After Kentucky, rest of SEC is fighting for spot in pecking order
As Kentucky continues to find a new roster that can win the SEC, the rest of the SEC is still trying to find its footing.
Perhaps one of the most unlikely of candidates found a way to grab some of the spotlight last season as Texas A&M shared the league title. The Aggies figure to be near the top of the league again, but they are rebuilding after losing several key seniors and their ace recruiter.
Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Arkansas have talent, but consistent play remains elusive. Coaching hires at Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Tennessee have given these struggling SEC programs legitimacy, but save for the surprising Tide and Gamecocks last year, they haven’t translated to breakout seasons.
The SEC produced only three NCAA Tournament teams last season and only Kentucky and Texas A&M went into Selection Sunday with any sense of certainty. Unless a handful of programs take a few steps forward this season, the SEC may be in a similar situation this year.
All SEC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.
|SEC 2016-17 Predictions|
Kentucky: John Calipari’s latest great recruiting class features elite talent inside and on the perimeter. Scoring in the paint won’t be an issue this season.
Texas A&M: The Aggies lost a ton of veteran leadership but once again will feature one of the league’s most talented rosters.
Florida: Mike White is still searching for his first NCAA Tournament appearance as a head coach. This should be the year the drought ends.
Georgia: J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten will form one of the nation’s top inside-out duos.
Vanderbilt: Dores lost two first-round draft picks, but new coach Bryce Drew still has plenty of talent.
Arkansas: Moses Kingsley’s return to Fayetteville will keep the Hogs in the hunt for an NCAA invite.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide overachieved in Avery Johnson’s first season. His roster is better in Year 2.
Auburn: Don’t be shocked if Bruce Pearl’s Tigers are the surprise of the SEC in his third season on campus.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks feature a talented trio on the perimeter but must replace some key inside contributors.
Ole Miss: Two sharpshooting transfers (Deandre Burnette and Cullen Neal) and big man Sebastian Saiz will carry the Rebels.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs will lean on sophomore Quinndary Weatherspoon and a group of highly touted freshman.
LSU: The spotlight is off Baton Rouge, which may be a good thing for Johnny Jones and the Tigers.
Tennessee: Rick Barnes has provided stability, but this team isn’t quite ready to make a move in the SEC.
Missouri: It’s been a struggle for Kim Anderson at his alma mater — and things don’t look much better in Year 3.
Player of the Year: Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
Best Defensive Player: Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt
Most Underrated Player: Yante Maten, Georgia
Newcomer of the Year: Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
G De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
G J.J. Frazer, Georgia
F Bam Adebayo, Kentucky
F Moses Kingsley, Arkansas
C Tyler Davis, Texas A&M
G Malik Monk, Kentucky
G Antonio Blakeney, LSU
G Dusty Hannahs, Arkansas
F Luke Kornet, Vanderbilt
F Yante Maten, Georgia
G Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky
G KeVaughn Allen, Florida
G Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State
F Sebastian Saiz, Ole Miss
C John Egbunu, Florida
1. Kentucky: The Wildcats could put a daunting starting five on the court with this class, which includes four five-star talents.
2. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs, seven years removed from their last NCAA Tournament game, pulled in a top-15 class for the second straight year.
3. Auburn: Guard Mustapha Heron will make a big impact. Bruce Pearl fought off several suitors to land the top-25 player.
4. Texas A&M: Four-star Robert Williams, who compares his game to that of Anthony Davis, and J.J. Caldwell are a pair of intriguing top-60 signees.
5. Tennessee: Good bet that at least one of the Volunteers’ six three-star prospects will emerge as an All-SEC player.
6. Georgia: Jordan Harris is a talented traditional shooting guard, while Tyree Crump is looking to use his small frame as a more of a point guard in college.
7. Vanderbilt: Four-star Clevon Brown averaged nearly a double-double in his senior season.
8. Alabama: Terrance Ferguson’s de-commitment was a huge loss for Avery Johnson, but the Tide retained Oak Hill Academy four-star forward Braxton Key.
9. Missouri: Missouri’s incoming class might be tested early; there’s plenty of playing time available.
10. Florida: The Gators were able to keep a lot of homegrown talent, but big man Gorjok Gak will have to sit out a season due to eligibility issues.
11. Arkansas: Brachen Hazen, a three-star small forward, is the most heralded, but Jaylen Barford, a junior college shooting guard, may have a bigger impact.
12. Ole Miss: The Rebels brought in some bruisers, with four of the five signees already weighing in at over 200 pounds.
13. LSU: Skylar Mars is a talented court leader who held offers from other notable programs as well.
14. South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ top signee is Sedee Keita, a three-star 6'9" center from Philadelphia.