SEC Mid-Season Stock Watch: Part Two

    
December 30th, 2009
 

Kentucky

Record: 14-0

Quality wins: North Carolina, Connecticut, Indiana

Postseason prediction: NCAA Final Four

 

Kentucky entered the season with lofty expectations, and they've done nothing to show that they weren't warranted. Freshman phenom John Wall is arguably the best player in the country, and the frontcourt tandem of Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins has been too much for most teams to handle. Throw in the athleticism on the wings of Darius Miller, Eric Bledsoe and Darnell Dodson and this team has all the pieces to hang another banner in Rupp Arena. The Cats youth may show itself at times, and their frenetic style can lead to careless turnovers, but the sheer talent on this roster is enough to overcome nearly every mistake. Look for the Cats to have a big say in who cuts down the nets this year.

 

LSU

Record: 8-4

Quality wins: None

Postseason prediction: NIT

 

The Tigers won the West last year on the strength of veterans Marcus Thornton, Chris Johnson and Garrett Temple, all of whom are now gone. Fifth-year senior Tasmin Mitchell is the clear leader of this team, but he's had plenty of help from Bo Spencer and Storm Warren thus far. However, the Tigers have only had two real tests so far on their schedule, and they failed both miserably, losing to Connecticut and Arizona State by a combined 45 points. The Tigers don't lack athleticism, but they lost a ton of experience, and another SEC West title will be hard to come by.

 

Ole Miss

Record: 10-1

Quality wins: Indiana, Kansas State

Postseason prediction: NCAA 2nd Round

 

The Rebels are quietly one of the better teams in the country, led by a terrific backcourt in Terrico White and Chris Warren. The Rebels also boast a plethora of options on the wing, and although they're fairly thin up front, they have enough bodies to get the job done. They have nine players averaging double-digit minutes, and they have enough experience to traverse through the rigors of conference play. The Rebels were plagued by injuries last season, but with better luck, they've got enough pieces here to be a threat. Look for them to get into the tournament this year for the first time since 2002.

 

Mississippi State

Record: 11-2

Quality wins: Houston

Postseason prediction: NCAA 2st Round

 

The Bulldogs entered the season with high expectations, due at least in part to the signing of touted recruit Renardo Sidney. Unfortunately, Sidney has yet to play this year because of questions about his amateur status. The Bulldogs return plenty of key players from last year's SEC Tournament Championship team, and they have enough talent to win the West. Jarvis Varnado protects the rim like few others, and experienced perimeter players Dee Bost, Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart are battle-hardened vets. Even without Sidney, the Bulldogs have enough pieces in place for a great season.

 

South Carolina

Record: 8-3

Quality wins: None

Postseason prediction: NIT

 

The Gamecocks were dealt a serious blow this week with the announcement that senior forward Dominique Archie will miss the season with a knee injury. Devan Downey is still one of the most exciting players in the league, and forwards Mike Holmes and Sam Muldrow are as tough as they come, but without Archie, the Gamecocks will struggle to score. Freshmen guards Lakeem Jackson and Ramon Galloway will try to fill Archie's shoes on the offensive end, but his versatility will be hard to replace. The Gamecocks will battle all year long, and they'll get their fair share of wins, but there doesn't look to be enough here for an NCAA berth.

 

Tennessee

Record: 9-2

Quality wins: None

Postseason prediction: NCAA 2nd Round

 

The Vols are coming off a surprising pounding at the hands of USC, but there's no questioning the talent of this team. Sophomore guard/forward Scotty Hopson is experiencing a breakout year, and senior forward Tyler Smith is one of the most versatile players in the country. The Vols are loaded with athletes on the wings, and they love to get after it on defense. They still lack a true point guard, and they don't always play smart basketball, but this is a team capable of playing with anyone if they're on. The match-ups with Kentucky should be epic this year, as both teams are loaded with athletes and love to get up and down the floor. Look for a very good season out of Knoxville.

 

Vanderbilt

Record: 8-3

Quality wins: Arizona, Missouri

Postseason prediction: NCAA bubble

 

Much of the preseason talk around the Commodores centered around hotshot recruit John Jenkins, a terrific scorer who averaged over 40 points per game as a high school senior. However, not that the games have started, it's been sophomore forward Jeffrey Taylor making the headlines, leading the team in scoring and rebounding. Taylor is a terrific athlete, and his versatility fits Kevin Stallings' system perfectly. Veterans Jermaine Beal and AJ Ogilvy are solid players, and the Dores are surprisingly deep this year, with nine players averaging double digit minutes. They may not have enough athletes to battle UK or Tennessee in the East, but look for them to be in the mix for an NCAA berth at the end of the year.

 

Return to SEC Stock Watch: Part One

   Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU