SEC Mid-Season Stock Watch

    
December 30th, 2009

The buzz around the SEC this year was how much stronger the conference would be, top-to-bottom, with so many key players returning and new faces ready to make an instant impact. A year after getting only three teams into the NCAA Tournament, this was supposed to be a rebound year, with as many as six or seven teams competing for berths in the Big Dance.

 

Well, with the non-conference season nearly wrapped up for most teams, it's still hard to get a great read on the overall strength of the conference. Only three teams are currently ranked in the latest AP poll, and of those, only Kentucky looks like a sure bet for a long postseason run. Teams like Georgia and Arkansas have continued to struggle, and the muddled mess in the middle doesn't look to have any teams who will distinguish themselves.

 

But there's still plenty of basketball to play, so there's a good chance things may change as the season goes on. So here's an SEC Stock Watch as we prepare to enter conference play.

 

Alabama

Record: 8-4

Quality wins: Michigan, Baylor

Postseason prediction: NIT

 

The Crimson Tide may have to hang their hat on winning the championship in football this year, because they likely won't be getting a chance to run through the NCAA Tournament. The Tide have some talent, including big man JaMychal Green, but they often don't play smart or disciplined, two traits that were evidenced when they blew a 16-point second half lead against Purdue. New coach Anthony Grant brings a ton of passion to the sidelines, and the Tide have enough talent to scare some teams, but in the end, it's likely they'll struggle to do better than the NIT.

 

Arkansas

Record: 7-5

Quality wins: None

Postseason prediction: None

 

The Razorbacks struggled mightily in the conference last year, finishing 2-14, and this year isn't shaping up to be much better. The Hogs give up 72 points per game, shoot 64% percent from the foul line and don't have a player averaging more than seven rebounds per game. The loss of Courtney Fortson robbed the Hogs not only of a terrific scorer, but someone whop provided the team with confidence and swagger. Michael Washington is a talented forward and Rotnei Clarke is as good a shooter as anyone in the country, but that isn't going to be enough this year. Look for the Hogs to finish near the bottom of the SEC West again.

 

Auburn

Record: 7-6

Quality wins: None

Postseason prediction: None

 

Speaking of the bottom of the West...meet the 2009-10 Tigers. They shocked many observers last year by finishing second in the West, winning 10 conference games and 24 games overall. Don't look for a repeat. The Tigers don't take great care of the ball, don't shoot particularly well, and are still trying to adequately fill the shoes of departed leaders Kovortney Barber, Quantez Robertson and Rasheem Barrett. Senior DeWayne Reed and Lucas Hargrove are solid players and good leaders, but neither would be described as a star. Expect a long season on The Plains.

 

Florida

Record: 9-3

Quality wins: Michigan State, Florida State

Postseason prediction: NCAA 1st round

 

The Gators have already surprised with their 8-0 start this year, and they certainly have enough talent to make their way back to the Big Dance after two straight years in the NIT. Freshman Kenny Boynton looks to be a future star, and returning players like Alex Tyus, Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons and Dan Werner are experienced enough to keep the Gators in most games. But with shaky depth up front, and a small backcourt, the Gators likely don't have enough to expect a deep postseason run. Look for them to challenge Tennessee for second place in the SEC East.

 

Georgia

Record: 6-4

Quality wins: Illinois

Postseason prediction: None

 

First-year coach Mark Fox arrived with plenty of excitement as he hopes to pull the Bulldogs out of the SEC East cellar. Unfortunately, he didn't inherit a roster loaded with talent to match that energy. The Bulldogs have some nice pieces, especially forward Trey Thompkins, but they simply just don't have enough talent to compete this year. They don't have a great backcourt, and outside of Thompkins, they lack a scorer in the post. The 'Dawgs will play hard this year, but their lack of talent will do them in on most nights. While Fox may have the program on the right track, look for another rough year in Athens.

 

Continue to Part Two of the SEC Stock Watch

   Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi St, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt