Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The SEC: Boynton's Back, but can Kentucky be Stopped?

The long wait will soon be over when the first official NCAA basketball game of the 2012-13 season will tip-off on Nov. 15. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel's potential is higher than his flattop. (Chet White/UK Athletics)

Favorite: Kentucky Wildcats

Coming off a national title, the Wildcats are primed and ready to make another run in the SEC. Even though Kentucky lost all five of its starters to the NBA draft, it did bring in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. Head coach John Calipari has shown he can bring a young group of talented individuals together and turn them into an unselfish team. Young players like Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley will do their best to replace the likes of Anthony Davis, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Terrance Jones and Marquis Teague. With Calipari at the helm, the Widcats should run away with the SEC, even with the additions of a strong Missouri team and Texas A&M to the conference.

Dark Horse: Florida Gators

Despite losing stud shooting guard Bradley Beal to the NBA, the Florida Gators are returning a solid nucleus. The Gators are bringing back three of their top five scorers this year, all of whom averaged double digits. The team’s leading scorer, Kenny Boynton, is returning to the team as a senior, so leadership should not be an issue. Add in a solid recruiting class, and the Gators are poised to take a run at the Kentucky Wildcats for the top spot in the conference.

POY: Kenny Boynton, Florida

Boynton averaged 16 points per game last season as a junior to lead the Gators — including Beal in scoring. In each of his first three seasons, Boynton has seen his statistics get progressively better across the board. His 3-point shot is lethal, as he drained 40 percent from downtown in 2011-12. If his track record is to be believed, Boynton should take another step forward this season, which should put him at the head of the player of the year race in the SEC.

Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky

Coach Cal has shown he has the ability to reload his team with talent, ready to win despite the number of players he sends to the NBA each season. Calipari will again have the best recruiting class in the NCAA coming to Kentucky, and will have yet another opportunity to push for a title. If he can even come close to replicating his success from last season, Calipari will be a shoe in for coach of the year.

Newcomer of the Year: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

At 6'10", Noel is a long, lean forward, with the ability to throw back a lot of shots. Wildcat fans will take little time in beginning the comparisons to former Kentucky big man Anthony Davis. Noel has some polish to apply to his game, but his raw talent is undeniable. If he reaches his potential, the Wildcats will have yet another one-and-done on their hands.

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