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ESPN previews the SEC and makes their preseason predictions

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There’s a lot of confidence in the Cats.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN gathered three of their best college basketball analysts to preview the upcoming season in the SEC. They were Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf, and John Gasaway.

They each talked at length about a few topics, including the Kentucky Wildcats’ ability to make it to the Final Four and the possibility of the Florida Gators stealing the top spot in the conference.

But most importantly, they made their preseason predictions on how the SEC will play out in 2019-20.

All three analysts picked Kentucky to finish first in the conference, followed by Florida. Outside of that, and the three bottom teams, there wasn’t much agreement.

Two of the three picked the LSU Tigers to finish third, while one picked the Tennessee Volunteers. There was one pick for the Vols, one for LSU, and one for the Auburn Tigers to finish fourth. And finally, there were two picks for Auburn and one for Tennessee to finish fifth.

There isn’t much competition in the SEC outside of those five teams. It’s extremely top heavy this season, but the top is really, really good.

The Cats and Gators are in a tier of their own, followed by the LSU, Tennessee, and Auburn. LSU figures to be the closest in terms of talent compared to UK and UF.

As for their quick preview, the first question the three discussed was: “Among most observers, Kentucky and Florida are a clear 1-2 in the SEC entering the season. Are you buying or selling the Gators as legitimate, consistent threats to the Wildcats going forward?”

All three agreed that Florida is a legitimate threat...at least for this season. They didn’t all go into detail beyond this season, despite the question asking about the consistency of the Gators’ threat, but the consensus seemed to be that while Mike White has built a solid program, he can’t keep up with John Calipari in the long run.

And the other question that involved the Cats was: “Kentucky is in a (gasp!) four-year drought without reaching a Final Four. How surprised would you be to see that end this season? Which previous Calipari team does this one remind you of?”

Medcalf wouldn’t be surprised a bit to see Kentucky make a big March run this year.

“‘You have a chance to win the national championship every year,’” Medcalf said, detailing an old quote that Kelvin Sampson told Coach Cal. “That’s true, so I wouldn’t be surprised by a Final Four run this season.”

Gasaway was in agreement that Kentucky in the Final Four wouldn’t but surprising, but his concerns are probably in line with most of BBN’s.

“The only question I have with this UK rotation regards size at the rim on D. Calipari’s annual haul of top-100 freshmen didn’t include anyone taller than 6-foot-7 this time, and 6-foot-9 Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina was but the sixth-best shot-blocker in the Patriot League last season. It’s time for Nick Richards and/or EJ Montgomery to log heavy minutes and shine.”

Production in general from the big men will be important, but the rim protection will be as well. The perimeter defense should be rock solid, but can the big men protect the paint without fouling?

Borzelle compared this year’s team to the De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo team in terms of being able to run the floor. However, he added a caveat.

“I think this team will go one step further than that group did, ending the drought and making the Final Four.”

The reviews were solid and optimistic for Kentucky. There are still legitimate question marks and concerns that need to be answered, but it’s not even November yet.

The SEC season is quite a ways away, but the Michigan State Spartans are waiting just around the corner.