I know that we are coming down the homestretch and will know in about two weeks who will be playing in the inaugural College Football Playoff. But in case you didn’t notice, college basketball has started! Instead of previewing each team, I’m going to link previews from Grantland (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/2014-15-ncaa-basketball-preview-sec-kentucky-wildcats-florida-gators-arkansas-razorbacks-ole-miss-auburn-john-calipari-bruce-pearl/) and CBS Sports (http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/24761351/-15-college-basketball-conference-preview-sec). They do a much better job of covering each team than I can. Instead I’m going to give my views on teams/players or anything else that I think will be worth watching this upcoming season. So, without further ado, I present this week’s edition of State of the Conference.
Most interesting team: Kentucky
Yes we all know the Wildcats are the favorite to win the SEC and the National Championship. That’s not what interests me. I’m interested to see the “platoon system” that John Calipari has promised to use this season. It’s the equivalent of line changes in hockey where everyone jumps the wall at one time. Big Blue has a boatload of highly rated prospects at its disposal (9 McDonald’s All-Americans to be exact). They are by far the most talented team in the country and honestly could beat an NBA team or two (76ers) much less everyone else in the country. And if the game against fellow top 10 team Kansas is any indication of the season to come, they may do just that.
Best player that you’ve never heard of: Bobby Portis, Arkansas
So there is a 6’11”, McDonald’s All-American, who had a stellar freshman season, is pre-season 1st team all-conference and considered to be a 1st round pick. Guess what team he plays for. Most people would say Kentucky or Florida but you would be incorrect on both guesses. That honor goes to Bobby Portis from Arkansas. He is big fast and continues to grow. Out of high school, he was listed at 6’9” and 225 pounds. He’s my early pick for conference player of the year and will be a household name by the time his named is called as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Must watch TV: Auburn
Many of you will see this and immediately think that this is a homer pick. It’s not. K.T. Harrell and Antoine Mason make up a dynamic scoring backcourt. Cinmeon Bowers will remind Tiger fans of The Chuckster, Sir Charles Barkley, with the way he snatches down rebounds then leads the fast break down the floor. But they aren’t the reason you should watch Auburn basketball this season. Why should you? Two words…Bruce Pearl. Pearl is a marketing machine. He is great in front of the camera and knows how to strum up support better than anyone in the country. I mean Auburn sold out season tickets for basketball for the first time since the 1999 season when Chris Porter, Doc Robinson, Mamadou N’Diaye and the Cliffdwellers were packing Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum on their way to a top 5 finish. You never know when Pearl is going to paint his chest, or crash class with the band or be in a dunk tank on campus. Auburn has made Sportscenter Top 10 plays already this season. Why? Pearl made a trick shot in Auburn Arena from the rafters. The man is must see TV.
Biggest disappointment: Tennessee
Tennessee is coming off a season where they made the Sweet 16. Most would expect a team like that to have another March Madness bound season. I don’t see it. The Vols lost their two best players in Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes. Cuonzo Martin was a hot name after their tournament run and bolted for….Cal?? Yeah talk about a head scratcher. Anyway this team is not the same team that made a name for themselves in March Madness last season. People will be watching because of last year but I think that they will be disappointed in what they see.