Thursday, March 10, 2005

SEC Tournament Preview

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The Southeastern Conference was a bit of a disappointment this season. They ended up having four very solid teams, but no legit national title contenders. Kentucky ran away with the league from the start, while LSU and Alabama tied for the West division title, both at 12-4.
Kentucky is a terrific defensive team, but have offensive problems. Rajon Rondo creates havoc with his ball pressure, and is developing into a steady penetrator and creator. Patrick Sparks is a streaky shooter, but if he is hot, Sparks is lights-out. Kaleena Azubuike is the Wildcats' leading scorer, and Chuck Hayes is one of the toughest players in the country. Randolph Morris is becoming a solid contributor in the post. Alabama has probably the most talent in the league, with Kennedy Winston and Earnest Shelton the best wing combination in the conference. Chuck Davis is very tough at times to stop in the low post. However, freshman Ronald Steele may be the key to the team; as he goes, so do the Tide. LSU is one of the hottest teams in the country lately. Brandon Bass, the SEC player of the year, and Glen Davis are impossible to contain as a low-post duo. Tack Minor, although inconsistent, can provide explosive production from the point. Florida has also been coming on strong recently. Anthony Roberson is one of the best shooters in the conference, whle Matt Walsh is another scorer from the wing. David Lee is a pretty decent post player. Mississippi State always has the potential to make a run because of the presence of the best low-post player in the league, Lawrence Robers. Winsome Frazier's return gives the Bulldogs a perimeter threat. Vanderbilt has struggled to win on the road and/or against quality opponents. However, they have a terrific scorer in Mario Moore and a host of guys that can shoot the three.
Prediction: Although Kentucky went through the league fairly easily, I don't think the Wildcats are overly impressive. They don't have a consistent presence from the outside or a go-to-player in the post. Their defense is suffocating, but can be exposed. I think that Alabama has the offensive talent and balance to exploit Kentucky. Winston can't be stopped, and Shelton is a great second option. If Sparks is not hitting his shots, Alabama could blow the Wildcats out in the title game--if Kentucky gets that far. LSU is going to be a nightmare to face at this point in the season, and Florida is also hitting their stride. It's going to be a wide-open tournament, but I like the Crimson Tide to get the automatic bid.

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