Here are my revised Southeastern Conference predictions heading into next week’s opening games on the league:
1. Tennessee ” Still the team with the most talent and depth in the league, but senior guard Chris Lofton will need to shake his scoring funk.
2. Vanderbilt ” Senior forward Shan Foster has taken his play up a notch, and freshman center A.J. Ogilvy is the real deal. Wouldn’t want to play them in the NCAA Tournament.
3. Florida ” Will find a way to grind out eight or nine conference wins with a young but talented team.
4. Kentucky ” Billy Gillispie era is off to a shaky start. String of 16 straight NCAA Tournament appearances will end this season.
5. South Carolina ” Transfer guards Devan Downey and Zam Frederick give the Gamecocks a fighting chance in the league.
6. Georgia ” Disciplinary suspensions to Mike Mercer and Takais Brown leave a talent-thin roster. Senior point guard Sundiata Gaines can’t do it all on his own.
1. Mississippi ” Can Andy Kennedy win coach of the year for two straight seasons? The light has finally come on for senior center Dwayne Curtis.
2. Arkansas ” Plenty of talent, but the team is enduring growing pains under first-year coach John Pelphrey. The former Florida assistant deserves better than to coach a bunch of malcontents.
3. Mississippi State ” Charles Rhodes needs to get healthy. Barry Stewart has done a nice job moving to the starting lineup.
4. Alabama ” Richard Hendrix is an excellent big man, but the Tide don’t have enough around him to contend.
5. LSU ” With Tasmin Mitchell (broken leg) done for the year, it will be another long season for coach John Brady. Transfer guard Marcus Thornton is a nice addition, but there’s no one down low that scares anybody.
6. Auburn ” With just seven scholarship players currently available, Auburn faces another uphill battle. With Kennedy’s quick success, one has to wonder if fourth-year coach Jeff Lebo can survive another losing season.