Sunday, October 28, 2018

2018-19 Schedule Preview: February/March

Saturday, February 2 - 7 P.M. CT - at Auburn (TV: TBD) - Recent trips to Auburn have not been pleasant for the Bama program. In the three trips to Auburn during Avery's tenure, Alabama has lost all three games by an average of fifteen points. Unfortunately, this trip won't be any easier. Auburn finished the 17-18 season with a record of 26-8 (13-5), and a final KenPom ranking of 23. After winning a share of the (gag) SEC regular season title last season, Auburn returns three of their top five scorers from that team; plus they return Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy after they were forced to miss last season due to a connection in the FBI corruption investigation (I'd make a joke, but let's face it - every school could be affected by this mess before it's all said and done). If Mustapha Heron had returned to Auburn instead of transferring it's probable that the Tigers would have been the preseason favorite in the league. Love him or hate him (I'll take the latter), as long as Bruce Pearl is in Auburn they're going to be a problem.

Wednesday, February 6 - 8 P.M. CT - Georgia (TV: SEC Network) - Georgia said goodbye to Mark Fox, and said hello to former Marquette and Indiana head coach Tom Crean. It's a further sign of how the league has committed itself to improving in basketball. Crean may not have returned Indiana to its elite roots, but he did win a couple of Big Ten titles, and also took Marquette to a Final Four. Assuming he can recruit, he should win his fair share of games in Athens. Georgia finished the 17-18 season with a record of 18-15 (7-11), and a final KenPom ranking of 65. Expectations are low for Georgia this season because no one knows how this team will form without Yante Maten on the roster. He was arguably the top player in the league last season, and the Bulldogs still finished 12th in the standings. Is there enough talent on this roster to compete in what looks like an incredibly strong year for the conference?

Saturday, February 9 - 7:30 P.M. CT - at Vanderbilt (TV: SEC Network) - I think most Alabama fans would prefer the basketball team never play in Memorial Gym again, but, alas, another trip looms this season. Last season was a nightmare for the Dores though. Vandy finished the 17-18 season with a record of 12-20 (6-12), and a final KenPom ranking of 91. And yes, one of those twelve wins was in Memorial over Alabama. Despite the struggles last season, Bryce Drew signed a top 15 class, which includes two five-star players. Vandy lost their top three scorers from last season, but a talented group of newcomers (freshmen and transfers) leads me to believe that Vanderbilt should be an improved team this season.

Tuesday, February 12 - 8:00 P.M. CT - at Mississippi State (TV: SEC Network) - The second meeting with Mississippi State. Alabama has won nine of the last eleven games with State, but this is the best team in Starkville in many years (on paper, at least).

Saturday, February 16 - 1:00 P.M. CT - Florida (TV: TBD) - The Gators are yet another intriguing team on paper in the league. Good enough to win the league, but could also finish in the middle of the pack. Florida finished the 17-18 season with a record of 21-13 (11-7), and a final KenPom ranking of 22. The Gators advanced to their second straight NCAA Tournament under head coach Mike White. But for a program that was picked by some to win the league, the season did have a bit of an underwhelming feel to it. Three of the top five scorers return, including potential All-Conference guards Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen, but it's a talented group of freshmen and sophomores that will likely determine the height of Florida's ceiling.

Tuesday, February 19 - 8:00 P.M. CT - at Texas A&M (TV: SEC Network) - The second meeting with the Aggies this season. Alabama has played Texas A&M nine times since the Aggies joined the SEC, and have a 6-3 record to show for it.

Saturday, February 23 - 5:00 P.M. CT - Vanderbilt (TV: TBD) - The second meeting with the Commodores this season. Vanderbilt has won seven of the last ten games.

Tuesday, February 26 - 6:00 P.M. CT - at South Carolina (TV: TBD) - After a surprising run to the Final Four in 16-17, South Carolina had a rebuilding year last season. They finished the season with a record of 17-16 (7-11), and a final KenPom ranking of 80. The team returns four of its top six scorers from last season, including leading scorer and potential all-conference selection Chris Silva. In order for South Carolina to rise up the standings (they were picked 11th in the preseason poll), Silva will need some help.

Saturday, March 2 - 11:00 A.M. CT - LSU (TV: TBD) - The second meeting with LSU this season. Alabama has won seven of the last eleven games.

Tuesday, March 5 - 8:00 P.M. CT - Auburn (TV: TBD) - The second meeting with those guys. It's been an even series in recent years. In the last eleven games, Alabama holds a slim 6-5 lead.

Saturday, March 9 - 5:00 P.M. CT - at Arkansas (TV: SEC Network) - It's never easy to go to Fayetteville and get a win. While Arkansas may never return to the heights that Nolan Richardson led the program to in the 90s, Mike Anderson has led the program to three tournaments in the last four years. That has resulted in much-needed stability for a program that hit some hard times in the aftermath of Richardson's tenure. The Razorbacks finished the 17-18 season with a record of 23-12 (10-8), and a final KenPom ranking of 44. Only one of their top five scorers from last season returned, but it was a good one as Daniel Gafford chose to return to school despite being projected as a possible lottery pick. But the Razorbacks are going to be a very young team this season. Talented, but very young. In a league as good as the SEC is expected to be this season, that could mean some serious ups and downs.

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