Seven underclassmen from the Southeastern Conference entered the NBA draft pool last spring and only one of those (LSU sophomore forward Brandon Bass, a second-round choice of the Hornets) was selected.
Nice advice and/or decisions, fellows.
The losses did put a dent into the conference's Class of 2006 (four of the players would be seniors now) but shouldn't affect the number of teams that will be sprinkled among the NCAA tournament field of 65 in March.
The projection from this corner says that there will be at least five SEC members – equal the number who participated last March – playing when first-round games get under way on March 16-17.
especially if they can roll up impressive non-SEC records and approach .500 in
conference, there could be two or three others being tabbed as well.
closer look at the SEC
Spin: This is one of those programs whose teams are always good. The
annual question is just how good? I'm not going to be convinced that
the Wildcats are one of the half-dozen or so squads with the best opportunities
to get to Indianapolis on the first weekend of April until I can judge how
capable Tubby Smith's team is of accounting for the firepower that left
Azubuike and Chuck
Hayes, and the inside determination and leadership skills of the latter.
And when will center Randolph
Morris be reinstated by the NCAA and how much has he improved from his
so-so freshman season? There's no nit-picking Smith's perimeter players,
though, led by returning starters at guard in Rajon
Rondo and Patrick
Sparks, and a sophomore wing (Joe
Crawford) who seems likely to replace Azubuike.
possibilities: Some might think we're soft-selling the Wildcats but, as of
now, they appear to be, at best, a Sweet 16 team.
Spin: The Commodores won a couple of NCAA tournament games in 2004. And, two
seasons later, Kevin Stallings – one of the most nationally
underappreciated coaches – may have an even better team on hand. Senior guard Mario
Moore (nearly as underrated as Stallings) returns for what only seems
his eighth year in
possibilities: The Commodores will snag one of those 34 at-large bids on
Spin: Did you check out Bruce Pearl's team in the NCAA tournament
last March, when the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers pressed and shot their way
into a Sweet 16 game against
possibilities: The NIT* (or whatever it's being called in March), for
Spin: In case you weren't paying attention, the Gamecocks went 15-13
during the regular season in 2004-05, then reeled off consecutive victories over
possibilities: The Gamecocks will be presented the opportunity of
successfully defending their NIT* title.
Spin: The Gators haven't missed out on NCAA tournament festivities since
1998 (Billy Donovan's second season as the program's coach) but they
are in reasonable danger of doing so in 2006 following the loss of three players
Walsh and Anthony
Roberson who combined to average nearly 46 points per game. Corey
Brewer and Al
Horford are a couple of sophomores who will keep the Gators snapping at
the heels of one of those 34 precious at-large bids.
possibilities: NIT*, unless Donovan's guards prove better than they appear
Spin: The Bulldogs averaged 12 wins in Dennis
Felton's first two seasons as the program's coach. They'll be
fortunate to win that many games in Season III. But Felton has a couple of
freshmen guards (Mike
Mercer and Billy
Humphrey) good enough to start, although he returns three quality
backcourt players in Levi
Gaines and Channing
possibilities: Check again 12 months from now.
Spin: Coach Mark Gottfried lost the bulk of his perimeter scoring
attack (in the persons of Kennedy
Winston and Earnest
Shelton), as well as the guy he recruited to compensate for their
departure when JC All-America Ravone George failed to quality
academically. So why do I think
possibilities: Something will have to go seriously haywire for
Spin: SEC Player of the Year Brandon Bass departed for the NBA draft
after his sophomore season but the Tigers are still fully capable of exceeding
last season's 20-victory/but bounced in the first round of the NCAA
tournament-performance. Sophomore Glen
Davis, he of the NFL offensive left tackle's frame, and Tasmin
Mitchell (who could produce the best freshman stats in the conference),
will give Coach John Brady a post presence to rival
possibilities: An NCAA tournament experience that should last longer than
Spin: The Razorbacks won 18 games last season but only six of them were
against SEC competition, which neatly sums up why they didn't get an at-large
bid to the NCAA tournament. With the conference's best all-around player in
Brewer, a quality scorer in Jonathon
Modica and an underrated sophomore trio of big guys in Darian
Thomas and Steven
Hill, there seems, barring injury or other calamity, little room for
excuses for not winning at least 10 SEC games this season.
possibilities: I would guess that anything short of a spot in the NCAA
tournament would leave a lot of folks disappointed in
Spin: Let's see, what did the Bulldogs lose from a 23-win, NCAA second
round-season? Ah . . . just about everything. Coach Rick Stansbury
has an entire starting lineup to replace and some very good freshmen –
possibilities: A non-conference schedule built to offer up 10 or 11
victories should help the Bulldogs get into the NIT*.
Spin: Surpassing or equaling last season's 14 victories (only four of
those coming against SEC foes) could take some doing, unless several newcomers,
including Auburn transfer Dwayne
Curtis (who averaged just 2.9 points per game in his one season at the
other SEC school), can kick start an offense than accounted for just 63.8 points
per game last season.
possibilities: They don't appear to be likely.
Spin: Coach Jeff Lebo, the former McDonald's All-America and
possibilities: They're about as sturdy as
All-Conference first team
Brewer (6-7, Jr.,
Davis (6-7, So., LSU)
Steele (6-2, So.,
Davis (6-7, Sr.,
Rondo (6-1, So.,
All-Conference second team
Brewer (6-8, So.,
Watson (6-2, Sr.,
Moore (5-11, Sr., Vanderbilt)
Davidson (6-10, Jr.,
Sparks (6-1, Sr.,
Mitchell (6-7, Fr., LSU)
Vernon Mississippi State
Hendrix (6-8, Fr.,
Barber (6-7, Fr.,
Mercer (6-3, Fr.,
nationally underrated player
Davis (6-7, Sr.,
Brewer (6-7, Jr.,
April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is
Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the