There are good looking women in the SEC.
1. Florida Gators. I'm not a huge fan of their guards, because I think both Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton can get a little too out of control and both have a tendency to shoot shots that they shan't be shooting, but there is not denying their talent and the Gators have a stellar front court. Chandler Parsons is a Mike Miller clone sans the bad hair and with a slightly worse jump shot (and he single-handedly won me my fantasy college hoops league last year) and Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin are very good as long as you don't count free throws. In a down year for the SEC, the Gators are clearly the class of either division.
2. Kentucky Wildcats. In what I'm going to assume is about to become a tradition until Calipari is arrested for money laundering, Kentucky lost an assload of good players to the NBA but is reloading with an assload of talent. It's almost a perfect job of recruiting, actually, because these guys are not only talented but cover all five positions: You have PG Brandon Knight (Rivals #6 overall), SG Doron Lamb (#21), SF Stacey Poole (#33), PF Terrence Jones (#13), and C Enes Kanter (#3 overall). Of course, the biggest question is if Kanter will end up eligible, because they aren't particularly strong on the interior without him, but this year will be plenty athletic and is near-perfectly built for the dribble-drive offense Calipari loves. I'd consider this #2 prediction their downside. Well, the actual downside was it turns out Cal has been cheating (NO WAY) and they kick everybody off the team or something. That would probably be worse.
3. Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia may very well be on their way back to relevance, believe it or not. Travis Leslie is an absolute stud, and what Rodney Williams should aspire to become, and they have the league's leading returning scorer and rebounder in power forward Trey Thompkins. These guys should be two of the best players in the conference, but what makes this team really interesting are a couple of newcomers: freshman forward Marcus Thornton and point guard transfer from Tennessee State Gerald Robinson. Thornton could be a great one, with both size and athleticism, and Robinson is the kind of scoring point guard (averaged 15 and 18 points per game in his two years at TSU) who can end up making or breaking a team. I consider these guys a solid sleeper this year.
4. Tennessee Volunteers. I don't exactly know how Bruce Pearl being a huge cheater is going to affect this team, but they're a bit of an enigma already so this doesn't help with the rubix cube here. I've seen them ranked anywhere from 2nd to 4th in various previews, and with three major contributors and starters gone (four if you want to count Tyler Smith) the second place predictions seems awfully optimistic to me. I guess it really depends on how good you think freshman point guard Tobias Harris can be (Rivals #7), and how much of an improvement Cameron Tatum and/or Scottie Hopson can make. I think those three will be pretty studly, but they're all perimeter guys and the Vols are going to be weak on the interior. Plus I wouldn't surprised if Pearl is dismissed/suspended/whatever and this whole thing collapses.
5. Vanderbilt Commodores. If Northwestern is the nerds of midwest, and Stanford is the nerds of the west coast, then Vanderbilt is the nerds of the southeast. And for nerds, they've had a pretty good run of success lately, making the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years with a sweet16 appearance thrown in. This looking like it's going to be a down year, however, with two double-digit scorers (center A.J. Ogilvy and point guard Jermaine Beal) lost to graduation, but they've built the kind of program at this point where they'll be back soon enough. Sophomore Jeffery Taylor is one of the most athletically gifted players in the conference and should blossom with an increased role on offense, and classmate John Jenkins is a three-point marksman who hit nearly 50% of his threes last year on his way to averaging double-digit points per game. And they're probably all really smart, too. NERDS!!!
6. South Carolina Gamecocks. Remember Devan Downey? He and his 22 points per game have graduated. Along with Dominique Archie (who only played five games last year due to injury) and his 14.4 ppg, Mike Holmes (who only played in seven before being kicked off the team) and his 9.4, and Brandin Raley-Ross and his 10.6. So yes, they're losing a lot. They still have a decent enough inside/outside combo in Ramon Galloway and Sam Muldrow, but let's just say if they were an NBA Jam combo they'd never get picked outside of South Carolina. Coach Darrin Horn loves to play an uptempo style, but with just Galloway and Lakeem Jackson back with significant back court experience, he'll be relying on newcomers and although it's a good class, that's not generally a sign of success. This isn't Kentucky.
1. Mississippi State Bulldogs. It sucks that Jarvis Varnado graduated, because that guy was as fun to watch as anybody so pardon me if I'm weeping like a fat girl at a prom with no cake while I type this, but the Bulldogs have enough coming back to win their division and make the tournament, mostly because the defied the odds and went 2-0 against the NCAA fascists this offseason. Dee Bost, last year's #3 scorer at 13.2 ppg, declared for the NBA draft, then pulled his name out after the deadline, and instead of following it's own rules they are letting him back to play another year after sitting out the first handful of games. He'll be joined on the suspended bench to start the year by PF Renardo Sidney, last year's #16 ranked freshman by Rivals who sat out of all of last season during an NCAA investigation into something or other, but he'll be playing after a nine game timeout. Add these two to Ravern Johnson, their leading returning scorer, and Miss State should be dancing this year. With a big thanks to the NCAA for actually being reasonable, not exactly their strong suit. It's probably in recognition of how much it sucks to lose Varnado.
2. Mississippi Rebels. Chris Warren is back, again (he's apparently under the Jess Settles plan), but he loses his two back court buddies (Eniel Polynice and Terrico White) who combined to give the Rebels one of the best three-man back courts in the country amongst teams who didn't make the NCAA tournament last year. He won't be alone back there, however, because Ole Miss will welcome one of the best names in the country to the program in point guard Dundrecous Nelson (#89 Rivals), as well as Nick Williams, a transfer from Indiana who averaged nearly double-digit points in his year with the Hoosiers. If the Rebs can get some help in the front court they could finally bust through the bubble and make their first NCAA Tournament since 2002. Gotta be sick of being predicted to be a tournament team only to end up in the NIT, no?
3. Arkansas Razorbacks. Mike Pelphrey continues to grab good recruiting classes, but at the same time there seems to be sort of an undercurrent that things might not be all rosy, or maybe that's just the Courtney Fortson affect. And speaking of Fortson, I think I'm pretty glad he never ended up a Gopher, because it seems he may have been just as good at killing his team as he was at helping it. In any case, Pelphrey has this program humming like a good ole fashioned jug band drinkin' moonshine while prepping for a coon hunt. And if that sounded racist against southerners, it probably was. I've been to Arkansas.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide. Mikhail Torrance was an absolute stud for the Tide last year. Unfortunately, he's gone. Fortunately, however, they still JaMychal Green, who is a beast on the block, and swingman Tony Mitchell, who had a very good freshman year and should only get better. They also have a hell of a freshman point guard coming in with Trevor Releford, who may be the most important cog. According to something I read, Tide coach Anthony Grant wants to run an uptempo offense, but didn't have the point guard to do it and went slow down instead (their tempo ranked #247 last year), and the hope is that Releford is the guy who can be turned loose. It might work, and there's talent here, I just don't think it's enough, even in the SEC West.
5. LSU Tigers. Every year I keep waiting for LSU to get back to relevance, but every year it seems they're still stuck down at the bottom of the division - and this year won't change that. Storm Warren is a solid guard, but the other stand-out returner, forward Bo Spencer, peaced out from the program after being declared academically ineligible (at LSU? LOL). With that they are very young and I'm not even sure they know what all they have since Warren is the only returning player who averaged more than 4.6 points per game last year. There is some talent, with SG Aaron Dotson a Rivals top 150 player last year and a good class this year with three more Rivals top 150 types, so they might be on their way back to relevance, just not yet.
6. Auburn Tigers. Things were already going to be tough with four starters graduating (including your top three scorers), but the news got worse when Frankie Sullivan, the lone returning starter, ended up needed ACL surgery that will likely keep him out all year and the Tigers' two top recruits, Luke Cothron (Rivals #45) and Shawn Kemp, Jr. (#105) were both ruled academically eligible for the year (Cothron has since fled to UMass). This leaves Auburn with Earnest Ross as their top returnee, a sophomore guard who averaged 2.8 points and 3 rebounds in 13 minutes per game last year. In other words it's going to be a long year. At least it will be warm.