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October 31, 2011
League preview: SEC
We continue with our league breakdowns for the upcoming season; we'll work backward from league No. 32 to our top-ranked league.
The breakdowns have become more in-depth as the leagues get bigger.
Maybe this is the season that SEC basketball is something that SEC football programs can be proud of.
The SEC rules the college football landscape, but it certainly isn't that way in basketball - at least not yet. This season, though, three teams look to have legitimate hopes of finishing in the top 10: Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt. And Alabama and Mississippi State look to have enough talent to finish in the top 20.
Kentucky returns F Terrence Jones, who bypassed the NBA draft to stay in school, and adds yet another top-flight recruiting class, one filled with a stud point guard (Marquis Teague), a stud forward (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and a stud big man (Anthony Davis). Throw in shooting guard Doron Lamb, and the Wildcats look to have five future NBA players. Depth looks good, too.
Florida might have the nation's best backcourt, with holdover Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker joined by newcomers Mike Rosario (a transfer from Rutgers who averaged more than 16 points in each of his two seasons with the Scarlet Knights) and Brad Beal (a highly touted freshman who might be the best pure shooter in the recruiting class).
Vanderbilt returns all five scorers, including super-smooth G John Jenkins, rapidly developing big man Festus Ezeli and all-around talent Jeffery Taylor. But Kevin Stallings needs to get his team to stop underachieving in March.
Alabama has an excellent frontcourt duo in JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, and coach Anthony Grant has a whole bunch of premier athletes who bear down on defense. But he has to find a consistent 3-pointer shooter - or two or three.
Mississippi State has a nice core group with G Dee Bost and enigmatic F Renardo Sidney. UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie should team with Sidney for a dynamic duo up front, but the Bulldogs are another team that needs to find a couple of outside shooters.
The race for the final spot in the top half of the conference should be exciting. Arkansas, with new coach Mike Anderson, might have the advantage. Former coach John Pelphrey, who again is an assistant at Florida, reeled in some talented players, but things never seemed to mesh. Perhaps Anderson, who enjoyed success at Missouri, can make that happen. He has an OK group of returnees and a solid freshman class. Ole Miss, which has yet to make the NCAA tourney under sixth-year coach Andy Kennedy, should be the Hogs' top competition for sixth place.
Georgia and Tennessee lost a lot of talent, and Tennessee also lost its coach when Bruce Pearl was shown the door in the wake of NCAA violations. Cuonzo Martin, who had been at Missouri State, takes over at Tennessee.
Auburn, LSU and South Carolina look as if they will be battling to avoid the cellar. LSU has the best incoming recruiting class among that trio, while South Carolina's best player, G Bruce Ellington, will arrive late, after the end of - what else? - the football season.
ALL-SEC 10 FIRST TEAM
ORDER OF FINISH
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Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.