Sunday, March 29, 2009

The shot that just won't go away

It's been more than 11 years, but the final images of the Ole Miss/Valpo game from March 13th, 1998, are seared into my mind. Hell, it's got its own Wikipedia page. I've yet to watch a single replay of the play they call "Pacer". As soon as I see a March Madness promo with Jamie Sykes lined up on the baseline, I change the channel and grab a beer or two. To this day, I insist that Bryce Drew write a check to Ole Miss for upwards of $1M as he was a lottery pick in the NBA draft based almost entirely on that shot.

And it pops up in seemingly "safe" places when you least expect it. In last night's fantastic game between Pitt and Villanova, the Wildcats ran a play very similar to that which resulted in a tough leaner from 6 feet by Scottie Reynolds. As the play was unfolding, I began to have flashbacks to Ansu missing free throws, Keith fumbling the ball out of bounds, and a flailing Buck trying to stay with Bryce Drew. Reynolds scored with what was determined to be .5 seconds left on the clock. As the officials huddle to make sure the time was correct, Verne Lundquist said that play reminded him of the one "Valpo ran a few years back." Sigh...

There have been other buzzer beaters since, but none as perfectly drawn up and executed as that one. That 1997-98 team was the most talented team we've fielded in many years, even deeper and better than the 2000-01 team that lost in the Sweet 16. They just faltered at the end of the season, and are now immortalized as the victims of one of the most memorable finishes in Tournament history.

Even with Malcolm White leaving the basketball team, next year's team is more talented than either top to bottom. There's some work to be done, particularly now in the post, but the pieces are in place for a fun couple of years of hoops in Oxford. We just need to stay healthy and focused.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Billy Gillispie out at Kentucky... Donovan in? Or not? Nevermind, he's not.

Well, it's official now. So now the quest to successfully lure Billy Donovan or John Calipari is officially on. Something tells me UK will get the job done this time after failing miserably two seasons ago.

The wild card in all this is Anthony Grant. He would certainly take over the Florida program if Donovan left, but I'm surprised he's not getting more consideration for the Kentucky job than he is. He's young, energetic, and has been a part of highly successful SEC teams in the recent past.

So it appears the Wildcats have fired a coach that didn't get them to the Tournament this year to hire a coach that didn't get his team to the Tournament for two years running. Per news reports, Kentucky has their man in Billy Donovan. Of course, we'll have to wait and see what happens. Donovan agreed to leave Florida to coach the Magic a few years back before backing out and coming back to Florida.

***UPDATE #2:***
Now there's this, stating that Billy Donovan is expected to release a statement today saying he is NOT a candidate for the Kentucky job. This would certainly be good news in Tuscaloosa as it would greatly increase the chance that Anthony Grant leaves VCU for the vacant Tide position. Looks like Kentucky fans picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

It's not just the fans in Lexington that are crazy. This is absolutely despicable behavior.

***UPDATE #3:***
Donovan has officially denied it now.
In a statement from coach Billy Donovan, he said, “In response to the rumors circulating about my interest in other jobs, I wanted to address this as quickly as possible," Donovan said. "I am committed to the University of Florida and look forward to continuing to build our program here."
UK fans have to be wondering if they're going to fall flat on their faces like they did two years ago when they settled on Gillispie.

***UPDATE #4:***
Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports is reporting that Anthony Grant has accepted the Alabama coaching job, which is a home run for them. It also means two things for UK fans - Grant is off the market for them and Donovan is definitely not going anywhere.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Malcolm White leaving basketball team

Malcolm White, Ole Miss, BasketballThe Ole Miss basketball jinx continued today as sophomore forward Malcolm White announced he's leaving the basketball team for personal reasons. In a release issued by the school, Mac says:

"I have decided to leave Ole Miss in order to finish my career closer to my family in Louisiana. I have really enjoyed my time at Ole Miss and want to thank the coaches, my teammates and the whole Rebel family for all their support."

Will this season of frustration ever end? Malcolm really came on in the latter part of the season, notching some huge games against Kentucky and Mississippi State and his defense improved tremendously over last year. I really though he might be due for something of a breakout season next year, probably a consistent 12/7 guy. We'll definitely miss him down low.

While Murphy Holloway is a solid player - with the potential to be very good - he doesn't bring the same physical/athletic tools that Mac did. This opens up the door even wider for Reginald Buckner to start as a freshman next season. He's a long, athletic guy like Mac is. The pressure will also be greater on Terrence Henry to bulk up and be ready to play next season. Maybe we can pick up a JuCo forward between now and next season. It would be nice to have an extra body - and 5 fouls - to use down low.

If night is always darkest before the dawn, then we should be due for a bright season or two after all the adversity we've faced since Trevor tore his ACL in early November.

My revised starting line up for 2009-10 is:

G Chris Warren
G Terrico White
G/F Eneil Polynice
F Murphy Holloway
F Reginald Buckner

Spring Football Preview

Jevan Snead, Ole Miss, Football
Spring Football kicks off in Oxford tomorrow and Rivals has their preview up. As of now, it's on the front page of Yahoo! Sports College Football page.

There's nothing earth shattering there really, just more of the same: 2009 brings higher expectations than we've had in a long time, how will we handle it?, who replaces Oher and Peria, which Greg Hardy will show up, etc. It's a good read though and it uses the word "plethora" twice, which makes El Guapo happy.

What's next for Kentucky?

billy gillispie, Kentucky, basketball

With Kentucky bowing out of the NIT last night, the SEC’s basketball season is officially over. In all honesty, it couldn’t come soon enough. I love college basketball, but from a Rebel standpoint, this was obviously not the season we had hoped for, both on and off the court. The silver lining – of course – was the emergence of freshmen Terrico White and Murphy Holloway when thrust into more minutes than expected due to the rash of injuries.

It also quite possibly marked the end of the Billy Gillispie era in Lexington, which was doomed to fail from the beginning. He never gelled with the fan base or administration there. His run-in with Jeannine Edwards in Oxford earlier this year was childish at best, and his attempt to run off the floor without shaking Darrin Horn’s hand after a home loss to South Carolina (skip to 4:00) was inexcusable. I’m not typically a proponent of axing a guy after just two seasons, but it’s hard to make the argument that things will be any better in the foreseeable future as long as Gillispie is there.

Currently, the top three rumored choices for Gillispie’s replacement are Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Memphis’ John Calipari, and Florida’s Billy Donovan. I’ll go ahead and say that Izzo won’t be making the move to Lexington. He’s got the most impressive resume of the three – 8 Sweet 16s in the last 12 years, 4 Final Fours, and National Title – but he’s MSU through and through, having been there since 1983, including 15 years as head coach. He’ll retire in East Lansing.

That leaves Donovan and Calipari. Depending on which ‘Cat fan you ask, you’ll get a different answer as to which they’d rather have. Donovan is the one with the rings, but Calipari is the hotter commodity now, with three straight Elite 8 appearances, with a chance to make it four with a win tonight. He also has connections with the top two unsigned high school prospects in the country that may follow him if he does bolt for UK.

While Florida has been just average the last few years, Donovan has proven that he can win in Gainesville. The Gators have really just been lacking an enforcer inside the last 2 seasons to complement Nick Calathes and company. Al Horford didn’t get the attention (until NBA draft time) that Joaquim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Taurean Green, but his play underneath the basket was key to the Gators’ title runs. I know Kentucky would throw money at him, but the Florida program is his. I’m not sure he would leave Gainesville for the pressure of Lexington.

Which brings us to Calipari. You gotta figure he’s the ‘Cats’ #1 choice based on the program he’s built at Memphis. Question his recruiting tactics (World Wide Wes), question the level of talent they face after the turn of the calendar (C-USA has failed to put a 2nd team in the NCAA Tourney for 4 straight seasons), but there’s no question that he brings energy and a presence to a school, which UK hasn’t had since Pitino roamed the sidelines. Tubby Smith is one of the really good guys in the coaching business and certainly didn’t deserve the treatment he got in Lexington, but he’s not a commanding figure; Calipari is. And has the ego to handle the unrealistic expectations that Kentucky fans have.

Now whether or not he’d leave Memphis is another story. Kentucky obviously has a much richer tradition than Memphis does, but even in a down year like this, the SEC is still stronger than CUSA is. Calipari has never coached in a major conference and has padded his W-L record in the A10 and CUSA. He would no doubt win at Kentucky, but certainly not at the ridiculous rates he has at his previous stops. As much as he clamors for respect at Memphis, as long as he continues to beat up the little guys 16 games a year, it’s just not going to come. While some (not me) tend to give him more credit than others, until he proves himself in one of the BCS conferences, right or wrong, there will always be doubters.

He’s compensated extremely well now, but Memphis doesn’t have the budget that Kentucky does. If they decide that he’s their guy, you can bet Mitch Barnhart will put together something with a base of $3.5M+ as well as plenty of incentives.

Of course, this may all be moot if the ‘Cats sense they won’t be able to get Izzo, Donovan, or Calipari, or they decide to give Gillispie another season. I just can’t see that scenario. Despite their recent mediocrity (by their standards) Kentucky is the flagship basketball program in the conference. Florida has been better lately, but when you think SEC basketball, Rupp and Pitino are some of the first names that come to mind. When the Wildcats struggle, it brings down the perception of the league as a whole.

I fully expect there to be a new head coach in Lexington next season. Even if the “Big 3” turn them down, Anthony Grant and Travis Ford are certainly viable options as well. As a conference, we need The Big Blue to be good again. Sure it’ll bring out the crazies, but it will also be a major step toward bringing SEC basketball back to relevancy.

Fantastic piece by Pat Forde

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Football opener moved to Sunday

Per Chris Low's SEC blog, the 2009 football season opener against Memphis has been moved to Sunday, September 5 at 2:30 on ESPN. That gives Rebel fans an extra day to stock up on Kevlar and prepare to have profanities tossed their way by dolts clad in wife beaters and cut-off jorts, and if they're lucky, even the Memphis head coach. This series can't end soon enough.

Do we really need a mid-afternoon kickoff in early September? Gonna be a wee bit toasty methinks. Let's just hope it's not as hot as it was at the 3-0 game in 1999.

New Plaque in Gainesville

By now, most of you have seen the butchering of the English language perpetrated by Florida Representative Corrine Brown as she "gradulated" the Florida Gators on their recent BSBCS Title. If you've missed it, or just want to relive the moment, here's the video.

And now, thanks to LSUFreek, there's a new plaque for the Gators to hang right next to the one quoting Tebow after the Rebels made him cry last year in Gainesville.
Corrine Brown, Plaque, Tebow

Southern Football

As we're just days away from Spring Football kicking off in Oxford, this two-part series from Southern Pigskin should get you in the mood, if you're not already.

Part One
Part Two

Saturday, March 21, 2009

And thus concludes the SEC portion of the NCAA tourney

As expected, the SEC experienced its most disappointing NCAA Tournament in two decades, failing to place even a single team in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1989. Only LSU managed to win a single game, with Tennessee and that other school bowing out in the first round.

It marks the end of one of the most spectacularly unspectacular seasons of basketball in SEC history. Not to sell the Rebels short - rallying together like they did was impressive - but most years, losing half your team should not equate to winning nearly half your conference games. It also puts it into perspective just how bad Arkansas and Georgia were once the calendar flipped. To beat only 2 SEC foes this year is inexcusable.

Fortunately, the Rebels turned down a bid to the ridiculously irrelevant CBI Tournament. There was no sense in taking a hobbled team and cheapening what they had accomplished by playing in such a pointless tournament. We've got 4 knees to get healthy and get ready for next year. The 2009-10 Rebels could be the most talented team from 1-12 that we've ever had, certainly in recent memory. If everyone comes back healthy and focused, it could be a fun year for hoops.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's the coaches, stupid

Much like football season, we've heard all season long how the SEC is way down in basketball this season. While the football claims were proven a bit incorrect, there is no disputing the fact that the SEC just isn't what it used to be in hoops. This article in the Nashville City Paper lists a few possible reasons why, but it leaves off the most important reason: the quality of coaches just ain't what it used to be.

We're certainly as guilty as any school in the conference as we clung to Rod Barnes two years too long. Once Marc Dukes retired, the program spiraled to the ground at breakneck pace. And while the SEC was never filled with future HOF coaches, it never had as high a percentage of bad coaches as it has had in the last few years.

Here's a breakdown of the current SEC coaches:


Billy Donovan is obviously the most accomplished coach in the SEC, but the Gators haven't been quite the same since Anthony Grant took the head job at VCU (which is 76-25 in his 3 years there.) There's always an influx of good talent in Gainesville, and the man's got two national titles.

Talk about breathing new life into a program. Pearl took over the Vols after a series of non-descript sleepy coaches and has Knoxville talking men's hoops for a change.


Mississippi State
I'll put aside my bias here and say that Rick Stansbury has far exceeded my expectations there. When he was hired, his only real qualification was being Richard Williams' bag man, but he's got the Bulldogs as one of the most consistent programs in the conference.

Kevin Stallings has done some good things as Vanderbilt, certainly better than Jan van Brenda Kolfff. The 'Dores have been fairly consistent winners under his watch. They slipped a bit this year, but bring back a solid nucleus of players for next season.

Headed in right direction:

Aaah, John Brady. Uber-recruiter, but couldn't tell you an X from an O. And he always looked disheveled on the sidelines. Sure the Tigers made a few nice runs in the tourney under Brady's watch, but those were done on talent alone. Trent Johnson is a good coach, but we'll know more next year when he actually has to play underclassmen.

Ole Miss
Again, I'll put my bias aside (as best I can) and say that the hiring of Andy Kennedy was a very good one. He had the team on the bubble his first two seasons in Oxford, and held together a train wreck of a season this past year.

South Carolina
Darrin Horn brought a higher energy level than Dave Odom did, but my grandmom probably would too. It's a bit early to make the call on him, but he won big at WKU, and he's off to a good start in Columbia.

Next to be purged:

Jeff Lebo's job was on death's door in the early part of last season before a late season rally saved him. He's a decent enough coach, but there's no reason to believe he'll be anything more than an average coach in the SEC.

John Pelphrey is a joke. I know the Hogs are enamored with him, I just haven't figured out why. Had he not played at Kentucky, there's no way the Ginger Kid hired by an SEC school. I understand the Hogs firing Stan Heath. It was a questionable hire from the beginning after just one year of success with an inherited Kent State team. But Pelphrey is not the answer. Not one player on that team this year got better as the year wore on. He'll be fired after the 2010-11 season.

The 'Cats - like Arky - made an outright bad choice when they hired Billy Gillispie. He's been the mastermind of some of the most embarrassing losses in UK history and is the architect of the first Wildcat team in nearly two decades to not Dance at the end of the season. It's gotta be tough for the Big Blue to see Pitino and Louisville as the #1 overall seed and Tubby Smith and Minnesota making a (very brief) appearance in the Tourney. As long as Gillispie's there, it's tough to see them doing anything but underachieving. I'd not be surprised to see John Calipari roaming the UK sidelines next year.

In Transition

Mark Gottfried patrolled the sidelines for 10+ years in Tuscaloosa and brought in several highly touted players. While he did take the Tide to the Elite 8 in 2003-04, that's about it. Alabama brass has said they'll pay ~$2M to bring in the right coach this time. Whether it's Mike Anderson or Tim Floyd or Anthony Grant or Oliver Purnell, it'll certainly be a step in the right direction from Gottfried.

As long as the Bulldogs avoid the publicity stunt and not hire Bobby Knight, they can make a real upgrade from Dennis Felton. They made the worst hire in recent SEC history several years back with Jim Harrick, but with Anthony Grant available, it's hard to imagine he's not in Athens next year.

On your mark... Get set... Spin!

Days after announcing our embarrassing non conference schedule, it would have been refreshing to see Pete Boone come out and admit that he and other university officials screwed the pooch on the whole process. Instead, you get explanations like this one.
"It was just sort of a perfect storm," Boone said. "Money was part of it. Timing was part of it. It wasn't much fun while it was happening, but we got it done, and we learned some valuable lessons that should help us in the future."
Valuable lessons? Like what? Have your schedule finished before 6 months prior to kickoff? Shouldn't our banker AD have known that before now?

They can bitch and whine about this all they want, but the simple fact is that this debacle is squarely on their shoulders. Had the time and energy been dedicated to finishing our schedule in a timely fashion instead of scrambling at the last minute, none of this would have happened. To try and place the blame elsewhere is a joke.

More spin here on David Brandt's blog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chris Warren and Terrico White: Inside the Numbers

Chris Warren, Terrico White, Ole Miss, Basketball
In what can best be described as a remarkably frustrating basketball season, there is plenty to be excited about in the immediate future of Ole Miss basketball, not the least of which was the emergence of Terrico White as a legitimate star. He’s the best freshman guard we’ve had since… well, Chris Warren the year before. Andy Kennedy is really bringing in the talent.

As a whole, Chris’ numbers are gaudier than Terrico’s for their entire freshman seasons. Chris stepped onto the court as a starter with the departure of a trio of senior guards in Todd Abernethy, Bam Done, and Clarence Sanders. Terrico arrived with more hype, but most expected a reserve role playing behind wing guards David Huertas and Eneil Polynice. Three bum knees later and Terrico is our starting PG a few games into SEC play.

Here's how their freshman years compared in SEC games only:

Surprisingly, Chris scored a higher percentage of his points (16.4%) from the FT line than Terrico did (12.5%). Some of that had to do with Terrico's FT% being so poor, but it's something he can work on for next season - posting up smaller guards and taking slower ones off the bounce. Not surprisingly, Chris scored a higher percentage (54.9%) of his points from behind the arc that Terrico did (46.7%), meaning Chris was either jacking up threes or ducking his head and getting to the rim.He only scored 28.5% of his point from 2-point range, while Terrico scored 40.6%. When Terrico starts getting to the line more and starts hitting them more, he'll be an absolute beast.

All this adds up to what should be one of the best backcourts in the conference next season. With an added scorer and a viable inside presence, Warren should be much more effective than he was before tearing his ACL against Louisville this season. Watching him play, it’s easy to see that he feels that – at times – he’s the only viable scoring option we have. That led to a lot of questionable shots this year and last. With Terrico providing a more consistent scoring option than David, Chris' shots should be reduced/smarter, which normally spells success for the Rebels.

Last season, in conference games, we were 6-1 when Chris took 14 shots or fewer and just 1-8 when he up 15 shots or more. In our 3 NIT victories over UCSB, Nebraska, and Virginia Tech, he shot 13 times or fewer. Against Ohio State, he put up 17 shots, and we lost.

Regardless, the way I see it, David is the odd man out next year in regards to the starting lineup. He and Terrico never really gelled as a unit and David’s attitude took a severe nose dive as the season wore along. If we’re going to achieve everything we’re capable of next season, we’ll definitely need him to play well and within the system. But for now, he and his whining will most likely be on the bench, with EP starting at the 3. Terrico will certainly handle the ball a lot, but the primary PG duties will shift back to Chris and EP.

I can’t find the numbers to back this up, but I’ll say this… We return four guys who have hit seven 3s in a game before: David (2x), Chris (2x), EP, and Trevor Gaskins. I doubt any other team in the country can say that.

(H/T to the ever awesome for the researchability)

The Lumberjacks?

He looks like a bad guy from Scooby Doo

So the schedule is finally announced... I wonder if the powers that will be able to keep a straight face when they send out the season ticket renewal forms this year. While the home conference slate is fantastic – LSU, Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas – the non-conference slate is embarrassing. It’s not all Pete Boone’s fault, as he certainly receives input from the coaching staff and others about potential opponents, but they need to drop this charade about the South Carolina game moving is the reason for the tardiness. The university seems to be wearing it like a crown of thorns and it’s a joke. ESPN airs Thursday night football every week and no other university bemoans it as much as we have. Pete Boone et al dropped the ball on this one, but no one will just admit it.

The 2010 schedule is already out – all 12 games. Even if one conference game is moved to a Thursday night, everything is in place. That begs the question why a 12th opponent wasn’t lined up before yesterday for the season that starts in 5 ½ months.

So, for those of you keeping score at home: We'll be playing a live scrimmage in early November against a team called the Lumberjacks. It will be towards the end of an 11-week stretch where we play every Saturday. Our one off week all season is the 2nd weekend of the season so we have extra time to prepare for SELA. But hey, at least we'll get to finally see Michael Herrick play at Vaught-Hemingway. Can I get a high five? Anyone? No seriously, anyone?

Just another day in the maddeningly frustrating life of a Rebel fan.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Yeah, I get it. Bryce Brown is a terrific talent, but I just have to wonder about headlines like this one. Brown and Oku certainly make for a potentially dynamic duo of freshman RBs, but it’s hard not to be a little wary of Brown’s antics, particularly regarding his agent handler Brian Butler. Kudos to Lane Kiffin, for assembling such a highly rated class in a short period of time. I just have to wonder if there’s enough room in the locker room for all those personalities.

You've got to wonder about Brian Butler as well. The NCAA certainly has been. It's a sketchy situation similar to that of World Wide Wes, who "handles" high school basketball stars before "advising" them on their college choices.

Regardless, it’ll be fun watching Hardy, Lockett, Trahan, and company drive Brown into the dirt in mid-November. Those running lanes are going to be awfully tough to find when you don’t have a QB.

This is why I love Dr. Saturday. Even while the Dr. is out, you still have posts like this one.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm back

Let me first just say Hotty Toddy to everyone out there. I've been away for a couple of months as I've dealt with some of the crap that reality has dealt me recently, but as life returns to normal - or a reasonable facsimile thereof - I'm returning to the blogosphere. Only this time, I'm exposing my true colors: Red and Blue.

For many of you who read my previous site, this won't be a surprise. For others, it may be. Through out my time on that site, I had people suggest I was biased towards every school in the conference, even state, which made me throw up a little bit in my mouth. Regardless, I'm back and ready to talk some Rebel sports with anyone out there willing to listen... er, read.

The baseball team seems to have righted itself (for now at least), Spring Football is here, the basketball team is very blog-worthy for their recently ended season, and the Men's tennis team is on its way to another SEC Championship.

And, in my absence, I've missed countless opportunities to wax poetic about the spectacle that is Lane Kiffin, or as Senator Blutarsky calls him: Junior.

Anyway, it's nice to be back. I should around these here parts fairly regularly for a while. It should be easier - not to mention more fun and rewarding - to remove the facade of neutrality I donned with and "SEC" site. I do need your feedback though... While there's no denying my mAd PaInT SKILLZez, I'm not sure I'm sold on the banner at the top... What do ya think? Any suggestions?