There’s talk in the street, it sounds so familiar. Great expectations, everybody’s watchin’ you.
Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated, otherwise known as “Not Pete Thamel,” recently handled SI’s overview of the 2012-13 basketball season for the Southeastern Conference in his SEC Roundup. Clearly, there was plenty to say about the reigning National Champs, but there were other bits, too.
On recruiting, Glockner wisely focused on one of the best recruiting programs the sport has likely every seen:
As long as John Calipari remains at Kentucky, the recruiting story in the league will begin in Lexington. Calipari brought in another bountiful class centered (figuratively and literally) around shot-swatter Nerlens Noel, very arguably the nation’s top recruit. Throw in small forward Alex Poythress and shooting guard Archie Goodwin to go with some returning talent and a couple of potential impact transfers and the Cats will once again be formidable.
Additionally, the first two of his three “top storylines” dealt with the Cats. The first, “How vulnerable is Kentucky?,” was largely answered “not very,” provided that upperclassmen Harrow, Mays, and Wiltjer can step up and be solid team leaders. The second was slightly more surprising:
Can anyone take the title from the Cats?: Kansas fans will snicker, but the best hope may be Missouri. The Tigers only draw Kentucky once, though, and that game is in Lexington, so they have a head-to-head disadvantage. That said, with the return of Laurence Bowers and numerous impact transfers of their own, Mizzou should be very formidable in their league debut season. Florida should be pretty good with Patric Young, Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy back along with some good freshmen. Tennessee, building off its success after Jarnell Stokes arrived last season, could also be a threat. Alabama has four (after Tony Mitchell’s departure) starters back and adds a stud freshman; could the Tide threaten? It feels like Kentucky’s race to lose. We’ll see.
Mizzou may be good, but I think we’re a little better than Norfolk State. Not a knock on Kyle Quinn and the Spartans, but the Cats are undefeated in Rupp under Cal, and the Tigers will have their hands full, to say the least.
For his “very, very early top three,” because no list is complete without some form of ranking, Glockner was wise with the top spot:
1. Kentucky: Calipari has proven this model works and each season he and his staff have a better idea of how to groom the new batch of Cats. It won’t be a runaway, but too much talent, too much Rupp magic.
The power structure after Kentucky was subject to a little shake-up, with Mizzou and the Vols in the second and third spots instead of Florida and Vanderbilt. It won’t be strange to see Tennessee have a team only slightly less good than Kentucky’s, but the Tigers are a whole new thing. Smart money says their visit to Rupp will get pretty loud.
As much as Kentucky has dominated the storylines (and games) in the SEC, it looks like Missouri, as the new kid on the block, may get more than a little attention. Do they deserve it? Only the season will tell.