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Malik Newman, Basketball Bulldogs Earning Preseason Respect

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Ben Howland's team is respected around college basketball even before playing their first game.

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Bulldog fans have several reasons to be excited for the 2015 college basketball season, the biggest of which is five-star guard Malik Newman, who will make his Bulldog debut in less than a month.

As Newman and the rest of his teammates continue practicing in preparation for their November 13 opener against Eastern Washington, they are drawing individual and team praise from the media.

Newman was voted second-team All-SEC on Wednesday, while MSU was picked to finish eighth in the conference -- one point away from passing South Carolina at seventh.

You may not look at that as something to be excited about, but given that MSU finished near the bottom of the league every season under Rick Ray, being picked middle of the pack shows plenty of respect for new coach Ben Howland and his freshman point guard.

Of course Howland hopes his team finishes much higher than seventh or eighth, and with Newman running the show they have a chance to make some noise in what is a wide open league once you look past the Kentucky Wildcats -- who were picked to win the SEC again, shocker.

The other teams voted ahead of the Bulldogs were Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina at two through seven, respectively.

We'll have to wait and see how quickly the young players such as Newman and Quinndary Weatherspoon gel with the senior nucleus returning from last year, but the talent is there for a much improved season. I'm not ready to call this a tournament team quite yet, but in basketball all it takes is one star to make a difference. Newman can be that player.