Bruce Pearl will try to win at Auburn the way he won at Tennessee.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WRDB) – Southeastern Conference basketball grabbed the microphone Monday before handing it back to football for the next 6 ½ months. (The state of Kentucky is excluded from those restrictions).
The 14 league coaches are appeared on the league’s annual summer teleconference. I predict they'll invest much of the hour and 40 minutes talking about why SEC basketball deserves more love.
And this time, they're right.
Here are Five Reasons Why SEC Basketball Is On The Move.
1. KENTUCKY. LOADED. AGAIN. Kentucky has more McDonald’s all-Americans (nine) than the combined total of the other 13 SEC schools.
There's nothing new about that. What's different this season is that Kentucky has talent in the junior and sophomore classes. This won't be another Watch The Freshmen Fly Show – not with Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress back for their third seasons for John Calipari and the Harrison Twins returning as veteran guards.
It will be reasonable to expect Kentucky to do what Florida did last season – win every SEC regular-season game as well as the conference tournament.
2. BEN SIMMONS – The top player in the prep class of 2015 has committed to an SEC school – and it's not Kentucky.
That's a plus for the league. Share the wealth. Rivals.com ranks Ben Simmons, a 6-foot-8 forward, the best senior in America. He played for Montverde Academy in Florida. Dick Vitale has confirmed that he's the real deal. Says the kid is a sure pro.
And Simmons said no to Florida, Ohio State and others to orally commit to Louisiana State.
3. WELCOME BRUCE PEARL, DONNIE TYNDALL. You remember what Pearl achieved at Tennessee. You saw what Tyndall delivered at Morehead State.
Now both guys have jumped into the SEC, recruiting aggressively, chasing transfers and generally operating as if they do not expect to compete for second place.
Pearl has the competitive DNA to give Auburn its best teams since Charles Person and Charles Barkley made the Tigers a force. He doesn't play around. Ask the folks in Knoxville. Some of them wish he was still there.
Tyndall has won 20 or more games in five of his last six seasons. He knows the South and he knows how to find and develop sleepers. Ask the people at Morehead State.
4. SEC NETWORK SIGNS ON – SEC basketball programming has never seemed like prime-time material on ESPN – expect when Kentucky was being telecast.
The arrival of the SEC Network in August should change that. More telecasts. More promotion. More coverage for programs that are trying to grind into the national conversation.
I'm sure that football national signing day and spring football coverage will get in the way at times, but SEC basketball has to benefit. It's up to the coaches to take advantage.
5. FLORIDA – It's easy to overlook Billy Donovan. He’'s not a screamer, chest-pounder or tireless self-promoter. Donovan can handle attention and expectations; he simply doesn't go out of his way to chase it. He's just a superb basketball coach – and person.
The guy is absolutely an underrated coach. He proved it again last season by keeping the Gators near the top of the polls all season with a roster that did not include a single player taken in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.
Yes, the Gators have lost Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young and some other talented guys. But Donovan still has a pair of McDonald's all-Americans (Chris Walker, Kasey Hill) as well as Dorian Finney-Smith and Michael Frazier.
You can dismiss Donovan. I’m not going to make that mistake.