| ||Friday, November 5|
Special to ESPN.com
|There is no question that the balance in the Southeastern Conference has shifted east. There was a period when I thought the West would be a lot better, but not this year. Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee lead the way in the Eastern Division. Out West, it's all Auburn -- no one else is close.
Florida will be loaded with talent, so much that it's hard to tell how good Billy Donovan's team will be. Thanks to his tireless recruiting, Donovan has 11 players who can play. This may be the deepest, best team Florida has ever had, and that includes the 1994 Final Four team under Lon Kruger.
Other than Auburn out West, Mississippi and Misssissipi State have produced some pretty good clubs during the decade, but I think they are both down. LSU isn't where it should be. The club that might surprise in the West is Alabama. the Tide have some good young talent, and I think Mike Gottfried is an excellent baskeball coach. Plus, they picked up Schea Cotton, a terrific player from Long Beach, Calif., who should start for the Tide.
The conference has some greaet individual talent. Mike Miller and Chris Porter are the two top player-of-the-year candidates. Jules Camara may have a breakout year for Kentucky. People will look at Camara and wonder, "Where did this guy come from?" He and Jamaal Magloire should form quite a shot-blocking tandem in the middle.All-conference team
Chris Porter, senior, F, Auburn: 16.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg
Dan Langhi, senior, F, Vanderbilt: 17.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg
Jeremy Hays, senior, C, Alabama: 12.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg
Tony Harris, junior, G, Tennessee: 12.4 ppg, 3.1apg
Mike Miller, sophomore, F, Florida: 12.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg Player of the year: Chris Porter
Porter is so athletic -- I've never seen a 6-foot-7 player explode to the basket the way he does. I'm not sure I like his offensive game. I don't think he is as consistent as he should be shooting from 15 feet out. But when a ball goes up to the glass, a body will fly through the air -- and it's his. He attacks the glass. He is very good on defense, kind of like a middle linebacker. He is so quick from side to side that Cliff Ellis just lets him roam. He is a terrific basketball player. He made the difference on Auburn last year. All-newcomer team
Donnell Harvey, freshman, F, Florida
Matt Bonner, freshman, F, Florida
Torris Bright, freshman, G, LSU
Keith Bogans, freshman, G, Kentucky
Ezra Williams, freshman, G, Georgia Newcomer of the year: Keith Bogans
Bogans is a solid player with a great all-around game. He can shoot from long range, handle the ball and play defense. He came from a fine high school program that teaches the right skills. The Wildcats got the complete package when they got him. Best backcourt: Auburn
The Tigers probably have the best long-range shooter in Scott Pohlman and one of the best handlers in Doc Robinson. They form one of the best backcourts in the country. The second best is Florida's with Teddy Dupay and Kenyan Weaks. They are only a notch below Auburn's duo. Best frontcourt: Kentucky
Kentucky lost Michael Bradley, who transferred to Villanova, but retained Camara, Magloire and sophomore Tayshaun Prince. Nate Knight and Marvin Stone will back up those three and be solid. The five players give Kentucky a formidable and active frontcourt.
Team on the rise: Florida
Team on the fall: LSU
Unsung player: Isiah Victor, Tennessee
The crowd is so much fun at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark. The Razorback fans really get on the opposing team from the time they walk onto the floor. The students will read the media guide and get to know the other team's players. Then, when the players come out for the pregame shootarounds, the students unload on them. They are there two hours before the game, screaming and yelling at the opponent. It's a great crowd.
Dick Vitale previews the SEC.
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