2007-2008 SEC Conference Preview
For the third conference in this series we move on to the high powered SEC Conference. The SEC may be a bigger player in the country when it comes to football, but they have won the championship in back-to-back years. When it comes to certain preseason polls the SEC is over looked with just two teams in the top 25 and only one of those teams in the top ten. Now we will break it down team by team with expectations on the upcoming season.
The Florida Gators jumped into the elite of teams when they won back to back championships with a victory over Ohio St. last year. The question is will they reload or rebuild? They lost 10 letter winners from last year losing five starters. Billy Donovan jumped to Orlando before coming right back to Florida may have hurt his recruiting and Florida could be behind the eight ball this year with everyone gunning for the champs. Marreese Speights will lead the list of newcomers trying to make a difference for the Gators.
Vanderbilt finished a distant second with a decent record in the east and is looking to get a steady improvement this year. Unlike Florida the commodores return three starters and seven letter winners from last year’s squad. Shan Foster will be back as the team leader in points but the Commodores will need the new youngsters to take a serious role if they expect to take Florida’s spot as the team to beat in the East.
If you’re looking for a new team to take over the throne of the East from the Gators look no farther than the Tennessee Volunteers. Ever since Bruce Pearl was hired he has had a serious plan for this basketball team and it has gone brilliantly up to this point and this is the year they are ready to take the next step. Ranked in the top ten in many preseason polls, the Vols return four starters and eight letter winners to a team poised to make a move. Duke Crews has been the only bump in the road as he was suspended indefinitely for an altercation with the police. Pearl has experience and depth and the East is theirs to lose.
Kentucky basketball can only hope to make the splash that the Kentucky football team has made this year. They have headed in the right directions with the recent changes starting with the head coach Billy Gillispie who brings experience and a winning attitude. The first thing they may want to change is how they play on the road which was the Achilles heel of this team last year as they posted a weak record of 4-6 when playing away from Kentucky. For the team to be successful they must avoid the injury bug that already has bitten this team. They return three starters and an injury to Joe Crawford is already an issue. If they stay healthy and win on the road Kentucky can return to prominence.
The Georgia Bulldogs are off a horrible year where they went .500 in the SEC and managed to get ousted in the second round of the NIT. The good news is they return four starters from last year’s squad and this will bring some much needed experience to a team that needs to improve. Before you get too excited about Georgia basketball you have to take a look at recent breaking news. Georgia suspended three pivotal players for a big chunk of the season due to academic reasons. Although you applaud the integrity of the school, Georgia will have a lot of work to do to compete in an East division crowded with talent. Maybe next year Georgia.
The only place to go is up for a South Carolina team that finished with just four victories in conference play. The news may just get worse as they lose their top three scorers from a year ago. The good news is that they do have some transfers that are eligible to play this season and that should help this team out, the bad news is it looks like another long season for the Game Cocks as they miss the post season again and hope the success of the football team can get them some decent recruiting visits to build the future.
Mississippi St. played above most expectations last year by being Co-champions of the West and going to the semi finals in the NIT. This year they will have to work to improve on that with just two returning starters. The depth will be in place even though they lost some starters with seven letter men returning to this year’s squad. Head Coach Rick Stansbury is excited about the talent that he has returning this year, led by Jamont Gordon and the dogs will compete for the top spot in the West again
Ole Miss split the title last year with Mississippi St. but this year they want the title all to themselves. To have a great season and win the west they will have a lot of work on their hands. They only have two returning starters and will look to replace Todd Abernethy who led the SEC in assist to turnover ratio. The Rebels had a huge turn around in last year’s campaign, but this year they have too much to overcome with the loss of great players and lack of experience. The Rebels will make a bid for the NIT but may even fall short there this year.
John Pelphrey starts his first year at the helm for the Razorbacks and so far his recruiting has been excellent. He has experiences coaching under some of the best in Eddie Sutton and Billy Donovan and preaches toughness which will work well with a team that played defense so well. He also will have the privilege of getting a team that brings back all five starters from a year ago and nine top scorers and six of those nine scorers are seniors. The team made the big dance again and with the new coaching methodology and the youth mixed with experience the post season is a reality for the hogs. In fact the hogs are off back to back appearances at the big dance and 20 win seasons.
Auburn remembers last year very well and how close they were to winning the west. In fact they were 40 seconds shy of winning the division. This year they return all five starters from a team that defeated five nationally ranked clubs and is ready to make a run at the dance. They return all eight starters so will have depth and five of those eight averaged a double-double. This team is stocked with experience as it carries three seniors and four juniors. Auburn will look to play an up tempo game and with the depth and experience they will make a serious post season run.
Alabama is off a very tough year and it does not look to get better this year at least not any time soon. If you are a fan of the Crimsion Tide you would be better off buying tickets for the NIT because that will be their best shot at making the post season. Alabam had troubles on the road last year finishing the season at 1-7 on the road in SEC games and the schedule makers were not kind to them this year making them play the last six out of nine games on the road. That schedule and lack of a point guard will keep them out of the post season altogether.
LSU finished a woeful sixth in the West and with just three starters returning to the fold, it may be the women’s basketball team that deserves all the hype. The Tigers feel flat last year after only being two years removed from an unbelievable run in the big dance and are looking for redemption this year. With lack of experience to help them out look for them to shift the game plan and try to play to their strengths. Freshman Anthony Randolph has potential to crack the starting five out the gate, but don’t look for LSU to win the west, but they do have a shot of being a team in the dance if the chemistry and patience is there.
2007 Basketball Predictions: