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Snowflakes: SEC Hoops

Posted: Jan 31, 2008

by Patrick Snow

* Someone forgot to tell 2-time National Champion Florida that they were supposed to struggle this season. After winning their second NCAA title in a row, the Gators lost the top six players off their depth chart and lost their coach for a day or two. However, Billy Donovan came back and brought in a stellar recruiting class as well. The result has been the Gators winning 18 of their first 21 games, and they are tied with Tennessee atop the SEC East. While the non-conference schedule was easier than in past seasons, the young Gators have shown a penchant for winning games and playing smart ball. The fact that Florida is showing no slippage after losing their top six players shows me that Billy Donovan has made Florida the premier program in the SEC. Kentucky fans will argue that they have always been and still are the flagship of the conference, but I believe times have changed. We all know what Donovan’s mentor -Rick Pitino- was building in Lexington before his departure to the NBA. It looks to me like Billy the Kid may be building a similar giant in Gainesville.

* Vanderbilt got off to a 16-0 start, but now the Commodores find themselves at 17-4 overall, 2-4 in the SEC. Fans in Nashville are concerned that their team is becoming “this year’s Clemson” and may fade down the stretch. However, a closer examination of the schedule reveals the conference office did Kevin Stallings’ team no favors this season. Vandy has lost four SEC games, but those were all on the road at Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, and Mississippi-not exactly easy places to get a win. Australian freshman A.J. Ogilvy was a star in November and December but has struggled in SEC play while battling illness. If the Commodores can get him scoring inside once again, look for Vanderbilt to bounce back with 5 of their last 7 games at home-where they are 13-0 this year.

* On the subject of winning road games in the SEC, Vanderbilt is not the only team finding it difficult. In conference play, home teams are a whopping 24-11 on the year. The top two teams in each division-Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi State, and Arkansas- are the only teams in the SEC that have a winning league record on the road. Those four teams have gone 2-1 away from home, and it’s no surprise that they find themselves atop the standings. The old theory of trying to win your home games and split on the road has never been truer. Finding a way to squeeze out a road victory or two could be the difference between the NCAA and NIT for several SEC teams.

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