Saturday, June 13, 2009

NBA Draft Deadline; Can Tennessee Win The SEC?

We're reaching the final hours of NBA Draft decisions. Underclassmen have until 5pm on Monday afternoon to get out of the Draft or they forfeit their collegiate eligibility. There haven't been a whole lot of surprising players into the Draft that I haven't talked about yet. Patty Mills is in, which isn't a big shock, neither is Shawn Taggart jumping the scandal-laden Memphis ship. Jrue Holiday is expected to sign as well. Andy Katz has the rundown on those players that still have to make a decision.

One player I'm surprised not to see in the Draft is Tennessee's Tyler Smith. Smith is one of the two players I had projected to go into the Draft who has already announced they will drop out (LSU's Tasmin Mitchell being the other). This is great news for a Tennessee team that is also going to benefit from the departure of Nick Calathes from Florida. Even assuming that Smith went pro, I still had Tennessee second in the SEC East, and on pace for a 3 seed in the Tournament. With Smith back, they should unquestionably be the chief competition for Kentucky in the SEC.

I would expect LSU to seriously challenge Mississippi State for the SEC West title now they've got Mitchell back, but they won't be as good as they were last season. Mississippi State, of course, has a great recruiting class coming in, but I need to see them prove that they can win consistently against more experienced opponents before I take them seriously for the SEC Title. And Florida is probably out of the SEC title race with Calathes gone, even though Alex Tyus should help keep them competitive.

So that leaves things down to Kentucky and Tennessee. As amazing as it would sound to say this five years ago, Tennessee is the steady, experienced team that has the recent history of winning. Kentucky is the upstart full of extremely talented young kids who haven't really won a whole lot, or even played on the collegiate level. Kentucky will be the favorite preseason, and I am going to have them as my projected SEC Champion and a 1 seed when the new BP65 comes out in a couple of weeks. But don't be confused into thinking that Kentucky is a lock by any means. You never know with so many young kids under so much pressure, with the University's huge expectations bearing down on them, and with a head coach under fire for his recruiting practices. It's a combustible situation, and it might explode. And if something crazy happens, expect Tennessee to be there to steal the SEC Title.

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