College Weekly Report
by Brent Beaird
What SEC basketball schools will make the NCAA Tournament?
With only three games remaining starting this weekend, the guess here is that LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee will be dancing in March. Going into this week, Tennessee has one of the better RPI and strength of schedule numbers despite their recent two game slide. Tennessee did beat Mississippi State Wednesday night. LSU’s strength of schedule is poor, but the Tigers will earn a bid because they are the hottest team in the league and the only one that is ranked. Kentucky has Jodie Meeks, one of the leading most valuable player candidates, who has scored more than 40 points three times this season. Strength of schedule hurts the Gators, but Nick Calathes’ potential for a triple- double on any given night makes them attractive to the committee. What an amazing job that Coach Darrin Horn has done at South Carolina. An NCAA bid would validate his efforts in his first season. They are easily one of the more improved teams in the league.
For only the third time since the SEC expanded in 1992 and the second time in three years, only one team from the Western division-LSU-will likely make the NCAA tourney. The SEC is the only league to have had at least five teams make the tournament since 1997. Also, the last time the SEC didn’t have a team seeded at least fourth was 1990, when it had only three teams make the field and none higher than a fifth seed.
SEC RPI and strength of schedule for the contenders: Tennessee (25, 2), LSU (36, 111), South Carolina (45, 95), Florida (42, 102), and Kentucky (62, 76).
SEC East: South Carolina 9-4, Florida 8-5, Kentucky 8-5, Tennessee 8-5, Vanderbilt 5-8, Georgia 2-11
SEC West: LSU 12-1, Auburn 7-6, Miss State 7-6, Ole Miss 6-7, Alabama 5-8, Arkansas 1-12
TENNESSEE (17-10, 8-5) AT FLORIDA (21-7, 8-5) on SUNDAY: The Gators, 8-4 in their last 12 games, still have a shot at winning the division if they win and South Carolina loses. Florida has split with South Carolina. The Gators have home games against Tennessee and Kentucky and a road game at Mississippi State. If Florida and South Carolina tie in the standings, then the deciding factor will be wins within the division (South Carolina is 5-2 and Florida is 4-4).
Florida’s resume: Washington and South Carolina are arguably the biggest victories. Florida is No. 41 in RPI, which is an average ranking. Two of the remaining foes Mississippi State (No. 84) and Kentucky (No. 61) have high a RPI. The Gators are 2-6 on the road with wins over Vandy and Auburn. The Georgia loss really hurt. Yet, Florida has a deeper bench with Erving Walker, Ray Shipman and Kenny Kadji.
The Gators had a halftime lead and a three-point lead with 12:05 remaining in Baton Rouge, but LSU went on a 14-2 spurt that made the difference in the game. LSU won with five seniors and a junior in its eight man rotation. Florida had three sophomores and three freshmen in its eight player rotation. Calathes, who was battling the flu, was held to 12 points. Walter Hodge scored 16 points, but Dan Werner was limited to 1 of 7 shooting.
Allan Chaney could return by Sunday. He has been battling a stress fracture. Florida has won 17 straight games at home. The Gators are second in the league in scoring averaging 79 points per game. They are fifth in scoring defense allowing 69 ppg. Florida is seventh in free throws converting 69%. The Gators are the second best shooting team averaging 48%, but they are No. 11 in field goal percentage defense allowing opponents to hit 44%. Florida is the best team in the SEC in assists (17 apg) and third in steals averaging eight per game. They are second in turnover margin (+3.52) and first in assist/turnover ratio. Walter Hodge has played in 113 wins, the most in Gator history.
Tennessee, 7-5 in its last 12 games, needs a lot of help to win the division. Kentucky and South Carolina must lose. They play South Carolina on March 5. Tennessee also plays at Florida and they host Alabama. They need Kentucky to lose twice since the Wildcats beat them twice. Tennessee is shooting for a second win over Florida. Scotty Hopson scored 21 points in the win over Mississippi State Wednesday night. Bobby Maze had 13 points and Tyler Smith added 12. The Vols have beaten State five straight times.
LSU (23-4, 11-1) AT KENTUCKY (19-9, 8-5): LSU has not in Rupp since 1989. The Tigers won the regular season conference title with the win over Florida. Marcus Thornton scored 32 points in the win over Florida. Thornton, who has six 30 point games, hit a season-high six 3- point shots. Garrett Temple scored 21 points. Bo Spencer had six rebounds, six assists and nine points. LSU has won nine straight and 12 consecutive games in the SEC.
Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson scored 28 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to South Carolina. The Wildcats, 7-5 in its last 12 games, chances of winning the division were hurt with the loss to South Carolina. The Wildcats have beaten Tennessee twice. They need South Carolina to lose at least two games. Kentucky has two home games left against LSU and Georgia and a road game at Florida.
GEORGIA AT ARKANSAS (SUNDAY): In the loss to Ole Miss last Saturday, Terrance Woodbury had a team-high 19 points to become the 39th player in Bulldog history to score 1,000 points in his career.
ALABAMA (15-12, 5-8) AT OLE MISS (15-12, 6-7): The Tide has won two straight games with a win Wednesday night over Arkansas. Alonzo Gee has shown some maturity in the two wins. He scored 23 points in the Arkansas win. Yamene Coleman scored 12 points.
Alabama broke a four-game losing streak with a double-overtime win against Mississippi State last Saturday. Alonzo Gee, who scored his 1,500 point in the loss to Florida, tallied a season-high 28 points including 10 in overtime during the win over Mississippi State. Gee led the Tide with 17 points in the loss to Florida.
Ole Miss, 6-6 in its last 12 games, is 5-1 at home with wins over Tennessee and Kentucky. The Rebels have an RPI of 65 and a strength of schedule of 20. In the loss to Auburn on Wednesday, Terrico White scored 24 points and David Huertas added 15. Ole Miss has home games against Alabama and Mississippi State and a road game at Arkansas.
AUBURN (18-10, 7-6) AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (17-11, 7-6): The Bulldogs, 6-6 in their last 12 games, will likely have to win the SEC Tournament in order to earn an NCAA bid. They are vying for a No. 2 Western division seed in the tournament in order to avoid playing on the opening day. State’s remaining games at Ole Miss and home against Auburn and Florida will be difficult. State has lost double overtime games this year to both LSU and Alabama. Jarvis Varnado leads the league in blocks. Remaining games are at Auburn, Florida and at Ole Miss. Barry Stewart led the Bulldog with 20 points in the loss to Tennessee.
Auburn’s DeWayne Reed and Tay Waller each scored 19 and 18 points to pace the Tigers over Ole Miss Wednesday night. Korvotney Barber had 13 points and 13 rebounds in the win. Auburn is 8-4 in its last 12 games.
SOUTH CAROLINA (20-6, 9-4) AT VANDERBILT (16-11, 5-8): The Gamecocks (8-4 in their last 12 games) blocked 16 shots in the win over Kentucky. Devan Downey scored 21 points, five steals and five assists. Sam Muldrow had eight points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. After beating Kentucky, the Gamecocks are in first place in their division. South Carolina has road games at Vandy and Georgia and a home game against Tennessee. They have the tiebreaker over Kentucky, a split with Florida and a loss to Tennessee. If they win out, the Gamecocks win their division.
South Carolina has won eight straight home games for the first time since the 2002-03 season. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in scoring with 79 points per game. South Carolina leads the league in three-point percentage (39%). They are third in three-point percentage defense (32%). The Gamecocks lead the league with 9.64 steals per game and turnover margin (+5.60 per game).
Vandy was embarrassed by Georgia Wednesday night.
SPRING DATES: Alabama begins March 13, game: April 18; Arkansas begins March 24, game: April 18, Auburn begins March 24, game: April 18, LSU begins March 12, game: April 18, Ole Miss begins March 26, game: April 18, Mississippi State begins March 24, game: April 18, Florida March 25, game April 18, Georgia begins March 16, game April 11, Kentucky April 1, game: April 25, South Carolina begins March 3, game: April 11, Tennessee begins March 10, game: April 18, Vanderbilt begins March 10, game: March 28.
ALABAMA: The start of spring practice has been moved from March 23 to March 13. Receiver Earl Alexander and running back Roy Upchurch have not been cleared for spring contact. Receiver Julio Jones had minor surgery done on his wrist and shoulder. Former Gamecock quarterback Chris Smelley will not be playing baseball for Alabama. His eligibility waiver has been denied. Alabama officials have appealed. Jalston Fowler (6-0, 240), a running back from Mobile (Ala.) Vigor, has committed to Alabama. He is the second verbal commitment. Coach Nick Saban has offered Nick Montana, a quarterback from Oaks Christian High Westlake Village, Calif. He is the son of NFL legend Joe Montana. Florida State and South Carolina, Georgia are among the nine schools to offer Montana. He is waiting on an offer from Tennessee and Southern Cal. Montana might make his decision by the end of the summer. Receiver B. J. Scott is moving to defensive back for the spring where there is a lack of depth. Non-conference schedule: Sept. 5 Virginia Tech, Sept. 12 FIU, Sept. 19 North Texas and Nov. 21 UTC.
FLORIDA: The Gators according to GatorBait.net are one under the scholarship limit of 85 counting incoming freshmen. Going into the spring, the Gators have 14 seniors, 28 juniors, 15 sophomores and 12 freshmen. Counting incoming freshmen, there are 3 quarterbacks, 6 running backs, 10 receivers, 2 tight ends, 17 offensive linemen and 17 defensive linemen, 11 linebackers, and 15 defensive backs. There will also be three players on special teams. Offensive lineman Carl Johnson had his hearing delayed six weeks for violating a sexual violence restraining order against his ex-girlfriend. There is no change in season ticket prices. The Gators have another 2010 commitment from Victor Hampton (5-10, 170), a cornerback from Charlotte (N.C.) Independence. Georgia, North Carolina, Clemson and South Carolina have offered him.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: The spring game will be televised by CSS at 6:30 p.m. on April 18. This will be the first glimpse of State’s new spread offense.
KENTUCKY: The Wildcats might open the season in Cincinnati against Miami of Ohio. They have not played an opener outside the state since 1982. A potential problem is Miami of Ohio already has a game scheduled against Northwestern on Sept. 5.
OLE MISS: Rebel officials are still trying to find a 12th game for fit the Sept. 12 date. They nearly had a deal with TCU, but the Horn Frogs signed with Clemson. The game has to be at home and has to be a Division I school. Idaho could be a possibility. Coach Houston Nutt has dismissed defensive lineman Justin Sanders and defensive back James Scott for a violation of team rules. Nutt signed 37 players on National Signing Day. Scott is an Ohio State transfer from Daytona Beach, Fla. Non-conference schedule: Sept. 5 at Memphis, Sept. 12 TBA, Sept. 19 Southeastern La., and Oct. 17 UAB
SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks begin spring practice next Tuesday. Coach Steve Spurrier has five new assistant coaches and a new strength and conditioning coach. Coach Steve Spurrier has told Connor Shaw (the brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Jaybo Shaw), a quarterback from Flowery Branch, S.C., he is not close to retiring. Non-conference schedule: Sept. 3 at N. C. State, Sept. 19 Florida Atlantic, Oct. 3 South Carolina State and Nov. 28 Clemson. The Gamecocks will play two Thursday night games—Sept. 3 at N. C. State and Sept. 24 at home against Ole Miss.
GEORGIA: Bulldog offensive tackle Josh Davis will have a second surgery this offseason to correct a problem with his right shoulder. He had surgery for on his left shoulder after the bowl game. The next surgery is to correct a chronic condition on his right shoulder. Receiver A. J. Green said he will be able to participate in spring football since his groin injury is improving. Green said he weighs 207, but has not lost any speed. Georgia players have said workouts are more intense and there are more severe penalties for players who act up or don’t perform. The players say the coaches are demanding more of the players in order to prevent a repeat of last year’s problems. Coaches have spent more time overseeing workouts and making players stick to their workout programs.
Bulldog officials are looking to fill three dates in the 2010 schedule. Two of those games are at home. The problem is most schools want home-and-home contracts. Georgia opens the 2010 season at South Carolina. There is some rumor that ESPN has asked Georgia to move the 2009 opener at Oklahoma State to a Thursday night, but Georgia officials said they have not heard anything about it.
The Bulldogs are still waiting on Orson Charles (6-3, 220), a four-star tight end from Tampa, Fla. Charles has narrowed his list down to Georgia, Tennessee and Southern Cal. Charles announced Wednesday that he has dropped Florida. He dropped FSU several weeks ago. He visited Southern Cal last weekend. Charles, who will sign on March 6, also wants to wear jersey No. 7 wherever he signs.
Kwame Geathers (6-6, 320), a defensive tackle from Carver’s Bay, S.C., last week signed with Georgia over Tennessee and UCF. Tailback Richard Samuel will miss spring practice after wrist surgery. Freshman running back Dontavius Jackson will also miss time this spring due to injuries. Defensive tackle Ricardo Crawford will spend three weeks at Oxford this summer studying Shakespeare and British lit. Coach Mark Richt promised offensive lineman signee Chris Burnette that he would come to hear his graduation speech if he was selected as the valedictorian, but NCAA rules forbids him from doing so. Non-conference schedule: Sept. 5 at Oklahoma State, Sept. 26 Arizona State, Nov. 7 Tennessee Tech and at Nov. 28 Georgia Tech.
LSU: Tiger officials have announced a home-and-home series with West Virginia starting in 2010. The first of the two meetings will begin on Sept. 25, 2010 in Tiger Stadium. The return trip will be the following September. The 2011 game will mark the first trip to the East Coast for LSU since the Virginia Tech game in 2002. Non-conference schedule: Sept. 5 at Washington, Sept. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette, Oct. 31 Tulane and Nov. 14 La Tech.
AUBURN: Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn told the media this week that he is not in favor of playing two quarterbacks. Kodi Burns and Chris Todd shared the job last season. Redshirt freshman Barrett Trotter and junior Neil Caudle will battle Burns and Todd. Auburn could be in the lead for David Oku (5-10, 186), a four-star running back from Midwest City, Oklahoma. Syracuse, Ole Miss and Clemson are also possibilities. Oku has moved to a high school in Nebraska to finish out his senior year. However, Oku said he was not going to attend Nebraska. Non-conference schedule: Sept. 5 Louisiana Tech, Sept. 19 West Virginia, Sept. 26 Ball State, Nov. 7 Furman
TENNESSEE: The Vols start practice two weeks from this past Tuesday. Tight end Brandon Warren has been moved to receiver. Coach Lane Kiffin has told recruits that quarterback Jonathan Crompton is the likely starter. Besides the quarterback battle, easily the biggest concern is the offensive line. There is no film on 7 of the 12 linemen because of a lack of playing time. Denarious Moore, Ahmad Paige and Brandon Warren are needed to become more consistent playmakers. Kiffin wants the team to become stronger. Former Vols have not done well in NFL combine strength tests. Kiffin has sent letters to former Vol players that they are invited to practice and to be a part of the program. Aaron Douglas, one of Tennessee’s top signees two years ago, has been moved from tight end to tackle. Receivers coach Frank Wilson said signee Nu’Keese Richardson reminds him of USC’s Reggie Bush.
Bryce Brown, a five-star running back from Wichita, Kansas, will make his announcement on March 12 at the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. His father said Thursday that reports are not true that Brown has dropped Miami and is down to LSU and Kansas State. He plans on visiting LSU this weekend. His father said Brown was going to possibly visit Miami on an unofficial visit Tuesday, but a death in the family might cause a change of plans. Brown has visited Oregon, Clemson, Kansas State, Missouri and Tennessee. Southern Cal is no longer a factor and Clemson and Missouri appear to be out of the consideration. Brian Butler, Browns’ handler is being investigated by the NCAA to see if he has done anything to change the amateur status of any of the players he is working with presently. Tennessee’s non-conference schedule: Sept. 5 Western Kentucky, Sept. 12 UCLA, Sept. 26 Ohio and Memphis Nov. 7.
ARKANSAS: Once promising receiver Crosby Tuck is giving up football after being unable to recover from a devastating elbow injury that he sustained in the Kentucky game in 2007.
MIAMI: The Canes started practice Tuesday. Six starters return on offense and defense. Positives are the linebacker position with Sean Spence and running back with Javarris James and Graig Cooper. Concerns are on the offensive line, receiver and safety. The average completion last year was only 10 yards per catch. Offensive linemen Xavier Shannon, Chris Rutledge and Reggie Youngblood are out of eligibility. A. J. Trump has lead at center.
Allen Bailey has been moved to tackle from defensive end. He will battle Marcus Fortson, Joe Joseph, and Josh Holmes. Linebacker Arthur Brown didn’t live up to the hype as a freshman. He will battle Darryl Sharpton. Tight end Richard Gordon, who weighs 265 after dropping 15 pounds, needs to improve with Dedrick Epps recovering from a severe knee injury. Senior Sam Shields has moved from receiver to defensive back. Coach Randy Shannon said the move is permanent. The secondary was hit hard with losses: cornerbacks Bruce Johnson and Carlos Armour and safeties Anthony Reddick and Lovon Ponder. Returning cornerbacks are Brandon Harris, Chavez Grant and Demarcus Van Dyke. The returning safeties are Ryan Hill, Joseph Nicolas and Randy Phillips, who received a sixth year of eligibility. Quarterback Jacory Harris, who has went from 179 to 189 pounds, must also take a step forward without Robert Marve pushing him. Harris said under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple the team is looking at more NFL film, trying to get mismatches with running backs against linebackers. Harris said he will be under center most of the time. A big question is who will be the backup to Harris? Taylor Cook (who is 6-foot-7) and Cannon Smith, who is barely six feet tall, will battle for the spot. Cook ran the scout team last year. Cook has put on 15 pounds and weighs 235. Redshirt freshman Tommy Streeter has recovered from tearing a tendon in his wrist. Randy Phillips is back from LCL surgery and is prepared to make a move in the secondary. The spring game is March 28.
Former Cane coach Larry Coker is among three finalists for the Texas-San Antonio football program.
FLORIDA STATE: The Noles start spring practice March 16 not March 2 (changed Wednesday) and the spring game is April 4. The reason for the move is to prevent practice from being interrupted by spring break. Offensive line coach Rick Trickett and his attorney have reached a one-year extension with FSU. His contract will now run through 2011. Trickett and his attorney wanted a longer term contract for a substantial amount of money. FSU did not agree, but Trickett agreed to the one-year extension out of loyalty to Bobby Bowden. Last year, Trickett made $300,000 including an annual bonus of $100,000. The St. Pete Times is reporting that Trickett received an additional $25,000.
Corey Surrency has appealed for another year of eligibility according to Jimbo Fisher. He has been participating in offseason conditioning. Terrance Parks will move from cornerback to free safety. For the first time in years, there is depth at tight end. Caz Piurowski is the starter. He caught only eight passes. Ja’Baris Little is the key backup. He played in 11 games and made one catch. Redshirt freshman Bo Reliford will also participate. Jermaine Thomas is the frontrunner at tailback with Ty Jones pushing him. Marcus Sims and Seddrick Holloway will also compete. FSU averaged 179 yards rushing last year (No.33 nationally). The previous three seasons they never finished higher than No. 91. Tavarres Pressley is still rehabbing after knee surgery. Christian Ponder, a redshirt junior, will be the starter this spring at quarterback. Ponder rushed for 423 yards last season. Redshirt freshman E. J. Manuel hopes to push Ponder. Manuel was awarded the scout team player of the year. D’Vontrey Richardson is playing baseball and will move to safety during football practice.
NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels start spring practice March 2 and the spring game is March 28. Spring practice ends April 2.
CLEMSON: The Tigers begin spring practice on March 7 and the spring game is April 11. Xavier Brewer, a redshirt freshman cornerback from Bartram Trail High in Jacksonville, Fla., is expected to contribute this season. Brewer, who has gained seven pounds of muscle (177 pounds) in the offseason, has increased his bench press from 230 to 310. Clemson is solid at the two-deep with juniors and seniors, but Brewer will see some action due to his skills.
ILLINOIS: Former Ed White High Coach Dan Disch turned down an opportunity to go to South Florida as defensive coordinator.
BRENT BEAIRD IS A SPORTS WRITER FOR MYCLAYSUN IN ORANGE PARK, FLA. HE ALSO WRITES FOR RIVALS.COM, SAMSPORTSLINE.COM AND GATOR BAIT MAGAZINE. HE CAN BE HEARD ON SPORTS RADIO 1010 XL.
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