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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?
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    • Instant Reaction: Kentucky Claims Title

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    SEC "Fast Break": February 6

    By: Chris Dortch
    Twitter: @CDortch
    SEC Digital Network

    Those 12 shots Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel blocked against Ole Miss last week sent sports information directors scrambling to the record books. Noel’s performance was indeed a school record—even Anthony Davis never sent back a dozen shots in a game—but so far at least, the Southeastern Conference mark is safe.

    Alabama fans will recall the man who still holds the record—Roy Rogers, who blocked 14 shots against Georgia in 1996. For most of his career Rogers was a defensive specialist who was useful as a shot blocker but not much else. That changed dramatically in 1995-96, Rogers’ senior season, after former teammate Antonio McDyess left for the NBA. Through hard work, Rogers transformed himself into a passable offensive player, and coupled with his uncanny knack for rejection, that made Rogers, like McDyess before him, a first-round NBA Draft pick.

    Rogers was taken by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the 22nd pick in the 1996 draft, and as a rookie made 50 starts and averaged two blocks a game, 12th in the NBA.

    Over the next five years, Rogers became a professional nomad, playing for Boston, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland and Denver. He later coached in the D League and is now a scout for the Celtics.

    At the time, Rogers’ 14 blocks tied an NCAA record held by Navy’s David Robinson and BYU’s Shawn Bradley. That lasted until 2007, when Alabama A&M’s Mickell Gladness terrorized Texas Southern with 16 blocks.

    “There are people that block shots, and there are shot blockers,” Rogers told the media in 1996. “I’m a shot blocker. That’s something you can count on from me every night.”

    Nerlens Noel could say the same thing. Check back here at the SEC Blue Ribbon Report later this week for more on him.

    KCP THE ULTIMATE GO-TO GUY: Every team should be lucky enough to have a go-to guy like Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He’s the first name on every opposing team’s scouting report, yet he manages to deliver every game. He leads the Bulldogs and is second in the SEC in scoring, and here’s a compelling stat the Blue Ribbon Report has never seen. Georgia’s second-leading scorer, Nemanja Djurisic, is averaging 7.5 points, 10 fewer than Caldwell-Pope.

    That big a disparity between a team’s top two scorers is rare, and it also underscores how important it is for opposing teams to shut down Caldwell-Pope. Despite the extra defensive attention, the 6-5 sophomore keeps on delivering—he’s reached double figures in scoring in every game this season.

    During the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak that has squared their league record at 4-4, Caldwell-Pope averaged 20.3 points and shot .473 from the field.

    Caldwell-Pope has elevated his game from his first season, during which he made the All-SEC freshman team. His shooting percentages tell the story. A year ago he shot .396 from the field, .304 from 3-point range and .654 from the free-throw line. This season, those percentages have climbed to .452, .367 and .793.

    Part of the reason for Caldwell-Pope’s increased productivity can be attributed to the work he’s put in trying to make his stroke more consistent. But a position change from small forward to shooting guard has helped.

    The versatile Caldwell-Pope shows up among SEC leaders in nine statistical categories, including rebounding (6.6, 14th) and steals (48, 2.3 spg, 2nd).

    YOUNG GETS HIS SWAG BACK: Another sophomore who earned SEC All-Freshman honors a year ago, Arkansas’ B.J. Young, hasn’t been nearly as consistent as Caldwell-Pope this season. Somewhere along the line, Young lost his shooter’s confidence. He entered last Saturday’s game against Tennessee on a 19-of-51 shooting slump, including 0-of-13 from 3.

    Things got so bad Arkansas coach Mike Anderson didn’t start Young against the Vols, but as soon as he entered the game, Tennessee didn’t have a chance. Young finished with 25 points in just 27 minutes as he made 9 of 14 shots, including 2 of 3 from behind the arc. He also contributed three rebounds, three assists and a steal.

    “It’s all about confidence,” Anderson said of Young’s big day. “He played with that swag.”

    Young isn’t what you would call a textbook jump shooter, but last season he shot .504 from the floor and .413 from 3 through the sheer force of his will. He believed his shot would go in, and it often did. Not so this season. Even after the Tennessee game, Young is still shooting just .214 from 3-point range.



     
     

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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.”