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SEC College Basketball Preview 2022-23

The SEC that was once known for being a one dimensional football powerhouse has seen significant strides on the Basketball side of things. No longer do college basketball fans lock in Kentucky as conference champions without a glance at the rest of the conference, and for good reason, as the SEC will enter the 2022-23 season with five ranked teams, four of them being in the top-15. The reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe is back for another season in the SEC, while many other top returnees and incoming talent's shape the conference such as Nick Smith Jr., Santiago Vescovi, Sahvir Wheeler, and Colin Castleton. Teams like Kentucky, Arkansas, and Tennessee are looking like top-2 seed hopefuls while Alabama and Auburn are just outside that conversation. It's shaping up to be a fun and competitive year of SEC Basketball.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/ Associated Press

1. Kentucky Wildcats

After an embarrassing loss to 15-seed St. Peter's in the NCAA Tournament back in March, John Calipari looks to regroup and go on the run he wasn't able to last time around. Calipari is being called upon to make a deep run and has more than enough weapons to do so. Headlined by the National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe and Bob Cousy finalist Sahvir Wheeler, Kentucky looks to once again mix in seasoned veterans with star-studded Freshman that include five-stars Cason Wallace, Chris Livingston, Ugonna Onyenso, and three-star Adou Thiero. Jacob Toppin showed positive development to his offensive game in Kentucky's preseason tour in the Bahama's. Toppin averaged 16.8 points per game while shooting 53.3% from three, he will finally have the reigns to the Power Forward spot with Keion Brooks hitting the portal. Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick sat out all of last year battling injuries but will look to finally make an impact in a Blue and white uniform. CJ Fredrick led Kentucky in scoring during their first exhibition against Missouri Western State with 15 points on 4-7 3PT shooting, he will add much needed perimeter scoring to this years Kentucky squad. The unspoken hero and MVP of Kentucky's offseason performances has been Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves who won the MVP of the Big Blue Bahamas tour averaging 17 points per game on 14-27 from 3. He will undoubtably be the best shot creator and maker on the roster this year and will pair up with Sahvir Wheeler and Cason Wallace to finalize the backcourt. Kentucky will have Daimion Collins and Lance Ware off the bench to give the frontcourt depth and provide a rest for Oscar (If he ever needs it). With this roster on hand for John Calipari, anything less than a final-four will be seen as a disappointment by the Big Blue Nation.

2. Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee is coming off yet another successful season at 27-8 and winning the SEC Tournament title. Veterans like Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James are back for another run and due for an ALL-SEC First team season, while freshmen from last year like Zakai Zeigler and Jonas Aidoo are ready for their breakout seasons. Tennessee's newcomers, Five-star Julian Phillips and Indiana State transfer Tyreke Key, will bring a large impact to the already seasoned roster in Knoxville. Tyreke Key showed off his abilities in their scrimmage against Consensus top-3 team Gonzaga where he exploded for 26 points on 4-7 from 3. The front-court of this Tennessee team should be lock down, they already put that on display by suppressing Drew Timme as much as possible in their scrimmage but this teams ceiling could elevate with the offensive development from either Oliver Nkamhoua or Uros Plavsic. Rick Barnes has been coaching at Tennessee since 2015, but has yet to even make an elite-eight at Tennessee with a couple of very good teams. Tennessee has capable backup guards in freshman B.J. Edwards and Sophomore Jahmai Mashack that can come in when needed as well. With a First-Team capable backcourt and talented forwards on the roster, Tennessee has one of their best rosters on paper since the 2018-19 season where they held a #1 ranking for an extended period of time. I can't name ten better teams in the preseason than Tennessee. The question many will be asking is what's different this year? Rick Barnes & Co. will just have to show that in March.

3. Arkansas Razorbacks

Arkansas Basketball is back. Eric Musselman has revived the program in Fayetteville with a unique type of swagger. Arkansas brings in the #2 overall recruiting class that consists of three McDonalds All Americans. Nick Smith Jr. is arguably the best freshman in the whole country and is drawing First-team All American hype, he is joined by 6'7 guard Anthony Black who will be in a "Point Forward" role similar to how Cade Cunningham was utilized at Oklahoma State, and Jordan Walsh who is an athletic freak with a raw skillset. Four-stars Derrian Ford, Barry Dunning, and Joseph Pinion don't look to be as instant impact as the first three mentioned but will provide needed backup minutes when called upon and are key pieces to what Musselman continues to build in Fayetteville. I mentioned six incoming freshman, but Arkansas also brings in five transfers, amounting to 11 newcomers for the Razorbacks this season. Ricky Council IV from Wichita State, Jalen Graham from Arizona State, Trevon Brazile from Missouri, and the Mitchell Twins from Rhode Island are the transfers Musselman decided to bring in to fill a roster that lost 10 players from last year. After a rough start to last season, Musselman had his team in top shape by March that resulted in the Razorback's second straight Elite Eight appearance where they knocked off the top-seeded Gonzaga along the way. Arkansas likely concludes the SEC's group of national title contenders along with Kentucky and Tennessee, and should be a top-15 team all season with top-5 potential once Musselman gets his completely new team adjusted to the system. This year's Arkansas team has one of those vibes that makes me think teams won't want to see them come Tourney time.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

After a year of high expectations yet underachievement, Alabama gets a mostly fresh roster for the upcoming season that is nothing short of talented. Alabama returns Standouts like Jahvon Quinerly and Charles Bediako who will be two of the main focal points once Quinerly returns from injury, which unfortunately isn't expected until some time after the season beings. Charles Bediako was forced into a large role as a true-freshman, but with a year under his belt he has SEC Defensive Player of the Year potential. The majority of Alabama's production is gonna come from guys we have not yet seen in an Alabama uniform. Five-stars Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley were both highly touted and chose to take their talents to Tuscaloosa. Brandon Miller could very well be the star of this team from the get-go, and with lottery potential in next year's NBA Draft, he could be not just one of the country's top freshman, but players in general. Jaden Bradley will likely play more of a sixth man role when Jahvon Quinerly comes back, but until then he will share time with Mark Sears, one of the top transfers in the country who came in from Ohio. Sears has the ability to be one of the best point guards in all of America this upcoming season. It is my best belief that there are few who will be able to bring out all of the talent Nate Oats has this season like Mark Sears will. Alabama fans are probably dying to see Nimari Burnett play, and for good reason. Burnett missed all of last season after transferring in from Texas Tech, but he has electric potential and could prove to be one of the top guards in the SEC. The former five-star will provide scoring from all three-levels for the Crimson Tide this season.

5. Auburn Tigers

After one of the most successful regular season in Auburn Basketball history, Bruce Pearl is looking to carry his momentum into the 2022-23 season. Replacing Jabari Smith Jr. and Walker Kessler in the front court will prove to be practically impossible, but Coach Pearl did go out and get one of the most touted transfers in Morehead State transfer Johni Broome and Five-star Yohan Traore. That alone is an intriguing and versatile front court but forward Jaylin Williams is back for his senior season and Dylan Cardwell is back for his third year in the program, so we will have to wait and see how Bruce Pearl is gonna rotate minutes and how he will fit them together. Nonetheless, Bruce Pearl may not have a Smith-Kessler duo in the front court anymore, but he doesn't lack the capable pieces in that area. For Auburn, the bigger question is the backcourt. Auburn started Wendell Green Jr. and KD Johnson at the one and two last season, and both are back for their second year in the program. The pair started out the season strong as Auburn began their upsurge to a #1 ranking but along with Auburn, it feels like a decline happened among Green and Johnson. Wendell Green Jr. had seven games in February and March where he shot below 30% from the field and even threw seven turnovers in a game against Arkansas late in the season. KD Johnson even shot 0-14 from the field in Auburn's loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tourney. While I could sit here all day and talk about what went good and what went wrong for Auburn's backcourt pair, the truth is Auburn's backcourt is what truly held the team back from a deep run in March considering who made up their front court. With that being said, I expect a much more efficient year from the teams pair. Zep Jasper is back to provide backup guard minutes and play vicious defense on opposing guards. Allen Flanigan had NBA Draft buzz surrounding him before last season but an injury hindered his play for the most part, he's back at Auburn for his senior season. The player that seems to be flying under the radar the most for Auburn is four-star freshman Chance Westry. Westry has a large 6'6 build at the guard spot and could run the one for Auburn in place of Wendell Green Jr. when needed. Westry could be a first round pick two years from now with the right development.

6. Florida Gators

Florida finally has a refreshing look in their basketball program with Mike White taking the Georgia job. After many years of expecting successful seasons from Mike White and him never delivering, Florida went out and hired San Francisco coach Todd Golden. The Gators have their main piece in All-SEC Center Colin Castleton who averaged 16-pts and 9-rebs last season. He will look to be named to the SEC first-team this season. Outside of Castleton, Florida returns a decent amount of contributors from Mike White's final team such as Kowacie Reeves, Niels Lane, CJ Felder, Jason Jitoboh and Myreon Jones. Those returnees will be large contributors for the start of the Todd Golden era, especially Reeves who is one of my top candidates in the SEC to breakout. Todd Golden was able to attract a talented transfer class that consists of Trey Bonham from VMI, Will Richard from Belmont, Alex Fudge from LSU, and Kyle Lofton from St. Bonaventure. Kyle Lofton, Will Richard, and Trey Bonham could prove to be one of the top backcourts in the conference which is super exciting for Gator fans. Riley Kugel is an intriguing freshman prospect that could make an instant-impact. Kugel has NBA potential with God-given athleticism at 6'5 and could prove to be a gem that Todd Golden was able to snag late in the recruiting process after he backed off of his pledge from Mississippi State. Todd Golden has a lot of pieces to work with for his first season at Florida. How he decides to mesh returning talent with incoming talent while utilizing one of the top center's in America with Colin Castleton will be interesting to see.

7. Texas A&M Aggies

Texas A&M is coming off a season where they exceeded all expectations and just barely missed the big dance. While they lose Quenton Jackson, who scored in double figures in 21 of the final 22 games for the Aggies, Texas A&M returns major production from key rotational players such as Henry Coleman III, Tyrece Radford, and Wade Taylor. Henry Coleman could very likely see his name on an All-SEC team this season. Buzz Williams wasn’t quiet in the transfer portal this year as he brought in instant impact transfers Khalen Robinson from Arkansas, Julius Marble from Michigan state, Dexter Dennis from Wichita State, and Andersson Garcia from Mississippi State. Robinson saw limited time at Arkansas the past two years, but has facilitating abilities that could be put to more use with more minutes in the Aggies system. Julius Marble saw varying minutes in Tom Izzo’s system the past couple of seasons and should provide key minutes for Buzz Williams at the five spot this upcoming season. Dexter Dennis won AAC Defensive Player of the Year this past season at Wichita State, he will prove to be a glue guy for the Aggies this year. Manny Obaseki could have a breakout year in an increased role this season for the Aggies. Overall, Buzz Williams has a lot to carry over from last year which makes me believe the Aggies could finally see their way back to the Big Dance.

8. LSU Tigers

LSU Basketball unexpectedly sees themselves in a new era as former Murray St. Coach Matt McMahon takes over for Will Wade after his firing last March. The Tigers see heavy turnover from last years roster as Tari Eason, Darius Days, and Shareef O’Neal left for the draft and others such as Eric Gaines, Xavier Pinson, Brandon Murray, Alex Fudge, Efton Reid III, and Bradley Ezewiro all transferred out of the program. Coach McMahon was followed to LSU by three former Racers: Trae Hannibal, Justice Hill who was First Team All-OVC, and the OVC Player of the Year KJ Williams. Justice Hill will likely be the Tiger’s best option at the lead guard spot, while KJ Williams will fill out the Center role. Mwani Wilkinson and Justice Williams are the only returners that saw meaningful minutes for LSU last season, and the time feels right for both of them to have breakout seasons. Cam Hayes from NC State transferred in, he could possibly have a breakout year in a new system. His best spot might be in a sixth-man role behind Justice Hill. Matt McMahon immediately showed he won’t fall behind in recruiting as he pulled in Five-star Tyrell Ward, Four-stars Jalen Reed and Shawn Phillips, and Three-star Corneilous Williams. I see Tyrell Ward as an instant impact piece for Matt McMahon’s this season and the others as long-term developmental pieces. If the SEC did a Comeback Player of the Year, it would be Adam Miller. Miller transferred in from Illinois prior to last season where he averaged 8.3 points per game on a national title contending team that consisted of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Miller entered the transfer portal once again this offseason but ultimately chose to take his name out and play for coach McMahon at LSU. I’m sure both LSU fans and Adam Miller himself are both anxious to see him on the court as a Tiger for the first time. Matt McMahon certainly has a feasible roster to work with this upcoming season.

9. Ole Miss Rebels

This year it feels like Ole Miss has both boom and bust potential. Matthew Murrell showed a lot of good things during his Sophomore campaign last year and it feels like its his time to lead the Rebels with Jarkel Joiner gone. It was reported not long ago that Daeshun Ruffin will miss the team's opener against Alcorn State and be week-to-week with a bone bruise. I like what he can bring to this rebel's team as the lead facilitator. Jaemyn Brakefield seems like he is itching to breakout in his third season of college basketball, second with the rebels. This Ole Miss team has more talent than usual, and if they put it all together maybe they could surprise some people. I don't think Kermit Davis has a best set of five players on this roster, I think he could mix and match a lot, as no one outside of Murrell, Ruffin, and Brakefield really stand out. There are some questions on this roster but I think Ole Miss fans have something to be optimistic about when Ruffin returns to the lineup.

10. Missouri Tigers

The first year of the Dennis Gates era at Missouri has two heavyhitters. The Tigers landed Missouri State transfer Isiaih Mosley, arguably the top transfer in the portal and one of the best guards in all of America. He will provide most of the scoring for the Tigers. Kobe Brown is back for his senior season with Mizzou and after a All-SEC Second team season, he's looking to garner a First-team nod. Brown was one of the most physically empowering players in the SEC last year and will only be better this year. The Mosley-Brown duo will be one of the best in the conference, if worst comes to worst, Missouri will have a two man game between Mosley and Brown. Clemson transfer Nick Honor should be the point guard of this Tigers team and JUCO transfer Sean East will likely be his backup. Four star Aidan Shaw should be a good developmental piece off the bench. I feel like Gates' game plan will be to go to Isiaih Mosley and Kobe Brown while the others will have to buy in and play around them. I don't expect a tourney appearance from Missouri in year one of the Gates' era, but moving on from Cuonzo Martin was a step in the right direction for the program.

11. Vanderbilt Commodores

Scotty Pippen Jr. is gone, but Jordan Wright, Myles Stute, Liam Robbins, and Trey Thomas are back among key contributors to last year's Vandy squad. Jordan Wright will have the keys to take over the team this year with Pippen Jr. gone. It wouldn't be surprising to see him boost his points up to 15+ a game and see himself on an All-SEC team come March. Both Myles Stute and Liam Robbins will be viable backup options on the offensive side, and with Robbins' large frame, he will continue to alter shots on the defensive side. Trey Thomas will likely continue to be in a sixth man type of role where his knockdown shooting will be useful for the Commodores. Ezra Manjon transferred in from UC Davis and will fill the lead guard void that Scotty Pippen Jr. left. It is hard to replace such big shoes, but Jerry Stackhouse believes he has the guy to do so. Jerry Stackhouse has a large incoming freshman class, with three who I believe can make a large impact. Lee Dort, Noah Shelby, and Colin Smith are all top-100 recruits who can help this Vandy team from day one, with Dort using his large 6'10 255 lb frame to join Quentin Millora-Brown backing up Liam Robbins at the five, Noah Shelby will be able to plug in at either guard spot and extend the floor with his deep shooting ability, and Colin Smith will be able to play the 3 or 4 and be a viable bench option. Overall, Coach Stackhouse has talented options to work with and promising prospects for the future.

12. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Ben Howland is out at Mississippi State after amounting to a 46-44 record in the SEC the previous five years with only one Tournament appearance. The one to replace him: Chris Jans. Chris Jans was 122-32 as the Head coach at New Mexico State over the past five years with three tournament appearances. The Bulldogs will be without Iverson Molinar who led the Bulldogs in scoring each of the past two seasons but do return their second best player, Tolu Smith. One of the best defensive players in the conference, Tolu Smith will most likely see his name on one of the All-SEC teams as we end the season. Tolu Smith will be asked to do a lot on this year's Mississippi State team. D.J. Jeffries, a former top-50 recruit is back for his fourth year of College Basketball. His career has not panned out how many expected, but the potential will always be there for him, there's a big opportunity for him to make a statement in his final year in College. Shakeel Moore is the team's only returnee from the backcourt, he should see an increased role this season as well. Chris Jans brought in three transfers to round out his backcourt for this season, Eric Reed from Southeast Missouri State, Dashawn Davis from Oregon State, and Jamal Horton at Albany. Reed was an All-OVC selection last season, Davis led the Pac-12 in assists, and Horton took home America East Defensive Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see how they pair together and how their games translate in a more competitive conference. In the front court Jans took Will McNair from New Mexico State to Mississippi with him and brought in Tyler Stevenson from Southern Miss. Kimani Hamilton is the teams only four-star recruit, and at a good 6'8 he could see valuable minutes on this team. As the Chris Jans era begins at Mississippi State, it will be interesting to see how it compares to Ben Howland's time.

13. Georgia Bulldogs

I'm not sure Mike White was the answer Georgia fans were looking for to salvage the Basketball program at this point. Mike White had some above the average seasons at Florida and I would be surprised to see him manage to do significantly better here at Georgia. Georgia loses a total of ten players from last year's roster. The two notable ones being Aaron Cook and P.J. Horne who both graduated. Eight others transferred out with the firing of Tom Crean and the hiring of Mike White. Thankfully Georgia returns Kario Oquendo, one of the top guards in the conference and one of the highest flyers in all of College Basketball. He led the Bulldogs in scoring last season and will once again be the team's best player. Braelen Bridges is back to fill out the five spot for the Bulldogs and so is Jailyn Ingram, who missed most of last year due to injury. 6'8 wing Jabri Abdur-Rahim is now in his second year at Georgia after transferring from Virginia, he could see a breakout year if things go right. Georgia brought in Terry Roberts from Bradley and Justin Hill from Longwood to provide backcourt strength, they both led their respective teams in scoring last season. Other transfers such as Jusuan Holt from Alabama, Frank Anselem from Syracuse, and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe from Oklahoma State all struggled to find time in the rotation at their schools and as a result, transferred to Georgia where there would be sure playing time. KyeRon Lindsay is the teams only freshman, the top-100 recruit could find playing time on what seems to be a somewhat weak roster.

14. South Carolina Gamecocks

Unfortunately South Carolina is at #14 for a reason. Frank Martin is out and Lamont Paris is in. The Gamecocks lose their top six scorers, as James Reese V graduated, Jermaine Couisnard transferred to Oregon, Erik Stevenson to West Virginia, Devin Carter to Providence, Keyshawn Bryant to South Florida, and three others Wildens Leveque, Brandon Martin, and TaQuan Woodley all followed Frank Martin to UMass. That means 85% of the production from last years squad is gone. No returnee on this current South Carolina roster averaged more than five points a game last season. There are two bright spots to point out on this South Carolina roster, the most notable being GG Jackson III, the former #1 prospect in the class of 2023 who decommitted from North Carolina to ultimately committed to South Carolina and reclassified in order to play College Basketball this season and Ohio State transfer Meechie Johnson. With the way things are looking right now, GG Jackson may be the one bright spot on this team. Jackson will likely be a lottery pick come next draft, something South Carolina has not had since 1974. Jackson will be one of the youngest players in all of College Basketball this season, so it will be intriguing to see how he handles the adjustment from high school basketball to college basketball in such a short time though there is no question about his potential and ability. Meechie Johnson saw a limited role at Ohio State, only averaging about four points a game to go along with one assist. With this South Carolina roster it seems like he will be the starting point guard. The former four-star prospect looks to find his footing in a surplus amount of minutes on a weak South Carolina roster. There are not many positives for this South Carolina roster, Lamont Paris is gonna have to make due with what he has in a competitive SEC. That might be a disaster when using the eye test to look at the roster.


All-Conference Teams

Photo Credit: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The SEC All-Conference teams this year has a wide variety of seasoned veterans and Star-studded freshmen with lottery pick potential. The SEC is better than ever, it should be exciting to see who the best players in the conference are come Tournament time.

All-SEC First Team

G - Santiago Vescovi - TENN

G - Nick Smith Jr. - ARK

G - Isiaih Mosley - MIZ

C - Colin Castleton - UF

C - Oscar Tshiebwe - UK

All-SEC Second Team

G - Sahvir Wheeler - UK

G - Zakai Ziegler - TENN

F - Brandon Miller - ALA

F - Josiah-Jordan James - TENN

C - Tolu Smith - MSST

All-SEC Defensive Team

G - Zakai Ziegler - TENN

G - Cason Wallace - UK

G - Dexter Dennis - TAMU

C- Oscar Tshiebwe - UK

C - Charles Bediako - ALA

All-SEC Freshman Team

G - Cason Wallace - UK

G - Nick Smith Jr. - ARK

F - Julian Phillips - TENN

F - Brandon Miller - ALA

F - GG Jackson - SC


All-Conference Awards

Photo Credit: Arkansas Athletics

SEC Player of the Year

Oscar Tshiebwe - UK

SEC Coach of the Year

John Calipari - UK

SEC Defensive Player of the Year

Charles Bediako - ALA

SEC Freshman of the Year

Nick Smith Jr. - ARK

SEC Sixth-Man of the Year

Jaden Bradley - ALA

Comeback Player of the Year

Adam Miller - LSU

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