College Basketball Nation: Georgia Bulldogs

BPI Talk: Projecting championship week

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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Championship Week can be unpredictable as teams try to improve their NCAA tournament résumés, whether it’s to vie for a No. 1 seed or just to get into the field.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) measures how well each team performs based on game result, margin, pace of game, location, opponent strength and the absence of any key players.


Using BPI, we are able to project the chances for each team to win its major conference tournament. The probabilities take into account the matchups in each bracket based on each team’s BPI. The team with the best BPI isn’t necessarily always the favorite if that team has much tougher matchups than other teams in the tournament.

According to BPI, the Arizona Wildcats have the best chance of any team in one of the seven major conferences (American, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) to win its tournament. They have a 63 percent chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament.

Pac-12
Arizona has more than a six times better chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament than any other team. The UCLA Bruins have the second-best chance at 10 percent.

Pac-12 best chances: Arizona 63 percent, UCLA 10 percent, Oregon 10 percent, Arizona State 5 percent, Stanford 4 percent

SEC
The Florida Gators are the prohibitive favorites in the SEC tournament with a 57 percent chance to win it. The Kentucky Wildcats (25 percent) are the only other SEC team with better than a 7 percent chance. The No. 9 seed Missouri Tigers have a slightly better chance to win the SEC tournament than the No. 3 seed Georgia Bulldogs.

SEC best chances: Florida 57 percent, Kentucky 25 percent, Tennessee 7 percent, Arkansas 3 percent, Missouri 2 percent

American & Big East
The Louisville Cardinals (American) and Villanova Wildcats (Big East) are both close to 50 percent in terms of their chances of winning their respective conference tournaments.

The Memphis Tigers have an edge playing on their home court in the American Tournament, but they still have a significantly worse chance than Louisville and Cincinnati. Memphis does, however, have a greater probability of winning the tournament than higher-seeded teams Southern Methodist and Connecticut. With its home-court advantage, Memphis would be a favorite against any team in the tournament other than Louisville.

American best chances: Louisville 49 percent, Cincinnati 18 percent, Memphis 14 percent, SMU 12 percent, Connecticut 8 percent

No team other than Villanova or Creighton has better than a 6 percent chance to win the Big East tournament. There’s a 44 percent chance that Villanova and Creighton meet in the Big East championship game.

Big East best chances: Villanova 48 percent, Creighton 31 percent, Xavier 6 percent, St. John’s 6 percent, Providence 4 percent

ACC
Perhaps the most interesting conference tournament is the ACC, where the No. 3 seed Duke Blue Devils are the favorites at 27 percent. The No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers (25 percent) and No. 2 Syracuse Orange (23 percent) are close behind.

ACC best chances: Duke 27 percent, Virginia 25 percent, Syracuse 23 percent, Pittsburgh 12 percent, North Carolina 7 percent

Big Ten
Another interesting conference tournament is the Big Ten, where four teams have between a 17 percent and a 26 percent chance of winning the tournament. The No. 2 seed Wisconsin Badgers are the favorites at 26 percent, while the No. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines are only the third favorites.

Big Ten best chances: Wisconsin 26 percent, Ohio State 19 percent, Michigan 19 percent, Michigan State 17 percent, Iowa 11 percent

Big 12
The Kansas Jayhawks have a 37 percent chance to win the Big 12 tournament, but their path isn’t easy. They could face the teams with the fourth- and second-best chances of winning the tournament in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

The No. 8 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys, with a 10 percent chance of winning it, could face Kansas in the quarterfinals. The No. 4 seed Iowa State Cyclones, with an 18 percent chance, could face Kansas in the semifinals. Both teams have a 35 percent chance of beating Kansas, according to BPI.

Big 12 best chances: Kansas 37 percent, Iowa State 18 percent, Oklahoma 16 percent, Oklahoma State 10 percent, Baylor 6 percent

SEC team previews

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
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From Sept. 30 through Oct. 25, Insider will be rolling out its college basketball preview, including breakdowns on every Division I team, projected order of finish for every conference and essays from Insider's hoops experts.

Here are previews for each team in the SEC:

Alabama Crimson Tide Insider
Arkansas Razorbacks Insider
Auburn Tigers Insider
Florida Gators Insider
Georgia Bulldogs Insider
Kentucky Wildcats Insider
LSU Tigers Insider
Mississippi State Bulldogs Insider
Missouri Tigers Insider
Ole Miss Rebels Insider
South Carolina Gamecocks Insider
Tennessee Volunteers Insider
Texas A&M Aggies (FREE)
Vanderbilt Commodores Insider

Nonconference schedule analysis: SEC

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
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This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation's top leagues. Next up: the SEC.

ALABAMA

Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 18-19, Nov. 27/29), Wichita State (Dec. 17), at UCLA (Dec. 28)
Next toughest: vs. Oklahoma (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Xavier (Dec. 21)
The rest: Texas Tech (Nov. 14), North Florida (Dec. 4), at South Florida (Dec. 7), Charleston Southern (Dec. 14), Robert Morris (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- Trevor Releford will have to carry a lot of weight for Anthony Grant’s program this season, even though the Crimson Tide will add a couple of top-100 recruits. His backcourt mate Trevor Lacey transferred to NC State during the offseason. So the turbulence could come early for this program. The NIT Season Tip-Off presents a variety of challenging possibilities. Final Four contender Wichita State will be a handful even though the Shockers travel to Tuscaloosa in mid-December. A road game against Pac-12 contender UCLA in renovated Pauley Pavilion will be difficult for this rebuilding program, too. And the matchups with Oklahoma and Xavier could also be interesting challenges for Bama.

ARKANSAS

Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27)
Next toughest: SMU (Nov. 18)
The rest: SIU-Edwardsville (Nov. 8), Louisiana (Nov. 15), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 3), Clemson (Dec. 7), Savannah State (Dec. 12), Tennessee-Martin (Dec. 19), South Alabama (Dec. 21), High Point (Dec. 28), Texas-San Antonio (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Arkansas could have been an SEC contender, but BJ Young and Marshawn Powell turned pro. Now, the program will rely on a roster that lost 35.1 PPG from last season. The Razorbacks are young and could feel the fire early. But not often. The Razorbacks open the Maui Invitational against Cal. From there, they could play Syracuse, Baylor or Gonzaga. But it’s more likely that they’ll be matched up against Minnesota in the second round and Dayton or Chaminade on the final day of the tournament. There’s really nothing else here. Larry Brown is building something at SMU, but the Mustangs probably aren’t ready for the Big Dance yet. Only thing holding up this nonconference schedule are a few unlikely matchups in Hawaii.

AUBURN

Toughest: at Iowa State (Dec. 2)
Next toughest: Illinois (Dec. 8), Boston College (Dec. 22)
The rest: Nicholls State (Nov. 8), Northwestern State (Nov. 15), Jacksonville State (Nov. 19), Murray State (Nov. 23), Tennessee State (Nov. 26), Clemson (Dec. 19), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Dec. 30), Florida A&M (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Did a bunch of SEC teams get together and wager on who could assemble the ugliest nonconference schedule? Seems like it. Tony Barbee’s program certainly doesn’t have the worst nonconference slate in the league, but it’s still not great. It’ll be tough to get out of Ames with a win when the Tigers travel to Iowa State in early December and Illinois is rebuilding but John Groce’s team should be tough in his second season. The matchup against Boston College in December will be interesting. Maybe. Auburn is not expected to be a top-half team in the SEC. So perhaps this nonconference arrangement makes sense. To someone.

FLORIDA

Toughest: at Wisconsin (Nov. 12), at UConn (Dec. 2), Kansas (Dec. 10), Memphis (Dec. 17)
Next toughest: Florida State (Nov. 29)
The rest: North Florida (Nov. 8), Arkansas-Little Rock (Nov. 16), Southern (Nov. 18), Middle Tennessee (Nov. 21), at Jacksonville (Nov. 25), Savannah State (Dec. 9), Fresno State (Dec. 21), Richmond (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- This nonconference schedule is a beast. Billy Donovan’s program might be the only legitimate obstacle in Kentucky’s path to the SEC crown and the Gators will face a variety of contenders before they collide with Kentucky and the rest of the league. The Kansas matchup could move Florida into a top-five ranking or higher if it gets the win. And it won’t be much fun to play at UConn, a team that boasts one of the nation’s top backcourts. Josh Pastner reloaded at Memphis. And Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee shouldn’t be overlooked in another difficult nonconference slate for a national title contender.

GEORGIA

Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 21-24)
Next toughest: at Colorado (Dec. 28)
The rest: Wofford (Nov. 8), Georgia Tech (Nov. 15), Appalachian State (Nov. 29), Chattanooga (Dec. 2), Lipscomb (Dec. 14), Gardner-Webb (Dec. 19), Western Carolina (Dec. 21), at George Washington (Jan. 3)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- If Georgia beats Davidson in the opening round of the Charleston Classic, the Bulldogs could move on to face Temple then New Mexico in the championship. But that’s far from a guarantee for a team that lost lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the NBA. The possibility, however, certainly helps. A road game against a Colorado squad that could steal the spotlight from Arizona and UCLA in the Pac-12 will be a challenge for Mark Fox’s squad in late December. Georgia Tech (Nov. 15) returns most of its top players from last season. Not exactly a gauntlet but enough challenges for a team hoping to stay out of the SEC’s basement.

KENTUCKY

Toughest: vs. Michigan State (Nov. 12 in Chicago), at North Carolina (Dec. 14), Louisville (Dec. 28)
Next toughest: Baylor (Dec. 6 in Arlington, Texas), vs. Providence (Dec. 1 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), Boise State (Dec. 10)
The rest: UNC-Asheville (Nov. 8), Northern Kentucky (Nov. 10), Robert Morris (Nov. 17), Texas-Arlington (Nov. 19), Cleveland State (Nov. 25), Eastern Michigan (Nov. 27), Belmont (Dec. 21)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Is there a rating higher than 10? John Calipari is not going to bring his highly touted recruiting class to Division I basketball with an easy introduction. Just the opposite, in fact. If Kentucky gets through this slate, then the Wildcats will more than justify the hype. They’ll face Michigan State, a team that’s certainly in the national title preseason conversation, in Chicago in early November. They play at Chapel Hill in mid-December. And then, the reigning champ, Louisville, comes to Lexington on Dec. 28. Oh, Baylor and Boise State -- who should both be in the preseason top 25 -- will be thirsty for an upset. The only knock against this lineup is that it features only one true road game. Still, good luck, youngsters.

LSU

Toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1)
Next toughest: at UMass (Nov. 12)
The rest: Northwestern State (Nov. 16), New Orleans (Nov. 19), Southeastern Louisiana (Nov. 22), UL-Monroe (Dec. 14), at Texas Tech (Dec. 18), UAB (Dec. 21), McNeese State (Dec. 28), Rhode Island (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- In his first season, Johnny Jones went 19-12 with an LSU squad that should be much better this season. Johnny O’Bryant III (15 double-doubles) is back and nationally ranked recruits Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey will give the Tigers one of the best frontcourts in the SEC and, possibly, the nation. LSU’s opening slate, however, is only so-so. Too many subpar opponents. The Old Spice Classic, however, could change that. The Tigers could face both Memphis and Oklahoma State if they get past Saint Joseph’s in the opening round. But those matchups aren’t guaranteed. A road game against Atlantic 10 contender UMass in early November is worth mentioning. The rest of the nonconference schedule? Not so much.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Toughest: at Utah State (Nov. 23), Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 19)
Next toughest: Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23)
The rest: Prairie View A&M (Nov. 8), Kennesaw State (Nov. 14), Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 19), Jackson State (Nov. 27), Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 1), TCU (Dec. 5), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 13), Florida A&M (Dec. 17), Maryland Eastern Shore (Jan. 2)

Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- Last season, Rick Ray’s program was so depleted by injuries, suspensions and departures that he had to use a graduate assistant in practice. And then, the G.A. tore an ACL. It was an unlucky debut for the rookie head coach. Well, the Bulldogs’ early challenges will be limited in 2013-14. A December meeting with last season’s Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast, could be their toughest nonconference game. It’s never easy to steal a win on the road against Utah State and UNLV might be waiting for the Bulldogs -- if they beat South Florida in the first round -- in the Las Vegas Classic. Not breathtaking but that might be the right fit for this program as it prepares for another challenging season.

MISSOURI

Toughest: UCLA (Dec. 7)
Next toughest: Illinois (Dec. 21), at NC State (Dec. 28)
The rest: Southeastern Louisiana (Nov. 8), Southern Illinois (Nov. 12), Hawaii (Nov. 16), Gardner-Webb (Nov. 23), IUPUI (Nov. 25), Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 28-29), West Virginia (Dec. 5), Western Michigan (Dec. 15), Long Beach State (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Frank Haith’s program lost four key players from last season’s underachieving squad, including point guard Phil Pressey. Once again, Haith’s team will have to rebuild chemistry with veterans (Earnest Ross, Jabari Brown) blending with newcomers (a nationally ranked recruiting class). Well, they won’t face much adversity early in the process. Their toughest nonconference opponent, UCLA, travels to Columbia. Rival Illinois will enter 2013-14 with a brand-new roster and limited experience. Other than that? Not much. Games against Northwestern and Nevada in the Las Vegas Invitational are lackluster. Perhaps NC State’s young studs will make a Dec. 28 clash against the Tigers interesting. Not much to get excited about, though.

OLE MISS

Toughest: Oregon (Dec. 8 )
Next toughest: Barclays Classic (Nov. 29-30 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), at Kansas State (Dec. 5)
The rest: Troy (Nov. 8), at Coastal Carolina (Nov. 16), Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 22), North Carolina A&T (Nov. 26), Middle Tennessee State (Dec. 14), Louisiana-Monroe (Dec. 18), Mercer (Dec. 22), at Western Kentucky (Dec. 30), Dayton (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Ole Miss’ offseason has been all about Marshall Henderson, who was suspended indefinitely for reportedly failing a drug test. He could return at some point this season, and if he does, he might have to be better than he was a year ago with Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner gone. The good news for the Rebels is that they won’t have many tests before SEC play. Oregon is probably their toughest nonconference matchup and the Ducks have to replace some talented players from last season. Games against Georgia Tech and (potentially) St. John’s in Brooklyn probably won’t help much on Selection Sunday and a road game against Kansas State would be more interesting if Angel Rodriguez hadn’t transferred to Miami.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Toughest: at Baylor (Nov. 12), Oklahoma State (Dec. 6)
Next toughest: Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
The rest: Longwood (Nov. 9), at Clemson (Nov. 17), Florida International (Nov. 24), Manhattan (Dec. 17), USC Upstate (Dec. 19), Akron (Dec. 28), Marshall (Dec. 30), South Carolina State (Jan. 3)

Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- When he’s not listening to the latest Pitbull hit, Frank Martin is trying to enhance the South Carolina program. That task seemed nearly impossible prior to his arrival, but he’s building. The Gamecocks will take a multitude of losses with seven freshmen on the roster in 2013-14, but a year from now, they could surge up the SEC standings. As for this season … a road game against Baylor could be an unpleasant “Welcome to college basketball” moment for South Carolina’s youngsters. Oklahoma State might beat Martin’s squad by 30 or more in early December. The Diamond Head Classic features some talented potential opponents (Iowa State, Boise State), but the Gamecocks might not move past Saint Mary’s in the opening round.

TENNESSEE

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30), at Wichita State (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: at Xavier (Nov. 12), NC State (Dec. 18), Virginia (Dec. 30)
The rest: USC Upstate (Nov. 16), The Citadel (Nov. 18), Tennessee State (Nov. 22), Tennessee Tech (Dec. 7), Morehead State (Dec. 23), Tusculum (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Cuonzo Martin will guide one of the league’s -- and nation’s -- sleepers in 2013-14. Yes, the Vols could contend for the SEC title. But a win over something called Tusculum in early January won’t prove much. Ditto for matchups against The Citadel and USC Upstate. But the Vols could meet Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. To get there, however, they’ll have to go through UTEP and then they’ll have to beat either Xavier or fellow sleeper Iowa. They’ll also travel to Xavier prior to the tournament. And it’s never easy to get a win over the Musketeers in Cincy. Virginia is stacked. And a road game against a Wichita State squad seeking revenge from a loss in Knoxville last season will be a major challenge for Martin’s program.

TEXAS A&M

Toughest: Corpus Christi Challenge (Nov. 29-30), vs. Oklahoma (Dec. 21 in Houston)
Next toughest: Buffalo (Nov. 8)
The rest: Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 11), Rice (Nov. 15), Prairie View A&M (Nov. 19), Sam Houston State (Nov. 24), Arkansas Pine-Bluff (Nov. 26), Houston (Dec. 4), McNeese State (Dec. 14), North Texas (Dec. 31), UTPA (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 1 -- This is just bad. Again. The Aggies didn’t have many obstacles during their nonconference season in 2012-13. That trend will continue in 2013-14. Ugh. An Oklahoma squad that probably won’t make the NCAA tournament is their toughest scheduled nonconference game. No. 2? Probably a matchup against a Buffalo team that will be led by new coach Bobby Hurley. Sure, the Aggies -- who lost standouts Elston Turner and Ray Turner -- could earn a game against Virginia in the Corpus Christi Challenge if they survive an opening-round meeting with Missouri State. That, however, is not enough to save this disappointing nonconference slate.

VANDERBILT

Toughest: Saint Louis (Dec. 30)
Next toughest: at Butler (Nov. 19), Paradise Jam (Nov. 22-25), at Texas (Dec. 2)
The rest: Georgia State (Nov. 12), Lipscomb (Nov. 15), Marshall (Dec. 5), Austin Peay (Dec. 17), Georgia Tech (Dec. 21), Northeastern (Jan. 4)

Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The bad news is that Vanderbilt is a mess right now. Top scorer Kedren Johnson and three other players from last season’s squad will not be available for the 2013-14 season. Even worse? The Commodores could enter the SEC campaign with multiple losses and little confidence. Atlantic 10 contender Saint Louis could do a lot of damage when it visits in late December. Butler has a new staff and no Roosevelt Jones, but Hinkle Fieldhouse will still be a crazy atmosphere that the Commodores will be asked to overcome in mid-November. They’ll open the Paradise Jam against Providence and subsequent matchups against La Salle and Maryland/Northern Iowa are possible. Texas lost a chunk of its roster, too. But the Longhorns can certainly beat this incomplete Vandy team at home. This could be an ugly nonconference season for Kevin Stallings’ program.
Offseason college basketball injuries can take many forms, but this has to be a first.

Incoming Georgia freshman Dusan Langura, a preferred walk-on who played his final two seasons of high school hoops at Furtah Prep in Acworth, Ga, is also a native of Switzerland, where he and all males older than 18 are required to serve in the military. Langura was doing exactly that recently when a bomb exploded. He received multiple injuries from the blast, including a torn ACL, as Georgia coach Mark Fox revealed to the Macon Telegraph on Monday night:
"It really is a unique story," Fox said [...]. "He was injured in the explosion, and one of the injuries was a torn ACL. We had committed to have him come. He can really shoot the ball. He was gonna be on our team. He had to serve his military commitment, and this happened during it. We're still gonna honor our commitment to him, and once he gets healthy he'll be out there with us. But he probably won't be cleared to practice until January or February."

"Unique" is one way of putting it. "Insane" might be another. The biggest question is this: What was a bomb doing so close to an 18-year-old basketball player? And why is he in the military anyway?

In fact, Langura is in the Swiss military because every Swiss male is conscripted into the Swiss military -- even Roger Federer. Wait, isn't Switzerland a (famously) neutral country? It is. But despite 200 years without participation in armed conflict, World War II and the Cold War left the Swiss feeling the need to maintain a large standing army, just in case. (Really, can you blame them?) For decades, Swiss males between the age of 18 and 50 have been required to enlist; they keep their uniform, weapon, and ammunition in their homes, sort of like Canadians' boxes of faith. In the past 20 years, a popular distaste for the military tradition has led to the creation of the civil service -- this is where Roger Federer served -- and the reduction of active troops down to 400,000 (in 1995) and then 200,000 (in 2003). The Swiss have a saying: "Switzerland does not have an army. It is an army."

That doesn't exactly explain how Langura was injured, or why apparently bombs are going off during training exercises. (Unless the Swiss army is secretly at war and we don't know about it, it's safe to assume this was an exercise.) But it does give us a chance to discuss Swiss military culture in what might be the deadest college hoops week of the year to date -- and to explain how a Georgia walk-on got there in the first place.

Hopefully, when Langura recovers and has the chance to talk about his experience, he can explain further. He'll have quite the story to tell.

Bracket reveal: Charleston Classic

July, 17, 2013
7/17/13
10:00
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Editor's Note: Over two days, we're releasing the brackets/matchups for 11 of the top early-season events. A thread of previews and info for all 11 tourneys can be found here.

Tournament bracket for the Charleston Classic

When and where: Nov. 21-22 and 24, Charleston, S.C.

Initial thoughts: New Mexico is clearly the favorite. No tournament title is a given, but the Lobos really have no excuse if they don't win this event. Every other team, save UMass, is rebuilding in some form. The Minutemen have a legitimate chance to pull off a title, but it still would be deemed a surprise.

[+] EnlargeCraig Neal
Steve Conner/Icon SMICraig Neal's Lobos are the clear-cut favorite to win the Charleston Classic.
The Lobos have a new coach, but not an unfamiliar face. Craig Neal was as much of a fixture around the program as Alford the past six years. Neal deserves a lot of the credit that has been heaped on Alford for their success in the Mountain West. The Lobos lost Tony Snell, but the core of the squad returns, led by Kendall Williams and Hugh Greenwood on the wings and Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow inside.

This is an important year for the Minutemen under Derek Kellogg. Massachusetts no longer has to deal with Xavier, Butler or Temple in the A-10 (although the Owls are in this event on the other side of the bracket). The league should be led by VCU and possibly Saint Louis this season, but the Minutemen have every right to believe they could challenge for the conference title -- something they've longed to do for years now. Pulling off an upset over the Lobos, or at the very least leaving Charleston 2-1, would get this team moving in the right direction.

Getting a read on Nebraska, UAB, Georgia, Davidson, Temple or Clemson in November would be tough to do, considering they all face a host of questions.

Matchup I can't wait to see: The first-round matchups are a bit lean, but I'll go with Temple-Clemson. The Owls are never really down under Fran Dunphy. They may be retooling more than rebuilding, and a summer trip to France will provide a head start to the season. Anthony Lee gives Temple a reliable player inside. He should be able to produce a double-double on occasion.

Clemson faces an important transition year. The Tigers now have to deal with three more teams in the ACC at a time when they also must try to move up in the conference. Clemson lost Devon Booker and Milton Jennings, but this should be a breakout season for K.J. McDaniels. The Tigers could use a quality win or two in Charleston, where they'll be somewhat of a home team and will look to get some much-needed momentum going into the ACC.

Potential matchup I want to see: UMass versus New Mexico in the semifinals. The Minutemen have a potential A-10 player of the year candidate in Chaz Williams, who has the ability to break the Lobos down off the dribble. He'll push Greenwood or Kendall Williams, depending on who has to guard him. Of course, UMass has to ensure it takes care of Nebraska to lock in the date with the Lobos. And New Mexico cannot -- repeat, cannot -- have a Harvard-like meltdown and lose to UAB in the first game.

Five players to watch

Kendall Williams, New Mexico: Williams won last season's Mountain West Conference player of the year award, beating San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin and NBA No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett. Williams can shine on a stat sheet, scoring 46 points in a win over Colorado State. He doesn't have Snell to play off this coming season, but can create and take his own shot at a high percentage.

Chaz Williams, UMass: The Minutemen were the benefactors of the Hofstra instability when Williams transferred to Amherst. He has been one of the top guards in the A-10 and has a chance this season to be one of the best guards nationally. Williams had 7.3 assists a game and kept his turnovers low at 3.5 last season. If he can manage a game consistently, the Minutemen should challenge for the A-10 title and an NCAA bid.

De'Mon Brooks, Davidson: Bob McKillop has always done an exceptional job of ensuring his star player has the right amount of touches and is in a position to succeed. Brooks should be the featured player this season. The Wildcats have one lame-duck year in the Southern before moving to the A-10. To count the Wildcats out of the SoCon title despite losing some quality players such as Jake Cohen would be a major mistake.

Ray Gallegos, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers will continue to take on the personality of Tim Miles. What does that mean? Well, expect this squad to play loose but with purpose. Gallegos has his work cut out for him in a matchup against Chaz Williams in the first round. But you can expect Miles to put Gallegos at ease. Get by the Minutemen and the Huskers would have the win they need to build off of heading toward the Big Ten.

Charles Mann, Georgia: The Bulldogs lost their go-to scorer in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was a lock for the lottery and went early in the NBA draft. Mann had his moments last season for Mark Fox, scoring in double figures in two of the final four games. With KCP gone, Mann must be the man at times for UGA to avoid being scoring-challenged. This tournament should be a good barometer on what to expect.

Title-game prediction: New Mexico over Temple.

The pressure is on New Mexico to deliver a title. The Lobos should be able to pull it off, even though the opponent is wide open. But I'll go with Temple because it's difficult to ever dismiss the Owls.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: New Mexico over Temple
Jeff Goodman: New Mexico over Clemson
Jason King: New Mexico over Temple
Myron Medcalf: New Mexico over Davidson
Dana O'Neil: Georgia over New Mexico
The SEC was not very good last season. Some of that was because of Kentucky's surprising struggles, and because of the eventual season-ending knee injury suffered by Nerlens Noel; when Kentucky isn't Kentucky, the SEC won't win any of those oh-so-fun "best league" arguments no matter what the rest of the league does.

But it wouldn't be fair to just blame the Wildcats. Only three teams -- Florida, Ole Miss, and Missouri -- made the tournament. Florida dominated the SEC and finished in the Elite Eight; Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss (and Wisconsin) got Andy Kennedy the first tournament win of his tenure; Missouri had a decent if defensively flaccid season end in a first-round tournament loss. Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas spent most of the spring flailing about on the wrong side of the bubble. Everyone else was either rebuilding or just plain bad.

This kind of overall systemic weakness gives coaches, athletic directors and league officials pause. Is there a systemic flaw in league? What is the problem, exactly? Does a solution exist?

Those are exactly the kinds of questions best raised at offseason meetings, and the SEC's basketball folks are doing exactly that this week in Destin, Fla. Lo and behold, the league has already decided on one step it thinks will help: better nonconference scheduling.

But it isn't just reminding coaches why scheduling is individually, or even collectively, important. It also invited former NCAA Vice President of Basketball Operations Greg Shaheen to speak to coaches about the vagaries of the RPI.

Even more impressive than a visit from Shaheen? SEC commissioner Mike Slive actually persuaded his league's athletic directors to submit their program's nonconference schedules for league review. From the Birmingham News' Jon Solomon:
The conference is still developing a process on how to analytically review nonconference schedules through Ratings Percentage Index numbers.

"Think about it like a stop light," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said today. "Some (teams) will be in a green zone, some will be in a yellow zone, and some of them might be in a red zone." [...]

"Our nonconference strength of schedule last year was 336. That's unacceptable," Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said. "That impacts every team in our league in a negative way. For example, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky got left out of the NCAA Tournament. They had decent RPIs. If my nonconference strength of schedule would have been 230 instead of 330, then their RPIs are in the 40s, and now I think maybe two of the three of them get in."

Martin might be being a little bit generous there -- an RPI in the 40s isn't a guarantee of much, if a team's own nonconference schedule is weak and/or that team doesn't have good wins on its resume -- but generally speaking, he's right. When you have a handful of teams playing schedules as bad as USC's (or Mississippi State's or Auburn's), it is bound to wreak at least some small measure of mathematical havoc on bubble teams, for whom every little distinction can mean the difference between a ticket to the dance and a trip to the NIT.

So does this mean SEC coaches are going to be turning over their schedules to the league office, or scheduling collectively? Not quite. Kentucky coach John Calipari, who praised the idea, told Solomon he thought the best use was to have the SEC as a sounding board -- "'If you know you're in good shape, run with it; if you have some issues, talk to us,'" he said. Likewise, Georgia coach Mark Fox asserted that it while it might be good for the league as a whole, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for young rebuilding teams (like his own) to get their "brains beat in" every November and December. Which is also true.

Probably the best quote from the whole thing comes from Calipari (no shock there), who outlined his own proposed strategy for getting more SEC teams in the NCAA tournament:
"Probably win more games," Calipari said.

It sounds like a joke, but it's really not. Whether you agree with his stance on true road games (pardon me, "experiences") or not, Calipari knows how to strategically schedule as well or better than any coach in the country -- a product of his time at Memphis, when he had to make sure his typically talented Tigers wouldn't be punished by the RPI for dominating Conference USA. There is a science to scheduling. Smart coaches can not only ensure they aren't punished by RPI weirdness but, if they really dig in, can consistently exploit the RPI's essential dumbness to their own advantage. This is stuff any coach worth his salt ought to be deeply aware of; that the SEC feels like it needs to exert oversight over schedules is almost kind of remarkable.

Still, despite all the ways the RPI can be gamed, at the end of the day the best way to get to the NCAA tournament is to, you know, win. The SEC and its coaches can start scheduling like geniuses, but if they don't rack up at least a few key nonconference wins, the entire point is moot.
1. The NCAA offered up an explanation as to why there can be a difference between the Memphis-Derrick Rose and Duke-Lance Thomas case when the person in question chooses not to cooperate and talk to the NCAA. According to NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn, if there is more information to allow the enforcement staff to allege a major violation through information gathered then it can go forward. Osburn said if there is a case in which there is no other information to suggest a violation without cooperation then the case cannot go forward. "You can't tell someone you violated a rule if they're not a member of the NCAA or if there is no other evidence to suggest a rule was broken. If there was a major violation there has to be evidence. It can't just be he said/she said. If you have folks who have information and they haven't said anything like an agent or a jeweler they don't fall under NCAA rules. So they don't have to talk to you. If they're no longer a student athlete they don't have to, either unless the school says it will disassociate you from the school. We don't have the subpoena power so we can only do so much." Translate: The NCAA claims it had other evidence in the Rose-Memphis standardized test case (it ultimately forced Memphis to vacate the 2008 Final Four) without talking to Rose but didn't have anything else in the Thomas case and never got Thomas to talk.

2. Harvard made my early-season Top 25 and with good reason. The Crimson beat New Mexico in the round of 64. The assumption was the two best players -- who were suspended for the year with a number of other students from the general student body over an academic scandal -- would be returning next season. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said Wednesday that Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey will be back as expected. That was always the plan but there could have been a hiccup with neither player being on campus during the past year. Harvard has a few high-profile games next season with the series continuing against UConn and a return games against UMass and Boston College. The Crimson are in the Great Alaska Shootout, a tournament that has waned in importance recently. But the 2013 field is decent with a few teams that could end up in the NCAAs in 2014 like Iowa, Denver, Indiana State and Tulsa. TCU, Pepperdine and host Alaska-Anchorage are the other three in the field.

3. Miami coach Jim Larranaga said he'll know in a few weeks who might be his replacement for Shane Larkin at the point. But he now knows who will be the lead guard in the fall of 2014 with the arrival of Kansas State transfer guard Angel Rodriguez. There's always a chance Rodriguez will appeal to play immediately since he wanted to be closer to his family in Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Georgia coach Mark Fox said he has the player ready to take over for his early-entrant sophomore and leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Fox said freshman Kenny Gaines, who averaged 3.7 points or almost 15 fewer than Caldwell-Pope, would take over. "He had many solid nights as his backup (last year)," said Fox. "He's a good player."
One man’s observations from another eventful Saturday afternoon of college basketball …

1. I don’t trust Florida anymore. Sometimes, the numbers lie. Sometimes, a team with dazzling stats fails to justify the analytic mechanisms that elevate it. That could be the case with Florida. The BPI, the RPI, Ken Pomeroy and Sagarin all love the Gators. Per the film, however, I see problems. The same Florida team that amassed a plus-18.8-points-per-game scoring margin in SEC play entering Saturday’s 61-57 loss at Kentucky (more on that soon) and crushed Marquette and Wisconsin in November has suffered four road losses in February alone. The Gators were outplayed by Arizona and Kansas State off campus in the nonconference portion of their schedule. Sure, they’ve spent of a chunk of the season punching teams in the mouth, but they’re 0-5 in games decided by six points or fewer and haven't beaten a single top-50 RPI team in a road game. And we really haven’t seen that dominant version of Florida, which began SEC play with historic margins of victory, in a month. Who are the Gators now? Well, the final minutes of the Kentucky loss told their story. They’re balanced and talented, but they fumbled in the last stretch of that loss because they couldn’t find that catalyst, that Ben McLemore/Marcus Smart/Doug McDermott/Trey Burke, to lead them beyond the funk that ruined the moment. They did not score in the last seven-plus minutes of the second half. They were the veterans, but they played like freshmen. It’s tough to believe in this program’s postseason potential when it continues to suffer road losses against hungry SEC opponents that don’t match them on paper. Guess what they’ll have to do to advance in the NCAA tournament? Beat hungry underdogs outside Gainesville. Yes, Kentucky re-entered the bubble convo with this win, but Florida did little to prove that it’s worthy of its statistical hype. Again.

2. Marcus Smart and the national/Big 12 POY conversation. Listen, I think Trey Burke deserves national player of the year, but I might change my mind if Victor Oladipo outplays him tomorrow. Here’s the general Burke argument -- and it’s a convincing one -- that circulates within college basketball media circles: “If you take him off that team, there’s no way they’re top 10 and competing for a Big Ten title.” And that’s accurate. I can’t argue against that. Here’s another one to consider: “If you take Marcus Smart off Oklahoma State’s roster, you probably have the team that finished 7-11 in league play last season and not the 13-5 team that’s competed for the Big 12 title in 2012-13.” Smart is the Big 12 player of the year. I like McLemore, Jeff Withey and Rodney McGruder, but Smart deserves the honor following his performance (21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals) in Saturday’s 76-70 win over Kansas State, a victory that jeopardized the Wildcats’ hopes of winning a Big 12 title. He should be a legit candidate for national POY, too.

3. The sad conclusion to Georgetown-Syracuse. Following his team’s 61-39 loss at Georgetown on Saturday, Jim Boeheim told reporters, “I’m pretty much ready to go play golf someplace. If I was 40 years old, I would be real upset. I’m not 40 years old. That should be obvious.” That comment and his team’s lackluster finish to the regular season (1-4 in its last five) will continue to fuel the retirement speculation that’s surrounded Boeheim for years. John Thompson III might have won national coach of the year honors with his team’s Big East title-sealing win. But the lopsided effort -- the Hoyas’ largest margin of victory against Syracuse since 1985 -- offered a melancholy ending to this classic rivalry. Georgetown will join the Catholic 7, and Syracuse will move to the ACC next season. The two may reconnect in the future, but their battles won’t be regulated by league affiliation. So this could be the end, and as a college basketball fan, I wanted to see drama, overtime, controversy in the final seconds, a buzzer-beater, a comeback … something. This rivalry deserved that. Instead, we were treated to the sight of one impressive squad smashing an opponent that failed to show up for the conclusion of this storied series.

4. Marquette wins its most crucial bizarre game of the year. The Golden Eagles love the theatrics that tend to define college basketball in March. Their 69-67 win at St. John’s was their fourth overtime game of the season in Big East competition. It was their third conference win by three points or less. Marquette hasn’t forged the prettiest path to the Big East title, but it earned a share of the crown with another gritty victory Saturday. St. John’s launched an impressive comeback in the final minutes that sent the game into overtime. Buzz Williams just smiled as his team prepared for the extra period; he’d been in that position multiple times this season, so his squad didn’t panic. With the game on the line, Vander Blue drove into the lane and beat the buzzer with the layup. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is what Marquette does. A team that was picked to finish in the middle of the standings earned a share of the Big East title. Wow. The Golden Eagles are clearly tough enough to make noise in the NCAA tourney, too.

[+] EnlargeJim Crews
AP Photo/Bill BoyceJim Crews guided a hurting Saint Louis squad to a share of the Atlantic 10 regular-season title.
5. Jim Crews for national coach of the year. Last season, I covered Saint Louis’ NCAA tournament appearance in Columbus, Ohio. Once Rick Majerus left the podium for a pregame media session, it took him 30 minutes to re-join his team. Fans wanted to talk to him. Other coaches wanted to talk to him. Friends wanted to talk to him. Reporters wanted to talk to him. He was an icon for that program and the entire sport. So when he took an indefinite leave of absence from the team in the months prior to his death in December, the Billikens had lost so much more than a coach. Sure, they had promise, but Crews didn’t have an easy task on his plate. He had to gain the trust of this talented group (he was an assistant in 2011-12) as it prepared for a battle in an Atlantic 10 beefed up by the additions of Virginia Commonwealth and Butler. He didn’t have one of his key players (Kwamain Mitchell injured his foot last fall) for the first two months of the season. But Crews overcame those obstacles. On Saturday, the Billikens secured a share of the conference crown with a 78-54 victory over La Salle. They’ve won 12 of their past 13. Their balance, defense (22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy) and experience could lead to a deep run in March. Sounds like a national coach of the year effort to me.

6. Meet Derrick Marks. In the final seconds of a 69-65 win that might have pushed his Boise State squad into the field of 68, Marks made a split-second decision to contest Xavier Thames' layup with 21 seconds to go. If Thames had made that shot, the Aztecs would have cut Boise State’s lead to one point. But Marks made plays like that all afternoon. The sophomore guard is just one of the reasons that the Broncos could win a game or two in the NCAA tourney -- I’m putting them in the field, although I’m not so sure about San Diego State anymore. Leon Rice’s program is healthy now (eight guys earned minutes against the Aztecs). The Broncos possess an offense that’s ranked 24th in adjusted offensive efficiency per Pomeroy, and they’ve won five of their past six games. Watch out for the Broncos in the coming weeks. Huge victory for that team.

7. Get ready for drama in Nashville. Next week, the SEC tournament will take place in Nashville. This league is packed with bubble squads, and I think that will add to the drama in what could be the most exciting conference tournament of them all. Proof? On Saturday, Alabama beat Georgia on a half-court buzzer-beater, Tennessee overcame a late deficit to secure a key win over Missouri and Kentucky kept its NCAA tournament dreams alive with a victory over Florida. The chaos will continue in Nashville.

8. Florida Gulf Coast becomes first team to dance. The Eagles earned the field’s first automatic NCAA tournament berth with an 88-75 victory over Mercer in the Atlantic Sun tourney championship. This is an Eagles squad that finished 8-10 (tied for sixth) in the conference last season, but their first victory of the 2012-13 season came against a top-10-bound Miami team. Kudos to Andy Enfield’s program.

9. Creighton-Wichita State III. The two Missouri Valley Conference power players split their season series this season. Despite their respective struggles, they were still the league’s top two programs. Their most recent matchup, which the Bluejays won, determined the regular-season champion. Creighton’s 64-43 victory over Indiana State and Wichita State’s 66-51 win over Illinois State in Saturday’s semifinals of the MVC tournament guaranteed a third matchup between the league’s top two teams in Sunday afternoon’s final.

10. Louisville makes statement without five overtimes. So the rematch between Louisville and Notre Dame didn’t match the hoopla of the first game. We didn’t get five overtimes. We didn’t even see one. But the Cardinals continued to support the notion that they’re going to be a very dangerous program in the NCAA tournament with a 73-57 victory over Notre Dame. It was the seventh consecutive victory for a team that’s ranked first in adjusted defensive efficiency, per Pomeroy. As a team, the Cardinals shot 51 percent from the floor against the Fighting Irish, and Gorgui Dieng registered 20 points (8-11 FG) and 11 rebounds. The Cards are playing like a Final Four team.

Video: Bama buzzer-beater sinks Georgia

March, 9, 2013
3/09/13
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Trevor Releford's half-court prayer gave Alabama a 61-58 victory over visiting Georgia.

Observations from Thursday night

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
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John Calipari has tried numerous tactics in recent weeks to light a spark within his Kentucky basketball team. One afternoon, he even staged an impromptu dodgeball game to loosen the mood and improve chemistry.

Nothing has worked.

Thursday’s 72-62 loss at Georgia marked the fourth defeat in the past seven games for the Wildcats, who will probably need to beat Florida in Saturday’s regular-season finale to have any shot of making the NCAA tournament.

Center Willie Cauley-Stein shrugged his shoulders when he was asked what Kentucky could do to turn things around.

“Have faith?” he said. “Go to church? Maybe that’s what we need to -- go to church as a team and pray for each other.”

Even divine intervention might not be enough to help the Wildcats at this point. If Kentucky can’t beat Arkansas and Georgia, there is no reason to believe it can get past a Florida squad many pundits have tagged as a Final Four contender.

The Gators defeated Calipari’s team 69-52 in Gainesville on Feb. 12. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky’s best player, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in that contest and UK hasn’t been the same since. Granted, even before Noel’s injury, the Wildcats weren’t very good. Kentucky’s résumé includes very few quality wins -- and a bunch of bad losses.

“I’m mad,” guard Archie Goodwin told reporters after Thursday’s loss. “There’s no way we should lose to Georgia. There’s no way we should lose to Arkansas.

“When we play like we’re supposed to, there’s not anyone in the country we can’t beat. When we play like this, when we play soft as a team, anyone can beat us.”

Calipari, to his credit, said he is to blame for his squad’s collapse.

“I’m so disappointed in the job I’ve done with this team,” he said Thursday night. “I’ve never had a team not cohesive at this time of year. Every one of my teams ... cohesive. Every one of them had a will to win. Every one of them had a fight.

“If this team doesn’t have that, that’s on me.”

[+] EnlargeJosh Scott
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsJosh Scott and Colorado outmuscled an Oregon team that could've nabbed a share of the Pac-12 title.
Here are a few other observations from Thursday’s games:

1. Does anyone want to win the Pac-12?

UCLA and Oregon entered the week tied for first in the conference standings with two games to play. Somehow, though, UCLA lost to last-place Washington State in Pullman on Wednesday, which meant Oregon could’ve clinched at least a share of the league's regular-season crown by beating Colorado on Thursday.

The Ducks responded by losing 76-53 in Boulder. And the Buffs didn’t even have Andre Roberson, who missed the game with a viral illness. Each team has one game remaining. UCLA plays at Washington on Saturday; Oregon takes on Utah in Salt Lake City the same day.

Whatever happens, no one can argue that the parity in the Pac-12 is greater than any conference in the country. Next week’s league tournament should be fun.

2. I loved the shot of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo jumping up and wrapping his arms around the neck of 6-foot-10 forward Adreian Payne during a timeout in the Spartans’ 58-43 victory over Wisconsin. Payne had just taken a hard fall under the basket after missing a dunk, but he eventually popped back up. Izzo loved seeing that toughness and resiliency -- not just from Payne, but from his entire team.

Michigan State entered the game toting three consecutive losses, all by single digits and all against ranked opponents. But by winning Thursday, Michigan State put itself in a position to clinch a share of the Big Ten title. Indiana sits atop the conference standings at 13-4. Three other teams (Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State) are 12-5.

If Michigan defeats Indiana on Sunday in Ann Arbor, four teams will finish in a tie for first. That’s assuming, of course, that Michigan State and Ohio State take care of business in their regular-season finales against Northwestern and Illinois, respectively.

Whatever happens, Michigan State should feel good about itself entering the Big Ten tournament following Thursday’s dominating victory over an excellent Wisconsin squad.

3. I’ve got to think Northwestern’s loss to Penn State on Thursday marked Bill Carmody’s final home game as the Wildcats’ head coach. Northwestern has never made the NCAA tournament and it won’t get there this year under Carmody, who is in his 13th season. Losing to the Big Ten’s worst team on Senior Night is about as bad as it gets. Duke assistant Chris Collins has been mentioned as a possible replacement. Another coach who would be a good fit: Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew.

4. Michael Snaer’s ability to come through in the clutch continues to amaze me. The Florida State guard scored on a left-handed runner in traffic with 4 seconds remaining to propel the Seminoles past Virginia 53-51. Snaer was fouled on the play, and he made the ensuing free throw.

The game winner was the fourth for Snaer this season and his sixth over the past two.

Virginia, which had fought back from an 11-point deficit to take the lead, has now lost four of its past six games. The Cavaliers are on the NCAA tournament bubble.

Conference Power Rankings: SEC

March, 1, 2013
3/01/13
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My latest attempt to rank the SEC ...

1. Florida. Still No. 1 to me. I’m not going to drop the Gators for a loss to a hungry Tennessee team this week. Billy Donovan’s squad was short-handed. But Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier II will be available for Saturday’s matchup against Alabama. The Gators have followed the trend within the SEC and nationally by struggling on the road. Every squad on this list, however, has encountered the same off-campus struggles. But no team in this conference possesses Florida’s talent, skills and résumé.

2. Missouri. Frank Haith’s program has improved. The Tigers are finally fulfilling their potential. Perhaps it took three, four months for this group to achieve the chemistry necessary to make it happen. Injuries to Keion Bell and Laurence Bowers did not help. But they’re jelling now. Sure, it’s just a win over South Carolina but the Tigers topped 80 points in their second consecutive road game with that 90-68 victory Thursday night. Also, Phil Pressey did not attempt a field goal in the game, but he finished with nine assists. His recent performances prove he realizes Mizzou needs him to be a better distributor.

3. Tennessee. Cuonzo Martin is cooking something in Knoxville. The Vols are sitting on the NCAA tournament bubble after six consecutive wins, a streak that includes victories over Kentucky and Florida. Tuesday night’s win over the Gators was crucial for Martin’s squad. The Vols have certainly dealt with a variety of obstacles this year. Jeronne Maymon has been sidelined all year with a knee injury. The Vols lost four of their first five SEC games. But they’re playing great basketball right now. Jarnell Stokes is more assertive now. Trae Golden is leading. Jordan McRae is balling. This could be a very dangerous squad if it cracks the field in the NCAA tournament.

4. Kentucky. Kudos to John Calipari’s team. It’s not easy for a veteran squad to move forward after losing its best player. This crew is making a push with freshmen. The Wildcats have won three of four without star Nerlens Noel. The 30-point loss they suffered at Tennessee in their first full game without the freshman standout projected trouble for the young crew. But the Wildcats are fighting for an at-large bid. Alex Poythress is a matchup problem for any team in America when he wants to be. And his recent efforts prove he recognizes his significance to this team’s postseason, especially with Noel sidelined. He scored 16 points in Wednesday’s 85-55 victory at Mississippi State, and he dropped 21 points in Saturday’s 90-83 overtime win against Missouri.

5. Alabama. Bama has won four of its past five games. But the Crimson Tide didn’t achieve that success against the league’s best -- and the Tide suffered a triple-overtime road loss to LSU over the weekend. Their next two matchups, road games against Florida and Ole Miss, however, will give Anthony Grant’s team a chance to prove it’s a top-tier team in this league and one that should be feared in the conference tournament. Trevor Releford can lead Bama in this final stretch, but he’ll need other scorers to step up consistently to avoid a late collapse (61.7 PPG in SEC play, ninth in the league).

6. LSU. Johnny Jones' squad has won four of five. The Tigers are not in the NCAA tournament conversation. But if you’re looking for a team that could rally in the SEC tournament, check out the Tigers. They play fast (41st in adjusted tempo per Ken Pomeroy). They defend the 3-point line (SEC squads are shooting just 28.9 percent from the arc against the Tigers). And sophomore Johnny O’Bryant III (13.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG) is a young star.

7. Arkansas. It’s the same story with the Razorbacks. They can contend with America’s best when they’re home. The road is a completely different tale for this squad. They’ve secured double-digit home wins against Tennessee and Florida. They have a win over Missouri, too. They’ve lost to South Carolina and Vandy on the road. The Razorbacks would be in the mix for the conference title if they had avoided those road losses to subpar SEC squads.

8. Ole Miss. It’s getting hot for Andy Kennedy and his program. The Rebels have tumbled in the standings after losing five of their past nine games. The good news? They’ve actually won three of four and they can win the last three SEC games on their slate. The bad news? Their at-large hopes have been jeopardized by their recent fall. They’re the league’s best offensive team (75.9 PPG) and one of its worst defensive squads (70.3 PPG allowed). That’s a formula for chaos.

9. and 10. Texas A&M/Vandy. Both are 6-9 in the SEC, and that’s surprising for different reasons. Texas A&M has wins over Kentucky and Missouri but the Aggies have had far more lows than highs. Kevin Stallings’ young squad has won four of its past six games. That’s a finish that his program can build on for next season.

11. Georgia. Mark Fox’s program had amassed momentum during a five-game winning streak. Since then? The Bulldogs have lost four of their past five.

12.-14. South Carolina/Mississippi State/Auburn. It’s difficult to separate these three teams. The good news for all three? It’s March. This will end soon.

Conference Power Rankings: SEC

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
9:30
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Here we go again. This week’s SEC power rankings:

1. Florida. In the 1980s, Mike Tyson was a brutal force who tore through boxing’s contenders with an ease that few, if any, pugilists had ever achieved. But Tyson had a problem. He didn’t beat guys who would have been considered contenders in more vibrant eras in the heavyweight division. So it’s tough to assess his legacy. Yes, he was dominant. But whom did he fight? That’s Florida’s challenge right now. The Gators are destroying the SEC. They’re one of three teams in the past 25 years that have defeated their first seven conference foes by 15 points or more, according to Elias. But they’re in a league that’s clearly one of the worst conferences in America. Still, they held a high-major program (South Carolina) to 10 points in the first half of a 39-point victory this week. That’s impressive regardless of whom they were playing.

2. Ole Miss. So Destiny’s Child just dropped a new track called “Nuclear.” The song created a buzz because folks were convinced that Beyonce & Co. would get back together. But that hasn’t happened. The bottom line is that the track is like every other “group” effort by the pop trio: a lot of Beyonce and a little bit of the other two women/members whom most folks can’t name (Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland). Marshall Henderson turned into Beyonce when Kentucky visited Ole Miss on Tuesday night. He made the night about Marshall Henderson instead of his team. He took bad shots. He played to the crowd. He got into a verbal spat with coach Andy Kennedy. And he threw a piece of ice toward fans. Great theater. But he didn’t lead the Rebels to a win. There was just too much of him and not enough of everyone else in that crucial game.

3. Kentucky. About a decade ago, Dr. Dre promised hip-hop fans that he would deliver one of the greatest rap albums of all time: “Detox.” He has teased with a variety of leaked tracks. But he hasn’t delivered the full project, only glimpses of what it might be. That’s how I feel about this Kentucky team right now. I think the Tuesday victory at Ole Miss was a great showcase for a Wildcats squad that could emerge as Florida’s greatest threat in the coming weeks. It was a dominant performance, especially for Nerlens Noel (12 blocks). But we shouldn’t forget the loss to Alabama. Or Texas A&M (at home). Or Baylor (also at home). The Wildcats have potential, and they proved it again when they beat the Rebels. But I’m weeks away from believing that it was anything more than one impressive effort by a team I can’t trust yet.

4. Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat Kentucky last week, lost to Tennessee over the weekend and squeezed past Arkansas for a 59-56 victory that was decided in the final seconds Thursday night. Where would you rank them? I could leave Bama here. I could also move Anthony Grant’s squad down two or three spots. I’m not sure that this is the fourth-best team in the SEC. But I don’t have any evidence that it’s not the fourth-best team in the league, either. And that’s the problem with this conference. By now, Bama over Arkansas should mean something. It should have offered proof that one team was moving forward and the other was moving in the opposite direction. It didn’t really do that. Neither team played well. Arkansas went 3-for-19 from beyond the arc. Bama committed 19 turnovers. I’m not sure one team is really better than the other. And that’s the story of the SEC -- after Florida of course -- right now.

5. Missouri. Here’s the essence of the conversations I’ve had with Mizzou fans for the past two weeks via the Twittersphere. Me: “Missouri is not as good as its ranking suggests. The Tigers have bigger issues than Laurence Bowers’ injury and absence.” Mizzou fans: “You’re wrong. We’ll get Bowers back. We’ll be fine.” Me: “But their ballhandling is inconsistent, they’re not defending the 3-point line and … ” Mizzou fans: “Dude, Bowers will be back. And we’ll be fine.” Well, Bowers returned … and the Tigers lost at LSU 73-70 on Wednesday night. LSU is 12th in the league with a 39.3 percent overall mark from the field. But LSU -- which has lost to Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina -- shot 55 percent against Mizzou. This is the same Tigers squad that averaged 0.9 points per possession through the first six games of SEC play, 12th in the league according to John Gasaway. Confused yet?

6. Tennessee. The Vols might the most intriguing team in the conference after Kentucky. They lost their first three SEC games but they’ve won three of their past four, a stretch that includes a win over Alabama. Jarnell Stokes finished with double-doubles in those three victories. When he plays to his full potential, the Vols are clearly a different team -- one that’s capable of competing with most of the squads in this league.

7. LSU. Yep, the Tigers beat a nearly complete Missouri squad (Keion Bell did not play) Wednesday night. But they’ve also lost to Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. … And they’ve beaten a Missouri team that entered the conference slate as Florida’s toughest competitor. So I guess they’re seventh. Why? Because the SEC just doesn’t make much sense, especially after LSU pulled off one of the biggest wins by a team in the bottom tier of the league.

8. Arkansas. The Razorbacks are a solid offensive group that struggles in games that aren’t track meets. They’re averaging 66.4 points per game in SEC play, fifth in the league. Yet they’re last in 3-point shooting (23.9 percent). And they’re really limited to whatever Marshawn Powell and BJ Young can give them each night. The duo accounts for 41 percent of Arkansas’ offensive production. So every night is a toss-up, especially for a program that’s ranked 104th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy.

9. Georgia. Mark Fox has only one scorer averaging double figures (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at 17.5 points per game). But he’s making up for those offensive gaps with the 3-ball. The Bulldogs, who’ve won three of their past four, have hit 36.2 percent of their 3-pointers, third in the SEC.

10. Texas A&M. Between now and Feb. 13, the Aggies will play Kentucky (again), Missouri and Ole Miss. This is an important stretch for a program that has disappointed since a Jan. 12 victory at Kentucky. The Aggies are holding SEC opponents to 58.0 PPG (tied for second in the conference) but they’re only scoring 58.4 PPG (12th). Elston Turner's recent turn of inconsistency hasn’t helped.

11. Vanderbilt. Four of the Commodores' past six games have been played on the road. So the young program’s fortunes could change in the coming weeks, because four of its next five games are at home, a stretch that does not include matchups against Kentucky, Ole Miss, Florida or Missouri. The Commodores have lost two SEC games by two points or fewer. They lost to Ole Miss in overtime. Their 61.5 percent mark from the charity stripe (last in the SEC) won’t help the Commodores secure future wins in similar scenarios.

12. Mississippi State. The Bulldogs kicked off the SEC with promise by winning their first two games. But they’ve lost their past five. Their greatest challenge? Turnovers. They’ve averaged 18.3 per game in SEC play. That and a defense that’s giving up an SEC-worst 70.7 PPG.

13. Auburn. Tony Barbee's program isn’t much better. Auburn’s SEC opponents have averaged 70.0 PPG in league play. The Tigers are also on a five-game losing streak.

14. South Carolina. The Gamecocks scored 10 points in the first half of a loss to the Gators this week. I know, I know. They played Florida. But even Southeastern Louisiana managed 26 in the first half of its 82-43 loss to the Gators this season.

Video: Florida 64, Georgia 47

January, 23, 2013
1/23/13
11:49
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Eighth-ranked Florida went on a 40-20 run in the second half en route to 64-47 win over the Bulldogs.

Top brother duos in college hoops history

January, 23, 2013
1/23/13
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On Wednesday at Miami (7 ET on ESPN), Seth Curry needs 12 points for the Curry brothers to pass Larry and Eddie Bird for the second-most by a pair of brothers in Division I history.

Barring injury, the Curry brothers should pass the Hansbroughs in February for the most ever.


Below is one man’s opinion on the top 10 pairs of brothers to play college basketball. Just missing the list? Tyler and Cody Zeller.

10. Dominique and Gerald Wilkins
Both Wilkins brothers were more successful NBA players, but that shouldn’t diminish what they accomplished in the college ranks. Dominique is arguably the best player in Georgia history, and its only player to win SEC Player of the Year. Younger brother Gerald helped guide Chattanooga to the NCAA Tournament in his first season, and his 21.0 points per game as a senior is the highest in school history.

9. Tom and Dick Van Arsdale
The most accomplished twins to ever play basketball, it wasn’t just looks that made the two difficult to distinguish. Tom averaged 17.4 points and 10.0 rebounds in his three seasons at Indiana, while Dick averaged 17.2 points and 10.0 rebounds.

8. Chuck and Wesley Person
Only three players in Auburn history have scored 2,000 points. Two of them were brothers. Chuck is the school’s all-time leader with 2,311 points, while Wesley is third at 2,066. While both were elite at Auburn, it’s worth noting that neither won SEC Player of the Year.

7. Mark and Brent Price
At a school famous for producing guards, no one had a better career at Georgia Tech than Mark Price. He was the first freshman to lead the ACC in scoring, and was the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer in all four seasons. Brent Price split his college career between South Carolina and Oklahoma. He was an All-Big Eight selection as senior, once scoring 56 points in a game.

6. George and Ed Mikan
Named of ESPN’s 25 greatest college basketball players in 2008, George Mikan helped revolutionize the game with his height. A two-time national player of the year, he led DePaul to the NIT title in 1945, averaging 40.0 PPG in that tournament. A year younger, Ed was also a member of that championship team. He also went on to become a member of DePaul’s Hall of Fame and play in the NBA.

5. Ed and Charles O’Bannon
The O’Bannon brothers combined to bring UCLA a national title in 1995. Ed won the Wooden Award that year, as well as the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Charles was an All-Pac-10 selection in each of the two years after Ed left, making it five consecutive years than an O’Bannon was so honored.

4. Larry and Eddie Bird
No two brothers have scored more points at the same school. Larry Bird requires no introduction. Over three seasons at Indiana State, he averaged 30.3 PPG and 13.3 RPG. In 2008, ESPN’s panel of experts named him the ninth-greatest college player of all-time. But did you know he had a brother? Eddie Bird came to Indiana State a decade later and averaged double figures in all four seasons with the Sycamores. He’s still sixth on their all-time scoring list.

3. Stephen and Seth Curry
Barring injury, the Curry brothers will be the highest-scoring duo of brothers in Division I history. Older brother Stephen led Davidson to the Elite Eight as a sophomore and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer despite playing for only three years. In fact, only five players have scored more total points in a three-year college career. Seth’s career at Duke isn’t nearly as prolific, but the senior captain could help lead the Blue Devils to a national title.

2. Bernard and Albert King
The best player in Tennessee history, Bernard King won SEC Player of the Year in all three seasons in Knoxville. He averaged more than 25 PPG in all three seasons. Overshadowed by his older brother, Albert was certainly no slouch. He averaged in double figures in all four seasons at Maryland and is the fourth-leading scorer in school history. Albert garnered ACC Player of the Year honors as a junior.

1. Tyler and Ben Hansbrough
No pair of brothers has scored more combined points than the 4,485 from the Hansbroughs. Tyler Hansbrough finished his North Carolina career as the ACC’s all-time leading scorer (2,872 points) and eighth all-time with 1,219 rebounds. One of only five players with 2,800 points and 1,200 rebounds, it’s no stretch to call him one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. But younger brother Ben was no slouch. In 2011, he averaged 18.4 PPG at Notre Dame and was named Big East Player of the Year.

Honorable Mention
George and Derrick Gervin, Horace and Harvey Grant, Blake and Taylor Griffin, Brook and Robin Lopez, Jay and Sam Vincent, Gus and Ray Williams, Cody and Tyler Zeller.

Conference Power Rankings: SEC

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
9:30
AM ET
Well, here we go again. My latest attempt to rank SEC teams. Enjoy. Or cry. Either would be appropriate with this conference right now.

  1. Missouri. The Tigers secured the No. 1 spot with their 82-73 win over Illinois Saturday in St. Louis. I was impressed by three things in this game: the toughness of Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers; Missouri's ability to overcome Phil Pressey's 3-for-19 slump; and the pressure the Tigers put on Brandon Paul, who scored 23 points on 5-for-18 shooting. Missouri is the king of the league right now after that win.
  2. Kentucky. The Wildcats could move up to No. 1 if they beat Louisville Saturday. That's obviously a difficult proposition for any program. Kentucky has won four consecutive games, albeit against Samford, Portland, Lipscomb and Marshall. But Ryan Harrow (averaging 14.3 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game in the team's past three matchups) is evolving and that could be the most critical development of the season for John Calipari.
  3. Florida. It feels wrong to put the Gators here. It's not as though they suffered two losses to a pair of bad teams. The biggest surprise, however, was the Gators' inefficiency in the final minutes of those losses to Arizona and Kansas State. And it didn't help that Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario played so poorly. I still think Florida will ultimately win this league but first it has to overcome its recent setbacks.
  4. Tennessee. Cuonzo Martin reportedly will speak with Jeronne Maymon (12.7 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game) next month about his status for 2012-13. A redshirt is a possibility with his slow-to-heal knee. If he's not ready to go, it will impact Tennessee's ceiling. The Vols beat a nationally ranked Wichita State squad Dec. 21 and followed it up with a pair of wins over two subpar programs (Presbyterian and Western Carolina). But their next five games (Xavier, Memphis, Ole Miss, at Alabama, at Kentucky) will determine if they've exorcised the offensive demons that hurt them in back-to-back losses to Virginia and Georgetown.
  5. Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 7-4 after winning their past three games. They didn't play the likes of Duke, Indiana and Louisville in that run (Alcorn State, Alabama A&M and Robert Morris, actually). But their only bad loss on the year came against Arizona State (Syracuse, Wisconsin and Michigan were their other three defeats). Arkansas is a team that will score a bunch of points -- via BJ Young (16.7 ppg) and Marshawn Powell (16.5 ppg) -- and pray that it gets enough stops along the way to come out on top.
  6. Ole Miss. The Rebels average 82.1 ppg (eighth in the country). But they lost to the only two teams -- Middle Tennessee and Indiana State -- on their nonconference slate with the defensive capability to neutralize their offense. They were 15-for-52 from the 3-point line in those two losses. The 3-point line will be their blessing and curse all year. The Rebels have shot 279 3-pointers through 12 games, No. 1 in the SEC. But they don't have many scoring alternatives when those shots aren't falling.
  7. Alabama. The Crimson Tide have failed to register 60 points in four of their past seven games. Anthony Grant's squad has lost three of its past four. Three of those defeats came against VCU (on the road), Cincinnati (at the buzzer) and Dayton. But Bama will continue to tumble if Grant can't get more consistent offense from players not named Trevor Lacey (13.4 ppg) and Trevor Releford (16.3 ppg).
  8. LSU. Coach Johnny Jones has had the luxury of competing against one of the league's worst nonconference schedules (No. 243 per ESPN.com's RPI ratings). So, he has managed to win seven of his first nine games in Year 1. But the Tigers have lost the only two nonconference games that could potentially boost his team's résumé (89-70 at Boise State Dec. 14, 84-80 at Marquette Saturday). Can Shavon Coleman & Co. compete in the SEC? We won't know until they face the league's known contenders in the coming weeks.
  9. Vanderbilt. Despite their loss to Middle Tennessee Dec. 21, the Commodores' December has been positive simply because they've won three of their past four. They'll face No. 18 Butler in Nashville Saturday. Kevin Stallings' young squad hasn't been a very efficient offensive group (181st in Ken Pomeroy's ratings and its 60.3 ppg are 306th nationally). And they get more than 50 percent of their scoring from two players (Kedren Johnson and Kyle Fuller). They're too limited.
  10. Texas A&M. The Aggies are good representatives of what ails this conference. They just lost to a 5-6 Southern team that was picked to finish sixth in the SWAC by Blue Ribbon. They scored 51 points against the Jaguars, who rallied in the final minutes. Earlier this season, Texas A&M was crushed by St. Louis (70-49) and suffered a double-digit defeat against Oklahoma (64-54). Their wins? Nothing special. And that's the story of this league right now. The SEC as a whole hasn't been competitive in its toughest nonconference matchups, the true barometers of its status entering league play.
  11. South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won three in a row (Jacksonville, Appalachian State and Manhattan), but are averaging 18.8 turnovers per game, No. 1 in the SEC. They're ranked 269th in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency ratings and 13th overall in the league in scoring defense. Disappointing numbers for any team, but they're even worse considering coach Frank Martin's squad has played the SEC's worst nonconference slate (323rd per ESPN.com's RPI ratings).
  12. Auburn. I think Auburn's true profile is comparable to the other squads in the league's bottom tier. Zero quality wins. Its victories seem to be the product of a soft nonconference schedule, not an influx of talent. But the Tigers have won three of their past four. And that means something in the SEC, regardless of the opposition. Maybe Auburn should be a few slots higher. Perhaps a few other squads should be lower. The bottom line is that the league, after the top four of five squads, is very difficult to gauge right now.
  13. Georgia. Mark Fox has finally racked up a couple of much-needed wins with the Bulldogs. A two-game winning streak (victories over Mercer and USC) is Georgia's first such streak of the season. Yes, they're 4-7. And if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope continues to do everything (he leads the team in scoring, rebounding and steals), then they'll probably remain in the basement. He needs as much help as any player in America. But a couple of wins could signal a momentum swing for Georgia.
  14. Mississippi State. Coach Rick Ray's 4-6 Bulldogs have won two of their past three. But that's the most positive stretch of the year for this short-handed squad. Only five players registered more than 20 minutes in Mississippi State's 79-72 win over Central Arkansas on Saturday. That limited depth has been a problem for the Bulldogs all year. Roquez Johnson & Co. can't afford any injuries or foul trouble. And that could be an even greater challenge once SEC play begins.

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