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SEC basketball -- not just Kentucky at the top

Feb 10, 2009 5:05 PM
Feist Facts by Jim Feist |

The SEC is loaded with talent, depth and athleticism. Longtime league power Kentucky won the national championship in 1998. Florida has been to three national title games this decade, winning twice.

Here’s some of the best in the SEC.

Florida: Coach Bill Donovan has been the king of the SEC the last few years. The centerpiece is athletic 6-6 sophomore Nick Calathes (18 ppg, 6.4 apg), who leads the Gators in scoring and assists and is fine rebounder. The frontcourt has pair of sophomore big men in 6-8 Alex Tyus (12 ppg) and 6-9 Chandler Parsons.

The Gators love the up-tempo game (79 ppg) shooting over 49 percent tops in the SEC. Florida is on a 3-1 run over the total the last few weeks with that up-tempo attack.

Tennessee: The Volunteers have been streaky, losing four home games. Gonzaga surprised them in OT at Knoxville, breaking a 37-game home winning streak. Coach Bruce Pearl has a pair of juniors running the backcourt with 6-7 J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze, an uptempo offense that is battling South Carolina for the top spot in scoring.

The frontcourt tops the SEC in rebounding, led by 6-7 junior Tyler Smith (17 ppg, 6 rpg) and 6-9 junior Wayne Chism (13 ppg, 8.8 rpg). The Vols have allowed 88 points or more four times (all losses).

South Carolina: The Gamecocks used to be a slow, defensive team, but not now under coach Darrin Horn. They are tops in the conference in three-point shooting. A pair of sparkplug guards lead the team in scoring in junior Devan Downey (20 ppg) and senior Zam Fredrick (16 ppg). Downey had 33 against Florida last week.

 The Gamecocks are stellar at home and has already matched its SEC win total from a year ago.

LSU: A veteran Tigers squad is getting things done like in the old days when Big Baby Glen Davis was using his wide-body to clog the lane. LSU has a pair of rebounders up front in 6-11 senior Chris Johnson (8 rpg) and 6-7, 240-pound junior Tasmin Mitchell (15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg), plus 6-4 senior guard Marcus Thornton and his 19.9 ppg.

The Tigers are tops in the SEC allowing 63 ppg.

Mississippi St: The Bulldogs are getting it done with defense, allowing 38 percent shooting by opponents, second best in the SEC, and leading the league with over eight blocks per game. Junior Jarvis Varnado (12 ppg, 9.6 rpg) is a rebounding machine at 6-foot-9 and swats close to five shots per contest.