The SEC may be one to watch in 2017-2018

From Issue 3

Kentucky freshman Hamidou Diallo in warmups. photo courtesy of:

Preseason Media Poll

  1. Kentucky
  2. Florida
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Alabama
  5. Missouri
  6. Arkansas
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Georgia
  9. Auburn
  10. Ole Miss
  11. South Carolina
  12. Mississippi State
  13. Tennessee
  14. LSU

Now that another basketball season is among us, it is now time to begin looking at who’s going to compete nationally from the Southeastern Conference, besides the Wildcats that hail from Lexington. The league has been dominated the last several years by John Calipari’s Wildcats, but it will be so full of talent this season that not even Kentucky will be safe. The closer we get to the season’s tip, the more it seems like Kentucky will not be running the league by themselves. Florida, Texas A&M, and Arkansas all look like they have so much talent and depth that short of the nation’s best teams not many will be able to stop them. Also, teams like Auburn, Missouri, and Alabama all look like they have finally found their stride to the point that they could each make strong cases for the big dance come postseason time.

Team Previews:

  1. Kentucky:

    Kentucky has won at least a share of the SEC title in their last three seasons, so by default, they will be the team with the largest target on their back come December 31 when they open conference play. The Wildcats lost talent, as they do on a yearly basis, but coach Calipari once again reloaded his squad, bringing the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class to campus. This class was highlighted by six five-star signees, and the coaching staff will have to lean on them to play a considerable amount of minutes this season since the Wildcats only return one rotation player from last year, Wenyen Gabriel. Kentucky will also have to find guys to step up at the forward position with the preseason injury of five-star freshman Jarred Vanderbilt coming at such an inopportune time for them.

  2. Florida:

    Florida’s third-year coach, Mike White, proved last year that his Gators could compete with anyone, and he will look to prove this year that his team is the one to beat in the conference. The Gators will lean heavily on backcourt returnees KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza this season due to the impressive numbers that they put up in the 2016-2017 season. Allen, a Preseason All-SEC player averaged 14 points per game last season which was good enough to earn first-team all-conference accolades at the end of the season. Also look for transfers Egor Koulechov, (forward, Rice) and Jalen Hudson (guard, Virginia Tech) to come in and have an immediate impact on the team.

  3. Texas A&M:

    The Aggies were one team last year that would just give it to their big men down low, and let them just go to work. They will most likely have the same m.o. this year considering A&M returns one of the best frontcourt duos in the entire country in Robert Williams and Tyler Davis. Sport’s Illustrated projects that this duo will combine for 29 points and 17 rebounds on a per-game basis. The Aggies biggest question mark this year though will be their backcourt. A&M’s guards will have to find a way to score and score consistently if they want to win on a regular basis in this talent-rich conference.

  4. Alabama:

    The Crimson Tide are entering this season with a lot of national attention, and for the most part this attention is circled around one player. Collin Sexton, a five-star from the class of 2017 hasn’t even played a college game, and yet he is already being labeled as a top-10 draft pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Sexton will be leaned on heavily as a freshman, but he will not have to lead the tide alone. Sexton will get assistance from his fellow underclassmen Braxton Key and John Petty. The tides biggest question mark this season will be whether or not they can find consistent production from their guard spot from players that are not named Collin Sexton.

  5. Missouri:

    The Missouri Tigers are a team that will have a lot to prove this 17-18 season. The tigers for the majority of the last several years have held down the bottom spots of the SEC, and they really have not been able to compete on a consistent basis with the teams in this conference. However, first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin will be looking to change this. This should be a slightly easier task for Martin considering he brought in the top-ranked recruit in the class of 2017, Michael Porter Jr. The Tigers also added Kassius Robertson, a senior sharpshooting transfer from Canisius, who should provide an immediate impact for the team.

  6. Arkansas:

    The Razorbacks are coming off of a season a successful 2017 campaign that ended with them going dancing. Arkansas gave a scare to the one-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the round of 32 last year, and they will look to build off that success this year. They return all three of their star-studded guards (Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford, Anton Beard) from last year, and they could be dangerous enough once again to make it into the field of 64.

  7. Vanderbilt:

    The Commodores will have a different look to their team this year without center Luke Kornet running the floor for them, but they do return several key players from last year’s team that should help keep them in the top half of the conference. This team could be one to look out for in the conference, especially if they can piece together complete team efforts day in and day out. Also, two of their returnees from last year, Riley Lachance and Joe Toye, both shot over 40% from behind the arc last season.

  8. Georgia:

    Georgia has not received much preseason hype this offseason, and that will most likely not change as the season goes on. The Bulldogs lost their star point guard J.J. Frazier this offseason to France, but they do return an NBA prospect in Yante Maten. Maten will have to step up even more from last year if he wants to the lead his team to another successful season.

  9. Auburn:

    The Tigers may be in the midst of an FBI investigation, but that is not going to be stopping them from suiting up on November 10. Bruce Pearl’s squad, led by Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper will have to step up and show some leadership even as underclassmen if they want to send their team back to the dance for the first time since 2003.

  10. Ole Miss:

    Andy Kennedy’s squad is one that many may want to keep their eyes on. Led by Deandre Burnett and Terence Davis, the Rebels may be in a position this season to show off their athleticism and scoring ability to the point where they can slide into the NCAA tournament conversation. Also, look for Drake transfer Dominik Olejniczak and Memphis transfer Markel Crawford to come in and have an immediate impact.

  11. South Carolina:

    South Carolina was the one team from last years NCAA tournament that no one saw coming. The Gamecocks made it to the final four before they got knocked off by one-seeded Gonzaga. If South Carolina wants to build off their success from last year, they will have to rely heavily on their first-year transfer Kory Holden, and returnees Chris Silva and Wesley Myers.

  12. Mississippi State:

    Ben Howland’s Bulldogs are skilled, athletic, and have the ability to score, but they are also very inexperienced. Led by Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters, they may have all of the tools to finally break through in the conference, but the biggest question is will they?

  13. Tennessee:

    The name James Daniel III will be one that you will want to keep your ears open for this season. Daniel, a Howard transfer,  averaged 27.1 ppg in his final season there, and he sat out last year with an ankle injury in his first year with the Vols. Tennessee may struggle as a team this year, but you will still want to keep your tv tuned to the Vols just to see the James Daniel show.

  14. LSU:

    Head coach, Will Wade has inherited a building situation down on the bayou. The Tigers will be led by graduate transfers Jeremy Combs (North Texas) and Randy Onwuasor (Southern Utah) this season, but they will most likely be a multi-year project for the first-year head coach. However, don’t let it surprise you if Wade can get some of his winning ways to carry over sooner than later.