The new 14-member SEC basketball season begins this week with no east and west divisions like in past years. Each conference member will play an 18-game schedule instead of a 16-game card as in previous years.
Don’t get too comfortable with this scenario, though, because I can see at least four new 16-member conferences in the near future just like Coach Cal predicted two and a half years ago.
It will be a straight down the list type of standings as the teams fight their way through January, February, and March into the conference tournament, which will be held in Nashville, Tennessee at the Bridgestone Arena March 13-17. When the regular season is over the top seeds will get byes in the first round of the conference tournament. Seeds 11, 12, 13, and 14 will play a first ever DH on Wednesday night to kick the tournament off. There will be four games each on Thursday and Friday to establish a Final Four semifinals on Saturday where the two winners will advance to the championship game.
The 2013 SEC season appears to already have been established by the SEC media representatives across the south as a three-team race between Florida, Missouri, and UK, with Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss as possible dark horse candidates if they can win a few road games down the stretch.
As we begin conference play, only Florida and Missouri are ranked anywhere in the top 25 in any of the national polls, which is a grave indication of how weak the SEC is this year, and newcomer Missouri is already carrying a new torch for the meek basketball image the SEC has been fighting for several years now.
Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m betting this UK team will settle somewhere in the 13-5 to 14- 4 range when all is said and done.
It all starts this Thursday for UK down in Nashville, Tenn. at Memorial Gymnasium against the Commodores, and the game can be seen live on ESPN at 9 p.m. Then the Cats will have a quick turn around on Saturday afternoon in Rupp Arena with their first ever SEC game against the Texas A&M Aggies.
Another 5-star blue chip for Calipari in fold
John Calipari has long been noted for his ability to recruit and develop elite point guards year after year after year, and has them stock piled all across NBA rosters using his trademark dribble drive offense to lure them to Rupp Arena. However, it is beginning to appear that either this offense has avenues and angles for post players to shine or Cal is much more of a well-rounded coach than what the national media gurus want to give him credit for.
Why you ask?
Because as of this writing Coach Cal has produced more All Americans, All SEC players and NBA draft choices at the four and five positions of forward and center the last three years than he has guards. Let’s count them starting with the centers then the forwards: Demarcus Cousins, Josh Harrellson, Anthony Davis, and it appears the course is falling in place for Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein as well, and all are from the post positions while Patrick Patterson, Michael Kidd Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, and Alex Poythress represent the forward position.
Now the No. 1 center for the upcoming 2013 spring class, Dakari, has cast his lot with the Wildcats over the weekend, giving UK a lock on another No. 1 recruiting class. And it appears Cal isn’t through with maybe the biggest prize of them all still available in Andre Wiggins, a combo forward who many recruiting service gurus say just may be the best talent to come on the college scene out of high school in many years.
Listed below is an update on this coming year’s class of recruits and their status as of this week:
Have Signed Grant in Aid for Next Year
Andrew Harrison - 6’ 5” / Richmond , Texas = # 1 Point Guard 5 Star Player
Aaron Harrison - 6’ 5” / Richmond , Texas = # 1 off Guard 5 Star Player
James Young - 6’ 6” / Rochester , Michigan = # 3 Small Forward 5 Star Player
Marcus Lee - 6’ 9” / Antioch , California = # 5 Power Forward 4 Star Player
Derek Willis - 6’ 9” / Bullitt East , Ky. = # 12 Combo Forward 4 Star Player
Has Verbally Committed To UK
Dakari Johnson - 6’ 10” / Mont. Academy , Fla. = # 1 Center 5 Star Player
Still Undecided but UK Very Much Involved
Andre Wiggins - 6’ 8” / Huntington Prep , West Va. = # 1 Overall 5 Star Player (Florida State or UK)
Julius Randle - 6’ 9” / Plano ,Texas = # 1 Power Forward 5 Star Player (UK or Florida or Kansas or Texas)
Stoops Recruiting Taking Form
Evidently, Coach Cal’s recruiting skills are becoming contagious across campus because new football coach Mark Stoops has now reeled in another recruit in the short time he has been out on the recruiting trail across the south.
First Stoops hit the JC ranks down in Mississippi to bag a 6’ 4” 250 lb. 4 star DE by the name of Za Darius Smith and beat out Texas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and West Virginia. for his services. Now he has his first high school recruit on board from LaSalle H.S. in Cincinnati, Jaleel Hytche , who new Tennessee coach Butch Jones had been hoping to bring to Knoxville. Stoops won him over after a couple visits in the last two weeks. Hytche is listed as a 4-star recruit by one service and a high ranking 3-star by two other recruiting services.
There are still several prize recruits of the 4-star variety both in state and out of state on the board that Stoops and his new staff are working hard and still have official visits lined up with some during January. Ryan Timmons, the 4 star all-purpose athlete from Franklin County is definitely a point of emphasis for Stoops, and with James Quick of Trinity announcing for Louisville last Saturday evening it’s still hard to read the situation with Ohio State’s involvement, if any, with Timmons. Reportedly, the Buckeyes were out of scholarships weeks ago, yet Quick listed them along with Louisville all the way up to his final announcement.
Last word out of Frankfort I got was Timmons is set for an official visit to Ohio State himself this coming weekend, and if the Buckeyes hadn’t come up with some type of a plan for his services, Timmons was marking them off and it would be down to UK, Illinois, and Arkansas with the Cats being a hard lean.