Georgia the Beast of the East?
Georgia, which received only last-place votes in the pre-season balloting a year ago, had a 5-11 SEC record. Six of the losses came by four points or less. Another sign of a dormant program coming to life: Georgia's scoring margin in SEC games improved from minus 12.6 in 2008-09 to minus 2.4 last season.
Led by Mark Fox, Georgia enjoyed three victories over ranked opponents and four home sellouts last season. In 2008-09, the Bulldogs were zero and zero in those categories. This season Georgia adds Gerald Robinson, a transfer from Tennessee State, who averaged 17.8 points and 3.9 assists in 2008-09. He also played for Tennessee State's tennis team, which his father coaches.
Mississippi State the best in the west?
Former Mississippi State Coach Richard Williams used to grumble that the lazy media voted his teams last in the Western Division out of habit. (Of course, he also grumbled when the media put pressure on his team on those occasions of first-place votes.)
Now, form holds that State should be at the top. In the last 10 years, State has a 92-68 league record. The next best among Western Division teams is Alabama at 82-78. In the last four seasons, Mississippi State has won the Western Division three times and the SEC Tournament once.
Nobody has bigger "bigs" than Renardo Sidney (6-10, 270), Elgin Bailey (6-8, 276), Kodi Augustus (6-8, 225), Wendell Lewis (6-8, 253) and John Riek (7-0, 250).
State may have two capable point guards in Dee Bost, who must sit out the season's first nine games because he failed to meet the deadline for withdrawing from the NBA Draft, and Louisville native Twany Beckham.
All- d efensive team
Kenny Boynton, Florida
Senario Hillman, Alabama
DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky
Sam Muldrow, South Carolina
Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt
B est ba ck co urts
Florida: Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker
Kentucky: Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb
Ole Miss: Chris Warren and whoever
Vanderbilt: Brad Tinsley and John Jenkins
B est fr ontcourts
Florida: Returning starters Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons. Plus Erik Murphy and McDonald's All-American Patric Young.
Georgia: Trey Thompkins, Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price.
Mississippi State: Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey.
Tennessee: Brian Williams and Tobias Harris.
Newcomers to watch
Tobias Harris, billed as Tennessee's best freshman since Allan Houston. ... Florida freshmen Patric Young (a young Dwight Howard?) and wing Casey Prather. ... Kentucky freshmen Enes Kanter (if eligible) and guard Brandon Knight. ... Renardo Sidney, whose eligibility issues make him seem like a fifth-year freshman. ... Georgia guard Gerald Robinson, a transfer from Tennessee State. ... Auburn Coach Tony Barbee, who is making a splash like his mentor, John Calipari, did at Kentucky (sans the 35-3 first-year record.)
Best Penetrato rs
Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Gerald Robinson, Georgia (if he is as good as advertised).
Best sh o oters
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt. He made 22 of 35 three-point attempts in the last seven games of 2009-10.
Chris Warren, Ole Miss. He enters his senior season having made at least one three-pointer in 45 straight games. It is the longest active streak among NCAA players and the third-longest in SEC history. The SEC record is 60 by Arkansas' Pat Bradley (1996-98).
Enes Kanter, Kentucky (if eligible). Otherwise, Trey Thompkins, Georgia.
best s h ot-blocker
Sam Muldrow, South Carolina. He blocked 16 shots in four games against UK the last two seasons.
T o p NBA Prosp e ct
Enes Kanter, Kentucky, if eligible; otherwise, Georgia's Trey Thompkins.
Tony Mitchell, Alabama
m o st entertaining
Travis Leslie, Georgia. Ask DeMarcus Cousins, who got poster-ized by Leslie in Rupp Arena last season.
Gerald Robinson, Georgia. A 1,000-point scorer in two seasons for Tennessee State.
Malik Cooke, South Carolina. He made 44.8 percent of his three-point shots and made 62 steals for Nevada in 2008-09.
John Fields, Tennessee (by way of East Carolina and UNC-Wilmington.) He's immediately eligible because he graduated and UNC-Wilmington did not offer a graduate degree in his field of study.
Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee. The 6-6, 240-pound forward played part of last season at Marquette.
Jeff Peterson, Arkansas. He made 39.7 percent of his three-point shots for Iowa two seasons ago. Now he'll be asked to replace Courtney Fortson.
Malcolm White, LSU. The transfer from Ole Miss can help the Tigers in this rebuilding season.
Nick Williams, Ole Miss. The transfer from Indiana can help the Rebels, who lost guards Eniel Polynice (transfer to Seton Hall) and Terrico White (entry into NBA).
Florida wing Ray Shipman. He was Florida's high school Mr. Basketball in 2008. Also a football standout, he transferred this year from the Gators to Central Florida to become a 6-5 strong safety.
How go od are? ...
Scotty Hopson, Tennessee
Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State
JaMychal Green, Alabama
Vernon Macklin, Florida
John Calipari. Three straight No. 1-rated recruiting classes ... and counting.
coach on the hot seat
John Pelphrey, Arkansas. The former Kentucky "Unforgettable" has led Arkansas to, well, forgettable seasons lately. The Razorbacks had a 9-23 league record the last two seasons. Plenty of distractions handcuffed Pelphrey. Four players sat a total of 25 games because of suspension and three missed a combined 32 games because of injury. He'll need smooth sailing and tangible progress this season.
all-name t eam
Ole Miss shooter Dundrecous Nelson
Arkansas freshman Mardracus Wade
Arkansas guard Julysses Nobles
Florida, synonymous with perimeter shooting with Billy Donovan as coach, ranked last among SEC teams with 31.3-percent accuracy from three-point range last season.
John Calipari's teams have lost three conference games in the last five seasons — two with Kentucky last season and one in Conference USA with Memphis 2005-06.
Ole Miss freshman Demarco Cox is billed as Big Baby II. He's got Glen Davis size and nimbleness at 6-8 and 295.
Florida has not won an NCAA Tournament game since back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
zero-for- 3 7 year s
Every SEC team has won at least one NCAA Tournament game since South Carolina last won one in 1973. In that time, the other 11 present members have won a total of 236 NCAA Tournament games.
Here's the breakdown of victories: Kentucky 72, Arkansas 37, Florida 29, LSU 22, Alabama 20, Tennessee 16, Auburn 12, Mississippi State 10, Vanderbilt 8, Georgia 7 and Ole Miss 3.
Former UK recruit K.C. Ross-Miller is a freshman for LSU.
Former UK player Donald Williams is at Ole Miss. He averaged 16.6 points and made 45 percent of his three-point shots for Antelope Valley College last season.
rebuilding or reloading?
Kentucky in 2010 became the first program to boast five first-round NBA Draft picks. Out were John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton. In were Enes Kanter (if eligible), Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Eloy Vargas. ... Tennessee lost Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince. The Vols add Tobias Harris, Trae Golden, Jordan McRae and Tyler Summitt. ... Vanderbilt will replace A.J. Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal with Festus Ezeli/Steve Tchiengang and Brad Tinsley.
Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell's 14.9-point scoring average last season was the highest for any SEC freshman not named John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins.
Only two freshmen in Arkansas basketball history have averaged more points (Scotty Thurman and Joe Johnson), and only one (Sidney Moncrief) averaged more rebounds than Powell's 6.7.
constricted by expansion
When the SEC expanded in 1991, Arkansas and South Carolina were expected to give the league a boost in basketball. How has that been going lately?
Arkansas has a 65-95 league record the last 10 years. In that time, the Hogs' best NCAA Tournament seed was a No. 7 in 2001. Arkansas had a losing SEC record in seven of last nine seasons. In its first 10 SEC seasons, Arkansas had only one losing record in league play.
South Carolina has one NCAA Tournament bid in the last 12 years. The Gamecocks lost 59-43 to Memphis in 2004. In the last 10 seasons, South Carolina has a 63-97 SEC record with one winning season in league play: 10-6 in 2009.
cupboard is bare
Two of Auburn's returning players, Frankie Sullivan and Ty Armstrong, tore ACLs during the summer. Two of Auburn's freshmen signees, Luke Cothron and Shawn Kemp Jr., have been ruled academically ineligible.
SEC's brett Favre
Florida forward Alex Tyus removed his name from the 2010 NBA Draft. He became one of the few Billy Donovan players to return to Florida after exploring his pro options.
In 2009, Tyus announced he would transfer from Florida rather than play power forward. Then he changed his mind and decided to stay with the Gators.
Alabama junior-college transfer Kendall Durant, cousin of Kevin Durant. ... Vandy freshman Josh Henderson, 6-11, son of David Henderson, who played for Lefty Driesell at Maryland ... Georgia's Connor Nolte and Jeremy Price both have little brothers who are Top-100 prospects in the class of 2012. ... Alabama's Trevor Releford is the younger brother of Kansas' Travis Releford.
Georgia will see how it handles expectations. The Bulldogs' two projected NBA Draft picks, Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, have been on teams with an overall record of 26-37 (8-24 in SEC play) the last two seasons. Florida has all five starters returning and added a top-20 freshman class.
Kentucky. So what else is new?
They said it ...
In 2009-10, LSU Coach Trent Johnson endured his first losing season since 2000-01. Like "dying a slow death," he said.
Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury called Renardo Sidney "probably the most talented big guy we've ever had." Better than Mario Austin? Lawrence Roberts? Jarvis Varnado?
Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl on Tobias Harris: "He's the most mature high school player I've seen ... work ethic of a pro ... I compare him to Larry Bird."