Around the SEC
By Drew Franklin on ©April 05th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
As you know, Auburn is in the Final Four, just like we all predicted back in February. Bruce Pearl’s Tigers upset Kansas, North Carolina and then your University of Kentucky Wildcats for a spot in Minneapolis, the first Final Four appearance for both the school and Pearl.
I am now rooting for our SEC brethren, but does that make me a bad person? You can be honest with me. I’m a big boy.
In most cases, I would only wish awful things upon the team that ended Kentucky’s season. In this case, though, I can’t help but pull for Pearl and a program that is there for the first time ever (against the snooze-fest that is Tony Bennett basketball at Virginia).
I know my colleague Ryan Lemond is also wearing Auburn colors this weekend. He covered Bruce Pearl at Southern Indiana many years ago, so he too is a Pearl fan. I followed Pearl back when he was at USI and have always liked his charismatic personality, even when he was coaching and barbecuing down in Knoxville from 2005-2011.
His son, Auburn assistant Steven Pearl, makes it even easier to be for Auburn after what he said to the Calipari daughters soon after Auburn knocked off UK in Kansas City. As Megan and Erin Calipari were getting some hate on Twitter, Steven Pearl tweeted to them, “Don’t listen to the outside noise. Your father is an absolute legend in this profession, one of the best to ever do it. Gracious in victory and defeat….nothing but love and respect for your family.”
Then of course there is the injury to Chuma Okeke, one of Auburn’s best players, in the Sweet 16 game. You’d have to be a real asshole to not feel bad for him in how his year was cut short with an ACL injury.
All of those things combined make me an Auburn fan in Saturday’s semifinal and then again on Monday if they take down Tony Bennett.
War Eagle! (That’s how I say it, right?)
Vanderbilt found its man. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Commodores agreed to a six-year deal with Jerry Stackhouse.
After an 18-year NBA career, the North Carolina legend has worked his way up the coaching tree, first serving as an assistant for the Toronto Raptors and then moving to the G-League, winning G-League Coach of the Year in 2017 after leading the Raptors 905 to the G-League title. From there, he became an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies.
It’s been a crazy few weeks on the coaching carousel, so here’s a rundown of SEC coaches if you’re keeping track at home:
- Alabama: Nate Oates*
- Arkansas: Vacant
- Auburn: Bruce Pearl
- Florida: Mike White
- Georgia: Tom Crean
- Kentucky: John Calipari
- LSU: Will Wade (for now)
- Mississippi State: Ben Howland
- Missouri: Cuonzo Martin
- Ole Miss: Kermit Davis
- South Carolina: Frank Martin
- Tennessee: Rick Barnes
- Texas A&M: Buzz Williams*
- Vanderbilt: Jerry Stackhouse*
* New hires
SEC Basketball ain’t messing around, guys.
UPDATE: Vanderbilt confirmed the news in a press release. Here’s what Stackhouse had to say:
“I am extremely excited to join the Vanderbilt family and build on the incredible accomplishments of its athletics program and men’s basketball program. I look forward to furthering Vanderbilt’s unique approach to athletics — blending a powerhouse competitive spirit with elite academics to holistically develop talented student-athletes and celebrate victories on and off the court.
I would like to thank Malcolm Turner and Chancellor Zeppos for giving me this fantastic opportunity to direct the Vanderbilt men’s basketball program into its next great era.”
Read the rest here.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 03rd, 2019 @ 2:30pm
Add Simi Shittu to the list of SEC underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft. The Vanderbilt freshman just announced he is entering his name into the draft and his career as a Commodore is over.
— Simi Shittu (@LanX_Sims) April 3, 2019
Shittu didn’t have quite the year he’d hoped at Vanderbilt, averaging 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds. The one-time Kentucky target was a top 10 recruit coming out of high school but is now ranked No. 81 in ESPN’s list of top 100 draft prospects; however, considering Vanderbilt’s dismal season and the firing of Bryce Drew, it’s not that surprising he’s making the jump.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 03rd, 2019 @ 12:50pm
Jordan Bone’s career at Tennessee is over. Probably. The junior point guard just declared for the NBA Draft, and told Evan Daniels he intends to stay in it barring a major change of plans.
“Well you know that there is always a chance that I come back but honestly if I put myself in a position to go then I’m going all in,” Bone said. “It’s a once in a lifetime chance and not many people can say that they’re in the position. I’m extremely blessed to be in my position but if the opportunity is there to take then I’m going to take it.”
Bone was a key part of Tennessee’s run this season, averaging 13.5 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. He was particularly pesky vs. Kentucky, averaging 21.3 points and 4.7 assists in three games vs. the Cats, including 27 points in the Vols’ rout in Knoxville.
— Jordan Bone (@JordanBone23) April 3, 2019
Tennessee will also lose seniors Admiral Schofield, Kyle Alexander, and possibly junior Grant Williams, who has yet to announce whether or not he’ll enter the draft as well.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©April 03rd, 2019 @ 10:00am
The SEC just got a little sweatier. Virginia Tech has confirmed that Buzz Williams is leaving the program to take the job at Texas A&M. Williams shared the news with his players this morning and the school issued a press release. He’s expected to be introduced in College Station tomorrow.
Jeff Goodman is reporting that LSU’s Tony Benford will join Williams at A&M as an assistant. Benford has been serving as LSU’s interim coach since Will Wade was suspended and managed to get the Tigers to the Sweet 16. Benford served on Williams’ staff at Marquette from 2008-12.
Who wins in a sweat-off: Williams or Bruce Pearl?
Will Bruce Pearl sweat through his jacket by halftime? ?
— The Ringer (@ringer) March 31, 2019
UPDATE: Texas A&M has now confirmed the news. Williams, an assistant for the Aggies from 2004-06, will be introduced tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. at Reed Arena.
“I am so humbled and honored to return home to Texas A&M, and proud to lead the Aggies,” Williams said in a press release. “I’d like to thank Chancellor Sharp, President Young and Scott Woodward for this incredible opportunity. This is our home, and we are ready to join with the 12th Man to win championships, graduate our players and represent this world-class university with integrity.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©April 02nd, 2019 @ 11:00am
The push for big-name coaching talent joining the SEC continues.
According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, former NBA All-Star and current Memphis Grizzlies assistant Jerry Stackhouse is in “contract negotiations” with the Vanderbilt Commodores.
The deal is not complete, but according to Rothstein, “the two sides are headed towards a marriage.”
Sources: Memphis Grizzlies assistant Jerry Stackhouse is in contract negotiations to become the next head coach at Vanderbilt. Emerged as a primary candidate in the last 24 hours. Nothing final yet, but the two sides are headed towards a marriage.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 1, 2019
Stackhouse played in the NBA from 1995 through 2013, including back-to-back All-Star honors with the Detroit Pistons in 2000 and 2001.
While he hasn’t ever been a head coach at the collegiate level, he did coach the Toronto Raptors’ G-League affiliate, the Raptors 905, to a title and was named G-League Coach of the Year in 2017.
Vanberbilt fired head coach Bryce Drew following a 20-game losing streak and a 0-18 record in conference play, good for worst in school history. In fact, it was the first time the SEC has seen a team fail to win a single game in-conference in 65 years.
He finished with a 40-59 overall record, including just one NCAA Tournament appearance, in three years at the school.
Kelvin Sampson is staying put at Houston. A new deal is in the works and it will likely be signed and announced before the end of the day, reports The Houston Chronicle. The deal will be in the neighborhood of six years, $18 million, which would make him among the 20 highest paid coaches in college basketball.
So why do we care here in Kentucky, you ask? Because it was rumored that Sampson would leave the Cougars for Arkansas this offseason to replace Mike Anderson. Arkansas’ athletic director came from Houston, where he was Sampson’s boss, and Sampson was believed to be at the top of the list to replace Anderson.
Sampson was asked about the Arkansas job prior to meeting Kentucky in the Sweet 16 last week, to which he replied, “I”m not going to talk about my contract situation. And my response to, um… what school was it? I was just joking. I didn’t know if you’d said Arizona or Arkansas or Alaska. There’s been a lot of those schools over the years. I don’t really have a response to it. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to respond to. There’s nothing to respond to.”
Now, barring a late plot twist, Sampson will stay in Texas, away from Kentucky and the Southeastern Conference.
The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines surrounding conference teams from the second weekend of NCAA Tournament play. (AP Rankings accurate up until April 1, 2019.)
1. Auburn Makes School History
If you had told me at the start of the tournament that the Auburn Tigers would be making the Final Four, I would have laughed at your face. No offense to Auburn, but I thought it was clear in the regular season that North Carolina and Kentucky were better basketball teams.
Well folks, that is why they play the games.
Not only did the Tigers completely annihilate a very good Tar Heel team, but they defeated the Wildcats on Sunday thus earning their first Final Four in school history. Let’s not understate this: This was the biggest achievement in the history of Auburn basketball.
Head Coach Bruce Pearl is sitting at the top of the college basketball world alongside Tom Izzo, Chris Beard, and Tony Bennett. I honestly did not believe that Pearl would ever find himself back to this position, but he deserves all the praise. Getting the Tigers to play their best basketball against two of the most iconic programs in college basketball history is certainly an outstanding achievement.
But still managing to play that well against Kentucky without star Chuma Okeke (a potential first-round draft pick) is incredibly impressive. After his player’s terrible injury against UNC, Pearl was able to provide one of the best soundbites of this year’s tournament.
Bruce Pearl in tears talking about Okeke’s injury ?? ? pic.twitter.com/3TnnesjKJc
— Sports ON Tap (@SONTHighlights) March 30, 2019
Overall, I’m not really sure that Auburn will beat Virginia. However, I don’t think that’s what the story should be right now. Pearl was a guy who was previously fired at Tennessee of all places, and he has now rejuvenated his career at a noted football school. This is, without question, one of the best stories from the SEC this year.
2. Kentucky Misses Fourth Straight Final Four
Not everything was good news for SEC teams this weekend. Only one team could move on from the conference matchup between Kentucky and Auburn. Sadly, the Wildcats had their season was cut surprisingly short as the program failed to make the Final Four for the fourth straight year.
We’re hurting too, Coach. We loved every second of this season. pic.twitter.com/3wG4pIYe7k
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 31, 2019
What made this loss even more agonizing was the fact that Kentucky defeated the Tigers by almost 30 points just a month and a half ago even without Reid Travis. So, what on Earth happened here?
To be fair, this loss was the result of a multitude of different factors. First, there is the fact that the Wildcats shot an embarrassing 57% from the free throw line and 23% from beyond the arc. For what was supposedly Calipari’s best free-throw and three-point shooting team during his time at the school, this was a complete and total disaster of a shooting performance.
I don’t like to point out individual players, but Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro had one of their worst games this season. Having your starting guards play that poorly this late in the Tournament just screams disappointment.
Finally, there is the fact that Calipari was out-coached here by Pearl. Auburn saw that they had a clear advantage offensively in the pick-and-roll, and absolutely nothing was done differently to stop it from UK’s side. Plus, not going to Quickley at all down the stretch and not calling a timeout at any point during UK’s last possession in regulation are questionable decisions at best.
Either way, the blame does not fall on any one individual. This was a total program failure across the board from the players to the coaches. That’s just the nature of the tournament sometimes. Either way, this was still another season in which the Wildcats won 30 games and made the Elite Eight. That’s a very good season, no doubt, but not winning the SEC Tournament and not making a Final Four are very disappointing results.
3. LSU Fails Without Wade
Keeping in with a very disappointing tone, the LSU Tigers failed to make the Elite Eight as they lost to a red-hot Michigan State team in the Sweet Sixteen.
Yes, the Tigers outperformed their preseason ranking this season, but they had the talent to make the Elite Eight. Their outside shooting combined with their incredible athleticism was a dangerous combination. However, they looked lost at times in the second half without their Head Coach Will Wade on the sidelines.
Is Michigan State the better team? Probably. However, I would have loved to have seen LSU take on the Spartans at full strength. That would have been a very interesting matchup.
Now, the Tigers enter a very strange offseason. What will become of Wade? How long is his suspension going to last? And what will the NCAA do to discipline LSU because we all know they will come down in some way. Overall, it stinks that their season ended this way. This was a very fun team to watch. Who knows if LSU will ever be this good again in the immediate future.
How crazy is this?!
The last time MSU played LSU in basketball, the #2 seeded Spartans beat the #3 seeded Tigers in the Sweet Sixteen.
It was 1979.
MSU went on to win the national championship.
— Evan Dean (@_EvanDean) March 24, 2019
4. Tennessee Flames Out Quick
Possibly the biggest disappointment out of this weekend’s results was that the Volunteers failed to make it past the Sweet Sixteen. That is just a travesty. Tennessee had two of the best players in the nation in Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield and neither one of them ever made it to the Elite Eight in their careers.
Purdue just happened to catch absolute fire from the three-point line in what was a classic game. No one really knew who Ryan Cline was beforehand, but his shooting performance in the second half is the stuff of legend.
Purdue-Tennessee was a #Sweet16 battle for the ages.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 29, 2019
Similar to Auburn, this was possibly the best season in program history for the Volunteers. However, similarly to Kentucky, not winning the SEC Title game and not reaching the Final Four is an incredibly disappointing result considering their talent. The NCAA Tournament takes no prisoners, and this year was no different.
5. Let’s Talk About John Calipari
We hear the same complaints every single season in which Kentucky disappointingly losses in the NCAA Tournament: It’s all Coach Calipari’s fault. Every time the Wildcats depressingly lose to a lesser team, it’s always a constant pile on this man and yesterday was no different.
I think we can say the John Calipari experiment at Kentucky has failed.
— Kent Sterling (@KentSterling) March 31, 2019
Four straight years of no Final Fours for Cal. This wasn't his worst tourney stinkbomb but it’s definitely worthy of top-five consideration.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 31, 2019
Why does this always happen? I will admit even I reacted strongly on social media to my disappointment of Calipari’s coaching in the second half against Auburn. I’ve already stated above the reasons why I thought he was out-coached so there is no need to go over them again.
It’s obviously nowhere close to just being any one person’s fault. The NCAA Tournament is the hardest championship to win in sports. Coach Cal isn’t the one out there on the court missing open shots and turning the ball over. That’s on the players. It’s so easy in such an emotional moment to focus all our blame on just one powerful man rather than the team as a whole.
However, despite the deep respect fans have for Calipari and for the players, it should be reasonable to hold both him and those athletes accountable. No one is above criticism no matter how many points you score, how many Elite Eight’s you reach, or how much money you make.
Is Kentucky lucky to have Coach Cal at the helm? Of course. Is he a good coach? Again, of course. Any other program in the country would kill to make as many Elite Eight’s as the Wildcats have during his time at the school.
Whether he takes another job or retires, there will come a day when John Calipari is no longer the head coach at Kentucky and on that day, I'm willing to bet it will be then and only then that a certain segment of the fanbase will realize how good they had it.
— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) April 1, 2019
However, Kentucky basketball is not “any other program.” The standard has already been set in Lexington. Wildcat fans must realize and enjoy the success the program is having while it’s here, but it’s perfectly acceptable for fans to be concerned on when the Bluegrass state will have its one shining moment once again.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 29th, 2019 @ 9:35pm
Well, that was fun.
The No. 5 Auburn Tigers absolutely destroyed No. 1 North Carolina this evening, winning 97-80 to move on to the Elite Eight.
Sophomore forward Chuma Okeke, who suffered a gruesome knee injury late in the second half, led the Tigers with 20 points (8-11 shooting, 3-5 from three), 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block.
Junior forward Danjel Purifoy was second on the team with 14 points on 5-7 shooting and 4-6 from three.
As a team, the Tigers finished with a ridiculous 17 3-pointers on 46 percent shooting.
After the game, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl got extremely emotional when discussing the significance of Okeke’s injury…
“He’s hurt. We’re gonna rally. I’ll go hug on him.”
Bruce Pearl was emotional in his post-game interview while discussing Chuma Okeke’s injury. pic.twitter.com/HZhxTQfKlN
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 30, 2019
The winner of Kentucky vs. Houston will face Auburn for a spot in the Final Four.
One of Alabama’s best basketball players will stay in Tuscaloosa.
Jeff Goodman reports John Petty has removed his name from the transfer portal. The sharp-shooter will return to Alabama for his junior season.
Petty initially decided to leave Alabama once news broke that Avery Johnson would not longer coach the Crimson Tide. A day after Nate Oats was announced as Alabama’s next head coach, the former Buffalo Bull convinced Petty to stick around for another year.
Oats still has more work to do. Kira Lewis Jr., Dazon Ingram and Daniel Giddens also entered the transfer market after Johnson’s termination. If Oats can keep them all in the fold, Alabama should present quite a challenge to the SEC in 2020.
The new face of Alabama basketball is a familiar one for Kentucky fans.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne announced Nate Oats will be its next head coach. Since Oats took over Buffalo’s program from Bubby Hurley five years ago, he led the Bulls to three MAC Tournament titles. In each of the last two seasons the Bulls won a game in the NCAA Tournament.
Last year the Kentucky Wildcats ended Buffalo’s season in Boise. Before Hamidou Diallo scored 22 points in a 95-75 second round victory, Oats had some words for John Calipari.
“Calipari’s been whining about no experience, young, young, young. Well, we don’t have that problem. We have some veteran guys,” Oats said.
“I don’t know if it’s whining or I’m telling the truth. I’m not whining about it,” Calipari responded. “Everybody’s gotta get in the ring and play.” Once they did, Kentucky won by 20.
Alabama moved quickly to replace Avery Johnson. Oats should provide a little more firepower if he can convince all of the Alabama players in the transfer portal to stick around for another year.
By Nick Roush on ©March 27th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
If Alabama does not make the right hire, they might not have enough players to field a basketball team in 2020.
Yesterday we learned point guard Kira Lewis Jr. joined Dazon Ingram in the NCAA transfer portal. Today Jeff Borzello reports there are two more Crimson Tide players entering the transfer portal following Avery Johnson’s termination, sophomore shooting guard John Petty and junior forward Daniel Giddens.
Petty picked Alabama over Kentucky even though he was one of the first players John Calipari recruited in the class of 2017. P.J. Washington’s running-mate for Team Penny, the allure of playing for Coach Cal wasn’t enough to convince the Huntsville native to leave his home state. Giddens spent one year at Ohio State before transferring to Alabama.
In 2018 Petty scored 10.2 points per game on 35.8 percent shooting from behind the three-point line. The streaky shooter got hot against Tennessee, scoring 30 before they fell to the Vols 71-68. If Alabama holds on, Johnson may still have a job.
Whoever takes over in Tuscaloosa will first have to recruit his roster before adding to it. If all four names remain in the transfer portal, the Crimson Tide will lose 60.8 percent of its offensive production in 2020. Yikes.
Alabama’s star freshman will consider other options for the remainder of his college basketball career.
Kira Lewis Jr., an All-Freshman selection in the SEC, entered his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, where he joins his Alabama teammate, Dazon Ingram, on the transfer list. Lewis has not confirmed he is leaving the Alabama program, but he is at least looking around at other opportunities, should he decide to leave the Crimson Tide life behind.
Lewis Jr. averaged a team-high 13.5 points per game as Alabama’s starting point guard in all 35 games in 2018-19.
As a high school prospect, Lewis Jr. reclassified from the Class of 2019 to the Class of 2018 very late into the recruiting process. He didn’t sign with Alabama until August of last year, only months before the beginning of the 2018-19 season.
Had Lewis Jr. remained a high school senior, he would have been heavily recruited by John Calipari and Kentucky, but his late decision to change classes came when there was no room in the Kentucky backcourt for another guard.
Could Calipari take another look at Lewis Jr. this time around? It wouldn’t hurt because he is a very good guard.
If I’m Alabama’s AD, I make a quick hire so the new coach can get to work on convincing Lewis Jr. to stick around.
Add another head coaching vacancy to the carousel of Southeastern Conference basketball coaches this spring.
Arkansas parted ways with Mike Anderson on Tuesday, following an 18-16 season in which the Razorbacks failed to make the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks lost to Indiana in the second round of the NIT Tournament.
Anderson held the job for eight years, but only reached the Big Dance in three of the eight. His best season was 2014-15, when he led Arkansas to a 24-7 regular season record, a runner-up finish in the SEC Tournament, and a spot in the NCAA’s Round of 32.
With Anderson’s departure, there are now four job openings in the SEC, and a fifth, LSU, may open up soon once the Will Wade situation is settled.
It also means we won’t get to see Anderson blow by John Calipari in the handshake line after UK-Arkansas games. Those two really don’t care for one another.
In other Mike Anderson news, who told him it was OK to wear that shirt?
By John Reecer on ©March 25th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
The College Basketball season is another week old, and the SEC consistently provides the sport with several talented players and teams. Here are the major storylines surrounding conference teams from the first weekend of NCAA Tournament play. (AP Rankings accurate up until March 25, 2019.)
1. Kentucky Survives First Weekend Without PJ
Sometimes its better to be lucky than good (just ask Duke). Lucky is exactly what Kentucky was on Saturday as they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by defeating Wofford 62-56.
The Terriers had the all-time leading three-point shooting in NCAA History shoot an abysmal 0-12 from beyond the arc. Did Kentucky play outstanding defense on Fletcher Magee? Of course, the Wildcats did play outstanding defense as Tyler Herro smothered Magee for the majority of the game. However, going 0-12 is just outstandingly bad.
The Terriers road ends in Jacksonville.
Kentucky and #BBN contain Wofford and Fletcher Magee, who goes 0-12 FROM DEEP!
The Wildcats are on to the Sweet 16!pic.twitter.com/PC8UnhM8bk
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) March 23, 2019
If Magee hits at least 30% of those threes, then the outcome probably is not so great for UK Fans. Good fortune like that in the NCAA Tournament is required no matter how much talent any team may have Besides, Kentucky was due some good luck with the recent injury to PJ Washington.
Now, the Wildcats move forward into the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in John Calipari’s Tenure at the school. Out of just ten seasons, that is an incredible stat. Besides a poor shooting performance to Indiana and a terrible Nerlens Noel injury, Calipari has always had the Wildcats make a run in March.
Houston will be next for Kentucky as the college basketball world awaits to see the status of Washington. However, I have better hopes for Houston than I had coming into the Wofford matchup. I think the Cougars are very good, but the Wildcats matchup very well with them. They are a small team that plays with great speed and confidence.
Kentucky should have no problem playing at that kind of a pace. I’m fully expecting an Elite Eight bout with North Carolina. Let’s just hope Washington is back by then.
Houston starters go 6-foot-1, 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 and 6-8 (260 pounds). Kentucky would have a few inches on the Cougars at every position but the five, where it's basically a push for Reid Travis.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) March 25, 2019
2. The State of Mississippi Disappoints
Without a doubt, the greatest disappointment of the Tournament for the SEC has been the play of teams from the state of Mississippi. Both Miss. State and Ole Miss lost to mediocre teams (Liberty and Oklahoma) who did not even make the Sweet Sixteen.
Both losses were indeed very different. The Bulldogs lost a very close matchup against Liberty 80-76. Simply put, the Flames just hit more threes than Miss. State did as they had a 12-8 advantage in that area. Stars Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters combined to score 48 points, but it just wasn’t enough to avoid the ole’ 12-5 upset.
On the other hand, Ole Miss was completely embarrassed by Oklahoma. The Sooners blew out the Rebels 95-72 in one of the more embarrassing first round results. However, this one wasn’t entirely Ole Miss’s fault.
The Sooners shot the ball incredibly well despite the fact that the Rebels actually made 11 three-point shots. This happens to good teams sometimes in the tournament. Sometimes a lesser squad will come out on fire and put you away early. Ole Miss has nothing to hang their heads about, however. Making the tournament when you were originally picked to finish last in the SEC is quite the accomplishment.
Final: Oklahoma 95 – #OleMiss 72
Worth reminding people: Ole Miss wasn’t supposed to be good. They weren’t supposed to be in this tournament. Rebels were picked dead last in the SEC and finished T-6th. All things considered, this season was a massive success for Ole Miss hoops
— Nathanael Gabler (@ngabler4) March 22, 2019
3. Tennessee Finds Ways to Win
One cannot say that reaching the Sweet Sixteen is a disappointment for any team, but wow did Tennessee have a suspiciously bad weekend in the first and second rounds.
First, they were given a great game by #15 seed Colgate University. This had no business being a close game, but the Volunteers had a terrible time guarding the three-point line. Colgate hit an outstanding 15 three-point shots to get the game within three points with just two minutes remaining.
But, Admiral Schofield hit a couple of clutch threes and the Volunteers easily pulled away down the stretch. Things did not get much better in the next round as Tennessee gave up a 25-point lead to Iowa. The Hawkeyes somehow managed to force overtime despite shooting a very poor 39% from the field.
Overall, the Volunteers had an “even” assist-turnover ratio in the first weekend which a huge cause for worry. I find it extremely startling that against Iowa and Colgate, Tennessee did not have more assists than turnovers.
Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are legitimate superstars in the sport, but there are too many isolation plays being drawn up for them. The Volunteers have not found a natural flow yet against two below average teams. What’s going to happen if they can’t find that flow over a red-hot Purdue team or a stifling Virginia club? If something does not change soon for Tennessee, then they will not be making it to the Final Four.
Admiral Schofield on Purdue, who Tennessee will face in Louisville on Thursday: “Carsen Edwards is a prolific scorer.. they play similar ball to Iowa.”
Schofield also said he didn’t watch any of Purdue’s big win over Villanova.
“I don’t watch anybody else. I don’t care to.” pic.twitter.com/NUiFa2rV2e
— Ben McKee (@benmckee14) March 24, 2019
4. LSU Finds March Magic Without Head Coach
I’ve been hyping up this LSU team all season long as a team that should advance deep into the tournament. Of course, recent events have made me question my initial thoughts. With their Head Coach Will Wade still suspended, I was not sure what to make of the Tigers’ tournament chances.
Its clear to the nation now that LSU’s talent overcame its off-the-court problems. They annihilated Yale in the first round, and then Tremont Waters hit the shot of the tournament so far to push the Tigers into the Sweet Sixteen.
Now, the only question is if LSU can actually knockoff Michigan State and Tom Izzo without their head coach. To be completely honest, I expect them to do so. The Tigers matchup relatively well with the Spartans. They shoot the three ball very well, and they have the big guys to compete with MSU’s size.
But it does not really matter if they beat Michigan State or not. The fact that LSU actually reached the Sweet Sixteen despite all of the drama speaks to the character of those student-athletes. They are playing like they have nothing to lose, because…well….these wins are probably going to be vacated anyways. They are the Bad News Bears of College Basketball.
LSU, the bad boys of college basketball, who are basically coaching themselves at this point, are on to the Sweet 16. Admit it: You're entertained by this team, aren't you?!??!
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) March 23, 2019
The end of that LSU/Maryland game>>>? pic.twitter.com/nqqP1xiXe1
— BettorIQ (@BettorIQ) March 23, 2019
5. The SEC Proves Its Strength
Overall, the SEC proved a lot of people wrong this weekend. The conference went a very successful 9-3 in the first weekend of the tournament. Only the ACC had a better record at 10-2.
Sweet 16 teams by conference:
Big Ten 3
Big 12 1
West Coast 1
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) March 25, 2019
The SEC has 4 teams advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in conference history. pic.twitter.com/7QQ46za4Qr
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 24, 2019
This is only the third time history that the SEC has four teams (UK, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee) all in the Sweet Sixteen. In those other two tournaments (1986 and 1996) a team from the state of Kentucky ended up winning the National Championship.
This was a conference that many considered overrated throughout the season. Well, its safe to say that we can put those criticisms to rest now. Unless the SEC completely falls apart in the Sweet Sixteen, I think we should at least see two of those teams make the Elite Eight.
There is no question that this conference is, at the very worst, the second-best in college basketball. The ACC still has the right to be called the best for now until the SEC can successfully win a National Title for the first time since 2012. And who knows, with a little bit of that Duke-type of luck, I really like the SEC’s chances at doing so.
Another SEC coach bites the dust. Vanderbilt just fired Bryce Drew after only three seasons.
Although the Commodores went 9-23 this season and were winless in the SEC, the move comes as a bit of a shock since Drew was doing what few have done before: convince five-star recruits to come to Vanderbilt. This season, Vanderbilt had two five-stars on the roster: Simi Shittu and Darius Garland, who went down with a season-ending knee injury in November. The ‘Dores have two top 150 players signed in the Class of 2019 too and a verbal commitment from Scotty Pippen, the son of NBA great Scottie Pippen.
Vanderbilt athletic director Malcom Turner, the former president of the NBA G-League who took the job less than two months ago, explained the decision in a press release.
“Vanderbilt is committed to competing at the highest levels on and off the court. After careful consideration, we’ve decided to make a change to the leadership of our men’s basketball program,” said Turner. “Bryce has represented Vanderbilt in exceptional fashion in his time here. I appreciate all of the contributions Bryce has made over the past three seasons to Vanderbilt, and we wish him all the best.”
According to Jeff Goodman, the first meeting between Turner and Drew was to notify him of his termination and Turner had only attended one Vandy practice since taking the job.
At least Shannon the Dude is happy.
The NCAA Selection committee has finally made their long-awaited decisions, and the brackets have been officially made. Seven SEC teams will be dancing for a shot at winning the National Championship. Here is the path that each team may face in their run for One Shining Moment.
Mississippi State: 5 Seed, 23-10 Overall Record
While Miss. State did not end the year particularly strong (lost 3 of their last 5), the Bulldogs have put together a relatively good resume on their way to a five seed. They have multiple wins over NCAA Tournament teams like Arizona State, Saint Mary’s, Cincinnati, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Florida.
They have a very fascinating first round matchup against Liberty University. The Flames are not going to be an easy out by any stretch of the imagination. This is an experienced ball club which won 28 games. Also, with this being a 5/12 matchup there is naturally going to be a lot of talk of an upset.
However, I would bet against it. Without question, the Bulldogs will have the best player on the floor in Quinndary Weatherspoon. No one on Liberty averages over 13 points per game, and the Flames did not beat a single opponent from a major conference.
The bad news for Miss. State is that the road ahead of them is extremely tough. If they handle their business against Liberty, they will most likely have to play a good Virginia Tech squad in the next round. Simply put, the Hokies are just a better team and will be favored in the matchup.
The really, really bad news for the Bulldogs is that they have a potential Sweet Sixteen matchup with Duke even if they manage to make it out of the first weekend. Overall, if Miss. State makes it out of the first weekend, it would be a massive success. However, their championship fate already seems sealed.
Prediction: Losing in the Round of 32 against Virginia Tech
— Vines Connection (@vinesconnection) March 18, 2019
LSU: 3 Seed, 26-6 Overall Record
Look, the Tigers are possibly the biggest wildcards in this year’s tournament for a multitude of reasons. The recent FBI scandal involving Head Coach Will Wade and freshman guard Javonte Smart has put a dark cloud over anything LSU has accomplished this season.
How will that affect the team in the tournament? Their loss against Florida in the SEC Tournament was bad, however, it came on a last second shot. This is still an insanely athletic team with a ton of talent.
They will be on upset alert right off the bat against 14-seed Yale. Make no mistake about this: Yale is a better team than Liberty is. LSU obviously has more talent than the Ivy League Champion, but we just don’t know if the Tigers will be ready to play against such an experienced squad.
If they can just get past Yale, I really like their chances in the second round against Belmont/Maryland. In the sweet sixteen they would most likely have to play Michigan State which would normally be a good matchup for LSU. However, the Tigers are at a disadvantage without Wade on the sidelines. That will hurt their chances against Izzo.
Even if they do defeat the Spartans which is certainly possible, they are not getting past Duke in the Elite Eight. That is the ceiling for this LSU team this season.
Prediction: A Sweet Sixteen loss to Michigan State.
LSU started the 2006 NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville and had to go through 1 seeded Duke to get to the final 4. This year, LSU starts the tournament in Jacksonville and will have to go through 1 seeded Duke to reach the final 4. Challenge accepted
— Hot_LSU_Takes? (@HotLsu) March 17, 2019
Florida: 10 Seed, 19-15 Overall Record
I think this is the one SEC team that is destined to lose in the first round of the tournament. I don’t think that the Gators are particularly a bad team, but I think they got a terrible draw by playing Nevada in the first round.
Don’t forget that the Wolfpack pulled off a big run in the tournament last season where they unfortunately lost to Loyola-Chicago in a classic Sweet Sixteen game. Almost everyone returned from that team, and Nevada managed to have another great season by winning 29 games in the regular season.
The Wolfpack will have the best player on the floor in Caleb Martin, and they will have the better head coach in Eric Musselman. Anything can happen on any given day, but I think Nevada beats Florida nine times out of ten. Even if the Gators luck up and win, they are not beating Michigan in the second round.
Prediction: First round exit to Nevada.
West Region Quick Takes
– Florida State will best Gonzaga in this half of the bracket.
– Nevada is the most under seeded team in the tournament. Florida got a brutal matchup.
– Texas Tech is the most underrated team in the county and is my pick to win the Region.
— Marc Ryan (@MarcRyanOnAir) March 17, 2019
Ole Miss: 8 Seed, 20-12 Overall Record
The Rebels got one of the more favorable 8/9 matchups as they will be playing Oklahoma in Columbia, South Carolina. Even though Oklahoma is favored by ESPN’s matchup predicator, I really like Ole Miss in this matchup.
Do not bet against Kermit Davis in the first round. As the head coach at MTSU, Davis led the 15-seeded Blue Raiders to a monumental upset of Michigan State in 2016. Then in 2017 he led MTSU to a 12/upset over Minnesota. Davis gets his guys ready to win in the first round.
Also, I just think the Rebels have the more talented team. The best squad the Sooners beat all season long was a Kansas team that is reeling from injuries and suspensions. After that, the best team they beat was Florida by five points.
Ole Miss is winning this game. They have the better coach, and the Rebels will also have the two best players on the court in Breein Tyree and Terrance Davis. After that, well…..they won’t be advancing any further. Virginia will be awaiting them in the second round, and the Cavaliers are the better team.
Prediction: Round of 32 loss to North Carolina
SEC Coach of the Year Kermit Davis illustrates how he was able to turn the @OleMissMBB around so quickly and why his Runnin' Rebels are a team to be reckoned with in the NCAA Tournament. pic.twitter.com/SZYLr9dtxj
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) March 18, 2019
Tennessee: 2 Seed, 29-5 Overall Record
The Volunteers are the first team in this list which has a real shot at reaching the Final Four. Outside of potentially playing Cincinnati in the second round, they have a favorable path to Minneapolis.
They will cruise in the first-round game against Colgate, neither Purdue nor Villanova posts a real threat to the Volunteers in a potential sweet sixteen matchup, and Virginia is a beatable No. 1 seed. But before we look that far, let’s look at that Cincinnati matchup.
First off, the Bearcats are not a team that deserves a seven seed. The committee basically ignored that Cincinnati won the AAC Tournament over a very good Houston team on Sunday. Jarron Cumberland (18.8) is one of the better players in college basketball, and he will give the Volunteers problems.
Even with this game being played in Columbus, Ohio, I still think Tennessee will barely emerge victorious. That leads us to that mammoth Elite Eight showdown with Virginia. I’ll be up front with this: I think this is the year the Cavaliers make the Final Four. After the UMBC disaster, I think this team will be on the war path in this year’s tournament, and I love their talent.
Plus, I just do not trust Rick Barnes in March. I think he is holding back Tennessee to a certain extent. Can the Volunteers make the Final Four? Of course. They just need to get lucky and stay clear of Virginia.
Prediction: Elite Eight loss to the Cavaliers.
So Tennessee might have to play Cincinnati in Columbus? There are some things that are debatable in life. But Tennessee getting dragged through the mud all season by the powers that be in college basketball is NOT one of them
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) March 17, 2019
FINAL FOUR ODDS: South:
 Virginia 49%
 Tennessee 22%
 Purdue 10%
 Villanova 5%
 Kansas St. 4%
 Wisconsin 4%
 Cincinnati 3%
 Oregon 1%
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) March 18, 2019
Auburn: 5 Seed, 26-9 Overall Record
Here is the second biggest wildcard out of the SEC teams and possibly the entire tournament. How far the Tigers advance in the tournament has everything to do with their first-round matchup with New Mexico State.
This is very much so a dangerous 5/12 game because the Aggies are a 30-win team on a 19-game win streak who also just so happens to play a fascinating brand of basketball. There are 12 (!) players on NMSU’s team who play at least 10 minutes a game. The Aggies will consistently throw fresh guys at Bruce Pearl’s team all game long.
The only question is how good are these guys compared to Auburn? Overall, I have to barely go with the Tigers because of their backcourt. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown will get the job done.
If they get past the Aggies, I think the flood gates will open up. They would take care of business against Kansas, and I LOVE their matchup against North Carolina. The biggest thing I’ve noticed about the Tar Heels this season is that once a team makes a huge run against them, they don’t come back.
Auburn loves to go on huge stretches where they hit 4-5 straight threes. Plus, I think Harper will cause problems for Coby White defensively. Is this a bit bold when the Tigers could lose in the first round? Yes, but fortune favors the bold. Just don’t bet on the Tigers to beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
Prediction: Elite Eight loss to Kentucky
Auburn pounded Pac-12 champ Washington early, gave Duke hell early, took Kentucky to the buzzer. Faltered in the middle, but on the cusp of an eighth straight win, including a pair over a potential No. 1 seed, Tennessee.
Don't sleep on the Tigers in the next tournament.
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) March 17, 2019
Kentucky: 2 Seed, 27-6 Overall Record
We finally reach the dear ole’ Wildcats. Let’s get this out of the way now: I think this team is destined for the Final Four. UK’s side of the Midwest bracket is favorable. Seton Hall and Wofford will provide a scary second round game, as could Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen.
But I really do think that Kentucky is marginally better than all of those teams. This leads to that huge potential rematch against UNC. For one, I have a sneaky suspension that the Tar Heels will not make it that far. Even if they do, I really like how the Wildcats matchup with them. It’s the whole reason why UK was victorious in December. Don’t forget that Reid Travis is from Minneapolis which would make for a great Final Four storyline.
In the Final Four they would most likely play Virginia. Normally, a really good, defensively tough team that likes to slow it down would beat Kentucky. But this is a different Wildcat squad from year’s past because they play so well in the half court. Plus, Kentucky is playing elite defensively at the moment.
I sincerely think Coach John Calipari and company will find themselves in the National Championship game. Your guess is as good as mine to what happens next. Can the Wildcats beat Duke in a rematch? Does Duke even make that far with their poor three-point shooting? UK’s destiny depends on if Ashton Hagans can play at a championship level. Dominant guard play always determines which team will have that one, true shining moment. This year will be no different.
Prediction: National Championship Game Appearance
The only two times that a Calipari-coached Kentucky team lost in the SEC Tournament and made the NCAA Tournament, it went on to play in the championship game.
So really, UK should be thanking that officiating crew from yesterday.
— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) March 17, 2019
#MarchMadness national championship futures are live!!
Michigan St. +1200
— MyBookie Sportsbook (@betmybookie) March 17, 2019
Happy March Madness!
LSU’s Emmitt Williams’ infatuation with short shorts is no secret to the college basketball world. From day one, he wanted everyone and their mother to know that he was proud of his legs.
Seriously, the guy likes what he’s working with.
Two reasons @EmmittWilliams6 rolls his shorts up: his nice legs and his belief in being different.
“Being different’s going to get me to the next level.” pic.twitter.com/QJm5V5eY39
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) January 3, 2019
Prior to Kentucky’s game with LSU back in February, we even wrote a post on KSR about all of the specifics of the Tiger forward’s daily wardrobes and his decision-making process behind it all.
Since the Emmitt Williams craze, however, the rest of his teammates are following suit with the short short trend as postseason play begins.
During LSU’s quarterfinal matchup with Florida this afternoon, several Tiger players were sporting the look, and they were darn proud of it.
Take a look at just a few of KSR’s pictures of the… interesting fashion statement:
A few of the LSU players cheated (pun absolutely intended) with the look, as they sported the short shorts, but wore leggings or compression shorts underneath to avoid showing off too much skin.
A few Kentucky players like hiking their shorts up just a wee bit, but I can assure you none of them look as ridiculous as the group out of Baton Rouge.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©March 15th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
It’s halftime of LSU vs. Florida here at Bridgestone Arena, and the building is buzzing about Will Wade’s suspension. The story has dominated the tournament thus far, especially after Wade’s statement yesterday claiming he should be reinstated even though he refuses to meet with LSU officials to explain his “offer” for freshman Javonte Smart that was discovered on an FBI wiretap.
Jack and I spent some time this morning speaking to LSU fans, and the vast majority of them support Wade and want him back as head coach. A few “Free Will Wade” signs have even popped up around the arena.
“We don’t know the facts and we love our coach,” Dee Bee, an LSU season ticket holder said. “Look at what he’s done for LSU just in 18 months. The stadium is now full and we believe in righteous coaching but we’ve also heard that everybody does these things — like everybody — so we feel like that maybe something will come from it.”
The “everybody does it” defense is a common one amongst LSU fans, but Bee said if Wade is guilty of offering to pay a player, he should ultimately be fired.
“Yeah, he needs to go. We’ve got to stop all this. I just feel like we’ve been singled out. I don’t know why. It’s sad.”
Another Tigers fan I spoke to vehemently disagreed, saying LSU should keep Wade even if he did offer to pay Smart.
“No, because you cannot honestly sit there and tell me Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky, they aren’t paying players,” Hunter Wright said. “Go look at Zion Williamson’s house. His family came from a lower income background and now lives in a $350,000 house two miles from campus. You connect the dots. Everybody does it. He got caught. We’ll take a probation for a year if we have to, but I don’t want to see him get fired as coach.”
If his #FireAlleva shirt wasn’t indication enough, Wright’s anger is directed towards LSU athletic director Joe Alleva.
“I’d like to see Joe Alleva fired. He choked on the football coach. He had Jimbo Fisher and could not get the job done. He had Tom Herman, got his ego hurt and canceled the deal on that and now he won’t stand behind his own coach at LSU, Will Wade. And if you look back, he ran Duke’s Lacrosse program into the ground after the rape scandal, which turned out they were innocent but he didn’t stand behind his players there either.”
Jack managed to find the rare LSU fan who agrees with Alleva’s decision to suspend Wade and even fire him if it comes to it.
“Unfortunately, yes,” the fan said on whether or not Wade should be fired. “I’m an honest and truthful guy and I think, honestly, yes.”
“I know what he did was wrong but he has to serve his just and do his time. I want to play fair but we have do what the NCAA tells us to do.”
For what it’s worth, interim coach Tony Benford seems to be doing a pretty good job in Wade’s absence. Currently, the Tigers lead Florida 35-25 at halftime.
“I think this Tony Benford is doing an outstanding job. If he has to take over, then he needs to do his job and get us past these swamp lizards.”
As Dr. Mike discovered, not everyone is taking things so seriously.
Sitting in front of the LSU Band. Javonte Smart scores on a drive and someone yells, “That’s what we pay him to do!” Lol at least they have a sense of humor about it @KySportsRadio @MrsTylerKSR @DrewFranklinKSR pic.twitter.com/SWbs9UrP9W
— Michael Huang (@DrMikeUK) March 15, 2019
By Jack Pilgrim on ©March 15th, 2019 @ 1:30pm
Did you purchase tickets to the SEC Tournament through a secondary market? Are you still looking for tickets?
If so, the SEC is warning fans to be careful about where they have purchased or are planning to purchase tickets.
According to a press release from the conference, there have already been several cases of counterfeit and/or stolen tickets at the event, with each individual being denied access at the front gate.
If you did make a purchase on a secondary market, the SEC said there are several key features to look for on the tickets.
Fans are advised to look for the authentic SEC holographic foil located across the ticket. Within the foil, several SEC circle logos and the words “Southeastern Conference” should appear and disappear when rotating the ticket back and forth.
Another important note is that there will be no PDF print at home tickets accepted at the SEC Men’s Basketball Championship.
We advise fans to be attentive to the appearance of the tickets they are purchasing. It is important to pay close attention to the details of the holographic foil as well as the texture of the ticket.
Worried about your tickets? Bridgestone Arena has a “Ticket Validation Window” open at the main box office, which is the only way to completely and accurately ensure the authenticity of a secondary market ticket.
The LSU vs. Florida game is already underway, which will be followed by Auburn vs. South Carolina at roughly 3:25 p.m. CT. After a brief intermission, we’ll have Kentucky vs. Alabama to tip-off the evening session, followed by Tennessee vs. Mississippi State.