The big story today is that Kentucky's Jodie Meeks is going pro. Meeks was the last major SEC player who was undecided about his draft status. His choice to stay in means that, of all the league's players that were considering the jump, only Meeks and Florida's Nick Calathes (who has signed a contract to play in Europe) won't be back next year.
Now that we knows who's coming back and who's not, what can we expect in the league next year? Like Seth Emerson, I tend to think that Kentucky will weather losing Meeks. Meeks is certainly a great player, but with the talent John Calipari has brought to Lexington, it's hard to imagine that any team in the SEC is better than the 'Cats. As Emerson says, the only question mark for Kentucky right now is that they will be an extremely young team next year. With South Carolina and Tennessee returning extremely experienced teams (we'll likely be starting three seniors and two juniors--when was the last time that happened?), the 'Cats youth could be a liability for them. They'll have to quickly mesh as a team, which could be a challenge considering that all the freshmen were prep stars that have been used to being the center of their teams' offenses. If they can do that, though, they should still be the team to beat in the SEC.
Things are a little more uncertain for the Gators. Of all the highly recruited players Billy Donovan has brought to Gainesville since winning back-to-back national titles, only Calathes seemed capable of living up to his billing. He was the center of his team last year, so one would think losing him would really hurt Florida. However, some Gators fans I've talked to felt like Donovan should have made Calathes distribute and get other players involved more, and it's certainly true that Florida hasn't lived up to expectations with Calathes running the offense. That being the case, it's always possible that a lineup change could end up being good for the rest of the team. Florida also has highly rated point guard prospect Kenny Boynton on the way. Boynton should be ready to contribute immediately. All in all, I'd say that the Gators should be able to handle losing Calathes, but I'm not as confident about that as I am when I say it about Kentucky.
One thing that is apparent is that the SEC East will be very good next year. While Kentucky is a clear favorite, only Georgia appears to lack the talent to make an NCAAs run. Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt will all have good teams next year, so expect a closely played division.
A few more tidbits:
- CFN previews South Carolina. This is one of the more optimistic previews I've seen. While CFN points out that we lose a lot, they also look at several indications that we may be better this year and state that nine or ten wins is a possibility.
- QB Dylan Thompson signs LOI of 2010. Thompson hails from Boiling Springs and is currently rated at three stars. Welcome aboard!
DeAngelo Mack signs with the New York Yankees. Good luck to DMack in the pros.