Kentucky opens SEC play at Vandy Thursday night. Road teams have started 1-5 in league play.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Notes Written From A Neutral Court:
The statistics say that visiting teams won 30 percent of their league games in Southeastern Conference play last season.
That's a misleading number. Here's why: Visiting teams went 29-67, but Kentucky was responsible for eight wins and no defeats. If you subtract the Wildcats, the winning percentage for road teams was actually 23.9 percent. There's not a team like the 2012 Wildcats in the SEC this season.
With UK starting SEC play at Vanderbilt Thursday night, how does the road look in the league this season?
Small sample size, but road teams have lost five of their first six. The only visitor to deliver is underlooked Ole Miss (12-2), which dominated Tennessee, 92-74, Wednesday night in Knoxville.
Keep an eye on Rebels' guard Marshall Henderson. Ole Miss is his fourth school – he started at Utah, transferred to Texas Tech (where he sat out but never played), then South Plains Junior College, then Ole Miss. Henderson dropped 32 on the Vols. Henderson has some Russ Smith in his game. He took 19 shots, 12 from the three-point line. He also got to the line for 14 free throw attempts.
*Word in the coaching grapevine is this is the worst team Kevin Stallings has constructed during his 14 seasons at Vandy. The Commodores simply cannot score. They rank 207th nationally in Ken Pomeroy's offensive efficiency ratings and have scored 66 or less in nine of their 12 games. Pomeroy projects a 7-11 SEC season for Vandy, and 15-3 for Kentucky.
Of course, points have been a problem across the SEC. Only four of 12 teams scored 70 or more in their league openers – and five scored 56 or less.
*Pomeroy's computer formula likes the Wildcats – with ease. His numbers say UK, 67-55, with an 89 percent win probability. Jeff Sagarin's predictor ratings also like UK by 14.
The folks in Vegas must use a similar computer model because Kentucky is favored on the big board by 12 ½.
*Prior to the Kentucky-Vandy game, the Los Angeles Athletic Club will release the names of the 25 mid-season finalists for college basketball's John Wooden player of the year award.
I expect to have the names by 7:35 p.m. Thursday, not long after the Wooden race is discussed on ESPNU.
Louisville guard Russ Smith was not voted one of the top 15 players in the Big East prior to the season. Smith did not make the Wooden pre-season Top 50. But several national college basketball analysts have included Smith on their lists of the top five players over the first third of the season.
*Meanwhile, in the Big East, road teams went 4 for 4 Wednesday night, leaving visitors 11-8 in league play this season. Eight Big East teams have already lost at home
*Former Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall is coaching like a guy prepared to end his one-season absence from the NCAA Tournament. Tyndall's Southern Mississippi team moved 12-4 Wednesday night as the Golden Eagles shot a school record 69.6 percent while winning at Rice, 75-52.
*Count former University of Louisville and NFL star Roman Oben among the former Cardinals dazzled by the Sugar Bowl victory U of L delivered over Florida on Jan. 2.
Oben lives in suburban New York City and visited the Prudential Center in Newark Wednesday night to watch the Cards defeat Seton Hall, 73-58.
But he had time to deliver his thoughts on U of L's 33-23 win against the Gators.
"I'm really happy for our program and what Charlie (Strong) has built," Oben said. "This will help recruiting significantly as well as the value-add for entering the ACC in 2014.
"I remember how I felt in 2002 beating Florida State, and this is 10 times better. To be only the 11th program to have won a Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl speaks volumes of where U of L has gone in a short time."
Oben played in 143 NFL games over his 12-season career and currently co-hosts a television show analyzing the New York Giants. He played with quarterbacks Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Kerry Collins in the pros. Like most observers, Oben was impressed by the play of U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
"Teddy has built his case for a pre-season Heisman candidate in 2013," Oben said. "And I can't say enough about what Tom Jurich has done for the athletic program as a whole."