Conference Preview: SEC

Conference Preview: SEC

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

The SEC had numerous intriguing teams that could have made a deep run in the 2020 NCAA Tournament last season before it was ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league will continue to run deep in 2020-21 with many teams capable at making the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee appears to be the strongest team in the conference, although it may have tough competition from Kentucky if Oliver Sarr is ultimately granted a waiver for eligibility this season. 

The league doesn't retain any of its top-10 leading scorers from a season ago, so the scoring title is very much up in the air. With many players capable of accomplishing the crown, the 2020-21 campaign figures to be alluring. Keyontae Johnson is the only returning athlete nominated All-SEC First-Team in 2019-20 and figures to be the early candidate for SEC Preseason Player of the Year. The conference will also once again be loaded with young talent headlined by nine incoming freshman from Rivals' top-40 list. 

Top Players

Overall: Keyontae Johnson, F, Florida

After testing the waters of the NBA Draft, Johnson ultimately elected to return for his junior season and should be considered the frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year. An All-SEC First-Team pick from a season ago, Johnson averaged a team-best 14.1 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds. The forward also tallied eight double-doubles. With the departures of Kerry Blackshear and Andrew Nembhard, two Gators that finished in the team's top-3 in scoring in

The SEC had numerous intriguing teams that could have made a deep run in the 2020 NCAA Tournament last season before it was ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league will continue to run deep in 2020-21 with many teams capable at making the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee appears to be the strongest team in the conference, although it may have tough competition from Kentucky if Oliver Sarr is ultimately granted a waiver for eligibility this season. 

The league doesn't retain any of its top-10 leading scorers from a season ago, so the scoring title is very much up in the air. With many players capable of accomplishing the crown, the 2020-21 campaign figures to be alluring. Keyontae Johnson is the only returning athlete nominated All-SEC First-Team in 2019-20 and figures to be the early candidate for SEC Preseason Player of the Year. The conference will also once again be loaded with young talent headlined by nine incoming freshman from Rivals' top-40 list. 

Top Players

Overall: Keyontae Johnson, F, Florida

After testing the waters of the NBA Draft, Johnson ultimately elected to return for his junior season and should be considered the frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year. An All-SEC First-Team pick from a season ago, Johnson averaged a team-best 14.1 points per game to go along with 7.1 rebounds. The forward also tallied eight double-doubles. With the departures of Kerry Blackshear and Andrew Nembhard, two Gators that finished in the team's top-3 in scoring in 2019-20, Johnson will definitely be the go-to scorer for a team that was longing for offense last year. 

Scoring: Jaden Shackelford, G, Alabama

As a freshman in 2019-20, Shackelford showed glimpses of appealing offensive potential. Shackelford finished the year on a strong note, managing double figures in every game from Jan. 18 onwards, posting 18.4 points per contest. He also reached the 15-point mark in 17 contests and drained a not-too-shabby 36 percent of his three-pointers. Although Alabama retains three of its top-4 scorers from a season ago, leading-scorer Kira Lewis is gone and that should give way for Shackelford to gain even more opportunities this season. 

Also Considered: A.J. Lawson, G, South Carolina; John Petty, G, Alabama; Trendon Watford, F, LSU; Devontae Shuler, G, Ole Miss

Rebounding: Kevin Marfo, C, Texas A&M

Marfo is probably the most intriguing transfer in the conference, but as the leading rebounder in the NCAA last season, you have to put him here. The center averaged an astonishing 13.3 rebounds over 30 games with Quinnipiac and only failed to grab less than 10 rebounds just one time. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound Marfo will face stronger and bigger players in the SEC, but that shouldn't overshadow the fact that he has improved in each of the past three seasons and will enter Texas A&M with significant experience under his belt. 

Also Considered: Trendon Watford, F, LSU; Abdul Ado, C, Mississippi State; Yves Pons, F, Tennessee 

Assists: Sahvir Wheeler, G, Georgia

Wheeler finished fourth in the conference last season with 4.5 assists per game and is the top returning assist performer. The sophomore dished out at least five assists in 13-of-31 appearances with the Bulldogs in 2019-20. Although top-scorer Anthony Edwards decided to turn pro after one season, Wheeler will have a plethora of options to try to get involved in the offense, including Tyree Crump and transfers P.J. Horne and Andrew Garcia

Also Considered: Javonte Smart, G, LSU; Dru Smith, G, Missouri 

Center: John Fulkerson, Tennessee

The senior finished the 2019-20 season on a roaring note, tallying at least 15 points in six of his last seven games including a career-best 27 points against Kentucky on March 3. Fulkerson was also the leading rebounder for the Volunteers at 5.9 per contest. Fulkerson improved greatly from his sophomore campaign to his junior season, and yet, there's still room for improvement heading into his season year. 

Also Considered: Darius Days, LSU, Kevin Marfo, Texas A&M

Freshman: BJ Boston, G, Kentucky

The highest-ranked recruit on the Wildcats this season, Boston should make an instant impact on the team. The 6-7 shooting guard, who is projected to be a top-10 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, can stroke it from deep with a quick release or kill opposing defenses by his above average ball-handling skills to get to the rim. Many have compared the California native's skillset to that of former Kentucky guard Devin Booker.   

Also Considered: Terrence Clarke, F, Kentucky; Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee; Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn; Cam Thomas, G, LSU; Matthew Murrell, G, Mississippi 
 

Sleepers

Scottie Lewis, G, Florida 

A highly-touted recruit heading into 2019-20, Lewis didn't exactly live up to expectations, as he averaged 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds over 30 appearances while shooting 44 percent from the field. That being said, there's room for improvement with a year of experience. The Gators will be looking for an instant impact offensively out of the gates, something that the team struggled with last year. There's reason to believe Lewis can be that spark.  

 Scotty Pippen Jr., G, Vanderbilt 

Playing on the conference dweller, Pippen didn't get the respect that he ultimately deserved last season. The 6-1 guard had a superb freshman campaign, as he averaged 12.0 points and 3.6 assists while shooting 36 percent from three to earn a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team. Pippen managed to reach the 15-point mark in 10 contests and totaled at least 20 points three different times. With leading scorer Saben Lee electing to remain in the NBA Draft, Pippen will likely be the Commodores' go-to guy offensively in 2020-21. 

Savion Flagg, F, Texas A&M

After an outstanding sophomore year, averaging 13.9 points and 7.7 rebounds, Flagg didn't seem like himself during the 2019-20 season. The forward posted just 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting a career-worst 41-percent overall from the floor. However, the senior concluded last year with seven-of-the-final-eight games in double figures while recording his first double-double. Flagg was the second-leading scorer on the team a season ago, and with Josh Nebo having graduated, Flagg could likely see the majority of offensive looks for the Aggies this year. 

Also Considered: Tre Mann, G, Florida; Keion Brooks, F, Kentucky; KJ Buffen, F, Mississippi; Xavier Pinson, G, Missouri; Jermaine Couisnard, G, South Carolina

Transfers

E.J. Anosike, F, Tennessee 

The graduate transfer has averaged at least 14 points in each of the last two seasons for Sacred Heart and is also capable of providing a double-double day in and day out. Anosike accomplished the feat an astonishing 21 times a year ago. Anosike will fight right in with the loaded Volunteers at the forward position, presumably behind Yves Pons to open the 2020-21 campaign. 

Jalen Tate, F, Arkansas 

Tate is coming off a solid campaign with Northern Kentucky where he posted 13.9 points and 5.4 boards per contest as a redshirt junior. Although his scoring and rebounding averages were new career-best marks, Tate saw his efficiency from distance take a major spill. He drained just 18.2 percent of his three-point attempts, all the way down from 40.7 percent his sophomore season. With Mason Jones staying in the NBA Draft, Tate will presumably be the starting point-guard to begin the year for the Razorbacks.

Jahvon Quinerly, G, Alabama

Quinerly was the prized freshman of the Villanova recruiting class back in 2018. The guard didn't pan out as expected with the Wildcats, however, as Quinerly averaged just 3.2 points in 25 games. The immense talent is still there though, and with a full year of sitting out due to the NCAA transfer rules, the former McDonalds' All-American will try to live up to his hype. 

Top-10 Players*

  1. Keyontae Johnson, F, Florida
  2. Trendon Watford, F, LSU
  3. Javonte Smart, G, LSU
  4. Jaden Shackelford, G, Alabama
  5. Kevin Marfo, C, Texas A&M
  6. A.J. Lawson, G, South Carolina
  7. John Petty, G, Alabama
  8. BJ Boston, G, Kentucky
  9. Devontae Shuler, G, Ole Miss
  10. Sharife Cooper, G, Auburn

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author, and may not necessarily correspond with Rotowire's official 2020-21 player rankings.

Projected Team Standings

  1. Tennessee
  2. Kentucky
  3. LSU
  4. Florida
  5. Alabama
  6. Arkansas
  7. Auburn
  8. Mississippi State
  9. Texas A&M
  10. South Carolina
  11. Ole Miss
  12. Georgia
  13. Missouri
  14. Vanderbilt

Team Notes: The Volunteers bring back four of their top-6 scorers from a year ago along with a strong incoming recruiting class and skilled transfers. Kentucky once again has a recruiting class led by two top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100. LSU returns two of its top-4 scorers. The Gators will arguably have the conference's best all-around player along with young talent that underperformed from a season ago. Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn all suffered big losses, but these teams will likely find themselves in the mix for the NCAA Tournament and play spoiler to any of the top teams in the conference. 

Projected Rotations

For deeper or SEC-only leagues, we'll include projected team rotations here. Asterisks denote any player whose status is uncertain for the upcoming season. Think we left anyone out? Let us know in the comments.

First NameLast NameSchoolPosition
JohnPettyAlabamaG
JadenShackelfordAlabamaG
JahvonQuinerlyAlabamaG
HerbJonesAlabamaG
AlexReeseAlabamaF
JordanBrunerAlabamaF
JoshPrimoAlabamaG
KeonEllisAlabamaG
DesiSillsArkansasG
VanceJacksonArkansasF
ConnorVanoverArkansasF
MosesMoodyArkansasG
JalenTateArkansasG
JustinSmithArkansasF
JDNotaeArkansasG
DevanCambridgeAuburnG
ShariffeCooperAuburnG
JTThorAuburnF
JustinPowellAuburnG
JamalJohnsonAuburnG
AlanFlaniganAuburnG
JaylinWilliamsAuburnF
TyrellJonesAuburnG
ScottieLewisFloridaF
NoahLockeFloridaG
TreMannFloridaG
KeyontaeJohnsonFloridaF
OmarPayneFloridaC
TyreeApplebyFloridaG
AnthonyDurujiFloridaF
ToumaniCamaraGeorgiaF
P.J.HorneGeorgiaF
SahvirWheelerGeorgiaG
ChristianBrownGeorgiaF
JustinKierGeorgiaG
K.D.JohnsonGeorgiaG
TyeFaganGeorgiaG
TyronMcMillanGeorgiaF
DavionMintzKentuckyG
KeionBrooksKentuckyF
OlivierSarrKentuckyF
BJBostonKentuckyF
TerranceClarkeKentuckyF
DevinAskewKentuckyG
IsaiahJacksonKentuckyF
LanceWareKentuckyF
Cam'RomFletcherKentuckyF
DariusDaysLSUF
JavonteSmartLSUG
TrendonWatfordLSUF
ShareefO'Neal*LSUF
JoshLeBlancLSUF
CharlesManningLSUG
Cam ThomasLSUG
RomelloWhiteMississippiF
DevontaeShulerMississippiG
K.J.BuffenMississippiF
KhadimSyMississippiC
DimenicoVaughnMississippiG
JarkelJoinerMississippiG
LuisRodriguezMississippiG
AbdulAdoMississippi StC
IversonMolinarMississippi StG
D.J.StewartMississippi StG
JalenJohnsonMississippi StF
DeivonSmithMississippi StG
JavianDavisMississippi StF
MarkSmithMissouriF
JeremiahTilmonMissouriC
XavierPinsonMissouriG
JavonPickettMissouriG
TorrenceWatsonMissouriG
DruSmithMissouriG
MitchellSmithMissouriF
KobeBrownMissouriF
A.J.LawsonSouth CarolinaF
KeyshawnBryantSouth CarolinaG
JustinMinayaSouth CarolinaF
JermaineCousinardSouth CarolinaG
SeventhWoodsSouth CarolinaG
WildensLevequeSouth CarolinaC
AlonzoFrinkSouth CarolinaF
JosiahJamesTennesseeG
SantiagoVescoviTennesseeG
JohnFulkersonTennesseeF
YvesPonsTennesseeF
VictorBaileyTennesseeF
E.J.AnosikeTennesseeF
JadenSpringerTennesseeG
KeonJohnsonTennesseeG
SavionFlaggTexas A&MF
Jay JayChandlerTexas A&MG
QuentonJacksonTexas A&MF
KevinMarfoTexas A&MF
AndreGordonTexas A&MG
EmmanuelMillerTexas A&MF
HassanDiarraTexas A&MG
ScottyPippen Jr.VanderbiltG
DylanDisuVanderbiltF
ClevonBrownVanderbiltF
MaxwellEvansVanderbiltG
D.J.HarveyVanderbiltF
EjikeObinnaVanderbiltC
QuentinMillora-BrownVanderbiltF

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Markus Tobias
Markus started covering fantasy sports in 2017, the same year he joined RotoWire. He currently covers college basketball, the NBA and the WNBA for RotoWire. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2019 with a degree in Marketing and Supply Chain Management.
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