By LARRY VAUGHT
After placing three teams in the Elite Eight last year, the Southeastern Conference believes it is on an uptick in men’s basketball. So does ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas.
“I think this is going to be a great year in the Southeastern Conference. I think the league has turned the corner and is now back to what it used to be, where you’ve got more than just a couple of teams that are nationally capable,” Bilas said.
Obviously, Kentucky has been the bell cow for SEC basketball for years. The Cats are the league’s top-rated team going into this season. But Bilas says there are other good teams.
“While Florida is a little bit banged up right now, Florida is legit, and they can really score, and they’re going to be, by the middle of the season, just as good as they were last year if not better, and that was a team last year that went to the Elite Eight,” Bilas said.
“That’s a formidable league when you go on the road, it will again punish youth. Kentucky has got to grow up in a hurry.”
Alabama was expected to be a team that could make a big move up this year. However, McDonald’s All-American guard Collin Sexton has been ruled ineligible.
“Obviously Collin Sexton not being eligible right now and maybe not being eligible for the year is going to negatively affect Alabama. And they won’t be — you’re not going to be as good without a player of that caliber as you would be with him,” Bilas said.
“But it’s still — the league is still really, really strong, and it’s strong through the middle now, where it used to be.”