Conference Preview: SEC

Conference Preview: SEC

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

It was quite the interesting season for the SEC last year, as the normal blue bloods of the conference mostly underachieved while teams such as Alabama and Arkansas rose to the top. Although it was the Crimson Tide that captured the regular season and conference tournament championship, it was the Razorbacks that nearly made it to the Final Four, only to be beaten by eventual national champion Baylor in the Elite Eight. 

Although many must-see freshman leaped to the NBA after one season, the conference rebuilds with arguably the best incoming freshman and transfer classes in college basketball, making this year prone to be one of the most exciting seasons in the conference in recent memory.  

There are many teams capable of being crowned champion at the end of the year. With a strong recruiting class once again and the addition of experienced and talented transfers, Kentucky figures to be the favorite to win the title. However, not far behind are squads such as Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Auburn. The Crimson Tide brings in five-star freshman J.D. Davison and returns Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly. The Razorbacks are again capable of returning to the Elite Eight, as they add one of the best transfer classes in the nation. On the other hand, LSU will be an experienced team to go along with intriguing freshman Efton Reid. Auburn will likely contend for the most improved team in the conference, as coach Bruce Pearl recruited many brilliant transfers and

It was quite the interesting season for the SEC last year, as the normal blue bloods of the conference mostly underachieved while teams such as Alabama and Arkansas rose to the top. Although it was the Crimson Tide that captured the regular season and conference tournament championship, it was the Razorbacks that nearly made it to the Final Four, only to be beaten by eventual national champion Baylor in the Elite Eight. 

Although many must-see freshman leaped to the NBA after one season, the conference rebuilds with arguably the best incoming freshman and transfer classes in college basketball, making this year prone to be one of the most exciting seasons in the conference in recent memory.  

There are many teams capable of being crowned champion at the end of the year. With a strong recruiting class once again and the addition of experienced and talented transfers, Kentucky figures to be the favorite to win the title. However, not far behind are squads such as Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Auburn. The Crimson Tide brings in five-star freshman J.D. Davison and returns Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly. The Razorbacks are again capable of returning to the Elite Eight, as they add one of the best transfer classes in the nation. On the other hand, LSU will be an experienced team to go along with intriguing freshman Efton Reid. Auburn will likely contend for the most improved team in the conference, as coach Bruce Pearl recruited many brilliant transfers and probably the best incoming freshman in the league in Jabari Smith

Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi State could all compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament as well. The Volunteers will have five-star freshman Kennedy Chandler running their offense, which returns three of its top seven scorers. Coach Mike White and the Gators have one of the best guard-center combos in the conference with Myreon Jones and Colin Castleton. Lastly, the Bulldogs return their leading scorer, Iverson Molinar, and their leading rebounder, Tolu Smith, as well as transfers Rocket Watts and Garrison Brooks.

The remaining teams are interchangeable in the standings, as they are almost all rebuilding and seem at least a year away from contending for a spot atop the SEC and a place in the NCAA Tournament. 

Top Players

Overall: Scotty Pippen, G, Vanderbilt

There are an abundance of players that are worthy of the top overall player spot in the conference. However, Pippen, who had a breakthrough sophomore campaign, is the only top-five scorer to return to college. The son of Chicago Bulls' legend Scottie Pippen tested the draft waters before ultimately electing to return to the Commodores for the 2021-22 season. Averaging a career-high 20.3 points per matchup, the 6-3 guard was second in the SEC in scoring behind Cam Thomas, who was drafted in this year's first round by the Brooklyn Nets. The junior will try to lead a young Vanderbilt squad to its first winning season since the 2016-17 campaign. 

Also Considered: Colin Castleton (UF), Jaden Shackelford (ALA), Stanley Umude (ARK), Kellan Grady (UK)

Scoring: Chris Lykes, G, Arkansas

Lykes was arguably one of the most sought-after transfers on the market this offseason before deciding on coach Eric Musselman and the Razorbacks. A three-year performer for the Miami Hurricanes, Lykes has averaged at least 15 points per game in each of the past two seasons while shooting a steady percentage from deep and at the charity stripe. Although the senior is on a much more talented roster filled with capable scorers and is coming off an lingering ankle injury, he should be the Razorbacks' No. 1 scoring threat come November. 

Also Considered: Iverson Molinar (MSU), Scotty Pippen (VAN), Jaden Shackelford (ALA), Myreon Jones (UF), Keyshawn Bryant (SC)

Rebounding: Tolu Smith, C, Mississipi State

Smith was the conference's leading rebounder at 8.5 rebounds per game last season, so there's simply no better option than to put Smith here. The junior had a breakout sophomore campaign with the Bulldogs after transferring in from Western Kentucky and averaged career highs in almost every statistical category beyond just rebounds. The 6-foot-10 center tallied eight total double-doubles and posted at least eight rebounds across 16 different games. 

Also Considered: Keion Brooks (UK), Darius Days (LSU), Garrison Brooks (MSU), Oscar Tshiebwe (UK), Liam Robbins (VAN)

Assists: Sahvir Wheeler, G, Kentucky

After two successful seasons with Georgia, Wheeler could have turned pro but decided to return to college and stay in the conference to play for coach John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. The 5-9 point guard led the SEC in assists by a wide margin in 2020-21 at 7.4 per game and finished in the top-four during his freshman season. Wheeler will have many opportunities to defend his crown this season, as the Wildcats have rebuilt with a strong incoming transfer and recruiting class filled with competent scorers. 

Also Considered: Chris Lykes (ARK), Wendell Green (AUB), Kennedy Chandler (TEN)

Center: Colin Castleton, C, Florida

After getting off to a slow start last year, Castleton burst onto the scene quickly and finished with a fantastic junior year with the Gators. The senior especially dazzled during the Big Dance, as Castleton tallied two double-doubles in the team's two games while averaging 16.5 points and 12.0 rebounds. During 2020-21, the 6-11 center scored in double figures in 16 unique contests while recording a 78.1 percent shooting mark at the charity stripe. Castleton also led the team in rebounding by an appropriate margin at 6.4 boards per appearance. 

Also Considered: John Fulkerson (TEN), Oscar Tshiebwe (UK), Efton Reid (LSU), Liam Robbins (VAN)

Freshman: Jabari Smith, F, Auburn

Auburn is poised to be one of the most improved teams in college basketball this season and Smith is primarily one of the reasons why. Deemed the "full package", Smith is a five-star recruit and projected lottery pick in next year's NBA Draft due to his ability to score at a consistent rate, plus rebound and defend at a high level. He possesses great size and athleticism and will ultimately prove to be a reliable performer on both ends of the floor for the Tigers.

Also Considered: Kennedy Chandler (TEN), TyTy Washington (UK), J.D. Davison (ALA), Efton Reid (LSU)

Sleepers

Jahvon Quinerly, G, Alabama

Starting just seven of 30 games for the Crimson Tide a season ago, Quinerly made the most of his time off the bench and finished second on the team in scoring behind returning teammate Jaden Shackelford at 12.9 points per outing. The junior scored in double figures in each of the last 15 games while shooting a lethal 48.6 percent from three. The shooting guard will likely start for the Tide this year, and couple with the departures of top-scoring options like John Petty, Herbert Jones and Joshua Primo, Quinerly should see more opportunities arise on the offensive end of the floor.

Jermaine Couisnard, G, South Carolina  

Couisnard got off to a great start last season, averaging 12.8 points across the first nine matchups. Down the stretch, the junior finished the year poorly, as Couisnard managed only one game over the last 12 in double figures and missed some time due to a rib injury. With that all aside now, Couisnard will look to return to his freshman form where he reached the 12-point mark in 18 games while recording 39.2 percent overall shooting from the floor. 

Kellan Grady, G, Kentucky  

Grady had a stellar career with the Davidson Wildcats, as he averaged at least 17 points in each of his four years while dominating A10 opponents. Although Grady will play against better competition in the SEC, the graduate transfer should adjust quickly. The guard is the most experienced player on the Wildcats this season, and despite the fact that numerous teams may overlook the guard by the likes of new Wildcats Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington, he will undoubtedly help mentor and lead a young but talented team under coach John Calipari during the 2021-22 season. 

Also Considered: Noah Gurley (ALA), Jarkel Joiner (MISS), Stanley Umude (ARK)

Transfers

Xavier Pinson, G, LSU

Although Pinson arguably played his worst game in front of a national audience during the first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament last season, the guard was an enormous reason why the Tigers returned to the Big Dance. Pinson reached double figures offensively in all but eight games played, as the Chicago native also recorded at least 22 points in four different matchups. Choosing to transfer in the conference at LSU, Pinson will play against the same competition that he mostly dominated last year. He averaged 14.0 points along with 2.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds during conference play and the Big 12/SEC Challenge in 2020-21. Pinson should fit in right away on a much more talented and deeper roster at LSU. 

Myreon Jones, G, Florida

Penn State's leading scorer from a season ago, Jones heads to Gainesville looking to carry the Gators to a sixth-straight NCAA Tournament.  The Birmingham, Alabama native averaged 15.3 points across 25 outings with the Nittany Lions last year while shooting 39.5 percent from deep and 39.4 percent overall from the field. The guard also recorded double figures in all but two games and reached the 20-point plateau in six contests. The Gators lost two of their key guards from last year (Noah Locke and Tre Mann), so Jones will likely be granted with many offensive opportunities in 2021-22. 

Rocket Watts, G, Mississippi State

A former Michigan State Spartan, Watts underachieved during his sophomore season in East Lansing, as the guard averaged less in almost every statistical category from his freshman campaign including points, rebounds and three-pointers made. However, with a new team and fresh start, Watts may be able to return to his freshman form and then some. The talented junior will likely start at point guard from the get go for the Bulldogs who also added other accomplished transfers this offseason including Garrison Brooks and D.J. Jeffries

Also Considered: Stanley Umude (ARK), Amari Davis (MO), K.D. Johnson (AUB), Adam Miller (LSU), Liam Robbins (VAN), CJ Fredrick (UK), Wendell Green (AUB)

Top-10 Players*

  1. Scotty Pippen, G, Vanderbilt
  2. Colin Castleton, C, Florida
  3. Chris Lykes, G, Arkanas
  4. Jaden Shackelford, G, Alabama
  5. Sahvir Wheeler, G, Kentucky
  6. Jabari Smith, F, Auburn
  7. Xavier Pinson, G, LSU
  8. Keyshawn Bryant, F, South Carolina
  9. Stanley Umude, G, Arkansas
  10. Myreon Jones, G, Florida

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author, and may not necessarily correspond with RotoWire's official 2021-22 player rankings.

Projected Team Standings

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

Projected Team Rotations

First NameLast NameSchoolPosition
JahvonQuinerlyAlabamaG
JadenShackelfordAlabamaG
KeonEllisAlabamaG
J.D.DavisonAlabamaG
CharlesBediakoAlabamaF
JuwanGaryAlabamaF
NoahGurleyAlabamaF
ChrisLykesArkansasG
DavonteDavisArkansasG
JDNotaeArkansasG
Au'DieseToneyArkansasG
TreyWadeArkansasF
JaylinWilliamsArkansasF
StanleyUmudeArkansasF
ConnorVanoverArkansasF
ZepJasperAuburnG
WendellGreenAuburnG
JaylinWilliamsAuburnF
JabariSmithAuburnF
WalkerKesslerAuburnF
K.D.JohnsonAuburnG
AlanFlaniganAuburnG
DevanCambridgeAuburnG
TyreeApplebyFloridaG
KeyontaeJohnsonFloridaF
AnthonyDurujiFloridaF
MyreonJonesFloridaG
ColinCastletonFloridaC
PhlandrousFlemingFloridaG
BrandonMcKissicFloridaG
CJFelderFloridaF
P.J.HorneGeorgiaF
AaronCookGeorgiaG
NoahBaumannGeorgiaG
TyronMcMillanGeorgiaF
JabriAbdur-RahimGeorgiaF
JailynIngramGeorgiaF
DalenRidgnalGeorgiaG/F
DavionMintzKentuckyG
KeionBrooksKentuckyF
SahvirWheelerKentuckyG
OscarTshiebweKentuckyF
TytyWashingtonKentuckyG
DaimionCollinsKentuckyF
CJFredrickKentuckyG
KellanGradyKentuckyG
DariusDaysLSUF
AdamMillerLSUG
XavierPinsonLSUG
EftonReidLSUF
TariEasonLSUF
MwaniWilkinsonLSUF
ShareefO'NealLSUF
JarkelJoinerMississippiG
TyeFaganMississippiG
LuisRodriguezMississippiG
RobertAllenMississippiF
NysierBrooksMississippiF
JaemynBrakefieldMississippiF
MatthewMurrellMississippiG
JamesWhiteMississippiG
IversonMolinarMississippi StG
RocketWattsMississippi StG
D.J.JeffriesMississippi StF
GarrisonBrooksMississippi StF
ToluSmithMississippi StC
ShakeelMooreMississippi StG
DerekFountainMississippi StF
DaJuanGordonMissouriG
KobeBrownMissouriF
JavonPickettMissouriG
JarronColemanMissouriG
AmariDavisMissouriG
RonnieDeGrayMissouriF
YayaKeitaMissouriF
AntonBrookshireMissouriG
JermaineCousinardSouth CarolinaG
ChicoCarterSouth CarolinaG
ErikStevensonSouth CarolinaG
AJWilsonSouth CarolinaF
KeyshawnBryantSouth CarolinaG
JamesReeseSouth CarolinaG
WildensLevequeSouth CarolinaC
SantiagoVescoviTennesseeG
Josiah-JordanJamesTennesseeG
JohnFulkersonTennesseeF
VictorBaileyTennesseeF
KennedyChandlerTennesseeG
BrandonHuntley-HatfieldTennesseeF
JustinPowellTennesseeG
AndreGordonTexas A&MG
QuentonJacksonTexas A&MF
JalenJohnsonTexas A&MF
HenryColemanTexas A&MF
JavonteBrownTexas A&MC
MannyObasekiTexas A&MG
MarcusWilliamsTexas A&MG
TyreceRadfordTexas A&MG
ScottyPippen Jr.VanderbiltG
RodneyChatmanVanderbiltG
LiamRobbinsVanderbiltF
QuentinMillora-BrownVanderbiltF
JordanWrightVanderbiltG
MylesStuteVanderbiltF
TyrinLawrenceVanderbiltG
ShaneDezonieVanderbiltG

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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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