The SEC released its conference schedule on Friday evening. The entire schedule can be seen here.
During the 2013-2014 season, the spotlight of the SEC was on Florida and Kentucky. Entering this season, the focus won’t shift from the Gators and the Wildcats. Florida and Kentucky, half of last season’s Final Four, won’t meet until Feb. 7 when the Wildcats visit Gainesville. The two teams will clash again a month later on March 7 in Lexington.
The Gators defeated the Wildcats three times last season, en route to a perfect 18-0 record in conference play. Kentucky dropped three of its last four SEC conference contests in the regular season before going on an NCAA tournament run that ended with a loss in the national championship game. Kentucky should open the 2014-2015 season atop the rankings. Florida will likely be in the top 15.
Auburn finished 12th in the SEC last season, but made major news this offseason when the university hired Bruce Pearl as its new head coach. This is Pearl’s return to coaching after a three year absence. He was fired from Tennessee in 2011 after he lied to NCAA investigators. In six seasons with the Volunteers, Pearl won 145 games. He returns to Tennessee, with a fanbase that still adores him, on Saturday, Jan. 31.
Conference play officially begins Jan. 6 with four games scheduled. One of those games pits Arkansas against Georgia. The Razorbacks were on the bubble last season, though, a loss to South Carolina in the second round of the SEC Tournament dashed their tournament hopes. Georgia finished third in the SEC last season. Both teams could be back on the bubble again this season, along with LSU. The Tigers open its conference schedule on Jan. 8 against Missouri, in what will be Kim Anderson’s SEC debut.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: