The Southeastern Conference is still a couple of years away from being a really good conference in terms of having multiple teams compete for deep NCAA tournament runs, but at least it should be an extremely fun conference to follow this season. SEC teams have had great recruiting success the past two season. In fact, LSU and Texas A&M have already put together two of the top 2015 classes. Along with having some of the best young talent in the country, the SEC boasts some of the most interesting coaches as well.
Bruce Pearl is back in coaching and is making headlines at Auburn with his recruiting efforts. On the court they are just 7-5 to start the season, but you know that the Tigers are going to be extremely competitive sooner rather than later. Down at LSU, Johnny Jones has managed to snag the #1 player in the Class of 2015 in Ben Simmons and already boasts two sophomore sensations in Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. Missouri hired Kim Anderson, a former Mizzou player who won the Division II National Championship last season at Central Missouri. Even Frank Martin has convinced two Top 100 players to come to South Carolina next season. This season the Gamecocks have big non-conference wins over Oklahoma State and Clemson.
After all of that talk, I have still yet to mention the SEC’s three best teams, Arkansas, Florida, and obviously our own Kentucky Wildcats. Florida has had a disappointing 7-4 start, but they are still very talented and have two of the conferences best veteran players in Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith. Arkansas, who had the ‘Cats number last season, is 10-2 and has the best inside-outside duo outside of Lexington in power forward Bobby Portis and guard Michael Qualls.
Players to Watch
Jarell Martin: 6’10’’ 236 Power Forward (Sophomore)
LSU is off to 10-2 start including an impressive road victory over West Virginia. Their success has been due in large part to the play of Jarell Martin who leads the SEC in scoring at 17.5 points per game and is third in rebounding with 9.0 per game. Martin has expanded his offensive game and has really improved from the free throw line, which has led to his increased scoring output.
KT Harrell: 6’4’’ 212 Shooting Guard (Senior)
Harrell is a dynamic scorer who broke out during his first season at Auburn last year. He has displayed impressive efficiency from the field so far this season considering he is asked to do so much for the Tigers offense. Harrell is connecting on over 40% of his 3-pointers and is shooting 45% from the field overall. His 17.3 points per game is currently second in the conference.
Bobby Portis: 6’11’’ 242 Power Forward (Sophomore)
Portis had an outstanding freshman season that landed him on the All-SEC second team and SEC All-Freshman squad. He is a very skilled all-around offensive player and has shown an improved 3-point shot this season that is becoming a weapon. He is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Josh Richardson: 6’6’’ 200 Shooting Guard (Senior)
A four-year player for the Volunteers, Richardson has been asked to be a do-everything guard this season. He is stuffing the stat sheet with 16.3 points, 4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. Along with being a dynamic offensive player, Richardson is one of the SEC’s best defenders.
Michael Frazier II: 6’4’’ 194 Shooting Guard (Junior)
He is one of the best pure shooters in the country. While his percentages are down so far this season because he is being asked to do a lot more offensively, his scoring and rebounding numbers are up. In addition, he has continued to improve defensively. Frazier’s expanded offensive game makes him more dangerous than ever with the ball.
Damian Jones: 6’10’’ 240 Center (Sophomore)
Vandy’s three losses have come by a combined 11 points and sophomore Damian Jones has been a consistent presence down low for the Commodores. He is averaging 16.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while showcasing drastically improved free throw shooting. A big key for Jones so far this season has been his developing understanding of how to impact the game defensively without fouling. He is blocking nearly 2.0 shots per game while also consistently staying out of foul trouble.
Levi Randolph: 6’5’’ 208 Shooting Guard (Senior)
Randolph is arguably the most improved player in the SEC and his stellar play has a lot to do with why Alabama has been playing well so far this season. The senior has consistently improved throughout his career. He has turned himself from a bad shooter into a good shooter, an inefficient offensive player into an efficient scorer, and a bad free throw shooter into a great free throw shooter. Randolph averages 16.4 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and nearly 2 steals per game.
Jordan Mickey: 6’8’’ 235 Power Forward (Sophomore)
LSU’s other super-sophomore, Jordan Mickey, is averaging nearly a double-double with 15.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. On top of being an equally dominant force around the hoop with Jarell Martin, Mickey is also a game-changing presence on the defensive end averaging over 3 blocks per game.
The storylines in the Southeastern Conference obviously begin with the Kentucky Wildcats. Following the ‘Cats has become somewhat of a religious experience this season and every minute you feel like you are witnessing history in the making. However, the SEC has more to offer than just the nation’s top team and front-runner for the NCAA title. The conference boasts some great coaches, outstanding young players, and possibly five solid NCAA tournament teams. The most exciting part continues to be the future. The SEC continues to attract top talent and within a couple of years should be competing with the ACC and Big 10 as one of the best, most talented, and deepest conferences in the country.