At the College Basketball Roundtable, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinions about a current topic in the sport.
This week's question: The SEC held an official "welcome" party Wednesday in Atlanta for Missouri and Texas A&M. Can either or both contend annually in the SEC in basketball?
Mike Huguenin's answer: I think Missouri will be an annual contender, while A&M should contend to finish in the upper half of the league and occasionally truly compete for the title. Playing at Missouri is going to be an eye-opening experience for most SEC teams; currently, Kentucky and maybe Florida and Vanderbilt can be tough places to play. Missouri is going to join UK as a dreaded league road trip. I think joining the SEC expands Mizzou's basketball recruiting base a bit, and as long as the Tigers have the right coach, they will be able to take advantage. Missouri is a "basketball school" (it will be one of just three of those in the SEC, joining Kentucky and Vandy), and that is going to pay off. Kentucky and Florida are the SEC's standard-bearers now, and I think Mizzou will join that group. I'm not sold at all on A&M as a basketball "power." The school's basketball program was dormant for a long time, and while I don't think the Aggies will sink back into that morass, I think they are going to have some trouble in their new league.
[Mike Huguenin: New rule allows coaches to provide summer instruction]
Steve Megargee's answer: I doubt either team will contend for the SEC title every single season, but both should reach the top half of the league standings and reach the NCAA tournament more often than not. With John Calipari recruiting the way he has since arriving in Lexington, Kentucky probably will be the SEC's preseason favorite just about every year he's on the job. Florida clearly is the league's No. 2 program at this point. But the league is wide open beyond that. Once you get past Kentucky and Florida, I don't know if there's a single basketball program in the SEC that's clearly better than Missouri as far as passion and tradition, the Tigers' lack of Final Four appearances notwithstanding. Texas A&M doesn't have Missouri's history, but it does have a nice recruiting base. Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon showed it's possible to win consistently there as long as the right coach is in place. Both of these programs thrived recently in the Big 12, though they weren't quite as successful as the league's dominant program (Kansas). I'm guessing Missouri and Texas A&M will encounter the same type of situation in the SEC.
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