Not Joe Donald, Joe Dean Jr., though Joe Donald would be just as colorful if not moreso. Donald correctly said UAB couldn't shoot the ball in mid-January. He was right and it's hurt them. My conversation with Joe Dean Jr:
DW: Is Kentucky the prohibitive favorite to win the SEC tourney?
JD: "Absolutely. They're the best team in the league, they'll have a big following in the arena."
DW: Can they shoot the ball well enough to win it all?
JD: "That's the question mark. They are an outstanding defensive team and the best rebounding team in the country. They have a lot of offensive firepower, but if they go 2-for-22 from three-point range like they did against Tennessee (in a loss at Knoxville), I think they may have some trouble."
DW: Do Vandy and Tennessee have a shot at knocking off KY in the tourney and then doing some damage in the NCAA's?
JD: "They're the next two best teams that are closest to Kentucky and can compete favorably with them. I would be disappointed if those two teams didn't reach the round of 16, and that's when everybody is good, so that's really interesting."
DW: What do Mississippi State, Florida and Ole Miss have to do this weekend to get into the NCAA's?
JD: "All three have to win. Florida plays Auburn and if they win, the media and TV will be calling the Mississippi State-Florida game a play in game for the NCAA Tournament. If whoever wins can also win their game with Vandy (if Vandy advances), a team with an RPI of 25, they could really help themselves. Ole Miss has the greatest opportunity of anybody in the tournament. They would play Tennessee in the quarterfinals. Tennessee has a 16 RPI and if they won that, they would play Kentucky in the semis (probably a loss).
"Joe Lunardi has Florida in and the reason is that Florida is better than most of the 15 teams that are playing for the final five to six spots in the tournament. Florida was 9-7 in the SEC. They didn't beat Kentucky or Vandy, but they did beat Tennessee (at home), they beat Ole Miss, Mississippi State and they have non-conference wins over Michigan State and Florida State, who they beat by 16, and they (FSU) are one of the top four seeds in the ACC Tournament."
DW: Did you agree with the choice of John Wall as the Coach's Player of the Year in the conference?
JD: "I thought there should have been co-MVP's with Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Wall was the sexy pick because he's the flash and dash, while Cousins is the walking double-double. I enjoyed watching both of them and both deserved it."
DW: What about Devan Downey?
JD: "Downey tapered off in the second half of the season ( NOTE-I don't think Joe watched South Carolina's game last Sat at Vandy. He definitely didn't taper off in that game so not sure I agree with this). He deserves to be first team All-SEC, but not the player of the year." I have to disagree with that. Twenty six point average in SEC play. Led team single-handedly to victories over Ky and Vandy. He had a powerful resume.
DW: Do you still think Kansas is the best team?
JD:"I think Kansas is the best team, but there's not a dominant team this year. There's Kansas, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, and even a team like Texas who has struggled but has the talent to make a run. Duke is very good and Maryland is dangerous. Out of the Big 10 you've got Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. They're all good, but Kansas, in my opinion, is the best team."
DW: Do you think the Big East will get two teams in the Final Four?
JD: "I think they can. Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova are all good enough." NOTE:There are others too: Louisville, Gtown, particularly if Austin Freeman plays, Notre Dame is pretty dangerous at least to get to Sweet 16 and then you never know.
DW: Do you think this could be a year of some surprises in the Final Four?
JD: "I really think you'll see a couple of teams nobody expects to make the Final Four, make it. Teams like Baylor, Maryland, Ohio State. There are five or six teams that are good enough. There are not too many good teams outside the six power conferences (Big East, SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 10)."
DW: What do you think of New Mexico?
JD: They play in a weak conference, but Steve Alford is a very good basketball coach who has been around. I really don't know enough about them to comment." NOTE-They should be in Finals of Mountain West Tourney Sat. Night at 6 on VERSUS.
DW: Are Wall and Cousins gone?
JD: "They will be top five draft picks and they can't take the risk of getting injured. There is just too much money involved."
DW: What about Eric Bledsoe?
JD: "I hope not. I don't think he's ready. It would be a major mistake for him. Wall is leaving and he (Bledsoe) will be the man out front. Kentucky is going to have a very good team next year. Daniel Orton (frosh this year) is an NBA player, DeAndre Liggins (soph) was a high school All-American, Darnell Dodson (soph) and Darius Miller (soph) will have opportunities to score. Same for Bledsoe. With Bledsoe and these others back, they'll be the favorite in the conference."
DW: Who is your Final Four right now?
JD: "I've got Syracuse and Kansas and after that it's open to about 10 or 12 teams. I'm still working on that. I'm going to watch some games this weekend."