The deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the 2018 NBA Draft has finally come and gone. Here are my way-too-early SEC Basketball rankings which feature a pretty familiar team at the No. 1 spot.
Once again the Wildcats will have a very talented freshman class coming to Lexington this fall which is headlined by E.J. Montgomery, Keldon Johnson, and Ashton Hagans (if he reclassifies, which is what’s expected).
However, what really sets this UK team apart from other seasons is that the Wildcats are returning three players who received major playing time last season in Quade Green, Nick Richards, and (most importantly) P.J. Washington.
Whenever Calipari has a nice influx of talent and experience, he usually has the best team in the nation. Once you add in the possibility of Stanford transfer Reid Travis coming to UK for next season, there is no debate at all for who the best team in the SEC will be. If Travis and Hagans are both wearing Kentucky Blue for the 2018-19 season, Calipari may have his most complete team ever.
Watch out folks. The Volunteers are going to be an absolute force next season. If P.J. Washington stayed in the draft, and if Reid Travis wasn’t rumored to come to Kentucky, then Tennessee would have been my No. 1 team in the SEC for next season.
Why? Well its because they return their top six scorers from last season which includes Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Not only do they have a talented roster, but Rick Barnes is basically getting back all of the Volunteers’ production from last season.
That amount of experience will come in handy once February and March roll around. I personally thought the Volunteers ran into some bad luck in the NCAA Tournament this year, and I think they will be primed for a huge run in the Big Dance next season.
After testing NBA Draft waters this spring, star guard Bryce Brown (15.9 ppg) decided to return to Auburn for next season. He will be one of the best shooters in the league, and he could also be the SEC Player of the Year as well.
Overall, the Tigers are returning six of their top eight scorers from last season’s squad which shared the SEC regular-season title. Expect Head Coach Bruce Pearl to have Auburn locked and loaded for another big year. If Brown makes a leap to one of the best players in college basketball, then the Tigers will have a chance to be the best team in the league.
4. Mississippi State
For the No. 4 spot, I’m going with Ben Howland’s Bulldogs.
After winning 25 games and making the semifinals of the NIT this past season, Mississippi St. returns their top six scorers which include the Weatherspoon brothers who combined to score over 25 points a game.
Add in a top-25 recruiting class that features three 4-star players and you have one of the top teams in the SEC.
I think the Tigers are primed to be one of the most improved teams in the conference next season. Not only do they get back superstar Tremont Waters, but LSU is also welcoming a recruiting class that many have tabbed as one of the best in the nation.
Headlined by five-star players Emmitt Williams and and Nazreon Reid, the Tigers will have some incredible young talent for once. While I still have questions concerning the depth and experience level of Will Wade’s team for next season, this is a squad that has top-25 talent.
Tremont Waters gives LSU the win! pic.twitter.com/eLdgDrxWrZ
— CollegeBB News (@CollegeBBNCAA) January 6, 2018
The Gators were one of the hardest teams to predict in these rankings. They lose a sizable amount of production and star guard Chris Chiozza. However, they are still a deep basketball team that will feature 7-9 players who can play at anytime.
Most notably they return talented guards Jalen Hudson and Kevaughn Allen. Add that in with a top-25 recruiting class and I think Mike White will have the Gators back in the NCAA Tournament next season.
I’m shooting for the moon with this pick. The Commodores were arguably the worst team in the conference last season, but I think they are going to make a sizable leap forward this year.
They lose three of their top four scorers, however, they are welcoming in a top-10 recruiting class that features two top-15 players (Simi Shittu and Darius Garland). This ranking is dependent on the talent level of those two players. If they come in and play to their potential, Vandy will be quite a team to watch. If they disappoint, it will be another long season in Nashville.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAM_HS) March 29, 2018
The college basketball world is certainly going to miss Collin Sexton. The Crimson Tide will really miss him as well. However, Head Coach Avery Johnson will be getting back everyone else while also inheriting talented transfer Tevin Mack from Texas.
I think Johnson is slowly building a solid program in Tuscaloosa, and this season should be the year where he really shows off his coaching ability.
From here on out, the teams on this list will be squads who lost a lot from last year and are expected to still be in rebuilding mode. I think Arkansas will still provide the league with a solid team.
They return the immensely talented Daniel Gafford, and the Razorbacks are also welcoming in three 4-star players in their recruiting class. For me, I think that’s enough for Head Coach Mike Anderson to get this team to respectability.
This is now Jontay Porter’s team. He could have left Missouri along with his brother for the NBA Draft, but he surprisingly came back despite being a borderline first-round pick. The Tigers lose a lot around him, but I think he will have a really good season in 2018-19.
— Mizzou Basketball (@MizzouHoops) May 30, 2018
11. Texas A&M
After losing Robert Williams, Tyler Davis, and D.J. Hogg this off season the Aggies are going to be in rebuilding mode. Expect Admon Gilder to be the best player on next year’s team.
I think this is one of the worst teams in the league. However, I guarantee that Tom Crean will keep the Bulldogs out of last place. Despite all the jokes we make about him the guy really can coach. Expect 2019-20 to be the season where Georgia makes a big leap.
13. South Carolina
I really like Frank Martin as a coach, but the Gamecocks are still sadly in rebuilding mode right now. Keep your eyes on Chris Silva next season. The guy can really play.
14. Ole Miss
Gone is Andy Kennedy, and in comes Kermit Davis. For his first year at Ole Miss, Davis has quite the uphill battle. At least he will have Terrance Davis to work with who withdrew from the NBA Draft.