Looking around the SEC, many of the nation’s top college basketball TV analysts believe UK’s strongest league competition could come from the likes of Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida and Arkansas. Vanderbilt is getting love with Bryce Drew replacing Kevin Stallings as coach.
Billy Kennedy had the A&M program right where he wanted it a year ago, but he must replace the losses of Danuel House, Jalen Jones and Alex Caruso. He hopes to do that with sophomores D.J. Hogg, Adman Gilder and Tyler Davis.
Just about everyone around college basketball predicted quick success for Mike White at Florida. With most of last year’s squad (minus Dorian Finney-Smith) returning, no one is selling their Florida stock. With a sparkling, renovated O’Connell Center to play in, expect the Gators to be somewhere in the SEC’s Top 4 by season’s end.
Other second-year coaches Avery Johnson (Alabama), Kim Anderson (Missouri), Ben Howland (Miss. State) and Rick Barnes (Tennessee) are in rebuilding mode and appear to be on verge of upgrading the basketball talent level in this all-world football conference.
As always, a few SEC coaches find themselves squatting on the proverbial hot seat. Johnny Jones most certainly faces the most immediate crisis at LSU after failing to make the postseason, despite having the NBA’s No. 1 pick in Ben Simmons. He’ll look to Antonio Bakeney and Craig Victor to save his job.
Arkansas is also in crisis, where Mike Anderson could be on the bubble, but many believe this will be the Razorbacks’ breakout season, since he has brought on a strong corps of junior college transfers.
My preseason picks: 1. Kentucky, 2. Texas A&M, 3. Georgia, 4. Florida, 5. South Carolina, 6. Vanderbilt, 7. Mississippi State, 8. Alabama, 9. Auburn, 10. Arkansas, 11. Tennessee, 12. Ole Miss, 13. LSU, 14. Missouri.
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What else is happening in Kentucky?
The biggest splash last spring was Western Kentucky University landing former Miss. State coach Rick Stansbury. And boy, did he hit the ground running on the recruiting circuit.
If you thought Bobby Petrino did a great job with WKU football a few years ago, just wait till you see what Stansbury does for the Hilltoppers during the next few years. Uncle Ed Diddle may rise up from the dead.
WKU is most likely a year away from challenging for the CUSA championship, but you can rest assured it will happen. Stansbury already has several verbals for a 2017 recruiting class ranked in the Top 15. Add in transfers Junior Lomomba and Que Johnson.
Most likely, WKU will still be in Top 4 CUSA race along with Middle Tennessee and Marshall challenging UAB for the top spot.
Murray State looks to be the class of the OVC West, and Morehead State figures to be fighting it out with Belmont and Tennessee State in the OVC East. Morehead turned lots of heads with a run to the championship game of the College Basketball Invitational in March. Huge successful end for Sean Woods.
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What goes on at Louisville?
Depending on what happens in the next couple of days with a reported Notice of Allegations supposedly being sent to Louisville concerning the long, ongoing investigation of its basketball program from a year ago, UL can either concentrate solely on another stellar season in the ACC where Rick Pitino feels like he has one of his best teams, or it could be another year of sweating UL’s day of judgment in Indianapolis.
Most so-called media experts have Louisville ranked anywhere from Top 10 to Top 15 nationally. In the power-packed ACC where there’s no less than 4 teams ranked in most Top 10 polls, every night will be a war.
Thursday, Oct. 20 seems to be the big day that will determine the mood for UL fans. Stay tuned.
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HITS AND MISSES . . . With the recent revelation that the NCAA stripped Syracuse of 101 wins as a result of the probation handed down last year, one has to wonder if this will continue as a precedent in the current investigations with North Carolina and Louisville. The NCAA has never vacated a national championship in men’s basketball, but both UNC and UL have won titles during the time frame in which each school is under investigation. In Syracuse’s situation, wins were vacated as far back as the 2006 Big East Tournament.
With new metal detectors (like those in airports) installed at Rupp Arena, fans best be reminded that lines will be longer and slower when entering Rupp Arena. You’ve been forewarned.
Lindy’s annual College Basketball Yearbook has its Top Ten as l. Oregon, 2. Kansas, 3. Duke, 4. Villanova, 5. Kentucky, 6. Wisconsin, 7. North Carolina, 8. Virginia, 9. Xavier and 10. Arizona.
Did you know? John Wall averaged career highs in points (19.1), assists (10.2), rebounds (4.9), and steals (1.9) last season and was selected to the NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Team for the third straight year. He scored 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field for the East, the most points scored in an All-Star game by a Wizards player since Moses Malone scored 27 in 1987.
The new Sporting News Basketball Yearbook’s Top 10 in college are: 1. Duke, 2. Kentucky, 3. Kansas, 4. Villanova, 5. Oregon, 6. Xavier, 7. North Carolina, 8. Wisconsin, 9. Arizona, 10. Purdue.
@dickieV (Dick Vitale) checks in with his preseason Top 10. No. 1 Duke, 2. Kentucky, 3. Villanova, 4. Kansas, 5. North Carolina, 6. Michigan State, 7. Louisville, 8. Virginia 9. Xavier, 10. Indiana.
Member of Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. Former co-host of UK Radio Network's pregame football & basketball shows. Founder & former publisher of The Cats' Pause. Former publisher of East Kentucky Voice. Former editor of The Hazard Herald. Winner of 41 awards from Kentucky Press Association & Kentucky Weekly Press Association. Winner of 1977 U. S. Basketball Writers Association sports feature of year. Native of Hazard, Ky.