Tag Archives: South Carolina Gamecocks

“Food for Thought 1-11-11”

 

Former San Diego State and Ball State Coach, Brady Hoke (pictured above), is the new Head Coach at Michigan. Can he live up to the high expectations in Ann Arbor?

What a last 24 hours in the sporting world.  Major headlines galore.  It is a heck of a time to be a sporting fan.  And I pose the question to you.  When is it not a good time to be a sports fan in this day and age?

Here is a look at some of the main topics going on.

SEC Supremacy Continues

Most of you probably tuned in to  the BCS National Title game last evening.  From the record-setting TV ratings, it is very likely actually that you watched this game.  Well either way, you are aware that an SEC School brought home the title for an unprecedented 5th consecutive years. Though an entertaining game, it came nowhere near the 2006 National Title matchup between Vince Young’s Longhorns and the supposedly “unbeatable” (and cheating)” USC Trojans.  The game last night went somewhat as I expected.  The first quarter was a demonstration of both teams crapping their pants.  Neither team executed offensively the way they are capable of.  Consequently, neither team put up any points.  This is typical with the nerves that come from playing in a National Championship game.  Ultimately, the game came down to the wrist of Auburn’s Freshman Running Back, Michael Dyer.  What a game for the Freshman out of Little Rock.  But nobody wanted the game to come down to a call that is still very debatable in my eyes.  So it was a fun game to watch regardless of the sloppy play.  But here are some key takeaways.

-Number one, give me a playoff.  Neither of these teams had played a game in well over a month, and boy did it show.  That was not the Oregon offense that averaged over 49 points a game this season.  Now kudos to Mr. Fairley, and Auburn’s defense, which put together a stellar effort, but the time off hurt Oregon.  In addition, that was not the Cam Newton that we watched in the SEC Championship game against South Carolina.  Sure Newton played well, and did enough to win, but much of his momentum had been lost.

-Also, my apologies to TCU.  Sure they are acting like they do not care and are very happy with a year in which they got to win the prestigious Rose Bowl.  But you are going to tell me that they did not want or deserve some sort of shot at the title?

-I realize that the game was on the West Coast, but it went entirely too late.  Anybody who worked yesterday had to be struggling to stay awake for the 4th quarter. 

How does it feel to know that you were at best the 3rd choice for a job?

I will admit that statement above is a bit harsh, yet it is true.   Jim Harbaugh passed.  Les Miles passed (whether Michigan’s AD admits it or not).  And now Brady Hoke is the new coach in Ann Arbor.  Boy does he have a tall task ahead of him.  Yet, I have a good feeling about this guy for some reason.  Maybe it is the optimist in me, but the winningest program in NCAA history will eventually have to turn things around.  People will just have to be patient.  Former Wolverines like Charles Woodson, Tom Brady, and Lloyd Carr all rave about this guy.  Believe me, they are not being forced to hype this guy up.  They could always just give a “no comment” or an extremely generic answer.  These guys seem ecstatic to have this Hoke guy running things in the The Big House.  I just have one piece of advice for Mr. Hoke as he steps into his supposed “dream job.”  Make sure to put up an over 500 record in The Big House.  Or Hoke will be let out the back door inside of 3 years without questions asked.

The Closer Shuts the Door

It is hard to fathom, but the time has come.  Trevor Hoffman is finally hanging up the cleats.  Arguably the greatest closer of all time, Hoffman is calling it quits after 17 years.  He retires with 601 saves, the most in MLB history (41 ahead of Mariano Rivera).  Will the game ever see a closer hit 600 saves again? In an era where consistent relief pitchers are few and far between, Hoffman flourished over the better part of 2 decades.  The MLB will definitely miss this sure-fire Hall of Famer.  Cincinnati has to be kicking themselves for not keeping the kid that they drafted out of Arizona University in 1989. 

So I realize there are many other major headlines going on today.  Ron Rivera was hired as the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers.  Ed Reed has returned to his 2nd family, the Baltimore Ravens, after tending to some family business.  And the NHL has revealed their All Star Roster in full.

Please steer any questions or thoughts you have to the comments section or shoot me an email at contact@thesportskraze.com

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“The SEC Basketball Preview”

Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari (pictured above), took the SEC by storm in his first year in the conference. Will he have a repeat performance in year two?

Today we are in for a special treat.  We have our debut post from our SEC expert out of Lexington, Mr. Matt Murray.

Matt is the Editor in Chief for the University of Kentucky’s student run newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel.  You can follow him on twitter @MurrNation

Six weeks into the college basketball season, teams are gearing up for conference play, and their non-conference schedule has helped provide a litmus test for just how good they are, while other teams still haven’t quite figured it out. While the SEC hasn’t been the best league from top to bottom the decade or so, it has produced the second most Final Four teams over the last five years, and ties the ACC for the most national championships over the last five years.

The SEC has surprised many critics in the early stages of this season, but it’s the lopsidedness of the conference that is glaring. The East appears to have 6 teams that could rightfully make their way into the NCAA tournament, while you’d be hard-pressed to find a single team from the west that could legitimately find themselves in the field in March.

 

SEC WEST
1. Mississippi- Ranking the teams in the SEC West is like playing pin the tail on the donkey. You are just as likely to nail it as you are to accidentally stick the pin in your great aunt Edna’s ass. The Rebels are 7-2, but they have yet to play a ranked opponent. However, the Rebels have an experienced squad and are able to put up points. Senior guard Chris Warren averages more than 19 points a game and shoots nearly 92% from the free throw line. The Rebels average almost 80 points per game, but that offense is yet to be tested by a worthy opponent. The Rebels first real test comes in their SEC opener at #19 Florida. This team will have a better feel of how good they are after they see how they play on the road in Gainesville.

2. Arkansas Razorbacks– Arkansas is currently 7-2, and each of their two losses has come in overtime. However, head coach John Pelphrey has much to prove. He has only won 14 games in each of his first two seasons at Arkansas. Arkansas’ rich basketball history will have Pelphrey on the hot seat if he can’t push his team above a .500 record this season, and there’s reason to believe he finally has the pieces to do so. Sharp-shooter Rotnei Clark has another year of experience under his belt and is currently the Razorback’s leading scorer. The good (and bad) news for the Razorbacks is that they have no real star. Clark is the leading scorer with a mere 13.8 a game, while their second leading scorer is senior Delvon Johnson with 11.1 per game. The Razorbacks have an even scoring distribution and get decent production out of their bench. The problem is that unlike many of the marquee teams in the SEC, they lack playmakers that can get them out of a bind, but if their squad continues to gain experience and play smart, they can become one of the deeper teams in the division.

3. Mississippi State- Sitting at 7-3 after finishing last season with an eye-opening deep run in the SEC tourny taking a stellar Kentucky team into overtime in the SEC Championship game last season, the Bulldogs are working on rebuilding, particularly after losing swat machine Jarvis Varnado. However, like most of their SEC West counterparts, this team has yet to face a ranked opponent, and thus has no real way of knowing exactly what they are capable of.  In fact, all they know as of now is that they’ve lost to a 4-5 East Tennessee State and ACC bottom-feeder Virginia Tech. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they kick off SEC play against three straight SEC West opponents, which might give them a chance to get their feet under them before facing a surprising Georgia team in Athens, kicking off a stretch against three straight tough SEC East opponents. However, if senior guard Ravern Johnson continues his outstanding play, which has him averaging 22 points per game, this team has reason to believe they can rise to the top of the SEC West.

4. LSU Tigers- Unlike the others in their division, the Tigers have faced a top 25 team, and held their own, losing to #19 Memphis by nine. The problem is that the 7-4 Tigers have posted three additional losses to teams that won’t be dancing in March and that they have the daunting task of playing their games against SEC East leaders Kentucky and Tennessee on their home floors. This LSU team will most likely stumble their way through SEC play, and would be lucky to finish out their season at .500.

5. Alabama Crimson Tide- The Tide has a faced a host of respectable opponents. The problem is that they are 5-6 as a result. The Tide puts up a measly 64 points a game, and has no real leadership. The young squad is led in scoring by a sophomore and junior, and find two freshman in their starting lineup. In a conference full of teams boasting rosters that are either full of experience or freshman that are far more talented than those on Alabama, the Tide are going to find themselves outmatched in the majority of their SEC match-ups this season.

6. Auburn Tigers- The Tigers are bad. In fact, they’ve been bad for quite some time, and there’s no reason to expect any change this season. They rank in the 200s in almost every major statistic and already find themselves in a 4-7 hole, despite having yet to play a ranked opponent. They barely average 60 points a game, and their latest recruiting class was lackluster at best.  The Tigers would be lucky to post 14 wins this season.

SEC EAST
1. Kentucky Wildcats- The fight for the top of the SEC East should be a slugfest. Tennessee and Florida find themselves at the bottom of the division with three losses a piece, while every other team has only two losses to their name. So far, the East has collectively knocked off opponents like Pitt, Notre Dame, Villanova, Washington and  Kansas State. The Wildcats sitting at 9 and 2, are responsible for two of those wins, and their only two losses have come to ranked opponents away from Rupp Arena. Kentucky is young, and there is no doubt this class lacks the talent of last year’s highlight reel squad. But what the Cats do have is an intelligent team that has come off as very coachable so far this season, as well as one of the top NBA prospects in freshman forward Terrance Jones. Jones is averaging a double double this season, with 19.8 points and 10 rebounds a game as a freshman. Additionally, Calipari has reloaded yet again in the point guard position, as Brandon Knight has replaced John Wall, who replaced Tyreke Evans, who replaced Derrick Rose. Knight averages 17.2 points per game, but the problem is that he only averages about four assists per game. Unlike Wall, Knight isn’t a true point guard, but also unlike wall, Knight is a much better shooter. In fact, this Kentucky team is in many ways the polar opposite of last year’s team, which was the tallest team in the NCAA. With Cousins, Patterson and Orton, the Cats could push the ball and earn points in the paint. This year’s team lacks a big man, as Josh Harrellson is its starting center. However, now the Cats are a real threat from behind the arc. The Cats are likely to finish about 12-4 in the SEC, which would likely put Calipari in position to post yet another 30-win season. Lucky for the Cats, no team in the SEC has a dominant big man, which is the only real kryptonite for this team and Calipari has the Cats playing the kind of defense he is known for, and their length has proven to be a big challenge for opponents.

2. Tennessee Volunteers- Of those marquee wins listed for the SEC, the Volunteers are responsible for some of the biggest as Tennessee has already knocked off Big East powerhouses Pitt and Nova. Had I written this preview 10 days ago, Tennessee would’ve been my hands-down favorite to finish at the top of the SEC East. However, after starting 7-0 and knocking off two top 10 teams, the Volunteers have dropped two straight to non-BCS conference teams Oakland and Charlotte, and a third straight to USC. Two-faced Tennessee is capable of beating any team in the NCAA by double digits, but they’re just as capable of losing to anyone. More than likely, these early loses will bring the naysayers back out of the woodwork, but there’s no reason to expect this Tennessee team won’t get back on track and make a serious run for the top of the conference and an equally deep run into the NCAA tournament. Their match-ups against Kentucky and Florida could likely determine who comes out on top of the conference, but then again, every SEC East matchup could be that pivotal this season.  What will be interesting to see is whether or not Bruce Pearl’s eight-game SEC suspension will really affect his team. During that stretch, Tennessee will have to face Florida and Vanderbilt, outcomes which could very well effect the SEC East standings for the season.

3. Florida Gators- Florida may be just as two-faced as Tennessee, posting wins against top 10 Kansas State, and turning around to lose to the Jacksonville Dolphins that very same week. At 8-3 Florida has no reason to panic, especially as one of their losses came from a very realistic title contender in Ohio State in the early stages of the season. Donovan has yet to recapture the talent he had in his back-to-to back title teams 3 years ago, but the addition of Kenny Boynton last year was a good first step. The sophomore averages 12.4 points per game, and in tandem with Erving Walker, Florida is finally building a team that could be a real threat in the NCAA tournament. The Gators have built up a great deal of depth, which will make them tough to beat due to their ability to give guys ample rest. The Gators should win the rest of their non-conference schedule and enter SEC play at 12-3, and pick up an SEC-opening win against Mississippi before having to travel to Knoxville to face Tennessee in one of the first big SEC clashes of the season.

4. Vanderbilt Commodores- The Commodores have found a way to put themselves in the mix for the past four years, and head coach Kevin Stallings has been the primary reason. He finds ways to put his team in position to win games, and while the ‘Dores have never been outstanding, no one plays them expecting an easy win. Playing in Nashville is always a nightmare and the team plays equally well on the road. However, there’s reason to believe that the strength of the SEC East this season could see the Commodores having a less-than-stellar season.  Fortunately for Vanderbilt, they face rival Tennessee during Pearl’s suspension, and any help is welcome. If Stallings can keep his team on their current pace of scoring, which has them at 24th in the country with 80.1 points per game, he can likely get his team into the NCAA tournament, but the graduation of center A.J. Ogilvy is going to be his biggest road block. However, like Kentucky, Vanderbilt too can benefit from existing in a league that lacks a dominant big man.

5. Georgia Bulldogs- Georgia is on the upswing. Junior Trey Thompkins stormed onto the scene last season with a posterizing dunk on Kentucky’s Demarcus Cousins and he’s never slowed down since. He averages 16.2 points per game, and fellow junior, guard Travis Leslie, adds 14 a game. The duo has led the Bulldogs to a 8-2 start, their best start since 2006, and their only losses have been at the hand of now-ranked opponents. There’s no reason to believe this Georgia team won’t enter SEC play at 11-2, and contend for a spot at the top of the conference. The only thing working against them is the strength of the other teams in the East, but if they can win the games they’re supposed to win, and stack that with some surprises, this team could find itself back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since their surprise SEC tournament-winning run in 2008.

6. South Carolina Gamecocks- The loss of Devon Downey is the primary reason for the Gamecocks likely slide to the bottom of the east this season. Yet, somehow South Carolina has earned a 7-2 start, losing only to top 10 teams. This is the biggest question mark in the SEC East, as this team has no reason to finish better than 8-8 in the SEC, but their play against teams like Michigan State has shown the talent and ability that could be extracted from this team if head coach Darren Horn can pull it out of them. Despite any true big man presence, South Carolina is 9th in the NCAA in rebounding, and in a league with no truly talented big man, the Gamecocks’ ability to crash the board could earn them invaluable second chance opportunities if they can stay on that pace. Their biggest problem will be finding offensive production in a league full of a tenacious defense. If the Gamecocks play to their potential, they could get to 10 wins in the SEC, but there are only so many wins to be divided among the conference, and its more than likely a host of talented SEC East teams will be taking a fair share of them from South Carolina.

Only time will tell whether or not this fast start for the SEC East is the real deal, but so far their games against big-time opponents seem to show there’s reason to believe it could be. College basketball as a whole is down this season, and so far, the SEC seems to be capitalizing on this fact.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“College Football Week 4: We Want Some More”

Boise State star receiver, Austin Pettis (pictured above), looks to help lead Boise to another big time victory on Saturday and keep the Broncos National Championship aspirations alive and well.

The 4th week of this College Football season is already upon us.  Yes, we will be a 3rd of the way through the regular season after this weekend.  Hard to believe, but the intrigue continues to mount.  And we all love the excitement.  After last weekends, “Dud Saturday,” the excitement is back with many big time matchups.  So as usual, I am going to give you my thoughts on a few of the primetime showdowns.

Miami (FL) at Pittsburgh:  These are two teams that are still really looking to prove themselves.  Many experts saw both of these teams as definite BCS Contenders, and even possibly as National Title Game Sleepers.  Though neither of these teams really have a chance at playing in Arizona come January 10th, they both have a lot to look forward to.  For Miami, they have had an extra week to clear their heads out for yet another big time road test.  After Jacory Harris demonstrated his old ways, tossing 4 Interceptions against a very good Ohio State team in Columbus, the U looks to make amends.  Pitt is still recovering from an opening night road loss to Utah.  And I think their reeling period is going to continue, as the overall speed and athleticism of the U bombards the Panthers at Heinz Field.  Though it is hard to pick against a good team at home,  I got the U by a touchdown in this one.

Alabama at Arkansas:  Welcome to the SEC folks.  And both of these teams are already in for big time showdown even with it only being the 4th week of the season. For Alabama, this game will be the first of three consecutive against top 12 ranked foes. Can Ryan Mallett, and the explosive offense of the Razorbacks handle the defending National Champs?  Sadly, I do not think so.  Though Arkansas has made tremendous strides and has looked very tough, Bama is at full strength now with Mark Ingram and just look to be “rolling.”   Also take note that Arkansas has lost 4 of 5 to top 25 ranked opponents.  I feel like not only will Mark Ingram at full strength be a difference maker, but the Alabama defense as a whole will play an intricate part in this one.  The game will come down to which defense can get stops.  And though Nick Saban is sporting a young defensive unit, I give them the edge over the Razorbacks D.  Look for Bama to nab a big road win in a shootout type of game by 7.

South Carolina at Auburn:  This may be the best matchup of the whole weekend in my eyes, though there are many great ones.  A good old-fashioned SEC brawl.  We are fortunate enough to have 2 of these top-tier SEC matchups already in a fun-filled Week 4.  But the difference in this one will come down to Auburn’s home field advantage.  I will state that South Carolina sports probably the most exciting freshman talent in the country in Marcus Lattimore.  But after watching the Gamecocks exhibit some flaws in their game last week against a less than flattering opponent in Furman, I have jumped off the bandwagon a little.  Auburn, though it has not been pretty, has learned to win close games.  Winning by 3 each of the last 2 weeks against quality opponents.  I expect them to utilize that resiliency and the home field advantage to edge a Gamecocks team that has lost 5 straight conference road games by a large margin.  Look for Auburn to win by 3.

Oregon State at Boise State:  Oregon State has practiced on a blue field all week in preparation for a monumental matchup against a very talented Boise team.  Boise has been a main topic of conversation throughout College Football all year and will continue to be until they lose a game (which may not happen).  Chris Petersen’s squad has shown that they can really play football despite their somewhat lackluster schedule.  This is probably the toughest game the Broncos have left, and luckily for them, it is at home.  Oregon State has already dropped a game against a tough TCU team this year.  They got blown out on the blue field 42 to 14 in 2006.  And though the Rodger’s brothers are a lethal tandem, it will not be enough.  Boise is too good all around.  Look for Kellen Moore, Titus Young, and Austin Pettis to have another field day on National Television.  I got Boise in this one by 14.  Do not expect it to be close.

So these are 4 of the marquee games of the weekend.  I realize there are other major matchups such as West Virginia at LSU, Oklahoma at Cincinnati, Kentucky at Florida.  So sit back, enjoy, and watch as many of the games as you can.

Week 4 will be one to remember in the College Football Stratosphere.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze