The Crock Pot: SEC basketball fever? NCAA Tournament shows conference has something big cooking

Credit: seccountry.com

Welcome to The Crock Pot, your one-stop shop for all the SEC news, notes, quotes and mishaps of the past week. Here’s what we’ve been stewing over …


Future still bright for SEC basketball, but it’s fun right now

The 2017 NCAA Tournament is boring, they said. Too much chalk, too few upsets.


“Hold our beer,” the college basketball gods replied. And on the fourth day, they delivered.


Or rather SEC basketball delivered, proving once again that 2017 is the year Earth became Bizarro World.


The conference has three teams in the Sweet 16. Florida destroyed Virginia, Kentucky held off a feisty Wichita State squad that was clearly under-seeded and South Carolina knocked off a Duke team picked by many to win the tournament (including yours truly).


Amazingly, Arkansas nearly made it four SEC teams advancing to the second weekend. The Razorbacks held a 5-point lead over top-seed UNC late, but the Tar Heels (aided by a bad charging no-call) went on a 12-0 run in the game’s final minutes to survive the upset bid.


Vanderbilt, too, had a shot at defeating tourney darling Northwestern and giving the conference another March Madness win.


So, that’s a 7-2 composite record for the SEC so far, with three of the country’s top 16 teams among its conquests (UVA, Duke and Wichita State, per KenPom). Not bad for a conference that at one point looked like it might only get three teams into the Big Dance.


South Carolina basketball (Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

South Carolina’s monster upset alone would have been a major statement for the SEC. The Gamecocks, as Coach K himself said, are clearly “building something special.” Their coach is outstanding, their defense posed major problems for a high-powered Duke squad and — with the notable exceptions of seniors Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice — are mostly led by a nucleus of young up-and-comers like forward Chris Silva.


Five seasons ago, Frank Martin inherited a team that went 2-14 in the SEC and a program that hadn’t won an NCAA tourney game since 1973. Now, South Carolina is in the Sweet 16, where the school has never won a game, and holds wins against Duke, Syracuse and Michigan this season — big-time schools with big-time coaches. Martin has done one heck of a job reshaping Gamecocks basketball.


That’s not to discount the SEC’s non-tourney teams. Alabama coach Avery Johnson has the Crimson Tide recruiting with the best of them. Ben Howland has a young Mississippi State team on the rise. Bruce Pearl is starting to flex his recruiting muscles at Auburn (*insert compliance jokes here*). Ole Miss beat Syracuse in the NIT.


Even the SEC basement should get better. Missouri tabbed Cuonzo Martin as its new coach and you can expect LSU will at least pursue Tom Crean. VCU’s Will Wade is the purported front-runner.


Ken Pomeroy — a much smarter man than I’ll ever hope to be — might not expect a big jump in the conference’s level of play. But let’s be real: Projecting future college basketball performance is basically impossible. Heck, the “experts” can’t even make decent brackets, and they’ve had 30-plus games to evaluate these teams by now.


The SEC has one of the strongest basketball coaching rosters in the country and they’re luring more talent to the conference every year. A few years down the road, assuming all goes as planned, John Calipari’s expectation of eight or even nine SEC reps at the Big Dance doesn’t seem so far-fetched. I agreed with him last week, well before this weekend’s madness had played out.


Look out, world: #SECHoopsFever is real and spreading fast.


Lurking on the NCAA Tournament horizon

So, the SEC put three teams into the Sweet 16. Can they keep winning? More importantly, could we actually see two SEC teams matched up in the Elite Eight?


Here’s a quick look at games this week:


Baylor vs. South Carolina (Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET)

Key player: Johnathan Motley
Key stat: 3 (number of games Baylor lost when Motley scored fewer than 15 points)
South Carolina can win if: The Gamecocks continue to win the rebounding and possession battles. On Sunday, they outrebounded the Blue Devils, 37-34, and forced 18 turnovers. But Motley, a 6-foot-9 stud who’s averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, won’t make life easy for Silva. Baylor is dangerous offensively when the Bears are humming, but the Gamecocks’ strong perimeter defense could allow them to isolate Motley, as he’s far and away BU’s top scorer. One wild card to watch is forward T.J. Matson, who went 7 for 13 against the Trojans. Considering Baylor’s recent tourney pedigree and its 12-6 record in Big 12 play, this has the feel of a winnable matchup for South Carolina.
Prediction: South Carolina, 82-78

Kentucky vs. UCLA (Friday, 9:40 p.m.)

Key player: Malik Monk
Key stat: 31.3 (Monk’s field goal percentage over the past six games)
Kentucky can win if: Monk finds his rhythm and the Wildcats get more help from their bench. In the regular season matchup between these two juggernauts, Monk went off for 24 points and Kentucky scored in bunches against a Bruins defense that ranks 77th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. UCLA dropped 97 points in that game, but with UK playing better on the defensive end of late — Wichita State shot a mere 38.7 percent from the field Sunday — the ‘Cats have a chance to outpace Lonzo Ball & Co. Getting more production from guys such as Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder and Isaac Humphries, as SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker points out, will be just as key. That helped Kentucky early against Wichita State, and it should do the same in the UCLA rematch.
Prediction: UCLA, 100-92

Florida vs. Wisconsin (Friday, 9:50 p.m.)

Key players: Justin Leon and Devin Robinson
Key stat: 29.6 (Virginia’s shooting percentage against Florida)
Florida can win if: The Gators play like they did against Virginia. Wisconsin, another obviously under-seeded team, always plays tough defense. The Badgers might exhibit less potency on the offensive end, but consider this: Against Villanova, they shot 7 of 16 from the charity stripe and still won. Ugly basketball gave Villanova fits on Saturday, and it could do the same for Florida. The easiest way for the Gators to improve in the Sweet 16 rests upon the shooting arm of KeVaughn Allen, who was ice cold against UVA this weekend (2 for 10 from the field, 0 for 4 from 3-point range) despite UF making concerted efforts to get him going. Excluding Allen, Florida finished 8 of 17 from beyond the arc against the Cavaliers; expecting UF to repeat that would be foolish. But the biggest factor has to be how Leon and Robinson handle Wisconsin’s scoring threats in the post, Ethan Happ (6-foot-10, 230 pounds) and Nigel Hayes (6-8, 240 pounds). Hayes, a senior, is averaging 13.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game since Jan. 28. He’ll test Florida in ways Virginia center Jack Salt did not.
Prediction: Florida, 70-68

4 SEC running backs to watch this spring, and one to follow in the fall

Spring football is all about one question: Who’s next?


Despite losing Leonard Fournette, Boom Williams and Alvin Kamara, the SEC returns a boatload of talent at the tailback position. Derrius Guice, Rawleigh Williams, Ralph Webb, Nick Chubb and Kamryn Pettway highlight maybe the deepest group of rushers in the country.


Thing is, SEC teams aren’t treating them like 400-carry-per-year workhorses. In fact, Webb led the conference in rushing attempts with 250 last season, the conference’s first without a 300-carry guy since 2012.  Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky — the top three rushing attacks in 2016 — all had multiple backs go for 800-plus yards.


So, with that in mind, here are five guys who look poised for a bigger workload in 2017:



Jordan Scarlett: He was easily Florida’s best rusher last fall, and his position coach wants Scarlett to hit the 1,000-yard mark.
Nick Brossette: With Fournette gone, Brossette stands to benefit. LSU running backs coach Tommie Robinson likes distributing the offensive touches among his players, and the seldom-used junior was productive when called upon, with a 9.6 yard-per-carry average on 15 rushes last season.
Sihiem King: Boom Williams gave King glowing reviews. The junior has the skill set to be a versatile home-run hitter for Kentucky, much like his predecessor.
Jordan Wilkins: Declared academically ineligible for 2016, he should emerge as the feature back for an Ole Miss running game that could use serious improvement.
Kylin Hill: The 4-star freshman signee isn’t on Mississippi State’s campus yet. When he does arrive, Hill should immediately factor into the running back rotation with the Bulldogs graduating Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway.

You probably shouldn’t do this, Tennessee

Butch Jones received a social media ribbing when he made his “5-star hearts” comment on National Signing Day. Well, here’s Tennessee making a hype video that revolves completely around 5-star signee Trey Smith, whom the Vols bill as the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation.


I’m not sure which service ranked him No. 1, but the point is Tennessee emphasizing recruiting rankings when Jones specifically downplayed their importance.


On top of that, making a hype video about a freshman who hasn’t played one snap yet. … Pressure much? UT better hope he lives up to the billing.



#1 overall recruit in the nation is proving it every day. SKY IS THE LIMIT for @smithtrey98! #DOM1N8 pic.twitter.com/hCThyJKc3z


— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) March 12, 2017



Money matters

An interesting read over on DawgNation from Seth Emerson, who talked with several Georgia donors for a story about the athletic department’s spending habits (or lack thereof).


There has been much angst around the Bulldog fan base regarding the school’s facilities and whether athletic director Greg McGarity is doing enough to ensure UGA remains competitive with its SEC rivals. According to Emerson, Georgia has $77 million in reserve funds.


Alabama spent $132 million in 2014-15 fiscal year alone, according to USA Today. Florida followed at $125 million. Georgia? $96.6 million — 10th in the SEC — despite drawing $116 million in revenue (15th in the nation). So, the frustration is understandable in that sense.


At the same time, the SEC’s athletics amenities arm race has turned locker room waterfalls seemingly into the new norm. That’s the reality of modern college football, but we should simultaneously question whether that should be the reality of modern college football, no?


Highlight of the week

Plenty of options to sift through following this weekend’s tourney action, but this clip of Robinson from the Florida-Virginia beat-down gets the nod for comedy value.


Notice the reaction from the Gators bench. He left that 3-pointer sitting on the table, though.



Most effective jab step ever? pic.twitter.com/2xav1UWkh7


— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 19, 2017



Headlines from around SEC Country

Wichita State talked, Kentucky listened and the Wildcats advanced (Kyle Tucker) — Pro tip: Don’t give John Calipari’s 5-star crew any reason to take the court with extra motivation.
Gators reclaiming momentum, mojo while making statement in NCAA Tournament (Ryan Young)
Kentucky coach John Calipari has a favorite player: his son, Brad (Kyle Tucker)
WATCH: South Carolina basketball players soak Frank Martin in locker room (Mike Wilson) — March is the best.
Arkansas played with fire all season but will come out the other side purified (Eric Bolin)
Bear Bryant’s great-grandson, who plays QB, says he won’t automatically go to Alabama (Chris Kirschner) — Say what now?
Tennessee football signee Princeton Fant represents ‘5-star heart’ (Mike Griffith) — I actually love the corny Butch-isms.
Once healthy, can Florida QB Luke Del Rio win back his starting job? (Zach Abolverdi) — That depends if Doug Nussmeier wants to start a freshman in the Week 1 matchup with Michigan.
Next Generation: Visit to imprisoned father brings ‘excitement, joy’ to Netori Johnson (Chip Towers)
What to watch for when Auburn resumes practice this week (Justin Ferguson)
Arkansas signee David Porter just beginning to understand his immense talent (Jason Kersey)
The Best SEC Athlete of All Time: A 14-team bracket (Alex Martin Smith) — Hard to argue with the top 2 here, but choosing between them is tough, man.
LSU gymnastics wins 2017 SEC Gymnastics Championship (Nick Suss)

What you need to know (besides football … and also basketball)

Three-peat: Missouri wrestler J’den Cox became the first guy in school history to win three national championships, per the Kansas City Star. He finished his season with a 28-0 record. The real question: Would Cox ever join the Mizzou football team? Barry Odom is open to the idea and could absolutely use an athlete like Cox, a former all-state linebacker.
Sandusky: Jury selection has begun for the trial involving ex-Penn State president Graham Spanier’s alleged mishandling of complaints about disgraced former football assistant Jerry Sandusky, the Associated Press reports. He stands accused of endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy, both felony charges. Of note: PSU’s former vice president and former athletic director have already pled guilty to a single misdemeanor count of child endangerment, and they could be asked to take the stand in Spanier’s trial. Reminder: A report accusing Sandusky of child molestation supposedly reached the desks of all three men in 2001; Sandusky was not arrested until 2011.
Out the door: Uber’s president Jeff Jones quit after six months on the job, CNN reports, citing concerns over the company’s management culture. It’s the latest in a string of high-profile departures for the rideshare company. Recently, CEO Travis Kalanick issued a public apology in which he said he “must fundamentally change and grow up.” The company is reportedly valued around $66 billion.
North Korea: I have a strange fascination with this angry little communist nation, perhaps because it’s so resistant to any and all outside influence. Call it morbid curiosity. That said, I lost about an hour of my day watching Vice’s documentary about North Korea, in which the filmmaker actually travels to Pyongyang and takes a government-sanctioned tour of the country. It’s downright bizarre, and the propaganda films sound like they’re straight out of South Park.


Final word: Are all college athletes getting the same access?

ESPN’s Tom Farrey published a concerning story on The Undefeated last week entitled “The gentrification of college hoops,” which examines evidence that first-generation students are starting to disappear from the sport.


From 2010-15 alone, the number of first-generation students — i.e. those who are the first members of their family to attend college — dropped from 28 to 19 percent in men’s basketball. Women’s hoops fell from 24 to 17 percent, while softball and men’s tennis declined by 8 percent.


The data directly refutes what we read so often, the “disadvantaged athlete gets a free education because he’s great at sports” story. Since providing free schooling is the NCAA’s strongest argument that its athletes are really amateurs, the big-wigs in college’s sports governing body are rightly freaking out.


“I’m deeply attentive to what you’re describing,” NCAA president Mark Emmert told Farrey. “We need to make sure we’re not cutting off access.”


So, why is this happening? The issue is complex and the whole story is well worth the read, but one factor to consider is the cost of training. Take football, where players attend camps year-round and players like Blake Barnett fly out to California to train with George Whitfield for a summer.


You can’t teach athleticism, of course, but kids whose families can afford 1-on-1 coaching and the best equipment have a natural advantage — especially when it comes to the more expensive sports such as tennis, golf, hockey and gymnastics. That has to be a troubling trend.



First-generation college students are disappearing from NCAA sports. Outstanding story by @TomFarrey. https://t.co/0R9cVyDyzj


— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) March 18, 2017



The post The Crock Pot: SEC basketball fever? NCAA Tournament shows conference has something big cooking appeared first on SEC Country.


Top Stories

WATCH: What Ed Orgeron said following LSU’s lightning-delayed spring game

BATON ROUGE, La. — There’s rarely such thing as normal at LSU, even for something as simple as a spring game. Fortunately, Ed Orgeron is already used to it early in his coaching tenure after already dealing with one hurricane-altered game last season. LSU’s spring game was played at two different venues in one night. The […] The post WATCH: What Ed Orgeron said following LSU’s lightning-delayed spring game appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 1 day ago
  • 12

Daily Motorcycle News • IANNONE ELEVENTH IN AMERICAS GP QUALIFYING

IANNONE ELEVENTH IN AMERICAS GP QUALIFYING Team Suzuki Press Office – April 22.
  • 1 day ago
  • 11

Tennessee recruiting: Vols’ land 2019 WR Cameron Wynn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Saturday turned out to be a productive day on the recruiting trail for Tennessee despite the rain-shortened Orange and White game. Shortly after the game was called off, 3-star QB Michael Penix announced his commitment to the Vols. As it turns out, that was just the first commitment of the day. Shortly thereafter, […] The post Tennessee recruiting: Vols’ land 2019 WR Cameron Wynn appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 1 day ago
  • 7

Tennessee recruiting: QB Michael Penix announces commitment to Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Because of inclement weather that ultimately ended the game early, Tennessee’s spring game didn’t have the same fan atmosphere that it may have otherwise had. Whatever it offered, it appeared to be enough for 3-star quarterback Michael Penix, who announced his commitment to Tennessee shortly after the game on Saturday afternoon. #GBO […] The post Tennessee recruiting: QB Michael Penix announces commitment to Vols appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 1 day ago
  • 6

Approval rating for Alabama football head coach Nick Saban: You decide

Nick Saban seemingly can do no wrong. Especially after how both of his quarterbacks played in the Alabama spring game on Saturday. After a ton of staff turnover on offense, specifically with Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian both leaving for other jobs, Saban hired Brian Daboll, who was a graduate assistant at Michigan State when […] The post Approval rating for Alabama football head coach Nick Saban: You decide appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 17 hours ago
  • 6
farawayyachtingcharters - Easy Branches
botoxfillerveintheraphyinphuket - Easy Branches

Latest in Sport

Hold or fold: Romano Fenati stages a stunner at CoTA

Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) took a stunning win in the Moto3™ race at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, crossing the line over four seconds clear of dueling Del Conca Gresini Moto3™ teammates Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannantonio for his first win since the same venue last year. The race was […] The post Hold or fold: Romano Fenati stages a stunner at CoTA appeared first on Superbike News.
  • 24 minutes ago

Tripling down: Franco Morbidelli makes it three from three

Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) took a third in a row this season in the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, making him the first man to do so in the intermediate class since Daijiro Kato in 2001. Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) was the man on the chase in P2, with the podium […] The post Tripling down: Franco Morbidelli makes it three from three appeared first on Superbike News.
  • 24 minutes ago

Five by five: magical Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) initially fought it out with teammate Dani Pedrosa for victory in the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, before being able to break clear in the latter laps of the race to take his stunning fifth win in a row in Austin – his 11th straight win on US […] The post Five by five: magical Marc Marquez appeared first on Superbike News.
  • 24 minutes ago

Gautier Paulin and Pauls Jonass Win the MXGP of Europe

The FIM Motocross World Championship raced on the sandy and demanding track at Valkenswaard this weekend. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Gautier Paulin and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass were the two riders who met the demands and took the overall victories. MXGP This weekend belongs to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Gautier […] The post Gautier Paulin and Pauls Jonass Win the MXGP of Europe appeared first on Superbike News.
  • 24 minutes ago

Toni Elias is Four for Four at COTA

Marc Marquez may be the King of the Circuit of The Americas with his five straight MotoGP wins here, but Toni Elias is a close second, the Spaniard winning his fourth successive MotoAmerica Superbike race in Texas today. For the second straight day, Elias scored victory at COTA, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider matching his effort […] The post Toni Elias is Four for Four at COTA appeared first on Superbike News.
  • 24 minutes ago

Auburn baseball takes series from Arkansas as Hogs pitching fails Sunday

Auburn-Arkansas was always going to be a whale of a baseball series this sixth weekend of SEC play. And even though the Tigers took it with an 11-6 win on Sunday, things only became tighter in the league. The game itself was typical Sunday-in-the-SEC stuff. Arkansas used six pitchers. Five of them gave up runs. […] The post Auburn baseball takes series from Arkansas as Hogs pitching fails Sunday appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 7 hours ago

Recap: Auburn baseball team sets up big showdown vs. Mississippi State with series win over Arkansas

AUBURN, Ala. — Heading into Auburn’s three-game series against Arkansas, Butch Thompson felt there were people waiting for his Tigers to misstep and slip from the top of the SEC standings. Thompson’s ball club didn’t make many mistakes at Plainsman Park this weekend, though. After earning a win in the Friday night opener and dropping a […] The post Recap: Auburn baseball team sets up big showdown vs. Mississippi State with series win over Arkansas appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 7 hours ago

South Carolina has a spot in Ernest Jones’ top four

On Sunday night, 3-star linebacker Ernest Jones included South Carolina when he released a decision date and a list of four finalists. Jones, who’s ranked as the No. 49 outside linebacker in the class of 2018, also included Florida, Georgia Tech and Duke. A commitment will be announced on May 5.
  • 7 hours ago

LSU moves into driver’s seat with elite Texas OL Rafiti Ghirmai

LSU’s spring game weekend yielded several booms on the recruiting trail. It pushed the needle in the Tigers’ pursuit of one of the nation’s top offensive tackles as well. Rafiti Ghirmai is the No. 24 offensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class and No. 42 overall prospect from Texas, per the 247Composite rankings. After taking […] The post LSU moves into driver’s seat with elite Texas OL Rafiti Ghirmai appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 7 hours ago

Complainant’s attorney in case against Caleb Brantley issues statement saying first police report was falsified

On Sunday afternoon, former Florida defensive lineman Caleb Brantley was arrested a case of battery after he allegedly struck a woman in the face and knocked her unconscious. Later in the day, the complainant in the case released a statement via her attorney on the incident.  She said that has had to undergo extensive medical treatment […] The post Complainant’s attorney in case against Caleb Brantley issues statement saying first police report was falsified appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 7 hours ago

Tennessee baseball rallies, tops Texas A&M in 14 innings by 5-3 count

Tennessee freshman Luc Lipcius came through with a two-out, RBI single to left field  in the top of the 14th inning, pushing what proved to be the winning run across the plate at Texas A&M in College Station. The Vols (20-17, 5-13 SEC) improve to 5-1 in extra innings games this season, including a perfect […] The post Tennessee baseball rallies, tops Texas A&M in 14 innings by 5-3 count appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 8 hours ago

Kentucky basketball: Haimdou Diallo declares for NBA draft, won’t hire an agent

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Hamidou Diallo didn’t step on the floor for Kentucky this season, and now he may never suit up for the Wildcats. Diallo, who was a 5-star recruit before enrolling during the middle of the season, will declare for the 2017 NBA Draft. Diallo is a year removed from high school as he […] The post Kentucky basketball: Haimdou Diallo declares for NBA draft, won’t hire an agent appeared first on SEC Country.
  • 8 hours ago