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If it seems as if there is a dearth of talent in the SEC this
season, there is good reason for it. "We had 13 players picked
in the NBA draft," says Eddie Fogler, the coach at South
Carolina (page 106). While the league generated more than a
quarter of the college players selected in the June draft, none
of them were Gamecocks, meaning that Fogler has all of his top
players back and ready to battle prohibitive conference favorite
Kentucky (page 66).

Vanderbilt coach Jan van Breda Kolff feels that the exodus of
talent will change the focus of the game. "The top five big men
either left early or graduated, so the strength of the league
will now be its guards," he says. That should suit the
Commodores, who are stocked in the backcourt with junior Drew
Maddux (14.0 ppg) and senior Howard Pride.

The preseason roster at Tennessee lists 18 players--none of whom
has more than one year of experience with the Vols. Coach Kevin
O'Neill has four players 6'10" or taller, including freshman
Charles Hathaway. Among the returning players, only guard
Brandon Wharton (12.6 ppg) scored more than seven points per
game last season. Billy Donovan, the new coach at Florida,
inherits a squad that went 12-16 last year, just two seasons
removed from a Final Four visit. Swingman Jason Anderson, who
averaged 7.2 points per game in 1994-95, returns to the team
after a year's absence. There will be plenty of new faces--nine,
to be exact--at Georgia, which lost all five starters from last
year's Sweet 16 squad. One familiar face for coach Tubby Smith:
his son G.G., a sophomore guard.

Eligibility problems at Arkansas have claimed the team's leading
scorer, Jesse Pate, and top rebounder, Sunday Adebayo. Sophomore
guard Kareem Reid, who averaged 12.9 points and 6.6 assists
while leading the Razorbacks to last spring's Sweet 16, will get
a hand from 6'6" freshman off-guard Glendon Alexander, who can
shoot out the lights.

Auburn will be happy to turn out the lights on 1996. After
starting last season 12-1, the Tigers went just 7-12 after the
turn of the year. Senior guard Wes Flanigan (an SEC-high 6.7
assists per game) is back, as is 6'11" center Pat Burke, who
averaged 11.0 points and 8.7 rebounds a game last year.

The league's top returning scorer is one of its most underrated
performers. Alabama forward Eric Washington hit 40.5% of his
three-point attempts while averaging 18.6 points and 6.9
rebounds per game. Despite shooting a woeful 40.3% from the
floor, Mississippi finished with a 12-15 record last year. With
all five starters back, the Rebels are poised for a run at the
NIT, which would be the team's first postseason appearance in
eight years.

Things aren't nearly as rosy at Mississippi State, where the
five starters from last year's Final Four team have departed.
Still, the Bulldogs should avoid the cellar, which is where LSU
coach Dale Brown found himself last year for the first time in
his 24-year career. The bad news for Brown is that Ronnie
Henderson, the SEC's leading scorer in 1995-96 (21.8 ppg), is
among the four starters gone from the lineup in Baton Rouge.


COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER Reid heads a depleted Hogs squad. [Kareem Reid in game]


1 Kentucky (2) 34-2
2 South Carolina (22) 19-12
3 Vanderbilt 18-14
4 Tennessee 14-15
5 Florida 12-16
6 Georgia 21-10

1 Arkansas 20-13
2 Auburn 19-13
3 Alabama 19-13
4 Mississippi 12-15
5 Mississippi State 26-8
6 LSU 12-17