On this All Hallows’ Eve, Southeastern Conference teams prepare to survive yet another season where they are removed one-by-one from NCAA and SEC title contention in horror-movie style. Typically Auburn is the first victim, going missing early in the season and then tripping up other SEC Survivors late in the season. To avoid a similar fate head coach Tony Barbee will need to find more offensive production. Returning junior guard Frankie Sullivan from injury last season is a good start. Sullivan averaged 12.7 PPG when he was healthy during the 2009-10 season. Sullivan will be paired up with sophomore guard Varez Ward, who scored 18 points in an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Sullivan and Ward, a transfer from Texas who recovered from a ruptured right quadriceps tendon last season, must be two of the Tiger heroes that can last until the climax of the season to give Auburn a fighting chance.
Alabama also didn’t survive to the NCAA Tournament last season. The Crimson Tide spent most of the conference schedule fighting off mortal wounds inflicted upon themselves with some terrible non-conference losses in November 2010 and a weak non-conference schedule overall. (Losing to Saint Peter’s is like the horror-movie hero running from the villain only to impale himself on a pitchfork.) This season’s non-conference schedule is improved; but to truly survive Anthony Grant’s team will need production from its newest members, including freshman phenom Trevor Lacey, to provide much-needed perimeter scoring and fill other roles.
LSU is also piecing together the right combination of players and coaching in order to survive the SEC and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. The Bayou Bengals have a more talented roster, including freshman forward and McDonald’s All-American Johnny O’Bryant to provide immediate playmaking. LSU coach Trent Johnson has apparently found some improvement for himself when reflecting on last year’s team. In SEC Basketball Media days, Johnson admitted, “last year with some injuries there were some games that got away from us. And I thought that it wasn’t them; I suppose it was me.” The coach compared this season’s team favorably to his 2008-09 NCAA Tournament squad. Perhaps with a clear heart Johnson and his Tigers can replicate the success they’ve had in previous versions of the SEC Horror Picture Show.