2009-2010 SEC Basketball Preview: Part 4 of 5

varnadoBy: David Kay

Week number three of The Sports Bank’s beyond in-depth college basketball preview is about to wrap up. In the words of TSB founder Paul M. Banks, why buy a college hoops pre-season magazine when you have me?  I couldn’t agree more.

Part four of our SEC preview focuses of the top teams in the West.  From a national standpoint, they aren’t as sexy as East teams like Kentucky, Tennesssee, and Florida, but should definitely be taken very seriously in hunt for a conference title.

The Mississippi’s (Ole and State) are stacked with returning players and should be dancing when the field of 65 is announced.  After a strange year at Alabama, Anthony Grant comes to take control of the program and should have the Tide rolling soon.

1. Mississippi State (3rd, 9-7, 23-13, NCAA First Round)

2009-2010 Outlook:
The important pieces are back from a Bulldog team that rattled off four wins in as many days to capture the SEC Tournament title and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  Shot blocking machine Jarvis Varnado is back to anchor a talented, physical group of post players (especially if freshman Renardo Sidney is eligible to play.  More on him in a second.)  The guard play is also very skilled as Bost, Stewart, and Johnson all averaged double figures a year ago.  Mississippi State should be a top 25 team all season long.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Jarvis Varnado (Sr)/John Riek (Fr)/Wendell Lewis (Fr)
F: Renardo Sidney (Fr)/Romero Osby (So)/Elgin Bailey (Jr)
G/F: Ravern Johnson (Jr)/Kodi Augustus (Jr)/Twany Beckham (So)
SG: Barry Stewart (Sr)/ Riley Benock (Jr)/Shaunessy Smith (Fr)
PG: Dee Bost (So)/Phil Turner (Jr)

Gone: F/C-Brian Johnson

McDonalds Game Boys BasketballPlayer to Watch: Sidney- At 6-10, 260 pounds, Sidney is a beast of a college freshman.  Combined with Varnado, they would form a twin tower tandem that would be one of the best in the country.  Problem is; Sidney has yet to be cleared by the NCAA due to questions regarding possible money received by his family while Sidney was in high school.  That concern is why several major colleges stopped recruiting him.  He is allowed to practice with the team and if or when he is given the okay to play, could be the difference maker that not only makes MSU an SEC title contender, but a major player nationally.

2. Mississippi (T-4th, 7-9, 16-15)

2009-2010 Outlook:
A season ending injury to Chris Warren put a damper on the Rebels 2008-2009 season.  Warren is back and healthy, but Ole Miss lost David Huertas who decided to play professionally in his native Puerto Rico.  Still, the backcourt of White and Warren should be good enough to lead this team to an NCAA berth.  If the other players can develop into the roles, the Rebels could be a major sleeper.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: DeAundre Cranston (Sr)/DeAngelo Riley (Fr)/Kevin Canintol (So)
PF: Murphy Holloway (So)/Terrance Henry (So)/Reggie Buckner (Fr)
G: Zach Graham (Jr)/Eniel Polynice (Jr)
SG: Terrico White (So)/Trevor Gaskins (So)/Michael Halford (Fr)
PG: Chris Warren (Jr)/Will Bogan (So)

Gone: G-David Huertas, F-Malcolm White (transfer-LSU)

Mississippi Auburn BasketballPlayer to Watch: White- He could be the best player in college basketball that you haven’t heard of.  White helped lead the US-19 team to a gold medal this summer at the World Championships and really established himself as a future star.  Due to a season ending injury to Warren last year, White was forced to play a lot of point guard.  He will shift back to the wing this season and is ready to burst onto the national scene and lead Ole Miss to the tourney.

3. Alabama (T-4th, 7-9, 18-14)

2009-2010 Outlook:
Last season’s finish doesn’t look that terrible when you take into consideration the career-ending injury to Ronald Steele and resignation of head coach Mark Gottfried in January.  ‘Bama made a great choice in hiring VCU head coach Anthony Grant to lead the program.  Grant is hoping to play an up-tempo style and returns some nice talent in Green, Torrance, and Hillman, but likely lacks the punch to seriously threaten for a conference crown or trip to the Big Dance.  Point guard play will be an area of concern to keep an eye on.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Justin Knox (Jr)/Demetrius Jemison (Sr-torn ACL, out for year)
F: JaMychal Green (So)/Tony Mitchell (Fr)/Shawn Kemp Jr. (Fr)
G/F: Mikhail Torrance (Sr)/Chris Hines (Jr)
G-Senario Hillman (Jr)/Andrew Steele (So)/Charvez Davis (Jr)
PG- Anthony Brock (Sr)/Ben Eblen (Fr)

Gone: SG-Alonzo Gee, PG-Ronald Steele, G-Brandon Hollinger, F-Yamene Coleman (Transfer-Troy)

jamychal-green_400Player to Watch: Green- The 6’9 forward put up solid numbers in his freshman year, averaging 10.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game despite only playing about 25 minutes a night.  His court time should increase this season, especially with the season-ending injury to Demetrius Jemison, which should make him a more dangerous threat on both ends of the floor.