As we've all been caught in a flurry of Jodie Meeks love the past few days, one of the things that I think we've failed to discuss a little bit (at least here for the most part) is exactly how big of a win the Cats snatched at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee, regardless of how spotty they're play has been lately, was still the pre-season pick to win the SEC and the measuring stick for what this team's chances were to win the SEC this year. By winning the game in such a forceful manner, there's no doubt that they've established themselves as the team to beat now in not only the East, but the entire conference.
The teams expected to pose a threat:
Tennessee (1-1) - The Vols are still the Vols, despite the spanking in Knoxville. It's pretty safe to say that Meeks won't go for 54 again, but I still think they don't have enough to beat the Cats in Rupp. And, if you consider that they are slipping down a slippery slope with what appears to be, at least to me, little to no leadership on the court or the bench, I don't think they can catch the Cats.
Florida (2-0) - Florida, like last year's version, is very young and very talented. But, I am still not sold on Billy Donovan's decision to make Nick Calathes the primary point guard. There's no question that he's a good passer, but he seems to be more effective off the ball in the half court, rather than the initiator of the offense. When he's used that way, the Gators look very good. When he's not, they nearly lose to Auburn. Assuming that their youngsters keep getting better, they are probably the most likely to knock off the Cats.
Arkansas (0-2) - The darling of the message boards after beating Oklahoma and Texas, the Hogs are now 0-2 in the conference. John Pelphrey's team could turn things around and rise to the top in the West, but I still think they'll hit a wall in mid-February when their freshmen start losing their legs and getting mentally drained.
Vandy (1-1) - Don't count out Vandy. Seriously, please don't. It seems like everytime we forget about the stinking Commodores, they come marching out of nowhere and shock everyone. They're balanced attack helps them remain consistent, but I don't think they have enough bodies or firepower to really contend. I mean, um, I'm not counting them out.
Mississippi State (2-0) - They're 2-0 and Jarvis Varnado has 654,890,793,201 fouls blocked shots. But, the West beats each other up every year and they still have Ronald Steele and his 654,890,793,201st year of eligibility to contend with. Neither the Dogs nor the Tide have enough to get it done.
I might be biased (ok, I probably am), but I don't see any of these teams being able to overtake Kentucky in the conference. In fact, I don't think any of them (except maybe Florida) can even finish within two or three games in the standings and....man, I really don't want to say it, but....I think the potential is there to run the table in the SEC. While I firmly believe that this team isn't as dominant as the experienced Team Supreme (or so their VHS tape claims) that ran the table in 2003, I'm not ruling out the possibility of a clean conference slate....yet. I don't think it's likely, but this Kentucky basketball team has what it takes to make it happen.
As Bo-bby Perr-y mentioned earlier, this is a very mentally and physically tough team that never lets an opponent take them out of what they want to do. Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are studs, but the guys we thought were duds earlier in the year have proven to be gutsy and, for the most part, very effective in playing their roles. In a struggling conference, that could be more than enough every single game. But, despite my optimism, I'm still going to reserve judgement and hold off on the speculation until the second week of February when the Cats are 8-0 in the conference and kicking off a four-game run of Florida at home, at Arkansas, at Vandy and home against the Vols.
Now that we have that insanity out of the way, let's get to a few notes:
- With the return of Trevard Lindley, who many expected to be a first day NFL pick and some websites had as the #1 corner, Kentucky's 2009 defense looks to be stout. Jeremy Jarmon and Corey Peters give the Cats two All-SEC type of players on the line and Lindley in the secondary and Micah Johnson at linebacker are guys that should, at the very least, garner All-American consideration. They'll have to break in six new starters, but a number of the replacements are experienced and you would think that this defense could be even better than the previous version.
- And, speaking of early entries, Ohio State junior wideout Brian Hartline declared for the NFL Draft. But, fret not Cats fans. My sources at Nutter Fieldhouse tell me that his brother Michael is likely to return for another year with the Cats.
- The recruiting master, Jody Demling, reported that Billy Gillispie and assistant coach Tracy Webster were in Indianapolis tonight watching Dominique Ferguson and his U of L-infested Lawrence North team defeat Franklin Central. Franklin Central features three-star power forward Patrick Bade (#149 overall), who has committed to Purdue. Also, Demling will be doing a live recruiting chat today at noon.
- It was pretty much a pipe dream anyway, but it's one that ended tonight nonetheless. Derrick Favors, the #1 center in Rivals' class of 2009, picked Georgia Tech to further his basketball career education. In the understatement of the century, Favors said "I think the chances are good" when asked if he'd leave college early.
- Now, let's tie it all back into the Jodie Meeks intro with something that really stoked my internal rage today. The Cats did the ESPN thing again with Coach Clyde appearing on PTI and Jodie getting set to take his turn on First Take yesterday, but it was the first word on Around the Horn that got me a little irritated. Woody Paige, a crazy old man that I usually find rather enjoyable, blasted Jodie Meeks by saying it's "not that big of an accomplishment" by reasoning that Pistol Pete was the greatest basketball player of all-time and "Your fly is open, let's go Peay" or something like that. It was quite strange. But, I wouldn't be doing my job of getting you to share my rage if I didn't mention that Paige is a Tennessee alum.
Take a look:
We'll be back here in a few but, in the meantime, download your Jodie Meeks wallpaper!!!! Or, at the very least, listen to what Sir Jodie had to say about his evening in Knoxville. See you in a few...