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2009-10 College Basketball Preview: SEC


Written by Paul Banks of NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, and David Kay of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
All other e-mail, including advertising and link proposals, send to: wpc112@gmail.com



SEC EAST

1. Kentucky (T-4th in SEC East, 8-8 in SEC, 20-13 overall, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:

People called me out when I picked Kentucky as a top-five team in my post-NCAA Tournament top 25 rankings in April. Now, they are a sexy pick by practically every publication I have seen to be a legitimate NCAA Championship contender. Can I say I told you so? John Calipari’s hiring did exactly what it was supposed to do; attract the best freshman class in the country led by top-five recruits John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Add in several talented returning players including Patrick Patterson who briefly tested the NBA waters this summer, and the Wildcats are going to be good, really good. Like 12-deep good. Like their back-ups could probably form a starting five that would carry a team to the NCAA Tournament-good. In case you can’t tell, I think the sky is the limit for this team.

Projected Depth Chart

C: DeMarcus Cousins (Fr)/Daniel Orton (Fr)/Josh Harrellson (Jr)

PF: Patrick Patterson (Jr)/Perry Stevenson (Sr)

G/F: Ramon Harris (Sr)/Jon Hood (Fr)

G/F: Darius Miller (So)/Darnell Dodson (So)/DeAndre Liggins (So)

PG: John Wall (Fr)/Eric Bledsoe (Fr)

Gone: SG-Jodie Meeks, PG-Michael Porter, SF-Kevin Galloway (transfer-Texas Southern), A.J. Stewart (transfer-Texas State)

Player to Watch: Wall- He’s going to be the first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. No doubt. Wall has Derrick Rose-style game and should absolutely thrive in Coach Cal’s dribble drive motion offense. In fact, I fully expect him to have a Rose-type impact for Kentucky this season. (And yes, he is the most likely candidate to replace Tyreke Evans and the player I will gush about until people are sick of hearing it this season.)

2. Tennessee (T-1st, 10-6, 21-12, NCAA First Round)

2009-2010 Outlook:

When you look back at the 2008-2009 season, the overall outcome for the Vols was disappointing. But give credit to Tennessee for playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. That should all pay off this year as everybody is back for the king of sweating through orange suit coats, Bruce Pearl. Two things will be key for the Volunteers this season; playing as one unit and being consistent on a nightly basis. Their athleticism and all-around versatility makes them a tough match-up for anybody, but can they pull it all together? I say yes, and that they are a top-10 caliber team this season. If not, they still boast Wayne Chism, who rocks the headband better than any other player in the history of basketball.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Wayne Chism (Sr)/Brian Williams (Jr)

F: Tyler Smith (Sr)/Emmanuel Negedu (So)/Kenny Hall (Fr)

G/F: J.P. Prince (Sr)/Renaldo Woolridge (So)/Steven Pearl (Jr)

SG: Scotty Hopson (So)/Cammeron Tatum (So)

PG: Bobby Maze (Sr)/Josh Tabb (Sr)/Melvin Goins (Jr)

Gone: Nobody

Player to Watch: Hopson- The former McDonald’s All-American was a major get for Pearl and the most prized recruit the Vols landed in a decade. The talent was visible last season, but only in spurts. Too often, Hopson was trigger happy with his jump shot or seemed uncertain about what his role was last season. That is to be expected of a freshman playing with upperclassmen, but this season I expect those jitters to be worked out and for Hopson to use his crazy athleticism and pretty jumper to become more of a threat for Tennessee.

3. Florida (3rd, 9-7, 23-10, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:

While the Gators had their bubble burst on Selection Sunday last season, don’t expect that to happen this year. That isn’t to say the off-season was uneventful. Nick Calathes left school to play professionally in Greece while talented redshirt freshman center Eloy Vargas decided to transfer. Alex Tyus chose to transfer but then changed his mind and decided to stay in Gainesville. In the end, Billy Donovan returns some nice talent which includes Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin and highly recruited freshman two-guard Kenny Boyton who is a big-time talent. The Gators should be a top 25 team all season long.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Vernon Macklin (Jr)/Kenny Kadji (So)

F: Dan Werner (Sr)/Chandler Parsons (Jr)

F: Alex Tyus (Jr)/Erik Murphy (Fr)/Adam Allen (So)

SG: Kenny Boynton (Fr)/Ray Shipman (So)

PG: Erving Walker (So)/Nimrod Tishman (Fr)/Kyle McClanahan (So)

Gone: PG-Nick Calathes, G-Walter Hodge, F-Allan Chaney (transfer-Virginia Tech), Eloy Vargas (transfer)

Player to Watch: Walker- Despite standing just 5’8” tall, Walker emerged as a big-time player his first season at Florida being named to the SEC All-Freshman team. He was the Gators’ third leading scorer, best three-point threat, and eventually worked his way into the starting line-up by the end of the year. He will take over the point guard responsibilities from the departed Calathes and should form a potent backcourt with Boynton.



4. Vanderbilt

2009-2010 Outlook:

With all the hype and national exposure Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida get, Vanderbilt is definitely flying under the radar this pre-season. They bring back eight of their top nine players from last season and get Andre Walker back from an ACL injury that ended his season just three games into 2008. The Commadores have a skilled big man in A.J. Ogilvy and talented backcourt with Brad Tinsley and Jermaine Neal. Vandy may not have the big name players of the other teams in the SEC East, but shouldn’t be slept on and could easily be dancing come tourney time.

Projected Depth Chart

C: A.J. Ogilvy (Jr)/Festus Ezeli (So)

F: Andre Walker (So)/Darshawn McClellan (Jr)/Steve Tchiengang (So)/Joe Duffy (Jr)

SF: Jeffery Taylor (So)/Lance Goulbourne (So)

G: Brad Tinsley (So)/John Jenkins (Fr)

G: Jermaine Beal (Sr)/Charles Hinkle (So)

Gone: G-George Drake (transfer-UAB)

Player to Watch: Ogilvy- The Aussie big man has been on NBA scouts radars since arriving at Vanderbilt. After a stand-out freshman campaign, Ogilvy’s production took a slight drop during his sophomore season. Still, he is a skilled big man with a nice touch around the basket and is a true post presence which many SEC teams lack.

5. South Carolina (1st, 10-6, 21-10, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Despite finishing with the second best record in the SEC, the Gamecocks failed to make the NCAA Tournament and were ousted in the first round of the NIT by Davidson. South Carolina returns seven of their top eight scorers from a year ago, yet are still my pick to finish fifth in the SEC East because their talent just doesn’t match with the teams ahead of them. SC did get good news this summer when Dominique Archie and Devin Downey decided to pull their names out of the NBA Draft.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Mike Holmes (Jr)/Austin Steed (Jr)

PF: Sam Muldrow (Jr)/Johndre Jefferson (Fr)

SF: Dominique Archie (Sr)/ Lakeen Jackson (Fr)/Evaldas Baniulis (Sr)

SG: Brandis Raley-Ross (Sr)/Steve Spinella (Fr)

PG: Devin Downey (Sr)/Ramon Galloway (Fr)/Robert Wilder (Sr)

Gone: G-Zam Frederick, G-Branden Conrad

Player to Watch: Downey- The Gamecocks leading scorer from a year ago at nearly 20 points per game, Downey is a crafty scorer despite standing just 5’9. With second leading scorer Zam Frederick graduated, Downey will need to carry the offensive load again and even take it up a notch if South Carolina is to somehow get into the tourney.

6. Georgia (6th, 3-13, 12-20)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Georgia wasn’t very good last year and they are not going to be any better this year. Head coach Dennis Felton was fired in January and replaced this off-season by Nevada head coach Mark Fox. Fox was a solid choice to take over the program but will need a couple years before the Bulldogs are truly competitive in the SEC.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Albert Jackson (Sr)/Drazen Zlarovic (So)

PF: Chris Barnes (Jr)/Jeremy Price (Jr)

F: Trey Thompkins (So)/Tyler Whatley (Sr)

G: Ricky McPhee (Sr)/Travis Leslie (So)/DeMario Mayfield (Fr)

G: Dustin Ware (So)/Vincent Williams (Fr)/Ebuka Anyaorah (Fr)

Gone: SF-Terrance Woodbury, SG-Corey Butler, PG-Zac Swansey (transfer-Tennessee Tech), SG-Troy Brewer (transfer-American)

Player to Watch: Thompkins- One of the few bright spots from a year ago, Thompkins nearly transferred out of Georgia this summer. Instead of switching schools, he decided to stay at his home state school and will have every chance to be the star of this team. He is a 6-10 combo forward who can score from anywhere on the floor and isn’t afraid to battle down low with other bigs. Thompkins has a chance to develop into a solid NBA prospect and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his final year in Athens.





SEC WEST

1. Mississippi State (3rd, 9-7, 23-13, NCAA First Round)

2009-2010 Outlook:

The important pieces are back from a Bulldog team that rattled off four wins in as many days to capture the SEC Tournament title and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Shot blocking machine Jarvis Varnado is back to anchor a talented, physical group of post players (especially if freshman Renardo Sidney is eligible to play. More on him in a second.) The guard play is also very skilled as Bost, Stewart, and Johnson all averaged double figures a year ago. Mississippi State should be a top 25 team all season long.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Jarvis Varnado (Sr)/John Riek (Fr)/Wendell Lewis (Fr)

F: Renardo Sidney (Fr)/Romero Osby (So)/Elgin Bailey (Jr)

G/F: Ravern Johnson (Jr)/Kodi Augustus (Jr)/Twany Beckham (So)

SG: Barry Stewart (Sr)/ Riley Benock (Jr)/Shaunessy Smith (Fr)

PG: Dee Bost (So)/Phil Turner (Jr)

Gone: F/C-Brian Johnson

Player to Watch: Sidney- At 6-10, 260 pounds, Sidney is a beast of a college freshman. Combined with Varnado, they would form a twin tower tandem that would be one of the best in the country. Problem is; Sidney has yet to be cleared by the NCAA due to questions regarding possible money received by his family while Sidney was in high school. That concern is why several major colleges stopped recruiting him. He is allowed to practice with the team and if or when he is given the okay to play, could be the difference maker that not only makes MSU an SEC title contender, but a major player nationally.

2. Mississippi (T-4th, 7-9, 16-15)

2009-2010 Outlook:

A season ending injury to Chris Warren put a damper on the Rebels 2008-2009 season. Warren is back and healthy, but Ole Miss lost David Huertas who decided to play professionally in his native Puerto Rico. Still, the backcourt of White and Warren should be good enough to lead this team to an NCAA berth. If the other players can develop into the roles, the Rebels could be a major sleeper.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: DeAundre Cranston (Sr)/DeAngelo Riley (Fr)/Kevin Canintol (So)

PF: Murphy Holloway (So)/Terrance Henry (So)/Reggie Buckner (Fr)

G: Zach Graham (Jr)/Eniel Polynice (Jr)

SG: Terrico White (So)/Trevor Gaskins (So)/Michael Halford (Fr)

PG: Chris Warren (Jr)/Will Bogan (So)

Gone: G-David Huertas, F-Malcolm White (transfer-LSU)

Player to Watch: White- He could be the best player in college basketball that you haven’t heard of. White helped lead the US-19 team to a gold medal this summer at the World Championships and really established himself as a future star. Due to a season ending injury to Warren last year, White was forced to play a lot of point guard. He will shift back to the wing this season and is ready to burst onto the national scene and lead Ole Miss to the tourney.

3. Alabama (T-4th, 7-9, 18-14)

2009-2010 Outlook:

Last season’s finish doesn’t look that terrible when you take into consideration the career-ending injury to Ronald Steele and resignation of head coach Mark Gottfried in January. ‘Bama made a great choice in hiring VCU head coach Anthony Grant to lead the program. Grant is hoping to play an up-tempo style and returns some nice talent in Green, Torrance, and Hillman, but likely lacks the punch to seriously threaten for a conference crown or trip to the Big Dance. Point guard play will be an area of concern to keep an eye on.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Justin Knox (Jr)/Demetrius Jemison (Sr-torn ACL, out for year)

F: JaMychal Green (So)/Tony Mitchell (Fr)/Shawn Kemp Jr. (Fr)

G/F: Mikhail Torrance (Sr)/Chris Hines (Jr)

G-Senario Hillman (Jr)/Andrew Steele (So)/Charvez Davis (Jr)

PG- Anthony Brock (Sr)/Ben Eblen (Fr)

Gone: SG-Alonzo Gee, PG-Ronald Steele, G-Brandon Hollinger, F-Yamene Coleman (Transfer-Troy)

Player to Watch: Green- The 6’9 forward put up solid numbers in his freshman year, averaging 10.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game despite only playing about 25 minutes a night. His court time should increase this season, especially with the season-ending injury to Demetrius Jemison, which should make him a more dangerous threat on both ends of the floor.



4. Arkansas (6th in SEC W, 2-14 in SEC, 14-16 overall)

2009-2010 Outlook:

A 12-1 start, including upset wins against top-ten teams Oklahoma and Texas had many hopping on the Hogs bandwagon. That bandwagon lost it’s wheels very quickly though as Arkansas tanked in the second half of the season, losing 15 of the final 17 games. Their starting five in still in tact, but transfers has forced their bench to go through a makeover. The talent is there with future NBA’er Michael Washington and trio of guards in Courtney Fortson, Rotnei Clarke, and Stefan Walsh.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Michael Washington (Sr)/Delvon Johnson (Jr)

F: Michael Sanchez (So)/Marshawn Powell (Fr)/Glenn Bryant (Fr)

G: Stefan Welsh (Sr)/Jemel Farmer (Jr)

G: Rotnei Clarke (So)/Marcus Britt (Jr)

PG: Courtney Fortson (So)/Julysess Nobles (Fr)

Gone: G/F-Jason Henry (transfer), F-Andre Clark (transfer), F-Brandon Moore (transfer)

Player to Watch: Fortson- Coming off an impressive freshman year in which he averaged about 15 points, 6 assists, and 5 boards a game, Fortson has the potential to be a special player. With Clarke and Walsh on his side, and a serviceable back-up guard in Marcus Britt, Fortson doesn’t have to do too much, but may need to if the Razorbacks are going to be a conference contender.

5. Auburn (2nd, 10-6, 24-12, NIT)

2009-2010 Outlook:

After a pedestrian 13-9 start to last season, things started clicking at Auburn as they won eight of their final nine games and made a decent run in the NIT. They lose three starters from that team and usher in a new crop of young talent to back-up a starting five filled with seniors. I can’t see them putting a stretch together like they did at the end of last season but should be a middle of the pack SEC team.

Projected Depth Chart

C: Brendon Knox (Sr)/Rob Chubb (Fr)

PF: Johnnie Lett (Sr)/Ty Armstrong (Fr)/Ken Gabriel (So)

SF: Lucas Hargrove (Sr)/Tony Neysmith (So)

G: Tay Waller (Sr)/Andre Malone (Fr)/Earnest Ross (Fr)

PG: DeWayne Reed (Sr)/Frankie Sullivan (So)

Gone: F-Korvontey Barber, G-Rasheem Barrett, PG-Quantez Robertson

Player to Watch: Waller- A gunner in every sense of the word, Waller attempted ten of more three-pointers in ten games last season. He shot a respectable 37% from deep and will need to provide that long-range threat along with returning starting point guard DeWayne Reed if Auburn is to make any noise in the conference.

6. LSU (1st, 13-3, 26-7, NCAA Second Round)

2009-2010 Outlook:

From first to worst, the Tigers lose five of their top seven players from a year ago and will undergo some growing pains this season. They nearly lost six of their top seven but Tasmin Mitchell pulled his name out of the draft and decided to return for his senior season. He and point guard Bo Spencer will be asked to carry the load while the new starters try to fill the void left by the likes of Marcus Thornton and Chris Johnson.

Projected Depth Chart

F/C: Garrett Green (So)/Eddie Ludwig (Fr)

F: Tasmin Mitchell (Sr)/Dennis Harris (Fr)

F: Storm Warren (So)/Zach Kinsley (So)

G: Chris Bass (So)/Aaron Doston (Fr)/Alex Farrer (Sr)

PG: Bo Spencer (Jr)

Gone: C-Chris Johnson, SG-Marcus Thornton, G-Garrett Temple, SG-Terry Martin, PF-Quinton Thornton, F-Delwan Graham

Player to Watch: Mitchell- After missing most of the 2007-2008 season due to a stress fracture in his shin bone (OUCH), Mitchell had a great comeback year last season averaging more than 16 points and 7 rebounds per game and earning first team All-SEC honors. He has NBA potential and could average around 20 points per game this season with all the new talent trying to step into bigger roles.

All-SEC First Team

(POY) Terrico White, Mississippi

Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State

Tyler Smith, Tennessee

Devan Downey, South Carolina

Tasmin Mitchell, LSU

Patrick Patterson, Kentucky

Michael Washington, Arkansas

Chris Warren, Mississippi

All-SEC Second Team

Andrew Ogilvy, Vanderbilt

John Wall, Kentucky

JaMychal Green, Alabama

Trey Thompkins, Georgia

Courtney Fortson, Arkansas

Wayne Chism, Tennessee

Erving Walker, Florida

Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt

Dee Bost, Mississippi State

DeWayne Reed, Auburn

All-SEC Freshman Team

(ROY) John Wall, Kentucky

Kenny Boynton, Florida

DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky

Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State

Lakeem Jackson, South Carolina

Ben Eblen, Alabama

Aaron Dotson, LSU

Daniel Orton, Kentucky

All-SEC Defensive Team

(DPOY) Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State

Dominique Archie, South Carolina

Devan Downey, South Carolina

Jermaine Beal, Vanderbilt

Michael Washington, Alabama

SEC Coach of the Year

John Calipari, Kentucky

SEC Sixth Man of the Year

Perry Stevenson, Kentucky



Written by Paul Banks of NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, and David Kay of the The Sports Bank.
Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
All other e-mail, including advertising and link proposals, send to: wpc112@gmail.com




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