When you look at the SEC, of course teams like Kentucky and Florida stand out as powerhouse programs. Then of course there are always the teams that do a lot better than expected as well as the teams that seem to play terrible pretty much all season.
As the season is drawing near and fans are looking to find out how good their teams will be, I took the liberty of breaking down each SEC team and predicting how good or bad they will be.
Kentucky is just Kentucky. I think it is safe to assume their dominance will be evident throughout the season. McDonald’s All Americans coming off the bench? Now, that is scary. Only time will tell, but reports seem to make it look like Coach Calipari is getting this unbelievable amount of talent to buy in and play as a team. That seems to be the only question that Kentucky’s title hopes hang on. The 1-2 punch of talent and chemistry will be in full effect for the Cats this year as they should cruise through the regular season.
Looking at Missouri’s roster, it is difficult to know what to expect this upcoming season. They lost four double-digit scorers after last season (Oriakhi, Pressey, Bowers, Bell), which as you would expect would be a big hit. They are returning two double-digit scorers in Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross, as well as the additions of two ESPN 100 recruits in Johnathan Williams III (55th overall) and Wes Clark (79th overall). There is quite a few transfers sprinkled in as well to add depth. Overall, the Tigers should be above average at best.
Things don’t look too bright for the Commodores this upcoming season. They didn’t have a truly competitive level of talent last year and things might have gotten even worse during the offseason. Key players, Kedren Johnson and Sheldon Jeter, are no longer on the team. Johnson, the junior point guard, was the leading scorer off the 2012 team, and has been suspended from the university. Jeter elected to transfer for personal reasons. Vanderbilt was expecting big things from Jeter in the upcoming season. He was an athletic wing that had been compared to Jeffrey Taylor, the former Vandy star. It could be a difficult season for Coach Stallings and the ‘Dores.
With a very experienced roster as well as a solid freshmen class including Robert Hubbs III (29th in ESPN 100), the Volunteers look to be able to hold their own in the SEC. The returns of Jarnell Stokes (12 ppg, 9 rpg) and Jordan McRae (15 ppg) will do wonders for this Tennessee team. In addition, Jeronne Maymon returns from knee injury. During his lone season after transferring from Marquette, he was a load to handle underneath. The Volunteers should pan out to be a pretty good overall team and make a run for the field of 64 come March.
This season looks like it is going to be a rough one for the Georgia Bulldogs. Coach Mark Fox has the job of finding a way to replace 2013 SEC Player of the Year Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, now a member of the Detroit Pistons. Memanja Djurisic is the returner who averaged the most ppg at only 7.9. That should show scoring will be at a premium for the ‘Dawgs this year. With six freshmen (none of which were top recruits), it doesn’t seem like Georgia will have much success this year in the SEC and should struggle throughout.
Looking at the South Carolina roster and schedule, it doesn’t look like they will have much success once the SEC hits. They do have two solid returning players in Brenton Williams (11 ppg) and Michael Carrera (10 ppg, 7 rpg) along with the 49th overall ranked freshmen in Sindarius Thronwell. But, overall there doesn’t seem to be a high level of talent on the Gamecock’s roster. South Carolina will likely struggle in SEC play and have little to no improvement from last year’s record of 14-18
The Florida Gators will be returning only one of their five leading scorers in Patric Young but he is an absolute beast. The rest of the returning roster has much experience with talent to go along with it. The crown jewel of the Gators will be the top recruits Kasey Hill (10th overall) and Chris Walker (12th overall). Walker, the highly touted power forward, is ineligible for the fall semester but should be back for the second semester. In addition, Scottie Wilbekin, the veteran point guard, is suspended indefinitely. The talented freshman point guard Kasey Hill should be able to step in for the Gators. Overall, the Gators will still be a SEC powerhouse and should cruise through a large portion of their schedule.
When it comes to the Texas A&M Aggies, they also look like they will be at the lower end of the SEC totem poll. The only consistent returning scorer is Fabyon Harris at 12 ppg. (A collective sigh of relief that Elston Turner has graduated) The Aggies bring in six freshmen although none of them seem to have star talent. The Aggies will be average at best throughout the 2013-2014 season.
The biggest problem facing the Arkansas Razorbacks will be scoring. With their highest returning scorer being Coty Clarke at only 7.6 ppg in 2012-2013, points will be at a premium. It would seem somebody could step up and carry the team, but the upcoming season for Arkansas looks to be tough.
LSU looks to make themselves more prominent in college basketball this season and appears to have the light at the end of the tunnel in sight. The Tigers are returning four double-digit scorers from last season as well as three ESPN top 100 recruits in Jarell Martin (11th overall), Jordan Mickey (38th overall), and Tim Quarterman (80th overall). The talent is clearly there in Baton Rouge, now they just have to translate that to the court.
With the return of a few key players like Marshall Henderson (20 ppg) and Jarvis Summers (9 ppg), Ole Miss will likely compete with the middle level SEC teams. Of course they won’t be on the same level as Kentucky and Florida, but they are a pretty average team to say the least and their record should reflect that. Of course with Marshall Henderson returning, you know they’ll give top teams fits at times.
Mississippi State struggled mightily under new Head Coach Rick Ray. He was in charge of replacing Rick Stansbury who had been their coach for 14 years. While the talent was clearly lacking, one thing you never saw was the players ever quiting. They competed until the final horn and that had to be a huge positive for the new head coach to take away from the season. From a talent standpoint, the team will still struggle but the toughness that Coach Ray instills in his players might lead to some surprises this season. Unfortunately, the team recently received some tough news when senior guard Jalen Steele elected to forego his final season. He experienced numerous injuries during his playing career and has decided to focus on graduating.
On paper, the Crimson Tide look to once again be pretty good. Last season they finished at a 23-13 mark but should be able to to improve with the additions of two ESPN top 100 recruits in Jimmie Taylor (69th overall) and Shannon Hale (100th overall). The return of key players Trevor Releford (14 ppg) and Rodney Cooper (10 ppg) look to add depth and experience to the Tide roster as well.
Things don’t look too bright for Coach Tony Barbee and the Auburn Tigers this upcoming season. The only solid returnee they have is Chris Denson who averaged 11 ppg. With six incoming freshmen, inexperience will be a factor. In addition, none of the freshmen were top recruits so it could be another trying season for Auburn fans. We will all miss watching Rob Chubb down low for the Tigers.
(h/t ESPN College Basketball page)
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