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SEC coaches downplay teams' chances

By By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Oct. 30, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. On a day when most coaches were expected to present their team's sales pitch, many head coaches at the Southeastern Conference's basketball Media Day spent more time explaining why their team should not be expected to win.
At the end of the day, Kentucky and LSU failed to persuade reporters to that effect, though, and were voted the preseason favorites to win the SEC East and West divisions, respectively.
Stansbury was not the only one making a case against his own team. Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried argued that it is the Crimson Tide who return less talent than any other SEC team.
Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes, who had eight players either graduate or leave the team, hopes the Rebels' core of Justin Reed and Aaron Harper can help lead the team back from a 14-15 record in 2003 Ole Miss' first losing season since 1996.
The entire league has somewhat of a new look to it after the departures of several high-profile players. Georgia's Jarvis Hayes is gone. So are former Mississippi State standouts Mario Austin and Derrick Zimmerman. The SEC Player of the Year from last year, Kentucky's Keith Bogans, is also gone.
While the lack of size may appear to present an advantage to any team with tall post players, even Bogans' former coach, Wildcats head coach Tubby Smith, downplayed the fact that Kentucky boasts two 7-foot players freshmen Shagari Alleyne (7-foot-3) and Lukasz Obrzut (7-foot-1).
The conference's 12 women's squads also appeared in Birmingham, with traditional powerhouse Tennessee being voted most likely to win the league championship.