By LARRY VAUGHT
Could Ben Howland have been right with his comments about Tennessee and Kentucky back in mid-October?
At the SEC Media Day, the Mississippi State coach took exception to Kentucky being picked over Tennessee as the SEC’s best team.
“They’re the best team in our league going into the season, in my opinion, because of all the experience returning,” Howland said about Tennessee. “There’s no doubt they’re the team to beat in our conference.”
Howland wasn’t concerned that John Calipari led UK to the SEC title in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and SEC Tournament title the last four seasons and six in nine years.
He liked the Vols with the return of SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams and all-SEC first-team player Admiral Schofield off a team that went 26-9 and tied Auburn for the SEC title at 13-5 last season. Tennessee also beat UK in both regular season games before losing to the Cats in the SEC tourney.
Today Howland’s prediction doesn’t seem so out of whack after it upset most UK fans two months ago.
Tennessee is 7-1 and coming off a win over then No. 1 Gonzaga. Tennessee’s only loss was to Kansas in overtime. It also has a win over Louisville.
Auburn has beat Washington, Xavier and Arizona this season and is 8-1. The Tigers’ only loss was 78-72 to Duke — the same team that beat UK by 34.
Mississippi State is 8-1 with a loss to Arizona State and wins over Dayton and Clemson.
All three SEC foes are ranked above UK this way. Tennessee is No. 3, Auburn No. 8 and Mississippi State No. 18. Kentucky dropped out of the top 10 and to No. 19 after its overtime loss to Seton Hall.
Kentucky was the No. 1 team in college basketball preseason ratings by ESPN, CBS Sports, Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, The Sporting News, Jeff Goodman of Stadium and Andy Katz of NCAA.com.
Today, though, Kentucky doesn’t look No. 1 — or maybe even No. 2 — in the SEC.