HYAMS: LSU schedule a hot topic

LSU has filled the final spot on its football schedule with a Division 1-AA opponent, Appalachian State on Nov. 5.

The first reaction is to criticize, but LSU officials said they sent out 30 letters and called 14 other 1-A programs without landing a 1-A opponent. The problem arose when Houston opted out of playing LSU in 2004, causing the Tigers to move the 2005 Arkansas State game to last season.

LSU's home schedule is still formidable, with Arizona State, Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. But it also includes North Texas.

LSU isn't the only SEC team playing a 1-AA opponent. Auburn has Western Kentucky, Ole Miss faces The Citadel and Mississippi State meets Murray State. Some other SEC non-league opponents aren't so tough, either.

Alabama plays Utah State and MTSU. Arkansas has Southwest Missouri State and Louisiana Monroe. Auburn battles Ball State. Florida takes on Wyoming and Louisiana Tech. Georgia has Louisiana Monroe. Kentucky eyes Indiana and Idaho State. LSU faces North Texas. Vanderbilt plays Richmond and MTSU.

Some of top matchups: Arkansas-Southern Cal, Auburn-Georgia Tech, Tennessee-Notre Dame, Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Boise State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, LSU-Arizona State, Kentucky-Louisville and South Carolina-Clemson.



Before South Carolina Carlos Powell went to the arena to play Kentucky, he opened the Bible and found the story about David and Goliath.

``I knew it was going to be a good night,'' Powell said.

It was for the Gamecocks, who snapped No. 3 Kentucky's 19-game winning streak in SEC play.

South Carolina's first home win over Kentucky since 1997 led to fans storming the court, a violation of SEC codes which is accompanied  by a $5,000 fine. USC students ignored warnings from security to celebrate.

USC's Student Senate authorized a $5,000 donation to the athletic department to cover the fine. Student Senator Adam Piper, who sponsored the legislation, said the move isn't meant to condone the act but to take responsibility.



How many SEC basketball teams have lost a game by at least 20 points?

Would you believe eight? Even Alabama and Mississippi State – destined to get NCAA Tournament invitations – have lost by at least 20 points. The Bulldogs lost by almost 50 points and lost to Auburn. But the impending return of Winsome Frazier should help Rick Stansbury's team.

The only SEC teams that have not suffered a 20-point loss all reside in the East Division: Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.



The latest college RPI ratings, according to Jerry Palm, prove that the SEC is down in men's basketball.

Only four teams were ranked among the top 35 last week: No. 11 Kentucky, No. 12 Alabama, No. 24 Mississippi State and No. 35 Florida.

No other team ranks in the top 50. LSU is No. 56, Arkansas 61, Vanderbilt 75 and South Carolina 76. It's possible that any of those four could play its way into the NCAA tournament. It's more likely that only one of those four will do so.

It has to be disturbing to SEC advocates that the league has four teams ranked lower than 125: No. 129 Ole Miss, 130 Auburn, 136 Tennessee and 199 Georgia.



The SEC has 42 players on NBA rosters.

The team with the most? You guessed it. Kentucky.

The Wildcats have 12 players on an NBA roster, although some were barely hanging on. The NBA Wildcats: Antoine Walker, Walter McCarty, Tony Delk, Jamal Mashburn, Nazr Mohammed, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson, Tayshaun Prince, Keith Bogans, Erik Daniels, Jamaal Magloire and Scott Padgett.

Florida has the second-most with six: Mike Miller, Donnell Harvey, Andrew DeClercq, Matt Bonner, Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams.

Alabama and Auburn have five each. The Crimson Tide players: Robert Horry, Antonio McDyess, Gerald Wallace, Mo Williams, Latrell Sprewell.  The Tigers: Wesley Person, Moochie Norris, Marquis Daniels, Jamison Brewer, Mamadou N'diaye.

Georgia and LSU have four each. The Bulldogs: Jarvis Hayes, Damien Wilkins, Shandon Anderson, Jumaine Jones. The Tigers: Shaquille O'Neal, Stromile Swift, Ronald Dupree, Jabari Smith.

Arkansas has three: Corliss Williamson, Joe Johnson, Jannero Pargo.

Mississippi State (Eric Dampier), Ole Miss (Justin Reed) and Tennessee (Allan Houston) have one each.

Vanderbilt and South Carolina have none.



It's the time of season when may college freshmen hit the wall.

They're not used to the physical nature of the college game or the rigors of a long season. It will be interesting to see how teams that rely on several true freshmen – like Kentucky – respond down the stretch.

``You always worry about the freshmen because every day is a new day,'' said Florida coach Billy Donovan. ``They have never ever in their entire life extended to the point where they are going to extend. So every day is a new challenge, a new adventure.'' 

Florida has two true freshmen starters – Corey Brewer and Al Horford. Each averages over 22 minutes per game. Gator Matt Walsh remembers his production declining from mid-February on as a true freshman two years ago.

``My body was physically dead,'' Walsh said.

Florida senior David Lee said he went into a ``funk'' as a true freshman, going four or five games without scoring.

Brewer said he isn't feeling signs of fatigue in part because of frequent trips to the cold tank, a whirlpool under 60 degrees that boosts circulation in the legs and prevents muscle aches.

``You're supposed to be in there for 7 to 10 minutes, but it's kind of hard,'' said Brewer, whose longest stay in the cold tank has been five minutes.



Jay Jacobs hasn't taken long to stir the pot as Auburn's athletic director.

He's been called a lapdog of the trustees, a hatchet man for the president and an example of racial discrimination that allegedly permeates the entire university. Moreover, he scheduled Division 1-AA Western Kentucky in football.

Asked if he's enjoyed his honeymoon in his new job, Jacobs said: ``I hadn't had it yet.'' He might no get one.

Jacobs said he's at peace with his decisions because ``my motives were pure.''

But some university black leaders have questioned that two of the three positions eliminated during Jacobs' reorganization were held by blacks.

``It bothered me this blanket (of discrimination) was cast on Auburn,'' Jacobs said. ``Does it bother me personally? Everybody wants to be liked, but in athletics, being liked isn't an option. You've got to do what you think is right.''



One NFL scout thinks the No. 1 prospect among college quarterbacks comes from the SEC.

It's not David Greene of Georgia, Jason Campbell of Auburn, Matt   Jones of Arkansas or Brodie Croyle of Alabama.

It's a player on one of the SEC's worst teams: Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt. Cutler is 6-4, 220, has a strong, accurate arm and can run.

Cutler recently announced he is returning to Vanderbilt for his senior season.

The NFL scout rates Matt Leinhart of USC, Alex Smith of Utah, Aaron Rogers of California and Andrew Walters of Arizona State in his top five.



Alabama will be finished with spring football practice before Kentucky beings.

The Crimson Tide will work from Feb. 22-March 19. Kentucky goes from March 30 to April 23.

Auburn will take the least amount of time to get its 15 days of work: March 1-19.

Alabama is the only team that starts in February. Three teams – Arkansas, Kentucky and South Carolina – will start after March 22. Five teams – Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, USC and Tennessee – will not finish until April 16 or later.



FREE THROWS: With the indefinite leave of absence of freshman Albert Weber, Alabama had just one scholarship point guard – Ron Steele. … South Carolina is interested in TCU athletic director Eric Hyman, who has been at TCU since 1997 and was a finalist for the Tennessee job two years ago. … Who leads the SEC in free throw shooting? How about Georgia's Channing Toney. … South Carolina has stopped recruiting 6-11 junior college center Ranard Robinson, who signed with the Gamecocks in November but was suspended from the team. USC coach Dave Odom did not accept Robinson's letter because of the suspension. … The NFL Pro Bowl featured 16 players from the SEC, four from Georgia, three each from Tennessee, LSU and Auburn and one each from Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. … When Auburn upset South Carolina, it was a sweet win for Tigers coach Jeff Lebo, who spent five years as a Gamecocks' assistant. … During a close defeat at Kentucky, Florida was trying to beat a top five team on its home court for the first time since 1988. … Florida is 25-5 when Anthony Roberson makes at least four 3-pointers. … Rajon Rondo has over 55 steals, breaking the Kentucky freshmen record set by Keith Bogans (47). … LSU's Tack Minor, considering a scoring point guard, leads the SEC in assists. …  LSU prevented Mississippi State from going undefeated at home for the first time in the 30-year history of Humphrey Coliseum. … Vanderbilt's Dawid Przybyszewski, the nation's best shooting big man last year, hit all six 3-point attempts in a recent win.




Jimmy Hyams is a featured columnist in Tiger Rag and the program director for WNOX in Knoxville, Tenn. Hyams, one of the most respected sports personalities in the SEC, can be reached by e-mail at jimmy.hyams@citcomm.com.

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