Tag:SEC tournament
Posted on: March 12, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 7:22 pm
 

Kentucky and Florida to the SEC tournament finals

The season began with a split amongst SEC media and coaches as to whether Florida or Kentucky should be considered the conference favorite. And after Saturday’s SEC tournament semifinals in Atlanta, both teams have one game and a conference title on the line to settle the debate once and for all.

Kentucky made the tournament finals after cruising to a 72-58 victory over Alabama. The Cats jumped on the Crimson Tide early and never looked back, thanks to their most complete and diverse offensive game of the season. With Kentucky’s two top players, Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, experiencing off nights, it was the Cats' lesser-known players who picked up the slack and put forth some of their best games of the season. 

Doron Lamb finished with 15 points, after scoring 10 of Kentucky’s first 14, through a deadly combination of three-point shooting and quick penetration to the basket. The veteran duo of Josh Harrellson and Deandre Liggins each scored 14, giving significant offensive output from what are normally unlikely sources within the Kentucky offense. John Calipari’s team was so efficient on the offensive end that he said afterwards, “we’d have smacked anybody the way we played.” 

The problem for Kentucky will be whether they have the manpower to have a repeat performance against Florida tomorrow. Even though Alabama was down by nearly 20 with just a couple of minutes to go, the Tide continued to apply pressure on defense. That led Calipari to leave in his starters until the very end, causing two freak plays in the final moments. As the clock wound down, both Lamb and Liggins fell on another player’s foot and each suffered a significant ankle sprain . Both had to be removed from the game, with Lamb having to be carried off by two of his teammates. Liggins is listed as probable for the Florida game, while Lamb's injury is more severe, causing him to be doubtful to see action. If Lamb does not play, it will leave Kentucky with only five players who regularly see significant minutes available for action.

In the game’s other semifinal, Florida battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat Vanderbilt 77-66 and advance to the conference championship. The Gators were led by their explosive backcourt duo of Kenny Boyton and Erving Walker, who combined to score 41 points against the Commodores. Billy Donovan’s pre-game goal of limiting Vanderbilt’s three-point shooting was executed perfectly throughout the game. The Commodores only shot 18% from behind the arc, finishing 6-33 and ending any chance they had at advancing to the school’s first SEC tournament final since 1951.

The championship game on Sunday will be the rubber match on the season between the Gators and Wildcats. Both teams won on their home courts earlier this season and in both games, the play of Florida’s Chandler Parsons was the deciding factor. When Parsons is able to get into the lane and grab offensive rebounds, the Gators become a tough team to beat. In Gainesville, Parsons twice scored on crucial late putback attempts thatwere the key points in giving the Gators the victory. But then in Lexington, Kentucky kept Parsons and the rest of the Gators shooting from behind the arc and off the offensive glass, leading to a comfortable 8 point win.

Both teams are fighting for a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and with similar resumes, the winner of Sunday’s game is likely to see an advantage later in the afternoon when the brackets are announced. Both teams have dominated the SEC over the last decade and they both have been the clear standouts of the conference throughout this season. If Kentucky is without Doron Lamb, it will be very difficult for the Wildcats to keep pace with Florida and I would expect to see the Gators pushing tempo and trying to create a shootout in Atlanta on Sunday. If the Gators are able to control tempo and get into Kentucky's bench, they have a strong chance of completing the regular season-conference tournament sweep and getting the highest seed of any SEC team heading into March Madness.


Posted by MATT JONES



More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 11, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 9:52 pm
 

SEC Afternoon Roundup: Alabama punches ticket

After a series of dreadful games on Thursday, the SEC Tournament kicked off on Friday with what was essentially a play-in game for the NCAA tournament. Alabama defeated Georgia 65-59 in overtime after an improbable comeback that saw the two teams' fortunes take a dramatic shift based on one fortuitous decision to call a timeout. With 7 minutes to go, Georgia was up 14 and seemingly ready to not only punch its NCAA dance ticket, but potentially avoid the first four in Dayton, Ohio in the process. But in the game's final minutes, the Tide came roaring back with some timely late shooting, finishing regulation on a 19-5 run that sent the contest into extra time.
 
But as painful as losing the lead had to be for the Bulldogs, the finish to regulation may even have a longer impact. With the game tied at 53 and just 4 seconds remaining, Georgia inbounded the ball to Dustin Ware, who dribbled through a number of Tide defenders until he could launch a desperation heave with just over a second to go. The high-arching shot went off the backboard and through the net, sending the few Georgia fans in attendance into celebratory mode. However before any Georgia player could even pump his fist, the referee waved off the basket thanks to Mark Fox's decision to call timeout prior to the shot's release. The decision may have been a sound one strategically, but it had the effect of overruling the game-winning basket, and potentially Georgia's NCAA Tournament hopes in the process.


In overtime, Alabama's Tony Mitchell hit an important deep three with 1:35 remaining that gave Alabama a lead it would never relinquish. But the difference in the extra session, and the game as a whole, was JaMychal Green, who finished with a monster performance, 20 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 steals. Georgia had no answer for Green in overtime and his ability to get two key blocks down the stretch helped the Tide ride its late momentum to the victory.

For the Bulldogs, Selection Sunday now becomes a very long wait. With two straight losses to fellow bubblemate Alabama, there is no scenario one can envision in which the NCAA would pick the Bulldogs over the Tide. That means that Georgia has to hope the SEC gets six teams in and the selection committee overlooks Georgia's lack of quality out of conference victories.

As for Alabama, preparation now turns to Saturday's semifinals as most in the Tide locker room felt confident that they had done enough to ensure selection into the NCAA tournament. In that game, they will play Kentucky, which defeated Ole Miss 75-66 in the afternoon's second semifinal. It was by no means the prettiest performance of the season for the Wildcats, as two of the team's best young freshman each had one of their worst performances of the season. Terrence Jones was awful, scoring only 7 points on 3-11 shooting and spending most of the game in foul trouble. His 24 minutes played were a season low and throughout most of the game, he seemed to be source of constant expressed frustration from coach John Calipari. 

Brandon Knight also struggled early, but came through in the clutch, overcoming a 3-14 shooting night to hit a key jumper with 2 minutes to go. The basket gave Kentucky a 4 point lead it would never relinquish and confirmed Knight's standing as the clutch playmaker for Kentucky down the stretch. After being ice cold for most of the game's first 35 minutes, Knight took over the game on both ends of the court. When Ole Miss's Chris Warren made a three to cut the Wildcat lead to two, Knight responded by not only hitting his crucial jumper, but then contesting the next two missed Ole Miss three-point tries, to help seal the victory.

For Kentucky, the win keeps the team's dream of a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament alive for another day. Even without production from Jones, the Wildcats had four players score in double digits and were able to win their second consecutive close game, a feat that they had struggled with throughout the conference season. They now move on to play Alabama, a team that won their only meeting in Tuscaloosa back in January.
Posted by Matt Jones
Posted on: March 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 1:25 am
 

Wrapping up a crazy Thursday of action

Posted by Matt Jones

Today was one of the busiest days of the year in college basketball, with all six major tournaments having at least three games each and crazy action all over the nation. It was the type of day that deserves a neat summary in conclusion:

Game of the Day:  UCONN vs Pitt

This was the rare instance where the best game of the day on paper, ended up being the best game of the day in practice. Both teams played with a ton of energy and the game was actually executed on a very high level at both ends. Pittsburgh showcased the exception defense that makes them a Final Four contender, but the Panthers had no answer for the one-on-one play from UCONN in the second half. Kemba Walker was once again a revelation and his shakedown of Gary Mcghee at the end of the game is one of those plays that you will see over and over in the years to come. A lasting image in a quarterfinal tournament game?  That is easily the game of the day.


Biggest Win: Colorado over Kansas State

Colorado came into its Big 12 quarterfinal against Kansas State with one clear objective.  A win over one of the hottest teams in the country would not only vault the Buffaloes to the conference semifinals in its final year in the league, but would also put Colorado on the right side of the NCAA bubble.  The ensuing 87-75 performance was one of the best of the year we have seen in college basketball when it mattered the most. Whatever happens for the rest of the tournament, Colorado will hear its name called on Selection Sunday and when that happens, they can look back at this win as the main reason why.

 

Most Impressive Performance: Texas A&M over Missouri

There are many reasons to wonder what has happened to Missouri over the past few weeks. Mike Anderson's team has looked poor on a number of occasions down the stretch, but never has the team seemed to have less life than during today's 86-71 smackdown at the hands of the Aggies. For those around the Texas A&M program, there is some quiet optimism that this team may be clicking at the right time to make some surprising March noise. If the game on Thursday in Kansas City is any indication, it may not be that surprising for long.

 

Worst Loss: UCLA 

I have given up trying to figure out the Pac 10. I can forgive the occasional poor road performance by one of the three top powers, but UCLA's 76-59 loss to Oregon on Thursday was just plain pathetic. You are playing in your home city, with a chance to get a better seed and re-establish dominance in a conference that has somewhat forgotten your existence in the last two years. Instead, you show up and go through the motions of caring, while putting one of the worst teams in the conference through to the semifinals. An embarrassing loss for a program that has clearly slipped in the past three years.

 

Performance of the Day: Michael Thompson

The Big 10 tournament hasn't been around as long as some of its fellow Championship Week events, but it still deserves attention when one of its records is broken. Michael Thompson of Northwestern went out and scored a smooth 35 points in a 75-65 victory by his Wildcats over Minnesota. While Northwestern is not likely to break its NCAA tournament drought this year, Thompson's performance gives the school a rare record that is not based upon futility. And for that, it is worth a mention.


Setup for Biggest Game Tomorrow: Georgia vs Alabama

Only one game tomorrow is a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament and it occurs in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks to the Bulldogs victory over Auburn, Georgia and Alabama play at 1 pm, with the winner likely into the NCAA Tournament and the loser on the bubble on Selection Sunday. Both teams played to end the regular season and Alabama's win gave the Tide a fighting chance for the Big Dance. Now with this the only game of the weekend in which two bubble teams play each other, you can expect a large reward to the winner.


Worst Day of Basketball:  SEC in Atlanta

This was a terrible day to be stationed as I was, in Atlanta for the SEC tournament. All four games were dreadful. Three were decided by double digits and the four losers represented some of the worst teams in major conference college basketball. Every game saw more Kentucky fans waiting for their team to play on Friday than fans of the teams actually on the court and the gym resembled a morgue during Friday night's finale between LSU and Vanderbilt. The schedule is a bit meatier on Friday, but for Day One at least, the SEC has been a dud.

 

MVP of the Day:  Kemba Walker

One of the most impressive crossovers you will ever to see to get an open final look. Kemba's shot fit in well with all of his heroics this year and reminded everyone that the Huskies are still a force to be reckoned with this March. We will see if they can get four games in four days against Syracuse tomorrow, but that shot and the move that made him open, will be remembered for a long time to come.


Posted on: March 10, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Matt's SEC Conference tournament journal: Part I

Posted by MATT JONES

This is one of my favorite four-day periods of the year. Sure any old sports fan can like next weekend, when wall-to-wall basketball allows even the most casual college hoop aficionado to claim to be his city's Dick Vitale. But for those of us that are real hoop heads, those of us who would know Ian Eagle or Jim Spanarkel if we saw them in public, then Championship Week is the first great weekend of the year. I appreciate the beginning of the week and the chance to seem teams from oddly spelled conferences like the MAAC do their thing, but as with any sporting event, it is at its best when played at its highest level. And Thursday-Sunday, when the major conferences like the Big East and the once major conferences like the ACC take the court, it is time for wall to wall great basketball.

For the 19th consecutive year, I am attending the SEC men's basketball tournament. Among the great college basketball traditions, the SEC basketball tournament is not usually considered one of the best. SEC basketball is often assumed to be a little brother to its more popular football head of the family and usually its tournament is given little notice nationally. Kentucky has dominated the festivities in the past two decades, winning 10 of the 18 gatherings I have attended. The Big Blue Nation descends on the host city and makes it their own, turning even games in which Kentucky does not play into a sea of blue. 

This is my first time covering the events for CBSSports.com and I must admit that it may cause me to approach the festivities a bit differently. Take today. The first game of the tournament was a total snoozer, with Georgia beating Auburn, quite possibly the worst SEC team that I can remember seeing play over my 19 years in the event. If this were the old days and I was simply here for my own gratification, I would have made jokes about the fact that Georgia coach Mark Fox looks like David Wallace from "The Office" or pointed out that in the entire building I saw only eight Auburn fans, one of whom was dressed like Elvis. But this is a new age, one in which I must take my journalism much more seriously.

With that in mind, I will point out the details that matter from an investigative journalism standpoint. I am sitting directly behind Jimmy Dykes of ESPN, who is calling the games for the SEC Network. If you have ever heard a Jimmy Dykes-called game, then you know that his modus operandi is to use a number of catchphrases or allegedly clever plays on words. Whether he is reminding someone to "guard their yard", "drive to the nail", have a "violent cut" or simply utilize a "cautious cutback", Jimmy generally calls a game as some bizarre mix of James Naismath and Dr. Seuss. I used to think the entire gimmick was simply an act, intended to display a deep knowledge of the game that could potentially make him an heir apparent to the "funny announcer" role that will be left behind when Dick Vitale hangs it up. But after sitting behind Dykes today for two games, I am confident enough to say that his announcing is no gimmick. Even when the network goes to commercial, Dykes is still doing the same gesturing and rhyming, shouting so loudly that he gains the attention of all near him. It is as if he fancies himself the SEC's Glenn Beck, minus the chalkboard and the comparisons of Darrin Horn to some European neo-socialist group. It is all a bit exhausting, but I have determined that it is authentic.

So far today, the games have been dreadful. I am assigned the SEC, Big Ten and Conference USA. Here in Atlanta, Georgia beat Auburn in a game that even the players' families stopped following about five minutes in. The celebrity watch has been dreadfully unimpressive, with a passing glance by Kevin Stallings the closest thing I have been to starstruck. The games from around the nation have been exciting however. We saw Kemba Walker do his thing, UAB fall in the first round and potentially watch its NCAA Tournament hopes crash and Tubby Smith finalize one of the worst collapses I can remember in recent years. 

While I wait for some of that excitement to arrive here in Atlanta, I will grace the one part of this game that has garnered the most attention from me. I have met three sportswriters here, all of whom are well known to those who follow sports on a national level. Of those three, two have unbelievable amounts of nose hair. That may not mean a great deal to you, but when you are left watching Ole Miss and South Carolina throw up brick after brick, it can become the highlight of your day.
Posted on: March 9, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: March 9, 2011 8:50 pm
 

Conference tourney preview: the SEC

The Gators are back atop the SECThanks to the funky divisional setup of the SEC tournament, some of the league’s most dangerous teams don’t even get a first-round bye. Florida and Kentucky get to skip a day, and that seems legit. But the top two seeds in the West are Alabama (OK, fair enough) and Mississippi State (Whaaaa?). Most college hoops fans wrote the Bulldogs off back when Renardo Sidney spent his holidays punching teammates, but here they are with a day off.

For the first day’s action, East and West teams meet across divisional lines in order to decide who moves on to play the privileged four mentioned above.

W5 Auburn (11-19, 4-12) vs. E4 Georgia (20-10, 9-7), 1:00 p.m. ET

The seeding here is surprising in a way, given the relative situations of these two teams. Georgia seemed primed to challenge for a national ranking at one time, with big-time talents like Travis Leslie (14.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Trey Thompkins (15.8, 7.6) on board. Second year coach Mark Fox couldn’t quite crack the league’s elite teams, but a look at the schedule shows no bad losses in the bunch. This team can still be a force in the postseason with a couple of good wins here. Auburn, on the other hand, struggled mightily under new head man Tony Barbee, who came over from UTEP in the offseason. Barbee got decent performances out of Kenny Gabriel (10.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Earnest Ross (13.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg), but this team is not cohesive enough to emerge as a real threat.

The winner of this game will face W1 Alabama (20-10, 12-4) on Friday.

E6 South Carolina (14-15, 5-11) vs. W3 Ole Miss (19-12, 7-9), 3:30 p.m.

The Gamecocks love their little guards. This year, it’s 5-foot-9 Bruce Ellington (13.0 ppg, 3.2 apg), who has been the best player on the floor for an SC team that’s missing last year’s diminutive star, Devan Downey. Ole Miss has had some strong performances out of seniors Chris Warren (18.9 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Zach Graham (14.4, 4.5) in a mostly forgettable season. This game is like the SEC witness protection program, considering how difficult it will be for fans to recognize anyone who plays in it.

The winner of this game will face E2 Kentucky (22-8, 10-6) on Friday.

E5 Tennessee (18-13, 8-8) vs. W4 Arkansas (18-12, 7-9), 7:30 p.m.

Tough season to be a fan of the Vols, eh? The momentum generated by an Elite Eight berth in 2010 has evaporated under the weight of an NCAA investigation into recruiting practices. Bruce Pearl still has dangerous players, most notably Scotty Hopson (17.7 ppg) and Tobias Harris (14.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg). That should be enough to get past an Arkansas team that is once again relying on far too many jumpers from lone warrior Rotnei Clarke (15.1 ppg). Should be.

The winner of this game will face E1 Florida (24-6, 13-3) on Friday.

W6 Louisiana State (11-20, 3-13) vs. E3 Vanderbilt (21-9, 9-7), 10:00 p.m.

Here’s where the divisional imbalance will be most keenly felt. One of the nation’s most dangerous teams, the Vanderbilt Commodores, is forced into playing a first-round game against the miserable mess that is LSU. I don’t think Trent Johnson can expect any mercy under those circumstances. Freshman Ralston Turner (12.8 ppg) has been his best player this season, and that’s not nearly enough to hope for an upset in this game. Vanderbilt has a pretty clear path to the SEC semifinals, and they’ll employ tough defense and the eye-opening play of John Jenkins (19.4 ppg) to make sure that happens. Vandy gets double-digit scoring from Brad Tinsley, Jeffrey Taylor and Festus Ezeli on the regular as well, and Ezeli can be a real difference-maker up front with rebounds and blocked shots as well.

The winner of this game will face W2 Mississippi State (17-13, 9-7) on Friday.

SEC tournament bracket







****

Title game: 1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, March 13 (ABC)

 

BEST PLAYERS  

  1. Chandler Parsons, Florida
  2. Brandon Knight, Kentucky
  3. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
  4. Terrence Jones, Kentucky

 

Conference RPI: 6

KenPom.com rating: 7

Sagarin rating: 7

NCAA Tournament Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Tennessee, Georgia

 

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

Florida: 2010 (lost to Brigham Young)

Alabama: 2006 (beat Marquette, lost to UCLA)

Kentucky: 2010 (beat ETSU, Wake Forest & Cornell, lost to West Virginia in Elite Eight)

Mississippi State: 2009 (lost to Washington)

Vanderbilt: 2010 (lost to Murray State)

Ole Miss: 2002 (lost to UCLA)

Arkansas: 2008 (beat Indiana, lost to North Carolina)

Georgia: 2008 (lost to Xavier)

Auburn: 2003 (beat St. Joseph’s and Wake Forest, lost to Syracuse)

Tennessee: 2010 (beat San Diego State, Ohio and Ohio State, lost to Michigan State in Elite Eight)

South Carolina: 2004 (lost to Memphis)

LSU: 2009 (beat Butler, lost to North Carolina)

 

Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com