Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SEC Preview

As always, it will be a wild and wacky year in the SEC. Who will reign supreme and what players from the Peach State are in the conference? We break it all down in our continued look at the nation.

SEC East

  1. Tennessee – Eight players that averaged more than 15 minutes a game return to the team and the Vols have added a pair of transfers that started in other power conferences before coming to Knoxville. This team could very well be playing for all the marbles in April.
  2. Kentucky – A new sheriff is in town and there seems to be some new life blood in Lexington. The backcourt depth is strong while the question marks are inside. Rookie Patrick Patterson will need to do a lot this year.
  3. Georgia – The Bulldogs finally have depth inside thanks to a giant recruiting class but off-season suspension could derail this team. The backcourt has experience and there is a chance that the Bulldogs could make the NCAA for the first time under Dennis Felton.
  4. Vanderbilt – The Commodores have a good base to work with as Shan Foster returns for his senior year. He'll have help around the cup with super Aussie freshman Andy Ogilvy inside. It doesn't hurt that Kevin Stallings is one of the best coaches in the league either.
  5. Florida – After back-to-back National Championships, the Gators are starting from scratch. The team boasts the top overall recruiting class and the youngsters will need to help right from the start. Depth and inexperience are the two biggest concerns.
  6. South Carolina – The Gamecocks lost the three top scorers from last year's team but add Cincinnati transfer Devan Downey. He'll score plenty but have size concerns and inexperience.

SEC West

  1. Arkansas – Six seniors with valuable experience, one of the most dynamic guards in the nation in Patrick Beverly, a new coach and high expectations. Should be a very interesting year in Fayetteville.
  2. Mississippi State – The Bulldogs have the conference's most difficult player to defend in Jamont Gordon, who could be the SEC Player of the Year. Rick Stansbury has plenty of long, lanky and athletic players to work with, too.
  3. Auburn – Balance, experience and depth have the Tigers looking strong coming into the season. It would be a big surprise to see Jeff Lebo's club make a run for the NCAA tournament at the season's end.
  4. Alabama – Richard Hendrix is the conference's best big man but losing point guard Ron Steele could derail their flow. Alonzo Gee is the biggest sleeper in the conference.
  5. LSU – The star power is gone but the balance and versatility is the strength of this club this year. Tasmin Mitchell is one of the most versatile players in the nation while Garrett Temple and Terry Martin give the team size on the wings.
  6. Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy, in his first year at the helm, coached up his squad and won 21 games last year. This year, the team is younger and deeper. Look for a big year out of Florida transfer David Huertas, sophomore Eneil Polynice and freshman Malcolm White.

Preseason All-Conference

Chris Lofton, Tennessee, Sr., Guard

Patrick Beverly, Arkansas, Soph., Guard

Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State, Jr., Guard

Richard Hendrix, Alabama, Jr., Forward

Shan Foster, Vanderbilt, Sr., Forward

Lofton is the most deadly scorer in the league and should be the go-to guy once again for the Vols, one of the best teams in the nation. Gordon is the toughest player to defend and does it all (16 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.3 apg). Beverly proved himself as one of the most dynamic scorers returning to the SEC while Hendrix, the top returning rebounder in the conference, and Foster (15.6 ppg) are the best two players at their respective positions.

Player of the Year

Chris Lofton, Tennessee

The sharp-shooter will likely be the top scorer again for the Vols and the expectations are sky high for the senior and his teammates. Expect him to go out with a bang. The Kentucky native may take a hit in his scoring from last year but it will be a sacrifice as Tennessee could be playing for a National Championship with more depth.

Freshman of the Year

Patrick Patterson, Kentucky

The Wildcats need some help inside and the West Virginia native is certainly capable of stepping right in and making an impact. He embodies his state's blue collar mentality and should contribute right away.

Preseason All-Freshmen Team

Patrick Patterson, Kentucky

Andrew Ogilvy, Vanderbilt

Rico Pickett, Alabama

Alex Tyus, Florida

Nick Calathes, Florida

Several teams will lean on rookies and that is why the All-Freshman team could have up to a dozen different candidates for the first team.

NCAA tournament teams

Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi State

Top NBA prospect

Andrew Ogilvy, Vanderbilt

The Australian import may only be a freshman but the 7-footer has already caught the eye of pro scouts with his play over the summer at the FIBA U19 World Championships. He posted big time numbers at the event (22.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game).

Georgia connection

Senario Hillman, Alabama (Wilkinson County)

Korvotney Barber, Auburn (Manchester)

Rasheem Barrett, Auburn (Marist)

Matt Heramb, Auburn (Chapel Hill)

Archie Miaway, Auburn (Norcross/JC)

Quan Prowell, Auburn (Jordan)

Corey Butler, Georgia (Cross Keys)

Billy Humphrey, Georgia (Dacula)

Mike Mercer, Georgia (South Gwinnett)

Chris Barnes, Georgia (Riverdale)

Jeremy Price, Georgia (Columbia)

Zac Swansey, Georgia (Dunwoody)

Ricky McPhee, Georgia (Parkview)

Jodie Meeks, Kentucky (Norcross)

Trevor Gaskins, Ole Miss (Chattahoochee)

Zach Graham, Ole Miss (Peachtree Ridge)

Dominique Archie, South Carolina (Josey)

Dwayne Day, South Carolina (Montgomery County)

Austin Steed, South Carolina (Butler)

Cameron Tatum, Tennessee (Tucker/Patterson School)