With the non-conference games out of the way, I thought it would be fun to predict how the SEC standings will look at the end of the season based upon what I've seen so far.
1. Tennessee- They are good. I don't agree that they are final 4 good, but they are probably the best team in a down SEC. Losing their power forward will hurt more than most realize, especially if someone is able to slow them down and make them play a halfcourt game. Also, they always seem to peak too early. I look for them to fade down the stretch once again as teams get more of an opportunity to scout their press. Still, Chris Lofton will light up the scoreboard on a nightly basis, and they will hang on to win the East by a game or 2.
2. Vandy- They've got some players for a change, and Stallings system is working like a well oiled machine right now. They may not lose at home in that goofy gym of theirs, but they will be in trouble on the road when they have an off night shooting the ball.
3. Florida- The two time defending national Champions have an entirely new team. Billy Donovan is the best coach in the conference, but they are too young to contend for a title this year. I've got them as 3rd, but would not be surprised to see them finish anywhere between 3 and 5.
4. Kentucky- These are not good times for the Big Blue Nation. Tubby has left the cupboard bare, and their talent does not mesh with Gillespie's system. The rest of the conference needs to beat up on these guys this year, because brighter days are ahead for the wildcats, assuming Gillespie does not get fired for Mike Price type activities in Lexington. Still, if they get healthy and improve, they could finish 3rd.
5. Georgia- Despite not being very talented to begin with, and losing some players to off court issues, this is a scrappy bunch. Like Florida and Kentucky, they could conceivable finish as high as 3rd in the East. I'm not sure how Felton is keeping this ship afloat, but they should fall into 5th by season's end.
6. South Carolina.- Once again, it's NIT or bust for the gamecocks. Odom is a nice guy and at one time was a good coach, but it may be time to start looking to go in another direction in Columbia.
1. Ole Miss- These guys are for real, and may even end up with a better overall record than Tennessee. They are probably only the 3rd or 4th most talented team in the West, but Andy Kennedy has got them playing with great chemistry. I knew Cincy was making a big mistake when they let Andy go. I don't see the Ole Miss people coming off their wallet to improve their God-awful facilities, so look for Kennedy to move on to greener pastures in the near future. At least Rebel fans will get to enjoy one SEC West Championship.
2. Mississippi $tate- They haven't looked all that great thus far, but Jamont Gordan, Rhodes, and Hansborough will be enough to get them over .500, which should be good enough for 2nd in the West.
3. Alabama- With a young point guard, it's going to be an up and down year for us. We'll win some games we aren't supposed to (expect at least one upset win over Ole Miss or Vandy, maybe even Tennessee if we learn how to break the press), but then we'll lose some to the likes of Georgia, South Carolina, LSU, or auburn. 2nd through 4th in the West are very evenly matched, and it may even end in a 3 way tie for 2nd. At any rate, I see 2nd in the West as best case scenario, and 4th as worst, and the difference being 2 games or less.
4. Arkansas- Athletic team adjusting to a 1st year coach. I look for them to improve over the course of the year and possibly be a surprise team in the SEC tournament.
5. LSU- They are bad. Just as bad as auburn, but I had to put one of them last, so I'll give Brady's bunch the benefit of the doubt.
6. auburn- They play hard, and I like Lebo's system, but their tallest player is probably 6'6. They've lost players to arrest and injury, and this will knock them down to last. There is no reason for Lebo to STILL not have a big man. They will win a game or two when their shots are falling, but they won't be competitve jacking up 30 3's per game in the SEC.