Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘Florida Gators’

SEC Report

Posted by Patrick on December 1, 2008

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Southeast Conference Power Rankings (Next three games and predictions):

1. Tennessee (5-1)- 12/3 UNC Asheville (W), 12/13 at Temple (W), 12/16 Marquette (W)

2. Florida (5-1)- 12/2 Florida A&M (W), 12/7 at Florida State (W), 12/10 Florida Gulf Coast (W)

3. Louisiana State (5-0)- 12/2 Cal State Fullerton (W), 12/13 Grambling (W), 12/17 Nicholls State (W)

4. Kentucky (4-2)- 12/3 Lamar (W), 12/6 Miami FL (L), 12/7 Mississippi Valley State (W)

5. Mississippi State (5-2)- 12/6 Alabama State (W), 12/10 Charlotte (W), 12/13 South Alabama (W)

6. Ole Miss (5-1)- 12/3 West Virginia (L), 12/6 at New Orleans (W), 12/13 at New Mexico (W)

7. Vanderbilt (5-1)- 12/3 Illinois-Chicago (W), 12/6 at Georgia Tech (W), 12/10 Alabama A&M (W)

8. Georgia (5-1)- 12/2 at Western Kentucky (L), 12/6 at Illinois (L), 12/9 Virginia Tech (L)

9. South Carolina (4-1)- 12/2 at Princeton (W), 12/5 Furman (W), 12/16 North Carolina Central (W)

10. Arkansas (4-1)- 12/3 Texas Southern (W), 12/10 North Carolina Central (W), 12/17 Austin Peay (W)

11. Alabama (3-2)- 12/2 Alabama A&M (W), 12/6 at UL Lafayette (W), 12/13 Texas A&M (L)

12. Auburn (3-3)- 12/3 at Xavier (L), 12/6 Louisiana Monroe (W), 12/17 Tuskegee (W)

Final Four Contenders:

Tennessee Volunteers: The Vols are a long way from a trip to the Final Four, but with Coach Bruce Pearl, and great players like Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith, JP Prince, Cameron Tatum, and Scotty Hopson it is still possible that Tennessee could turn it on in March. Holding them back are a lack of size- as we saw in the Gonzaga game they had problems stopping the Bulldogs’ big men- and the SEC being on a down year hurts their overall resume. They have some big tests coming up-  a game against Marquette at home and then a rematch with Gonzaga in Knoxville.

Star Player: Tyler Smith- 18.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.5 APG

Sweet 16 Contenders:

Florida Gators: Billy Donovan and the Gators suffered their first loss in the semifinal round of the CBE Classic, but they won’t have any trouble bouncing back because their next tough game will be during the Southeastern Conference season against Tennessee. Nick Calathes, Alex Tyus, and Dan Werner round out Florida’s strong frontcourt, but their lack of great guard play will affect them later in the season.

Star Player: Nick Calathes- 16 PPG, 6.3 APG, 39.3 3 PT%

Tournament Hopefuls:

Louisiana State Tigers: Trent Johnson is off to a great start in his inaugural season with LSU, but they may be this year’s Mississippi (or Clemson two seasons ago) and just be benefiting from a very easy non- conference schedule. This team could be very exposed when they start to play quality opponents.

Star Player: Marcus Thornton- 15.8 PPG

Kentucky Wildcats: That was a huge win over West Virginia in Las Vegas. Hopefully for the Wildcats it will spark some consistent play, and they will be able to forget those early season losses. The Wildcats are still very much alive despite being embarrassed once again early in the season on their home court. Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are one of the best 1-2 combos that this conference has to offer, and maybe Billy Gillespie can get off the hot seat with a good SEC run.

Star Player: Jodie Meeks- 25.5 PPG

Mississippi State Bulldogs: Jarvis Varnado is probably the best big man in the conference and can really help the Bulldogs, especially against great forwards in the SEC like Wayne Chism and Patrick Patterson. Mississippi State has a relatively tough non-conference schedule, which will help them when they are looking to get back to the NCAA tournament and sitting on the bubble.

Star Player: Jarvis Varnado- 10.4 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 6.1 BPG

The Rest of the Conference:

All of the teams that are not in the top five of the SEC would probably finish last in the Big East this season and have a lot of trouble just treading water in any conference. Vanderbilt can be great next season, but this year they are rebuilding, and Georgia is looking to surprise once again. But the bottom line for the SEC middle of the pack teams is probably the NIT or CBI in March.

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November 25: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 25, 2008

Kansas Washington Basketball

Recap of Monday night action in the world of college hoops…

Syracuse 89, #18 Florida 83: Early in the season, the Big East is doing nothing to dispell notions of their conference possibly being considered the strongest in the history of college basketball. The first of two in Kansas City certainly wasn’t a tape you’d send to a clinic instructing defense. Both Syracuse and Florida split the opposing zone defense with relative ease for 40 minutes, and other than a few first half Andy Rautins or Nick Calathes threes, most of the baskets were layups and dunks. This was especially the case for Gators big man Alex Tyus, a sophomore with a frame most big men can only dream about. I watched this game intensively primarily because I wanted to become more familiar with Florida and some of their young talent. Suffice to say Tyus athleticism, explosivness near the basket, and ability to find seams in the Cuse defense stood out dramatically. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how impressive Nick Calathes is as a complete basketball player. 19 points, 7 assists and 4/8 from deep doesn’t tell half the story of how much this super sophomore provides as a floor leader, instinctive and sneaky passer and smooth jump shooter. I also came away impressed with Erving Walker as a speed demon driving to the basket with surprising range on his jumper. If Florida shapes up their defense, they could be a force in a weak SEC.

On the other side, this is a tremendous win for Syracuse to tout on Selection Sunday in case they slide in conference play because Florida will likely pad their record and ranking in the SEC. I took a couple things away from their high-scoring effort tonight: 1) Jonny Flynn doesn’t force anything. He lets the game come to him, finds open teammates, yet can seemingly score at any time when Syracuse desperately needs a hoop. 2) Andy Rautins really carried the Orange in the first half shooting threes. Rautins and Devendorf can give this team a whole new dimension if they develop consistency from outside. 3) Onuaku is a ferocious rebounder (12 in the game, seemed like 22). He snatches anything in his vicinity and grabbed numerous key boards down the stretch. 4) Keep an eye out for Cuse freshman Kris Joseph, a developing forward with a nice mid-range game that has served coach Boeheim well off the bench in their wins over Oakland and now Florida. If Syracuse can shore up the defense, they’ll be a force.

#23 Kansas 73, Washington 54: If anyone had lingering doubts, watching Washington throw up brick after brick tonight in the Sprint Center should have confirmed what a loss to Portland seemed to show: Lorenzo Romar’s squad is not very good. At all. Admittedly, Kansas displayed spirited and aggressive defense all night long with their 2-3 zone completely disrupting impressive freshman Isaiah Thomas and slashing forward Quincy Pondexter, but the jump shooting (29.2%) is hideous for the Huskies. Losing their primary outside shooter in Ryan Appelby certainly looks like a devestating subtraction at this point. When Cole Aldrich shut down Jon Brockman offensively, this team was completely lost. Dentmon, Overton and Gant look more and more like disappointments for Romar, and with expected contender Southern Cal also exposed over the weekend, you might find Tony Bennett’s Washington State Cougars finishing third in the Pac-10 this season behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Kansas played a decent game. Nothing spectacular that leads me to believe they’re a top-15 team, but they certainly showed enormous potential and reason for Jayhawk fans to be extremely excited. Cole Aldrich played a phenomenal game both offensively showing a variety of post moves and a mid-range jumper that somehow finds the bottom of the net even with a funky release, and defensively confusing the usually steady Jon Brockman and providing constant help defense, blocking shots and starting the Kansas break. Aldrich and Marcus Morris forms a great front line for Self to work with. It also appears Sherron Collins has his attitude/work ethic straightened out and he’s ready to lead a young Kansas squad. Tyshawn Taylor is an athletic guard who will compliment Collins nicely in the backcourt. The only concerns should be offensive rebounding (Washington dominated here) and three-point shooting (just 2 of 8).

#2 Connecticut 76, #19 Wisconsin 57: The Badgers love to slow the game down, limit possessions and force their opposition to change their gameplan to fit their ideal tempo. Usually Bo Ryan has no trouble doing so, but this year’s Connecticut Huskies are a totally different animal. Their roster is an endless assembly line of playmakers that forced the Badgers into more of a high-energy contest and even managed to drop 76 points on one of the most stout defenses in the nation. Who would have thought Jerome Dyson, not Price, Thabeet or Adrien, would be the Huskies leading scorer thus far in the 08-09 season? Dyson, along with Adrien down low and the emergence of the soaring freshman Kemba Walker, have been phenomenal thus far. I’d feel confident about my Connecticut pick to win the national title if Hasheem Thabeet wasn’t such an enigma. The only competition for the 7’3 center tonight came from the 6’8 Keaton Nankivil and 6’7 Joe Krabbenhoft, yet Thabeet never demanded the rock on offense and finished with nine points on 2/6 from the field. There’s absolutely no reason for Thabeet to not score 20 points in this matchup, and it shows a lack of aggressiveness that’s concerning if I’m a Connecticut fan. We’ve seen this the last two years with Hasheem, and the developing excuse seems to be wearing off.

Other Top 25 Action

  • #1 North Carolina made mince meat of poor Chaminade 115-70, scoring 67 in the second half behind 26 points from Danny Green
  • #7 Texas pulled away late in Maui and defeated St. Joe’s 68-50 with A.J. Abrams scoring 17 and playing a great point guard
  • #8 Notre Dame earned a second round date with Texas after trouncing Indiana 88-50; Tory Jackson with 21/6/5 on 10/17 FG
  • #21 Miami demolished San Diego in a good win 80-45 even though Jack McClinton only scored nine points and went 1/6 from three
  • #24 Wake Forest’s last two scores: 120-88, 62-31. Think Coach Gaudio worked on defense? Jeff Teague led the way with 14 points
  • #25 Davidson beat Florida Atlantic 76-60. Curry: 39/4/4, 13/21, 5/9, 8/9. Another day at the office.

Other Notes- Cleveland State beats St. Leo by 10 points, Loyola (IL) is demolished by Cornell, Wright State manages 37 points at home and Butler losing everyone leads me to believe this could be a down year in the Horizon League; Massachusetts with the most despicable loss of the night, going down at home to Jacksonville State 75-74. That’ll get the fans riled up for some Minutemen hoops, coach Kellogg! Patrick Patterson scored 28 points and snatched 12 rebounds in a Kentucky rout of Longwood; bad loss for Bradley at home by 12 to UMKC; Georgia has been awful so far this year, winning tonight 54-48 over Santa Clara and trying to cement themselves as the Oregon State of the SEC this season; Ohio State escapes 61-57 over Bowling Green with B.J. Mullens held to two points, lending credence to my earlier article about freshmen struggles early in this campaign; UNLV with a tremendous road win at Conference USA contender UTEP 80-67 with Wink Adams going for 20 points; we thought Oregon State might be on the upswing after contending with Nevada on the road, but they lost by one to Yale tonight at home.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day- Stephen Curry, Davidson (again): 39 points, 13/21 FG, 5/9 3pt, 4 assists, 2 turnovers

On The Tube Today

  • Saint Joseph’s vs. Indiana, 130pm (ESPNU)
  • Chaminade vs. Alabama, 4pm (ESPN2)
  • Texas vs. Notre Dame, 7pm (ESPN)
  • Gardner Webb @ South Carolina, 7pm (ESPN FC)
  • Florida vs. Washington, 745pm (ESPNUHD)
  • Oakland at Kansas State, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Saint Louis at Nebraska, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Texas Southern at Marquette, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • SE Louisiana at Texas Tech, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • North Carolina vs. Oregon, 930pm (ESPN)
  • Syracuse vs. Kansas, 10pm (ESPN2HD)

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Jai Lucas Leaving Florida

Posted by Zach on November 5, 2008

In a bit of a stunning decision, sophomore guard Jai Lucas will transfer from the University of Florida. The 5’10 playmaker chose Florida in a heated recruiting battle with Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and may look to one of those schools to conclude his college career.

Lucas, the son of former NBA player John Lucas, informed Billy Donovan of the decision Wednesday. If he transfers to another Division I school, he’d have to sit out next season. Lucas resides from Bellaire, Texas. If he wants to return closer to home, get Rick Barnes, Mark Turgeon and Pat Knight on the phone. He’s going to be a big-time coup for some program in the future.

Lucas may have felt his minutes were at risk with the commitment of top-10 recruit Kenny Boynton for next season. The Gators would prefer Lucas slide over to point guard full-time, but Boynton and the emergence of Erving Walker, who impressed in the Florida scrimmage, was deemed a threat. Lucas finished at 8.5 PPG in 36 games (he started all) last season, leading the Gators in three-point shooting accuracy.

“He didn’t get rattled by opposing arenas,” Donovan said. “When you lose a player like that who’s got that level of experience, it always hurts because you look at a guy like Erving (Walker) in the backcourt, he’s got none. We’ve got to try to figure out some things. We’ve got to get Erving ready.”

“Any time a player leaves your program you always get a little disappointed, but at the same time there was a point where Jai wasn’t totally happy,” Donovan said. “He wanted to try to make it work…I hate to see him go, but my biggest focus for him is I want to see him be happy wherever he can go. We haven’t even talked about schools.”

(Quotes courtesy Orlando Sentinel)

UPDATE: Unrelated to the Lucas story, but ESPN Full Court’s schedule is officially out. This is a national holiday for me. Patrick ordered the package at his crib this year, and needless to say I expect to spend an inordinate amount of time there this winter. Here’s the schedule. First ESPNU game next Monday and first Full Court slate of games next Friday!

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Wednesday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on October 22, 2008

Interrupting the Big East preview to get caught up on the latest News and Notes around college basketball as the season continues to approach. Only 20 days until Houston/Georgia Southern!

– Seth Davis has been scribing plenty lately, this time heading down south to Memphis for a discussion with coach John Calipari. I thought it was a bit puzzling Davis offered Calipari a chance to watch last year’s National Championship with him later that day (that would be like asking Dennis Eckersley if he wanted to sit down and re-watch Game 1 of the 1988 World Series), but that’s beside the point. Davis goes into some key factors for the Tigers, including the obvious: how can you replace Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey, and still expect to be a top-20 team? He wonders whether Willie Kemp or Tyreke Evans will run more point guard, whether Robert Dozier can progress into more of a complete offensive player after getting rejected by the NBA, and if Antonio Anderson, who quietly led C-USA in assist/turnover ratio, can emerge as the team leader.

– Sophomore shooting star Nick Calathes is now around 75% recovering from an apparent hip flexor. Coach Billy Donovan is taking it slow with Calathes in hopes of having him 100% by the season opener, which seems very realistic. Donovan has to be feeling a lot better this year than he was last October dealing with an extremely young team. Even with Mareese Speights departed, Donovan has a nice nucleus led by Calathes and Jai Lucas. He’s also in the top two for Kenny Boynton. Look for the Gators to return to the NCAA Tournament this year and Calathes to be a huge reason why.

– Some injuries to report out of Minnesota and Georgia Tech. Gophers forward Damian Johnson broke his left non-shooting hand in practice Monday and received surgery a day later. He’s expected to miss four to six weeks, so coach Tubby Smith should expect to have his valuable reserve on the court by the end of November. Johnson finished second on Minnesota with 59 steals while averaging 7.1 PPG and 4.7 RPG. In Atlanta, senior De’Andre Bell is lost for the season due to spinal stenosis, a devastating injury that forced T.J. Ford to miss an entire NBA season back in 2004. Bell started 22 games for the Jackets last year averaging 6.6 PPG and showing contributions on defense.

– Sad news out of Asheville: 7’7 behemoth Kenny George’s basketball career is over. He’ll remain in an Iowa hospital for at least another month recovering from a staph infection, the end possibly resulting in right foot amputation. His enormous stature resulting from an overactive pituitary gland, which reaches 7’9 with shoes along with the ability to dunk flat-footed, has caused George plenty of knee and foot problems over the course of his basketball career. George looks to return to Asheville in the second semester to complete his degree, but we won’t see him on the court ever again. He won Big South Defensive Player of the Year last season and finished with 12.4 PPG and 7.0 RPG.

– Top ten class of 2009 prospect Lance Stephenson was arrested earlier this month and charged with a Class B misdemeanor following a charge he groped a woman’s breast and buttocks inside the school. Stephenson, a native of Brooklyn that stars at the same high school (Lincoln) Sebastian Telfair once graced, has a long history of petty crimes and missteps, causing many prominent programs to think twice about pursuing the talented wing in fear of adding a Derrick Caracter or Nate Miles clone. Stephenson is ranked as the #1 SF by Scout.com and might be heading to St. John’s. They’ll take anyone regardless of baggage at this point.

– Speaking of Nate Miles, he has a found a home in Southern Idaho. The former Connecticut Huskie who coach Jim Calhoun called “our best offensive player” at one point this summer violated a restraining order twenty minutes after receiving said order. He was then expelled from Connecticut and will now star at the College of Southern Idaho in the second semester. Miles was planning on filing an appeal in hopes of returning to Storrs at some point, but Calhoun opted to move on. They’ll now give more playing time to the likes of Jerome Dyson and Craig Austrie, while College of Southern Idaho coach Steve Gosar has to be doing cartwheels.

– Tuned into the Midnight Madness coverage Friday night around 10 PM when I got home from a movie and was pleasantly surprised by the revolving coverage. I came away impressed by the intensity of the Gonzaga scrimmage and the dunking ability of Jeremy Pargo (already knew this). I watched Stephen Curry nail six out of six points on his last rack to defeat Brendan McKillop in an epic three-point shooting contest in Davidson (Katz has a Curry/Davidson article up on ESPN.com). ESPNU did a nice job covering each school and gave Katz, along with Adrian Branch, plenty of time to discuss upcoming games and expectations until midnight.

Some notes from various conferences regarding preseason standings/awards/predictions:
– Top four in the Big East in order: Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
– Villanova over Marquette for the fifth spot was surprising. Could this be the Buzz effect?
– Top three in the SEC East in order: Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky. Also happen to be the top three teams in the conference
– First team All-SEC: Calathes, T. Smith, Downey, Patterson and Oglivy. Can’t argue with that.
– Oklahoma picked over Texas to win the Big 12 was a bit surprising. Kansas tied with Baylor for third.
– Blake Griffin tabbed as preseason player of the year was an obvious selection

– Gary Parrish has his Preseason Top 26, All-Americans and Top Point/Combo Guards up. I take exception to some of his opinions: 1) Duke better than UCLA, Michigan State, Purdue and Pittsburgh,  2) Ohio State ranked #19 ahead of Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Baylor, 3) Wake Forest unranked, 4) Patrick Mills on his third team over Tyrese Rice and 5) Jrue Holiday on his third team over Jack McClinton. I’ll have my Top 50 players list and All-American teams up (along with Patrick and Tommy’s) in November.

– Site news: As you can tell, I’m entrenched in my Big East preview right now. When I’m finished (I’ll have my #6 team up tomorrow), I’m planning on writing both an SEC preview over two days and a shorter Big 12 preview, much like Tommy’s Big 10 preview in terms of length. Pat and Tommy are busy with school and football/volleyball after class, but they’ll have the ACC and Pac 10 previews done before the end of the month. Expect daily selections, weekly ACC and Big East reports, weekly game scouting reports and many other features when the season begins.

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Summer SEC Report

Posted by Tommy on August 27, 2008

Last year the SEC experienced somewhat of a down year when compared to years past. SEC play was fun to watch at times, like when Shan Foster and Chris Lofton, two of the conference’s greatest shooters of all time, faced off. And who could forget Georgia’s improbable SEC tournament victory last year after going 4-12 in SEC play. Unfortunately, a lot of the teams are losing some of their best players from last season, whether it be to graduation or other reasons. The SEC is going to experience another down year, probably even more so than last season, but hey, college football season is right around the corner so SEC sports fans should get their boasting done while they can.

Alabama: After losing double-double machine Richard Hendrix as well as their second leading scorer in Mykal Riley, Tide fans have to ask themselves who is going to replace their production. High-flying guard Alonzo Gee brings his 14.5 PPG and 6.8 RPG back for the 08-09 campaign and fellow senior guard Brandon Hollinger will be back as well after scoring 6.3 PPG and dishing out 3.2 APG last year. These two aren’t quite as powerful of a combo as Hendrix-Riley, but I think their complementary styles will really help the Tide. The big weakness for the Tide will be the play of their frontcourt after losing Hendrix from a small team from last season. They do bring in explosive power forward JaMychal Green who can contribute right away for the Tide but is a bit undersized at 6-7.5. If Bama finds some contributors from down low, I think they could surprise some people in the SEC, but right now it looks as if the guards will have to carry this team. The NIT looks like the likely final destination for the Tide.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks lost a lot of talent from last year’s team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Who’s coming back to the Razorbacks for this season? Let’s see… Sonny Weems? Gone. Darian Townes? Gone. Gary Ervin? Gone. Steven Hill? Gone. Patrick Beverley is the only player of note coming back, that is until he was declared ineligible to play in Fayetteville for the 08-09 season. John Pelphrey is going to have his hands full coaching this Razorback team that has next to no experience aside from Stefan Welsh and Michael Washington who combined for 9.6 PPG last year. It’s needless to say that any postseason hopes Razorback fans had were dashed by the loss of Beverley.

Auburn: After going 14-16 last season and losing star players Quan Prowell and Frank Tolbert, times will be tough for the Tigers for 08-09. They do return Korvotney Barber, a forward who averaged 13.8 PPG and 6.9 RPG last year, along with guard Rasheem Barrett who averaged 13.6 PPG, 4 RPG and 2.2 APG over the course of last season. Auburn is going to have to improve their effort on the defensive end if they want to win games in the SEC. The scoring ability is there, especially in the backcourt, but they don’t quite have the firepower to outscore teams. If they do decide to play defense, they could take advantage of a weak SEC and surprise some people by moving up the ranks, but I can’t see anything above a .500 finish in the conference.

Florida: The baby Gators experienced growing pains last season and missed the tournament after winning back-to-back national titles. They lost athletic F/C Marreese Speights to the NBA Draft but leading scorer Nick Calathes is returning for his sophomore season. Guards Walter Hodge and Jai Lucas make up a good backcourt for Billy Donovan who brings in a pretty deep freshman class including 6’10” center Kenny Kadji who may have to be a contributor right away. They may only have one senior on the roster, but the Gators have a lot of players with one or more years of experience under their belt. Donovan will bring the Gators back to the tournament this year, but don’t expect them to make any national title runs yet.

Georgia: Despite going 17-17 last year, the 07-08 campaign was unforgettable for Georgia basketball fans because of the improbable SEC tournament victory that gave them an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. UGA fans are going to have to savor that moment over the course of the entire 08-09 season and probably longer because the Bulldogs lose some key components from the tournament team. The departures of Sundiata Gaines and Billy Humphrey will hurt the Dogs, but Terrance Woodbury and Jeremy Price return in hopes to prove the nation that they are capable of repeating. Coach Dennis Felton brings in a big-time recruit in Howard Thompkins to help bolster a frontcourt that definitely needed some help. I think Bulldog fans know not to expect another SEC tournament victory, but I think an improvement on the 4-12 record within the SEC is a definite possibility.

Kentucky: As the only school in the SEC that has more tradition in their basketball program than in their football program, Kentucky finds themselves around the top of the SEC nearly every season. The roller coaster of a season last year for the Wildcats was the first for new head coach Billy Gillespie. The Cats had a terrible non-conference season with losses to Gardner-Webb, Houston, San Diego and UAB. Despite those bad losses, the Wildcats were granted a tournament berth after going 12-4 in SEC play. As far as the 08-09 campaign goes, it’s going to be very tough to replace the contributions of Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford who combined for 33.8 PPG. The Cats do return Patrick Patterson down low, who averaged 16.4 PPG and 7.7 RPG as a freshman, as well as Jodie Meeks and Ramon Harris. Gillespie is bringing in a couple of four star freshman as well as a couple of JuCo transfers. This team will built around the post play of Patrick Patterson, and if he can stay healthy and other people can step up around him, the Cats have a good chance of returning to the dance, especially coming from a weak SEC. Right now I see them as NIT-bound.

LSU: Last year was a tough year for LSU basketball. The talent was there with Anthony Randolph and Marcus Thornton but things just never seemed to come together for the Tigers. They lost Randolph to the draft, but many of the same faces are returning to Baton Rouge including Thornton, last year’s leading scorer. Center Chris Johnson will be back along with forward Tasmin Mitchell who missed all but three games last year, guard Terry Martin and leading assist man Garret Temple. New head coach Trent Johnson arrives at LSU to a pretty nice roster for the 08-09 season, and I think Johnson will have the Tigers playing more as a team. There’s no way this team should have been 13-18 last year with that kind of talent so I think this coaching change will be great for the Tigers. I think 20 wins is a realistic goal for this team, especially with a pretty weak schedule.

Mississippi: After starting out 15-1, with the only loss being @ Tennessee by 2, the Rebels looked to be heading for the dance, but their 7-9 record in the SEC didn’t impress the selection committee. Things are looking pretty bright for Ole Miss in 08-09 as freshman star Chris Warren returns to lead Ole Miss once again along with David Huertas, Eniel Polynice and Trevor Gaskins. The loss of big man Dwayne Curtis leaves a big hole to fill in the paint, but I think the skill of their guards is enough to propel Ole Miss into the dance.

Mississippi State: Rick Stansburry and the Bulldogs had a great season last year with a 23-11 record and a 12-4 record in the SEC. Stansburry loses one of the best one-two punches in the nation in Charles Rhodes and Jamont Gordon who averaged 17.4 and 17.2 PPG respectively. Shot blocking phenom Jarvis Varnado will be back along with guard Barry Stewart. Those two will have to account for a lot of the scoring for the Bulldogs, but will get some help from freshman Romero Osby and redshirt freshman Phil Turner. MSU fans shouldn’t expect the same accomplishment as last year for these Bulldogs, but Stansburry will have a pretty good team in the SEC.

South Carolina: Last year guard Devan Downey burst onto the scene for the Gamecocks after transferring from Cincinnati. Downey, along with backcourt mate Zam Fredrick, carried South Carolina last year combining for 33.2 PPG and 8.6 APG, meaning a lot of scoring was created by this duo. Both Downey and Fredrick are back again for the 08-09 season and look to improve on last year’s 14-18 record. New coach Darrin Horn returns the top six scorers from last year’s squad so they should have no trouble improving on their sub .500 record. I think this South Carolina squad will surprise a lot of people next season and the Downey-Fredrick combo will become nationally recognized.

Tennessee: Last year’s SEC winners are the heavy favorite to repeat. They did lose sharpshooter Chris Lofton and spark plug JaJuan Smith, but return all their other key components from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism make up a good, athletic frontcourt for Bruce Pearl, but the big question for the Vols is at the point guard position. JP Prince had a terrible time trying to run the point last year so their starting point guard could very well be JuCo transfer Bobby Maze who decided to come to Tennessee after committing to Maryland. They aren’t as good as they were last year, but the Vols have the players to win the SEC once again and will probably get around a 5 seed in the tournament.

Vanberbilt: The Commodores ended the year on a bitter note after getting thrashed by Siena in the first round of the tournament. Go-to guy Shan Foster is gone along with Alex Gordon and Ross Nelter, three of the four leading scorers from last year. Sophomore A.J. Ogilvy is going to have to do a lot on his own if this Vandy squad is to be successful. Jermaine Beal, who only averaged 7.6 PPG last year, will have to take on a much bigger role this upcoming season as well. Vandy is going to struggle next season and the departure of Foster will be felt throughout the year.

Predicted Standings (Postseason Prediction)

East:

  1. Tennessee (NCAA)
  2. Florida (NCAA)
  3. South Carolina (NCAA – bubble)
  4. Kentucky (NIT – bubble)
  5. Vandy (CBI)
  6. Georgia (none)

West:

  1. LSU (NCAA – bubble)
  2. Ole Miss (NCAA – bubble)
  3. Alabama (NIT)
  4. Mississippi State (NIT)
  5. Auburn (none)
  6. Arkansas (none)

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