Q&A with ESPN SEC basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes

Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 3:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 3:53 p.m.

Catching up with ESPN SEC basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes ...< /i>

I know you've called a lot of games around the league, what team impresses you the most so far?

Well, obviously, Kentucky. I think they've surprised themselves by how much success they've had. I think Coach Cal (John Calipari) would tell you that he would expect to have two or three losses right now, but they don't. (Kentucky freshman point guard) John Wall is just a special guy. He looks different than anybody else in the league right now. I'm anxious to see how he's going to hold up in SEC play, because the elite always rise in conference play.

Any early impressions of Florida?

I think they are back to playing the kind of pressure, tough defense that Billy (Donovan) played when they won national championships. What I like about them is they've found ways to win games even shooting as poorly as they've shot. And you've got to do a lot of other things well to do that. It's just a matter of them getting the 3-point shooting back in the groove right now.

Any team that you could see in the league that could be a darkhorse?

Well, I think Alabama is sitting down there. No one is really talking about them, but watching them play, they had Purdue down 16 (points) in the second half. They didn't finish them off but I saw signs of them being a very solid basketball team. And they're only going to get better because Anthony Grant, in his first year, they are still learning every day. And I still think Vanderbilt has as many pieces as anyone in the league outside of Kentucky.

Tyler Smith's dismissal, how is that going to impact Tennessee?

You know, I was very surprised at how they played without those four kids (UT's Melvin Goins, Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum are still suspended indefinitely) against (UNC) Charlotte. That was a good win against a good Charlotte team. A lot of times you can pull it together for one game or two games, but eventually losing 42 percent of your offense — if none of those guys return — that's a big hit to Tennessee. Your depth, tired legs, the style of play, all of those things will be altered. I think it's a leadership loss and a toughness loss, he was the most competitive guy Tennessee put on the floor every night, and someone has to fill that void.

Which teams do you expect to contend for the league title?

Kentucky, obviously, in the East. I think there is such a balanced area over there behind Kentucky. ... In the West, I think the two headliners went at it the first weekend, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. I think those teams probably have a little more experience, a little more talent to work with than anybody else on that side of the grid.

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