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Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky Wildcats’

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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Posted in SEC Report | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

November 15: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 15, 2008

VMI Kentucky Basketball

Headliner: You wouldn’t believe it, but the Kentucky Wildcats have done it again.

In 2007, it was unknown Gardner Webb marching into Rupp Arena and pulling off the shocking upset. In 2008, it’s the VMI Cadets doing the honors. Lexington, Kentucky is officially upset city.

Why Billy Gillespie and the Wildcats would schedule VMI, for their first game no less, is beyond belief. This is a team that scored 91.3 PPG last season to lead the nation. Their frantic style of no-limits press, quick possessions and three-point shooting is well known around college basketball, with the Keydets games frequently reaching high-scoring NBA contests. And yet, Billy Gillespie passes on the usual cupcake and schedules one of the most dangerous teams in all of mid-major land for a young Kentucky’s first game. Think about it: If you beat VMI, can you really evaluate/judge your players based on the radical opponent? Does that really tell you anything? If I’m coaching a high profile school, I go nowhere near a team like this in November at home. Nowhere near.

Of course this is all in hindsight. If Kentucky goes out and wins by 30 points, nobody is saying a peep, instead discussing if this Kentucky team has the ammo to stick with the Tar Heels next Tuesday. Now, Billy Gillespie is rolling around in his bed, his job security having taken a real hit, and the Wildcat faithful are hoping this season will turn around like it did following the Gardner Webb collapse of a year ago.

VMI scored 111 points altogether and had six players in double figures, led by the Holmes brothers combining for 46. Not since 1989 against North Carolina had a Kentucky team given up so many points. They received an outstanding performance from Jodie Meeks, who totaled 39 points on 13/27 FG. The real story was how VMI, even with the clear height disadvantage, kept all-SEC forward Patrick Patterson in check. He took just four shots and scored 8 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Kentucky was down 90-73 midway through the second half before a ferocious comeback reclaimed the lead, and most UK fans breathed a sigh of relief thinking they had dodged a huge bullet. After going ahead 104-103, VMI scored the next nine points to seal the deal.

Top 25 Action

  • #2 Connecticut toppled Western Carolina 81-55 with Thabeet going for 23 points and 17 rebounds
  • #6 Pittsburgh handled Farleigh Dickinson 86-63 behind 17 points and 13 rebounds for DeJuan Blair
  • #8 Texas befuddled Stetson in a 68-38 win in Austin with A.J. Abrams scoring 21 points
  • #10 Purdue led a balanced attack to a 82-50 win over Detroit, with E’Twaun Moore scoring 18
  • #14 Oklahoma dominated potential NCAA team American. Blake Griffin: 24, 18, 9/11 FG, 5/14 FT
  • #15 Arizona State beat Mississippi Valley State 80-64. James Harden with 24 points and 10 boards
  • #18 Marquette won easily behind Wesley Matthews 27 points, 8 assists, 5 steals and 5 boards
  • #19 Florida defeated Toledo with 19 from Dan Werner and 16 from gambling hound Nick Calathes
  • #20 Davidson beat a D3 team led by- guess who- Stephen Curry: 29 points, 9 steals, 10 assists, 9/20
  • #24 Wake Forest beat NC Central 94-48 behind 21 and 10 from stud frosh Al-Farouq Aminu
  • #25 Villanova defeated Albany 78-60 with a balanced scoring attack. Reynolds with 13 and 6 dimes

News and Notes

Villanova senior guard Dwayne Anderson is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. This is a big loss for Nova in terms of defense and leadership. Anderson’s a projected starter that averaged 6.5 PPG last year, really emerging as a capable role player later in the campaign. Fellow Wildcat Shane Clark is already out for another few weeks after having surgery on his right knee.

– The injury bug is hitting North Carolina early this season (better than late, I guess) as Bobby Frasor suffered a sprained ankle in practice Monday. Frasor hasn’t practiced since then and may not play in Saturday’s opener vs. Pennsylvania. The Tar Heels don’t need Hansbrough or Frasor or Ginyard to beat Penn, or Kentucky for that matter, but they could be vulnerable in Maui if Hansbrough and Frasor are under 50% or even out.

Boston College star guard Tyrese Rice was suspended for Friday’s win over Central Connecticut State due to a violation of team rules. We’ve seen this before in Chestnut Hill. It doesn’t look to be anything serious, but it’s not a good sign when your lone senior is making these kinds of off-court bonehead decisions. He should be back for the preseason NIT contests.

Also Of Note– Lester Hudson with 27/7/7/8 steals for Tennessee-Martin; Dionte Christmas with 26/11 for Temple, Lawrence Hill with 22/11 for Stanford, Maryland crushed Bucknell; Clemson crushed Hofstra; Howard defeats Oregon State; Loyola (IL) loses to D2 Rockhurst; Byron Eaton with 27 for Oklahoma State; Arkansas escapes SE Louisiana in OT.

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day– Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut: 23 points, 17 rebounds, 7/11 FG, 5 blocks in 33 minutes (if there’s an anti-horse trailer, it’s his teammate A.J. Price with 0 points and 5 turnovers in 25 minutes before being ejected for punching a Western Carolina player)

Saturday On The Tube

  • Pennsylvania @ #1 North Carolina- 4pm (FSN South)
  • San Diego @ UNLV- 530pm (MTN)
  • Northwestern State @ Indiana- 7pm (BTN)
  • MSU-Billings @ Gonzaga- 7pm (FSN Northwest)
  • Charleston Classic Semifinals- 8pm (CSS)

Tommy: Another game of note last night was in Blacksburg, VA where Gardner-Webb was on the upset prowl again this season. Virginia Tech was up for a large majority of the game, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs came storming back and cut it down to 1 with 24 seconds to go thanks to a pair of Aaron Linn free throws. Gardner-Webb out-scored the Hokies 36-25 in the second half with a 9-0 run with about 5 minutes remaining in the contest. Tech did hold on for the 65-62 win, but I thought Tech’s strong defense and good coaching would keep them off upset alert. Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo each contributed 19 points, a good sign for the Hokies.

Posted in The Day After | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

ESPN Hits The Jackpot With Hoops Marathon

Posted by Zach on September 24, 2008

No longer will the opening of the college basketball season be hidden in the shadows of competing sporting events, a slew of meaningless games that the general public barely realize are even occuring. Nope, not this year. ESPN has decided to install a radical idea on Tuesday, November 18 to show 14 games in 24 hours starting after Monday Night Football on ESPN heading straight to Memphis for their tilt against Massachusetts. Sure, some games will take place before 11/18, but this is certainly a welcomed event, even if it is on a Tuesday rather than a prefered Saturday or Sunday.

Here’s the schedule:

• Midnight: UMass at Memphis (ESPN)
• 2 a.m.: Fresno St. at St. Mary’s (ESPN)
• 4 a.m.: Idaho St. at Hawaii (ESPN)
• 6 a.m.: College Hoops Tip-Off Special (ESPN)
• 10 a.m.: Penn at Drexel (ESPN)
• Noon: Liberty at UNC-Asheville (ESPN)
• 2 p.m.: Iowa at Kansas (women) (ESPN)
• 4 p.m.: Centenary at Baylor (ESPN)
• 6 p.m.: Richmond at Syracuse (ESPN)
• 7 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Purdue (ESPNU)- Most likely Purdue vs. Georgia
• 7:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Boston College (ESPN2)- Most likely BC vs. Saint John’s
• 8 p.m.: College GameDay-Chapel Hill (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Kentucky at North Carolina (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Florida Gulf Coast at Kansas (ESPNU)
• 9:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Oklahoma (ESPN2)- Most likely Oklahoma vs. Davidson
• 11:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Arizona (ESPN2)- Most likely Arizona vs. UAB

Crazy, right?

Both the Saint Mary’s and Hawaii games will tip-off at 11 PM local time to cater to this extravaganza. There are more than a few intriguing games on the slate for this special day. The premiere event is UNC-Kentucky, but that will most likely be a blowout. While I like Kentucky to improve throughout the season as Patrick Patterson re-gains strength and their point guard situation resolves, North Carolina has way too much firepower, especially in Chapel Hill. College Gameday will be there for a rare November edition.

Also on the slate are four very respectable preseason NIT games, assuming all goes to plan (any Gardner Webb’s in the house?) Purdue shouldn’t have too much problem with Georgia, but it’s still a matchup between two BCS conference teams in mid-November. If BC and SJU can avoid upset stings to Loyola (MD) and Cornell, respectively, this game would showcase Tyrese Rice to a national audience for the first time this season. The two best are the late editions. Can the Oklahoma guards like Crocker, Warren and Johnson handle Curry? Who will guard Blake Griffin? Also, the finale could turn into a shootout between Chase Budinger and Robert Vaden. I’ll be staying up for those two.

Watch out for Richmond against Syracuse, at least for a scare. You know how the Orange get with non-conference, competitive mid-major teams in November. Richmond fits the bill. This will also be the first glimpse at how Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins emerge from devestating injuries and if the flashy Johnny Flynn can continue to improve at point guard. The first game will also answer some questions: How will the Memphis additions (Evans being the most touted) flow with mainstays Dozier, Anderson and Taggart? How will Memphis handle the up-tempo play of UMass, an always dangerous team.

Don’t forget about the other Curry brother’s debut for Liberty and the first look at Saint Mary’s, a top mid-major in the nation this season.

This idea for a true tip-off marathon by ESPN is a tremendous one. While the ratings may not be sky-high due to the Tuesday slot, I’m hoping it continues down the road as a tradition.

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Gameday, Sleepers and Other News

Posted by Zach on August 28, 2008

Not much news in or around college basketball during late August. I could update you on the Derrick Caracter situation, but he’s not worth anyone’s time. The recruiting rampage has died down with the elite camps concluding and coaches returning for the start of school. While some injury or late transfer may take place in the next few days, don’t expect much big news as the summer ends and fall begins. Don’t fear though, college basketball is closer than you may think. To conjure up excitement, here’s a look at the recently released College Gameday sites for the 2008-09 season:

Jan. 17- Chapel Hill, N.C. (Miami at North Carolina)
Jan. 24- South Bend, Ind. (Connecticut at Notre Dame)
Jan. 31- Knoxville, Tenn. (Florida at Tennessee)
Feb. 7- Spokane, Wash. (Memphis at Gonzaga)
Feb. 14- Madison, Wis. (Ohio State at Wisconsin)
Feb. 21- Austin, Texas (Oklahoma at Texas)
Feb. 28- Berkeley, Calif. (UCLA at California)
Mar. 7- Morgantown, W.V. (Louisville at West Virginia)

Fairly pedestrian, right? The two best games are Connecticut-Notre Dame, which should have major Big East title implications, and Oklahoma-Texas, which should do the same for the Big 12 later in the season. California must feel fortunate considering they’re in full-fledged rebuilding and the UCLA pairing will probably result in a blowout. Memphis-Gonzaga could be interesting, but the Zags never lose at home. That March 7 game could prove to be the reason Louisville loses out on a Big East title in the last weekend of the season. Keep that date circled. Not an easy place to play.

Anyway, on to the main point of this post: my top five sleeper/surprise teams of this upcoming season:

UNLV
– Lon Kruger is one of the smartest coaches in the business, taking his team on a two week summer trek around Australia to prepare for the season against top-notch Australian teams. The Rebels are perennially a contender in the Mountain West and reached the Sweet 16 just two years ago in Saint Louis; this year, they’re the clear favorite to win the regular season crown in the MWC. Still, because of the MWC TV package with CSTV and the lack of national exposure, most don’t give the credit to UNLV and Kruger that is deserved.

The Rebels are led by super-talented guard Wink Adams, a true playmaker in every sense of the word that scored 25 against Kansas in their second round matchup last March. He’ll need to improve drastically on his 14 total points scored against rival BYU in two games for the Rebels to win the conference. UNLV will be boosted by Memphis transfer guard Tre’Von Willis and strong, elite forwards Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau. They’ll be in the Top 25 at some point this year.

Kentucky
– Billy Gillespie showed his coaching mettle last season by overcoming strong pressure and adversity following a disastrous non-conference performance by finishing valiantly in the SEC and in their close loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two freshmen battling for the point guard spot on an SEC contender is never a good thing due to the inexperience, but DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway are prime talents and are fully cleared by the NCAA. Someone will emerge.

The stud is recently healed Patrick Patterson, a forceful and menacing forward who uses his physicality to put up double-doubles on any given night. He’s my pick for preseason SEC player of the year. Jodie Meeks is also healthy and Perry Stevenson is a quality role player for any team. Kentucky could be boom or bust this season due to the amount of freshmen they’re relying on; my inclination says boom, but it could easily go the other way.

Baylor
– The Bears are becoming a sexy sleeper pick for this season, and the direction of the program is clearly heading in the right track after indirectly and unofficially landing one of the top players in the 2009 class, John Wall (wink wink). The Bears will surely improve on a school record nine conference wins from a season ago and have NCAA Tournament expectations. Their guard play is terrific, even with their loss of team leader Aaron Bruce. Curtis Jerrells averaged over 15 PPG last season and may turn out to be a contender for Big 12 POY this season if his outside shooting improves.

The team returns eight of their top nine scorers from a year ago, including emerging sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn. The Monroe, LA native averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 42% from three in his freshman campaign. Scott Drew also added Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh to the program, who started 31 games for Michigan the last couple years. Drew has this program on the rise. They could finish third in the Big 12 this year.

Southern Cal
– Most would consider the Trojans exempt from any sleeper list, but the national media may sleep on a team that lost both top-five pick O.J. Mayo and draft defect Davon Jefferson. For the folks in Southern California, here’s two words that should heal any post-Mayo wounds: DeMar DeRozan. Believe me, this kid is going to be something special. Another one-and-done recruit for Tim Floyd, DeRozan has athleticism unmatched in his freshman class, a complete package in terms of scoring and rebounding, and the ability to penetrate and finish in any situation.

Joining DeRozan will be UNC transfer Alex Stepheson, a true post presence who will take more and more pressure off of Taj Gibson to recover following a disappointing 2007-08 season and Leonard Washington to contribute immediately. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are also extremely valuable role players for Tim Floyd. The Pac-10 isn’t as loaded as in past campaigns, so look for USC to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Providence
– Most folks scoff when I mention the possibility of the Big East actually getting ten teams into the NCAA Tournament this season. The likelihood of one of the contenders fading and/or the conference beating up on each other too much for this to occur is very high, but even the consideration shows the bulk of top-heavy talent in this conference. That tenth team I’m throwing out there is Providence, led by former Drake coach Keno Davis.

The Friars have two main questions that need to be addressed: 1) is Sharaud Curry healthy enough to lead this team, and 2) who will handle point guard duties in a conference where, frankly, you need a competent point guard. The Friars have some interesting pieces, most notably guard Weyinmi Efejuku, a double-digit per game scorer, and former Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier, another player who can handle much of the scoring load for Providence. They’ll be tested immediately with the Anaheim Classic and were fortunate in getting a favorable Big East slate with Cincinnati and Rutgers twice.

Some other quick news and notes:

– Marquette sophomore forward Trevor Mbakwe gave every indication he was going to return to the program even with the departure of Tom Crean this off-season, but he has changed his mind and has left Marquette for other ventures. We’ll see which small school scoops him up. He’s a project but a worthwhile one.

– Memphis is heading towards another package deal, a growing and disturbing trend in college basketball. They lured in the brother of one of the top players in the 2009 class, Xavier Henry’s brother C.J, to enroll full-time at their school. Slick move by John Calipari to help in the recruiting of Xavier, so they’ve seemingly moved ahead in the race.

– Villanova landed another top recruit in Mouph Yarou, a 6’9 African big man from a military academy in Virginia, ranked #28 overall in the county by Scout.

– Freshman guard Mark McLaughlin will not play for Nevada this season, a top-100 recruit in the nation. This is a big loss for the Wolfpack as he was expected to team up with Luke Babbitt and contribute mightily this season.

For excellent mid-major season previews, just go to ESPN.com for their ShootAround segment. For the big conferences, we’ve previewed all six on this site, so snoop around.

Posted in News And Notes, Team Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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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