January 7, 2008

SEC East Preview: UT, VU on top

Vanderbilt 15-0

Top Scorer: G Shan Foster 21.1 ppg

Top Rebounder: C A.J. Ogilvy 7.3 rpg

Best Win: 97-88 over UMass

Worst Loss: none

The word: Balanced

The Commodores have the league's best one-two punch in Foster and Ogilvy. Foster's got the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor. He's one of the best players in the SEC.

Ogilvy's a talented big man with great feet and presence. At 6-foot-11, Ogilvy's got a big frame. A native of Sydney, Australia, Ogilvy's played like one of the nation's top freshmen.

The rest of the lineup is filled with veterans like senior point guard Alex Gordon. Six players are averaging more than seven points for an offense that's scoring 86.6 points per game.

Tennessee 12-1

Top Scorer: G Chris Lofton 14.5 ppg

Top Rebounder: F Tyler Smith 5.5 rpg

Best Win: 82-75 at Xavier

Worst Loss: 97-78 vs. Texas in Newark N.J.

The word: Fast

Bruce Pearl's teams always like to play at a frantic pace, and this year's edition of the Volunteers is no different. Lofton, JaJuan Smith and an emerging J.P. Prince help push the tempo.

The Volunteers are probably the most tested team in the SEC, winning tough games away from home over West Virginia, Xavier and Gonzaga.

Without a single high school All-American, Tennessee has become a very consistent team in the SEC East.

Florida 13-2

Top Scorer: G Nick Calathes 14.5 ppg

Top Rebounder: F/C Marreese Speights 7.6 rpg

Best Win: 86-69 over Temple

Worst Loss: 65-51 to Florida State

The word: Depleted

The back-to-back national champions lost nearly everyone of substance to the NBA, including head coach Billy Donovan briefly. Billy the Kid returned to Gainesville to coach a team filled with youth.

Florida's started the same five players in each of its games this season - a lineup with one junior, two sophomores and two freshmen. Calathes has good size and is a shot maker. At 6-foot-6, he sees the floor well and leads the SEC in assists.

Florida still hasn't beaten anyone of any substance, but the Gators have plenty of young talent.

Georgia 8-4

Top Scorer: G Billy Humphrey 13.4 ppg

Top Rebounder: G Sundiata Gaines 5.9 rpg

Best Win: 72-50 over Wake Forest

Worst Loss: 76-58 to East Tennessee State in Honolulu

The word: Disciplined

Early-season suspensions shook this team at the core, and Dennis Felton's squad didn't immediately respond. The Bulldogs' two top returning scorers from last season were kicked off the team, and several other players have served suspensions for arrests and academic violations.

Still, Georgia's put together a winning record, but the Bulldogs haven't beaten anyone of any real substance.

Gaines, Georgia's top rebounder, is the Bulldogs' 6-foot-1 point guard - never a good sign.

South Carolina 8-6

Top Scorer: G Devan Downey 18.6 ppg

Top Rebounder: F Dominique Archie 6.3 rpg

Best Win: 68-67 at Providence

Worst Loss: 61-58 to North Carolina-Asheville

The word: Pressured

The Gamecocks certainly are talented. The speedy Downey, who played for Andy Kennedy at Cincinnati and Zam Frederick, a 6-foot transfer from Georgia Tech, give South Carolina two of the league's better scoring guards.

But there's pressure on this team to finally breakthrough. In Dave Odom's six years at South Carolina, the team's never had a winning record in league and made just one NCAA Tournament appearance.

Making matters worse, the Gamecocks head into SEC play on the heels of a home loss to UNC-Asheville and with their top three-point shooter Brandis Raley-Ross sidelined with a knee injury.

Kentucky 6-7

Top Scorer: F Patrick Patterson 16.8 ppg

Top Rebounder: Patterson 8.1 rpg

Best Win: 80-54 over Liberty

Worst Loss: 84-68 to Gardner-Webb

The word: Ugly

Ashley Judd's got to be pretty upset. In head coach Billy Gillespie's first year in Lexington, the Wildcats have been pretty bad.

Patterson, a true freshman, has been as good as advertised. But injuries and a lack of aggressiveness have limited him impact. Senior Joe Crawford's play has been spotty.

Kentucky's suffered losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego at home. Blue chipper Alex Legion's already packed his bags and left the team. He's transferring to Illinois.

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