Back in 2016, the SEC got just three teams into the NCAA Tournament, one in which was a First Four team in Vanderbilt. Last season the conference sent eight teams to the big dance, but one thing that still remains is Kentucky being a force in the conference.
Coach John Calipari’s team went just 10-8 in SEC play last season, posting an overall record of 26-11 as the team went to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Unlike last year, this team has done returning veterans, and brings in perhaps the biggest transfer in the country, Reid Travis.
The 6-foot-8 graduate transfer from Stanford is a versatile weapon that averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while working on his 3-point shot. He converted just 29.5 percent of his shots from 3-point range last season, but it steadily improved as he shot 34.5 percent from deep the final 17 games of the season.
He will join forces down low with a more traditional big man in 6-foot-7 PJ Washington. He got 30 starts last season and averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, though his free throw shooting likely cost the Wildcats a shot at an even deeper run in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. In the team’s Sweet 16 game against Kansas State, he went 8-of-20 at the line and with Travis only being a 67.5 percent free throw shooter himself, it certainly is a weakness of this squad.
Joining them down low is Nick Richards, who at 6-foot-9, proved to be a solid stretch player as he made 39.6 percent of his 3s. Though he only saw 14.7 minutes per game, he registered 5.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
The team was also hoping to have a fully healthy Jarred Vanderbilt, who played just 14 games last season due to injury. He was productive off the bench with a team-high 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 points per game off the bench as a freshman. He ended up going pro though, making way for ESPN’s No. 14 rated recruit in the 2018 class, E.J. Montgomery.
The 6-foot-10 Montgomery is a slightly taller and left handed version of Kevin Knox as he is an incredible shooter for a guy that has a his frame. His ball handling is fluid and he can guard a variety of guys on defense. He is not quite the rebounder or shot blocker that Vanderbilt was, but Calipari has so many different big men, so that knock is not a very big deal.
As for the backcourt, the big returning pieces is Quade Green, who started in 13 of his 34 appearances and posted 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game. Perhaps Kentucky’s biggest weakness last year has a lack of 3-point shooters and Green was second only to Kevin Knox in most triples shot, and he converted 37.6 percent of them.
Whether Green runs the point or plays more of a shooting guard role depends on how freshmen Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley look early on this season. Green will like be at the two spot as Hagans is ESPN’s No. 20 prospect for the 2018 class and Quickly No. 25 as both played the point coming up and each have a similar 6-foot-3, 180ish pound build.
Hagans was originally expecting to be a part of Calipari’s 2019 haul, but reclassified to 2018 and could contribute immediately with his overall speed and athletic abilities. Quickley is the better shooter of the two, but is not as good at creating his own shot. Hagans does have a tendency to get a bit out of control and try to do too much at times.
The team also has an additional scorer in shooting guard Tyler Herro, who was rated by ESPN as the No. 30 freshman for the 2018 class. He should be an immediate deep shooter for a team that was 344th in 3-point rate last season. He is 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, making his quick release hard to block, but he is far from athletic which makes a defensive liability.
With Keldon Johnson also entering the program after he was ranked by ESPN as the number seven incoming freshman in the 2018 class. He is a pretty similar player to Herro at 6-foot-6 in that he will not wow people with his athleticism, but he is also a deadly outside shooter. Unlike Herro, he is a much better ball handler and can create separation. He is better on the defensive side of things.
With the combination of returning players and star freshmen, the expectation for Kentucky has to be an SEC Title and a trip to the Final Four. This team had an average of 0.2 years of experience per player on it a season ago and Travis and Green essentially combine to have more than that. This is a much better outside shooting team and still has loads of size, look out America.
Auburn stunned everyone by finishing with Tennessee tied for the regular season crown, going 13-5 in conference and 26-8 overall after one SEC media members though the Tigers would lose 14 games in SEC play.
The Tigers did not have a single contributing season and did all this despite having assistant Chuck Person arrested just before the season in the FBI sting. Fortunately they still had guard Mustapha Heron, who registered 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game.
This was very much a small ball team as DeSean Murray at 6-foot-5, was the team’s starting forward and leader in rebounds. He had 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while shooting a team-best 84 percent at the free throw line. Unfortunately, both Heron and Murray transferred in the offseason, but this team is still packed with talent and have some big additions.
VCU transfer Samir Doughty should aid in replacing Heron, as during the 2016-17 season as a freshman he put up averages of nine points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. He made just 28.4 percent of his 3s, but the 6-foot-4 guard appears to be an improved scorer and is a tenacious defender.
Auburn was 12th among DI teams in extra scoring chances per game as the team committed 3.1 fewer turnovers per game than its opponents and had five players pull in at least 1.3 rebounds per game. Six-foot-8 Chuna Okeke has two offensive boards per game as the team’s six man, averaging 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. His 3-point shooting percentage of 39.1 matched that of fellow forward Anfernee McLemore for the top mark on the team.
McLemore was the team’s best defensive rim protector with his 2.7 blocks per game, which ranked 13th among all DI players on a per game basis. He was lost for the years after 27 games due to injury and his 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds along with those blocks and the 3-point shooting was missed. With the 6-foot-7 forward, the team went 3-4 after starting the season 25-4, losing to Clemson in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament by 31 points to end the season.
Junior point guard Jared Harper is also a big cog in coach Bruce Pearl’s puzzle as he had a team-high 5.4 assists to go with 13.2 points as his assist to turnover ratio was 71st among qualifying DI players. His 36 percent shooting from the floor has room for improvement, though he made 35.5 percent of his 3s and shot 82.2 percent at the free throw line.
Guard Bryce Brown is the team’s highest volume 3-point shooter, taking 8.5 3s per game, which 15th among all DI players. Fortunately he was also 15th in made 3s per game, as he made 38.2 percent of his attempts, averaging 15.9 points and a steal per game.
Having Austin Wiley back is going to be this team’s X-factor. He had 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 18 minutes per game as a freshman and provides a 6-foot-11, 255 pound frame. Many thought he’d be Auburn’s best player entering the 2017-18 season, but he did not play at all due to the FBI probe and his possible involvement with an agent.
The team also welcomes back 6-foot-7 Danjel Purifoy after he missed the whole 2017-18 season as he redshirted. As a freshman the season prior, he had 11.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game while racking up 25 starts and 28.7 minutes per outing. He also shot 36.9 percent from 3-point range on 5.5 triples per game and 87.9 percent at the foul line. Doing all this while having a 230 pound frame makes him super dangerous.
With him back, Auburn has both a loaded backcourt and frontcourt with added rim protection and rebounding. This team was just 258th I’m the country in field goal shooting percentage, and with Wiley being a 58.4 percent shooter, that should improve.
The team also brings back senior Horace Spencer, who stands 6-foot-9 and was used primarily on the glass as he had 4.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.3 blocks per contest. He was a part-time starter and is valuable since he is a jack of all trades.
Six-foot-6 wing Malik Dunbar is also a valuable role player as he had 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. If JUCO transfer J’Von McCormick, who posted 18.5 points, and 6.4 rebounds, 5.3 rebounds per game at the lower level last season, can also be apart of the rotation as a backup point guard, it’s hard to see this team being anything other than a top 10 team.
Auburn’s not have quite enough to be a Final Four contender, but this team isn’t far from it. This is a team that plays fast, ranking 37th nationally in possessions per game, and now has fantastic depth. The Tigers has a shot at a top two seed in the big dance before McLemore went down and could be in the same spot this year and will likely battle Tennessee for second place in the SEC.
Tennessee was projected to finish by the media 13th in the conference last season. They split the regular season conference crown with Auburn, going 13-5 in SEC play and 26-9 overall. The team did not have a single contributing senior in the roster and is back for another crack at a deep March run after Loyola Chicago took this team out in the round of 32 on a lucky late bounce.
Grant Williams was the team's leader a season ago as a sophomore with 15.2 points, six rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. He is an undersized forward at 6-foot-5, but it did not stop him from earning SEC Player of the Year honors. He and fellow 6-foot-5 starter Admiral Schofield made a lethal combo in that what Williams lacked in 3-point shooting, Schofield brought to the table.
As a junior, Schofield made 39.5 percent of the 4.6 3s per game while registering 13.9 points, a team-high 6.4 rebounds, and a steal per game. The two combined to shoot over 76 percent at the free throw line with Williams ranking 70th in the country in free throw attempts per game with 6.1.
The team does lose one of its better reserves in James Daniel, who essentially showed the Rick Barnes can change a player’s game and make it fit his mold. During the 2015-16 season, Daniel led the country in points per game at Howard, and become more of a facilitator at Tennessee. He posted 5.6 points and 2.8 assists per game while making 37.2 percent of his 3s. The year he led the country in scoring, he made just 33.2 percent of his 3s.
The team’s main reserve though, Lamonte Turner, is back though after he had 10.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game off the bench. He made 39.5 percent of his 5.1 triple tries per game and shot 88.2 percent at the free throw line, which ranked 43rd among all qualifying DI players.
Jordan Bone was the team's top distributor as a sophomore as he averaged 7.3 points and 3.5 assists per game to go with a 3-point shooting percentage of 38. Consistent 3-point shooting was a theme of this team because as a collective the Volunteers made 38 percent of their 3s, which was 46th in the country, but single player shot better than 39.5 percent.
Jordan Bowden also shot 39.5 percent on his 3s, as he totaled 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and a team-best 1.1 steals per game. With Chris Darrington transferring in the offseason after he had just 2.6 points in 8.4 minutes per game in what was a very disappointing season, the team needs someone to step up to give the backcourt some depth.
The team get another big man that has lots of strength despite not having overwhelming height in D.J. Burns, who reclassified to the 2018 class to join this group. At 6-foot-8, 255 pounds, he is a bruiser on the glass and has good low post footwork while providing a lot of blocks as ESPN's No. 82 rated freshman for the 2018 class.
The team also brings back Derrick Walker and John Fulkerson, a pair of forwards that saw action down low as freshmen, but both played a little over eight minutes per game and combined to average 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
They will spell minutes for 6-foot-9 starter Kyle Alexander, who led the team with 1.7 blocks per game to go with 5.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He only took 3.3 shots per game, but was very precise, making 68.1 percent of them.
This team has some depth issues in the backcourt, but is a smash mouth team with tons of big men and has good shooters all over the floor. This team is also unselfish and plays together, ranking seventh among DI teams in assists per made basket despite nobody having more than 3.5 assists per game, With also being 20th in defensive efficiency, there is a lot to like with this team, but the top five hype seems a bit lofty. This has the look of more of a top 15 team and could easily be passed by LSU and Mississippi State in the conference standings.
Florida fell way short of expectations last season despite finishing third in SEC play, going 11-7 in conference play, but 21-13 overall. The Gators were streaky from 3-point range and were 288th in 2-point shooting percentage with the loss of big man John Egbunu being much more impactful than anticipated.
The frontcourt figures to be this team's biggest weakness again as the Gators bring in a lot of talented guard and return a lot of last year's bunch, meaning the trio of Kevarrius Hayes, Keith Stone, and Gorjok Gak need to step up. Florida was 251st in the country in rebound rate, which torpedoed the fact that the Gators were sixth-best in the country in turnovers per game.
Hayes and Stone were the starters last season down low, with Hayes being the better rim protector with 4.8 points, five rebounds,two blocks, and a steal per game. Hayes was also 43rd along all DI players in blocks per game, making up in part for his 50 percent free throw shooting.
Stone was more of a stretch playing, hitting a team-best 42.4 percent of his 2.7 3s per game while logging 8.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Stone actually weighs 23 pounds more than Hayes, but Gak could be the real x-factor with his 6-foot-11, 230 pound frame. But wiith just 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game, his 39.3 percent free throw shooting made him a bit of a liability.
A possible wild card if Gak does not step his game up is Chris Johnson, who played just four games last season due to concussion. The 6-foot-9 big man had 4.3 points and two rebounds per game while shooting 83.3 percent at the free throw line in the small sample size.
While that's an issue, this team's guard stable is both deep and talented. Starting point guard Chris Chiozza and wing Egor Koulechov are both gone, meaning this is senior Jalen Hudson's group. Chiozza will be missed as he was 20th in the country in assists per game with 6.1 all while being 10th in the country in assist to turnover ratio, adding 11.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game. The steals per game were 50th among DI players.
Koulechov was the better 3-point shooter, making 39.5 percent of his 5.2 attempts per game to Chiozza's 34.9 percent. He also shot 86.4 percent at the charity stripe, which was 78th among qualifying DI players, and averaged 13.8 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds.
Hudson was a part-time starter last season, but led the Gators with 15.5 points per outing while making 40.4 percent of his 3s and chipping in 3.9 rebounds per game. He could stand to improve his 66.2 percent free throw shooting as he also led the team in 3-point and free throw attempts.
KeVaughn Allen will also be back in the starting lineup after he struggled a bit with his shot, making just 32.8 percent of his 5.3 3s per game and 36.1 percent of his shots overall. His saving grace was ranking 12th among all qualifying DI players with a 90.6 free throw shooting percentage and registered 11 points, 2.4 assists, and a steal per game.
Mike Okauru saw 11.1 minutes per game as a freshman and will be competing with some highly heralded incoming freshmen for playing time. He totaled 3.8 points per game, making 40.4 percent of his 3s but just 56.7 percent of his free throw attempts.
The team’s top incoming freshman is 6-foot-4 Andrew Nembhard. He was rated by ESPN as the No. 28 prospect in the 2018 class and figures to be the team’s starting point guard immediately. He has a funky shooting style, but is a tall point guard with great court vision and tons of range. His biggest weakness is on defense in that he is not the most athletic point guard, which leaves him susceptible to blow by.
Though he is shorter, 6-fort-2 Noah Locke enters the program as a shooting guard and was rated by ESPN as the class of 2018’s No. 73 prospect. Much like Nembhard, he gets low marks on overall athletic ability, but can score in a number of ways and his range is excellent. He too, might be a bit of a defensive liability which might cost him minutes in the short term.
Six-foot-6 Keyontae Johnson has a chance to see a lot of playing time with Koulechov gone as ESPN rated him as the No. 70 freshman in the 2018 class. He can play both the wing or as a small ball four as he improved his shot greatly toward the end of his high school career. He is very athletic with a very good vertical and does a lot of unnoticed things like going after loose balls. He might be one of the more underrated four-star guys in this class.
The team also still has Deaundrae Ballard, who was the No. 92 prospect in the 2017 class. He did not play much as a freshman, racking up 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game while making just 15.6 percent of his 3-point attempts.
If Isaiah Stokes, a 6-foot-8, 270 pound recruit rated by ESPN as the No. 60 recruit of 2017, can contribute towards the backhalf of the season, it will give this team yet another option down low. He missed the whole 2017-18 season while rehabbing a torn ACL from high school, so he should be available for opening night of the 2018-19 season and figures to be a traditional post player that excels on the glass.
Florida has perhaps the second-best backcourt in the conference, though LSU might have something to say about that. If the team can get good contributions from its big men, this is a going to be a tough team for anyone to play. This unit was 201st in opponents' 3-points shooting percentage, which must improve for this team to have success in a very good SEC.
The Gators look like a top 20 team that may not matchup well with more athletic squads, but as a smart team that does not turn it over and it could be enough to make the second week of the tournament.
Missouri has a massive turnaround in the first year of the coach Cuonzo Martin era, going 20-13 overall and 10-8 in SEC play, all despite Michael Porter missing all but essentially three games last season. In three years under previous coach Kim Anderson, the team went 27-68, going 0-30 in road games and 8-46 in SEC play.
Martin must replace its top three contributors from a year ago, but still have a lot of experience in the frontcourt. Senior 6-foot-7 forward Kevin Puryear returns after he had 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game all while shooting 82.4 percent at the free throw line. He did shoot just 25.5 percent from 3-point range, but only took 1.5 3s per game.
Jeremiah Tillman was also a starter, serving as the five with his 6-foot-10 size as he registered 8.2 points, a block, and 4.2 rebounds per game as a freshman. A key for him is playing smarter, as his 3.7 fouls per game rated fifth among all qualifying DI players for the 2017-18 season.
Replacing Jordan Barnett will be a bit trick as the 6-foot-6 wing made 41.4 percent of his 6.2 3s per game and shot 89 percent at the free throw line, which ranked 36th among qualified DI players. Point guard Jordan Geist will play a big role in helping this team fill the void left by he and Kassius Robertson.
As a graduate transfer, Robertson made 43.2 percent of his 7.4 3s per game, as he was 20th among DI players in 3s per game made. He logged 36 minutes per game, averaging a team-high 16.3 points to go with three rebounds, 2.3 assists, and a steal per game. He also took a team-high 4.4 free throws per game, converting 79.5 percent of them.
Missouri's pace of play quickness was 266th in the country and was 26th in 3-point rate, the sign of an offense that worked to get open 3s. With Blake Harris leaving the program after playing 14 games as a freshman, nine of which were starts, Geist and Cullen VanLeer split starts the rest of the season.
VanLeer was used more for is defense, averaging 2.4 points and a steal per game, shooting 29.7 percent from deep. Geist was a true facilitator with a team-best 2.9 assists sans Harris' 3.1 assists to go with 7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
The addition of 6-foot-5 freshman Torrence Watson, rated by ESPN as the No. 76 recruit of the 2018 class. He is not a willing passer at all but he does one thing and one thing very well, shoot. For better or for worse, he will do all he can to get the ball into the bucket, which leads to him taking bad shots and turning the ball over. He has limitless range though and is close to automatic at the foul line.
Other than Watson, its a whole lot of three-star guys, as rated by 247Sports, entering the program. This makes Illinois transfer Mark Smith being granted eligibility immediately for this season massive. He averaged 5.8 points and 1.4 assists in 19 minutes per game for Illinois last season as he battled illness throughout. He was even in the hospital at one point it was that bad, yet still played 31 games, starting 18 of them, and shot 79.6 percent at the free throw line. He will need to shoot better than 33.7 percent from the floor and 23.2 percent from 3-point range though.
The team also brings in another player who started in the state of Illinois in 6-foot-8 UIC wing K.J. Santos, who sat out the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules. As a freshman during the 2016-17 season, he averaged 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game. He started 30 games for the Horizon league team and shot 36.6 percent from 3-point range.
Yet another guy who transferred into the program after beginning his college career in the state of Illinois is 6-foot-6 Ronnie Suggs. He started 19 games as a freshman for the Braves during the 2015-16 season, registering 8.5 points and four rebounds per game, but shot just 33.6 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from distance. He saw his minutes plummet from 30.2 per game as a freshman to 7.2 as a sophomore, which led to his transfer.
It looked like the return of 6-foot-11 big man Jontay Porter, a guy many thought would be a first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, would be massive for this team, but tore his ACL and MCL in mid-October. He was one of the nation's best reserve big men last season, averaging 9.9 points per game and recorded team-best 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He also brought 2.2 assists per game and a 36.4 3-point shooting percentage to the table.
This means junior Reed Nikko, will need to play more minutes than expected. The 6-foot-10 big man had 2.3 points and two rebounds in 8.1 minutes per game last season. If 6-foot-10 redshirt sophomore Mitchell Smith, who missed all last season due to a DWI, can step and show a pulse, he should get minutes. He had just 2.4 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in an injury-plagued 2016-17 freshman year, but he can give this team some rim protection off the bench.
Unless if three-star freshmen guards Javon Pickett and Xavier Pinson can step up and one of these guys be a good backup point guard, it will likely be what costs the Tigers a chance at going back to the NCAA tournament. This team was 312th in turnovers per possession and 227th in assists to turnover ratio a year ago. With the backcourt from a year ago essentially gone and Porter out for the year, this is a team that will likely be towards the bottom of the SEC and .500 overall.
Arkansas went 23-12 a season ago and made the NCAA tournament after posting a 10-8 record in SEC play. A 3-point shooting percentage that was 21st in the country and a No. 33 offensive efficiency made up for defense that was 205th in efficiency.
The team ranking 296th at the DI level in fouls per game was a weak point, even though Daniel Gafford led the team in that category with 3.3 per game, his return after being a potential 2018 first round NBA Draft pick is huge. As a freshman he made 26 starts and led the team 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game to go with 11.8 points per. He was 32nd among all DI players in blocks per game.
Guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon are both gone after they were the reason the Razorbacks were so good from 3-point range. They combined to take 11.5 3-pointers per game and 42.7 percent of them went in. The rest of the team made 34.9 percent from downtown and took just 7.9 triples per game. The two had a combined 34.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and two steals per game. Macon also shot 87.5 percent at the charity stripe, which was tied for 55th among qualifying DI players.
The team also loses Anton Beard from last year's guard rotation, as he had 9.5 points and three assists per game. He was the team's least accurate 3-point shooter last season, making 32.8 percent of his 3.3 3s per game.
C.J. Jones was essentially the only guard that wasn’t a senior on last year's team, but is also gone as he transferred in the offseason. The 6-foot-6 hybrid player had 6.3 points per game while shooting 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. It also means 267 of the team’s 269 made 3s from a year ago are gone.
New Mexico transfer Jalen Harris figures to play immediately given the complete depletion in the backcourt. During the 2016-17 season as a freshman, he posted averages of 4.5 points and 2.3 assists per game. He did not shot much, putting up 3.5 shots in 20.6 minutes per game while starting 18 games, so he will likely run the point.
Isaiah Joe will likely be the team’s starting shooting guard as a freshmen. 247Sports rated him as a three-star prospect as he is good at coming up with steal on defense and has a good looking shot. He is a good pure shooter, but is incapable of creating his own shot and though he is 6-foot-5, is both not very athletic and struggles against players with a similar frame.
Junior forward Adrio Bailey is the only player other than Gafford back from a season ago that started a double-digit amount of games. He split starts with the departed Dustin Thompson, and is a more traditional big man with a 6-foot-6 frame. He had 4.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per game while Thompson had five points and 4.1 rebound averages. Even Trey Thompson’s 3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game are a big loss as he also provided a 6-foot-9 frame.
Darius Hall also looked like a guy the team could build around as the 6-foot-6 two way player made 40.6 percent of his 3s and registered 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as a priority reserve during his freshman year.
The team will need JUCO transfer Mason Jones to either start or be a priority reserve. He had nice numbers at the lower level last season with 15.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. He also made 42.9 percent of his 3s so at 6-foot-5, he can provide a lot of things.
Things are a bit more promising down low for this team though as Ethan Henderson should play a big role in the year’s team. The 6-foot-9 big man was rated as the No. 92 prospect in the 2018 class by ESPN. He is not a guy that will step out and shoot too many jumpers, though he is improving his mid-range game, but is a good rim protector and brings good low post footwork.
Coach Mike Anderson will also need 6-foot-8 Reggie Chaney to provide some help in the post. He is also not a stretch guy, but is good on the glass an should get 12-14 minutes per game for that.
Arkansas needs four-star freshman guard Keyshawn Embry and Khalil Garland, who was the No. 55 prospect as ranked by ESPN in the 2017 class to be an instant producers or else this team will not just be a sub-.500 team, but 20 losses might not be out of the question. Embry is a guy that score in a number of ways while Garland fills up every box on the stat sheet,
Arkansas is going to be at the bottom of the SEC this seas with Ole Miss as both these programs are young and trying to reload. This team's big men do not have SEC size sans Gafford and are not versatile, there is not a single senior on this roster, and the backcourt is worse than many you'd find on mid-major teams that have a .500 record. It's going to be a rough year.
Texas A&M was a rollercoaster last season, one that ended up with this team going 9-9 in SEC play and 23-12 overall that ended in the Sweet 16. The team lost a lot of pieces from a year ago and brings in nothing in recruiting to replace it.
This means the Aggies will need the backcourt to be stellar as DJ Hogg, Robert Williams, Tyler Davis, and Tonny Trocha-Morelos are all gone from last season. The team was fifth in the country in blocks, with Williams leading that charge, Before heading to the NBA, he provided 10.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game, He was 17th among DI players in blocks per game.
Davis had 1.3 blocks per game of his own as he had averages of 14.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game to go with it. Davis shot 3s, but not many, just 25 the whole year. Hogg, on the other hand, was the team's stretch big man, converting 37.8 percent of the four 3s per game he took, as he loaded the stat sheet with 11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game.
Trocha-Morelos also took a few 3s, as the now gone 6-foot-10 center made 31.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc with 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He was primarily a sixth man, but ended up starting 15 games with Davis being the only other player on the team that did not miss at least two games a year ago.
This means Savion Flagg is the tallest returning player of anyone that scored at least eight points last season. The 6-foot-7 guard had 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a reserve.
He should start alongside Admon Gilder, who is the team’s top returning scorer after racking up 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He made 39.5 percent of his 3s and 82.1 percent of his free throw attempts, both team highs.
Jay Jay Chandler will also be called upon more after being used off the bench in short spurts a lot last season. He will need to shoot better than 24.4 percent from 3-point range, as he had 3.7 points in 11.4 minutes per game. He was the only player other than Davis to miss fewer than three games a year ago.
TJ Starks, who split time in the starting lineup an off the bench as a freshman, figures to run the point after having 9.9 points and 2.3 assists per game. He isn't a great shooter, as he had a 63.5 conversion rate at three throw ling and hit 32.4 percent of his 3s.
Guard Duane Wilson, who split starts with Starks, graduated in the offseason after he had nine points, a team-high four assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He missed 13 games due to injury last season so coach Billy Kennedy know how to fill in for him, though his 78.8 percent free throw shooting will be missed regardless.
With last year's entire forward and center stable gone, 6-foot-9 Tennessee State graduate transfer Christian Mekowulu instantly becomes this team's best low post presence. He posted 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game with the Ohio Valley Conference school last year, and made 74.5 percent of the 6.1 free throws per game he took last season.
After redshirting a year ago 6-foot-9 John Walker III has himself in a position to see lots of minutes. He is an athletic big man that will likely stretch the floor as he lacks strength with his 195 pound frame. St. Francis (PA) transfer Josh Nebo and sophomore Isiah Jasey provide more size and strength as each weigh around 245 pounds.
Jasey was rated by ESPN as a four-star recruit in the 2017 class, but saw a total of 50 minutes in 15 appearances last season. Nebo sat the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules, but the year before had averages of 12 points, 2.6 blocks and 8.2 rebounds per contest. These two should see massive minutes down low with Nebo likely starting in the early going.
The Aggies have on massive wild card in the form of JUCO transfer Wendell Mitchell. Jucorecruiting.com had him rated as the best JUCO transfer in America for 2018, He can do it all, racking up 19.8 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game at the lower level while shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc. He played the 2016-17 season in the Big XII for Baylor, getting 8.8 minutes and 2.7 points per game.
Texas A&M was 19th in the country in rebound rate and fifth in total rebounds per game. That will change in a big way this year, but the transfers should ease the blow of losing that talented frontcourt. This team should be more consistent and stable after guys were in and out of the lineup all year long en route to the Sweet 16.
This team will take a step back, but this team has a higher ceiling than most give it credit for. Realistically this is a team that will be in the bottom four of the SEC, but if Nebo and Mekowulu and prove their worth and Mitchell can make an impact, this is a team that can pull off some big upset and get into that bubble conversation.
Mississippi State went 9-9 in SEC play last season, but was relegated to the NIT due to a weak non-conference schedule. The Bulldogs went to the NIT Final, posting a 25-12 record overall and will try to carry that momentum into the 2018-19 season. The team did not have a single contributing senior and lost nothing but a pair of reserves due to transfer.
This team had success despite ranking 323rd in the country in 3-point shooting percentage and 264th in free throw shooting percentage, a lot of which was thanks to racking up the seventh-most blocks of any team in America. The team's most efficient long distance shooter was 6-foot-10 Aric Holman, who made 44 percent of his 2.3 3s per game. That percentage was 78th among all DI players as he averaged a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game as well to go with 10.9 points and 1.8 blocks per game.
The team's leading scorer last season was Quinndary Weatherspoon, who pumped in 14.4 points, six rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. About the only knock on this 6-foot-4 do-it-all guard is the fact that hew shot 31.3 percent from downtown. His brother Nick Weatherspoon joined him in the backcourt last season and provided a similar skill set.
As a freshman, he racked up 10.8 points and 2.1 assists per game, but shot just 29.2 percent from 3-point range. Tyson Carter and Lamar Peters split starts in the starting lineup with the Weatherspoons as Peters became the team's top facilitator. He gave coach Ben Howland 9.6 points, 4.5 assists, and led the team in steals too with 1.5 per game. His 27.7 3-point shooting was worst of anyone that took at lead one 3-pointer per game and he shot just 65.1 percent at the free throw line as well. To compound it, he led the team in 3-point attempts with 5.2 per game.
Carter shot a bit better as he was second in 3-point attempts, making 34.1 percent of his 4.6 attempts per game while averaging 8.9 points per game. He is much less of a passer than Peters, likely why he saw 4.9 minutes per game fewer.
Center Abdul Ado and his 6-foot-11 frame filled out the starting lineup as he provided a team-high 1.9 blocks to go with 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He shot 61.5 percent from the field as the team's main traditional big man and will have a guy that can spell his minutes this season in JUCO transfer Jethro Tshisumpa.
The 6-foot-10, 260 pound big man played the 2016-17 season for Arizona State, but had just one point and 1.5 rebounds in 7.4 minutes per game. At the lower level during the 2027-18 season, he had 8.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, and an incredible 3.7 blocks per game. If he can be anywhere near that good at swatting shots this season, the Bulldogs will have one of the top defenses in college basketball.
As if this team was not loaded enough in the frontcourt, Reggie Perry enters the program as ESPN's No. 29 rated prospect in the class of 2018. At 6-foot-10, 245 pounds, he has tons of strength and good post moves and is similar to Holman in that has a solid jump shot.
The two players that left last year’s team is reserve guard Eli Carter and wing Xavian Stapleton. Wright had just three points and 2.2 rebounds off the bench and shot 21.4 percent from 3-point range while Stepleton was the team's top full-time bench player, logging 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game.
Stapleton's spot figures to be filled by 6-foot-6 Robert Woodard II, who ESPN ranked as the No. 46 prospect in the 2018 class. He is able to defend both threes and fours thanks to a 7-foot-0 wingspan. He is a good passer, but he has bad shot mechanics and is inconsistent with it.
DJ Stewart also brings some versatility at 6-foot-6, 190 pounds. This freshman was rated four-stars by 247Sports. He projects to playing the two spot with his lack of strength and is mostly a defender at this point.as his jumper needs refinement. If 6-foot-8 KeyShawn Feazell can also help on the offensive end after he saw just 6.1 minutes per game last season, this is a team that has a chance to crack the top three in the SEC.
If Mississippi State can find some 3-point shooting, this is a team that can make a massive run in March. This team was just 124th in offensive efficiency last season despite being 24th in the country in 2-point shooting percentage. This is a team that was young and improved throughout the 2017-18 season and should take off this season.
LSU was also NIT-bound last year, which was a win for coach Will Wade in his first season at Baton Rouge. The old regime of Johnny Jones ran this program into the ground, as the team was 10-21 two seasons ago with a 2-16 SEC mark. That jumped to 18-15 overall and 8-10 in SEC play.
The frontcourt from last year is not intact due to two graduations, and the sad passing of forward Wayde Sims. He had 5.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while making 10 starts last season, no doubt the team will be playing with heavy hearts this season.
Doup Reath and Aaron Epps, the only two players on the roster that had at least four rebounds per game last season, are both out of eligibility after being the team’s two starting big men. Reath shot a team-best 42.2 percent on 3-pointers and led the team with a block per game while wrangling up 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Epps chipped in 9.5 points and a team-best 5.5 rebounds per game and also took 3.3 3s per game, making 34 percent of them. He also shot 68.4 percent from inside the arc, which was 11th among all qualifying DI players last season.
This team was not good on the glass last season ranking 212th in rebound rate, but was 19th in 2-point field goal percentage last season. Part of that was the big men, but guards Brandon Sampson and Daryl Edwards were both good at knifing to the hole.. Sampson only started a third of the games he appeared in, but registered 7.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game while making 35 percent of his 3s and 62.7 percent of his shots inside the arc.
Edwards made 64.2 percent of his 2s while also making 37.1 percent of his 3s and 79.5 percent of his free throws. He started in half of the 32 games he played in, notching 6.8 points per game.
While those two players are big for the backcourt, which is undoubtedly the strength of this team, Tremont Waters is the star of this unit. He led the team with 15.9 points, six assists, and two steals per game, all while making 35.1 percent of the 6.2 3s per game he took and shooting 80.1 percent at the free throw line. He did all of this as a freshman and has a chance to be the SEC Player of the Year if he can improve upon that breakout season.
He will be able to look to Skylar Mays for backcourt help, as he contributed in a variety of ways with 11.3 points, four rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He also shot 35.1 percent from downtown and shot a team-beat 83.7 percent at the charity stripe.
The team loses Randy Onwausaar, who was a graduate transfer in the program last season, but he did not live up to expectations anyway. He started 11 of the 32 games he played in, but tallied just 4.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game after he registered 23.6 points per game the season before at Southern Utah.
Along with all this, LSU brings in three of the top 31 prospects from the 2018 class, as rated by ESPN. The best rated is forward Nazreon Reid, who was 12th on that list. He figures to be the team’s main post presence at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds that plays the role of a strong, grind in the paint big. He has excellent footwork down low and is a pure rim protector, though he will not wow anyone with his measurables. As an added bonus, he is a good passer for his size, though he has a tenancy to try to do a bit too much with the ball.
He will be joined in the frontcourt by Emmitt Williams, who ESPN had as the No. 21 recruit for 2018. He is a bit undersized compared to most dominant big men at power five conferences at 6-foot-8, 210 pounds but is noted for having a lot of heart and a high motor. He has been compared to Kenneth Faried for that reason, though his offense, shooting especially, is a work in progress. He can defend just about any type of player down low and is a great leader that claws for rebounds.
The team’s big backcourt pickup is 6-foot-4 Javonte Smart, who was ranked 31st by ESPN for the class of 2018. He is a natural point guard but will move to the two if he is on the floor with Waters. That's a bit of an issue as his jump shot mechanically is easily blocked and highly inaccurate. He is incredibly quick and good at driving to the rim and finishing, but goes into hero mode too much, which leads to unnecessary turnovers.
Along with all of this, 6-foot-11 former Oregon forward Kavell Bigby-Williams is also eligible. He was the 20`14-15 Spalding NJCAA Division I Player of the Year, but flopped with the Ducks as he averaged three points and 2.8 rebounds in just 9.8 minutes per game. He also recorded a block ever 13 minutes minutes of game play, so he should also serve as a good rim protector.
The team brings in another freshman forward in Darius Days, who is another undersized power forward at 6-foot-6. He figures to be a wing for this team as he is one of the better shooting natural big men in the class and is still a tenacious rebounder. At 230 pounds, he has a lot of strength and good footwork in the post.
Though he may not play a lot this season, LSU gets a nice boost from 6-foot- Aundre Hyatt reclassifying from the 2019 class up a year. 247Sports rated him as a four-star recruit and has the skill set of a wing. He is not a guy that will get blocks, but he is a good rebounder that has range on his shot and is incredible for a guy his size at getting into passing lanes for steals.
Danya Kingsby and Marlon Taylor, who were rated as the No. 26 and 17 JUCO transfers by jucorecruiting.com both also enter the LSU program. Kingsby shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range last season at the lower level, averaging 13.3 points and 3.7 assists per game. Kingsby is just 6-foot-1 while Taylor stands 6-foot-6, as he made 40.3 percent of his 3s while averaging 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
LSU’s frontcourt is entirely different from a season ago, but unlike Texas A&M, the Tigers replace those departures with three of the top 13 rated freshmen big men in the class of 2018, as rated by ESPN. If Waters can be even better than he was in his sensational freshman year, this is a team that has a chance to win 25 games and make a furious run in the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia has a change of leadership as an 18-15 record overall and a mark of 7-11 in the SEC got Mark Fox fires, as former Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Crean is now at the helm. The team was completely centered around Yante Maten last year, as this appears to be a year where the team will rebuild and look to the future.
The 6-foot-8 Maten was the only player to average over 8.5 points per game last season, as he had team-highs with 19.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. The team was 326th at the DI level in 3-point shooting percentage as Maten’s 34.1 percent long distance hit rate was one of the best in the team.
That was a big reason the team was 224th in offensive efficiency, as his 80.1 free throw shooting on 7.3 free throws attempts per game was also huge. He was 18th among DI players in made free throws per game.
This means Will “Turtle” Jackson will end up being the team’s leader after running the point a season ago. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.5 assists per game and led the team in 3-pointers attempted with five per game. He will have to make more of them as he hit just 31.3 percent of them and shot 34.8 percent from the floor as a whole.
He will not have the team’s most efficient 3-point shooter in Juwan Parker alongside him. He made 36.5 percent of his triple tries and had averages of 8.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He also led the team in free throw shooting percentage, hitting 85.9 percent of his attempts.
Though Maten is gone, 6-foot-8 wing Rayshaun Hammonds and forward Derek Ogbeide are both back after being starters last season. The two combined for 13.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. Ogbeide did not take a single 3 and shot just 47.3 percent at the free throw line while Hammonds hit just 28.6 percent of his 1.7 3s per game, making 69.5 percent of his free throws.
The team is going to need more on the defensive end from its guards as Georgia was 349th among DI team’s in steals per opponents’ possessions last year, getting just 9.6 takeaways per game which was 348th. Tyree Crump was the team’s top scorer on the bench and will need to help elevate this team.
He averaged 6.5 points per game and was second on the team in 3-point attempts, making 33.1 percent of them. The team will also look to sophomore TeShaun Hightower for production after he had 3.6 points per game off the bench.
Hightower saw 11.1 minutes per game while shooting 29.3 percent from beyond the arc and a measly 45.1 percent at the free throw line. He saw a bit of extra time towards the end of the year when Jordan Harris missed every game in February and March, and boasted his average to 4.9 points per game.
Harris is back for his junior year after he recorded 3.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in a reserve roll in 18 contests. He only shot 27.3 percent from long range too, so he won’t be if any help in that area.
Six-foot-11 sophomore Nicolas Claxton was the team's top reserve forward at 6-foot-11, netting 3.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. The team also brings back 6-foot-9 Mike Edwards, who played I. 29 games with just 1.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in 9.4 minutes per outing.
These two will be competing with freshman Amanze Ngumezi, who was rated by 247Sports as a four-star recruit. The 6-foot-9, 245 pound big man is a guy that Crean hopes can be Maten 2.0 as he has the range to shoot from the Peronist and has great post moves. He is good at pulling down rebounds and is an explosive jumper.
If the team can get some production from rated three-star freshmen JoJo Toppin and Tye Fagan, it will bode well for the future. Toppin is a 6-foot-6, 180 pound wing that specializes in driving to the rim while Fagan is a 6-foot-3 player that can play either the one or two position. He is a stat sheet filler that doesn’t do one thing great and will not wow people with his measurables, but is a hard worker that always seems to overachieve.
This looks like the worst team in the SEC and will likely lose 20 games overall. The team’s nucleus from last season is gone and there isn’t much talent coming in. This team has zero three point shooting and there is no way this team will be back to No. 31 in the country in terms of rebound rate. Tie that together with an inability to create turnovers, and this is one of the bottom three power five schools in the country.
Despite a 20-16 record overall and an 8-10 mark in the SEC, Alabama made its way into the NCAA Tournament and made the Round of 32. The heart and soul of that team was Collin Sexton, and he is now in the NBA, but a young crop of players that were alongside him are back.
Sexton did a bit of everything with team-highs 19.2 points and 3.6 assists per game while also pulling down 3.8 rebounds per contest. He was very aggressive, shooting 77.8 percent on the 7.6 free throws per game he shot. His free throw attempts per game ranked 10th among all DI players as he also took four 3s per game, making 33.6 percent of them.
With him gone, John Petty, who was rated by ESPN as the No. 28 prospect in the 2017 freshman class, will have to take the reigns in the backcourt. He was a different player at home versus on the road as a freshman as his season averages were 10.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. At home he made 45.8 percent of his 6.7 3s per game, but made just 21.9 percent of his 6.4 3s per game on the road. It led to him tallying 12.7 points per game at home and 5.5 in true road games.
He will be joined in the backcourt by junior Damon Ingram, who was a box sheet filler for this team with 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. His 28.4 percent 3-point shooting is a bit of a woe, but having the capability of running the point at 6-foot-5 more than makes up for it.
The team also has Avery Johnson Jr. back after he was the team’s main reserve guard with 4.3 points per game. That is not a lot of production, especially for a 5-foot-11 guard that is not a guy that really ran the point. Bringing in former Texas wing Tevin Mack should give this team a bit more to rely on in the backcourt.
The 6-foot-6 former Big XII starter sat out the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules, but in 15 games the season prior, made 39.1 percent of his 5.8 3-pointers per game while notching 14.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He made just 58.8 percent of his free throws but he figures to be the team’s best pure scorer this season.
The team’s other top combo player, 6-foot-7 sophomore Herb Jones really didn’t pop too many treys as he split starts with forward Daniel Giddens. He had 4.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while leading the team with 1.3 steals per game. He took just 0.7 3s per game last season, which makes Mack an even bigger addition.
Giddens at 6-foot-10 is more of a rim protector, as he had 4.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, and a block per game. Six-foot-9 Galin Smith is a similar player that returns after he had 2.8 points and two rebounds per game. The team also brings in Javian Davis-Fleming, but the 6-foot-9 270 pound freshman looks more like a project at this point.
Guard Kira Lewis is this team's top incoming freshman, rated by ESPN as the No. 45 prospect in the 2018 class. He doesn’t quite have Sexton’s build and skill set, but the should have a chance to play at the point guard position immediately. He is a guy that looks to shoot more than pass and scores in a variety of ways and is hard nosed on defense.
Getting back Riley Norris after he played just nine games in what was supposed to be his senior year last year is a big boost for this bunch. He started 46 games between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, posting nine points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a junior. At 6-foot-7, he is also a weapon shooting 3s, converting at a 37.5 percent rate as a sophomore.
Though Braxton Key is gone after giving the team seven points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, he is being replaced by so many parts that it’s a non-factor. The team was 298th in 3-point shooting percentage last season, and his 28.4 percent did not elevate that.
All in all this looks like an NCAA Tournament team that could crack the top 25. In another conference, this team would be at the top of the heap, instead that will be just good enough to crack the top six with all the great teams in this conference. 22 or 23 wins is very realistic for this squad.
South Carolina followed up its 2017 Final Four run by going 17-16 overall and7-11 in SEC play. A field goal shooting percentage that was 344th among DI teams was the biggest issue with this team as coach Frank Martin will look to a young backcourt and a senior big man to improve upon last year’s result.
Chris Silvia is back for his final year of eligibility after the 6-foot-9 forward led the team with 14.3 points, eight rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. He also had 3.5 fouls per game, which was 25th among DI players, which left the team at a disadvantage when he picked up early fouls.
He also took 8.6 free throws per game, which was third among DI players, making 75.3 percent of them. He also shot 41.3 percent from 3-point range, though he popped just 12 of them.
He will be joined in the post by 6-foot-10 Malik Kotsar, who had eight points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He made attempted a few 3s last season, but made just 22.2 percent of his 27 attempts.
While he was not a long range shooter, guard Frank Booker was in his final year on campus. In his final year of eligibility, he made 40.9 percent of his 6.3 3s per game while averaging 12.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game.
Wesley Myers is also gone from last year’s guard stable after he had 7.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as a part-time starter. He made 39.5 percent of his 3s as well with Evan Hinson splitting the starts with him.
Hinson got 17 starts last season, but just 10.1 minutes per appearance as he also missed the first 10 games of the 2017-18 campaign. He scored zero points in six of his last 10 appearances and registered just 2.7 points per game, but shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Having 6-foot-5 combo player Justin Minaya is of massive importance given how little talent this team has entering the fold. As a freshman he made 30 starts and complied 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game game while converting on 36.4 percent of his 3s.
Hassani Gravett started in 22 of the 30 games he played in must also take a step forward in this, his senior season. He gave the Gamecocks 7.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and a team-high 3.6 assists per game at the point guard position. He made 32.2 percent of his 2.9 triple tries per game, and shot 68.8 percent at the free throw line.
South Carolina brought in close to nothing with their recruiting class, so they are banking on A.J. Lawson's reclassification from the 2019 class to 2018 making in impact. He was rated by 247Sports as a four-star prospect, but the website had him as the No. 40 recruit for the 2019 class.
He has the build of a wing at 6-foot-7 and played for Canada’s U18 FIBA Americas Championship team and showed really well with 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He needs to work on his outside shooting and strength, but has good quickness and can defend a variety of players.
Georgetown transfer Tre Campbell along with freshmen T.J Moss and Alanzo Frank have been banged up in the months leading up to the season, making it difficult to mesh with the rest of the team. Campbell, a 6-foot-2 guard, is the most significant of the three as Moss was rated by 247Sports as a three star freshman and Frank was not rated all together.
Campbell played three seasons for the Big East school, making 20 starts during the 2015-16 season, which was his most productive. He had 4.1 points and 1.7 assists in 20.9 minutes per game, and while he made 77.4 percent of his free throws, he knocked down just 27 percent of his 3s. That percentage rose to 34.3 percent as he came off the bench in 21 appearances the following year as he had 3.5 points per game, being used more for his defense then anything else.
With guard David Beatty and Kory Holden transferring after the two had a combined 6.4 points and 2.3 assists per game, it leaves this team very thin in terms of depth. The two combined to make just 20 percent of their triples with Holden only partaking in 14 games a season ago.
South Carolina has the worst guard rotation in the conference and it might not be close. Silva and Kotsar down low are solid be men, but this team has nobody to shoot 3s and the ball distribution on this team is poor. This is a team that will be in the bottom three of the SEC and finish around .500 overall, much like a season ago.
Vanderbilt disappointing in a big way last season, going 12-20 overall and 6-12 in SEC play with three starting seniors that all played big rolls for a program that had made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.
Vanderbilt's pace of play quickness was 306th in the country and was 23rd in 3-point rate, which means this team's offensive philosophy was to get clean looks from beyond the arc. Ranking 294th in defensive efficiency caused this team's slow play style to go horribly wrong with a 6-12 record in games decided by 10 or fewer points.
Sophomore Saben Lee will lead a team loaded with highly rated freshmen this season after he had 10.6 points, three rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. His jump shot needs work as he made 30.7 percent of his 3s and 72.6 percent of his free throws. The team was without Matthew Fisher-Davis, which actually helps the team this season.
The goat from the 2017 NCAA Tournament that gave the unintentional foul against Northwestern with his team leading played 17 games last season, with the team going 5-12 in those contests. He had 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game while making 33.3 percent of his 6.2 3s per game and made 87.2 percent of his free throws.
Riley LaChance split point guard duties with Lee last season and led the backcourt in scoring with 14.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He was the Commodores’ top 3-point shooter, making 41.8 percent of his 6.1 triple tries per game and also shot 78.1 percent at the free throw line.
Jeff Roberson did a bit of everything as a 6-foot-6 small ball four last season. He made 40.5 percent of his 4.8 3s per game and 85.4 percent of his rebounds while posting team-highs 16.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
With these losses, senior Joe Toye will need to step up after he made just 26.3 percent of his 3s and 61.4 percent of his free throws, logging 5.7 points and two rebounds per game.
Maxwell Evans is also back in that guard stable after he got 15 starts last season, though he had just 3.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game. He made 84.8 percent of his free throws and 33.3 percent of his 3s and should be in line for more minutes with Payton Wills and Larry Austin both transferring.
Wills had 5.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game off the bench while Austin registered 2.5 points while making just 56.5 percent of his free throws and 25 percent of his 3s. Wills was a better shooter, making 34.9 percent of his 3s but just 34.8 percent of his shots overall.
Fortunately 6-foot-2 freshman point guard should easily replace their production after being rated by ESPN as the No. 16 recruit in the 2018 class. He should take the refund as the team’s main ball handler as he is one of the top four passers in this class. His has great speed when cutting to the rim and can drive in a number of ways. His overall athleticism is hindered a bit by a lack of strength, but he has a good outside shot for a pass first player. He will also elevate what was a very poor defense last season.
The team also finally has a true big man in 6-foot-10 Simisola Shittu, who was No. 19 on ESPN’s class of 2018 list. He attempted outside shots but it’s still a work in progress, but he tremendous athleticism and jumping. He has great footwork in the post and is also a very good defender in the paint.
Last season 6-foot-10 big men Djery Baptiste And Ejike Obinna, with Baptiste being the more productive player with 3.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. It was Obinna who got 14 starts to Baptiste’s 10 though as he had 2.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in just 9.4 minutes per game. He also shot a team-best 59.1 percent from the floor as he is back but Baptiste left the program on the offseason.
Junior 6-foot-8 forward Clevon Brown was the team’s most used reserve big man last season. He totaled 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds while swatting a team-high 1.3 shots per game. He was a willing 3-point shooter, taking 1.4 triples per game, but made just 23.9 percent of them as his 46.2 free throw shooting percentage also needs improvement.
Aaron Nesmith is a 6-foot-6 freshman wing that was rated as ESPN’s No. 69 prospect for 2018. He is one of the better shooting wings in this recruiting crop that is not intimidated shooting with a hand in his face. He is not a guy that creates a lot via dribbling but has decent court vision but has an issue with getting blown past on defense.
Former Notre Dame forward Matt Ryan is eligible after sitting out the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules. He averaged 5.1 points per game off the bench as a freshman but saw his minutes cut from 14.5 to 7.9 during the 2016-17 season. This despite his 3-point shooting percentage going from 37.4 to 43.4 and his free throw shooting from 79.2 to 90 percent. He had 3.6 points per as a sophomore at Notre Dame and figures to be a 6-foot-8 stretch player.
The team also brings in Yanni Witzell, a 6-foot-10 DII transfer that notched 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore during the 2016-17 season. Coach Bryce Drew hopes he can be the type of player Luke Kornet was a few seasons ago as he converted 42 percent of his 3s.
Vanderbilt upgraded its team in a variety of ways and Fisher-Davis' graduation might actually be the case of addition by subtraction. Vanderbilt has a chance to be like Tennessee and Auburn were a year ago and surge up the SEC standings with their incredible incoming talent. If Ryan and Witzell can give the element for prolific 3-point shooting big men, this team has a chance to be a top 10, yes top 10 team.
Ole Miss had Murphy’s Law hit this team in every which way imaginable, as the team was 5-11 in games decided by single-digits. The team was last in the SEC at 5-13 in conference and 12-20 overall, which led to Andy Kennedy losing his coaching job and Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis filling that role.
The team’s defense was poor last year, ranking 319th in 3-point percentage allowed and 306th in points per game given up while the Rebels were 324th in 3-point shooting percentage among DI squads. This was a team had a good amount of various transfers on the roster last season, but guard Terrance Davis was this team’s most consistent and top scorer and rebounds leader.
As a junior, he had 13.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while also having the most blocks on the team. He was a 31.7 percent 3-point shooter, taking 5.8 outside shots per game. His outside shooting is something that is going to need work as the team’s top outside shooter from last season, Deandre Burnett, is gone.
As a senior, the Miami transfer guard had 13.5 points and a team-high 3.9 assists per game, all while shooting 80.1 percent at the free throw line and made 35.9 percent of his 4.9 3s per game. Another starting guard that did not begin his DI college career is also gone with Markell Crawford being a senior last season too.
The Memphis transfer had 9.2 points, four rebounds, 2.1 assists, and a team-high 1.2 steals per game, though his shooting from beyond the arc was poor. He made just 28 percent of his 3.3 triples per game.
These losses will give Breein Tyree the chance to go from being a big part of the offense to a massive cog. He started 23 games a season ago as a sophomore, putting on the board 10.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He is also the team’s top returning outside shooter, making 35.6 percent of his 4.1 3s per game.
The losses from a season ago will also lead to Devontae Shuler entering the starting lineup after he had nine starts in 32 appearances a season ago. His 25.9 percent 3-point shooting and 35.2 percent overall field goal conversion rate were very poor as he had six points, 2.7 rebounds, and a steal per game.
Zach Naylor, who was rated by jucorecruiting.com as the No. 19 JUCO transfer in the country should serve as a solid forward for this team. He's listed at 6-foot-8 and had 18.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. He is an excellent shooter, making 82.5 percent of his free throws and 41.5 percent of his 3s.
He is joined by the number five transfer on jucorecruiting.com’s list Brian Haulums, who is a 6-foot-5 sharp shooter. At the JUCO level he had 19.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game last season and made 44.8 percent of his 3s as a freshman.
Forward Bruce Stevens entered the program as a JUCO transfer last season and was one of the team’s most productive players. He was a part-time starter that posted 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a more traditional big man. He did take 1.6 3s per game, converting just 27.5 percent of them.
He will be starting every game this year with 6-foot-6 forwards Marcanvis Hymon and Justas Furmanavicius both graduating. Hymon had 4.4 points and five rebounds as he was a back to the basket big man as he made just 47.8 percent of his free throws and did not attempt a 3-pointer. Furmanavicius made 38.5 percent of his 1.2 3s per game as he registered 3.2 points and three rebounds per game in a reserve role.
This means 7-foot-0 Dominik Olejniczak will need to build off the 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per game he had in mostly a reserve role as a sophomore.
Six-foot-7 forward Blake Hinson is the team's top rated incoming freshman, rated by 247Sports as a four-star recruit. He a shoot first ask questions later type of guy that was a multi-sport athlete in high school that has lots of strength at 230 pounds. He has the range to make perimeter shots, but is very hot and cold. He has the ability to play the three or four spot, but must work on being a more well-rounded player. His defense is improving but is still a work in progress and he is not able to create his own shot and is not a very willing passer.