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College Basketball Update: Vanderbilt, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi State

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The South Eastern Conference has struggled just two weeks into the basketball season with a few of the top teams getting upset in the process. Vanderbilt lost at home to Cleveland State in a game that wasn’t all that close, meanwhile LSU fell to Coastal Carolina and South Carolina lost to Elon. Even Mississippi State fell to Akron. It hasn’t be pretty.

However, this conference has a chance to be at the highest level that it has ever been with the emergence of teams like Alabama and Mississippi State last season. Here’s a look at what some of Kentucky’s conference foes have done to this point and what they have ahead of them in the near future.

Vanderbilt (2-1)

The Commodores have looked rusty early this year including a loss to Cleveland State at home in which the Vikings took it to Vandy 71-58. They got a nice win over Oregon, but Bucknell played them close. The ‘Dores have been playing without 6-foot-11 center Festus Ezeli so far, whom they have missed more than many expected. Vanderbilt definitely expected big things from this team, and they scheduled like it. Kevin Stallings built his team a brutal non conference schedule to prepare for post season play and build their RPI. This is going to be Kentucky’s biggest challenge in the SEC, but they haven’t played like it so far. Ezeli will help them out immensely and give them a legitimate post presence upon his return. Jeffery Taylor is their stud and he will be responsible for taking this team to where they are trying to go. Here is a look at some notable match-ups for Vandy over the next couple of weeks.

  • 11/19 – vs. North Carolina St. (TicketCity Legends Classic)
  • 11/20 – vs. Oregon St./Texas (TicketCity Legends Classic Finals)
  • 11/28 – vs. Xavier
  • 12/02 – at Louisville

Florida (1-1)

Billy Donovan’s Gators are just getting under way, only playing two games thus far. They handled Jackson State in their first game of the season, then traveled to Ohio State to face the number three ranked team in the nation. The Buckeyes held on at home as Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton fought to keep it close, but fell 81-74. The Gators are one of the top three teams in the SEC, and have a chance to make some noise on the national landscape. They have good young talent that will elevate them to a level they haven’t been to in a couple of seasons. The Gators, too, have a tough non-conference schedule that will test them.

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  • 12/2 – at Syracuse
  • 12/7 – vs. Arizona
  • 12/17 – vs. Texas A&M

Alabama (2-0)

Anthony Grant and the Crimson Tide just missed out on the NCAA Tournament as a late snub in the field of 65 last season. Now he and his hungry team are out for revenge to make some noise in the world of college basketball after living in the shadows of their football program, well, forever. Laced with legitimate basketball talent, Alabama has a shot to pull some serious upsets and get a high seed in the SEC Tournament this year. They are on the second rung of teams in the SEC, along with Mississippi State, but are just below the Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt. Grant has done a great job with the program so far and he looks to take this team to the next level. Reggie Valentine in the backcourt and Drew Valentine in the frontcourt look to elevate this team and lead them to uncharted waters for this Alabama basketball program. Alabama heads to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament tonight and has some intriguing match-ups for the rest of their pre-conference schedule.

  • 11/17 – vs. Maryland (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
  • 11/18 – vs. Colorado/Wichita St.
  • 11/20 – vs. TBD
  • 11/27 – vs. Virgina Commonwealth
  • 12/01 – vs. Georgetown

Mississippi State (2-1)

Mississippi State is an intriguing team with a lot of talent, but it’s hard to figure out just how good they can be this year. They’ve had some big wins over the last couple of seasons, but also have lost some games that they have no business losing. They are a somewhat undisciplined bunch led by the super-talanted Renardo Sidney. Senior point guard Dee Bost has had an impressive career and he will need to be the glue that holds this team together down the stretch. They can be one of the very best teams in the conference, but they have not been able to put it all together over the last couple of years. They don’t have too tough of a non-conference schedule, but they do start the 2K Classic up at Madison Square Garden tonight. Here’s a look at some of the Bulldog’s biggest match-ups over the coming weeks.

  • 11/17 – vs. Texas A&M
  • 11/18 – vs. St. John’s/Arizona
  • 12/3 – vs. West Virginia
  • 12/28 – at Baylor

The rest of the conference is up in the air. Tennessee is in total rebuilding mode. Georgia has struggled to be relevant in the conference since the days of Tubby Smith… when Smith coached at Georgia. Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU, and South Carolina will all struggle to be relevant in this top-heavy South Eastern Conference in the 2011-12 season