Taylor's Thoughts: SEC Hoops talk

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith won't be surprised once the preseason basketball rankings are released. Florida will be one of the top teams in the country, if not the top pick to repeat as national champions.

Smith said the return of starters Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Lee Humphrey, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green help give the Gators a legitimate chance at securing a two-peat.

"It (having five starters back) means Florida is the preseason pick to be No. 1 in the country with everybody back," Smith said during the SEC basketball coaches' summer teleconference on Monday.

Florida coach Billy Donovan is equally excited about the return of his starting five.

"We've been hit by early departures in the past couple of years and this is the first year it hasn't happened," he said. "Our guys know what's in front of them this year and will be able to do some special things."

Smith said he wasn't surprised the Gators' top five opted to return to Gainesville.

"They're from different backgrounds," Smith said. "I think that when you look at where kids come from and what their economic status or whatever it is, I think those are things you have to look at. I haven't talked with anyone individually, but I would imagine they all have parents that instilled certain values in them and they adhere to them."

Donovan said the team's ability to feed off his own desire helps make his job easier.

"I love coaching this team, because they have the same personality of their coaches with the passion and drive to compete," he said.

Despite being a huge favorite to repeat both in the league and in the NCAA, Donovan understands that his team must be ready to deal with the consequences of living at the top of the college basketball world.

"This team has great chemistry, but we will have to deal with distractions," the Florida coach said. "I think the safe haven was the time they got to spend with each other and building that chemistry."

Smith agreed.

"They had great chemistry because you can't go on a run like they did unless your guys are really buying into the system and playing together," he said.

Donovan added that several players make the necessary sacrifices to help the team succeed down the stretch last season.

"Some guys could have scored or shot the ball more, but they did what was best for the team and became better for the team," Donovan said.

In terms of recruiting, Smith said Donovan has "done an outstanding job."

"Those kids have really developed," he said of Florida's top tier players.

As for criticism of Smith's recruiting this summer, South Carolina coach Dave Odom defended his conference colleague.

"I don't think he has let them slip," he said. "Let them implies that he did it on purpose and I don't think he's done that. Tubby has done a great job at Kentucky. I think we just have more teams trying to get better.

"It's hard to be so much better than teams now. They have lived that dream for several years. To be hard on Tubby is an error."

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