By LARRY VAUGHT
At times Kentucky coach John Calipari has been known to embellish just a bit about different things. However, I don’t think he was again Wednesday when he was talking at the SEC Media Days about the league this year.
“The league top to bottom has probably never been stronger,” Calipari said. “Top-heavy, too. Crazy.”
The SEC sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, a league record. This year it might send more.
Kentucky was picked by media members to win the league with Tennessee and Auburn, last year’s co-champions, next. However, Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said there was “no doubt” that Tennessee — which returns all five starters and beat UK twice last year — should be the league favorite over Kentucky.
“I can’t say enough about our league. This league is going to be so good this year. As good as it was last year, this year’s group is going to be even better,” Howland, who also has a preseason top 25 team that will face Kentucky twice during the regular season, said.
Tennessee will have a potent one-two punch back with Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Auburn’s leading scorer, Mustapha Heron transferred to St. John’s but it returns Jared Harper and Bryce Brown. Then Auburn gets center Austin Wiley and forward Danjel Purifoy back after both were ineligible last year.
How good is Wiley?
“Austin is as big, as strong, as fast and as mobile as any big guy in the country,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.
Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn could all be top 10 teams. Mississippi State, LSU and Florida are expected t be top 25 teams. LSU has highly-touted freshmen Nazreon Reid and Emmitt Williams, both five-star forwards.
“I think we have some really good incoming freshmen and I think we have some terrific veterans that have had a big impact on the league,” Calipari said. “This league is going to be really, really good.