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Vitale's offseason roundball chatter

I know fans in SEC country are looking forward to football kicking off. Can Alabama win another national championship? Will Georgia contend again?

Basketball fans have a lot to cheer about, too. The SEC enjoyed a super hoops season in 2017-18. Now there are great expectations for 2018-19. I believe three teams from the league will be ranked in the preseason top 10: Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn.

John Calipari is reloading once again. Yes, he lost a lot of talent with Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel gone. He has experienced players returning like Quade Green, Nick Richards, PJ Washington, to name a few. Recruiting has yielded more youngsters to please Big Blue Nation.

Point guard Ashton Hagans was a late addition to the recruiting class and he will be an impact performer. In addition to Hagans, the Wildcats' group of newcomers includes Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, E.J. Montgomery, walk-on Zan Payne and Immanuel Quickley. Herro and Johnson were impressive on an exhibition tour.

The biggest addition is former Stanford standout Reid Travis, who should be a leader with vast experience. Travis is a force on the boards, a proven scorer and one of the premier All-Marco Polo transfers in the sport.

Calipari got to see his Cats in action in August, playing an exhibition tour in the Bahamas. Travis showed his rebounding prowess in his first game with Kentucky, grabbing 14 boards in a convincing win.

Kentucky will be a national contender, my friends.

Tennessee is happy to have a talented nucleus returning. Rick Barnes was thrilled when Admiral Schofield pulled out of the NBA draft and returned to Knoxville. Teaming up with Grant Williams has Volunteer fans thrilled.

The backcourt has continuity and experience with Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner returning.

Remember, last season the Vols were picked 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC preseason poll. That won't be the case this season, baby! Rick Barnes & Co. will not sneak up on anybody.

Auburn also surprised many as Bruce Pearl did an outstanding job. The Tigers lost Mustapha Heron, who transferred to St. John's. Pearl saw several players return to school after pulling out of the NBA draft. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown will stand out. Auburn is not just a football school any more! Charles Barkley has to be smiling, baby!

Arkansas has Daniel Gafford back. Florida is loaded as Mike White's team will be ranked. Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen will lead the Gators. Mississippi State has a lot of talent back and will be better. Ben Howland's team has top 25 potential. Georgia will be improved under new coach Tom Crean. Don't count out Alabama even without Collin Sexton. LSU is young but talented under Will Wade. My friends, the SEC will have another banner season ahead.