There are 12 teams in this conference, and one—KENTUCKY—has won the title 17 times since 1933, 12 times in the last 14 years. Last year, they won the SEC title with a team that Coach Rupp called his worst in years; practically all of this crew are back, supported in talented depth. The regulars: 6-foot-7 Center Ed Beck; John Cox and John Crigler up front; Vernon Hatton in the back-court. All are good by any collegiate standard and yet, at least one—probably Crigler—will have to move over as a regular, to make room for 6-foot-7 Sophomore Don Mills, a 27-point scorer and strong rebounder as a freshman last season. Listing all eight reserve lettermen would be rubbing salt into rivals' wounds, but another newcomer—Guard Lowell Hughes—should be noted as the only other sophomore likely to stay on the squad. AUBURN seems to be the best of the rest. Coach Eaves' Tigers have their three superb sophomores from last year back: Guards Jimmy Lee and Henry Hart, and the really fine rebounder and scorer up front, 6-foot-5 Rex Frederick. Center will be shared by 6-foot-8 Bill Gregory and 6-foot-7 Bill McGriff. The vacancy at forward will probably be filled by 6-foot-o Sophomore Manley Johnston. The reserves, ball handling and shooting are better than average, the big men a question. Auburn could use a new arena. Coach Polk's VANDERBILT Commodores have a good starting five in Guard Jim Henry and 6-foot-6 Don Hinton, veteran starters; and Sophomores Jack Pirrie, 6 feet 5, Martin Holland, 6 feet 8, and Ben Rowan, 6 feet 4. Someone will have to shift, since all but Henry are front-court men. Both Pirrie and Rowan have been impressive since high school days. The size is good, the reserves adequate, but the lack of experience is a grave weakness in this league. ALABAMA returns its tiny tiger, 5-foot-11 Jack Kubiszyn, who averaged 24 points per game last year, and 6-foot-6 Center Jim Fulmer, another fine scorer. There are five other lettermen to fill out a first five: Forwards Tom Crosby, Gene Beard and E.B. Hamner; Guards Len Kaplan and Dick Bratton. There are also promising sophomores from a 10-1 frosh team of last season, but none will start. MISSISSIPPI STATE is Bailey Howell, which might be enough at that in some other conferences. Howell is all the real height, at 6 feet 7, and half the starting experience—Guard Jerry Keeton is the rest. As a sophomore last year, Howell led the nation in field-goal accuracy, was sixth in rebounding with 492 and ninth in scoring at an average 25.9—a truly remarkable performance. Coach McCarthy builds with two junior college transfers and four sophomores for next year. TENNESSEE has only one senior on a squad which will also be at its best next year—5-foot-11 Leon Ammerman, who actually can play the pivot; junior Center Gene Tormohlen, 6 feet 7, a strong rebounder, and reserve Ken Coulter in the backcourt. The sophomores have real promise, led by 6-foot-6 Dalen Showalter, who will probably be a starter. There is a sharp drop here to GEORGIA TECH, FLORIDA and TULANE; then another to MISSISSIPPI, GEORGIA and LSU. Tech has a beautiful new arena, two fine guards in Terry Randall and Buddy Blemker, no rebounding, depth or over-all seasoning and a good sophomore prospect in 6-foot-7 Frank Inman. At Florida, Coach Mauer has a great set shot in Joe Hobbs, the necessary big man in 6-foot-8 Jim Zinn, Bob Sherwood, a 6-foot-5 sophomore hopeful, and not enough proven quality to rate higher than the middle. Graduation wrecked Tulane's fine team of a year ago. Six lettermen return, but all are guards. The two best: Bill Jargstorf and Gary Stoll, both excellent ball handlers. The sophomores look good but there is no height at all in them, only speed. Thirty-point average scorer Joe Gibbon graduated and left Ole Miss flat. Bobby Robinson, Carlton Garner and Carter Brown will start. There is size in reserve Jim Graves and Sophomore Ivan Richman, both 6 feet 7, and in 6-foot-6 Louis Griffin. The board strength is improved, the speed is fair, the weakness is lack of experience. New Coach McCreary finds one starter at LSU, Guard Dom Merle, and little else to welcome him. The best sophomores are Wayne Monson, Carey Guglielmo and Tom Collins. McCreary sums it up himself: no height or depth, little experience. The Tigers are two years away. Georgia has Ray Allen at guard and two 6-foot-5 front-court men in Henry Cabaniss and Bill Ensley, but can't be rated seriously.
Man to watch: KENTUCKY'S JOHN COX