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Hoops Check-Up: What should we make of each SEC team as offseason development starts?

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After a spring of roster turnover and four coaching changes, the conference’s hierarchy will likely be fluid.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Tennessee vs Auburn Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

In April, we took quick snapshots of SEC programs in the immediate aftermath of the season. At the time, coaching searches had just wrapped up, NBA draft decisions were being made, the spring signing period was close at hand, and the transfer market was in full swing.

This week, we learned which players were staying in the draft and those who were returning to campus — decisions that mostly fixed rosters in place. Now is an ideal time to take stock of what each program has on its hands as offseason development work begins. I’d also encourage you to listen to our most recent Opponents’ Alley podcast, where also assessed the state of the conference.

Our next league-wide survey will be this fall, when Sam Snelling previews each team. Until then, here is the lay of the land across the southeast.

Note: This piece was updated to include the additions of Jahvon Quinerly at Alabama, Javon Franklin at Auburn, and Victor Bailey Jr. at Tennessee.


NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Record: 18-16, 8-10 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 64
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 4 (Avg. Recruit: 93.25)
  • Who’s Gone: Donta Hall (graduation), Dazon Ingram (transfer), Tevin Mack (transfer), Riley Norris (graduation), Daniel Giddens (transfer), Avery Johnson Jr. (graduation), Lawson Schaffer (graduation)
  • Who’s Back: Kira Lewis Jr., John Petty, Herbert Jones, Alex Reese, Galin Smith
  • Who’s New: Juwan Gary, Jaylen Forbes, Jaden Shacklelford, Raymond Hawkins, Javian Davis-Fleming (redshirt), James Bolden (transfer), Jahvon Quinerly (transfer), James Rojas (JUCO)

Alabama | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
5 51.97% 54.85% 59.83% 53.60% 41.70% 58.60% 58.99% 57.36% 57.32% 54.62%

Outlook: Remember when we left the Crimson Tide for dead in April?

Seven weeks later, worries over their imminent demise seemed overblown. Now the goal is to avoid over-correcting. Still, it’s hard not to be bullish on coach Nate Oats’ early legwork. He quickly kept Kira Lewis Jr. and John Petty — both of whom had put their names into the transfer portal — from fleeing Tuscaloosa, and he’s followed up by striking riches on the transfer market with West Virginia’s James Bolden and Villanova’s Jahvon Quinerly.

Bolden provides immediate depth at point guard, while Quinerly, a former top-30 talent, makes for a potential succession plan if Lewis departs to collect a professional paycheck. Petty’s outside shooting and Jones’ defense strike a nice balance. In a league that’s trending young, returning every member of a junior class is a boon and eases some strain on a solid trio of freshman wings, all of whom are rated inside the top-100 of 247 Sports’ composite index.

That being said, Oats need to maximize those resources — a task that eluded Avery Johnson. His returners only posted 0.846 points per possession last season, according to Synergy Sports, ahead of only South Carolina in the SEC. Yet that’s also the allure of Oats’ hiring. His modern scheme and embrace of analytics could properly tweak and tune a machine that isn’t lacking the right components, pushing Bama up the standings.

However, the program’s frontcourt is in a state of flux. No, Donta Hall’s skillset wasn’t flashy or diverse. But there’s still a premium on athletic bigs who can run the floor, swat shots, rebound at a high rate and dunk anything thrown in the vicinity of the rim. The Tide have a quintet of bigs to use in cobbling together a rotation — decisions that could prove to be a linchpin.


NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Florida vs Arkansas Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Record: 18-16, 8-10 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 54
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 14 (Avg. Recruit: 86.78)
  • Who’s Gone: Daniel Gafford (NBA draft), Keyshawn Embery-Simpson (transfer), Jordan Phillips (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Isaiah Joe, Mason Jones, Jalen Harris, Adrio Bailey, Reggie Chaney, Desi Sills, Gabe Osabuohien, Khalil Garland, Emeka Obukwelu, Ethan Henderson
  • Who’s New: Justice Hill, Jeantal Cylla (transfer), Connor Vanover (transfer), Isaiah Moss (transfer), JD Notae (transfer), Jimmy Whitt (transfer)

Arkansas | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
1 78.98% 76.04% 91.12% 73.15% 68.81% 91.91% 77.17% 76.79% 80.07% 90.38%

Outlook: Say this much about Eric Musselman, the coach is true to his approach. Upon arriving in Fayetteville, he inherited a roster that — aside Gafford’s exit — wasn’t bereft. Did it need some size? Sure. Maybe another wing for depth? Flexibility is always appreciated.

Taking on five transfers, though, might seem a tad excessive. It also means moving on from players already in the program, departures that I wouldn’t expect to strike at the core of his team. Instead, the question is whether this much turnover becomes subtraction by addition.

The addition of Jeantal Cylla, who arrives from UNC-Wilmington, plugs in a combo forward to the Hogs pace-and-space system. And if Connor Vanover, who returns to his native state from Cal, gets a waiver, Arkansas will have size and length on the backline. The backcourt didn’t need sprucing up, but the return of Jimmy Whitt is an exciting addition as a graduate transfer. Whitt, who started his career at Arkansas under Mike Anderson before decamping to SMU, is potent in the mid-range, rebounds well for his position and defends.

If all goes smoothly, Arkansas transition from a high-pressure style to a more modern scheme could lead to an NCAA tournament bid. Yet the program may have reached the same destination had Anderson been retained and relied on the core he assembled.


NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-Virginia vs Auburn Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn Tigers

  • Record: 30-10, 11-7 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 11
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 5 (Avg. Recruit: 92.41)
  • Who’s Gone: Chuma Okeke (NBA draft), Jared Harper (NBA draft) Bryce Brown (graduation), Malik Dunbar (graduation), Horace Spencer (graduation), Cole Blackstock (graduation)
  • Who’s Back: Samir Doughty, Austin Wiley, Anfernee McLemore, J’Von McCormick, Danjel Purifoy
  • Who’s New: Issac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola, Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson (transfer), Javon Franklin (JUCO)

Auburn | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
13 37.30% 32.66% 25.33% 32.94% 41.45% 26.41% 35.01% 32.85% 38.48% 46.86%

Outlook: Your expectations for the Tigers likely hinge on whether last season’s second unit can scale up its production.

Down the stretch, all five returners were instrumental in helping the program breakthrough to its first Final Four, and it’s a group that sports an 11.1 net rating. Does that hold up as their respective usage rates climb? Bruce Pearl’s group is not only 13th in returning production but 12th — ahead of only Kentucky and Tennessee — in returning possessions, per Synergy. And with only one potential high-impact freshman in Okoro, the bench might be shorter than it has been in recent seasons for a program that wants to play at a fast pace.

Now that the deadline to draw from NBA draft come and gone, Tigers remain a fixture in way-too-early polls for next season. A calamitous slide to the bottom of the standings seems unlikely, and you can’t discount the experience this group received, but the program is also a poster child for how the NCAA’s new rules regarding the draft played out.

With players now able to consult with agents, prospects like Okeke and Harper are more aware of opportunities to earn a living. Maybe it’s a G League deal that’s more lucrative than in the past. Or perhaps they can be placed in a comfortable situation abroad. It’s no longer NBA or bust, but it also puts Pearl in the position of replacing two key cogs — and settling for a potential run-of-the-mill seeding come March.


NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Florida vs Nevada Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gators

  • Record: 20-16, 9-9 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 26
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 2 (Avg. Recruit: 94.43)
  • Who’s Gone: KeVaughn Allen (graduation), Jalen Hudson (graduation), Kevarrius Hayes (graduation), Keith Stone (transfer), Deaundrae Ballard (transfer), Chase Johnson (transfer), Mike Okauru (transfer), Mak Krause (graduation)
  • Who’s Back: Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson, Dontay Bassett, Isaiah Stokes, Gorjok Gak
  • Who’s New: Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Jason Jitoboh, Ques Glover, Anthony Duruji (transfer)

Florida | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
10 48.65% 46.11% 49.49% 44.62% 49.75% 65.15% 45.43% 45.19% 43.18% 25.96%

Outlook: Before you read on, know that the questions are about to be raised aren’t intended to trash the Gators.

When a program can legitimately claim to go five-deep in the backcourt, it’s natural to be bullish, especially when no member was rated lower than 80th nationally coming out of high school. By now, you know about Nembhard sharing the wealth, Locke strafing foes from long distance and Johnson’s athleticism in the open floor. Plugging in Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann — a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans — adds to the stockpile.

And anytime an NCAA tournament team, one that finished 26th in KenPom, adds that kind of talent, high expectations are a byproduct.

Even if seven rotation players will likely be underclassmen. Or the frontcourt features two returners — Isaiah Stokes and Dontay Bassett — who averaged 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. And are led by a coach who’s only had one team finish in the top-40 for adjusted offensive efficiency in eight seasons.

Coach Mike White tried to shore up his big man rotation this spring by bringing in Jason Jitoboh and plucking Anthony Duruji, who averaged 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds at Louisiana Tech, from the transfer market. Meanwhile, Gorjok Gak is still around after redshirting last season to recover a torn ACL he suffered late in April 2018.

Perhaps raw talent on the perimeter overcomes ample youth and roster turnover, but the same issues that have cropped up during White’s tenure still have a chance to rear their heads again.


NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Bulldogs

  • Record: 11-21, 2-16 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 132
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 3 (Avg. Recruit: 95.70)
  • Who’s Gone: Nicolas Claxton (NBA draft), Derek Ogbeide (graduation), Teshaun Hightower (transfer), William Jackson II (graduation), E’Torrion Wilridge (graduation), Ignas Sargiunas (transfer), Christian Harrison (graduation), Mike Edwards (graduation), JoJo Toppin (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Rayshaun Hammonds, Tyree Crump, Jordan Harris, Tye Fagan, Amanze Ngumezi
  • Who’s New: Anthony Edwards, Christian Brown, Jaykwon Walton, Sahvir Wheeler, Toumani Camara, Rodney Howard, Donnell Gresham Jr. (graduate transfer)

Georgia | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
11 38.63% 43.50% 58.09% 43.99% 36.89% 38.64% 54.08% 42.95% 40.54% 22.71%

Outlook: No NBA draft decision may have left a deeper welt than Nic Claxton’s to move on from Athens. In April, coach Tom Crean could reasonably say he was pairing an overhauled backcourt — the backbone of the nation’s No.8 recruiting class — with an ideal frontcourt duo of Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds. Now, the bloom is slightly off the rose.

Still, the Bulldogs might provide the rawest entertainment value next season.

Paced by Anthony Edwards, the No. 2 recruit in the country, UGA will have a slew of long, athletic and multi-positional guards. Crean will plug them into an offense that pushes the ball, spreads the floor, and looks to attack early in the clock. Now, young teams led by Crean also have a reputation for giving up as many buckets as they score. They can also be a tad loose with the ball.

Last season, few SEC opponents feared the Bulldogs backcourt. Expect that to change this year — and a potentially a wild ride that could end in a .500 finish in conference play.


NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats

  • Record: 30-7, 15-3 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 8
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 1 (Avg. Recruit: 98.35)
  • Who’s Gone: Reid Travis (graduation), Quade Green (transfer), PJ Washington (NBA draft), Keldon Johnson (NBA draft), Tyler Herro (NBA draft), Jemarl Baker (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery
  • Who’s New: Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Dontaie Allen, Nate Sestina (transfer)

Kentucky | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
12 37.00% 27.74% 21.38% 27.19% 32.50% 45.11% 40.30% 43.66% 44.09% 51.13%

Outlook: It’s probably too strong to say developments in Lexington are bland, but it’s also not the good old days, where the entire roster exited in unison. The Wildcats only bring back one starter in point guard Ashton Hagans, but each member of a trio featuring Immanuel Quickley, E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards seems due for a more significant role.

Theoretically, coach John Calipari could start all four of those players, pushing Quickley off the ball to play at combo guard. In that scenario, freshmen Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks Jr., and Johnny Juzang would slug it out for a leading role at the other wing slot. The arrival of Tyrese Maxey, however, also creates potential jockeying with Quickley for floor time. And what role awaits Nate Sestina, a multidimensional combo forward and graduate transfer from Bucknell?

Ironically, UK also has scholarship slots to fill, but there’s still the potential logjams form for minutes.

More often than not, Calipari solves the Rubik’s Cube that is his roster, which usually hits its stride several games into its SEC slate. Still, any growing pains are the subject of ample scrutiny. It’s why the return of Richards, now a junior, and the addition of Sestina are a boon. Their paths to Lexington were wildly different — Richards was a top-20 prospect, remember? — but each could be a steadying force.

During SEC play, Richards bought into the idea he could be an elite rebounder and rim protector while scoring on efficient paint touches. For his part, Sestina is a skilled combo forward who could allow Coach Cal to play more four-out, while also stretching the defense with 38.0 percent shooting behind the arc. That’s a stark change from what Reid Travis offered last season and complements what Montgomery has to offer.

Look closely enough, and it’s possible to see Cal’s not starting entirely from whole cloth, a slight transition in an approach that hasn’t come without a dropoff.


NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Maryland vs LSU Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

LSU Tigers

  • Record: 28-7, 16-2 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 19
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 7 (Avg. Recruit: 92.92)
  • Who’s Gone: Tremont Waters (NBA draft), Naz Reid (NBA draft), Kavell Bigby-Williams (graduation), Daryl Edwards (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Skylar Mays, Javonte Smart, Emmitt Williams, Darius Days, Marlon Taylor, Courtese Cooper, Aundre Hyatt
  • Who’s New: Trendon Watford, James Bishop, Charles Manning Jr. (JUCO)

LSU | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
6 59.76% 54.76% 61.87% 54.46% 53.90% 45.13% 45.58% 53.57% 56.17% 35.81%

Outlook: The powers that be in Baton Rouge aren’t shy about opting for a cynical approach to the season.

You can also understand why.

First, beleaguered and unpopular athletic director Joe Alleva stepped aside, paving the way for the hiring of Scott Woodward from Texas A&M. He took over amid coach Will Wade’s suspension, one incurred after he was caught on a federal wiretap talking about making “strong-ass” offers of payments to recruits. The uncertainty around his tenure, coupled with bosses’ hope that a convenient reason to fire him for cause might emerge, seemingly triggered a mass exodus from the roster.

However, Wade held on, and every vital piece aside Tremont Waters and Naz Reid pulled their name out of the NBA draft pool. Oh, and combo forward Trendon Watford, a top-20 prospect, committed and signed with the Tigers. Left for dead in April, LSU now brings back a group whose 12.8 net rating is tops in the SEC, according to Synergy data. Every single one of those players can also still bailout if Wade must meet the NCAA’s hangman in its committee on infractions.

Until then, it’s ride or die.

Currently, Wade still has three more scholarships to fill, spots that could be used to address the need for some size and to import another jump-shooter. Retaining guard Skylar Mays, one of the SEC’s more underrated players, for a final season, though, is a boon. Darius Days and Emmitt Williams also stock Wade with a pair of athletes who were efficient in reserve roles last season.

Expecting LSU to contend for another regular season title is probably too hopeful, but setting the bar at a return to the NCAA tournament is more than reasonable.


NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss Rebels

  • Record: 20-13, 10-8 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 50
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 10 (Avg. Recruit: 89.50)
  • Who’s Gone: Terence Davis (graduation), Bruce Stevens (graduation), D.C. Davis (graduation), Dominik Olejniczak (transfer), Brian Halums (transfer), Zach Naylor (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Breein Tyree, Devontae Shuler, Blake Hinson, KJ Buffen, Luis Rodriguez
  • Who’s New: Austin Crowley, Sammy Hunter, Antavion Collum, Carlos Curry (redshirt), Franco Miller (redshirt), Bryce Williams (JUCO), Khadim Sy (JUCO), Jarkel Joiner (transfer)

Ole Miss | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
4 57.28% 56.36% 62.49% 57.22% 49.91% 59.17% 56.40% 58.00% 57.02% 38.98%

Outlook: The Rebels are a fine representation of an issue plaguing programs packed together in the middle of the SEC’s hierarchy. While a handful of starters return, they may not how much reliable depth they have stockpiled.

No doubt, Terence Davis’ graduation hurts. What might be more concerning is a program that an already short bench lost two steady interior assets. Dominik Olejniczak wasn’t polished offensively, but he toted his brawny brand of post defense and rebounding to Florida State Meanwhile, senior combo Bruce Stevens provided offense as a roll man, cutter or getting on the backboards.

Skimming coach Kermit Davis’ roster, there are no obvious candidates to fill those niches.

There are no questions about what Breein Tyree, a potential SEC player of the year, and Devontae Shuler offer on the perimeter. Combo forward Blake Hinson outplayed his modest recruiting ranking (No. 191), while K.J. Buffen was an undersized big who made tough plays.

Davis hustled this spring to give himself some options. He scooped up the pledge of guard Austin Crowley, a top-120 talent who decommitted from Vanderbilt after Bryce Drew’s dismissal. He also emerged from a five-team with a commitment from Khadim Sy, who took a detour to a Daytona (Fla.) State College after starting his career at Virginia Tech. The question now is whether a raw wing like Antavion Collum or a big-bodied post in Sammy Hunter has any wares to offer.

Without a doubt, Ole Miss owns a quartet that can put the ball in the bucket (0.96 PPP), but seven of their teammates haven’t logged a single minute of high-major hoops. Until we see what they have to offer, it’s hard to set expectations.


NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Liberty vs Mississippi State Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Record: 23-11, 10-8 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 21
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 13 (Avg. Recruit: 89.93)
  • Who’s Gone: Quinndary Weatherspoon (graduation), Aric Holman (graduation), Lamar Peters (NBA draft)
  • Who’s Back: Tyson Carter, Nick Weatherspoon, Reggie Perry, Robert Woodard II, Abdul Ado, KeyShawn Feazell, E.J. Datcher, Jethro Tshisumpa
  • Who’s New: Elias King, Iverson Molinar, Devin Butts, Prince Oduro (transfer), D.J. Stewart (redshirt)

Mississippi State | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
8 56.00% 49.14% 36.30% 48.29% 61.21% 35.05% 42.63% 46.50% 47.08% 62.21%

Outlook: Reggie Perry’s decision to stick around Starkville may not register nationally, but the forward’s choice spared coach Ben Howland from a worrisome dilemma.

Over the latter half of his freshman campaign, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound post averaged 12.8 points and 9.5 rebounds, while also becoming one of the SEC’s better rim protectors. Had he kept his name in the draft, Mississippi State would have lost four starters off a roster that earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament.

To a degree, Howland stockpiled potential replacements for leading scorer and All-SEC pick Quinndary Weatherspoon. Meanwhile, Robert Woodard II seemed like a logical heir for Aric Holman’s minutes. Finally, Lamar Peters’ choice to forego his senior season took some by surprise and created ball-handling complications, but it might also resolve some chemistry issues.

The transition won’t be seamless, but State could conceivably build a starting five with all of its returning talent — a group that could be potent on offense and improves defensively.

Depth, however, is a concern, and it just might be what sets the ceiling in Howland’s fifth season on the job.

Keyshawn Feazell and E.J. Datcher only averaged eight minutes per game, while former four-star talent D.J. Stewart took a redshirt season after joining an experienced roster. Elias King, who is ranked No. 114 in the Class of 2019, is the crown jewel of an average freshman class, a long, athletic forward who is dynamic in the open court but evolving as a spot-up shooter. Abdul Ado is a traditional post who has played quality minutes, but those are limited by his tendency to get into foul trouble.


NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Tigers

  • Record: 15-17, 5-13 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 68
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 9 (Avg. Recruit: 92.32)
  • Who’s Gone: Jontay Porter (NBA draft) Jordan Geist (graduation), Kevin Puryear (graduation), Christian Guess (transfer), Adam Wolf (graduation) K.J. Santos (transfer), Ronnie Suggs (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Mark Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon, Torrence Watson, Javon Pickett, Xavier Pinson, Mitchell Smith, Reed Nikko
  • Who’s New: Mario McKinney Jr., Tray Jackson, Kobe Brown, Dru Smith (transfer), Parker Braun (redshirt)

Missouri | Returning Production — Late May

SEC Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
SEC Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
3 63.93% 64.47% 65.39% 64.05% 59.32% 58.20% 66.74% 63.50% 60.63% 96.23%

Outlook: The SEC’s quietest offseason might be taking place in Columbia. No coaching change took place. No sweating occurred at the withdrawal deadline for the NBA draft. And any roster moves were tantamount to tweaking.

Once Kobe Brown committed in mid-May, Mizzou’s roster locked into place, one where most of the turnover occurred among scantly used reserves. Outside of courting Duquesne wing Eric Williams Jr., coach Cuonzo Martin didn’t invest substantial resources exploring the transfer market.

Entering its third season, the Tigers’ staff is counting player development and a stable nucleus of seven returners. Newcomers like Evansville transfer Dru Smith or freshman combo forward Tray Jackson can be slotted cleanly into delineated roles. All that remains is to avoid a catastrophic injury, and hope continuity reaps the rewards for an attack (0.888 PPP) that is smack dab in the middle of the SEC pack.

Last season, key cogs could never fire in unison. However, junior Mark Smith and sophomore Torrence Watson might be one of the SEC’s best 3-point shooting tandems, and each has shown the ability to clamp down defensively. In the post, Jeremiah Tilmon showed that he could play through foul trouble, but avoiding it would mean MU has a big whose presence on the block creates advantageous spacing. Finally, Dru Smith’s hyper-efficient floor game made him one of the nation’s coveted transfer prospects last spring.

Assuming that quartet has its act together, it alleviates pressure on Jackson to fill the chasm at stretch forward immediately. Meanwhile, Martin’s bench — Xavier Pinson, Javon Pickett, Mitchell Smith, and Reed Nikko — have all logged ample minutes and bring a particular skill to the fore. And true to Martin’s personality, his seven returners sport the conference’s best raw defensive efficiency at 0.787 PPP, per Synergy Sports.

The question isn’t Mizzou’s floor, which should be vying for a spot on the bubble. Instead, it’s whether stability, a consistent culture, and a conference in flux create the optimal conditions for the program to finish closer to fourth than eighth.


NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina Gamecocks

  • Record: 16-16, 11-7 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 70
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 11 (Avg. Recruit: 88.70)
  • Who’s Gone: Chris Silva (graduation), Hassani Gravett (graduation), Tre Campbell (graduation), A.J. Lawson (NBA draft), Felipe Haase (transfer) Jason Cudd (transfer), Evan Hinson
  • Who’s Back: Keyshawn Bryant, Justin Minaya, Maik Kotsar, T.J. Moss, Alonzo Frink
  • Who’s New: Jalyn McCreary, Trae Hannibal, Wildens Leveque, Trey Anderson, Jair Bolden (transfer), Jermaine Cousinard (redshirt)

South Carolina | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
9 43.90% 47.52% 26.71% 44.04% 45.79% 43.83% 48.02% 47.12% 48.50% 60.00%

Outlook: Death, taxes and Frank Martin’s team playing a feisty brand of ball that keeps the Gamecocks competitive. This season might put that mantra to a stress test, one made substantially easier after guard A.J. Lawson withdrew from the NBA draft.

Lawson, the program’s first top-100 recruit since 2015, and Keyshawn Bryant will need to take substantial steps to replace the outgoing production of Hassani Gravett and Tre Campbell. That sophomore pairing should get some help, though. T.J. Moss and Justin Minaya, both of whom were sidelined last season with injuries, are healthy and available.

If Martin is still casting about for depth, George Washington transfer Jair Bolden and redshirt freshman Jermaine Cousinard could be in play, too.

However, roster management appears to have broken down in the frontcourt. Four big men have moved along, including Felipe Haase, who seemed like a logical fit next to Maik Kotsar. Instead, Haase transferred to Mercer. And during the season, Evan Hinson, who came to South Carolina as a tight end, gave up life as a dual-sport athlete and focus on football.

As of now, only Kotsar and Alonzo Frink have logged minutes in live action, and freshmen Jayln McCreary and Wildens Leveque are developmental prospects.

Even more disconcerting is this number: 0.936. That’s raw defensive efficiency for Martin’s veterans, a figure that happens to be worst in the SEC. Since arriving from Kansas State, the eighth-year coach has never finished better than 99th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. If his defense-first mentality shows cracks, there might not be enough to hold up the facade.


NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-Purdue vs Tennessee Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee Volunteers

  • Record: 31-6, 15-3 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 10
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 6 (Avg. Recruit: 92.84)
  • Who’s Gone: Grant Williams (NBA draft), Admiral Schofield (graduation), Jordan Bone (NBA draft), Kyle Alexander (graduation)
  • Who’s Back: Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, John Fulkerson, Yves Pons, Zach Kent (redshirt)
  • Who’s New: Josiah-Jordan James, Drew Pember, Davonte Gaines, Oliver Robinson-Nkamhoua, D.J. Burns (redshirt), Uros Plavsic (transfer), Victor Bailey Jr. (transfer)

Tennessee | Returning Production — Late May

SEC Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
SEC Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
14 38.33% 31.69% 44.66% 30.39% 29.63% 34.04% 31.77% 31.74% 43.01% 28.14%

Outlook: Rick Barnes’ credibility might be leading some to overvalue the Volunteers’ stock. Four starters are gone, and after Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner, there a few ready-made replacements.

Tennessee’s rise was predicated on three-star talent maxing out and raising their respective ceilings. And perhaps breakouts are just over the horizon for guard Yves Pons and post John Fulkerson, but their limited usage last season in reserve roles makes it hard to predict. D.J. Burns arrived in Knoxville as a borderline top-100 talent, but a redshirt season renders the post a black box.

Rarely did Barnes tap his reserves for support, either, finishing 288th nationally in bench minutes, according to KenPom.

It all foists more pressure on Josiah-Jordan James, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound combo guard who is ranked 21st in the Class of 2019. He can create off the dribble, use his pull-up game and floaters to score in the mid-range all while possessing the vision to make the right feed and hit cutters in stride. Assuming his jumper improves, Tennessee will have an elite lead guard to couple with Bowden and Turner. The Volunteers also made a late acquisition from the transfer market in Victor Bailey Jr., whose spot-up shooting could fill a need created by Schofield’s graduation.

So far, Barnes’ has created immense returns out of undervalued assets, but it’ll be worth monitoring whether he over-extended himself with risk on this roster.


NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Texas A&M C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M Aggies

  • Record: 14-18, 6-12 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 91
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 8 (Avg. Recruit: 90.04)
  • Who’s Gone: Christian Mekowulu (graduation), Isiah Jasey (transfer), Chris Collins (graduation), Frank Byers (graduation), Admon Gilder (transfer), Brandon Mahan (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Savion Flagg, Wendell Mitchell, T.J. Starks, Jay Jay Chandler, Josh Nebo, John Walker III, Mark French
  • Who’s New: Cashius McNeilly, Emanuel Miller, Quenton Jackson (JUCO), Yavuz Gultekin, Andre Gordon

Texas A&M | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
2 71.60% 78.56% 76.47% 78.31% 69.38% 82.17% 84.67% 80.87% 79.53% 68.53%

Outlook: Like Alabama and Arkansas, a new coach arrived this spring to a roster that didn’t experience a massive outflow in production. Buzz Williams’ task is to see just how much he can squeeze out of a group that has a couple of quality pieces.

Sure, Admon Gilder played his graduate-transfer card, but he missed the bulk of last season with a blood clot in his left bicep. The Aggies will also miss Christian Mekowulu’s intimidating presence around the front of the rim, but they still have Josh Nebo, who put up similar numbers in every category but blocks.

Ultimately, the program’s success hinges on whether Williams gets his backcourt of T.J. Starks, Wendell Mitchell, and Savion Flagg to mesh and produce consistently. Coupled with Nebo, there’s a competent starting lineup he can put on the floor each night. However, there are no obvious candidates for his second unit outside of newcomers.

The program’s entire recruiting class turned over once Billy Kennedy learned his run had ended. It only took Williams one Saturday in mid-April to reel in four replacements, led by Canadian point guard Cashius McNeilly, a four-star prospect whose uncle, Jamie McNeilly, is a long-time assistant on Williams’ staff. Combo guard Andre Gordon signed with Virginia Tech, but he received a release to follow Williams to College Station. The same goes for Yavuz Gultekin. He also added JUCO wing Quenton Jackson for depth. Finally, Emanuel Miller, a three-star forward out of Canada, hopped aboard in early May.

Of those five, only McNeilly and Miller rated out as top-150 talents, while the remaining trio all project as developmental pieces for depth.


NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Record: 9-23, 0-18 SEC
  • KenPom: No. 155
  • SEC Recruiting Rank: No. 12 (Avg. Recruit: 89.20)
  • Who’s Gone: Darius Garland (NBA draft), Simi Shittu (NBA draft), Joe Toye (graduation), Matt Ryan (transfer), Yanni Wetzell (transfer)
  • Who’s Back: Saben Lee, Aaron Nesmith, Maxwell Evans, Matthew Moyer, Clevon Brown
  • Who’s New: Dylan Disu, Scotty Pippen, Kenyon Martin Jr., Jordan Wright, Oton Jankovic, Ejike Obinna (redshirt), D.J. Harvey (transfer)

Vanderbilt | Returning Production — Late May

Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
Rank %MIN %SHOT %3PM %PTS %REB %AST %TO %POSS %STL %BLK
7 52.11% 48.91% 50.01% 50.54% 49.46% 64.43% 48.75% 49.37% 51.29% 62.69%

Outlook: Once coach Jerry Stackhouse came aboard, the Commodores operated quietly in April and May. Crucially, there were no more defections from Nashville, and only signee (Austin Crowley) asked for a release. For a program that’s endured its share of tumult the past year, no news is good news.

While the roster isn’t in fighting shape, the Commodores did pick up another recruit with NBA connections in Kenyon Martin Jr., a three-star junior who will share the floor at times with Scotty Pippen. They also reached into Louisiana for wing Jordan Wright and plucked forward Oton Jankovic out of prep power Montverde Academy in Florida.

Frankly, the most notable addition came from the transfer market in Notre Dame wing D.J. Harvey, a former top-50 talent who averaged 10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds last season. Scoring a waiver for immediate eligibility would equip Stackhouse’s backcourt with another quality piece to pair with Saben Lee and Aaron Nesmith. And it would undoubtedly help if Matthew Moyer, a top-75 recruit who started at Syracuse, produced at a level equal to his potential.

Down low, Clevon Brown returns, and post Ejike Obinna, who arrived as a top-150 prospect, sheds his redshirt. The additions of Martin and Jankovic will make for a young frontcourt, but Stackhouse will likely be happy to have a fraction of depth.