The Kentucky Wildcats are expected to be the early favorites for the 2015 NCAA Tournament after the decision by players like Willie-Cauley Stein, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dekari Johnson and Marcus Lee to return and the addition of top recruits like Trey Lyles, Karl Towns Jr., Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker.
With the Wildcats so overwhelmingly talented and so many other SEC teams losing key players to graduation and the NBA Draft, can any team in the SEC stop Kentucky on their way to the top of the conference?
Queue the quietly rising LSU Tigers and their young, talented squad, who already have experience beating the Wildcats.
LSU lost their star player Johnny O’Bryant III to the 2014 NBA Draft, but will return talented players like Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. Martin was somewhat overshadowed by the success of O’Bryant, but Mickey was one of the most outstanding players in the SEC last season. Both had huge games against some of the best teams in the SEC, especially Mickey against Kentucky.
In addition to the returning players on Johnny Jones’s squad, the 2014 recruiting class for the Tigers includes a 6’11, 270-pound Center in Elbert Robinson. O’Bryant and his experience will be missed greatly by this LSU team, but his replacement is a lot larger and holds a lot more potential than LSU’s NBA-bound leading scorer from last year.
I’m not crazy enough to think that any team in the SEC will be able to stop the Wildcats en route to at least a Final Four appearance in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, but LSU has the talent and ability to give it a good shot. Last year’s SEC Tournament winners, the Florida Gators, were the first team in a few seasons to win both the SEC regular season title and the SEC Tournament. A young, talented team like LSU could easily be the team that upsets the regular season champions in the conference tournament.
Don’t sleep on the Tigers next season; they may have lost their best player, but their talent pool under head coach Jones continues to increase.