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SEC Hoops Today — 11/14/13

basketballsTwo games on the SEC docket tonight…

 

Texas Tech at Alabama — 7:00pm ET on ESPN2

Kennesaw State at Mississippi State — 8:00pm ET

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A&M Passes Texas In Terms Of Lone Star State Popularity

2011-January-7-20-58-44Americans love a winner.  And America includes the Lone Star State (much to Chuck Norris’ chagrin).

A new poll from a group called Public Policy Polling shows that 22% of Texans asked said that they are Texas A&M Aggie fans.  Only 20% said they are Texas Longhorn fans.  When last the poll was done in September of 2011, the Longhorns got support from 23% while the Ags got just 15% of the backing.

Why the switch?  Well, Texas A&M has shot into the national spotlight while Texas struggled last season and at the beginning of this season.  Johnny Manziel plays in College Station.  And A&M’s game are viewed on CBS or ESPN every week thanks to their jump to the SEC.

As for the rest of the schools in Texas, the polling showed support for Houston (10%), Baylor (8%), Texas Tech (5%), TCU (4%), UTEP (3%) and SMU (2%).

Interestingly, in 1948, Houston tried to gain membership into the SEC but was voted down.  Again in the late 1980s there was some chit-chat between the SEC and Houston.  Texas A&M AD John David Crow and LSU AD Joe Dean wanted the Aggies in the SEC.  When Texas made it clear they wouldn’t come along, Houston — then solid in football and basketball — tried to fill the void.  Those talks died went nowhere and a massive NCAA investigation into the Houston athletic department didn’t help the Cougars’ cause.  As you know, Arkansas and South Carolina were eventually invited to join the SEC (as was Florida State, who opted for the ACC).

Of course, A&M finally did make it to the SEC two years ago.  And in terms of new cash, new exposure, and new popularity in its home state… all’s well that end’s well.

 

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No Quick Fix For Kentucky’s Offense But Help Is On The Way

Guest Author Brad Woodcock

Perhaps Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said it best earlier in the season, after a tough loss to Western Kentucky in Nashville.

“I knew what I was getting in to when I took this job,” he told reporters who questioned him about the inadequacies of his offense.

Neal hasn’t always been in tough situations like this.  At Texas Tech, he was taking over an already prolific offense run by Mike Leach.  All Neal had to do was add his own wrinkles.  The product wasn’t finished, but it was a lot closer than here at Kentucky.

You see, Neal Brown and Mike Leach came from the same coaching tree.  Mike learned from Hal Mumme.  Neal learned from Hal as well.

Coming to Kentucky though, the offense had a long way to go to get up to the same place where Texas Tech was during Neal’s tenure.  The terminology was different, and the players at Kentucky were brought in for a more physical type of offense, built to run the ball.  Though both offenses featured a short passing game, there was almost nothing else similar between the two.

Now though, Neal comes in to a situation where he’s trying to fit a square peg in to a round hole.  Years of offensive struggles can’t just be washed away with a new system.

Before Neal Brown got here, to say that Kentucky’s offense had struggled would be an understatement.  Kentucky was shut out by Vanderbilt, at home; as well as on the road at Florida.  Oh, and there was that 10-7 game they won against Tennessee, that had the result been different, may have gone down as one of the worst fan experiences at a UK football game, possibly ever.  It was torture watching Matt Roark try to run the offense.  No offense to the kid, he was doing the best he could, but the point remains the same.

Last year was much the same.  Kentucky’s total offensive rank for the 2012 season was 115th in the country.  That’s out of 124.  The word inept could be used to describe it.

Conversely, Neal Brown’s Texas Tech’s team was 13th in the country.  Potent may be used to describe his offense.

Still though, UK fans expected Kentucky to put up numbers similar to Texas Tech’s from last season.  After all, the coaching staff was basically the same, right?

Well, not exactly.  The unfortunate reality for UK fans is that the talent level left here by the former staff was just really not that good, especially on the offensive side.  Although the Quarterbacks were relatively highly touted and recruited, especially Patrick Towles, the Wide Receiver unit returned no one who had ever caught a touchdown pass.  The running back corps had shown promise, but largely had been inconsistent.

To put it bluntly, the new coaching staff, and Neal Brown had a long way to go.

Still, there have been positive signs out of the current teams offense, and the improvements are relatively easy to see.  Despite drops and miscues against Louisville, the team moved the ball consistently and put themselves in positions to score against what is currently the #1 scoring defense in FBS.  Had Kentucky managed to catch a few more balls, or keep from putting a few on the ground, it’s no unreasonable to think the game would have been a lot closer.  In fact, it would have been.

Currently Neal Brown’s offense ranks 25th in the country, coming in at just under 500 yards per game.  That’s with Freshmen and Junior College newcomers leading the way.  The top three receivers for Kentucky thus far this year are all newcomers; Javess Blue, Ryan Timmons, and Jeff Badet.  Three newcomers make up for 5 of the passing touchdowns so far this year; Javess Blue, Jeff Badet, and Alex Montgomery.  In the rushing department, two newcomers make up the top 4 in rushing yards; JoJo Kemp and Ryan Timmons.  In fact, JoJo Kemp actually leads Kentucky in rushing yards through 3 games.

It will get better for the Cats, though.  Help is on the way.

Kentucky currently sits at #7 in the Rivals.com team rankings, including six four star rated offensive players.  Two wide receivers (Thaddeus Snodgrass, Blake Bone), two running backs (Mikel Horton, Stanley “Boom” Williams), a top 10 quarterback (Drew Barker), and an Offensive Lineman (Nick Richardson).  Those 6 go along with a host of other highly recruited lineman and skill position players, ready to step in and make an immediate impact for Kentucky’s offense.

Kentucky has been able to shore up their defense from last year with an influx of Defensive talent and a simpler scheme, though Kentucky has used a bit of smoke and mirrors to confuse offenses so far.  It helps that two of the best defensive minds in the country inherited a defense with a Senior middle linebacker and some veteran presence.  Those things help defenses to turn things around a little quicker.  Though if you asked Mark Stoops today, he’d tell you they’ve got a long way to go.

On Offense though, it’s more obvious the hill that is left to climb.  UK has made some strides, but there’s still a long way to go.  The good news is there may not been many Offensive Coordinators better equipped for the challenges, or Head Coaches better equipped to recruit the level of player needed here to turn things around.

It won’t be a quick fix, but things will get turned around here.  And who knows?  Maybe sooner than later.

Brad Woodcock is the Lead Football Writer for Kentucky Sports Connection (kysportsconnection.com, @KySportsConnect), who occasionally comments about funny .gifs and bemoans the fact he was ever born a Cincinnati Bengals fan.  You can follow him on Twtitter at @KSC_Brad.”

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Wow Headlines 5/30/2013

Vanderbilt considering expanding football stadium to about 50,000 capacity
Auburn freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson also considering playing basketball for the Tigers
Arkansas has finalized a home-and-home series with Texas Tech starting in 2014
SEC considering league-wide substance abuse policy
Alabama coach Nick Saban and Florida assistant Tim Davis haven’t spoken since Davis referred to Saban as “the devil himself”
Deadline to select nominees for college football playoff committee is Friday
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier honored as “great Floridian” on Thursday
Follow SEC news year-round at MrSEC.com and on Twitter at Twitter.com/mrsec

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Arkansas Finalizes Football Contract With Texas Tech

handshake-good-backlitArkansas AD Jeff Long is giving longtime Razorback fans a taste of history.  He’s also giving new coach Bret Bielema added recruiting opportunities in the state of Texas.

Arkansas and Texas Tech announced yesterday that they had finalized a home-and-home series for 2014 (in Lubbock) and 2015 (in Fayetteville).  Just a few weeks ago the Hogs announced a home-and-home series with TCU for 2016 and 2017.  In 2021, the Razorbacks are scheduled to play Texas.

Toss in the annual Texas A&M clash in Arlington and the Lone Star State is fast becoming Arkansas’ home away from home.  That’s good news for a program located in a state that produces very little high-end football talent.  It’s also good news for the old-timers out there who still miss the Hogs’ old Southwest Conference rivals.

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Hogs Line-Up Home-And-Home Series With TCU

TCU-horned-frogLast month, new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said that he and the Razorback program were in negotiations with old Southwest Conference rival Texas Tech for a home-and-home series.  While those games are still a possibility, the Hogs have gone ahead and locked in two contests with another old SWC foe.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported yesterday that TCU and Arkansas have agreed to a home-and-home series that will send the Razorbacks to Fort Worth in 2016.  The Horned Frogs will then visit Fayetteville in 2017.  Barring a bowl matchup in the coming seasons, the 2016 game will mark the first meeting between the squads since Arkansas left the Southwest Conference in 1991.

With Texas A&M is now in the same division with Arkansas.  TCU is already on the books for a pair of non-conference games.  And the Razorbacks are still working to lock in two games with Texas Tech.  It’s apparent that Bielema and staff have quickly come to understand just how important the state of Texas will be in their recruiting efforts moving forward.

As for the rest of us, who doesn’t like a matchup between the Hogs and Frogs?

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Hogs, Texas Tech Negotiations Show How Much Guesswork Is Involved In SEC Scheduling

8950885-3d-illustration-of-dart-board-on-dark-backgroundThe league office might not have released it’s new scheduling format yet, but SEC schools are still busy trying to put together future non-conference games.  Unfortunately, it’s a little like throwing darts in the dark at this point.

First, SEC schools are having to line up games not knowing for certain if they’ll be playing eight or nine league games.  While it’s expected SEC teams will continue to play eight conference games in the near future, commissioner Mike Slive said earlier this week that he’s still “open-minded” regarding a switch to a more lucrative nine-game slate.

Second, schools are having to guess the importance of overall strength of schedule in the new playoff environment.  Each time the new playoff selection committee is discussed, someone says that strength of schedule should be/will be emphasized.  But until the committee is put together and selection criteria is decided upon, no one really knows how important a tough non-conference schedule will be.

Finally, schools worried about strength of schedule are also having to predict the future.  As in how good teams will be two, three, or more years down the road.  In acknowledging scheduling talks between Arkansas and Texas Tech this week, new Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema expounded on this point:

 

“I’ve been engaged with that (Texas Tech) talk.  There has been a lot of hesitation since I’ve been here because we haven’t gotten the 2014 SEC schedule.  Until that kind of gets finalized and ’15 gets finalized, we can’t move forward, but there are a lot of interesting possibilities out there — some things that I know will excite our fanbase in more than one way…

When you’re projecting a couple of years out, you have to factor in what you believe (the opponent) can be.  The best thing is to try to take care of what services Arkansas best.  You take into account fan base, history and some things that would give flavor to your schedule you can’t find in the SEC.”

 

Arkansas and it’s old SWC rival Texas Tech are discussing a possible home-and-home series.  But as Bielema points out, it might be difficult to lock down any games until some of the smoke starts to clear from the current landscape.

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New Texas Tech Coach Kingsbury “Was Never An Aggie”

gfx - they said itWhen Tommy Tuberville surprised everyone by jumping the first train from Lubbock to Cincinnati last December, Texas Tech officials turned to one of their own when searching for a new head coach.  Kliff Kingsbury played at Tech under Mike Leach.  He still ranks near the top of all the Red Raider passing categories — yards, touchdowns, completions.  And now he’s being hailed as the savior of Texas Tech football.

Kingsbury had spent the previous five seasons working under Kevin Sumlin, first at Houston and then, last season, at Texas A&M.  In College Station he was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, tutoring some fella named Johnny Manziel.

But Kingsbury’s new boss — Tech AD Kirby Hocutt — wants everyone to know where his new coach’s heart has always remained, telling CBSSports.com:

 

“Kliff was never an Aggie.  Ask him.”

 

Sounds like a little playful gig, but you can be sure some out there have taken offense.

Hocutt went on to say that Tech would “love to play A&M in every sport (but) nothing is in conversation right now.”  Asked why the schools aren’t talking, he added: “You’re not going to bait me there.  Hopefully someday those conversations can begin.”

One suspects Kingsbury would have no problem facing Texas A&M.  After all, he was never an Aggie.  Just ask him.

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SEC Headlines 3/15/2013

headlines-friSEC Football

1. Biggest change LSU players are seeing with new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron? Tempo. Running back Jeremy Hill: “We got in a lot more plays than we do normally.”

2. With multiple players headed to the NFL, LSU needs to rebuild its defensive line.  In all, defensive coordinator John Chavis has to replace eight starters.  ”We’ve done this before.”

3. Tennessee practices for the first time in full pads.  What did defensive coordinator John Jancek think? “I think we’re a poor tackling team right now.”

4. Tennessee wide receivers coach Zach Azzani: “I have a bunch of guys that really have no foundation.”

5. With spring practice now underway this week at Arkansas, what does new Bret Bielema have to say about his team?  “They are open to coaching. They’re hungry. They are obsessed with doing things that we’re asking them to do, even if it is taxing or exhausting.”

6. Former Arkansas running back Knile Davis on the impact of Bobby Petrino’s departure: “There was no order when Bobby left.”

7. South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson on coach Steve Spurrier: “He demands perfection and isn’t going to stop until he gets what he wants.”

8. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen says he’ll have his staff completed when the Bulldogs start spring practice on March 21.

9. Biggest spring practice question at Vanderbilt? “Can redshirt freshman Patton Robinette leapfrog senior Austyn Carta-Samuels for the Vanderbilt starting quarterback job?”

10. Coach James Franklin: “We have a chance to be close to 300 pounds across the offensive line and four deep at defensive tackle. We haven’t had that before.”

11. Looks like Johnny Manziel is enjoying spring break. Is Manziel more like Manti Te’o than we may think? “Manziel revels in his newfound role as the country’s biggest troll.”

12. Texas Tech would like to renew a rivalry with the Aggies.  Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt: “We would welcome the opportunity to play Texas A&M in every sport.”

13. SEC Media Days schedule set - July 16-18.

SEC Basketball

14. LSU vs. Florida starts the ball rolling this afternoon in Nashville.  Florida won the first round 74-52 back in January but Tigers playing well lately – 10-5 in their last 15 games.

15. It’s Tennessee vs. Alabama in the rubber match this afternoon in Nashville.  Keep your eye on rebounds – Tennessee has had 15 more in each of the first two games. Does a win over Alabama make Tennessee bubble-proof?

16. Vanderbilt gets Kentucky again tonight - sixth time in two years these two teams have met. John Calipari:  ”We’ve got a challenge. This is going to be a really hard game for us.”

17. Ole Miss faces Missouri tonight.  With two sub-200 RPI losses, Rebels desperately need a win to keep any NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

18. What to do with Missouri? “Short of winning the SEC tourney, Mizzou will be a complicated team to seed.”

19. Tough call for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – stay or leave or NBA?  Projects as late first-round or second-round pick.

20. A first-year coach in Frank Martin but fourth straight losing season at South Carolina.  Where do the Gamecocks go from here?

22. Stat on SEC basketball: From 1997 to 2008, the SEC averaged 5.7 NCAA Tournament bids per season. Now, the SEC won’t have more than five bids for the fifth straight year.

23.  What to expect from this year’s NCAA Tournament?  Buckle up for a wild ride.

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He Scowls, He Runs His Mouth… And UM’s Henderson Scores

gfx - they said itOle Miss guard Marshall Henderson is fast becoming the league’s most liked (in Oxford) and most disliked (everywhere else) star.  With his scowls, trash talk, and in-game celebrations, the juco transfer from Utah — who was the SEC’s Player of the Week last week — is simply doing what he’s already done before.  Three years ago The Las Vegas Sun called Henderson “The Mountain West’s newest villain” for his antics.

That “villain” was quick to run his mouth before and after last night’s game with Tennessee (even if he self-imposed an in-game gag order):

 

“We’ll beat (Tennessee) 10 times out of 10.  We still feel like we’re a little disrespected.  That’s why we think Tennessee was talking so much, because they’re Tennessee and we’re Ole Miss.  We’ve been in the (NCAA) Tournament, what, eight times out of 103 years?  Who are we to have a target on our back?  We still don’t feel like we have a target on our back still, except for the fact people think they shouldn’t lose to Ole Miss.”

 

First, if Tennessee’s players were talking, they should learn to pipe down.  Henderson has dropped 60 points on the Volunteers in two Ole Miss wins this month.

Second, did we mention that Henderson backs up his talk with his play?  He’s averaging 19.4 points per game on the season and he can sink three-pointers from all over the court.

Third, did we mention Henderson is a polarizing figure?  He made waves at Utah.  Then he transferred to Texas Tech, never played and transferred to a junior college before landing at Ole Miss.  From his gums to his gestures, Henderson gets under the skin of UM opponents and their fans.  And if he were wearing Mississippi State maroon, Rebel fans would view him as Public Enemy #1 rather than as a well-meaning, confident, demonstrative youth.

Love him or hate him, Henderson is the SEC’s most interesting player in a down, drab year for basketball.

And he also shot a scowl at the back of Bobby Knight’s head during last night’s broadcast.  So he’s got that going for him.

 

MarshallHendersonBobKninghit

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