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SEC Basketball Exit Survey: The rise of transfers is complete

Roster construction unfolds rapidly in portal season and has set the stage for the SEC to have its most fluid pecking order in several years.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Press Conference Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It was only a matter of time before transfers surpassed freshmen on SEC rosters.

That inflection point arrived this offseason, further confirmation of how transformative the portal and one-time exceptions have been on college hoops. Now, it’s all but assumed a program will turn over half of its roster in less than three months. And it won’t end until teams report back to campus in early June to begin voluntary workouts.

Only now is it possible for us to peel away the bandages and look at the early result of each facelift. That includes listing out departures, returners, transfer imports, and incoming freshmen. I also go through each roster to account for returning production. Each capsule also includes rankings for each team’s transfer class (via EvanMiya) and recruiting class (via 247Sports). You’ll also see rankings – if available – next to each new player added to a roster.

Keep in mind, this is not an early stab at a pecking order. At Rock M Nation, we wait until the SEC releases the conference schedule, pick every game, and use the resulting records to guide our preseason predictions. In this piece, teams are listed alphabetically, and rosters are current as of June 19.

Maryland v Alabama Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Record: 31-6, 16-2
  • KenPom: No. 4
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 22 (Avg. Recruit: 96.09)
  • Transfer Class: No. 44
  • NBA Draft: Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Charles Bediako
  • Transfers Out: Jaden Bradley (Arizona), Nimari Burnett (Michigan)
  • Graduation: Noah Gurley, Dominick Welch
  • Returners: Mark Sears, Jahvon Quinerly, Rylan Griffen, Nick Pringle
  • Freshmen: Davin Cosby (RS), Sam Walters (No. 56), Kris Parker (No. 97), Mouhamed Dioubate (No. 109)
  • Transfers In: Aaron Estrada (Hofstra/No. 74), Grant Nelson (North Dakota State/No.99) Latrell Wrightsell, Jr. (Cal-State Fullerton/No. 330)
  • Open: 2

Alabama | Returning Production | 2023-24

46.49 44.29 31.69 43.45 34.79 51.34 47.48 44.52 46.1 51.34 23.28

Ripple effects from three decisions will be worth tracking in Tuscaloosa.

First up, the decisions by Noah Clowney and Charles Bediako to remain in the NBA Draft were mildly surprising and left coach Nate Oats shorthanded along the front line. When Alabama thrives, it’s because the Tide guard effectively. Oats’ version of the pack line relies on rangy bigs looming around the paint – a commodity now in short supply.

When the calendar turned to June, it appeared the program would rely heavily on Nick Pringle, who excelled in short stints off the bench, to take up a more significant role.

Then North Dakota State transfer Grant Nelson, who averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds, committed on June 12. The fit should be seamless. Before a growth spurt, Nelson played guard in high school and is at ease playing on the perimeter. Stylistically, NDSU relied on plenty of dribble-drive concepts and tasked Nelson with initiating sets. Those factors override a poor defensive grade and some struggles stretching the floor, making 26.9 percent of his 3-point attempts.

But any inefficiency was the byproduct of carrying a large chunk of NDSU’s offense. That won’t be the case in T-Town. Oats picked up Hofstra’s Aaron Estrada, the CAA Player of the Year, infusing a shooter that drilled 39.1 percent of 3s taken off the catch. Fullerton transfer Latrell Wrightsell can also space out. Meanwhile, sophomore Rylan Griffen needs to make noticeable progress this season.

Alabama also returns All-SEC guard Mark Sears and a veteran point guard Jahvon Quinerly. Their presence allows Nelson to slide into the role as a secondary creator attacking double gaps to put pressure on the rim or pitch the ball out for spot-ups.

As for freshmen, Oats did sign the No. 22 class in the country, but it’s also his lowest-rated group since arriving in Tuscaloosa. All three youngsters have clear upsides, but it’ll take a couple of years to manifest on the floor.

Of course, this assumes Nelson, Estrada, and Wrightsell can scale up their production to a high-major conference. But right now, the Tide’s top seven rotation players place them firmly in the discussion to repeat as SEC champions.

Miami v Houston Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Record: 22-14, 8-10
  • KenPom: No. 22
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 31 (Avg. Recruit: 98.80)
  • Transfer Class: No. 14
  • NBA Draft: Nick Smith, Jr., Anthony Black, Jordan Walsh, Ricky Council IV
  • Transfers Out: Makhel Mitchell (UALR), Derrian Ford (Arkansas State), Barry Dunning, Jr. (UAB)
  • Graduation: Kamani Johnson
  • Returners: Davonte Davis, Trevon Brazile, Makhi Mitchell, Jalen Graham, Joseph Pinion
  • Freshmen: Baye Fall (No. 29), Layden Blocker (No. 35)
  • Transfers: Tramon Mark (Houston/No. 30), Jeremiah Davenport (Cincinnati/No. 78), Keyon Menifield (Washington/No. 194), Khalif Battle (Temple/No. 281), El Ellis (Louisville/No. 335)
  • Open: 1

Arkansas | Returning Production | 2023-24

40.29 38.34 40.79 38.56 49.4 34.42 38.82 30.66 35.44 39.73 46.7

Coach Eric Musselman’s annual retooling was unfolding swimmingly — until 9 a.m. on May 31. Since then, an otherwise swift retrofitting has encountered some turbulence.

It started that day when Ron Holland, the top prospect in the 2023 class, announced he would sign on with the G-League Ignite program. For more than a month, Arkansas worked on sewing up Holland’s pledge after he recommitted from Texas. Just 12 hours earlier, it looked all but done. Then, it wasn’t. And later that night, Jordan Walsh dealt the Hogs another blow by staying in the NBA Draft.

Instead of two jumbo wings, a sinkhole opened up in 24 hours.

Not to be deterred, Muss pivoted quickly toward North Dakota State transfer Grant Nelson, the top portal target left on the board. Unfortunately, Nelson chose Tuscaloosa as his destination.

Painful as those late developments might have been, Arkansas accrued enough talent to merit inclusion in a list of SEC contenders when the preseason rolls around.

Tramon Mark epitomizes a guiding principle of Muss’ roster construction: find dudes that win one-on-one. The lefty bucket-getter from Houston does that in the mid-range. He needs to be, though. His rim-finishing and 3-point stroke are questionable. Khalif Battle’s a microwave scorer and a 35.4 percent shooter from long range. Yet he can be a drag on team defense. Keyon Menifield’s scoring punch at lead guard point guard contrasts nicely with freshman Layden Blocker, a downhill creator who makes savvy reads. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Davenport and El Ellis are depth pieces that would be starters almost anywhere else.

Holding on to Devo Davis ensures the Hogs have one of the SEC’s lockdown defenders still on the roster. At the same time, Trevon Brazile should be healthy after suffering a knee injury late in non-con last season. Oh, and two top-40 freshmen are showing up, too.

Syndication: The Montgomery Advertiser Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK

Auburn Tigers

  • Record: 21-13, 10-8
  • KenPom: No. 32
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 62 (Avg. Recruit: 99.30)
  • Transfer Class: No. 204
  • NBA Draft: Wendell Green, Jr.
  • Transfers Out: Allen Flanigan (Ole Miss), Yohan Traore (UCSB), Chance Westry (Syracuse), Babatunde Akingbola
  • Graduation: Zep Jasper
  • Returners: Jaylin Williams, Johni Broome, Dylan Cardwell, K.D. Johnson, Chris Moore, Tre Donaldson, Lior Berman
  • Freshmen: Aden Holloway (No. 18)
  • JUCO: Chad Baker-Mazara (Northwest Florida/No. 13), Addarin Scott (Navarro/No. 54)
  • Transfers: Denver Jones (FIU/No. 436), Chaney Johnson (Alabama-Huntsville)
  • Open: 1

Auburn | Returning Production | 2023-24

58.22 58.77 53.39 60.18 68.1 53.67 54.18 54.09 54.64 58.17 91.27

The good news is Bruce Pearl kept Johni Broome on the Plains. But after that? Well, the Tigers are facing some questions.

First, what is the pecking order at the lead guard?

Aden Holloway is a McDonald’s All-American, but scouts describe him as a pint-sized shooting guard. His facilitating is an evolving craft. FIU transfer Denver Jones averaged 20.2 points per game, does it at all three levels and is a menace in ball screens. But he’s better suited to playing off the ball. K.D. Johnson is a bowling ball combo guard with a 10.6 assist percentage in his career. Sophomore Tre Donaldson might be the best bet right now.

Second, who will complement Jones in the scoring column?

Auburn brought in a JUCO wing and a Division-II transfer, but Pearl was clearly setting his sights higher. Auburn hosted Florida State wing Matthew Cleveland and Vanderbilt’s Tyrin Lawrence and struck out with both. The staff also pursued Texas Tech transfer Jaylon Tyson but couldn’t entice him to visit.

Auburn is among the SEC leaders in bringing back production, featuring Broome, Holloway, and Jones as quality pieces of a potential core. Doubting Pearl is also a risk. Yet it’s worth wondering whether some Tigers — Baker-Mazara, Chaney Johnson, and Jaylin Williams — might be asked to do too much.

Syndication: Gator Sports Alan Youngblood / USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida Gators

  • Record: 16-17, 9-9
  • KenPom: No. 74
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 86 (Avg. Recruit: 89.50)
  • Transfer Class: No. 1
  • NBA Draft: Alex Fudge
  • Transfers Out: Trey Bonham (Chattanooga), Kowacie Reeves (Georgia Tech), Jason Jitoboh (Tennessee State), CJ Felder (McNeese State), Niels Lane (Delaware)
  • Graduation: Colin Castleton, Myreon Jones, Kyle Lofton
  • Returners: Riley Kugel, Will Richard, Aleks Symczyk, Denzel Aberdeen
  • Freshmen: Thomas Haugh (No. 189), Alex Condon (NR)
  • Transfers: Walter Clayton, Jr. (Iona/No. 8), Micah Handlogten (Marshall/No. 12), EJ Jarvis (Yale/No. 49), Tyrese Samuel (Seton Hall/No. 89), Zyon Pullin (UC-Riverside/No. 190), Julian Rishwain (San Francisco/No. 292)
  • Open: 1

Florida | Returning Production | 2023-24

27.12 27.42 41.36 30 24.62 15.76 22.81 19.52 26.65 28.44 14.62

After lacking options behind Colin Castleton, who went down late last season, coach Todd Golden took steps to make it wouldn’t happen again. That’s smart. This spring, though, it seemed like the Gators learned that lesson too well.

Walter Clayton, Jr. typifies Golden’s preference at the guard spot: efficiency in diverse setups. He can play off two feet and create room. The Iona transfer and MAAC Player of the Year can space out and shoot 43 percent from 3-point range. And when tasked with serving as a secondary creator, he makes simple and effective decisions. Slotting Clayton alongside Riley Kugel and Will Richard supplies the Gators with the shooting the roster lacked last season.

But the Gators were thin in the backcourt until UF earned a commitment from Zyon Pullin. Pulling, who put up 18.3 points per game at UC Riverside, eases potential anxiety. Then Golden rounded out the transfer class by reuniting with San Francisco guard Julian Rishwain.

In the paint, Handlogten’s a fantastic upside play. He’s genuinely comfortable playing in space and a host of ball-screen coverages. Despite a lean torso, he more than held up on the defensive backboards. And you’re getting mobility without sacrificing protection (8.7 BLK%) around the rim. That sounds an awful lot like Castleton, eh?

Meanwhile, EJ Jarvis arrives from Yale as a skilled stretch four to backfill scoring as Handlogten develops. The Gators also snagged Seton Hall’s Tyrese Samuel, the four-year veteran who brings physicality to the post position that Handlogten can only provide after a while.

Even if Pullin sees a dip in production and Rishwain isn’t a key cog, UF now has a rotation that goes nine deep and features complementary pieces on the perimeter. That lessens the reliance on sophomores Aleks Symczyk, and Denzel Aberdeen played less than 10 percent of minutes. And it will let long-term bets in Thomas Haugh and Alex Condon have ample time to develop.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament First Round - Georgia vs LSU Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Bulldogs

  • Record: 16-16, 6-12
  • KenPom: No. 154
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 16 (Avg. Recruit: 96.13)
  • Transfer Class: No. 33
  • NBA Draft: Terry Roberts
  • Transfers Out: KyeRon Lindsay (Texas Tech), Jusaun Holt (Kennesaw State), Kario Oquendo (Oregon)
  • Graduation: Braelen Bridges, Jailyn Ingram, Mardrez McBride, Jaxon Etter
  • Returners: Justin Hill, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Frank Anselem
  • Freshmen: Blue Cain (No. 70), Dylan James (No. 76), Silas Demary (No. 101) Lamariyon Jordan (No. 105)
  • Transfers: Jalen DeLoach (VCU/No. 39), RJ Melendez (Illinois/No. 147), Noah Thomasson (Niagara/No. 301), Russel Tchewa (USF/No. 481), R.J. Sunahara (Nova Southeastern)

Georgia | Returning Production | 2023-24

36.44 30.83 31.63 34.11 40.51 36.32 33.5 30.42 31.33 28.22 50.59

In mid-February, coach Mike White’s debut season reached a fork. At 6-7, Georgia faced a daunting four-game stretch: Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and Florida. But, if it could steal two wins, there was an outside shot at a .500 finish in the SEC.

Instead, the Bulldogs cratered, losing their last six games.

So why might optimism pervade Athens? On paper, UGA’s adding a solid crop of freshmen, importing a top-end transfer in Jalen DeLoach, and returning three quality veterans.

It’s mildly surprising DeLoach didn’t follow coach Mike Rhoades to Penn State from VCU. Instead, he’ll serve as an active and versatile defender that can body up bigs and be sneakily active in shooting gaps. Offensively, he’s a prototypical play finisher around the rim. Last season, Braelen Bridges was more of a tactician in the paint. DeLoach is the kind of bouncy presence we often see in the SEC. Should White need a more traditional five-man, he can tap USF transfer Russel Tchewa on the shoulder.

The intrigue comes at the combo guard and wing positions.

Niagara’s Noah Thomasson averaged 19.5 points per game but did so on 30 percent usage for the No. 259 team in KenPom. R.J. Melendez possesses the ideal frame and shooting form of a 3-and-D wing but only connected at a 31.1 percent clip at Illinois. White made a similar bet on Jusaun Holt last season. Holt is now at Kennesaw State.

Monitoring freshman point guard Silas Demary, Jr. and freshman wing Blue Cain might be prudent. Demary, who flipped from USC to UGA this spring, is a bigger-framed scoring point guard from the mid-range on in. Cain, who switched from Georgia Tech to the Dawgs, is a capable spacer but probably better pulling up.

High School Basketball: McDonald’s All American Boy s Game Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats

  • Record: 22-12, 12-6
  • KenPom: No. 27
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 1 (Avg. Recruit: 99.51)
  • Transfer Class: No. 328
  • NBA Draft: Oscar Tshiebwe, Chris Livingston, Cason Wallace, Jacob Toppin
  • Transfers Out: Sahvir Wheeler (Washington), CJ Frederick (Cincinnati), Daimion Collins (LSU), Lance Ware (Villanova)
  • Limbo: Antonio Reeves
  • Returners: Adou Thiero, Ugonna Onyenso
  • Freshmen: Justin Edwards (No. 3), Aaron Bradshaw (No. 4), D.J. Wagner (No. 6), Robert Dillingham (No. 16), Reed Sheppard (No. 41), Jordan Burks (No. 172), Joey Hart (No. 197)
  • Open: 4

Kentucky | Returning Production | 2023-24

18.65 23.09 39.44 22.79 12.28 9.58 19.36 13.99 24.18 11.87 22.4

The faint whining sound you hear in the distance is alarm bells in Lexington.

It’s June. It wasn’t until recently that Kentucky’s roster featured 10 players, resulting from a push to sign Somato Cyril, Jordan Burks, and Joey Hart. Now, coach John Calipari’s roster features eight freshmen. Its two returners – Adou Thiero and Ugonna Onyenso – barely saw the floor. And armed with vast resources, the Wildcats fished zero transfers from the portal.

Kentucky is still Kentucky in one sense: that initial wave of youngsters is good. Three of them are top-10 talents. Yet not all five-stars are created equal. Evaluators reached the consensus that the ’23 crop is slightly underwhelming. Meanwhile, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, and Robert Dillingham must quickly hit the weights and load up at the training table.

But there’s an almost metaphysical question at the heart of this: Is coach John Calipari out of moves?

While he hasn’t fully embraced transfers as critical components to rosters, Cal hasn’t shunned them. At the same time, the latest group of vets didn’t precisely hit. C.J. Frederick could never stay healthy. Cason Wallace supplanted Sahvir Wheeler midway through this season. Antonio Reeves became typecast as a spacer. And Jacob Toppin never quite peaked on the developmental curve.

All four also opted to transfer from one of the nation’s preeminent programs.

Now, UK is pivoting toward youth. But one-time transfers and NIL effectively scrubbed one-and-done. Virginia’s Kihei Clark was the last freshman to start on a national title winner. No Final Four squad had a frosh this year among its starting lineup. And while we’re almost out of dudes with COVID years, the sport is still older than ever.

Perhaps Cal’s caught in a trap he inadvertently created. By signing up at UK, players inherently assume they’re one-and-done worthy, and even if they’re not a lottery pick, they can stay in the draft or transfer. Meanwhile, veteran transfers still see a stream of Burger Boys, and with only one or two years left, they don’t want to risk getting buried in a rotation that goes just seven deep. And while UK does offer the potential of NIL, it seems as if those dollars aren’t necessarily guaranteed.

Oh, and expectations never change. Cal built a monster. He tamed it for a while. But will it ultimately consume him?

NCAA Basketball: Tulane at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

LSU Tigers

  • Record: 14-19, 2-16
  • KenPom: No. 151
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 48 (Avg. Recruit: 92.69)
  • Transfer Class: No. 3
  • Transfers Out: Cam Hayes (East Carolina), Adam Miller (Arizona State), Justice Hill (Loyola Marymount), Shawn Phillips (Arizona State), Kendal Coleman (Cal Baptist), Justice Williams (Robert Morris), Corneilous Williams
  • Graduation: KJ Williams, Trae Hannibal
  • Returners: Derek Fountain, Jalen Reed, Tyrell Ward, Mwani Wilkinson
  • Freshmen: Corey Chest (No. 118), Mike Willams (No. 161)
  • Transfers: Jordan Wright (Vanderbilt/No. 16), Jalen Cook (Tulane/No. 46), Carlos Stewart (Santa Clara/No. 97), Will Baker (Nevada/No. 105), Daimion Collins (Kentucky/No. 157), Hunter Dean (George Washington/No. 287)
  • Open: 1

LSU | Returning Production | 2023-24

26.1 24.99 13.84 36.03 15.02 26.28 29.15 12.7 24.34 37.51 18.69

A year ago, Matt McMahon and Dennis Gates unfurled similar blueprints for Year 1 at their respective jobs: import critical pieces from their last job to jumpstart a rebuild.

That approach worked out well in Columbia.

In Baton Rouge? Not so much. After a 12-1 start, LSU lost 13 in a row, finished 2-16 in the SEC, and launched another overhaul this spring. A couple of months later, McMahon pulled six quality pieces from the portal. But will they make up a coherent whole?

Jalen Cook headlines the group and might be this season’s version of Kendric Davis: a pint-sized scorer out of the AAC. He’s also no stranger to Red Stick. Cook started his career at LSU and transferred to Tulane in 2021, making him a test case for how stringently the NCAA avoids granting waivers to second-time transfers. But if Cook is cleared, he’ll be well suited to McMahon picking up the tempo.

Down low, Nevada transfer Will Baker is hyper-skilled big that can play on the block of step out. Last season, he was sixth nationally in post-up efficiency but shot 35.5 percent from 3-point range. That said, Baker’s not much of a rim protector and is more comfortable playing drop coverage than helping apply pressure. That’ll need to get better, too. LSU was one of the nation’s worse defenses inside the arc last season.

The rest of the transfer class is comprised of solid assets. Vanderbilt transfer Jordan Wright, a Baton Rouge native, is a solid SEC wing that should supply 10 points per night. Santa Clara transfer Carlos Stewart, another Baton Rouge native, offers a reliable shooting stroke. Kentucky transfer Daimion Collins is a phenomenal athlete but looking to evolve beyond being a bouncy rim protector and lob threat.

Yet depth may be a lingering issue. Derek Fountain is a serviceable combo forward, but guard Mwani Wilkinson found himself buried last season. Sophomores Tyrell Ward and Jalen Reed were seldom-used pieces on a flawed roster.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Second Round - Mississippi State vs Florida Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Record: 21-13, 8-10
  • KenPom: No. 53
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 36 (Avg. Recruit: 88.47)
  • Transfer Class: No. 90
  • Transfers Out: Kimani Hamilton (High Point), Will McNair Jr. (Providence), Martavious Russell
  • Graduation: Tyler Stevenson, Jamel Horton, Eric Reed, Jr.
  • Returners: Tolu Smith, D.J. Jeffries, Dashawn Davis, Shakeel Moore, Shawn Jones Jr., KeShawn Murphy
  • Freshmen: Josh Hubbard (No. 94), Gai Chol (No. 201), Adrian Myers (No. 259)
  • JUCO: Jaquan Scott (Salt Lake CC/No. 1), Lorenzo Fort III (Howard/No. 3)
  • Transfers In: Andrew Taylor (Marshall/No. 136), Jimmy Bell Jr. (West. Virginia/No. 249)

Mississippi State | Returning Production | 2023-24

74.71 76.13 78.09 80.14 77.17 83.6 81.1 82.95 78.97 82.25 74.36

In terms of production, no team had a more stable portal season than the regime in Starkville.

Coach Chris Jans retained the top five players in his rotation, headlined by Tolu Smith pulling his name from the NBA Draft. Continuity can’t be undersold, but this roster finished 176th in adjusted offensive efficiency last season. So simply running it back won’t work. The Bulldogs can still bludgeon opponents, but they must also be competent in scoring the rock.

To that end, Mississippi State added Marshall point guard Andrew Taylor, an All-Sun Belt selection, who posted 20.2 points and 4.7 assists last season. Stylistically, he’s in for a jarring contrast, leaving a system that prioritized pace and space for one that grinds gears and plays off the post. In Starkville, he could morph into the floor spacer Jans desperately needs. Or maybe Jans tries to use him in a pick-and-roll partnership with Smith.

State also added Jimmy Bell Jr. from West Virginia, but Smith’s presence might block his search for an expanded role. Two of the nation’s better JUCO talents – Lorenzon Fort III and JaQuan Scott – should help round out veteran depth. And in a class of developmental freshmen, Josh Hubbard, who flipped from Ole Miss after Kermit Davis’ firing, might angle for spot duty at lead guard.

There’s no disputing State can put the clamps on opponents. However, generating more offensive pop could make it a sleeper in Jans’ second season.

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri Tigers

  • Record: 25-10, 11-7
  • KenPom: No. 57
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 28 (Avg. Recruit: 94.42)
  • Transfer Class: No. 6
  • NBA Draft: Kobe Brown
  • Pros: Isiaih Mosley
  • Transfers Out: Ronnie DeGray III (Wichita State), Mohamed Diarra (N.C. State)
  • Graduation: D’Moi Hodge, Deandre Gholston, Tre Gomillion
  • Returners: Noah Carter, Nick Honor, Sean East II, Aidan Shaw, Kaleb Brown
  • Freshmen: Trent Pierce (No. 81), Jordan Butler (No. 126), Anthony Robinson II (No. 145)
  • JUCO: Curt Lewis (John A. Logan/No. 3)
  • Transfers: Connor Vanover (Oral Roberts/No. 11) Caleb Grill (Iowa State/No. 62), Tamar Bates (Indiana/No. 92), John Tonje (Colorado State/No. 207), Jesus Carralero (Campbell/No. 219)

Missouri | Returning Production | 2023-2024

42.22 35.39 35.08 34.30 33.27 46.16 37.23 40.91 35.44 35.86 29.48

The exit survey snaps me out of the navel-gazing that can take over during the portal season. Keeping track of Missouri, which contacted nearly 50 transfers, is labor intensive. Along the way, we get fixated on certain moves – like landing a veteran big man – and perhaps give than more importance than they deserve.

Before Connor Vanover committed to MU, the program ranked seventh in the SEC for returning production. Its freshman class is fifth-best in the conference, while its portal haul ranks fourth. On balance, that…wasn’t bad.

When Vanover picked MU, it eased some lingering concerns around rebounding and rim protection. There is a reasonable question about whether an elite offense will see some slippage, prompted by Isiaih Mosley’s decision to pursue professional opportunities.


Coach Dennis Gates’ crew slipped to 10th in returning production and needing to replace two potential cornerstones in Mosley and Kobe Brown.

Throughout the spring, MU behaved like a program that expected one or both of those players back. It added depth and diversity to its guard rotation with John Tonje, Caleb Grill, and Tamar Bates. Next, Vanover rates as the No. 11 transfer in Evan Miyakawa’s algorithm, ahead of Florida’s Micah Handlogten and Ole Miss Jamarion Sharp.

Gates can also rest assured he has two sets of steady hands in Nick Honor and Sean East II, while Noah Carter is the kind of playmaking four-man that’s a prerequisite in MU’s system. Lastly, the program hopes to see Aidan Shaw step forward as a sophomore.

That’s a collection of eight quality pieces – but none have spearheaded a rotation in a power conference or been an elite bucket-getter at the mid-major level. MU’s rotation should have enough jump-shooting at its disposal. Still, Mosley moving on deprives it of a supreme on-ball creator that can serve as a solo act.

That’s an asset SEC contenders tend to have. You can argue the Tigers tried to land such a piece in their pursuits of Caleb Love and Matthew Cleveland. Unfortunately, those efforts didn’t pan out.

This roster shouldn’t crater, but it’s not unfounded to wonder if the Tigers won’t drift toward the middle of the SEC standings.

Syndication: The Clarion-Ledger Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ole Miss Rebels

  • Record: 12-21, 3-15
  • KenPom: No. 122
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 51 (Avg. Recruit: 92.28)
  • Transfer Class: No. 4
  • Transfers Out: Daeshun Ruffin (Jackson State), Amaree Abram (Georgia Tech), Robert Allen (North Texas), James White (UAB), Malique Ewin (South Florida)
  • Graduation: Myles Burns, Josh Mballa, Tye Fagan, Jayveous McKinnis, Theo Akwuba
  • Returners: Matthew Murrell, Jaemyn Brakefield, TJ Caldwell
  • Freshmen: Rashuad Marshall (No. 114), Cameron Barnes (No. 170), Jacob Gazzo (NR)
  • Transfers: Moussa Cisse (Oklahoma State/No. 6), Jamarion Sharp (Western Kentucky/No. 29), Brandon Murray (Georgetown/No. 153), Allen Flanigan (Auburn/No. 173), Austin Nunez (Arizona State/No. 262), Jaylen Murray (Saint Peter’s/No. 764)
  • Open: 1

Ole Miss | Returning Production | 2023-24

37.93 40.52 56.65 42.52 32.42 39.82 38.32 39.38 42.76 28.94 11.39

Now that it’s over, the Kermit Davis era never made much sense in Oxford.

In terms of playing style and roster construction, there was a significant overlap with Andy Kennedy. Instead of ousting Kennedy, why not give him the resources afforded to Davis? If you’re going to be ruthless, go all in.

Well, the Rebels embraced that spirit by hiring Chris Beard. Flipping rosters is Beard’s forté, and he didn’t hesitate this spring. Whether that reaps immediate dividends hinges on whether two additions are eligible.

First, there’s Oklahoma State transfer Moussa Cisse, who is on the move for the second time in his career. That means he might be sitting. If so, it takes one of the nation’s best shot blockers and rebounders out of the mix. But, on the other hand, sitting might help Cisse evolve offensively and become more competent with traditional rim finishing.

Next up is Georgetown wing Brandon Murray, who was one of the top portal options last spring after an All-Freshman season in the SEC. At LSU, he looked the part of a 3-and-D option but sought a more prominent role with the Hoyas. It tanked. Murray shot 40 percent from the floor and didn’t have the burst and separation required off the dribble. But the fit in Oxford is better. Beard can plug him in at the wing between Matthew Murrell and Jaemyn Brakefield – assuming Murray gets a waiver.

The best-case scenario is compelling. Arizona State transfer Austin Nunez at the point, Murrell as a scoring combo guard, Murrell spacing on the wing, Jaemyn Brakefield as a stretch four, and Cisse in the lane.

But if Cisse and Murray get parked, Beard is equipped with insurance. He snagged Western Kentucky’s Jamarion Sharp, who is mobile enough to play in aggressive ball-screen coverages and swat shots. Poaching Wes Flanigan from Auburn came with the perk of adding Allen Flanigan, a sturdy 6-6 wing that can slide down to the four in small-ball groups. If nothing else, Flanigan, who averaged 10.1 points and 5.0 rebounds last season, is a solid SEC starter.

Ole Miss might not tout robust depth, but Beard’s hastily assembled a seven-man rotation that could push for an NCAA tournament bid.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina Gamecocks

  • Record: 11-21, 4-14
  • KenPom: 221
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 49 (Avg. Recruit: 92.33)
  • Transfer Class: No. 62
  • NBA Draft: G.G. Jackson
  • Transfers Out: Chico Carter Jr. (DePaul) , Daniel Hankins-Sanford (UMass), Tre-Vaughn Minott (Portland State), Ford Cooper Jr. (Hampton), Ja’Von Benson
  • Graduation: Hayden Brown
  • Returners: Meechie Johnson, Jacobi Wright, Josh Gray, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Zach Davis, Eli Sparkman, Ebrima Dibba (RS)
  • Freshmen: Collin Murray-Boyles (No. 88), Arden Conyers (No. 215), Morris Ugusuk (NR)
  • Transfers: Ta’Lon Cooper(Minnesota/No. 115), Myles Stute (Vanderbilt/No. 202), Stephen Clark (The Citadel/No. 404), B.J. Mack (Wofford/No. 588)

South Carolina | Returning Production | 2023-24

52.74 43.38 44.68 43.47 54.9 67.9 48.63 50.2 42.24 52.87 48.8

Seeing G.G. Jackson move to the NBA might be good for South Carolina.

Betting Jackson, who de-committed from North Carolina and reclassified to join the Gamecocks, made sense at the time. However, surrounding him with a weaker supporting cast created an imbalance in the rotation. Nearly 30 percent of the Gamecocks’ offense flowed through Jackson, but many of those touches were inefficient.

But it’s not as if Paris had attractive alternatives.

This spring, Carolina made additions more befitting of a collective approach by offering homecomings to Minnesota point guard Ta’Lon Cooper and Wofford combo forward B.J. Mack. Plucking Hayden Brown panned out, so Paris raided The Citadel again for another undersized post player in Stephen Clark. Lastly, he offered Vanderbilt’s Myles Stute more opportunities to play on the ball.

Adding Carter should let Meechie Johnson slide over to combo guard while Jacobi Wright sits in reserve. Paris must get creative to fill a hole on the wing. He has the opposite problem inside. Stute and Mack might jostle for starter minutes at the four-spot, while freshman Collin Murray-Boyles is an understudy. Depth in the post shouldn’t be a problem with Clark, Josh Gray, and Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk at the Gamecocks’ disposal.

No one will tell you Carolina looked great last season, especially getting shelled by 40-plus points twice in the early portion of its SEC slate. But Paris’ crew also toppled Kentucky and didn’t spit the bit during February. Sitting at 1-10, the Gamecocks finished 3-4 down the stretch.

That hints at a healthy culture. Now, the question is what a moderate upgrade in talent yields.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tennessee Volunteers

  • Record: 25-11, 11-7
  • KenPom: No. 6
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 20 (Avg. Recruit: 96.24)
  • Transfer Class: No. 70
  • NBA Draft: Julian Phillips
  • Transfers Out: Olivier Nkamhoua (Michigan), B.J. Edwards (SMU)
  • Graduation: Tyreke Key, Uros Plavsic
  • Returners: Josiah-Jordan James, Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler, Jahmai Mashack, Jonas Aidoo, Tobe Awaka, Freddie Dillione (RS), D.J. Jefferson (RS)
  • Freshmen: Cameron Carr (No. 55), J.P Estrella (No. 60), Cade Phillips (No. 149)
  • Transfers: Chris Ledlum (Harvard/No. 85), Dalton Knecht (Northern Colorado/No. 300), Jordan Gainey (USC-Upstate/No. 555)

Tennessee | Returning Production | 2023-24

58.13 58.22 71.74 56.21 57.54 67.55 57.18 69.99 57.5 74.74 60.78

Earlier in the spring, there was some concern about a logjam forming on the wing in Knoxville.

Julian Phillips and Josiah-Jordan James could have rejoined Tennessee by withdrawing from the NBA draft. Sophomore B.J. Edwards was still in the fold. The Vols extracted two of the portal’s better perimeter threats in Chris Ledlum and Dalton Knecht. And coach Rick Barnes also brought in freshman Cameron Carr, a top-60 prospect.

Indeed, that’s a glut but a situation that resolved itself with little fanfare.

Phillips, projected to go early in the second round, stayed in the draft pool. James, one of the SEC’s better perimeter defenders, decided to return. Edwards saw the writing on the wall and transferred to SMU. And wouldn’t you know, Barnes has a quartet that blends shooting, playmaking, defending, and long-term upside.

Despite all that shuffling, UT also maintained a sense of stability and continuity. On paper, the program should be among the SEC’s top four in returning production. Once Zakai Zeigler finishes rehabbing from a knee injury, he’ll rejoin Santiago Vescovi in a veteran tandem at lead guard. Jahmai Mashack still straddles the line between the wing and combo forward spots, while Jonas Aidoo should do nicely in the post.

Seeing Olivier Nkamhoua decamp for a more significant role can’t be ignored, but Barnes also has enough able hands around to offset that absence.

We should also assume that Barnes will get this group to sit down and defend, given that UT’s finished in the top 10 for adjusted efficiency in four of the past six seasons. Ultimately, though, the Vols’ fate turns on whether its offense runs consistently all year – and it’s the impetus for adding Ledlum (18.8 ppg) and Knecht (20.2 ppg) as up-transfers.

If that tandem translates, Tennessee should push the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas A&M atop the standings.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Texas A&M Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Texas A&M Aggies

  • Record: 25-10, 15-3
  • KenPom: No. 33
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 54 (Avg. Recruit: 89.97)
  • Transfer Class: No. 118
  • Transfers Out: Javonte Brown (Western Michigan), Erik Pratt (Milwaukee), KK Robinson (UALR), Ashton Smith
  • Graduation: Dexter Dennis, Andre Gordon
  • Returners: Wade Taylor IV, Julius Marble, Manny Obaseki, Henry Coleman III, Hayden Hefner, Andersson Garcia, Solomon Washington, Tyrece Radford
  • Freshmen: Bryce Lindsay (No. 174), Brandon White (No. 175)
  • Transfers: Eli Lawrence (Middle Tennessee/No. 187), Jace Carter (UIC/No. 464)
  • Open: 1

Texas A&M | Returning Production | 2023-24

76.3 78.97 70.5 82.11 77.03 77.68 82.6 73.86 80.17 79.58 71.96

Is it still 1999 in College Station?

Continuity is king for Texas A&M this offseason. Aside from Dexter Dennis, the Aggies kept the bulk of a roster that nearly surged to a surprise SEC title last season. That includes Wade Taylor IV, who should be on the conference’s preseason Player of the Year shortlist. He’s joined by Tyrece Radford and a stout pair of big men in Julius Marble and Henry Coleman III.

The only question mark is which Aggie fills Dennis’ spot on the wing.

Manny Obaseki is the best in-house candidate after missing significant time last season with a hand injury. However, UIC transfer Jace Carter, who averaged 16.6 points and 7.0 rebounds, cuts the figure of a high-major wing, an incisive driver with both hands and sturdy enough to take contact around the rim. Carter’s jumper isn’t glittering (32.4 3FG%), but he can potentially provide a scoring punch.

Beyond that, A&M also kept most of its reserve unit intact, bringing back Hayden Hefner, Andersson Garcia, and Solomon Washington. Middle Tennessee transfer Eli Lawrence could do nicely as a replacement for Andre Gordon.

There’s no mystery to what the Aggies do. They’re physical at the point of attack defensively, while their bigs are athletic enough to contest around the rim. Creating turnovers papers over stretches where their offense, which can be reliant on Taylor winning one-on-one, bogs down. And few teams crash the boards with as much intensity. It’s not always the most alluring style, but it’s proven pretty effective in the last two seasons.

Consistently? That’s another matter.

Just don’t flub your non-conference slate, Buzz.

Syndication: The Tennessean Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Record: 22-15, 11-7
  • KenPom: No. 81
  • Recruiting Rank: No. 37 (Avg. Recruit: 89.83)
  • Transfer Class: No. 83
  • Transfers Out: Jordan Wright (LSU), Quentin Millora-Brown (The Citadel), Myles Stute (South Carolina), Noah Shelby (Rice), Malik Dia (Belmont), Trey Thomas (Bowling Green)
  • Graduation: Liam Robbins, Emmanuel Ansong
  • Returners: Tyrin Lawrence, Ezra Manjon, Colin Smith, Lee Dort
  • Freshmen: Jason Rivera-Torres (No. 163), Isaiah West (No. 166), Carter Lang (No. 167), Malik Presley (No. 176), JaQualon Roberts (No. 220)
  • Transfers: Ven-Allen Lubin (Notre Dame/No. 88), Tasos Kamateros (South Dakota/No. 439), Evan Taylor (Lehigh/No. 685)
  • Open: 1

Vanderbilt | Returning Production | 2023-24

37.85 39.72 30.64 42.57 33.58 57.81 41.94 46.62 42.43 45.98 17.87

Last autumn, Vanderbilt extended coach Jerry Stackhouse’s contract, a move that – if nothing else – tried to cool down the temperature of his seat. In late January, however, the Commodores were 10-12 and tracking toward another Wednesday appearance at the SEC tournament.

Then, Vandy caught fire. Over the regular season’s final month, the Dores went 8-1. They arrived at nearby Bridgestone Arena with a long shot chance for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. While they fell short of that goal, Stackhouse’s crew reached the NIT quarterfinals.

The rebuild in Nashville hasn’t unfolded seamlessly. But in late March, Stack could see a way for the program to start rounding the bend. Then came an exodus. Two starters – Jordan Wright and Myles Stute – transferred out and settled at other SEC programs. Tyrin Lawrence entered the portal and spent almost two months flirting with different programs before deciding to stick around. Meanwhile, two long-term pieces – Noah Shelby and Malik Dia – decided one season was enough.

Stackhouse did save some face late. You can’t understate the importance of retaining Lawrence, VU’s best player down the stretch. Ezra Manjon is still handling the point. Notre Dame transfer is a hyper-skilled combo forward with three years of eligibility. South Dakota transfer Tasos Kamateros slots in as a replacement-level big. And Lehigh transfer Evan Taylor can provide some bench scoring.

But after that handful of players, the waters get murky. Vandy signed five freshmen, none of whom project to be steady rotation pieces early on. Colin Smith showed flashes as a jumbo wing with a nice shooting stroke, but Lee Dort barely played as a freshman.

Instead of using this spring to capitalize on the momentum, Vandy clawed to execute a competent enough retooling to stay in place.