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Posted on: November 9, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2011 9:53 pm

Hold your Miss. State criticism -- for now

By Matt Norlander

Yep, I've gotta be the guy who asks everyone to settle down. Used to be, in sports blogging, these kind of posts were of the against-the-grain variety. Now they're standard protocol, which is a good thing; the majority's gotten the gist of the importance of patience and the resistance to OMGREAXTION blogging.

That said, I think there's a desire to try and bring Rick Stansbury's team down as quickly as possible. Is any team as likely to be a target for criticism as the Bulldogs this year? A few (Memphis, Duke, Vanderbilt) will be quickly pilloried if they falter, but the history and baggage that comes with the Bulldogs means they're the ripest. They've earned it, and in time, if they stumble, we'll all have our chance to whip them.

But the way I see it: Tonight's 68-58 final was a great win for Akron; not a miserable loss for Mississippi State. Although Stansbury's team lost to a program that hadn't defeated a BCS-league team since 2008, it's just an early-November game with a few caution flags getting tossed up.

The biggest being Renardo Sidney sitting 15 minutes -- and down the stretch of the game -- despite only having two fouls. Sidney finished with 12 points and five rebounds, but most were scratching their head over why he wasn't in the game when Akron big man Zeke Marshall fouled out with 3:17 to go. Dee Bost was way too inconsistent, too. The team was out of sorts. But let's not allow rust lead to unrest.

The Bulldogs could get this turned around as easily as they could let it slip to hell. Doesn't mean Dee Bost can't be consistently erratic all year, or that Sidney has the potential to actually upstage his car-wreck quality into the full-on train variety. Good teams often lose early, even to inferior teams. Is Mississippi State a good team? Don't know yet, and neither do you. Let's huddle up after Thanksgiving and check the evidence then.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:55 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 9:16 am

Mississippi State led by trio in opener

By Jeff Goodman

Rick Stansbury knew it wouldn't be pretty. Not against Eastern Kentucky and Jeff Neubauer's methodical offense and 1-3-1 zone defense.

But he's just happy to come out with a season-opening victory.

Dee Bost went for 23 points and six assists, UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie had a double-double (13 points, 10 boards) in his debut and freshman Rodney Hood had 12 points and nine rebounds.

"It wasn't easy with the way they play and the way they control the game," Bost told after the 76-66 win. "But A win is a win."

Oh yeah - and Renardo Sidney finished with a lackluster nine points and three rebounds in 23 minutes.

"He's better than he was, but we still want more from him," Stansbury said of the talented big man. "We need more from him."

Stansbury spoke highly of Bost - who he has from the start of the season this year - as well as Moultrie and Hood.

Stansbury is also optimistic that freshman guard Deville Smith will be cleared and be able to play against Akron later this week. Smith was released from the hospital on Monday after experiencing headaches and dizziness.

"Has the the ability to change games - both offensive and defensively," Stansbury said.

With Bost, Moultrie and Hood, Mississippi State has three guys that can match up with just about anyone.

The key, obviously, is the much-maligned Sidney - who needs to give consistent effort.

"He'll get it going," Bost said of his once highly touted teammate. "This team changed defenses a lot - and it was tough to get him the ball in the post."

If Sidney finally gets it - and it's a huge if - this team could be scary.

But so far, with one game in the books, he hasn't shown anything different.

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 11:39 am

Naismith Preseason Top 50 - Early Edition

By Jeff Goodman

The Naismith Preseason List will be released this afternoon, but has obtained a bootleg copy of it (OK, not really - but that sounds cool).

Anyway, the major difference between the Naismith and the Wooden (and why I prefer the Naismith) is that it includes freshmen.

There were seven frosh on the Preseason list: Three from Kentucky (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague), Brad Beal (Florida), Andre Drummond (UConn), Quincy Miller (Baylor) and Austin Rivers (Duke).

Two teams - North Carolina and Kentucky - have four players on the list. UConn, Ohio State and Vandy each have a trio.

Here is the complete list:


Tim Abromaitis, F, Sr., Notre Dame
Harrison Barnes, F, Soph., North Carolina
Will Barton, G, Soph., Memphis
Brad Beal, G, Fr., Florida
William Buford, G, Sr., Ohio State
Aaron Craft, G, Soph., Ohio State
Anthony Davis, F, Fr., Kentucky
Marcus Denmon, G, Sr., Missouri
Andre Drummond, C, Fr., UConn
Festus Ezeli, C, Sr., Vanderbilt
Ashton Gibbs, G, Sr., Pittsburgh
Michael Glover, F, Sr., Iona
Drew Gordon, F, Sr., New Mexico
Draymond Green, F, Sr., Michigan State
JaMychal Green, F, Sr., Alabama
Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Soph., Michigan
Elias Harris, F, Jr., Gonzaga
John Henson, F, Jr., North Carolina
Tu Holloway, G, Sr., Xavier
Robbie Hummel, F, Sr., Purdue
Joe Jackson, G, Soph., Memphis
John Jenkins, G, Soph., Vanderbilt
Orlando Johnson, G, Sr., UC Santa Barbara
Darius Johnson-Odom, G, Sr., Marquette
Perry Jones III, F, Soph., Baylor
Terrence Jones, F, Soph., Kentucky
Kevin Jones, F, Sr., West Virginia
Kris Joseph, F, Sr., Syracuse
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Fr., Kentucky
Jeremy Lamb, G, Soph., UConn
Kendall Marshall, G, Soph., North Carolina
Ray McCallum, G, Soph., Detroit
Doug McDermott, F, Soph., Creighton
Khris Middleton, F, Jr., Texas A&M
Quincy Miller, F, Fr., Baylor
Reeves Nelson, F, Jr., UCLA
Andrew Nicholson, F, Sr., St. Bonaventure
Alex Oriakhi, C, Jr., UConn
Austin Rivers, G, Fr., Duke
Thomas Robinson, F, Jr., Kansas
Terrence Ross, G, Soph., Washington
John Shurna, F, Sr., Northwestern
Peyton Siva, G, Jr., Louisville
Josh Smith, C, Soph., UCLA
Jared Sullinger, C, Soph., Ohio State
Jordan Taylor, G, Sr., Wisconsin
Jeffery Taylor, G/F, Sr., Vanderbilt
Marquis Teague, G, Fr., Kentucky
Patric Young, C, Soph., Florida
Tyler Zeller, F, Sr., North Carolina
Posted on: November 2, 2011 7:45 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2011 10:18 pm

Ranking the BCS leagues in strength of schedule

By Matt Norlander

I know, the season is almost here. Hope you've enjoyed a lot of what we've cooked up for you here at the blog and on the site. Now, here we have something I had blast doing, even if it took about a month to slowly boil to. I put more than 20 hours into the writing and research of the non-conference schedule piece that you can read about it right here. That chart is daunting -- yet, oh, so pretty -- in some ways, but easy to maneuver and systematize to your liking. I think you'll like it. I hope you do, at the very least.

Might I suggest you toss on some fun-loving background music and get to clicking. There's a lot to explore. Look at your favorite team and compare it with the rest of the BCS, or just within its conference. Feel free to link and share it, too. I hope to do something like that in some statistical arena of the game a couple of times each month throughout the season.

Season tips Nov. 7
There is one over-arching statistical database that didn't get into the chart, though. I wanted to showcase it to you here. It's the collective look at each major conference, and how each has prepared its dockets. The feature deals with schools and how they contrast with their brethren. This blog post is about the leagues as a whole.

Below, I've assembled and calculated the median conference ranking for the major stat categories in the aforementioned linked feature. The only omission is the 20-win teams total, as that factors well into the overall average win total, ranked first below.

All things considered, if I had to rank each conference's scheduling best to worst -- taking all statistical information at face value -- I’d say it goes:
  1. ACC
  2. SEC
  3. Pac-12
  4. Big East
  5. Big Ten
  6. Big 12
First, which league did the best job calling teams with the best record from 2010-11? The SEC.

Average Win Total Last Year
1) SEC: 17.6
2) Pac-12: 17.3
3) Big 12: 16.8
4) ACC: 16.6
5) Big Ten: 16.4
6) Big East: 15.7

With semi- and full-blown unpredictable factors in many non-conference schedules (read: early season tournaments with an assortment of possible opponents), the best, undeniable metric of a team's guts and gumption can be found in the true road game. Which league is bucking up and hitting opponents' gyms the most? The ACC. The Big 12 is a bunch of fraidy cats, I'm sorry to report.

True Road Games
1) ACC: 31
1) SEC: 31
3) Big East: 30
4) Pac-12: 27
5) Big Ten: 21
6) Big 12: 15

The inverse order the better here; the lower the number the lesser the cupcakes. Plenty of bad teams won 12 games last year, but to see which conference stockpiled on truly pitiful competition, look no further than the Big East and Big Ten.

Single-Digit-Win Opponents
1) Pac-12: 12
2) Big 12: 15
3) ACC: 16
3) SEC: 16
5) Big Ten: 22
6) Big East: 33

BCS opponents is a tricky barometer. You can have really good ones, and really bad ones. Over a conference's choosings, though, I think you get a fair estimation of what the league's doing. With 16 teams, no reason for the Big East not to be leading the way here. Huge contrast between two 12-team leagues, when you look at the SEC taking on 25 more Big Six teams than the Pac-12.

BCS Opponents
1) SEC: 43
2) ACC: 38
3) Big East: 37
4) Big Ten: 31
5) Big 12: 27
6) Pac-12: 18

Finally, which league scheduled the most teams that were in college basketball's premier event? The Big East steps up here.

2011 Tournament Teams
1) Big East: 37
1) SEC: 37
3) ACC: 36
4) Big Ten: 28
5) Pac-12: 24
6) Big 12: 22

Photo: AP
Posted on: November 1, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 10:05 pm

Poole's dad doesn't deny departure speculation

By Jeff Borzello

With only days until the season tips off, Kentucky’s roster still seems to be in a state of fluctuation.

Reports swirled Tuesday night that one player would be leaving the Wildcats on Wednesday, and sources indicate the likely candidate is sophomore forward Stacey Poole.

When reached on Tuesday night, Poole’s father did not deny the reports.

“I can’t confirm the rumor at this time,” Poole Sr. told

Poole Jr. and his former AAU coaches did not respond to phone calls and text messages.

Poole is a 6-foot-4 swingman from Florida who played a total of 45 minutes last season. With the addition of four star freshmen, his playing time was not likely to increase. Moreover, reports out of the Wildcats’ early practices and workouts indicated that Poole has struggled and has often been frustrated. 

Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:44 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 5:20 pm

Festus Ezeli sprains MCL, PCL; out 6-8 weeks

By Matt Norlander

Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli has sprained the medial collateral ligament and the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Vanderbilt announced Friday afternoon.

The injury coincidentally comes at the best time possible, as Ezeli is ineligible to play in the team's first six games of the season, due to accepting hotel-room and food benefits over the summer. No surgery is required for either tendon injury.

"Ezeli’s NCAA-mandated penalty administered by the NCAA earlier this month will not be affected by the injury," the school said. "If he returns after the Monmouth game on November 25, he will be eligible to play immediately."

Ezeli, who was voted to the SEC's Preseason Second Team, averaged 13 points per game last year and is a senior.

Posted on: October 26, 2011 10:11 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 10:14 pm

Terrence Jones erupts for 52 in scrimmage

By Jeff Goodman

I've always maintained there's no better used car salesman than John Calipari.

He can sell ice to an eskimo, sell hair gel to Chris Mack and, well, you get the point.

But maybe the Kentucky coach was on point when he said that he couldn't imagine there's a better player in college basketball than Terrence Jones.

Sure, it was just an intrasquad scrimmage.

But Jones went for 52 points on Wednesday night.

Jones was an insane 24-of-31 from the field, 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 2-of-5 from the line. Oh yeah, he also grabbed 16 boards and dished out six assists.

We need to put this in context.

Jones' team scored 126 points.

It was a glorified scrimmage.

But still. By all accounts, Jones looks like a different player - maybe even more dominant than the one that came out of the gates a year ago.

I say some of the credit needs to go to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Gilchrist doesn't get outworked by anyone in terms of effort. Jones' weakness has always been an inconsistent ticker.

However, maybe Gilchrist is exactly what was necessary for Jones to fulfill his potential, the one that could have him at or near the top of June's NBA Draft.

The reports were that the No. 1 freshman in the country, 6-foot-11 Anthony Davis, was the one given the task of trying to contain Jones.

Davis put up 27 points and 13 boards in the scrimmage, but it'll still take some time for him to acclimate himself to the college game.

Fellow frosh Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Marquis Teague had 19 points and nine assists and Kyle Wiltjer went for 27 points and 11 boards.

Here's one reason not to put too much stock in an intrasquad scrimmage: Eloy Vargas had 16 rebounds.

Photo: AP
Posted on: October 26, 2011 7:16 pm

SEC clears Holloway to play at Ole Miss this year

By Gary Parrish

A source told that the SEC on Wednesday endorsed the NCAA's decision to make Murphy Holloway immediately eligible, meaning the transfer from South Carolina will play for Ole Miss this season.

An official announcement is expected soon.

Holloway played two years at Ole Miss before transferring to South Carolina to help take care of his infant daughter. He sat out last season per normal NCAA transfer rules, then decided to transfer back to Ole Miss and apply for a waiver to play immediately. The NCAA approved his waiver earlier this month, but the SEC still needed to endorse it. That, a source said, happened Thursday.

Holloway is a 6-foot-7 forward

He averaged 10.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or