SEC Notebook

(Courtesy Kentucky Sports Information)
(Courtesy Kentucky Sports Information)

Brent Beaird, SEC Columnist

How will the four SEC teams do in the NCAA Tournament? I can see two making a deep run and two others coming home by Sunday. Kentucky is a deserving overall No. 1 seed. The Wildcats have done their damage on defense. They allow only points 58 points per game. Anthony Davis is everyone’s Player- of- the- Year. Kentucky could go to the Final Four based on their mixture of youth and veterans. Coach John Calipari will have the Wildcats focused after the loss to Vandy in the SEC title game. They are a potential Final Four team unless they meet a team that can bully them inside.

It is interesting that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist asked to be replaced by Darius Miller in the SEC title loss to Vanderbilt. Miller, who did not score in the previous two tournament games, totaled 16 points against the Commodores. Give accolades to Kidd-Gilchrist for unselfishness and Miller for stepping up.

Vanderbilt has tremendous momentum coming off the SEC Tournament title. The Commodores have had another fine season after some head-scratching early home losses. When this team is shooting well and big man Festus Ezeli is dominating inside they are almost unbeatable. The Commodores should beat Harvard in the opening round and probably Wisconsin in the round of 16. Some pundits believe the Commodores could go to the Final Four. I agree. (Projection:Final Four)

After Vandy’s three well-documented upsets it its last three NCAA appearances, what could be different this time? Could it be defense? John Jenkins held Georgia’s Gerald Robinson to three points and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague did not score in the SEC tourney. Jeffrey Taylor also did a splendid defensive job on Kentucky’s Kidd-Gilchrist and Doron Lamb, Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ole Miss's Terrance Henry. (Projection: Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight)

Florida is struggling after losing Will Yeguete, who is the team’s best defender. The Gators, who lost their last three regular season games to Georgia, Vandy and Kentucky, nearly lost to Alabama in the SEC Tournament and battled Kentucky to the end in the conference semifinal game. Florida is tough to handle when they are stroking three’s, but they could be out quickly if they are shooting poorly and unable to cover the three. They should beat Virginia because they match up well with them. The Cavs lacks height which plays into Florida’s hands.

Still, Virginia presents some problems defensively. Per Insidethegators.com, the Cavaliers' run a version of an extremely tough defense (known as the Pack-Line) pioneered by long-time coach Dick Bennett, whose son Tony is currently Virginia's head coach. The defense causes opponents to struggle to score early in the shot clock. In 31 games this season, Virginia has held 25 teams to 61 points or fewer including allowing 50 points or fewer to nine teams and 40 points or fewer on three occasions.

The Gators will need more good work out of junior forward Erik Murphy scored a career-high 24 points in the UF's semifinal game against Kentucky.   Murphy is accurate from the 3-point line and adept at driving to the basket. (Projection: One win and one loss)

Alabama, who should have made the NCAA Tournament last year, is a No. 9 seed despite an often unproductive half-court offense. Their defense creates offense. Alabama could beat Creighton, one of the best shooting teams in the nation, due to its ability to create turnovers.   An advantage to Alabama is the fact that Creighton struggles on defense. ‘Bama needs JaMychal Green to score inside and pass to the open man and at least one of the freshmen-Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph or Nick Jacobs to get hot. If they win the first round, the Tide could give like opponent North Carolina some problems. Creighton’s Doug McDermott, the leading scorer (23 points per game) in the entire NCAA Tournament field, is the Tide’s top defensive target. (Projection: One win and one loss)

Required Reading

A matter of contrasting styles for the Tide

A complete all-SEC team

Bruce Ellington stays with hoops

Bradley Beal decision coming

Cats vulnerable?

What I knew

What I knew was that Mississippi State was an enigma this past season. The Bulldogs, which lost seven of the last nine games, really hurt their chances to make the NCAA Tournament after losing to Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament. State has two bad losses to Georgia and one to Auburn. Their season ended with a loss to UMass in front of a paltry 2,500 fans at home. Dee Bost and Arnett Moultrie were not enough the carry the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament. Moultrie and some of his teammates have admitted that this team has too many internal problems. Now many questions remain such as will Ricardo Sidney, Moultrie and even coach Rick Stansbury return?  

What I should have known

What I should have known that is Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin (left, courtesy UT Athletic Media Relations) would find a way to win the opening round game of the NIT against Savannah State even without leading
scorer and rebounder Jeronne Maymon (on the bench with a sore knee). Freshmen Jarnell
Stokes, Josh Richardson and Yemi Makanjuola, who got his first career start in place of Maymon all scored in double-digits. The Vol defense again was aggressive limiting
Savannah State to just 32.9% shooting. They hit only 20% from three-point range.



Stat of the Week

Oregon beat LSU, 96-76, in the first round of the NIT. The 96 points were the most allowed by the Tigers in regulation in ten seasons. Florida defeated LSU, 102-72, in 2002. The last time LSU yielded more than 96 points in a NCAA tournament or NIT game was 1970. The Tigers lost to Marquette 101-79 in the semifinals of the NIT.

Odds and Ends

HORN’S REPLACEMENT: South Carolina’s Darrin Horn could not save his job. Even Bruce Ellington’s decision to drop football and stay with basketball could not overcome Horn’s 60-63 record which included 21 losses this season which tied a school record. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and current Duke assistant Jeff Capel have been mentioned as possible replacements.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: Kentucky could play Iowa State in the second round. If so, you can bet it will be mentioned that Iowa State’s Royce White was prepared to transfer from Minnesota to Kentucky, but his fear of flying kept him kept him away from Lexington. White leads Iowa State in every major statistical category.

YOUNG DAWGS:   The future could be brighter for Georgia than many expect. Coach Mark Fox started two freshmen and two sophomores in the Bulldogs last game against Vandy in the SEC Tournament. Georgia beat six teams (6-14) in the top RPI 100 including Mississippi State twice.

GRANT IN DEMAND: Alabama coach Anthony Grant could be in demand after the season is over. His name has already come up as a possible replacement at Illinois. I understand the mentality of going to a basketball school, but if Grant makes the Tide an annual contender over the next few years like many believe he will then he will have his choice of jobs.  

 * * *

Brent Beaird writes for Lindy’s sports, Gator Bait magazine and Samssportsline.com.
He can be heard on 1010XL sports radio in Jacksonville, Florida. Brent, who is a
Heisman Trophy voter, can be reached at brentbeaird@aol.com



Recent Notebooks & Articles

  • SEC Notebook
    March 15, 2012
    Brent Beaird sizes up the SEC squads as the tourney begins
  • SEC Notebook: O, ever as we strive to rise
    February 17, 2012
    Cuonzo Martin's Vols have won four straight... and they're just one of a few mid-pack SEC teams playing well of late.
  • SEC Notebook
    February 02, 2012
  • SEC Notebook
    January 20, 2012
  • SEC Notebook
    January 07, 2012
  • SEC Notebook
    December 30, 2011
    Tigers clawing back?
  • SEC Notebook: No easy buckets in the SEC
    December 15, 2011
    As Brent Beaird explains, the south is on lockdown with eight SEC teams allowing 63 points or less per game
  • SEC: Five or more bids?
    November 10, 2011
  • SEC Notebook
    October 17, 2011
  • Future is Bright for SEC
    March 24, 2011
    As the nation prepares to watch Sweet 16 action, Brent Beaird likes what he sees from the SEC
  • SEC Notebook
    March 10, 2011
    How many teams from the SEC should make the NCAA Tournament? Contrary to the opinions of most pundits, six league teams should make the dance. Brent Beaird takes a quick glance at the league in this week's Notebook.
  • SEC Notebook
    February 25, 2011
    Brent Beaird takes a look at the SEC from top to bottom and examines, "Who's on the Plane" for NCAA purposes
  • SEC Notebook: What song is your team?
    February 11, 2011
    Instead of handing out letter grades for SEC basketball teams at the midway point of the season; let’s attach some of our favorite tunes to describe team performances to date
  • SEC Notebook: Tide rolling again
    January 28, 2011
    It’s time for the Alabama basketball team (12-7) to get some love. No, they are not perfect and the RPI of 126 will not overwhelm anyone, but this is a steadily improving team under Anthony Grant in his second season.
  • SEC Notebook: Beware of the Dawgs
    January 14, 2011
    Despite a tough loss to Vanderbilt Wednesday night, this could be Georgia’s best team in years. The Bulldogs have rebounded from last season's sixth-place finish in the Eas­tern Divi­sion and some are saying coach Mark Fox’s team is chan­ging the way Bulldog fans think about basketball.
  • SEC Notebook: Late Christmas gifts for SEC teams
    December 31, 2010
    Santa made return trip to the SEC recently to award more presents to needy SEC basketball teams. Here is a list of what he dropped down the chimney
  • SEC Notebook
    December 17, 2010
    Will the real Tennessee please stand up? Is Tennessee as good as the team that won at Pitt last weekend or are the Vols (7-1) truly as unpredictable as the squad that lost at home to Oakland Tuesday night?
  • SEC Notebook
    December 03, 2010
    Brent Beaird examines several freshmen around the league, including the development of Josh Harrellson, one of the members of John Calipari's class of newcomers
  • SEC Notebook
    November 19, 2010
    Brent Beaird brings you up to speed on 1,000 point scorer Ravern Johnson of Mississippi State and more in the week's SEC Notebook
  • SEC Notebook
    November 10, 2010
  • SEC Notebook: Young Gators make an impact
    November 03, 2010
    Columnist Brent Beaird surveys several conference storylines, including early observations of a youthful Gators squad.
  • College Chalktalk's weekly Conference Notebooks
    October 27, 2010
    Beginning on Monday, College Chalktalk introduces weekly conference notebooks on the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC. Check out the schedule...
  • SEC Notebook: Tide to be tested early
    October 09, 2010
    As CCT columnist Brent Beaird explains, Anthony Grant (pictured above) and his bunch will face some stiff competition from the jump - albeit in Paradise - as the Tide will wash ashore in the Virgin Islands. Plus, a quick survey of the landscape around the conference.
Previous Notebooks & Articles >>

View: Mobile | Desktop