Conference Catchup: Yes, Kentucky is the pick in the SEC again

For the fourth straight season, UK is the clear-cut favorite in the SEC. (USATSI)
For the fourth straight season, UK is the clear-cut favorite in the SEC. (USATSI)

Things are now mostly settled in college basketball. We basically know who will be coaching where. We basically know who will be playing where. So this seems like as good of a time as any to reset everything and get caught up on all of the notable leagues.

That's the idea behind the CBSSports.com Conference Catchups

We're posting one every other day over a four-week span.

Today's installment is the SEC.

FOUR OFFSEASON HEADLINES

1. Kentucky Wildcats freshmen shun USA Basketball: In fairness to the Wildcats, Duke's Jabari Parker and many others also opted against trying out for the team that'll represent the United States in the U19 World Championship. But the UK prospects -- specifically Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison -- got the most attention for passing on the opportunity because, you know, they're UK prospects, and everything they do and don't do is magnified. So, yeah, they were criticized in some circles, but I'm not sure why. If they preferred to enroll in summer school and get used to college and their new teammates, that's certainly their right, and how could anybody blame them?

2. Devonta Pollard charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping: It was weird when news broke that Devonta Pollard's mother was charged in the kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl, but only weird. Everybody has parents. Some are criminals. What can you do? But then, early this month, Pollard himself was charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and is alleged to have played a major role in the abduction, and, as I reported early Wednesday, he's now no longer a part of the Alabama Crimson Tide program. So this former five-star recruit will go down as one of the biggest busts in Crimson Tide basketball history.

3. Tennessee Volunteers lost a point guard/gained a point guard: Cuonzo Martin has an All-American-caliber guard ( Jordan McRae ), a five-star freshman guard (Robert Hubbs) and two accomplished forwards ( Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon ), meaning he has a lot of the pieces necessary to compete near the top of the SEC. But the Tennessee coach was almost left with no point guard when Trae Golden was dismissed last month. But Martin recovered nicely, added Memphis transfer Antonio Barton , and now the Vols will be in the preseason Top 25 (and one).

4: Jerome Seagars went to Auburn Tigers , then made a U-turn: I can, at times, be an indecisive person, so I'm not going to call Jerome Seagars crazy for leaving Rutgers Scarlet Knights , moving to Auburn and then returning to Rutgers all in a span of like six weeks. But that is what he did. And isn't that a little crazy?

BIGGEST QUESTION THAT REMAINS

Will Scottie Wilbekin act right? Billy Donovan is going to have a good team regardless of what happens with Scottie Wilbekin. But it'd sure be advantageous if the senior guard could stay in his coach's good graces rather than continue to get suspended for violating team rules. The most recent issue came earlier this month, which isn't a big deal because it's June; we're still months away from the season. He could (and likely will) be reinstated well before the Gators' first game. But this is Wilbekin's second suspension in a span of seven months, meaning he's due for another in January.

NBA DRAFT REPORT

  • Could have gone, and did: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ( Georgia Bulldogs ), Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Marshawn Powell ( Arkansas Razorbacks ), Phil Pressey ( Missouri Tigers ), BJ Young (Arkansas).
  • Could have gone but stayed: Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky), Jordan McRae (Tennessee), Alex Poythress (Kentucky), Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee), Patric Young ( Florida Gators ).

NOTABLE TRANSFERS

  • Coming: Emmanuel Addo Antonio Barton (Memphis to Tennessee), Deuce Bello (Baylor to Missouri), Eli Carter (Rutgers to Florida), Michael Kessens (Longwood to Alabama), Ricky Tarrant (Tulane to Alabama).
  • Going: A.J. Astroth ( Vanderbilt Commodores to TBD), Dominique Bull (Missouri to George Washington), Jalen Courtney ( LSU Tigers to Morehead State), Trae Golden (Tennessee to TBD), Ryan Harrow (Kentucky to Georgia State), Sheldon Jeter (Vanderbilt to TBD), Trevor Lacey (Alabama to North Carolina State), Damien Leonard ( South Carolina Gamecocks to Furman), Yemi Makanjuola (Tennessee to UNC-Wilmington), Hunter Mickelson (Arkansas to Kansas), Braxton Ogbueze (Florida to Charlotte), Devonta Pollard (Alabama to TBD), Brian Richardson (South Carolina to TBD), R.J. Slawson (South Carolina to TBD), Eric Smith (South Carolina to Coastal Carolina), Negus Webster-Chan (Missouri to Hawaii).

TEAM COMMENTARY IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

Alabama: Anthony Grant lost Trevor Lacey to NC State, and Devonta Pollard is no longer enrolled. Tough offseason. But the Tide should still be OK.  

Auburn: Tony Barbee's Tigers should be better than last season. But breaking into the top half of the league still seems like a tough task.

Arkansas: Can you believe Arkansas hasn't made a Sweet 16 since 1996? That's a hell of a long dry spell for a historically great basketball program.

Florida: Can the Gators make a fourth straight Elite Eight? Yes -- especially if Scottie Wilbekin acts right and Chris Walker gets eligible.

Georgia: One more season of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope might've had the Bulldogs set to break through. But he jumped to the NBA, for good reason.

Kentucky: John Calipari, once again, has the nation's most talented roster. How he molds it into a title contender will be fascinating to watch.

LSU: Johnny Jones is recruiting at a high level already at LSU. Keep an eye on Jerell Martin, who should be an instant-impact freshman.

Mississippi State Bulldogs : Rick Ray is still in the process of changing the culture at Mississippi State. It'll take a little longer. But he's on the right track.

Missouri: Jordan Clarkson will be eligible for the Tigers after sitting out this season. He averaged 16.5 points per game at Tulsa in 2011-12.

Ole Miss Rebels : Another year of the Marshall Henderson show? Yes, please. It was fun this season and will be a blast to monitor again, on and off the court.

South Carolina: Brian Richardson is one of four Gamecocks to transfer. So Frank Martin is still in the process of putting his stamp on this program.

Tennessee: Cuonzo Martin inherited a tough situation at UT, and some big shoes to fill. But he'll return the Vols to the NCAA tournament this season.

Texas A&M: There's some nice young talent on the roster. But odds are Billy Kennedy's third year at A&M will be similar to his second.

Vanderbilt: The top five scorers from a team that won eight SEC games are back. So don't be surprised if Kevin Stallings returns to the NCAA tournament.

EARLY GUESS AT THE TOP FIVE IN THE LEAGUE

  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. Tennessee
  4. Missouri
  5. Alabama

EARLY GUESS AT THE ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM

  • G: Andrew Harrison (Kentucky)
  • G: Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss)
  • G: Jordan McRae (Tennessee)
  • F: Julius Randle (Kentucky)
  • F: Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)

FINAL THOUGHT: Kentucky, as noted above, will again be the favorite in the SEC, and it's now fair to wonder if it'll consistently be this way until John Calipari retires.

Does that mean UK will win every SEC title?

No.

Let's not forget about last season's disaster.

But Calipari is operating at such a high level (and arguably an unprecedented level in the modern era) that it's hard to imagine him ever not having the SEC's best talent regardless of how many prospects leave school early for the NBA Draft, and having the best talent is typically the key to stacking wins. So good luck, everybody else.

CBS Sports Insider

Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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