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ESPN picks against Kentucky in the SEC

The Southeastern Conference is home to the defending national champion, a pair of new teams, and a host of other contenders looking to unseat the Cats in the league and possibly in Atlanta. ESPN writers were asked for their projections for the 2012-13 basketball season in the SEC. They aren’t overly hyped on Kentucky.

— Will another highly touted freshman class lead Kentucky to a third straight Final Four?

No. A few months ago, I had a different perspective since the pieces are clearly there. Nerlens Noel leads another stellar recruiting class that can guide the Wildcats deep into the NCAA tournament. And like last season’s young crew, those freshmen will have plenty of help with North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow in the mix and Kyle Wiltjer returning.

But the other contenders (and the veterans that lead them) can’t be ignored. NC State, Michigan, Indiana, UCLA, Louisville and Kansas can joust with the Wildcats. They’re stacked, too. You can’t sleep on Arizona, Duke, Florida or Syracuse, either. Plus, Anthony Davis and his transcendental defense are gone (Noel is not Davis). He was the key to Kentucky’s national title run in March.

These players have a load of pressure on their shoulders unlike any other team in the country. But they are prepared for it — they wouldn’t have signed up to play ball at Kentucky if they weren’t. It’s incredibly hard to predict back-to-back national championships, not to sound pessimistic, but the only place for a defending national champion to go is down.

Since UCLA’s seven-consecutive titles in the late 1960s and early 70s, only two teams have gone back-to-back; Duke in 1991-92 and Florida in 2006-07. But if any other team is capable of doing it, it has to be Kentucky.

— Which team has the best chance of unseating UK atop the SEC?

Most prognosticators will tab Florida as the team most likely to challenge Kentucky for the SEC title, and while the Gators are certainly a reasonable selection, I’ll pick Missouri. You can’t win without high-level guards, and the Tigers have two of the best in the country in Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon. Pressey was a finalist for the Cousy Award last season and could emerge as a top-five point guard as a junior. Combo guard Dixon moves into the starting lineup after earning national sixth man of the year honors a season ago. Not many players are as good in close, late-game situations.

No disrespect to Missouri this season, but ESPN’s justification for picking the Tigers to overtake Kentucky seems a bit iffy. How did that elite platoon of guards work out last season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament? You can run out as many flashy ball-handlers as you want on Kentucky, but elite big men (Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein) won’t allow a guard too many clean looks inside. And with lengthy outside defense face guarding the best shooter (Alex Poythress) it seems like it will take a more dynamic team to dethrone the Cats.

All homer-ness aside, what is your take? Do the Cats have what it takes to run the table in the SEC? To get back to the Final Four in Atlanta? One thing is for sure, it’s going to be another fun ride.

Article written by Stuart Hammer

B.S. Broadcast Journalism from the University of Kentucky. @StuartHammerKSR

17 Comments for ESPN picks against Kentucky in the SEC

  1. E
    5:17 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    You may want to re-read the question, they did not pick Missouri to win the SEC.

  2. Jesus
    5:20 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Forgive them Father, for they know not what they say!

  3. schwing
    5:25 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    “Anthony Davis and his transcendental defense are gone (Noel is not Davis).”

    exactly. nerlens is predicted to be an even better defender than anthony davis. criticize noel’s offensive skills if you want to write a credible article.

  4. bluebloodtoo
    5:25 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Let’s talk about this in December. You know, like after these guys have actually played a few games and we actually have a good idea of who the starting 5 will be?

  5. notv
    5:40 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Was expecting a football article with that headline, then realized that noone would need to actually write something that obvious.

  6. Aaron F
    5:52 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Seriously, man, they didn’t pick Mizzou against UK, they picked them as the MOST LIKELY to “unseat Kentucky in the SEC”.

    Cool your jimmies.

  7. DCS195
    5:54 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Anytime you take the field against any one team in any given year, it’s always a smarter bet to take the field. Even with that said, I like our chances of getting to the Final Four as much as any other team in the country.

  8. Homer
    6:08 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Seriously, all homer ness aside, this year UK will win the SEC regular season, SEC tourney, the NCAA championship, the NBA title, the WNBA title, the Super Bowl, the world series, the Stanley Cup, the Sprint Cup, all 4 major golf tourneys, the BCS championship, the college world series, the World Cup, The Biggest Loser, and the Kentucky Derby.

  9. Cousins Fake Tooth
    6:15 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    I may be wrong, but didnt Mizzou’s entire starting 5 graduate?

  10. notv
    6:15 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    #8, Know how I know you’re lying? “the BCS championship”.

  11. UKGrad04
    6:34 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    I’m not sure who’s trolling more here: ESPN or KSR.

  12. Iucanskabigblue.....
    7:32 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    We shall see when we welcome Missouri to Rupp. They will know who’s conference it is.

    I actually think the new matchups are going add some extra excitement.

    Go Big Blue!!!

  13. seriously?
    8:01 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Stuart… You may wanna check your reading comprehension skills. The question is which team has the “best chance,” not what team will win the sec

  14. Bradley
    8:21 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    Missouri doesn’t have “only” an elite platoon of guards this year. Oriakhi and Bowers down low will be one of the best duos in the conference… and they definitely pack more punch than Ratliffe did alone last year. Mizzou is a top 15 team again this year, without a doubt.

  15. barn
    8:34 pm October 2, 2012 Permalink

    8–how the hell could they win the stanley cup?

  16. UK Snuggie
    7:41 am October 3, 2012 Permalink

    I really do miss BTI. His articles were much better and he didn’t completely miss the mark like this kid writing this article.

  17. Will S
    10:52 am October 3, 2012 Permalink

    I like the article. UK should still win the SEC, but Mizzou and Florida are definitely quality teams. I think UK definitely has a shot at another Final Four, but I don’t see them winning the national title again. It not only takes talent, but also cohesiveness and a little bit of luck (mostly no injuries). You said it yourself, only 2 teams have gone back-to-back since UCLA in the ’60s.

    Side note, “elite big men (Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein)” –> Do you really consider WCS an elite big man, based on preseason practice reports? Let’s see them play against the big boys before you call them elite.