SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament Preview-Let the Madness Begin!
As I head to Atlanta (not Catlanta) for the SEC Men’s Basketball tournament I thought it might be interesting (amusing, frustrating-you choose) to post a few thoughts about each team as we prepare to tipoff the “Second Season.” For a select few there will be a “Third Season” or postseason play in either the NCAA or NIT tournament (they still do have the NIT don’t they?)
I’ll run through the teams in alphabetical order and give a few anecdotal thoughts as they prepare for this week’s tournament.
Alabama-Surely the Tide was the surprise of the SEC season, winning the SEC West in convincing fashion. They did fade a bit down the stretch, but they are one of the favorites to win this event, and in fact, it would be their best way to punch their ticket to the big dance. Not winning could leave room for doubt with their triple-digit strength of schedule. This team is led by a freshman point guard, Trevor Releford, and a couple of talented insiders in Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green.
Arkansas-The Hogs are one of the hot and cold teams in the league. They scored solid wins, but also had embarrassing defeats. Their only ticket to the NCAA tourney is through winning on Sunday, and that is doubtful. The Hogs are led by Rotnei Clarke and Marshawn Powell. This could be the last Hog-call for John Pelphrey.
Auburn-The Tigers started out poorly and got a little better as the season went by. Not an extremely talented team, but injuries didn’t help either. Most Tiger fans are marking the days until football next fall. Next….
LSU-Another team that severely underperformed this year. Trent Johnson is on thin ice in Baton Rouge and I wonder who would want this role. John Brady recruited well, but could not coach. Not sure where Coach Johnson’s strength’s lie. Best bet is to catch a night football game next fall.
Ole Miss-The Rebels/Black Bears were less than promised this year and the pharaoh of the backcourt, Chris Warren, did the best he could with less than stellar support. I would not be buying a bigger house in the area if I were coach Andy Kennedy. They did win a few big games (Kentucky), but the rest of the season was a downer (loss at Auburn).
Mississippi State-This has been both funny and sad, with the controversy that continues to follow Renardo Sidney and the fight in December with Elgin Bailey. State has some talented players in Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost, but their chemistry is suspect. Not sure if the youngest Stansbury will graduate from high school in Starkville.
Florida-This Gator team has gotten better as the season has progressed and they are a balanced team now with Chandler Parsons, Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton holding down the perimeter and Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus controlling the paint. They will be hard to beat in Atlanta and could get to the round of 8 in the NCAA tourney.
Georgia-The Dogs were a little less than I expected this year, but they have ended up in the top half of the conference with a 9-7 record in conference. Travis Leslie is still as talented as they come and Trey Tompkins and Gerald Robinson both offer diverse dimensions for this team. They might surprise all of us and win the SEC party this weekend.
Kentucky-The Cats are a little down, but they are still the Cats. They have three stellar freshmen and a cadre of role players. Brandon Knight will last one more year in the Bluegrass, but Terence Jones may not make it to the sophomore year. Josh “Jorts” Harrelson has over performed for the Cats and his play will make or break them in Atlanta.
Tennessee-Could there be any more controversy in Knoxville? The vultures are swarming around coach Bruce Pearl and Athletic Director Mike Hamilton while Scotty Hopson continues his roller-coaster season. I have to wonder what Hopson could do if he were properly motivated. Bryan Williams absence due to back issues does not help and the Vols have to wish the tournament had been played in December 2010 and not now.
South Carolina-The Gamecocks peaked early with wins over Vandy and Florida, but they have come back to earth and had the kind of season we all suspected they might. Darrin Horn is a good coach, but he is not surrounded by great talent right now. Best bet is to become a baseball fan in Columbia.
Vanderbilt-The Commodores have become the ultimate “Jekyll and Hyde” team in the SEC with great performances on many occasions and flops against teams at home like Arkansas and Tennessee. I am not sure which team will show up in Season 2 and Season 3. What I am also afraid of is that other teams will see how vulnerable the Dores are defensively, especially John Jenkins. Florida has more talent than any other team in the league, but Jenkins could not stop anyone last Saturday in Nashville. He is the best scorer in the league, but in no way is he ready to play the 82 game schedule of the NBA. Same for Jeff Taylor-Great defense, but sometimes the offense is absent. Festus Ezeli and Brad Tinsley are the consistent players with good support from Lance Goulbourne when he is healthy.
I see two teams who have a real chance to win this tournament in Atlanta. The obvious choice is Florida, but my hunch is Georgia. Georgia is a talented team with essentially a home-court advantage.
My money would be on the Gators.