How Will SEC Shape Up
By: JJ Lanier
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Since John Calipari arrived in Lexington almost twelve years ago, Kentucky has dominated the SEC.
Over that period of time, in conference play, the Wildcats have won six regular season and conference tournament titles, while finishing in either first or second place in every season but one.
Kentucky has essentially been operating at the level of Disney and the rest of the SEC has been Six Flags.
Still, even when you’ve been as dominant as the Wildcats have been there is usually a season mixed in there somewhere, when other teams are able to get their shots in- last year’s UNC season comes to mind.
Could this be the year the tables are turned?
The one team that automatically comes to mind that’s in the best position is Tennessee.
The Vols are probably the league’s most completely team, with a nice mix of experience, talent, and coaching.
They have played the second toughest schedule of anyone in the SEC (Kentucky’s has been the most difficult, by far) and they have been the most impressive doing it.
The only thing I worry about, and I realize I’m contradicting myself a bit here, is I just don’t trust Rick Barnes.
Yes, I think he’s a good coach, his teams just tend to fall short when they’re the leaders. In a weird way I would actually feel better about their chances if Kentucky were playing at a higher level.
Teams like Arkansas, Missouri, Auburn, and LSU could certainly let wind up at the top of conference if Tennessee were to falter, but there are still too many questions about each for me to feel comfortable separating any one of those from the pack.
I think some of the other teams (Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M) will certainly have a shot at some upset wins, I just don’t think they’ll be able to compete for a shot at the top spot.
Florida is the one wild card in this whole thing. After witnessing Keyontae Johnson collapse on the court and then the aftermath of that event, you can’t predict how they’re going to react.
And just to be clear, these are a bunch of teenage kids who saw a teammate and friend collapse in front of them, so however they respond on the court is really inconsequential.
Of course, this topic is only relevant because Kentucky is off to their worst start in over a hundred years. An optimistic fan will argue the team has played the most difficult schedule in the country and their young players will mature and grow over the course of the season.
Everyone else will counter with the fact Kentucky still lost those games and those young players have more than likely never faced this kind adversity that is currently staring them in the face.
We should have a good idea who may be on the right path after the first few games, since Kentucky begins their conference schedule against some of the league’s weaker teams.
Even though we knew this season was going to be different for all the obvious reasons, I think most still felt like Kentucky was the team to beat and most everyone else was playing for second place.
With Kentucky’s early struggles it feels as if a number of teams have an opportunity to feel what it’s like to be the top dog.
Don’t get me wrong, going to Six Flags can be great, but it’s Disney that most everyone is after.