Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another Day, Another blown lead, 76-73

I think we've seen this plot before. Senario Hillman was suspended for the game. Coach Grant said he made a "bad decision," and that it "was a basketball issue, not an off the court issue." Your guess is as good as mine as to what that means. Hillman dressed out and sat next to the coaching staff on the bench, sporting his new mohawk, and cheering on the team throughout the game. Tony Mitchell took his place in the starting lineup.

Justin Knox stepped up and had a good first half but disappeared in the second half. We really missed Hillman's defense as the Rebels lit us up from beyond the arc. We had an 8 point lead in the first half but allowed Ole Miss to cut it to 2 by halftime.

We forced some turnovers with the press and Charvez Davis caught fire from 3 point land in the second half to build an 11 point lead. Torrance had a great game at point. I think a lot of people don't realize how much we are going to miss him next year. As bad as this season has been, next year could be worse when I think about our guard situation. Ben Eblen is simply not an SEC caliber player, and we will miss the diversity of Torrance's game.

After building an 11 point lead, we promptly gave up a 10-0 run. Once again we had chances, but did not make the plays down the stretch. Green had a chance to tie the game at the free throw line but made only one of two. I did not like the idea of using our last timeout with 8 seconds left, down 2, with Ole Miss at the line to shoot one more free throw. Had he missed that free throw, we would have had to use precious seconds getting the ball up the court without the luxury of setting up a play. He made it, and Ole Miss played tight defense, switching on every screen to make sure neither Torrance or Davis could get a good look. Tony Mitchell had an open shot but missed it, and we drop to 4-10 in the SEC. Speaking of Tony Mitchell, he has not seemed like the same player we saw earlier in the season. I don't know if it's lingering effects from his illness, being worn down from all the bumps, cuts, and bruises he's suffered over the season, or if the league has somewhat figured him out now that there is more film out there to review. At any rate, we need him to get going again, Senario to learn from whatever mistake caused him to get suspended, and Anthony Brock to find his shot again. The big positive from this game was Davis, he had been gun shy in many games so maybe this will give him the confidence to take the shots when he has them, as he proved today he is more than capable of making them.

The crowd was rather small and not very loud or energetic. There was not much of a student turnout, and I would guess there was probably only 7,000 or so there. I would imagine that will not be the case with auburn and the football trophy presentation crowd coming in for Senior Day next weekend.

Up next, we go to Columbia, SC to take on the Cocks Wednesday night at 6pm. Of course, I would never root against us in a game, but I won't be too upset if this one doesn't go our way. If we lose to South Carolina and auburn can beat Mi$$ $tate, we would "clinch" 5th place in the SEC West, which is a much better draw in the SEC tournament than the 4th spot. The record is very disappointing and this has been a frustrating year, but this team has been fun to watch. They play good defense, play hard, and every game is exciting, even if ultimately disappointing. They haven't given up yet, so let's not give up on them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Same song different verse, halftime leads are still a curse

Ole Miss overcomes a 11 point deficit to upend the good guys in Tuscaloosa 76-73

The good:
- Torrance scoring, dishing and penetrating
- Davis with a HUGE 2nd half
- Knox with a nice 1st half inside

The bad:
- Ole Miss' guards penetrated at will against us in the 2nd half.
- Missed finger-roll by Torrance late followed by Green missing one of 2 FT under 10 to tie it.
- Team went into a shell again when Ole Miss made a run.

I just want this season to be over... how we are still so inept inside at this point in the season bothers the hell out of me.

Ole Miss stats pack

A must win for both teams... one holding out hope for a NCAA at large bid and the other holding out hope the NIT comes calling.

Ole Miss

Strange thing stuck out looking at Ole Miss' schedule... even though they're 6-7 in the SEC, none of their losses have been by more than 10 points. Obviously they are in it, but lack closing ability (sounds familiar). Heck, if I stretch that to non-conference games the only loss they had by more than 10 was to Villanova (by 12).

You know the scoring threats and how well we seem to guard the opposing guards so we'll need a defensive effort of the 1st half in Oxford to win this (and a non total collapse of the 2nd half).

Stats:
- 45.7% FG
- 35.8% 3pt FG
- +1.7 rebound margin
- 79.1 PPG
- 67.7% FT

Prediction: It's a battle of 2 teams that have struggled to close out games and since there are no ties in CBB someone's got to win. When in doubt I usually go with the home team, but I'm thinking Ole Miss finds a way to win. Rebels by 4.

Game time is 2PM EST (1PM CST) on the ESPN2. If you can't get in front of a TV you probably can watch it on ESPN360.com.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bulldogs Block Bama's upset Bid

A number of little mistakes add up to another loss. Torrance was back in the starting lineup over Tony Mitchell after coming off the bench the last couple of weeks. He responded by scoring 8 of our first 10 points and carrying the team offensively through much of the first half. $tate has some talent, Varnardo now holds the all time record for blocks in his career and Bost is a quick guard who can shoot the lights out and carry a team. They have weapons both inside and out, but they are not a very well coached team. JaMychal Green picked up 2 early fouls and sat on the bench for most of the first half. One would think $tansbury would try to establish their inside presence with him out of the game, but their shot selection was awful. They seemed content to chuck NBA range 3's while we mostly played a matchup 2-3 zone. This allowed us to go into the half only down 2.

According to the box score, we outrebounded them, but I have no idea how. At one point in the first half M$U got 9, NINE! shots in 2 trips. They got 3 shots on their last possession of the half which lasted well over a minute. We've got to do a better job of rebounding out of the zone. We put Coach Grant in the position of having to make a very tough decision: If we stay in zone we can't get a rebound, but if we switch to man they likely get better first shots as the matchups generally favored them. For the most part, we stayed in the zone. I liked the defensive call out of the timeout at the end of the half. $tate had the ball for the last shot, and we showed a 2-3 zone but switched to man with about 10-15 seconds left. $tate had already called their play to attack the zone, and appeared to be surprised by the switch. It worked as they had to take a contested shot and missed. That was good coaching.

We made too many little mistakes to win this game. Brock got the ball stolen from him 2 or 3 times with ease. Once again free throw shooting was subpar, with the usually reliable Torrance missing a couple of badly needed ones in the second half. Tony Mitchell immediately jumped into the air after a rebound in the back court and had no idea where he was going with it, and ended up throwing it right back to $tate. I've said many times this year that I think Knox should get more playing time over Hines, but every time I think that a game like this happens. We really needed Knox to step up with Green on the bench, and he looked every bit as inept as Hines on offense but without the solid defense and rebounding. We continued to try to go inside after it became painfully obvious that 1) we weren't going to be able to shoot over Varnardo and 2) the refs were not going to call a foul on him regardless of whether we drew contact. We shot nearly 50% from 3 ponit range, and some point we should have just started letting them fly from downtown.

Despite all of this and falling down 10, we were able to create some turnovers and easy baskets off the press, along with some big shots from Hillman and Torrance, we were able to cut $tate's 10 point lead down to 2 with less than 3 minutes to play. We played good enough defense to get stops, but $tate made three 3's, 2 of which were from 30 feet or so. At some point our luck has got to change.

As much as I gripe about ESPN, CSS's coverage was awful. We missed the first minute or so because they would not switch over from the Florida-Vandy women's game which had already been decided, and then they had to show about 30 seconds or so of highlights, plus commercials, after the conclusion of that snoozefest before flipping over. Also, I feel like I missed half of the second half because the cameras were too busy focusing on camouflage wearing rednecks and the fat, hideous creatures that pass for women over there with their various "clever" Varnardo block party signs rather than showing the actual action on the court. The announcers did a fairly good job though, with the exception of not knowing the rule on the time limit to replace a disqualified player. They criticized Coach Grant for immediately replacing Green when he fouled out saying, "he could have used his 60 seconds there to ice the free throw shooter." Actually, you only get 20 seconds to replace a disqualified player, and I didn't have a problem with keeping the game moving there, sometimes I think "icing" a shooter actually helps him. Anyway, I generally enjoyed listening to Will Perdue.

At 4-9 in the conference, we now probably need to win out to make the NIT or make a deep run in Nashville. With Ole Miss' win over auburn, it's going to be difficult for us to climb out of that 4th spot or drop down to 5th in the West, which means Kentucky in the 2nd round if we win on Thursday. In other words, you can pretty much forget a deep run in Nashville, so we need to win out. Up next, once again we face the leaders of the SEC West, this time in the form of the Ole Miss Rebels. Tip-off is set for 1pm Saturday in Tuscaloosa. This team has proven they will continue to compete and play hard, so let's not give up on them yet.

No witty title, State beats Bama 74-66

I can only post the box score as I did not see one minute of the game. Looks like we hung close with them throughout which is nice.

I'm wondering why Tony Mitchell's PT has been decreasing... with our lack of scorers shouldn't he be out there more? I like that Hines seems to be the only big man we have that actively crashes the boards, but he's an offensive liability.

It is what it is I guess.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Super quick M$U stats pack II

They are playing for their NCAA tournament lives. Every game from here on out is a must win for them. Their SOS sucks and outside of the SEC they don't have a win to boast about.

Season stats

State isn't a particularly good shooting team, they don't rebound as well as they should, but they'll chuck up a bunch of 3s and hope it works. They have a balanced scoring attack.

Stats:
- 43.2% FG
- 36% 3pt FG
- 68.4% FT
- +3.7 rebound margin
- 8 blocks a game

Prediction: I've given up on this team winning on the road so maybe by typing that it conjures up some reverse psychology and we pull the upset. I doubt it... if Thompkins can pull 17 boards on us, expect Vanardo to dominate inside against our Charmin soft big men. They won't blow us out, but they'll win... by 13.

Game time is 9PM EST (8PM CST) on CSS.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bama stopped scoring, postseason door closing...

... as UGA pulls out a close one 76-70

Trey Thompkins pulled down 17 boards to go with his 21 points. He was a force late in the second half... one that we had no answer for. I remember looking up at the scoreboard seeing us with a 52-40 lead with around 10 minutes to go... and then the offense went in it's normal shell for a 5 minute stretch giving UGA the chance to rally. They did so by dominating the paint and with some timely shots by Leslie and McPhee from the outside.

We have the softest big men in the SEC. It seems that on the offensive end they're fading away from the basket or when they do 'attempt' to go strong it ends up rejected or turns into a circus shot. It's like they're afraid to bang inside. On the defensive end they give up too much space which leads to easier shots on that end.

Another note... if you looked at the stats with about 10 minutes left everything pointed to UGA dominating except for the FT difference. I believe we had 24 attempts to their 9 at one point, but they made up for that later on. They were shooting 50%, had more shots, outrebounded us, had more assists, and less turnovers. Like I noted above we were up by 12.

Like I said in the comments, there was a nice showing of Bama fans. I would guess several hundred (400 or more) in a place that was 2/3rd full (which was surprising to me).

Hillman and Green had a nice 1st half, but disappeared in the 2nd... flip that with Torrance. Brock also had a decent game, but also disappeared in the 2nd half. 9 of the 14 turnovers were by our big men, but we only had 8 assists so we weren't moving the ball all that well.

Another game where we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory (or something like that... too lazy to reference). The blame for this one is everywhere... the players and coaches.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

UGA stats pack

2 bad teams enter... only one comes out the victor.
Season stats

To be honest I don't think I've seen more than 15 total minutes of UGA basketball. I know they play hard, have a win over Vandy, and played Kentucky tough at Rupp.

Here's the write up from the Dawgs site.

Stats:
- 67.9 PPG
- 45.6% FG
- 36.4% 3pt FG
- 72.7% FT
- +3.8 rebound margin

Got to watch Trey Thompkins inside as I suspect we'll have problems with him. Ricky McPhee will chuck up the majority of 3s so someone needs to keep an eye on him. Other than him, defend inside and make them beat you from the perimeter.

Prediction: It's going to be an ugly game... really ugly. In the end UGA has too much size and we don't have a perimeter threat to counter that. Dawgs by 7.

Game time is 4PM EST (3PM CST) on the SEC Network. I'll be there with a crowd of other spectators enjoying the darkness of Stegeman Coliseum.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Midweek Musings on Steele and $tate

With no midweek game this week, here are a couple of items that may be of interest:

Ron Steele seems to be doing well in Israel. Below is a cut and paste from an email being circulated by the Birmingham Jewish Federation:

Former Alabama star Ronald Steele now plays professional basketball in Israel.

Former University of Alabama basketball star Ronald Steele is now playing professional basketball in Israel. Ronald played for the Crimson Tide from 2004-2009.

Birmingham Jewish community member Layne Held, who has known Ronald since seventh grade, reconnected with him recently (see below link) and encouraged Ronald to send some impressions of Israel to Update. Here is what Ronald wrote:

By Ronald Steele

Hi everybody. I'm currently in Israel playing professional basketball for Bnei Hasharon. It's a team right outside of Tel Aviv in a town called Herzliya. Two of my former college teammates, Erwin Dudley and Rod Grizzard, played in Israel a few years ago. (Many at the Levite Jewish Community Center know Erwin from time he spent at the LJCC.)

A few things that immediately stand out about this country are how family-oriented Israelis are, what a major role family plays in their culture, and how dedicated everyone is to their religion. The love and passion people have for their country and their culture is very inspiring and is foreign to me.

Before arriving here, I didn't know much about Judaism. After being in Jerusalem, I was quickly able to see the history, passion, and love people have for their religion, and it is remarkable.

Even though I'm a Christian, to see how welcoming and open people are gives me strength in my own faith. Also, much of Christian history comes from the Jewish beliefs, and it gives you insight on where it all started. Learning many of the traditions and customs has given me an opportunity to grow much more as a person.

NO DANGER AT ALL

With all you see on television and being from America, you get a distorted image of a place. Although I'm aware of the hostilities that surround living here, you honestly would never know they are currently going on. Since I've been here, I have felt no danger at all. As a matter of fact, I feel much safer walking down the street at night here than I would at home. You really have to watch television in order to be reminded of the conflict while living here.

I have had an opportunity to travel to Jerusalem where I visited many different places. Words can't do my feelings justice, but to say it was POWERFUL would be an understatement! For me, I could feel the spirit of God there with us, and it was just an unbelievable experience.

I would say the thing that bothers me the most is the traffic and driving. People here drive very, very aggressively and coming from the American South, you don't see that as much. So, that can definitely get annoying.

The advice I would give about Israel would be just to have an open mind about trying new things and embrace the culture. Many things are different, but I would say we are more similar than different. Israel is a beautiful place, and I'm very blessed to have an opportunity to be here.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Good for Ron, he is a class act. Speaking of class, or rather a lack thereof, Miss $tate fans showed the rest of the country last night what those of us who have been regular visitors to Starkville have known for years: They are by far least civilized fans in the country.

First, they somehow got Demarcus Cousins' cell phone number and proceeded to post it on fliers around campus. Next, several students left him voicemails and text messages with racial slurs. $tate blew a 7 point lead late to lose in overtime, and there were some questionable calls down the stretch. With 2 seconds to play, the game already decided and UK on their way to the free throw line, full water bottles and cokes came raining down onto the court from the rafters, narrowly missing an official and a UK player. The game was delayed for a couple of minutes to clean up the mess. The announcers even said they were having to duck at the scorer's table. Calipari had to leave his post game interview yelling "Whoa Whoa!" and ushering his players off the court. When asked about it, he said, "I don't know what's going on here, we've got bottles flying all around," and you could hear someone close by yell "look out!" indicating that they were still having to dodge objects. After the interview, the cameras followed Calipari out the tunnel where you could clearly see grown adults, not students, cursing the UK players and coaches.

It should be noted that at no point did $lick Rick $tansbury ever go to the mic to tell his white trash following to behave, nor has the m$u athletic Dept. issued any sort of apology. Pat Forde best described the scene..."And then their fans – some of whom are the nastiest and most vulgar I’ve heard in 19 years of covering SEC basketball – embarrassed the school by throwing bottles on the
floor.."

Classless M$U fans

That low rent operation, everything from their sleazeball coach down to their trashy, racist fan base is an embarrassment to the SEC. I hope Commissioner Slive hits them a fine sufficient to put a dent in their payroll, er, recruiting budget for next season.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Links: Grant's goal at Alabama and Alabama season stats

Thanks to 'Rocky Mountain High Tide' for the link. It sounds very much like that football coach we have...

BIRMINGHAM - First-year coach Anthony Grant will know that he has Alabama where he wants it by judging the length of pregame and postgame handshakes at Southeastern Conference basketball games.

Grant spoke today to the Birmingham Tip Off Club. He noted the fact that he might be new at Alabama, but he isn't new in the SEC. He flashed back to his first of 10 years on the Florida staff after Billy Donovan was named the head coach there in 1996.

"We started two walk-ons," Grant said. "We weren't very good. I remember going around the league, and you know how you do the pregame handshakes and postgame handshakes? There were several times across the league we would go, and I tell you, Billy Donovan really made a great impression on a lot of coaches those first couple of years. It seemed like everywhere we went, people told him what a great job he did, how happy they were for the opportunity he had gotten and what a great situation it was.

"Then I remember the last couple of years there, the handshakes were a lot quicker, a lot briefer, and guys would move on."

Read the rest here

For those that like stats... here's the first link this year to ours.

If you looked purely at the stats you'd think we'd be in the top half of the SEC.
- 70% FT
- 45% FG
- 35% 3pt FG (which surprised me... thought it was much worse)
- 63.2 PPG allowed

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hillman Helps Harass Hogs, 73-68

The first half was brutal. We made poor decisions and lazy passes resulting in turnovers. We ran a full court man to man press for much of the first half, and Fortson was able to easily dribble around and past Brock creating fast break opportunities for the Razorbacks. Defensively, Arkansas completely took away Torrance's left side, forcing him to go right exclusively. It seemed to take him a while to adjust. We finally started making some shots and catching a few breaks to cut the 13 point lead down to 7, and had the ball with a chance to hold for the last shot of the 1st half. Once again, Torrance turned the ball over at a very bad time. Coach Grant should have used a timeout when he saw Torrance in trouble. In situations where you have the ball with less than 35 seconds remaining in the first half, or in a tie game at the end of a game, there is no excuse for being outscored over the remainder of the half, but it has now happened to us at least 3 times this year. So, we go into the half down 9, and Arkansas starts the 2nd half on a 4-0 run to get the lead right back to 13.

Given the way this year has gone, it would have been easy to throw in the towel against the Western Division front runners. Instead, the team kept scrapping and found a way to get back into the game. It helped that the Hogs were resting Fortson and his 3 fouls. While he can be somewhat of a ballhog, they are an infinitely better team when he is on the court. We were able to make a run with him out of the game, thanks in large part to Hillman getting things started with a 3 and Torrance creating some opportunities off the dribble. The press was much more effective with Fortson on the bench, and we were able to force some turnovers which created offense. Charvez Davis knocked down a 3 to finally tie the game, and JaMychael Green kept us going down the stretch, making big play after big play in the post. After going 1 for 5 at the FT line during a stretch in the first half, we made every one in clutch situations down the stretch. Green and Torrance were 16 of 17 combined from the free throw line. That is how you win close games!

Hopefully this game will give us confidence down the stretch. We did a much better job of communicating on defense in the second half, and Hillman kept Clarke pretty much shut down. Our bigs did a good job of containing their post players. Hines pulled down 7 rebounds, played great defense, and plays as hard as anybody on the court. Still, he looks awkward and ineffective offensively, and I would like to see Justin Knox get a little bit more playing time, as I think he gives us another scoring option when he's in the game.

It was a late arriving crowd of probably 9,000 or so. Not bad considering the previous day's snow probably made it difficult for some to travel from certain parts of the state. I was somewhat disappointed in the student turnout, but again, with classes cancelled on Friday, I would imagine many left town for the 3 day weekend and/or Mardi Gras festivities down in the French Quarter. Up Next, we get a week of rest before travelling to Athens, GA to take on the UGA Bulldogs at Stegeman Coliseum next Saturday, Feb. 20, at 3pm Central time. While UGA's record is not very impressive, much like us they have been very competitive and have some high quality wins under first year coach Mark Fox. Bobbyjack and I will be there representin'.

Basketball Bows To Ball-Gowned Beauties


If there is one thing your humble reporter hates to miss it is a hoops contest against the hated hogs. Younger fans might not recall the hoopla with which the Razorbacks entered the SEC. They had enjoyed tremendous success on a national level under the tutelage of Head Coach Nolan Richardson and his famed "Forty Minutes of Hell" defensive style. Your humble reporter believes he vowed never to miss a home game against them after they knocked us out of the Big Dance one season.

The Hogs first visit to Coleman Coliseum was one of the most fun basketball games I've ever attended. Two fast, talented, physical teams slugged it out for a full forty minutes. Arkansas had a one point lead and was playing toward the last shot in the game when Latrell Sprewell stole the ball and laid it into the Bama basket to take back the lead. On the following play, Sprewell drew a charge underneath the Arkansas basket negating their go-ahead bucket. The visiting fan sitting in front of me jumped up in celebration as the ball fell through their hoop so I never saw the official wave off the basket. Your humble reporter was confused and wondered why the scorer had not given the visitors credit for their last basket. The horn blew, the Tide players celebrated on the court, the visitor in front of me became disgruntled, and your humble reporter STILL did not know what had happened until the guy in the next seat explained what he had missed.

Why, you may ask, is your your humble reporter recounting that match instead of the one the teams played yesterday? The answer is that he did not get to attend yesterday's game. But if your humble reporter enjoys this rivalry so much what, you might ask, could keep him from driving up to enjoy this season's offering? He lives in a house full of women and one of them was presented as a member of Mobile's Mardi Gras Court last night and for some bizarre reason all these women thought that might be more important than the Arkansas basketball game. Go figure!
The young ladies all dress up like the Queen who is pictured above. (The young Alias offspring was not garbed in quite so much splendor but the natural beauty she inherited from her mother more than made up for the difference. Besides, the Queen is supposed to be the prettiest maid in attendance so the younger Alias naturally had to "dress down" to avoid being rude by upstaging her - all of course in the opinion of your humble reporter.) The mothers spend countless hours searching for expensive dresses they might not wear more than one time their entire lives. The full season of events happens once in a lifetime for the young people, requires months to plan, costs more money than season tickets for more years than I care to contemplate, and probably means more to the moms than it does to the daughters. What do the dads get? You guessed it. They all get to lovingly pay the bills.
Sports fans, I admit that Mardi Gras is not necessarily my bag. It's not that I don't like it. In fact the only thing I have against it is that, much like deer hunting season, it takes place right in the middle of the college basketball season. I abandoned deer hunting three decades ago to make room in my life for Bama Basketball. That same passion never really allowed space for Mardi Gras to become much of a priority. In spite of all that, there was not a prouder papa in the hall last night than your humble reporter.
The tension associated with the pre-event preparation kept me from watching or listening to much of the game yesterday. I did record it and plan to watch that this afternoon, but when I saw DJC had not posted a recap I thought I owed you all an explanation. The good news and the bad news is that your humble reporter has two daughters. Let's hope we're playing an away game during Mardi Gras week two years from now.
The little I did see suggested we started playing better defense after the first ten or twelve minutes of the game. Defense is the key to any success this team can hope to enjoy this season. What a great comeback!
(Now can someone please tell me where I left my checkbook?)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What a long strange trip, Bama gives the Hogs the slip (73-68)

It was a tale of two halves again... except this time our 2nd half bailed out our 1st half misery. Torrance scored all 12 in the 2nd half, Green was taking charge inside, and Hillman had an overall nice game.

Box score

I'll leave the recap to someone else... all I'll say is it's about time we won a close one.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Arkansas stats pack II

The leaders of the West... might be the most surprising thing in the SEC this year especially considering their non-conference start. They're currently on a 5 game winning streak.

Season stats

Fortson, Clarke, and Powell combine for 51 of the 75PPG the Razorbacks average. If you looked at the stats, you'd think the return of Fortson would've made them worse, but he's been the sparkplug behind their resurgence in the 2nd half of the season. We don't have a guard that can adequately cover him so man to man is not going to cut it tomorrow if we want to win. We got to watch Clarke from beyond the arc as in years past the slow white guy was our kryptonite. Clarke is actually a decent player, but the point remains. We're better this year against this and overall defending the 3, but the ghosts of Gottfried past still haunt me.

It's good to see that Michael Washington is a senior as it seems like he played with Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, and Oliver Miller.

Stats
- 45.2% FG
- 36% 3pt FG
- 68.7% FT
- 13 turnovers per game

Prediction: 2 teams going in different directions. One has lost 7 of 9 and the other is on a 5 game winning streak with road wins at Ole Miss and UGA. I'll take us anyways... Bama by 4.

I was planning on going to the game, but this snow turning to ice thing might change my plans. I'll know tomorrow morning if the roads from West GA to Tuscaloosa are driveable. I was told Birmingham to Tuscaloosa is alright... just that 90 minutes east of there that I'm sweating.

Game time is 4PM EST (3PM CST) on the SEC network.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Bama gives it the ol' college try, Wildcats don't look so fly...

... but they win and that's what counts. 66-55 is your final from Rupp Arena.

I thought our D was stifling. We controlled Wall, forcing him into 6 turnovers. I know he put 22 on the board... about a half dozen of them Sportscenter top 10 shots, but overall I liked how we dictated the tempo of the game. Torrance had a horrible game... actually we had 1 player shoot 50% for the game and it's a cheapie (1-2 for Davis). Green showed flashes of brilliance inside, but overall was way too soft in there... fading away at just about every shot. Hines picked up 5 offensive boards, but I can't remember him putting back but one of them.

We had ample opportunites to win this game. We failed on eleventy billion fast breaks and missed too many open shots. we are what we are... we try hard, but just don't have the horses.

The good:
- 90% FT
- held UK to under 20% 3pt FGs
- only 12 TOs

The bad:
- our offense... pathetic in the halfcourt
- outrebounded 40-29. Not surprising, but the -11 translates to missed opportunities.
- got UK's C game and didn't take advantage of it.

A nice showing, but this isn't horseshoes and hand grenades... another game we could've stolen, but didn't take advantage of the many chances UK gave us.

Calipari's Cats Cruise over Crimson Tide, 66-55

There's no such thing as a moral victory. At the end of this game, we are still 3-7 in the SEC with our hopes for postseason play all but in the toilet. It's another disappointing loss in which we failed to make a number of relatively easy plays down the stretch that might have given us a chance to win. That being said, I'm not sure we have a player who could start for the #2 Wildcats, and we played them on their home floor without making an ass out of ourselves. So, I would say we at least exceeded expectations tonight.

We started Brock over Torrance at PG. I really didn't understand that move, but we got off to a good start, that nobody got to see thanks to ESPN's piss poor scheduling. Allow me to go off on a tangent for a moment. I can understand missing the first minute or so of the game with the VCU/George Mason game going down to the wire. However, when they are showing a game that's not even in HD, between two teams who combined don't even have a fanbase the size of our's, much less Kentucky's, ESPN needs to use a little common sense and go to Regional coverage at the very least.

Anyway, things started off well, with Hillman actually making a couple of early baskets and we built an early 7 point lead. It was unrealistic to expect the lights out shooting to continue, and Kentucky established their dominance on the glass. They used their quickness and athleticism to attack the basket and get us in foul trouble. Once again, Kentucky shot 31 free throws to our 10, but at least we made the most of the chances we got, shooting 90% from the charity stripe.

A couple of good things to take from this game...Kentucky stretched the lead to 14 early in the second half, but we actually showed some poise and managed to get back into the game. We had the ball only down 6 around the 4 minute mark but couldn't get any closer. We stayed in the zone as much as we could and made the young, impatient Kentucky team make some bad decisions on offense. Still, when we had a chance to turn a close game into a nail biter, we took bad shots or failed to finish great opportunities. Hillman forced some bad shots down the stretch and Brock continues to drive in and forget that he's under 6 feet and get rejected. We still haven't learned to make the plays that need to be made in the clutch. Contrast that will UK's wall, who made difficult, improbable shots everytime we got back within striking distance. That's why they are a final four contender, and we will be lucky to make the NIT.

Games like this are a good measuring stick. While we all knew going in we aren't on UK's level, you would have to think we are on the right track if we can be semi competitive on their home court at this point. If Coach Grant can recruit, we should at least be contenders in the West in a couple of years.

Up next, the suprising leaders of the SEC West, Arkansas Razorbacks come to Tuscaloosa Saturday for a 3pm tipoff. We need to get revenge for an earlier loss in Fayetteville, a game that we had a very good chance to win until Senario Hillman got ejected. We need to get back on track and finish strong if we want a shot at postseason play.

Kentucky stats pack

I haven't dreaded a game like this in a long time... I'm hoping we are somewhat competitive in Rupp.

Statistics

We all know about John Wall, but the guy to watch is DeMarcus Cousins. He's led the team in scoring and rebounds the last 4 games. Don't forget about Patrick Patterson inside... I have no idea who is going to effectively guard him. Eric Bledsoe is going to give us fits as we know our guard play is shaky .It's obviously understood that Wall is going to penetrate our zone/m2m defense like a hot knife through butter. Did I mention we're at a huge disadvantage size wise?

Stats:
- 49.1% FG
- 38.6% 3pt FG
- 82.3 PPG
- 68.6% FT
- +10.3 rebound margin (that is not a mistype). 9.1 in conference.

Prediction: PAIN... and lots of it. I can see us hanging with them for a half, then them beating us up inside with Patterson and then burying 3s and running away with it. Kentucky by 24.

Game time is 9PM EST (8PM CST) on ESPNU. I suggest you drink heavily... I think I will.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ole Miss 2nd half explosion, Bama's O goes through the motion(s)

74-67 your final... quite frankly a game we choked away.

It was a tale of 2 halves... we looked unbeatable in the 1st half shooting 65% and forcing Ole Miss to take bad three after bad three. The defense was stifling as none of their guards got into any rhythm going against our zone defense. Torrance was dishing, Green was scoring, and Mitchell and Hillman joined in on the fun as we ran off to a 40-20 halftime lead.

Then the 2nd half. We bump the lead to 23 early and then inexplicably we switched to man 2 man defense. Warren started to get hot. Andy Kennedy switch Polynice over to cover Torrance and things started to slow down for us. Great move on AK's part. Our offense went into a shell. A few bad shots by Torrance and Hines with Green getting pushed out of the paint and the next thing you know Ole Miss is within 10 under 10 minutes to go.

Instead of regurgitating the last 10 minutes, I'll make it short and sweet... we looked lost on O and were getting beat down on the defensive end. Terrance Henry all of a sudden became one of the best forwards in the SEC... at least for this game as he dominated both sides in the paint. Once Ole Miss took the lead we all knew it was over.

The good:
- 1st half
- held Ole Miss to 21% from 3pt range

The bad:
- 54 points given up in the 2nd half (we scored 27)
- Got bullied inside by unexpected players.
- foul trouble
- again, looked lost in the half court offense.

It's another game we let slip away. With a beatdown at Kentucky coming, all of a sudden it's looking bleak for us to win 6 in conference play.

Ole Miss stats pack

A quick turnaround after a heartbreaking loss to the Gators... let's see how the team responds.

Ole Miss

Chris Warren and Terrico White lead the team in scoring with Murphy Holloway leading the team in rebounds. Size wise, we match up well, but I'm not sure we have the guards to cover them. Watch Warren from beyond the arc as he's draining 3s as well as he's shooting overall.

Something that I just noticed... we haven't scored 70 points in a SEC game this year. Damn.

Stats:
- 80.6 PPG
- 46.3% FG
- 37.1% 3pt FG
- 67% FT
- 7.6 steals per game

Prediction: Can the team rebound from a heartbreaking loss on Thursday night? I think it's too much for a quick turnaround road game. Too much Warren and not enough offense dooms us. Ole Miss by 11.

Game is on Fox Sports South at 6PM EST (5PM CST). If you're outside the Southeast and have access to ESPN360.com it's on there as well.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Midseason grades- SEC team by team

The A List
Vanderbilt- A. we thought they'd be decent, but tied for the best record in the SEC behind Kentucky? Give that guy a raise... especially by doing what Kansas couldn't do... beat UTK in Knoxville.

Kentucky- I lean to A- as I still haven't seen them play a full 40 minutes. If they do, they'll be cutting the nets down.

The B Listers
Tennessee- B+. 4 players suspended (3 return) did not derail them. Pearl has done a nice job... beating Kansas and continuing his dominance over Eddie Munster.

Average Joes (C List)
UGA- they get a C+... on paper they're horrible, yet they've given every team they've played in the SEC a scare. I still don't understand why Fox left Nevada for this, but it looks like a nice hire.

Alabama- C+ as well... the difference between a 6-2 and 3-5 conference record are 3 one point losses. With the injuries to Jemison and Steele (season ending) it's amazing we're even competitive.

Ole Miss- C. They shouldn't have lost to M$U and the Hogs at home. This team is clearly underachieving.

South Carolina- C. beating UK was huge, but they dropped too many other games to deserve anything more than an average grade.

Florida- C as well... they should be better than 5-3 in the mediocre SEC... and they would be worse if it weren't for some last second heroics in the USC light and Bama games.

Mississippi State- C-. About 2 weeks ago they were a B+ then came the mini freefall. They should be OWNING the SEC West. Instead, Arkansas is leading the pack.

Arkansas- C- as well, but movin' on up (to quote The Jeffersons... badly) The return of the ball hog Fortson has helped immensely. Still, that embarrassing start to the season cannot be overlooked.

D Lister
Auburn- D+. By now they should be more than just competitive. I like Lebo, but I think he's doomed there.

Man You Suck (F)
LSU- F. I know they lost a lot from last year, but this team has no heart or determination. At no point should LSU be this horrific.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hey hey hey, who drew up that last play? (Gators beat Bama)

More thoughts tomorrow as I only saw the last five minutes... I have no idea who drew up that last play, but it was horrendous. If i closed my eyes I would've thought this was drawn up in 2006.

As one of my friends pointed out...3 SEC losses by 1 point. That's the difference between contenders and pretenders. We are pretenders.

Box score 66-65 final.

Losing Steele and Jemison for the year is probably another reason we'll be lucky to sniff postseason play. Damn.

Edit- more thoughts... we tried the same play on the last possession. Why? We had to burn a TO on the first try.

Mitchell and I discussed what Yamene Coleman could've meant to this team right now. Losing Steele and Jemison to injuries and Coleman to transfer are the little pieces we're missing from this being a surprise NCAA berth to sitting at home after the SECT. What could have been...

DJC outlined the game nicely (as usual) in comments and discussed (as others) about our lack of a clutch player. Torrance isn't one, but he's the only guy I trust somewhat with the ball in the last minute of the game.

Florida stats pack

Season stats

They've won 4 of their last five, but are coming off a heartbreaking loss at Tennessee. Let's be honest... this is a must win game for both teams if they have dreams of making the tournament. It probably has more impact on the Gators than us.

They have 4 players averaging double digits and 3 averaging more than 5 board per. Surprisingly, they only have one real 3 point threat (Walker)... the rest I'd let them chuck 'em up.

Stats:
- 72.7 PPg
- 44.4% FG
- 31.5% 3pt FG
- 12.6 turnovers per game

Prediction: When in doubt I go with the home team. I'm not sold on the Gators being anything more than mediocre. While we have serious issues in the halfcourt, they are not a good shooting team. I think we can out defense them and win ugly... Bama by 3... somewhere in the low 60s.

Game is on ESPNU... I believe.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

SEC Power Poll Week of Jan 31st and ESPN Bracketology

From Garnettandblackattack.com

We agree that UK is the best and LSU is the worst. Click on the link to see where the rest fall according to us SEC bloggers.

2 of last years Final Four on the bubble? Seems that way.
Acoording to Joe, the Big East gobbles up 4 of the top 8 seeds. Seems about right... although I still think Syracuse is overrated.
Bracketology