2009-10 Conference Primers: #5 – SECPosted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2009
Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.
Predicted Order of Finish:
- Kentucky (13-3)
- Tennessee (11-5)
- South Carolina (10-6)
- Vanderbilt (10-6)
- Florida (7-9)
- Georgia (2-14)
- Mississippi State (10-6)
- Mississippi (9-7)
- Arkansas (9-7)
- Alabama (7-9)
- LSU (6-10)
- Auburn (4-12)
- John Wall (G), Kentucky
- Devan Downey (G), South Carolina
- Tyler Smith (F), Tennessee
- Patrick Patterson (F), Kentucky
- Jarvis Varnado (F), Mississippi State
6th Man. Terrico White (G), Mississippi
Impact Newcomer. John Wall (G), Kentucky
What You Need to Know. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years, the Kentucky Wildcats are poised to regain their role at the top of the SEC, having added the number one recruiting class and top coach John Calipari. This year looks to be a year of redemption and resurgence not only for UK but for the whole SEC which placed just three teams in the NCAA last year. Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are very strong, experienced teams in the East that should go dancing. Mississippi State hopes to win the West behind Jarvis Varnado and Mississippi and Arkansas look to be much improved and can give any team in the SEC fits.
Predicted Champion. Kentucky (NCAA Seed: #1). Kentucky returns Patrick Patterson and the core group of the team that won 22 games last season. The main loss for UK was junior Jodie Meeks who went to the NBA, but in his place, UK added the number one recruiting class and hired head coach John Calipari. Obviously, Calipari faces the task of instilling a new offense with six new faces, but the Cats are so deep that freshman Daniel Orton, a top 25 player, will have to battle for significant playing time. The Wildcats achilles heel last year was at point guard and UK added two of the top four freshman points in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. Talent and depth alone make this a top 10 team and if Calipari can install his DDMO effectively, this is a legitimate Final Four team.
- Tennessee (NCAA Seed: #3). Last year’s Volunteers may have underachieved, but they return all five starters and are the SEC’s most experienced team. This team needs to gel defensively and if they can do that, they will be tough to beat. Tyler Smith and JP Prince are the heart and soul of this team and if Scotty Hopson can blossom, the Vols should hover around the top 10 all year.
- Mississippi State (NCAA Seed: #4). Even without Renardo Sidney, MSU returns Jarvis Varnado and four other starters. This may be one of the best defensive ball clubs in the SEC. Guard Dee Bost will look to establish himself as one of the top guards in the SEC.
- South Carolina (NCAA Seed:#6). Devan Downey and Dominique Archie are back at USC after their brief flirtation with the NBA and give Darrin Horn a couple of the best guards in the SEC. Freshman Lakeem Jackson could be the big third option that South Carolina desperately needs.
- Mississippi (NCAA seed: #6). The Rebels were the unluckiest team in the SEC last year, losing three key performers to knee injuries. Everyone is back and appears healthy, and if that is the case, Chris Warren can re-establish himself as a top point guard. Terrico White should continue to progress and be a future NBA player. The Rebels have one of the deepest teams in the league.
- Vanderbilt (NCAA seed: #8). Center AJ Ogilvy is back and has beefed up considerably and should compete for all-SEC honors. Vandy also returns their top four scorers from last year’s 19-12 season. Freshman John Jenkins is a true 3 point threat and a shooting guard that can light it up.
- Arkansas (NCAA seed: #11). Arkansas returns all five starters from last year’s up and down team that beat Texas and Oklahoma yet won just 2 SEC games. Michael Washington may be able to move up to a lottery pick with a big year and you would think the rest of the young Razorbacks will show more returns on their potential this year as Courtney Fortson and Rotnei Clark have the potential to be very good.
- Florida (NIT). This team will sit on the verge of the NCAAs but will have to settle for the NIT for the 3rd straight season. Nimrod Tishman will not contribute this year and there are too many good point guards in the SEC for Florida to be comfortable with just Erving Walker. Kenny Boynton will have a huge impact, but he is not a point and that is what will keep this team out of the NCAAs.
- Alabama (NIT). Anthony Grant has JaMychal Green and leading scorer Senario Hillman to build around, but not a lot more. PG will be a major achilles heel but look for Grant to bring his defensive intensity to the Tide and get ready for a lot of low scoring defensive affairs.
- LSU– sorry Tigers, but this is a rebuilding year. The Tigers do have some key pieces returning like Tasmin Mitchell and Bo Spencer but graduation wiped out last year’s 27 win team. Freshman Aaron Dotson could have tremendous impact at shooting guard.
- Auburn – Auburn was the surprise yeam of the SEC last year with a 24-12 record, but were decimated by graduation. These Tigers are also rebuilding, and in a vastly improved SEC, rebuilding teams go to the bottom tier.
- Georgia – Mark Fox has the unenviable job of getting the Bulldogs competitive in the SEC East, a division that could send five teams to the NCAA’ if Florida wins 2-3 more games more than expected. Trey Thompkins and Dustin Ware are a nice foundation to build on, but the talent level at Georgia is light years behind the rest of the conference.
Top 10 RPI Boosters.
- Nov. 23, 2009 – Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati – Maui Invitational
- Nov. 28, 2009 – Florida vs. Michigan State (Atlantic City, NJ) – Legends Classic
- Dec. 5, 2009 – North Carolina @ Kentucky
- Dec 9, 2009 – Kentucky vs. UConn (NYC) – SEC/Big East Invitational
- Dec. 10, 2009 – Syracuse @ Florida (Tampa) – SEC/Big East Invitational
- Dec. 12, 2009 – Mississippi State @ UCLA – Wooden Classic
- Dec. 23, 2009 – Mississippi @ West Virginia
- Dec. 31, 2009 – Tennessee @ Memphis
- Jan. 2, 2010 – Louisville @ Kentucky
- Jan. 10, 2010 – Kansas @ Tennessee
Key Conference Games.
- Feb. 9, 2010 – Tennessee @ Vanderbilt
- Feb. 11, 2010 – Mississippi @ Mississippi State
- Feb. 23, 2010 – Tennessee @ Florida
- Feb. 25, 2010 – South Carolina @ Kentucky
- Feb. 27, 2010 – Kentucky @ Tennessee
- Mar. 6, 2010 – South Carolina @ Vanderbilt
- Mar. 7 , 2010 – Florida @ Kentucky
- Kentucky’s 129-game home winning streak has been featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip.
- The Wildcats’ winning streak, which ran from Jan. 4, 1943 to Jan. 8, 1955, still stands as an NCAA record.
Fun With KenPom. As mentioned in the Mountain West primer last week, the SEC was dangerously close to falling out of the “Super Six” conferences last season due its relative lack of strength. It started with early Alabama/Auburn losses to Mercer, and it never really got better. Not a single team in the entire conference finished in the top 30 in Pomeroy, and the three SEC teams who made the NCAA Tournament — LSU, Tennessee and Mississippi State — got a single win between them.
NCAA Tournament History. The SEC is 248-177 (.584) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, with only five wins in the last two seasons (despite nine bids). With new blood in the league in the form of John Calipari (Kentucky), Anthony Grant (Alabama), Mark Fox (Georgia), Darrin Horn (South Carolina) and Trent Johnson (LSU) joining the old guard of Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl, the SEC may be on the verge of a resurgence led by a group of young, dynamic coaches who have proven their mettle at other schools. The fact of the matter is that the league just wasn’t all that good in the 2000s – there were only four F4 appearances in the entire decade, and three of those were Florida’s. The lone holdout: LSU joined the Gators at the 2006 Final Four. Even worse, only seven teams made the Elite Eight. We’d expect that to change in the 2010s.
Final Thoughts. After a season of irrelevance, the SEC is back in a big way. Kentucky leads the resurgence of the SEC followed closely by Tennessee and Mississippi State. South Carolina and Ole Miss are also possibly Top 25 teams by the end of the season and the SEC can send 7, maybe 8 teams to the NCAA. The two most electric freshmen, John Wall and Kenny Boynton call the SEC home. Even though the SEC has been down, Kentucky and possibly Tennessee are Elite Eight threats and if the chemistry is right, Kentucky could be bringing the SEC its 3rd national title in the last five years.