Tag:Florida
Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:06 pm
 

Warren and his "old man's game" attract suitors

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Posted by Jeff Borzello

HAMPTON, Va. – Some say T.J. Warren has an “old man’s game” or is coasting through games, but Warren doesn’t let that bother him.

He simply continues to get the job done.

Warren, a 6-foot-7 forward from Word of God (N.C.), starred this past season alongside Torian Graham and Joseph Uchebo and continues to impress on the AAU circuit with Garner Road. He has a versatile offensive game, with the ability to knock down mid-range jumpers and also finish at the rim with his strength. Warren has good hands and runs the floor well.

His skill set makes him a difficult match-up for most opponents.

“It’s because of my size,” Warren said. “I can put it on the floor, I have the ability to handle and I can shoot.”

While he is currently a combo forward who can play inside, Warren is looking to make the transformation to a wing.

“Colleges see me as a three,” he said. “I’m improving my foot speed and my 3-point shooting. I’m trying to get a killer instinct.”

Warren has seen his recruiting take off recently, picking up offers and interest from a variety of schools.

“Right now, in no order, it’s Florida, North Carolina State, Georgetown, Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville,” he said.

Warren also mentioned Arizona State, Arizona and Virginia Tech at one point.

He said he has no favorites or a timeline for a decision.

“I’m wide open,” Warren said. “I’m looking for style of play and location.”

Photo: Highschoolhoop.com

Posted on: May 11, 2011 1:58 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Maryland recruit asks for release

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Posted by Jeff Borzello

Wally Judge choosing Rutgers over Maryland was the first recruiting domino to fall after Gary Williams’ retirement.

Another one fell on Wednesday, as Terrapins’ signee Sterling Gibbs has asked for his release from Maryland.

“He’s asking for a release so he can fairly weigh his options,” said Gary Charles, Gibbs’ AAU coach with the New York Panthers. “Until he gets his release, he cannot talk to anyone.

“The same way Maryland had to do what they had to do, Sterling has gotta do what he’s gotta do.”

Since the news broke that Gibbs was opening his recruitment, Charles has heard from several schools. Florida, Louisville, Miami (Fl.), Texas, Seton Hall, Providence and Colorado are some of the schools that have already reached out.

Maryland is also still in the mix for the 6-foot-1 point guard from Seton Hall Prep (N.J).

“Absolutely,” Charles said. “Sterling doesn’t know [head coach Mark] Turgeon from a can of paint, and I don’t think Turgeon knows Sterling either.”

Turgeon did reach out to Gibbs’ family on Tuesday night – which is the first contact Gibbs has had with anyone from Maryland since Williams retired.

The former head coach never called Gibbs to notify him he was retiring.

“Nothing,” Charles said. “Didn’t even contact him.”

While Gibbs does not have a timeline for another decision, Charles said he does want to choose a school before summer school starts in June.

Photo: NJ.com 

Posted on: May 11, 2011 1:24 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Shaq Goodwin continues national rise

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Posted by Jeff Borzello

Shaq Goodwin was always highly-regarded in the class of 2012. He was a top-50 recruit that took a backseat to many of his teammates on the Atlanta Celtics and Memphis YOMCA.

This spring, though, Goodwin has taken off. He is now ranked in the top-15 by most scouts, and as high as No. 10 by one service.

“It’s really a privilege,” Goodwin said. “I would have never thought.”

The 6-foot-8 forward from Southwest Dekalb (Ga.) is a long and athletic combo forward that runs the floor and finishes in transition. Goodwin is one of the best passers in the country for his position, and he is a match-up nightmare due to his ability to make shots and post up players around the rim.

He said his rise in the rankings is due to more publicity and a chance in focus.

“People just noticing me,” Goodwin said. “And really taking the game serious. I was [before], but I was having too much fun.”

In terms of recruiting, he now has a top five of UCLA, Memphis, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. In April, Miami (Fl.) was in the top four but the recent coaching change has dropped them back in the pack.

“I don’t know,” Goodwin said. “I just don’t know them.”

While he said he has no favorites, he did say Alabama and Florida are coming after him the hardest. Both teams picked up their interest after Goodwin’s performance during the spring.

He also wants to take an unofficial visit to UCLA in June.

“Somewhere where I can play and won’t get in trouble,” Goodwin said when asked what he was looking for in a school. “Certain cities where they let me do what I want there. Maybe I’ll get in trouble there.”

For now, opponents are the only ones in trouble.

Photo: Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Posted on: March 28, 2011 1:57 am
 

Southeast wrap-up: The best and worst of 15 games

Posted by Matt Jones

In the history of the NCAA tournament, there are very few accomplishments that match what Butler pulled off this weekend in New Orleans. With their victory over Florida, Butler is now going to back to back Final Fours, an utterly unbelievable feat for a program that lives outside of the BCS power conferences.

When Brad Stevens’s group made it to the national championship game last season, it was considered by most to be an exceptional Cinderella run, brought about by a unique combination of a NBA lottery pick leader, outstanding clutch play and a run of good fortune. But now, after four consecutive thrilling wins that will send Butler to Houston for another go-around on college basketball’s biggest stage, such simplistic reasoning will no longer suffice.

With the win on Saturday, Butler basketball has shown that it deserves to be seen as one of the top ten current basketball programs in the country. It is only one of those types of programs that can lose a player like Gordon Hayward to the NBA draft and then come back and contend immediately again. Teams like Kentucky, Duke, UNC and Kansas are used to seeing superstars leave, and then immediately reloading. Now we must put Butler in that same group.

This year’s Butler group is now realistically on the brink of winning a national championship. Matt Howard’s last second win over Old Dominion got the tournament off to a rocking start and showcased just how clutch a performer the senior has been throughout the course of his career. The upset over Pittsburgh produced the most shocking ending of March, and removed the biggest obstacle to a second Final Four run. 

And then in New Orleans, the Bulldogs came to play, but not as the upstart from a small conference seeking to shock the world. Rather, they were the cool, calm and collected team that had been there before and could handle the moment. The Bulldogs handled their business from the opening tap in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin and then were the more poised team down the stretch against a veteran Florida team who they rattled in the final minutes. 

Butler now goes to Houston with a chance to win the whole thing. It will be favored against VCU in the national semifinal and in a one game scenario against either Kentucky or UCONN, the Bulldogs would once again have a chance to shock the world. What Butler has accomplished is unheard of in modern college basketball and it may not yet be over.

Regional MVP: Shelvin Mack: Since Butler turned around its performance midway through the season, Shelvin Mack has been the driving force in big moments. Saturday’s final versus Florida was no different, as Mack scored 27 points and hit a number of crucial shots. Mack may be the most clutch performer left in the NCAA tournament and he showcased in New Orleans that he could be the most underrated perimeter player in America.

All-Regional team

C Vernon Macklin, Florida
F Matt Howard, Butler
F Alex Tyus, Florida
G Shelvin Mack, Butler
G Kenny Boyton, Florida

Game to remember: Butler 71, Pittsburgh 70. This is a game that will be remembered for a long time and could define these programs for years to come. Butler’s win allows the Bulldogs to lay claim to one of the great accomplishments in recent college basketball history. While Pittsburgh’s loss means that Jamie Dixon will not yet be able to get rid of the stigma of having never made a Final Four. Add to it, the bizarre late foul calls and the Nasir Robinson pain of costing his team the game late, and this will be one of the 2-3 most remembered games of the tournament.

Game to forget: Wisconsin 72, Belmont 58.  It happens every year. One trendy upset pick comes into the tournament and lays a total egg, making everyone who talked about them all week look silly. This year’s team was Belmont, who most thought had earned respect through its demolition of the Atlantic Sun and thus respect was given before playing against a slow team from the Big Ten. But that slow team controlled tempo, used its dominating size and the game was a dud. Never listen to the 4-13 pick that is trendy...it rarely works.


Biggest disappointment: St. John’s. It was a great regular season for Steve Lavin’s club and a late injury did temper expectations. But after the senior-laden squad did so well, the Johnnies fans wanted more than simply a harsh defeat to Gonzaga. Lavin will have St. John’s back sooner, rather than later. But a better showing this year was expected.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: They don’t get much better than the show Jacob Pullen put on for Kansas State in its 70-65 loss to Wisconsin. Pullen willed his team to the tournament towards the end of the season and then showcased all of that same desire in his two games. 38 points against Wisconsin was part of one of the great tournament performances so far, win or lose.

Most memorable moments:

  • Matt Howard makes a great putback at the buzzer to get March Madness off to a great start. We knew the tournament was back in session. 
  • Michigan State put forth an amazing comeback, down 25 late, but coming back and only losing by two. It was a miserable performance up until the end, but Tom Izzo teams can never totally be counted out.
  • Any time Jimmer Fredette plays, it is worth watching. He ran out of magic against Florida, but in the first two games, his deep threes were quite a sight.
  • The late fouls by Shelvin Mack and Nasir Robinson in the Pitt-Butler game won’t soon be forgotten and ignited a debate on the roll of officials at the end of games.
  • How can a team like Gonzaga look so dominant against St. John’s and then so terrible against BYU? Every game is different.
  • Billy Donovan coached well all tournament...until the end. I still do not know what the offensive gameplan was at the end of regulation or in overtime versus Butler.

Team to watch out for next year: This was a senior-laden bracket, with most of the best teams losing most of their best players. But there were some signs that UCLA could get out of its recent funk. Josh Smith is fun to watch and is able to do some amazing things in the paint. If Ben Howland can keep everyone around, the Bruins will join Arizona at the top of the Pac 10 once again next year.

Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 10:19 pm
 

16 stories to watch in the Sweet 16

Posted by Matt Jones

1. Ohio State’s quest for dominance
:  College basketball has been decidedly mediocre as a whole this season, with no real difference between most of the teams in the top 25. But all year, Ohio State has seemed to be on a different plane. Its two losses during the regular season were both on the road, against ranked teams in the Top 15. And now in the tournament, as Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, etc have struggled at times in their games, the Buckeyes have rolled and looked absolutely dominant. Now however they are rewarded only with the two winningest programs in college basketball history, Kentucky and North Carolina. Win those two in a convincing manner and they will be cutting the nets down in Houston.


2.  The era of Jorts in full effect:  The most improved player in college basketball is the lone senior on a program known for its freshman, who played 35 total minutes last season. Josh Harrellson is a fan favorite in Lexington, Kentucky, in part because of his Cinderella story and in part because of his unique personality. In addition to becoming a force on the glass down low, Harrellson has embraced the nickname “Jorts,” given to him because he famously wore jean shorts on his campus recruiting visit. The denim legend has a chance to enter UK lore if he can somehow slow down Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and make Kentucky so filled with jean shorts, that it looks like Gainesville on a Saturday college football afternoon.


3.  Buzz Williams’s final audition:  Coach Buzz Williams is absolutely focused on taking Marquette to another Final Four, and to do so, he will have to beat two of the North Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky trio. But Williams will also be a hot commodity when the season ends, as he is likely to be pursued by all of the job openings left in college basketball. Marquette is not the most attractive BCS-level job and Williams will have the opportunity to jump ship if he so chooses. Either way, a number of college Athletic Directors will be watching his Golden Eagles play, waiting for a loss and a chance to call his cell phone for a quick inquiry.


4.  Harrison Barnes lives up to the hype:  Thanks in large part to the success of freshman John Wall last season, many in the national media felt the need to crown North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes national preseason player of the year before he had even played a game in Chapel Hill. Early in the year, Barnes did not live up the hype, causing some painful growth and verbal reprimands to the press by coach Roy Williams. But as the year has gone on, Barnes has hit his stride and looks an awful lot like the number one player in America he was coming out of high school. A run to the Final Four and the Harrison Barnes redemption story will be told far and wide, likely followed up with a top 5 pick this spring in the NBA Draft.


5. Duke goes for the repeat:  Only two teams have gone back to back in the NCAA tournament in the last 35 years and both were considered some of the best in the history of college basketball. This year's Duke team has the chance to replicate the accomplishment, but do so in a different manner than the two prior winners. Both the 1992 Duke and 2007 Florida teams were dominant from start to finish, but this year's Duke team has been a notch below Ohio State and Kansas all season. They escaped against Michigan on Sunday and now are four games away from college basketball immortality...even if many of us aren't sure that they are all that good.

6. Arizona announces it is back:  It hasn't been that long since Arizona was the dominant college basketball power on the west coast. But then came the rise of UCLA, the decline of the Lute Olson era, Kevin O'Neill and all of a sudden, Arizona basketball became somewhat of an afterthought. Well regardless of what happens in the Sweet 16 versus Duke, the Wildcats' program under Sean Miller has proven that it is once again a power. Derrick Williams has made some of the most athletic plays of the tournament and Arizona has won two hard-fought battles over Memphis and Texas. With a strong recruiting class coming next season, Arizona basketball is back regardless of if they beat Duke. but if they sneak up and knock out the Blue Devils, well Arizona will announce that it is a top ten program once again, this time to stay.

7. Kemba Walker's time:  There isn't much left for Kemba Walker to accomplish at Connecticut. He has had an amazing season and his run in the Big East tournament ensures that he will be remembered forever around the Huskies' program. But he is two wins away from taking his UCONN team to a Final Four, completing a postseason that will have few equals in recent history. His ability to score and will wins at the end of games is unbelievable to watch and Walker now must do it as an underdog two more times to reach his ultimate goal. In a year where the stars have come out, Kemba still has the chance to be the biggest one yet, with two games in Anaheim to tell the tale.

8. Steve Fisher's redemption:  Everyone thinks Steve Fisher is a bad coach. Regardless of his amazing tournament run to the title in 1989 and his time spent overseeing the Fab Five, the reality is that media and most college basketball fans think Fisher is synonymous with "good recruiter/bad coach." But San Diego State has had a tremendous season in a tough conference and now has a chance to prove its mettle versus arguably one of the two best players in the game (Kemba Walker) and the defending national champions (Duke) over the next five days. Win both of those games and Fisher may not quiet the critics, but they will have much less ammunition than they would prefer.

9. Learn about the Morris twins:  Coming out of high school, most figured the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, to be super talented, but likely headed for a substantial amount of trouble during their time at Kansas. That opinion was bolstered by a stupid moment from Markieff, as he shot a BB gun out of a dorm window and ended up arrested on a battery charge. But since then, the Morris twins have gotten better on and off the basketball court and are the leaders of a Kansas team with a legitimate chance to win a title. Both players are forces on the glass and can score, making them not only a great brother tandem, but a matchup nightmare. In a relatively open bracket, it should be easy pickings for the brothers Morris.

10. Richmond tries to keep going:  Every year a team comes from out of the first weekend as a big underdog, heads into the second weekend with lots of press and excitement, only to fall in their Sweet 16 game to a stronger opponent. Last year that team was Cornell from the Ivy League and this year it is the familiar NCAA tournament success story, the Richmond Spiders. Unlike past heroes of the little guy, Richmond is from a near-major conference (Atlantic 10) and counts some good athletes and one great player, Kevin Anderson. Richmond plays great defense and has the ability to beat anyone in the tournament...except perhaps Kansas, who creates matchup nightmares for the Spiders. This is the spot where teams like Richmond exit stage left. We shall see if the Spiders will follow the script.

11. Could VCU be great?:  No team had a better first weekend than VCU. Who would have ever imagined that the Colonial team would put absolute smackdowns on USC, Georgetown and Purdue, all three in games that were never really all that close. VCU coach Shaka Smart has become the hottest name in the coaching community and our CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel suggested that they might be the most impressive team so far in the tournament. VCU plays a straightforward offensive style, in which every player can score and all on the court have a variety of skills. It makes them tough to prepare for in a given game and nearly impossible to defend when clicking. It is tough to see VCU coming out of this bracket and beating Kansas, but making the Elite Eight and giving the Jayhawks a good game? I would call it likely.

12. Florida State goes for respect:  Every year there is one team like Florida State that makes the Sweet 16. Usually they are from a power conference, were average all year, often underachieving, and then they get the perfect draw and make a run to the tournament's second weekend. The Seminoles were blessed by getting to play the decidedly unathletic and overseeded, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and are now onto play America's new fascination, VCU. When healthy, Chris Singleton is the type of player that can lead FSU over anyone and there will be no team they will see that they can't match up with athletically. But FSU has always been a team that skeptics dismiss and Leonard Hamilton is a coach that usually brings out the eye rolls from those in the college basketball community. This weekend could change that.

13. Brad Stevens tries to do it again:  Butler's move to the championship game last year was remarkable and a testament to the ability of Brad Stevens and a great group of Butler players, led by Gordon Hayward. But this Butler team's set of last-second wins last weekend may have even been more impressive. While Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are both playing well, there was a time this year that Butler was completely in turmoil, losing to lower level Horizon League teams and looking like a fragment of the team that was a half court shot from cutting down the nets. But Stevens never gave up, the team got better and now two one point wins have put the Bulldogs two victories from the Final Four. The Southeast bracket is wide open and there is no reason that Stevens cannot make magic again.

14. Jordan Taylor will impress:  Jordan Taylor is a phenomenon to watch. While he plays on a painfully boring team that at times can suck the life out of any room it is in, he is an explosive scorer that also has the ability to get his teammates involved and control a game. Taylor will get overshadowed this weekend by Jimmer, Kemba and the rest, but he is as good a player as they are and at the top of his game, potentially a better NBA prospect. Wisconsin is prime to sneak in under the radar and make a trip to the Final Four, because they play great defense and are a style contrast for most teams. Bo Ryan can get it done with this group, but it will be Jordan Taylor who makes it happen.

15. Jimmer: He is the biggest star in college basketball and has become a sports figure so well known, that he can be called only by his first name. Jimmer Fredette draws the highest ratings of the NCAA tournament and is everyone's second favorite player in the nation. But what he doesn't have is a Final Four, an accomplishment that will make him an all-timer in the sport. Florida is a team that BYU beat last year and the Cougars might be favored against either Wisconsin or Butler. Jimmer can do it and if he does, he will become the Tim Tebow of college basketball.  All it takes is two more wins.

16. The under-appreciated Gators: Florida is playing its best basketball of the season and is one of only a few teams left in the tournament that has a scoring threat at every position. This Florida team has generally been overlooked all season and was thought by most to be way overseeded in the No. 2 spot in the Southeast region. But the Gators played two great games in Tampa and come to New Orleans with the most open bracket in the field and are the odds-on favorite to advance. Billy Donovan is extremely overlooked as a coach...three national title games in 11 years and a chance to go to a fourth Final Four this year. Get that done and he has to be considered one of the five best coaches in the game, a group he is rarely placed into.

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Posted on: March 21, 2011 12:21 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 12:26 am
 

Southeast Regional Preview

Posted By Matt Jones

The New Orleans Regional was supposed to be the most wide open of any of the four regions and after the first weekend, that is still the case. With No. 1 seed Pittsburgh losing to Butler, a case can be made for any of the four remaining teams ending up in the Final Four. None of the four teams provide significant matchup issues for the others and all four have the capability of beating each other in a one-game scenario. No matter what happens in New Orleans, the games there will be the hardest to forsee and thus likely, the most exciting.

 

Three storylines dominating New Orleans

  1. Jimmer Fredette tries to will his BYU team to the Final Four
  2. Butler seeks to prove last year was not a fluke and get to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
  3. Florida coach Billy Donovan goes for his fourth Final four in just over a decade

How they got to New Orleans

No. 2 Florida:  The Gators have been one of the most impressive teams so far in the NCAA tournament and are playing their best basketball of the season. SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons led Florida throughout the year with his ability to score both inside and outside and hit the offensive glass. However in the last four weeks, guard Erving Walker has also stepped up and shown that not only does he want to take the big shots, he can also finish them. The Gators dominated UC-Santa Barbara in the first round, in as thorough a win as any team took in the round of 64. In the round of 32, the Gators struggled at times with UCLA, but executed down the stretch, thanks to the multitude of scoring weapons and Walker’s big play. No team in the New Orleans region has more weapons and the Gators will be the one team that can exploit advantages at its fourth and fifth options in both regional games.

No. 3 BYU:  It was unknown just how the Cougars would respond in the NCAA tournament, after the loss of Brandon Davies just two weeks prior. But BYU has answered the call and played some inspired basketball. The story with BYU will always be Jimmer Fredette, who was amazing once again in the Cougars’ round of 32 victory over Gonzaga. The win over the Zags was one of the most impressive of the tournament due to just how thorough it ended up being. Most believed that the Cougars were susceptible to a team that played physical and would try to exploit them on the interior, but BYU showcased that when its offense is clicking, defensive mismatches will not have much of an effect. They go into New Orleans with an opening game against a team they defeated last year and with a legitimate chance to overcome the late season turmoil and reach the Final Four.

No. 4 Wisconsin:  After the Badgers played so dreadfully in a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin was considered a potential first round upset victim in the NCAA tournament. But after a convincing win over Belmont in the round of 64 and a gritty, hard-fought victory over Jacob Pullen and Kansas State, Wisconsin now moves on to New Orleans for the Southeast regional. Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer are one of the best one-two punches left in the tournament and will be difficult for any of the teams remaining in New Orleans to stop. The Badgers must however have other players step up and hit big shots to advance. Against Kansas State, Tim Jarmusz and Mike Bruesewitz both hit big shots from behind the three-point arc and it will require a repeat performance in New Orleans for Wisconsin to make a trip to Houston for the Final Four.

No. 8 Butler:  The Butler Bulldogs are as close to America’s team in college basketball right now as anyone in the sport. After two exciting, harrowing winds in Washington D.C., Butler is now on to try and make another miracle run to the Final Four for the second consecutive year. Matt Howard’s lay-up at the buzzer versus Old Dominion was the culmination of a great battle between two teams playing each other far too early in the tournament. The Bulldogs then moved on to get an impressive win over Pittsburgh in one of the better first weekend games in the past decade in the NCAA tournament. While most will remember the game for the bizarre ending, Butler had a near perfect performance throughout and showcased just how much it has improved since its rough early start to the season. Now the Bulldogs go to a regional in which there is no team it cannot beat and a Final Four is once again on the doorstep. 

New Orleans’s five best players

  1. Jimmer Fredette: The biggest star in college basketball has had an amazing season and is two games away from entering college basketball immortality.
  2. Jordan Taylor: There is no more explosive player in the country that is lesser known than the Wisconsin star who is one breakout performance away from stardom.
  3. Chandler Parsons: The SEC Player of the Year has had ups and downs in his career, but when he plays well, he is a matchup nightmare for any defender.
  4. Matt Howard: One of the best tournament players of the last 15 years. He finds a way to score in the post where it seems impossible.
  5. Jon Leuer: The Wisconsin big man is a load to handle and can step out and shoot, making him a very dangerous weapon.

This is the most wide open regional and a case can be made for any of the teams advancing. I will pick the Florida Gators, only because they have the most variety of weapons and are thus best suited to withstand a bad game by one of their star players. I look for Florida to play Wisconsin in the regional final and get the victory to send Billy Donovan to yet another Final Four.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Video: Tampa pod wrapup



Posted by Eric Angevine

Matt Jones was at the Tampa pod today, and he'll have more thoughts on how things played out, but it was an SEC-flavored day in the Sunshine State.

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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



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