It’s no surprise that it’s Kentucky and a bunch of average teams in this conference yet again. However, that’s not to take away what the SEC has done from a coaching and recruiting standpoint the last couple of years. We’ve seen the conference hire the likes of Bryce Drew, Bruce Pearl, Ben Howland, Avery Johnson and Rick Barnes. We’ve seen teams not named Kentucky land 5-star players. This conference isn’t nearly as bad as it once was.
That said, this year it’s still just Kentucky and everyone playing for second. It’s wide open though after Kentucky as there are about six schools that could finish second and surprise no one. Ideally the conference will get about six schools in to the NCAA Tournament, but it’s likely that number ends up being around four.
Five Storylines to Watch in the SEC
- Can Kentucky Find a Consistent Shooter
This is the major question for the No. 2 team in the country. Yes, Derek Willis came on last year and looked the part of being that stretch player, but he lacks defensive ability. Can Malik Monk or De’Aaron Fox step in and become more of a threat from three? Kentucky desperately needs Monk to be that guy so the lane stays open for Fox’s and Briscoe’s ability to get to the basket.
- Does Johnny Jones Finally Get Fired
Personally, I have no idea how Johnny Jones still has a job at LSU. He’s failed massively with the likes of Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin on the same team before completely embarrassing himself with Ben Simmons. He’s yet to win a NCAA Tournament game in four years and while he has the talent, LSU just never lives up to the hype. If the Tigers struggle this year he has to go, right?
- Is Florida #back
It’s only a couple years since the Gators had an undefeated SEC season and was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. After struggling since then, Florida has all the pieces to be a consistent top-25 team in Mike White’s second year. They have an experienced point guard in Kasey Hill and more importantly a guy who can make free throws in Canyon Barry – the biggest problem Florida had last year.
- Can Tyler Davis Keep Texas A&M as a Top-25 Team
The Aggies were co-champions last season and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost however the core group of guys led by Danuel House and Alex Caruso. They do get to keep Tyler Davis though, who is a prototypical big man that really came on strong last year as a freshman. It’ll be up to him and a bunch of sophomores to keep this program where it is now.
- Will Kim Anderson Climbing Out of a Coffin Help Missouri
In one of the most absurd things we’ve seen a coach do, Missouri head coach Kim Anderson crawled out of a coffin at Midnight Madness to show the world Missouri basketball isn’t dead. Well, they may not be dead but they suck. There’s no real story here besides the fact you need to go back and watch how hilarious the moment is when this happens.
SEC Preseason Player of the Year: De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)
He’s drawn comparisons to John Wall because of his athleticism, speed and ability to get to the rim. Fox is the next great point guard under Calipari and on top of that is probably the best on-ball defender in the loaded freshman class. He’ll rack up stats as the ball will be in his hands quite a bit, allowing Briscoe and Monk to play off the ball.
SEC Preseason Freshman of the Year: Malik Monk (Kentucky)
He’s the third highest recruit for Kentucky this year, but is expected to lead the Cats in scoring. The question will be how consistent is Monk. He’s known for having not the best shot selection, but can heat up right away and get 10 points before you blink. You’d have to think with the talent on the roster and the way Calipari coaches the offense that he’ll calm down with most of his poor shot selection.
SEC Preseason Coach of the Year: Mike White (Florida)
In just two years he’ll have Florida back in the top-25 and competing in the NCAA Tournament. Sure, he may finish more than 2-3 games behind Kentucky in the SEC standings, but people hate voting for guys like Calipari (and Self, K, etc) for Coach of the Year.
Malik Monk (Kentucky)
De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky)
Moses Kingsley (Arkansas)
JJ Frazier (Georgia)
Tyler Davis (Texas A&M)
Bam Adebayo (Kentucky)
Kevaughn Allen (Florida)
Jeff Roberson (Vanderbilt)
Quinndary Weatherspoon (Mississippi State)
Yante Maten (Georgia)
- Kentucky – It’s their conference to lose and no way should they. This is a deep team, especially in the frontcourt, but need to find a consistent shooter.
- Florida – Having an experienced and talented point guard will help in this league a ton. On top of that there’s balance with this roster. They can turn to Allen or big man John Egbunu for buckets when they have to.
- Texas A&M – Tyler Davis and DJ Hogg are both good enough to keep this team competitive. But, look for Admon Gilder to be one of the go-to scorers for this team. There’s not a ton of depth, but I really like their starting five.
- Georgia – Another team led by a senior point guard in JJ Frazier, the Bulldogs should finally get over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. Yante Maten is one of the young gems in this conference as he’s expected to average over 16 points a game.
- Arkansas – This is one of those situations where the talent is on the roster but I’m not a fan of Mike Anderson. He, like Johnny Jones, has yet to get his teams to truly play to their potential. Moses Kingsley will challenge for SEC Player of the Year, but there’s a decent chance Anderson screws this up.
- Vanderbilt – Yeah, Vandy loses a couple first-round picks and its head coach, but I like Bryce Drew a little bit better than Stallings. It just seemed time for Stallings and Vandy to move on and Drew gets a decent roster to work with. If Luke Kornet comes back from foot surgery and plays well he can be a difference maker at 7’0” and stretching the floor.
- Ole Miss – Cullen Neal is one of those transfers that you haven’t heard a ton about, but he’ll instantly be the best player on this team. After finally getting out of his dads shadows, Neal should be able to play a little looser.
- South Carolina – PJ Dozier needs to live up to the hype he had as a McDonald’s All-American, something he didn’t do as a freshman. Their backcourt of Dozier, Notice and Thornwell is quite talented, but can they be consistent?
- Mississippi State – This is essentially JV Kentucky as they will have six freshmen in their rotation and be led by a sophomore. Quinndary Weatherspoon will be the leader of this team and is predicted to score over 13 a game.
- Alabama – The Tide should look better in the second year under Avery Johnson, but still lack the offense to truly compete. They will lean on Memphis transfer Nick King, who is the only player on the roster expected to average double digits.
- Auburn – Remember the name Mustapha Heron, who is a five-star recruit and should see heavy minutes for the Tigers. He’s a top-20 recruit who should work in the backcourt with Bryce Brown. I really like what Bruce Pearl is doing at Auburn, but they are still a year away.
- LSU – This team is going to be bad on the defensive side of the ball. The talent is still there with Antonio Blakeney, Craig Victor and Brandon Sampson but the lack of defense and Johnny Jones as head coach is just a bad combo.
- Tennessee – There is balance and depth on this roster. What there isn’t is a threat to shoot the ball. Only one person on the roster returns who shot over 30% from deep last year.
- Missouri – Yeah, no nice way to put it. Missouri sucks.