SEC Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 15th, 2012

  1. Georgia’s Gerald Robinson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague were honored with SEC Men’s Player of the Week awards. Robinson was named the SEC Men’s Player of the Week after averaging 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, and three assists this week. The Bulldogs won both games with victories over 20th-ranked Mississippi State and Arkansas, in which Robinson added a career-high 27 points. Teague has steadily improved as point guard for the top-ranked Wildcats, and was named Freshman of the Week.  Teague contributed 12.5 points, 9.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds and achieved his first double-double in Kentucky’s win over Florida.
  2. The Wildcats have run the table twice in the SEC, going a perfect 16-0, and could do it again this year. “When one of the ways (of winning) is not working for you, you can rely on something else,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. ” … What makes a really, really special team is when you have a variety of ways to win. (The Cats) can win almost any kind of situation they’re in.” Wildcats coach John Calipari isn’t as concerned with a 16-0 record as he is with improvement. “My concern is, are we improving as a team?” Calipari said. “What I’m seeing right now is we are.” The only two teams since the 1956 season to go undefeated through league play were Kentucky’s 1995-96 team and the Wildcats again in 2002-03. The 1996 team, of course, won the National Championship for then coach Rick Pitino, and that is a very realistic goal for the 2012 version of Kentucky, regardless of the final conference record.
  3. It may be hard to define what swagger is, but a coach will know it when he sees it.  “When players walk with a certain type of swagger, a level of confidence — not cockiness, not arrogance — they can play, and they can compete,” Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said after a win at Florida. “Before, we just weren’t mentally ready.” Tennessee knows it is a much better team than the 11th place finish that was predicted in the preseason, and two wins over Florida along with playing close with Kentucky prove Martin has the Vols playing to win. However, the Vols need help. “We need our fans, and we need their support to help get us over the hump,” Martin said. “If our guys are giving effort, and they are leaving everything out on the floor, they deserve that support.”
  4. Depth is a major concern for Florida and coach Billy Donovan. “Dire is probably a pretty good word,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have to do some different things both offensively and defensively, certainly going into Alabama without Will (Yeguete) being there. There is a tremendous void for us defensively at the basket.” In fact, the Gators are without their two leading scorers off the bench in Yeguete and guard Mike Rosario. The Gators will be ready to respond. “We just have to react appropriately and come together as a team,” guard Scottie Wilbekin said. And after two straight losses, Florida needs to come together quickly.
  5. The Gators are not the only team dealing with depth issues. Alabama, Florida’s opponent on Tuesday night, welcomed back Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele after suspensions from the team for a violation of team rules.  “When you look at Andrew Steele — he’s been probably the finest student-athlete that I’ve coached — he made a mistake,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “His body of work speaks for itself in terms of who he is as a person and what he’s been all about. I was a former student-athlete. You are faced with a lot of different things and you have to make decisions. Sometimes you make the wrong one. I don’t think that’s any indication of who he is as a person. Same thing with Trevor Releford. He’s a young man that’s in his sophomore year in college and made a bad choice. I think his teammates understand that. Certainly as a coach, I don’t condone it, but I’m not going to condemn him as a human being for making a bad decision. We will move on and get ready to play.” Grant has continued the suspensions for forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, the team’s top two leading scorers. When asked about those situations, Grant responded that the situations were “different.”
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SEC Morning Five: 12.27.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 27th, 2011

  1. Mississippi received a nice present under the tree as forward Murphy Holloway‘s MRI revealed that his injury against Middle Tennessee State University was only a bad high ankle sprainAndy Kennedy said that Holloway can return to practice as soon as he regains “strength and mobility.” Kennedy and the Rebels will need Holloway back as soon as possible. Holloway is the team’s leading rebounder with 9.6 rebounds per game, and he adds in 9.9 points. The Rebs have lost their last two games in a row, and hit the road to face a tough Dayton team that already knocked off Alabama earlier in the year.
  2. Mississippi State freshman Rodney Hood may not have come in with the hype that many SEC freshmen had, but his play is making quite the statement. Hood has come along quickly averaging 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He has focused his practice on mid-range jumpers and it shows. Hood has connected on 62% of his two point field goals this year. “The first part of the season, I was just finding my way,” Hood said. “Now I’m coming into my own.” Rick Stansbury obviously likes what he sees as Hood leads the team in minutes at 33.2 minutes per game.
  3. Georgia has struggled in the second half of games this year, blowing halftime leads against Colorado, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech. Just when it looked like the Bulldogs may let another lead slip out of their grasp, the players dug a little deeper to put together a non-conference win against Furman. “Our team executed very well tonight,” coach Mark Fox said. Freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped up big, showing a major display of leadership. “I realized that we were starting to slack on defense,” Caldwell-Pope said. “So I just tried to help my team by creating steals, help on the drive, and rebound and I did that.” Georgia will need more than just Caldwell-Pope to step up though. The Bulldogs have struggled on offense (131st in adjusted offensive efficiency) with only one other player averaging double figures in scoring (senior Gerald Robinson at 13.6 PPG).
  4. Patric Young is a freak of nature. We all know that, right? But did you see his block on Thursday night? It is clear that Young is beginning to turn some heads with his tremendous play as of late. It is clear that he is a much better player this year than the developing freshman that averaged 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year. Sometimes, a SportsCenter type highlight is all we need to remind us of that. “Whenever you block somebody’s shot and pull it down with one hand, that’s making ‘SportsCenter,’” Young said. Yes, it will. The highlight reels are nice, but I think Billy Donovan will be more impressed with Young connecting on 63.3% effective field goal percentage, and snagging a solid 11.6 offensive rebounding percentage. Those numbers should lead to Young getting more than the 18.9% of shots (sixth on the team) that he takes in the Florida offense.
  5. LSU‘s play of late is putting the team in good company. The last time a Tigers’ team won three road wins in non-conference play was 1985-86. You may remember that LSU team was the lowest seeded team at the time (#11 — now tied with VCU and George Mason) to go to a Final Four. The Tigers have won on the road against Houston, Rutgers, and North Texas. Defense has been the key to the Tigers’ successful run. LSU has held six straight opponents under 60 points, in what is believed to be the first time since the 1952-53 Tigers held six straight teams under 60. This team also has a couple of bad losses to go with those wins — a loss at Coastal Carolina and at home against South Alabama. Which version of Trent Johnson‘s squad will show up when the Tigers get the opportunity for quality RPI games against Virginia, Ole Miss, and Alabama in the next two and a half weeks will be a big determinant in how successful the Tigers are this season.
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Inconsistencies in SEC Preseason Awards Overshadows Positives

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 10th, 2011

The SEC Men’s Basketball Coaches Preseason All-SEC Awards were released yesterday, and they demonstrate the ridiculousness of preseason awards by demeaning the entire process. In a season where there is more talent in the SEC than any year in recent memory, the inconsistencies among the coaches’ decisions is troubling. The 2011-12 SEC Coaches first and second teams are as follows:

First Team All-SEC

  • G Dee Bost, Mississippi State
  • G Kenny Boynton, Florida
  • C Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt
  • F JaMychal Green, Alabama
  • G John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
  • F Terrence Jones, Kentucky
  • G/F Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt
  • G Erving Walker, Florida

Hey, Where Are the Freshmen SEC Stars Like Brad Beal?

Second Team All-SEC

  • F Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss
  • G Doron Lamb, Kentucky
  • G Darius Miller, Kentucky
  • F Tony Mitchell, Alabama
  • F Marshawn Powell, Arkansas
  • G Trevor Releford, Alabama
  • G Gerald Robinson, Georgia
  • F Renardo Sidney, Miss. State
  • F/C Patric Young, Florida

I have three major issues with this list:

  1. An All-Conference award team should consist of five players. Not eight. Not nine. Five. This is not an environment where everyone receives a trophy, and we should honor as many players as possible. Placing eight players on the first team and nine on the second team devalues the prestige of receiving the honor in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Make or Break: Georgia Bulldogs

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 25th, 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. The next team in the series is the Georgia Bulldogs. 

Georgia lost a lot of scoring and star power by losing early entrants Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie to the NBA draft. However, there is still enough talent in Athens to field a good team. Senior guard Gerald Robinson returns along with his 12.2 PPG, and Mark Fox landed a 6’4″ standout guard named Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from nearby Greenville. Georgia made the NCAA Tournament last year primarily because of Thompkins and Leslie, but also because they have become an outstanding defensive team. The Bulldogs held opponents to 39.7% shooting from the field. If Fox can get his team to buy in to team defense, then the Dogs can remain competitive in the SEC. Expect UGA to get out and run this year because they have the athleticism to push the tempo, and also because a faster pace will help minimize the effect that losing Thompkins and Leslie will have on the Georgia front line.

Mark Fox will rely upon Caldwell-Pope to push the tempo and score for a much quicker Georgia team

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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 halftimeadjustment.com. 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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SEC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC. With tournament action set to tip from Atlanta on Thursday, get set with RTC’s regular season recap and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

Hottest Teams Going Into The Postseason:

  • FloridaPasting Alabama to close out the season is a really good sign.
  • KentuckyLooking good on a lot of people’s brackets after winning two tough ones and they’ve been top 10 at KenPom.com all season.

Tournament Sleeper: Mississippi State – Too much talent here to not be dangerous when push comes to shove.  The question is, will they play the way they’re capable or the way when they’ve fumbled?

Best First Round Matchup: Tennessee vs. Arkansas, Thursday - The South Carolina/Ole Miss game doesn’t carry much weight, and I don’t see Georgia having too much trouble with Auburn, nor Vanderbilt with LSUArkansas is the higher seeded team here due to the wackiness of the Southeastern Conference Tournament seeding (more on that later).  Arkansas won the previous meeting 68-65 in Fayetteville.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.25.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 25th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

No matter how many games there are, no night is ever an off night in college basketball. Notre Dame legitimized itself as a Big East double-bye contender with a massive road win at Pittsburgh last night while Kansas State got their must win. What’s in store for us hoopheads tonight? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#12 Purdue @ #1 Ohio State – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

It's a Battle of Player of the Year Candidates In Columbus Tonight

First place is on the line in the Big Ten as these two clubs meet tonight in Columbus. Ohio State has a one game lead over Purdue and can make it two plus the tiebreaker if they win. On the other hand, the Boilermakers can move into a first place tie and will hold the tiebreaker edge (for now) should they come out on top. Obviously the big-time matchup in this game is down inside as freshman Jared Sullinger goes up against senior JaJuan Johnson. Sullinger has a lot more bulk to push people around inside but Johnson has a game that extends out to mid range and even the three point arc on occasion. Look for Matt Painter’s big man to try and pull Sullinger away from the basket, opening up lanes for Purdue’s guards to get to the rim. Each team starts four guards, so Purdue won’t have as difficult of a time as you might think if Johnson is successful.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 12th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We’re going to mix it up today with this feature. With so many good games tonight (one of the best nights of the season thus far) here are some quick hitters on 10 important games you should be following this evening, including the top five teams in the land all playing on the road. Additionally, key conference battles are on tap throughout the night. Enjoy it, folks. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#2 Ohio State @ Michigan – 6:30 pm on Big Ten Network (***)

The Wolverines nearly knocked off Kansas on Sunday and they’ll get another crack at a top three team tonight when their rivals visit Ann Arbor. Michigan has to shoot the three well to win but that’ll be difficult against an Ohio State defense ranked in the top five in efficiency. Though Darius Morris (15.0 PPG, 7.0 APG) will try his best, Ohio State has too much talent and offensive firepower for Michigan to handle. Michigan needs their best defensive effort of the year combined with an off night for the Buckeyes in order to have a chance. John Beliein can rotate plenty of bodies on Jared Sullinger but that may be a futile effort against the uber-talented big man.

Sullinger, Lighty, and Co. Have Bucknuts Already Looking Forward to March (and April)

#5 Pittsburgh @ #19 Georgetown – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

The Hoyas are in serious danger of dropping to 1-4 in conference play as Pitt comes to DC. Georgetown hasn’t shot the ball well recently and has lost three of four as a result. The inconsistent play of point guard Chris Wright can certainly be blamed, but take a deeper look at the numbers. Georgetown’s defense is rated #61 in efficiency; not terrible, but it’s the lowest-rated Hoyas defense in six years (#66 in the ’04-’05 season). The Hoyas have given up 66.6 PPG, not a good number when your adjusted tempo is only 66.5 possessions and rated #228 in the country, indicating a slower pace. Georgetown’s dynamic guard trio has certainly struggled, a key reason why they’ve lost three of four, but the defense has also played a part and must get better. It’ll be put to the test against a Pitt offense rated the best in the land. The Panthers can punish you inside and out as well as on the glass. Yours truly has maintained for a while that this Pitt team is the best interior passing group in America and I see no reason to back off that statement. What Jamie Dixon has built in Pittsburgh year after year is quite remarkable but this may be his best offensive squad ever. The Panthers have played just one true road game all year (at Providence) but they’re experienced and so well-coached that it doesn’t figure to affect them all that much. Expect a desperate Georgetown team to come out ready to play, but we’ll take the Panthers here in a close one.

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Set Your Tivo: Turkey Day Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 25th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Be sure to check out some games from the Old Spice Classic and the 76 Classic during your Thanksgiving festivities today. Rankings as per latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Old Spice Classic: Boston College vs. Texas A&M — 12 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Each team has loaded up on cupcakes to start the season but that couldn’t help Boston College. The Eagles suffered an embarrassing home loss last Thursday to Yale, rated #232 by Ken Pomeroy. A 30-point effort from Reggie Jackson was not enough as BC allowed Yale to shoot 50% from the floor en route to an eight point triumph. Defense will be important for Boston College against a Texas A&M team that is connecting on 47.5% of their FG attempts so far. The Aggies are led by forwards Nathan Walkup, Khris Middleton and David Loubeau. With their best players in the front court, expect A&M to own a rebounding advantage over the undersized Eagles. Boston College sports just three players 6’8 or taller, while Texas A&M has six on the roster and five who’ve played minutes this year. The key matchup will be Loubeau against Joe Trapani of the Eagles. Trapani has averaged double figures for his entire college career, including his freshman season at Vermont. He is also a threat from deep, although he’s had a tough time shooting the trey this year going 2-10 thus far. The guards from The Heights must rebound the ball effectively in order to minimize their shortcomings on the boards up front. Jackson has been terrific for first year head coach Steve Donahue, averaging 19/5/5 in three games. He’ll team with Biko Paris in the back court against B.J. Holmes and Dash Harris for A&M. Mark Turgeon’s guards don’t score much but they do a wonderful job of getting others involved (nine APG combined), especially key on a team where the strength lies in the forwards. Texas A&M has recognized this and the guards haven’t tried to do too much. Both teams struggle mightily shooting the three but Texas A&M should have an advantage there as they shoot five percentage points better and defend the perimeter much more effectively than the Eagles, ranking #24 in three point defense. Boston College is #286 in the same category. One thing BC does do very well is keep control of the ball, averaging only eight per game. That’s good enough for the #1 ranking in turnover percentage this year. Texas A&M should be the favorite here as the matchups really benefit the Aggies. The Eagles need a strong defensive effort and great rebounding from their guards in order to win this game.

Old Spice Classic: Georgia vs. Notre Dame — 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

With the status of star Trey Thompkins still doubtful, Georgia enters a crucial set of games looking to pick up some key non-conference wins in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for only the second time since 2002. It begins tonight against a Notre Dame team that lost Luke Harangody but still has the pieces to make an NCAA run. The Fighting Irish return four core players and add Purdue transfer Scott Martin, finally healthy after sitting out two years (one for transferring, one after a torn ACL). Ben Hansbrough has been on fire, hitting 53.5% overall and an eye-popping 16-27 (59.3%) from three. Against a highly suspect Georgia defense which ranks #122 in efficiency and almost dead last (#335) against the three, expect Hansbrough to light it up yet again. The problem for Georgia is that it doesn’t end there. Mike Brey also welcomes back Tim Abromaitis, a guy who burst onto the scene last year and made his three’s at a 43% clip. For Georgia, Travis Leslie, Jeremy Price and Gerald Robinson have stepped up nicely in Thompkins’ absence. The 6’4 Leslie has picked up the slack on the glass, leading the team with eight rebounds a game. Without their star, Georgia is a bit undersized and their rebounding has shown it, grabbing only 34 per game this season. That will be a problem against an Irish team stacked with wings and forwards in the 6’5-6’9 height range. Notre Dame has pulled down 46 RPG and should hold an edge again in this game behind Tyrone Nash. The 6’8 Nash is averaging 12/8 while shooting over 50% from the floor and 80% from the line, impressive for a big man. If Thompkins is out as expected, he’ll battle against Price in the post. Price has had a great start to the year for Mark Fox, shooting 64.5% overall. Notre Dame’s strength is obviously offense, ranking #7 in efficiency and in the top 100 in almost every offensive category. The Irish also struggle on defense so expect a lot of points and a lot of threes in this game. An underrated matchup is at the point guard position between Georgia’s tandem of Robinson and sophomore Dustin Ware and Notre Dame’s freshman Eric Atkins. Ware played the point exclusively last year and now has some help in Robinson, a transfer from Tennessee State. Atkins has been steady for ND through three games and shows a lot of promise. Replacing Tory Jackson is not easy but Atkins has done an admirable job so far. He’ll be a formidable four year player for Mike Brey. These teams are similar in terms of their numbers and style, but with Georgia probably missing Thompkins we like Notre Dame in this one. The Irish are deeper and more experienced, plus they should have a field day from behind the arc. That’ll be too much for a Georgia team, who struggled with Mississippi Valley State and St. Louis, to overcome.

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RTC Conference Primers: #5 – Southeastern Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2010

Jared Quillen of BigBlueCats.com 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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