SEC Basketball season is just around the corner and while the REbels may not be much of a factor I still have to blog about it. So far the season has been pretty much what I have expected, poor. It's never going to be easy for a conference to rebound when so many teams lost influential players. The Chris Loftons, Richard Hendrixes and Cavemen of the SEC have left and a host of new players are being counted on to compete and they just don't seem to be ready yet. The SEC is a year or two away from being back to par in basketball competitiveness.
From a conference viewpoint it is pretty evident who the leading team is, but after Tennessee the pecking order gets a little hazy. Here is The One That Got Away's expert ill informed Power Ranking and Team Overviews for the 2009 SEC season.
The SEC's best from last season will start the season atop of the SEC power rankings. The Vols do have three losses and teams like Arkansas, LSU and Florida have better records, but looking at strength of schedule you have to believe the Vols are the team to beat in the SEC. The Vols fell victim to the Zags and KU in Lawrence, a game played without big man Wayne Chism, so do not write off the Vols because of their record. JaJuan Smith and Lofton are huge blows to this team's three point prowess and leadership but the return of Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism and the addition of some stout freshmen have the Vols in a good position for a run during SEC play.
Signature Win: Georgetown
Notable Loss: Gonzaga
2. Arkansas (EDIT)
I was wrong about these guys it appears. With wins over Texas and OU (haha Big 12) these guys deserve the number two, if not the number one ranking. I'll stick to what I said earlier about OU being a one man show and that they will be exposed more in conference play, but I'll give Arkansas credit where credit is due. They've exceeded what I thought they would do this season, I had them pinned in the SEC cellar with Georgia before the start of the season. With the indefinite suspension of Beverly and losing the twin Neanderthals, Townes and Hill, to graduation I figured the Hogs were in full rebuilding mode. Michael Washington and Courtney Fortson have been able to prove me wrong though. Watch out for Washington this season by the way, he is coming off some strong performances and had a disgusting dunk in the Texas game to seal the victory for the Hogs.
I am not sold on the Gators and was tempted to put Kentucky ahead of them. the loss of Speights is going to hurt them. While Calathes ia a great player, I don't think him and his supporting cast is enough for the Gators to make a splash on the national scene. While the Gators may post a pretty strong conference record don't let it fool you in March. Other than Calthes and Tyus no one the Gator roster stands out to me. Dan Werner's ability to stretch the floor as a big is nice, but with the influx of athletic 4/5s in the SEC he should not be as effective. Walter Hodge is also a solid player, but I don't see enough talent on htis team be a threat outside of the SEC.
4. Maybe I am just too big of a cynic but I was not sure why LSU got so much preseason love after their horrible year last season, and losing Anthony Randolph to the NBA draft. Marcus Thornton and the return of Tasmin Mitchell have been the story behind the Tiger's success. LSU has a pretty good starting five but I think their bench could be their major flaw during conference play.
Signature Win: Washington State (ehh)
Notable Loss: Texas A&M
5. Kentucky Wildcats
If you haven't been able to tell I'm not much for out of conference records. They're misleading. Kentucky is 11-4 on the season but is a much better basketball team than their record. Their losses have been to respectable teams too (UNC, Miami, VMI and a three point loss to UL). Vandy and South Carolina can post arguments to be ranked ahead of the Billy Gillespie experience but judging the three teams on potential and talent I have to give Kentucky the nod. Jodie Meeks has stepped up his game is in the tops in the SEC in scoring and Pat Patterson is playing like everyone expected. The wild card for this team during conference play is going to be the performance of freshman Deandre Liggins. I struggled with where to place Kentucky, I thought about going as high as three, but I think 5 will be good for right now. They probably will be the quickest to rise in the power rankings though if they start out the SEC schedule well, Billy Gillespie held me back from putting them higher.
Signature Win: West Virginia
Notable Loss: North Carolina
6. Vanderbilt Commodores
A.J. Ogilvy leads the 'Dores into the bottom spot in the top half of the SEC power rankings. The loss of Shan Foster really takes away from the 'Dores versatility. The inside-out game with him and Ogilvy was often worked to perfection and it is going to be hard for them to replace that. Shan was their go to guy last year and had one of the best shooting touches I have seen in awhile. They also lost their back up point guard Keegan Bell to a transfer. Still, Vandy can make a run in the SEC behind Jermain Beal and Ogilvy.
Signature Win: UMass
Notable Loss: Illinois