SEC best has depth

Feb 13, 2008 1:48 AM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist | The SEC has a bunch of teams that are loaded with talent, depth and athleticism.

Kentucky won the national championship in 1998. Florida knocked on the door in 2000 getting to the title game against Michigan State. The Gators then won it all the last two seasons.

Here’s a look at some of college basketball’s best teams in the SEC.

Florida: Coach Bill Donovan is rebuilding with a talented, though very young, team. The centerpiece is athletic 6-6 freshman Nick Calathes (15 ppg, 6 apg), who leads the Gators in scoring and assists. He is also a fine rebounder. Junior guard Walter Hodge teams with Calathes in the backcourt, while 6-10 sophomore Marreese Speights (14 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and 6-7 sophomore Dan Werner anchor the frontcourt.

The Gators love the up-tempo game (80 ppg) shooting over 49 percent, tops in the SEC. This young team hasn’t been stellar on the road. Last week they suffered a pair of blowout losses, 80-61 at Arkansas and 104-82 at Tennessee. Donovan called a double session after the loss to Arkansas, a rarity during the middle of conference play. Florida hasn’t been very good as a dog, but started 7-2 ATS as chalk.

Tennessee: The Volunteers certainly made a statement with last week’s rout of Florida. Bruce Pearl has a veteran backcourt-oriented team with two senior guards as the leading scorers in Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith. Tyler Smith, a 6-7 sophomore, (13 ppg, 6 rpg) has been strong up front. The up-tempo attack is tops in scoring in the SEC and led to a 7-1 SU, 5-3 ATS start on the road! That’s in stark contrast to their poor road play a year ago, so it’s clear this team has come a long way.

Do they rely too much on offense? The Vols shot 39 percent against Texas (a 97-78 loss) and 38 in a 72-66 loss at Kentucky. Tennessee settled for 3-pointers down the stretch and allowed 63 and 49 percent shooting in those defeats. Still, the Vols are 4-0 SU/ATS as a dog.

Arkansas: Razorbacks first-year coach John Pelphrey was an assistant for Billy Donovan for eight years at Marshall and Florida. He learned well, even routing his old coach 80-61 last week. Arkansas has a dynamite defense, allowing 40 percent shooting. What’s their secret? How about six seniors and four players listed at 6-foot-10 or taller!

The frontcourt has 6-6 senior Sonny Weems (14 ppg, 4.6 rpg) as the leading scorer. The Hogs also have board bangers 6-10 senior Darian Townes, 6-8 senior Charles Thomas and 7-foot senior center Steve Hill. The backcourt has a strong talent and terrific rebounder in junior guard Patrick Beverley (12 pp, 6.9 rpg).

Vanderbilt: Head Coach Kevin Stallings has a team that can shoot the ball, averaging 82 ppg. The Commodores started 10-3 OVER the total. Shan Foster, a 6-6 senior, (19 ppg, 4.9 rpg) is an outstanding 3-point shooter. Foster teams with senior point guard Alex Gordon and 6-3 sophomore Jermaine Beal.

A huge addition has been 6-10 Andrew Oglivy, averaging over 17 points and 6.6 rebounds. When SEC play heated up, Vandy went just 1-4 SU/ATS as a dog.

Mississippi: Ole Miss is a strong offensive team, averaging 83 ppg, second in the SEC. The Rebels are tops in rebounding because of 6-8 junior Dwayne Curtis (15 ppg, 9 rpg) and 6-8 senior Kenny Williams (7.7 rpg). Freshman point guard Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice combine for over 9 assists per game. Ole Miss is 23-1 at home under Adam Kennedy.