At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We have two questions this week – one today and one Sunday.
Today's question: Everyone seems to be conceding that Kentucky is the team to beat in the SEC East. Which team do you think will win the SEC West?
David Fox's answer:
Even if Renardo Sidney doesn't suit up for Mississippi State, I'm picking the Bulldogs to be the top team in the West. People forget how consistent a program Rick Stansbury has in Starkville. The Bulldogs have missed the NCAA tournament only twice since 2002. The Bulldogs return all five starters and four double-digit scorers to a team that won the SEC tournament, including the best defensive player in the league in Jarvis Varnado. Point guard Dee Bost turned out to be a find, and he'll only get better as a sophomore.
Mike Huguenin's answer:
I think it will come down to Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and I think the Bulldogs' frontcourt gives them the edge, assuming Renardo Sidney is cleared by the NCAA to play. Ole Miss played well last season, especially when you consider the staggering injury losses the Rebels suffered. Mississippi State, meanwhile, underachieved until it caught fire in the SEC tourney. Jarvis Vanardo is a big-time defender, and he and Sidney would provide a powerful 1-2 frontcourt punch; Ole Miss' frontcourt isn't much. But Mississippi State's backcourt isn't as good as Ole Miss'. Thus, if Sidney plays, look for the Bulldogs to win the title; if he doesn't, I think the Rebels wear the crown.
Steve Megargee's answer:
I'm leaning toward Mississippi State, but don't count out Ole Miss. I'd feel much more comfortable about picking Mississippi State if we knew the status of highly touted freshman forward Renardo Sidney, but I believe the Bulldogs have the best team in the West even if Sidney doesn't play a game. Barry Stewart, Ravern Johnson and Phil Turner give Mississippi State a trio of dangerous 3-point shooters to surround Jarvis Varnado, the nation's premier shot blocker. Dee Bost isn't a star, but he's a solid point guard who knows how to run an offense. Mississippi State does have to watch out for its in-state rival. Injuries knocked the Rebels out of SEC contention early last season, but if Eniel Polynice and Chris Warren return to full strength, they can team with Terrico White to give Ole Miss one of the nation's most underrated backcourts. Ole Miss' problem is its lack of frontcourt depth. That's why Varnado's presence tips the scales in Mississippi State's favor.