Once Again, SEC B-ball Flexing Its Muscles
Here's A Look At How League Shapes Up
If early-December non-conference play is a true indicator, then the Southeastern Conference already has displayed signs of having its best college basketball season ever. Of course, preseason favorites Kentucky and Florida have made national headlines with the
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Wildcats being the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and the Gators winning the Big Apple NIT in New York City. However, that doesn't mean the rest of the league should not be forgotten.
From the looks of things the SEC could send at least six or possibly seven teams into postseason action this season. Only Mississippi State, Ole Miss and a rebuilding Alabama appear to be clubs which will struggle this season. But that's not to say any of those three are unqualified for spoiler status, uncapable of knocking off any team in the conference.
Let's take a look at the goings-on around the league.
KENTUCKY: It's obvious that the Wildcats' added bench strength and the return of Winston Bennett have made Kentucky a much-improved team this season. But what this added depth also provides is the ability for Eddie Sutton to substitute more frequently to give starters Rex Chapman and Ed Davender a chance to catch a breather or two on the bench. Last year that simply was not the case.
With UK simply smothering opponents with tremendous defensive pressure, this allows Sutton to use the type of defensive play he always cherishes—having fresh players applying consistent man-to-man pressure for 40 minutes a ballgame. This year's club is playing defense like two years ago when Kenny Walker & Co. finished with a remarkable 32-4 record.
Furthermore, Rob Lock's performances in the pivot have been a pleasant surprise for Sutton and UK fans alike. The only question remains is whether it will continue when the conference play begins. If Kentucky continues to play as tenaciously as it did against Indiana, there's no telling how good this team can be. UK fans hope t reaches its peak in March when it really counts.
FLORIDA: Norm Sloan's Gators immediately made their presence known by winning the Big Apple NIT with the last two games played in New York City.
Seven-foot-two sophomore center Dwayne Schintzius appears much more mature in the middle and is becoming a leader on the Gators' squad. Vernon Maxwell certainly has shown why he is considered to be one of the better guards in the nation. At times Maxwell is unstoppable for opposing guards. Now, if he and Sloan can get along for a full season then the Gators will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
Last but not least let's not forget freshman forward Livingston Chatman who has emerged on the scene as one of the better rookie performers in the country.
VANDERBILT: Just who are these so-called super student/athletes wearing the Black and Gold? For the last two years Vandy has upset two of the nation's elite teams. Last year it was top-ranked Indiana, the eventual national champion. This year's stunned victim was No. 1 ranked North Carolina in Nashville.
If professional basketball scouts want to find a center prospect then they have to look no further than Vandy's Will Perdue. The bigfooted 7-0 Commodore aircraft carrier already has made giganic strides for All-America honors by scoring a combined 55 points against Carolina and defending national champion Indiana. But these 'Dores are not led by Purdue and his "Perdunks" alone. Freshman Charles Mayes supplies some instant offense up front and fellow rookie Steve Grant has given the Commodores enough depth for a high-ranking in the conference. Nobody in the league has more quality depth in the backcourt than Vanderbilt. Barry Booker and Barry Goheen are proven SEC guards and Derrick Wilcox and Scott Draud have received significant playing time and are good enough to start whenever for CM. Newton.
Following Vandy's tough 63-61 loss to Indiana in Bloomington, Newton huddled with his good friend Bob Knight to get a insightful scouting report on his club. And from all indications Newton believes his 'Dores are for real this season.
GEORGIA: So far, Hugh Durham has had to play without a full deck of players.
First, freshman center Elmore Spencer was redshirted, and se cond, starting guard Patrick Hamilton has been out of the lineup because of academic problems. Despite early losses to Southwestern Louisiana and Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs have shown signs of being a contender.
For all he does for his team, Willie Anderson is the best guard in the SEC. The lanky, 6-7 Atlanta native is a superb guard and it's easy to see why he was a member of this year's U.S. Pan American team. In the Bulldogs' heart-breaking one-point loss to rival Georgia Tech, Anderson was incredible. He nearly won the game by himself as he hit on 14 of 20 from the field. No team in the league this year has anybody to match up with him.
Along with Anderson, Durham loves having Toney Mack back this year after the talented performer missed most of last season with academic difficulties. Mack might just be the best athlete in the conference this year and his scoring and rebounding this season will put the 'Dogs in the fight for a league title.
Now, if only freshman guards Rod Cole and Jody Patton develop and give Durham the quality bench strength he's looking for. Both were thrown into the fire early this year in the game against Georgia Tech.
LSU: Don't ever count out a Dale Brown-coached team.
This year LSU is somewhat of a mystery squad with the return of a healthy Ricky Blanton. Blanton will be counted on this year to account for much of the scoring load. The Tigers already have gotten off to an impressive start this season winning their own invitational tournament over Southern University. Guards Fess Irvin and Daryl Joe are underrated and last year center Jose Vargas was just starting to reach his true potential.
If recent history tells us anything, expect LSU to finish in the middle of the pack of the conference race but becoming a significant force when tourney time rolls around in March. Brown's clubs have followed this script for the last two seasons. What makes us believe that anything should be different this year?
TENNESSEE: If the opening of the UT's 25,000-plus seat Thompson-Boling arena is an indicator then the Volunteers are destined to be the sleeper team aching to wake up at any given moment.
Before a crowd of more than 25,000 fens, Don DeVoe's club demolished Marquette 82-56. For DeVoe's sake the Vols had better make a strong run in conference play this season. The rumor out of Knoxville has DeVoe in a produce-or-else situation. It's either
reach the NCAA tournament or find a new team to lead for the veteran SEC coach, according to those close to the UT program.
Pan American alternate Dyron Nix is one of the better forwards in the country and center Doug Roth has shown significant progress and glimpses of greatness. Greg Bell, a victim of Proposition 48 last season, returns and has all the tools to become an outstanding talent in UT's backcourt. JC transfer Clarence Swearengen is not much of an offensive threat but will be assigned
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Breathitt Ca's McCune Becomes UK's First Football Commitment
Last Tuesday the Kentucky Wildcat football program received its first verbal commitment when Breathitt County's Rich McCune announced his intentions to play for the Wildcats. McCune played offensive tackle and nose guard for the Bobcats and was selected to the all-state squad.
"I wanted to be the first to commit to UK," McCune noted. "I wanted to do it early so maybe some other Kentucky high school players would do the same so we can all go to Lexington and help win some championships."
McCune is listed at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. According to his coach, McCune's ACT test score was above Proposition 48 requirements.
"He's a good one," said Breathitt County coach Mike Holcomb. "He's not only a good football player, he's a good citizen and a good student. He's got a 3.6 grade-point average and he's already scored a 22 on his ACT. Best of all, he's" a hard worker."
High school seniors can officially sign with the college of their choice on Feb. 10.
"My birthday is Feb. 13," McCune said, "and I think it'd be kind of nice to sign with UK then."
Reportedly, Clemson, Auburn and Alabama kept in touch with the Bobcat star. But. . "I've always been a big fen of UK," said McCune. The Kentucky staff has kept its eye on McCune since his sophomore days.
"When we needed some yardage, we knew we could get it behind Rich," Holcomb said. "Besides having overpowering strength, he's real technique-conscious on his blocks.
"But he could play either side of the line in college. He's got that potential."
Offensive line is where Jerry Claiborne's program will be the most inexperienced in 1988. Heading into next season, the Wildcats return only one starting offensive lineman, junior-to-be Mike Pfeifer.
Letters To The ldi»or
Need New Assistants
Please renew my subscription to The Cats' Pause. I have inadvertently let my subscription expire. Down here in Big Orange Country, it is hard to find news on the Wildcats without TCP.
I'm somewhat disappointed in the football team. It seems they hang tough for awhile but eventually get pretty-well blown out in the second half. I guess depth has a lot to do with that, but mistakes have also taken them out of a number of games. I feel that this has to lie with the coaching. I love coach (Jerry) Claiborne (I lived in Owensboro when his brother coached at Daviess County). But I'm disappointed in some of his assistants. I realize he has had most of them a number of years and is dedicated to them.
However, I feel that some of their shortcomings are going to pull coach Claiborne down with them. I'm like a lot of other fens who are tired of the Wildcats being the doormat for the rest of the so-called powerhouses of the SEC. Since I live in Chattanooga area and work in Alabama, I hear a lot of bragging about the War Eagles, the Tide, them Dawgs, as well as the Vols! So you can see why a Kentucky fen in this area becomes frustrated during the football season. But I'm a diehard fen and will continue to wear my Big Bluejacket and bumper sticker with pride and I guess I'll continue to tell 'em, "Wait'll next year!" because I too am taken in by coach Claiborne's ever-present optimism and his promises of better things to come. I do
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