First, let me say that I've been extraordinarily pleased with the improvement in the team since the beginning of SEC play. I don't remember ever seeing a team "flip the switch" the way this one has. It was as if they just woke up one morning having learned Coach G's definition of "compete" by osmosis.
Nowhere has the change been more dramatic than with Joe and Ramel. I was among their vocal critics early in the year, but they have (thankfully) shut up me and their other detractors in a big way. So much so, that I'm now concerned about losing them next year.
What we've seen over the past three games is 100% effort, but 100% effort has only gotten us to 1-2 so far. While they had a few lapses, Joe and Ramel were the offense against MSU and UF while Pat was struggling. They almost won those games for us by themselves. Who will be able to do that next year?
Unquestionably, Meeks will be better. Will he be the other-worldly scoring beast that he was in the first game of the preseason against Pikeville? Let's hope so. But realistically, he can't be both Joe AND Ramel by himself.
Pat will also be improved, but is he capable of being this year's Pat PLUS Joe or Ramel? I doubt it. DJ will also hopefully be healthy, but we know that outside of a wide-open three (which he's been uncanny at making) he rarely even shoots the ball.
Admittedly, I haven't seen Liggins or Miller at all. If they can be the kind of impact freshmen that Patterson has been, perhaps this is much ado about nothing. But we all agree that we'd like to see some improvement next year. Even if we are able to replace Joe and Ramel's contributions, that just puts us back where we are now -- (10-6, if you assume next year we'd have wins over GW, SD, and UAB.)
Someone please put my mind at ease about next year.