1.) Florida Gators
Head Coach: Mike White
2018-19 record: 20-16
Postseason: NCAA Round of 32
Assistants: Al Pinkins, Jordan Mincy, Darris Nichols.
Key returners and additions: Andrew Nimbhard, Noah Locke, Keyontae Thompson, Scottie Lewis, Omar Payne, Tre Mann, Jason Jitobah, Ques Glover, Kerry Blackshear Jr, Anthony Duruji, Tyree Appleby.
Key departures: Jalen Hudson, Kevarrius Hayes, Kevaughn Allen, Keith Stone, Mike Okauru, Chase Johnson, DeAundraeBallard, Isaiah Stokes.
Synopsis: I’ve picked Florida to win the SEC. Mike White’s team returns a great core featuring Andrew Nimbhard and Keyontae Thompson, adds transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr (VT), and top recruits Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann. The Gators look poised to advance deep in the NCAA tournament next season-- and for good reason.
2.) Kentucky Wildcats
Head Coach: John Calipari
2018-19 record: 30-7
Postseason: NCAA Elite 8
Assistants: Kenny Payne, Tony Barbee, Joel Justus.
Key returners and additions: Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, E.J. Montgomery, Tyrese Maxey, KalilWhitney, Dontaie Allen, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina.
Key departures: Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, PJ Washington, Jemarl Baker, Quade Green, Brad Calapari, Reid Travis.
Synopsis: Kentucky loses stars Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, PJ Washington, and Reid Travis but return SEC DPOY Ahston Hagans, up-and-coming forward E.J. Montgomery, and reload with top recruits Tyrese Maxey, Kalil Whitney & Johnny Juzang. Nate Sestina also comes into the fold as a grad transfer. The Wildcats, to the surprise of no one, are a safe pick to be at or near the top of the SEC and will likely make noise in March once again.
3.) LSU Tigers
Head Coach: Will Wade
2018-19 record: 28-17
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Assistants: Bill Armstrong, Greg Heiar, Tasmin Mitchell.
Key returners and additions: Emmitt Williams, Skyler Mays, Trendon Watford, Javonte Smart, Charles Manning, DariusDays, Marlon Taylor, Courtese Cooper, Aundree Hyatt, James Bishop.
Key departures: Tremont Waters, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Daryl Edwards, Danya Kingsby, Naz Reid.
Synopsis: Will Wade’s Tigers look to defend their SEC regular season crown-- and they’ll have plenty of talent to do so. LSU nabbed top recruit Trendon Watford away from Alabama and Nate Oats, but also return Emmitt Williams, Skyler Mays, and Javonte Smart among others. The departure of co-DPOY Tremont Waters and brusing C/F Naz Reid will hurt, but the aforementioned Smart and the combo of Williams and Watford should fill those voids nicely.
4.) Alabama Crimson Tide
Head Coach: Nate Oats
2018-19 record: 18-16
Postseason: NIT 1st round
Assistants: Antoine Pettway, Bryan Hodgson, Charlie Henry.
Key returners and additions: Kira Lewis Jr, John Petty Jr, Alex Reese, Galin Smith, Herb Jones, Jahvon Quinerly**, Jaden Shackelford, Juwan Gary, Beetle Bolden, Jaylen Forbes, Raymond Hawkins, James Rojas (ACL tear- out for season).
Key departures: Dazon Ingram, Riley Norris, Donta Hall, Daniel Giddens, Tevin Mack, Diante Wood, Avery Johnson Jr.
Synopsis: First year Head Coach Nate Oats is looking to change the culture and win immediately in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide will be led by top PG and one of many SEC POY favorites Kira Lewis Jr., as well as Junior SG John Petty- a very talented former 5-star looking for consistency. Alabama also adds transfers James Bolden (WVU), and Jahvon Quinerly (Villanova). Quinerly, leader of the national “JellyFam” basketball collective, has applied for a hardship waiver after being falsely accused of taking payments during his High School recruitment and is looking to keep his eligibility in order to play for the Crimson Tide right away this upcoming season. Forward Juwan Gary and Guard Jaden Shackelford also look to make an immediate impact. Don’t sleep on Herb Jones, Galin Smith, Alex Reese and Alabama’s very deep bench, either.
5.) Auburn Tigers
Head Coach: Bruce Pearl
2018-19 record: 30-10
Postseason: NCAA Final Four
Assistants: Ira Bowman, Wes Flanagan, Steven Pearl.
Key returners and additions: Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy, J’von McCormick, Austin Wiley, Anfernee McLemore, Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams, Babatunde Akingbola, Allen Flanigan, Devan Cambridge, Javon Franklin.
Key departures: Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer, Malik Dunbar, Chuma Okeke.
Synopsis: Bruce Pearl’s Auburn team is coming off a magical Final 4 run in which they lost a very close game to the eventual National Champion Virginia Cavaliers. Auburn loses top players Jared Harper, Bryce Brown, and Chuma Okeke, but return breakout candidate J’von McCormick, former 5-star Austin Wiley, and add top recruit Isaac Okoro.
6.) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Head Coach: Ben Howland
2018-19 record: 23-11
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Assistants: George Brooks, Korey McCray, Ernie Ziegler.
Key returners and additions: Nick Weatherspoon, Robert Woodard, Tyson Carter, Abdul Abo, Reggie Perry, Elias King, Iverson Molinar, Devin Butts, Quinten Post, Prince Oduro.
Key departures: Lamar Peters, Quindarry Weatherspoon, Aric Holman, Jehtro Tshishumpa.
Synopsis: Nick Weatherspoon, Reggie Perry and Robert Woodard look to be at the center of a Mississippi State squad hoping to make some noise in the SEC. Doing that without star players Lamar Peters and Quindarry Weatherspoon, however, will be a difficult but potentially managble task for Ben Howland’s Bulldogs.
7.) Tennessee Volunteers
Head Coach: Rick Barnes
2018-19 record: 31-6
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Assistants: Desmond Oliver, Michael Schwartz, Kim English.
Key returners and additions: Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner, Yves Pons, Jon Fulkerson, Josiah James, Victor Bailey, Ursos Plavcic, Drew Pember, Davonte Gaines, Olivier Nkamhoua.
Key departures: Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander, Jordan Bone, Derrick Walker, DJ Burns.
Synopsis: Tenneessee loses 2x SEC POY Grant Williams, as well as major contributors Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone. However, a core of Jordan Bowden, Lamonte Turner and Josiah James should have the Volunteers competing for a top spot in the SEC once again.
8.) Ole Miss Rebels
Head Coach: Kermit Davis
2018-19 record: 20-13
Postseason: NCAA round of 64
Assistants: Win Case, Ronnie Hamilton, Levi Watkins.
Key returners and additions: Devontae Shuler, Blake Hinson, K.J. Buffon, Breein Tyree, Austin Crowley, Sammy Hunter, Antavion Collum, Bryce Williams, Khadim Sy.
Key departures: Terence Davis, Bruce Stewart, D.C. Davis, Dominik Olejniczak.
Synopsis: Ole Miss brings back star guards Devontae Shuler and Breein Tyree but loses another in Terrance Davis. Freshmen Austin Crowley and Sammy Hunter also look to make an instant impact for Kermit Davis’ 2nd year Rebels squad.
9.) Georgia Bulldogs
Head Coach: Tom Crean
2018-19 record: 11-21
Assistants: Joe Scott, Chad Dollar, John Linehan.
Key returners and additions: Anthony Edwards, RayshaunHammonds, Tyree Crump, Jordan Harris, Teshaun Hightower, Christian Brown, Jaykwon Walton, Toumani Camara, SahvirWheeler, Rodney Howard, Donell Greshman Jr.
Key departures: Nic Claxton, Derek Ogbeide, Ignas Sargiunas, Teshaun Hightower, JoJo Toppin.
Synopsis: Georgia hired former Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean in place of veteran Head Coach Mark Fox, and finished the offseason by landing the biggest prize in the nation: #1 overall HS player, SG Anthony Edwards. Georgia also returns solid players Rayshaun Hammonds and Tyree Crump, but after that, there’s a bit of a drop off in talent. Georgia projects to be a middle of the pack team with potential to finish even higher if the SEC FOTY favorite Edwards can shoulder the burden of carrying and making his team better as a true freshman in the very loaded SEC.
10.) Arkansas Razorbacks
Head Coach: Eric Musselman
2018-19 record: 18-16
Postseason: NIT 2nd round
Assistants: Chris Crutchfield, Corey Williams, Clay Moser.
Key returners and additions: Isaiah Joe, Jalen Harris, Jimmy Whitt, Mason Jones, Adrio Bailey, Reggie Chaney, Desi Sills, Justice Hill, Jeantal Cylla, Connor Vanover*, Abayomi Iyiola*.
Key departures: Daniel Gafford, Keyshawn Embery, Jordan Phillips, Ibrahim Ali.
Synopsis: The Razorbacks return Top PG Isaiah Joe and add transfer Jimmy Whitt (again!) but lose star player and team leader Daniel Gafford. Arkansas has potential to finish higher, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Razorbacks struggle in year 1 under new Head Coach Eric Musselman.
11.) South Carolina Gamecocks
Head Coach: Frank Martin
2018-19 record: 16-16
Assistants: Perry Clark, Chuck Martin, Bruce Shingler.
Key returners and additions: Keyshawn Bryant, Malik Kotsar, Justin Minaya, Alanzo Frink, AJ Lawson, Jalyn McCreary, Jair Bolden, Trae Hannibal, Wildens Leveque, Trey Anderson, Seventh Woods*, Micaiah Henry.
Key departures: Chris Silva, Hassani Gravett, Tre Campbell, Felipe Haase, Jason Cudd.
Synopsis: Frank Martin’s Gamecocks team is looking to rebound from a .500 season last year. The Gamecocks return star guard AJ Lawson, key contributors Keyshawn Bryant and Jair Bolden- but lose centerpiece F Chris Silva. USC has the chance to be a sleeper team in the SEC if a few things bounce their way this upcoming season. Can Frank Martin work some magic in Columbia?
12.) Texas A&M Aggies
Head Coach: Buzz Williams
2018-19 record: 14-18
Assistants: Jamie McNeilly, Devin Johnson, Lyle Wolf.
Key returners and additions: TJ Starks, Wendell Mitchell, Jay-Jay Chandler, Josh Nebo, Savion Flagg, Quenton Jackson, Cashius McNeily, Andre Gordon, Emanuel Miller, Yavuz Gultekin, Bakari Simmons.
Key departures: Admon Gilder, Christian Mekowulu, Brandon Mahan, Isaiah Jasey, John Walker III, John Brown.
Synopsis: Texas A&M made a major splash with the hiring of new Head Coach Buzz Williams from Virginia Tech. The Aggies will also return a nucleus of TJ Starks, Wendell Mitchell, Savion Flagg, Josh Nebo and breakout candidate Jay Jay Chandler, but A&M’s bench depth won’t be very deep and the departures of Admon Gilder and Christian Mekowulu will be hard to overcome for the Aggies.
13.) Missouri Tigers
Head Coach: Cuonzo Martin
2018-19 record: 15-17
Assistants: Cornell Mann, Chris Hollender, Michael Porter Sr.
Key returners and additions: Mark Smith, Javon Pickett, Xavier Pinson, Reed Niko, Mitchell Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon, Tray Jackson, Dru Smith, Mario McKinney, Kobe Brown, Axel Okongo,
Key departures: Jordan Geist, Jontay Porter, Kevin Puryear, Ronnie Suggs, KJ Santos, Christian Guess.
Synopsis: The Tigers return Mark Smith and Jeremiah Tilmon, but lose a complete core of players in Jordan Geist, Jontay Porter and Kevin Puryear. Unfortunately, it’s looking likeanother lackluster season in Columbia.
14.) Vanderbilt Commodores
Head Coach: Jerry Stackhouse
2018-19 record: 9-23
Assistants: David Grace, Adam Mazarei, Faragi Phillips.
Key returners and additions: Saben Lee, Aaron Nesmith, Max Evans, Dylan Disu, Scotty Pippen Jr, Jordan Wright, OtonJankovic, D.J. Harvey*.
Key departures: Darius Garland, Matt Ryan, Joe Toye, Yanni Wetzel.
Synopsis: Vanderbilt fired Head Coach Bryce Drew in the offseason after a tumultuous 9-23 season in which they didn’t win a single SEC game and finished the year with a whopping 20-game losing streak. Saben Lee looks to carry the Commodores once again, and former NBA player/new Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse looks to begin a complete rebuild in Nashville.
Conclusion: The 2018-19 season saw 7 teams make the NCAA tournament. Auburn advanced to the Final 4, Kentucky advanced to the Elite 8, LSU and Tennessee advanced to the Sweet 16, Florida advanced to the Round of 32, and both Mississipi State and Ole Miss were eliminated in the Round of 64. How does the SEC follow that up? Well, The 2019-20 season is looking like it could shape up to be another historic one for the conference. Once again, the SEC will likely get anywhere from 6-8 teams into the NCAA tournament. I believe the top 2 teams (UF, UK) are pretty much set and you could flip those teams either way you’d like. 3-14 is, and I can’t stress this enough, extremely wide open. When breaking down and going through every team’s roster, I found it difficult to put every school in a set order simply because there could be so many teams that make legitimate noise. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a team like South Carolina or Texas A&M shock people with a top 5 finish in the conference. On the flip side, it wouldn’t shock me to see a talented team like Auburn fail to meet expectations after their final 4 run— or LSU with the pressure of looming NCAA violations and with the departures of Tremont Waters and Naz Reid. Should be another interesting, exciting and fun year for the SEC. Be sure to follow me on twitter (@CCOMathey) for more coverage of Alabama Basketball and the SEC, and our amazing team of writers and staff here at Crimson Crossover. (@CrimsonXover).