SEC Basketball Season Preview
The SEC had seven teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year, four of which made it to the Sweet 16. Auburn, with the most impressive run in March Madness, made it to the Final Four before losing to the eventual champion Virginia.
This year, four teams in the SEC are ranked in the preseason top 25. Kentucky, led by Ashton Hagans, is ranked second overall, followed by Florida ranked at sixth, LSU ranked 22nd, and Auburn ranked at 24th.
Tennessee is not in the preseason top 25 after losing its top 3 leading scorers, Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone, to the NBA draft. The Volunteers return redshirt senior guard Lamonte Turner and senior guard Jordan Bowden, who will look to lead this team to another tournament appearance. The Volunteers have multiple new faces as well, including Davonte Gaines, Drew Pember, Josiah-Jordan James and Olivier Nkamhoua.
Auburn, which could have easily won the NCAA Tournament last season, lost to Virginia in the Final Four after Kyle Guy hit three free throws in a row with 0.6 seconds left. Why isn’t Auburn ranked higher after performing so well last year? The Tigers did lose their outstanding backcourt players Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, who led the team in scoring, but they do return multiple seniors who all played a significant amount last year. Senior guards Samir Doughty and J’von McCormick will look to match what Bryce Brown and Jared Harper accomplished last year.
LSU lost its leading scorers Tremont Waters and Naz Reid, who are now playing in the NBA. Other than those two, the Tigers return the majority of last year’s team. Trendon Watford, who is a 6-foot-9-inch, five-star recruit from Birmingham, Alabama, will be a perfect replacement for Reid.
Florida graduated three seniors, Jalen Hudson, KeVaughn Allen and Kevarrius Hayes, who were all leaders on a young team. Florida also returns three important players, Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson, who contributed early as freshmen last season. Florida also added five-star recruit Scottie Lewis, who was a sensational player in high school. Most impressively, the gators added 6-foot-10-inch Kerry Blackshear Jr. Last year, Blackshear was a dominant force in the paint for Virginia Tech, averaging 14.9 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. He is a perfect fit to guide a young, talented Florida team.
Kentucky, the favorite to win the SEC, will be led by sophomore guard Ashton Hagans. Seeing Kentucky ranked second overall may be shocking at first considering that the Wildcats lost star players Tyler Herro and P.J. Washington, but, as usual, Kentucky recruited some new highly talented freshmen. Guards Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney were both five-star recruits in the top 15 of the 2019 class. They’ll look to make an immediate impact for Kentucky. Center Nick Richards recently injured his ankle in an exhibition game, but it seems to be nothing too serious. Richards said, “If I’m not the best big man in the country, I’ll see myself as a disappointment.” Basketball fans can expect big things from him this season.
Other notable teams in the SEC include Arkansas and Alabama, which both have new coaches. Georgia received top-5 recruit Anthony Edwards, and Ole Miss will look to build on its tournament appearance last season.
Florida and Kentucky will battle it out for the top of the SEC. Kentucky is the favorite to win the SEC, but don’t be surprised if Florida excels this season and claims the conference title.
All in all, the SEC is filled with young talent and teams looking to make a case for the tournament in March. The SEC is going to be an entertaining, competitive conference to watch. Come March, it wouldn’t be shocking to see seven teams, if not more, make the tournament from the SEC.
Austin Groft is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.