Saturday, May 01, 2010

Ole Miss Loses Yet Another Starter

Andy Kennedy is good at coaching his players, but he's also clearly struggling to keep kids from leaving his program. And just a couple of weeks after finding out that Eniel Polynice would pass on his final season of eligibility, news came yesterday that Murphy Holloway will transfer out. This marks the fourth starter in less than two years who has left the program for reasons other than graduation or the NBA. Malcolm White left via transfer, David Huertas left to play pro ball in Puerto Rico, Polynice left to either play pro ball somewhere other than the NBA or just to move onto a non-basketball job (since he has graduated from school), and now Holloway is going to transfer (no word yet on where he's thinking of going). And Terrico White is still looking at leaving for the NBA (he's projected as a borderline first round pick, meaning that with so many other players leaving he might see no incentive to return for his junior year).

Even if Terrico White does return, this still is devastating to Ole Miss for 2010-11. Even though White is considered to have more NBA potential, Holloway was probably the best player on Ole Miss in 2009-10. White scored a little bit more, but Holloway was more efficient, and he also was the team's primary rebounder. There is suddenly huge pressure on DeAundre Cranston and Reginald Buckner to develop quickly as big men to fill a lot of the rebounding void.

While all of these losses could cost Ole Miss a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, they still might be the favorite to win the awful SEC West (see my original 2010-11 SEC preview here), particularly if NBA Draft decisions go their way. Arkansas is already losing Courtney Forston and will be very unlikely to challenge seriously for the SEC West, but Mississippi State is still waiting on decisions from Dee Bost and Ravern Johnson. Renardo Sidney says he'll be back (he'll have to sit out approximately the first nine games, but he'll be back well in time for the SEC regular season), so if Bost and Johnson do opt out of the Draft, and if Terrico White stays in the Draft, then Mississippi State probably will jump Ole Miss as the SEC West favorite. I don't think any other team has much of a chance other than the two Mississippi schools. LSU and Alabama are both rebuilding and are probably a year away from seriously competing, although they could be pesky. Auburn is going to be awful.

In all, the SEC has been devasted by defections across the board, and looks to actually be weaker next season. In fact, there's a chance the Pac-10 might pass them, making the SEC the worst BCS conference. We know Tennessee will be elite again, and while Kentucky will take a step back they're still going to have about five future NBA players on the roster. Florida should be improved and safely into the NCAA Tournament as well. But after that, what? Vanderbilt is a bubble team, and after that I don't think any other team looks to be Tourney bound at the moment. Ole Miss is the only other team with a good chance, if they can get White back. But with so many other players leaving the team, with a high likelihood of at least being a high second round draft pick, and with the potential of a 2011 NBA lockout looming, I'd probably advice Terrico White to leave now.

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