2010 NCAA Tournament Preview: SEC



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  1. Florida (21-12)

    WHY TO LOVE: Florida has five players who average double figures: freshman guard Kenny Boynton (13.6 ppg), sophomore guard Erving Walker (12.6 ppg, 4.9 apg), junior forwards Chandler Parsons (12.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Alex Tyus (12.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), and junior center Vernon Macklin (10.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

    WHY TO HATE: The Gators as a whole don’t shoot well from beyond the arc; they hit 31.3 percent from downtown.

    Florida lacks depth; they go only six deep.

    THE VERDICT: Amazingly, this is Florida’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since its back-to-back championship. I’ll be surprised if the Gators win a game; they’re a young team that doesn’t shoot threes well.



  2. Kentucky (32-2)

    WHY TO LOVE: Freshman point guards don’t win the NCAA Tournament – unless they happen to be once-in-a-decade prospects. John Wall qualifies. Wall (16.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.2 apg) is one of the top players in the country and will be the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Mock Draft.

    Wall is joined by three other great players. They include 6-11 freshman DeMarcus Cousins (15.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg), 6-9 junior forward Patrick Patterson (14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 41.5 3PT) and freshman guard Eric Bledsoe (10.4 ppg, 35.5 3PT).

    Four Kentucky players hit better than 35 percent of their three-pointers: Patterson, Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson (37.2) and Darius Miller (37.5).

    For such a young team, a 7-2 road record is impressive. The Wildcats’ big victories outside of Lexington were at Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

    WHY TO HATE: Inexperience is the only issue here. If Kentucky’s top players were upperclassmen, they’d be the clear favorite to win the whole thing.

    Doesn’t fulfill all five requisites in the Portrait of a Champion (returning head coach, scored 76 ppg, 10+ margin of victory, in the tournament last year, seeded 1-4).

    THE VERDICT: The Wildcats will probably be in the Final Four, and despite their youth, they’ll be in the mix to win it all. I like Kansas and Ohio State more than Kentucky, but Wall, Cousins, Patterson and Bledsoe are so good that they could easily come out on top.

  3. Mississippi State*** (23-11)

    WHY TO LOVE: Jarvis Varnado is a beast. The 6-9 senior forward averages 13.5 ppg and 10.4 rpg, but more prominently, he’s the NCAA’s all-time leading shot-blocker. He gets 4.8 blocks per game.

    Vernado paces his team in scoring, but Mississippi State has three other guys who average double digits: junior guard Ravern Johnson (13.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg), sophomore point guard Dee Bost (12.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.3 apg) and senior guard Barry Stewart (11.7 ppg).

    Thanks in part to Vernado, the Bulldogs rebound the ball very well and play solid defense, allowing 64.6 ppg.

    Mississippi State takes tons of threes and hits 36.3 percent of them. Four regulars hit better than 35 percent: Johnson (40.9%), Bost (35.5), Stewart (35.4) and Kodi Augustus (38.1).

    WHY TO HATE: Mississippi State violates Rule No. 4 of my NCAA Tournament Credo; the team was 5-6 in away contests, and the only NCAA Tournament team they beat on the road was automatic bid Houston.

    The Bulldogs give the ball up a bit too much (13.0 turnovers per game).

    THE VERDICT: Mississippi State was overmatched against Washington in last year’s NCAA Tournament appearance. They’re better now, but their inability to win on the road scares me. I doubt they make it out of the first weekend, but a first-round upset isn’t out of the question.



  4. Tennessee (25-8)

    WHY TO LOVE: Senior swingman Tyler Smith was arrested a few months ago and left the team. The Vols didn’t buckle; instead, they showed great resolve and finished with a 12-5 run.

    With Smith gone, only two Tennessee players average in double figures – but they’re both very good. Tall (6-7) sophomore guard Scotty Hopson (13.1 ppg, 36.2 3PT) leads the team in scoring, while power forward Wayne Chism (12.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is the team leader.

    The Vols were just 5-5 on the road this year, but came away with some impressive victories at Mississippi State and Memphis.

    Tennessee plays frantic press defense. Teams with weaker ball-handlers will have no chance.

    WHY TO HATE: Same story, different year. The Vols take tons of three-pointers, but don’t hit any of them. They convert on just 32.2 percent of their long-distance attempts.

    Bruce Pearl is a decent coach, but has never advanced past the Sweet 16. His NCAA Tournament record at Tennessee stands at a pedestrian 5-4.

    THE VERDICT: Tennessee takes way too many unwarranted shots for my liking. They’ll probably win their first-round game, but I don’t like their chances of getting out of the first weekend.



  5. Vanderbilt (24-8)

    WHY TO LOVE: Vanderbilt has three players who average more than 13.5 points per game: senior guard Jermaine Beal (14.7 ppg, 3.1 apg), junior center A.J. Ogilvy (13.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and sophomore swingman Jeffrey Taylor (13.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg).

    The Commodores shoot the three fairly well (36.1 percent as a team). Beal nails 37.5 percent of his attempts, but the story here is freshman sharp-shooter John Jenkins, who somehow drills 46.7 percent of his long-distance shots.

    Vanderbilt went 8-3 on the road. Impressive victories came at Saint Mary’s and Tennessee.

    Head coach Kevin Stallings has coached three Vanderbilt teams to 22-plus wins. Two of those squads advanced to the Sweet 16.

    WHY TO HATE: Vanderbilt rebounds poorly and doesn’t play good defense (69.3 ppg allowed).

    Four of Vanderbilt’s top six scorers are underclassmen.

    Doesn’t fulfill all five requisites in the Portrait of a Champion (returning head coach, scored 76 ppg, 10+ margin of victory, in the tournament last year, seeded 1-4).

    THE VERDICT: The Commodores are a pretty good team that has a solid chance to advance to the Sweet 16. I’ll probably have them losing in the second round because of all of their inexperience, but they could easily advance to the second weekend.



2011 NCAA Tournament Picks:
Sweet 16 Redo | East | West | Southwest | Southeast | Final Four | Winning Tips | 2011 NCAA Tournament Home
2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdowns:
West | East | Southwest | Southeast | Final Four | Schedule
2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Breakdowns:
West | Southeast |
2011 NCAA Tournament Preview:
ACC | Atlantic 10 | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Mid-Majors | Mountain West | Pac 10 | SEC



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