Kentucky and Florida have carried this shallow conference for years, and the 2014-15 season will be no different. The emergence of teams like Georgia and Arkansas are key for the development of this conference, which certainly lacks high-end schools. An output of five teams for the tournament would, however, be a start.
Coach John Callipari’s highly questioned strategy of a two-platoon system will finally be unveiled. With the depth these Wildcats have, why not? Filled with McDonald’s All-Americans, this roster is as star-studded as they come, but the man to watch out for this season may be 6’11 freshman Karl-Anthony Towns, who was the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder in preseason play. This team is also more experienced than Callipari’s last few squads, with two junior forwards who have been rotation players since day one in Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythres, as well as the Harrison twins, who were the driving force in Kentucky’s title game run as freshmen last season. It is scary to think that this team looks better than last year’s Wildcats who played in the title game.
Although the Gators have lost their senior leaders in PG Scottie Wilbekin and center Patric Young, Florida looks to keep on rolling this season. Coach Billy Donovan is among the best in the business and boasts a highly skilled, revamped roster. Sophomore PF Chris Walker will make the transition into the starting lineup, as well as the transition into every NBA scout’s wishlist. He will be able to replace Young’s presence in the paint with excellent shot-blocking and devastating size. Guard Michael Frazier II and SF Dorian Finney-Smith return from key roles last season. Frazier cemented himself as one of the nation’s best three-point shooter’s last season, but will have to find other ways to score as Donovan looks to him as the go-to point producer. Kasey Hill is in tough to fill the shoes of Wilbekin.
The Razorbacks beat the Wildcats twice last season and return their three leading scorers in forwards Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls, and statsheet-stuffer guard Ky Madden. Arkansas will need one of Anton Beard or Jabril Durham to step up as the team’s floor general, but this team is not to be taken lightly.
LSU lost All-SEC forward Jonny O’Bryant III but will be able to replace him with another double-double machine in sophomore Jordan Mickey. Jarell Martin is another talented sophomore forward returning and the forward scoring duo will be insulated by 7’1 freshman Elbert Robinson as a rim-protector.
The Bulldogs quietly had a very successful 2013-14 season, tying Kentucky for second in the conference. They boast a very experienced rotation, with two junior guards (Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines) and two senior forwards (Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic) in its starting lineup. Mann and Gaines are the key to this teams success as one of the most underrated backcourts in the nation. Two games to highlight for this squad are non-conference games against Gonzaga and Kansas State.
First Team All-SEC
G Andrew Harrison, Sophomore, Kentucky
G Aaron Harrison, Sophomore, Kentucky
F Jordan Mickey, Sophomore, LSU
F Karl-Anthony Towns, Freshman, Kentucky
F Willie Cauley-Stein, Junior, Kentucky