What a day here at the media daze. There will be a couple stories in Friday’s paper, but here are a few quick notes, mainly about the Gamecocks, from the afternoon session:
- Darrin Horn was asked about going into his second year, and the challenges that bring. The main one, he answered, was not getting complacent after a surprising good first year.
“We can’t just show up and do what we did last year,” Horn said. “As a program, we’ve only spent one year laying a foundation for what we want to do. To get to the level that we really want to be at, not just winning, but as a program, that’s going to take some time. So we’ve got to come back this year and continue to lay some bricks.”
- The topic of the league being better continued to reverberate. Horn was among those who agreed that the Gamecocks could drop a few spots in the division – they tied for first last year, and are picked fourth this year – and still make the NCAA tournament rather easily.
“You could drop two or three in a row and think your season’s coming to an end, and still end up winning the league,” Horn said. “It’s just that good. Ten-and-six could win the league.”
- Expect to see USC’s four newcomers on the floor.
“They’re gonna play,” Horn said. “How much we use them, and when they come in, all that kind of stuff will be determined on how they perform and relative to how others are playing. But no they’re gonna play. They were brought in to play.”
- Devan Downey has improved in a few areas, most notably his leadership.
“He’s not just vocal,” Horn said. “He’s passionate in setting the tone. He’s learning to bring guys along. And to really instill confidence in them, not just in how he plays but because he really believes in how they can play.”
He’s also been consistent in some little things, like playing off the basketball defensively.
- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl believes the hype is deserved for Kentucky.
“Their talent is so overwhelming,” Pearl said. “And I understand that. I don’t have an argument with that. I see how many pros they have on their roster.”
And ultimately, that’s good for the SEC.
“The good news is whenever the bar is raised that just elevates the rest of us,” Pearl said. “So we will all be relevant. Not only do I look for more teams to get in the tournament I look for more teams to advance this year because of how good the league is going to be.”
(Pearl did have an interesting point: He’s been at Tennessee five years, and John Calipari will be the third Kentucky coach he’s faced.
- The new TV deal, which will put SEC games on heavy rotation on ESPN, got a lot of attention here. Pearl hopes there is one benefit: More talk about SEC games during actual SEC games.
It always seems that they have guys with ACC backgrounds, and during SEC games they’re talking about the ACC game from the night before. Pearl’s hoping more SEC-based announcers, like Jimmy Dykes, will get the calls.
- Florida has missed the NCAA tournament two straight years, not the follow-up it wanted to the repeat national titles. And he enters this year picked fifth in the SEC East.
But Donovan blanched when asked about being “overtaken” as a program.
“I never looked at us as being overtaken,” he said. “I never thought we overtook anybody. I look at it more in terms of competition.”
- Donovan does like his team a bit more this season, despite the unexpected loss of leading scorer Nick Calathes. The team adds freshman Kenny Boynton (a consensus top 20 player) and center Vernon Macklin, who sat out a year after transferring from Georgetown. The Gators also return most of their team from last year, Calathes the main exception.
“I think we have better pieces and better fits right now,” Donovan said.
And Horn is among those who thinks the Gators will be better.
“I think Florida’s being overlooked, personally. I think they’ve got an opportunity to be much better than they’re given credit for,” Horn said. “They’ve added some really good guys and the guys that are returning obviously are pretty good players. I think we’re all pretty sure that Billy can coach.”