VAUGHT: Dortch explains Blue Ribbon forecast

Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook projects Kentucky as the 4th best team in the SEC East this year. That seems in line with UK being left out of preseason national rankings, but doesn't match the expectations most Kentucky fans have for Billy Gillispie's second UK team. Blue Ribbon editor Chris Dortch shared his insight into how his publication decided to put UK fourth in its division.

Question: What went into your thinking that Kentucky was only the fourth best team in the SEC East this year when most UK fans think the Cats can win the division?

Dortch: I think Tennessee has a chance to be as good or better than last year, provided the Vols can get J.P. Prince, Cameron Tatum and Daniel West back (from injuries). Florida has loads of talent and could win the division if the Gators have matured from a year ago. Vanderbilt has its most athletic and probably overall talented team, but will miss Shan Foster. Still, remember the name Festus Ezeli. He's a 7-foot native of Cameroon who redshirted last year. He could be a difference maker, at least defensively, and team with A.J. Ogilivy to give the Commodores an imposing front line. When has that ever happened at Vandy?

"The Kentucky pick wasn't so much that I think the Wildcats won't be any good. Tennessee is rolling right now. Florida is loaded, especially if the sophomores can step up their games. And every year I try to make a risky pick, and this year that happened to be Vanderbilt at No. 3. Kentucky is still an NCAA Tournament team."

Question: What are your biggest concerns about Kentucky's team this year?

Dortch: "I think Billy has to find a couple more guys that can score. If Jodie Meeks is back to 100 percent, he takes one of those slots. Darius Miller knows how to get the ball in the basket. DeAndre Liggins or Kevin Galloway have to be able to run the show. Someone has to step up behind Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson to provide post depth."

Question: What would have to happen for Kentucky to climb to No. 1 in the East this season?

Dortch: "Tennessee will have to stumble a bit, and with no depth at point guard, an injury to starter Bobby Maze could be a killer. Florida's younger, more talented guys would have to struggle. And Kentucky would have to, as I said earlier, find a couple of more scorers and some post depth. It's possible. I wouldn't be nearly so high on Tennessee, post Chris Lofton, had Tyler Smith not come back and Scotty Hopson not signed. I think now Bruce Pearl has length at every position, provided everyone's healthy, and will be able to do more things defensively, even enough to counter the loss of Lofton. It will be a different kind of team."

Question: Would it shock you if Kentucky did win the division?

Dortch: "Nothing shocks me in this game anymore. And as I said, Kentucky has an NCAA Tournament team. There's not a huge difference in the top four or five teams in the SEC. Kentucky's in that group."

Question: From your perspective, who is the most intriguing player on the UK team this year?

Dortch: "I like what I hear about Liggins. From everyone I've talked to, he's a guy who possesses a lot of different skills, but more importantly, he's a winner. If you don't show up in college with the desire to be a winner, it's hard for that to be coached into you. Liggins likes to compete. That's a trait I really admire."

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