Preseason SEC Power RankingsPosted by KAlmekinder on November 7th, 2012
Every week, the SEC microsite will post a composite power ranking list for the league’s performances coupled with a short commentary justifying each team’s specific ranking. This week the rankings are centered around the preseason expectations of each team, including the arrivals, departures, and results of their previous season. With the season officially underway on Friday, here’s your SEC preseason power rankings.
- Kentucky – The playlist is set on repeat as long as Calipari is in Lexington; raw freshmen talent comes in, matures, performs at their highest peak in March, and gets drafted. Don’t expect this year’s squad to match last year’s numbers or expectations. However, Calipari will find a way to get these Cats to mature quickly and be in the hunt for their 48th SEC crown and another Final Four run.
- Florida – The Gators return quite a bit from their second Elite Eight run in as many seasons. Their expectations are to reach the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007. While the veteran leadership of Kenny Boynton is a positive, the Gators must get more consistent play from several key role players, including Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario, to reach their goals. The pieces are in place for another deep Gator run.
- Missouri – The island of misfit transfers is located in Columbia, Missouri. Newcomers such as Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine), Alex Oriahki (Connecticut), and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all come to Missouri to find a new and hopefully winning experience in the Tigers’ first year in the SEC. With preseason SEC Player of the Year Phil Pressey leading the backcourt as well as Laurence Bowers in the post, Missouri should not only come close to their success of last year but also vie for the school’s first Final Four appearance in history.
- Tennessee – The Volunteers won nearly 20 games last year and earned a postseason NIT berth with first year head coach Cuonzo Martin. Adding freshman phenom forward Jarnell Stokes in January resulted in at least four more wins in the second half of the season. Martin’s defensive style of play, plus Stokes on the team for a full year and senior Jeronne Maymon guarding the post, should cause hopes for a darkhorse run at the SEC title.
- Arkansas – Arkansas tries to return to its status as a top SEC program by only losing two players from last year’s squad due to graduation. Sophomore BJ Young led the SEC in points among all freshmen last year, and also returning is redshirt junior forward Marshawn Powell, a trendy pick for several preseason all-SEC teams. Arkansas will be tested early with tough non-conference games versus Creighton, Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Michigan.
- Alabama – Anthony Grant’s squad returns several underrated guards in Andrew Steele, Trevor Releford, and Trevor Lacey. Skilled freshman forward Devonta Pollard adds some size and power to the Crimson Tide’s frontcourt after losing Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green to graduation. An NCAA Tournament berth should be on the Crimson Tide’s radar.
- Ole Miss – The Rebels return forwards Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway to a powerful frontcourt. Andy Kennedy’s seventh year in Oxford should result in another 20-win season, marking his sixth in seven years (the only outlier was a 16-15 season in 2008-09). Ole Miss’ problem, however, is its lack of execution in postseason play. They have made five NIT appearances during Kennedy’s tenure and have only escaped the first round once three years ago. With a soft non-conference schedule, Ole Miss needs to make the extra step to get to the Big Dance for the first time in a decade.
- LSU – Johnny Jones takes over for Trent Johnson as the head coach of the Tigers. Jones had six straight winning seasons at North Texas and has enough pieces in Baton Rouge for LSU’s first 20-win season in four years. Sophomores Johnny O’Bryant (8.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and Anthony Hickey (8.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG) provide LSU with a talented frontcourt this season.
- Georgia – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returns to Georgia with hopes on improving on his freshman season, where he scored 13.2 PPG on nearly 40% shooting. Those numbers have led Caldwell-Pope to make an appearance on several preseason all-SEC teams this year. Head coach Mark Fox has had trouble carrying his success at Nevada (an average of 24 wins per season) to Athens (below .500 in two of his three seasons there), but with Caldwell-Pope back as a talented focal point of the season, Fox should be able to improve on last year’s results.
- Texas A&M – After coming off a disappointing season to close out its tenure in the Big 12, Texas A&M hopes a new conference can spring some success into the program. Billy Kennedy has had to endure some difficult first few seasons at all of his coaching stops, so if he can recreate his history, the Aggies should be 20-win team in only a few years.
- Auburn – Auburn has spent the last several seasons in the SEC cellar, averaging only four conference wins in the last three years. Tony Barbee needs to make several forward strides in his third season on the Plains if the program wants its first postseason appearance under his tenure. Returning veteran forward Rob Chubb should provide quality minutes in the post and help lead Auburn through a relatively easy schedule.
- Vanderbilt – Hard work finally paid off last year for the Commodores when the school won its first SEC Tournament championship in 60 years over eventual national champion Kentucky. However, the party ended very quickly when they were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the Third Round. Coach Kevin Stallings loses his entire starting lineup and recently has had to cope with losing his projected starting shooting guard Dai-Jon Parker as well due to suspension. It looks to be a long season in Nashville for the black and gold.
- South Carolina – Frank Martin takes over as the head coach of the Gamecocks this season, bringing his fiery personality and passion for the game to Columbia. Martin’s success at Kansas State (five NCAA Tournament appearances in six years) will be tested as he tries to turn the troubled South Carolina program into a winning one, something the Gamecocks have only experienced once in the last six years (21-10 in 2008-09 season).
- Mississippi State – The Bulldogs have a myriad of troubles; the last few years have nosedived from once promising expectations to weekly reports of fighting among players, disrespect towards coaches, and many other off-court incidents. With a new coach in tow and a revamped squad, Mississippi State will have a lot of rebuilding before they are back near the top of the SEC ladder once again.