Day 5 of the 12 days of Christmas!
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me: 5 SEC teams into March Madness, 4 National Championships for LSU, 3 bowl wins for Vandy, 2 New teams, and one rematch.
On this the fifth day of Christmas my true love decided to swap up and supply some basketball gifts for the SEC. There are five lucky teams that Santa will be giving a NCAA tournament berth. These five teams are Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Mississippi State. All five of these teams are currently ranked in the top 25, but l expect the Vanderbilt Commodores to drop after another bad loss. The SEC is not known for being a powerhouse basketball conference, but this year you might see an SEC school make a title run.
John Calipari's 2011 -2012 Kentucky team might be his most talented team in his long coaching tenure. They return two sophomores to the starting five and add three freshmen. I expect all five starters to be first round draft picks if not all lottery picks depending on when they decide to leave UK for the NBA. Expect this team to make a run at a final four, and do not be surprised if you see this group of youngsters cutting down the nets in April.
The Florida Gators have one of the best back courts in all of college basketball. Billy Donovan's Gators will challenge the Wildcats for the SEC title. Currently they are 4th in the country in scoring averaging at 86.8 points a game and 9th in assists with 18.3 a game. It is early in the season but this bunch of Gators are tested. In their first ten games they have played two top five teams and another in the top twenty-five. With two upperclassmen in this back-court with the addition of one explosive freshman will make this team hard to beat come March. They have already been tournament tested only ten games in and will get tested more in SEC play by playing Kentucky twice. If you are looking for an outside team to make a long run in the NCAA tournament put your money on the Gators.
The Vanderbilt Commodores started the season ranked 7th in both polls and was Kevin Stallings best team on paper in his Vanderbilt tenure. They have gotten off to a rough start to the season with a couple of bad losses. The Dores have lost two bad games, both to unranked teams in Cleveland State and Indiana State. They also have two good losses once in overtime to Louisville and one in overtime to Xavier both top ten teams. If Stallings can keep this team from free falling I would expect them to make a pretty solid run in March. They have a solid shooter in Jenkins that good get hot and take this team to the Sweet Sixteen. On the other hand if Stallings and the Dores pile up some more bad losses I would expect their gift to be taken away by the Razorbacks.
Third year coach Anthony Grant has the Alabama Crimson Tide in the mix to compete for the SEC. The Tide will compete for third place in the SEC chasing the Gators and Wildcats. Grant's team has currently taken two bad losses to Georgetown and his alma mater Dayton. Expect to see the Tide finish third in the SEC and make a run to the sweet sixteen. I question if they will have the firepower to make a huge run in the tournament, but this is a very scrappy bunch that will play most teams really close.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs are off to yet another hot start this year and are currently 11-1 in Rick Stansbury's 13th year. You are probably thinking I have heard this before, and do not second guess yourself because it is true. The bulldogs have not been really tested this year besides a bad early loss to the University of Akron. They have wins over two top twenty five teams Arizona and future SEC member Texas A&M so there is no reason to expect the bulldogs to keep their hot start as they rank in the middle of the pack in every statistically category in NCAA Division 1A basketball. Luckily for them they only have to play Kentucky and Florida once this year, and have only Baylor as a real non-conference test. This team will finish the season in the battle for third place with Alabama and Vanderbilt, and come March I would not take this team very far in my bracket as they will not be tested like the others in the conference.
So, on the fifth day of Christmas Santa is rewarding all these teams with NCAA tournament spots. Hopefully this year an SEC school will cut down the nets.