SEC Basketball: Overachievers and Underachievers of 2008-09

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SEC Basketball: Overachievers and Underachievers of 2008-09
No doubt that, as a whole, the SEC underachieved heavily in 2008-09. Due mostly to a severe lack of experience, many teams in the conference fell well short of their expectations this season.

Here’s a breakdown of each team’s performance this season, and how it compared to… (A) How the team was expected to perform, and (B) How I personally believe the team should  have performed.

Keep in mind that these two factors can be wildly different, as my outlooks are very different than those of the media at times.

I’m also including, as an added bonus, my pre-season predictions posted on the blog in October.

 

UNDERACHIEVERS

Alabama   (18-14, 7-9, #108)
My prediction: (18-11, 8-8, ~2 seed NIT)

vs. expectations: Alabama has been heralded ever since Ronald Steele stepped foot on campus, and the media fully expected the Tide to at least make some type of postseason with him returning and the addition of his brother.

vs. my prediction: I was very close with the Tide, although I again overestimated what .500 in the SEC would mean this season.

 

Arkansas   (14-16, 2-14, #147)
My prediction:   (14-15, 5-11, no postseason)

vs. expectations: After losing a great deal to graduation in 2007-08, the Razorbacks weren’t expected to compete well in the SEC this year. Two wins, however, were even fewer than most expected.

vs. my prediction: I nailed the Razorbacks’ overall record within a half-game, but I had no idea Pelphrey was capable of just two wins in the SEC - especially with the amount of talent on the roster that he had.

Any team with Michael Washington, Courtney Fortson and Rotnei Clark should win more than two games in the SEC, especially considering the state of the SEC this past season.

 

Florida   (25-11, 9-7, #54)
My prediction:   (25-5, 12-4, ~3 seed NCAA)

vs. expectations: Considering Donovan took a bunch of sophomores to a national championship just a few years ago, the media seemed to buy into the idea that Florida could compete for the East this season with Tennessee. They fell just one game short of the East, but no one knew what little that would mean.

vs. my prediction: This was possibly my worst pick of the season, as I bought far too much into the old storyline of Donovan’s super sophomores from a few years back.

I also underestimated the impact that Florida’s ridiculously soft non-conference schedule would have on the team’s postseason.

 

Kentucky   (22-14, 8-8, #79)
My prediction:   (22-8, 11-5, ~6 seed NCAA)

vs. expectations: Kentucky did nothing but struggle under now-deposed head coach Billy Gillispie, and 2008-09 was no different.

Expectations are always high for the Blue, and this year was no different considering the enormous amount of talent on the squad - including SEC Player of the Year candidate Patrick Patterson.

vs. my prediction: I foresaw Kentucky struggling according to their own standards, but never would I have dreamt that the Wildcats would be competing in the NIT. Last year was truly a new low for Kentucky basketball fans.

 

Tennessee   (21-13, 10-6, #25)
My prediction:   (25-5, 13-3, ~3 seed NCAA)

vs. expectations: Tennessee was pre-season Top 25 and was expected to easily take the SEC title. Despite a solid showing in the conference, the team fell three games short of first-place LSU and received a much lower NCAA bid than would have been thought.

vs. my prediction: With the addition of Top 10 player Scotty Hopson and having two of the better inside players in the league in Smith and Chism, I fully expected Pearl’s team to do exactly what the media thought.

The Vols simply weren’t able to play enough defense to win enough games to truly compete for the SEC, and this lack of defense seems to be a theme under Pearl.

 

Vanderbilt   (19-12, 8-8, #95)
My prediction:   (24-6, 9-7, ~5 seed NCAA)

vs. expectations: Vandy finished around where they were expected to, possibly slightly lower, at 4th in the East and .500 in SEC play.

vs. my prediction: The ‘Dores fell well short, overall, of how I felt they could have done with all-star A.J. Ogilvy on the roster.

While my SEC prediction was close, I underestimated the growing pains of a team losing an offensive powerhouse like Shan Foster.

 

ON PAR

Georgia   (12-20, 3-13, #192)
My prediction:   (15-13, 5-11, no postseason)

vs. expectations: After a shocking SEC Tournament run, the media began to see improvement in the Bulldogs heading into 2008-09. But expectations remained low, considering the significant uphill mountain that faced the team.

vs. my prediction: I gave the Bulldogs some leeway, as Top 20 freshman Howard Thompkins was added to the roster.

Oftentimes, a single player can make several games’ difference, but that was not the case here in Dennis Felton’s final year at Georgia.

 

Ole Miss   (16-15, 7-9, #82)
My prediction:   (17-13, 7-9, ~4 seed NIT)

vs. expectations: This was a tricky one to rank, as the Rebels pretty much matched their expectations before the season despite losing three starters to injury. In that sense, the Rebels overachieved heavily.

vs. my prediction: Again, I was very close with the result here, nailing the SEC record. I did not, however, account for the massive losses to injury and thus this was an impressive performance by the Rebels.

 

South Carolina   (21-10, 10-6, #57)
My prediction:   (19-10, 8-8, ~2 seed NIT)

vs. expectations: South Carolina returned nearly every player on their roster in 2008-09 and rightfully was expected to challenge for the East and make an NCAA appearance. While USC tied for the East title, its laughably weak non-conference schedule cost it an NCAA bid.

vs. my prediction: I was pretty much dead-on with USC apart from a two-game difference in the conference, as I knew from the beginning that a non-conference schedule like that would cost the team a chance at the Big Dance.

 

OVERACHIEVERS

Auburn   (24-12, 10-6, #64)
My prediction:   (14-17, 3-13, no postseason)

vs. expectations: Auburn was one of two big surprises in the West this season, as Lebo actually managed a decent season in lieu of a very weak SEC. Auburn had for several years finished in the bottom of the West, and was once again thought to take that place.

vs. my prediction: The Tigers added Korvotney Barber back to the mix, and I severely underestimated his potential to change Auburn’s offense.

With the addition of him and talented JUCO transfer Tay Waller, this offense got hot and took a top seed in the NIT along with 2nd place in the West.

 

LSU   (27-8, 13-3, #37)
My prediction:   (21-10, 8-8, ~9 seed NCAA)

vs. expectations: LSU was easily the SEC’s biggest surprise this year under first-year coach Trent Johnson, as the team’s suffocating defense dominated the SEC from the outset. LSU had very little expectations heading into 2008-09 due to a sub-.500 year in 2007-08.

vs. my prediction: While I knew the Tigers had the potential to improve vastly from the year before, I didn’t prepare for just how large a jump the team would make after bringing back nearly everyone on the roster.

 

Mississippi State   (23-13, 9-7, #63)
My prediction:   (21-10, 8-8, ~10 seed NCAA)

vs. expectations: Mississippi State lost two of the most high-octane performers at their positions heading into 2008-09 and thus the media’s outlook on the team was not much more than an afterthought. State responded with 23 wins, an SEC Tournament title and an NCAA bid.

vs. my prediction: While I overestimated what 8-8 in the SEC would do for the RPI because of the conference’s sluggish performance as a whole, the Bulldogs still performed very well by finishing third in the West under a stellar freshman point guard.

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