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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

    NEW ORLEANS - He’s already racked up enough national player- and freshman-of-the-year awards to fill a Winnebago, so there’s only one thing left for Kentucky’s Anthony Davis to get done before he heads off to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

    And what happens if he leads Kentucky to the NCAA championship in the Big Easy on Monday night? How might his brief but brilliant college career come to be regarded from a historical perspective?

    “I think we’re seeing what Kevin Garnett would have been like had he played college ball,” ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes said.

    That begs the question the Fast Break brought up in December. Could Davis be the best player Kentucky’s John Calipari has coached? Remember that Cal also coached Derrick Rose and Marcus Camby.

    “The best player he’s ever coached is Rose, and the second best would be Camby,” said Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, who’s seen as much high-level basketball in college and the NBA as anyone. “The comparison would be between Davis and Camby. It’s interesting. I saw a lot of Marcus Camby. And he wasn’t the overall monstrous threat at both ends that this kid is. Period.

    “[Davis has] started expanding his game and showing us he can actually face up and make 3s. And you see the ball-handling skill and the overall fluidity of his game, and you start thinking about what historical comparisons do we have? At seven feet, you’re talking about Kevin Garnett. And uh, and uh, and uh … not many others.”

    Garnett played high school basketball in an era where he could bypass college and jump straight to the NBA. We never got to see what he could have done at the college level. Thus, CBS analyst Clark Kellogg isn’t ready to say Davis has been as impactful as Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon were as freshmen. His test sample encompasses a shorter time period.

    “I tend to look at it in 15-year windows,” Kellogg said. “I go back to maybe 1996, ’97. And there hasn’t been anybody quite as unique as [Davis] as a first-year player. He’s highly skilled and a real presence with his shot blocking. But the poise and discipline he shows in doing that is what I’ve marveled at. He just never seems to get himself out of position.

    “He’s got a really good feel and understanding for the game. You talk to him and you can tell he understands what needs to be done. He’s pretty studious about it. That’s a special package.”

    The package also comes with one of the more unique stories in many years. As a high school sophomore, Davis was 6-foot-2 and hoping to earn a scholarship with a mid-major program. After growing eight inches over the course of a year, he’s now being compared to Kevin Garnett.

     “When you talk about the great freshmen in the history of the NCAA Tournament, Anthony Davis is going to be able to put his name up there with those type of players,” said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. “The beauty of Anthony Davis is we didn’t follow him for four years of high school. We’re watching him blossom before our eyes as a college freshman, without going through the entire AAU process. That’s refreshing. That’s what’s fun about him.

    “It’s a great story because he’s a late bloomer in more ways than one, and he’s got such great poise for a guy with all of his natural gifts.”

    KENTUCKY-LOUISVILLE, PART II: If Davis is to lead Kentucky to the national championship, the Wildcats will have to get by Louisville and former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino in Saturday’s national semifinals first.

    Predictably, the build-up to the game has centered on the rivalry between the two schools. It was intense before Pitino took over at Louisville. Now, it’s gotten to the point where a Louisville fan punched out a Kentucky fan in a dialysis clinic. In other words, it’s insane.

    In the final press conferences before what should be a memorable matchup, Pitino and Calipari were asked about a comment Cal supposedly made about the state of Kentucky having only one program.

    “He made a mistake probably in what he said,” Pitino said. “He was more speaking about the magnitude of Kentucky basketball. I don’t think he meant disrespect toward Louisville. … It doesn’t light a fire under us any more. We want to beat them badly.”

    Cal denies any dis.

    “What I said was, we have a ton of Kentucky fans in Louisville,” he said. “It’s just a unique place. I’ve never seen anything like it. There was no disrespect. It’s that we have the state’s name: Kentucky. Our fans are throughout. That doesn’t disrespect Louisville at all. It wasn’t meant to.”

    ORIAKHI IN PLAY FOR SEC?: Since being given his release from UConn earlier this week, junior forward Alex Oriakhi has been the subject of considerable attention in SEC country, given that three league schools - Kentucky, Florida and Missouri - have been mentioned among those the big man is considering.

    But there’s a stumbling block for SEC schools bidding for Oriakhi’s services - a league rule that prohibits one-year transfers. In case you don’t happen to have a copy of the SEC’s bylaws on your nightstand, here’s the verbiage:

    SEC Bylaw 14.1.15: "A student-athlete who, upon enrollment at the certifying institution, has less than two years of eligibility remaining, is not eligible for financial aid, practice or competition at the member institution. A member institution may request a waiver from the Conference office for a student-athlete transferring from an institution discontinuing a sport, or for a student-athlete transferring for the purpose of enrolling in an academic program not offered at the institution from which he or she is transferring."

    Note that there is a provision for a waiver. And Oriakhi’s case may get some consideration because UConn, unless it wins an appeal, won’t be eligible for the NCAA Tournament next season because of a low Academic Progress Rate (APR).

    BEAL CONSIDERING OPTIONS: He’s considered a lock to be a top-five pick in the June NBA Draft, but Florida freshman Bradley Beal’s decision to declare or return for another season isn’t as easy as some might think. The reason is refreshing: He actually likes college.

    Beal also has a sour taste after the way the Gators were denied a spot in the Final Four by Louisville, which rallied late to win the West Regional final.

    Florida loses point guard Erving Walker but will return a solid nucleus. Sophomore post Patric Young has already told the media he plans to return next season. Shooting guard Kenny Boynton and forward Erik Murphy will be seniors. And Florida has restocked its backcourt with four-star recruits Braxton Ogbueze, a point, and Michael Frazier, rated one of the top 15 two-guards in the country.

    If Beal stays a part of that mix, coach Billy Donovan will have another potential Elite Eight team on his hands.




     
     

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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.”