Over the next few days, A Sea of Blue will be looking at the 2007-2008 SEC basketball teams from a distance of almost four months. Obviously, a lot can change in that time, so these will be subject to substantial revision and extension later.
After we finish looking at all the teams, we'll come up with a pre-season ranking based on our evaluations. Sound like fun? Well, what else is there to do this far away? So let's get started.
Alabama returns almost everybody with one big exception -- Jermareo Davidson. Ronald Steele is returning for his senior season, and Richard Hendrix figures to be improved, as do uber-athletic wings Alonzo Gee and major end-of-season contributor Mykal Riley. Alabama will be an experienced team with three seniors and three juniors returning.
With the loss of Davidson, half of Alabama's powerful post presence of the last two years will be gone. Waiting in the wings are last year's reserves Yamene Coleman and Avery Jukes, as well as freshman Justin Knox, a 4-star power forward from Tuscaloosa who brings a defensive presence but little scoring.
Mark Gottfreid is still the coach at Alabama, and he has underperformed consistently despite having some of the best talent in the SEC. Unless he can upgrade his efforts at coaching (and he well may, who knows?), I expect Alabama to have a year typical of them over the last 5 years -- very competitive, 18-22 wins, but falling well short of the expectations such a talented team should have.
CONTENDER, OR PRETENDER?
On paper, Alabama is always a contender. In reality, they are usually a pretender. After years of futility being amazed by Gottfried's recruiting and appalled at his season results, I refuse to be impressed. Contender in the west, but as far as a conference championship is concerned -- Pretender.
In a word, experience. Quan Prowell, Josh Dollard, Frank Tolbert, and Korvotney Barber all return as upperclassmen, as well as Archie Miaway, Rasheem Barrett and Quantez Robertson. With no departing seniors, all this returning experience and two years in Jeff Lebo's system under their belt, the Tigers will have their best chance in years to make some noise in the SEC. Freshman combo forward Tyrell Lynch figures to help Auburn out both on the blocks and on the perimeter. Lynch attended the Patterson School in North Carolina last year, and recruiting observers will remember that former UK recruit Marshall Moses attended there. Boubacar Sylla, a 6'11"/240# big man out of Paris, France via Tarzana, California will give the Tigers some much-needed size, but Sylla is very raw and little more than a big body with potential at this point.
Despite all this experience, with the exception of Barber, Auburn's talent level and size simply isn't up to SEC standards. Lebo likes to run and shoot, and we will see if two years of his system can will make a difference. Auburn will get some upsets, and nobody will be looking forward to playing them, but they don't look like a threat to win the West, or even make the NCAA tournament, at least from this distance.
Auburn's record since their last NCAA appearance in 2003 is 57-62. That's ugly.
CONTENDER, OR PRETENDER?
Auburn has yet to show itself capable of seriously challenging in SEC basketball. Mike DeCoucy described Auburn best: "There are programs that are great. There are programs that are dreadful. And there are programs that just seem to exist in a perpetual state of irrelevance." Auburn is such a program, and at least in basketball, will be again this year. Pretender
We'll be doing this same kind of evaluation of the rest of the SEC in the coming days. After that is complete, we will take a look a the league, top to bottom, and give our early estimate of how each team will perform in the 2007-2008 season.