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The SEC has a bunch of teams that are loaded with talent, depth and athleticism. Kentucky won the national championship in 1998, Florida knocked on the door in 2000 getting to the title game against Michigan State, the won it all the last two seasons. Here’s a look at some of college basketball’s best teams in the SEC.
Florida: Coach Bill Donovan has been the king of the SEC the last two years, as well as the college basketball world, with back-to-back titles. He is rebuilding with a talented, though very young, team. The centerpiece is athletic 6-6 freshman Nick Calathes (15 ppg, 6 apg), who leads the Gators in scoring and assists and is fine rebounder. Junior guard Walter Hodge teams with him in the backcourt, while 6-10 sophomore Marreese Speights (14 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and 6-7 sophomore Dan Werner anchor the frontcourt.
The Gators love the up-tempo game (80 ppg) shooting over 49%, tops in the SEC. This young team hasn’t been stellar on the road, however, and last week suffered a pair of blowout losses, 80-61 at Arkanas and 104-82 at Tennessee. Donovan called a double session after the loss to Arkansas, a rarity during the middle of conference play, then they got smoked by the Vols. They haven’t been very good as a dog, but started 7-2 ATS as chalk.
Tennessee: The Volunteers certainly made a statement with last week’s 104-84 rout of Florida. Bruce Pearl has a veteran backcourt-oriented team with two senior guards as the leading scorers in Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, while 6-7 sophomore Tyler Smith (13 ppg, 6 rpg) has been strong up front. Their uptempo attack is tops in scoring in the SEC and has helped them start 7-1 SU, 5-3 ATS on the road! That’s in stark contrast to their poor road play a year ago, so it’s clear this team has come a long way.
Do they rely too much on offense? The Vols shot 39% against Texas (a 97-78 loss) and 38% in a 72-66 loss at Kentucky. Tennessee settled for 3-pointers down the stretch and allowed 63% and 49% shooting in those defeats. Still, the Vols are 4-0 SU/ATS as a dog and just smashed Florida.
Arkansas: Razorback’s first-year coach John Pelphrey was an assistant for Billy Donovan for eight years at Marshall and Florida. He learned well, even routing his old coach 80-61 last week. Arkansas has a dynamite defense, allowing 40% shooting. What’s their secret? How about six seniors and four players listed at 6-foot-10 or taller.
The frontcourt has 6-6 senior Sonny Weems (14 ppg, 4.6 rpg), the leading scorer, along with board bangers 6-10 senior Darian Townes, 6-8 senior Charles Thomas and 7-foot senior center Steve Hill. The backcourt has a strong talent in junior guard Patrick Beverley (12 pp, 6.9 rpg), a terrific rebounder. Arkansas has a big game at Tennessee this week (Feb. 13). Note that the Razorbacks are 0-3 SU/ATS as a dog.
Vanderbilt: Vandy Head Coach Kevin Stallings has a team that can shoot the ball, averaging 82 ppg, which is why they started 10-3 over the total. 6-6 senior Shan Foster (19 ppg, 4.9 rpg) is an outstanding 3-point shooter, and teams with senior point guard Alex Gordon and 6-3 sophomore Jermaine Beal.
A huge addition has been 6-10 Andrew Oglivy, a polished offensive player from Australia, who has drawn comparisons to former Aussie Andruw Bogut. Oglivy is averaging over 17 points and 6.6 rebounds. However, when SEC play heated up, the Commodares went south, on a 1-4 SU/ATS run. This team has been great at home, as usual, but still struggles on the road, starting 2-4 SU, 1-4 ATS. An easy nonconference schedule can partly explain their 0-4 SU/ATS record as a dog.
Mississippi: Ole Miss is a strong offensive team, averaging 83 ppg, second in the SEC. They are tops in rebounding because of 6-8 junior Dwayne Curtis (15 ppg, 9 rpg) and 6-8 senior Kenny Williams (7.7 rpg). Freshman point guard Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice have been productive and combine for over 9 assists per game in this unselfish, uptempo attack.
One concern is that they’ve struggled on the road and got off to a 13-0 start with a weak nonconference slate. However, they have a winning record as a dog while going 4-1 ATS. Ole Miss has posted a 23-1 record at home since coach Adam Kennedy’s arrival, losing only to Arkansas last season, but the Rebels did not play well in their last two road games, losses at Mississippi State and Auburn. If you make it to March, you have to know how to play on the road or at neutral sites.
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