5 Intriguing Match Ups During SEC Play

SEC

For the past few years, the SEC has been owned by John Calipari and the revolving door of diaper dandies he brings in. Kentucky will be a major headline in the conference once again, but they will not be the only headline. The conference possesses the potential #1 pick, Michael Porter Jr, as well as South Carolina coming off their miraculous Final Four run. Five teams in conference were ranked in the top 25 recruiting classes for 2017, according to 247Sports. It should be a fun year in the SEC. Let’s look at five games of the most intriguing match-ups in conference play this year.

Kentucky at Missouri – Saturday, February 3rd

Following Missouri’s 2017 campaign where they won just three games against SEC opponents, Cuonzo Martin and his squad are ready to make a full 180 turnaround and compete with the best in the SEC. It is a completely revamped team. Mizzou welcomes the nation’s top recruit, Michael Porter Jr., two other Top 100 recruits, and Porter’s younger brother, Jontay. It’s easy to see why the Tigers believe they have the skill set to compete with anyone in the country. And on Feb. 3, they will have the perfect chance to prove their legitimacy when Kentucky comes to town.

John Calipari’s five SEC championships in the last eight years prove that having a brand new team year in and year out does not affect his success. This season however, might be his toughest rebuild since arriving at Kentucky in 2009. While he brings in another top five recruiting class, there is no veteran leadership that most team’s possessed in the past. With the possibility of seven or maybe even eight freshmen on the floor at the same time, this match-up will undoubtedly provide the electricity college basketball fans crave.

South Carolina at Florida – Tuesday, January 24th

After reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history, Frank Martin and the South Carolina Gamecocks plan to build on last year’s success. However, after losing Sindarius Thornwell, Justin McKie and Duane Notice, South Carolina’s young stars Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva have big shoes to fill. One of the most anticipated SEC games they will play this season is Jan. 24 when they travel to Gainesville to take on Florida. On the other hand, Florida is also considered to be a dangerous team this season, despite losing three key players from their 2016-17 squad. In addition to their top 15 recruiting class, Florida returns a number of players from last year, such as KeVaughn Allen and John Egbunu.

Both teams want to prove to that they can compete with the top of the SEC. Add in the revenge factor Florida will be seeking after falling short to South Carolina in last year’s Elite 8, and we are in for one hell of a game.

Vanderbilt at Florida – Saturday, December 30th

Speaking of revenge, Florida will they will also be seeking some against Vanderbilt when they host the Commodores on Dec. 30. Last season, Florida lost to Vanderbilt all three times they played each other. However, Vanderbilt only beat Florida by a combined 14 points in the three match-ups. Vanderbilt returns most of their team from last year including three major contributors in Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson. After losing to Vanderbiltboth times in the 15-16 season, twice in the regular season last year and once in the SEC Tournament, Gator fans are going to pack the house to help their team come out on top and prevent a sixth straight loss.

Kentucky at Arkansas – Tuesday, February 20th

This game is a must watch mainly because of the pure hatred Arkansas fans have for John Calipari and Kentucky. And the hatred only intensified after Malik Monk committed to Kentucky instead of Arkansas in 2016. However, last year, we missed out on a potential game for the ages when the only regular season match-up between the two teams occurred in Lexington instead of Fayetteville. Kentucky steamrolled the Razorbacks 97-71. Despite, Monk’s departure for the NBA, Arkansas fans have not forgotten, nor forgiven Calipari for stealing possibly the best basketball player to ever come out of Arkansas.

In addition, the Razorbacks return two of their best players from 2016 in Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. They are expected to start an all senior starting lineup as opposed to Kentucky’s possible all freshman starting five. Arkansas will have significantly more experience than the young Wildcats, and the Arkansas crowd will surely not have any mercy on Kentucky’s freshmen. Basketball game aside, this match-up will be worth watching simply because Arkansas fans are absolute maniacs whenever Kentucky comes to town.

Missouri at Alabama – Wednesday, January 31st

Possibly the most interesting match-up in the SEC is when Missouri and Alabama go head to head. Avery Johnson has high expectations for Alabama this year after bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. Highlighting this class is 5-star point guard Collin Sexton accompanied by high school standout, John Petty. An SEC match-up involving multiple 5-star recruits, and neither team being named Kentucky, is something that SEC fans are not used to. However, if both teams live up to their potential this season, this should be a top 25 match-up by the time they play on New Years Eve. It’s one that will at least have the attention of pro scouts.

 

There will undoubtedly be more than five must watch games this season in the SEC. These five just have a little added flare and story to them that adds a little more interest to it. All in all it should be one of the better years the SEC has seen. So buckle up, enjoy the ride, and hope college basketball season gets here soon.

The NCAA is Developing a Free Agent Market… Potentially

Transfers May Not Have to be Sidelined Much Longer

Earlier this week, it was announced that the NCAA was making serious strides towards allowing transfers to be eligible to play for their new programs immediately. This is obviously still a rough idea that comes with many stipulations, but I, for  one, still love it. Let’s be honest, we are not exactly at a point in professional sports where team loyalty is at an all time high, especially for basketball. The move perfectly coincides with the nature of the game today, and whether you like it or not, it will give us more headlines and more stories to talk about.

This is a move that makes coaches across the country cringe, but the reality is that every player’s goal is to play at the highest level possible. For some it’s the NBA. Others are just trying to compete at the highest collegiate level they can before attempting an overseas career or leaving the game behind. In order to do so, transfers must happen sometimes.

NCAA athletes transferring is not necessarily a common practice for big time players, however a development like this may make it so. Let’s look at someone like Michael Porter for a second. Everyone knows Michael Porter deserves to play for a team far better than a below average SEC team. However, what if at the end of the season, Porter is faced with the option of choosing between the NBA, or another solid NCAA program like Duke or Kentucky?  This would allow the number one recruit to actually compete for something meaningful at the collegiate level instead of just counting down the days until he can hear the Brooklyn Nets or some other abysmal pro team call his name on draft day.

Porter is an NBA ready talent right now. He will not pass up the NBA to play another year in college, but that doesn’t apply to all five-star recruits. Malik Newman is another example of this. Only time will tell if Newman’s decision to transfer to Kansas, over going pro, benefited his career or not. If a professional athlete can rejuvenate his career with a new team, why can’t the same theory apply to a collegiate player?

This is the closest thing that the NCAA will ever develop to free agency, and where there are free agents, there is drama. With drama comes attention and attention brings interest. The transfer rate in the NCAA is out of control, but some players truly do need a change of scenery to help them reach their highest playing potential. This new development would undoubtedly create more buzz around college hoops, so if you’re a fan of the NCAA, you should be a fan of this idea.