Ranking the SEC frontcourts

29 Jun

Terrence Jones anchors a strong frontline for Kentucky next year. (Getty Images)

By Matt Fultz
National Hoops Report

The SEC has a strong base of guards for the upcoming 2011-2012 season. The frontcourts could be even stronger.

Frontcourt Fun. A comprehensive look at the leagues frontcourts.

1. Kentucky: When Terrance Jones decided to return to Lexington for his sophomore season, it instantly propelled the Wildcats to the number one spot. Jones, who opted not to enter the draft after finding out he would not be taken until the mid-lottery, did so in an attempt to gain more maturity. Darius Miller will be back for his senior season as well. The Maysville, Ky native has always left a little to be desired as far as Kentucky fans go, but he did make strides last season, jumping his average from 6.5 points a contest as a sophomore to nearly eleven last season, including a career high 24 points against Florida in February. Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, and Kyle Wiltjer, all part of the Wildcats’ consensus number one recruiting class, will all be counted on to produce early. Davis, who is considered by most the top NBA prospect in college next season, will anchor the defense inside. Gilchrist will try to fill the void left by DeAndre Liggins as the team’s perimeter defensive stopper as well as prove some scoring punch. Wiltjer, not the prototypical dribble-drive player, will try to stretch the defense and create driving lanes for his teammates with his ability to shoot it from distance.

2. Vanderbilt: Festus Ezeli and Jeffery Taylor both could have easily decided to leave school early and head to the NBA, but fortunately for Kevin Stallings both decided they wanted to be Commodores for at least another season. The 6-foot-11 Ezeli emerged as one of the more dominant post players n the conference a season ago averaging 13 points and six rebounds. The ultra athletic Taylor is nearly unstoppable when he attacks the rim, only problem is that at times he tends to float on the perimeter and shoot contested jumpers. Part-time starter Rod Odom and reserve Steve Tchiengang will also be back giving Vandy one of the deeper frontcourts in the conference. Incoming freshman Shelby Moats will have the opportunity to play early because of his ability to play inside as well as out. The lefty has good touch close to the basket, but can also shot it for a player his size.

3. Alabama: You want production? Look no further than Crimson Tide duo JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell. One of the two led Anthony Grant’s squad in points and/or rebounds in all but seven games a season ago. Green led the in points (15.5), rebounds (7.5) and blocks (70), while Mitchell was a close second with 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds. He also finished second in steals with 69, one behind Trevor Releford’s 70. Alabama will try to offset the loss if Chris Hines (5.5 points and 6.1 rebounds) with a pair of highly rated recruits Nick Jacobs of Atlanta, Georgia and JuCo prospect Moussa Gueye. Jacobs plays well with his back to the basket, and may be able to take some of the double teams away from Green on the low block.

4. Florida: Despite losing all three starting frontcourt players including SEC Play of the Year Chandler Parson, the Gators will still be in good shape next season. Sophomore Patrick Young averaged just over three points as a freshman, but he was not asked to score much with Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus patrolling the post, that will not be the case any longer though. Junior Erik Murphy will also see his role increase next season, as long as he can get his legal troubles worked out. Murphy and fellow Florida forward Cody Larson were arrested after they were suspected of breaking into a car. The two were originally charged with a felony, but the charges have been reduced to a misdemeanor. Florida coach Billy Donovan said on the coaches’ teleconference that the two were in summer school but there legal issues were still pending. Incoming freshman Walter Pitchford, who originally committed to Depaul, will help with defense and rebounding, but not much in the way of offense.

5. Mississippi State: Renardo Sydney may not be the prospect that he was once thought to be, but after finally getting on the court for the Bulldogs he did put up some decent numbers. After sitting out his freshman season he averaged over 14 points and seven rebounds as a sophomore. If somehow Rick Stansbury can get Sydney to dedicate himself to losing some weight and increasing his conditioning, then the 6-foot-10 forward may finally be able to reach his true potential.  After sitting out last year due to transfer, Arnett Moultrie will step in right away to the spot left be Kodi Augustus. Moultrie averaged just under ten points and seven rebounds in his sophomore year at UTEP. Five-star recruit Rodney Hood will be counted on early to help carry some of the scoring load.

6. Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy will have his starting frontcourt back from a season ago, but it may a couple of key additions that make the difference for the Rebels. One of those additions won’t be that unfamiliar to SEC fans either, Murphy Holloway played for Ole Miss from 2008-2010 before deciding to transfer to back home to South Caroina. But in March he had a change of heart and decided to return to Oxford.  Holloway, who is seeking a transfer waiver so he wouldn’t have to sit out consecutive seasons, averaged 7.6 rebounds as a sophomore, good for fifth best in the conference. Jalen Kendrick is another high profile transfer that will bolster the Rebel lineup. Kendrick, a McDonald’s All-American who left Memphis before ever playing a game, will become eligible at the end of the first semester.

7. LSU: The Tigers don’t have a superstar post player, but as a unit they are pretty solid. The main four players in the rotation, Storm Warren, Malcolm While, Matt Derendecker, and Garret Green, all averaged between 6.3 and 7.7 points per game last season. Add highly touted big man Johnny O’Bryant to that, and Trent Johnson will have plenty of bodies to throw at opponents next season.

8. Arkansas: Marshawn Powell has proven that he has what it takes to be one of the better post players in the league averaging over ten points in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. It is now up to Mike Anderson to find some help for the big man. Michael Sanchez will be able to provide some help, after going down last season with an injury. Help might also come in the form of incoming freshman Devonta Abron and Aaron Ross, although Ross is not on campus with the other freshman while they wait to hear about his eligibility.

9.  South Carolina: Next year’s South Carolina squad is going to very much resemble their mascot, the undersized bunch may be small but they are scrappy and won’t go down without a fight. Lakeem Jackson is only 6-foot-5, but he still managed to grab over 5.5 boards last year before being injured. Malik Cooke is the leading returner averaging 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds last season.

10. Auburn: Tiger’s coach Tony Barbee is slowly but surely laying the building blocks that lead to a successful program. One of the biggest blocks of Barbee’s tenure so far has been signing Wily Kouassi, who is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. Kouassi will be able to make an instant impact for the Tigers on the defensive end. Kenny Gabriel will be the Tigers biggest offensive frontcourt threat. He averaged a shade over ten points a game last season as a junior.

11. Tennessee: Cuonzo Martin has many challenges ahead of him in the near future like possible scholarship reductions and lost recruiting time, but one of the most pressing issues is how to deal with the lack of depth at the forward and center positions. With Tobias Harris, Brian Williams, and Josh Fields gone, the Volunteers will have to rely on Marquette transfer Jeronne Maymon, who averaged 2.6 points in 14 games after becoming eligible, and Kenny Hall who added two points a contest.

12. Georgia: Scour the county and you hard pressed to find a team that will have a more inexperienced group of forwards nest season. With the losses Trey Thompkins, Chris Barnes and Jeremy Price, Marcus Thornton will be the most experienced returner. Thornton averaged 1.5 points in just over nine minutes a game as a freshman.

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