furthermore, the concession stand people were the most quickly efficient, friendly, and reasonably priced of anywhere I have been. Outside of people connected to the program, we did not have much of a following at all. Iowa brought a fair number of folks, as did Seton Hall. Outside of St. Peter’s, we probably had the smallest crowd here. I was surprised at how many people Long Beach State brought, and Clemson also had a few. Iowa and Clemson were both on our flight back home, which got cancelled.

On the downside, it’s much more humid here than it was in Maui, and parts of the island are somewhat run down. Not surprisingly at all, Delta screwed us and the the flight home got cancelled because they apparently weren’t competent enough to adequately maintain the plane. Nevertheless, there are worse places to be stuck an extra night than St. Thomas. Up next, Alabama A&M saturday night at Coleman. Hopefully it being Iron Bowl weekend will draw a decent crowd. Below are a couple of pics, showing a view from the beach on our condo and at the game.


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