Morning Five: 11.01.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 1st, 2013


  1. With a little over a week until the start of the season, Iowa State might have just suffered the biggest injury setback after Melvin Ejim hyperextended and bruised his left knee during Wednesday’s practice. Ejim is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks, which would also include a game against Michigan. Ejim’s injury will place an extra burden on sophomore Georges Niang and will force Fred Hoiberg to try to find a serviceable replacement to support Niang on the inside and keep the Cyclones in contention for the NCAA Tournament when Ejim returns.
  2. Zay Jackson‘s time at Murray State has been nothing if not eventful. Last year, Jackson was arrested after running over two people with his car in a Wal-Mart parking lot. He was subsequently suspended by the team for the season before returning and was expected to start before hearing his ACL in early October. Yesterday, he announced that he would be transferring from the school. We have no idea where Jackson is headed, but we can guess that Steve Prohm will be much less stressed going forward.
  3. We are sure that Florida will be fine by the time that March rolls around, but that probably won’t make Billy Donovan feel any better right now. On Tuesday, he found out that Michael Frazier would be out indefinitely with mononucleosis. Yesterday, the school announced that Scottie WilbekinDamontre Harris, and Dorian Finney-Smith had been suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules. The Wilbekin and Harris/Finney-Smith suspensions appear to be separate incidents, but this will still be another big blow for a team that is getting weaker by the day. Based on what Andy Hutchins at Alligator Army has found out it appears that Wilbekin will be out for at least six games and Harris/Finney-Smith will be out for at least three games. Even if that includes the team’s exhibition game against Florida Southern, the three would probably also be out for the team’s trip to Wisconsin turning what was once a promising match-up into a mismatch.
  4. It seems like we have updates on transfer waivers everyday. Today’s update has one approval and one denial. The approval comes out of Baylor where Denver transfer Royce O’Neale was granted a waiver that will allow him to play for Baylor this season. O’Neale, a 6’6″ guard who averaged 11.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore at Denver, transferred to be closer to his ailing grandfather. On the other end of the spectrum, Isaac Hamilton was denied his waiver to play for UCLA this season. Hamilton was attempting to have his National Letter of Intent that he had signed with UTEP voided by the NCAA after Tim Floyd refused to release him. As a result, Hamilton will be allowed to practice with the Bruins, but will not be allowed to play for them until the 2014-15 season.
  5. Yesterday, was also a big day for high school recruits with three top-25 recruits announcing their commitments. Kevon Looney, a 6’9″ power forward, led the group off by committing to UCLA. The Bruins were able to beat out Wisconsin, Duke, Florida, Michigan State, and Tennessee with the Volunteers reportedly coming in second for his services. The announcement was a bit of a surprise as many recruiting analysts had the Bruins below Duke, Florida, and Tennessee for his services, but with how frequently Steve Alford has lost recruits at UCLA we wouldn’t be shocked to see Looney back out either. Looney was followed by Devin Booker, a 6’6″ shooting guard, committed to Kentucky with the Wildcats beating out Michigan State, Michigan, and Missouri. While having a top recruit commit to Kentucky is certainly not surprising it is worth noting that Devin’s father, Melvin, was a first-team All-American at Missouri in 1994 leading them to a 14-0 Big Eight record. Finally, James Blackmon Jr., a 6’2″ shooting guard, committed to Indiana (again). Blackmon’s decision is particularly notable because he originally committed to Indiana before backing out and was said to be considering Kentucky (where his father played) before recommitting to the Hoosiers.
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SEC M5: 12.21.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 21st, 2012


  1. Jabari Parker’s commitment was the lead story in college basketball yesterday, and to the chagrin of almost everyone, the Chicago product chose to attend Duke. He had narrowed down his choices to five schools before his announcement, with Florida serving as the SEC’s only representative. Any program would benefit greatly by adding a talent like Parker, but the Gators will still have one of the nation’s best incoming classes. Billy Donovan will bring in Chris Walker and Kasey Hill, both consensus top 10 recruits, in addition to South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith. Of all the spurned schools on Parker’s final list, Florida is probably in the best position going forward.
  2. Tennessee has gotten back on track with wins over Wichita State and Presbyterian, but after a miserable start to the season, Volunteer fans are still counting the days until they see Jeronne Maymon back on the floor. Unfortunately, it may be a while. Maymon’s rehabilitation from knee surgery hasn’t gone as smoothly as the Vols had hoped. The ambitious diagnosis had the senior forward returning to action as early as this month, but as Maymon continues to limp around Tennessee’s training facility, the possibility of a medical redshirt has been explored. “He’s open to everything,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “One thing about Jeronne, he’s a coachable guy. He wants to do what’s best for the team. If that means coming back (for a redshirt season), he’ll come back. We’re trying to figure out what’s best for Jeronne Maymon first and foremost, then our team.” Coming back for only a few games surely isn’t the smart move, but in a season filled with high expectations in Knoxville, getting Maymon back on the court is absolutely essential in Tennessee’s efforts to meet those goals.
  3. Texas A&M has had an especially unremarkable season. Outside of a slight upset of Washington State on a neutral court (maybe?), the Aggies have beaten every inferior team and lost in both games against superior competition. This is progress, however, for second-year coach Billy Kennedy, who struggled mightily in his first season, posting a 4-14 record in the Big 12. He’ll hope that the SEC schedule is kinder as he enters a new conference, and he may be in luck. The middle of the SEC is weak, and A&M has the talent to take advantage. Senior Elston Turner has improved on his shooting percentages, and at 16.1 points per game, he’s the type of player who can make a difference as the Aggies take on the SEC’s many mediocre teams.
  4. In the wake of the Michael Dixon situation, off-the-court news hasn’t been especially kind to Missouri this season. That changed on Thursday, however, as the Tigers revealed that the basketball team had achieved their highest collective GPA (over a 3.0) in over a decade. “I’m so proud of our guys and their efforts in the classroom,” coach Frank Haith said. “We demand a lot from them throughout the year and they delivered in a big way, which deserves recognition.” Tigers’ leading scorer Laurence Bowers is one of the stars in the classroom as well. The senior forward has already finished his undergraduate degree, and is a semester away from a master’s in Health Education and Promotion.
  5. “Going Big”, the ESPN Films documentary about former Kentucky great, Sam Bowie, premiered on ESPNU last night. Every basketball fan knows the basics of Bowie’s tale, but director Tom Friend utilizes an unfamiliar perspective to tell his story: the perspective of Sam Bowie. It’s impossible to ignore the Michael Jordan factor with this subject, but any true connection between Jordan’s success and Bowie’s struggles with injury are the product of a fabricated narrative (a compelling one, to be fair). For the former Kentucky center, getting over the Jordan comparisons was tough, but the support of the Lexington community made it possible. “I always knew when the [NBA] season was over that I was immediately going to go back to Kentucky, because that was a safe haven for me to get away from the Michael Jordans, from the critics,” Bowie said. “And that’s a beautiful thing, because when you’re getting beat up like I was getting beat up, you run for cover. And my cover was getting back to Lexington.”
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Analyzing Florida’s Non-Conference Schedule

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 25th, 2012

High expectations are floating around Gainesville this season, and with good reason. The Florida Gators look to expand on last year’s loss to Louisville in the Elite Eight with veteran players, key transfers, and a challenging non-conference slate. Experienced returnees Kenny Boynton, a preseason all-SEC First Team pick earlier this week, Erik Murphy, a three year letterman and post defender with good perimeter range, and reserve Scottie Wilbekin, a deadly three-point shooter at over 45%, lead the charge as the Gators will challenge Kentucky and Missouri for the SEC crown.

The Gators are primed for another run towards a Final Four (AP)

While the departures from last year’s team only includes Bradley Beal and Erving Walker (a combined 26.9 points per game on 42.1% shooting), the Gators will miss Beal’s steadiness on the floor and his play-making ability. But the Gators will also miss Walker’s production in almost every offensive category, most notably scoring (12.4 PPG), distribution (1.8 ATO), and durability (30.3 MPG). Head coach Billy Donovan has regrouped nicely after the losses of these two players, snagging transfers Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6’8″ sophomore forward from Virginia Tech, and 6’10” forward Damontre Harris from conference foe South Carolina. Both players will have to sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules but will be great practice acquisitions this year.

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SEC M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by KAlmekinder on October 18th, 2012

  1. One of the best articles you will read this week is regarding the interaction between Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Lane Goodwin, a 13 year-old teen from Beech Grove, Kentucky, who is battling a rare form of cancer. The last few weeks have brought the “Thumbs Up For Lane Goodwin” movement on Twitter and Facebook that quickly gained interest among Wildcat players and the Big Blue Nation. With the endorsement of these high profile basketball players, it quickly spread nationwide as celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Tim Tebow, Anderson Cooper, and many others have also given a “thumbs up” for Lane. Yesterday, Twitter and Kentucky Sports Radio reported the tragic passing of Lane. The sudden loss of a teenager fighting a terrible disease helps remind us that not only there are more things to life than college basketball but these players do care about the community and will help out as much as possible for those in need.
  2.  The preseason Top 25 USA Today Coaches Poll was released on Wednesday with Kentucky coming in at #3 with five first place votes, behind their neighbors Indiana and Louisville at #1 and #2, respectively. Florida was the only other SEC team to crack the top 10 (#10) while Missouri was the last SEC squad to be ranked in the poll (#17). Both Tennessee and Georgia were among the others schools who received votes, but neither was ranked in the Top 25.
  3. Mississippi State guard Jalen Steele spoke extensively to the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger on Wednesday regarding the style of play and the content of practice for the Bulldogs early in the season. Steele stated that MSU has been focusing on defense lately and that a lot of the practices are physical, comparing the hardwood practices to the gridiron. In terms of style of play, new head coach Rick Ray wants “more dribble drive and creating more shots for people”, according to Steele. He also mentioned the increased respect given to the new head coach in comparison to former leader Rick Stansbury, who abruptly retired after last season. Stansbury struggled in the latter few years with commanding respect and obedience from his players, both on and off the court.
  4. New Florida transfer Damontre Harris is already sitting out this season due to NCAA transfer rules but will have to spend even more time without practice because of a dislocated shoulder. Harris transferred from conference rival South Carolina after last season where he averaged 6.8 points per game on 55% shooting in 25 minutes per game. Once healthy, Harris will provide quality practice minutes against Gator returnees Patric Young and Erik Murphy in the post.
  5. Texas A&M is preparing to host its Maroon & White scrimmage on Friday, October 18 at 8:15 PM CT. Head coach Billy Kennedy will have an opportunity to showcase nine returnees and seven newcomers to the Aggie faithful. The event is sandwiched in between a full sports weekend at A&M, including an important SEC football game versus LSU. Free food and drink will be provided by local advertisers and students of course are encouraged to attend.
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SEC Weekly Five: 06.22.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on June 22nd, 2012

  1. The University of Kentucky athletic department announced its decision to increase ticket prices by as much as $10 for a single game ticket next season. In addition, the K Fund donation required to buy season tickets has increased by as much as $1500. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said the jump in prices were due to several factors including: the increasing cost of tuition, additional travel costs due to SEC conference realignment, and the rising costs of paying upper echelon coaching salaries like John Calipari’s $5.2 million dollar annual salary (it is worth mentioning at least some of which is paid through annual endorsements). However, when you are coming off a 2012 National Championship and have the most passionate fan base in all of college basketball, fans in the Bluegrass State will pay whatever the asking price to watch their Cats in Rupp Arena.
  2. Talent wins championships, and while the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats have plenty of talent, there is something missing from next year’s roster — experience, particularly in Calipari’s system. Basketball pundits clamored over UK’s one-and-done stars from last season, but it was senior Darius Miller who stepped out of the spotlight to quietly lead his team.  “He does everything the team needs him to do. He completes everybody. He’s not competing, he’s completing,” Calipari said of Miller towards the end of the 2012 season. “If he needs to rebound, defend (he will). He plays some guard, he plays some four (power forward). Whatever position we ask him, he just completes.” It is clear that Calipari’s Cats have the talent to compete for a repeat performance next year, but the question (asked by Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue) becomes, who replaces Darius Miller? And at this point, the answer is, it’s too early to tell.
  3. New LSU head coach Johnny Jones has added David Patrick to his staff to serve in the role of assistant basketball coach. Patrick has served as an assistant with Saint Mary’s and Nicholls State before his most recent stint as player personnel scout for the Houston Rockets. “We are definitely excited about the addition of David Patrick to our staff,” said Jones. “He will not only be able to help us with game planning and practice preparation, but we look forward to him helping to raise our level of recruiting at LSU, both regionally as well as nationally. With his background in both Division I and professional basketball, he brings a level of experience to our program that will help us to move forward.” Jones has built a lot of momentum since being announced as the head man for the Tigers in April. In addition to luring Patrick to Baton Rouge, he initially recruited former UNT assistants Shawn Forrest and Charlie Leonard and added former Georgetown assistant Robert Kirby over a month ago.
  4. A couple of SEC players made Eamonn Brennan’s list of 10 potential breakout players for 2012-13. Okay, so these lists aren’t exactly news, but it’s at least a conversation starter. Brennan puts Arkansas guard BJ Young, who briefly considered a jump to the NBA after his freshman year, on the list. Can a guy who averaged over 15 points per game really be a breakout player? Regardless, Young and his young teammates (see what we did there) could elevate Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks back into the Top 25 this year after a long hiatus from the national college basketball landscape.The other SEC player on Brennan’s list is Kentucky’s Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer saw just over 11 minutes per game last year, but when he was on the floor he took the highest percentage of shots on the team. Wiltjer isn’t afraid to hoist the ball up there, and we are likely to see even more shots from him this season.
  5. Incoming Florida transfer Dorian Finney-Smith has ties to the Florida program and he wasn’t going to choose against the Gators again. Finney-Smith is close friends with former Gator center Vernon Macklin. “Vernon is like a brother to me,” Finney-Smith said. “I saw how successful he was at Florida and that played a role in my decision.” It’s a decision that Finney-Smith seems happy with. “Coach Donovan said we’re going to be going up-and-down the floor, every day,” he said. “I like that. It will be fun.” It isn’t sounding like much fun for the rest of the SEC though. Florida’s 2013-14 front line is coming together with the addition of several quality transfers. In addition to the 6’8″ Finney Smith, Billy Donovan added 6’9″ Damontre Harris earlier this summer, a transfer from South Carolina. Both big men will sit out this season, but will be able to practice with the team.
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Morning Five: 05.30.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 30th, 2012

  1. After Butler announced that it would be heading to the Atlantic 10 for the 2013-14 season one month ago most observers put the Bulldogs in the back of their mind when it came to conference realignment. That decision appears to have been premature as Butler announced yesterday that it was heading to the Atlantic 10 immediately. The move, which is widely believed to have been made in reaction to the likely decision by the Horizon League to ban the school from its postseason tournament as a response to the school’s prior announcement that it was leaving the conference, makes what is already one of the premier conferences in the country even better. For years, fans of Atlantic 10 basketball have scoffed at some writers referring to the conference as a mid-major. After this move, we should probably start rating them along with the BCS conferences as they would probably rate fairly highly on that scale even if they probably lack the premier team that their counterparts will have next season.
  2. Florida may have found an eventual replacement for Patric Young in the form of South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris. Ok, so that may be an exaggeration based on the 6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game Harris put up as a sophomore, but Harris could help the Gators out on the inside when Young and Erik Murphy leave Gainesville. Harris, who should be eligible for the 2013-14 season and would have two more years of eligibility left, could be part of a plan for rebuilding the interior for the Gators that is focused on adding Chris Walker, a top-10 recruit in the class of 2013 who hails from Florida.
  3. College basketball players can find a lot of strange ways to injure themselves whether it is working out, playing another sport, or being involved in a car accident. Rarely are they involved in an event like what Chad Renfro experienced while visiting his parents. The junior from Barry University was surfing near Jacksonville, Florida last week when he noticed a sharp pain in his leg and quickly realized that he had been bitten by shark. Renfro was able to make it back to shore and was sent to a local hospital where he received treatment including 85 stitches. Renfro appears to be in good spirits though and should not miss any time during the upcoming season.
  4. Say what you want about John Calipari, but he knows how to get his point across. Yesterday, we included a link to a piece by Mike DeCourcy offering advice for five players on how to improve their games this summer. In a post on his personal site, Calipari offers advice to Kyle Wiltjer and in doing so also finds a way to turn the advice for his rising sophomore into a propaganda piece. According to the site, the letter is the same for every returning player on the team although we doubt he thinks of Sam Malone as a potential sixth man unless he is talking about the sixth man figuratively. For us the key point is Calipari using his website to give us all a peak inside his program while casually mentioning the program’s accomplishments in case any of us were unaware of those accomplishments.
  5. The Mayor just got a pay raise in Iowa as Iowa State announced that it had signed Fred Hoiberg to an eight-year extension that increases his annual salary from $800,000 per year to $1.5 million per year. That might seem like a pretty hefty pay raise and it is, but Hoiberg has had a pretty impressive run recently including being the reigning Big 12 co-Coach of the Year. In just two years, Hoiberg took a team that had posted a sub-.500 record three straight years and led them to a 23-11 record and a NCAA Tournament victory before losing to eventual national champion Kentucky. Some of that performance can be attributed to serendipity in the form of Royce White, who was able to overcome his personal demons to terrorize Big 12 defenses. Hoiberg will have his work cut out trying to find another player of White’s caliber willing to come to Ames, but he will have a little more time to do so now.
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SEC Make or Break: South Carolina Gamecocks

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 26th, 2011

The Make or Break series will tell us what we need to know about each SEC team by looking at the three most important non-conference games on each team’s schedule. Depending on the outcome, these three games could make OR break that team’s season because of the strengths it shows or weaknesses it could expose. This post features the South Carolina Gamecocks.

One must wonder if South Carolina coach Darrin Horn just swung by Gigi’s to fill out his non-conference schedule. Most of the mid-majors scheduled — including Southeastern Louisiana, Wofford, Presbyterian and South Carolina State — are predicted to struggle in their own conferences. (If you’re a smart RTC reader, you’d already know this thanks to our awesome Conference Primer series.) In games with preseason #1 North Carolina and preseason #3 Ohio State, USC will get a strength-of-schedule boost but will be heavy underdogs. With a slew of transfers and guard Bruce Ellington‘s availability for the team in question, don’t blame the Gamecocks for wanting to schedule lightly while they piece together a team that can compete in a much-stronger Southeastern Conference. Coach Horn’s team might need to rely on a hard-working defense during November and December while they learn who can score on a consistent basis. Then the team must hope Ellington can play major minutes when the SEC schedule starts up.

This is what Bruce Ellington looked like in a basketball jersey during last year's SEC Tournament. We won't see him looking like this again until probably the end of the Gamecocks' football season.

Three Four key non-conference games that will make or break the Gamecocks’ season:

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RTC Summer Updates: Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our SEC correspondent, Gerald Smith.  This season he will be covering the NCAA Basketball with zeal, nerd-culture references and a fistful of silliness at You can also follow him on Twitter (@fakegimel).

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • One Big, Mostly-Happy Conference: After several years of divisional lopsidedness in conference scheduling and tournament seeding – to the dismay of programs like Alabama — the SEC has merged the West and East divisions for basketball. A 16-game conference schedule, consisting of the same pairings within and across old divisions, remains for the 2011-12 season. Starting with this year’s SEC Tournament, teams will be seeded and awarded first-round byes by their overall conference record. The most vocal dissenter against peace, conference unity and love was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. He argued unsuccessfully that divisional championships create excitement for the fans. MSU athletics must have sold some awesome merchandise for Coach Stansbury’s six SEC West Division championships.
  • Too Much of a Good Thing? – Stansbury also argued that a united 12-team conference won’t produce a true champion unless each team plays a full 22-game home and away conference schedule. In July’s coaches’ conference call, some SEC coaches (South Carolina’s Darrin Horn & LSU’s Trent Johnson) agreed, but wonder if such a schedule is feasible. Other coaches (Kentucky’s John Calipari & Alabama’s Anthony Grant) believe that teams should worry more about strengthening their non-conference scheduling and RPI ratings. Increasing the schedule to at least 18 games would placate athletic directors and the SEC’s broadcast partners, but would add further scheduling imbalance and hysteria. In meetings, the decision to increase the number of conference games was postponed until after the 2011-12 season. The SEC coaches will meet again later in August to debate their options.
  • Missouri Newbies – Two coaches previously employed in the Show-Me State join the SEC during this period of conference remodeling. As an assistant under former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, new Arkansas coach Mike Anderson became very familiar with the “40 Minutes of Hell” system (and Coach Richardson’s snakeskin boot collection). After stops with UAB and Missouri, Anderson returned to Fayetteville to replace John Pelphrey.
  • Caught lying to cover-up his impermissible BBQ — mmmm… impermissible BBQ… *gurgle noise* — Tennessee was forced to fire Bruce Pearl. Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin was hired to fill Pearl’s vacated orange blazer. With his athletic director resigning and additional NCAA penalties applied to his program, Martin may long for his past days in Springfield.

A major growth spurt led to a similar shoot up the 2011 high school rankings for Kentucky's Anthony Davis. (Sam Forencich/USA Basketball)

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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

Jared Quillen of is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

SEC East

  • T1. Florida (11-5)
  • T1. Kentucky (11-5)
  • T1. Georgia (11-5)
  • 2. Tennessee (10-6)
  • 3. Vanderbilt (7-9)
  • 4. South Carolina (4-12)

SEC West

  • 1. Mississippi State (12-4)
  • 2. Mississippi (9-7)
  • T3. Alabama (7-9)
  • T3. Arkansas (7-9)
  • 4. LSU (4-12)
  • 5. Auburn (3-13)

All-Conference Team

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Chris Warren – Mississippi
  • G Kenny Boynton – Florida
  • F Enes Kanter* – Kentucky (if eligible)
  • F Trey Thompkins – Georgia

6th Man

Travis Leslie – Georgia

Impact Newcomers

  • G Brandon Knight – Kentucky
  • G Gerald Robinson – Georgia
  • F Patric Young – Florida
  • F Tobias Harris – Tennessee
  • C Renardo Sidney – Mississippi State

Kentucky's Brandon Knight was a hot commodity as a late signee.

What You Need To Know

  • There are a few things that the casual observer of the SEC may not be aware of but should consider:  Mississippi State in November is not the same Mississippi State that you will see in December, nor the one that you will see in January.  The Bulldogs will play their first nine games without Renardo Sidney, who will have waited out a lengthy suspension by the time he plays his first game.  Then, after five more games, Dee Bost will return to the lineup. You recall that he declared for the NBA Draft, failed to pull out by the NCAA’s deadline, lost his eligibility, went undrafted, and subsequently was reinstated with a 14-game suspension.  Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs drop a game or two early in the season to a team they should beat.  It means nothing.  This will be a very good team that will be fun to watch as the season progresses.
  • Florida brings back a lot of experience.  That would be all five of Florida’s starters, to be exact, plus they add the very talented McDonalds All-American Patric Young.  Young will provide the size inside that Florida lacked last year.  That said, count me as one who is still a little skeptical of Florida’s chances at winning the league.  Lest we forget, Florida was not one but two Chandler Parsons prayers from missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.  Furthermore, Florida lost in the first round to a good but not great BYU team that played a good but not great game.  Will Florida be good?  Definitely.  Great?  Well, that remains to be seen.
  • For those expecting Kentucky to repeat what they did last year because they replaced four freshmen stars with four new freshmen stars — think again.  This team is even younger than last year’s and noticeably smaller.  Look for the Wildcats to play much faster than last year and shoot better.  But DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, and John Wall are hard to replace.  If Enes Kanter becomes eligible (as most believe he will) by conference play, then they will challenge for the league title; if not, they fight for second or third in the SEC East.  It all comes down to Kanter.
  • The SEC East is going to be very good this year.  Mississippi State gets the nod as champion simply because the East teams are going to beat up on each other like no other group of six teams in America.  I could see any one of Florida, Kentucky, Georgia or Tennessee winning the East.  I hate predicting only seven conference wins for a talented Vanderbilt squad, but I just don’t know where to place them when they have to play eaach of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky twice, plus Mississippi State.

Predicted Champion

Mississippi State (NCAA #2-Seed) – Mississippi State is the favorite by default as the East is going to be a bloodbath and the Bulldogs only play each Eastern division team once.  Playing in the weaker West division is certainly going to benefit Mississippi State as they won’t have to play Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and even Vanderbilt but once.  Renardo Sidney is going to be a force, especially in a conference light on dominant big men this year.  Add Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson in the back court to an improving Kodi Augustus and that’s a team that easily wins the West.  If the Bulldogs manage to win half of their games against the East, they probably win the overall league crown.

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