There’s no question that the best team in the SEC, and maybe the country, is Kentucky. Yesterday, during the Florida Gators’ 70-48 shellacking of the Georgia Bulldogs, Jimmy Dykes posed the question of who was the second best team in the SEC behind the Wildcats and surprisingly (not really) he couldn’t come up with a definite answer. Although I think he is one of the worst broadcasters in the nation, Dykes did happen to say something I agree with. The number two team in the SEC is either Florida or the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Sure Mississippi State is ranked 20th, and you could mention Arkansas and Alabama because of their records and great coaching. You could also add that Florida recently loss to an 8-7 Tennessee team, and that Vandy has dropped 3 games on their home court to the likes of Indiana St. and Cleveland St., but as we have seen in college basketball it’s not how you start, but how you finish. No doubt Vandy and UF has had their early struggles, but I truly believe that both teams have the talent to compete favorably in the SEC tournament and the NCAAs. Let’s help compare the teams and give Dykes some help with his answer.
–Coaching: It’s no secret that Kentucky’s first choice post-Gillespie was Billy Donovan, and for good reason. The kid can flat out coach and has two national titles to show for it. Kevin Stallings… not so much. He is sub .500 (94-99) in conference play since his hiring in 1999, and has never won a conference tournament. Stallings also has never made it past the sweet sixteen and his most memorable appearance in the tourney was a first-round loss to Siena in 2007. Donovan is coming off an elite eight appearance in last year’s tournament, Stallings has never even heard of the elite eight.
–Talent: Both teams have a pretty good starting five. The Gators have three guards who can take over the scoring load at any time in Beal, Boynton, and Walker, and a decent frontline with Patric Young and and Erik Murphy. This team should be able to score in bunches come tournament time seeing that all five of UF’s starters average double figures in PPG. Vandy’s scoring mainly comes from the outside shooting of Jenkins, Taylor, and Tinsley, all of whom are shooting above 44% from trey. Both teams don’t really have much depth behind their starting five but Vandy starts four seniors and a junior. Eventually experience has to count for something, right?
–X-Factor: When deciding on X-factor I tend to go with the team who has more NBA talent. If you follow me on twitter, you would know that I’m always raving about UF’s Patric Young when I catch a Florida game. I think he’s going to be an absolute stud in the NBA and he reminds me a lot of Amare’ Stoudemire. If Florida can have a good run in the NCAA tourney, he could solidify himself as a top 20 pick. Bradley Beal is a highly regarded NBA prospect as well. Most mock drafts have him going in the lottery based on his age and upside. Vandy doesn’t have much NBA talent on their roster. John Jenkins will be drafted late in the first round or early in the second and could end up being a good shooter in the league. Senior Jeffery Taylor has great size and athleticism, but scouts wonder why he disappears in big games so much. Center Festus Elizi has also gotten some attention, but he has a raw skill set and scouts don’t know if he can play with his back to the basket. Two first rounders > Three second rounders.
So, based off the comparison, I’m going to go with UF as the second best team behind the Cats. Right now, no team has separated themselves from the pack and joined Kentucky, but I think Florida’s win over UGA is a positive sign of them being able to do so. Teams usually grow up during the stretch of conference play and reveal exactly who they are and what they have the capability to be. What say you? Who’s the second best team in the conference?
Help our boy Jimmy out.