Thursday, November 20, 2008

SEC 2008-09 College Basketball Preview

Predicted Order of Finish

Once again, the meat of the SEC schedule will take place on the East side of the bracket. While the East features quite a few teams hoping to stick around long enough to make some noise in March, the winner of the West figures to be the team that can out-struggle the opposition to a .500 record. Perhaps finishing a game over .500 earns the West winner an NCAA tournament berth.

SEC East
1. Tennessee – Bruce Pearl loses two senior guards to graduation and two other major contributors to immaturity, and yet this Vol team may be every bit as dangerous as the team from the last two years.2. Florida – Nick Calathes leads the charge for a very young, but talented Gator squad that should return to the NCAA tournament following a one-year hiatus.
3. Kentucky – A rough start to the Billy Gillespie era in Lexington, but Patrick Patterson will lead the Wildcats’ charge back to national prominence.
4. Vanderbilt – While this will be an extraordinarily young Commodore team (no seniors, two juniors), the youngsters have a lot of potential, and Kevin Stallings will make the most of it.
5. South Carolina – Darrin Horn takes over a very small team in Columbia. A couple players under 6-foot in the backcourt, a center at 6-7 and not much other size or depth will doom the ‘Cocks to a lower division finish.
6. Georgia – There is always some kind of drama going on for the Bulldogs under Dennis Felton. Players injured, dismissed or otherwise underachieving. No reason to believe this year will be any different.

SEC West
1. Alabama – If Ronald Steele can return to a modicum of health, he is surrounded by enough talent to return the Tide to the tourney. If not, well, they’re still probably good enough to win the West.
2. Mississippi State – Jarvis Varnado will anchor the Bulldogs defense with his intimidating presence, but they will need to find offense somewhere.
3. Mississippi – Andy Kennedy loses some major contributors, but the combination of some excellent returning guards and some talented freshman will keep the Rebels competitive.
4. LSU – Trent Johnson takes over a mixed bag of a roster in Baton Rouge. While there is talent, the lack of consistent depth may be a problem.
5. Arkansas – After losing a boatload of players to graduation, John Pelfrey had to kick Patrick Beverly off the team in the offseason, leaving a very young Razorback squad behind.
6. Auburn – Injuries, graduations and dismissals have sapped a lot of the promise out of Jeff Lebo’s roster. Perhaps the newcomers will change the direction of the program

Preseason All-Conference

First Team
PG Nick Calathes So Florida
SG Tasmin Mitchell Sr LSU
SF Tyler Smith Jr Tennessee
PF Patrick Patterson So Kentucky
C Jarvis Varnado Jr Mississippi State

Second Team
PG Ronald Steele Sr Alabama
PG Devan Downey Jr South Carolina
SF Alonzo Gee Sr Alabama
SF Scotty Hopson Fr Tennessee
C Andrew Ogilvy So Vanderbilt

Third Team
PG Bobby Maze Jr Tennessee
SG Eniel Polynice Jr Mississippi
SF Dominique Archie Jr South Carolina
PF Michael Washington Jr Arkansas
C Wayne Chism Jr Tennessee

All Freshman Team
PG DeAndre Liggins Kentucky
SG Rotnei Clarke Arkansas
SF Scotty Hopson Tennessee
SF Lance Goulbourne Vanderbilt
PF Jamychal Green Alabama

Preseason Tournament Tie-Ins

Alabama – Maui Invitational
Possible Opponents: Oregon , North Carolina/Chaminade, Notre Dame/St. Joe’s/Texas

Florida – CBE Classic
Possible Opponents: Syracuse, Kansas/Washington

Georgia – NIT Season Tip-Off
Possible Opponents: Eastern Michigan, Purdue, Boston College, Oklahoma/Davidson/Arizona

Kentucky – Las Vegas Invitational
Possible Opponents: Kansas State, Iowa/West Virginia

Mississippi State – Legend’s Classic
Possible Opponents: Washington State, Pitt/Texas Tech

Tennessee – Old Spice Classic
Possible Opponents: Siena, Georgetown/Wichita State, Maryland/Michigan State/Gonzaga/Oklahoma State

Vanderbilt – Cancun Challenge
Possible Opponents: Drake, Virginia Commonwealth/New Mexico

Top 10 Non- Conference Games
11/18 Kentucky @ North Carolina
So, no one expects Kentucky to beat Carolina. It’s still UK/UNC.
12/6 Miami @ Kentucky
The Wildcats get a shot at an ACC team that is more their speed.
12/7 Florida @ Florida State
Not much of a non-conference schedule for the Gators again, but this in-state matchup should provide fireworks.
12/13 Texas A&M @ Alabama
This is the kind of game Alabama needs to win in order to ensure a return to the NCAA tournament.
12/16 Marquette @ Tennessee
Tennessee has a brutal non-conference schedule, and this should be a high-paced affair.
12/18 Mississippi @ Louisville
One heck of a tough road trip for the Rebels, but a game that will provide a good gauge for how far they have left to go.
1/3 Tennessee @ Kansas
Tough roadie to open the new year for the Vols against the defending champion.
1/6 Texas @ Arkansas
A border war, but the Hogs may be overmatched here.
1/7 Gonzaga @ Tennessee
Tennessee hosts a Zag team with eyes on a bigger prize than the WCC title.
1/24 Memphis @ Tennessee
If this game is anything like last year’s battle, we will be in for a treat.

Predicted NCAA Tournament Invites (5):
Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Alabama

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