Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:22 am
The Kentucky Invitational continues Friday in New Orleans where we've got the top eight seeds all playing ... except for Mississippi State, which might've ruined its hopes of making the NCAA tournament with its loss to Georgia in the first round. The Bulldogs went from being ranked to losing six of their final eight games. That's not good. It should definitely cost State a spot in the Field of 68. Now the question is whether Rick Stansbury can make it to 2012-13?
Yes, he'll survive.
But he'll enter 2012-13 on the hot seat.
Let's look at Friday's matchups.
Kentucky (1) vs. LSU (8): Congratulations, LSU. You just beat Arkansas to advance to the SEC quarterfinals. Now you get Kentucky. So ... congrats on making it to the SEC quarterfinals.
Florida (4) vs. Alabama (5): This is the SEC tournament's only game of the day between two teams assured of a trip to the NCAA tournament. So the stakes aren't that high. But it's also Billy Donovan against Anthony Grant, his former assistant. And nobody wants to lose a quarterfinal game to their old assistant, do they?
Tennessee (2) vs. Ole Miss (7): Ole Miss advanced to the SEC quarterfinals with a 68-54 victory over Auburn. (I hope Varez Ward had Ole Miss minus the points.) Now we get a matchup between two bubble teams. The loser can plan for the NIT. The winner remains alive for the NCAA tournament. This is one of Friday's most important games.
Vanderbilt (3) vs. Georgia (11): Vanderbilt beat Georgia twice this season by an average of 10 points. So there's no reason to think the Commodores won't win this and advance to Saturday's semifinals. But the Commodores have suprised us before, haven't they?
Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:56 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:08 pm
So who's gonna finish second to Kentucky in New Orleans?
That's an obvious question to ask heading into the SEC Tournament.
It's probably also a reasonable question to ask about the NCAA Tournament.
Because the Wildcats are the overwhelming favorite in the SEC Tournament and will be most people's pick to win the NCAA Tournament, too. They're talented and dominant and generally great. They've only lost once all season and that was on a buzzer-beater at Indiana. They ran through the SEC in a way that impressed even Nick Saban. If no SEC team could beat them in 16 tries during the regular season, why would any SEC team do it here?
Answer: No SEC team will.
So who's finishing second to Kentucky in New Orleans?
I'll go with Vanderbilt.
Despite what the tournament seedings and national rankings suggest, the Commodores are, in my opinion, the SEC's second best team. They just don't play like it all the time, which is a problem. But that's another issue for another day. For now, let's just focus on the event's first-round games. Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida earned byes to the quarterfinals. The other eight schools start play Thursday.
LSU (8) vs. Arkansas (9): There was a time when nobody could beat Arkansas at Arkansas, but that time ended just after Valentine's Day. That's when Florida destroyed the Razorbacks at Bud Walton. Then Alabama handled them there. Then Ole Miss handled them there, too. Suddenly, the Razorbacks were no longer considered a bubble team. They looked more like a ninth-seed in a 12-team league, which is exactly what they turned into. If they beat LSU on Thursday, they'll play Kentucky on Friday. So I'm not sure winning Thursday is wise.
Alabama (5) vs. South Carolina (12): The Crimson Tide were on the verge of falling apart when several players were suspended, including Tony Mitchell, who was ultimately dismissed. But Anthony Grant held things together, the Crimson Tide closed the regular season by winning four of their final five games, and they're now (I presume) safely in the NCAA Tournament. Meantime, South Carolina is on a five-game losing streak. So barring a surprise, Grant will spend Friday coaching against Florida while Darrin Horn spends Friday dreading a meeting with his athletic director.
Ole Miss (7) vs. Auburn (10): Proof that the bubble is super soft is that Jerry Palm has Ole Miss just on the wrong side of it despite the fact that the Rebels are 1-6 against the Top 50 and 7-11 against the Top 100. To be clear, they probably need to beat Auburn on Thursday, Tennessee on Friday and Vanderbilt, Mississippi State or Georgia on Saturday to be seriously considered for an at-large bid. But Andy Kennedy's team has a shot. That's the point I'm trying to make.
Mississippi State (6) vs. Georgia (11): Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs are in most bracket projections right now, but just barely. In other words, they'd better not lose to Georgia on Thursday because if they do they won't play Vanderbilt on Friday ... or in the NCAA Tournament at all.
-- Gary Parrish
Posted on: March 3, 2012 6:40 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 6:42 pm
By Matt Norlander
Tennessee is still in play to finish second in the SEC.
That's more than surprising; it's downright stunning.
The Volunteers were supposed to take this year to learn, get better, grow older and adapt to first-year coach Cuonzo Martin's system. Now, after UT (18-13, 10-6) defeated Vanderbilt 68-61 at home Saturday, the Volunteers' name is getting tossed out in the bubble picture. At least two more big wins are needed for the at-large talk to have legitimacy and logistical reason, but the fact Martin's coached his team to this point is impressive -- and hopefully a really, really good sign for the future of this program.
The Martin hire was considering underwhelming by some Tennessee fans. But this was after the beloved Bruce Pearl was forced out for lying to the NCAA, effectively blacklisted for three years by the institution as well. Martin came in after guiding Missouri State to one NIT appearance and not NCAA tournament berths in three seasons. Martin's done as good of a job already, no matter what happens in the SEC tournament, as anyone could expect.
If the Tennessee-in-the-tournament talk feels premature to you, that's because it is. No one is putting UT in yet, but they're now on the pile. The Vols played the first half of this season without freshman Jarnell Stokes. Stokes is one of Tennessee's two best players, so yeah, that's got impact. Since he started playing, the Volunteers are 9-5. It's not a huge uptick in how they play, but they're undeniably better with him in the lineup. The team has wins over Vandy, a sweep of Florida -- huge -- and that home win against UConn, which isn't greatly impressive ... but if we got down to it, could be a trump card.
Tennessee also closed its season out by winning three of four on the road. The Selection Committee highly values road wins. On the year, UT is 3-8. You wonder if the overall record carries a lot more heft -- considering most of those road losses were without Stokes -- than the recent surge.
To get it really interesting, Tennessee's going to have to earn itself another top-50 win. Getting the No. 2 seed, which can only happen if Florida beats Kentucky at home Sunday, would be paramount, as it would give Tennessee its best shot at reaching the SEC finals, since they couldn't face Kentucky in the bracket until then. All of this is conjecture and optimism, but the fact we're even posting about Tennessee on March 3 in relation to getting a bye in the SEC tournament and still having hoping for the bracket that matters? It amounts to one of the most unlikely storylines in major college basketball this season.
Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:56 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 5:01 pm
By Matt Norlander
No matter who you think should be college basketball's player of the year, if you're a fan of the game, I think it's undeniable: Draymond Green is so, so much fun to watch. When you stop and think about it, isn't he the best big man with the most diverse weaponry in his game to wear a Michigan State jersey since Magic Johnson?
Green is a point forward, essentially. He does things for this team, and has skills at the 1/2/3/4/5 that nobody -- nobody -- in college basketball has. That inherently makes him unique, and I suspect Tom Izzo is thankful for every second he has remaining with Green at his disposal. He's not only reliable, he's impossible to gameplan against because you can take away what he does best, or second-best, or third-best, and he'll still be able to help his team in five or six other ways. It's because of this that he's even in the conversation for Player of the Year.
But should he be? At first reaction, I thought so. Jeff Eisenberg put up a comparison post using traditional, tempo stats on The Dagger Wednesday. It was only between Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis. "Where's Day-Day?" I asked upon seeing the piece. Chris Vannini, who has spent the past four years covering Michigan State, thought the same. And then I realized I was automatically judging Green's value to Michigan State vs. his ability as a player. Without him, is Michigan State an NCAA tournament team? I question that it is.
That's the ever-lasting argument: value to a team vs. actual ability/talent and achievement that's been displayed in a given year. Without Anthony Davis, Kentucky is still very good. It doesn't make him nearly as valuable to the Wildcats as Green is to Michigan State and Thomas Robinson is to Kansas.
In talking Player of the Year, we're talking the latter part of that debate above. I hope voters are aware of that. It's not a valuable award, it's a talent+achievement award. From that combination's standpoint, unfortunately, Green is not in the same class with the two men who are a virtual length-of-a-nose race for Player of the Year. I'm talking numbers here; from a visual perspective, again, it's a blast to watch Draymond. I think when he scores 29 and his team is still not even sniffing a win against Indiana, that's a double-edged result.
The following data was used compiling as-of-today statistics at Statsheet.com (Player Efficiency Ratings and KenPom.com. And fortunately, all statistics are measured through exactly 30 games for each player. Stats need to be judged against schedule strength too, in my opinion. As a backdrop, here's the KenPom.com overall SOS for each player:
Robinson: No. 3
Green: No. 4
Davis: No. 60
Davis' O Rating is absolutely absurd. And take note that I'm using one grid as a background for all data comparisons, so Davis' lofty PER and block numbers look small here, but in fact are nearly as stupid as his adjusted offensive rating.
Here's how it spreadsheets out. Notice how frequently Green is third in these dozens valuable categoriges. His only advantage is when it comes to passing, wher he is clearly as far ahead in that category as any other player is in any other. He makes teammates better, which speaks more to value than his overall achievement profile, but it's still plenty noteworthy.
Green's had a great, great year so far, but he's going up against an all-time shot-block/freak in Davis and a relentless, superior rebounder and scorer in Robinson. I think, at this point, POY is out of Green's reach, even if he's deserving to be in the conversation. From a numbers standpoint, he's a notch below. It's not his fault. If he put up these numbers last year, against Jimmer, it would actually be a really intriguing race.
No matter. Green's still incredible to watch, just as valuable to his team as Robinson, and more diversified in his game -- even though his ceiling are lower -- than Davis. Michigan State won't get to the Final Four without him, and while any coach would love/marry/kill to have Robinson or Davis on their roster, Green is woven into the fabric of his team's scheme as much as any player in the country.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:00 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:27 pm
By Matt Norlander
Twenty-nine days gone, here are the best images taken from dedicated photogs around the country. Some are from big moments in big games; others are snapshots that you'd never would have known if not for a quick finger and clean lens. I'm continually grateful that news organizations put a premium on covering games with equal parts dedication to the pen as they do the camera. Enjoy this fantastic work.
Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:33 pm
By Matt Norlander
We're back again with our weekly Tuesday poll and we want you to click through and let us know who you're picking for this week's marquee games. This is by far and away the most we've ever included in a poll, which means it will take you 20 seconds instead of the normal 13 to decide.
As usual, all of these games will be discussed on Wednesday night's edition of "Courtside with Seth Davis" at 7 p.m. ET. Before or after you vote, I also implore you to like the Eye On College Basketball Facebook page. And if that's not enough, CBSSports.com has your roundball fix tended to thanks to our daily newsletter. That newsleter is fantastic -- send it along to a parent or relative who you think would want that in their mailbox this time of year, too.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 6:45 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 9:08 pm
By Jeff Goodman
LAWRENCE, Kan. - If this was it, the Border War sure went out in style.
Kansas overcame a 19-point deficit and came back to beat Missouri, 87-86, in overtime, in one of the most thrilling regular-season contests college basketball has witnessed this season.
The hype and the atmosphere for this one was off the charts. Both teams entered the game ranked in the top five in the country and there's no love lost between the two programs. Mizzou is headed to the SEC next season and there has been no shortage of speculation that these two will end the series that has spanned since 1907 and through 267 matchups.
Game No. 267 ranks up there with the best of them.
Tyshawn Taylor, who has been maligned through much of his four-year career in Lawrence, sank a pair of free throws with 8.3 seconds left in overtime to give Kansas a 87-86 lead. Missouri was unable to get a shot off on its final possession.
This wasn't just any ordinary victory for Bill Self and the Jayhawks. It was a victory against a rival -- and also extended the streak of claiming at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title to eight consecutive years. It was also revenge as Kansas blew a eight-point lead in Columbia a few weeks ago.
With the Tigers losing at home against Kansas State this past week and Saturday against KU, the Jayhawks now sit two games in front of Missouri with two regular-season games left.
Kansas will just need a win at Oklahoma State or a home win against Texas in order to win the Big 12 outright.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 3:36 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2012 3:43 pm
It’s around this time every year when we start to see some of the top players in the country swear they’re returning to college next season. And then, come April, they go pro anyway.
As a result, most people took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s comments after Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt with a grain of salt.
“I’m graduating here. I’m not going nowhere. I’m staying at Kentucky,” Kidd-Gilchrist said, according to Brett Dawson of Rivals.com. “I’m dead serious. I don’t know why y’all laughing.”
Will Kidd-Gilchrist definitely return to school? I have no idea. I wouldn’t doubt that he’s thinking about it, though.
Kidd-Gilchrist is just wired differently than most of the star freshmen and college players these days. He’s always been that way. He has never truly carried himself like a superstar, and even his skillset doesn’t resemble that of a typical “future NBA All-Star.” Kidd-Gilchrist outworks players, he outhustles players and he’s a winner above everything else.
If Anthony Davis had said the same thing about returning to school, would I believe him? Not a chance. He’s the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Kidd-Gilchrist has moved all the way up to No. 3 in several mock drafts, but I don’t think he’s overly concerned with that. He’s not the kind of player who will regress with another year in college. Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t have a ton of people feeding him all sorts of conflicting information; he has a good support team around him that will help him make the right decision.
Like I said, do I think Kidd-Gilchrist is a lock to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season? No. But I certainly wouldn’t write off the idea when it comes to him.