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SEC Basketball Preview

We give you our predictions for coach of the year, players of the year, newcomers of the year, and a surprise team to watch out for in the SEC this season.

Alex Poythress and Kentucky, along with the Florida Gators, are likely to be the class of the league this year.
Alex Poythress and Kentucky, along with the Florida Gators, are likely to be the class of the league this year.
Andy Lyons

Frank Martin gets tired of hearing about the plight of the SEC.  According to him, it's one of the best conferences in the nation, proven in part because last year's national runner-up - Kentucky - lost six games in the SEC last year.

While I don't agree with Martin on this point - the SEC still will probably only get three teams in the NCAAs this year - the conference does continue to improve in the middle, and it's likely that number will increase as new coaches continue to solidify their programs.  Still, for now, it's Kentucky and Florida's world, with 12 improving programs looking to crack into the top tier.

With that as our general overview, here's our predictions for SEC honors this year -

Coach of the Year - John Calipari

Mike Anderson of Arkansas may win the award, but given what Calipari has to do every year with integrating new talent and putting together winners, it's hard not to say the guy who brings in all that talent and gets it to play at a championship level isn't doing the best job.  It isn't the interesting answer, but it's the right one.

SEC Player of the Year - Michael Frazier

Frazier will be the best player on a Florida team that has a great chance to make considerable noise in the nation this year.  Billy Donovan probably doesn't have quite as strong a team as he had last year, and with fewer supporting cast members, Frazier's all the more likely to carry the load night-in, night-out for the Gators.

SEC First Team

G - Michael Frazier, FLA

G - Jarvis Summers, MISS

G - Aaron Harrison, UK

F - Bobby Portis, ARK

F - Jordan Mickey, LSU

Portis and Mickey are the two post players in the league that no one will match up with well in the conference.  Summers continues to be one of the best players in the league, and he'll have plenty of opportunities to display that on a Rebels team that needs his production.

SEC Second Team

G - Sindarius Thornwell, USC

G - Kenny Gaines, UGA

G - K.T. Harrell

F - Jalen Jones, TAMU

F - Josh Richardson, TENN

These guys can be categorized as "best players on their teams."  You know about Thornwell.  Richardson will try to carry a Tennessee team replacing all its other major parts.  Kenny Gaines leads a Georgia team that overachieved last year, while Jalen Jones is one of the main offensive sources of offense for a strong defensive Aggie team.  K.T. Harrell is the main cog of an Auburn team trying to add a lot of pieces and make some noise in Bruce Pearl's first year.

SEC Honorable Mention

G - Ky Madden, ARK

G - Armani Moore, TENN

G - Ty Johnson, USC

F - Jarell Martin, LSU

F - Johnathan Williams, MIZ

Johnathan Williams is one of the few constants on a Missouri team that replaced just about everybody from an underachieving squad last year.  Tyrone Johnson has the chance to be one of the surprises of the season, given he's a senior that's only played 2.5 conference games in his career in the SEC.  Jarell Martin helps a strong LSU front line, while Armani Moore may be one of the most underrated players in the league this season.

SEC Newcomer of the Year - Karl Towns, Jr.

SEC Newcomer First Team

G - Karl Towns, Jr., UK

G - Tyler Ulis, UK

F - Cinmeon Bowers, AUB

F - Montaque Gill-Ceaser, MIZ

F - Elbert Robinson, LSU

Towns is far and away the best freshman in the league this season, and you'll know his name by the end of the year.  Bowers will be a huge impact player at Auburn, and combined with K.T. Harrell, moves the Tigers from "easy out" to a team you won't want to play on the Plains.  Missouri's going to be heavily reliant on newcomers if they want to have a big year, and Gill-Ceaser will need to be one of the best in the league if they hope to make waves.

Sleeper Pick - Arkansas

There's really only three teams that seem likely to make it out of the SEC and into the NCAAs this year, and Arkansas is the third.  The rest of the conference has improved, but improvement may well mean going from "losing to Southern at home" bad to winning the games they should out-of-conference and continuing the muddle in the middle.  The conference is improved, it just won't really show in more NCAA teams.

Projected Order of Finish

1. Kentucky

2. Florida

3. Arkansas

4. LSU

5. South Carolina

6. Texas A&M

7. Georgia

8. Ole Miss

9. Alabama

10. Auburn

11. Missouri

12. Tennessee

13. Vanderbilt

14. Mississippi State

For me, the first three are solidified, and LSU is the most likely to finish in the fourth position.  Nothing would surprise me from fifth to twelfth, though I put the teams in order of potential to break into the top four, since I think they'll basically all finish between 10-8 and 7-11 in the conference.

The other level of separation for me in the conference comes at the bottom - while it wouldn't surprise me if Vanderbilt or Mississippi State find their way out of the bottom two, I don't think either team will crack into the top nine positions in the league.