Sidelines with John Clay

Wofford’s Most Valuable Player isn’t the one you’ve heard the most about

Some Saturday morning notes as we get ready for Kentucky-Wofford:

As I wrote in my column, three-point shot specialist Fletcher Magee gets most of the publicity, but Wofford’s Most Valuable Player is Cameron Jackson. At least that’s according to Scott Padgett, who helped UK to the 1998 national title and now is the head coach at Samford.

If you go by Player Efficiency Ratings, Duke’s Zion Williamson is No. 1 in the country. Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke is No. 2. And Jackson is No. 3. The 6-foot-8 senior from Winchester, Va. is averaging 14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He’s shooting 58.2 percent from the floor.

Jackson had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in Wofford’s 84-68 win over Seton Hall in Thursday’s first-round game. That was his seventh double-double of the season. Wofford had a 16-8 advantage over Seton Hall in second-chance points. Earlier in the year, Jackson had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the Terriers’ loss at Kansas.

It’s likely that UK’s Reid Travis will get the task of guarding Jackson. That should be an interesting matchup at both ends of the floor.

SEC goes 5-2 in NCAA first round

After a 4-0 start on Thursday, the SEC cooled off on Friday. Tennessee beat Colgate 77-70, but Ole Miss was blitzed 95-72 by Oklahoma and Mississippi State fell to Liberty 80-76.

Admiral Schofield scored 19 points for Tennessee, the No. 2 seed in the South Region. SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams was held to just nine points and seven rebounds. Williams was just 4-of-6 from the floor. The Vols did get 14 points off the bench from Jordan Bowden. Tennessee plays No. 10 seed Iowa at 12:10 p.m. Sunday on CBS.

Ole Miss’s lack of defense caught up to the Rebels against Oklahoma. The Sooners shot a sizzling 57.6 percent from the floor. The No. 8 seed in the South, Ole Miss shot a respectable 46.8 percent but couldn’t keep up. Terrell Davis scored 17 points to lead the way. All in all, however, it was an excellent debut season for Kermit Davis in Oxford.

Mississippi State got 27 points from Quinndary Weatherspoon and 21 from Lamar Peters but couldn’t overcome numerous errors down the stretch. Liberty made 12 of 25 three-point shots to pull out the win over the Bulldogs, the No. 5 seed in the East.

As for SEC teams in action on Saturday: LSU plays Maryland at 12:10 here at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Kentucky and Wofford follow that game. Both are on CBS. Florida plays Michigan at 5:15 on CBS. And Auburn takes on Kansas at 9:40 p.m. on TBS.

Side note: While the SEC got five teams into the second round, the Big Ten got seven. That ties the Big East (2010-11) for the most by any conference.

Reaction to Vanderbilt firing Bryce Drew

Bryce Drew is the third SEC basketball coach who won’t be back next season, following Texas A&M’s Billy Kennedy and Alabama’s Avery Johnson. (LSU’s Will Wade, currently suspended, isn’t likely to be back, but that’s not definite.) Yet having only been at Vandy for three seasons, Drew’s firing has drawn the biggest backlash.

Writes the Tennessean’s Joe Rexrode, “Vanderbilt athletics director Malcolm Turner became the most popular current Vanderbilt sports figure among Vanderbilt fans on Friday by releasing the least popular.

But let’s not confuse this with a good day for Vanderbilt. The firing of Bryce Drew — a stunning move on a coach of three years by an AD who has been on the job for less than two months — is a reminder of how far this program fell in such a short period. It’s no guarantee of better days. It sure won’t be viewed kindly in the coaching community.”

And ESPN’s Jay Bilas tweeted, “In yet another confirmation that this is PRO SPORTS, Vanderbilt fired its basketball coach after just three years. Vanderbilt. Perhaps Vandy was disappointed Bryce Drew wasn’t on a wiretap, and therefore not trying hard enough.”

Vanderbilt’s new AD is former president of the G League with a pro sports background. He knows the power of the Benjamins. And it was going to be difficult selling tickets in a competitive Nashville market with Vanderbilt coming off an 0-18 SEC season. That’s 0-19 if you count the Commodores’ loss in the SEC Tournament.

Yes, Vanderbilt lost a probable NBA lottery pick in point guard Darius Garland to an ACL injury in November. But that’s one player. Your margin for error shouldn’t be so thin that losing one player, even a really good one, would cause you to become the first team to not win an SEC game since the 1950s.

It will be interesting to see if Turner, with his NBA background, turns to a coach with professional ties. And how might that go over at Vanderbilt?

And now some links

Check out Mark Story’s column on iconic Kentucky high school coach Billy Hicks, who will be rooting for Wofford against Kentucky. Why? Hicks went to Wofford. And why did Hicks play basketball at Wofford? The food.

Jerry Tipton reports that UK is trying to buy time for PJ Washington to get healthy. John Calipari said Friday he couldn’t see his sophomore forward playing against Wofford. It sure appears that the plan is to sit PJ on Saturday, then take his hard cast off Tuesday or Wednesday and go from there as far as the rest of the tournament. That’s if the Cats survive Saturday.

Jerry also writes about Wofford’s three-point shooting exploits, led by the aforementioned Fletcher Magee. The Terriers’ star shoots every kind of three-pointer imaginable. The story goes that as a kid, Magee would get up late at night and go back out to his driveway to practice. So his parents wouldn’t hear him, he’d place pillows under the basket to muffle the sound of the ball hitting the pavement.

Matt Connolly of The State writes about how Wofford is handling the NCAA Tournament attention. Located just over five hours from Jacksonville in Spartanburg, South Carolina, expect Wofford to have a sizable cheering section on Saturday. Connolly’s guess is that there could be 3,000 or so Terrier fans in the stands.

Jared Peck of the Herald-Leader caught up with former UK tight end C.J. Conrad at the school’s Pro Day on Friday. Conrad received a scary diagnosis at the NFL combine. “It could have been really bad for me,” said Conrad, who has now been cleared to return to activity.

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