By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember all the years that Kentucky coach John Calipari pleaded for the overall improvement of Southeastern Conference basketball because he believed it would help make the Kentucky program even better.
Last season Auburn got to the Final Four — by beating UK in the Elite Eight. And for a good portion of the season, Tennessee was ranked No. 1 and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Next season is already looking like it could be another strong season for SEC basketball, too.
By adding guard Johnny Juzang to its recruiting class on Friday, Kentucky now has the No. 1 spot in the 2019 recruiting class. Kentucky should have no problem being a Final Four contender again. However, five other SEC teams also rank among the nation’s top 25 recruiting classes for next season.
Florida comes in at No. 7 and a major surprise is that Georgia comes in at No. 9 to give the SEC three teams in the top 10. Auburn off its Final Four berth is No. 17. Another surprise is Alabama at No. 18 under new coach Nate Oates. Tennessee, which signed its first McDonald’s All-American in many years, comes in at No. 21 after reaching No. 1 last season without a player that ranked in the top 100 of any recruiting class.
Texas A&M (35), South Carolina (40), Mississippi (41) and Vanderbilt (44) are also in the top 50. The bottom team — Arkansas at 148. LSU, one of seven SEC teams to reach the NCAA this year, comes in at No. 87 which is no surprise with the problems hanging over the program.