2008 SEC Basketball Preview
The SEC East is a tough division with three teams expecting to get to the NCAA Tournament and two probably making it to the NIT. The lone club that will most likely sit out tournament time will be the Georgia Bulldogs. Last year, the Bulldogs, who finished last in the SEC East during the regular season, appeared in the Big Dance after surprising everyone and winning first-place in the SEC Tournament.
Although the Tennessee Volunteers lost a lot of talent, they still have a lot, including a fine frosh class. Watch newcomer Scotty Hopson; he’s expected to replace the points of guard Chris Lofton. Forward Tyler Smith is one of the best in the SEC.
The Kentucky Wildcats, who finished second last season, have a decent chance of doing the same this year. The Cats put some young guards on the court and they will definitely have to step up in order for this team to win. Sophomore forward Patrick Patterson brought a lot to the court in his freshman season and should bring even more in 2008-2009.
The Florida Gators ended up in fourth-place last year. This year, they could finish third or even second. Sophomore guard Nick Calathes will lead the team and four top 65 recruits add a whole lot of depth to this Gator squad. The NCAA Tournament is within their grasp.
The Commodores of Vanderbilt are still good but not as good as they were last season when they finished third. Sophomore A.J. Ogilvy, an extremely gifted player, returns. He’s the finest center in the entire SEC. Vandy also sees three top 100 freshmen join the team. These guys should be competitive for years to come, but this season expect to see them in the NIT.
Last season, the South Carolina Gamecocks finished fifth in the SEC East and stayed home for tournament season. This year, another fifth-place finish seems likely with the result being a bit different—a NIT appearance. Junior Devan Downey is the best player on this club. The Gamecocks have no new recruits.
A last-place finish for Georgia looks to be certain. The Bulldogs lost two of their best—Sundiata Gaines and Billy Humphrey—and have little with which to replace them.
The SEC West should see some teams simply flip, with those that finished at the bottom last season at the top this year and those that were at the top in 2007-2008 at the bottom in 2008-2009. Three clubs, Alabama, LUS and Ole Miss will most likely get tournament berths, while Auburn and Mississippi State should find their way to the NIT. Arkansas will be out of the post-season mix.
The Crimson Tide of Alabama finished next-to-last in 2007-2008. This season, with Alonzo Gee and Ronald Steele returning to the guard spots and frosh recruit JaMychal Green offering above the rim skills on offense and defense, the Tide should take the division crown.
The LSU Tigers were fourth last year. This year, they have the potential to end up in second-place. Forward Tasmin Mitchell and center Chris Johnson will control the frontcourt, while guard Marcus Thornton works the backcourt.
Last year, the Ole Miss Rebels were third in the division; they went to the NIT. This year the team will finish in third-place again, but they will have a good enough record to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Newcomer Terrico White is a gifted athlete with a fine shot. The Ole Miss backcourt, led by Chris Warren, is perhaps the best in the SEC West.
The Auburn Tigers move up a few spots, having ended up last in 2007-2008. If frontcourt vet Korvotney Barber can stay healthy, this team will have a good enough season to get to the NIT.
The Bulldogs of Mississippi State were tops in the West last season. This year, with the loss of three premium performers, they will struggle to stay out of the cellar. A fifth-place finish may be good enough to get them to the NIT.
Although the Arkansas Razorbacks finished second in the SEC West last year and have gone to the Big Dance three straight seasons, the team lost too many point scorers to do any better than dead last. This is a year for rebuilding. Next year they will get back to the tourney.
2008 SEC Basketball Predictions
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