Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee Volunteers’

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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Weekend Roundup (11/29-30)

Posted by Zach on December 1, 2008

Tennessee Gonzaga Basketball

Here’s a summary of how an entertaining weekend played out in college hoops…

Five Most Meaningful Outcomes

1. Gonzaga 83, Tennessee 74: Credible experts like Dick Vitale and myself (okay, Dickie V isn’t a credible expert) predicted Gonzaga would make the Final Four this season. Their performance Sunday night in a huge resume building win over Tennessee vaulted them firmly into contention to reach Detroit and established the Zags as a top-five team in the nation. The big differences from a year ago? Jeremy Pargo has listened to NBA scouts advice and molded into a coaches dream for a point guard- one who makes sure his talented teammates are involved before taking over scoring-wise when his team desperately needs a boost. Austin Daye has turned into one of the top shooters in college basketball at 6’10. Josh Heytvelt is clearly the team leader and has advanced post moves and scoring ability some in the NBA don’t even possess. Other players like Goodson, Brown, Bouldin, Downs and Gray (whom I love) all know their roles and stay grounded. Rather than the usual finesse Gonzaga teams of years past, this group is physical, tough and has all the ingredients. They certainly impressed Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, and these two teams will meet up again next month in Knoxville for a tremendous rematch.

2. Wake Forest 87, Baylor 74: I was extremely impressed with Wake Forest’s performance in a dominating second half over a Baylor team that cleanly beat Arizona State on Friday night. Coach Dino Gaudio allows his athletic team to run the floor and play the fast-paced offense that suits point guard Jeff Teague. Wake grabbed 57 rebounds in the contest led by L.D. Williams, Al Farouq-Aminu, Chas McFarland and James Johnson. Whether Wake can contend with Duke or Carolina in the ACC is still a question mark, but they certainly showed they’re top-4 seed worthy in Anaheim. The question is whether Wake can develop more consistency shooting from the outside as the season wears on (fortunately Baylor shot only 26% from deep in the game).

3. Kentucky 54, West Virginia 43: This one was ugly, but Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie doesn’t care. The Wildcats rebounded from the VMI loss and the UNC thrashing to win the Las Vegas Invitational over the weekend, defeating both Kansas State and NCAA contender West Virginia. Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are constituting pretty much the entire Wildcat offense, with Meeks once again putting the game away at the free throw line and Patterson chipping in with a double-double. These two will need to lead Kentucky if they hope to make the NCAA Tournament and save their coaches job. Kentucky overcame a 26-16 deficit at halftime in this game.

4. Pittsburgh 57, Washington State 43: Two defensive-minded teams met in the final of the Legends Classic in New Jersey as you can tell by the score. Sam Young (15) and Levance Fields (14) forced enough Washington State turnovers (15) and turned them into points for the victory. After a hotly contested first half, Pitt really stiffened their defense in the second stanza. With a weaker Pac-10, the Cougars could find themselves in the NCAA Tournament as a third place finisher, so it’s a nice resume win for Pittsburgh.

5. Georgetown 75, Maryland 48: These crosstown foes finally meet (why they don’t play is a mystery) in the third place game of the Old Spice Classic with Georgetown winning in an impressive rout. It’s fairly clear that John Thompson is simply recruiting on a higher level than Gary Williams in the talent-heavy DC area at this point, with the Hoyas reeling in talent like Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, DaJuan Summers and Jason Clark while the Terrapins settle for second-tier talent such as Eric Hayes, Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley and Braxton Dupree. And it clearly showed on the basketball court with this game not even being competitive. Still, Maryland showed they’re capable in their shocking victory over Michigan State and Georgetown could be pointing to this convincing win in March.

Top Five Player Performances

1. James Harden– He doesn’t wow you with his leaping ability or blazing speed or strong frame. Heck, he even looks kind of dorky with the long tee-shirt he wears under his Arizona State uniform. But James Harden can definitely play basketball, and if Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough and Stephen Curry didn’t exist, Harden would be Player of the Year. He dropped 32 points on Baylor in a loss and followed it up with 40 in a blowout win over NCAA caliber UTEP, hitting six threes.

2. Kyle McAlarney– Remember his shooting display in Maui against North Carolina? He decided to perform an encore in front of the home fans on Sunday, collecting 32 points on nine threes in the win over Furman. In his last two games, McAlarney has shot 35 threes and made over 50% of them. They’ll need McAlarney to keep shooting the lights out with Luke Harangody sidelined with pneumonia.

3. A.J. Slaughter– In the absolute #1 shocker of the month of November, Western Kentucky flat out dominated #3 Louisville on a neutral floor. This isn’t last years Sweet 16 Hilltopper team, either. Most of the top scorers from that team have departed. A.J. Slaughter played more of a secondary role last year, but certainly looked like a star in the victory, compiling 25 points and 9 rebounds on 8/15 shooting.

4. Sam Young– Mentioned him before in the Legends recap, but Young is the early frontrunner for Big East Player of the Year. He dropped 33 on Belmont, followed it up with 24 in a win over Texas Tech, and then led the way with 15 and 8 against tough Washington State. With Levance Fields also playing well and looking healthy, Pittsburgh is to be feared.

5. Jodie Meeks– Meeks has been flat out unstoppable early for Kentucky. He’s averaging 25.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, shooting 38% from three and 88% from the line. And he’s been to the line often, hitting 23/25 from the charity stripe in Las Vegas over the weekend, most in high-leverage situations. Meeks turned the ball over nine times against Kansas State, but totaled 37 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals for the Horse Trailer. Meeks personally told me he is honored.

Five Upset Specials

1. Western Kentucky 68, Louisville 54: If somebody told you he/she saw this coming, they are a liar. In just the third game of the season for the Cardinals and coach Rick Pitino, they were the victims of the most shocking upset of the year to date. Western Kentucky effectively double-teamed Samardo Samuels and caused all kinds of havoc for Louisville guards Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee, who combined to go 0/13 from the floor, 0/9 from three, score 2 points while dishing out 2 assists with 4 turnovers. Yikes. Louisville got three-happy like they often do, shooting 30 from deep and making 6. Earl Clark is showing no signs he wants to be one of the premiere players in college hoops. A reprehensible loss for Louisville.

2. Dayton 89, Marquette 75: Another Big East contender to fall on Saturday was Marquette, losing to upstart Dayton in Chicago in a game where they were thoroughly outplayed. The Flyers used their quickness and a career performance from reserve guard Rob Lowery (21 points) to stun the Golden Eagles and improve to 6-0. Once again, Marquette played no defense, an obvious concern for Buzz Williams. They allowed an Atlantic 10 team to shoot 53% and shoot 39 free throws, while Dominic James continues to regress jump shooting wise.

3. Drake 68, New Mexico 62: The Lobos were supposed to be taking over right about now under coach Steve Alford. Instead he fell in both games at Cancun over the weekend to VCU and Drake, the latter being the more shocking and disappointing. New Mexico even held Drake’s main scorer, Josh Young, to 10 points on 2/10 from the floor and still lost the game, falling behind by as much as 16 in the second half. They’ll need to win the Mountain West now for a tournament bid at 3-4.

4. Cal State Fullerton 92, Charlotte 84: This one isn’t a huge upset (CSF was only a 3-point dog), but Charlotte and coach Bobby Lutz are currently on a major down spiral, finishing last in the Anaheim Classic with this loss and dropping to 1-6 on the season. They looked like at least an NIT contender nearly downing Clemson earlier in the week before losing heartbreakers to Providence and Cal State Fullerton and receiveing a walloping from Arizona State. Can they possibly recover from this?

5. Green Bay 84, Massachusetts 67: Speaking of bad A-10 teams, how about Massachusetts? They have talented players like Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris, but it clearly isn’t materializing at this point for new coach Derrek Kellogg. Most of all they can’t play defense, letting Green Bay have six players in double figures in a performance that dropped the Minutemen to 1-4 on the season.

Bubblicious Wins

  • Texas Tech over Mississippi State at the Legends Classic was a big win for coach Pat Knight and one to possibly place on the resume come March if the Red Raiders are sitting on the bubble
  • Texas A&M taking down MAC contender Kent State on a neutral floor was a nice win for Mark Turgeon and Co. after losing to Tulsa
  • Don’t look now, but Nebraska is still undefeated! They beat MVC favorite Creighton in a hotly contested game over the weekend.
  • Illinois is still undefeated, too. They topped Tulsa who beat A&M the day before.
  • Florida State with two very impressive wins over California and Cincinnati in Las Vegas. The opposite for UNLV, who lost to both of those teams and are now looking weak for an at-large, even with the win at UTEP earlier in the week. Wink Adams went 5/26 with three assists in the two losses.
  • Saint Mary’s looked overwhelmed in their loss to UTEP on Thursday but rebounded with a couple quality victories over Providence and Cal State Fullerton
  • Nevada lost to Portland and is off to a horrific start to the season. Brandon Fields is still trying to get himself into the flow of the offense.

Enjoy the ACC/Big Ten Challenge everyone!

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The Day After: Old Spice Classic Recap (Day 1)

Posted by Zach on November 28, 2008

Maryland Michigan St Basketball

LIVE from Orlando! (actually my living room, but we can pretend)

What did we learn from Day One of the Old Spice Classic? Tennessee is for real, Georgetown can’t shoot, Maryland and Oklahoma State could be in the hunt for a bid after all, Purdue may be the class of the Big Ten rather than Michigan State, Wichita State is no walkover and Gonzaga may be slightly overrated.

Here are my recaps/analysis:

#12 Tennessee 78, Siena 64
: I expected the first game of the Old Spice Classic between Tennessee and Siena to be competitive with the veteran and tournament tested Saints giving the younger Vols all they could handle. I definitely underestimated the size, strength and athleticism of a Tennessee team that used returnees like Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism and Brian Williams and additions like impressive point guard Bobby Maze, Renaldo Woolridge (who is a great addition because his shooting can extend the floor and create more room for Smith and Chism to operate) and Scotty Hopson to dominate the mid-major Siena. This was a great test for the Saints, whom I still feel will come away with two wins in this tournament and contend for an undefeated season in the MAAC. They won’t play a team as athletic and talented as Tennessee the rest of the way. The Vols forced Siena into taking mid-range jumpers instead of the dribble-drive penetration to the hoop that made Siena so successful at the end of the last season. Taking Kenny Hansbrouck out of his game (1-10 FG, 6 points) and containing both Franklin and Ubiles from starting a run was huge for Tennessee. Worth noting that Ryan Rossiter held his own with 12 and 12 down low for the Saints.

#16 Georgetown 58, Wichita State 50
: Georgetown was very unimpressive in their squeaker over Wichita State in the second game of the Old Spice Classic. They allowed Wichita State to hang around most of the first half, the Shockers actually cut the lead to one in the second, then Georgetown secured a close win by hunkering down defensively and DaJuan Summers finally coming out of his shell to hit some clutch threes. Wichita State is a very young team predicted to finish near the bottom of the MVC, but we may have to re-evaluate that standing. Gregg Marshall is a very good coach and he successfully confused Georgetown offensively mixing up the zone and man-to-man, often causing the Hoyas empty possessions by swinging the ball around the perimeter and eventually either turning it over or throwing up a poor shot. In the end though, the Shockers just didn’t have talent to match Georgetown, who may be worse in the Big East than projected. They play stout defense like you’d expect a JTIII team to do, but their offense is stagnant, they’re a poor outside shooting team, and don’t really have any dominant force to rely on. Monroe is efficient in the post, runs the floor like a gazelle and has a smooth stroke at the foul line, but he’s more of a secondary player on a second weekend tournament team. I know it’s one game, but with a loaded Big East, the Hoyas could find themselves near the bubble. They could change that tomorrow by upsetting Tennessee.

Maryland 80, #6 Michigan State 62
: Wow. What a tremendous win for the Terps and Gary Williams, the kind of win that gets you into the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday as opposed to barely missing the cut. Maryland completely outplayed Michigan State in the fashion you’d expect an underdog Gary Williams team to do. Thanks to Goran Suton and his injured knee, Maryland’s weak frontline actually out-rebounded Michigan State during this game, shot 47% from three and received a great performance from throwback Dave Neal, the lone senior on the squad. The real difference came at the foul line, where the Spartans shot just 44% at 12/27 while Maryland shot at 81%. Another key was Raymar Morgan entrenched in foul trouble the entire game, only managing four shots and scoring four points, with coach Tom Izzo visibly frustrated with his inconsistent play. Vasquez, Hayes, Mosley and Bowie were all great for a Maryland team that really put it together last night. Could they make a run through this tournament like they did in the ACC Tournament a few years ago?

#10 Gonzaga 83, Oklahoma State 71:
The Zags avoided the upset bug and pulled out a hard-fought victory from an Oklahoma State team that could be dangerous in the Big 12 this season. They’ve got incredible athletes in Eaton, Harris, Anderson and Muonelo, can shoot the ball very well from deep, and constantly push the tempo in Travis Ford’s offense, looking to wear the opposition down late in the second half. And that may work on a few occasions in the Big 12, but having absolutely zero post presence may mean NIT rather than NCAA. Overall, I was impressed by the Cowboys effort last night, especially super sophomore James Anderson, and they should give Michigan State a run for their money. As for Gonzaga, I thought the key play in the game was Ira Brown snagging an offensive rebound and drawing Anderson’s fourth foul about midway through the second half. Brown gave them great energy off the pine and may take all of Sacre’s minutes sooner than later. Daye showed a nice stroke from the outside, Downs contributed with 12 rebounds and Pargo provided senior leadership and clutch shots in crunch time. The only Achilles heel I can see for Gonzaga is their ability to stop people on defense and it may ultimately lead to their downfall. Matt Bouldin I also thought was very shaky; they need him as their fourth weapon behind Pargo, Heytvelt and Daye.

Anaheim Classic First Round

  • UTEP dominated St. Mary’s 75-62 behind 20 points from Randy Culpepper who completely outplayed Patty Mills
  • #24 Wake Forest edged a competitive Cal State Fullerton squad 75-69 with Jeff Teague notching 24 points
  • #14 Arizona State dominated Charlotte in the second half to win 84-56 with Jeff Pendergraph scoring 23 and grabbing 10 boards
  • Baylor took care of Providence with ease- 72-56- leading from the very tip and will play Arizona State in a great 2nd round game

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day: Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State

Day Two analysis from two games- Georgetown vs. Tennessee and Gonzaga vs. Maryland (possibly Michigan State vs. Oklahoma State depending on if I’m still home)- coming tomorrow.

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November 11: The Day After

Posted by Patrick on November 10, 2008

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PATRICK: The first two college basketball games were played this evening as part of the 2k Sports Classic. Here is what we should take from these two games as we move on into the rest of the season.

1. Are Georgia Southern and Houston trendsetters?- That was a great basketball game, and while I sat at my computer in Milwaukee, I listened to the game via live radio feed (we told you we were diehards) and was really into it. Georgia Southern pulled off the first upset of the year, and better yet it was just a great basketball game. The final score was 65-63, and Houston had a final shot with 4.7 seconds left. What a way to kick off the 2008-09 season.

2. Kyle Singler is a beast- Remember when he looked like the picture above? Singler hit the gym and put on about 20 lbs of muscle. Now he just looks dominant (I know it was against Presbyterian) and he is definitely a favorite to be All-ACC First Team. He could be the missing link that the Blue Devils are looking for- a strong frontcourt player that can contend in the post.

3. Brian Zoubek still sucks- If I was a Duke fan I’d be pissed he has one of my team’s scholarships.

4. Better games on the first night please?- I know, I just ranted about how great the Georgia Southern vs. Houston game was, but seriously I would love to see two juggernauts battle it out on the first night. I think it would be a great way to start the season.

I hope you all had fun tonight, whether you watched the games or not, and here is the TV schedule for tomorrow:

7 ET: Michigan Tech at Michigan (ESPNU)

9 ET: Georgia Southern at Duke (ESPNU)

———————————————————-

ZACH: I wanted to expand a bit off of Patrick’s proposal for opening the season with a more intriguing matchup. College basketball is starting to get the right idea with their 24 hours of coverage next Tuesday, and in no way do I think they should move that up to the first day of the season, but I have to agree with Pat’s suggestion. I fully understand that teams want to begin their season with a cupcake opponent to feel out rotations, playing time, and have their players log some minutes before the meaningful action begins. I find it hard to believe, though, that two high-major coaches in America wouldn’t agree to a contest on a neutral court the first day of the season. The hype and exposure would be tremendous. How about Texas and Michigan State pushing up their battle in Houston this year? I’d even take a matchup like Missouri vs. Illinois on ESPN2.

MLB has the Sunday night opener usually pitting the defending World Series champion against a division rival. The NFL has their Thursday night game, once again featuring the defending champ. Even college football manages to find two teams to play a conference game in August. I’m not asking for a conference game, I’m not even asking for a huge rivalry or a game with enormous implications. Just give me something besides the first round of Coaches vs. Cancer on ESPNU. It makes what should be a grand opener for the greatest sport in the world look foolish and irrelevant. It really is a shame.

I’ve got five thoughts from the first night of college basketball, as well:

1. If someone was living under a rock for the past three years and were shown that Duke game last night, they’d clearly choose Nolan Smith as their point guard over Greg Paulus. Expect that to be a switch that lasts the entire season. Paulus coming off the bench for Duke is hugely beneficial. It’s nice to have that long range shooter off the pine and limited minutes means limited turnovers.

2. Not sure I’m sold on Singler in the post yet. He attacked the rim very well starting from the outside, but I didn’t see any exceptional post moves that blew me away. Lance Thomas continues to look lost during short stretches on the floor and Brian Zoubek is a complete disaster. He fouled out against Presbyterian. Think about that for a second.

3. See how much we’re talking about Duke-Presbyterian? THINK OF THE FIRST GAME WAS ILLINOIS VS. MISSOURI IN SAINT LOUIS!! Why wouldn’t coaches jump at this golden opportunity?

4. This is a huge overreaction, but I foolishly penciled in Houston to play Duke in my Top Ten Games of the Week on Sunday and it came back to haunt me right away. So it’s probably time to start looking for a team like UAB, UTEP or Tulsa to challenge Memphis in Conference USA instead of Tom Penders’ Cougars. Kentucky rebounded quite well from their Gardner-Webb shocker, though.

5. Massachusetts and Southern Illinois also kick off their season tonight in Carbondale against D2 opponents. That should be an excellent second round matchup that I wish was televised.

Also, some important news out of Knoxville: freshman point guard Daniel West was ruled academically ineligible and will not play this season. Bruce Pearl expressed disappointment and was surprised at the ruling after West did well in summer school sessions. The Vols lose some important depth at point guard, with more responsibility now on the shoulders of Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince to run the offense.

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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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