Can Pearl's Vols repeat?

Tennessee recently won its first outright SEC basketball title in 41 years but the task of repeating could be a bit tougher.

That's because most of the league's elite players of 2007-08 will be back for 2008-09. Only one SEC player, 6-11, 220-pound LSU freshman Anthony Randolph, is projected as a first-round pick in the June 26 NBA Draft. Florida sophomore Marreese Speights, a 6-10, 245-pound post player, is considered a possible first-rounder.

Other than those two underclassmen, most of the SEC players who made major impact last winter will be back next winter.

Here's a team-by-team preview:

ALABAMA: The Tide loses just one senior starter, Mykal Riley, although three players with one year of eligibility remaining – center Alonzo Gee, power forward Richard Hendrix and point guard Ronald Steele – have declared for the NBA Draft. Odds are, none of the three will be picked early enough to warrant leaving college. Steele missed the entire 2007-08 season due to injury, so his availability should make Bama better next winter than it was last winter.

ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks are the one SEC team that figures to be dramatically younger and weaker in '08-09 than it was in '07-08. Their graduation losses are downright staggering – forward Sonny Weems, point guard Gary Ervin, forwards Darian Townes, Charles Thomas and Vincent Hunter, along with 7-footer Steven Hill. Head coach John Pelphrey has his hands full.

AUBURN: The Tigers say goodbye to a couple of pretty good seniors – 6-8 forward Quan Prowell and 6-4 guard Frank Tolbert. Otherwise, everybody who made a mark in 2007-08 will be back for 2008-09.

FLORIDA: The ridiculously young Gators had no seniors last fall, so everyone will be back unless Speights follows through with his premature jump to the NBA. He averaged 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore, which might be enough to get him a call in Round 1. If he returns, Florida could be scary good next winter.

GEORGIA: The Bulldogs salvaged a mediocre 2007-08 season by winning the SEC Tournament. They may be hard-pressed to take the next step, however, since they must replace three senior starters – point guard Sundiata Gaines, 6-8, 260-pound Takais Brown and 6-10, 255-pound Dave Bliss. Toss in Mike Mercer, who was dismissed from the team last winter with 1½ seasons of eligibility remaining, and the Dawgs seem to be lacking bite.

KENTUCKY: The Wildcats lose their starting guard tandem of Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley but return everyone else who made a contribution last winter. Having a full year in Billy Gillispie's system should help the Cats' cause, too.

LSU: The departure of the athletically gifted Randolph – widely projected as a top-10 NBA Draft pick – is clearly a major hit. Still, the Tigers have some fine young talent returning. Best of all, they are rid of John Brady, who couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag.

OLE MISS: The Rebels lose some big bangers in seniors Dwayne Curtis (6-8, 262), Jeremy Parnell (6-8, 242) and Kenny Williams (6-8, 240). Everyone else is back, however, led by silky-smooth freshman point guard Chris Warren.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: Senior post Charles Rhodes is the only scheduled departure but 6-4, 230-pound guard Jamont Gordon has declared for the NBA Draft. He does not have a natural position in the pro game, however, and may well wind up returning to Starkville for his senior season.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Other than senior wing Dwayne Day, everyone who played in 2007-08 should be back for 2008-09, including the 1-2 backcourt punch of Zam Fredrick and Devan Downey. Darrin Horn has replaced Dave Odom as head coach, however, so the Gamecocks could be facing some growing pains.

TENNESSEE: Thanks to graduation and dismissals, the Vols will be without three 2007-08 starters (wing Chris Lofton, wing JaJuan Smith, point guard Ramar Smith) and two key reserves (Duke Crews, Jordan Howell). Forward Tyler Smith elected to postpone his entry into the NBA, however, and he should be a superstar in 2008-09. A first-rate recruiting class will help offset the departures ... eventually.

VANDERBILT: Shan Foster was pretty much the whole show in 2007-08, and he has exhausted his eligibility. Two more seniors, point guard Alex Gordon and reserve post Ross Neltner, also are moving on. A.J. Ogilvy gives the Commodores a potent inside threat but replacing Foster's perimeter game will be difficult.

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