Ben Howland is the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The team has improved in each season that he has been in Starkville, winning 22 teams last year.
Howland stated at SEC Media Days that he believes the Tennessee Volunteers are the best basketball team in the conference. When asked about that opinion, he doubled down on the Vols.
“They return everybody from a championship team last season,” Howland said.” There’s no doubt in my mind they’re the team to beat.”
Ben Howland was asked about saying Tennessee is the best team in the league when Kentucky May be preseason No. 1 in the polls: They return everybody from a championship team last season. There’s no doubt in my mind they’re the team to beat.— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) October 17, 2018
The SEC media has predicted that the Kentucky Wildcats will be the best team in the conference, and the Wildcats have been ranked ahead of Tennessee in every major poll out there.
When asked to clarify his comments, he talked about the match-ups between the two teams last season.
I asked Howland to expand on his Tennessee is the team to beat comments. He mentioned that UT beat UK twice, returns everyone and there's no DOUBT that UT is the team to beat.— T.J. Walker (@TJWalkerKSR) October 17, 2018
Yes, Kentucky lost twice to a talented Tennessee team last year. But the last time they met, when the SEC Tournament championship was on the line, the Wildcats walked away with the victory.
Tennessee does return their entire team, a squad that won a share of the SEC regular season championship last season. But they also failed to win the SEC tournament and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament (although that was to the red hot Loyola-Chicago Ramblers).
Kentucky only returns two starters, but with the incredible incoming class and the transfer acquisition of Reid Travis, one could make the argument that Kentucky has two sets of five players that are both better than the Vols’ top five.
Just because Kentucky experienced more turnover certainly does not mean that they are not as good as Tennessee, and that seems like a fairly short-sided argument to make.
It is even more ridiculous to claim that there is “no doubt” that Tennessee is the best team in the SEC. If you believe they are, that’s fine. But you have to understand that there are other strong teams in the conference that could have a better season.