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    • SEC "Fast Break": February 26

      Apparently, eight Southeastern Conference teams were having so much fun last Saturday they didn’t want it to end.
    • SEC Fast Break with Chris Dortch

      The first month of the season was largely forgettable for the Southeastern Conference by almost any barometer. Where to start?
    • November Offers Challenges for SEC Teams

      It seems like only yesterday Kentucky players were cutting down the nets in the New Orleans Superdome after winning the Southeastern Conference’s third national championship in a seven-year span. But that was more than seven months ago, and now it’s time for college basketball to crank up again.
    • One on One with Chris Dortch: Marquis Teague

      Was there ever a question Marquis Teague could take his place among the elite point guards coached the last four seasons by Kentucky’s John Calipari? We profile Teague, a likely first round pick in this week's NBA Draft.
    • Instant Reaction: Kentucky Claims Title

      About a month ago, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari asked a question of his team.

    SEC Fast Break With Chris Dortch

    This one falls under the category of no good deed goes unpunished.

    When Auburn center Rob Chubb opened his travel bag last Friday after the Tigers arrived for a game the next day at South Carolina, he was horrified to find out his basketball shoes had been left at home. Understand that you can’t just go find a pair of size 16 kicks at your local sporting goods store, so Chubb was forced to suck it up and try to play by squeezing his puppies into a pair of 14s.

    Chubb was miserable wearing the smaller shoes during shoot-around, but in an act of commendable sportsmanship, South Carolina managers lent him a pair of 16s. So what did the Gamecocks get for being Good Samaritans?

    In perhaps the most unlikely outcome in the SEC this season, Chubb went off for a team- and career-high 18 points as Auburn (8-13, 1-6), won its first Southeastern Conference game, 79-64. The victory was as thorough and convincing as that score suggests. Auburn, which had been last in the SEC in rebounding before the game, out-rebounded the Gamecocks, who had been No. 1, 47-35, and limited them to 34 percent shooting from the field and 21 percent from the three-point line.

    Chubb, a sophomore who played sparingly last season, was a huge factor in the win, but if Auburn coach Tony Barbee had known about those missing sneakers, well, the outcome might have been a lot different.

    “If I had known he didn’t bring his shoes before the game, he wouldn’t have started,” Barbee said. “I might not have played him. My assistant coaches did a good job of keeping that away from me.”

    One of those assistants, Tony Madlock, laughed at the mention of keeping Chubb’s dilemma from Barbee. “[A player forgetting his shoes] happens a lot,” Madlock said. “Not every game, but I’ve seen it at other places I’ve been. South Carolina was nice enough to lend him a pair of shoes. It’s not like [the opponent] wouldn’t do that. At every shoot-around on the road, the opposing team manager is there to ask if you need anything. It just so happened this time we did.”

    Barbee had been after the 6-10, 222-pound Chubb to become more aggressive, and he took that advice to heart against the Gamecocks. Despite the presence of the league’s leading shot blocker, Sam Muldrow, Chubb launched a game high-tying 17 shots. Eight of them went down.

    Because South Carolina has Muldrow roaming the paint, it philosophically doesn’t double-team the post. But after Chubb’s big night, he might find himself facing a second defender more often as the season progresses. Barbee hopes Chubb is ready to handle the extra attention.

    “He played with an extreme amount of confidence [against South Carolina],” Barbee said. “And we need him to continue to play that way for us to have success down the stretch.”

    Madlock had been waiting for Chubb to have a breakout game.

    “Last year, he didn’t play at all, so this is basically his freshman year,” Madlock said. “He’s a good kid and a good player. For Rob it was just a matter of experience, getting more reps.”

    And having the correct sized shoes, even if they did belong to the other team.

    SANCHEZ TO THE RESCUE: It seemed improbable enough that Arkansas could have gone to Vanderbilt last Saturday and won, especially after the then-19th ranked Commodores, always tough at home, were coming off two of their most impressive victories of the season, over then-No. 22 Saint Mary’s and on the road at Mississippi State. And did anyone, even coach John Pelphrey, think the Razorbacks could have won in Nashville with starting post players Marshawn Powell and Delvon Johnson limited by foul trouble to a combined 25 minutes, nine points and five rebounds?

    Doubtful.

    But win the Hogs did, behind a couple of the more impressive individual efforts in the SEC this season. Anyone with even a passing interesting in SEC basketball knows how dangerous Rotnei Clarke can be; the 6-0 junior has a school-record 51-point game on his resume and also holds the SEC record for three-pointers in a game (13). Vanderbilt was well aware of Clarke, but that didn’t stop him from going off for 36 points, including 6-of-8 from behind the arc.

    If Clarke’s effort wasn’t surprising, the career-high 20 point-effort turned in by 6-8 junior Michael Sanchez was a stunner. Suffice it to say Sanchez’s name probably didn’t turn up too often on Vanderbilt’s scouting report. He missed the first 11 games of the season after suffering a stress fracture in his foot and had played a combined 73 minutes, averaging 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds.

    Putting Sanchez’s performance in the proper perspective, consider that he had scored just 17 points all season. But his career day didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.

    “We didn’t necessarily see it coming,” said assistant coach Rob Evans, the former Ole Miss and Arizona State head coach who works with the Hogs’ post players. “But before Michael got hurt this fall, he was really playing well, a lot better than he had the last couple of years. He was finishing plays and was a lot more explosive; he was doing all the things we thought he could when we recruited him.”

    Sanchez’s performance may have had its origins a few days earlier during a meeting with Pelphrey. Sanchez wanted to know what he could do to play more. Pelphrey told him to attack the basket more aggressively, rebound and set solid screens for Clarke. Sanchez did all that and more against Vanderbilt. He surprised Commodore center Festus Ezeli, one of the SEC’s top shot blockers, by repeatedly facing up and driving to the basket.

    “He just attacked me, he attacked me on the drive,” Ezeli said after the game. “He started in the first half and it was working, so they kept going to him.”

    “Michael’s not a back-to-the-basket type of guy,” Evans said. “He’s a really good passer out on the perimeter and he can put the ball on the floor. He’s always been able to do that. Now that he’s healthy, he’s more explosive. And he’s smart; when he puts it on the floor, if he can get to the rim, he will. If not, he’ll find other people.”

    “Michael’s a good example to all young players out there,” Pelphrey said. “If you’re not the leading scorer, not the guy shooting all the balls, that’s OK. You can still be a part of your team.”

    PUT-BACK KING: Tennessee senior post man Brian Williams has apparently got the buzzer-beating put-back down to a science. He was the hero in a victory at Georgia with an offensive rebound and basket as time expired, and last Saturday at Ole Miss, he made a similar move to tie the score at halftime, giving Tennessee some momentum in an eventual double-figure win.

    Williams has been a force on the offensive glass this season. He’s seventh in the SEC in rebounding, but second behind Kentucky’s Josh Harrellson in offensive rebounds (72, 3.4 per game). More recently, since being removed from the starting lineup and becoming Tennessee’s first post reserve, Williams has returned to the form he show during the Vols’ run to the NCAA Touranment’s Elite Eight last March, when he averaged 7.5 points and 10.2 boards against San Diego State, Ohio, Ohio State and Michigan State.

    In the Ole Miss game, Williams led Tennessee in scoring with 18 points, and he also grabbed nine rebounds, handed out four assists and blocked two shots.

    “I think coming off the bench has been great for Brian,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. “He’s playing with the same confidence he played with last year at the end. … He brings a level of maturity to our second group. Brian’s really handled that role well.”

    IMBALANCED BULLDOGS: Only four players scored in Mississippi State’s game against Florida last Saturday, but that proved to be more than enough firepower to pull off a 71-64 victory.

    “That’s kind of strange,” Bulldog coach Rick Stansbury said. “I sure didn’t realize it while it was happening, but looking back, we did have some guys off the bench miss some easy layups. “To beat a quality team like Florida with just four guys scoring is unusual, but I’ll take it and move on. I’ve had some games where 10 or 12 people scored and we got beat.”

    State is the first team in Division I this season to have only four players score in a game. The last team to do so was Ohio, against Miami (Ohio) on March 12, 2010. The last time only four State players scratched was Feb. 10, 1996, in a win over Oklahoma.

    Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer against the Gators was point guard Dee Bost, who racked up 24 points to go with five assists. Renardo Sidney and Kodi Augustus both contributed 16 and Ravern Johnson 15.

    Bost’s quick return to form was a relief to Stansbury. The junior had been whacked senseless by an inadvertent elbow from Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli just two days earlier. Bost lost a couple of teeth and suffered a concussion, and the collision may even have led to the Bulldogs’ narrow defeat. When Vanderbilt’s Jeffrey Taylor stole an inbounds pass for a victory-clinching dunk and three-point play late in the game, Bost was in la-la land.

    “He was running from the ball instead of running up to go get it [on the in-bounds pass],” Stansbury said. “He’s supposed to be handling the ball, but he was just jogging around the court. He didn’t even know if we’d won or lost. He came off the floor and had to ask the trainer.”



     
     

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    Chris Dortch Bio

    Chris Dortch estimates he’s covered close to 1,500 college basketball games since he was sports editor of his college student newspaper back in the late ’70s. “And it never gets old,” he says. “I always get pumped up to watch college hoops.”

    Dortch came to love basketball growing up in the basketball crazy state of Illinois, watching Missouri Valley Conference and Big Ten games every Saturday and pouring over the sports section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think I learned how to read a box score before I learned how to read,” he says.

    In college, first at George Mason and later at East Tennessee State, he came under the influence of two coaches that gave him a behind-the-scenes look at basketball from a coaching perspective. “After that I was hooked,” he says. “I knew I wanted to cover college basketball for a living.”

    And so he did, focusing on the Southeastern Conference at four newspapers and then for Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the famed “bible” of college basketball which Dortch began editing in 1996.

    In a 30-year career, Dortch has written for numerous publications and websites, served as a college basketball correspondent for Sports Illustrated, appeared on more than 1,000 radio shows and written five books, including String Music: Inside the Rise of SEC Basketball.

    Dortch has provided commentary for CSS, Fox Sports South, NBA TV and the Big Ten Network and also taught sports writing at East Tennessee State and Tennessee-Chattanooga, where his students call him “Professor D.”