The calendar has switched to November and that means the start of college basketball. The SEC figures to be a much improved conference this season. Last year seven teams played in post season tournaments.
Alabama and Mississippi represented the SEC in the NIT Tournament. Ole Miss lost in the first round to California. Alabama made it all the way to the finals in New York City before losing to Wichita State.
Five SEC teams made it to the NCAA Tournament: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. Only Florida and Kentucky made it out of the first round. Florida would lose eventually to National Runner up Butler in the Elite Eight. Kentucky made it to the Final Four, but lost eventually to the National Champion Connecticut.
One thing to remember this year is that basketball is no longer broken down into divisions like football. It will be one whole league for the first time this year. That will put more emphasis on doing well come conference time.
So here is our 2011 – 12 SEC basketball preview.
We begin with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Last season was a big step in the second year under Anthony Grant. The Tide really deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament, but made the most of their NIT run. With the return of JaMychal Green, big things are expected this year. Along with them will be Trevor Releford and Tony Mithcell. The incoming class is headlined by in-state product Trevor Lacey. As long as Alabama plays the same hard defense and can find some offense, the Tide should be a good NCAA Team.
Next up is the Arkansas Razorbacks. This year begins the Mike Anderson era at Arkansas. Fans there hope for a run like what they experienced in the early 90s when Anderson was an assistant there under Nolan Richardson. Anderson's tenure got off to a rocky start when Rotnei Clarke, last year's leading scorer, decided to transfer to Butler. Expect Arkansas to go young. The incoming class was a Top 10 class; the best being point guard B.J. Young. With Clarke gone, Marshawn Powell will be looked to as the leader of this team. Arkansas will make some noise, but probably not enough to earn a NCAA bid. The NIT would be a good bet though.
Last year was a tough year for the Auburn Tigers. In Tony Barbee's first season as coach, the Tigers only won 4 SEC games. Their biggest win was at home against Florida State, which was a solid win. So how does 2011-12 look like; probably more of the same. The Tigers added a little more beef to the out of conference schedule, but not much. The roster took a hit when last year's leading scorer Earnest Ross transferred to Missouri. Senior Kenny Gabriel is the returning points man from last year's team. Frankie Sullivan is also back after only play 6 games last season. Cedrick McAfee is the best of the incoming freshman class. The roster will improve when Noel Johnson, transfer from Clemson and former 5 star recruit is eligible in December.
The Florida Gators were the best team in the SEC last season and made it all the way to the Elite Eight. It was by far Billy Donovan's best team since the back-to-back NCAA Champions. Gone is SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons. The Gators are still loaded. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton are in the back court, while Erik Murphy and Patrick Young are back on the front line. There are plenty of shooters with Walker, Boynton, and incomers Brad Beal and transfer Mike Rosario. Donovan will have a task keeping all his guards happy. Another concern for the Gators will be whether or not they will be too thin inside The Gators were at their best last year when they went inside out with their offense, but this year they may struggle to score in the paint. Still, the Gators should be a NCAA team.
Another NCAA Tournament team, the Georgia Bulldogs, will have major pieces to replace. Gone are Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, the two leading scores from last year's team. There are still pieces for Mark Fox to work with though. Gerald Robinson is the best returning scorer from last year's team. He along with Dustin Ware should be the leaders on the team. Incoming freshmen Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should be an impact player right away for the Bulldogs. Georgia will be a tough game this year. Not sure if the Bulldogs have enough to return to the NCAA this year though.
Last year the Kentucky Wildcats returned to the Final Four for the first time since 1998. In John Calipari's third season, Kentucky fans are dreaming bigger. Those expectations started when Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb announced they were coming back to school. Also SEC Tournament MVP Darius Miller is back as well. Another number one recruiting class in the country (Marques Teague, Kyle Wiltjer, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Anthony Davis) also comes into Lexington. This year the Dribble-Drive offense should be the main attack of the Wildcats. This is one of the top five in the country and should contend for a national title.
The LSU Tigers were the worst team in the SEC last season. They only won three games, so there is no where to go but up. Trent Johnson needs to do something to keep that seat from getting hot in year four. There are some pieces to work with. They return leading scorer Ralston Turner and Andre Stinger, the only double figure scorers. They also add some talent in the freshman class. Johnny O'Bryant was one of the top 50 players in the 2011 class. Tiger fans should not expect much from this team, but they should be improved over last year's squad.
Another team with holes to fill is the Mississippi Rebels. They lose two of their top scores from last year's team to graduation, Chris Warren and Zach Graham. The top returning playing from last year's team are Terrance Henry, Dundrecous Nelson, and Reginald Buckner. They will be joined by freshman transfer Jalen Kendrick, who was originally going to Memphis. The Rebels will probably be outmatched by the elite teams in the SEC, but should be a tough match up for the rest of the league.
Last year the Mississippi State Bulldogs were probably the most disappointing team in the SEC. They should have been one of the top teams in the SEC, instead poor play and in team fighting led to a long year for fans and Rick Stansbury. This year will be a successful in Starkville year if Renardo Sidney comes into it in shape and committed to the team. By all accounts, that is the case. Sidney also has help with point guard Dee Bost. While the Bulldogs lose Ravern Johnson, they do gain freshman Rodney Hood, who is expected to come in and contribute right off the bat. If this team can play together, it should be a strong year in Starkville.
Since Darrin Horn's first year as South Carolina Gamecocks, things have gone on a downward tend. If Horn wants to stay in Columbia, his team better show improvement. It will not help that star point guard Bruce Ellington is playing for Steve Spurrier at the start of the year. Also gone are Sam Muldrow (graduation) and Ramon Galloway (transfer). Freshman Anthony Gill may be the best incoming player in the class, but he will need to adjust to college play to be effective. It appears to be a long season for South Carolina and Horn's may be on the hot seat by the end of the year.
Last year was just a bad year for the Tennessee Volunteers. After starting the year looking like a title contender, the year ended with a 30 point loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament. Then Bruce Pearl was fired amid an NCAA investigation. Enter Cuonzo Martin to rebuild the program. Gone are Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris. Cameron Tatum will be looked to lead this year Volunteers squad. This team lost so much in Hopson and Harris and that will be hard to replace. They will probably play hard, but any postseason play is too hard to see at this point.
Could this finally be the year that the Vanderbilt Commodores break through? Kevin Stallings may have his best group to win the SEC. They return all five starters from last year's team. They will be led by John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor, perhaps the best scoring combo in the SEC. If the Commodores want to win they have to be committed to improving their defense. They have enough offense, but need to stop teams to win. Then when they get into the NCAA, they need to get out of the first weekend to back up all the hype.
SEC Sports Fan's 2012 SEC Basketball Projected Finish By Team
SEC Player of the Year
Terrence Jones (Kentucky)
Freshman of the Year
Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
Coach of the Year
John Calipari (Kentucky)
Terrence Jones (Kentucky)
Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
John Jenkins (Vanderbilt)
JaMychal Green (Alabama)
Erving Walker (Florida)
Darius Miller (Kentucky)
Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt)
Doron Lamb (Kentucky)
Dee Bost (Mississippi State)
Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt)
Other 2011 – 2012 SEC and NCAA Basketball Articles :
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