*John Clay tells you everything you need to know about the SECT.
*Check out Tom Stephenson's SECT Storyline piece over at AoG for some decent and general non-BBN perspective.
*Travis Hines at CBT predicts a UK-LSU final. His postseason conference awards are also included in the post.
*Jerry Tipton's pre-Tournament piece from yesterday includes some great 'Cat quotes, including this one from the ever-optimistic Jamal Murray:
"We're used to practicing every day and competing and just getting better . . . [s]o this should be a cakewalk for us to go in there and compete."
*UF handled Arkansas 68-61, keeping UF's NCAAT hopes alive.
*Tennessee narrowly defeated Vanderbilt, 67-65, which probably means that Vandy is NIT-bound.
*Alabama beat Ole Miss, 81-73, setting up a date with the 'Cats tonight.
*Georgia defeated Mississippi State by 10.
*UF vs. TAMU, 1 p.m. EST, SEC Network
What to Expect from the SECN crew.
*Tennesee vs. LSU, 25 minutes after UF-TAMU, SECN
What to Expect from the SECN crew.
*Alabama vs. UK, 7 p.m. EST, SECN
What to Expect from the SECN crew.
*UGA vs. USC, 25 minutes after Bama-UK, SECN
What to Expect from the SECN crew.
*Ben Simmons talked about why he was excluded from consideration for the Wooden Award earlier in the week. Here are a few more quotes from the future #1 pick.
Simmons' words are certainly worth discussing, but I mostly included this link so I can deliver my rant about Simmons as a NCAAB player, NBA prospect, and all of the collateral issues involved therein. For context, I am a NCAAB superfan and a NBA fan. The confluence of the two is the NBA Draft; as a result, I follow the Draft obsessively and year-round. What I know about these three entities colors my view on this subject completely so my view on Simmons is comprehensive in that regard.
First of all, Big Blue Nation has not been fond of Simmons since he had the audacity to choose anywhere other than Lexington to spend his one year in college. The dislike evolved into hatred when Simmons did not speak kindly about our beloved Tyler Ulis after the LSU game last Saturday. Fans are, by the very nature of the fandom concept, entitled to possess these feelings; however, I do not. If your view of Simmons is colored by those emotions, please try to discard them for the next ~800 words.
Simply put, Simmons does not belong in college basketball. He belongs in a NBA starting lineup now and he belonged in one last summer. Maybe even earlier. He has been on the NBA radar since 2012 when he absolutely blew up at the Pangos All-American Camp (he was 15 years old, by the way; look at the picture accompanying the article). He already approaches scoring like LeBron James, rebounding like Blake Griffin, and his advanced defensive numbers are (and remain) better than one would suspect.
Simmons is projected as a NBA superstar by shoe companies, as well. Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour are currently bidding for his signature and he stands to make at least nine figures on the deal.
Simmons obviously knows all of these things, and it likely affects his effort in the classroom and his approach to NCAAB. He is only playing college basketball because of the "one and done" rule and the NBA's current CBA. Do I care about Simmons' effort and attitude while in Baton Rouge? Do NBA franchises? See below for an explanation, but the answer is a resounding "no."
I was able to watch eleven LSU games this season. My perception -- and I am not alone -- is that Simmons, who has averaged 35+ minutes per game to this point in the season, is bored with the college game. As a result, he tries, let's say, 70% of the time. Still, the kid is averaging 19.6 points (on 56%FG), 11.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals per game despite the disinterest or whatever you want to call it.
If you watch the plays in which Simmons appears to be fully invested, he has a preternatural ability to be one or two steps ahead of everyone else, especially on offense. Before he even takes a pass that is intended to draw a double team, he's already scoped the floor and knows where the the teammate with the most opportune offensive position is located. Simmons "feels" the game on a NBA level already.
As I previously mentioned, I don't care about his grades or his attitude and neither will NBA GMs.
I attended the LSU-UK game with a photo credential on Saturday. I sat in front of a Minnesota Timberwolves scout and a Phoenix Suns scout. For good reason, scouts are quiet at games, especially if they sit near scouts from opposing teams. However, I only heard one-word, awestruck comments about Simmons -- "wow" and "what's he even doing here?," etc.
My guess is that everyone at the NBA level knows that Simmons is going first in the Draft (he is; we'll know what team he's going to be on the minute the Draft Lottery ping pong balls fall), so there's no reason to fashion any smokescreens. Further, on the topic of scouts' opinions, one recently told ESPN's Chad Ford that:
"He's one of the most gifted players at his age that I have ever seen..."
"He's 19. He has the chance to be a triple-double machine..."
I love NCAAB, so I acknowledge and understand the the arguments that Simmons is "bad for" or "does not uphold the tradition of" the sport; however, I believe those views are short-sighted and misguided. Ben Simmons is only playing NCAAB because he has to. So if there's any judgment to pass, it's on the NBA and its requirement that elite talents like Simmons stay away until certain arbitrary requirements are met, and not on Simmons.
What matters -- to me, at least -- is how Ben Simmons plays basketball. And he plays it extremely well.
Others are of the same mind. For instance. Chris Korman at USA Today shares my view:
Simmons is 19-years-old, stands 6-foot-10 and has shocking athleticism. He has the chance to be an All-Star in the NBA -- a league in which 77 players will make at least $10 million this year -- for the next decade and a half. The only thing Ben Simmons needs to care about right now is playing basketball. If he does it well he'll make enough money to keep his family secure for generations.
But . . . because NBA owners are loathe to pay out big contracts to young players who may not work out or could take years to develop, Simmons was forced onto campus for a year.
*Notable Non-SEC Conference Tournament Games Roundup
With the exceptions of Notre Dame defeating #19 Duke in the ACC and upstart Illinois (15-18) upsetting #20 Iowa in the Big Ten, chalk ruled among Top 25 teams in conference tournament action from yesterday.
Here is the entire scoreboard for Thursday's action.
If you're able to stay up (and have the PAC 12 Network and FS1), there are some awesome west coast matchups in the PAC 12 tonight -- #15 Arizona vs. #8 Oregon and #24 Cal vs. #12 Utah.
*Kyle Tucker refers to assistant coach Kenny Payne as the "post whisperer" in this well-written look at Payne's work with Skal Labissiere and other recent Wildcat big men. We're going to miss Payne when he inevitably (and deservedly) obtains a head coaching position elsewhere.
*SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell on Cal "letting Skal be Skal" and how it has affected the trajectory of Kentucky's outlook heading into both tournaments.
*We all love the nostalgia of the "what's your favorite memory" question posed to seniors as their college careers wind down. No answer to that query has ever been more hilariously sad than Boston College's Dennis Clifford's:
"Going out to eat."
In case you didn't click the link, BC did not win a single ACC game this season. Their last win was in 2015. How does that happen?
*Dennis Dodd is one of many who portend that former 'Cat Travis Ford may not be the Oklahoma State head coach for the '16-'17 season.
I don't follow Oklahoma State basketball closely enough to offer an informed opinion regarding Ford's job security, but I do know that Ford got next to nothing out of several highly-rated recruits in Stillwater (LeBryan Nash and Raymond Penn immediately come to mind), his winning percentage there was 59% and he only advanced past the Round of 64 in the NCAAT once.
The only real success Ford has had was sending Marcus Smart to the NBA Lottery after two years in orange and black.
*Rutgers fired its coach -- and Scarlet Knight alum -- Eddie Jordan yesterday. RU hired Jordan after the Mike Rice debacle.
Jordan figures to return to the NBA, where he led three separate franchises during his career, including a successful stint with the Washington Wizards in the mid-2000s.
*Like many underclassmen will with the new rule change, Louisville big man Chinanu Onuaku will test the 2016 NBA Draft waters. I expect Onuaku will return to school.
*Former '16 UK target Rawle Alkins committed to Arizona earlier in the week.
Head coach Sean Miller now was a pair of '16 prospects who were projected to matriculate to UK at one point or another during the recruiting process. The other is Kobi Simmons.
Arizona jumped nearly thirty spots in ESPN's team rankings after Alkins' commitment and now sits at number six. With only three commitments, that elite ranking is incredibly impressive. Miller's third commitment is oft-overlooked international 5* seven-footer Lauri Markkanen.
*The C-J's Jeff Greer speculates on what's next for U of L basketball.
My guess? As for on-court happenings, Card fans will place the entirety of their expectations on the back of 4* freshman V.J. King -- who I believe is closer to a 2-3 year player than a one-and-done talent -- and be disappointed. I still have nothing to say about the off-court stuff.
*25 March Madness trivia questions. This was fun to work through. I answered 14 correctly -- mostly the questions involving teams from the early 1990s and on.
*Peter Holt, CEO and Chairman of the San Antonio Spurs, is retiring and his wife will be assuming his duties. His decision is getting very little press, which is surprising to me.
Holt had led the Spurs, arguably one of the most successful major North American sports franchises, since 1995 and has been a major part of its 5 NBA Titles during that span.
*Tom Ziller published a piece on Devin Booker's connection with his father and his presence among a number of current second-generation stars in the NBA for SB Nation. It's a great read.
Also, Booker eclipsed 30 points again last night against Denver (another loss, unfortunately), also adding 5 assists, 3 rebounds, a block, and a steal. Archie Goodwin and Brandon Knight also suited up, but contributed little beyond bad +/- numbers.
Stay tuned for a Booker piece from Keith later today. UPDATE: Here it is.
*Julius Randle had an efficient night in a loss to the Cavaliers, tallying 15 points on 60% shooting (as well as 3/3 from the free throw line), 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist.
*Willie Cauley-Stein has seen his minutes decrease recently, but there's no reason to worry about WCS' spot in the rotation, according to Kings head coach George Karl.
UPDATE: Cauley-Stein does not like Karl's approach to employing him on defense.
*James Young played a minute!
*DeMarcus Cousins has been suspended for a game by the Kings, apparently for yelling at Karl during a timeout on Wednesday night.
*Can you guess how many UK alums are included in CBS Sports' most recent Rookie Power Rankings? There are several, including the headliner.
*Zach Lowe's list of the most watchable players in the NBA is fun. Most 'Cats were excluded due to the usual rules (no All-Stars, no rookie phenoms, etc.), but it's a worthwhile read if you're a NBA fan.
Lowe also touches on John Wall's (new?) nickname: Wall Star. That's news to me. For what it's worth (nothing), I don't like it.
I do, however, like Lowe's praise for Wall, which illustrates Lowe's perceptiveness:
"Wall is a unique player -- a human fast break with an underrated eye for artful passes that zip one step ahead of rotating defenses. He can generate a corner 3 almost at will."
*Sports hyperbole be damned! The Lakers' incredibly improbable victory over the Warriors on Sunday night was actually only the 23rd largest upset in NBA history, according to FiveThirtyEight's Elo model.
*In the most important headline of the offseason, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has endorsed Judge Judy for the United States Supreme Court. Continue to count me as a massive Harbaugh fan.
*Andy Staples answers several SEC-related questions via his Twitter video mailbag for SI, including whether Tennessee is the favorite in the East next season.
*Former NFL RB and USC alum Duce Staley's son is following in his father's footsteps, as the 3* LB committed to Will Muschamp's Gamecocks the other day.
*Ryan McGee provides some thoughtful consideration of the most pervasive big-time college program revenue sport cliche -- culture. Several interesting quotes from big coaching names are included.
*Here are the 10 biggest questions and storylines for the SEC going into spring, according to Fansided's Patrick Schmidt.
*Nick Saban painted as Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie.
*The homie John Clayton posits that the 2021 Hall of Fame Class might be one of the best ever.
I'm not a big HOF follower and my football historian credentials extend from the late 1990s until now, but Clayton presents a compelling case for a talented group.
*Three SEC schools headline this list of the top 10 upcoming Pro Days ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft.
*Former Stanford QB Kevin Hogan's weekly Draft Diary is worth your time. Here is the most recent entry.
*An Iowa wrestler breathed new life into the mullet phenomenon after crushing the competition in a tournament:
"So it's a process...you can't grow a mullet in a day and you can't win a Big Ten title in a day."
*The lovable doofus from History Channel's Pawn Stars was arrested on Wednesday and faces serious charges. Say it isn't so, Chum.