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For The Love Of College Basketball

Archive for January, 2010

SEC East Power Rankings Update

Posted by sawdog on January 31, 2010

1. Kentucky–Most people understand that going undefeated for an entire season is next to impossible.  So the real question for Kentucky was how would they respond in their next game?  They could either let the loss to South Carolina carry over or they could come out with a purpose.  They chose the latter, dominated a streaking Vanderbilt team from start to finish and maintained their #1 power rankings position because of it.  Yes, Devan Downey is the headline of the week because of his performance against the Cats.  But Kentucky showed they have an extra gear that not many schools in the nation posess by controlling a hot Vandy team for 40 minutes.  Freshman DeMarcus Cousins might be the most dominant big man in the country, but he’s also most likely to be ejected from a game.  Kentucky can win the national championship with Cousins on the court.  They have little chance without him.  You can bet the six teams waiting for a crack at Kentucky in the NCAA tournament are already planning on getting in his head any way possible.  Will he ever learn to handle it?

2. Vanderbilt–Prior to Vandy’s burnout in Lexington they went into Knoxville and buried the Volunteers.  A very impressive road win to say the least.  Vandy continues to use their parts wisely and efficiently, and point guard Jermaine Beal has performed extremely well of late.  Against the Vols they followed their typical routine of getting behind early but storming ahead late.  The game was tied with about eight minutes to play, and by the 5 minute mark Vandy had taken a 14 point lead.  On the road that is something special.  Vandy is too experienced and too balanced to fall to far in this division but it will be interesting to see how A.J. Oglivy bounces back from a dismal performance against Kentucky.  From the opening tip he struggled to contain DeMarcus Cousins, got in foul trouble trying to guard him, and was virtually a non-factor the entire game.  Will this hurt his confidence or will he come back strong?

3.  Florida–It starts to get tricky with the rankings at this point.  I first noticed the Gators improvements a couple of weeks ago, when guard Erving Walker clearly established himself as the floor general.  The kid is absolutely fearless and he’s a great shooter.  I ranked Florida ahead of Tennessee, even though UT just beat them, because of the roll Florida is on.  Consider that the Gators had won their past four games and only lost today, in Knoxville, by one point on a long jumper.  When you start going into hostile territory, against a rival, and you are dictating the game most of the way only to lose by a great shot at the end….that’s pretty good stuff.  The big men are playing better–both Macklin and Tyus–and Parsons is still hitting clutch shots (he hit a go ahead three with 29 seconds left).  Based on the directions of the teams–with Florida on an upswing and Tenneseee on a slight decline–I gave Florida the nod this week.  It also helps that Florida pounded a game Georgia squad by 16 earlier in the week.

4.  Tennessee–Had Tennessee not been throttled late in the game–a home game–against Vanderbilt earlier in the week I would have had more reason to keep them on top of Florida.  But the Vandy game showed that when punched in the face by an experienced team the Vols could not respond.  Today, the Vols dug deep and found a way to come back on Florida.  Scotty Hopson was the hero with a winning jumper with just seconds remaining.  Make no mistake, this was a very gutsy win from Tennessee who found themselves behind for most of the game.  Tennessee is finding out what most teams find out–when conference play starts the grind can really be tough.  They’ve already dropped two division games to Georgia and Vanderbilt in the past 8 days, and nearly got nipped by Florida in a home game today.  If there was ever a good time for a bye week this would be it.  Luckily, the Vols have until Thursday to rest up and get ready for their next contest @ LSU

5.  South Carolina–South Carolina moves out of the bottom thanks to a great week in which the Gamecocks toppled #1 Kentucky and escaped Georgia with a one point victory.  So much has already been said about Devan Downey and his performance against UK.  He backed it up with 33 points on 12-20 shooting to stave off the Bulldogs.  The formula is in place for USC.  Downey creates his own shots and draws enough attention to open up his teammates for rebounds.  When you have a great player that commands that much respect you can stay in a lot of basketball games.  Go Downey go.

6.  Georgia–The Bulldogs were throttled in Gainesville by an improving Florida team.  Fair enough.  It’s a tough place to get a victory.  But then the same concerns popped up on the road against South Carolina.  The chance to win the game but failing to do so.  Georgia is trying to learn how to rise up and finish out game.  Once again, against USC this time, Georgia built a nice lead and in many ways controlled the scoreboard throughout.  But they don’t give you trophies for competing.  You have to close these things out.  There is still time but they will need to get that process rolling–stat–to have any chance of finishing away from the cellar in the East division.  Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie continue to be excellent producers, with Leslie throwing down enough highlight reel dunks to make LeBron James blush.  Yesterday he added five more to his season tally, with two dunks earning #2 and #3 on Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays of the day.  He’s ridiculous.  Truly.


Posted in Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

One game, one ticket–where you going?

Posted by sawdog on January 31, 2010

I proposed this question to two friends this past week. The caveat, of course, being that it must be a venue you’ve never seen. Thus, for one friend at least, Rupp Arena was removed for any consideration (which he did say would have been his choice). With this rule established he chose Memorial Gym in Nashville, home of the Vanderbilt Commodores. I can’t blame him. My friend cited the unusual location of the benches, which are behind the baskets, as the primary reason for his choice. Here is a brilliant article outlining the history and aura of Memorial Gymnasium, including quotes from opponents discussing their disdain for the bench setup.  Did you know that Vandy has won four straight games in Memorial when facing the #1 team in the nation?

The other friend had a much more difficult time choosing just one, but when pressed he eventually chose Allen Fieldhouse (he too has seen Rupp Arena, but it wasn’t clear where Rupp would rank in the big picture).  The home of the Kansas Jayhawks has it all.  I’d be a rich man if I took Allen Fieldhouse and gave you the field, then asked the nation this same question with some betting on the side.  Odds are Allen Fieldhouse, in my opinion, would win that poll.  If college basketball were a family tree there is little debating (in fact, no debating–James Naismith anybody?) the seed from whence it all came to be was planted in Lawrence, Kansas.  This article captures the unique experience of gameday in Allen Fieldhouse, a venue that is “part hoops mecca, part Smithsonian.”

Me?  I have gone back and forth with this one and I am jumping on the Kansas State bandwagon.  I want noise.  Lots of it.  The more noise, jumping and unusual celebrating the better.  Duke cornered the market on the up-and-down jump years ago, but Kansas State fans extend this vertical party beyond the first several rows.  When the cameras pan out it’s almost like the entire side of Bramlage Coliseum is swaying back and forth or jumping up and down–whatever moment the current jubilation created.  I wrote this when Kansas State beat #1 Texas two weeks ago and the crowd was every bit as exciting during KSU’s overtime loss to Kansas last night.  As the sport has popularized universities have increased seating capacity and accommodated the masses, which has largely removed the students from impacting the decibel level of the game.  Not so at Bramlage.  I feel like I’m watching the entire KSU undergraduate enrollment when I’m watching their home games.  There are over a hundred tremendous venues in college basketball, but if I have one more game to see in my lifetime give me a ticket for a big game in “The Octagon of Doom.”

Posted in Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Vanderbilt Commodores | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Maryland is ballin’

Posted by sawdog on January 30, 2010

My boy 49ways doesn’t need a juicy plot or an unusual story line to follow the ACC with regularity. However, I need a little extra something to look their way. Personally, I am loving this year’s balance. I look at the ACC standings and it is wide open, which I think is awesome as we near the midway point of conference play. The Maryland Terrapins might be playing the best basketball of any team, just one overtime loss away from an unblemished conference mark. As is, the Terps are the only team with just one loss.

Three games this weekend have dominated the national headlines. They are Duke @ Georgetown, Vanderbilt @ Kentucky, and Kansas @ Kansas State. You could add a fourth game too: Louisville @ West Virginia. It’s very hard to argue the magnitude and personality of those games. But perhaps the most intriguing game b/c of the nature of the ACC’s balance, and what a win could mean for the Terrapins, is Maryland @ Clemson. Despite Clemson’s home setback to Duke a week ago, the Tigers still have one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball. Clemson will look to rebound and defend homecourt and stay in the thick of the ACC race. Maryland, with another win, could use a victory over Clemson to springboard a very winnable three-game stretch following Clemson: @FSU, UNC, and UVA. See what I’m saying? Beat Clemson @ Clemson and you’re first in the conference and have a nice three game stretch to potentially pad the lead. At that point Maryland would then travel to Duke, where no team has handled the Dukies in Cameron Indoor over the past several years quite like Maryland. Anything can happen.

I see this matchup and I’m drawn to it because Maryland is hot and dangerous right now, but Clemson has a lot of pride in defending their turf. On one hand Maryland is playing the better team basketball, but on the other hand they’ll have to contend with a Clemson team that is still seething over the dud they laid at home against Duke in their most recent home game. Something has got to give and I’m most interested in seeing how Maryland handles it. How hot are the Terrapins??

Posted in ACC, Maryland Terrapins | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Two technical fouls and you’re still playing–who knew?

Posted by sawdog on January 29, 2010

This is a little late considering Tennessee played two nights ago, but I was a bit distracted yesterday and couldn’t get this one published.  If you missed Tennessee’s loss to Vanderbilt Wednesday night then you missed J.P. Prince receiving two technical fouls in the game.  Yet he wasn’t ejected.  When I grew up on the game it was real simple.  “Two technical fouls and you are gone.”  Somewhere along the line a scale has been designed to differentiate grade levels of technicals.  I consulted the NCAA rule book to find some answers.  Here’s the deal.

The NCAA generally has three categories of technical fouls: 1.) Flagrant technical foul, 2.) Class A technical foul and 3.) Class B technical foul.

If you get a Flagrant, you are gone.  So one flagrant and you are toast.  One of the words the NCAA has used to separate a flagrant from the other two classes is “extreme.”  In general, an extreme act of violence or going into the stands to incite a riot.  In the case of J.P. Prince the other night, the elbow that he threw at his opponent during play was not deemed to be flagrant.  It was, however, a Class A technical foul.

If you receive two Class A technical fouls in the same game, you’re gone.  Here’s where the shades of unsportsmanlike conduct come into play.  Class A tech’s are reserved for those moments that are less “extreme.”  Two good examples the NCAA points out are inciting a crowd in unnecessary fashion or taunting.  Again, in Prince’s case, he was given a Class A tech for an elbow in what I interpret as “contacting an opponent in an excessive manner.”  So at this point Prince has one Class A technical to his name.

A few minutes later in the game Prince dunked, but held onto the rim too long.  We’ve all watched enough basketball to know that hanging on the rim excessively can warrant a technical foul.  He got one.  This time, though, he received a Class B technical foul.  The NCAA lists numerous violations that warrant a Class B technical foul (they are lettered a. to p., so 16 in all) and two examples include 1.) “purposefully obstructing an opponent’s vision by waving or placing hand(s) near his eyes” and 2.) grabbing the basket in an excessive manner and it’s obvious you aren’t trying to prevent an injury by doing so.  So Prince was hit with a Class B technical.

So here are four technical foul scenarios that warrant an ejection from the game:

1.) One Flagrant Foul
2.) Two Class A Technical fouls
3.) One Class A and two Class B technical fouls
4.) Three Class B technical fouls

Prince finished the game with one Class A and one Class B. Thus, no ejection. So if Prince had only been caught with a Class B demeanor of “possessing or using tobacco” during the game he would have had his ejection.

Hopefully this clears up your understanding of technical fouls.

Posted in Players, Tennessee Volunteers | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Live Chat: Wake Forest @ Georgia Tech

Posted by sawdog on January 28, 2010

ACC showdown tonight with marquee big men taking the floor: Favors, Aminu and Lawal.  Let the banging begin!

Live chat link–click here

Posted in Live Chats | Leave a Comment »

My favorite floor layouts

Posted by sawdog on January 27, 2010

This blog has nothing to do with the atmosphere or decibel level.  It has nothing to do with chants.  It has nothing to do with people.  In fact, the arena/dome/court/coliseum could be empty.  Yes, actually, that’s my point here.  I’m talking about my favorite court looks.  I’m watching a game tonight and reminding myself of the need for this very blog.  I’m just going to throw three favorites out there, with an acknowledgement that there are many great courts around the country.

1.  Gallagher-Iba Arena (Oklahoma State Cowboys)

I’m a big fan of the the orange/black contrast–the shades of each color chosen.  This court looks intimidating.  I like the black lanes too.  The center OSU logo is tasteful and not 47% of the entire court, as you see so often today.  Easily one of the best courts in college basketball (if you trust my opinion anyway!)

2.  Crisler Arena (Michigan Wolverines)

The court was recently refinished, and you can tell.  In this case it’s all about the look of the finish surrounding a very simple but bold “M” as the center logo.  Again, the bright yellow contrasts the blue to perfection.  Solid look thanks to a recent renovation.

3.  The Carrier Dome (Syracuse Orangemen)

Photo: Steve Hubbard

It’s all about the shape of the “S” as the center logo.  It just looks sharp.  Maybe I have some secret fetish with orange and need my brain examined.

Posted in Michigan Wolverines, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Syracuse Orange | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Give it up for SEC coaching

Posted by sawdog on January 27, 2010

SEC East coaches are building some special resumes this year.  Let us take a look at some of the accomplishments.

John CalapariSay what you want about the strength of schedule or the RPI compared to the national Top 10.  Kentucky’s record is 19-1 following an NIT season.  Calapari has been profiled ad nauseam this year, so why not have one more blog to give the man some love?  Numerous media outlets have pegged him the frontrunner for coach of the year.  He has masterfully worked in three freshmen starters with an array of holdovers.  His toughest job remains ahead of him–get his freshmen to rebound from their first loss of the season.  Considering we are 20 games into the season, that’s not too shabby.  (**Let’s not forget Calapari’s work with Hoops for Haiti, and the latest on this story from Gregg Doyel is an eye-opener)

Bruce PearlRegardless of where you stand on his disciplinary decisions for the suspended players (was the suspension long enough?), he suspended them immediately and kicked their best all-around player off the team.  The coaching job he did in their absence was nothing short of spectacular.  He inspired walk-ons to take the court and play with enough poise to defeat Kansas, still the Jayhawks only loss of the year.  Motivational coaching job of the year so far.

Kevin StallingsStallings has received exactly ZERO national publicity, yet he still trucks on and has his team undefeated in conference play.  Nine wins in a row now for Vanderbilt.  49ways is a former college basketball player, he knows more basketball than I’ll ever dream of knowing, and he chooses Stallings constantly whenever we talk about our favorite or most underrated coaches.  That’s good enough for me.  Let’s not forget about his unselfish sacrifice to help his team travel abroad prior to the start of the season.

Billy DonovanYou can scream “what has Billy Donovan done lately?!” until you’re blue in the face, but this is still the guy that is on pace (at his young age) to challenge all-time winning records and he’s still the guy that won back-to-back national championships.  As for this year, the Gators are quietly climbing the conference standings and the team development has been obvious in recent weeks.  While everyone is focusing on Kentucky and Tennessee, this is yet another division school that is quietly improving while nobody seems to notice.

Darrin HornThink about what this man has done this year.  His team had every single reason to mentally fold and give this season away following a dismissal and a season-ending injury to two starters.  With Kentucky the national storyline and a host of other teams more equipped on paper to challenge Kentucky, why not use all of that as an excuse to just accept mediocrity?  Nonsense.  Horn has asked his supernatural point guard Devan Downey to carry an elephant sized load and the senior has responded.  Better still, the team has rallied their play around Horn and Downey.  The upset of Kentucky last night was the culmination of extreme hard work in getting your team to believe they can compete with anyone despite in-season hardships.  It is absolutely incredible what Horn did with his team last night.

Mark FoxRaise your hand if you thought Georgia had any chance of a national sports writer to write a featured column about the Bulldogs this year?  It took Mark Fox until January 12th of his first year for at least one media member to take notice.  Since then Georgia manhandled Tennessee from start to finish–the same Tennessee that upset Kansas.  Georgia has made it clear that their intent is to win games, on the road or at home, this year.  They do not fear anybody.  Credit Fox for changing the culture around almost overnight.

I look at the above list and I’m floored at the high level of coaching going on right now in this division.  The SEC East is absolute murder right now.  There isn’t a single team you look at and say “no chance tonight.”  South Carolina and Georgia have proved that they are up to the task of the other four, and they’ve made that statement in a big way.  Even though the SEC did not turn national heads in the non-conference slate, the brutality towards each other on the football field has made its way to the basketball court where each game is an honest to God battle to the finish.  Credit these six coaches for making this a division worth watching every single time the teams take the court.

Posted in Coaches, Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Player Spotlight: Devan Downey, South Carolina

Posted by 49ways on January 27, 2010

Dazzling.  Jaw-dropping.  Amazing.  Brilliant.

Those are just some of the adjectives used to describe Devan Downey’s on-court skills.  After last night’s 68-62 win over the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats,  the 5’9″ senior guard is now the talk of the SEC.

South Carolina point guard Devan Downey starts the fast break.

You may be thinking that Downey’s diminutive stature hinders him from entering the next level.  Sawdog disagrees.  I asked him if he thought Downey was NBA material, and he quickly said, “I don’t care about his size, he is NBA ready.”  I agree.  Two names come to mind whom I consider nice comparisons to Downey:  Michael Adams and Nate Robinson.  Like these sub-six footers, there is a place in the NBA for South Carolina’s star point guard.

What I like about Devan Downey is his fearless mentality and his ever-growing confidence.  He knows he can get his shot off, any shot, whenever he wants.  The spectators, commentators, and opposing players know it, too.  His cross-over dribble is so deadly, it’ll make any defender look bad.  His change of pace and change of direction are better than Allen Iverson’s.  Yes, I did just say that.  Downey is a one-man press-breaker.  He’s Barry Sanders with a basketball.  Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe and Florida’s Erving Walker are excellent on-ball defenders, but there was simply nothing they could do to even slow down Devan.

I’ll run through some of his stats, but numbers really don’t paint the picture for Downey.  He’s averaging an SEC-high (6th in the nation) 22.4 points per game, while shooting a dependable 81.1% from the charity stripe.  He gets there quite often, too, having made 99 free throws on the year – tops in the conference.  Besides his killer cross-over, Downey also has Ninja hands, evidenced by his good-for-third-in-the-nation 3.1 steals per game.  And to add to all of this, he’s seventh in the SEC in assists with 3.6 per game.

I’m unsure of South Carolina’s fate this season because outside of Downey, they don’t have very much.  Perhaps there would be talk of the Gamecocks competing for an SEC title, but with the dismissal of Mike Holmes and the injury of Dominique Archie, I’m afraid they’ll have to compete for one of the lesser post-season tournaments.  One thing is for sure, though – Devan Downey has catapulted himself to the top of the list for SEC Player of the Year.

Posted in Player Spotlights, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Kentucky ousted by South Carolina

Posted by sawdog on January 27, 2010

Plenty to think about now that Kentucky has tasted defeat.  Some random thoughts, in no particular order, below.

  • What kind of Patrick Patterson are we going to get from here on out?  The emergence of DeMarcus Cousins has been imperative in Kentucky’s success, but at what point is Patterson rediscovered?  I love the fact that Patterson has developed a jumper, but when does Kentucky get back to post feeds or isolations with their pre-season all-american?  I’d like to see a little more set plays for Patterson throughout the game, instead of only when the game is knotted up or Kentucky has to have a basket.  Patterson is just as capable of drawing a double-team and finding Cousins for a dunk than the other way around.  This is not a sky-is-falling request.  Instead, it’s a legitimate question to wonder as Kentucky takes this lesson and moves forward.  Patterson, where art thou?
  • The Wildcats were murdered on the offensive glass.  America’s tallest team was outmatched, decisively,  by an 11-8 South Carolina squad.  Outside of “South Carolina played the game of their lives,” how is this explained?  I’m not being a smart-ass either.  Was it just more energy from USC?
  • The turnover bugaboo was a killer for Kentucky…finally.  There were some highly questionable decisions down the stretch which only a more experienced college team can understand.  I’m looking at you telegraphed pass from the wing into the post right into USC’s hands with less than 2 minutes remaining.  Ugh.
  • I heard Jimmy Dykes say that Kentucky got three points tonight from the SF position.  This spot has been UK’s most consistent weakness, and that stat is not good.  I don’t know what to make of it at present, but it’s concerning.  Who wants that job and who is willing to play smart and aggressive when they get it?
  • DeMarcus Cousins is an absolute monster.  Discussion over.
  • Devan Downey will get the majority of the credit (and he deserves a lot of it) but his teammates were the difference in this game.  The work on the boards was nothing short of spectacular.
  • When Kansas struggled with Cornell and lost their next game against Tennessee, everyone had an opinion as to why the Jayhawks were overrated.  Now Kansas is surging, Cole Aldrich is coming around and folks are back on their title-favorites bandwagon–in less than three weeks time.  What this means for Kentucky is the sky isn’t falling.  It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  We will see what this game means to this team in the next several days.
  • Devan Downey talked confidently this morning about being better than John Wall.  He was right.  Downey was superior all night long, with Wall occasionally displaying his brilliance.  What John will need to do is continue to learn how to manage a game throughout, rather than try to be the hero when called upon.  It will be fun to see how these freshmen react to their first loss.
  • Overall, Kentucky could have folded when the building was blowing up and the Wildcats got down 42-37.  But Wall went on a Wall run and retook the lead immediately.  Those are championship-calibur answers to tough situations.  I learned, then, these Cats are indeed fearless if not perfect.  I didn’t smell fear from Wall, Bledsoe, Cousins or Patterson even if I did see costly turnovers.  They will learn, and so long as they have the desire within they will be fine.

Posted in Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Live Chat: Michigan State @ Michigan

Posted by sawdog on January 26, 2010

Big night in college hoops as Manny Harris comes back for Michigan to take on their hated in-state rivals Michigan State.  This is a good chance to check in on the improved Spartans, who are once again atop the Big 10 standings.

Live Chat Link–Click Here

Posted in Big Ten, Live Chats, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »