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LSU Hoops Headed To Italy

LSU basketball coach Trent Johnson is packing his team up and taking them on a roundball tour of Italy.  From the sound of it, the six-game, 11-day exhibition tour will have more to do with hoops than it does education and sightseeing.

“The NCAA rule says you can play six games, but we can practice as much as we want,” Johnson told The Baton Rouge Advocate.  “We don’t have to tour The Vatican.  We can get our cultural experience somewhere else if they don’t win that first game.”

Nice.

“(Justin Hamilton, Storm Warren and Malcolm White) are going to get maximum minutes.  I’m going to play them until they drop.”

Johnson hopes the international trip will help his team build on a pair of 11-20 seasons.  “There hasn’t been a team that has gone overseas that hasn’t come back and had a better year.  With this team specifically, it couldn’t come at a better time.”

LSU’s fourth-year coach needs wins next year or it could be arrivederci to him at next season’s end.

And if you thought I’d let the chance to play Dean Martin on this site pass… well, you don’t know me very well.



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SEC Brag-O-Meter: Basketball Over The 2000s

Bragging rights.  Every SEC fan wants ‘em.  Hopes for ‘em.  Prays for ‘em.  But some programs’ fans have a lot more reason to brag than others.

Earlier this week, we looked at the SEC’s football programs from 2003 through 2010.  Using a simple formula, we showed you which schools’ fans had the most to brag over three different spans: 2003-2006, 2007-2010, and 2003-2010.  We also showed you which programs have risen — and fallen — the most over the past four years.

And now we’re going to do the same with SEC basketball. 

Below are the point values we assigned to certain milestones that all SEC fans brag about.  We call the formula our brag-o-meter:


Wins = 1 point each
NCAA Tournament Bids = 1 point
Final Four Appearances = 1 point
National Titles = 5 points (We assigned a big bonus for a national crown.)
SEC Tournament Titles = 1 point
SEC Titles = 2 points (We assigned extra weight to a regular-season title.)
SEC Division Titles = 1 point (Goes to #1 seeds in SEC tourney.)
Top 10 Recruiting Classes = 1 point (Rivals’ rankings were used.)


Using that formula, each school’s individual points were as follows:


School/Years
BB Wins
NCAA Tourney Bids
Final Fours
National Titles
SEC Tourney Titles
SEC Titles
SEC Div. Titles
Top 10 Rec.
Total Points
Alabama (08-11)
77
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
78.0
Alabama (04-07)
82
3
0
0
0
0
1
2
88.0
Arkansas (08-11)
69
1
0
0
0
0
0
1
71.0
Arkansas (04-07)
73
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
75.0
Auburn (08-11)
64
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
64.0
Auburn (04-07)
57
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
57.0
Florida (08-11)
99
2
0
0
0
2
1
1
105.0
Florida (04-07)
112
4
2
10
3
2
1
1
135.0
Georgia (08-11)
64
2
0
0
1
0
0
0
67.0
Georgia (04-07)
58
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
58.0
Kentucky (08-11)
104
3
1
0
2
2
1
3
116.0
Kentucky (04-07)
99
4
0
0
1
2
2
1
109.0
LSU (08-11)
62
1
0
0
0
2
1
0
66.0
LSU (04-07)
82
2
1
0
0
2
1
0
88.00
Miss. State (08-11)
87
2
0
0
1
0
2
0
92.0
Miss. State (04-07)
85
2
0
0
0
2
2
1
92.0
Ole Miss (08-11)
84
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
84.0
Ole Miss (04-07)
62
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
62.0
S. Carolina (08-11)
64
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
64.0
S. Carolina (04-07)
80
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
81.0
Tennessee (08-11)
99
4
0
0
0
2
2
2
109.0
Tennessee (04-07)
75
2
0
0
0
0
1
1
79.0
Vanderbilt (08-11)
92
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
95.0
Vanderbilt (04-07)
82
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
84.0



Assuming that we’ve correctly copied over the numbers from our thrice-checked Excel sheet, we can now show you which programs have given their fans the most to brag about from 2003-04 to 2010-11.  Here’s a look at the who’s accomplished the most in basketball over the last eight seasons:


School
Total Points
Florida
240.0
Kentucky
225.0
Tennessee
188.0
Miss. State
184.0
Vanderbilt
179.0
Alabama
166.0
LSU
154.0
Arkansas
146.0
Ole Miss
146.0
S. Carolina
145.0
Georgia
125.0
Auburn
121.0



Congratulations to the Gators.  There aren’t many times in history when an SEC program has bested Kentucky over an eight-season span.  A pair of national championships will do that for you.

Now let’s compare the numbers from one four-year period (2007-08 to 2010-11) to another (2003-04 to 2006-07):


School (2008-2011)
Total Points
  School (2004-2007)
Total Points
Kentucky
116.0
  Florida
135.0
Tennessee
109.0
 
Kentucky
109.0
Florida
105.0
 
Miss. State
92.0
Vanderbilt
95.0
  Alabama
88.0
Miss. State
92.0
 
LSU
88.0
Ole Miss
84.0
  Vanderbilt
84.0
Alabama
78.0
  S. Carolina
81.0
Arkansas
71.0
  Tennessee
79.0
Georgia
67.0
  Arkansas
75.0
LSU
66.0
  Ole Miss
62.0
Auburn
64.0
  Georgia
58.0
S. Carolina
64.0
  Auburn
57.0



In our football study, we found that eight of the league’s schools had seen a boost in total points of at least 8.5.  But in basketball, only four SEC schools jumped 8.5 points or more from 2004-07 to 2008-11.  While the league has gotten better from the bottom up in football, it’s flatlined in basketball with only Tennessee, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt making double-figure gains from one era to the next.

In the back-to-normal department, you’ll notice that Kentucky has moved back into its rightful spot atop the conference over the last four years.  (“In spite of Billy Gillispie,” UK fans are no doubt muttering.)

Below is a look at which hoops programs have risen and fallen the most from one four-year span to the other:


School
Total Points Gained/Lost
Tennessee
30.0
Ole Miss
22.0
Vanderbilt
11.0
Georgia
9.0
Auburn
7.0
Kentucky
7.0
Miss. State
0
Arkansas
-4.0
Alabama
-10.0
S. Carolina
-17.0
LSU
-22.0
Florida
-30.0



No school in the SEC saw a bigger bounce from 2004-07 to 2008-11 than Tennessee.  But with Bruce Pearl already out and NCAA sanctions likely arriving soon, it’s quite doubtful the Vols will be able to extend their good fortune.  At least not in the short run.

Andy Kennedy’s score at Ole Miss has been buoyed by the Rebels’ penchant for reaching the 20-win plateau.  Unfortunately, those additional wins haven’t translated into NCAA Tournament bids and that’s why Kennedy will enter next season on a rather warm seat.

Vanderbilt, Georgia and Auburn all seem to be currently going in the right direction.  The same can be said for Kentucky even though they were already starting from a position of strength.

On the other end of the spectrum, Alabama and Arkansas fans are hopeful that they have the coaches in place to create new successes.

South Carolina and LSU have clearly moved in the wrong direction in the past couple of years and both Darrin Horn and Trent Johnson will need to reverse that trend quickly.

And Florida suffered the biggest drop from one period to the next, but that was to be expected.  The odds were long against the Gators duplicating two Final Fours and two national titles from the previous four-year span.


Up next, we’ll take a look at football and basketball combined to see which SEC fans have the most to brag about when it comes to the league’s money sports.  Until then, congrats to Florida and Kentucky hoops fans.  They’ve had the most reason to celebrate — by far — over the last eight years.

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UGA’s Fox Gets A Raise And Extension

Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox did good enough work in his second year to earn a $400,000 raise and a one-year contract extension.  The extension takes Fox’s pact through 2015-16 and the raise boosts his pay to $1.7 million per season.  Both items were approved by the school this morning.

“At one point in time he was basically too low on the SEC ladder,” Georgia AD Greg McGarity said.  “Mark would probably be the first person to tell you he doesn’t think he needs to be the highest paid coach in this conference. … It’s where we need to be.  I think Mark knows this is a long journey and we hope he’s our coach for a long, long time.  It’s probably where we need to be right now.”

The next step in the journey for Fox is to prove that he’s not going to suffer the same fate that befell John Pelphrey and Trent Johnson.  Both coaches had early success with veteran players left behind by their predecessors, only to experience precipitous drop-offs when those veterans departed.

UGA will lose four starters from this past year’s NCAA Tournament team, including two possible NBA first-round draft picks.

Fox has his cash.  Now he needs to show that he’s really building a winner in Athens… and not just winning with Dennis Felton’s players.

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Johnson Says He’s Staying At LSU

Just a day after his name was mentioned in connection with the open job at Utah, Trent Johnson said on Monday that he isn’t leaving Baton Rouge.

“Contrary to published reports, I have no interest in leaving LSU for another school,” the Tigers’ coach said via press release.  “We are in the process of building a championship program at LSU, and I am committed to seeing that through.  We have great resources, wonderful fans and a rich history upon which to build a program that can compete for championships and graduate our players.  LSU is where I want to build and sustain that kind of program.”

Johnson was an assistant at Utah from 1986 to 1989.  He just finished his third year as head coach at LSU.

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SEC Headlines – 3/10/11 Part One

1.  NFL scouts descended on Tuscaloosa yesterday for Alabama’s Pro Day.

2.  Alabama transfer left tackle Aaron Douglas will serve 48 hours in jail for a DUI.

3.  Bama’s Trevor Releford has turned into a standout point guard as a freshman.

4.  Unlike his predecessor, Tony Barbee doesn’t leave his Auburn basketball players to self-motivate.

5.  The Tigers seem to be peaking at tourney time.

6.  Arkansas point guard Jeff Peterson is questionable for today’s tourney game against Tennessee with a groin injury.

7.  Today is the last shot for John Pelphrey’s club to make the NCAA Tournament…

8.  Which means it could be the last shot overall for the coach himself.

9.  Bobby Petrino likes the fact that his next Razorback squad is “real fast.”

10.  Trent Johnson says his team still has a chance to keep playing… as long as it wins.

11.  LSU will need to do some serious improving — and quick — if its to upset Vanderbilt tonight.

12.  Which means the Tigers’ long, sad season is nearing its end.


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SEC Headlines – 3/8/11 Part One

1.  NFL scouts will be watching Cam Newton’s passing accuracy today during Auburn’s Pro Day.

2.  And a lot of scouts and media members will be on The Plains this afternoon.

3.  Here’s a look at Alabama’s competition on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

4.  Arkansas’ spring game will be televised by ESPN.

5.  It’s Pro Day in Fayetteville today.

6.  John Pelphrey says Tennessee — who the Hogs beat in January — will be a tougher matchup in the SEC tourney because Bruce Pearl will be on the sidelines.

7.  As LSU gets ready to face Vandy in Atlanta, Trent Johnson says his team’s problems all come back to youth.

8.  New offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe discussed his offense with a Baton Rouge radio station yesterday.

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Pelphrey Under Fire; Anderson Dodges Questions About Arkansas

It appears the situation in Arkansas is becoming more precarious for Razorbacks coach John Pelphrey.  Attendance is way down.  The school is losing money on basketball.  ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb said this week that the UA job was coming open.  And just yesterday, someone placed a $3,200 ad in The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette calling on Hogs fans to make their displeasure with the program known.

Yikes. 

Pelphrey said yesterday that he’s focusing on Arkansas’ final regular-season game against Ole Miss and not newspaper ads.  “I try to eliminate worry.  No matter what it is, I’m going to stay focused on the task at hand.  I will refuse to be distracted.”

That won’t be easy.  Missouri’s Mike Anderson — who Gottlieb tabbed as UA’s top choice to replace Pelphrey — is already taking questions about the Arkansas job.  He’s also dodging them rather than answering them:

“I’m here,” Anderson told The Kansas City Star when asked about UA’s gig.  “We’re talking about Kansas.  We’re getting ready for Kansas.  We’ve got a big game coming up.”

The former Nolan Richardson assistant at Arkansas turned down a $2.1 million offer from Georgia two years ago to remain at Missouri.  He currently makes about $1.55 million per year in a seven-year pact with the Tigers.

There are other distractions for Pelphrey as well.  ArkansasNews.com acquired — via the Freedom of Information Act — a number of UA documents and emails dealing with the coach’s future.  Robbie Neiswanger sums up those communications:


One particular fan e-mail, dated Feb. 11, was originally addressed to Board of Trustees member John Tyson.

The note read that “although Coach Pelphrey seems to be a nice man, our fans deserve a better approach on the court.”  The fan added he had “never seen such apathy” as there is now.

According to documents, Tyson forwarded the note to Long with a message that read: “Starting to see a lot of these but I think this one reflects the love folks have for the Hogs and all programs not just football.”

Long responded with: “Thanks for sharing.  I am getting quite a few as well but not overwhelming.  That same group sends after each loss.”


Long “couldn’t be reached for comment” regarding the ad placed in The Democrat-Gazette.  In general, Long has remained mostly silent on the Pelphrey front in recent weeks, which might not be a good sign for the coach.  Last year, Long defended his coach as Joe Alleva and Eric Hyman have defended Trent Johnson and Darrin Horn this season. 

As fans in the Natural State continue to debate Pelphrey’s future, we’ll close with the obvious — the coach needs a win at Ole Miss tomorrow and then a nice deep tourney run in Atlanta to help his cause.

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Let The Defense Of USC’s Horn Begin

There’s a hot debate in the state of Arkansas as to whether or not John Pelphrey deserves a fifth season in his rebuilding project.  LSU AD Joe Alleva spoke out in defense of third-year coach Trent Johnson last week.

In the state of Mississippi, some fans in red and blue aren’t happy that fifth-year coach Andy Kennedy will (most likely) once gain fail to earn his Rebels an NCAA bid.

Missing anyone from the warming seat list?  Ah, yes.  South Carolina’s Darrin Horn.

The third-year basketball coach is beginning to hear some cat calls in Columbia.  How do we know?  Well, one way to tell is the column written by Ron Morris of The State today — “Don’t Count Him Out: Horn and his USC team are struggling, but the program’s future is bright.”

You don’t read headlines like that unless the messageboards and talk radio shows are filled with grumblin’ Gamecock fans.  And the Cocks are crowing because the USC has dropped five-straight games and now sit in the basement of the SEC East with a 4-8 league mark.  Worse, they’re only 13-12 and could be in danger of missing out even on the NIT.

Carolina AD Eric Hyman came to the defense of his coach last week.  “I don’t know if I’ve been screaming for patience, but you have to manage expectations and be realistic.  It’s just like Jadeveon Clowney coming in here.  Everybody thinks Clowney is going to be a first-team All-American next year.  It just doesn’t happen that way.  It’s going to take him some time to develop and grow.  It’s going to take time with the basketball team with the freshman they have.”

His coach agrees.

“The progress that we’re making right now is the progress we’re making when you build a program, learning how to go through adversity and how to handle some things,” Horn said.  “The reality is we’ve got a couple of guys we thought we would be getting a little more from at this time that we’re not getting those things from.  That’s made some basketball things very challenging for us, especially on the offensive end.”

Horn’s job has not been made easier by Anthony Grant’s success at Alabama.  Ditto Pelphrey, Johnson and Kennedy.  “If Grant can do it in less than two years, what’s taking our guy so long?”  The problem with that line of thinking is that it’s a today observation that’s being used as an ever-after statement.

Pelphrey and Johnson both had success in their first years.  That changed soon after.  Who’s to say Grant’s 2011 success won’t be a blip on the radar?  We at MrSEC.com don’t believe that will be the case, but there are no guarantees.

This time next year, Horn, Johnson and Pelphrey might all be thriving while Grant stumbles.  Point is, in all of these new coaches’ situations, we don’t have enough evidence to make any definitive declarations yet.

Now, at Ole Miss, the siutation’s a little different.  Kennedy has had five years at the helm.  He’s also been coaching in a watered down division.  No NCAA bids in five seasons?  That’s a bit tougher to ignore.

But when it comes to Pelphrey, Johnson and, yes, Horn, too… the local fans need to show a hair more patience.  Building a program isn’t easy.  Even if Grant is making it look like it is right now.

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SEC Headlines – 2/18/11 Part One

1.  Harvey Updyke’s actions go far beyond an athletic rivalry.

2.  Here’s how “Al from Dadeville” went and got himself caught.

3.  Updyke’s court-appointed attorney asked off the case yesterday due to a conflict of interest — he’s an Auburn man himself.

4.  Could Auburn fans just move down the street for their post-game toilet paper parties?

5.  Alabama has a massive four-game lead in the SEC West.

6.  This writer dares to claim that last night’s UA-LSU game was well officiated.  What?

7.  Ryan Mallett’s draft stock is still pretty shaky.

8.  LSU’s players gave a good effort last night, but it wasn’t enough.

9.  Trent Johnson said: “It seemed like (Alabama) capitalized off each turnover.  They are a very good basketball team.  They know exactly where they want to go with the ball.”

10.  When Zach Graham is hot, so is Ole Miss’ basketball team.

11.  Andy Kennedy will try to halt a four-game losing streak to Mississippi State tomorrow.

12.  New MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins likes what he’s seen so far of his defense.

13.  Freshman guard Jalen Steele is fighting to stay in State’s starting lineup.  (Well, not Renardo Sidney-Elgin Bailey fighting, but…)

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LSU A.D.: “I Don’t Care If We Lose 20 Games In A Row…”

“I don’t care if we lose 20 games in a row this year.”

That’s not the kind of statement one wants to hear from his school’s athletic director.  That doesn’t scream “commitment to winning” or even “commitment to mediocrity.”

Good thing then that LSU’s Joe Alleva finished his thought and made it clear that he was trying to voice support for basketball coach Trent Johnson.  Johnson, for the record, has only lost eight games in a row, not 20.

“I don’t care if we lose 20 games in a row this year, the program is in good shape and is going to be just fine,” Alleva said yesterday.  “You’ve just got to let it play out.  I see a lot of good things for next year.  People just need to have some patience.”

Patience.  Patience?  What’s patience?

Johnson is now in his third year in Baton Rouge.  His team is bad.  Forget the fact that he surprisingly won whole darn SEC in his first season with a team made up of seniors and Tasmin Mitchell.  What’s he done lately?

Patience?  Please.

Johnson — who Alleva hired from Stanford — said: “The bottom line is we’re 10-15 despite three or four games that could have gone either way.  Nobody feels worse than the players or I do.  Everybody wants instant gratification; they don’t have patience right now.  I understand.”

“I’m not wavering on the path and the direction we’re on.  I’m not into quick fixes.  With the situation we inherited with APR numbers, the best thing we could do was to get the best possible players that wanted to be at LSU that could help us win games and were looking to get a good education.”

Sounds good, makes sense.  But those comments won’t put rears in seats when a team is five games under .500.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Alleva told The Baton Rouge Advocate.  “And he’s going to get it right.  When those kids come on board next year, it’ll be a different ballclub.”

For Johnson’s sake, here’s hoping it’s a winning ballclub.


(Correction — Updated the story to point out that Johnson was hired from Stanford, not Nevada.  He did coach at Nevada and often talks about the rebuilding job he did in Reno.  Slip of the brain.  My bad.)

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